//well, it didn’t go according to plan (but it definitely went)

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JuNoWriMo is over, leaving my current WIP (The Dying of the Light) at 122, 753 words as of this morning. I had plans to reach 50,000 in the third week and spend the fourth week actually finishing the novel so that once July came I could wholly focus on my upcoming fantasy, but life had other plans and I came down with a bad case of the flu instead. I won JuNo by the skin of my teeth; squeaking past the finish line with a few hundred words to spare by the end of June 30th.

It’s been a running joke since the first 50,000 words or so – every ten thousand words I would say, ’60k and the gang still isn’t together,’ or ’70k and the gang still isn’t together.’ By 100k people were actually checking on the gang, and by 120k people were saying, “I guess I shouldn’t ask.”

“It’s a Robin Hood retelling,” I hissed through gritted teeth as I wrote. “The gang has to get together.” Until, with reluctance, I grudgingly accepted the fact: this is not one novel, but a series. The first book had to be the story of how the gang got together, rather than their exploits afterwards.

That decided, the rest began to flow surprisingly well (by which I mean everything in the novel is falling apart) leading up to the end of The Dying of the Light.

The current plan is to complete Book 1 this week or the next and let it cool while I finish plotting As the Sun Pierces the Night (ASPN, for short), and in August I’ll begin writing that. Once I finish that (whenever that is) I’ll go back to the Robin Hood series (which now needs a series name, which means I need to spend several hours wracking my brain for something that suits) and then write Book #2.

I estimate book one will finish at roughly 130,000 words, but I’m very bad at estimating anything to do with my own novels, so you didn’t hear it from me.


 

            “If you have the power to save someone’s life and you withhold that power, it’s the same as killing them.” Winter shook his head gently. Quietly, almost under his breath, he added, “Although if you’re right, I suppose that makes you the better man. I would have severed his head.”


Takuan sighed, as if realizing that his upcoming action would give him the appearance of a three-year-old. He pointed into the office and said, “One of your samurai is cleaning out the office in an extremely careless manner.”

            Nobunaga strode forward and turned to gaze into the office. “Eguchi.”

            He did not raise his voice to speak the word, but the samurai snapped to attention and turned, bowing from the waist. “Commander.”

            “Please vacate the office. Lieutenant Takuan will see to clearing out the office. Please vacate the space and allow him to work.”

            Takuan unleashed a relieved breath. “Thank you, Commander.”

            Nobunaga faced Takuan and nodded a fraction of an inch. “Have it ready in twenty minutes,” he said, before turning and ducking out the front door.

            “Well,” said Takuan after a moment, as the samurai stalked past him without so much as a glance, “at least the new commander is reasonable.”

            Haka gave Takuan a dark look. “You just volunteered yourself for cleaning duty.”


            For a moment, Nix was silent, his eyes darting left and right as if reading his response as he mentally wrote it. Then he said brightly, “Oh, well, I suppose we’ll have to kill him.”

            “Grab anything you want to take,” said Tsuki, opening the cabinet over the two-burner stove.

            “Am I to take that as a yes, we are indeed killing him, or a no, we can’t do that?”

            “The latter. Do you have anything but ramen?”


After ten seconds that seemed more like minutes, she saw Saizou – but it was not the view she expected. He wasn’t ducking through some alley – he was running across a rooftop, with Tsuki and Kiba close behind him.

            Riza shook her head. “You found a shortcut through the shortcut,” she said aloud, removing the last ball of gum from the bowl on the desk. “Nice work, but I hope you realize that just made my work harder. I don’t appreciate that. You’re a stinker.”


            Creature crouched down, his white lab coat stained a deep, brilliant red. He was soaked in blood again – his face, his hair, his hands. He was horrifying.

            “I’ve already given you one bath today,” Oscar groaned. He turned to the Prince-Regent and demanded, “What was the point of that? What was the bloody point?”

            The Prince-Regent was not looking at him; he was fixated on Creature, with an almost feverish light in his eyes. “He’s perfect.” He blinked once, twice, and said with a bit more realism, “Or he will be, once he’s matured.”

            “Matured? He has the brain of a five-year-old, I might remind you – if he grows perfectly, and I mean perfectly, with no hitches whatsoever, he might behave like a fifteen-year-old within a year. He might. To catch up to a thirty-year-old body? That’s going to take some time.”

            The Prince-Regent tucked a strand of hair behind his ear and said coolly, “You have two weeks.”

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//the dying of the light – update + snippets

We’re nine days into JuNoWriMo, and I should have a total of 25,000 words to show for it by the end of today. It’s been a harder – but strangely more productive – JuNo than the last one, mainly thanks to several weeks of bad sleep. I don’t know if the classic portrait of the Author is true, and sleepless nights + irritable moods = literary genius (or at the very least, increased productivity) but if so, I may have to condemn the idea of a classic Author and find a different route.

Anyway, to everyone out there also in the throes of JuNoWriMo, here are your friendly reminders to stay inspired (my inspirations this month include re-watching my favorite kdrama, Liar Game), get outside every now and then (wherever you can, honestly; I laid out in the sun for five minutes while my coffee made this morning), and take frequent breaks (I bought a new compact sketchbook I’m in love with, and I’m currently in the middle of sketching Baekhyun from EXO’s new ‘Monster’ music video in my free minutes).

YOU’VE GOT THIS. Even if you don’t like what you’ve written (me, yesterday) or you have the sudden urge to revamp everything from page one onward, just wait. Write your 50,000 words, and then worry about revising or scrapping it. It’s not necessarily about the product, but about the invaluable act of doing the thing. You can do it. I believe in you.

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SNIPPETS

One-Eye’s breathing grew heavier, either from fear or the pressure of Saizou’s fingers digging into his throat. “If I tell you where it is, the Prince-Regent will kill me.”

“If you don’t tell me where it is, I will kill you. Giving it to me might buy you five more minutes.”


Some people had others they would die for. That, he thought, was something special. Something precious, even, or so it seemed. People could endure incredible amounts of pain when someone they loved was on the line. Loved ones brought out the hero in people.

They also brought out the weakness.

It was almost cruel, an irony like that.


“Follow them.”

“We’re bounty hunters, not bodyguards,” said Virgo firmly. “You want us to follow and watch from a distance, you pay for the time.”

“Fine,” said the voice, clipped and icy. “Just do as I say. You’ll be compensated, you have my word.”

“We’re not talking coins here. We’re talking five thousand yen to keep up this spy nonsense.”

“I’m well aware of your monetary needs and I’m fully willing to meet them. Even if you do overcharge,” said the voice. There was another click as the client hung up.


There were eight of them in the task force – Captain Akita, Lieutenant Shota, and six soldiers with no official rank. If they were caught, they had no serial number, they had nothing to identify their position. They could be anyone, and they could die as no-one.


            “Less than a week since your…frankly spectacular exit from these very walls,” said Kirikizu. His voice was almost idly curious, but not quite. There was too much calculation behind his tone. He was attempting to mask the true depths of his interest. “And yet here you are. Again. For what?”

Saizou tested his voice. A faint sound scratched free, and he twisted the sound into the only weak rebuttal he could think of. “Your mother.”

The Prince-Regent’s Hand chuckled then, deep and bemused. “That’s the best you could come up with?”

Saizou shut his eyes again, weary with the effort of keeping them open. Then he nodded; a faint gesture, only once. It took less effort than he anticipated. That was something.


The blue light of Hiro’s computer screen flickered, and the speaker switched on unbidden. “How’s my favorite reptile?” asked Riza.

“How’s the safe house coming?” Hiro retorted, removing the pen from his mouth.

“I found the perfect location. It should be wonderfully safe for a few days, at least.”

“Fine. Just tell me where it is.”

“Like I’m that sloppy. I’ll guide you there.”

Hiro snorted. “After all we’ve been through.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know who I am, and I’m certainly not affiliated with you in any way.”

“Right,” said Hiro blandly. “I forgot.” He clicked the pen against his knee and tossed it onto the desk. “Will the safe house be ready tonight?”

“Oh, I’m afraid we’re going to have to tweak the schedule.”

Hiro straightened, his eyes narrowing at the screen. “I’m sorry,” he said politely. “But please repeat that.”

“Just a minor change, nothing big,” said Riza coolly. “You’re going to have to move the packages this morning, not tonight.”

Hiro glanced at the door across the room, and lowered his voice. “Hilarious.”

“It’s funny because it’s true.”


Kirikizu strode away from the house. He saw One-Eye exiting the infirmary, a bandage wrapped around his throat.

“You,” Kirikizu called, changing his trajectory and heading toward the poisoner instead.

“What do you want?” One-Eye asked, sullen, as Kirikizu approached.

“The Prince-Regent wants to know how the Dog is faring.”

One-Eye shrugged, but the way he pressed his lips together told Kirikizu he was more concerned for the Dog than he let on. “He’ll live. He’s taken a few beatings this week.”

“What poison did you give him?”

One-Eye frowned. “Poison?”

“The Dog.”

“First of all, it isn’t poison,” One-Eye snipped. “It’s venom. Secondly, don’t say ‘I gave it to him’ like I tried to kill him. Building up an immunity is a long and difficult process, and do you realize what a breakthrough it is to make a living subject venomous without killing them?”

“Answer the question before I finish strangling you myself.”

 


“Your ruler is asking you a question.”

“My ruler,” said Saizou softly, “is spearheading an army in China to keep us safe while his baby brother destroys the nation he left behind like an angry child throwing a fit.”

Slowly, the Prince-Regent exhaled and leaned back, his palms pressed flat to the smooth stone floor. “‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ An English historian, Lord Acton, said that in the nineteenth century.”

“I’ve heard it,” said Saizou.

“Then perhaps you’ve heard another saying of his.” The Prince-Regent closed his eyes and in a silken, almost shuddering voice, said, “‘Great men are almost always bad men.'” He opened his eyes again and gazed, unblinking, at Saizou. “Greatness and goodness don’t need to walk hand in hand. History rarely remembers the deeds of good men. However, it holds corrupt men with great power up to the light and watches them shine. Every mass slaughter in history is romanticized. Cruel leaders are hailed as geniuses.”

“That’s how you want history to remember you?” Saizou loathed meeting the Prince-Regent’s gaze, but he kept it, unwavering. “A grim reaper with a diamond scythe?”

A distant look entered the Prince-Regent’s eyes. “‘The greatest names are coupled with the greatest crimes’. Another lesson from Lord Acton.”

“I learned about Lord Acton in grade school,” said Saizou. “He wasn’t just a historian, he was a moralist. He condemned the great, cruel men you prize so greatly.”

“Nobody’s perfect.” The Prince-Regent shrugged one bare shoulder.

//and it’s right around the corner

Tomorrow marks the first day of June. It also marks the beginning of my ninth ‘Writing Month.’ (Once NaNo rolls around, I’ll feel respectable. Ten is a good number to have tucked in your belt.) That being said, this is the first time that I’m continuing my NaNo novel (The Dying of the Light) into June. It’s currently sitting open at 73, 609 words, which means I’ve only had time for roughly 20,000 words since December. I’ve been busy and haven’t had the mental energy or the time to give it the attention it deserves, so I decided to shove other projects aside and add a minimum of 50,000 words to the manuscript during June. It’s going to be an exciting month and I’m jazzed – here’s to buckling down and doing what we love.

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“I know you can’t feel physical pain.”

Kirikizu’s muffled, buzzing voice cut through Winter’s haze.

His mouth and throat felt dry and rough, as if a sandstorm had swept through. He could not remember taking a breath through the last half hour. He lifted his eyes to the Emperor’s Hand as the other man said, “Fortunately, your baby brother can.”


Riza might be asleep. Any sane person would be.

He placed the cuff around his ear. “You’d better be there.”

Silence.

He flicked the cuff with two fingers. “This isn’t Shotgun, this is Saizou. Wake up.”

“Isn’t there a fugitive curfew?” Riza’s voice came through the speaker, loud and clear. “Don’t you people have bedtimes?”

“You don’t seem to.”


“You have a real gratitude problem, you know that?”

“Tell me where the Dog is.”

Riza’s loud sigh nearly deafened him.  “Fine,” she said. “See that building toward the back left corner? You should have a clear line of sight from where you’re standing.”

Saizou was hardly surprised that Riza’s ear cuff doubled as a tracking device. “I see it.”

“That’s the dog-house.”

“Are you positive?”

“I repeat my gratitude remark, but I’m going to give you a warning anyway – that’s also the Royal Poisoner’s home.”

Saizou tried to wrap his head around the idea of a Royal Poisoner. The concept was simple enough, but the fact the Prince-Regent blatantly employed one without hiding it – that was startling. “The Poisoner keeps the Dog in his house?”

“Lots of people have pets, dear.”

“Most pets aren’t human beings.”


It would be locked, he thought, and it was – but locks were of little consequence. He switched the reizaa-naginata on and cut through the wood, searing the lock away from the rest of the door. Lasers, as it turned out, were very effective lock-picks.


Immediately the snake darted forward, a warning strike so close Saizou felt the brush of its tongue.

“I wouldn’t move, if I were you,” said a calm voice. “Nor would I speak. She’s very sensitive to strangers.”

Saizou dared not move his head, but he glanced out the corner of his eye and saw a young man shut the partition door behind him and stand, his hands in his pockets. A patch circled his head and covered one eye, a morbid accessory for someone so young.

This must be One-Eye.

The young man smiled. “You must be Saizou Akita. I had the feeling you’d come back when I saw pieces of your accomplice stuck in the Dog’s teeth.”


//JuNoWriMo is finally over!!/How is JuNoWriMo over already??

The Scene

I’m writing furiously to finish up This Curious Madness before JuNoWriMo ends. I am also discussing finer points of the novel with one of my favorite women on the planet, Arielle.

Time

Roughly 35 Hours Ago

Me: ARI

Arielle: ??

Me: I JUST REALIZED SOMETHING. THIS IS THE FIRST BOOK I’VE WRITTEN IN YEARS WHERE I ADORE BOTH MALE LEADS – AND NEITHER OF THEM ARE SNARKY. NEITHER OF THEM. WHAT EVEN.

Arielle: *sits back and thinks about that for a second*

Arielle: Whoa.

Arielle: WHOAAAA.

Arielle: THEY AREN’T.

Arielle: WHOAAA.

Me: I KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND HOW WEIRD THIS IS.

Arielle: And I love them, too….and THAT’S A SHOCK. Because I LOVE snark. And yes, IT IS VERY WEIRD.

Arielle: All the snark in this book comes from secondary characters…

Me: The MINOR characters are snarky, but the main ones aren’t and THIS IS STRANGE AND FEELS LIKE A NEW POINT IN MY LIFE AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING.

Arielle: There isn’t even that much snark in it compared to the Salvation series.

Me: BUT I HAVEN’T /MISSED/ IT. Because the book still HAS snark. BUT IT’S MY LEAST-SNARKY BOOK AND IT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITES.

Arielle: IT MEANS YOU’RE GROWING AS A WRITER.

Me: I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW. I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WOULDN’T ENJOY THE MAIN CHARACTERS IF THEY WEREN’T SNARKY BUT IT HAPPENED WITHOUT MY NOTICING.

End Scene

Of course the scene didn’t really end there; we talked for probably another half hour before I had to leave and really put all my focus on writing; but the conversation startled me in the best way. Every time I do a Novel Writing Month, I learn a multitude of new things. I learn what to do and what not to do; I learn from the flaws of a quickly-written first draft, I see what needs to be improved, and I see where my strengths lie. This was the first month, however, where the strength of my novel hasn’t been in the witty banter or sarcastic remarks…and it was really freaking exciting. (And bizarre.)

The ability to write wit, sarcasm and snark has been one of my main writing strengths. Unfortunately, like any strength, it can be too strong – and frequently does. I’ve always felt that a character with no snark is one that I can’t possibly give my heart to when I write – and yet, I did it over and over in This Curious Madness. The Hatter has a soft sense of humor, but is a pretty serious guy. The White Rabbit has no discernible sense of humor at all (I’m sure he will in the sequel, but he hasn’t really had much reason to own a sense of humor thus far). Alice has wit, but she doesn’t really realize it – and the wit is mostly contained in her ‘Notes to Self.’ The sarcastic characters are secondary ones – Dee and Dum and the Cheshire Cat.

The funny thing? It works really well. This is by far my most successful Novel Writing Month product. Granted, it needs roughly 40,000 more words (It only has about 64,000, although I don’t feel bad about it – that’s still 14,000 words over the minimum) to be a complete novel, but it has everything I tried for. It has characters I adore, a plotline I adore, a FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER who pretty much stole my heart, two competing ships that both break my heart, a bittersweet ending, and loads of color and creepiness. It’s exactly what I wanted from JuNoWriMo, and more.

But I can’t get over the lack of snark. This is probably the biggest stepping stone my writing has taken in two years – and was excellent preparation for the novels I’m plotting/attempting to finish. I’M SO READY.

I’ve had numerous people ask me, “How does it feel to be done with JuNo?” and the answer is:

I have mixed feelings. I’m content – this was my best Novel Writing Month ever. I’m dissatisfied, because This Curious Madness needs a lot of work. I’m free to work on art commissions, to plot and write in various things, to give focus to Storyseller University, a month-long program by Kevin Kaiser (the first time I’ve had school in years! If all school was like this, I’d enjoy it all). I’ve been able to watch some KDrama episodes. I’ve been able to talk with friends. I have my life back, and I’ve learned some invaluable lessons (and don’t tell anyone, but I signed up for Camp NaNo this month with the goal to write 20,000 words – although I’m probably splitting those words between Acceso, Kenna, and No Dark Disguise).

Did you do JuNoWriMo? How did it go? Did you learn anything? Give me details, people!  *grabby hands*

//malice in the palace, or, EVEN MORE wonderland!

I’m not going to bother giving much of an introduction to this post. JuNoWriMo has been a blast, and I’ve been motivated by the fact that I’m not sure I’ll actually have it wrapped up in time to write ‘the end’ at midnight on June 30th. If the end of the month arrives and I’m not finished with the novel, I’ll drown my sorrows in – you guessed it – the coffee I’ll be able to have again! (Not that I’ve missed it.) For those of you doing JuNoWriMo – I hope you’re having as much fun as I am! More power to you!

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Yet the truth of the matter remained – the Jabberwock could find anything or anyone, and if knowledge was power, than the Jabberwock was the most powerful figure in Wonderland.//

“You need to stay where I can see you,” he said over his shoulder as she jogged up next to him for the third time. “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”

“What,” Alice snorted, “you don’t want to have to chase me for five yards until you catch me?”

“No,” he agreed. “I don’t.”//

“Politics, not politics. It doesn’t matter to me.” The Hatter crouched down and began to lay the cards down in front of him.

Alice recognized the pattern for Solitaire. In her group therapy visits, she’d met people obsessed with all kinds of things – eating paper, sniffing hair elastics, listening to recordings of dogs barking. The Hatter’s interest in cards did not seem to be obsessive in nature; he treated them like things he was used to and familiar with, like friends.//

Alice chewed on her lip in frustration. “Why did the Rabbit call her the Red Queen? And why’s he called a Rabbit, for Pete’s sake? He looks just as human as you do.”

“Calling the Queen that can get your head detached. Best just to call her the Queen of Hearts. And his full name is the White Rabbit, although I suppose that’s more of a title than a name.” The Hatter stretched his long arms over his head. “White because he’s a coward. Rabbit because he runs and hides.”

Alice would have guessed the ‘white’ bit was because of the hair, but what Hatter said dug under her skin like a splinter. “He didn’t act like a coward.” Twitchy, but not cowardly…although he did run away and leave me with the Hatter.

“He’s not,” said Edwin amiably. “Until things get too dangerous – he’s a runner and a hider, like I said. Fighting comes in second.”

“He was laughing when he fought.”

“Just because he’s afraid to do what he does doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy doing it,” said the Hatter.//

The treasury was dark, save for the two flickering wall sconces on either side of the Queen. She sat cross-legged on the floor with a box by her left side, the lid flipped open. It was a plain box of tusk wood, carved from the teeth of Toves in the Tulgey Woods. She held the contents in her hands, warm and fragile. She stroked it gently with the tip of her finger as though it was a cat, but it did not purr. It had no mouth. //

Beyond the field was a structure that reminded Alice of an exotic palace – or a tomb, like the Taj Mahal. The center structure rose and swelled and grew to a sharp point. It shone orange and blue in the setting sunlight, casting glimmers across the smaller roofs surrounding the main turret. Behind the palace was scattered a handful of outbuildings. Smoke drifted from each of them, the same shade of blue as the flowers the workers were methodically picking.

“What is this place?” Alice shaded her eyes from the red glow of the sun, staring in apprehension and admiration at what lay before them.

“The Chrysalis.” The Hatter pocketed his cards and began to walk through the grass. “We’ll be spending the night here.”

Chrysalis? “Is it a palace?”

He glanced back and motioned her forward again. Alice was too tired to protest; she only sped up as fast as she could and reached his side. “Something like that,” the Hatter answered, once he was satisfied with her position. “It’s owned by Shari Lankra, the Caterpillar.”

So the Caterpillar lives in the Chrysalis. Of course. Why not?//

Before the Hatter could respond, the second guard appeared, walking behind a breathtakingly beautiful woman. The gates opened as if by magic and the woman walked through, the patterned silk of her wrap-dress floating behind her. Her butterscotch skin gleamed, and her lips were the same blue Alice had noticed across the grounds. There was no jewel in the center of her forehead, Alice noticed, but glittering tattoos wound around her hands and up her arms, too intricate to fully take in with a glance. //

His head snapped up and he rose a little, moving back, suddenly wary of the tight network of branches over his head. He held his knife with the flat of the blade angled toward his wrist. It was his favorite hold; defensive, better for slashing than stabbing.

Another dark blur swept overhead, just above the first layer of branches, and the Rabbit turned, following its movement.

A disembodied voice chuckled. “Why so serious, cotton-tail?”//

“Well,” said the voice abruptly, “I’m bored now. Have fun getting infected and all that. Maybe running away would have been smarter this time – but you’re not useful for your brain, really. I’ll tell the Queen you said hello.”//

“The Queen is not known for her virtues,” said the Caterpillar, with a melodramatic sigh. “And unfortunately, patience is widely regarded as such. Will you take dinner with me?”//

Note to self: Do not ever leave your heart alone. Not even for two seconds. Keep a solid eye on it.//