//it’s like in the great stories

lotr20-20the20return20of20the20king20191“What kind of stories are your favorite?” my friend David asked me.

I began to try and scramble up an answer, but since I have favorite stories in almost every genre, I told him I could name my favorite story elements, ubiquitous to all genres – and then we decided it would make a good blog post, and he was willing to wait. So here we are, and onward!

  • Humor. Anyone who knows me probably isn’t surprised that this is first on my list. I adore humor. While I can read a humorless novel and occasionally enjoy it (although to be honest, I can’t currently think of a time that happened) humor is to me what salt is to food. Without it, most stories feel a little bland, a little less colorful. Examples of novels with fantastic humor: Anything by Terry Pratchett, The Graveyard Boy by Neil Gaiman, The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, Tolkien’s Middle-Earth novels, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, anything by Diana Wynne Jones, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, and the Tawny Man series by Robin Hobb. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.)
  • Romance. I’m not saying every story needs romance, but be real – everyone loves a good romance. The unique relationship, the drama, the sexual tension, the self-sacrifice, the tough choices, etc… While it’s hard to find a well-written romance plot (I’m not a fan of ‘romance novels,’ but I’m a huge fan of romance IN novels) it’s usually worth the wait. Some examples include The Silmarillion by Tolkien, anything by Jane Austen, the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke, the Stormdancer trilogy by Jay Kristoff, The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters, and most Sarah Addison Allen novels.
  • Love. And I’m not just talking about romance here; I’m talking about sisterly love, brotherly love, familial love, friendly love – all kinds of love that many novels seem to forget exist. We seem to have separated ‘love’ and’ like’ as if the twain shall never meet in most novels (particularly the YA genre) but this is a mistake that I love to see remedied. Good examples are the Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip, Blink by Ted Dekker, anything by Stephen Lawhead, the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke, and anything by Tolkien.
  • Character interactions. This might seem like a big, fat ‘duh’ statement, but I’ve read so many books where character interactions lacked a) depth b) fun and c) depth. (Depth is important.) Simply having characters say ‘hi’ to each other, or revel in the occasional banter, is not enough. Think of the person you’re closest to, and how you both interact. It’s probably full of humor, insults, deep conversations, and comfort, right? Not just some snippy remark about how someone takes their coffee (although that might be in there somewhere.) Novels with good character interactions are Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
  • Beautiful prose. Who doesn’t love rich, vivid descriptions and wording that sets fires in your imagination, placing you directly in the center of the unfolding tale? I know I sure do – maybe it’s because my style has never been particularly lush in the vivid description department, but I adore reading it either way. (There is, obviously, such a thing as ‘overdoing it’ but that’s a different subject.) My favorite examples are The Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia McKillip, Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag, anything by Alison Croggon, Dandelion Summer by Ray Bradbury, the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke (it’s about time to re-read these, wow), Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa.
  • Deep, complex themes. It’s easier to find these themes in Kdramas, honestly (examples: Liar Game, White Christmas, Hello Monster, Healer, Faith, Vampire Detective); they seem to be lacking in most modern fiction. It’s much harder to think of examples for these, so I’m mostly turning to classics: Anything by Tolkien, anything by C. S. Lewis, The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton, and Beowulf. Modern examples include most things by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti, and Madeline L’Engle. (I told you this was hard.)

My other favorite elements are the ‘fantastic’ (i.e. fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, etc.), danger (what’s a good novel without a little – or a lot of – danger?), subtle writing (as in, writing that doesn’t hit you over the head with a 2×4 saying ‘DO YOU SEE HOW CLEVER THAT WAS’ but rather lets you acknowledge that yes, it was clever, without help), and bittersweet endings. I’m a huge fan of bittersweet endings.

What are your favorite story elements? I’d love to know!


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


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.]


“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.


My OC Shi, as sketched by yours truly.

//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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.



//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.



  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.

//my “plotting process”

A few weeks ago, my friend Eli asked what my writing process was like. I laughed, and then realized he was serious and agreed I would. Then I told my friend Arielle, and it was her turn to laugh. It’s a well-known fact that claiming a ‘process’ is probably aggrandizing when it comes to how I write. It’s like comparing a well-built wall to a rockslide. But I promised, and even though the promise is late in being fulfilled, fulfill it I shall. Onward.



Rarely do my novels actually start with a story idea. They start with a character, and I build a story around them. I find characters more interesting than plots, for the most part, so it’s always a challenge to build a plot I find equal to my love for said character.


This is easier said than done. Usually it’s something completely vague and generic. ‘Evil so-and-so must be taken down by heroes,’ or ‘two broken people mend each other.’ The usual schtick. It morphs greatly over time, but a vague idea of a general plot is a good way to start.


This is very important to me. Even if the ending changes completely by the time the novel is over, you need to have one set so you know where to go and what to aim towards. Otherwise you’ll wander aimlessly and get lost following any plot bunny rabbit-hole that comes across your path. (Believe me. I’ve been there and I’ve done that more times than I care to count.)


• Plot four chapters ahead. I generally have an idea of what’s going to happen four chapters ahead of wherever I am. It’s a solid distance that keeps me moving forward.

• Pinterest. Sure, it’s easy to get lost wandering through the mystical PICTURES of THINGS but I refer constantly to my pinboards. It’s a great way to keep all your inspiration and help in one place.

• Keep a specific notebook and/or document for all the miscellaneous stuff pertaining to your project – I write down spur-of-the-moment ideas in notebooks, and transfer the keepers to a document for quick, easy reference.

• Listen to songs, watch movies/dramas, and read books in the same vein as whatever you’re writing for extra inspiration. (Remember that inspiration does not = plagiarism, however.)

You may have noticed that I did not go very in-depth where characters are concerned, but characterization is another process entirely and one I plan on tackling very soon. In the meantime, I hope this at least satisfied some curiosity somewhere.

Do you have a process (or at least an excuse for one)? I’d love to hear about it! Maybe I’ll steal some tricks.