Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's all books - ALA, Soho Crime and wait, Pride weekend

This weekend it's been crazy with Soho my publisher visiting and old pals Tim Hallinan, Lisa Brackman and a dinner hosted chez nous for 14 - the Soho publishing team and authors. We loved it.
On top of it's the American Library Association in town and Pride weekend.

So I'm throwing up some pics!
 I'm with Laurie R. King at the Sisters in Crime booth
 Our Tim Hallinan and publisher Bronwen Hruska
 Mette Harrison and Ruth and Shannon who write YA with Meredith publicist extraordinair
 Kwei Quaterly and Paul the marketing guru
 Our Tim again giving a nod to the chef, my husband, chez nous
 even more of the Crime Line
 Super cool poster!
 More Soho Crime
 Our Tim again and our Bronwen talking about her authors
 Juliet talking about her authors
The table.
The Table
Cara - Tuesday

Monday, June 29, 2015

Computers as Unreliable Witnesses and Other Musings

What my desk looks like this week

The randomness of my thinking today has to do with what I have been up to.  This past Friday, I began in earnest to research a new novel, set in a brand new place, with brand new people.

Another part of the forest

The second of my British East Africa series, The Idol of Mombasa (Tolliver2), is sold and awaiting a pub date—sometime next year.  I have a decent second draft of The Blasphemer, Tolliver3, which I have put aside until I of M is finalized.  So I have picked up a new story that has been haunting my imagination for about a year now.

Because I write historicals, getting the time, place, and characters sufficiently vivid in my mind takes a lot of research, something some writers find daunting or boring or both.  Not so I.   Once I have amassed some source materials, either at home or on my special, privileged shelf at the splendid New York Public Library, I dive in and before I know it a torrent of story ideas is pouring into my head.  It’s an exciting period for me.  But it has its drawbacks.  I tend to lose track of time and to neglect my everyday to-do list.  I work with such abandon that when I pick up my head, I find it’s getting dark when it feels like it must be 11 AM.

With this going on for the past few days, I have been too immersed to study up and write any of the blog topics I have had in mind to post here.  Hence these ramblings.

I live right under the "8" in "8th Street"

This morning I tried to leave off the creation compulsion for a few hours and go to visit David.  I got the car out of the garage and started for the Lincoln Tunnel at about 9:30.  As I approached Fifth Avenue along East Ninth Street, I saw a purple line painted down the center.  Yikes!  The Gay Pride Parade.  I had forgotten it would be today.  We have so much to celebrate this week after the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality.  This year, the annual ritual, which started out as a protest of inequality, was bound to be even grander than usual.  As in past years, the march was to start at noon, come south, and spill onto my local streets.  The revels, I knew from experience, would go on until the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  Even if I could find a way west to New Jersey this morning, I would not be able to drive home until well after midnight. 

This year's NYC Grand Marshalls

Huzzah!  Hooray!  But not a place to pass through with a car!

At any rate, my way across Fifth Avenue was already blocked by police barricades.   I took the car back to the garage and came home.

 Other than that one attempt to escape the vise grip of the new story, about the only things I have done in the past four days were to “attend” a one-hour webinar about book marketing and to post once in while on Facebook, which gave me the illusion of being in someway still connected to real friends.  As opposed to my whole new set of fictional ones.  Here is where the computer as an unreliable eyewitness comes into this stream of unconsciousness.

On Thursday, which is TBT (Throw-back Thursday) on Facebook, I posted a few photos from a trip David and I took to Malta in 2010.  Now you likely have read in posts here on MIE that although eyewitness accounts are given great weight by jurors, such reports are in point of fact very unreliable.   People can make mistakes.  You might have thought computers would be more likely to know spew out facts.  That is where you would be wrong.

Tell me.  Are these two pictures of the same person?

The top photo is David on a ferry between two Maltese islands.  The second one is my friend and fellow mystery writer Jeff Markowitz.  The main thing these two men have ever had in common is a hilarious wit.  Not something that shows in a photo.  But Facebook’s algorithm labeled my photo of David as one of Jeff.  And Facebook told the world that in 2010, I had traveled to Malta with Jeff Markowitz.   No matter how hard I try, I cannot convince Facebook to retract its false testimony.

Carol Markowitz, Jeff’s darling wife, being a reliable human eyewitness, can look at a picture of my husband and recognize that he is not her husband.  Thanks to that, no marriages have been ruined in this process.

Annamaria - Monday

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Life, Death, and 47 Ronin

One of the most familiar, and beloved, stories in Japan involves the heroic sacrifice--and suicide--of forty-seven loyal samurai.

The fictitious account, most commonly titled Chūshingura (忠臣蔵) has been produced as a written work, and in numerous manga, films, and plays. One reason it resonates so deeply with the Japanese people is that the story is based on real events.

The Ako Incident, on a signpost at Sengakuji

The "Ako Incident" took place in 1701-1703. The version that takes less than two years to tell goes something like this: 

In 1701, Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi ordered Asano Takuminokami, Lord of Ako, to entertain the imperial envoys visiting Edo (now Tokyo), following the directions of an official advisor, Kira Kozukenosuke. However, Kira disliked Asano and caused him to disgrace himself in public.

In response to the insult, Asano drew his sword inside the corridors of Edo Castle (a forbidden act) and attacked, injuring Kira (but, sadly, failing to kill him). Asano was ordered to commit seppuku (death by self-disembowelment) immediately--with no investigation or chance to explain--while Kira escaped without punishment even though, by law, he should have shared Asano's fate. Asano's estate was confiscated and his family shamed.

Asano's retainers requested an investigation of the events, but the request was denied. They lost their honor along with their lord and became ronin, masterless samurai--the most shameful position a man of noble rank could hold. 

Although ordered to disband (ronin were not allowed to travel in bands) Asano's retainers reassembled on December 14, 1702, under the leadership of Oishi Kuranosuke, Asano's former captain. They attacked Kira's residence and killed him to avenge the insult done to their master. 

18th century woodblock print of Chushingura

The 47 ronin marched to Sengakuji (Sengaku Temple) in Edo and presented Kira's head to Asano's grave. Immediately thereafter, they turned themselves in to the shogun to face justice.

On February 4, 1703, the 47 samurai were sentenced to commit seppuku--and did so en masse. Afterward, they were buried at Sengakuji, within meters of the lord whose honor they redeemed.

The gate to Sengakuji, as seen from the yard.

Today, Sengakuji (and its graveyard) remain a major site of pilgrimage for Japanese people (and some Westerners, present company included) who go to show respect for the 47 ronin and, often, to burn incense on their graves.

The temple itself is small, and lies in the heart of a modern Tokyo neighborhood. Unless you know what you're looking at, you could easily walk right by.

Front entrance to Sengakuji, from the road.

Inside, however, the buildings and courtyard seem frozen in time, a fitting testament to the samurai age and to the honorable men who rest there.

It rained the day we visited. Somehow, this seemed fitting.

I did not photograph the graves, from respect for the dead and for the living mourners who were there and leaving incense during my visit. Also, this was one of the only places in Japan that actually brought this crusty curmudgeon to actual tears. Chushingura was one of my first exposures to the historical samurai culture, and I feel a great respect for the noble men who held the honor of their lord in such regard.

Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friend.

Oishi Kuranosuke, man of honor.

Rest in peace, men of Ako. You served your master, your country, and history well.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Greece's Fate

My head is spinning. I mean as in The Exorcist big time head spinning.

Anxiety over what will happen to their country is front and center on every Greek’s mind.  It’s been that way for quite some time, though only reluctantly verbalized.  A sense of fait accompli, nationalism, denial, or some other coping device may have contributed to hesitancy at expressing such thoughts to outsiders, but that’s no longer the case; many now openly share their doubts, concerns, and fears. 

Just this week The New York Times published a photo essay with quotes from residents of Hydra, an island close by Athens.  I found it sad, but accurate.  Few see a happy ending anytime soon, only a choice between bad and worse. 

As I said, sad.

I saw a quote in another NY Times article a few days back attributed to the head of a European think tank commenting on the EU’s attitude toward Greece:  “‘If it were not for the geopolitical context,’ Mr. Lafond said, ‘they would have let them leave long ago.’”

Sadly, I think he’s right.  And in that rests what is emerging as the most likely scenario for Greece.

It seems that every political pundit, economist, journalist, TV commentator, and blogger has hit the keyboards with prognostications and predictions on where Greece is headed and its implications to the world.  I bet folks are playing the odds in Vegas on the outcome—they certainly are on the Athens stock market in a manner generating such wild swings with every pronouncement on the subject by a government minister that were it a US market, the SEC would be up to its eyeballs in investigations.

But that’s a subject for another time.

So, what do I see as the likely outcome?

Well, for a while I saw a contender for the title of “most likely scenario” being Greece’s Prime Minister announcing he’d fought the good fight against the western hordes, but in order to save his country he reluctantly had no choice but to accept the “odious” terms and give in to the demanded reforms. It would involve him charging forward on a white stallion away from his far left party roots to emerge as the leader of a new centrist government. 

But that fairy tale seems over. It would require the Prime Minister to ostracize the extremists in his party and he’s shown no willingness to do so. 

Which brings me to where I see things headed….

Assuming this grand kabuki theater of under-a-deadline negotiations continues to drag on…and that seems likely with further talks adjourned until today…I think we’ll see the West throwing up its hands and adopting an approach that keeps a lid on things, doing only what’s minimally necessary to protect its geopolitical interests.

In other words, keep the patient on life support.  Give Greece what it needs not to default on its interest payments, allow the Greek government to claim victory for domestic purposes, and let the new government’s policies run their course on the people who elected it.  If the West truly believes that its proposals are better for Greece in the long run than the Greek government’s approach, that’s the West’s smartest play, for it allows Greece to fail to emerge from crisis by reason of its own choices, serving as a stark warning to any EU member state that might otherwise be tempted to consider adopting Greece’s policies and negotiating tactics.

It’s not a pleasant outcome, and one I pray doesn’t happen, but it’s how I’m seeing things today.  Or at least this morning, in sunny beautiful Greece—where tourists are, and will undoubtedly remain, blissfully unaware of all of this.

By the way, to end on a lighter note, does the world know that obviously separated-at-birth siblings, IMF Chair Christine Lagarde and Greece Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis,

have a sister?


Friday, June 26, 2015

Quirky in the West End....

It must all be happening in book  world as I, like Stan, am too busy  to do a  proper blog. But here is a visual treat of the stuff that  has been going down  hereabouts...

It was two degrees warmer here on the  longest day that  it was on the shortest day .
 that  must be somebody's fault!

It has been the West End festival and I  was taking part in that. There was a night of crime with Glasgow's on Doyenne of Darkness (me) and two others.  We were billed as two balds and a blonde.
I  was the blonde.

Some  of you may have seen the documentary 'Fork V Knife' which is about  how good a plant based wholefood diet is for health. I kept waiting for them to use the V word but they  did not - they  kept  saying the  phrase 'plant based wholefood diet'.

Then Beyonce said she was doing the above plant based health food diet and turned up at a plant based wholefood diet restaurant wearing a fur coat.

So I did this to prove a point. So far  it has been five days and I don't feel any different at all.

Vegan seemingly is considered too weird. 
In the national press on Sunday  I was called a "quirky so en so"
 So not  only have I been vegan all week but quirky with it.

Certainly  not quirky  to the extent that  I would go into a WGPBD (vegan)  restaurant wearing this jacket and those trousers. What  kind of people did she expect to find in there and did they  not think they  might find that  a wee bit offensive.
 But each to their own, it was nothing to do with me but I decided to be outraged.
So vegan,  quirky and outraged  and it was only Wednesday,

This is  where I set  my novels, the trendy West End of Glasgow. It's lovely and horrible at the same time.  Full of beautiful architecture and multicultural.
Also full of pretentious  gits who eat things with the word artisan in front of it.
The coffee shops are aplenty.
With uncomfortable seats.
Many  of the women wear  big stripey socks.
Many  of the men have beards.
The word gongbath appears in doorways.

Our event was down stairs at Oran Mor. A church that has been  converted to be a pub, wedding venue,  night club etc.

The West End Festival begins with a parade. I have never been at it myself so I scouted round the net and got a few pics..

Byres road

the Botanics at the top of Byres Road,  I always mention it in the books.

the Kelvingrove art gallery.

Then we had our own late night crime spectacular.... two balds etc..]

The lovely Theresa  introducing us. 

We are thinking what to do, Michael is getting ready to read something.

I seem to be doing a Beyonce impersonation.

Saying  something  clever, but probably  untrue

 Bald blonde, bald. ( the beard was in the audience, he is going to do a guest blog for me soon!)

                                                             Bottle, blonde, beer, bald

Bald, blonde with mic getting  in on the act...

Blonde makes a note of what bald has said  as other bald thinks about phoning his solicitor.

I am working  on  a project  just  now which is rather exciting.
 well I think  it is.

More of that  later........

The quirky vegan. 26 06 2015