Monthly Archives: November 2013


In Japanese myth, kami are spirits of nature and/or the dead, both of positive and negative natures. Yokai are supernatural monsters again both good and bad. The variations and derivations of both classes of mythical entities are endless and possess great possibilities for story ideas as evidenced by the popularity of  manga, anime and games that feature such creatures. I’ve incorporated both kami and yokai in my novel and in a few of my short stories. One aspect of both that is repeated in different creatures is the ability to shape-shift.

Of course, most of these spirits and monsters are impressive and scary. However, in researching my novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, I came across certain Japanese mythological creatures that sounded, well, ridiculous.

In my novel, dragons, spider demons (Jorogumo),corpse-eaters (Jikininki), giant centipedes (Ōmukade), ogre-demons (Oni), monkey-tiger-snakes (Nue) and other fearsome monsters strike terror and disgust into the hearts of my characters. However, some of the descriptions I came across in the huge lists of Japan’s mythical beasties were not what I expected. I admit, I was tempted to use some of them in the story but chickened out. They were just too weird and/or funny. Someday I’m going to have to look up how these crazy characters originated.

For example:

Akaname – The spirit who licks untidy bathrooms. Yum!

Furu-utsubo – Animated jar. I can’t even visualize this.

Ittan-momen – A possessed roll of cotton that attempts to smother people by wrapping itself around their faces. Seriously?

Kameosa – A possessed sake jar. See above.

Kasa-obake – A possessed paper umbrella monster. Why?

And my favorite– Uma-no-ashi – A horse’s leg which dangles from a tree and kicks passersby. Ouch! Now this lends itself to comedic possibilities although it may, in fact, be very dark and evil.

Kami and yokai are different from gods. The Japanese have at least a triple-threat pantheon of all kinds of supernatural beings. There’s even a matching cryptid to our own Bigfoot called a hibagon. I reference kami in THE SIXTH PRECEPT many times and have created yokai characters in the still-being-written sequel, WARRIORS OF THE LIGHT.

Now I swear I read somewhere (but can’t find the reference now) that there was a possessed wash rag included with these other creatures. A possessed wash rag. Remember that the next time you forget to clean out that old, moldy dish towel. You never know what could really be lurking there.

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One of the more fun aspects of writing, or more specifically, conducting research for my writing, is the odd and interesting facts that pop up.

In my debut novel, THE SIXTH PRECEPT, about half of the action in the book takes place in medieval Japan, specifically the early 16th century known as the Muramachi or Sengoku or Warring States Period. This was a very chaotic time in Japanese history where the daimyos or warlords were fighting among themselves for power. No one central authority had yet to organize everyone. No shogun during that century of warfare was powerful or resourceful enough to centralize control until the Edo Shogunate in the early 17th century became the top dogs.

My initial idea was to have a geisha as one of my central characters, a geisha with prescient powers (I just liked the idea of a geisha, having just read the book and watched the movie Memoirs of a Geisha). However, during my research I found that geishas weren’t around in the early 16th century. Uh oh. Now what was I going to do? It turns out a type of precursor to the geisha did exist at that time. These were the shirabyoshi who essentially performed the same types of services and practiced the same kind of art as geisha although dancing was their primary talent.

With a global “find and replace,” I changed my geisha character to a shirabyoshi. In truth, my characterization of my shirabyoshi character may not be completely accurate (For instance, some sources site the geisha predecessor as the actress/prostitutes known as oiran but that sounded too much like a fantasy or SF name so I went for the more Japanese-sounding name, as silly as that sounds since they’re both Japanese terms). In a novel with time-travel, mythological Japanese creatures and masked vigilantes, I figured some artistic license was okay.

Also, one source I consulted stated the first geishas were men. Initially jesters to the daimyo known as taikomochi, these men’s roles as entertainers and assistants to the oiran were eventually taken over by the female geisha.

Another factoid I discovered is, during a certain period in Japan’s history, when a woman got married, instead of receiving a wedding ring, she painted her teeth black. This was known as the ohaguro style. I thought that was very interesting and sort of bizarre and wanted desperately to put that in the book. However, the same thing happened–that custom wasn’t around yet during the action of my medieval Japan sections. It didn’t become commonplace in Japanese society until later in the 17th or 18th century and lasted into into the early 20th century.

I was disappointed but was able to include that in the sequel, which I’m writing now. Black teeth! How cool is that?


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Welcome to my Worlds…

An Altered State – that’s what the act of writing, of creation, is to me. I’m not making these stories, places and characters up; I’m channeling them from alternate realities and parallel universes, following true protagonists’ adventures as they actually happen.

Shadow-Trackers, Far Future Knights Templar, Priestess-Mages, Dragons, Vampires, Revenant Armies, Gifted Ones, Ice Lords. They’re all real. As Shirley Jackson once said – “Come along with me.”

 As I say – If you dare.

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