//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.”

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//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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//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.

//one does not simply enter NaNo unprepared

Accceso cover

This is going to be my sixth year doing NaNo, and I’ve helped nudge quite a few victims – er, friends – into doing it with me, for the first time. This is great. Except I’m expected to give veteran advice. I did this last year, but I’ve decided the ‘Nano Newbies Preparation List’ – or the NNPL – needs an update.

• Rope yourself a NaNo buddy! Someone you can encourage and who can encourage you, someone you can share stuff with, get excited with, and get competitive with (THIS year, Kyla. This year, I’m whippin’ your hiny). Don’t have a buddy? I’d love to hear about your novel and keep you spurred on during November! You can find me HERE.

• Chris Baty, a founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a novel for NaNoers called “No Plot, No Problem.” I have read the book. It’s highly entertaining and even a little bit helpful and entirely misleading. I have discovered that, to have a really successful November, you do need a plot. You don’t have the time to plot while you’re writing, so you need to have your road mapped out and your destination in mind, even if you don’t know the detours you’re going to take. Which leads to…

• Keep a notebook. A fresh, large, attractive notebook and a good pen. I do this every year – and during November, I fill it. I fill it with descriptions, cast listings, quotes, scenes, playlists, reminders, scenes, sketches – it’s like being inside my novel’s brain. Take it with you wherever you go. Write everything down before you forget it. Brainstorm.

• You’re going to need caffeine, I promise you. My coffee + tea consumption skyrockets during November. I drink three times as much as I eat, as I frequently forget to eat but remember to stay awake and finish just this one chapter….

• Create an iTunes playlist, or a Pandora playlist, or a YouTube playlist…write down all the songs that fit your novel, put them in your notebook, and then compile them digitally. My iTunes playlists are invaluable all year ’round, not just during November. Lyrics and tunes keep me inspired and remind me of the mood I want my novel to keep. This year, with Acceso, the mood is ‘sweet grunge,’ like a pink dress with a leather jacket and combat boots. So my playlist involves a lot of Skillet and Ellie Goulding.

• Fingerless gloves. Even if you live in the South, like I do, your hands will get cold because, if you’re typing, your arms are going to be at an angle that discourages blood circulation. Remember to stand up and do a few jumping jacks, or stretch, or jog up and down the stairs with that fourteenth cup of coffee – but fingerless gloves are invaluable. I have my eye on this pair from Etsy…I’m just pointing this out. If someone wanted to get these for me, I wouldn’t object. In fact, I’d probably adopt them. Onward.

• If you’re doing NaNo, I can guarantee that you’re going to turn into a recluse. You won’t want to go anywhere because you’re writing. You won’t want to see anyone because you’re writing. I suggest leaving your writing place once a week, just to refresh your memory as to what the outdoors looks like. Take a lungful of crisp air. Go back inside, and repeat the week after.

• It’s so easy to be self-centered during NaNo, because it’s just you and your novel and your feelings. Every once in a while, make your way out of your room. Play a game with someone. Eat a meal with your family. If they poke you to make sure you’re still breathing, let them live.

• Read something. Watch stuff. Just because you’re writing a certain genre doesn’t mean you don’t need your mind expanded – in fact, just the opposite. Keep new ideas coming.

• Shower. Brush your teeth. Personal hygiene is important.

• Don’t nitpick your manuscript. If you wake up at four in the morning (assuming you went to bed) thinking, “Oh my word, I need to remove X and totally rewrite the plot!!” – don’t. Wait. This is the first draft. You’re putting sand in the sandbox so you can later make a castle.

Are you looking forward to the looming month? Because I am.

of leg warmers and nano

IMG_1076It’s the first day of October. I always find that more monumental than the first day of autumn, usually, because things don’t really start to feel autumnal until October. Even the word ‘October’ sounds crisp and cold and orange, like a pumpkin or apple cider or the crunch of leaves under your feet. Do you see what I’m wearing here? Leg warmers. That’s because a) the date and b) it’s not supposed to get over 67 today (so says accuweather. Dad says it may surpass 84 degrees but if it does, I’m staying inside where there’s air conditioning, so it doesn’t really change anything).

Also, today marks one month until the start of NaNoWriMo. This will be my sixth year, and I have my notebook prepared and full of scribbles. Every time my mom or sister sees the word ‘NaNo’ they give a kind of shriek and go into mourning because during the month of November I hibernate. I turn on iTunes, put on fingerless gloves (yet to be acquired this year…they have a habit of unraveling from hard use) and slippers, and write with brief stops for caffeine and sleep. I get far more caffeine than I do sleep.

I know I’ve been a bit absent from the blog this last week and a half (or so) and I’m sorry – but I haven’t had anything to write about. My life has looked something like this –

– wake up

– coffee, family Bible study, breakfast (if I remember breakfast)

– retreat downstairs to make myself look pretty (yes, it’s important to look good even if you aren’t going anywhere)

– turn on something Marvel – Agents of Shield, a comic-con panel, the Winter Soldier, etc. – and work on art commissions

– spend half the time forgetting to draw and laughing

– spend some more time crying

– finish the drawing, maybe write 500 words in something

– eat dinner. shower. sleep.

– did I remember to eat lunch?

And now I’m going to have to find room to plot for NaNo. What about you? Are you doing NaNo? Is this your first year, or are you a veteran? What are you writing?

Happy autumn!