Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fox Tale by Karen Hulene Bartell NBTM Tour


 

 Background of Fox Tale

My husband works for a Japanese company. When he was instructed to meet with his Tokyo team, I leapt at the chance to accompany him.

The next thing I did was research Japan’s cryptids. What appeared were Inari’s kitsunes or fox spirits—and voilà, the idea for Fox Tale was born.

What are Inari’s kitsunes? Japan’s history of foxes is complex.

According to Fox Tale’s leading man, Rafe, “Originally, Inari was the concept of a successful rice harvest. Over time, devotees fleshed out that belief, and Inari became the androgynous god of wealth.” 

“And the kitsunes?” asked the protagonist, Ava.

“The relationship has always been cooperative…Initially, foxes kept rice fields free from rodents, ensuring good crop yields. Eventually, people humanized the foxes into guardians and agents.”

While my husband attended meetings, I explored Tokyo, sometimes alone on foot and sometimes with a group tour. I took copious notes, and each site I visited became part of my developing story. With the supernatural element, as well as the locale established, my imagination began taking flight.

I spoke to locals as often as possible, asking if they believed in kitsune--or if their neighbor or grandmother believed in them. (Luckily, many Japanese speak English!) Not one admitted to believing in the old superstitions, but almost all knew of someone who did. 

Said Fox Tale’s antagonist, Ichiro, “Most Japanese live in concrete canyons, and rational university educations replace superstition. Still, fox stories persist through theater, festivals, language, and literature…or kiterature as I call it.” 

“Despite a waning belief?” I leaned closer. 

“Even today, some believe in fox possession…although believing in kitsunetsuki might not be fashionable in this age of supercomputers and artificial intelligence, stories still circulate in the tabloids and mass media.”

“For example?” 

“In 2019, a doomsday cult member rammed his car into pedestrians on Takeshita Street, then pled not guilty on the grounds that the cult was fox possessed. And as recently as 2022, the Sessho-seki split in two.” 

Skeptical, I squinted. “The what did what?” 

“The killing stone…according to legend, it imprisoned an evil nogitsune vixen. Her spirit escaped when it split in half and began spewing sulfur fumes, killing anyone that approached…For over a thousand years, Japanese medical practitioners considered kitsunetsuki a disease. Even into the twentieth century, psychologists believed fox possession caused mental illness.” 

“But not anymore…” Crossing my arms, I hugged myself, seeking reassurance. “Right?” 

“Today, therapists consider kitsunetsuki a psychosis or a culture-bound syndrome. Although”—he shrugged—“its symptoms can extend to people familiar with the Japanese culture.”

Gathering all the information I could from locals, as well as researching online, the plot for Fox Tale began to take shape. Once I had the realistic component that tied the supernatural to the natural, I had the storyline. Then the characters emerged as the story unfolded in my mind.

When my husband finished his meetings in Tokyo, we visited Kyoto, where we toured Fushimi Inari. The mountain is sacred in the Shinto religion, a place where “deities coexist with nature” and where, some believe, Inari resides.

Fushimi Inari has an ethereal presence. Its otherworldly aura and scenery are difficult to describe, but if anything supernatural could occur, it would happen on that mountain. 

While at that shrine, the various parts merged into the basis of Fox Tale: the supernatural element, general locale, plot, characters, and finally the specific location for the otherworldly activity. Lo and behold, a novel was born.


FOX TALE

by Karen Hulene Bartell


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Paranormal Romance


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Heights terrify Ava. When a stranger saves her from plunging down a mountain, he diverts her fears with tales of Japanese kitsune—shapeshifting foxes—and she begins a journey into the supernatural.


She’s attracted to Chase, both physically and metaphysically, yet primal instincts urge caution when shadows suggest more than meets the eye.


She’s torn between Chase and Rafe, her ex, when a chance reunion reignites their passion, but she struggles to overcome two years of bitter resentment. Did Rafe jilt her, or were they pawns of a larger conspiracy? Are the ancient legends true of kitsunes twisting time and events?



I applied my makeup with an artist’s hand, blending three shades of eyeshadow and going heavy on the mascara. Then I slipped into the black cocktail dress I’d bought for the occasion--a fusion of chic and slutty.


Wish I knew what Rafe planned for my birthday. Dinner at an upscale restaurant? Pub food at a sports bar? 


“A surprise,” was all he’d said.


What’s the fine line between dressed to kill and overdressed? Glancing at the mirror, I glimpsed the exposed décolletage, then examined my naked left hand. More importantly, is tonight the night? After dating for three years, the conversation had finally turned to rings and weddings, and with graduation a month away, I was eager to take the next step.


At six o’clock sharp, I sat by the door, butterflies fluttering in my belly.


Ten minutes passed, fifteen. I texted him. An hour later, I called. When he didn’t pick up, I left a voicemail.


At eight o’clock, I checked my email. No messages, no texts--radio silence.


At nine o’clock, I removed my makeup, the black, smoky taupe, mauve, and greige streaks on the cotton pad mirroring my mood. After showering, I picked at soggy leftovers as I studied my bare left hand. Leftovers…


When the phone dinged, I flinched. Rafe?


Mia--Guess who’s at Tootsie’s? And Rafe’s not alone. What’s going on?--


I sat back, stunned. He wouldn’t break up with me on my birthday--without even the courtesy of telling me--would he?



Author of the Trans-Pecos and Sacred Emblem series, Karen is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life, who writes multicultural, offbeat love stories. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved often, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Texas Piney Woods with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.


Connect with Karen: 


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenHuleneBartell

MeWe: https://mewe.com/i/karenbartell 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HuleneKaren 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/karenhulenebartell/    

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/611950.Karen_Hulene_Bartell   

Website: http://www.KarenHuleneBartell.com/  

Email: info@KarenHuleneBartell.com 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/karenhulenebartell  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenhulenebartell/ 

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/karen-hulene-bartell 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenhulenebartell/  


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A randomly drawn winner will be awarded a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.


6 comments:

  1. This sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Fox Tale" by Karen Hulene Bartell! It's a captivating paranormal romance that will take you on a thrilling journey with a touch of magic and mystery. You won't be able to put it down!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like a good read.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great excerpt and giveaway. :)

    ReplyDelete

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