Wednesday, October 31, 2018


What is my main character's favorite treat and her best trick?

Easy! Sen, being a kitsune and a servant of Inari Ōkami has, like all spirit foxes, an incredible weakness for rice.

Kitsune udon is udon with a fried tofu topping and their other favorite food is Inarizushi, fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice. If ever you are visited by a kitsune, offer her these delectable treats and she may stay for awhile.

As far as a trick? In my story, all kitsune are able to cast illusions to fool the human mind. Case in point:
Quickly, (Christopher) snapped pictures barely taking thought to register what he pointed the lens at, but he snapped off several pictures in quick succession, capturing his hostess in a few of the shots. After taking fifty pictures, he scanned through them on the camera display when he came upon a photograph that centered on his host. 
Christopher felt the blood run from his face and a wave of fear and vertigo as he stared at the picture on the LCD. 
He looked up and saw Sen staring at him with a puzzled expression. “Are you well?” she asked. 
Christopher stared at the woman before him and then looked back down at the LCD on his camera. He flipped forward a few more pictures to where the shrine maiden again stood within the frame of the photograph. 
“All is well,” he stammered. “Arigatou gozaimasu, thank you so very much for allowing me to visit your shrine, but I must allow you to prepare for your special guests. You have been so kind.” 
He bowed and the miko bowed in return. He backed away a few steps before turning and walking out of the oratory, the LCD on his camera showing an anthropomorphic female fox clad in the garb of a shrine maiden, her nine tails sprouting prominently from behind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Trials of Being a Counselor to Lycanthropes

For the month of October, 2018, I gave myself a challenge: could I come up with a joke for every day in October centered on the theme of what it must be like to be a counselor for those poor shapeshifters who must put up with all sorts of indignities? Surely, they can use the help of a licensed counselor, no?

I will leave you as judge, jury, and executioner to judge how well I did.


So what would my characters in The Shrine War think about pumpkin spice?

Seriously, I do not think they would care for it. Traditionally, Japanese do not like very sweet foods and for those who have had their mochi and their ice cream would attest to this.

Even their Rabbit in the Moon Higashi (Wagashi Sugar) is mixed with soybean flour to kill the sweetness.

Monday, October 29, 2018


What does my main character think about the season of autumn?

Sen is a kitsune, intimately tuned into the seasons. I suppose she would love autumn just as much as the other seasons.

This is a kitsune who has watched the sunrise every morning, if the weather allowed, for the past 500 years. I think I portrayed very well she loves nature.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

#WIPJOY #27/28

Today's challenge is to post a line about darkness or hope.

In the final section of The Shrine War entitled Incident at a Japanese Inn, the principals from the first two stories gather together to deal with a common problem. 

In the first section, I introduce Christopher Andrews, an American studying in Japan, and Liana, his kitsune housekeeper that eventually becomes his wife.

Before the events in Incident at a Japanese Inn become deadly, I introduce the couple who have come to the inn and put them into an idyllic scene to hint of hope after the terrible incidents that follow:
As Hoso emptied the luggage, Liana walked to the far wall and slid aside another paper door. 
The scene took Christopher’s breath away. A wooden platform served as a small porch that stood over a small steaming pond. Boulders partially covered in flowering vines lined the shore. 
In the middle of the pond, a large rock rose above the water. A small bonsai tree, its branches artistically trimmed and shaped, grew from its rocky support. 
“Isn’t the hot spring lovely?” Liana exclaimed. 
Christopher stared at the scene. Liana, standing with her three tails spread out behind her, added to the exquisite beauty of the view. 
This is the Japan that I have sought, Christopher thought, his heart suddenly aching from the vision before him. This is why I left my home to travel halfway across the world. This is what Lewis called the numinous. This is what I have always longed for. 
Liana turned and held out her hand. “Come, husband,” she said. “Come and share this with me.” 
Christopher smiled and taking Liana’s hand, drank in the conjoined enchantment of the spring and his exotic bride.

Friday, October 26, 2018


Today's WIPJOY challenge is to talk about killing characters.

Tough one. Let me explain.

I seldom kill characters, but when they do it is always off screen. The only exception is the story Killer Lullabies, the first story in my Dark Dreams and Darker Visions collection about a vigilante who hunts down serial killers. That is the only story where death takes place on the screen and I describe dead bodies.

Dr. Angerman’s hand moved in a blur, but the woman moved faster. She laughed as she held up her teddy bear. The doctor’s scalpel protruded from its abdomen. 
“I’m a black belt in various martial arts, Doctor. Seeing as my father is in the NSA, he insisted that I learn a lot of self-defense.” 
Angerman smiled as he swept his hands behind his back and with the grace of a dancer brought them forward. In each hand, five scalpels reflected back the brilliance of the lantern light. 
“Oh, dear,” the woman said. “You’ve made a big mistake.” 
“Oh,” Angerman snarled, “and how does ten flying scalpels that you cannot hope to block with your toy be a mistake?” 
“Well, it’s because you brought knives to gun fight.” Amanda’s teddy bear suddenly exploded outward in a burst of white cotton and Angerman felt the punch of the hollowpoint slug rip through his chest. 
He remained oblivious to the next five.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


In today's challenge, I'm to answer the question, how would my main character react to seeing a ghost?

Well, since all my main characters are immersed in the world of Japanese mythology, their reaction would not be anything spectacular though some would be neutral toward it and some would see it as a weapon, depending on whether they are good or evil.

Sen and her kitsune sisters that oversee a hidden Shinto shrine have the power to summon and command an oni, a type of Japanese yōkai, synonymous with what westerners would call an ogre or a troll. I have taken liberties with the traditional oni and made it more like a ghost-like creature. Here is a description of an oni from The Shrine War when Sen summons one to fight for her:
Again, Sen’s fingers twisted the prayer chain within a complex dance of her fingers and suddenly an oni, a Japanese yōkai composed of pale, blue fire in the shape of a giant man, stood before her. Sen pointed at the Inugami who assumed a fighting stance. 
“I forbid you to shed blood in the oratory,” she said to the oni between gritted teeth. She pointed at the Inugami. “Humble it and remove its reason.” 
With a scream from the Inugami and a roar from the oni, Sen watched as they charged each other. 
The oni’s only potent weapon was possession. If it could grapple with the intruder, it would enter her body and render its victim helpless. 
Ignoring Sen, the Inugami spun about the oni using her katana to cut away segments of the blue fire. Sen could see her summoned creature diminishing before her as the oni lost its cohesiveness, and Sen felt panic for the first time in centuries. She had invested much of her magical power in calling the dæmon and she had stretched her reservoir of magic to its limits.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Today's #WIPJOY challenge is to take a line from my current work in progress that refers to death or dreams. 

In the First section of The Shrine War, five kitsune shrine maidens (known as miko in Shintoism, are defending their shrine against an invading force of Inugami, normal dogs transformed into sentient, anthropomorphic servants through evil Daoist magic. 

In the story, a lone Inugami breaks into the honden and is captured, killing herself through seppuku rather than remain a prisoner.

When the remainder of the Inugami force their way into the honden, Sen, the leader of the Kitsune shrine maidens, tries to explain why their companion is dead on the floor. The point that I'm making is that when you are birthed in pain and torment and forced to live as a slave, death is not to as feared as those who enjoy life and liberty:
Chiyo flung open the front doors. Outside, seven Inugami stood with drawn swords, two more of them supported by the others, barely conscious. “Enter, dogs,” Chiyo growled and turning her back on them she stalked over to Sen and sat down beside her. 
The Inugami entered, their eyes searching the shadows for possible ambush. 
Sen motioned toward the fallen Inugami. “Your sister died by her own hand,” she said quietly. “She died with honor.” 
One of the Inugami stepped forward, an Akita Inu shaped into human female form, her white fur stained with dirt and debris. “The Inugami care naught for honor,” she said. “I am Akumu of the Inugami. Do you surrender yourselves and your shrine?”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Today I'm to reveal my main character's childhood dream that will never see reality.

Well, Sen is a kitsune who for the first century of her life was a normal fox living her life in the wilds of Japan. When she reached the age of a century, she was given the gift of sentience, the gift of an additional tail, and the privilege of serving Inari Ōkami, the rice goddess of the Shinto religion. So I guess her childhood dream was to eat enough field mice that she could actually feel full.

Now that she is in the form below, she feasts on inari-zushi and udon with fried tofu topping (kitsune udon).

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sister Unicorn: A Fable For Adult Children

Many years ago I tried my hand at writing an allegory. What follows is the first two chapters of an abandoned work. I will leave you, Gentle Reader, as judge, jury, and executioner.

Sister Unicorn:
A Fable For Adult Children
by Alan Loewen

Chapter 1
The question of suicide: Keep it a question. It’s not really an answer - Peter McWilliams
The woods were as green as he remembered them. Spring had turned them into verdant glory. Somewhere along this one-lane macadam road, wandering into the wooded hills of Patrick Shannon’s childhood, lay a place of restoration through memory. A place where he might have a few moments of peace. A place where he might die with a few happy reminiscences.

The gun lay on the seat next to him, its leaden mass a cold reality and acknowledgment of betrayals and old wounds.

Patrick truly doubted if he could find the place again. After thirty years, the memory of landmarks grows dim. Fickle recollection plays tricks, exaggerating or diminishing the events on which one’s realities are based.

Nonetheless, his hands on the steering wheel seemed to follow a deeply buried subconscious map. In spite of three decades of forest growth and death, he remembered this specific turn. A boulder on the side of the road stirred up faint recollections. A steep hill brought back memories of a young boy peddling his bicycle with all his might and the wild joy of a mad ride coasting down the other side while the front wheel wobbled in fury.

Eventually, a few miles after the macadam gave way to dirt, he steered onto the narrow shoulder and stopped, his car still partially on the road. Could this be the place? The familiar narrow path was certainly gone, but there seemed to be a ghost of it left behind, tracing its way through the brush.

He slipped the gun into his coat pocket and eased his bulk from behind the steering wheel. The click of the car latch closing faintly echoed through the woods like the sound of a distant gunshot. He didn’t bother to lock the door.

He paused momentarily before venturing into the wood. It was a warm spring day, but the sun had not yet risen high enough into the sky to warm the air underneath the forest canopy. He fancied he could almost see his breath.

After several steps into the wood, memory took over and led the way. There a familiar bend, here a rock with a twisted giant’s face dug up from the wellsprings of childish fantasy. Within a hundred feet, the familiar burning pain began in his chest with a flood of panic and a sense of impending doom. Patrick concentrated on the gun in his coat pocket beating against his hip with each step and he pushed through the agony.

In his mind’s eye, he could see the doctor standing before him. It’s not your heart, the doctor was saying. You need to lose a hundred pounds. I can understand how you can be feeling stress with your recent problems. I have a colleague that’s a respected psychologist. You can talk through the pain of losing a job, a wife, and a child. Patrick pushed the memory away with a grunt of despair and stumbled into the small clearing.

As he entered the glade, he stood in amazement as a wave of deja vu swept over him. Time here appeared to have stopped still; the spring, the shallow pool, the old oak tree remained the same as his memory recalled them.

The spring soundlessly bubbled up from the ground between the gnarled roots of the old oak, the water collecting in a shallow pond no more than ten feet across. Untold years ago, somebody had taken large gray pieces of shale and flat rock to line the pool’s edge, forming a lip where a visitor could sit and place his feet into the chilly waters. Patrick never knew whose labor graced that glade, but in childhood, he had spent many hours sitting on the shale lip staring into the reflective water. Many times he had accepted the pool’s invitation and lay naked in the water, feeling the coarse bottom sand against his back, the water’s depth just enough to keep his limbs buoyant.

The walk from the car to the spring was not far, but the memory of those cooling waters created a thirst that made his tongue stick to the sides of his teeth. He didn’t worry about the possibility of the spring being polluted. It would be several days before the bacteria or viruses could make him ill and for him time had lost its power.

With some effort, Patrick lay on the ground, his face just inches above the pool’s surface where the water bubbled and boiled. He plunged his face into the pool and winced at the frigid shock of spring water. The water tasted delicious, its bouquet speaking of years under the earth where it steeped fine flavor from primordial rock.

With a groan, he eased himself back from the pool and against the oak, using the venerable old tree as a backrest, water dripping off his face and onto his shirt and loosened tie. Soon, the pain in his chest would ease and then he would stop this mad charade.

Within a few moments, the pain subsided; the water dried from his face. Memories came in a flood.

If there is a hell, Patrick thought, it is where the damned will always ask the question, “What if?” He knew he had asked his own share during his last few weeks; enough to fill a few eternities. What if he had studied history instead of business management? What if he had gone to a smaller college instead of an Ivy League institution? What if he had never married Julia, but had kept his engagement with Alicia? What if Peter, his son, had never died because of that stupid accident? And what if his wife and he hadn’t permitted their son’s death to drive them apart? Once again, his face was wet. Tears coursed down his face as hot channels of regret.

He pulled the gun out of his pocket and laid it on his lap, its heavy presence speaking sermons of despair. The “What If” game was a deadly drain of energy, but it served its purpose of reminding him of his resolve.

He leaned his head back against the oak. God, he prayed silently, if you are really there, I’m sorry. I’ve had enough. He lifted the heavy gun up to his mouth.

There was the sound of a twig snapping.

The noise was so loud, it sounded like the gunshot he fancied would be the last sound he would ever hear.

Startled, he lowered the gun and looked around in alarm.

A porcupine slowly waddled into view out of the underbrush, making comical grunts and groans as if bearing quills was the worst punishment in the cosmos. Patrick watched in annoyance as the creature, mumbling to itself, waddled to the pool and sought a place on the rocky lip to get a drink. Patrick’s date with death had been postponed by a silly porcupine.

Strangely, he suddenly recalled an old story of an aging movie starlet. Tired of life, she had dressed in finery, filled her bedroom with expensive roses and washed down a full bottle of sleeping pills with a bottle of vodka. Regally lying on the bed with her arms folded she waited for death but was overcome first by nausea. She crawled to the bathroom, and, while vomiting, the sleeping pills took effect. They found her drowned, her head submerged in her own bile-filled toilet. The unwelcome vision of people finding his body surrounded by mumbling porcupines was not how Patrick envisioned his own personal drama.

Angrily, he cocked the gun and leveled it at the offending intruder. The porcupine had finally found a place near the water’s edge and momentarily ceased its grumbling to drink.

Patrick’s finger tightened on the trigger.

“No!” he heard. Patrick dropped the gun in surprise. It fell to the forest floor, denting the moss with its dull weight.

He struggled to his feet, the back of his suit coat snagging against the rough bark of the old oak as he searched for his hidden witness in the glade. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of shining white. He turned his head and came eye to eye with glory.

Delicately, it came out of the underbrush, iridescent hooves making no sound or leaving any mark as it walked on the loam. It was not a horse, though it shared many equine features. Its limbs and body were much thinner were more graceful than the finest show mare. The white lion-like tail twitched around its back legs ending in a large tuft of hair as bright as the mane that spilled over its shoulders.

The coat was also blazing white, a contrast to the black eyes that appeared as deep, dark wells that spoke of ancient wisdom and intelligence. On the forehead, a spiral horn the length of Patrick’s forearm shone as if covered with mother-of-pearl.

It stared at Patrick for an eternal second, eyes weighing him. Never had he felt so naked as before that gaze. His thoughts paraded before its vision, no secret able to hide behind a lie or redeem itself with false justification.

Patrick stood for what seemed days. Then he turned and fled and ran directly into the trunk of a large elm.

Chapter 2
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? (Job 39:9-10)
Patrick’s first awareness was a pounding headache. He opened his eyes with a groan and found himself lying on his back on the forest floor with a unicorn’s face only inches from his.

He snapped his eyes shut and trembled, probably, he realized, doing a terrible job of feigning unconsciousness. He had fought and won many boardroom battles, proudly leaving his victims emotionally battered and defeated, but office politics had never taught him how to deal with imminent death from a beast of legend.

Patrick could feel the unicorn’s warm moist breath against his face. The aroma of its exhalations spoke of fields of newly mown hay and yet more of cold winter mornings when snow crunched against booted feet. The scent slowly drained away his fear as childhood memories flooded his mind of orchards of apple trees overburdened with crisp fruit, blazing sunsets and farm ponds alive with frogs and fish. The fragrance demanded the remembrance of childhood innocence and joy long-lost. The mental images brought a wave of overwhelming grief.

“I know you.”

Patrick did more than hear the words with his ears. They gently and subtly poured into his mind. Though husky and with a trace of a lisp, the voice was clearly feminine.

“Yes,” the voice repeated in his ears. “I do know you. You have not been kind to yourself”

He opened his eyes and stared with awe at the unicorn’s face, gazing directly into those wonderful eyes. “I’m losing my mind,” Patrick said audibly, his voice sounding preternaturally loud in the quiet glade.

The unicorn looked down at him, her head cocked like a dog when encountering a new phenomenon for the first time.

“You’re … ,” Patrick stuttered, “You’re a unicorn!”

The unicorn snorted, for all the world, Patrick thought, sounding like half a laugh, merriment briefly shining from her eyes.

“And you,” the unicorn said, “are a human.” Once again, her eyes became heavy with sadness. She nodded her head toward the gun lying on the ground, its ugly presence a transgression in the glade. “Why,” she asked, “do you search for what you already have?”

“I … I don’t understand,” Patrick said.

“Get up,” the unicorn said, her tone more request than a command. The unicorn stepped back to allow Patrick to wobble to his feet. “I have a long journey and I wish your company.”

“Where are you going?” Patrick asked, grasping the tree trunk for support as he regained his balance. Wander the woods with a unicorn? Had he gone mad? “I don’t think I can go with you. I … I …”

The unicorn simply stared at him while he stammered. “Where else do you have to go?” she asked. With a flick of her tail, she turned and walked off into the woods.

Patrick stared for a few moments and, for reasons he couldn’t fully fathom, followed her.

Patrick walked as if asleep. Emotionally numb, he followed the gleaming unicorn deeper into the forest, his eyes locked onto the blazing white coat that carefully picked its way among the trees.

The forest changed. Giant oaks, covered with moss, stood as ancient sentinels. The undergrowth had been replaced by a deep blanket of decaying leaves and an occasional patch of fern that burst from the soil in green glory. Aside from his own breathing, the forest lay in silence.

In his childhood memories of the glade, there was no remembrance of a forest like this one. Surely if he had walked among these arboreal giants, he would have remembered them plainly. The towering trees, their crowns as much as one hundred feet above him, allowed little light through to the forest floor, giving the woods a sort of ethereal, dream-like quality.

“Am I dreaming?” he asked himself aloud.

“No,” the unicorn replied. She had not turned to address him but continued to walk gently through the forest.

Patrick started. Her simple one-word intrusion was, at the least, disconcerting. His anger at what seemed to him a simplistic answer partly awoke the old Patrick Shannon who had faced powerful men and threatening situations in the corporate boardroom.

“Before I take another step,” he said, stopping dead in his tracks, “I want to know if I’m dreaming.”

The unicorn stopped, paused as if in thought, and walked back to him. She nipped him on the thigh. Hard.

Patrick’s yelp, more from surprise than pain, shattered the forest silence.

“You bit me!” he said, rubbing his bruised thigh through his pants.

“And now you know you are not dreaming,” she replied.

“Then,” he asked haltingly, “am I dead?”

She eyed his thigh and he backpedaled away from her before she could bite him again.

“Never mind,” he said quickly. “I’ll accept the fact that I’m neither asleep nor dead.”

“Pain has a way of doing that,” she said. “I’ve noticed how humans deny reality until they step barefoot on a nettle. Sadly, it usually takes worse than that before they will accept a truth.”

“But you’re supposed to be a myth,” Patrick said. “ And I read unicorns only showed themselves to virgins. And what are you doing here in the United States? I thought you only hung around castles.

“And I was told you were just a rhinoceros! And you’re not supposed to talk!” Patrick glared at her, his hands on his hips.

The unicorn whickered out loud, humor evident in the gentle horse-like sound. “My, my,” the unicorn said. “It seems I’m breaking many rules today.

“Nonetheless, here I am, so it seems your tales must be incorrect. Now come. There is water ahead and I am thirsty.”

She turned and walked away from where Patrick stood defiantly. As she disappeared among the trees, the silence of the woods became overwhelming. For Patrick, the frightening prospect of being alone and not sure of the way back to the glade and the car became unbearable. He felt the familiar pain begin to well up in his chest.

“Wait!” he cried. He ran the direction he saw the unicorn disappear, mindful only of the trunks of the trees and the roots creating a maze of snares for his feet.

He almost ran directly into her. Coming to an unsteady halt he found himself standing by a small stream of crystal clear water talking to itself between the ferns as it poured over time-worn rocks.

Gently, the unicorn dropped her head and drank long from the cold mountain water. “Are you thirsty?” she asked, finally raising her head.

Patrick dropped to his knees, more from emotional than physical exhaustion. He cupped water in his hand and drank until his thirst finally went away.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“A little,” Patrick said. “But what’s to eat?”

The unicorn nosed a tiny plant with deep green leaves and one or two scarlet berries. The ground was covered with them.

“These berries have survived the winter,” the unicorn said. “They may taste dry, but they are refreshing.”

“They’re not poisonous?” Patrick asked.

The unicorn stared at him for a few moments and, bending her head, bit off the top of the plant. She looked at him as she chewed.

Patrick sighed and picked a few of the berries within easy reach. He grunted in surprise at the pleasant taste and for a few minutes contented himself with picking the small bright, red berries.

“This is good,” he said after sampling a few. “What is it?”

“In your tongue, it is called wintergreen,” she said.

Patrick munched thoughtfully for a few minutes while the unicorn grazed. Her long tail, looking more like a lion’s than a horse’s, flicked at her sides.

“Tell me,” he said. “Back in the glade, you said you remembered me. What did you mean by that?”

“I saw you there many times when you were a child,” she replied. “I watched you when you played in the spring.”

“I never saw you.”

“I did not want to be seen.”

“Then why show yourself to me now?”

The unicorn’s eyes grew sad. “When you were young, I enjoyed watching you take pleasure in the glade and the solitude. There is not much carefree joy in the world, and what little there is, is too quickly tainted. It was that memory of innocence and delight that caused me to reveal myself today.

“When you where a child there were times when you would fall asleep and I would momentarily fully enter the glade without hiding, acting for a few precious moments there was no estrangement between human and unicorn.”

She sighed, a strange human sound filled with sadness.

“I do not willingly intrude in the lives of men. Even in the season when the leaves change color and fall and men bring their guns to hunt the animals in the woodland, I do not intervene.

“But I now have a long journey and a perilous task with an uncertain outcome. It is in remembering you as what you were, I have asked you to come. Your presence helps me with my burden.”

For Patrick, the words stung. His guilt over lost innocence was what drove him to consider committing suicide where his childhood memories were the happiest.

“Do you have a name,” Patrick asked, changing the subject.

“In your tongue,” the unicorn replied, “it probably would be Dawn’s Herald.”

“That’s appropriate,” Patrick said, smiling in spite of himself. “My name is Patrick.”

“That name is appropriate also.”

“Where are you going?” Patrick asked, picking himself up and brushing the forest mold from the seat of his pants.

“Come and see,” the unicorn replied.

Together they crossed the small stream and continued through the dim forest.

Please Select Your Level of Entertainment

Please go to the Amazon distributor of your desire and select your level of entertainment.

Whatever level you select, it is much cheaper than a theater ticket, and you can revisit my literary worlds as often as you desire at no additional cost.


Today's WIPJOY challenge asks me if I have ever dreamed about my current work in progress. Oh, I wish I have, but sadly I have not. However, read on.

H. P. Lovecraft and I share two characteristics in common:
  1. An interest in the macabre
  2. Rich dream lives
I dream in color with extensive plots and I revisit plots and settings continually, However, none of my stories are dreams revisited because dreams use symbols and archetypes that only have meaning to the reamer. Hearing about somebody else's dream as a straight fiction piece can never have an impact on the reader as much as it has had on the dreamer.

However, I have written profusely on dreams and how they affect my literary work. Here are some links fellow dreamers may find intriguing:
  1. I Dream of a Cat at a Parisian Bistro
  2. Of Lucid Dreamscapes and Cat Wives (Yeah, I do dream a lot about anthropomorphic cats. Weird, huh?)
  3. The Writer and Nocturnal Wanderings of the Dreaming Mind
  4. Alan Loewen vs. The Oak Fairy: A True Story (Actually a hallucination, but it still came from my subconscious.)
  5. A Win-Win Situation (Not all dreams are worth reporting.)
  6. A Dream That Would Shake the Foundations of the Literary World (Ever hear of keeping a dream diary? I tried it. Once.)
  7. Conversation With A Dying Unicorn (Not my dream, but a dream/waking vision my co-writer, Ken Pick, had that had a profound impact on his life and was the instigation of my friendship with him.)
People ask me how to increase the number and intensity of their dreams. There is only one method I know of. Minutes before you go to bed, take a Vitamin B supplement that carries all the different types of Vitamin B. Other than the fact it will turn your urine a brilliant golden yellow in the morning (I write this only so you're not freaked out the next morning), a Vitamin B supplement is harmless. Nonetheless, check with your family doctor, especially if you have kidney or liver challenges).

Interesting factoid: "Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment" is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge while in an opium-induced dream. I do not recommend in any manner the use of illegal substances, but the poem remains an example of a historic literary piece inspired by a dream.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

#WIPJOY #20/21

For this weekend's #WIPJOY challenge, I'm to come up with a list of characters from other books, TV, or films who would be best friends with my main characters.

Well, as I said, I have a pile of main characters, but for this challenge, let's select as my main characters my evil Daoist sorcerer, Abe no Tadayuki.

I am a dedicated fan of the works of Sax Rohmer, a pulp writer who from 1913 to 1959, graced us with a witches coven of pulp novels that introduced an eager public to one of the most fascinating and controversial villains of all time: Dr. Fu Manchu:
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."-- Nayland Smith to Dr. Petrie, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu
It is unlikely Dr. Fu Manchu would have little love for his Japanese counterpart, but after defeating Abe no Tadayuki,  would force him to be a worthwhile servant.

Friday, October 19, 2018


Graphic credit below
The most misunderstood character in my currant work in progress is not an individual, but a race.

The Inugami are dog spirits created by evil Daoist sorcery. 

As the Inugami, Akumu, explains to Sen:
Tell me, shrine maiden and guardian, do you know how an Inugami is birthed?” 
“I have learned that Inugami are the creations of men who practice dark sorcery,” Sen replied. 
Akumu snarled. “Yes, so you know of our creation, fox. All of us were once dogs, dogs born to serve humanity. Then humans that we trusted and that we only wished to serve did terrible, pain-filled rituals, dark and evil tortures that twisted us into dark and evil servants.”
In magical tradition, an Inugami was originally a regular domesticated dog tortured to death in such a horrendous manner I will only refer to it obliquely in my story as I know that sorcerers in the ancient past actually performed these rites. I do not wish to glorify such monstrous activities. It is not difficult to understand why Inugami can turn on their masters. It would have been for a very good reason.

So, it stands to reason that creatures born from evil can only understand evil. In The Inugami, I introduce Shadō, an Inugami abandoned by her master and forced to live in a crawlspace. The creature is eventually freed by Kelly Robbins, an American studying at the University of Tokyo. Shadō struggles to accept that Kelly does not wish to use her talents for evil: 
“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 and balance must be maintained even within the chaos of magic: student and teacher, servant and master. Without order, we surrender to complete chaos and in chaos there is only destruction. I am no longer hidden and my presence is felt in 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 traced 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.”
In The Inugami, I introduce the creatures as objects of pity, though many see them only as tools for evil.

The graphic above is copyrighted to Aimi of AimiArts and is the visual model I used for Shadō.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Today's challenge is to describe who "gets" the main character best.

Again, I have chosen Sen as my main character, the head Shinto shrine maiden leading her four sisters in a defense of their shrine against an overwhelming force of Inugami.

Her second-in-command, so to speak, is Chiyo. With her five tails, she is only half the age of Sen, but speaks and acts as if she is more of the matron of the group than Sen herself. She is also jealously protective of Sen, the other miko, and the shrine itself.

And she can be quite deadly about it as well:
As Kiku and Kuwa left the oratory, Sen turned to Chiyo. “Dear Chiyo, it is you who must defend Inari’s Mirror. They may try to come over the back walls. If they enter the honden then it is you who must stop them. If what they say is true, we are the last keepers of a Kitsune shrine; if all the other shrine objects are truly destroyed, then all of Inari Ōkami’s essence is enshrined in her mirror. Who knows what that may mean, but that the Inugami must not even see it, let alone touch it?” 
Chiyo nodded, her jaw tight and her eyes grim. “They will not get the mirror, sister. Not tonight. Never.” She reached into the left sleeve of her haori and pulled out a folded fan. With a flick of her wrist, it sprang open with a metallic whisper to reveal itself as a deadly weapon, its edge honed to razor sharpness. “I have not used my tessen in years past counting, but should the dogs attempt to enter the honden…” Chiyo spun the fan in her furred fingers, its deadly edge splitting the air with a fearsome hiss and blurring from the speed of its movement as she expertly guided it through a complex exercise. In her left hand, her prayer beads glowed with a dull azure light. Then, with a sudden movement, she flicked the fan closed with a sharp click and the prayer beads once again became simple tiny ceramic and wooden balls strung on a hempen cord. Chiyo slid her tessen back up her sleeve. 
With dignity, the sisters bowed to each other and Chiyo left Sen standing alone in the oratory.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Today, a line from my work in progress about grief or longing.

The selection I've chosen for today is a grief about a longing achieved. In my story, it is the goal of some kitsune to marry a human being and I use that for comedic relief in the first segment of The Shrine War. In the third and final section, Incident at a Japanese Inn, I reveal that Christopher Andrews actually did marry his kitsune housekeeper and at a Japanese inn, he muses on his good fortune:

Graphic credit below
 As Hoso emptied the luggage, Liana walked to the far wall and slid aside another paper door. 
The scene took Christopher’s breath away. A wooden platform served as a small porch that stood over a small steaming pond. Boulders partially covered in flowering vines lined the shore. 
In the middle of the pond, a large rock rose above the water. A small bonsai tree, its branches artistically trimmed and shaped, grew from its rocky support. 
“Isn’t the hot spring lovely?” Liana exclaimed. 
Christopher stared at the scene. Liana, standing with her three tails spread out behind her, added to the exquisite beauty of the view. 
This is the Japan that I have sought, Christopher thought, his heart suddenly aching from the vision before him. This is why I left my home to travel halfway across the world. This is what Lewis called the numinous. This is what I have always longed for. 
Liana turned and held out her hand. “Come, husband,” she said. “Come and share this with me.”
Christopher smiled and taking Liana’s hand, drank in the conjoined enchantment of the spring and his exotic bride.

Graphic copyright to Kacey.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Today's challenge is to discuss my main character's happy place.

Well, as I have been saying, I really don't have a main character, but for the sake of argument, I have been using Sen, the leader of a kitsune-led Shinto shrine as my reference even though she only appears in the first section of the work.

Sen is a 10-tailed kitsune, well over 1,000 years old, and for 500 of those years, she has served at a shrine to Inari, now, in the last century, she has been the leader of the other four miko and the shrine is her home and her love.

Here is the model I used for the shrine taken from a Wikipedia article:

The following is a diagram illustrating the most important parts of a Shinto shrine.
  1. Torii – Shinto gate
  2. Stone stairs  (absent from the shrine in the story)
  3. Sandō – the approach to the shrine
  4. Chōzuya or temizuya – purification font to cleanse one's hands and mouth
  5. Tōrō – decorative stone lanterns (absent from the shrine in the story)
  6. Kagura-den – building dedicated to Noh or the sacred kagura dance
  7. Shamusho – the shrine's administrative office  (absent from the shrine in the story)
  8. Ema – wooden plaques bearing prayers or wishes  (absent from the shrine in the story)
  9. Sessha/massha – small auxiliary shrines
  10. Komainu – the so-called "lion dogs", guardians of the shrine  (absent from the shrine in the story)
  11. Haiden – oratory or hall of worship
  12. Tamagaki – fence surrounding the honden
  13. Honden – main hall, enshrining the kami
  14. On the roof of the haiden and honden are visible chigi (forked roof finials) and katsuogi (short horizontal logs), both common shrine ornamentations.
I will describe the shrine, not through the eyes of Sen, but through the eyes of Christopher Andrews, an American who accidentally stumbles onto the shrine when doing research for a paper:
Following the bend of the stream as it coursed its way around a hillock, Christopher stared in stunned surprise. A vermilion-colored torii, a universal feature of all Shinto shrines stood before him. Acting as a type of open gate, the tall torii served to separate the sacred inner space of the shrine from the outside mundane world. On both sides, a high wall went to the right and the left until they were lost in the trees. Oddly, no road led to the torii, though a tiled sandō, the walkway that led to the shrine’s interior, began at the entrance. 
What surprised Christopher the most was the immaculate appearance of the torii, the wall, and the sandō. He had expected decaying ruins, but what he could see looked pristine. 
Taking out his camera, he took a series of quick pictures and then made his way up the tiled walkway. Large, ancient trees filled the shrine grounds, but the ground stood bare of leaves, more evidence the shrine had occupants that maintained the property. 
Following the path, Christopher went around another hillock and there he could see the rest of the shrine and its assorted features. 
The chōzuya, the purification fountain, sat under a small bamboo shelter. Beyond the fountain, he could see the Kagura-den where miko, the shrine maidens, would hold their sacred dances. Past that, there were three setsumatsusha, small auxiliary shrines to other minor kami. The oratory, where rituals and worship took place, stood as the dominant building, its entranceway comprising two double doors. Beyond that, protected by its own wall, stood the honden, separate from the oratory, where devotees to Inari Ōkami believed the goddess herself to be enshrined. Christopher smiled with delight to see both the oratory and the hondon displayed the Sumiyoshi-zukuri style that proved the shrine had been built well before Buddhism came to Japan and made dramatic changes to Shintoism. Absent also were the tōrō, traditional Buddhist stone lanterns so common in contemporary shrines. 
However, the most striking absence was the total lack of statues of Kitsune, the pure white foxes that served as Inari’s messengers. All of Inari’s shrines held two or more statues representing the creatures, many times with them holding keys within their delicate jaws. Without Kitsune statues guarding the entrance, Christopher had no assurance this was a shrine to Inari Ōkami at all. 
Christopher snapped several pictures with his camera, a small part of his mind feeling guilty for taking such liberties without the shrine priest’s permission, but strangely enough, the shrine lay deserted. Though the sense of being observed had never left him, no priests, miko, or worshipers walked the grounds of the shrine. The signs displayed the presence of caretakers, yet the grounds appeared deserted. 
Nonetheless, he had no desire to offend. Though no devotee of Shinto, Christopher knew that all visitors had to undergo the simple ceremonial purification rite known as temizu. The chōzuya for this shrine, where the temizu had to be performed, was a bamboo shelter that housed an actual spring that bubbled up into the fountain and overflowed into an ornate grate. 
Several bamboo ladles lay ready and with practiced ease Christopher took a ladle in his right hand and used it to scoop up water from the fountain. He poured the water into his left hand, switched hands, and poured water over the right. 
Taking the ladle once again in his right hand, he poured water into his left palm and used it to rinse his mouth. He rinsed his left hand a final time, tipped the ladle up to let water pour down the handle, and placed the ladle back onto its stand. 
If there were any unseen witnesses to his ablutions, Christopher wanted them to know he came to the shrine respectfully.