//TDOTL; the end + snippets

For reasons I will divulge at the end of the month, I have a bit of ‘free’ non-intensive writing time on my hands right now. (I’ll pick the intensive writing back up on Monday.) As such, I have some time to write up a blog post to let you know that, after exactly a year, in an intensive three-day rush wherein I wrote 17,000 words, I successfully finished The Dying of the Light on October 31. And subsequently spent the next six hours either crying or staring blindly into space. I wish I was kidding.

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Shimo from TDOTL by CielaRose on DeviantArt.com/aka Lauren

At 550 pages and 167, 770 words is, by far, the longest, most intensive project I’ve ever worked on, and my favorite. Every novel I write has a large part of my soul wrapped up inside it, but The Dying of the Light has more than the others. It was the novel where I finally found my groove, where I fell head-over-heels for everyone, where I was able to address issues that are extremely important to me (loyalty, honor, personal/physical abuse, abuse of power, friendship, integrity, old-fashioned good vs. evil) and do it with a futuristic samurai Robin Hood.

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Shotgun (TDOTL) also by Lauren [I keep all of these pictures. I take them out and stroke them and call them Precious]
 I’m relieved that I’m not through with the series. I can’t imagine ever being done with this world and these characters, and so I prefer not to think about the day that happens. I have many other projects waiting in the wings, and they’ll get their own time. For now I have another world and other characters to focus on – but a small part of me can’t wait to get back to my Japanese gang, and see what happens in the month between novels.


“Why?”

“He’s rather talkative, given his age,” said the Prince-Regent, watching Alucard with attentiveness bordering on predatory. “And he reads?”

“Backwards, like I said,” said the doctor. “And yes, he speaks. He catches onto things distressingly fast.”

“Excellent,” said the Prince-Regent.

“Yes, well, that’s a matter of opinion,” said Dr. Sleimann.


The Prince-Regent smiled. “No harm will come to Alucard today. You have my word of honor.”

Oscar grimaced. “I’d rather just have your word, plain and simple.”


Shi raised a hand and walked down the hall, nodding Tsuki as he passed her. They paused briefly and exchanged a few words before continuing on their ways.

Saizou cleared his throat. “What was that about?”

“What was what about?”

“You and Shi.”

“Oh, that. He told me to go easy on you.”

“He did not,” said Saizou.

“‘You can punch him if you want to, but don’t punch him too hard,’ were his exact words. Take that as you will.”


“Sorry.” Kirikizu shrugged. “You have to obey me. He,” and here he pointed at the Dog, “is to make sure you don’t kill anyone.”

“Don’t need watchers,” spat Alucard.

“Your behavior indicates otherwise.”

The Dog made a coarse, heaving sound somewhere between a laugh and an indignant huff.

Alucard grinned suddenly, putting all his small, sharp teeth on display. “Kill him,” he said simply. “Kill you. No watchers.” He made a small, flitting hand gesture as if to say problem solved.

            Kirikizu was beginning to feel that when Oscar had called Alucard ‘a handful,’ he was being distressingly moderate.


Matahachi stood in front of the cracked, dusty glass, looking very much out of place, like a piece of fine jewelry dropped in a gutter by accident.


“We weren’t born friends, you know,” said Shi.

“I know. I think it started that night, though.”

“It did,” said Shi. “It took a while for me to believe you weren’t a complete basket case.”

“That came later,” Saizou agreed.


He looked over his shoulder and saw his twin walking down the hall. He moved stiffly, and his face remained too gray to look healthy, but he smiled and spoke briefly with the middle-aged nurse who stopped to say something to him. She patted his cheek like a fond mother and continued on her way, and when Shimo reached the front desk, Virgo put a hand on his hip and said, “Nice. Get adopted again?”

“I get adopted a lot,” said Shimo, giving another weak, but geniuine, smile to the orderly behind the desk. “You ready to go?”

Virgo clicked his tongue. “I honestly don’t know why anybody bothers adopting you. Every time they see you you’re injured somehow. Reckless. And you look horrible. Do I look that bad when I get injured?”

“Worse,” Shimo affirmed.


“Right,” said Fumiyo. She tugged the neck of her sweater. “I guess I’m staying, too.”

“Even though I’m here?” teased Shotgun.

She shot him a glare.

“I think it’s more like ‘in spite of you,'” said Shi.

Fumiyo nodded vigorously, and Shotgun clutched his heart. “Ow. Right in the bowl of feelios.”

“What?” asked Shi.

“What?” asked Shotgun.


Shinya bowed toward the customer, who did not look up. “How can I help you?”

“Weapons,” said the man. “Where are they?”

Shinya eyed the man critically. “What kind of weapon?”

“Swords,” said the man. “Two of them.”

“You should know, man. I can’t sell a blade over thirty inches. Still,” he continued, not wanting to let a sale slip through his fingers, “I have a nice selection of wakizashis and tanto—”

The man looked up. “Swords,” he repeated, his sapphire eyes threatening to pierce right through Shinya to the wall behind him. “Two of them. Daito. Straight blades with fukura-tsuku points. Tempered line has a hitatsura pattern. No menuki in the hilt. You forged them, you should remember them.”


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//snippets of 90% sarcasm

But do I really post anything other than sarcastic snippets? Ever?

During my semi-hiatus, I was busy writing. I hadn’t realized it until I hit 140k in The Dying of the Light yesterday and it hit me – oh. Little by little, I HAVE been writing. Huh. [Remember the running joke I mentioned a few months ago where every 10k that gets added to the novel, I see if the gang is together? Eh…they’re still not together. The gang is basically a conspiracy theory at this point working on it, however. Ever closer. And yes – the goal is still to finish this novel before NaNoWriMo.] That being said, it’s been a while since I’ve posted any snippets, and I hope you enjoy.

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He entered the area again with caution, crouching on one knee and drawing his knife from his belt. He inserted the knife into the ground and lifted the blade. It struck nothing but dirt; he placed his knee where the knife had been and once again inserted the blade into the ground. Slowly, foot by foot, he made a clear path toward the Captain.

Tsuchigumo did not speak to him until he was within ten feet of him. Then, in a near-growl, he asked, “Do you think you can disobey my order just because I can’t move?”

Shi straightened and saluted. “Yes, Captain.”


Short notice,” was his only remark as he tucked the knives into the front of his belt and looked at Mustang. “Distraction ready?”

Mustang’s half-smile was tired but set. “I do a pretty mean howler monkey imitation.”

Shi grinned. “I guess beggars can’t be choosers.”

Mustang raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a better idea?”

“Even if I did, I probably wouldn’t tell you. I’m looking forward to your method.”


The cries from the mercenaries were muffled; Shi’s left ear was pressed against Tsuchigumo’s back, his arm covering his other, but one thing he knew – the mine hadn’t exploded.

“Don’t tell me you were standing on a dud the whole time just to be dramatic, Captain,” he muttered, glancing over his shoulder. A warning gunshot rang out, and he heard the bullet hiss over his head.

“Well,” grunted Tsuchigumo, “not intentionally.”


There was nothing behind him except the open door, and the turned again, moving his finger to the trigger.

“The acoustics in here,” the female voice continued, “are perfect for yodeling.”


“Give me your gun.”

“And why would I do that?”

“So I can see if three bullets are missing from the magazine.”

Hiro turned away from her, tucking the gun back in his belt. “They’re in the locker room.”

“The bullets?”

“The fugitives.”

“You didn’t shoot them?”

“No, Riza, I didn’t shoot them.”

Silence stretched long and thin. Then Riza said, “I honestly thought you would have.”


The red scales on Hiro’s paper-white skin blurred together in Saizou’s vision, spilling off Hiro’s body, dripping into the floor. The red swallowed everything whole.


“You’re in a good mood,” said Saizou offhandedly, attempting to collect his thoughts, to find something that made sense, something worth saying.

“Not dying usually puts me in a good mood.”


“You think I don’t know you hated me when I first took command?”

“Hate’s a strong word, captain.”

“Are you saying you didn’t?”

A brief half-smile curved Shi’s mouth. “No. It wasn’t just me, though, give the rest of the men some credit. We all hated you.”


Shi nudged his shoulder. “So are you going to get an eye patch like the Prince-Regent’s poisoner?”

Saizou snorted. “Not likely.”

“Matching’s hardly a cardinal sin. Maybe you can spark a trend.”

“I want to spark a rebellion, not a trend.”

Shi eyed Saizou gravely. “Captain,” he said without a trace of humor, “you should embroider that on a pillow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

//the dying of the light – update + snippets

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

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

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

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SNIPPETS

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

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


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

They also brought out the weakness.

It was almost cruel, an irony like that.


“Follow them.”

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Fine. Just tell me where it is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s funny because it’s true.”


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

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

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

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

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

“What poison did you give him?”

One-Eye frowned. “Poison?”

“The Dog.”

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

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

 


“Your ruler is asking you a question.”

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

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

“I’ve heard it,” said Saizou.

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

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

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

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

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

//heroes and novel hearts

Yesterday I was chatting with Lauren about The Dying of the Light (NaNo ’15-JuNo ’16). I’d recently made a loose chart with three categories: white, grey, and black. Then I listed each character in one of the categories, with arrows pointing to other categories, indicating if they changed from antagonist to protagonist, or protagonist to antagonist. There were quite a few people in the ‘white’ area, but quite a few people in the ‘grey’ as well. And yet, there were a bunch of arrows drifting from ‘grey’ to ‘white.’ (I recognize nobody is purely good or purely bad, but this chart was for simplification + plotting purposes.)

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saizou. he’s really trying, guys.

 

I pondered the chart while I wrote the next chapter. Lauren jokingly remarked how every character in the book was currently ticked at Saizou (the main character) for various reasons, even though he’s trying extremely hard to do the right thing as he knows it. Then she mentioned Hiro (the Will Scarlet character) and how he’s still technically in the ‘grey’ area, although he becomes one of The Gang later on.

I said, “You know one of the things that really annoys me is the whole ‘maybe there are no good guys’ mindset that’s so prevalent in tv shows and books and whatever and it’s just NOT TRUE and I want to write this book as kind of the ANTI-that.”

Lauren responded, “It gives people hope. I mean what’s this gang going to consist of? A couple of PTSD veterans with blood on their hands and scars on their hearts, an explosive kid who’s tough to hide his loneliness, an abused assassin, a mafia boss, an ex-mercenary seeking redemption…these aren’t heroes. They’re a mess. But they become the heroes and that’s what’s so hopeful about it.”

I thought about it, and was suddenly struck with the realization she’d hit the nail on the head. I’ve had the plot structure and themes in my head the entire time, but Lauren dug up the heart of the novel and held it up so I could see it. It’s what the entire novel is about – and, in fact, it’s the bent most of my novels have taken over the last year.

We need broken, flawed characters who make mistakes, who get kicked down and stand back up, as many times as it takes. Heroes who are interesting and conflicted and who wonder if it’s worth it. Heroes who continue to fight for what they believe in.

The Last Legion, a fantastic historical retelling of King Arthur, ends with this line –

“We need heroes, don’t we?”

And what I hope for my novels is that they answer yes. Yes, we do.