Guest Blogger: I.J. Parker, author of The Hollow Reed Series

Here's a blog I wrote to announce the release of the HOLLOW REED trilogy.  I'm happy to say that the books, gradually released between Aug. 1. and Sept. 1., are doing very well.  I wrote HOLLOW REED as a one-volume work about five years ago, thinking to say something about history as well as about the resilience of women in times of extreme oppression.  It was turned down by 5 of the six big houses and I took it back into my care.  You may recall several blogs over the past year that dealt with my difficulties of getting it on Kindle and of designing my own covers.  The cover for Book 2 caused my to blow my entire advance for two Akitada novels on a painting.  It now graces UNSHEATHED SWORDS. I love that picture, and I'm very glad that I persisted in my efforts to self-publish the work.

(by Kindle Editors on 09/01/2011)

Ideas for books may come from anywhere. Sometimes a writer’s research for one novel can spark another, very different one. I’m really a crime fiction writer who also loves history. When I began to write, I naturally chose historical mysteries. They happened to be about a young government official who lived a thousand years ago in Japan. By now, Akitada has taken on a life of his own, gained a family and friends, and solved many crimes, but his life started because I read Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji and thought that the Japan of that time deserved a series like Van Gulik’s Judge Dee books.

Years later I was reading the Tale of the Heike, a prose epic commemorating the horrific wars of the late twelfth century that ended imperial rule and began the age of shoguns and samurai warriors. This work dates from the thirteenth century and was at first performed orally (like the Illiad and Odyssey) by biwa hoshi,wandering entertainers who rendered portions of the epic to the accompaniment of a biwa (lute). The mood of this epic is tragic as well as heroic. Among its central characters are three fascinating historical figures: the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa, chancellorTaira Kiyomori, and Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun.

Tragedies multiply as these three men contend for the power. Heroes die miserably in battle, their wives and children are executed, brothers fight against brothers, friends betray friends, and the five-year-old emperor Antoku is drowned when his grandmother, Kiyomori’s widow, jumps into the sea with him in her arms, taking the imperial regalia with her.

In these tales, I found that creative spark again, only this time it was not mysteries that wanted to be told, but rather the stories of human beings caught in the terrifying events that shook a nation. And so I wrote The Hollow Reed series. As the lives of the three main characters began to play out against the historical background, the book became a trilogy with the titles Dream of a Spring Night, Unsheathed Swords, and Dust Before the Wind.

At its center are three people, a woman and two men. They are young to begin with, and caught in their individual dreams of the future. Toshiko, who serves as a concubine in the palace of emperor Go-Shirakawa, loves the physician Sadahira, who rejects in vain a warrior’s duty. He adopts two orphans, one of whom, Hachiro, chooses the way of the sword and dreams of fame as a fighter. But history has other plans for all of them, and human desires are, indeed, like “dreams of a spring night.”

--I.J. Parker

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