As the photos above show, there's been a lot of progress in clearing away the wreckage of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. The problem is, when the rubble is cleared, there's nothing left.
Pretty much everything that wasn't solid concrete that was in the water's path was knocked to bits. (So were some concrete structures.) Much of what remains is so small it's being picked up by hand by people like 45-year-old Yukari Sato, pictured here.
Ms. Sato does this eight hours a day, seven days a week, and she's not just picking up trash. She's looking for things she recognizes, bits and pieces of her neighbors' smashed lives that she might be able to return to them.
Anything is better than nothing.
But none of these images reveals the actual wasteland, which is the wasteland of the heart. More than a million people have lost loved ones, family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, students. Each other. They've lost livelihoods and neighborhoods, comfortable routines and the taken-for-granted but miraculous world of the everyday.
The situation in Japan is still a spirit-breaking tragedy, but this is the time following a disaster that people gradually stop offering support, as the images fade and are replaced by new spikes in the 24-hour news cycle. The need remains urgent, though, and for readers, here's an easy way to make a contribution.
SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN is a Kindle e-book available on Amazon that contains twenty new and original stories by twenty highly esteemed mystery authors. The book costs only $3.99, and every penny of that goes to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund Administered by Japan America Society of Southern California.
All the writers are donating one hundred percent of their royalties to the Fund. Amazon, bless its big corporate heart, is donating its thirty percent. So you pay $3.99 and get a tremendous book, and the relief nonprofits working in Japan right now get $3.99.
The writers whose talent and generosity made this possible 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, and Jeri Westerson. I have a story in the collection, too.
And we have a great cover designed by another fine writer, Gar Anthony Haywood
If you don't have a Kindle you can download Kindle for PC or Kindle for the Mac free (just Google the names of the programs) and read the book on your computer.
Please buy SHAKEN and send a little help to those who need everything right now. And if you like the writers, buy their books. I've read something by all of them and everything by some of them, and there's not a dud in the bunch.
And a whopping thank-you to Ellis for giving us this space to tell you about SHAKEN.
I have my copy, and the stories are great. Remember, all the money for the books goes to help the people of Japan. Thanks to Tim, Amazon, and all the authors who contributed such good stories. Please help if you can.