Courtney Maguire has a new MM paranormal historical romance out, Youkai Bloodlines book 3: Blood Bound. And there’s a giveaway!
Two hundred years can strain even the seemingly eternal love of the youkai.
When Hideyoshi’s coldness drives them apart, Hiro finds comfort in his friendship with Takanori, a vociferous human man he met at a ramen shop and can’t seem to keep away from.. Everything Hiro had to fight for from Hideyoshi, Takanori gives freely, making it all too easy to turn away from his responsibilities–and Hideyoshi–in favor of something sweeter.
But while Hiro is off playing human, danger is brewing among the Youkai. Hideyoshi, still reeling from his breakup with Hiro, struggles to uphold the promise they made to the Hunter leader, Kyo, but the Youkai’s loyalty has been challenged by Hiro’s abrupt disappearance. With Hunters literally banging at the door, Hide must find a way to bring Hiro home or risk igniting the war they’ve spent the last two hundred years trying to prevent.
Warning: graphic violence, terminal illness, depictions of grief and depression/mental illness, suicidal actions
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Chapter 1: TrainwreckSpring 2004You can live a hundred lifetimes and the world will still surprise you, hit you like a high-speed train and drag you along the rails before dumping you off a thousand miles from where you started. Sometimes, the ride isn’t as violent as all that. Sometimes, it feels like a vacation, an escape, like falling in love. But, the end of the line is always the same—a broken, bloody mess far from home.
Sitting on a hard cobblestone path in my two-day-old funeral suit, I stared at a pillar of granite with his name on it, a fifth of Jack in my gut and my soul shattered into a million pieces. Aikawa Takanori—the name of the train that hit me.
A broad shadow fell over me and I closed my eyes against it. I knew who it was, knew the sound of his steps, the way the air trembled in his presence. Sakurai Hideyoshi. He sat down beside me on the stone path without a word, so close our shoulders touched. Over two hundred years had passed since the day we met, and his nearness still made my skin prickle. His fingers brushed against mine as he slipped the nearly empty bottle of whiskey out of my hands and raised it to his own lips.
“You knew it would end this way,” he said, his voice low and cold. Not a judgement or an accusation, just a statement of fact.
“If you’re here to lecture me, you can save it,” I said, snatching the bottle back out of his hand.
There was something shocking about seeing him again, sitting there like an inkblot on my vision. The same solid frame, the same dark features, sharp as cut granite and just as immovable. How much time had I spent pounding myself against that hardness, like the ocean against a rocky cliff, trying to break it away? Now I observed him as if from a distance. Something bitter pushed up against my grief, but there was no room for it, so it settled back into my gut. He had been my home before Takanori, but now he was almost unrecognizable. He hadn’t changed, of course. I was the one who was different.
“How long since you’ve drank something besides whiskey?”
“Not since—” I broke off, my eyes darting to the gravestone. My hands trembled as I took a long pull off the whiskey bottle. It could have been hours or years, every second since that day stretched into an eternity.
“Come with me,” he said, pulling himself gracefully to his feet. I didn’t move. “Hiro.”
“I can’t,” I choked. I struggled to breathe around the ball of grief wedged in my throat. He was here for a reason. He wanted something and I couldn’t give it to him. “I’m not…ready…”
“He’s dead. It doesn’t matter if you’re ready,” he barked. The words were sharp, the edge of a blade iced over, and they cut deep.
He grabbed the collar of my jacket and yanked me to my feet. Without even waiting for me to catch my balance, he turned and stomped off down the path. It had been this way since the day we met, Hideyoshi plodding ahead without looking back, so confident I would follow. I found it comforting somehow, like nothing had ever broken between us. We would always be Hideyoshi and Hiro. The shape of his back would never change. He would never get sick and die.
I ran my hand over Taka’s name on the granite and felt my heart tugged in two different directions. Another train had come, this one promising to take me back to somewhere familiar, but part of me was afraid. What if I got there and found it wasn’t my home at all anymore, but just another strange place that would leave me even more broken?
But, Hideyoshi was right. Taka was dead, the home I could have had here reduced to ashes. I had nowhere else to go.
My chest constricted and I cursed under my breath as I ran to catch up to Hideyoshi, falling in step just a few paces behind. The sun was setting as we exited the cemetery and darkness fell quickly over the narrow streets of Tokyo. Neon signs lit up one by one with an electric pop as we passed, the early evening crowds already taking their places in the izakayas that lined the street and disappearing into basement bars. Hideyoshi led me all the way to Ikebukuro and the busy streets surrounding Sunshine City. Wires hung like spider webs overhead, feeding power to the garish artificial light. Loud music and cigarette smoke filled the streets and the smell of sweaty bodies started a scratching under my skin that had me gritting my teeth.
He stopped in the most crowded part of the busy street and looked over his shoulder at me for the first time. My gut clenched. I knew what he wanted. I scowled and shook my head, but he simply pinned me with those needle-sharp eyes that didn’t take no for an answer until I relented.
His silent command: Sing.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The scratching under my skin intensified and the sounds of the city died away as something else rose to the surface, something dark and dangerous. When my eyes opened again, the electric lights paled behind the glare of human life, every movement leaving a streaky after image in blue and white. My pulse sped and my mouth watered. I pulled in a deep breath and my voice rose from the depths with an old song, something traditional that took me back to a different Tokyo, and despite its terrible purpose, it warmed me. My heart swam in it, cleansed its wounds in it.
Guest Post: Long Haul Pantsing… Or series writing for the planning impaired
My name is Courtney Maguire and I am a pantser.
I am also a series writer, two things that go together like Bailey’s and lime. And yet, here I am, three books deep into an ongoing series. How does a writer who barely knows what is going to happen in the next scene manage the minutiae of a multi-book series without completely losing the plot…or her mind?
I know it sounds radical, but…
Step 1: Plan Ahead
I just heard all the pantsters out there cry for mercy. Relax. I don’t mean you should sit down and plan every beat of every book in a five book series before you start writing book one (Unless you really want to. Do you, I guess.), but you should definitely go in with at least a bare minimum of a plan. In my opinion, what makes a series memorable and fun to read is when seeds planted in book one germinate in book three. It rewards the reader for their time and attention in an emotionally gratifying way and it’s nearly impossible to achieve this if you don’t have a plan. So, even if it goes against everything you believe in, take a little time to think about where your series is going and the major character relationships within it. Just like a standalone novel, a series should have an overarching plot and character arcs that unfold over the course of the story, so knowing where you are going and keeping that in mind from the start will help you avoid contradictions and those pesky plotholes.
Step 2: Make Notes
Most people can’t keep every detail of a multi-book series in their heads, especially pantsters (because they’ve probably changed half a dozen times in drafting). I highly recommend keeping a series bible. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Personally, I keep mine in a three-ring binder stuffed with printouts and handwritten notes on loose leaf. It consists mainly of individual book outlines and/or synopses, character lists and descriptions, maps, and various research notes. Planners might have a lot of this stuff filled out before they ever start, but for the pantster, it’s okay to backfill. It takes a little extra time, but trust me, it’s worth it. You never know when a throw-away character from book one will pop back up again and you DON’T want to have to comb through your manuscript to find their name.
Step 3: Don’t Get Distracted…or Do
Maybe it’s a pantser thing, maybe it’s just me, but I find it very easy to get pulled away from whatever I’m working on by a new, shiny idea. The struggle is even worse when writing a series which, by its nature, has you living in the same world and often with the same characters for an extended period of time. It’s enough to test anyone’s attention span. The key to making it to the end of that multi-book series is to stay focused…unless you can’t.
If that new idea is taking up so much headspace that ignoring it means writing nothing at all, then don’t ignore it anymore. I’m not saying dive head first into a new manuscript and only emerge again when it’s finished. Make some notes, an aesthetic, maybe even write a scene or two, just enough to sate that hunger for something new. You’d be surprised how the accompanying endorphin rush can reignite passion for your original project.
Clever lists aside, the best advice I can give you is just write the thing. Find what inspires you or motivates you and use it as fuel. You’ll get there before you know it. As Neil Gaimen said, ‘It’s that easy, and it’s that hard.”
Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.
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