So this is a departure from my regular series of Kunoichi Companion Tales. But it should still be fun!
The wonderful YA author Mackenzi Lee runs a regular Twitter feature called #BygoneBaddassBroads. It offers profiles of historical women who were… well… baddass. I came across her when she did a profile on one of my favorite bygone baddass broads, Lady Mochizuki Chiyome. A week or so ago, she profiled Locusta the Poisoner, who ran a school for assassins under the Roman emperor Nero. I joked that someone should write a crossover between the two; she joked back that I should throw in Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum, Queen of the Fences in late 19th century New York, who ran Marm Mandelbaum’s School for Gifted Youngsters, training the Gilded Age’s pickpockets, thieves, and master criminals.
How could I resist?
Here’s the story that sprang into my head!
Waiting for next Seasons of the Sword book? Author David Kudler just shared this sneak preview from the next exciting installment in Risuko’s adventures:
Bright Eyes Sneak Peek: The Cave
I love to climb.
I suppose that’s a silly thing for me to say, at this point. Of course I love to climb. Still—it’s true. It’s always been true. That earliest memory—of my mother weeping with my sister in her arms: I see it from above. Even though we had just moved into the tiny house, even though I was just four years old, I had already found my way up into the rickety rafters. I had always felt more at home up in the air than on the ground. Safer.
There was a reason that my mother came to call me Squirrel.
Yet as I stared at that sheer rock face from within the confines of the Full Moon, I must admit that I was nervous. Afraid.
Toumi snorted as she and Emi shouldered past me, bows and quivers over their shoulders. “Scared, Mouse-chan?”
I shook my head. But we both knew it wasn’t true.
Emi smiled as they walked out the gate. I think she meant it as reassurance. It felt as if she were consoling me: It’s been nice knowing you, Murasaki.
Continue reading Bright Eyes sneak peek: The Cave
Love YA paranormal, urban fantasy, science fiction and dystopian books?
The Alliance of YA Authors is a community of over 1000 young adult writers. Many of us are award-winning, bestselling authors. Others are brilliant debut authors just starting out. I’m honored to have the group choose my Kunoichi Companion Tale “Silk & Service” among the dozens of thrilling stories from all of your favorite genres in a new anthology.
We’ve put them together into an epic anthology of young adult fiction: That Moment When. Some of them are just the beginning of a unique adventure, while others are complete stories that will spark your imagination.
I invite you to check out That Moment When. It’s available for FREE download on all platforms and features some of today’s hottest new talent in young adult fiction. Continue reading Get the FREE YA Anthology – That Moment When
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21—Lessons in Dance
The day after we butchered the cow, we began a new set of morning lessons. As we cleared up the kitchen, Mai, who never entered the kitchen if she could help it, poked her head through the door and informed us that, for the first time, we would be taught by Mieko-san.
As she withdrew, Kee Sun asked whether Mai had actually walked into the kitchen before delivering her message. When Toumi snarled that no, she hadn’t—making it clear that no one in their right mind would enter Kee Sun’s domain willingly—the cook gave a nod and a grunt, saying, “That’s good. ‘Cause I told her if she ever stepped a foot in here again, I’d cut it off.”
It was always a bit difficult to know whether he was joking or not. To be honest, I was never quite able to work that out.
Nonetheless, I was excited by Mai’s news; I had hoped that we would be able to study with Mieko, not only because she was kind and lovely but because the other women in Chiyome-sama’s service seemed to respect her so. Even the boisterous ones listened quietly when she spoke.
Continue reading Risuko — Chapter 21: Lessons in Dance
Here are two chapters that were cut from the original manuscript of Risuko. This out-take — Crossing the River and Meeting the Mountain — was originally placed between what are now chapters 7 (“The Wind“) and 8 (“The Mountain“—you may recognize one bit of dialogue between Risuko and Masugu from that chapter). I cut them because it was taking too long to get to the Full Moon — to the heart of the story. But there’s some fun stuff, including a meeting with a major historical figure I’ll be talking about soon! (There are a few characters that I’ve cut out as well.)
At the beginning, Masugu and his riders have just found Lady Chiyome’s party at the Mt. Fuji Inn. Masugu offered to let Mieko ride wide him, but she refused, and so Risuko is sitting in front of the Takeda warrior on his stallion as the chapter begins.
By the way, if you read through to the end, there’s a question; be the first to answer it and win a free Audible download code!
Chapter 10—Crossing the River
The whole world seemed to roll and rumble as the great beast leapt ahead, charging down the one street of the town toward a distant white triangle that peeked up over the horizon: Mount Fuji. More Imagawa soldiers lay scattered like deadwood along the street, and several of the tiny houses were burning.
Waste. Such waste.
The rest of the squadron had formed up behind us, and so I felt as if a flood of thunder was pushing me forward. The icy wind whipped the horse’s mane and my own hair across my face until cold tears flooded my eyes. I lowered my head and cleared my vision.
Continue reading Out-take — Crossing the River & Meeting the Mountain
19—In the Web
Lady Chiyome makes everything clear, except when she makes everything confusing (Mochizuki Chiyome)
My shaking arms suddenly went still, as if instantly turned to ice. Looking down, I saw that Fuyudori had disappeared. I was trapped and alone.
“Do hurry, Risuko-chan,” said Lady Chiyome in that quiet voice that still managed to sound quite piercing. “I don’t want to have to call Kee Sun to haul you in. He might slip and drop you, and that would be the most awful mess.” Continue reading Read Risuko—Chapter 19: In the Web
In which Risuko makes a climb and a discovery — and Lady Chiyome delivers a surprise (Teen Historical Adventure)
“If you come with me quietly, Risuko–chan,” Fuyudori said in very hushed tones, waking me from a dreamless sleep, “I can show you something worth watching.” She pulled down my covers, giving me no choice in the matter.
Yawning and shivering, I threw on a winter coat and sandals. Fuyudori placed her finger over my lips, looking down at Emi and Toumi, who were still sleeping.
It always felt as if it were the middle of the night when Fuyudori woke us. But as we made our way out of the relative warmth of our dormitory, there was not even a hint of a winter dawn in the night sky. The snow had stopped and the sky cleared. The stars blazed down on us, big as snowflakes themselves.
I followed Fuyudori out across the undisturbed snow blanketing the courtyard. Dark and moonless as the night was, even the white of the snow seemed dim and grey. Continue reading Read Risuko Chapter 18 – A Fly!
17—Moon Time at Mochizuki
In which Risuko, Emi, and Toumi learn a lot about knives — and rocks. (Teen Historical Adventure)
The routine was almost reassuring: lessons, work, Toumi growling—all of it flowed from one day to the next like a line of ducks swimming up-river. Even the rock-carrying became routine. Occasionally, one or two figures in miko’s robes wandered in through the front gate; just as often, one or more of the women would leave after the morning meal. Yet the little community remained very much the same.
The odd sounds from the great hall were different every day, and always infuriatingly fascinating: sometimes grunts, sometime shouting, and once what sounded like breaking wood. But we weren’t allowed to look, and so this too became part of the pattern.
One day, when the great hall was unusually silent, we were sorting dried mushrooms by color. Kee Sun was very particular about the mix of colors and flavors in all of the food that we prepared. Once we were well into the boring work, he informed us that he had to “go visit the King,” a phrase we never understood, and never wanted to. However, we knew that he would be gone some time. When he had gone, Emi’s sharp elbow bounced against my ribs. Continue reading Read Moon Time at Mochizuki, the next exciting chapter of Risuko!
In which Risuko, Emi, and Toumi learn a lot about knives — and rocks. (Teen Historical Adventure)
As I entered Kee Sun’s kitchen, I kept my face down so as not to catch Toumi’s eye, or Emi’s. I didn’t want either of them to see that I was upset. I took a stack of bowls and began to walk toward the dining hall to get ready for the mid-day meal, but Kee Sun stopped me. “No, girlie,” he chortled, his scar twisting, “Not to go in there this morning. Yeh don’t go in there while Lady Chiyome is running her ladies through their paces unless yeh want yehr head handed back to yeh in one of those bowls.”
I looked at him blankly.
“There’s classes yeh three aren’t welcome to join till yeh’re initiated,” he said with something like a smirk, “so we get ready in here and then run like wood demons to serve out the meal once they’re done. Now, set yehr little squirrel fingers to work.” Continue reading Read Blades — the next exciting chapter in Risuko!
15 — The Music Lesson
In which Risuko learns to play the flute, but all is not as it seems, and someone says farewell
When Fuyudori cheerfully woke us the next morning, none of us—Emi, Toumi, Mai, Shino, or myself—was very happy about it. My legs were sore from the combination of riding all day and then staying on my feet all evening. And that wasn’t even counting scurrying through the juniper and gripping that branch with my knees while arrows hissed overhead.
One of the older girls whined, “Why do we have to get up? They have kitchen duty.”
“You have duties outside the kitchen, just as I have had for the past three years,” Fuyudori said. She turned to me, Emi and Toumi. “Little ones, dress and get to the kitchen. You’ll have your music lesson later today.” Continue reading Read Risuko Chapter 15 — The Music Lesson