Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing Seeing Crimson

So few main characters are Hispanic. They are usually the guys getting eaten by monsters--that is, expendable. Being a Puerto Rican myself, I figured it was about time for a really cool Hispanic hero. Thus Turi Sepulveda was born. Turi had a rough life growing up poor and with only one parent, but he went for his dream, which was rodeo. Finally achieving this, he realizes that someday he'll have to get a "real job." Friends encourage him to go to community college, which he does. He attacks his education like he attacks bulls, and soon he is on the top of things. After a professor urges him to apply to Harvard University, he does it on a lark. To his surprise, he is accepted. He is drunk with pride and happiness until he arrives and things begin to go sour. 
First he finds himself with an immature roommate, but it is the series of murders that finally make him wonder what the hell he was thinking coming to Boston. As the suspicion centers on him, Turi realizes just how out of place he really is. A madman is loose in Cambridge and Turi fears for his new girl, Alison. What he doesn't know is how close the killer has been all along.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Crystal of the Ukteena

One of the best things about writing the Crystal of the Ukteena was that I was able to utilize my knowledge of organic chemistry, which allowed me to accurately describe the creation of methamphetamine in a modern lab. This was part of the modern setting. The story travels to the past as well, and here I utilize my knowledge of prehistoric Mississippi Native American tribal life. The Ukteena was a traditional monster of this area. It was depicted as a sort of dragon with a crystal on its head. It could only be defeated by destroying this crystal.
The Ukteena monster can be put to rest by magic, but when Professor Aydin kills a student who he feels has put his drug operation at risk, the blood from the murder seeps into an Indian burial area and activates the Ukteena, who rises, filled with the hunger of centuries of waiting. 
Although Aydin also wants to destroy beautiful Professor Clarissa Ford, she is the only one who can save him, and the rest of the world from the ancient curse.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fox Sorcerer excerpt

Ashiya Doman rushed toward the cave, which was their meeting place. He cursed his faith in the demons. What had that devil Vatapi done? The day seemed extraordinarily dry, and he was relieved when he finally veered off the road and started into the wooded area. The trees made it dark and brooding. Fear began to tamp down the rage that was bubbling in his breast. He realized that he could do nothing against the demon, but just remembering his helpless anguish as the demon quaffed the contents of the vial made his anger blot out his sanity.
He had concealed the opening of the cave with branches and leaves. As he snatched them away, he smelled the vile odor of the demon. It was a stench similar to that of a snake, but with undertones of decay and something indescribably worse. He heard the demon’s rasping breath and rage welled up in him.
“Explain!” he screamed.
The oni Vatapi was leaning against the wall of the cave eating the leg of some animal—or was it a human? He scratched the place between his massive horns with a hand that sported horrifically long and sharp yellowing nails. He wore bright red hakama trousers and a sort of vest that was decorated with what appeared to be human nails and teeth. He smiled, letting the blood drip from his fangs.
“Ah, so you come to complain. Well, I did what you wanted and gave Abe no Seimei the poison.”
Doman was trembling with rage. “Then why does he live?”
The oni shrugged. “It is poison for us demons. Abe no Seimei is one of us, you know, but he is also one of you.”
“What do you mean by that? What did you give him?” Ashiya sputtered.
“I thought the nectar would kill him. It kills demons. I told you, that is why I did not take it for myself. You wanted him dead, and that was the only way, but it seems that he is equally human. The nectar made him immortal. You should have considered that.”
“But the nectar was for me! It was so that I could become immortal, not him! And then why did you drink the poison?” Doman’s voice was sore from screaming.
“It is poison to humans and animals. Demons can drink it and it will extend our lives at least twice. It was really quite good.”
“If you suspected that Abe no Seimei might survive drinking the nectar, then why did you not give him the poison, so that I might have the nectar still? You idiot!”
The demon’s rumbling laughter filled the cave. He roared with amusement. “Poor Doman, you are the idiot. Did you think I would trust you to live up to your agreement? You scheme and plot against an innocent man. How can I have faith that you would not do the same to me? Look at you! You are so feeble that you can barely stand. Your teeth are falling out and your balding head shines in the sun like a polished copper pot. If you had drunk the nectar, it would not have made you young. You would have had to be immortal in your present body—an eternal geezer. I was doing you a kind of favor. Anyway, we demons feel a sort of kinship with the half demons like Abe no Seimei—mostly because you humans despise us so much.” He took a savage bite from the leg he’d been gnawing on, and spit a large piece of cartilage in Doman’s direction. He beat his chest and roared, causing Doman to flee for his life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Eternal Fox Sorcerer--Abe no Seimei

 The fox spirit is revealed in its shadow—Japanese folk wisdom.
    Andre finally learns the dreaded truth, the secret of how Abe no Seimei became the eternal fox sorcerer. He also ends up entering into a pact he didn’t expect. He is shocked when Seimei insists on going back home with Andre, who doesn’t know how he will deal with a thousand-year-old man in his own world. Will Seimei’s demon associates crash the plane? Will his mother, a hereditary miko shaman woman, guess the truth of Seimei? He is too frightened to think of the possibilities, but he is also ecstatic to think that they can be together. When Seimei decides to accompany Andre to see his Harvard advisor, the situation turns dire. Seimei reveals to him that the man he thought was his professor may actually be the reincarnation of his archenemy, Ashiya Doman. Will Andre and Seimei survive the encounter?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Yurei--Other Kinds of Ghosts in Japan

Another kind of Japanese ghost is the “Ghost Mother,” the spirit of a dead mother who returns to care for her living child. There are many stories from various areas of Japan telling of ghosts who may, for example, buy sweets for their babies and young children. The mother’s tie to her child allows her to remain to care for it. She is a benevolent figure, as long as the child is not harmed by someone, such as an angry father or stepmother, at which time she may become enraged.

Malevolent ghosts are another sort of ghost. Quite often they cause mischief and destruction. The ghosts of people who have died while trying to cross a mountain may try to mislead a person so that he or she will die and join the ghost in their lonely existence. Sometimes a ghost may create the illusion of a nice inn, for example, which in reality is the cave of a hungry beast. 
People who die at sea and become ghosts may follow a ship demanding to get a pail without a bottom. If they don’t get it, they will fill the ship with water so that it sinks. 
Fallen armies often come back in mass hauntings. Some individual dead samurai may return under specific circumstances or places associated with their deaths.

Tony Manichino--Vampire Detective

Tony Manichino—Vampire Detective

Tony was born in Italy in the early 1920s, the son of a farming family in Sicily. The family wasn’t rich in money, but it was land rich. The family cows produced enough milk to make cheese to sustain the family and to sell. Their orchards produced a bounty of olives, their most important crop, but fruit trees also added to their wealth.
This bucolic life ended when Mafia thugs forced the family to sign over their land. Tony’s parents fled to New York City where they began to make a meager living selling fruit from a stand. The quaint farmhouse was replaced by a rat and roach infested apartment. The fields with their trees lolling with heavy fruit were replaced by the mean streets, teeming with desperate fugitives from all over the world.
This is the world Tony grows up in. It is a world that makes him angry and bitter. 
When Tony’s father follows his mother and little brother in death, Tony decides to end his miserable life. 
Seething with anger and hatred, he attracts the attention of a vampire. This vampire, Eliade, enjoys the blood of the truly grief stricken. Caught in the embrace of death, Tony fights back, summoning all the anger and hatred he has been bottling up and bites back. Thus is born a powerful vampire demon who decides to take back what is his. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hungry Ghosts

Why do the gaki ghosts merit a meal on O-Bon, the Japanese All-Soul’s day? Because ghosts can be the cause of misfortune, or even insanity. The separate altar for the ghosts is called the “gaki-dana,” and it serves the purpose of placating ghosts who may be hanging around waiting to do mischief. Buddhist monks will often set out a meal of rice for them before they take their own meals.
Ghosts are appeased so that they will stay away from the family, whereas it is hoped that the ancestors will take part in the family affairs as givers of good advice and good luck.
Especially in the case of the recently dead, people will communicate with their spirits, often relating their day’s events. This seems so much nicer than the way we tend to forget the dead.

Banner of Fire

Then the Evil Spirit whittled forth as our antagonists evil sorcerers. The Avesta.
    Zohak, the evil brother of the Firestarter Atar, has made the ultimate pact with the demons. He learns that the power the dragon-snakes have given him does not come without a cost. He is horrified to find that they require human brains for food.
    Atar is faced with the final test. The winner gains the throne of the Persian Empire. Meanwhile, the kingdom is wracked with disturbances. The drought has caused famine. Zohak institutes a monstrous tithe, and Kava the blacksmith loses his family.
    The Army of the People rises under Atar and Kava, but they are faced with an Imperial army now composed of full and part blooded demons, sorcerers, and wizards. Their only hope is the power contained in the body of Atar the Firestarter, but he must first find a way to activate it.

 The drip, drip, drip of water cut through the air. Each drip reverberated in his head. Zohak opened his eyes slowly. At least the clanging hadn’t started. His limbs were heavy. He tried to speak, but only a low moan escaped his lips. He thrashed his head and moaned louder. He saw the figure in the doorway. It was dark, but rays of light made a fiery backdrop. He moaned again and tried in vain to move. The figure casually set a huge mace down and pulled a wicked-looking knife out of its sheath. Zohak recognized it as the knife belonging to his foster father, Melik of the Stout Ribs. He had given it to Zohak just before he was murdered.
    The man’s face was visible now. It was Atar the Idiot, his half-brother, and the real heir to the throne. Zohak wanted to plead with him. Atar’s face was impassive. All of its anger was gone. He pulled off the covers to reveal Zohak’s naked body and then, as if working with a deer carcass, he began to flay Zohak. Unable to scream, Zohak moaned in torment and terror.
    Instead of the torment ending in death, he was roughly dragged out of his bloody bed and it was then that the clanging began. The dragon snakes were already writhing in agony with their master, but now their frantic movements maddened him.
    Clang, clang, clang!
    Another figure appeared at the door. He was a huge man—yes, it was the blacksmith Kava. He was carrying iron chains. He took these and wrapped them around Zohak’s burning body and they made his flesh sizzle like roasting meat. Zohak was overwhelmed with the horrifying odor of his own burning flesh. The blacksmith eyed Zohak for a moment then reached back to something he’d set on the floor. He put an ox yoke on Zohak’s neck.
    Zohak could see the agony in the man’s mind. He saw the blacksmith’s daughter, the one his dragon snakes had eaten. His skinless body burned at the memory. He could see and feel the agony of every person he’d fed to his snakes. In response, the snakes vomited a vile-smelling substance that tortured him as it spilled over his exposed flesh.
    The men were making him walk. They moved on and on until they reached a mountain that looked horribly black. They led him into a cave deep in the mountain. The blacksmith held a hammer in one hand and a long iron spike in the other. He was unable to move as the man hammered the spikes into his body, pinning him into the rock. Zohak realized that the man was being careful not to harm his vital organs.
    The two men left him in the darkness and suddenly Zohak found his voice.
    Zohak’s screaming brought the guards, his viziers, and even his wife, Jahi the Lovely. “Bring the astrologers and magicians,” he croaked.
    His hair was in disarray and he hadn’t changed his bedclothes. Urine soaked the front and back of his robe, but Zohak didn’t care.
    “So what does this dream mean?”
    “We cannot be certain…”
    “It can mean several things. Perhaps not all bad,” another astrologer said.
    “Guards!” Zohak roared. “Prepare to have these men all flayed alive. They are hiding the truth for fear.”
    An old astrologer, the chief, stood. “I will tell you. The reason we hesitate is that there is no good news. The dream means this: Everyman is born not for his parents, but as a tithe for death. No person—not even the highest king, can escape death. It means too, that your evil deeds have earned you a terrible reward. The man they call the ‘Firestarter’ will come back and he will destroy you. The blacksmith of your dream represents the many people you have killed to satisfy the greed of your snakes. Because of that greed, people have risen against you. You cannot escape your destiny, which is endless suffering as an eternal captive in Mount Damavand. The iron with which they bound you represents good over evil. The blacksmith works with iron. Iron represents forces that work against demons. It means, in short, that you are now not a man, but a demon. For you, death would be a blessing.”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mr. Popo

Mr. Popo is confident of his sexuality. A real man wears pink.

Gaki--Hungry Ghosts in Japan

All-Souls Day in Japan and Hungry Ghosts

Bon is called “the Feast of the Lanterns” in Japan. It is celebrated in the summer to honor the souls of the dead. Bonfires are set at the tops of tall mountains so that the souls will be able to find their ways back. Mountain paths are also cleared so that the souls will be able to pass freely. 
One of the interesting features of these customs is the erecting of two kinds of altars. One is for the ancestors. Ancestors are the well-wishers of the family. Another altar is set for the gaki, or hungry spirits, which are ghosts who have nobody to feed them. 
People who have no descendents to offer them worship will become ghosts, but they are not alone. Women who die in childbirth, scorned lovers who die, people who commit suicide, and people who die with deep regrets may become ghosts. 
In my book, Oni Demons, there is the story of a woman whose father tricks her into believing that her indigent lover dumped her. She dies of grief, but returns to seek him out. The result is horrific.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rainy Days in Mississippi

Winter in Mississippi means rainy days. Sometimes it seems to never end. Today we have one day off. It has been raining for 3 days. It is almost 70 degrees now and the sun is out. It will rain for the next 3 days afterwards. I bathed the dogs and they are rolling around. They hate baths, but after the bath they get very happy and roll. Dogs can teach us something. We may sometimes have to do unpleasant things, but later we can roll around and get happy.

Burned Dreams

Atar is now the Firestarter, but his only wish is to escape to the land of his dreams. It is the fabled “Land of the Water Dogs,” where white mares graze by a crystalline lake. Atar and Bulliwuf are making their way there, but as the rightful heir to the throne of the Persian Empire, Atar is thrown into responsibilities he does not wish to face. Zohak is waiting to pounce on the throne. He is also an heir, but his rule will bring disaster to the fair land. When forced to compete for the throne, Zohak loses until he cuts a deal with a demon. Zohak was once the evil brother of Atar. Now he is a demon.

 “Do you want this?”
    “Yes! Yes!” Zohak screamed. 
    The Goddess was inches away now. Zohak was surprised to feel the deep fear struggle violently to the surface. He thrust his hands out, warding her away, his face a mask of fear, but it was too late. He couldn’t move. 
    She bent her head and kissed his right shoulder with unseen lips. Tiny fangs pierced his skin. They were scalding hot, like fire. Zohak shuddered with pleasure. She kissed his left shoulder, tiny fangs again piercing his skin. Zohak felt the most wondrous waves of power shoot through him. He felt like a god!
    Then Zohak screamed and screamed. He fell to his knees, screaming. And all the while, his head rang with the sharp, measured sound of iron striking iron. The sound rolled through him, tearing at him, tearing at his sanity like a raging river. The awful clanging mingled with his pain, producing a fear inside him unlike any he had ever experienced. He screamed until the blood dripped out of his mouth and nose. He felt the most awful sense of shame and violation that he had ever known. The pain persisted like fire, with unbearable intensity. The Goddess behind him laughed. The thick air was foul with the scent of rotting corpses and vile things. 
    “What have you done? What have you done?” Zohak screamed at the presence, hating it with all the intensity of his pain. He could not hear his own words for the awful clanging in his head. The measured tones fell with inexorable precision. Zohak fell to the floor, clutching his shoulders as more unbearable pain centralized there. Under the palms of his hands, he felt his shoulders swelling. He felt something smooth push against the palms of his hands. 
    “What…what’s happening to me? What? Ahh!”
    Zohak screamed again, but his voice was horrible to hear. The weak, rasping croak was a parody of his normal clear voice. He took his hands away, but he could feel the things growing. A hungry hissing filled the chamber, and the clanging died away. Zohak strained to hear it, but the hissing was now dominant. 
    “No! No!” Zohak sobbed, wishing this were a dream.
    The chamber was in blackness again. Zohak stumbled over to his room, and fumbled for the lamp. He somehow got the thing lit. Blinded by tears, he blundered into his bedroom. The light from the lamp seemed to be swallowed up by the utter darkness around him. He froze before the mirror, shaking his head in denial. Through his tears, he saw the sleek black shapes weaving in the air above his head. Their scales glinted in the yellow light as they undulated ceaselessly in a way that was sensual, but at the same time unspeakably horrible. 
    The one on his right shoulder dipped and flicked his damp hair with its red, forked tongue. The copper eyes of both snakes regarded Zohak with steady malevolent intelligence through the mirror.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Forest Path

I took this photo of a path in my forest acreage. Sometimes you can see moss that looks like tiny trees. I wonder if there are little creatures peering up at me just like I am looking into the trees and beyond. Maybe creatures are looking down on us. There is magic in these woods. The silence of the forest is broken only by animal sounds, and the sighing of the wind through the Mississippi pines. Native Americans once lived here. There are five mounds in the lower 40 acres. They always yielded pot shards and arrowheads when farmers plowed, but now they sit in peace, never to be disturbed again--at least while I live to protect them.

Sorcerer and the Shaman

The Sorcerer Gaumata has lost the Throne of Persia to the true king, Darius. He has also lost his own body, but it is still going well. He has managed to possess Mihr, son of the powerful sorcerers Rustem and Anahita. He should have known they would retaliate. Not only have they now forced him to give up his beautiful, new vessel, but they also forced him into the vile body of a fly. As if this were not insult enough, Gaumata learns that they have managed to save their unborn baby, Antiochus.
    Gaumata has sunken so low that he knows that the only way is up. Years have passed and Gaumata has been able to safely inhabit the body of a weaker, minor dragon. He plots his revenge. He must kill Antiochus, but he can’t do it alone. With the assistance of two trusted men, Gnel the Evil and Papyan the Sinner, Gaumata is now on the brink of success. How was he to know that the killing of Antiochus would produce a horror even worse than he anticipated? How was he to know that his evil acts would give birth to two powerful werewolves bent on his destruction?