We are 12 days into Camp NaNoWriMo, and I have made some pretty great strides in my goal word count and overall novel writing and structure; I can really see this little project setting itself up and taking on a life of its own. Since I have finished the first major portion of the story and taken a few days break (what is that sorcery called a break), I figure it’s time to share my excitement.
Camp NaNoWriMo Goal: 25,000 words
Current Camp Word Count: 11,426
I have yet to share my Camp NaNo project with the WordPress world, so let me introduce you to Senshi no Hana, my new original novel. The story is an epic romance spanning 1570 – 1575, based in Japan. It’s the Sengoku Jidai; samurai and daimyo rule the lands and fight wars that seem unending. The story follows two unlikely lovers, Kitagaki Hana (a bladesmith’s daughter with a distaste for war) and Akiyama Kazuhiro (a samurai trapped between honor and justice), who find one another in the worst of circumstances and create a love stronger than death.
It’s really a bad description when I know just how much is actually going into this novel; the hours upon hours of research, the plotting, the subplots, betrayals and character development. Hana and Kazuhiro will be shaped by the war in more ways than one, finding that the only truth they have is with one another; a world that does not foster love has created one stronger than all others.
In the full writing thus far I am currently at 29,434 words and have finished the prologue and the year 1571; right now I am reviewing what has been written thus far to tighten it up and correct anything I left hanging as I came to know the characters and their storylines better. I plan to use the rest of this week to review and revise 1571 before jumping head first into 1572. This year in my story is a bit messy so I need the extra review time to pinpoint the goals. The rest of the novels will be extremely fast paced following the downfall of many families and daimyo, increasing the dramatic war climate of the novel.
It’s going to be a gritty, nasty, bloody mess and I cannot wait to write it. And to think, this novel started out as a joke between some friends and I because I realized I had never seen a trashy samurai romance…. and they suggested I write it. Well, it’s no longer a trashy romance and instead is a historical novel and romance epic. Oops.
I never was good at just being surface level~
THE CAMP PROCESS
I am using the same process that made me successful in NaNoWriMo 2015; spending my mornings (when I am not working) to review what I wrote the previous day, and then my afternoons working out the next scenes. These morning sessions usually take place at Starbucks with a trusty drink (chai or green tea latte) and snack.
I am also participating in a Slack writing community which hosts regular write-ins on Wednesdays and Sundays; I usually participate on Sunday only, but it helps to keep me focused.
I also have a few members of my cabin in a KakaoTalk chatroom where we discuss our writing and give each other pointers and inspiration. This has been helpful on many levels as it increases my confidence in what I am doing and also prompts me to think critically of my own writing compared to others. It keeps me focused.
THE NEXT GOAL
Once I finish my current reread, I’ll be hopping into a relatively short year (1572) before the next big one (1573). I’m planning to write both of these without stopping to review; it would put me well over into the 2nd half of the book. I do not think I will have both done by the end of April, but I do anticipate hitting my 25k goal early in the month which is good. That means I’m doing something right because the words are flowing.
I do not feel stress in Camp like I usually do in NaNo, so I think this is going to work out much better for me. The words are not just words on a page that I get angry at afterward; I have worked through quite a few rough patches in this original draft so far, but I come out feeling achieved instead of disheartened.
The majority of the true romance is about to start and it makes me so excited!
So, what exactly is pulling me through this major drive of writing? There are so many things, but I can sum it up into a few things: the game Samurai Love Ballad PARTY, which inspired me to do research into the Sengoku period, Poets of the Fall music and this nagging character called Akiyama Kazuhiro who keeps clawing at me to be able to erase the fear of the woman he loves.
Seriously, this dude never shuts up. Now that I have found his voice he is the most vocal of all the characters. Hana is not nearly as loud as he is (probably because of how timid and reserved she is), but Kazuhiro is a world shaker without even trying and that boy is darn loud.
The two main songs that have been pushing my inspiration by Poets of the Fall are Kamikaze Love and Temple of Thought; they are very true to Kazuhiro’s position with Hana. I have also been listening to koto and shamisen music and the Shogun II game soundtrack, just to help set my mind into the mood I need to be in to write this.
A LITTLE SNIPPET
This is just the prologue, but hopefully, it draws at your curiosity for more!
Kitagaki Hana raced toward the tree line, keenly aware of the footsteps rushing down the alley behind her, the sound of steel peeling from scabbard and chinking against wrist guards. People cried out warnings, lifted children, all seeking the refuge of the main street. Hands and bodies pulled with the power of a typhoon, each trying to push the obstacle before them to the back to stall the chaos. Hana felt herself tugged behind, fingers losing their hold on her mother’s yukata and then disappearing into the void.
“Hana!” her mother’s voice was muffled, distant, searching– and then it was gone.
Terrified. It was an emotion Hana believed she felt when spying a snake near the kitchen hearth in winter, at the sight of a bee swirling about the garden plants with threat of sting. She had used the word to describe the chills that drew her out of sleep when she faced the angry jaws of a bear in her dreams.
She knew better now. Terror was none of those things; it was the raging of blood in her ears, the smell of it in the air, the promise of it screaming toward the moon. It was steel and silence and death, the urge to remain still when your body moved out of self-preservation. A sensation on the skin like the shock of cool water over a body burning with fire.
A woman beside her cried out and fell. Hana surged past the final building and broke through the flow of villagers, collapsing into the sakura grove.
The drums of war echoed behind her, shouts of men and the clanging of steel filling any break in their beat. What had been a yearly visit to her mother’s family on the edge of Kai Province had turned into a battlefield; Hojo banners had covered the unassuming border village as night blankets the day, slow and swift and before anyone realized the sunlight was gone.
“Mother?” Hana crawled beyond the trees and peaked over the street crest, arms shaking like willow branches in the wind.
Her mother did not reply and Hana felt any courage she had built seep from her knees into the soil. A dying woman screamed for her husband; a child cried for its mother and went silent. Moonlight poured over the street but the sounds were only crawling closer; Hana forced herself to her feet and drew further into the wood.
She could not go looking for her mother, not now. She could scarcely calm the slamming of her heart within her chest, force her feet forward toward the river. Whatever grace she’d carried herself with had vanished with the panic as she stumbled forward, eyes searching for the light of the docks.
“There!” a male shout. Hana took hold of a tree and swung her body around the trunk.
“Let no one escape!” a second voice.
Hana forced herself to stop, closed her eyes to focus on her breathing, willing her heart to pause long enough for the hunters to miss her. Could these men sense her fear, hear her pulse, smell her presence, like devils of flesh? They shouted signals to those still upon the street, and slowed their pursuit. Then there was silence.
Silence, and pain.
Hana’s fingers were torn from the tree bark by the fist in her hair, ripping her into another body. Her lips parted but no sound escaped, even as she was wrestled to the ground, as the ties of her yukata fell loose, as she reached to pull the fabric tight again. The armored body above her drew his wakizashi, steel catching the reflection of her eyes.
Haunted amber, wide and bright like a frightened cat cornered by children with sticks—sticks made of folded steel, held with the intent to kill by men masked as blue horned demons.
“There is no fight in her.”
“Should there be? Takeda’s samurai are held together by weak threads. Their woman would be hardly different.” He pressed the blade toward her neck, sharpness licking skin but refusing to pierce.
To swallow, to breathe, to speak—all would spell her end. Hana remained motionless, too petrified for tears. There would be no noble feat in this death for there had been no fight at all, only fleeing. Had her mother managed to escape? Would her father mourn them if they never returned, deny his craft as solidarity for the family he lost by it?
She waited for the pain, the blood, the darkness; instead she heard a howl and the wakizashi lifted along with the soldier who had pinned her to the ground. He said nothing but swung the weapon around, clashing with the edge of a larger sword. The force of the bigger weapon threw the Hojo samurai off balance. Hana pulled her legs toward chest and covered her head.
They were right above her, feet stomping to the left and right of her body, weapons clashing with metallic rings which echoed off the branches. Screwing her eyes closed, Hana placed her palms over her ears. As quickly as the battle began the sounds silenced. The shuffling of armor, a thick thud, the slide of a sword returning to its scabbard, a deep breath.
Hana risked opening her eyes, face to face with a dead man.
It was then the cage trapping her voice sprang open. Hana jolted to her feet with a scream louder than she had ever known her voice could be, checking her body for the man’s blood and finding herself covered. She hadn’t felt a single drop but her yukata was stained, her hands, her hair…
“Hush!” a sharp voice called from behind, heavily armored hands falling on her arms. “I will no-“
Hana screamed again, trying to wrench out of the samurai’s hold. He turned her to face him, holding her tight in front of him with a shake. The power of his grip rivaled the quivering in her legs, the threat of it forcing her lips to close. She did not doubt his hands could crush her in an instant, move from her elbows to her throat to force the sounds to stay inside. Hana only marveled at her foolishness when she dared to meet his eyes.
The bulk of the man’s face would have been hidden if his mengu had not been cut from where it tied to his helm, a demon’s mouth removed to reveal the man beneath. The set of his lips and the cruel curve of his brows showed his frustration, but she found no malice in the darkness of his eyes. His helmet arced into three long golden horns, all adorned with a textured emblem she knew as an ally of Takeda, though the family named eluded her.
This man was not her enemy.
“Are you harmed?”
She shook her head, afraid that speaking would cause her to fall into tears. The man glanced her over once more then motioned with his head toward the river.
“Hide in the boats until the fighting has stopped and you hear the drums of victory.” His directions were crisp and rushed. “No one else will come to the river tonight.”
“How… how do I know if the drums are for you?”
“Do not let fear cloud your judgement. The drums will be for Takeda. Go.”
As soon as his hands left her, Hana felt weaker. He did not move to turn back to the fight until she had backed out of the trees and onto the shoreline. She watched until the green of his armor disappeared in the inky black of night, until she had stepped into a boat and crumpled on the wooden floor with choked sobs. Could she trust what he had said? Would no one come to the river that night?
The sounds of war continued through the dark, long after Hana’s tears had dried to salt on her cheeks. She remained huddled in the low bottom of the boat when the night sky lost its stars and the moon began to fade—waiting, listening, for the drums to signal victory. It was with the first few rays of sun that the shouts echoed out and the bump-bump-bump of the drum mimicked their cry.
Hana wondered if the sun rose red because it brought the blood of the night into the heavens with it.