Thursday, January 18, 2018

Incident at a Japanese Inn: An Introduction

Now that the rough draft of The Inugami is complete, as I edit it, I am already doing research for the next section of my braided novel.

Incident at a Japanese Inn takes place inside the walls of the Tsuta Ryokan, a Japanese guest house made by yōkai for yōkai. In the first two sections of the novel, The Shrine War and The Inugami, I introduce the reader to only two types of Japan's hundreds of yōkai: Kitsune (illusion-casting anthropomorphic foxes) and Inugami (anthropomorphic canine slaves created by a dark and evil Daoist sorcery). I also very briefly introduced two onis, generic Japanese dæmons.

In An Incident at a Japanese Inn I am opening my literary universe to a number of yōkai races:
  • Tengu, a sort of bird-like creature
  • Nekomata, a fork-tailed cat
  • Tanuki, raccoon dogs and I will play down their...let's say, prominent assets.
  • Yanari aka House Creakers: little tiny goblins that make the floors of your house creak.
  • Mujina, a shapeshifting badger 
Unfortunately, Japanese folklore only contains a very few of actual races. the vast majority of yōkai are singular entities restricted to a very specific locale such as a city gate or a specific river, so I may take my liberty as a writer and make up a yōkai of my very own.

As always, stay tuned. The adventure will be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Odd Tales of Wonder #7 Is Released!

From the editors of Odd Tales of Wonder:

Odd Tales of Wonder #7 is now available! The print edition is available here and the Kindle edition is available here.

Why am I excited about this? Because it contains my story, Through the Black Andes, a fantasy tale based on a real location in south-central Pennsylvania:

Also, once again, I appear in a magazine next to Vonnie Winslow Crist. We've got to stop seeing each other like this! ;-)

Here is an excerpt from Through the Black Andes and though the story is fantasy, these three paragraphs are based on historical fact:

The name Black Andes was first given to this primordial stand of pine and from its first discovery, hunters and charcoal makers made every excuse to avoid the area. Birds never called out or sang there. Game avoided the area.  
On cool autumn nights, the men of Big Flat would let their dogs run loose to harass the local wildlife. As they told tales and drank bootleg whiskey around a fire, they would listen to the baying of their hounds. Each hunting dog had its distinct voice and they would listen to the baying of the hounds content to follow the chase from the intensity of the cries and the direction from which they came. Occasionally, the hounds would tree a cougar, bear, or raccoon and—if the spirit moved—the men would leave the fellowship and warmth of the fire for meat and fur.  
However, the hunters quickly learned to steer their nightly activities well away from the Black Andes. Any hound foolish enough to pursue game into the sanctity of the pines would simply never return. And no hunter ever found the bravery to plunge into the eternal darkness of the stand to discover the fate of their animal.

Part Three of The Shrine War to Begin Soon!

On Saturday, January 6th, I wrote the words, THE END, on the completed rough draft of The Inugami.

At 12,970 words, The Inugami is only 970 words longer than The Shrine War, but together the two novellas make up one complete novel in word length.

And I'm not done yet. The third part has yet to be written.

Incident at a Japanese Inn will begin shortly, but not until I have completed reading Oliver Statler's 1961 work, Japanese Inn, his love song to the history of the Minaguchi-ya, an ancient inn once located in the city of Okitsu.

In the former stories, I focused solely on kitsune and inugami, two types of yōkai from the folklore and mythology of Japan. The third story takes place in a mythical inn that I have named Tsuta Ryokan, a Japanese guest house that is operated by yōkai for other yōkai. And as there are thousands of different types of yōkai, I am letting my imagination run wild.

Stick with me. It's going to be an incredible ride.

The book cover is adapted from a woodblock print by Japanese artist Toyohara Chikanobu  (1838–1912) and is in the public domain.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cats In Space: A Review

Cats in Space is an anthology of seven short stories about, as the title makes very clear, cats in space. Of course, though some might be typical cats (C. L. Holland’s Miss Davenport’s Ugly Cat), others are aliens in feline form (Star Born, Star Bound, by Dantzel Cherry and Distant Cousins, by Jody Lynn Nye), genetically engineered cats (Beth Cato’s Headspace), and other intriguing variations. The atmosphere of the stories range from the humorous (Phase Change, by Joy Kennedy-O’Neill) to the tragic (A Slow Constant Path, by Erica L. Satifka) and even to the horrific (Leona R. Wisoker’s faint nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing in her story, Leftovers).

Cat lovers will find many a satisfying tale about our feline friends in futuristic fantasies. With only 93 pages, it can easily satisfy an evening’s literary demands.

Cats in Space is edited by Elektra Hammond and published by Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen’s publishing house, Paper Golem, LLC.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Returning to the World of the Inugami

Shadō, the Inugami
I have left The Inugami for too long and now on the opening of a new year, I am determined to complete the first rough draft in the next two weeks. I wisely allowed familial and vocational responsibilities to interrupt my writing schedule, but it is time to return to the adventures of Shadō and Kelly and their quick descent into tragedy as two different worlds come into conflict.

For my new readers, The Inugami is the second story in The Shrine War braided novel. The first section, named after the title of the work, is completed and a truncated version has been published in Fred Patten's wonderful anthology, The Dogs of War. In my mind, I wrestle with the third and final part of the work, Incident at a Japanese Inn.

What follows is a rough draft and may be radically different from the finished project. Please forgive errors and typos. It is, after all, a rough draft. Needless to say, all rights are reserved.

That afternoon, Kelly returned to her apartment to find Shadō practicing with her sheathed sword in the living room. Shadō had moved the furniture back against the walls and had dressed herself in the clothing that was in the buried box of her former master. 
Shadō had bound her chest with a large strip of cloth. Dimly, Kelly remembered it was called a sarashi worn by Japanese swordfighters of both sexes. The only other articles of clothing was a floor-length skirt with slits up both sides almost to the waist and a heavy sash that served as a belt. A slit in the back of the skirt allowed the Inugami’s white-furred tail to move freely. Kelly watched with growing respect as Shadō practiced her elaborate kata, an elaborate series of movements, making the sheathed katana hiss through the air.

Shadō made three elaborate moves before sliding the sheathed sword into her belt then turned to face Kelly and bowed low. “Welcome home, master,” Shadō said. “How may I serve?” 
Kelly shook her head. “You are not my servant,” she said firmly. “We are equals.” 
The Inugami looked up, her eyes betraying her emotion. “In the world of the onmyōji order must be maintained: student and teacher, servant and master. Without order, there is chaos and in chaos there is only destruction. I am no longer hidden and my presence is felt in the worlds seen and unseen. We will have visitors and some will come to challenge.” 
Kelly swallowed and placed her backpack on the dining table next to the ancient book of the Daoist sorcerers. It lay open to the page describing the paces of Yu, a shamanic dance that paced the nine stars of the Big Dipper to capture its supernatural strength.

“The world has changed, Shadō,” Kelly said. “The onmyōji belong to the past. They must stay there.” 
Shadō sighed with obvious consternation. “You see an Inugami before you. You are aware of the presence of kitsune.” The Inugami came and knelt before Kelly. “The world has not changed. A part of it has simply been hidden and now it bursts forth. Soon you will see other marvels and some will not be friendly. You must prepare.”

Friday, December 22, 2017

This Morning's Terrifying Hypnopompic Hallucination

Nightmare by Henry Fuseli

This morning at precisely 5 am, I woke up to the sound of my alarm and learned the really hard way what a hypnopompic hallucination is. Trust me when I say that it may sound interesting, but you really don't want to have anything to do with it. From the article linked above:
Hypnopompic hallucinations are often discussed along with hypnogogic hallucinations. Both of these have to do with hallucinations occurring as people enter or exit sleep. When people are just on the edge of sleep they might experience hypnogogic hallucinations. If a person is about to wake, he or she could have a hypnopompic hallucination. 
What makes hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations different from dreams is that they tend to lack a story. Moreover the hallucinations may vary. People could experience a physical feeling, a smell, a sound, or quite frequently an image or sight. 
The image could be a simple line, dot, pattern, or it could be a full person, animal or other. It is important to add that whatever experienced, the perception of something not there can feel very real. (emphasis mine) Hypnopompic hallucinations might make people bolt out of bed, and then feel very disoriented, or they sometimes create the sensation that the person is paralyzed and cannot move. 
Hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations are characterized by their “realness.” They also have a tendency to disrupt sleep. While they might suggest a person has sleep disorder, the hallucinations do not have much to say about the sanity of the person having them.
Lying on my left side, at the sound of my alarm I woke up to see the perfect face of a strange little boy staring at me, less than twelve inches away from my own. The reality of its existence could not be questioned. I struggled to cry out in my shock, but it vanished within a second leaving me with a pounding heart and a mind too stunned to comprehend the experience.

This will show up in one of my future stories.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

David Lynch's Short Film, Rabbits (2002)

“In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain… three rabbits live with a fearful mystery.” 
(WARNING: David Lynch's short film, Rabbits, has been used in experiments to create unease in voluntary participants. If you suffer from any type of psychological illness, neurosis, anxiety, or depression, I believe I am not speaking in superlatives when I advise you to skip this one.)

In 2002, director David Lynch released a short 42 minute film entitled Rabbits. The actors are played by Scott Coffey, Laura Elena Harring, and Naomi Watts while dressed in cheap rabbit fur suits. Lynch claims the film is actually a comedic parody of a sitcom. Really? 

The stage is a simple setting of a living room with three actors whose dialogue is occasionally interrupted by the laughter of an unseen audience and ominous thunder that blurs the screen. However, the background music, the nonsensical, non sequitur dialogue, the occasional appearance of a demonic rabbit head and a large torch add an air of surrealism to an already disquieting performance. 

The result is a brilliant, if nightmarish film that attracts as much as it repels. If you google the name of the film along with the director, you will discover a plethora of websites attempting to explain the film's meaning and though some do a more credible job than others, I believe that searching for meaning in Rabbits is a fool's errand, much like trying to find ultimate meaning in Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark.

Below is a link to the YouTube video of the performance. It is divided into about 8 acts with three of them being poetic monologues. Enjoy. If you can.