Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Oni’s Shamisen, by Claire Youmans

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The Oni’s Shamisen

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow Boy Series, Book 9

by  Claire Youmans

Historical Fantasy, Japan, Paranormal

Date Published: April 2022

Publisher: American I Publishing 

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Japan, 1877. Toki-Girl Azuki revels in her new-found freedom. But now what will she do with it?

Using her patterns and the looms Western Dragon Prince Iyrtsh makes for Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime’s ambitious project—resettling refugees displaced by the failed Satsuma Rebellion—anyone can make her fabulous fabric designs! But what of Azuki herself? Then the Oni, Kukanko, who is sure she’s not a demon, calls on the Toki-Girl for help.

Can Azuki, Sparrow-Boy Shota, Dragon Princess Renko and Eagle-Boy Akira find a way to help the Oni? What will a blind musician accomplish using their results? How can they help Uncle Yuta and Aunt Noriko find places for newly freed mill workers with no place left to go? Or help Lady Anko and Lord Toshio defy convention and save their unlucky twins from potentially lethal superstition? What’s going to happen to a very special horse?

Eastern Dragon King Ryuujin and Western Dragon Queen Rizantona contemplate the future of their species and the planet, and infant Dragon Prince Susu’s inability to keep a secret has catastrophic results.

Will Azuki and her friends find a way to help others while saving themselves, their friends, and their future? Can Azuki find a new path?

The Oni’s Shamisen is the ninth in the groundbreaking Toki-girl and Sparrow-boy series where History and fantasy and magical realism collide in this latest tale from the Meiji Era, a time and place where anything could happen and probably did!

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Get the latest novel in this exhilarating series today!

Other Books in the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Series:

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 1: Coming Home

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2: Chasing Dreams

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 3: Together

The Toki Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 4: Uncle Yuta has an

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 5: Noriko’s Journey

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 6: The Dragon Sisters

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 7: The Eagle and the Sparrow

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 8: The Shadows of War





Azuki, the girl who became a toki, laughed as she soared in the thermal. In her form as a Japanese Crested Ibis, she rode the wind. Her powerful white wings, touched with stunning peach accents, worked to carry her far above the mountainous northern Kyushu landscape.

Laughing with her, Akira, the boy who became an eagle, matched her stroke for stroke as they circled each other, dancing in the air. They were close in size, for Steller’s Sea Eagles are proud of being the largest among eagles—no matter what those Harpy Eagles might think—and the Japanese Crested Ibis isn’t much smaller.

Dancing in the air wasn’t limited to birds, Akira thought as the wind softened beneath his wings—only to those who could fly. The Western Dragon Prince Irtysh and the Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime, though divergent in form, had learned to dance together, and Otohime had first learned to do it with her younger and smaller half-sister, their friend, Renko.

But nobody did it like eagles!

“Let’s dive,” Akira cried to Azuki. She didn’t answer, but slowed to nearly stall before tipping her long black beak downward and tucking in her wings. Akira drove the air with his own muscular wings to catch her, and they spiraled downwards, twisting closely around each other, racing towards the land.

They learned this from the dragons, who rejoiced in flight as much as the birds, and were smart enough and playful enough to take any airborne idea and expand on it. They all learned from each other.

As they approached the treetops, Azuki called, “Crossover!” and they changed their courses to hurtle past each other before starting the upward curve of their next ascent. Careful to keep exact pace with each other, they curved their angles inward so they would meet at the top of their arc. Akira thought they might cross over again and descend in lazy twining circles before landing.

Suddenly, right between them, a dragon appeared.

Akira and Azuki both dodged to avoid this obstacle, who was small for a dragon, though large compared to them. He was bronze, brown and gold, and in the classic European fashion, his hide was studded with jewels. When he was a human, he looked Japanese.

“Nice flight, you two,” the dragon said.

“Susu-chan!” Azuki called. “What are you doing here?
Don’t pop in like that! It’s dangerous!”

“I wasn’t in your way!” Susu objected. Youngest of the dual-natured dragons, Susu was Renko’s full brother. Otohime was his much older half-sister, child of the Eastern Dragon King Ryuujin. Irtysh was his much older half-brother, child of the Western Dragon Queen Rizantona. Susu was a child prodigy who was afraid of nothing except his fierce and royal parents, and sometimes his grown-up siblings, who could be quite fierce themselves. Renko was young like him and would usually not only let him get away with tricks but teach him new ones. She’d been a child prodigy herself.

“That’s only because we’re good,” Akira said with a mental laugh as the two big birds circled around the hovering dragon. They all spoke in mental speech, convenient for times when their physical beings or their circumstances didn’t accommodate physical, audible speech.

“You did spoil our descent, though,” Azuki added.
“Isn’t it good manners for dragons to announce themselves to avoid interrupting others?” Susu looked abashed.

“I should have,” Susu said. “I’m sorry. I forgot. I guess I did come in right in the middle. Is it convenient?” That was a popular dragon greeting. Dragons frequently spontaneously appeared in each other’s presences without announcing themselves in advance, which few of them could manage all the time.

Mental speech did not always work for any- and every-one or at different distances. Dragons vanished promptly if they were told to come back later. They enjoyed spontaneity and were sometimes impulsive. Susu, formally His Royal Highness Prince Suoh-Sugaar, certainly was.

“No, but as long as you’re here,” Akira said with a grin that forgave the dragon child too much and too often, “what can we do for you?”

“Not for me, but for Brother.” In the Japanese fashion, Susu usually referred to his relatives by relationship rather than name. He did have other brothers–both his parents had other children–but when he said “Brother,” as though it were a name, he invariably meant the one he was closest to: Prince Irtysh.

“How can we serve His Royal Highness today?” Azuki asked formally. She’d had just about enough of this childish nonsense. Susu was old enough to use proper manners!

“Did you know Brother has children?” Susu swiveled to try to follow the birds’ line of sight. Birds couldn’t hover like dragons could. “Come land on me!”

Azuki and Akira glanced at each other, then swooped in to circle before landing on Susu’s broad back.

“I didn’t,” Akira said as he banked,

“I never thought about it,” Azuki admitted. “They don’t live with him.”

“They’re kind of old,” Susu told them. “Grown-ups.
They all have their own caverns and their own mountains. All over the place. Galina’s mountain is north of here, really close to Hokkaido! She’s a princess, too. She’s older than me, but we like to swim together. I think I’m her uncle.” Susu frowned at this. That didn’t make sense to him emotionally, though if he worked it out, intellectually, it did. His brother’s children….

“So Prince Irtysh has children?” Akira decided to move the original conversation back on track. He positioned himself to land near where Azuki would light down. While the prince was, by rank, His Royal Highness, he preferred a lower level of formality from those among the dual-natured and humans he seemed to consider part of his social circle, if not his friends. Akira didn’t know if he would ever be able to truly claim friendship with the suave and sophisticated dragon prince, though he admired him enormously.

“Five!” Susu said. “He’s talking to them about those machines he’s building for your refugees! He wants to know how many you’ll need, so I need to get Tsuruko-san. Then she and Kichiro-san can come back with us and we can all talk about going to the Exhibition! It starts in just a few days!”

Susu was a jump ahead of everybody, as he often was, Azuki thought, though he was frequently misdirected. Tsuruko-san, the Crane-Woman, was working closely with Her Royal Highness, the Eastern Dragon Princess Otohime. Both of them joined the fully human Lady Satsuki, her very pregnant daughter, Anko-sama, and all the rest of them, in helping to resettle refugees displaced by the Satsuma Rebellion. Azuki didn’t want to think about that. The Rebellion was coming to its end, and its end would be, inevitably, tragic.

“That’s where we’ll find out about the cotton spinning machine.” Akira nodded. “I want to go, too.”

About the Author

Claire Youmans was captivated the first time she set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun. After many years of travel to this magical place, the retired lawyer now lives in Tokyo, exploring and writing fiction and poetry.

During the Meiji Era, Japan leapt from a decaying feudalism to a modern first world power. How’d they do that? This history holds a key to understanding Japanese culture and character. Like the ocean, Japan changes only on the surface while the depths remain the same. Using folklore and fantasy, Youmans tells this story in an accessible, fun, and exciting way that reveals and explores the true nature of Japan, a culture that is unique, quirkly and one she has ultimately come to love.

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Spotlight & Author Interview: No Gods, Only Monsters + Giveaway

No Gods Only Monsters blog announcement


NO Gods, Only Monsters
No Gods, Only Monsters
by Steve McHugh
Series: Antiquity Chronicles
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Any
Pages: 250
Published: May 1, 2022
Publisher: Hidden Realms Publishing LTD (Self Published)

Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt, lives alone on the far edge of the Roman Empire. When an old friend arrives looking for help, Diana finds herself thrust back into her old life, and old problems.

With innocent lives caught in the crossfire, Diana realizes that the only way to ensure the safety of her friends and loved ones is to do what she does best: hunt her enemies down.

  • A Clash of Titans • If Someone Asks if You’re a God, You Say Yes • Wonder Woman

Amazon Us / Amazon UK / Goodreads

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.

I’ve always enjoyed Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, times in history like those, they’re endlessly fascinating. So, I knew I’d one day write a book set in those times.

With the Hellequin Chronicles series of books, there were multiple gods and goddesses from those time periods. The entire Roman, Greek, Egyptian, etc, pantheons were all real in the Hellequin world, so I had a wealth of characters to chose from.

There was one character I knew I was going to tell a story about, and that was Diana, the Roman Goddess of the Hunt. She’s a pretty big character in the Hellequin universe, and plays a large part in those stories, but she doesn’t really talk about her time back when people thought those gods were real, so I wanted to show how she became the badass she is in the Hellequin books and the journey she had to take to get there.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

There’s a young girl in the book who’s deaf, so I did research into when sign language was first created and how well known it was. It’s has some interesting links going back to at least ancient Greece when people who knew sign language sort of kept it secret from those who didn’t. I hadn’t known any of that before starting the book.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?

Well, it was meant to be a 20,000 word novella. It’s now a 73,000 word novel. That was a bit of a shock.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?

It’s basically alluding to the idea that the pantheons of the time weren’t really gods, they were just powerful beings (sorcerers, elementals, etc) who mostly had no one telling them what they shouldn’t do. It works about as well as you’d think. A lot of those gods were little more than monsters.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

No real people in this one. I have based people on real life people before and I do tell them. Unless I’m killing them off because I didn’t like them, then I change the name of the character to give me plausible deniability.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

Don’t anger someone who can literally tear your arms off and beat you to death with them. It’s a fair lesson, I think.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?

The relationship between Diana and a certain Roman Goddess. They have been friends for a long time, and were occasionally more than just friends, and they have this dynamic that’s a lot of fun.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

There’s a villain in the book who’s name I won’t mention because spoilers, but he was quite hard to make both really evil and unpleasant, but without moving into the moustache twirling villain cliche.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

I’m currently working on books 2 and 3 of my new series, Riftborn, book 1 of which is with my publisher and hopefully I’ll have more details about the release of book 1 soon.

On top of that, I have a sequel to my first scifi book, Blackcoat, to write, and I plan on finishing my first epic fantasy book. So, I have a lot to be getting on with.

About the Author:
Steve is a bestselling author of Urban Fantasy. His book, Scorched Shadows, was shortlisted for a Gemmell Award for best novel.

Steve was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton

Author Website
Amazon Author Page


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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Bound By Vengeance and Mind, by Jenna O’Malley

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Bound By Vengeance and Mind

The Arsinoëphorus Alliance Book 3

by Jenna O’Malley

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Paranormal Romance


Happiness fades into memories.

Reunited under Nephtyri’s command, the Arsinoëphorus Alliance reorganizes against the Hunters’ Guild. Empowered by the Goddess Nephthys, she leads an attack on Ephesus with a great price. In England and France, Ian tests the strength of his new blade, but he fears one possibility: Ronan lives as the Imperial Lord Heir. Consumed with his new siblings’ needs and Aryeh’s distractions over missing memoirs, the merna king faces vengeance or capture.

Frey frets over Lee’s absence, and he struggles with a higher role in the Alliance’s military. Torn between self-medication and redemption, he learns old debts seldom disappear when accepting a fallen angel’s aid. Saving his beloved catkin binds him to his siblings, old and new—and in time to share their anguish.

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**Don’t miss the other books in the series!**

Bound by Fate and Blood

The Arsinoëphorus Alliance Book 1

Goodreads * Amazon


Bound by Oath and Heart

The Arsinoëphorus Alliance Book 2

Goodreads * Amazon

A Maryland native, Jenna O’Malley lives with her geeky husband and their beloved felines. A long-time anime fan, gamer, metalhead, history lover, and English teacher, she blends contemporary references with fantasy, history, and a dash of romance. The worlds she creates highlight issues across time, including women’s rights, the importance of all voices in leadership, LGBTQIA alliance, mental health awareness, and anti-racism.

Website * Facebook * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

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