Thursday, October 26, 2017

This is Takeda Castle, near the city of Asago. Built in 1441 on the summit of a mountain, it's called the "Castle in the Sky" because on cool mornings it appears to be floating on a sea of clouds.
Image result for takeda castle

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bites From French History (1)

We've been working on a new book, titled BITES FROM FRENCH HISTORY. It's about the relationship between French food and French history from Louis XIV to Napoleon. We're assembling stories, food lore, historical events, and of course recipes.

One of the earliest entries dates from August 17, 1661, when young King Louis XIV and his entourage came to visit the newly finished estate of his finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet. Fouquet, like other courtiers, thought he could dominate the inexperienced ruler, and planned to awe him with a lavish party.
In charge of the preparations was the maitre d'hotel, named Francois Vatel. He had hired France's premier landscaper, Le Notre, to plant magnificent gardens, the architect Le Veau to design a multi-story house, decorated with paintings of mythological scenes done by Charles LeBrun. The composer Lully was hired to create a musical background for the banquet, and finally an evening's entertainment of comedy written by the immortal Moliere just for the occasion.

At the banquet, the king complimented his host on the gold-plated dishes on which the food was served. Fouquet unwisely corrected him, saying that the plates were in fact solid gold. The king commented that his own palace had no such plates.
Instead of being impressed, Louis felt that Fouquet must have embezzled a considerable amount from the treasury to put on such a fabulous display. The banquet had two results: When the king returned to Paris, he ordered Fouquet arrested--and eventually jailed for life. The second result had far-reaching effects for France. The king hired all the people Fouquet had employed and set them to work building a new royal palace at Versailles.

The only employee that the king spurned was the man who had overseen it all: Vatel. But a few years later Vatel was to present another banquet for the king, and it would make Vatel one of the heroes of French cuisine.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pictures made by rice farmers

The village of Inkadate in Japan is famous for the huge pictures created by rice farmers who plant different kinds of colored rice to make the pictures. The artistic tradition is strong.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Here's a link to an interesting article about a place in Japan where there are many statues of Buddha. People decorate them with red cloths. According to the local legend, nobody knows how many of these statues there are, because when you try to count them, some disappear. Our daughter thinks we should use this as a plot device for our next Samurai Detective book. Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The producer who is hoping to turn IN DARKNESS, DEATH into a movie is considering this man for the role of Kitsune. Does anybody like/dislike the idea?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sales of our books about Seikei and Judge Ooka usually go up in the summer, but we noticed that, at least for today, THE GHOST IN THE TOKAIDO INN is rated on Amazon:
  • #1 in Books > Teens > Historical Fiction > Asia

  • That's Number One on historical fiction about Asia for teens. And this is eighteen years after publication without a shred of advertising or promotion by the publisher. (Philomel and the paperback subsidiary, Puffin)
  • Sunday, May 29, 2016

    As most of our fans know, we have published a seventh book in the Samurai Detective series even though our original publisher didn't want any more. The publisher never promoted or tried to sell the previous six books, anyway. Lately, we've been thinking about an eighth book, and the recent interest in the series by an indie movie producer only led us to think more seriously about number eight.
          We always start by looking for an idea that will form the basis of the new plot. Right now, we've been reading about Tsukahara Bokuden, a wandering swordsman who lived between 1490 and 1572. This was too early for Seikei to have met him, but we can create a character based on Bokuden who will be a contemporary of Seikei.
           These wandering swordsmen were ronin, or masterless samurai, who hired out their skills and services to people in need. They were similar to the hired guns of the Old West. Bokuden invented his own style of sword fighting, and became so well known that he was invited to teach his method to the shogun, a great honor.
           Bokuden had a son, who disappears from history, but there's no reason why he couldn't have a grandson or great-grandson. Now we have to figure out a way to have Seikei meet him. Let us know if you like the idea.

    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    Transmedia Seikei?

    We heard from an award-winning indie filmmaker who has great ideas for using our books in various other forms of media--like manga, anime, and live-action feature films. Big question, as is always the case in film making, is raising money, but he seems to know how to do that too. Does anybody out there want to see Seikei and Judge Ooka onscreen or in a manga book?

    Saturday, February 20, 2016

    Here's a youtube video that tells about Kabuki theater. Very interesting. As readers of THE GHOST IN THE TOKAIDO INN know, Seikei and the Judge go to a kabuki play and then Seikei joins the kabuki acting group to find the thief who stole a precious jewel.

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    Interesting post by Alain deBotton:

    Though we may keep a little quiet about this, especially when we're young, we tend deep down to be rather hopeful that we will - eventually - manage to find perfection in a number of areas. We dream of one day securing an ideally harmonious relationship, deeply fulfilling work, a happy family life and the respect of others.
    But life has a habit of dealing us a range of blows - and leaving nothing much of this array of fine dreams save some shattered and worthless fragments.
    It’s at moments of disillusion that we might turn our minds to a concept drawn from Japanese philosophy, and in particular, from the Zen Buddhist approach to ceramics. Over the centuries, Zen masters developed an argument that pots, cups and bowls that had become damaged shouldn’t simply be neglected or thrown away. They should continue to attract our respect and attention and be repaired with enormous care - this process symbolising a reconciliation with the flaws and accidents of time, reinforcing some big underlying themes of Zen.
    The word given to this tradition of ceramic repair is kintsugi:
    Kin = golden
    tsugi = joinery
    It means, literally, ‘to join with gold’. In Zen aesthetics, the broken pieces of an accidentally-smashed pot should be carefully picked up, reassembled and then glued together with lacquer inflected with a very luxuriant gold powder. There should be no attempt to disguise the damage, the point is to render the fault-lines beautiful and strong. The precious veins of gold are there to emphasise that breaks have a philosophically-rich merit all of their own.
    The origins of Kintsugi are said to date to the Muromachi period, when the Shogon of Japan, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) broke his favourite tea bowl and, distraught, sent it to be repaired in China. But on its return, he was horrified by the ugly metal staples that had been used to join the broken pieces, and charged his craftsmen with devising a more appropriate solution. What they came up with was a method that didn’t disguise the damage, but made something properly artful out of it.
    Kintsugi belongs to the Zen ideals of wabi sabi, which cherishes what is simple, unpretentious and aged – especially if it has a rustic or weathered quality. A story is told of one of the great proponents of wabi sabi, Sen no Rikyu (1522-99). On a journey through southern Japan, he was once invited to a dinner by a host who thought he would be impressed by an elaborate and expensive antique tea jar that he had bought from China. But Rikyu didn’t even seem to notice this item and instead spent his time chatting and admiring a branch swaying in the breeze outside. In despair at this lack of interest, once Rikyu had left, the devastated host smashed the jar to pieces and retired to his room. But the other guests more wisely gathered the fragments and stuck them together through kintsugi. When Rikyu next came to visit, the philosopher turned to the repaired jar and, with a knowing smile, exclaimed: ‘Now it is magnificent’.
    In an age that worships youth, perfection and the new, the art of kintsugi retains a particular wisdom - as applicable to our own lives as it is to a broken tea cup. The care and love expended on the shattered pots should lend us the confidence to respect what is damaged and scarred, vulnerable and imperfect - starting with ourselves and those around us.