Friday, July 17, 2020

The Lotus-Foot Assassin Meets the Dragon King

In a couple of days, The Lotus-Foot Assassin Meets the Dragon King will be available on Amazon, in Kindle Unlimited/KDP Select, world-wide. Those who have subscribed to FLY ON, my newsletter, will have an opportunity to get it for free, of course. If you don't have KU, and I can't get it here myself, it's only $0.99, and this for a novella-length work.  Or you can sign up for FLY ON at The Toki-girl and the Sparrow-Boy's website, and you'll get The Sparrows of Pusan, another novella, and a link for this one, too.

In Noriko's Journey, Book 5, Noriko presents her new husband, Yuta, to her Chinese martial arts masters, Master Peng and his mother, Mistress Feng. 

Mistress Feng can talk to dragons, which makes her highly useful to Ryuujin in The Dragon Sisters, Book 6.

Long before that, though, in 1820s China, British opium smuggling threatens the sovereignty of the Manchu Empire itself. Feng Meili is a Shaolin-trained assassin whose first assignment is to recover the Iron Fan -- a National Treasure that's supposed to have magical powers -- and kill the collaborator who stole it. Can she and Feng Bao infiltrate an Imperial Prince's palace and perform a daring rescue? When Bao is killed, Meili must escape Beijing, braving pursuers, storms and fires to find in herself surprising new abilities and meeting an incredible new ally. This is the story of how Feng Meili meets Long, known in Japan as Ryuujin, the Dragon King.

I hope you enjoy it. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Folk Medicine, Japanese Style

There is a plant that grows in my tiny yard, and everybody else's tiny yard, and apparently all over the country. It's called docudami and is a great ground cover because it does its best to shove out everything else. It flowers prettily in the spring, but it does have a distinctive smell. This means you can make it into a bug repellant by stuffing it into a bottle and covering it in alcohol. (I did.) This also works as a skin toner, but for that purpose, the alcohol to use is preferably sake.  Either way, it's diluted for use in a spray bottle.

It's also a folk medicine, and I have a recipe from a Genuine Japanese Grandma for a way to make it into a tea that, according to my research, is generally Good For What Ails You.

In this, it reminds me of Sopheronium, an herbal medicine that appears in a story by sf/fantasy writer Zenna Henderson. Made by Aunt Sophie, that specific was able to stop a plague and much, much more.

I don't hold out that kind of hope for this one, but Kumi's mother makes it annually, and since I have it in great abundance, I will probably do so, too.

First you pick the docudami and dry it. No matter how you try, it doesn't get truly dry outdoors, so it must be further dried over heat inside, which I finally did this morning, in my air fryer.  Mixed with mugicha (barley tea), mamecha (bean tea) and sobacha (buckwheat tea), it's supposed to, indeed, be good for what ails you.

Given that many people find the odor of docudami unpleasant, the tea is surprisingly nice just as it is, no sweetener needed. When I got the other ingredients, they came in different forms and consistencies. This means I'll need to shake it before scooping it into tea bags (you can buy them empty here, so you can use loose tea in the quantity you like) to brew.

The jar came from Ikea in Harujuku, where I have a dentist. I have too many dentists and see them too often, but they know their jobs, they like what they do, and are located in fun parts of town that I like to visit anyway, so I can plan a treat around the appointment. Fortunately, most dentistry is covered by insurance here and the co-pays are small enough so that I still have some money left.

Besides having vegetarian/vegan food in their cafe, Ikea has a wide selection of products I just haven't been able to find, in addition to their regular offerings of furniture and so on.  I got a few of the jars pictured above -- this project has been waiting for a jar big enough to hold the results.  I found, to my delight, linen tea towels, for dish drying. I've been using the same one, sent to me from the US, for three years. They last forever, but it's nice to have a few more. Since stores now must charge for plastic bags, Ikea also has a really nice selection of shopping bags in various excellent patterns. I also found a tiny little clock that tells the time in analog, that is all it does and that is all I want it to do. It was kind of a disappointment, because I had to take it back. I couldn't get the case open for the battery, and it wasn't just me. They ended up replacing the clock and installing the battery for me, and I was up there for the dentist, anyway.

We probably have another week or two before the rainy season stops and Steam Bath Summer sets in, making the following eight weeks pretty unpleasant, but at least it won't rain.

The Lotus-foot Assassin Meets the Dragon King is a Sideways Story. Madam Feng and her son are Noriko's Tokyo Martial Arts Masters, introduced in Noriko's Journey (book 5). In this story, which takes place in 1825 China, she discovers her ability to talk to dragons on her very first assignment. It's ~10,000 words, novelette length, and will be up on The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's website and on Amazon worldwide, also in Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited as soon as the cover is ready. I can't wait to see it!

The Smashwords Summer Sale has all the books at 75%, with Coming Home (book 1) FREE, through July 31, so take advantage. It's a good summer to read, or, for me, research Book 8, as yet untitled.

And here, ta-da, are my first three itty-bitty tomatoes, with docudami mounding behind them. Rain or no rain, my tiny garden is growing.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Tokyo Fashion

Of course, I have things to do. I need to link the reviews of The Eagle and the Sparrow to the website, yes, I do. The reviews are all great, but I think I am not the first author to find some of them puzzling and others enlightening.  Read the book and do your own. All e-formats are 75% off at Smashwords during July, so have a ball. If nothing else, this is a great summer for reading.

Here in Tokyo, we have now been told to Please Go Out Safely. Virtually all businesses have reopened with many precautions standard. This is a new normal and it isn't going away. Japan plans for the long haul, and is creating new standards of operation more by individual action and communication than by any kind of government mandate or even suggestion. "That's a good idea. Let's do the same."

People love teleworking in Japan as much as they seem to everywhere, so I think we will see a huge shift as people just keep doing it as much as they can. This will lead to reductions in needed office space, among many other things, over the long term. There is already a noticeable trend of people moving out of the big cities, to vacation houses, or old family homes, because they can.

One of the funniest things being debated here is the need for reduction in use of the physical hanko or inkan seal, which is used on many documents. People have had to go into their businesses just to seal stacks of documents. Since this is Japan, I suspect they'll figure out a way to use the seal on-line rather than give up the seal.  I also suspect electronic communication will at last replace the ever-popular FAX, used more in Japan than anyplace else.

Except, of course, if you do not get your US stimulus money (and I haven't) by a certain date you can now FAX a form to someplace in the US to start the process of replacing it. I have to wait another ten days or so before I can do this, since it hasn't been quite long enough from when it was "scheduled to be mailed."

This week, besides running regular errands, I also met a friend for lunch at the new Ikea in Harajuku to try out their vegan offerings. Social distance markings, barriers, auto-ordering kiosks, and really good food. Harakuku is a trendy fashion district catering mostly to the very young, between Yoyogi Koen, the huge park housing Meiji Shrine and its museums, and the highly upscale Omotesando.  So -- what's the latest on the street?

Masks, of course.  And here's my Permanent Collection.

These fun breathable masks are made for serious outdoor exercisers. Because they are the veil style that doesn't encircle the chin but rather hangs down in front, it's easier to exercise and your glasses do not fog up in Tokyo's Steam Bath Summer.  Since they go around your neck like a scarf, you can just take them off your ears and tuck them in when you eat or drink, just like a scarf. Every so many patterns and colors are available. I got mine from Amazon, but I'm sure many other retailers sell them.

This is also a veil type, in Basic Black. It doesn't hang down quite so far, but it's perfect for comfort and protection when you're the Queen of Neutrals, like me.

These are from Uniqlo. Washable, and made of their wonderful Airism Fabric that works so well in the Steam Bath Summer or sweaty sports any time.  Only available in white. Many offices in Japan require white masks only as part of their dress codes, so Basic White is uniformly useful. Did you know Nordstrom is selling something very similar in the US, only in black?  I'll probably wear Basic White and Basic Black a lot.

This is despite the colorful collection of ordinary cloth masks I have acquired. When the stores ran out of disposable (reusable for a period if washed with soap) masks, enterprising people with sewing machines got busy and started making fashion-forward fabric masks that they sold in various street market venues. Though the Abe-no-mask, lower right, was promised and did come, market sellers beat them and the official ones are best kept by the door for taking out trash, getting mail and answering the door. These cloth ones don't breath very well, but this isn't going away, and they'll be very useful when cooler weather hits.

These are Buffs, a kind of breathable neck gaiter sweatband/mask also designed for serious outdoor exercisers. I've had these for years and have used them skiing, riding, boating and hiking. They make great helmet liners and can also be pulled up over the face, or in other configurations -- Buff's website shows many options -- to perform a multitude of tasks.

There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever not to wear a mask in Tokyo. Masks are available that don't make your glasses fog and that make breathing easy even when exercising vigorously.  I like the veil types a lot --  I don't even know I have them on.  People here don't fall for nonsense about "rebreathing carbon monoxide".  They've worn masks for years during allergy season or when they have sniffles.  Even if you buy that, or if you have some kind of breathing difficulty, there is a mask designed to work for you. They don't have to be ugly -- they can be fun, go with your wardrobe, advertise your favorite beer, turn you into an Action Hero or Character Idol, whatever you want. 

On some of us, me included, they improve the visual landscape.

Nobody here feels like their "rights are being threatened." There is no right whatsoever, anywhere, to infect other people with a disease. People here are interested in protecting others, and as others are protecting them, the effect multiplies. This is the secret of Japan's success. People here are doing one of the things Japan does very well: being creative and having fun with a necessity.

You don't have any excuses any more. Just wear a mask.