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The Harry Potter Collection 1-4 (Harry Potter, #1-4)
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Book Talk & Exchange of Views > The Original, REAL Ministry of Magic

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message 1: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
I kid you not, there really was a Ministry of Magic in ye olde Japan!

The Age of Tranquility and Peace, Heian Japan #5: The Auspicious Masters of Divination, Calendars, and Yin and Yang, the Onmyoji

Part of
J. A. Beard's Unnecessary Musings Musings on history, magic, reading, and writing (but probably not arithmetic)


message 2: by J.A. (last edited Oct 27, 2011 02:51PM) (new)

J.A. Beard (jabeard) Thanks for the mention, Andre. I'm glad to realize that I'm actually producing stuff of interest to people other than me. :)

I actually have a novel idea that is basically a murder mystery set in Heian Japan featuring an onmyoji as the protagonist, but it will probably take me another year of research before I can produce something that isn't embarrassing. I know a lot about Heian in broad historical terms, but that's not the same thing as having a handle on those small details that really bring a setting to life and establish verisimilitude without being overwhelming.

The general tendency of people to attribute mysterious murders to demons and spirits just makes this kind of story idea a natural fit. IJ Parker has written some good mysteries in this period, but her emphasis is a bit different.

The novel, as I envision it, is ambiguous about the magic. That is, I want to capture the superstitious nature of the time but provide plausible real-world possibilities for anything that appears supernatural rather than writing historical fantasy. Less explained supernatural and more just capturing the mindset of the time.

message 3: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
I see so many very limited or poor quality blogs that I've started wondering about the people behind the mass of them. It is almost as if either a) these bloggers have no education or interests, or b) they fear that if they say the least thing intelligent and interesting, someone will take offense and not buy a copy of their book.

However that may be, the quality of information you provide is noticeably rare.

And I see no reason why it should be. Surely somebody else knows something!


BTW. Have I yet mentioned Captain Gronow to you? He's the keenest (multivolume, unfortunately) social observer of the Regency, and I always thought Richard Condon's book about Queen Caroline could have been better if he'd done his own research and not put it out to someone who never discovered the good Captain.


Relevance to your remarks. I asked Condon about it once, and he said he didn't like to be overwhelmed by research (in the Frederic Forsyth manner of umpteen filing cabinets per novel) because it is too easy to be overwhelmed by it. I am, of course, a monster researcher, and at the time more so than now, because the trick in some of my early novels was exposing amazing facts from the real world, but years later, after Condon was dead, it came to me that I had grown into a fuller understanding of what he meant, that less can be more if the quality and selection is right, and if your characters are strong enough to stand an intensified focus on them rather than on enumerative descriptions.


If you want your novel to be taken seriously, the novelist at least shouldn't break the laws of physics. But that's an easy rule to observe, especially because it brings with it the added interest of tension between the storyteller and the protagonist who either believes in the magic or must at least pretend to for his own protection. Such tension can be a very valuable asset.

message 4: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Beard (jabeard) Yeah, thus far everything I've written has a slight or major paranormal/fantasy edge, so I want to somewhat break out of that a bit, if only to strengthen myself as a writer by going outside my comfort zone. I certainly like fantasy, paranormal, et cetera but especially for what I want to do with some of my Japanese stuff, it definitely would make things less interesting to have easy, literal magic.

I've become extremely excited about this Heian idea. I just want to do it right. I definitely don't want to drown in detail and all that. It's more that I have an aversion to historical stories that are basically just moderns in costumes. Part of the interest, for me at least, of historical stories is being transported to a different time with different people. Yes, humans beings, are fundamental the same, but that social filter makes for a different experience. I've been fascinated with the Heian era ever since reading the Tale of Genji, a book both with people both startlingly modern and alien at the same time.

To be fair to other bloggers, the earlier version of my blog was fairly banal. I barely could bring myself to write because it was boring me. I knew if it was boring me, it was boring readers. I started trying to make things more interesting by doing 'reader-focused' interviews (i.e., no questions about writing style, publishing, blah, blah) and then hit upon the idea of just doing the historical/magical tradition stuff.

For the first time in a while, I'm genuinely enjoying blogging. Years ago when I lived in Korea, I did a blog that was basically just for my family and friends. I was stationed in Korea, so a lot of it was 'look at this wacky stuff in Korea or the cool temple I went to'. When I came back to America, that kind of shriveled up.

In this new, more me-as-author*/reader-oriented approach, I just sat down a while back and tried to seriously think about what I was hoping to accomplish with my blog and, really, what I would like to see from an author blogging. My second love really is history, so it seemed an easy fit. I'm no master marketer or something, but it also seemed like a better way to build a relationship with people who might be interested in my writing given the general pattern of books I'm working on and the books I want to pen in the future.

Thanks for the Captain Gronow tip. That is definitely something I need to check out.

*I fully acknowledge I'm a wannabe/neophyte/johnny-come-lately in fiction and all that sort of stuff in that the only things I've published are scientific stuff. This is why I usually say something like 'aspiring storyteller' and what not.

message 5: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Don't be so humble, Jeremy. Your blog has earned your stripes already.

message 6: by K.A. (new)

K.A. Jordan (kajordan) | 3042 comments I love to read about Japanese culture.

message 7: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Beard (jabeard) Glad you liked it. I have a Heian entry now every Wednesday evening.

Matt Posner (mattposner) | 276 comments There was a great movie called Onmyoji made in the 1990s. The sequel, Onmyoji 2, however, sucketh.

Let me just note that I DO NOT have a ministry of magic in my books. At all. No politics. Lots of religion, though.

message 9: by J.A. (last edited Oct 28, 2011 10:52PM) (new)

J.A. Beard (jabeard) Onmyoji is also actually interesting on a different level as it's an adaptation of a novel series that kind of was influential in shifting a lot of more modern Japanese depictions of Abe no Seimei being in his prime as a handsome young man whereas he traditionally was mostly depicted in stories and tales being much older when he had a lot of power.

I never did see the second one.

message 10: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Posner (mattposner) | 276 comments J.A. you didn't miss anything good. He dresses as a harvest goddess and does a kabuki dance. It's embarrassing and incoherent.

message 11: by K.A. (new)

K.A. Jordan (kajordan) | 3042 comments I thought the Ministry of Magic was a great innovation. I never thought of someone taking on the headache of regulating magic like any industry.

I thought it was the best part of her books - government control - and that foul pink creature! Priceless!!

message 12: by Andre Jute (new)

Andre Jute (andrejute) | 4851 comments Mod
Imagine if you're a character actress and "that foul pink creature" early in the century defines the standard you have to match...

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