Tank Tuesday: Feeding Time at Kyoto Aquarium

One of my first stops in Japan last summer was the Kyoto Aquarium. (This might surprise some people, but those who know me also know that I’m a sucker for well-kept aquariums and exotic fish.) Like many large aquariums around the world, Kyoto features an enormous “deep sea” exhibit featuring many species of fish, including sharks and rays, along with sea turtles, corals, and invertebrate life. We arrived at feeding time, and I loved snapping shots of the diver feeding the various species — none of whom seemed frightened by his presence. While I love to watch aquatic species moving around at any time,

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A Visit to Kyoto’s Myomanji (Part 1)

During my research trip to Japan last summer I visited Kyoto Seika University, an art college in the northern part of Kyoto (most of us would consider it “just north of Kyoto” but given Japanese city lines, it’s technically within the boundaries of Kyoto-shi). When I arrived in Japan, my son had just completed a 15-week study abroad program at Kyoto Seika, and wanted to show me both the school and some of his favorite nearby sites.   The temple measures about the size of a small city block, and has no English-language signage. The entrance identifies it as “Myotzan

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A Visit to the Audubon Aquarium

New Orleans is home to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, and since I love aquariums, I decided to pay this one a visit during my final afternoon in New Orleans (I’m here attending Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, which ended Sunday.) One thing that sets the Audobon Aquarium apart is its emphasis on freshwater species, and species native to North and South America. The exhibits include a display of plants that grow in the Amazon rain forest … A special section with Louisiana-themed exhibits even includes a tasty local favorite…the crawfish. To the giant potbelly seahorses – they’re not pregnant, despite those

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BookFace Friday!

I’m currently in New Orleans for Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention) and having a great time creating #BookfaceFriday images with the fantastic cover of The Ninja’s Daughter. And one from fellow Seventh Street Books author James W. Ziskin, author of the fantastic Ellie Stone novels… Tune in later this afternoon (and over the weekend) because I’ll be posting more bookface photos as I gather them at the conference!

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Avoiding Common Freelance Writing Scams*

Scammers and the unscrupulous flourish where dreams and business intersect, and writing is no exception. Many authors take on freelance writing opportunities to supplement longer-format writing. Here are some tips for avoiding some of the common writing-related scams and “opportunities” that cost you more than they benefit: 1. When freelancing or writing for third-party publications, always get a written contract BEFORE you write the piece. Many times, writers agree to work “on a handshake,” only to discover that the deal terms were not what they expected. Make sure you understand the terms, and have a written agreement (preferably a real

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The Dry Waterfall at Kyoto’s Tenryu-ji

During my recent trip to Japan, I visited Tenryuji, a Zen temple and monastery in the mountains northwest of Kyoto. The temple is famous not only for the “heavenly dragon” (Tenryu) painted on the ceiling of its worship hall, but also for its lovely botanical gardens and Zen landscape. The primary garden at Tenryuji was designed by Muso Soseki (1275-1351, also called Muso Kokushi), a follower of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. His major contributions to Zen garden design and landscaping include the “dry waterfall”–a stone arrangement designed to mimic the appearance of water without the use of any actual water

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Creating a Sleuth Your Readers Will Love

Sherlock Holmes. Jane Marple. Jack Reacher. Three famous names with something important in common … aside from the fact that each solves crimes in mystery or thriller novels. What is this common element? Readers love them. The key to writing successful mysteries and thrillers doesn’t lie in careful plotting, clever crimes, or sneaky suspects. The heart of these stories beats in the chest of the sleuth. Everyone enjoys a puzzle, and a tightly-woven plot is important, but readers return to a mystery (or thriller) series because they want to spend more time with a favorite hero(ine). Solving the puzzle is much

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