Monday, January 27, 2020

Life on the Floor: Setsubon and Shopping

Yesterday, I got the draft of The Eagle and the Sparrow off to those wonderful people who will give it a read and tell me where I went wrong in terms of big stuff, loose ends, dangling threads and mass confusion.  Those are Beta Readers, and their contributions are incalculable.  That also forces me to give the manuscript a rest, so that when I get their feedback, I'll be able to see more for myself what stands between this draft and a book I can send to the Wielder of the Deadly Red Pencil, my Editor Extraordinaire.  There's lots more after that, but I'm on schedule.  So today I was rather at loose ends.  There's plenty to come, but I am a few days ahead of myself.

Weather forecasting here is superlative, and while rain was and is predicted all darned day, I wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise.  Next on my culinary agenda is chili, with polenta, since cornbread is out of the question without an oven, and I needed oatmeal, which is surprisingly hard to find, so off I went during an HOUR when rain was predicted not to fall.

Four stores later, I found oatmeal, canned corn for the chili (and the polenta), plus nice Italian diced tomatoes, some potatoes, and carrots, which seemed to have vanished for a while. There is a real liquor store on my route which happens to carry -- I just discovered this -- 1800 ml bottles of a brand of sake that is ALSO surprisingly hard to find by the bottle, though you can get it by the drink in bars -- which I don't frequent.  It's got the Imperial Warrant, so it should be drinkable and my palate says it's drinkable, so I stopped by the liquor store to get a bottle.

They gave me two lovely and enormous leeks.  I saw a recipe for roasting them in a cast iron pan on a stove recently, and while I don't have a cast iron pan, I'll give it shot.  Here's my haul.

I also got roasted soybeans for Setsubon, also called Risshun, which takes place February 3, and celebrates the official start of spring, being halfway between the solstice and the equinox.  That's what's in the little box with the Oni on it in the middle. These are scattered inside and swept outdoors, while chanting "Oni out, fortune in."

This being Japan, the beans come in tidy individual packets so they can be picked up and eventually opened and eaten, because they're good.  No Oni get these beans!  Since the NEXT book is going to involve Oni (sometimes called demons), I found that peculiarly appropriate. 

It started raining when I was nearly home, right on schedule, and now I'm going to figure out those leeks!


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Openings for Beta Readers

How about some fun?

I have openings for 5 new Beta Readers for book 7, The Eagle and the Sparrow.

If you're already on the Beta list, you don't have to respond.  If you aren't and you'd like to give it a try, send an email to

The MS will be sent out on February 1. It'll come in .pdf.  If that's a problem, other things can be arranged. Just let us know what you prefer and we'll talk.  We need feedback by February 28. We can't delay longer than that. This is professional publishing land, so we have publication dates and deadlines.  Sometimes this looks JUST like work!

Beta Readers simply read the book!  They note what works for them and what does not. They spot plot holes and loose ends when they see them. They point out areas where action drags too much and they lose interest. They call attention to unresolved conflicts.  It's not a test. Betas just read and comment in a short (but helpful) manner. A couple of sentences is just about all the feedback that's needed, but whatever you want to say is welcome. Feedback comes by email.

Beta Reading is NOT copyediting. Beta readers don't check for spelling or grammar. They don't point out missing commas.  If there is a repeated word use that drives you nuts, mention it, sure, but that's not what you're looking for.  This IS NOT COPYEDITING.

Neither is it line editing.  If you spot a research or usage issue that bugs you, point it out, but that's not what you're looking for.  You can assume the research and usages can be defended. Point it out if you want but that's not your job, either.

It's not developmental editing, either. We're past that. The basic concept of the series or the book is set. If you'd like to see a totally different book, either write it yourself or pass on the idea, which I'll use if I feel like it in a later book. If you'd like to see a different series concept, I really do suggest you write it yourself. 

I'd be please to be asked to Beta your next book.

Your reward? An e-copy in the format of your choice of the final book, with the illustrations, cover notes and all, just as if you bought it.  THAT will be an ARC, so you can get it first and leave a review at the outlet of your choice if you want.  By then, it'll be too late to change ANYTHING, but we hope you won't want to.

And you will always have many thanks, forever.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Neighborhood Adventures: Senzoku-Ike

Ota-ku is one of the 23 Wards that comprise metropolitan Tokyo proper.  If it's not part of the 23 Wards, it's a suburb, and there are plenty of those, too.  Tokyo is HUGE.  It's got the density of New York and the space of L.A., near as I can tell.

Even Ota-ku, where I live, is BIG.  It's on the coast, between Shinagawa station and Haneda airport, which might be familiar landmarks, and like Shinagawa, it was a suburb on the way out of town in the old-old days, with maritime and industrial to rural roots, though it is now part of the actual city, not just the metropolitan area. Shinagawa was the first station on the old Tokaido Highway.  Kawasaki was the second, Kanagawa the third and Hodogaya (Yokohama)  the fourth.  Ota-ku is between Shinagawa and Kawasaki.

It's got lots of history, and I want to see all of it. I go to the Tamagawa, with its bike and pedestrian paths, sports facilities and water access fairly often. I plan an expedition to the Kofun tombs, close by at Tamagawadai Park, soon.  Ikegami Honmonji is very close to me. Though it is very nicely kept and beautiful, I found it disappointing. Much was destroyed in the war and had to be reconstructed after 1945.  As always, the reconstruction job was superb -- you'd never know it unless they told you -- so the lack of artifacts in the museum really isn't their doing.

Then I found Senzoku-Ike, also very close to me.  Ike means pond, and there is one!

It's a pretty pond, with bird refuges. The path around is 1.5 KM.  You can rent boats, even in January.  I like a regular rowboat, and I'll be back for that.

There are two shrines in the park, one for war horses.

Remember, if you will, that my reading level is very low, but I try. I think this shrine honors a specific mythological or historic (take your pick) horse, plus other horses who served in wars.  There's another shrine, too.
It's very lovely, but the sign talked about the bird refuge area that surrounds it and the other information made references to foxes, so I had to be content with pretty.

But the big draw here is that Senzoku-Ike is almost exactly one ri (just about 2 miles) from what was the Ikegami residence and Nichiren Daishonin stopped here "to wash his feet," as all the signs say.  I suspect that, since the Ikegami family was a fairly big deal and Ikegami Honmonji is on top of a hill (and that's where the house was) it was probably customary for travelers to stop here to visit the little shrines, clean up in the pond, have a rest and send a messenger forward to make sure their arrival was expected. Subsequent pilgrims to Ikegami Honmonji, following the Daishonin's death there, have made a point of stopping here, too.

At the site where the Daishonin stopped, there's a Nichiren Shu temple of medium size and the sign above, which indicates that this is the place, and he did something with a pine tree -- I THINK planted one, either deliberately or inadvertently. There are very few pines in this area, but there are three (see photo above) and the sign points to it. It also talks about the pine being on its third iteration? Incarnation? Generation?  (I really don't read very well.)

There are many statutes and funny little altars, typical of Shu temples, but here's the prize.

Of course, being Nichiren Shoshu, we don't chant TO the statue or any of that, but I didn't see any harm in waving and saying "Hi."  I had more sense of presence here than I did at Ikegami Honmonji. I can visualize the Daishonin's entourage settling into the lakeside bamboo grove for a rest, a picnic, wading and planting a pine tree, happy to have almost reached their destination and having a pleasant time.  The thought of that makes me happy, and I will come here again.

Monday, January 6, 2020

People are COMING! (A few travel tips.)

Here are a few tips for planning a trip to Japan. 2020 is going to be a tough travel year unless you have event tickets and reservations in hand because the Olympics are here!

Hotel rates have in fact gone up in anticipation, particularly on the Tourist Track of Nikko-Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto-Nara.  Airfares may have gone up, too.  Try traveling off the Tourist Track.  Research small country inns and other parts of the country.  Japanican is one source for smaller, simpler accommodation.

If you are a Nichiren Shoshu member, obtain Gokaihi permission early.  Note that your Japanese member friends may not be able to be there the days you are there, due to space limitations for certain ceremonies.  Japanese temples take turns.  No, Japanese members cannot stay with you in the lodgings reserved for overseas members. even if they originally came from your country. It's probably best if they come for day trips, as overseas and Japanese members are scheduled differently and separately.  Japanese friends probably can't join you for the duration of your pilgrimage. They have jobs, children, work and other real-life commitments that will get in the way of your proposed travel plans.

Figure out what you want to see on the rest of your trip. Tokyo is enormous. There are more attractions than you can possibly see.  NONE of them are close together.  Plan, probably, two a day, and check with your Japanese friends so you are not picking ones on opposite sides of the city on the same day, with hours and hours and hours of travel time involved.  If you want to get out of the city, there are plenty of options.  Trip Advisor knows of some.  Find something you want to see!  Your friends will join you if they can.

Ask your Japanese friends about where you should stay before you book a so-called "discount" hotel that's two hours away from them and another two hours from the attraction you want to see. Tokyo is VAST. Your friends MAY have an idea for a hotel close to them that's less than half the price of the one in Red-Light-District-Tourist Central.  The big hotel booking sites are not your friends in terms of either location or cost.  Again, Japanican or similar may have better ideas.

Your friends almost certainly do NOT have a guest room. They almost certainly don't know every single inn reservation system in the whole country or how to get to and from the airports or what buses go where at what times and what they cost.  Unless they are travel agents.  You can do internet research as well as they can. Give it a shot. Chrome will even translate for you!  Hyperdia can help you plan train trips.

A RailPass may or may not work for you.  You have to plan an itinerary and cost it out to see if it will. Residents can't get RailPasses, and have different things, like IC cards and commuter passes that they use. 

Your friends have things to do.  They have jobs and families and businesses and can't get off every day.  Please understand if they can only take one day off to go someplace with you. Do ask about recommendations.  There are places I really want to see or see again, things I want to do or do again, right in town.  If I suggest going to them with you, I think we'll both like them.  There are interesting places outside of Tokyo I'd like to go.  Ask and maybe we can work something out.  You might like them, too. 

This is a wonderful country and one I hope to enjoy with friends for many, many years to come.  Maybe even all of you at once!