Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Course God Laughed. I Told Him My Plan, by Walt Mussell

I’d like to thank Tina and the rest of Seekerville for having me as a guest blogger today. I’d hoped when I made an appearance here, it would be with my inspirational manuscript sold. (Isn’t naiveté wonderful?) When I do make that first sale, I hope you’ll have me back to celebrate and raffle off free copies. (And speaking of raffles, please read to the end for the prize that will go to one commenter.)

However, as I look forward to that one day of being published, I do sometimes wonder how I got here in the first place. Not to writing. Not to Seekerville. Not to being a RWA member.

I wonder about how I started writing inspirational fiction.

When I began writing a few years ago, my focus was always personal essays on marriage, family, and parenting. I penned a humorous (in my opinion anyway) nonfiction manuscript on marriage from the male POV, targeted to women, and pursued getting that published. In order to build a platform for myself, I began submitting articles to parenting and education magazines. I’ve now earned several publishing credits. I also maintain two blogs. One is called Daddy Needs Decaf, which I do for Atlanta Parent magazine. The other one, Walt’s Place , is my own and deals with the topic my wife considers the greatest love of my life…Auburn football. For several years, I stayed on plan.

Then, in the summer of 2008, I discovered that God may have had a different idea.

That summer, my family and I traveled to Japan to visit friends and relatives. (I spent four years in Japan in the early 90s, meeting my wife there. We visit Japan when we can.) When we go, we do as much touring as possible, as my wife and I want our sons to have an appreciation for that part of their heritage.

On the last trip, we visited Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle is a six-story structure built to resemble a white heron in flight. It served as the backdrop to such movies as You Only Live Twice and The Last Samurai. It is the finest representation of the Japanese style of castle building and one of the few original castles left in the country.

One feature of many Japanese castles is the circular tiles along the roof edge. The tiles, called “devil’s tiles,” are there to ward against tsunamis, fires, typhoons, etc. Himeji Castle, though, has one special tile: One that bears the impression of a cross.

(Citation: Guide to World Cultural Heritage Site “Himeji Castle)

(Citation.: Maru-Jan by Signal Talk)

The reason it’s special…it shouldn’t be there.

This cross appeared in the late 16th century. The mid-1500s to the mid-1600s are referred to as the Christian century in Japan. Christianity arrived in Japan in the 1540s and flourished for around forty years before the religion was declared illegal in 1587. The Japanese government spent the next sixty years, impoverishing and martyring Christians in an effort to stamp out the religion.

So, at the beginning of a persecution, a cross appears mysteriously at a prominent castle.
And though the blogosphere offers a solution, the official word is that the cross’s origin is unknown. Through a period in which Christians are being killed in ways that would make Nero seem tame, this stone cross lasted through it all. The idea of writing a Japan-based novel was brewing inside me and I had several historical threads in my head. Somehow, though, I knew I wanted to introduce readers to this cross.

The cross isn’t the only secreted object from those days. Christians disguised figurines of Mary to look like a female Bodhisattva.

They also carved crosses into the backs of stone statues.

(Citation: Wikipedia)

( Citation: Cross in Stone )

These items inspired many people over the years. And now I’ve been added to the list.

I hope you enjoyed the history. I also hope it wasn’t too heavy.

As for the prize for today’s post, I was at M&M and Missy Tippens was kind enough to sign a copy of her latest book, His Forever Love. One lucky commenter will win the signed copy.

If you have a chance, please visit me at my blogs. And to all of Seekerville, thanks again for having me.


  1. Well.

    Now I want to live in a castle. And that castle is WAY COOLER than most.

    Walt, your family is beautiful and I love those hints of hidden Chritianity within stone. Oh my stars, what a great story set up! Seriously, if you muff it, honey-lamb, give me a shout and I'll write it.


    Okay, so where's Camy when we NEED her? I didn't realize cultural food would befit the day, but I'm educable.

    So check the buffet for roasted whole fish, lightly seasoned (don't let the eyes deter you, just eat around 'em), maso soup, a rice pot, seaweed wrap and an array of Asian seasonings, not the least of which is garlic.

    Garlic knows all cultures.

    And Sushi lunch NYC-style is on Walt, so come hungry!

    For the faint of heart or those Japanese who live in the here and now and NOT a B&B, we have toast from fresh-baked bread, jellies, butter, tea, coffee, juice, and sweet bread topped with apple filling because it is still October.

    Walt, I can't wait to hear more about this book. Is it done? Submitted? Is there a sequel? If not, why not?

    Inquiring minds want to know, Dude.

  2. Morning all. Six inches of snow in Denver. What's your weather report.

    Walt I want to be in Japan right now.

    Fascinating post.

    How often do you go back now? So I expect you speak the language fluently.

    Tell us about your story set there.

  3. Tina, I'm assuming you mean Japan. :-)

    We go back every 4-5 years. My 12-year old has been there three times. My 7-year old has been there twice.

    I used to speak it fluently, but that was 15 years ago. I had some difficulty reading it though and have forgotten much of what I did know.

    My story is set in Himeji, Japan, in 1588, less than a year after Chritianity was declared illegal. My heroine, a Christian and sole child, has to find a husband willing to marry into her family and apprentice himself into the family's sword making business. This task is made difficult by the heroine's insistence on a Christian husband.

    My hero is the prodigal third son of a high-level samurai at Himeji Castle. Born with a limp that made it impossible for him to be a samurai and always at odds with his father, the hero leaves the castle and apprentices himself to a sword maker (the heroine's parents) to prove his value to his own family.

    Though hero and heroine are drawn to each other, the heroine has no interest in the hero as he's not a Christian and because his estrangement from his father could hurt the family business. The hero, who has developed loyalty to the heroine's parents during his apprenticeship, regards the heroine's devotion to Christianity as dangerous to her family duty and feels any relationship with a Christian will mean that he never restores relations with his father.

    I've been working a lot with Debby G. within the last two weeks to refine my GMC on the story. (Thank you, Debby!) This is the first time I've described the story as above. Hope you like it.

  4. Ruthy, the story has been submitted to Steeple Hill for the LIH line. I'm also finishing a partial request for Avalon and will submit that this weekend.

    There are two sequels. The first takes place in Osaka. The second one is in Kyoto.

  5. Wow, that bit about the cross in the castle is Fascinating!! Thank you for sharing Walt. You have a beautiful family and I wish you success with your fiction. :-)

  6. Walt,

    After reading so many of your Seekerville comments, it's nice to learn more about you. This is fascinating.

    In case this would help, I have met an Indiana author who has had international success with his middle-grade books set in China. Jeff Stone was enthralled with China, made many trips there and turned it into a successful series called "The Five Ancestors."

    With regard to breakfast, I'm not very sophisticated this morning and have already fallen to the temptation of a brown sugar pop tart. Yes, there are extras for those wanting feel-good food along with me.

    If I were starving, I still would have skipped the fish with eyes, Ruthy!


  7. Hey Walt,
    Loved learning more about you and finding you have the joy of a multicultural life. Your storyline is fascinating. I know you'll keep us informed of your 'road to publication'.

    Hmmm, I think it's about time I tried fish for breakfast. 100 million people can't be wrong.

    Ruthy. Educable? I'm even having trouble pronouncing it.

    Tina. We have an inch of leaves on the ground and they're so wet they're dangerous to walk and drive on. Hope you have a bright blue sky to go with it though.

  8. Good morning, Walt! I had no idea about that part of Japan's history. And your story sounds packed with great conflict. I can't wait to read it -- so keep watering those camels!!

  9. Walt ... yours has to be one of the most interesting (and educational) stories I've heard for getting into inspirational fiction! Fun blog ... in a very cultural way, of course!

    And I have to tell you that I LOVE the title of your blog, Daddy Needs Decaf -- what a cool name for a blog ... and what a cool blog!! Congrats.


  10. Oh Walt,
    You've made me interested in Japanese history. How cool is that!
    And you have a beautiful family.

    Isn't it wonderful that no matter how much people try to snuff out Christianity it keeps popping up in the most unlikely of places because it's worth the risk. Awesome.

    And Castles...oh, I'm a big fan of castles, and this one is lovely. I'm gonna have to go back and rewatch The Last Samarai

    I already have Missy's book so pass it on to someone else :-)


  11. Btw, your story sounds wonderful. Can't wait to read it in print :-)

  12. Wow, what interesting facts you have introduced us to today, Walt! Love those crosses. I never knew any of that stuff about Japan's past. Thanks for sharing that. One of my novels was inspired by the medieval town square, or Marktplatz, in Hildesheim, Germany. It dates back to the 1100's, I think.

    Thanks for sharing! And isn't it interesting how God redirects us?

  13. WOW what a great post. Very interesting.

  14. And I LOVE your storyline! I'd like to read that book.

  15. Good morning, Walt! Your gorgeous family looks great in front of the equally gorgeous castle! Thanks for a fascinating look at the courage of Japanese Christians during a time of persecution. No wonder you were inspired to write your story. Hoping it reaches the printed page!


  16. Good morning, Walt! Let's brag to Tina about our gorgeous 70-degree weather. (We don't have to tell her about the weeks of rains and flood!) :)

    What a wonderful post!! And so fascinating. I'm so glad you included the photos. Now I can picture what you were telling me about at M&M.

    Also, I love the description of your story! You did a great job! Now I want you to sell it so I can read it. :)

  17. Cathy, don't feel bad. I never had lunch yesterday, so I succumbed to brown sugar and cinnamon Poptarts last night around midnight! LOL

  18. WALT!
    Welcome to the DARK SIDE of Seekerville.

    No, that's not quite what I meant to say.

    Welcome to the PRESSURE COOKER side of Seekerville.

    Nope, not right either.

    Welcome to the Bowling Pin side of Seekerville.

    We will now have a ball. :)

  19. Walt, not to heavy on the history at all in fact wish you wrote more lol!

    Interesting post! Thanks for sharing with us. The castle is amazing! I can see the inspiration!

    You have a beautiful family! Japan looks amazing. I have a cousin that is stationed there right now so get to hear tidbits about it. But wow those pictures are cool!

    Tina, please keep the snow! I'm not ready for that yet! Sunny and kinda warm here in NH...finally!


  20. Wow, Walt, as a history geek, your story sure got my attention. I would snatch that one off the bookstore shelf in a hurry.

  21. Wow! I didn't know this. I've been to Japan several times, but never got outside Tokyo--and rarely beyond the meeting room in some hotel. I've always wanted to go back and be a tourist, now twice as much. Thanks for the eye-opening post.

  22. Good morning, Walt. What a fascinating look at Japanese history. I have always wanted to go to Japan. I hope to make it there some day soon and when I do, I'll look for the cross in the castle. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Good luck with you novel!

  23. Hi Walt,
    Great pix of your family. Thanks for sharing.
    Also loved hearing the historical background for your story. I can see why you have enough inspiration for three books. Can't wait to read them all.

  24. Walt, word to the wise.

    You and Missy and the whole 72 degree 'let's tweak Tina' thing...

    She's Italian.

    Just sayin'.

    I knew you'd have great sequels in mind. You had to. There's enough possible conflict there to Nicholas Sparks your career out of the park...

    Baseball analogy. October. Jeter. You understand.

    I want a castle.

    Or a frappuccino.

    Either will do.

  25. Fascinating post. I can definitely see how you could write an inspirational story from the information you shared with us! :)

    Love the castle. We have many castles and fortresses where I live (Romania), but none of them look quite like that! ;)

    Oh, and please don't enter my name for the giveaway :)


  26. What a totally fascinating story. Wonderfully unique, and I can't wait to see it on the shelf..soon!!!

  27. Great post, Walt -- thanks for sharing with us. It's always fun to hear how God brings people to the world of writing inspirational fiction. I was like you -- wrote NF for years before the fiction ideas began to invade. :-)

    My sis and BIL lived in Okinawa for about 12 years and loved touring all over that part of the world. Some fascinating stories!

    And your book sounds great! We know you'll keep us posted on how those proposals and partials turn out. :-)

  28. Walt,

    Thanks for sharing some of the history in Japan! This is very interesting and so is the synopsis of your book. Please keep us posted on your submissions. Way to go!


    PS Tina, in South Dakota is just another rainy, rainy day....

  29. I want to say thank you to everyone for the wonderful comments.

    Also, I've never had fish eyes for breakfast or any other meal. (I have had fish for breakfast.)

    What you don't want to know, though, is what I've had for dinner.

    Jessica - Thank you for your kind wishes and the comments on my family. Luckily, my boys take after their mother.

    Cathy - Thanks for the suggestion. I've never heard of the five ancestors, but will look that up.

    Debra - Glad you enjoyed this history. The thing that scares me sometimes is possibly getting something wrong.

    Glynna - Himeji Castle is beautiful and is one of the few original castles left in Japan. Many were destroyed by through fire. Some were destroyed by choice in the 19th century as there was a change in government and people viewed the castles as indicative of sometimes unpopyular system.

  30. Hi Walt:

    It is not uncommon for a culture to display symbols of gods other than their own in order to ward off those gods displeasure. The Greeks even had a temple for all the gods they had not yet learned about just to keep them happy. People persecuting Christians might have been worried about retaliation from the Christian god. If this was the case, the cross is location exactly where it ought to be. It makes sense to me.

    I’ve been fascinated with Japan ever since I read Shogun. Is your book a historical or contemporary and where does it take place for the most part: Japan or USA? I’d love to read it.


    P.S. I already have Missy's book.

  31. Walt,

    How could you?

    You put my feeble little brain on information overload.


    Okay in your defense it was very well done, my brainwaves actually digested the information and found it quite stimulating.

    Your explanation about the castle and crosses was interesting and I learned something.

    And since I almost know everything (LOL) that was pert near miraculous.

    It's a story that has to be written. And it sounds like you have yourself a seller there.

    Keep at it.

    Too bad you don't read Japanese well. I was about ready to have you read some parts for my world war II story.

    IF it's any consolation... I lived in Germany for four years, took four years of German, spoke it beautifully many moons ago. It's all but gone now.

    Now on to talk of the weather.

    Tina-it's in the 90's on the western slope. Okay 90 minus 55 or so, but next week it could really be in the nineties.
    We had an inch yesterday and got a dusting today.

  32. Walt, fascinating history lesson. History written like than is never boring or heavy. Enjoyed it and look forward to your book.

    Vince, I also enjoyed your intrepretation of the appearance of the crosses. I just returned from the Tehuacalco ruins near Acapulco and heard lots of stories of how they appeased their gods.

    I'll take mine any day!

    Thanks for sharing.

    nvgrams at yahoo dot com

  33. On my lunch break and trying to respond to what I can

    Julie - I like the Daddy Need Decaf title, too. Wish I had more control over the blog, though. Atlanta Parent once shifted everything to Wordpress and didn't tell me beforehand. Then they shifted it back and I lost what I'd done on Wordpress.

    Pepper - You may find this funny, but I've never seen The Last Samurai in full. It's one of those movies my wife can't stand to watch. A contest judge once made adverse comparisons to my work vs. The Last Samurai. I wanted to say "they're about three centuries apart," but I realized I hadn't done a good enough job of bringing the judge into the world I was creating.

  34. Walt,
    You're funny. Poor wife, making her suffer through gore and violence.
    Unfortunately (or fortunately) my dad raised me watching Rambo, so I'm all into movies like The Patriot, Last of the Mohicans, The Last Samarai.
    Sad, but true, I cried at the end of Terminator 3. That's just horrible to admit in print ;-)

  35. Melanie - Yes, it is interesting how God re-directs our lives. The fact that so little is known about Japan makes it a rich source.

    April - Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Janet - Thanks for the comments about my family. Don't know what I'd do without them.

    One note about the's not quite the one in my book. The current castle is part of 17th century reconstruction/remodeling. My story takes place in the 16th century, when the castle was only three stories tall. That castle was pretty much destroyed in the remodel. For some reason, on which there is only speculation, the men in charge of remodeling the castle kept the cross as one of the few items they carried over to the new building.

    The castle could have also possibly been black, though it's white in my story. No record of what the original looks like exists, at least on the web or sources my wife and I have looked.

  36. Missy, I won't mention the floods, if you don't.

    Also, I'd love to see it in print as well. However, it's only been at Steeple Hill a little over three months and I need to get it to Avalon ASAP.

  37. P.S. Anything flavored cinnamon and brown sugar (pop tarts) is definitely comfort food.

  38. Mary - Thanks for your comments. Every time I see you name, I keep thinking that I need tpo go pick up "Cowboy Christmas."

    Kerri - You should visit your cousin while you can. There are things someone there can show you that you can't get from being a straight tourist.

    Erica - Thank you. I loved your hisotry post last week.

    Keena - There's a lot to do, even in Tokyo, and on a day trip or half-day trip basis. Also, there might be a temple near your hotel. Ask your concierge.

  39. Walt, enjoyed learning more about you and seeing your family's pics. Now I know more about Japan, too. All the very best to you on your path to publication of a very interesting story.

  40. Walt it's such a fun part of being a writer that we'll see something and it will spark an idea and a story starts to grow.

    You find a hidden strand of faith in an ancient culture...I find... an elephant that's been hung.

    Very odd and disturbing...and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to work a rogue elephant into my romantic comedy westerns.

    I think I'm looking in the wrong place for inspiration.

  41. Jen - Hopefully the waether is good when you go to Himeji. The castle is definitely worth a half-day. Also, there is a wonderful series of gardens next door.

    Diane - Thank you. While I'll be happy selling one, I do hope to start a series.

    Ruthy - Thank you. P.S. Go Phillies (jk).

    Arianna - I know European and Japanese castles don't resemble each other, but botht styles are marvelous to look at. When European sailors first arrived in Japan, they knew what they were seeing should be called a "castle."

    Tina - Thanks for everything.

    Leigh - Thank you. I'm stiull trying to write NF as well. I've only expanded.

    Rose - Glad you liked the synopsis. 'll keep everyuone posted.

  42. Mary,
    Didn't circus trains come through in the wild west? ;-)

    I'm getting to post way too much today. I'm home with a fever and so I get to read all these fun comments and reply in real time. Ooo, what entertainment. especially since I can't stand up without getting dizzy.
    What we have to do to get extra writing time ;-)

  43. Vince - I would agree with you except for one thing, the Japanese rulers weren't worried about retaliations from the Christian God, they were worried about a papacy in Rome turning their own people against them.

    My book takes place entirely in
    16th century Japan (Himeji). All characters are Japanese. The only Europeans on the island would be Spanish or Portuguese (though both were technically one at the time).

    By the way, my book occurs just over ten years prior to Shogun.

  44. Tina - I wish I still read and spoke Japanese as well as I used to. It's regrettable.

  45. Ah, Walt, the conflict is perfect!!! You've nailed it. Good for you.

    Thanks for letting me have a sneak peak at the first few chapters. It's a fantastic story!!!

    I brought rice cakes! Yummy!

    Love the photo of your family and the great pics of Japan. Brings back so many memories of my childhood. Wonderful country. Wonderful people.

    All the Seekers are waiting to see your book in print, Walt!!! And, yes, we'll invite you back to celebrate.

    Okay, I'll dovetail with Missy -- it's 70 degrees and the trees are in full color! Eat your heart out, Tina! :)

  46. Very interesting post! Good luck to Walt on his writings. Please enter me for this free book. Thanks.

  47. Hey Walt! I loved the scenic tour through Japan. And the commentary. History gives such an interesting backdrop for fiction. I love your entire concept.

    Sorry, the closest I get to sushi is pickled herring. BUT, I'm willing to try most anything else.

    Thanks for blogging with us today, Walt!

  48. Amazing story, Walt. Sorry didn't read through the comments before I posted. It's the end of the day and I want to go home.


    Okay, I feel better, LOL

    Anyway, are you sure you can do this story justice in 60,000 words? I tried reading Shogun once...

  49. Tina, only 6 inches? The weather reports made is sound like you were getting pounded!

    Up here, north of Denver, we got somewhere around 10 to 12 inches. No school for the kids.

    Ah, to be young again.

  50. Audra that's six inches on Wed and six inches on Thursday. You Georgia folk are in serious trouble. I have your addresses and I am sending you all snowballs.

  51. Walt, thanks so much for being in Seekerville today. We value our male writer pals!!!

  52. Connie, glad you enjoyed the history lesson.

  53. Pat - thank you.

    Mary - No idea on the hanging elephants.

    Debby - Glad you like the rewrite on the GMC.

  54. Jackie - Thank you. You're entered.

  55. Right now I'm pretty sure that Mary Connealy and Tina Russo are hanging elephants in a castle outside Audra's house north of Denver.

    And the last samurai wants them dead.

    And they've got fevers.

    This is what happens when you leave for a few hours and random people jump in willy nilly.

    Someplace in there I think Deb Giusti bragged on her temperatures....

    Not very nice, Deb. Nope. Not nice at all.

    But I have chocolate brownies and Yankee baseball...

    I'm doing okay in upstate. Once I find my Jeter jersey, that is.

  56. Audra - I've got 75,000 words.

    I read Shogun last summer, which was good because I didn't remember the storyline from when I was younger. One of the storylines in my sequel was also in Shogun. I got rid of the storyline.

  57. Tina, thanks again for inviting me.

  58. Walt, Great post and interesting. I love learning about other cultures and I also love to hear stories of Christians struggling against all odds to bring the good news into a new culture.

    Your family is charming. As Cathy already posted, its great to learn more about you after reading your posts all these weeks.

    Its late here so really late back east. Thanks for joining us. And for a midnight snack I'm bringing some jasmine tea and little seaweed crackers from the Japanese tea garden.

  59. I've already read Missy's book (unsigned though) so best not to include me in the raffle. But that was a fascinating post. I'd not heard about those hidden bits of Christianity before. Very neat. Good luck with the book, and looking forward to your own giveaway.

  60. Congrats to Connie. You won the book. I e-mailed you off-line. In case you didn't receive it, please e-mail me at wmussell[at]hotmail[dot]com.

  61. Sorry, I'm late. But great post, Walt. And keep writing, it will happen. Did you know that Catherine Palmer's very ms was just published by LIH as it launched the line? I thought that was very cool. Not that it will take you that long but just saying...we never know God's timing!

  62. This comment has been removed by the author.

  63. What an inspiration for your book, Walt. I remember you blogging from Japan. Thanks for sharing the history surrounding this area and the castle.