Izanami’s Choice: A Book Review

Izanami's ChoiceToday I’m speaking with Adam Heine, author of Izanami’s Choice. Thank you for taking the time, Adam, and for letting me read “Izanami.”

I enjoyed this book so much. It’s a steampunk murder-mystery set during the Meiji Restoration period in 1901 Japan. What’s not to love? There are Ronin, robots, political upheavals and murder most foul. But who is behind it and why? This novelette clocks in at 96 pages of pure enjoyment because at least in one sense, there is no easy answer.

Yes, I knew who the “Big Bad” was as soon as the individual (no spoilers!) entered on stage. But that was the only easy answer. The far more difficult questions remain unanswered and are something humanity has yet to decide: If technological life becomes sentient, are humans safe? If technology is sentient, can humans react in an even handed, nondiscriminatory way? Do actions cause violence, or does fear of potential action?

Mr. Heine did an admirable job of making his robots (Jinzou) both sympathetic and terrifying. We are taken through the above questions through the eyes of Shimada Itaru, former Ronin and retired police officer. He doesn’t trust the ubiquitous Jinzou and carries illicit weapons because of their involvement in his son’s death. His pain as a father is palpable and his conclusions are just as heart-rending.


I wholeheartedly recommend the book and now, without further delay, here’s my interview with Adam!

Thanks, Victoria! I really appreciate this opportunity to talk about the book.

Adam, how did you come up with this story?

Most of my stories are a melting pot of elements I love. I love detective stories. AI fascinates me, as does the idea of a technological singularity. But I didn’t want to write this story in a stock cyberpunk future (that would’ve basically been Bladerunner). I needed something unique about it.

The Penny Arcade web comic writes an occasional mini-series called Automata, involving sentient androids in a 1920’s Prohibition Era-type world. That was probably my biggest inspiration in combining a robotic singularity with one of my favorite periods in history: Meiji Era Japan. Once I started slotting androids into key events in Japanese history, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And the world of Izanami’s Choice was born.


Making a satisfying and believable ending can be difficult, but the conclusion to Izanami’s Choice has an appropriate, satisfying and very Asian feel. Without spoilers, did you consider other endings? (I realize this may be impossible to answer without spoilers. If so, go on to the next question! :D)

There are kind of two endings, so it depends on which one you mean! The very end of the book — the epilogue, let’s say — was not something I planned, but it felt like the right way to leave things (or at least the right direction to point things in).

As for the other ending just before that: that was always the plan. I can’t say much without spoilers, but I think the Asian feel (the Japanese feel, really) for this particular story would have been lost with any other outcome.

You’ve rewritten Japanese and world history with the robots in this story. Since you live in Thailand, are you planning on taking your Jinzou to Thailand or other locales?

I would really like to! I don’t know that I’ll ever write a jinzou story in a Western country (only because I feel like that’s been done), but I do have ideas for what society might look like in, say, India, China, or — yes — Thailand. Whether or not I get the opportunity to flesh out those ideas remains to be seen!

You are also a game programmer/player. Where do you see cross pollination between that and writing novels and short stories? What are the main differences from your perspective?

For those who don’t know, I’m the Design Lead on the upcoming role-playing game Torment: Tides of Numenera. That particular game is a LOT of writing (we’re at over 1 million words!), which is unusual for a video game. As a result, there’s more crossover between novel writing and Torment than there might be with other games.

I’d say the biggest difference between the two is player choice. Game stories, especially RPGs, are often in the player’s hands. Imagine if a reader could choose whether or not Frodo puts on the ring at Weathertop. How might the story change after that? Would they have had an easy ride to Rivendell, or would something else have happened? Would they have met Arwen on the road? Earlier? Later? What would that meeting look like?

Game writers (at least RPG writers) have to write every option they want to offer the player. It’s fun, because you basically get to write ALL of your ideas and let the player choose which ones they want to follow. But it’s hard because the story has to make sense no matter how the player goes through it.

Fiction, on the other hand, is the story *I* want to tell, giving the reader the information I want her to have and when. It’s easier, but there’s a lot more pressure on the words, since words are all fiction has to carry it.

I know there have been Role Playing Games (RPGs) where you can choose the ending – in a sense, creating your own stories with a set of given characters. Do you see this sort of game technology advancing and becoming more seamless? That is, more like a live-action book?

I think interactive storytelling comes in different forms and mediums: RPGs, Choose Your Own Adventure books, interactive fiction games, pen-and-paper role-playing, live-action role-playing, and so on. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and its own niche of readers/players.

Personally, I enjoy most of these — I just love a good story. And we’re finding new ways to tell stories with (relatively) recent mediums like VR and MMO gaming. The more game developers and storytellers cross disciplines, the more and better stories we’ll get out of it.

I’m always fascinated by other writers’ creative processes and you work for Torment, among other things. Do you use RPG modules to help you in world-creation?  If so, how does it help you, or do you do it for fun?

For me, world-creation is the fun part that’s always drawn me to both fiction writing AND game development. Creating a world that you want to explore — whether it’s explored through a novel or a gamepad — is my favorite part of writing. So I don’t really use RPGs to help me create worlds so much as I create a world that I can use in a novel or a short story or a game.

Or more realistically, I will have a story or game I want to make, and I will create a world for it. Every writer’s different, but for me the world almost always comes before the story I want to tell within it.

You seem to have a lot of plates spinning in your life. What helps you keep them spinning?

Boy, do I. I’m the Design Lead for a mid-sized RPG, a writer, and a foster father of 10!

Some things that help:
— Making a schedule (and keeping it).
— Being realistic about what I can get done in a given day.
— An understanding family (that is at school most of the time).
— Knowing when to stop!

I can’t say I’m great at all these things, but the times in my life when I’m not stressed out are when I did all of these right!

Thanks again, Adam for spending the time. “Izanami’s Choice” is available for pre-order through Amazon and its release date is September 1st. You can also purchase it through the publisher’s page.


Book Review of Girl From the Well

You’re (possibly) thinking, “OMG! She’s not dead!” No, I”m not but the past two years have made me feel that way. Frequently. That said, it’s not what I wanted to tell you today. No, I wanted to tell you about a character who is dead.

I was privileged to  read devour Rin Chupeco’s “The Girl From the Well” this week. This book enthralled me. Could. Not. Put. Down. It’s both terrifying and moving and the end – just wow. The hook tells you a lot:

I am where dead children go.

Nice. I refuse to give away anything, so I’ll tell you no more than the jacket does. This is an urban fantasy, mostly set in Japan (and you KNOW how much I loved that) and is based around a character from Japanese folklore and history: Okiku, the ghost from Himeji Castle’s Okiku’s Well.

If you’ve seen a movie with a wet dead girl, that story owes its creepiness to Okiku and this story does her so much justice, beauty and honor. Go out and read it.

Review by Victoria Dixon. No arcs were sent for the review of this novel.

New News

Hi, folks. I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long. The world of job searching, freelancing,temping and home-selling has consumed all my spare time. Even my writing has suffered and you know what that does to a writer.

I wanted to pass on two tidbits before I return to my life:1. My friend Rashda Khan (or Mina to those of you who are more familiar with her pen name) has a give away in celebration of her first book’s birthday. So happy birthday to The Djinn’s Dilemma and get over there to see what goodies she’s giving away. 🙂

2. Many of you know I have a working relationship with the Book Doctors, who are some of the finest examples of human beings I know. (If you’re not reading their book, why NOT?)  They cautioned writers in general NOT to submit to agents in New York right now. It’s common sense, but bears repeating especially to those of us who are so absorbed in our work we’re not aware of the world. The East Coast was  SLAMMED by Frankenstorm. (It seems wrong to call this thing “Sandy.”)  Have some compassion. Let them clear a way to their offices, turn the power on and mourn their losses.  They will thank you by not pitching your mss and blacklisting your names.  Seriously. They take the lack of sympathy as a sign of your personality and who wants to work with someone that crass?

My prayers and sympathy are with those people who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. God bless.

Your Opinion on a New Beginning

Wow, it’s been awhile since I posted. Sorry about that. Life turned a bit more topsy turvy this past month.

The good news is, I’ve had agent interest that’s spurred me to pull one more beginning out of the hat. I didn’t believe there WAS one more opening I hadn’t already tried, but there ya go. Not only did I write it, it’s been voted best yet by those in the know.

The new beginning isn’t the only change. I’ve cut over 100 pages from the ms since Tuesday night. My critique group’s so awesome they were able to find the fat from looking at a synopsis. You guys are the best!!

So if you’re interested, the new beginning’s at blogging friend Adam Heine’s blog this week and he’s giving away freebies to lucky winners. ;D There have been some awesome suggestions so far and I’d love to know, what do you think?


Bradbury’s Memorial Anthology

“Science fiction is the art of the possible, not the art of the impossible. As soon as you deal with things that can’t happen, you are writing fantasy.” – Ray Bradbury

Yup, you knew someone would do this.

Many thanks to Lisha Cauthen, who sent me the following information:


We’re seeking fantasy and sociological science fiction short
stories to create an anthology in Ray Bradbury’s honor.
Deadline July 31, 2012. Previously unpublished fantasy or
sociological SF only. 1,500 to 15,000 words. All winning
entries will be included in the StoneThread anthology.
Winners will receive a free copy of the anthology, plus

First Place: $50
Second through Sixth: $20
Honorable Mentions: $10

I did go to their website and ironically, I don’t think my story about Bradbury fits what they want.  They’re using the above quote by Bradbury  to define what they’re looking for and my story doesn’t fit either mold, but seems to be straight forward fiction for once.  That said, I do have a short I’ll send and it was inspired by Bradbury, so it’s still suitable on many fronts.

What about you? Got submission?