2020 Year in Review

This year was a f**k trumpet, knobhead, dickweasel tw*t of a year, and may the thunderc**t piss off into oblivion at the strike of midnight, never to be seen again. And I’m only saying this because I’m a lady.

I started January with a plan to complete a 52 books reading challenge, but unfortunately life, the pandemic and my Labrador retriever level attention span got in the way and I managed to finish only half of what I’d planned to read.

The good things that happened:

  • I became obsessed with the All the Game series

  • I had the privilege of being a beta for the Mortal and Divine series

  • I’ve finally read the Raven Cycle

  • I cried at Suki Fleet’s books:

  • I fell in love with the first two books from The Wode:

  • I picked my courage and DNFed Gormengast after 15 years of trying to finish reading this snail paced brick

The not-so-good things that happened:
-My free time was pulverized by work and for weeks at the time I couldn’t even spend 30 minutes listening to an audiobook
-I had to bail on my friends’ buddy reads many times
– I couldn’t write anything because my mind was cluttered with work stuff

May 2021 bring you all better books, better times and a better world. 

How was your 2020 reading wise?

The missing sex scene in Kogitsune

Yes, I did the unthinkable in Kogitsune. I wrote a sex scene with a fade to black. Mea culpa!

Kogitsune was supposed to be a short story submission for an online fantasy magazine. I had to follow the submission guidelines, which said “no descriptive sex scenes”. Boo!

After the magazine rejected the submission, I uploaded Kogitsune on my site, and focused on my next project. One week later, I started receiving requests from my friends to transform the blog post into a mobi file for an easier download. I cleaned it up a bit with Moony’s help and uploaded it to Smashwords. That was the last edit the story received.

When I published Kogitsune, the reception from the blogosphere was harsh in the first months. Over 25 blogs rejected my request for review, and only one blog from Australia picked it up called On top Down Under Reviews. It was disappointing, but I had expected little, since I’m a white Romanian author writing Asian mythological retellings. Seriously, even I would react with a quizzical brow at seeing Kogitsune for the first time.

That was 2 years ago. Since then, Kogitsune had over 1000 downloads/website reads/ Amazon purchases and made an appearance in Book Riot. Shinigami (book 2 in the series) ended winning two Rainbow Awards. The support in the past years was both unexpected and overwhelming. Thanks to everyone who gave the series a chance!

Why am I writing this blog post? To let you know I started working on the missing sex scene and you will have access to it via On top Down Under Reviews blog.

The On Top Down Under Reviews blog is celebrating its 8 Years Anniversary and Kokaji and Kogitsune will be there to help with the celebration.

I’m writing a short story from Kokaji’s POV which will be published on the blog on 23rd of October. The story starts from the moment Kokaji returns to the mountain to finish the Inari shrine. A special guest from Shinigami will also appear. *evil giggle* Those of you who have read Shinigami will know who that is. The rest might just be creeped out and confused. *2nd evil giggle*

If you want to read the short story, make sure you follow On Top Down Under Reviews social media accounts.


Twitter: @ontopdownunder1




Shinigami inspiration: Layered Storytelling

Inspiration comes from everywhere, movies, places, people, history, songs, you name it. Today I would like to talk about the inspiration that came from an anime called Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.

SGRS is among my top 5 favorite anime ever. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling, built upon layers and layers of twists and turns, spanning over seven decades and passing through several generations. 

Created by Studio Deen in 2016 as an adaptation from the manga with the same name by Haruko Kumota, SGRS is a story about friendship, love, loss and Rakugo–a form of Japanese verbal entertainment, where a lone storyteller sits on a stage in a seiza sitting position, with no props except a paper fan and a small cloth , and depicts a long and complicated comical (or sometimes sentimental) story.

Flickr| Picture taken by Charlesy at the Sanma Festival, 2008

The story has one character as a centerpiece: Yakumo Yuurakutei, a legendary rakugo performer who is haunted by his past.

We meet Yakumo through the eyes of Yotaro, an ex-con released from prison with nothing to his name. At the prison gates the guard asks him about his plans, and Yotaro mentions he wants to learn the art of rakugo from one of Japan’s greatest masters, Yakumo Yurakutei VIII. This because of an unforgettable performance he had seen the master deliver of a story called….Shinigami.

Yakumo, notorious for taking no students, was in the end persuaded to take him on, and nicknamed him Yotaro-the fool. Yotaro had no formal training or elegance, but something about his charisma reminded Yakumo of someone from his past. And from here on, the past began unraveling.

It captured my heart and my soul completely. A story about love, art, and storytelling, the likes I have rarely experienced.

I watched this anime twice, both times in tears, awed by the beauty of every scene, the emotional weight of every line. A story told by an unreliable narrator, where you have to pay attention to clues in order to understand the full depth of the story. Everything had a double meaning, every act had ramifications that shaped character development for decades. Nothing is told “in your face”, you are forced to draw your own conclusions and sometimes you have to go back and re-watch episodes and scenes several times to “get it”.

This anime taught me about storytelling, but most importantly, taught me about layered storytelling, and the art of a “story within a story”. It helped me understand how to shape the plot around secrets that unraveled slowly with each page.

And in regards to the rakugo story called Shinigami… well… *points toward my own Shinigami*… I was as inspired as Yotaro.

The first time I saw the anime was in 2018, one month before publishing Kogitsune. It inspired me to add a story about a shinigami in the Takamagahara Monogatari. The second time I saw the anime was in February 2019, while finishing the first draft for Shinigami.

Watching SGRS again, while writing my own Shinigami, had a strange effect on me. I looked at the draft and got annoyed with myself. It was too superficial, too simple. So I changed the story completely.

Shinigami is dedicated “to my otaku family, my fujoshi sisters, my fudanshi brothers, and my non-binary siblings from the otaku world,” but it is also dedicated to Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.

If you enjoy watching anime, or reading manga, and appreciate beautifully told stories, layered, emotional and with unreliable narrators, please watch this anime. You will not regret it.

Stay safe,

Xia Xia

Shinigami freebie 17-18 March

Hey friends,
I wanted to have Shinigami as a freebie during the Japanese celebration of Tanabata from 7th of July (because it’s a celebration for star crossed lovers and fits Shinigami perfectly), but considering that many of my favorite authors are providing freebies of their books to help us go through quarantine/ social distancing, I thought maybe some of you might want to read Shinigami. So here you go, freebie on 17 and 18th of March @Amazon.

hello spring

Hello, Spring!

I can’t believe it’s March. I also can’t believe it’s been six months since Shinigami was published.

2020 Book Reading challenge

girl baloon

Three quick news

Hi all, Three quick news:1. Shinigami is now available on KU and will stay there until the end of February 2020 —Link Here 2. Shinigami received so far two Honorary Mentions from the judges of the 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. Link Here Judge 1:“Reading the author’s introduction, I found the premise of this story intriguing. I’m not familiar with NohContinue reading “Three quick news”

Shinigami inspiration: Research Materials

Whenever I read a story that draws inspiration from mythology and folklore, I get all excited about reading the books the authors used for research.

If you are like me, here is the list of books used to research Shinigami:

  • For mythology: 
    • The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters by Ō no Yasumaro & Princess Iwa (Contributor), translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain
    • Nihon Shoki (or Nihongi) by Ō no Yasumaro, translated by William George Ashton
  • For matching the historical atmosphere required for the Nara period: 
    • Xiao Jing, Classic on Filial Piety by Zengzi, translated by James Legge
    • Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
    • The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan by Ivan Morris
    • The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Royall Tyler
  • For the descriptions: 
    • 1000 Poems from the Manyōshū by Ōtomo no Yakamochi (Compiler), translated by Japanese Classics Translation Committee
    • One Hundred Leaves: A new annotated translation of the Hyakunin Isshu by Fujiwara no Teika, translated by Blue Flute ( )
    • Japan : its architecture, art, and art manufactures by Christopher Dresser
  • Others: 
    • Japanese Proverbs: Wit and Wisdom: 200 Classic Japanese Sayings and Expressions by David Galef
    • The Folk Arts of Japan by Hugo M. Munsterberg
    • Elements of Japanese Design by Boyé Lafayette de Mente
    • A Japanese Miscellany: Strange Stories, Folklore Gleanings, Studies Here & There by Lafcadio Hearn

I started the research in December 2018 and spent about three months surrounded by maps, history books, ancient literature and mythology focused chronologies. You can find all the books used for research in my folder on Goodreads.

Glossary: Shinigami

Glossary Agekubi [a-ge-ku-bi]: Nara and Heian era robes for males, high-necked, with a circular neckline and tailored sleeves Amaterasu [a-ma-te-ra-su]: Goddess of the sun Ame no Ohabari [a-me-no-o-ha-ba-ri ]: The sword used by Izanagi to kill his offspring Kagutsuchi. The literal translation in English is ‘sword of Takamagahara with blades on both sides of theContinue reading “Glossary: Shinigami”

New book Release: Shinigami

Shinigami, the second story in the Takamagahara Monogatari is now live on Smashwords, Amazon and Tapas. This book is dedicated to my otaku family, my fujoshi sisters, my fudanshi brothers, and my non-binary siblings from the otaku world. #loveislove #yaoiislife I strongly recommend you read Kogitsune first. The little kitsune’s story may take place in the future but itContinue reading “New book Release: Shinigami”


“Thou, Valfather, wouldst have me tell the ancient histories of men as far as I remember.” —Völuspá (ca. 1270 AD) I leaned on the leafless oak enveloped in a pool of blood. It overflowed in my lap to drip down my shin on the thawing snow. Dáinsleif the Deathbringer lay at my side, unsheathed andContinue reading “Giantsbane”

Favorite Books of 2018

This time last year I was in a two months vacation from my day work because of a terrible burnout. Thanks to this, I found out about GR. I’ve made incredible friends. Until then I was reading exclusively fantasy and historicals, rarely touching romance. When I discovered the MM romance books it was like aContinue reading “Favorite Books of 2018”


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