Character Inspiration: Part 2- Suzume

This is part two in the series about the inspiration behind the Dragon Saga. Each section can be read individually so if you missed part one, don’t worry.

Check out Part-one about Kaito and Dragons in Japanese Mythology.

I started writing the Priestess and the Dragon, the first book in the dragon saga, entirely for myself. I was in the middle of writing my Diviner’s Trilogy, but my brain had other ideas. The concept of reincarnation and the effect it would have on the love of an immortal and a mortal popped into my head one day at work. I wondered how it would work if one half of the pair lived on forever while the other died but could come back. I sat down to write the story in my head -which initially was heavily influenced by the anime InuYasha.

If you haven’t seen the anime, it is about a half-yokai who is trapped in an eternal sleep when he is betrayed by the woman he loves only to be freed by a teenage girl who travels through time in a magical well. And guess what, she’s the reincarnation of the woman who betrayed him. If you’re familiar with both InuYasha and the Priestess and the Dragon, you’ll see the similarities there. While my initial inspiration was about this love triangle between past life and new life, the story took a very drastic turn as I wrote it. I won’t say anymore here, you’re going to have to read the Priestess and the Dragon yourself. Today I’m talking about Japanese history, religion and how they influenced the creation of Suzume.

Part Two: Suzume

Suzume- The Dragon Saga

The first scene I ever wrote in the Priestess and the Dragon actually became a scene in chapter six. For those of you who haven’t memorized the book in it’s entirety, I’ll summarize the scene for you. When Suzume tells Kaito her name for the first time, he laughs because in Japanese Suzume means sparrow. And the opinionated and direct Suzume is nothing like a timid little bird. It was then that I realized not only who this character was but the dynamic between the two of them that makes this story such a pleasure to write.

Suzume’s personality is one of the most commented on parts of the Dragon Saga. Her tendency towards arrogance, selfishness and general complaining can be frustrating for some. But all of this was intentional. After writing that scene, I wanted to better understand why this character was like this. Why is she such a brat? I thought to myself. Today I’d like to give you a glimpse at Suzume’s background, that is mentioned in the books but not explored in full, until now.

The time period of Japan’s history that the Priestess and the Dragon is inspired by is the Heian Period(794AD–1185AD). This is one of the classic periods of Japan. It is characterized by the development of Japanese literature, art, and music. Up until now, their culture was heavily influenced by China. It was a a time of peace for Japan and a time when their society blossomed.

Official the imperial family ruled, but in reality the country was under the control of one very influential family. The Fujiwara clan a large and powerful family dynasty whose intermarriage of their daughters to generations of emperors gave them almost complete control over Japan of the time. This intermarriage between the royal family and branches of the Fujiwara clan went on for decades across multiple generations, until their fall near the end of the Heian period.

Through out the history of Japan it was not uncommon for emperors to have multiple wives, especially during the Heian period when a marital alliance meant greater influence and authority in the ruling of the country. It is interesting to note, there was only one empress, (most often a fujiwara daughter) but in addition to that, the emperor would marry other woman from other clans, taking these secondary wives as consorts.(aka second wife, third wife, etc.)

As I researched this period, I became fascinated with the power struggle of the Fujiwaras, I wondered what it would be like to be part of that family. As I mentioned before, the Priestess and the Dragon is loosely based on this time period and this family. But I like to think growing up in that sort of environment, you’d have to be a little selfish to survive.

In the Priestess and the Dragon, Suzume is the daughter of one of these consorts. Her mother, is the second wife of the emperor. Not the empress herself, her and her children were considered less than the emperor and empresses’ children. Suzume’s family life was not one of love and affection. Being born a female and therefore without a right to accession, her mother cared little for her. And focused on her little brother, who is her own full sibling.

If Suzume wanted to move up in the world, her only choice was to marry a powerful man, which is why she set her sights on the emperor’s general. Tsubaski Daiki. At the time the emperor was the ultimate authority, but he was surrounded by advisers. General Tsubaski, Suzume’s fiance, is the emperor’s military adviser, though during his lifetime he saw little actual battle, as the kingdom is a time of peace. But being from a good family, and without any other wives. He is an ideal match for a young princess looking to move up in rank.

During the Heian period, government ranking determined your status in life, how you were treated by your peers and how much money you could make. The higher your rank and the closer to the emperor, the better life is. Because of this, the world Suzume grew up in was cut throat. Everyone was jockeying for a better place. Like the time period it is modeled after.

Another part of Suzume’s character I cannot neglect to mention is her magical abilities. Obviously there is no history of magic in Japan. (Not that I could find anyway.) But the time period in which the story is based was steeped in spiritualism. There are countless stories of women who become host to the body of gods or Buddha and performed miracles. These sorts of tales can be seen through out Japanese history. I was very drawn to these tales of woman performing miraculous feats and I knew there was a story there.

While I researched, I also discovered a practice during the Heian period of sending princesses to serve as high priestess in temples. Which as you might have guessed, was the inspiration for Suzume’s exile in the Priestess and the Dragon. Unlike in the Dragon Saga, serving a priestess or Miko, was a sought after honor. Usual reserved for the daughters of the empress. These princesses often served a single year, during their time as priestess, they performed import religious ceremonies. Princesses were not the only ones to serve as miko. In ancient Japan, Miko cared for her temples and shrines scattered across Japan. These shrines were dedicated to a wide variety of local and larger deities. Miko’s played an important role in the leading of special festivals throughout the year, many which are still practiced today.

I could write an entire novel about the Fujiwaras, mikos, and the shinto religion. But for today, I will leave it here. I hope you enjoyed learning even just a little bit about these fascinating topics. If you’d like to hear more. Leave a comment.

And if you haven’t read The Priestess and the Dragon yet, you can get a free copy by signing up to my mailing list here.

Character Inspiration: Part 1-Kaito

Before I ever put pen to paper, so to speak, in writing the Dragon Saga, I had been a long time fan of Japanese culture, and particularly their mythology. As I was writing the first book in the Dragon Saga, the Priestess and the Dragon, I started digging deeper into the mythology of japan and it’s deep roots in the shinto religion and it’s modern day mingling with buddism and how it influences day to day lives of the Japanese people.

When I first conceptualizing the series, I had wanted to feature a powerful immortal creature. Japanese mythology & history was my jumping off point, and the actual books are influenced by certain time in Japanese history that I will go more into when I talk about Suzume in part two.

That being said, I’ve taken a lot of liberties with the history of Japan to fit my story and changed a lot of the legends as well. That is why I call the world my characters reside in Akatsuki or translated into English: Sunrise, as a nod to the Land of the Rising Sun.

In celebration of the second book in the Dragon Saga, I would like to share some of the research I did into the mythology of Japan, along with the inspiration behind the characters. In addition to that, I am sharing some gorgeous original illustrations done by my wonderfully talented cover artist Nadica Boshkovska. This week, I’m talking about Kaito.


Part One: Kaito

Kaito from The Priestess and the Dragon

I was first introduce to the idea of a Japanese dragon in the movie Spirited Away. Being born in the united states, my idea of dragons was the western version: large winged fire breathing creatures. I had a vague idea of China’s version of dragon, but didn’t know much about it. If you’re not familiar with Spirited Away in it a young girl gets trapped in a magical bath house, and meets a dragon whose affinity is water. I loved this idea and it stuck with me for years to come.

And when I was forming my characters for the Priestess and the Dragon, it seemed quite natural than my immortal male protagonist would be a water dragon. But to do the creature justice I did a little digging.

Dragons as they are in Japanese mythology are thought to derive from Chinese Dragons and Korean Dragons who are similar in appearance. (All have long serpentine bodies.) Japanese dragons typically have more serpentine bodies and historically are related to bodies of water.

There are many stories of Dragons through out Japanese mythology, but for creating Kaito in the Dragon saga, and his abilities I modeled him based on two from mythology. Namely: Ryūjin and Sui-Riu.


Ryujin is a legend from the Shinto religion (the traditional religion of Japan) is the god of the Sea. He ruled over the ocean and controlled the tides with a magical set of jewels. He’s sometimes referred to as the King of Dragons in Japanese Mythology. He had a dragon form and a human form.

Some interesting facts about him:
He had turtles as messengers and lived in a palace made of corral. His favor was said to have won wars, and his temper was legendary. In one tale, Ryujin needs a monkey’s liver to cure his rash, and he sends the jelly fish to fetch it for him. The monkey tricks the jelly fish by telling them his liver is in a pot in the forest, and escapes leaving the jelly fish to give the bad news to his master who then beat him until all his bones broke which is why jelly fish no longer have bones. (If you’ve read the Priestess and the Dragon you’ll see how this relates to Kaito’s temper, though not to this extreme.) He had several beautiful daughters. The one who most commonly is seen in stories is named Otohime. She was said to marry a warrior named Hoori and legend says her son became the first emperor of Japan.


I could not find as much about this dragon, other than a few lines which described him as a the Dragon King of Rain. Often in Japanese Mythology the creatures are related to natural weather phenominon, and that is what Suirui was, he was attributed as a bringer of rain and thunderstorms. Farmers would pray to him during droughts and curry his favor in hopes of bring the life giving rain.

This is just a small selection of information on Japanese Dragons I uncovered while doing my research for the Priestess and the Dragon. Kaito’s character while influenced by these legends also came through my own discovery of the character as I was writing. I really wanted a character who was arrogant but also a little emotionally damaged. Part of his inspiration was drawn from the character InuYasha, from the anime by the same name. A lot of my love of anime is woven into this series and it comes through in I hope exciting ways.

If you want to know more about the world of Akatsuki, you can get a free copy of The Priestess and the Dragon.

2017 Goals (AKA Coming in 2017)

2016 was a crazy year for me, but looking back on the past twelve months, I feel like I grew a lot as a person and as an author. I mentioned in my 2016 review. I made a lot of ambitious plans for 2016 without any real idea of what the follow through will be. And this may sound crazy, but just because I failed, doesn’t mean I am going to be more conservative with this next year. With that in mind, I plan on being more up front with my goals, to keep me accountable and I have a plan of action in place, to make sure I hit all my goals. Here I’ve outlined some of my goals for the coming year.

I will write 500,000 words.

This may sound like an enormous amount of words, but you’ll see the break down here.

I will publish three books:
The Sea Stone Book Two of the Dragon Saga (May or June)*
The Cursed Staff** Book Three of the Dragon Saga (Sept)*
The Immortal Vow** Book Four of the Dragon Saga (December)

* All dates are tentative
** Title probably will change

If you’ve read any of my other series and are waiting on a sequel, I apologize in advance. I went back and forth on this for a while when deciding on 2017 schedule, but these books listed above are the ones I am most excited to write and I decided to put passion first. I will be continuing them eventually.

In addition to these novels, which their estimated word counts total 375k words (125k each dragon book)

I am working on a series of short stories set in the World of Akatsuki. Most of them are still in the planning stages, but you’ll see familiar characters and some new ones. These will be entirely free: but only to my newsletter subscribers. If you’re not on the list I suggest signing up now. I have 6 total stories the first to be released in March or April (Official launch to be announced)

In addition to that, I am also planning on having blog posts, at least twice a month, more if I am able. The topics will vary, but mostly it will be about what is interesting me at the moment, TV Shows, Books I’ve read, and the occasional information about research or more tidbits from the world of Akatsuki. I look forward to the year ahead, and I hope you do too!

What book on the list are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.

Teaser: The Priestess and the Dragon

Just a few days left until The Priestess and the Dragon is unleashed! Check out the first chapter below. And also check out information about how to win a Signed Paperback copy!

Chapter One:

SThe Priestess and The Dragon - E-bookweat rolled down her neck, slid down her spine and pooled at the basin of her lower back. Suzume resisted the urge to itch a tickle near her nose, lest she smear the white paint that adorned her face. The high priestess chanted in a sonorous voice and the procession moved forward a half step. Suzume sighed and lowered her head. The bells hanging from the decorative pins in her hair jingled as she did so. The second to the high priestess whipped her head around, somehow hearing the insignificant sound beneath the high priestess’ chanting. The second glared at Suzume, who returned the look with a half-smile and a tilt of her head, which jangled the bells further. The pinging sound felt like a declaration. I did not choose this life and I will not obey your rules.

The second pursed her lips as she glared at Suzume. She would not dare interrupt the ceremony to chastise Suzume. But if looks could kill, Suzume would be dead three times over. She would most likely get a tongue-lashing when they were alone again. If she had learned anything since coming to the temple, it was that the Maidens of the Mountain took their ceremonies seriously.

The procession moved forward another half step and the second turned back to the head priestess. Suzume sighed as she inched towards the temple. What she wouldn’t give to rip this constricting robe and sash off. I would trade all my father’s—no, the emperor, as I must now call him—I would give up all his gold and the power of the Eight to be free of this robe!

True, she was no stranger to fine garments. Indeed, she had often donned fine silks, she had been served by ladies from the noblest families and had men fall in love with her at least once a week. That was until her mother had ruined everything. You couldn’t tell from the bitter chill rolling off the mountain peaks, but at the White Palace, the cherry blossoms would be blooming. She should be viewing the cherry blossoms with General Tsubaki, her onetime intended, and having courtiers slipping her poetic love notes. He was the perfect match, powerful and old enough not to notice when I flirted with the younger lords. She sighed again.

The second spun around, breaking rank, and said with a hiss, “Silence.”

The young priestesses that were in three lines behind her giggled. The second glowered past Suzume towards them and the giggling died away, leaving only the sound of the high priestess, who continued to chant without breaking stride. When the second turned around, Suzume rolled her eyes. The procession moved another half step.

Suzume’s thoughts returned to her own lamentable fate. When she had imagined her wedding day, it was not like this. Instead of marrying General Tsubaki as was her right and his honor, she was to become an unwilling bride of the mountain god. Which was a romanticized way of saying she had been exiled to a life of a priestess. As the emperor’s trueborn daughter, she was born of divinity and as such she could not be simply married off. Her father insisted on adding insult to injury.

They approached a group of red torii arches. Before she passed beneath the first one, the wind picked up and jangled the bells in her hair, pushing against her as if trying to keep her from entering. She hesitated for a moment. She felt a tingle along her fingertips, a slight burn as if they had come too close to a flame. The second saw her dawdling and jerked her head to the side, indicating she should cross the barrier. It’s just a gateway. She crossed the threshold, and as she did, a prickling sensation ran up and down her arms. She pressed against an invisible barrier, as if the archway wanted to keep her back. She stumbled through and nearly lost her balance. She overcorrected and heard the priestesses behind her laughing, thinking she had lost her balance.

When she looked to them to see if they experienced the same phenomenon, they passed through without resistance. At least the wind had dried the sweat that was surely streaking the white paint on her neck. She chanced a glance to her side; beyond the red columns of the arch the pathway had a sheer drop. And in the distance she could see the mountain range shrouded in clouds. The pathway leading up to the shrine was carved from the mountain, one side a flat mountain face with a few sporadic plants growing in the cracks. The shrine was wedged into a cave; four columns supported the front facade, and beyond the veranda, the latticework doors had been pulled open. She had come a long way from the White Palace to this desolate mountain temple. Suzume suppressed another sigh, lest the second’s scowl grow deeper. Let’s get this over with, she thought.

After what felt like hours, but was closer to a few minutes, they passed beneath the last of the red arches and the house of the God of the Mountain lay before them. The wood on the front had been carved with a scene depicting the mountain range. Above the mountains, the god sat upon a cloud, and with an outstretched hand he brought rain to the needy farmers down at the bottom.

The high priestess stopped the procession. She finished her chant with one last echoing note that bounced off the surrounding mountains, and the following silence was more defined. The wind howled ominously. Suzume’s skin itched and burned. She fought the urge to rub her palms against her flesh to assuage her affliction; she wanted to maintain at least the illusion of respectability. The head priestess and all the other shrine maidens bowed in unison. Suzume, distracted by her fevered skin, did not follow but instead stared into the inner sanctum of the god. A pedestal was the room’s only adornment and upon the white pillow was an obsidian stone.

“Bow, you ungrateful girl,” the high priestess scolded.

Suzume did so with reluctance. Her skin trembled and twitched like a horse trying to shake off a fly. She could not remove her eyes from the stone. It seemed familiar, as if she had seen it before. As she knelt, she lost sight of it. She lowered her head in feigned obedience. However, a sensation began to stir in her gut; she felt like she might retch. I cannot do that, not now, not here. She glanced up once more, trying to regain control of her body.

The high priestess approached the shrine while swinging a brass bowl attached to four chains, with a stick of incense in it. The white smoke swirled around her and trailed after her as she approached the pedestal.

The high priestess lit a few incense sticks that were in holders on either side of the pedestal. She knelt down with her head bowed low to the ground as the room filled with the pungent smoke. The smoke tickled Suzume’s nose. She wiggled it back and forth, the churning feeling in her gut creeping up to the back of her throat. It felt as if there were an inferno burning inside her.

“God of the Mountain, bringer of the rain, great master who parted the lands from the sea, please accept this bride as yours.” She clapped her hands together, finishing the prayer. She rose up onto the balls of her feet and turned to face the group without rising from a kneeling position. She motioned for Suzume to come forward.

She rose on shaking limbs. Only her mere stubbornness kept her moving. As she crossed the threshold, a sensation like a punch to the gut stopped her in her tracks. Whatever was inside her was coming out, now. She stopped, afraid to move for fear her very skin would melt from her bones if she went too near. Is this a part of the ceremony? If so, I refuse to be a part of it.

The high priestess frowned and once more beckoned for her to come forward with a sharp impatient movement.

Suzume shook her head and set the bells jangling. They echoed across the room and seemed to reverberate tenfold, rattling around inside her skull.

“You cannot turn back now, you will anger the god,” the second snarled, now standing beside her with a rough grip of Suzume’s elbow.

The second forced Suzume forward; then Suzume’s knees buckled beneath her. Her stomach heaved and she feared she would empty its contents in front of everyone. She grabbed her abdomen in a last effort to hold back, but something bubbled up from inside her, the burning receded from her arms and pooled in her stomach before traveling up and out of her mouth. Bright red light burst from her lips and shot out like a current that sparked and undulated as it made a direct trajectory for the pedestal and collided with the obsidian stone.

For a moment the stone vibrated, and then it began to rock back and forth on its stand. Finally it rolled and began to ricochet around the pedestal, colliding with the raised edges of the stand. Then the pedestal exploded in a shower of splintered wood. The force of the explosion threw the high priestess backwards. Suzume fell to the ground just in time to avoid a deadly piece of wood from piercing her heart.

Fragments of wood rained down on her as she covered her head with her hands. When the raining debris ceased, she looked up again. Smoke filled the chamber—she could not tell if it was just the incense or from whatever had caused the explosion. The burning sensation had left her body, but Suzume felt a new tingling warm sensation that flooded her skin like a warning bell. She could not get up, however; it felt as if an invisible hand held her down, nearly forcing the air from her body.

“High Priestess!” the second shouted somewhere in the smoke and debris. The other maidens were chattering in fear.

“I am here, and unharmed,” the high priestess said. The smoke cleared and revealed her to be lying on the ground. She sat up and bits of wood fell off of her. She looked at Suzume, her eyes wide. “What did you do?” she asked.

Before Suzume had even the chance to answer, a hollow maniacal laughter filtered through the chamber. The head priestess’ mouth dropped open as she turned her head back to where the pedestal had been. The smoke rolled away and a coiled serpentine body covered in opalescent scales dominated the room. The creature’s muzzled face looked down upon Suzume, his long whiskers brushing against the bells on her hair pieces.

“God of the Mountain and bringer of the rain, I presume?” Suzume asked.

The creature smirked, revealing rows of dagger-sharp teeth. “You awoke me?” His voice echoed and filled the room with thunder.

Had she been a cautious woman, she would have listened to the underlying threat in the creature’s stature and his words. But Suzume prided herself on the fact that she did not cower before anyone, even the God of the Mountain.

“And if I did?” she asked.

The beast exhaled; his breath, as cold as winter, froze her skin until that warm tingling sensation defrosted her.

“God of the Mountain,” the high priestess gasped.

He turned his large head towards her and looked her up and down and said, “Your voice has been in my dreams.”

Tears gathered in the old woman’s eyes. “Thank you, lord, it is a great honor. I always hoped you heard my fervent prayers. I have dedicated my life to your service. Please tell us, why now have you—”

“Silence, you speak too much, human. I did not awaken to hear your prattling. You should stick to your prayers and songs, they are much easier upon the ears.” He growled and the high priestess fell onto her knees and laid her face to the ground.

“My apologies—” she started to say, but he growled and she silenced herself.

The god turned back to Suzume. “I can sense little spiritual power in you, yet you have undone the seal,” he said while regarding Suzume. He tilted his head to the side. The shrine maidens and high priestess had moved out of the way of the god’s coiling body and were huddled outside the shrine.

She looked at them and back at the god. How had she unleashed him? As far as she could tell, it had been an accident, an involuntary action. Regardless of the how, she did not want to admit her ignorance in front of the other shrine maidens.

“It was simple, the seal was weak,” Suzume lied.

He tilted his head and barked a thundering laugh that shook the building down to its foundation. He took a few steps back and then with a puff of smoke transformed. When the smoke cleared, a young man stood in his place. A naked young man. His sleek black hair hung loose about his shoulders in an almost obscene way.

Suzume admired his lean physique and let her eyes trace his body downward. Before she could get too far, however, the high priestess forced Suzume’s head down so she could not admire the god’s other masculine assets. Suzume sighed; if this is how she was expected to act for the rest of her life, then she was not going to like living here at all.

The god approached her and loomed over her. “You are my newest servant?”

She bristled at the servant distinction and was preparing to correct his misconception when the high priestess chose that moment to interrupt.

“She is your newest tribute, my lord, your pure bride.”

He raked Suzume up and down and she met his gaze with an out-jutted chin and only took a quick peek at his manhood. Not bad, she thought. He laughed again.

“I don’t know how pure she is.”

Suzume glared at him. How dare he insinuate she was anything but chaste! She had been attempting to get a sneak peek at his godly assets but nothing more than that. It didn’t make her impure to be curious.

“My lord!” the priestess proclaimed. He turned to her and looked her up and down.

“You keep calling me that, but I am not your mountain god. I am a dragon, and before I was trapped inside that stone, I ruled this realm. And you”—he knelt before Suzume. Now she did avert her gaze; she did not need to be that familiar with his manhood—”shall help me exact my revenge.”


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