I’m so excited to collaborate with renowned British author Holly Bourne and more than 200 other writers in a national campaign to support bookshops throughout lockdown – #SignForOurBookshops. During the last lockdown, bookshops had to work so hard just to remain operational – taking orders online, or over the phone. They now face a second lockdown in the build-up to Christmas, their busiest sales period.
#SignForOurBookshops is a national show of support from UK authors, urging people to keep buying through bookshops by offering exclusive signed postcards/bookplates to stores and customers. Over 200 authors are taking part so far, including Matt Haig, Dolly Alderton, Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, David Nicholls and so many more.
What am I pledging?
If you want a signed Renae Lucas-Hall book, here’s what I’m currently pledging as part of this campaign:
I will send out signed, personalised postcards with an image of one of my books, Tokyo Hearts or Tokyo Tales, to 50 people who buy one of my books through a bookshop in the UK during lockdown.
I will send out signed postcards to 10 bookshops in the UK.
I’m offering this on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Customers, please do not buy the book first! Send me an email first to reserve one, so I don’t overcommit to numbers. I will then email back to let you know if you’ve got a spot, then you can buy and send me proof-of-purchase, and I can make up your personalised postcard/bookplate and pop it in the post for you.
How can I buy exclusive #SignForOurBookshops Books by other authors?
Check out the hashtag on Twitter and see which other authors are involved, and how you can buy their signed copies. Some authors are sending out personalised notes to any customer who gives them proof-of-purchase from a bookshop, where others have nominated their favourite bookshops and will be sending them signed postcards and bookplates. There are so many exciting books up for grabs by amazing authors – including bestselling crime writers, children’s authors, romance authors, and non-fiction.
Please do get online, and start supporting bookshops. They’re amazing pillars of our community and I’m sure you’ll agree we want them to still be open when this pandemic has passed.
Is this UK only?
I’m afraid this is currently only a UK campaign. Although Irish authors are pledging for Irish customers too, so check out the hashtag to see who’s involved.
This month, it’s a great privilege to share with you my exclusive interview with Donna Burke in Japan.
But before we get to the Q&A, let me give you a quick rundown of Donna’s achievements . . .
Donna Burke is a famous Australian singer, songwriter, voice actress, freelance broadcaster for NHK, and businesswoman, living the dream in Tokyo. She also owns a talent agency in Roppongi called Dagmusic that produces music for AAA games.
In 2016, Donna formed the quintet Ganime Jazz and since 2017 she has been regularly performing with symphony orchestras around the world in “Metal Gear in Concert”. Check out her behind-the-scenes video below.
In August 2020, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered was released, with Donna narrating each chapter and singing the opening and ending songs.
You may also recognise Donna’s voice if you’ve travelled on the shinkansen bullet train in Japan. Donna’s clear and crisp voice has been used for announcements on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu bullet train system since 2005.
Wowee! That’s a lot of achievements for one classy chick from Western Australia. Donna is an inspiration to us all. She carries herself with dignity, poise and grace and her singing voice is sublime but she also has a wicked Aussie sense of humour. Head on over to Donna’s YouTube channel to check out her performances and her lol comedy sketch videos.
To further appreciate Donna’s incredible vocals scroll down to listen to her performance of “Glassy Sky” at the end of the Q&A.
You have a beautiful voice and your performances on YouTube are fabulous. Where is your favourite place to perform in Japan and why is this such a special place for you?
Hmm, this is a difficult question to answer. But answer it I must! I love performing Metal Gear in Concert with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra as they are just a phenomenal sounding unit. However, Osaka has a very special place in my heart because it was the place where I first performed Metal Gear in Concert in the whole world. Fans came from many parts of Japan to attend this historic event and I was able to meet many of them at a fan event that night. It was really special.
You are now part of a band called Ganime Jazz. You performed at Nakameguro Rakuya as part of Tokyo Meets New York in February. Japan is preparing to open Tokyo up again for the Olympics in 2021 so are you planning to do more performances in the future and where will they take place?
Due to Covid-19 I’m not sure when I will feel safe performing in a cozy jazz bar again. Once a vaccine is found or more time has passed, but for now I have no plans.
You now have millions of fans who all adore your songs “Heavens Divide”, “Snake Eater”, “Sins of the Father” and “Glassy Sky”. Has this success changed you in any way?
Haha, yes! It’s wonderful to be recognised worldwide, a dream come true. Success has made me want to keep creating and bringing joy. It’s made me even clearer about why I am on Earth. However, I still have to fold my laundry, clean up cat vomit and brush my own teeth…so on that level nothing has changed!
Haha! I told everyone you have a great sense of humour and you’ve proved me right!
You sing the opening and ending songs for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered and you narrated each chapter. Do you play this game and did you play video games before you did this?
At this moment, I’m not a game player. I prefer books and the occasional tv show or movie. Games are too stimulating and exciting for my nerves!
Do you still do announcements for the shinkansen bullet trains in Japan?
You have been living in Tokyo for about 20 years. Do you love the city? What is your favourite area in Tokyo and why is this your favourite area?
Yes, I adore Tokyo. My favourite area is Omotesando’s tree lined boulevard and Nakano Broadway. Nakano has lots of cute alleys with tiny shops and restaurants.
What type of Japanese food/meal do you like the most and what food/meal do you miss that you can only get in Australia?
I love sashimi and having a beautiful kaiseki meal. I miss Aussie fish and chips. And when I’m in Australia I miss ramen!
Me too! I live in the UK and I can’t find a decent potato cake or dim sim in any of the fish and chip shops over here.
You’ve said in the past, Tokyo was a great place for people like yourself to get work as a singer when you first started performing in Japan in your early thirties. You said at that time there was a high demand for accomplished artists. Do you think singers can still get a lucky break in Japan now or if they move to Tokyo in the next couple of years?
Recently I did some work with a Swedish music producer, singer and YouTuber @EndigoSkyborn who has only been in Japan for one year. He has the right attitude, and professionalism and happy vibe to succeed anywhere and is making a mark on the music scene here because talented people anywhere want to work with Talent + Great Attitude. You can’t succeed without both. So if you have these you will succeed here for sure. I own a talent agency Dagmusic and I can tell you from experience that this is what will make you successful!
Do you plan to live in Tokyo for the next few decades?
Yes for sure…unless I break into making TV shows in LA then I’ll move there.
Are you planning on releasing a solo album (because we would all buy it) and what is your five-year-plan in regards to your singing career?
I have no plans with Ganime Jazz until after Covid-19 is under control as I like to make music in the same room as the rest of the band. I am working on various projects including a concert tour, a TV show and keeping my fans up to date with fun YouTube content. I have big dreams!
I’d like to send out a BIG THANK YOU to Donna Burke for answering all of my questions. You’re an absolute star! I wish you all the very best now and in the future. I’d also like to thank Donna’s Media Coordinator, Vivian Ma, for organising the interview.
Please enjoy below Donna’s performance of her popular hit “Glassy Sky”.
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER IS SJP @MissSJP ON TWITTER.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED. PLEASE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER AND DON’T FORGET TO RETURN TO MY CHERRY BLOSSOM STORIES BLOG IN THE FUTURE FOR MORE COMPETITIONS.
It’s competition time again and this prize is one of the best ever! One lucky winner in the UK will receive a hardback copy of “Zaido”, the magnificent new photobook by Yukari Chikura, published by Steidl, worth £75.00! All you need to do to enter is:
The winner will be announced on Monday 07 September, 2020. UK entries only. This prize will be sent in the post and delivered by Royal Mail Signed For® 1st Class in the first full week in September, 2020.
This artbook is not just sleek and luxurious. It’s culturally engaging, a perfect addition to your coffee table that you’ll display for years. The photos inside will intrigue you as they enrich your heart and soul. You can’t help but handle this book with all the care it deserves. It has a lovely two-colour cloth cover. The title is embossed in silver foil. The pages are glossy and thick and a delight to touch, see and feel.
At the beginning, in a transparent sleeve, is a brief six-page booklet containing a charming short story titled “The Tale of Danburi-Chōja” (Dragonfly Millionaire). This explains how the Zaido ritual came to be. A detailed map of where this sacred ritual is performed is also enclosed. You’ll also discover a real hand-made omikuji paper fortune sealed to a photo of discarded fortunes halfway through the book.
Several years ago, Yukari Chikura felt physically and emotionally hollow and severely depressed when her father suddenly passed away. At the time, she was also suffering from serious injuries to her face and legs after a major accident. When this pain was just beginning to melt away, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011 and once again Yukari Chikura felt crushed and overcome with grief. During this desperate time, her deceased father appeared to her in a dream. He told her to visit a village hidden in snow where he used to live. This village, the people who live there, and the Zaido rituals they perform are the subjects of this artbook.
Zaido is an ancient 1300-year-old shrine ritual, dating back to the Nara period. On the second day of every new year, villagers from four communities in the area make their way to sacred sites to perform seven ritual dances which they hope will bring them good fortune in the New Year. The photos in this artbook truly capture the essence of this ritual and Yukari Chikura’s feelings as she looked through the lens.
This artbook is an absolute treasure. You’ll admire and absorb every single page. Make sure you head over to Twitter to enter this competition and good luck!
It has taken me over a month to write this blog post because this is such heart-wrenching news to share with you. Roy and I had to say goodbye to our gorgeous, kindhearted Siberian Husky Benson on the 26th May.
Benson turned fourteen in February and like so many other large dogs his age his back legs that were once so strong gradually weakened from arthritis to the point he couldn’t stand at all. It wasn’t just his legs. At the very end, every part of him was just hanging on. I had to hand feed him in the final few days and we knew at that stage it was time for him to go to doggy heaven.
Benson had such a sweet personality. Hundreds of people came up to pat him and admire him during the course of his life. Everyone wanted to cuddle him when he was a pup (he resembled a small panda) and pat him on the head when he was an old boy, doing his best to keep his legs moving as he walked to the end of the street and back. One day we were on a walk here in the Cotswolds and a farmer’s pet lamb rushed up to Benson out of nowhere and gave him a kiss on the nose. I’m sure that lamb could sense his gentle nature as well.
Benson was a dog who could never understand why you would ever go out without him. He hated being left alone. He loved being with my husband and I more than treats. Every day, before and after his dinner and walks and between sips of water, he would come up and ask me to pick him up so he could sit beside me on the left arm of the sofa; it was his favourite place to sit. He knew I liked having him near me and he seemed to love being next to me. I’d pull him over to me and hug him at least three times a day. He looked up to my husband as the protector but I was his mummy who gave him all the kisses and hugs he well and truly deserved.
I want to share with you this poem by Colleen Fitzsimmons. I’m missing my boo so much and I wish he were still here with me. This poem pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now.
I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep. I could see that you were crying, you found it hard to sleep.
I whined to you so softly as you brushed away a tear, “It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea. You were thinking of the many times your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at the shops today, your arms were getting sore. I longed to take your parcels, I wished I could do more.
I was with you at my grave today, you tend it with such care. I want to reassure you that I’m not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key. I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said, “It’s me.”
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair. I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It’s possible for me to be so near you everyday. To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew… In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over now … I smile and watch you yawning, And say, “Goodnight, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide, I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see. Be patient, live your journey out — then come home to be with me.
Thanks for visiting my Cherry Blossom Stories Blog!
In Japan, cherry blossoms represent the fleeting nature of life which is characteristic of many Japanese traditions. Their striking beauty appears, lasts for a couple of weeks, then swiftly fades away.
The transient nature of the cherry blossoms teaches us to appreciate and celebrate our time on this magnificent planet. This sensitivity towards ephemera is called mono no aware (物の哀れ) in Japanese. I think this is a very interesting theme and I've tried to weave it into my novels and short stories. You may have also noticed cherry blossoms are a key feature on the cover of all my books.
I try to post at least once every couple of months and I usually write about Japan, especially Tokyo. I will share with you my thoughts on Japan-related fiction as well as a variety of other subjects linked to the Land of the Rising Sun. I also feature exclusive interviews and articles on well-known people who are movers and shakers in Japan and I run competitions now and again, giving you the chance to win signed copies of my books and other cool prizes!
Thanks for stopping by and if you enjoy reading my posts please subscribe to my Cherry Blossom Stories Blog at the bottom of this page.
Buy the Books
If you love Japan and the Japanese culture you'll really enjoy Tokyo Hearts, Tokyo Tales, and Tokyo 2060.