Write What You Know

Once upon a time I stumbled up a hillside in Kyoto, Japan. “Transcendent beauty” are the words that come to mind when I think of that view of the Katsura river and the surrounding foothills. It was early, but there were a few others taking in the view that morning. A friendly local told me, “In three days that mountainside will be all pink.” His excitement was tangible. It shimmered in his smile just like the sunlight on the Katsura below.

But I didn’t have three days. I had less than 24 hours left to spend in Kyoto before taking the train back to Tokyo. My disappointment was tangible and slid out of my eyes in hot salty tears. Maybe the cherry trees would be blooming in Ueno Park? Maybe I’d see the cherry blossoms before I flew back home.

There was a small, young tree, barely more than a sapling, that bloomed early… But tight swollen buds were mostly it for me. No clouds of blossoms. No soft petals. No pink. No white.

I was upset. I was angry. I was so disappointed. I consoled myself with a visit to Sweets Paradise (It’s an all you can eat dessert café. Google it.). And by the time I had tried my seventh cake, I was feeling a little better.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, despite careful planning, despite the fact that we are ready to level up, or move on to the next step, it doesn’t happen. We get stuck. It’s not our fault. It’s disappointing. It’s unfair. The thing we’re after eludes us. It’s just out of our reach.

I was ready for those cherry blossoms. The pre-game was lots of fun, but I wanted the real thing. I wanted to be made new as I stood under trees that became ethereal treasures of fleeting beauty. It didn’t happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was so jealous of the tourists who were arriving at my hotel in Asakusa as I was checking out. All of their cherry blossom dreams would come true. Where as mine…

What do we do when our dreams fall apart? When regret and disappointment drown us in some legit self-loathing and sorrow? Minimizing the loss doesn’t work. Dessert cafés are a temporary fix…

I feel. I write. And when I’m ready, I rally. It takes time; it’s a recursive process, but it’s a good one. I can make another go at the cherry blossoms. I can keep trying until I get the timing right. Japan is an amazing place and worth seeing again and again. Or… maybe next time I can park myself in Tokyo from mid-March to early May, and not leave until I stand in that cherry blossom snow. The idea has some merit… So much so that it became a part of my fantasy debut. (See! It takes time!).

Below is an excerpt of Smoke, Steel, & Ivy. It has a spoiler, so don’t read if you haven’t checked out the excerpt of the first eight chapters that I’ve left for curious readers here. The snippet below is a really good example of me writing what I know, which I personally translate as an invitation to realize my personal fantasies in fiction.



“Florence squinted up at the branches. “Look at those buds. No one does cherry blossoms so well as your little Kingdom of Amadanri. You know, Sylvia and I came here many years ago, before the war, of course, hoping to see the cherry trees in bloom. We were too early. Trees thick with swollen buds were all we saw. And I was so mad.” She looked Collin in the eye. “I was furious with disappointment. What on earth were those trees thinking? Didn’t they know we had traveled for weeks just to see them bloom?”

“Our cherry trees are known for their rudeness. I must apologize for them.”

Florence smiled and patted Collin’s hand. “They just made me more determined. That year, we could not stay to see them open. But I told Sylvia that next year would be different. And it was. King Rupert invaded our friends in the east. The cherry trees had to wait. But now. With armistice and your hard-earned peace, we are back. And we will see the cherry blossoms.”

“They’re beautiful. My favorite time is the end of the season.”

“When the petals rain down as a gentle, fragrant snow.” Florence’s smile spread wide, and she rubbed her hands together. “I shall stand in this spring snow. The trees cannot exclude me this time. My victory will be all the sweeter for the waiting.”

Collin offered his flask to Florence. She unscrewed the top and sniffed the contents, took a sip, and nodded. “Don’t stop fighting, Collin. Ivy needs you. She’s put herself in a dangerous position.”

“You fear another assassination attempt?”

Florence looked down her nose at him. “Do you?”

Collin blushed. “No.”

“No, Ivy has placed her trust in people who care only about themselves. No one is looking out for her best interests. She, like Cinderella, believes that if she will only work hard enough, she will earn their love, merit the same careful consideration that she has for them. But the poor dear is as good as invisible.”

“Her needs certainly are.”

“Exactly so. She needs someone to look after her. She needs a handsome, young man who will pull her away from her squabbles with statesmen while turning her head on the dance floor.”

“I never could get her to dance.”

“I never saw the cherries bloom. It only made me more determined.”

***END OF EXCERPT but you can pre-order/order here!!!***

Do you agree that disappointment only makes us more determined? Leave me a comment below.

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