Friday, September 15, 2017

So Kitsune Aren't Perfect Little Angels?

For new readers:
  1. One of the myriad species of Japanese yōkai, Kitsune are Japanese foxes blessed with sentience and multiple tails. There are two types: yako who are regular red-furred field foxes and white-furred zenko that are charged with serving the goddess Inari in her shrines. In my story, they are anthropomorphic and walk on two legs.
  2. One of the myriad species of Japanese yōkai, an Inugami is a familiar for evil Daoist sorcerers created by taking a normal dog and perverting it through torture and death. In my story, they are anthropomorphic and walk on two legs.
In writing The Inugami, I have a quartet of kitsune coming to attempt to kill the titular character and I had to find a way to delay them. Now in the first installment of The Shrine War, all my kitsune shrine maidens are perfect little angels without a flaw in the bunch. In The Inugami, not so much.
Haruka hung up the phone, her claws sliding off the plastic. In the mirror of the inn’s room she stared back at herself in her fox form, ermine-colored fur showing her to be a common yako, a kitsune of no special heritage. No matter how many tails she added to her present two, she would never amount to anything when compared to a zenko, a white-furred celestial fox dedicated to serve the goddess Inari. In the mirror, she watched her two male companions, both yako as well, attempt to calm down the three-tailed Inari shrine maiden they had hired to deal with the Inugami.

The celestial had never left the Inari shrine where she served and her first foray out into the dangerous world of humanity had her discover sake for the first time. Her insistence on downing an entire bottle of the rice wine had not settled well. Fortunately, the inn was run by yōkai for yōkai so the celestial’s drunken demands for more wine resulted only in embarrassment and not in exposing their existence to humans.

“Fumiko-sama, there is no more sake in the inn,” the one male kitsune said, bowing deeply. “Please rest. We already are delayed on our urgent journey.”

Fumiko blinked her red-rimmed eyes that stood out in sharp contrast to her glowing white fur. “I tell you...,” she said, slurring her Japanese heavily. “I tell you that I now know why Inari gets offerings of sake. That is certainly wine for the kami. I tell you, I want more!” The celestial paused as her eyes suddenly grew larger. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Haruka buried her muzzled face in her paws.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Calling All Botanists!

ADDENDUM: The tree has been identified as a Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa). You can read all about it here and here. Thanks to everyone who sent me information. Every suggestion led me closer to the answer.

This plant is on the property of Green Ridge Village in Newville, Pennsylvania. The plant sprung up by itself and they have absolutely no idea what it is. Even the local newspaper published pictures of it without anybody able to come forward and identify it.

Could any hobbyists, gardeners, botanists, or herbalists identify this very remarkable plant.

It stands at least ten feet tall with leaves that are almost a yard in width. As you can see, the bark of the stem is speckled.

We are rather certain it is not a triffid.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wanna Read My Slenderman Story For Free?

Well, of course you do. And all you have to do is click on this masterfully crafted link right here.

Anyway, there's nothing good on TV so you might as well.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Five More Poems For Your Enjoyment

More poetry that I have written over the years. Please remember that ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.

Alice Remembers the White Knight

I would step through the mirror once again,” she said,
“As a sacrament
to unrequited faith.

And writing of you with compassion,
my words will spill on the pages
with all the might of snowflakes.

And when my pen is emptied,
I will walk into the sky to find my heart
for it is there you will be waiting.”

Jordan Draws

Ink flows and
an ebony line forms
a face, an eye, a mouth,
the artist's desire made
corporeal—a faint echo
of a Divine hand when
it sketched its heart
on the virgin soil
of Eden.

The Wizard and the Poet

Incantation muttered, the stars
Have gelled in positions ordained.
The candles lit, the words uttered,
Sacrifices made.

The adept pauses, but no
Reality bends to firm will.
With a curse, retorts are shattered
And symbols undone as are years of labor.

The poet pauses with pen in hand
Then writes worlds into existence.
Crafting reality with artful phrase
And creating universes with words.

No demon-haunted wizard can match this power
No mumbling incantation half as strong.
Impotent all before the writing poet
Who wields his words in majesty and awe.

Maiden With Horn

She walks among the roses, sunlight
Glittering off opal and pearl.
He sees through the blossoms
A delicate body of wreathed
Alabaster, distillation of sylph
And maiden.

“Alms!” he cries and the
Silhouetted vision pauses.
“Alms! Bless this poor man’s

A whisper returns, “Do you ask
Or give?

“May we not do both?” He weaves
His web of words, “Come and
Enrich my heart.”

Her retreat quickens his spirit.
He follows the shadowed vision
To a wooded glade.
Under an ancient oak, he sees
The body of a girl, the face of a myth.
Her spiral horn shines in the setting sun.

By wonder transformed, the
Novitiate lays his head, his
Life, his alms, in his
Mistress’s lap.

Where Unicorns Walked As Men

He sat at the bar with untouched drink
And babbled about lost lands of opal towers,
Perfumed air, and unicorns that walked as men.

We mocked this poet racked with fever-dream,
Lost in visions and rum. “And you returned to this?”
We asked.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Apple Lady: A Poem

One of my first poems. Based on a true incident.

All except the last stanza. At least, that is what I would like you to believe.

The Apple Lady


The night echoed a choir of crickets
Accented by an aroma of earth.
The moon washed the old orchard clean of color.

He ignored my protests against the chill,
The night, this vigil among the trees.
"Do you believe in wonder?" he asked.

My lie came easily.
"I lack imagination."

"In my twelfth year, " he said,
"I saw her among the trees
Clothed in autumn leaves
Hair red as autumn apples;
Her eyes like autumn frost."

I shook with more than cold.
"We should be home
With beer and friends,
Forget childhood dreams
And childhood lovers."

I left him standing
In moonlight and leaves.

With the rising sun
We found him fused
Into the bark of an old apple tree,
Taken in a wooden embrace,
A gentle smile on his lips.

A Book Is Like A Garden

Researching Far East proverbs, I came across this gem and had to immortalize it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Immortality of the Written Word

“Writing for immortality is not a good idea” ~ H.J. Jackson in her new book, Those Who Write for Immortality: Romantic Reputations and the Dream of Lasting Fame

Around my neck, I wear a Chinese coin on a leather thong, one that comes from final days of the Song Dynasty under Emperor Huizong. I can amuse myself for hours considering how the metal smith would react if he knew one of the coins he created would last for 900 years and end up hanging around the neck of another human being whose race, culture, language, and technology would leave him in a combination of terror and awe.

But then, it also makes me wonder how the authors of the past would react if they knew their books lasted well beyond their own lifetimes such as Plato, St. Augustine, H. P. Lovecraft, and others.

And that brings me to a book I just completed reading yesterday. Browsing in one of the most disorganized used book stores I have ever encountered, I came across an old beat up paperback with the title, The Mark of Pak San Ri written by one William Stroup. Because of my love for Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels, I took a chance and purchased the paperback  expecting it to be a cheap knockoff. In fact, the author makes bold mention of the fictional character of Fu Manchu in the story.

It's not the best book I have ever read, basically a very formulaic pulp. Richard Quinn is an ex-G.I. living in postwar Seoul in South Korea when he witnesses a murder. The rest of the book is his attempt to solve the mystery behind the crime as he tries to keep one step ahead of of Pak San Ri's assassins that appear to be about 50% of the entire population of Seoul. The events of the story follow a precise formula:
  1. Quinn ignores good advice to stay out of trouble.
  2. He gets into a fight with the Korean crime lord's minions.
  3. He gets knocked out.
  4. He comes to, facing certain death.
  5. Quinn is rescued at the last moment by his friends or the U.S. military who are looking for him or just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
  6. Repeat this four more times.
A typical pulp story, there is a lot of violence and sex and Quinn gets knocked out so many times in the story, you wonder how he survives without a terminal concussion. He also gets branded with a hot iron, kicked, beaten, and even takes two bullets just because he can, but like a good Timex watch, he takes a beating and keeps on ticking.

But it's a fun read if you can get beyond the pulp tropes and the illogic of it all.


I will give kudos to the author for revealing that Pak San Ri is one of the most beautiful women in all of Korea. I didn't see that one coming. (Hold down your right mouse button down and skim it over the darkened part to read the concealed spoiler.)
However, the point of this essay is not about bad writing, but the author William Stroup. I wanted to see what else he had written and that sent me into the dusty corners of the Internet to discover there is very little to discover about the man. From what little I can gather, William Stroup was born around 1903 and passed away sometime near 1966. It appears The Mark of Pak San Ri is the only work he ever wrote and only one of the seventeen paperbacks published by the short-lived Book Company of America (Beverley Hills, California). Stroup lived in Hermosa Beach, California, but it is not known for how long. Because of the novel's intimate references to army life as well as Korea, I assume Stroup served in the Korean Conflict while in the army. However, if the birthdate is correct, he would have been in Korea during his early 50s. A search of military archives reveal nobody named William Stroup.

So the gentleman disappears in the mists of time, his sole novel being his own literary immortality.

I do not write for immortality. I write solely to entertain, but I confess that it amuses me to think that maybe someday, some decades in the future, some blogger may comment on one of the novels or collections he or she discovered while traversing the dusty, narrow aisles of some disorganized used book store.

Time will tell.