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Dominae Mortem – Tengu Mythology

In one of my Patreon posts I spoke about exploring the origin of folklore and mythology for my Dominae Mortem novel. The idea is to look at existing spiritual creatures and monsters, and create my own version of how they came to be. Today we look at the Tengu from Japanese mythology:

Tengu are legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion.  They are also considered a type of god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural being). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

Tengu are most frequently depicted in the yamabushi’s (yamahoshi’) distinctive costume, which includes a tokin and yuigesa – a pom-pommed sash.

The arc I am working on for Dominae Mortem this Camp NaNo was not planned. I knew the character but not the setting and not what’s supposed to happen. This rolled into a week long research/writing where Google Maps/Images was my best friend.

Creating a realistic location is so much work. Without a plan, I kept writing myself into a couple of impossible situations. And I did what any normal Dark Fantasy author would do… I hurt the protagonist. No one escapes the wrath of dark fantasy. So nothing at all was working according to plan.

However, one thing I knew for certain was that I had to create a Tengu. I had no idea how or who or when. Thankfully, the setting I spent so much time researching told the story I needed. As I pantsed my way through, I created a character who had a specific role and they in-turn decided to alter their destiny.

Here’s an excerpt of the transformation:

*Touma-san. Takeda-san. Naoharu-san. Do not rejoice. Your sacrifice bears many consequences. Until the Shinigami accepts her fate, the curses will remain.

Naoharu the yamahoshi is suddenly thrown into the air. A large brown bird descends from the heavens. A tobi – the Black Kite. Its claws grip Naoharu’s scalp and the bird thrusts its head into the yamahoshi’s open skull. He screeches in fear and pain. Still he lifts into the air, caught in the birds’ claws. The tobi continues to dig its head into Naoharu, pushing through the rotted brain. We watch aghast as its beak pushes out of Naoharu’s nose, stretching the skin until it seems to break. His face begins to simmer in black tendrils, melting the skin as it takes on the shape of the bird. His features transform until he is an amalgamated bird man. The tobi’s body completely sinks into the screaming yamahoshi. The residing maggots skitter out in droves. They dribble down the yamahoshi’s yuigesa as the man crumples forward in the air. We hear the popping crunch of bone. It is like the crack of thunder. Naoharu’s arches his spine as the back of his robes rip. Large black-brown wings sprout from his back. They continue to grow and grow and grow, until they are as tall as the yamahoshi.

This tori-no-otoko, Tengu as we name him, shall be the guardian and prosecutor of the Ōyashiro. The voice rumbles – As for you, Touma-san, the darkness within shall lead you to the Shinigami. Find her. She must accept her destiny.

A single breeze blows through us and Naoharu drops from the air. His enormous wings beat once with a gale of wind and he remains hovering above us. His beady eyes flit about. A bird-like screech claws from his beak as he beats his wings again. He ascends into the heavens and flutters off towards the grand shrine.

*

And off goes Naoharu to become the great myth known as the Tengu. You probably have a lot of questions about the who, what, where etc that lead to this. All shall be revealed in the final novel. Until then, it’s back to the writing. Thanks for dropping by.

Monday Book Recommendation: The Women of Baker Street

As Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London . . .

When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very first night, Mrs Hudson believes she witnesses a murder. But was it real, or just smoke and mirrors?

Mary Watson meanwhile has heard about young boys disappearing across London, and is determined to find them and reunite them with their families. As the women’s investigations collide in unexpected ways, a gruesome discovery in Regent’s Park leads them on to a new, terrifying case.


I’ve recently started getting into mystery novels. The darker the better and although I have yet to read this novel, it sounds like it’s right up my alley. You can read the review on my good friend Vicky’s blog: The Women of Baker Street – review.

Michelle Birkby has always loved crime stories, and read her first Sherlock Holmes book when she was thirteen. She was given a beautiful collection of all the short stories and has been hooked with the wonderful, gas-lit, atmospheric world of crime and adventure ever since. A few years ago Michelle was re-reading The Empty House and a blurred figure in the background suddenly came into focus. It became clear to her that Mrs Hudson was much more than a housekeeper to 221b and she’d always been fascinated by Mary Watson’s character. So she set about giving the women of Baker Street a voice and adventures of their own . . . The House at Baker Street is the first book in the exciting Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson Investigations.

The Other Side of World Building

March was a month dedicated to world building in preparation for Camp NaNo, which is already at the end of its second week. One of the biggest issues with the process of world building is the fact that you are not writing as you build the world. You have concept characters in a concept world pushing conceptual plots.

As a writer, you should know, what you have in your head never works out the same way once the words fill up your blank page. Your characters start misbehaving, adding more to their backstory, referencing characters you haven’t really created because you didn’t think about them. The world, which was rich and expansive, does not incorporate the little spaces your characters decide to visit.

This has been my woe with the first of the novels I’m working on, Last Robot on Earth (name to be revised). Below is the mind map that plots out all the places where the story takes place. This is one of five mind maps that are just as detailed. I figured that all of this would be sufficient… but it’s not.

I had to create a sixth map where I outline what happens in the first arc, and within that arc all the details of what should happen. I say should because when I started writing, I realised that what I had built was still being shifted around by the story itself. On this side of world building, the story is the boss.

Plotting vs Pantsing

I’m not a plotter by default. Perhaps that’s why this isn’t working as well for me as I thought it would. I lack the details. I see the overall picture and think little of the puzzle pieces that work together to build the picture. What has definitely helped with the plotting, is knowing where I am going. Which means I still have the freedom to write the scenes as they happen. Of pantsing my way through the checkpoints I have planned.

This also means writer’s block doesn’t strike so often. I am thankful for all the work I put in to planning and so onward I go. 18,582 words and counting.


Have you experienced this when you are world building?

Wednesday Book Review: Endgame – Sky Key

Title: Sky Key – An Endgame Novel #2

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA / Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The keys must be found, and only one Player can win.

Queens, New York. Aisling Kopp believes the unthinkable: that Endgame can be stopped. But before she can get home to regroup, she is approached by the CIA. They know about Endgame. And they have their own ideas about how it should be Played. Ideas that could change everything.

Kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia. Hilal ibn Isa al-Salt narrowly survived an attack that leaves him horribly disfigured. He now knows something the other Players do not. But the Aksumites have a secret that is unique to their line. A secret that can help redeem humanity—and maybe even be used to help defeat the beings behind Endgame.

London, England. Sarah Alopay has found the first key. She is with Jago—and they are winning.But getting Earth Key has come at a great cost to Sarah. The only thing that keeps the demons at bay is Playing. Playing to win.

Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—is next. And the nine remaining Players will stop at nothing to get it.

Review:

First Thoughts

Well what can I say, I loved the first book. It was riveting and action packed and those players were ruthless. Some were human to a good degree. Others were monsters. This second book continues the ongoing saga to save humanity from Endgame… but the rules are changing. It’s amazing to see how at one point everyone was moving in one direction and then suddenly they are moving in a different direction. It’s brilliant.

Writing

Nothing has changed from the initial book in terms of writing. We switch between the remaining Players as they seek out Sky Key, the second of three keys that are supposed to save their line from Endgame – a world ending cataclsymic event.

Every character is unique. They have their own quirks that make them not only the best Players, but the best of who they each are as Players. Assassins. Snipers. Fighters. They are not only resourceful, but they are mentally amazing. I could never think, react or even manage to survive like they do. And the writing switching between the characters allows you to see from their own perspectives. There were times when I was freaking out because Player A knew Player B was approaching and Player B didn’t know! I was reading as fast as I could to get to the encounters! I almost cried at one point.

It’s interesting to see how some of the Players have changed during the course of the game. Moving from determined killer to compassionate killer. Other’s spiraling head first into pure psychotic behaviour. It’s brilliant.

Final Thoughts

Although I feel the ending is somewhat anti-climatic, it was a fair ending. A good ending. A proper ending. The first few hundred pages of the book I’m just trying to see where everyone is going. We as the readers know where Sky Key is and just waiting to see when everyone else will catch up. Then it’s a whole new game and I’m just trying to root for one of the Players but I have no idea who. I don’t even know whether I want them to find Sky Key after all or not. It was emotional in every sense.

Rating: An emotional 5 out of 5


You can find my review of the first book here: Endgame: The Calling.

If you have read the books, let me know what you thought. If you’re looking to get the books, ask me about them. No spoilers I promise.

Lastly, you can sign up to my SPAM-free Newsletter here: Nthato Morakabi.com

Dare You Not…

Dare you not hear the beat of your heart?

The silent thrum,

The quiet hum,

As constant as memories, and just as forgotten?

Loud as fear,

Heavy as woe,

Deafening to afflictions tearing it apart?

 

Dare you not feel the beat of your heart,

The timid quiver

The faint whisper

As constant as regrets, and just as forgotten?

Brittle as grief,

Fragile as despair,

Indelicately manipulated till our souls depart.

 

Can you hear the silence?

and Remember to forget

Can you feel the imperceptible?

but forget to Remember.

 

Dare you not live?

 

Monday Book Recommendation: Endgame Training Diaries

All three thrilling volumes of Endgame: The Training Diaries, the prequel novellas to the New York Times bestselling Endgame series, together in one paperback bind-up!

Before they were Players . . . Before the Calling . . . They trained to be selected as the one to save their ancient bloodline—and win Endgame.

Follow the Twelve through sacrifices and betrayals, broken hearts and broken bones, as they shed their normal lives and transform into the Players they were meant to be.

They must train, learn, prepare.
To Play, survive, and solve.
To kill or be killed.
Endgame is real.
Endgame is coming.
And only one can win.

 


I finished Sky Key the other day and after all the intensity and drama and death (I almost cried.) seemed to build up and… well the end felt a little anti-climatic. Nonetheless I move on to the final book in the main series, Rules of the Game.

James Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. After battling with alcohol addiction and spending time in rehab, he wrote A Million Little Pieces which was published in 2003 in America and the following year in the UK to critical acclaim. He wrote the sequel, My Friend Leonard about life after rehab, which was published in 2005 in the US and the year after in the UK.

James Frey now lives in New York with his wife, daughter and dog. He is still writing. Most recently he has published Bright Shiny Morning, and his new book The Final Testament of the Holy Bible will publish on 12 April and is available for pre-order now.

He is also one of the authors that share the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, author of the Lorien Legacies.

Camp NaNo 2017 – The Beginning of the End

I have a draft folder full of all these ideas I never pushed far enough to publish. I was content with this. Figuring that eventually I would sit down and turn them into novels worth publishing. This was sometime in the future but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years of spawning new drafts on a whim every time is this: if I don’t actually sit down and write, not just have the intention but put in the work, I won’t ever publish. Ever.

So future me will have to thank me for this camp’s ambitious endeavour: writing four novels in four months. Camp is the beginning of it all.

 

Camp NaNo Writing

The four novels (well three and an anthology) are as follows:

Junk Yard Angel – A Steampunk novel

She is a guardian, a saviour… an angel, spending her time in the scrap yards filled with discarded metal parts – fixing the broken with an amazing new technology powered by steam. They call her, the Junk Yard Angel.

However, some know a darker side to her. A murky, questionable past that still haunts her – for demons were once angels too.

Junk Yard Angel Short Stories – A prologue to JYA.

In the growing metropolis of Neandershöhle, a great revolution is on the rise. The Church and the State fight to keep their dogmatic rule and absolute Monarchy over the people, while the people fight for Enlightenment and individual liberty.

A young girl finds purpose in the fragile Age of Enlightenment. She stalks the scrap yards and uses the discarded metal to bring hope to the hopeless.

Yet something within rattles her soul. Whispers dark thoughts, and with the revolution so close at hand, she must choose her destiny wisely or endure the resulting consequences.

Last Robot on Earth – A Dystopian Novel

The world is a ravaged war-torn landscape still carrying the scars of nuclear war. Melted ice-caps have increased water levels, submerging much of the world under water. What little habitable land remains becomes a haven for those who survived the war.

Humans, living under the effect of the radiation, begin to mutate to their environment. Exhibiting bizarre adaptations and abilities.

Roaming uninhibited by the radiation is a single sentient machine. Living among the humans.

Waiting.

Watching.

Preparing.

Dominae Mortem – A Dark Fantasy Novel

Princess Arabella has a secret. Following her mother’s death, she sought the council of the Great Elders on what happens after death. Their answer drives her towards performing one of the Great Sins – suicide. Her premature death sends her to Orcus where she meets Death himself.

Following her defeat of Death, yet unable to reclaim her mother’s lost soul, she returns to the world of the living. The mantle of Death has been passed on to her yet she refuses her responsibilities.

But death is necessary. It calls to her. Summons her to its dark realm… and Fate decides to make a personal call.

The idea here is to write at least 12,500 words per novel between Camp and the next camp in July. That’s about 200,000 words in total (50K per novel although some will probably be much much longer than that eventually).

Thus this camp starts the real journey of becoming a writer. Of not just procrastinating and putting things off. A little ambitious I know, but…

“Ambition… is a great man’s madness.” John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi


Are you participating in Camp Nano? What are writing? If you need a cabin (there’s about 7 spaces left) comment your username and you can join us. Happy writing!

Want to find out more about my writing projects? Sign up to my newsletter:

We are! We are!

Our shells decay over time,

Souls trapped in finite casings

Ghosts of a terrestrial plane.

We are, we are, sublime.

 

Consciousness captured through ingenuity,

Subconsciousness fueling creativity,

Driven by proficiency,

We are, we are ambiguity.

 

Disparity in human principle,

Purpose defined objectivity,

Time is running out, yet

We are, we are, invincible.

 

“Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.”
― George R.R. Martin


Camp NaNo is around the corner. Let’s take the world by storm!

 

Monday Book Recommendation: The Ghost Line

The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.


Andrew Gray‘s fiction has appeared in numerous speculative fiction magazines, including Nature Futures, Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Sockdolager and On Spec.

He was awarded On Spec’s Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize, has been nominated for a National Magazine Award for Fiction and has been shortlisted several times for the CBC/Saturday Night Literary Award. He was the runner-up prize winner in the 2015 Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition.

His first collection of stories, Small Accidents, was published by Raincoast Books and was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Award at the BC Book Prizes and an IPPY award in the US.

With co-author J.S. Herbison, he has written The Ghost Line, which is forthcoming from Tor.com’s novella imprint in mid-2017.

He lives with his family and several cranky chickens on Canada’s West Coast

Friday Fiction: Wattpad Excerpt

As you might know (some of you definitely know), Friday’s are usually Microcosmsfic days, where 3 elements are spun and a bunch of us write a 300 word flash fiction using those elements. The prize is prestige and an opportunity to judge the next round. Last Friday I wrote a Fable called The Man and the Mice and to both my surprise, and glee, I actually won that week’s Microcosmsfic, both picked by the Judge and the Community. *Swoons*

So I wont be entering this Friday as I will be judging the entries. You can, however, enter the comp here: MicrocosmsFic.com Write great stories!

I actually loved writing that fable, and you can read the whole process of how I came up with the story, on my Patreon page (free) here: Inspiration Behind The Man and the Mice

Fridays are also days when I post a chapter of my novella, Innocence, on Wattpad. The premise follows four police officers and a young doctor, who illegally execute a known killer. Now someone (or something) is stalking them.

Here’s an excerpt from the next chapter. Innocence – A Wattpad Novella


The room spins as body leans forward to reach for the fallen injection. The body slumps onto the warm wooden floor with a soft thwack. Eyes glaze over the irregular lines that mark each thin, individual piece of floorboard.

The rows of polished plank begin to sway.

Bend.

Lurch.

They curl upward from the ground and wiggle free from their confines. Oversized gunk drips wet, grey splotches over the curling floorboards, coating them in their mucous membrane and form egg-shaped heads. The droplets slither over the wood, every drip causing the planks to writhe to life. The curled heads wiggle upwards like cat-sized maggots, squirming as the slime devours the wooden meat sack that was once the floor. Together, in rapid gyration they turn to the body on the floor in a unison of tiny beady eyes. Black as coal. Tufts of slick hair drape over the left side of their bulging heads. The gunk continues to drip over their tiny humanoid faces.

The giggles contract into hicks of breathless inhalations, gurgling with saliva dripping down the gawking mouth, then rising into a crescendo of strangled chortles winding into wild screeching.

The maggots skitter as though the sound invigorates them. They skid forward from their coiled perch in frenzied slurping shuffles. They climb over the body in a mesh of wriggling appendages.


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