(No FCM this week. I wanted to finish up a post I started writing several years ago instead.)
Earthquakes are similar to first kisses in many ways. There’s that moment of uncertainty that starts it all off where you think something’s going to happen. Something exciting and frightening, but you’re not quite sure what. Nervousness works its way into your toes and slithers up your legs, sapping the strength from them. You’re afraid you’re going to fall.
Sometimes you do.
Last time on FCM, we read about a girl made of living flame. This week there’s fire involved, as well, of a different sort. Fire in the form of fiery main character Hiruko Jones who’s having a really bad night watching her kid sister.
THE NINE SINS OF HIRUKO JONES is another one of those books that only has a single chapter in existence. I’ve got a pretty good idea of where this one is going and how it’s all going to end, but at the time I started writing it I’d also started work on SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SHADOW and the ninja girls won my heart. I may revisit this one later, though.
This book is a little bit Labyrinth, a little bit Dante’s Inferno. The titular character goes on a journey through a version of the afterlife that resembles Dante’s Hell mixed with the Japanese land of the dead to find her sister, and face nine of her own terrible sins along the way. Instead of Virgil, she’s escorted by the spirit of her favorite visual kei singer. Think David Bowie in epic makeup, with a wholly sarcastic, smart-ass attitude. See the above photo for a prime example.
Someday I’ll finish Hiruko’s story. It definitely still has its hooks in me, even rereading this sole chapter after a few years. Enjoy this peek into my tortured mind with the first chapter of THE NINE SINS OF HIRUKO JONES.
Last week, FCM focused on water. This week, we turn to fire.
EVEREMBERED is a book that has sung its siren song to me for quite some time. It’s a fantasy about a girl made of living flame, the last of her kind in a world where the sun is rapidly dying out. I’ve outlined most of it–there’s still some connective tissue that’s unknown and I’ll figure out what it is when I get to it. I often find writing is more like archaeology than invention. An author doesn’t so much fabricate a story as uncover it. I often learn my characters aren’t exactly who I thought they were, and that sort of delightful surprise is what I live for as a writer.
Aside from that outline, there’s just this one chapter. It will change, as all first chapters do, but I think it’s worthy to stand beside the first chapters of more complete novels I’ve scribed. In fact, just rereading it tonight as I prepare to post it, I’m longing to revisit this world once more and unlock the rest of its secrets…
It’s still Monday somewhere. I promise.
A grueling gauntlet of cross-country travel delayed this post a bit. Four flights in barely 48 hours takes a lot out of someone.
Last week was full of grit and darkness, and this week’s first chapter isn’t much brighter. But where last week was grimdark fantasy, this week is a contemporary love story. A PETAL OF CHRYSANTHEMUM (are you seeing a pattern with flowers?) is a novel I wrote quite a few years ago, when I first started kicking the dust off of the keyboard and diving back into this writing thing that I’d pursued with such reckless abandon while in college. It takes place amidst the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. With a wife hailing from Japan, I’ve got quite a few emotional connections to that country, and the tsunami really hit me hard. I clearly remember not being able to work for several days as I stared in awe at photograph after photograph of a land that nature had all but erased. A land that on multiple levels I’ve fallen in love with over the years.
I put this book aside for a while to pursue writing middle grade fantasy for kids (and there’s some of that coming in future weeks!) but recently I’ve returned to it and started making edits. As with the other entries in this series, this is not a fully polished novel yet. It’s just a snapshot of a book that’s been through several revision passes and is currently undergoing some subtle (and even not-so-subtle) edits to see if I can really make it sing.
I originally drafted this novel in 2011-2012, shortly after relocating to Seattle, when my family was temporarily living overseas. I think that feeling of isolation bled into this one somewhat subconsciously. It’s fun going back and reading all these things I wrote, and thinking through what I was feeling and doing at the time. Each novel I write is a mirror into the state of my soul at the time. I only hope the subsequent edits don’t tarnish the reflection.
Without further ado, the opening chapter of A PETAL OF CHRYSANTHEMUM.
Publishing is a long and winding road. It’s easy for me to get lost in the “find an agent–sell a book” loop and forget about the actual writing sometimes. Which is funny, because the writing–the storytelling–is the reason I’m doing all of this in the first place.
Over the years since I’ve been brandishing words, I’ve accumulated a significant chunk of first chapters. Many of them start books that make it all the way to “THE END,” while others never make it past “CHAPTER TWO.”
I thought it may be a fun idea–and honestly a bit of catharsis–to start digging through those old manuscripts and posting the first chapters. They’re not all nice and clean. They’re not all finished books. Not a one of them has been in a published tome to-date, and for some of them that may never change. But I think there’s some value in going back through the stratified layers of my writing archive and casting some of it out to the wild, unwashed masses. (I’m not judging–I didn’t shower until about noon today myself.)
I’m not really posting these in any order. And as you’ll discover soon enough I run the gamut from grimdark fantasy to contemporary love stories to adventure books for kids. It’s all a bit scattershot, but I think there’s something at the core of each of them that’s the type of story I like to tell.
I’m going to open up with the grittiest. Let’s just rip this bandage off so we can move on to brighter things next week, shall we?
A TALE OF JADE AND CHRYSANTHEMUM is a book that’s complete, and has gone through one revision pass. It could use a few line edits I’m sure. It’s a gritty fantasy about a teenage girl monster hunter in a barren kingdom where women–all women–are slaves. She’s heard rumors about an empire in the north that’s ruled by a woman, however, and as you can imagine eventually those two collide. It’s grim. It’s gruesome. It doesn’t really pull any punches and some of it can be hard to read. But this was me in the fall of 2013 and so here we go.
This many. For historical fiction, at least.
And that’s not counting the vast array of internet resources I had at my disposal or the copious amount of time I lived in, worked in, and traveled around Japan.
An island nation torn apart by warring houses, each vying for control of the throne. House O occupies the capital. An old friend of House O, the lord of House T from the north, turns on O and marches to remove him from the throne. On the cusp of victory, the lord of House T is mysteriously assassinated. Following a succession of betrayals and illnesses, T’s fourth son takes over the house. His poor leadership skills and inability to rally his house leads to its total dissolution, as internal factions split off to support neighboring houses. The House of T, long the ruler of the north and favored lord to win the game of thrones fades into the mists of time.