Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: research-scenery

The Landed Sea Witch Scenery – Cutty Sark

I was in London this weekend, so I made a point to drop by the Cutty Sark, the inspiration for The Landed Sea Witch, which you can find at The Casket of Fictional Delights in written form and podcast as part of the Tube Flash Project. Last time I was in London it was not open to the public yet, but this weekend I was finally able to go in.

The main exhibition seemed to be about the tea that the ship had carried, and well, coffee drinker here, but the structure of the clipper ship, the hull and the restored boards are very beautiful. The ropework is very cool, too, and the glass frame on which the ship floats is not that bad after all.

Whole view, artistic take

tlsw_nw_2014 (1)

tlsw_nw_2014 (2)

tlsw_nw_2014 (3)
Nannie Dee headpiece

I came through North Greenwich station, of course, so mission 100% accomplished:

tlsw_nw_2014 (4)

Hyakki Yagyō Scenery (2)

As I have recently come back from Japan, I’ve taken a few more pictures from the areas that appear in Hyakki Yagyō. As the post tries to be mostly visual, I’ll try not to get too much into descriptions and the importance of each place, just let you catch a glimpse of them. These are my photos, so they might be a little artistic (read: loopsided or overexposed).

Zozo-ji (San’en-zan Zōjō-ji (三縁山増上寺 San’en-zan Zōjō-ji) area (Minato, Tokyo), with the main temple and Tokyo Tower behind it. The area where Ko is planted is between the graveyard behind the temple and Tokyo Tower.



Gotoku-ji (豪徳寺; Setagaya, Tokyo), the temple of the good-luck cat (which I never managed to find open):


Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺 Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji; Asakusa, Tokyo), with the great paper lanterns:


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where Satoshi works, and the Shinjuku skyscraper district where it it is located:



Nikko (日光市 Nikkō-shi) area:

Nikko 1

nikko 2

Yokohama Chinatown (横浜中華街, Yokohama Chūkagai):


Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”), in Kyoto:


Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), in Kyoto:


Kamakura (鎌倉市 Kamakura-shi) and the komainu (lion dogs):


Related: Hyakki Yagyō Scenery (1): Shiba Kōen [link], Hyakki Yagyō Research [link],

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.

Lisbon earthquake (1755)

It was the first of November of 1755, about 9:50 a.m. when a fault broke under the Atlantic Ocean between Madeira and the Iberian Peninsula (estimated coordinates 36ºN, 11ºW). The magnitude has been estimated in 8.8, and the duration of the shaking was 6 and a half minutes. Twenty minutes later, a tsunami washed over the east coast of Portugal, the south-east coast of Spain and the east and north-east coast of Africa. The highest waveheight seems to be about 13 metres (some historical sources say up to 30 or even 40 metres), and the number of tsunami waves (run-ups) was to 51.

This is what has been historically called “The (Great) Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami of 1755” due to the great destruction it caused in the capital of the Portuguese realm. It completely dynamited the country’s colonial race and had great impact in the European society at the time.

It is less known how it affected the city of Cádiz, a small peninsula in the south-west of Spain. The wave arrived about an hour after a “soft” tremor was felt, and washed through the city. Local legends say that everyone who tried to escape through the narrow sandbar that joins the city with the mainland were swallowed by the sea, and only the Governor’s order of closing the City gates prevented more deaths (although the toll is estimated to be “thousands”).

Although the number of wave run-ups was over 50, according to the local legends, there was only one wave that actually flooded Cádiz. In the church of La Palma there is a plaque that commemorates the event:

En el año mil setecientos cincuenta y cinco, primer día de Noviembre, la tierra en violentos vaivenes de un temblor se estremecía enfureciendo al mar sus movimientos por los muros de Cádiz se subía preparando entre horror, ansias y males, el último castigo a los mortales. Un sacerdote saca fervoroso el guión de la imagen de la palma; DE AQUÍ NO PASES, dice al mar furioso; y al punto al mar se vuelve y todo calma. Por este caso tan notable y prodigioso esta ilustre hermandad, con vida y alma de Dios y de María, en honra y Gloria en gratitud erigió esta memoria.

Which roughly translates to: “In the year of 1755, first day of November, the earth shuddered with violent movements, angering the sea with its movements. Over the walls of Cádiz the sea climbed, preparing among horror, anxiety and evil the last punishment for the mortals. A priest brings out in fervour the image of the Virgin of La Plama; DO NOT PASS THIS POINT, he tells to the furious sea; and immediately the sea retreats and calmness comes. For this notable and portentous case, this brotherhood, whose souls belong to God and Mary, in honour and Glory wrote this thankful note.”

There are many legends related to the 1755 Cádiz tsunami. There are also many facts. It was not the first and it will probably won’t be the last. The question that remains is, did the waters unnaturally retreat? And if they did… how and why? It’s probably worth mentioning now that the two promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar are called the Pillars of Hercules, and that they marked the end of the known world, although there were rumours of land beyond them… maybe Atlantis?

Nope, I’ve not gone postal… yet. I am indeed planning to write something that involves this. I’m just not telling you because… I don’t even know what it is about yet XD. Meanshile, this is how the beachfront of Cádiz looks:

Also… you have any clue how hard it was not to write “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” up there? LOTS.

Historical Tsunami Database NOAA
El Tsunami de Cádiz

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.


  • 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:


A while back I told you about a zombie plotbunny of mine here [link]. Miyamae Haruma, architect apprentice, finds himself in a little bit of a bind when he is doing an assessment of Yokosuke Thermal Powerplant. There is an earthquake and one of the towers collapses on top of the main building, trapping him and other three survivors inside. It is a bit of a tale of how they try to get out.

Last time I wrote about Lifequake I did not know much aside from the beginning of the story, the main premises – a recently broken-up couple, one of them is trapped inside, the other one is trying to get the first one out. Eventually, the one outside developed to Akita Reijiro, firefighter with some jealousy issues. Haru’s life depends on Akita’s fighting now.

When you’re out there fighting fire you can’t make it personal. It is your job. If you make it personal, then it is not your job, and that is dangerous. Sometimes, however, it is the fire itself that makes it personal – and it targets something that you cherish. The only thing that you can do then is fight. Because if you don’t fight, then you have already lost.

– Akita Reijirou

Today I know exactly which tower fell, in what direction, I know where the fuel leaked and the ocean caught fire. Silly as it might be, seeing Yokosuka Power Plant was one hell of a rush.

Here is what I saw:

I hope I can soon put together pictures for you to know where I place my characters, because I have a lot to show you. I know now where Gabriel and Akira boarded for Hanoi in Narita, where little Nao used to hunt trashcans for food or where the Ice Dragon vs Nemoto swordfight happened. I have been at the spot Nao called the Black Serpent from Tokyo, seen where he bought his phone and could walk to the ramen place. All in all, people, brace yourselves. The pictures are coming.

(Also, I am working on retagging and recategorising the whole blog. I’ll keep you posted, sorry if you use that for navigation. It will be messed up for a bit.)

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.