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Lady Dai’s Amazing Mummy

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A short note about the mummies in The Corpse Ritual , the latest book in   my   Geomancer's Apprentice series .  Wen Dou and his family are wholly imaginary. Lady Dai and her funeral banner, however, are very real. And there is something very remarkable about her mummy that brings to mind the vampire lore. Lady Dai, or Xin Zhui, was a wealthy noblewoman married to a high-ranking Chinese official. She lived during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 CE). Her tomb and those of her husband and son were discovered in the early 1970s near Changsha in China’s Hunan Province. It is one of China’s most important archaeological discoveries. Archaeologists excavating her tomb had to open four coffins—nestled inside each other like nesting dolls—before they found her body in the last, and smallest, coffin. When she was brought out, her skin was soft to the touch and her limbs could bend at the joints. She had all her hair, including her eyelashes, brows, right down to the hair in her n

The Museum Setting in 'The Corpse Ritual'

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When it came to writing The Corpse Ritual , it was a no-brainer to set the book in a museum. For one, I’d already decided the book would feature mummies and jiangshi. I also love museums, especially natural history museums. In addition, you can’t set a series in Washington, D.C., without mentioning its museums. After all, D.C. is known for its museums. The district’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History are two of the most visited museums in the United States. Both museums are part of the Smithsonian Institution, which was created by an act of Congress in 1846 to be “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The Smithsonian has since become the largest complex of museums and education centers in the world. I’ve long thought of natural history museums as a great setting for urban fantasy stories. Many of their exhibits relate to magic, ritual and superstition. One good example of this is the British Museum’s ancient Egypt collecti

China’s Soul-Stealing Scare of 1768

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Did you know that China had its own mass hysteria over witchcraft and sorcery, 75 years after the Salem, Mass., witch trials? The Corpse Ritual , Book 3 in my Geomancer’s Apprentice series, references a year during China’s Qing Dynasty when many people were accused of “soul stealing.” In January 1768, rumors began to arise in eastern and central China that a secret network of sorcerers and master sorcerers were stealing souls and using them for nefarious purposes. The soul stealing generally was thought to take two forms. One was by obtaining a personal item (such as somebody’s hair) and reciting spells over it. During this time, men wore their hair in a long braid known as a “queue.” The most common allegation under this form of soul stealing was that sorcerers were cutting off men’s queues to obtain control over their souls. The other form of soul stealing was by writing a person’s name on a piece of paper and attaching the paper to the foundations of a building or a bridge. A

'Jiangshi': the Hopping Vampire in Chinese Folklore

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My latest book  The Corpse Ritual features a vampire-like Chinese folklore monster that some of you may recognize. It’s a “jiangshi,” which means “stiff corpse” in Mandarin. Those of you who’ve watched the Mr. Vampire Hong Kong comedy movies from the 1980s will be familiar with this creature. It’s basically a reanimated corpse. Its appearance depends on how long it’s been dead. It hops because its limbs are stiff from rigor mortis.  In Chinese popular culture, the jiangshi usually is shown wearing clothes from the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911). Although it’s called a “vampire” in the movies, there are major differences between a jiangshi and a vampire.  A jiangshi— doesn’t drink blood. It sucks a person’s life essence, or qi. isn’t good-looking or suave. behaves more like a zombie. doesn’t turn into a bat. doesn’t command other creatures of the night. doesn’t sparkle in daylight and won’t ever get the girl (or guy). The hopping corpse folklore supposedly dates back to olden t

'The Corpse Ritual' Is Now Available in Ebook Format

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The Corpse Ritual , Book 3 of my Geomancer's Apprentice series, is now available as an ebook and on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. The paperback version is coming soon.  In their latest adventure, underdog feng shui consultants Joe Tham and Junie Soong investigate the theft of a mummy from the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.  The full blurb is below.  The Smithsonian Natural History Museum is full of dead things. Now some may be undead … A brazen robbery takes place at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum at the height of the pandemic. The robbers make off with a 250-year-old Chinese mummy from the museum’s forthcoming exhibition. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up.  Joe Tham and Junie Soong’s feng shui business is limping along, not helped by the D.C. government’s Covid restrictions. Joe is still trying to solve his father’s murder, while Junie is leaning into her special powers.   The two underdog feng shui consultants are roped into the museum case. As they dig deeper

Beware. We’re in the Midst of the Chinese Halloween …

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We're in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It's the Chinese Hungry Ghost Month, which started July 29 and ends August 26. During this period, the gates of hell open and ghosts wander the earth hoping for a meal and some entertainment. It’s a major festival for Chinese people of the Taoist and Buddhist faiths. They burn joss sticks, ghost money and ghost goods (papier-mache watches, cars, houses and other luxury products) to ensure their ancestors are well taken care of in the afterlife. They also place food and fruit offerings on makeshift altars for the dead. People with the sixth sense may glimpse ghosts with long, pencil-thin necks eating the food late at night. It’s also said that if you taste the food from the altar (please don't—you're asking for bad luck), it would be flat and bland because the spirits have already feasted on its essence. At this time, temporary stages are set up to provide music and entertainment for the ghostly realm. You’ll see the p

‘Geomancer’s Apprentice’ Series Book 3: Cover Reveal for ‘The Corpse Ritual’

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I’m excited to reveal the cover for The Corpse Ritual , the upcoming third book in my Geomancer’s Apprentice series. There are still a few issues to sort out. I hope to release the book later this month. I’ve also overhauled the covers for the first two books to reflect a more cohesive look for the series. In addition, I wanted to add more elements in the covers to make it clear to readers that the books are in the urban fantasy genre, and feature Asian magic. The ebooks and paperbacks now come with the new covers.  That’s the beauty of indie publishing. You have the flexibility to make changes that you might not otherwise have in traditional publishing. It’s been one and a half years since the publication of The Geomancer’s Apprentice , my debut novel. It’s been a blast so far. The learning curve is steep for an indie author in terms of the craft and what constitutes good marketing. I’m still learning, and I hope you’ll keep reading.