Saturday, November 23, 2019


If you actually want to buy paper copies of my books you can get them just about anywhere BUT which insists on showing ONLY out of print editions. Try APPLE, KOBO, BARNES AND NOBLE, INGRAM SPARK and ANYBODY ELSE. You can get e-books from SMASHWORDS, and all of the above. SUPPOSEDLY you can get both print and e-format in the US on Amazon, but apparently they continue to refuse to show the NEW editions, just the out of print ones.

I have been fighting with them for months, and I have the serious feeing they're NOT going to distribute my books any more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Way Things Change

Supposedly there are two kinds of writers: plotters, who create extensive outlines, character biographies, maps, new languages, and know where they're going before they start.  The other group is "pantsers" as in "by the seat of their...." 

I'm not sure what I am.  As usual, I'm something just a little bit different. I have a first line.  I have a last line.  I have a general idea of what the book's about.  I think I know how I'm getting from that first line to that last line. 

Then it changes.  As I get into the books and into the characters, the characters start directing the action.  Things I'd barely hinted at become central.  My working title might remain the same or it might not.  But the book grows and changes under my hands and becomes something very different from what I originally envisioned.

I can't even remember where Book 7 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series started.  I'm now dead in the middle and so many things are happening in 1875 Kyushu, in Meiji-era Japan, and in the lives of my characters that I don't know what to write next.

My first line is still good.  So's my last one.

I now have a working title: The Eagle and the Sparrow.

It'll be out next June, for the Solstice, as has become my habit, but as for What Happens Next?  I don't even know for sure!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Few Tidbits and a Tozan

I had friends in town last week for a Buddhist pilgrimage to Taisekiji.  That's what we do.  We had fun.  That's what we do, too. 

If you're in Tokyo, take the Symphony Harbor Cruise.  It is WONDERFUL!  It'd be fun even in the rain but we had a spectacular day!  We even caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.  I hope this will become an annual event!

I can't seem to upload the pictures, but I will.  Many are on Facebook, so if you really want to see, check that out.

We had fabulous weather at Taisekiji, too -- and a CAR!  The only reason I'd really like a car is to get to places off the beaten track and for Taisekiji and environs.  The place is huge.  We got to Shimonobo, the Nanjo Family Temple, where Nikko Shonin first brought the Dai-Gohonzon when he left Minobu.  Wisteria vines used for rope took root and are still living.  It's known for the wisteria and busloads of tourists come to see the spectacular display each May.

Myorenji was the home of Nanjo Tokimitsu, Lord Ueno, and his family.  On the death of his wife, he donated his house for a temple that was named for her.  He also donated the land for Taisekiji -- one of the reasons it's so gigantic.  It's gigantic by anybody's standards and triply so by Japan's.

We were able to attend a memorial service for the late 67th High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nikken Shonin, which concluded with a massive thunderstorm followed by a double rainbow.  I DO have pictures, but they won't be found.  Also on Facebook, but will also be here if I can find them.

It was hilarious fun to watch my friends in their endless quest for previously untried Japanese Fast Food.  Most places do have a salad, and Mos Burger has a veg offering, plus onion rings.

If you try to book a Tokyo hotel through a standard hotel booking site in the US, they'll want to put you in one of a couple of locations.  One is Shinjuku.  None of those locations are convenient for me.  It's a long, long train ride and a taxi's nearly the price of a car. (Yes, I do live in central Tokyo; Tokyo is ENORMOUS.)  They're all crowded and Shinjuku is always packed with students and tourists and an odd mix of designer stores, hostess and host clubs, tourist attractions and a red light district. It's not a place I enjoy and it's not a place I'm particularly comfortable. If you're visiting Tokyo and you have friends there ask your friends what's convenient for THEM.  You can ride trains for three hours (half each way) TOGETHER and visit during the ride  Your friends might also be able to get you a better deal than any hotel booking site.

That being said, the Samurai Museum is really good!  They have a great collection of period armor, much of it on loan, superb reproductions, antique and reproductions swords, a swordsmanship demonstration coupled with a ninjutsu demonstration that's as good or better than anything I've seen (and I've seen a lot) by genuine experts in those arts.  They also deal in genuine antique swords and armor.  This is well worth a look.

It's also hard to beat Harajuku (trendy, crowded fun), Omotesando (here's the place for designer stores without host/ess bars next to them) and Meiji Shrine with its gorgeous park, the huge shrine and the nice new museum that's right there, plus the Ota Museum, which I always enjoy, right across the street.

A home-based tidbit that's possible only in Japan is this:  I use the JP Bank ATM fairly often.  I pay my rent there and also pay fees for my Temple group pilgrimages.  I went to the Secret Post Office today to pay my expenses for the New Year's Tozan.  Not all ATM machines are created equally, and I found it was more than willing to let me pay my rent -- which I must do in Japanese -- but it would NOT let me pay for the New Year's Tozan.  It had never heard of that account.  On a whim, I hit the English Guidance Button.  This never does anything I want to do, I have found, but lo and behold, although all the text was in Japanese, it DID let me pay for the New Year's Group Tozan.  Only here. Only in Japan.

Photos.  Someday.  Once I find them.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Missing the target at Ikegami

I went to Ikegami Honmonji yesterday.  I live right by it; it's famous.  Though it is now a Nichiren Shu temple, it is the place where Nichiren Daishonin died and the site where his body was cremated.  There's a museum there I wanted to see; there's architecture, a garden.  There is history.  It's exactly the sort of thing I like and I thought it might be a place some out of town visitors might be interested in.

This odd little pyramid is at the cremation site.  It has a couple of different names, and apparently is the only structure of its kind in Japan. It's pretty. Great effort was put into the architecture and art that adorns it. It's beautifully maintained. It was something I specifically wanted to see. Yet, there is no sense of awe surrounding it, no sense that something momentous happened here. It's another nice building in a temple complex that has many of them.

 There's a secondary structure inside, but normally this building remains shut. 

It is opened only for Oeshiki, when, as in all Nichiren Sects, the eternal life of the True Buddha (there is always a teacher, and that is cause for rejoicing) is celebrated here.  Far as I know, both these photos are public domain.  I could find no credits for them, but I will credit Ikegami Honmonji, which is probably the owner if only because it would so hard to get access for the latter one.

There's a museum, too.  I really wanted to see that because I like museums and I like history. At this location, I thought, they might have some really good stuff!  I wasn't impressed. Things looked wrong. The calligraphy was unclear, in places crooked and smudged. Even the calligraphy by Nichiren himself was not always the decisive and beautiful writing I have come to expect. There was something off.  It's not a place I will bring out of town Nichiren Shoshu members who enjoy studying history.  Nothing to see here.  Come to my temple instead.  Our building is fairly new and not particularly pretty, though it might have architectural significance.  Our garden is nice, but not large.  Inside, though, we are brimming with a life and light that is palpable.  I felt it the first time I entered that temple nearly thirty years ago, and it's there still, for me and for you.

There are many historic sites relating to Nichiren Daishonin. I've been to the site of his birth and early training, to the site of the temple where he first entered the clergy and studied, to Enrakuji overlooking Kyoto, where he pursued further scholarly endeavor. I've been to Kamakura, site of much of his political and religious advocacy activity, to the Isu peninsula, where he was exiled once, to Sado Island, where he was exiled again after an failed execution attempt -- and I've been to the site of that, too.  I've been by Mt. Minobu, where he retired thereafter to found his sect and create his legacy. 

I am a member of Nichiren Shoshu and I frequent Taiseki-ji the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu, where the legacy of Nichiren Daishonin took root and flowered from the time of his direct heir, Nikko Shonin, to this day.

It's different there. It's not just that it's my sect. It's not just that I think Nichiren Shoshu is correct, or that I trust Nichiren Daishonin's designation, in writing, twice, of Nikko Shonin as his successor.  Maybe it's the people, the clergy and laity who populate it. Maybe it's the Hoando, where the DaiGohonzon central to our faith is enshrined. Maybe it's an aura, a vibe, coming from all of these.  I cannot say, but I know that it is where I belong.

Make no mistake, Ikegami is beautiful. The buildings are lovely and well-maintained. The grounds are kept up. The temple is surrounded by a cemetery and Buddhist cemeteries are normally rather cheery places. But there was something off-base.  Like every other historic site I have visited, it's quiescent. There's nothing growing here. It's all about the past.

We are about the future.  I am going to Taisekji on a pilgrimage again this week and I am so very glad.