//The Dying of the Light: Update + Snippets. A Lot of Snippets.

kirikizu2

My OC Kirikizu, drawn by the incredible-amazing-fantastic Lauren, aka CielaRose on DeviantArt.

Usually, I’m an obsessive NaNo poster. I post every few days with updates – snippets, character biographies, what-have-you. This year, though, I seem to have abandoned the ‘obsessive poster’ persona for ‘completely absent blogger’ persona. I’m getting a lot done – I’ve passed 32,000 words (which is pretty modest compared to some of my friends who have already passed 50,000 like the superhumans they are) and the novel is still behaving. It makes me suspicious. I’ve realized that I probably won’t be able to complete the novel this month – if I kept writing like it was NaNo for another month, maybe. In one month? Probably not, but at least I knew when I undertook this novel that it wasn’t going to be small. Ah, well – it’s a good thing I love it.

[In other news, my mom and baby sister are in Oregon this week for my niece Seleia’s 13th birthday. Also, potato nachos are my new favorite food.]

ONWARD TO SNIPPETS

“If we can’t take temporary transportation, we’ll have to buy some.”

Shi squinted at him. “With what money, exactly?”

Saizou clapped his friend on the shoulder. “With the money in my bank account.”

“Oh,” said Shi dryly. “I forgot. You’re independently wealthy.”


The front door opened again and the second guard stepped out ahead of a man Saizou had never seen before. He was a tall, slender and pale-faced, with delicate features and a distinctive edge in his eyes that warned Saizou not to judge him by his appearance. His wavy, shoulder-length hair was pulled back to the nape of his neck, and his eyes went from Saizou to Shi and back again with lengthy deliberation before he said, “So you’re Saizou Akita?”


Shi stepped forward, but Saizou held up a hand, stopping the imminent attack. “The last time I looked, health had nothing to do with whether a Lord had control of his daimyo. What kind of lame trick is this?”

Matahachi gave Saizou another slight, insincere smile and held up a hand. “The last time you looked was five years ago. Enough things change in the blink of an eye, and you expect things to stay the same for five years?” A breathy, one-syllable laugh pressed against his lips. “It’s only a formality. I wouldn’t worry.”


Tsuki – the Tsuki he remembered – was warm and alive, a bonfire around which people gathered as naturally as moths drew to a flame. The woman in front of him held none of that warmth. It was like looking at a portrait drawn by a different artist than the one he recalled – the same person, but rendered so differently that, after the initial recognition, they had almost nothing discernible in common.


“Saizou, you recall my bodyguard, Kiba?” Tsuki clarified, and suddenly Saizou remembered catching scattered glimpses of the man years ago, before. In the days when Tsuki would coax him to run across the hills and watch the miners carting gold from the yawning open cave-mouths. In the days when Tsuki would convince Saizou to take her into Tokyo, where they would spend the day throwing coins in fountains for good luck and sampling kebabs and fried pastries from vendors lined along the streets.

The Shadow. That was the name he had called the silent figure, never in the foreground; but always there. Saizou had not thought of him in years, and he was surprised to see the man still serving the same purpose.


“There’s more to him than he lets on.” Saizou watched the doorway Matahachi had disappeared through. “But I’m not sure whether he’s a deliberate enemy or a circumstantial one.”


Saizou allowed himself to smile, and nodded toward the wide bed. “Looks like we’re doubling up.”

“Only because you don’t want to sleep on the floor,” said Shi.


Tsuki shrugged one shoulder. “Not exactly, but there are guesses. He has assassins and bodyguards and a personal army.”

“The men haven’t been conscripted?”

“No. Those who serve the Prince-Regent are exempt from entering the Emperor’s service. It makes it easy to find people willing to flock to his side.”

“Nobody wants to leave their friends and family behind to fight someone else’s war in another country.”


Lord Saizou Akita, you are hereby called to the Palace of the Sun at high noon. You will appeal for Akita Domain directly to Prince-Regent Mamushi, who will personally oversee your case and make a fair and wise decision regarding the ownership of said domain. Failure to respond to this summons will result in the automatic forfeit of Akita domain. Hail the Sun.

             Saizou sat on the edge of the bed, reading and re-reading the note until Shi plucked it from his grasp so he could read it. After a moment, Shi said in a dramatic voice, “You’ve been summoned.”


“I don’t have anything formal,” Saizou said. “I’m assuming Matahachi put my belongings in storage, if he didn’t burn them on a bad day.”

“I guessed as much,” said Shi, and flung a long, leather Nehru jacket at Saizou. “Wear that. At least it’s in better shape than the clothes you have.”

Saizou turned the jacket around and held it up to himself. “You seem to have forgotten the fact I’m five-foot-eleven.”

Shi glanced up, his eyes narrowing. “And?”

“You’re five-foot-seven.”

Shi folded his arms and leveled a challenging stare at Saizou. “It will fit you. If you don’t like the fact it doesn’t reach your feet, deal with it. The arms are long enough.”

“If I wear this, what will you wear?”

“Don’t be such a woman, Saizou. They won’t be looking at me, and if they do, it’s not like they ever look beyond my face anyway.”

Tsuki’s voice came over the intercom with a single word – “Breakfast.”

“Speaking of women,” said Saizou.

Shi blinked at the intercom. “Don’t tell her what I said.”


No songs rang from the mines, although he could hear the faint, metallic ringing of work floating over the crisp breeze. Black smoke rose from chimneys, mingling with dust from the mines, and smudged the storm-swollen clouds above, turning everything into a grim, bleary haze.


Saizou blew out a deep breath and whispered back, “Try to relax. Remember, we also have brains and diplomacy on our side.”

“No,” grunted Shi, “I have brains and diplomacy. You only have me.”


The other figure stood on the Prince-Regent’s right, tall and slender, with his hands folded in front of him and his head tilted to the side. While not as strange a creature as the dog-man, he was a curiosity, if only for the thing fitted around the lower half of his face. It looked like a cross between a gas mask and a muzzle; a sleek, elegant thing still somehow barbaric when attached to a human’s face. He wore a split skirt over close-fitting leggings and boots, and a sleeveless jacket that went high up his neck was cropped high enough to show several inches of lean, hard stomach. His detachable sleeves were openly carriers for knives; a long, thin blade decorated each of his forearms, and even more circled the sash around his waist.


The men turned to see their motorcycles tearing across the courtyard toward them, riderless.

“That’s weird,” said Shi. “I have the keys.”


“If there was no panic,” the man continued, his unblinking gaze still focused on the bartender – whose name, apparently, was Honey, “then why did you push it? It is called a ‘panic’ button because it is intended for times of panic, not mild concern.”

“Kai,” said Honey, putting the glass she had gotten out for Saizou back where it belonged, “when have you ever know me to panic?”

“Never, and that is why your decision to install a ‘panic’ button still confuses me.”

“All right, then we’ll change the name and call it a ‘mild concern’ button. Does that help?”

“It does make more sense, yes,” said Kai.


. “What should I do with this man?” He indicated Saizou with his free hand.

“I think he has a friend bleeding out in the bathroom,” said Honey, leaning her elbows on the counter. “I’m going to go help. You guard the door.”

“I always guard the door,” said Kai. “It’s my job.”

“I don’t mean guard it like a bouncer. I mean guard it like someone who’s preventing the Shinsengumi from entering the place. Keep people from coming in instead of throwing them out.”

Kai gave Saizou a curious look before releasing his arm. “Yes, Honey.”


“The Prince-Regent says forty-eight hours is the most you have. He would prefer Lord Akita and Shi Matsumoto to be caught before then, if possible.”

Haka rolled his eyes. “Yes, well,” he began, but cut himself off. “Of course. The Prince-Regent should see them both in prison before tomorrow evening.”

“Don’t roll your eyes,” said Kirikizu in flat tones.

Haka’s eyes widened and he pulled the telephone away from his ear to give it a startled look before putting it back. “I would never do such a thing. Also, how did you know I did?”

“I heard it,” said the assassin, and hung up, a click signaling the end of the call.


A man stood on the other side of the broken bridge. Saizou could not make out the expression he wore, but his stance was angled and his head lowered, still and observing; a heron standing in the shallows, waiting for a fish to swim near.


Those in the cages were not human at all; but mutts – mutant animals, created to the Prince-Regent’s requested specifications. Large, hulking beasts with grotesque muscles, twisted features, and six legs maximum strength and speed; some with switch-like tails, some with three or four eyes, and all disgusting, in Haka’s personal opinion.

They were dangerous, too, of course; ruled by the growl in their stomachs more than the brains in their thick skulls, and it took someone with a special touch to oversee them, much less control them. Haka knew of only one person who had the ability to make them listen, and by all appearances, she was unlikely.

“Otter,” Haka bellowed, reaching the bottom of the stairs and stopping where the cages and cells began. He disliked walking between them – mutts on one side, sometimes humans on the other. He shuddered. “Otter!”

“Shhh!” The fierce hiss reached him, although it not close by. “Lower your voice, for crying out loud! No, wait, crying out loud cancels the whole ‘lower your voice’ thing. I’m in Violet’s cell.”

Haka blinked. “And that cell is?”

“The last one, commander,” the loud whisper replied, with an added “Geez.”


“Do whatever you do to get them ready.”

“You could stay and watch,” Otter offered.

Haka gave her a sharp look, noted the mischievous glint in her eyes, and leaned down until his face was just inches away from hers. “Don’t push me, Otter.”

She watched him, unblinking, for a long moment, before lifting a finger and pressing it against his chest. Then she pressed, and just as quickly tucked her hands behind her back. “Never again, commander.”


“Your tongue is yours, to form your own words, and I don’t care what those words are,” said Winter finally, “as long as they are minimal, and don’t waste my time.”

Saizou squinted, trying to feel out an appropriate response to the other man’s statement. “So…an apology is a waste of time?”

“Yes,” said Winter.


He could hear General Isao’s voice in his head as he walked; not harsh, but reprimanding nonetheless. ‘A leader who cares for his soldiers is a good leader, but a leader who cares more for his soldiers than for victory can only go so far. You will not be promoted until you learn the unfortunate lesson.’

            Saizou had bowed deeply, grinding his teeth until he thought they would turn to powder. ‘Please tell me the lesson, General.’

            He could remember the look on General Isao’s face – a sudden sharpening, a fierce light – vicious, with just a hint of regret. ‘Every victory flag is red.’


He lifted his wakizashi and watched the pale winter light glint off the fine edge. “Come out where I can see you,” he said in a loud voice. “To be honest, I’m too tired for hide-and-seek.”

A laugh split the air; loud and half-crazed. “That’s disappointing. I like games.”

Saizou frowned and tensed, lowering the wakizashi. From the stand of bamboo trees across the bridge, a tall figure emerged, his all-black clothing separating from the shadows where he had previously gone unnoticed. The man reached up and pushed his hood back, revealing a shock of wild, unnaturally red hair.

His face split in a wide, white-toothed grin and he lifted a hand, motioning with his fingers as if to say ‘come at me.’ “Who told you I was here? Was it the monk?”


The Prince-Regent turned around. His upper lip trembled, as if to form a snarl, but he smiled instead and drew closer, his hands still clasped behind his back. “Sometimes I think you are the only subject I can trust,” he said softly, standing a few feet away. “You don’t let me down. Do you? Do you let me down, when I’m not looking?”

“What do you think, Prince-Regent?”

The Prince-Regent took one long stride forward and stopped, now just inches away from the other man. They were the same height, and the Prince-Regent’s dark, bloodshot eyes were intense with scrutiny.

He released a sigh. “Kirikizu, my deadly flower, you will never betray me. Do you want to know why?” Before the other man could answer he urged, “Ask me why.”

Kirikizu breathed deeply through the muzzle and listened to the sound that left the filters; a monotone buzz. He was used to it by now, in the way a person got used to chronic pain or bad vision. “Why, Prince-Regent?”

“Because I’ve been good to you,” the other man said, a hollow smile on his face.


The doors slid open with a whisper and a girl stepped into the room – or he assumed it was a girl. Her top half was obscured by a pile of white blankets. He moved to stand up and help her before she tripped over her own feet, but one of her hands shot out and motioned for him to stay where he was.

“Do you need help?” he asked politely, watching in bemusement as she approached him and dumped the blankets beside the mat in an unceremonious heap.

“No,” she said. “I’ve got it.”

“I see that now.” Shi eyed the blankets, then the girl. She was pretty, he thought – or maybe ‘cute’ was the right term. “Nice sweater,” he added, and then mentally slapped himself. I shouldn’t be allowed to talk when I’m not fully cognitive. Who knows what I said to Saizou. I probably talked about puppies.

SHI

My OC Shi, as sketched by yours truly.

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//The Dying of the Light: Day One

At 3, 750 words exactly, I completed the first chapter of my NaNo novel, and I’m pleased to say I really, really love this novel. After the enormous amount of love I had (and still have) for my JuNoWriMo novel, This Curious Madness, a small part of me worried I wouldn’t love The Dying of the Light as much. The concern was totally unfounded – the novels are as different as night and day (aside from the fact they both have oppressive royals and weird characters) but I love them both equally. Honestly, the characters really make it for me, but I also love the setting – futuristic Japan is never boring, especially when I get to do whatever I want with it.

The first chapter is focused almost entirely on Saizou (Robin Hood) and Shi (Much), but also features the first appearance of Haka (the Sheriff of Nottingham). I had a blast, and all I can pray is that the rest of the month goes this well.

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Blood rained from the black sky. The storm swelled around him – but the sky was clear, the blackening sky set on fire by the rays of a setting sun. It was not a storm caused by rain or wind; it was a storm where the lightning of exploding bombs flashed before the thunder, a chorus of hoarse, terrified screams.

[WHY YES THIS IS MY MOST VIOLENT BEGINNING TO A BOOK EVER WHY DO YOU ASK]

“Do you want to sit up?” asked Shi. He had shifted his stance, and now the lights flashing across the ceiling of the train car slid across his face in shades of orange and green and white. The colors caressed his mutilated visage, highlighting the open, black nasal passage and the thick, angry scars that twisted the center of his face. His mane of silver-blond hair had come undone and his amber eyes were groggy. He looked like more like a half-awake ghoul than anything else.


            The train rocked on its tracks and Saizou gripped the edge of the bed with both hands as Shi shifted with the movement, unflappable.

“Or,” said Shi, “you could lie back down,” and Saizou realized he had forgotten to answer the question.

“I’ll sit.” He straightened under his companion’s watchful gaze. “I don’t need help.”

“Heh,” was the grunted response.


Saizou rubbed his face with both hands. Blood. Hot. Sticky. In his eyes, in his mouth. He opened his eyes again. No blood. He nodded toward Shi, forcing a smile. “You need it.”

“Yes,” said Shi. “I do. What with you talking my ears off all day about your precious daimyo.”

The thought you can’t afford to lose those, too, came to Saizou, but he kept the thought from becoming words.

His silence did not seem to matter; Shi caught the unspoken joke and said flatly, “It’s too soon.”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Saizou defensively.

“You thought it. That’s enough.”


He placed the mask across his face and buckled it around the back of his head. It was an unusual mask; hardened black leather studded with silver grommets, formed to Shi’s forehead and cheekbones, and it closed across the center of his face. It left his mouth and eyes perfectly visible, but it covered his disfiguration.


Saizou nodded, gazing at the waiting passengers. He counted nine people, not including the two manning the service desk. He caught the eye of a young girl, holding her mother’s hand, and stared at her.

Her eyes were wide in her round face, and she did not smile, but she lifted a tentative hand in what might almost have been a wave.

Her mother sensed the movement and glanced down, then followed her daughter’s line of sight. When she saw Saizou, she smiled – but the smile froze and faded as quickly as it had come. She tugged her daughter’s hand and walked quickly to the other side of the platform, near the exit door.


War meant hard times. It meant an increase in unemployment, which meant more homeless victims, which meant more beggars. It meant closed stores and hungry people and increased prices. It was expected, really, by the time they reached the bus stop, Saizou was beginning to wonder if this was really the same city.

“Nice city,” was Shi’s only remark as they stood at the stop.

Saizou shook his head. “War takes a toll on everything. Once the war’s over you’ll see what it was like. It will make a comeback. It always does.”

“That’s what they said about Sakamoto Hisaishi,” said Shi. “Until one day he didn’t.”

“A boxer and a city aren’t the same thing,” said Saizou, adjusting the pack strap cutting into his shoulder. “Be quiet.”


“Do you know who I am?” the officer asked, looking Saizou up and down. He stepped to the side, as if he had been pushed, then straightened.

“A law officer,” said Shi blandly.

The man’s lip curled and he lifted the katana off his shoulder, pointing the blade at Shi. “Commander Haka. You should know who I am.”

“We’ve been informed now,” said Saizou, taking a step closer to Shi, who was eyeing the officer’s blade with complete passivity.


“I like it.”

The man on Haka’s right stepped forward, his hand on the hilt of his katana. “Use respect when you speak to the commander,” he hissed.

“I’ll use respect toward those worthy of it,” said Shi evenly, but his eyes were narrowed, and he had adopted a stubborn stance.


One of the bystanders near the sidewalk, a man of forty-five or fifty years, mumbled, “Doesn’t seem right, taking weapons away from soldiers who have been fighting for us.”

Commander Haka did not turn around, but his eyes and grin widened dangerous.

Saizou and Shi glanced at each other, then at the speaker. Commander Haka lifted his katana again, but after allowing it to point toward the sky for a moment, he slid it into its scabbard and turned, flicking a hand toward his fellow officers.

As he walked past the outspoken bystander, he lashed out with his elbow, slamming it into the man’s face and sending him staggering into the street.


Saizou watched Commander Haka disappear around the corner, flanked by his officers. “How did someone like that become Commander?”

“You tell me,” said Shi. “It’s your city.”

//meet the menagerie

The Dying of the Light

Justice, loyalty, betrayal, and insane fashion.

This morning was #thatawkwardmomentwhen you roll out of bed, take your first sip of coffee, and realize NaNo is in three days. Not only is NaNo in three days, but there are large gaps in your plot, the middle is saggy, and you haven’t properly introduced your characters to your blog readers yet. This is a drastic shame, since this is not only one of my favorite casts, but also (definitely) my weirdest-looking one as well. Seeing as how much of the cast is composed of Jrock members (and not just the normal kind, we’re talking the insane visual kei, makes-David-Bowie-look-unimaginative kind), I’ve decided that apparently in futuristic, feudal Japan every samurai has his or her own stylist.

(Not really. But considering the hair and clothing I’m granting these people, it would make sense. Either that, or they’re anime characters in novel format, which I am also okay with.)

Since I almost always post exclusively about NaNo during the month of November (it’s what happens when you undertake something all-consuming each year, I’m sorry) I thought it a good idea to make character introductions so you at least have a vague, slippery idea of who’s who.

I’ll be introducing the characters top to bottom, left to right (I almost said ‘left to write.’ My friend Eli did that this morning, too. Real-life foreshadowing, people) with brief bios that I hope are helpful. Although I have the feeling they might just confuse everyone further. Oh, well.

TDODLcast

Saizou (Robin Hood)

Saizou has a strong sense of justice and a kind heart. Haunted by the war, he is thoughtful, with a random sense of humor and severe PTSD. 33 years old.

Tsuki (Marian)

Proud and high-born, Tsuki will act enthusiastically on her beliefs, no matter the danger. She tends to get wrapped up in her own endeavors and forgets those around her. With the help of her bodyguard, Kiba, she works against the oppressive system. 23 years old.

Kiba

Assigned to protect Marian when she was three and he was twenty, he has lived the better half of his life attempting to keep her alive and relatively safe. He has a grim sense of humor and a realistic outlook. 40 years old.

Matahachi (Guy of Gisbourne)

His father and family were dishonored when he was a child. He has risen through the ranks, and his entire focus is to bring honor back to his family. He does the wrong things for what could be considered the right reason. Polite, focused, and restrained. 31 years old.

Shi, sometimes called Deaths-Head (Much)

Disfigured in the war when he saved Saizou’s life, he is Saizou’s self-proclaimed bodyguard, and the under-appreciated voice of reason. Patient and clever, he’s the glue that holds the outlaws together. 30 years old.

Haka (The Sheriff of Nottingham)

The head of the Tokyo Shinsengumi (police force), he is addicted to hoshihokori (‘stardust’), a powerful opiate. Unhinged, paranoid, ruthless, and maybe not actually as bad as he seems, he proves to be a huge nuisance for Saizou and the outlaws. 35 years old.

Kirikizu, sometimes called the Broken Siren (Alan a’Dale)

An assassin for Prince-Regent Mamushi, he wears an elaborate custom-made muzzle that filters his voice into robotic tones. The sound of his real voice kills those who hear it. Expressive and soft-spoken. 26 years old.

Honey

A bartender-slash-mechanic, she’s trying to live without drawing attention to herself, as gaijin (foreigners) are unwelcome in the current climate. She has a brotp with the cyborg she put together, and she may or may not have a thing for Kirikizu. 23 years old.

Shotgun (Little John)

Known for winning a ten-against-one fight with a shotgun (which he never fired), Shotgun is an outspoken troublemaker who speaks before he thinks. Kindhearted but not overly brainy, much of his life is spent trying to fix the messes he accidentally creates. 29 years old.

Winter (Friar Tuck)

A former mercenary turned hardcore priest, Winter is unsociable and usually in a bad mood. He is fiercely protective of those he loves and tries to do the right thing, even if it kills him. He has CIP, rendering him unable to feel pain. 37 years old.

Hiro (Will Scarlet)

An albino whose condition caused him to be ostracized and experimented on as a child (futuristic Japan is extremely superstitious, in case you wondered), he tries to live as quietly as possible and stay out of everyone’s way. He has perfected the art of stealth and blending in, but is also quite deadly. 34 years old.

Riza

A technological genius and lunatic asylum escapee, she has been a havoc-wreaking outlaw long before Saizou and the others band together. She pretends to believe in aliens to watch their reactions. 25 years old.

Sweater Girl

I literally know nothing about her yet except she isn’t fond of technology, and she’s one of the rare people who actually listens to Shi. Also, she’s adorable. 22 years old.

Virgo, sometimes called the Raptor

A bounty hunter with more issues than Vogue, he was born with a rare eye disease rendering his pupils brilliant blue and giving him the ability to see clearly in the dark. He should be kept on a leash at all times. He loves his younger twin brother more than life. 30 years old.

Alucard, also known as the Creepy Goth Germophobe

A Frankensteinian assassin created by the royal family, he believes he has a higher calling – and that higher calling happens to be killing those he’s ordered to kill. He has a two-headed hound, and he refuses to touch anything alive with his bare skin, believing it would ‘taint’ him. Delusional and elegant. 2 months old, give or take a few weeks.

Shimo, sometimes called the Bloodhound

Virgo’s younger twin brother, he was born with an unnaturally keen sense of smell. Practical, sensible, and constantly trying to keep a check on his brother’s outrageous behavior, he would like to live quietly once they’ve made enough money to settle down somewhere peacefully. He has a dormant disease he is unaware of. 30 years old.

Prince Regent Mamushi (Prince John)

The Emperor’s loathsome, scheming younger brother. He’s unspeakably horrid and I hate him a lot. Also, he rides a mechanical dragon. 36 years old.

The Dog

A pitiful but dangerous figure, the Dog is a man raised as an animal in the royal court. He dislikes Haka greatly. The feeling is mutual. 29 years old.

Not Pictured Because There Wasn’t Enough Room

Otter

The chief mutt (mutant animal) handler who reports to Haka. She is tiny and fierce and quite brilliant. 22 years old.

Kai Ningyu

The cybernetic bouncer-slash-jack-of-all-trades who works at Honey’s bar. He’s very useful and unintentionally sarcastic. 30-odd years old.

I TOLD YOU THIS CAST WAS WEIRD.

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//October snippets + a small announcement

After a brief period during which I drew more than I wrote, I managed to get some actual writing done between flurries of editing, watching James Patterson’s MasterClass, and plotting NaNoWriMo ’15. I realized I hadn’t posted any snippets I about a month, and felt they were overdue.

TODAY

my weekend

He was no longer the scrawny, lanky boy in the cage. Now she understood the rumors, the reason behind the muttered curses and far-flung tales of bewitchment and devilry. The boy had become a tall, graceful man who no longer hid the tell-tale eye. His long, oily hair hung in his face, but did not obscure the frost-colored iris and hard, black pupil. His gaze never seemed to settle; it probed and roamed, seeking out weaknesses, chinks in the armor of everyone it saw.

His face was still gaunt, his cheekbones and eyes haunted by shadows, but he wore a permanent half-smile like everyone he saw was a private joke, and he the only one who understood it. This was not necessarily what unsettled her – it was the hungry air about him. He was a starving wolf in deep winter, and anything was prey, waiting to be taken down and ripped to pieces.

• The Color of Truth

The door opens and in the mirror’s reflection I see Ice take one step into the room. I take one look at his boots, jeans, sweater, and scarf before scoffing, “You look like a bag lady.”

“Wow.” He scowls at me. “Fine, maybe I won’t give it to you.”

I sigh again and begin to massage the foundation into my skin. “Give me what? Spit it out or leave. I see enough of you as it is, don’t I?”

He walks up and sets something down by the pot of charcoal-colored eyeshadow. “You left it at Theo’s, you moron.”

• Acceso

“I asked you.” There was an edge to his voice; faint but clear. “Tell me?”

He posed it like a question, but Angelica felt that refusing to answer would be a pointless endangerment of her person. “Darling. Angelica Darling. That’s my name, whatever it means to you.”

“Angelica Darling.” He said her name like it was both a poison and a balm; like a prisoner savoring a deadly last meal. “You know of Wendy Darling?”

• Never, Never

“Hey, ‘Kizu, this room is for employees only. What are you…hey.” Honey’s voice softened as she crossed the room in four quick strides and crouched in front of him. “You okay?”

Kirikizu sighed. Company. Perfect. He nodded. “It was too loud out there.”

Her mouth tilted. “I swear I’m never going to get used to that.”

He drew his eyebrows together. “Get used to what?”

“That monotone voice of yours.”

He sighed again. “My voice isn’t monotone. The filter in the muzzle-”

“I know, I know.” She nudged his right hand. “I work with an android who sounds like a human all day, and then I get you, the human who sounds like a robot.”

• The Dying of the Light

Odd-Eyes started out of his daydream so violently Matoko may as well have thrown a rock at him. His pale eye seemed wider than the dark one, but both took her in with an intense dislike and he hissed, drawing back like a disgruntled hunting-cat.

The unexpected reaction slowed Matoko’s steps. “Hissing isn’t polite,” she told him, torn between amusement and offense. The offense faded quickly as she remembered the way he looked in the cage, defenseless and humiliated. He did not look much better now; dripping wet, his breath creating clouds in the cold air.

• The Color of Truth

She could hear the sneer in his voice as he said, “Your great-grandmother had more life in her and by the look of you, she probably still does.”

“She’s dead.”

“Just so.”

Angelica closed her eyes so she could roll them without him seeing. She opened them again and said, “I think it’s probably wise not to ask you too many questions.”

“Yes,” said Pan thoughtfully. “Yes,” he continued, a gloating tone in his voice, “perhaps you are cleverer than I thought.”

• Never, Never

She grinned. “You’re interesting tonight. Well,” she continued, cocking her head to one side again, “you’re always interesting.”

He gazed down at her, his own curiosity piqued for reasons he couldn’t explain. “Am I?”

“Oh, very. You have mystery down to an art.”

“I don’t mean to.”

She laughed quietly. “I don’t think you can help it. It follows you around like a lost puppy. Which is funny, when you think about it. A lost puppy following another lost puppy.”

• The Dying of the Light

“Well, who is this?”

Bisu straightened and twisted around in the same motion, drawing a knife from the sheath around his ankle. He remembered the Shogun’s words. Do not make yourself known. Do not kill anyone. He had already disobeyed the first order. He lowered the knife.

Of all people to have discovered him, it had to be the flowery one.

Kiro smiled. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Thinking you could sneak about here, of all places-” He gasped. “What happened to your poor face?”

From below, Oboro called, “Kiro? Who is it?”

The concern left Kiro’s face and he smiled again; a slippery curve of his mouth below keen eyes. “It seems a palace rat found his way to our barracks! How shall I dispose of him?”

“Palace rat?” Oboro’s voice was laced with disgust as her footsteps sounded on the stairs, closely followed by several other pairs.  “Which one?”

“I don’t know,” Kiro answered. “He must have trouble smiling. It seems he attempted to cut one for himself, but…” The Sword cocked his head to one side, studying the scar that ran from the left corner of Bisu’s mouth up to his cheekbone. “It seems he didn’t finish.”

• The Color of Truth

“I can read you now, girlie.”

“Really?” Tsuki began to arrange the money into piles. “I don’t suppose you’d read me aloud to myself.”

• The Dying of the Light

There’s a reason I want to see Leila. It’s the same reason why I hate it when I do see her. Her wide-eyed naiveté and near-tangible warmth are everything I’m not, and remind me of what I am – broken, tired, and cold. Seeing her is like ripping a Band-Aid off tender skin – painful, but I think, maybe it’s a good pain.

• Acceso

He did not step into the light; rather he strode around the edge, circling Angelica and coming to a stop behind her. He was close now; she could feel his presence pressing against her back like breath on her neck. Her skin prickled with uncomfortable awareness, waiting.

• Never, Never

She was a ward of the Emperor, engaged to a Daimyo, and in love with another man entirely.

He was merely her protection.

Overworked and underpaid protection, he thought with a stifled sigh as he un-crossed his arms and shifted his stance.

Tsuki pushed her chair back with the toe of her boot and crossed over to Kiba’s corner. “Another win,” she said, presenting the money. “Congratulate me.”

“I’d feel more congratulatory if I was surprised,” he replied. “As it is, routine doesn’t surprise me.”

“Heavens, Kiba.” She clicked her tongue. “What’s the matter? Are you bored?”

“Boredom would be a nice change.”

• The Dying of the Light

And oH, yeah…Paper Crowns is getting published.

So there’s that.

//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.