Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

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Osaka Shikigami Scenery

The Osaka Shikigami world is rooted in, quite obviously, Osaka. When I was there I took quite a few pictures of the area, and while a lot of them were recognisable landmarks, other were chosen specifically for writing reference. Here are a few of both. If some of the descriptions may look vague, it’s because saying more would end up in a spoiler:

First, this is how non-descript Osaka looks like. These are photographs of random suburbs taken from train stations, away from the touristic places:

This is the harbour area. I did write a yakuza fight in the docks’ warehouses, thus the first pic. The second… well, when I was there I knew that something had happened there but I still don’t know what (though I have my suspicions). It will have to do with Book 6 or with the revised Book 4 version:

The entertainment districts: Namba (難波) / Dōtonbori (道頓堀) on the first picture, and Shin Sekai (新世界) on second picture, showing the Tsūtenkaku Tower (通天閣) and Billy Ken, “The God of Things as They Should Be). If there is something that caught my attention about Osaka is the huge amount of wiring that goes over it, no matter where:

In the traditional Osaka side we have The Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings (Shitennō-ji, 四天王寺), which is a Buddhist temple with an attached graveyard, and many smaller shrines around. It is some sort of spiritual compound:

Finally, this is Osaka Castle, which has not really been featured, but shall be. Cause I’m the author and I say so XD Furthermore, the Las Vegas Samurai Casino featured in The Shikigami of Chance was remodelled to look like the main tower.

Hyakki Yagyō Scenery (1): Shiba Kōen

I’ve noticed that I have not made any scenery posts for long, probably since I I talked about Yokosuka power plant, featured in Lifequake. However, considering how many of them I made of Victim #14 I thought it might be a good idea to start again, and since I am biased I will start with Shibakoen, where Ko, the tree yōkai of HyakkiYagyō is rooted.

I won’t deny that I am very biased, so this gets its own post and there will be a later one with further scenery.

Shiba Kōen (芝公園, Shiba Park) is located in the Minato Ward in Tokyo, just at the feet of Tokyo Tower. It was built around the built around the temple of Zōjō-ji Temple, which is the chief temple of the Jodo-Buddhist sect (that’s what reads in the sign, at least).

Here you can see the location on a map, with the area where the tree is planted marked… well, with a tree:

And here are some pictures. The first one was taken by the ever awesome Denise and edited by yours truly, the rest are by me.

A few thoughts on how the trip to Japan has influenced my writing

Osaka: ShintennojiI am really surprised at how this trip has affected my writing, because it was not the way I was fearing.

Expectation: Myriad of established and new characters roaring to be written. Plotbunnies eating me alive. Continuous headache.

Reality:

  • Heat
  • One untitled short story inspired by an amazing evening in Swallowtails’ Butler Café
  • A complete trigger of Hyakki Yagyō (formerly Youkai), a story that has been for long in the back of my mind about an onmyōji / paranormal detective. Youkai was originaly devised as a background “drama script” for a fanfiction, but somehow it rooted. Later on I used it in a short story, were one of the main characters, a writer, was the creator of a story with the same background.
  • Sense of place and better understanding of the day-to-day Japanese culture, which includes:
    • Appreciating face towels
    • Realising the ratio of see-through umbrellas vs. regular umbrellas
    • Learning about money trays when you pay somewhere
    • Realising the amount of power transmission lines
    • The (usually) disposable humid napkin you’re given in every restaurant when you sit down to clean your hands before food
  • Glimpses of the not-daily Japanese culture observing a Matsuri
  • Lots of wondering about spirituality due to the behaviour of people in temples / shrines.
  • Anchorage of a great deal of Osaka Shikigami scenarios.

Osaka: Namba
This last point has been especially important, since after all the Osaka Shikigami is my biggest project at the moment, and also very obvious since I spent most of the 11.5 hours on the plane ride back editing The Shikigami of Life (Osaka Guardians, Book 1).

You may or may not know that I originally wrote Life as a standalone for NaNoWriMo 2009. It was not until March 2010 that the background boomed into a whole series. Thus, the first draft of Life needed a lot of retouching to (I seem to be in a list-mood today. Fun):

  • Fix the timeline. The general Shikigami timeline was built after writing Life, so some details don’t fit
  • Fix the Korean in the room, a blaring continuity error [link]
  • Fix smaller continutity errors or details that got amended in later books
  • Introduce background characters
  • Erase or rewrite most of the scenes from Shirota’s point of view to move them to The Shikigami of Blood
  • Add the scenes from Nao and Takuma’s points of view from The Shikigami of Power
  • Polish the writing style, getting rid of the brutal abuse of one-line paragraphs.

However, as I was editing the scenes (I got about 150 pages done) I realised that I was placing the actions in my mind. One striking example came when Nao went to buy a phone to call Osaka. Before he went to “a shop” and looked for “a quite spot” to talk. Now he headed towards Akihabara, and settled to talk by the stone bridge to the south. As promised, there will be pics soon. For now, this how the edit looks. I am sure my future self will hate her past self for the whole lot of smartass comments:

Leaving on a Jet Plane~

When you read this I will (hopefully) be on a flight between Paris and Tokyo on my way to be attacked by rabid plotbunnies and glomptackled to the ground by friends upon arrival. I will be in Japan until July 19th. However, this blog is supposed to be about writing so did not feel appropriate to spam it with all the visits and flailing and pictures and OMGs. There will be posts here too I guess, since my plans include visiting Osaka and well I expect the Shikigami characters to go nuts or worse over there.

Should you want to follow my adventures, drop me an email and I’ll tell you where my trip logbook is ^^

– see you guys soon!

Ageing Bruises and Healing Scratches: wannabe forensic research

While working on Victim #14 I came across the issue of bruise ageing. Internet research told me that bruise colour is a general thing that follows ‘patterns’ but is not that good an indicator. I found a few pages depicting the colour of bruises according to their age and eventually decided on one as guide.

A few days after that… I banged my knee pretty hard about a rail guard and upon arriving home a few hours later I discovered a good-sized scratch which I decided to photograph. I did the same thing the next day. And the next, and the next. For three weeks I took pictures of the colour and size of my bruise and here it is, in case I you ever need to write about ageing bruises and scratch healing!

I recommend hitting the downwards arrow to move from page to page. If you need more detail you can find the full-screen presentation here [link]. I should have added scales and kept the same light and all that, I know. But oh, well, I did it for fun anyway.

P.S.: Yep, that’s my knee, which means you are seeing me for the first time on the blog! XD

P.S.S.: If you want to DL the presentation for any reason, contact me.

Typical Scottish: Kilts and Tartans (Victim #14 Research)

The most famous Scotsman costume is indeed the kilt – not to be confused with a skirt, it might get you punched if some whiskey has been consumed. The correct name for the whole thing is Scotland attire, Highland attire or Highland dress, but many times it is just called ‘kilt’.

The kilt is usually worn in formal occasions, like weddings – rent-a-kilt seems to be a good business around here, and if the whole party rents from the same store, the groom goes free. That seems to be a common offer. The formal attire can be worn with different jacket styles and each has a different degree of formality. The correct way to wear a kilt involves showing some knee. Pulling the socks the whole way up is considered a huge faux pax.

Here are the parts of a general dress, with an Argyll jacket, that I worked very hard to draw. Please don’t die laughing. I chose the Argyll jacket because it’s the most versatile and because it is the general area the McFarlane clan is from. Furthermore, the Argyll jacket is typically worn with a standard white dress shirt and tie, and Kim likes ties.

Apparently, the kilt is becoming more common in the last few years. I can say I have seen guys wearing it with hiking boots and sweatshirts (and some traditional Scottish pubs have it as uniform). The legend goes that “true Scotsmen” don’t wear anything under the kilt. I have never asked, but expert sources say that it is to the wearer’s discretion and the chances he gets to moonshine someone. If you ask me, it probably should depend on the weather.

These are formal kilts from a store in Glasgow:


 
Townband in Helensburgh, a small town close to Glasgow:

 
Yours truly stalking guys wearing kilts in Edinburgh, for your viewing pleasure the sake of information:


 
The pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours is called a tartan. Each pattern is associated with a clan, and each clan has several patterns (ancient, modern, hunting…). I chose the Modern Black & White Modern MacFarlane tartan for David and Terry, and damn it was hard to reproduce XD. You can read more about the McFarlane clan and their different tartans here [link] and see the traditional McFarlane tartan on the McFarlane booklet cover [link].

 
Finally, here is a fun video on how to correctly wear a Highland attire. Notice that the guy is wearing boxers, but that might have had more to do with Youtube TOS though XD. I also leave you access to a booklet with the maker’s preferred format for linking.

These guys also have a fun booklet full with pictures and funny details that you can download for free from their website [link]

Highland dress remixed from [link]

Victim #14 – Scenery (4)

Here is the last scenery post for Victim #14. It is a bit more random than the previous one, since basically it is random things that I want to show you.

First, I am not sure that I have mentioned this, but they drive on the left side of the road. I keep trying to remember if it is shown in the James Bond movies that the cars are… well, the other way around.


Selective perception is a funny thing. I had never noticed this monument to the fallen during the Korean War (click on the picture for bigger) the first couple of times that I went to the Necropolis before I started writing this, and when I was for the third scenery post [link], I used another entrance. This time, however, it almost punched me in the face as, you can imagine.

Speaking of perception, this is a neat trick with light. Since Scotland is a cloudy country, the buildings seem to have been built to reflect the sun if directly hit. It makes the streets look brighter, even when there’s just a bit of sun (just check the sky XD).

Coatbridge, where David lives, feels like the most boring place on earth. I mean… “Sunnyside”? Really? I think you are trying too hard and clinging to… that one sunny day a year.



Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where the wounded heroes are treated. The entrance marked in red is the ER.


Also, this has nothing to do with anything but I think it’s worth pointing out that most of the Chinese population do not have accents. We’ve become used to the “Chinese accent” through movies and series, but a great deal of the Chinese Scots originally come from Hong Kong, and they have been speaking English all their lives.

Finally, I composed a map with the main locations that appear in the novel. I hope you like it / find it useful.

S – Cambridge Street
C – Coatbridge
D – Dumbarton
G – Glasgow City Centre
N – Glasgow Necropolis
I – Glasgow Royal Infirmary
P – Partick
Policeman – Pitt Street Police Station
V – Victorian house (approximate location, I don’t want anyone suing me!)

Okay, I lied. There’s something else here, a spoiler map! Location of the mobile phone towers that were used to triangulate the Calligrapher’s during his call [link]

Now, remember that I am moving out soon, is there anything else that you’d like to see before I leave? Last chance-ish to ask for pictures!

Glasgow Police Museum (Victim #14 Research)

I got struck with a bit of “must do something” on Saturday so I decided to head out. I had a few pictures to take for the Victim #14 scenery post I still owe you and there was a Japanese restaurant I had not tried in that area (should have gone to the Italian. That should give you an idea of how successful said Japanese restaurant was). Anyway, I went the Glasgow district known as Merchant City to visit the Glasgow Police Museum. (Note: you can make some of the pictures bigger by clicking on them).

Glasgow Police Museum is a exhibit about the history of the police department, which contrary to what the English claim, is the oldest in the UK, dating back to 1779. It is a small exhibit manned by retired policemen and I was lucky (or unlucky) to be the only visitor at the time. It has two wards, one with memorabilia and history panels and another one with a collection of police uniforms throughout the world.

Glasgow Police Department was founded in 1779 by the merchants, tired of petty thefts and robberies, but it was not until 1800 that it became a public force after the passing of the The Glasgow Police Act (and thus got funding to pay the poor constables). The original duties of the police were:

  • Keeping record of all criminal information;
  • Detecting crime and searching for stolen goods;
  • Supervising public houses especially where criminals frequent;
  • Apprehending vagabonds and disorderly persons;
  • Suppressing riots and squabbles;
  • Controlling carts and carriages

In 1819 Lieutenant Peter McKinlay was appointed as ‘Criminal Officer’ which made him the first Glasgow Detective. Two years later, he was provided with an assistant and so the Detective Department was created. The duties of a Criminal Officer were

  • Keeping records of all the crimes committed within the City;
  • interviewing every person detained on a criminal charge
  • Keeping records of criminal descriptions.
  • Aditional duties like take reports of broken street lamps, keep records of prisoners’ meals, enter details of Police Court trials in the Magistrates Books, inspect cells and interview an average of 30 prisoners a day…

If you know anything about North American History or like me have watched / read too many Westerns you might have heahd of Allan Pinkerton and the Pinkerton detectives. His father trained with the Glasgow Police.

The Police department suffered an all-time low during the First World War as 300 policemen joined the army, so 400 reservists were called.

By 1932 Glasgow Police had eleven policewomen to deal with cases involving women and children. The time’s Chief Constable recommended to increase the numbers and the promotion of one of them to Sergeant. Thus in 1933 the first woman, Jean Malloy, was promoted to sergeant and then to Inspector. Eventually she was awarded the British Empire Medal for distinguished service.

The gentleman who showed me around was a retired police officer, who explained to me how when he joined (in the seventies) they had to hide their batons AND the cord, else they would come across as too aggressive. Keep in mind that the UK police is not armed at the moment. Only a few carry taser guns in designated occasions (huuuge emergencies or sport matches).

In 1975 the Glasgow Police Department Disappeared and formed the Strathclyde Police Department [link] instead.

Shortly after leaving the museum I ran into a parade, which allowed me to take some pictures of the actual police without looking like I was doing anything dodgy.


Glasgow Police Museum [link]
1st Floor 30 Bell Street
Merchant City, Glasgow
G1 1LG

Opening Hours:
Summer (1st of April-31st of October, including bank/public holidays): Mondays-Saturdays 10am-4:30pm and Sundays 12pm-4:30pm.
Winter (1st of November-31st of March, closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day): Tuesdays 10am-4:30pm and Sundays 12pm-4:30pm.

Hanafuda Card Deck

Well, I finally got my hanafuda deck [link] out for some pictures as I promised here [link]. I was too lazy to take a picture of each card one by one, so I grouped them up by clubs or months. The goal of hanafuda is to match the cards in pairs, preferably with the highest number of points (yaku) available. You get extra points for bright (three or more 20-point-cards), ribbons/scrolls, animals, sakura-cup…

January Pine: 20 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

February Plum: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

March Cherry Blossom: 20 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

April Wisteria: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

May Iris: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

June peony: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

July Bush Clover: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

August Chinese Silver Grass (Susuki) : 20 pts – 10 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

September Chrysanthemum: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

October Maple: 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt

November Willow: 20 pts – 10 pts – 5 pts – 1 pt

December Paulownia: 20 pts – 1 pt – 1 pt – 1 pt

Bright Cards:

Rules seem to vary slightly from game to game, some people count the total number of points and add the combinations, and other just count the combos up.

Timewaster? Most probably, but it is a card game. Card games are not supposed to be much more than entertaining. Some of them are honest trades, like poker. Bonus points if you get the movie reference. Unless you live in Vegas or Macao, then I guess it’s a life-making trade.

Self-challenge for Blood: Get a hanafuda game in. Let’s see if I remember XD

Hanafuda 2.0

A while back I told you about Hanafuda Card Game (花札), which along with dice and pachinko is one of the games associated with yakuza. I posted pictures of my deck of cards, too [link]. I am not a games person, but I guess that the whole background of this makes me like it, and I was happy when I found a free game app for my smartphone.

This is the free hanafuda game that I play. It was created by Hidetoshi Hayakawa [link], using the hachihachihana (八八花) design, which is the same one that I have on my deck. You can upgrade to a different design, but I love this one anyway. It has one and two-player mode and on and off-line options. I play with the CPU offline, and sometimes I even win! And there is proof! Here are a few screen shots from different games, showing the pretty cards (this reminds me that I should not be lazy and put my cards out to take pictures and make a proper table. Meanwhile you can check here [link]):

There are lots of hanafuda games in the Japanese smartphone market, I can’t help but imagining a yakuza or two having a game in his phone. Betcha they even have strip-hanafuda version. Here is one of those Japanese games, Futari de Hanafuda (二人で花札, something like “Hanafuda for two”) by NHN Japan Corp. [link] that my lovely beta was kind enough to send to me. As much as I like the hachihachihana design, I have to admit I love the boar, which stands for the 10-point card in July (Clover Bush), you can see here that our boar is fighting the deer (October Maple 10-point card):

Anybody else plays hanafuda on their phones? I’d love some screenshots!