Excerpt: ‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine

 

The second story I’d like to share tonight from Insignia: Asian Birds & Beasts is by a new contributor, Amy Fontaine.

Amy’s story is a fun adventure about a Japanese boy who meets a mischievous kitsune (fox-shifter).

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‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine

Excerpt:

Koki’s mother had been tired when she came home from work earlier tonight. Tired, and distracted. After feeding Koki, she had slouched off to bed and forgotten to lock the inside lock on the back door. Koki noticed. Koki notices things.

Now Koki puts on his slippers, slips on a jacket over his pajamas, and tiptoes out of his room and down the stairs. He opens the back door of his apartment and sneaks off into the night.

The apartment is in a very modest neighborhood in the Northern Higashiyama area of Kyoto, but only a few blocks away is a beautiful park. A cobbled path lined with cherry trees and paper lanterns leads through lush ornamental plants to a red, arched bridge across a stream. The bridge leads to a tea house and a pagoda that stands beside it. During the day, Koki loves to come to this park with his mother, but he has never been here at night.

Koki starts crawling under bushes, turning over rock after rock and catching beetle after beetle. He squeals, a sound that seems more fitting of a five-year-old or a puppy than a ten-year-old. As he crawls under the last bush on the left before the red bridge, Koki’s eyes are suddenly met by a bright, piercing white-gold light. Koki yelps and scrambles backwards out of the bush, hearing a corresponding yelp of surprise and terror as he does so. When his vision clears, he sees a four-tailed golden fox standing before him, growling. Beetle legs hang from her mouth.

“What are you doing here, little runt?” hisses the fox, in a voice that isn’t quite real. “This is my territory, and these are my beetles! You have no right to hunt here, human!”

Koki bows to the fox. “I am sorry, honorable fox.”

The vixen bursts into peals of laughter that sound like tinkling bells.

“Honorable?” the fox scoffs. “You know nothing of kitsune, do you?”

In response, Koki begins to recite the natural history of the red fox. He sounds like an encyclopedia. The fox growls and shakes her head.

“You believe everything they tell you in science books, don’t you? Foolish boy. The things those books have told you to be false are the ones that are most important.”

~~~

Author Photo(2)

Amy Fontaine is a wildlife biologist who writes wild speculative fiction and poetry. Her first novel, Mist, is a young adult fantasy about shapeshifters, elemental magic, and being the change you wish to see in the world. She is currently writing an interactive novel inspired by Japanese kitsune folklore for Choice of Games. You can find her published work at https://amyfontaine.wordpress.com.

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AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES |

| Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon JP | Amazon BR |

| Amazon MX | Amazon IN |

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Add on Goodreads

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HAPPY RELEASE DAY! ‘Insignia: Asian Birds & Beasts’ (Vol. 6.)

Cheers to our second anthology release this summer! In this volume you’ll find an array of animal shifters, magical creatures, gods, and spirits. Story settings include: India, Japan, Cambodia, China, and outer-space!

ASIAN BIRDS & BEASTS

INSIGNIA VOL. 6. includes 8 short stories with Asian characters, settings, and magical creatures.

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CONTENTS

‘Reborn’ by Nidhi Singh

‘The Star Ball’ by Amy Fontaine

‘Raising Words’ by Stewart C. Baker

‘Apsaras’ Dance’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘We, the Ravens of Bai Gao Lou’ by Russell Hemmell

‘The Azure Dragon’ by Lorraine Schein

‘The Churail and the Crow’ by Keyan Bowes

‘Vermillion Nights’ by Joyce Chng

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AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES |

| Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon JP | Amazon BR |

| Amazon MX | Amazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

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Interested in writing for us? A new submission call opens on September 1st! See our Submissions Page for full details.

 

Book of the Week: ‘Best Served Chilled’ by Zoe Adams

This week’s book is Best Served Chilled by Zoe Adams, published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. It’s a short horror novella featuring a Japanese alcohol demon. There’s a follow-up story, Best Consumed Within, which I happened to read first, lol! It was a bit confusing, so I recommend you read them in order.

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I love this cover 😀

Blurb:

“What would you give to make it stop?”

Life hasn’t been easy for Hiraku Michiyo. Struggling with the misery that dwells in her past and her present, she’s spending more time with a wine glass than real friends. One night, she meets the charismatic, Shoichi. Intrigued and a little frightened, she invites him home. Yet little does she realise that the real horrors are just beginning. And escape is certainly not at the bottom of any bottle.

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AUS | Goodreads |

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Have you read any good fantasy stories or novels with Asian characters and/or myths? I’d happy to feature them here on the Insignia Series blog one week. Indie authors and publishers are also welcome to recommend their books. Leave a comment below, or email me (Kelly) at: blackwingsandwhitepaper(at)hotmail.com

See you next week 😀

Excerpt: ‘Sanctuary’ by Chris White

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Chris White’s story, Sanctuary, was a last-minute submission to the Insignia anthology, and rounded out the literary section perfectly. I didn’t know Chris previously, so it was great to find another author who had lived in Japan and knew the culture well. And, by chance, he’s also an Aussie, so he’s in good company with several other Insignia authors. 😀

Sanctuary

A temple stood, surrounded by the blank yellow windows. The wind there touched the red cloaks of the jizou. Illuminated by the soft glow of a bank of vending machines.

An ancient wooden house still stood, opposite the bone-orchard. A single light burned.

The curtain hanging over the door announced a neighbourhood sentou. Another tanuki announced the presence of beer inside.

I walked in.

The rough-canvas banner scratched at my face as I crossed the threshold, like a half-remembered dream. Or an ignored warning. Something to be brushed aside, at any rate. The shoji door groaned, protesting as I forced it open, shuddering into place. Torn and faded, its screens were marked with a peculiar circular pattern. I stepped inside, away from the claws of the wind and into the bathhouse foyer. Metal locker doors creaked, yawning wide, propped open by wild-filigreed scaffolds of rust. A murmur rose, floating through the darkness from somewhere within, and the electric light I had seen from outside drew me onward. As did the tanuki’s winking, alcoholic promise. The bell on the reception desk chimed on my second attempt, awkward and hollow, like the nothing words we sprinkle through our sentences–um, ah, eto

The murmuring stopped.

Sumimasen,” inaudible. I had almost whispered it. I cleared my throat to try again, setting a tempest of dust-motes to dance in the dull-red Coca-Cola glow that crept through the windows.

Sumimasen?”

Louder this time.

Only my echo replied, bouncing back at me from the cavernous bathing-hall that hid somewhere ahead of me, somewhere in the darkness. Now, I knew this was the point when I should have turned away, the moment when I should have shuffled back out onto the street and resumed my nocturnal wanderings. The streets called to me in the night, they begged me to walk them, to see what once was. But there was something about urban ruins that inspired me, that drew me in. A sense, perhaps, that the past is here, lingering alongside the future. And there was that electric light burning somewhere inside. I pressed on, and the shadows pressed in around me, swallowing up the song of the city outside. Another reason to press on–to hear that monster’s roar consumed by this relic of the past.

~*~

Chris White is a writer, of many genres, but mostly science fiction and magic realism. He grew up in Japan, and keeps finding Tokyo and its monsters showing up in his stories. He dabbles in drabbles, too, and you can find more of his words online at: http://chriswhitewrites.com

~*~

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

~*~

Add on Goodreads

~*~

Read More Excerpts

Megumi’s Quest by Joyce Chng

The Bakeneko by Holly Kench

Restoration by Chris Ward

Towards the Light by Aislinn Batstone

Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura

Kitsune by Heather Jensen

Excerpt: ‘Kitsune’ by Heather Jensen

InsigniaVol1-Cover-7AWhat is a kitsune? In Japanese folklore, it is a fox that shape-shifts into human form and causes all kinds of mischief. I felt like a kitsune story was a must for this anthology, so was very excited when Heather Jensen told me that’s what she wanted to write about. Her story, simply titled Kitsune, is first up in the Insignia anthology and is a great introduction to the other varied stories.

Kitsune

Akio carried the tiny mouse in his hands as he hurried home. It seemed to be dehydrated; listless and weak, it had barely moved when he approached to pick it up. A movement caught Akio’s eye and he glanced up in time to see a shadow disappear between two trees.

He called after it. “Help, please, do you have a little water?”

The shadow hesitated, and Akio took a step closer. “Please, this little creature has been injured. She needs water. My flask is empty and it is a distance to my home. Please.”

The shadow emerged from the trees, revealing a tall thin figure, dark hair and pale skin barely showing beneath the scarf wrapped around her face. She pulled out her flask and allowed a few drops to fall into Akio’s outstretched palm.

“Thank you,” Akio said. “I am Akio.”

“Chiaki.” The young woman pulled the scarf away from her face and peered down at the little mouse. It shivered as it drank from Akio’s hand, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, folded it in two and placed it over the poor little creature.

“Do you often save the lives of small things?” Chiaki asked.

Akio laughed. “Only when the opportunity comes my way,” he said. “After all, if the larger creatures of the world cannot take care of the smaller, what use are we?” His thoughts turned to Sachiko, a lump forming in his throat as sorrow threatened to overwhelm him.

“Are you alright?” Chiaki noticed.

Akio began to nod his head then stopped.

“No,” he said. “I lost a dear friend yesterday.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” Chiaki said. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Akio looked at Chiaki. He did want to talk about it. He wanted to talk of Sachiko’s laugh, of the smile that lit up her eyes, and the gentle kiss she’d placed on his cheek the day before she’d died. But how did you tell someone you’d fallen in love with a creature from a folktale?

He shook his head, not trusting his voice.

“I understand,” Chiaki said.

Akio had to stop himself from shaking his head again. Chiaki couldn’t possibly understand! There was so much that was wrong. The guilt he felt, that he’d been meeting Sachiko in the woods when he was supposed to be helping his father on the farm. And then yesterday he’d stayed behind to help his father when he should have been meeting Sachiko. There’d been a fox amongst his father’s chickens again. It hadn’t harmed the chickens, but it had stolen most of the eggs, and Father needed Akio’s help to prevent it happening in the future.

Sachiko must have come to the farm to look for him. She’d never done that before, it had been an unspoken agreement that they did not seek out the truth of each others lives. It made their meeting in the forest something special, sacred. He didn’t know why she’d come this time.

Akio hadn’t seen her, but his father must have. He pushed the thought away. When Akio had finally found Sachiko, curled up under the great tree, he thought she was napping. And then he’d got closer and seen the bushy red tail and the soft pointed ears. When he’d pulled on her shoulder she’d rolled back onto his lap and he’d gasped in horror as he saw her face, Sachiko’s beautiful face, with a pointed snout and a wet black nose in the centre of it. She was kitsune, a fox spirit, messenger of the Great Spirit Inari.

And she was dead.

~*~

Heather Jensen studied the Japanese language for 8 years, through high school, college, and university, taking up the opportunity to visit the country on a two-week jam-packed school trip where she managed to squeeze in sights as varied as the Temples of Kyoto, ’Jigoku’ (Hell’s) Hot Springs in Beppu and Tokyo Disneyland.

Though her preferred genres are fantasy and historical fiction, Heather writes stories in a wide variety of genres: romance, YA, and contemporary to name a few. Her stories have been published in many different places around the web, including 1000words.org, and Five Stop Story, a UK writing competition where two of her stories received Honorary Mentions. Her story Saviour was short-listed in the Ink Tears 2012 Flash Fiction competition.

Heather lives in Tasmania, Australia, with her partner and two children. You can find her on Facebook or at: heatherjensenauthor.com

~*~

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

~*~

Add on Goodreads

~*~

Read More Excerpts

Megumi’s Quest by Joyce Chng

The Bakeneko by Holly Kench

Restoration by Chris Ward

Towards the Light by Aislinn Batstone

Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura

Sanctuary by Chris White

Excerpt: ‘The Bakeneko’ by Holly Kench

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Holly Kench is well known for her hilarious comic strips about her alter-ego, Olive, but did you know she can write creepy YA, and haunting adult Literature, both based on Japanese folklore? Well, she certainly can! I was lucky to receive two submissions from Holly and I love both stories dearly. Here’s an excerpt from The Bakeneko (YA):

The Bakeneko

I huddled in my bed, my quilt pulled up around my neck as though the warmth of the fabric could protect me. I couldn’t stop shivering as I watched and waited.

The family cat, Ayumu, sat at the end of my bed, licking his paw. Unconcerned by my rising terror, he stood up, padded around the end of my bed in a circle, and sat back down. Without warning, his head shot up, tilted to one side and his feline eyes, which were always a little too human, bore into mine.

I shuddered in anticipation. Without moving his gaze from mine, the cat’s limbs elongated. Smoke, appearing from nowhere, swirled around him and his body started to transform. The ears on his head sunk into his skull, as his head grew bigger. The smoke thickened and wisps of it flew towards me, stinging my eyes and catching in my throat. Coughing, I threw my hands up over my face, losing sight of the cat for the briefest second.

When I lowered my hands, Ayumu was nowhere to be seen. Instead, next to my bed stood a man, at least seven-feet tall, with long, loose black hair that floated around his head and danced with the smoke surrounding his body. There was something wrong with his face. Staring, I realised it wasn’t a man’s face I was looking at, rather a cat’s face overlaid with that of a man, creating a weird duality of which my mind couldn’t quite make sense.

“We are bakeneko,” the creature’s voice boomed across my bedroom. Smoked tendrils dashed out, licking inches from my face.

~*~

Holly Kench is a writer and feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders.

She enjoys writing a range of genres, but has a particular love of fantasy. Holly seeks stories that contemplate the world as much as books that provide escape, but doesn’t think the two are mutually exclusive. These are the sort of stories Holly tries to write. She is convinced we can change the world through popular culture.

Holly manages Visibility Fiction, a project dedicated to the promotion and publication of inclusive young adult fiction. Visibility Fiction began as a result of Holly’s desire to create a space that celebrated and facilitated the telling of stories with diverse characters. In this capacity she has had the privilege of working with both Kelly Matsuura and Joyce Chng, who have assisted her in a journey of not only editing, but also writing her own stories exploring diverse cultures.

Holly also writes about her life as a stuffed olive at: www.stuffedolive.com.au.

~*~

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories, is available from:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

~*~

Add on Goodreads

~*~

Read More Excerpts:

Megumi’s Quest by Joyce Chng

Restoration by Chris Ward

Towards the Light by Aislinn Batstone

Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura

Kitsune by Heather Jensen

Sanctuary by Chris White

JUST RELEASED! ‘Insignia Vol.1: Japanese Fantasy Stories’

The first Insignia anthology is now available from Amazon.com (and other Amazon sites). for just $2.99!

Congratulations to all the contributing authors: Aislinn Batstone, Joyce Chng, Heather Jensen, Holly Kench, Chris Ward, and Chris White. I’d really like to thank them all for their wonderful stories, assistance with proofreading and marketing, and for their great support in the project.

Over the next few days, I’d like to introduce the authors a little and share a sample of each story. For now, please browse the Amazon book page and this blog, and feel free to share the posts/links with your friends!

Cheers!

Kelly Matsuura (Editor)

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Available Now From:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

~*~

Add on Goodreads