//”It’s just fiction.”

This phrase has troubled me greatly since I was old enough to grasp the lie of it. I recall vividly the first time someone said this – my youth group leader, calling books ‘amoral’ and comparing them to a table.

AMORAL

  • lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something

“You could throw it at someone’s head and that would be bad, but a book is just a book.”

This, said by the same woman who was attempting to teach me that ideas and thoughts could change us and then the world. Without even realizing it, she had stripped herself of all credit in my eyes. She was teaching us from a ‘book,’ but she failed to realize the irony in what she said. I had been frustrated with her before, but I was now incensed. I was only fourteen, and I had only been seriously writing for a little more than a year. Writing – the belief and knowledge that words could plant ideas, could promote hope, could condemn evil, could make people better – that was important to me. It still is. In fact, rather than deterring me from my desire to write, my youth leader fueled that desire.

Books changed my life and continue to do so. Books shaped who I am. There was nothing amoral about the way Middle-Earth taught me about bravery and honor. There was nothing amoral about the way Narnia taught me courage and faith. There was nothing amoral about the way fairy tales and fables and myths taught me to stick to my beliefs, carry on when afraid, and fight back against evil with wit and valor. Books forged my soul, and you cannot tell me ‘it’s just fiction,’ as if fiction were a quick breeze here and gone. “As amoral as a table?” Tell that to Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Augustine, Plato. Tell it to any philosopher.

“It’s just fiction” is an excuse. It’s an excuse made by parents so they don’t feel the need to oversee what their children are embracing. It’s an excuse made by readers who want to read literary trash without guilt, and – worst of all, in my belief – it’s an excuse made by authors to justify their own lack of conviction. Why? Because ‘it’s just fiction’ removes any and all responsibility from the author. If it’s ‘just fiction,’ then there’s no point, nothing to teach or uphold, and they have free reign to write whatever they please, consequences be hanged.

I’m not saying I never feel the urge to write something simply because I want to write it. But I’ve been guilty of many things in twenty-two years, and I’ll be guilty of many more, but may it never be said that I, as a reader but especially as an author, took the easy way out under the banner of ‘it’s just fiction.’

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//beautiful people – tsuki & kiba

This round of questions was so good that I couldn’t decide who to shine the spotlight on. Lauren read the questions and immediately suggested Tsuki and Kiba (The Dying of the Light). A brief introduction aside from their snippet cameos – Tsuki (the Maid Marian character of the novel) is the daughter of a deceased retainer to the Emperor. When the Emperor went away to war, the Prince-Regent gave Tsuki to Matahachi (the Guy of Gisbourne character) as a house-warming gift. Matahachi would probably have preferred she come without Kiba, her bodyguard of twenty years. Tsuki is twenty-six, Kiba is forty, and his affection for her changed to a different kind of affection when she was nineteen. He has never said anything about it and never plans to. He is not only Tsuki’s bodyguard, but her confidant, partner in crime, and closest friend. I kind of adore them.

BUT ENOUGH WITH THE BACKSTORY – ON TO THE QUESTIONS!

TSUKI

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1.How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger? Tsuki has a ready smile, but whether by nature or Kiba’s constant influence, she is very in control of her facial expressions. Her smile is not automatic.

  1. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction? I imagine the cruelest thing was the combination bringing news of her father’s death on top of her new living situation. It was a powerful one-two that changed her life. Her reaction was stoic; or at least until she was alone with Kiba.
  2. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction? I’m not sure she could pick the kindest thing ever told her. I would replace this with one of Kiba’s smiles; rare, warm things that portray far more approval and pride than words could. She treasures these, and can recall each instance (as well as count them on one hand).

4.What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting? Tsuki’s strongest memory is of the day her mother taught her how to perform hara-kiri. Having your mother carefully teach you ritual suicide would leave an impact on most children.

5.What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading? Tsuki has benefitted the most from Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War.’ Kiba gave her a necessary reading list when she turned thirteen, and that was at the top.

6.Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react? She was kidnapped at age six by a family who held a grudge against her father. She was not severely injured and came away with nothing more than a sprained wrist and a bruised forehead, but her father promptly hired Kiba. She also learned to ride a motorcycle with much trial and error, once gashing her arm wide open. Fortunately, she is nimble with good reflexes and has avoided intense injury…so far.

7.Do they like and get along with their neighbours? She is a secret champion to the daimyo villagers, but she and Matahachi don’t get along well. He desires Tsuki, but is gentleman enough to leave her alone. She’s very aware of her position and treats it with a very chilly air.

8.On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with? She’s easy to get along with on a surface level. She is polite, friendly, and outgoing; but she rarely lets anyone get to truly know her. So on the surface, she’s possibly an 3; but in reality, she’s more of an 8.

9.If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go? She would time-travel to a free Japan, I don’t doubt. She has a desire to make things better where she is, more than a desire to wander. However, if she were to pick – say, a honeymoon destination, she would choose Bali.

10.Who was the last person they held hands with? She’s not much of a hand-holder. I doubt even she could remember – but since Kiba is the only person she’s with on a regular basis whom she likes, it was probably him.

KIBA

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1.How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger? Honestly his smile is more like a grimace 99% of the time. Rare genuine smiles are reserved for Tsuki. Strangers and allies alike get glares.

  1. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction? The cruelest thing is yet to come.
  2. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction? Tsuki once told him he was the most important person in her life, which – whether he realized it or not – set a goal in his life, to continue being that person.

4.What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting? THAT’S FOR HIM TO KNOW AND YOU TO FIND OUT (but not here)

5.What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading? ‘The Book of Five Rings,’ by Musashi. He told Tsuki to read it, but upon reading it she discovered Kiba quoted it often enough that she already knew it.

6.Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react? He has been seriously injured multiple times, but he’s not one to stay down. He reacts with common sense, goes to the hospital, recovers, and gets back to work.

7.Do they like and get along with their neighbours? …No.

8.On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with? Oh, he’s a solid 8 on a good day.

9.If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go? He’d be happy to live in Wales. In a forest. And be a hermit. Except he won’t, because he has responsibilities (coughTsukicough) and she wouldn’t accompany him.

10.Who was the last person they held hands with? Tsuki. They were climbing over a wall. It wasn’t exactly hand-holding in a ‘sweet’ sense, but they aren’t really a ‘sweet’ team.

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//the paper coronation

A few years ago, I took a break from writing darker, grittier novels. Instead I sat down and I wrote something lighter and sweeter than my usual fare – a fairytale, about a Blessed girl, a blue cat, a cranky wysling, and an enthusiastic elemental. Today, I have the incredible, surreal, and magical pleasure of letting you know that my novel, Paper Crowns, is now available!

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Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel
and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company.  Her
sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her
home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae.
Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more
than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a
loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into
the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.
 

I may have written the novel, but without some incredible people working to make it happen, it would still be a document sitting in a folder on my desktop.

  • First and always foremost, God gave me a brain to think with and fingers to write with. I owe him everything.
  • To my family, for encouraging me every single step of the way. There are no words.
  • Lauren, for gifting me the most glorious cover art Paper Crowns could ever have had. It’s so much better than I even dreamed it would be. I owe you forever.
  • John Howe, for allowing me to use the quotation that inspired the novel – and for helping me through the cover process.
  • (Of course) Neal Wooten (Mirror Publishing). Thank you for believing in my novel, and for putting up with this noob.
  • Arielle, for setting up the blog tour I’m about to mention and for being a consistent and blessed presence in my life, and
  • Hannah George. This novel is dedicated to you for a reason. ♥

A Paper Crowns blog tour will travel from blog to blog throughout the month of May! More information will be forthcoming – if you’d like to give Paper Crowns a spotlight on your blog or host me for an interview, discussion, or guest post, please leave a comment! You can purchase an unsigned copy from Amazon.com or pre-order a signed copy by shooting me an email at the-shieldmaiden[at]Hotmail[dot]com!

Thank you all so much for your support. I could never have done this without you.

 

//Beautiful People: Valentine’s Edition 2.

HOTTER

(Haka + Otter, The Dying of the Light)

  1. How did they first meet? What were their first impressions of each other? They first met when Lieutenant Takuan put an advertisement in the paper, letting people know the Precinct needed someone ‘good with animals.’ Otter was delighted to discover the ‘animals’ were Mutts, genetically mutated monsters used to track and take down criminals and fugitives. She was the only applicant. Otter immediately pegged Haka as incompetent, ill-mannered, and a human wreck. (She wasn’t wrong.) Haka pegged Otter as intimidating (though she be but little, she is fierce) and certifiably insane.
  2. How long have they been a couple? They aren’t technically a couple (yet. Otter is determined to change that once Haka gets his act together). However, they’ve been working together/awkwardly flirting for two years now.
  3. How committed/loyal are they to each other? Would they break up over a secret or a disagreement? Could stress drive them apart? Would they die for each other? They basically live stress. They pretend not to be loyal, and since they aren’t together (technically) they can’t (technically) be driven apart. I’m fairly sure (as is the rest of the Precinct) that Haka would claw throats out, should something happen to Otter; and Otter would, without hesitation, sic every last Mutt on anyone who attempted to seriously harm Haka.
  4. List “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!) Haka takes his coffee with copious amounts of cream and sugar, while Otter takes hers black. She also attempts to make Haka drink black coffee because it’s healthier. Because Haka is usually high on ‘stardust,’ it warps his sense of taste; hence he has a massive sweet tooth.
  5. Does anyone disapprove of their relationship? Not really. Pretty much everyone acknowledges that Otter is good for Haka and he would probably be dead without her, passed out in a trash can somewhere.
  6. What would be an ideal date? For Haka, any date without animals. For Otter, probably a roller-skating rink.
  7. What are their personality dynamics? Similar? Contrasting? Do they fight a lot or mesh perfectly? Oh, they fight a lot. Haka is very unimpressive at first glance (also the second and third glances) – lanky, wrecked, gracefully falls over every piece of furniture in sight, demanding, irritable. Otter is fierce, kindhearted, outspoken, and doesn’t really know what rules are (unless she’s the one who made them). They contrast, but they contrast in a way that highlights the best in each of them.
  8. What have been their best and worst moments together as a couple? Well, as an employee/underling, they’ve had many successful moments. As for their best and worst moments, their interactions mostly consist evenly of both.
  9. Where do they see themselves and their relationship in the next few years? Otter sees herself claiming Haka in the near-ish future. Haka sees himself claimed. (He already is, but he’s not totally aware.) This is, of course, on the back burner as far as they’re concerned – they have more important things to worry about in the meantime, like doing their jobs so they aren’t beheaded by the Prince-Regent.

 

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A portrait of the trash king himself, by the amazing CielaRose.

//Beautiful Books: The Dying of the Light

Every month Sky at Further Up and Further In hosts a questionnaire called ‘Beautiful People,’ but this month’s is a bit different, designed for NaNo preparation (although it doesn’t necessarily have to be, if you aren’t doing NaNo this year). Instead of questions about characters, it’s questions about your novel.

SCIFISAMURAI

AHEM.

  1. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I’ve had the idea floating around for a few months, ever since I watched Goemon with my friend Arielle. The movie had many flaws – horrible CGI (and way too much of it), a nonsensical character death that still really gets under my skin, and a completely tragic ending. However, I came away with a certain idea – Robin Hood, but a FUTURISTIC SAMURAI ROBIN HOOD. Because life is too short, or something like that.

  1. Why are you excited to write this novel?

I’m always excited to write the novel ideas I come up with, but I’m particularly excited for this because it has a) one of my favorite casts (some friends and I jokingly call it a futuristic AU for my historical Asian/liminal fantasy novel, The Color of Truth) b) I get to move feudal Japan into the future and c) samurai on motorcycles. Plus, it’s based on Robin Hood. I don’t think I could get much nerdier about this.

  1. What is your novel about, and what is the title?

I call it The Dying of the Light (yes, as in ‘rage, rage against’). The novel centers around Saizou, a lord who left his domain to serve his Emperor and fight in the gaijin wars. When he returns (+ one self-proclaimed bodyguard) he finds his country twisted into something unrecognizable. His domain has been given to someone else (along with Saizou’s childhood sweetheart) and oppression and injustice reign in the hands of the Emperor’s vile younger brother.

  1. Sum up your characters in one word each. Feel free to include pictures!

I’ll be honest – I have too many characters to sum up AND include pictures for. Just be assured that most of them look like jrockers with fabulous hair and too much leather.

Saizou (Robin Hood): passionate. Shi (Much): underappreciated. Tsuki (Marian): Daring. Shotgun (Little John): Impulsive. Kirikizu (Alan a’Dale): Resourceful. Hiro (Will Scarlet): Stealthy. Matahachi (Guy of Gisbourne): Tortured. Tokugawa Mamushi (Prince John): Vile. Winter (Friar Tuck): Hardcore. Haka (The Sheriff): Complicated.

//Original Characters

Kiba: Silent. Otter: Determined. The Dog: Mistreated. Honey: Unpredictable. Riza: Clever. Virgo Zi: Free. Shima Zi: Practical. Capricorn: Sly. Ningyoo: Awesome.

  1. Which character(s) do you think will end up being your favorite? Tell us about them!

Well, that’s just nasty. I love everyone I mentioned above, with the exception of Tokugawa Mamushi (I just call him PJ for short). Honestly, just ask any of my friends – I’m horrible at picking favorites. They’re all special and important to me for different reasons – however, my friend Lauren believes that Virgo will end up being a reader favorite. We’ll just have to wait and see. (She’s already claimed Winter as her husband, anyway.)

  1. What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in his way?

His goal is to regain his domain and free the girl he loves. He doesn’t plan on rescuing Japan – that’s Shi’s idea. (Most things are.) Everything is against them – the ruler, the law, the general climate, the weather. Everything stands in their way.

  1. Where is your novel set?

It’s mainly set in futuristic Tokyo, Japan, around the year 2300. It’s going to be a fun mixture of old-fashioned feudal Japan (think late 1800’s) and the future, where androids work at bars and samurai carry laser-swords.

  1. What is the most important relationship your main character has?

Usually, people think of Robin and Marian as the most important central relationship, but if I’m totally honest, it’s actually Saizou and Shi rather than Saizou and Tsuki. Saizou would be dead if not for Shi, and Shi has saved Saizou’s life more times than Saizou would prefer to count. Shi is a steady voice of reason and a more loyal friend than Saizou usually deserves. Without him, there would be no novel.

  1. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

While I want to keep most of the character development a surprise – that’s what reading is for – I will say that by the end, Saizou is not the same man we found at the beginning. (What? That’s it? Yeah, I’m sorry. But not really.)

  1. What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

Justice, loyalty, honor, love, relationships, and good versus evil are all strong themes for this novel (and themes I plan on mining to their full potential, if I can do such a thing in a month). I want readers to finish the novel feeling broken, pieced back together, and satisfied – but that’s what I want for every novel. Honestly, I’ll be thrilled if The Dying of the Light is as good as This Curious Madness (my JuNo).

NaNoWriMo BONUS: Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.

  • Carry a notebook with you and write down every single idea you get. If you don’t have a notebook, use a paper napkin. If you don’t have a paper napkin, use your hand. Even if you lose it (the napkin or notebook, not your hand) the act of writing it down helps solidify it in your mind, making you less likely to forget it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for word wars. I wouldn’t have finished my JuNo without them. Even if you aren’t good at word wars (I have two friends who are absolute queens of word-warring) the competition and exchange of results is both fun and encouraging.
  • As always, don’t completely abandon the life around you. Make sure you stick your head out of your room/office/wherever-you-are for a breath of fresh air every few days. Also, showering and eating come highly recommended. However, it’s okay to skip out on things – if you over-stress during NaNo, your writing will suffer.

Oh, yeah – by the way, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. Sixth year in a row (+ a JuNo)! I can’t wait. It’s going to be the best one yet – I feel it in my bones.