March 06, 2021

Donna Howard's Book of Friends

Donna Howard investigates the provenance of art and antiques with the help of dead people only she can see.

These "personages" or "shades" are not like the supernatural entities in Ghost Whisperer and The Sixth Sense. They are the furthest thing from Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Or even Meiko in Anohana, who returns as a ghost to fix the problems caused by her accidental death.

They aren't trying to reconnect to the living or find a way to the "light." Most don't care about the living world at all, and only become interested in Donna after she becomes interested in them.

In this respect, her "second sight" resembles that of Takashi Natsume in Natsume's Book of Friends. Natsume's gift (inherited from his grandmother) allows him to see the Shinto kami and youkai that inhabit the world all around us, but go unseen by most mortals.

An important difference is that, in Natsume's world, if he can see the youkai, the youkai can cause him all sorts of problems in turn. The personages in Donna's world cannot physically affect her, though they can haunt human beings if they put some effort into it.

The personages themselves know no more about themselves than they did when they were alive, which means Donna has to do her own share of legwork to bring a case to its conclusion. Though they can serve as unseen spies.

A personage reflects a particular aspect of the life they lived, like a game avatar that keeps playing its assigned role even when the user has signed off. After death, they remain tied to the time and place and things they formed the strongest emotional attachments to when alive.

In this respect, they closely resemble tsukumogami, objects that acquire a kami or spirit after being used by humans for a hundred years. For Donna's personages, the kami are the people themselves. Though she cannot see them until they have aged for at least a century.

Hence Donna's interest in history. She can't help but see the past playing out around her.

Once in a while, Donna does chance across an actual ghost, a spirit that is the fully realized soul of a deceased person. These situations raise the existential dilemma posed in Angel Beats, whether the ghost should remain in the comfortable limbo of the "in-between" or move on.


Each book in the Donna Howard series focuses on the item the personage in question is attached to, and what becomes of the personage, the item, and the people who come into contact with them. This being a mystery series, an untimely death is often involved.

Donna Howard Mysteries

Coin
Silver Spoon
Apron
Clasp

Related links

Angel Beats (CR NF)
Anohana (CR Fun NF)
Natsume's Book of Friends (CR)
We Rent Tsukumogami (CR HD Tub)

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March 03, 2021

Silver Spoon

Since her adventures in Coin, Donna Howard has become an established investigator of relics and antiques, with the help of deceased historical people only she can see. This time around, her investigation takes her to Salem, Massachusetts, where she delves into the town's haunted history and the modern world of antique hunting.

Her research into the provenance of a silver spoon leads Donna to a stash of unexpectedly valuable junk in an old man's basement, an old man whose death Donna begins to suspect was less than "accidental." Along with opportunistic antiquers, she must also contend with a possible murder, a possible possession, and a possible boyfriend.

Because nothing can make the dead past and the living present more precarious than the unpredictable complexities of human relationships.

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Donna Howard Mysteries

Coin
Silver Spoon
Apron
Clasp

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February 27, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (2/5)

I've posted chapter 5 (book 2) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon. Chapter 6 should be available in two weeks.

The Daishikuu (大司空) runs the Ministry of Winter. The Taishi (太師) is the Lord Privy Seal, one of the emperor's three court advisors.

Honorifics are so important in Japanese sociolinguistics that not using them gets its own word, yobisute (呼び捨て). When talking about Asen in this chapter, Buen and Kouryou never attach an honorific to his name. Buen goes further and occasionally uses the suffix –me (め), a kind of anti-honorific.

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February 24, 2021

Coin

It's 1995 and Donna Howard is living an ordinary life in Portland, Maine. She works as a hairdresser, has a boring boyfriend, two opinionated brothers, and two exhaustively energetic parents. As far as she's concerned, she's an ordinary person and proud of it.

Except she can see the past. Walk down any street in the old part of the city and four centuries of its inhabitants walk right along with her. She can observe them, hear them, smell them. And she'd rather not. She'd prefer to leave the past in the past.

Until a customer "accidentally" leaves an ancient Roman coin at the hair salon. A coin worth an awful lot of money. Then the woman appraising the coin for the Portland Museum of Art "accidentally" ends up dead. And now the past won't leave her alone.

Not even the man who's visage was molded into the metal 2000 years ago, a man who wreaked mayhem then and may have witnessed murder now. Quite unwittingly, Donna uncovers family secrets, confronts historical controversies, and closes in on a very contemporary crime.

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Donna Howard Mysteries

Coin
Silver Spoon
Apron
Clasp

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February 20, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (2/4)

I've posted chapter 4 (book 2) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

Jinjuu Manor (仁重殿) is Taiki's official residence (here referring to the entire estate). The guest house is a larger and more luxurious version of the courtyard house that Risai, Kyoshi, and Houto rent in Rin'u, with an additional courtyard and the east and west wings intact.

The kanji on the signboard (黄袍館) refer to the yellow robes worn by the emperors of ancient China and are pronounced using the standard Chinese reading (on'yomi) of ouhoukan. The furigana accompanying the same kanji (黄袍) in the next sentence are for the nightingale (uguisu).

Suggesting a nightingale with yellow feathers or perhaps the golden oriole (the Japanese nightingale is "bright olive-green"). The parenthetical pointing out the cultural connection between the plum tree and the nightingale is my addition.

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February 17, 2021

Clasp

Peaks Island Press proudly announces the fourth volume of the Donna Howard mystery series.

Buried inside a cache of religious relics from Medieval England, the ghost of a young boy knows only that he must protect these holy treasures. But as his era recedes into history and the relics scatter hither and yon, all he can do is rage against the collectors of the last remaining object, a silver spoon.

Centuries later, he encounters Donna Howard, an antiquities appraiser who can speak with the spirits. Donna's research has convinced her that a sixteenth century skeleton recently discovered in England is the boy's remains. Now in order to free himself from the spoon, the boy must confront his own murder.

Even when the crime is five hundred years old, Donna Howard is determined to solve the case.

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Donna Howard Mysteries

Coin
Silver Spoon
Apron
Clasp

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February 13, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (2/3)

I've posted chapter 3 (book 2) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

The kirin doctor is also known as the koui (黄医) or "yellow doctor," taken from the name of the Yellow Sea. Although immortal, kirin are susceptible to two potentially lethal diseases. The shitsudou (失道) is caused by imperial wrongdoing, especially violations of the Divine Decrees. Esui (穢瘁) is an an illness that usually results from the kirin being exposed to blood either in the environment or his diet.

As Buen points out (and I explain here), Japan is paradoxically "one of the least vegetarian-friendly places on Earth," shoujin ryouri being a noteworthy exception.

The Daiboku (大僕) is the general of the Praetorian Guard and the personal bodyguard to the emperor and kirin (as province lord).

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February 11, 2021

Tokyo South

In this largely autobiographical account of the author's two-year proselyting mission to Japan during the late 1970s, a Mormon missionary confronts an overzealous religious bureaucracy and his own growing doubts as the work of preaching the gospel is turned into a cynical game of numbers and spiritual one-upmanship.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased from Amazon, and the ePub version from Smashwords, iBooks, and Google Play. Please visit the website for more details and to read the novel online.

Related posts

The evolution
The truth is worse
Tokyo South is alive
The weirdest two years
The problem with projections

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February 06, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (2/2)

I've posted chapter 2 (book 2) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

Taiki's recollection of his first encounter with Gyousou brought to mind the line from Macbeth (more recently popularized in the novel by Ray Bradbury), "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."

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February 03, 2021

The Real Darcy

Besides the badness of the writing, my sister Kate argues that the biggest problem with Pride and Prejudice fan fiction (commercially published or otherwise) is that it inevitably makes Darcy out to be the stereotypical alpha male of Regency romances.

Austen simply wasn't capable of being that simple and obvious, and nothing in the text justifies it. As Kate explains:

I go along with Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer's argument in So Odd a Mixture that Darcy is borderline autistic. Her delineation of Darcy's character is one of the most accurate and delightful on record. She recognizes what few interpretations do, namely, Darcy is accused of pride in Hertfordshire for reasons that have nothing to do with familial or class pride.

Most tributes to Pride and Prejudice fail to acknowledge that all of Darcy's problems in Hertfordshire stem from his behavior, not from his beliefs about himself. He is perceived as proud because he won't dance or talk, not because he boasts about his position or even because he gives anyone the "cut direct." He doesn't even cut poor Mr. Collins.

To correct this problem, she penned A Man of Few Words, an addendum to Pride and Prejudice that relates Darcy's perspective on the important events in the novel.

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(See here for the perfect Japanese Darcy.)

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January 30, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (2/1)

I've posted chapter 1 (book 2) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

The Naiden (内殿) appears to function similarly to the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room in the White House.

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January 27, 2021

Mr. B Speaks!

First published in 1740, Samuel Richardson's Pamela, the story of a maid who marries way up, was scandalous in its time. For those familiar with its profound influence on the romance genre, it continues to be scandalous now, though for quite different reasons.

Unfortunately, the book is largely forgotten outside of academia. Fortunately, Katherine Woodbury has read it so you don't have to!

As she did with A Man of Few Words, Fitzwilliam Darcy's version of the critical events in Pride and Prejudice, Katherine has again taken a classic novel written from a woman's point of view and flipped the narrative around to the man's.

This time, though, with a very postmodern twist.

In a world where characters from novels can be put on trial for their literary crimes, Mr. B, the famously redeemed rake of Pamela, must defend his actions before a panel of skeptical literary scholars. Can he salvage his good name and win back his wife?

Step into the courtroom and judge for yourself!

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January 23, 2021

Hills of Silver Ruins (book 2)

I've posted the cover art for book 2 of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon. The rest of the first chapter should be ready next week.

Book 2 contains 421 numbered pages in 6 parts.

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January 20, 2021

Fox & Wolf

Yuki Yamakawa comes from an old yakuza family. She loves training dogs and beating up bullies for a more secret reason: she's a werewolf. But after one fight too many, Yuki's uncle sends her to Osaka's most exclusive girl's school to straighten her out.

There she meets her exact opposite, Ami Tokudaiji.

Ami is as high in society as Yuki is low. But with the family facing a financial scandal, the Tokudaiji fortune depends on Ami's mother participating in a shady real estate deal. Just as Yuki's estranged father returns to Osaka to lead a criminal investigation.

As it turns out, on her father's side, Yuki's blood runs bluer than any of her aristocratic classmates. Even so, that long-hidden family connection pales in comparison to the most fantastic fact of all: Ami is a kitsune, a Japanese werefox, and doesn't know it!

When they both end up in the same homeroom class at school, they'll have to stop fighting each other long enough to join forces against the mobsters menacing Ami's family.

The Kindle and paperback editions can be purchased from Amazon, and the ePub version from Smashwords, iBooks, and Google Play. Please visit the website for more details and to read the novel online.

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