Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer


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8 cool myths about dogs, and why the inugami dog-god didn’t make it

The Filth Licker is almost finished and I’m flat out researching for book 3 of the Takeshita Demons trilogy, Monster Matsuri. All this research reminded me: just because a book has a plan, doesn’t mean things always go to plan. A big example of this is the inugami.

Inugami, exit stage left

The Filth Licker was supposed to feature an inugami, but in the end I chickened out. Why?

Because I felt inugami were too scary and too gruesome for 8 to 12 year olds. I know: they probably see more gruesome stuff just watching the news, but still, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, the inugami was executed (so to speak).

What is an inugami?

The inugami or dog-god is a spirit created by starving a living dog to death, usually by burying it up to its neck. (I know: pretty awful. That’s why I couldn’t include it in a children’s book.)

The inugami remains faithful to the person who created it, using its powers for their good fortune. Families in possession of an inugami (called ‘inugami-mochi’) are said to be very powerful and are able to cause illness in enemies and bring wealth to allies. In the Oki islands, belief in inugami is so strong that there are specific regions where inugami-mochi families live, and it is wise to determine the inugami status of the family you intend to marry into before you tie the knot.

But, just because the inugami didn’t make it past the first draft, doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly interesting. And, the inugami is just one small part of a wealth of fascinating dog mythology. While researching inugami, I discovered a heap of other interesting stuff about dogs:

8 of the coolest things I discovered about the mythology surrounding dogs

1) Dogs have supernatural vision
Dogs can see fairies, hobgoblins and elves in their true form, and will bark to let you know such creatures are nearby. Because their sight is so keen, they’re difficult to trick. Ordinary shape-changers, like the kitsune (fox) and tanuki (badger) can’t work their magic on a dog.

2) Dogs can foresee disaster
If a dog climbs up to the roof of a building, a fire is certain to break out nearby. Also, if a dog starts howling at night, it could mean a coming earthquake or approaching death.

3) Dogs can unearth or protect buried treasure
If you’d like to discover gold or precious jewels buried in the forest, your best bet is to travel with a dog. They’re constantly digging up treasure, probably because they’re closely associated with the underworld of the dead. If you’re traveling with a three-legged dog (or, even better, a three-headed dog), you’re in for especial luck.

4) Dogs can be terrible liars
Many years ago, when dogs could still talk, a dog tricked his master into the lair of a hungry bear. The bear promptly ate the man, leaving the dog free to woo his widow. Back at home, the dog tried to convince the widow that his master’s last request was that the dog should marry her in his stead. Angry and grieving, and not at all fooled, the widow tossed a handful of dust into the dog’s mouth. And voila: the dog could speak no more.

5) Old dogs should be closely watched
The older a dog gets, the wiser it becomes. Very old dogs are so clever they can possess the living (or the dead) and can even turn into vampires. The best approach, then, is to kill the old dog before it grows too powerful.

6) Old white dogs should be watched even more closely
Enormous white dogs, especially those living in the mountains, could quite possibly be mountain deities. Such dogs are difficult to kill: those who try are severely punished along with their entire village. To keep these spirits happy, a yearly sacrifice (usually a virgin) is a must. The dog may eat or keep the virgin, depending on his mood.

7) Dog spirits are afraid of skewer spirits
If you find your luscious tidbits are always disappearing, they’re probably being eaten by dog ghosts, who have a terrible sweet tooth. A simple way to protect your nibblies is to string them on a skewer: the spirit of the skewer will keep the thieving spirits at bay.

8 ) The smaller the dog, the greater its power
Dogs bred to work as companions to witches and wizards are uncommonly small, about the size of a mouse. Don’t worry if you’re the only person who can see the tiny dog: they’re usually invisible to all except one member of the family.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Could Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak really make someone invisible?

How to write a synopsis: four big secrets and an example

4 ways to recognise a Japanese iso-onna vampire

Selective genetics or ghosts reborn? Legend of the Samurai crabs

Dogs have supernatural vision

Dogs can see fairies, hobgoblins and elves in their true form, and will bark to let you know such creatures are nearby. Because their sight is so keen, they’re difficult to trick. Ordinary shape-changers, like the kitsune (fox) and tanuki (badger) can’t work their magic on a dog.

Dogs can foresee disaster

If a dog climbs up to the roof of a building, a fire is certain to break out nearby. Also, if a dog starts howling at night, it could mean a coming earthquake or approaching death.

Dogs can unearth or protect buried treasure

If you’d like to discover gold or precious jewels buried in the forest, your best bet is to travel with a dog. They’re constantly digging up treasure, probably because they’re closely associated with the underworld of the dead. If you’re traveling with a three-legged dog (or, even better, a three-headed dog), you’re in for especial luck.

Dogs can be terrible liars

Many years ago, when dogs could still talk, a dog tricked his master into the lair of a hungry bear. The bear promptly ate the man, leaving the dog free to woo his widow. Back at home, the dog tried to convince the widow that his master’s last request was that the dog should marry her in his stead. Angry and grieving, and not at all fooled, the widow tossed a handful of dust into the dog’s mouth. And voila: the dog could speak no more.

Old dogs should be closely watched

The older a dog gets, the wiser it becomes. Very old dogs are so clever they can possess the living (or the dead) and can even turn into vampires. The best approach, then, is to kill the old dog before it grows too powerful.

Old white dogs should be watched even more closely

Enormous white dogs, especially those living in the mountains, could quite possibly be mountain deities. Such dogs are difficult to kill: those who try are severely punished along with their entire village. To keep these spirits happy, a yearly sacrifice (usually a virgin) is a must. The dog may eat or keep the virgin, depending on his mood.

Dog spirits are afraid of skewer spirits

If you find your luscious tidbits are always disappearing, they’re probably being eaten by dog ghosts, who have a terrible sweet tooth. A simple way to protect your nibblies is to string them on a skewer: the spirit of the skewer will keep the thieving spirits at bay.

The smaller the dog, the greater its power

Dogs bred to work as companions to witches and wizards are uncommonly small, about the size of a mouse. Don’t worry if you’re the only person who can see the tiny dog: they’re usually invisible to all except one member of the family.


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“Will I Ever Be Able To Write Anything Good Ever Again?”

Fergus and the toe-munching dread

I am writing again!
Yeeee ha!

Over recent months I’ve been taking excellent care of a Growing Sense of Dread, watering it daily and keeping it in a special place in the corner of every conscious thought.

The feeling is part the dead-wood of procrastination, and part the claustrophobia of being a new mum. I call it “Will I Ever Be Able To Write Anything Good Ever Again?,” subtitled “What If This Next Book Is Rubbish, And When Will I Ever Have Time To Write It Anyway?”

Everything happens for a reason

Thankfully, I have a head-start: I used the last trimester of my pregnancy to slam out a few chapters of Forests and Filth-Lickers, the next title in the Takeshita Demons series.

And, as my lovely mum always says, “everything happens for a reason,” so maybe that’s why Fergus arrived so late. If he’d come on time (like I’d wished and ate curry and drank raspberry tea and hoped that he would), I would’ve had less Pre-Baby time to write, and would be in an even larger pickle.

As it is, I think things will be OK.

Writing, one hour at a time

Last week I finally found a few hours to string together and call my own, and voila! I read what I’d written all those months ago with much excitement. It’s a rollicking beginning, plus, the outlined plot is terrific and getting better as characters start to assert their own ideas about what will happen and change things along the way. I may not be able to write all weekend or in 12-hour stints like I used to, but I’m a step closer to adopting a more sustainable regime.

Funniest prank of the week

And PS: this made me laugh, all week. I recently emailed my sister, who’s kite-surfing the planet while we housesit her house, carsit her car, and dogsit her super-slim super-energetic two-year-old kelpie, Roo.

I filled her in on all the news — her leather couch is covered in spew, the house insurance is due, the lawn is doing OK, and the neighbours think Roo is putting on weight. I attached the photo below and asked her to double-check how much we should be feeding him: And oh, then I laughed and laughed. Apparently she did too.
The New Roo
PPS: I don’t know if that is as funny if you don’t know Roo. But I include it anyway because it makes me cry from laughing everytime.

It’s one of the funniest thing that happened this week. Up there with Fergus eating watermelon for the first time. And Fergus swimming in a friend’s pool for the first time.

Oh, how funny are dogs and babies!!


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Dogs, babies and more cool writing competitions…

This week we’re settling in to our new digs

We’re housesitting a two-bedroom place near heaps of parks and shops and guess what?

The house comes with a great dog too! Roo is a 2-year-old Kelpie and has been around babies heaps. He’s very generous with his patience when Fergus is wailing and also very interested in Fergus’ smells and toys. Roo has loads of dog toys ripped apart about the place, but so far hasn’t touched any of Fergus’ toys. Instead he quietly sniffs and then settles on his mat (or at my feet when I’m feeding Fergus).

We’re going to keep a constant eye on them while they’re together, but so far it looks to be a great friendship in the making. Fergus loves Roo and is learning already to pat him “nicely” (instead of yank out a fistful of hair!).

Roo’s an inside dog, and lots of people have told us we should shut him outside now that there’s a baby in the house. Turns out that’s not the accepted logic when it comes to introducing babies to dogs…

Roo as a pup...awwwww

Introducing Roo to Fergus

I googled “dog” and “new baby” and found lots of nice tips, mostly:

1) Plan early and bring your baby home to a well-trained dog
Roo walks well on a lead, responds to basic commands, has been around babies before: we’re well ahead on this one, so “tick”!

2) Don’t stop loving your dog when the baby arrives
The dog will associate the baby with bad things. Instead, love your dog a little big extra when the baby is around. He’ll learn to love the baby too. We’re now working on developing this positive relationship, so “semi-tick”.

3) Don’t leave dog and baby alone, ever, even if everything is going A-OK
I put Fergus in his cot and then left the room so see what Roo would do. As soon as I was gone, Roo stood up and approached the cot, sniffing gently, then he left the room and went to Fergus’ play gym, sniffing the edges of that too. He didn’t do anything aggressive, but he did show extra interest when he thought I wasn’t looking. We love Roo already, but we’re planning to be ever-vigilent just the same. So “tick” on this one too.

And the writing?

Still haven’t done any writing :-/ But I did find some more cool writing competitions, including:

a songwriting competition where you can win a Gibson Guitar

a travel writing competition (300-700 words) where UK residents can win a trip to Istanbul

a free-to-enter journalism competition for Canadians wanting to cover the Winter Olympics

a song-lyric and short story competition for New Zealanders (with a special section for young writers aged 15-24)

a free-to-enter travel-writing compeition to win a scholarship writing travel for Rough Guides in Japan

a series of writing competitions for Muslim writers (including sections for young writers from age 8)

a script competition for scientists and technologists or artists exploring science and technology

And of course, don’t forget to get your entry ready for the 2010 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices children’s book award. It’s free to enter, anyone around the world can enter, and you can win 1500 pounds plus a publishing deal. Go gettem!