June 13, 2011

A Book that Shakes the World, or Helps Right a Shaken One

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 7:37 am

Shaken: Stories for Japan

Last summer Tim Hallinan, author of the Poke Rafferty series, among others, wrote his Made It Moment. I still remember sitting outside a Barnes & Noble in Spokane, WA and putting it up on the blog. Today, just before my family is about to embark on another cross country odyssey, Tim returns to Suspense Your Disbelief with a very special book, a book that takes this enormous planet of ours and shrinks it down to a community of people helping people.

Books can change the world–or at least transport the reader to a different one. This book, which Tim is about to tell you about, has the power to help fix a world that quite literally was torn apart. Read on and see what happens when some of the most talented people writing today got together and decided to help Japan.

Tim Hallinan


I knew I’d made it when I read, “He had not yet seen her, but he knew when she brushed her hair, took a shower and went to the toilet. He knew when she was home, cooking some strong smelling meat, and when she was speaking on the phone with her lover.”

I knew I’d made it when I read, “My mother was destined to die on the sea.”

I knew I’d made it when I read, “Tom Hickey batted smoke away and caught a breath.”

And I absolutely knew I’d made it when I read:

hung on a nail
a cricket

The first three quotes are the opening lines of short stories by, respectively, Naomi Hirahara, Vicki Doudera, and Ken Kuhlken. The poem is a haiku written by the 17-century master Basho and translated by Jane Reichhold.

All of them appear in SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, a collection of twenty original stories by twenty terrific writers, with one hundred percent of all royalties going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund administrated by Japan America Society of Southern California.

I had the idea for the collection while watching the coverage of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, pretty much at the moment I teared up at the site of hundreds of people waiting patiently in line, those at the end fully aware that it would run out before they got there. I asked myself why writers couldn’t pool their talents in a good cause the way musicians and actors can.

And, of course, I realized we could – thanks to the fast publication turnaround of e-books. Within twenty minutes I’d contacted 30 writers to ask for a donated story, and almost everyone had said yes.

But I didn’t know what I’d get, and I didn’t know whether I was capable of editing the collection.

And then the stories began to come in, and I had my made-it moment. I’d made it because we had a great book, and I’d made it because these particular stories needed so little editing that even I could do it.

The book is available for the Kindle on Amazon, and it’ll cost only $3.99. The Japan Relief Fund have pledged to turn over ever penny to nonprofit organizations already at work in the disaster area, without retaining so much as a penny for overhead or supervision.

The writers are a great mix – every one of them tremendously talented and individual, and with very different styles and subject matter. Alphabetically, they are Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, Jeri Westerson and me. Among them, they’ve won Edgars, Anthonys, Barrys, Shamus Awards – you name it. And they’ve sold hundreds of thousands of books.

I had three other made-it moments during this project.

First was when I saw Gar Anthony Haywood’s cover design. Gar is one of my favorite writers in the world, but I had no idea he could do this.

Second was when Jane Reichhold gave us permission to use her translations of Basho’s haiku. Reichhold’s beautiful 2008 volume, Basho: The Complete Haiku, has been praised by poets and scholars alike. We now have a haiku linking each story with the one that follows it, and I think it adds greatly to the book.

Third was when I saw the final e-book, as produced (for free) by Kimberly Hitchens at booknook.biz. It’s just beautiful.

SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN may be the first e-book ever designed solely as a find-raiser. I’m thrilled to have played a part in it, and I’m looking forward to one more made it moment- when Japan Americe Society tells me it’s raised a whole bunch of money for the families in the north of Japan.

Tim Hallinan has lived, on and off, in Southeast Asia for more than 25 years. He wrote songs and sang in a rock band while in college, and many of his songs were recorded by by well-known artists including the platinum-selling group Bread. He began writing books while enjoying a successful career in the television industry. Over the past fourteen years he has been responsible for a number of well-reviewed novels and a nonfiction book on Charles Dickens. For years he has taught a course on “Finishing the Novel” with remarkable results – more than half his students complete their first novel and go on to a second, and several have been, or are about to be, published. Tim currently maintains a house in Santa Monica, California, and apartments in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy-Hallinan.


  1. Great ideas.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — June 13, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  2. Awesome. What a wonderful way to raise money for a cause!

    Comment by mountainmama — June 13, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  3. This is such a special project, and a fine example of how people can use skills and gifts to help their fellow man. Sometimes all we need is a leader to show us a pathway. Kudos to Tim for being that leader.

    Comment by Ramona — June 13, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  4. The haiku got me. A great project.

    Comment by JLOakley — June 13, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  5. I felt so honored to be asked to be a part of it. It’s one unique way that authors can work for a cause. My hat is off to Tim and all his hard work.

    Comment by Jeri Westerson — June 13, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  6. Tim did all the work! He was wonderful!

    Comment by I.J.Parker — June 13, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  7. What a wonderful thing to do! So cool that writers now have the opportunity to do something like this, with the shorter publication time needed for ebooks. Just bought my copy and posted a link on Facebook to here! Kudos to Tim and everyone involved in the project, and thanks, Jenny, for bringing it to our attention.

    Comment by Lauren S — June 13, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  8. Congratulations, Tim and all of you. I am in awe of your commitment and talent.

    Comment by Donna — June 13, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  9. First: run out and buy SHAKEN. I wouldn’t say this if it sucked, but the wondrousness of it is that it doesn’t–it’s fantastic, and it’s pennies to help people who desperately need it.

    Second: While I’d love to be able to steal the credit for the book’s beauty, I cannot take credit where none is due; between Tim’s superb selection of the bamboo graphic that…well, you have to SEE it to appreciate it…and Gar’s cover, we had a head start. But an enormous amount of credit has to go to my Book Designer, Rick Capidamonte, who took tender, loving care with this book, above and beyond all others, and it shows. Rick did an AMAZING job; he lived in Japan, and his love for the project shines through on every…screen. ;-) Moreover, he one-upped my good intentions and refused to accept a penny from me for doing the book, although I’d never intended for him to donate HIS time…but he did.

    It’s a GREAT read, GREAT art, GREAT heart, GREAT cause. How can you NOT run out and buy it right now?


    Comment by Kimberly Hitchens — June 15, 2011 @ 6:07 am

  10. Wow, Jenny, thank you so much. This was a labor of love at every stage, and the only disagreement I have with anybody who’s responded is that that some of them give me too much credit. This idea was taken over by twenty remarkable writers who passed it through their unique talents and sensibilities and turned it into wonderful stories. And then Hitch (and Rick) made it into a truly elegant book, wrapped in Gar Haywood’s cover. If there was ever a collaboration, SHAKEN is it.

    And it’s soooooo cheap. As someone said, it’s a venti latte, not that I’m actually clear what either of those words means. Anyone know the etymology of “venti”?

    Comment by Timothy Hallinan — June 15, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  11. I’m so impressed by this effort. I know that authors can be generous and thoughtful, but this just emphasizes that for me. Excellent!

    Comment by Marja McGraw — June 15, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  12. Nope. (Tim). But I’ll take one :)

    You guys all did a fantastic thing here, and I’m truly in awe. Thanks for sharing it with Suspense Your Disbelief readers.

    Comment by jenny — June 15, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

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