ART: Marvelous Actors

5th Inktober = 4th Anniversary of Jacques-tober. (Okay, maybe I’m trying too hard to shoehorn a 4 into the festivities.) Are you ready for a whole month of daily updates for Lord Mettlebright’s Man? It’s a little early to begin (Jacques never has been much of a morning person), but Cat and Canary brought coffee and are quite willing to bolster their good friend in any way. (Ah, cats.)

Marvelous Actors | art by FoxOfTwilight

For those who may need a refresher, Cat & Canary (or more properly Canarian & Catalan Evernhold) are two of Deece’s “sexy older brothers.” Jacques met them back in Chapter 203: “Charmed, I’m Sure” of Lord Mettlebright’s Man. But of course, YOU first met them in Governed by Whimsy (Songs of the Amaranthine, #4), since they’re the founders of the acting troupe to which Ambrose belonged. If you’ve been reading ALL the things and paying attention to details, you’ll know that in the current LMM/SAGA timeline, Canarian still works closely with his uncle, Hisoka Twineshaft … and that he and Cat are quite cozy with Jacques. Sometimes. (Ah, cats.)

Note: There’s a whole chart to sort out Himeko Evernhold’s household, but here’s the short version:

::twinkle::

ART: Samesies

Countdown. We’re one month away from the release of Pimiko and the Uncharted Island, so I’m doing a character reveal. Here’s a teaser. Full illustration is under a cut in case you DON’T want to know anything more before you get to read the book. ::twinkle::

Pim Moonprowl, the titular character for Book 6, is an American actress. But you knew that already. Or did you? Pim has been around for a while. In fact, she was first mentioned in Bk3: 

A commercial was running for some new drama in the fall line-up. The old man kept it muted, but his gaze never left the screen. He was long and lean like the other Armstrongs she knew, but his hair was pure white, and his blue eyes were partially obscured by reading glasses.
“You see that?” he asked.
She shook her head in confusion, then realized he wasn’t looking. “No, sir?”
He pointed with the remote. “Pim Moonprowl. First openly Amaranthine actress on primetime. Get this … she plays a wolf.”
Melissa stared blankly at the clip. The actress was clearly meant to be part of a team of investigators. A tracker with bare feet and baubles at her throat and ankles, clad in a form-fitting corset and a furry miniskirt the same color as her tail.
“Ever seen the like?” he demanded.
“She’s very beautiful,” Melissa managed as she watched that tail flick and curl.
The old man gave her a disappointed look, then harrumphed. “She’s very feline.”
Uncle Abel asked, “Does it really matter? Rivven all look the same to me.”
“Next time you ask for a puppy, you’re getting a kitten,” groused the senior Mr. Reaverson.

Tamiko and the Two Janitors
Amaranthine Saga, #3

::twinkle::

ART: Mani-Pedi

The Adorning of Dragons. Stately House has become a peaceful retreat for those Argent trusts and respects. Lord Mossberne is one of the fortunate few, and he has long-since made himself at home.

“Mani-Pedi” | art by FoxOfTwilight

Although it’s only been hints here and there, it’s clear that those who call Stately House home love Lapis. He’s there as often as he can be. Throughout Book 4, Kyrie recalls Lapis often and fondly, since the dragon lord has been mentoring him almost since birth. Lilya is similarly attached.

Lilya had always considered Lapis part of her family. His face had been bending into view since her cradle days, because he doted on Kyrie. But Lapis was too kind to part her from the brother she adored. He had two arms, and so he would carry them both away. Some of her earliest memories involved midnight blue hair, trilling lullabies, and reaching for sparkling baubles that seemed to be singing.
Lapis came to Stately House more than any of the other members of the Amaranthine Council, and she was sure that in his heart, their home was his home.

Mikoto and the Reaver Village (Amaranthine Saga, #4)

Isla Ward is similarly close to Lapis, though their relationship has taken a turn toward the professional. Since she’s Hisoka-sensei’s apprentice and a diplomat in her own right, she works closely with everyone on the Amaranthine Council. But Lapis is practically family. Indeed, in Bk4, Lilya refers to him as “Uncle Lapis.”

::twinkle::

ART: Dressage

Jacques & Nonny. While Nonny does show up briefly in the main books of the Amaranthine Saga, you only really get to know the goat-crosser if you read Lord Mettlebright’s Man. He first appears in Ch54: “Prat” and goes on to become Jacques’ apprentice. Fun Fact: for those not in the know, in the audio editions, Travis Baldree gives Nonny a Cockney accent.

“Dressage” | art by FoxOfTwilight

. . .

Jacques took delivery of a parcel from Uppington and immediately sought out Nonny. “My years in dressage left me with more than high boots and a riding crop!”

Lord Mettlebright’s Man, Ch315: “Mentoring Style”

. . .

Zooming in, because Fox gave Jacques some very special badges:

::twinkle::

ART: Such a Gentleman

Jonnet. (Or Soques). I recently hosted a poll over on my Patreon, asking folks to weigh in on “Jacques x ???” People do tend to ship him variously, and I may have a small pile of new art pending that features Stately House’s butler/favorite uncle + various other cast members. Jacques and Sonnet won by a landslide, and the timing for this piece couldn’t be better. ::twinkle::

“Such a Gentleman” | art by FoxOfTwilight

. . .

Who would you vote to see with our Mr. Smythe?
(He has so many good friends!)

ART: Rifflet

“Rifflet” | art by FoxOfTwilight

We first meet Rifflet in Bk4: Mikoto and the Reaver Village, when Lilya finds the little wind dragon in the woods surrounding Wardenclave. That’s at the beginning of summer camp. Bk5: Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate takes place roughly four months later, the following October. By then, Rifflet would have been this size, which is nearly double a hatchling’s size. Fun Fact: It’s mentioned in passing that a human can ride an adult wind dragon. Needless to say, Rifflet is growing fast.

Do you enjoy mail?

Patreon Teaser. Just in case you didn’t know, one of the perks my patrons receive is good old-fashioned mail. And more and more, I’ve been having cards printed with art, book quotes, and even original story snippets. While I can’t exactly mail out moonbeams for everyone, July’s mailings are Churlish-themed. You see, my topmost tiers will be receiving Quarterly Bubble Mailers this month (“contents subject to whim”), and I decided on custard cups and silver spoons.

forthright on Patreon >>

Thank you to everyone who’s able to support my writing in this way. I enjoy applying my creativity to finding little ways to spoil you! ::twinkle::

ART: Not Too Outre

Jacques Smythe of the Uppington Smythes. You thought we were DONE with the Lord Mettlebright’s Man cover reveal? Non, mes amis! Because a few days ago, I realized that Jacques could (and should) dress the part during his cover reveal. Many thanks to Fox for turning around a celebratory portrait in short order!

Not Too Outre | art by FoxOfTwilight

If Jacques was doing this, he’d do it his own way. He preferred some tousle in his turn-out and flop in his foppery. —Lord Mettlebright’s Man

. . .

Something tasteful. Something appropriate. I’m partial to greens, but blues would better bring out your eyes.” Inspiration struck. “I wonder, would it be too outré for me to establish my own clan colors?”
Nonny snorted. “Clan Smythe?” —Lord Mettlebright’s Man

ART: My Lady

Bard & Barbarian. I’m grateful for those who’ve come over to Patreon in order to push toward our community goal of 400 patrons so we can unlock the Kimiko and the Cycle of Moons serial. It’s always nice to hear that readers want MORE about the cast. That story will be great fun to tell. But the story I’ve been telling in the meantime has a special place in my heart. So I asked FoxOfTwilight to tackle am ambitious portrait for Bard & Barbarian, a fantasy adventure with a DnD flavor.

The main character is Imber (the titular bard), and when the story begins, he’s just a little kid with big dreams. But we’ve entered Part 2 of his story, and teen!Imber has set out with his father’s crew. His first taste of adventure includes the acquisition of five summons. His “rabbity boys” are a noisy bunch with silly appellations and an unwavering devotion for … well … for some reason, they’re set upon calling Imber “my lady.” (It’s okay. He doesn’t mind.)

My Lady | art by FoxOfTwilight

These fellows are especially fun to meet in the narration for Bard & Barbarian. Travis Baldree and I had to work out a cheat sheet to keep them straight, since Quorum, Lorem, Ipsum, Sphagnum, and Peet have a habit of talking over one another in quick succession, what!

Oh, the little golden dragon boy? Yes, there are dragonkin in this world. And wildings. And wizards, paladins, clerics, an assortment of deities, an on-again-off-again rogue, and the titular barbarian (of course). I hope you’re reading along! If not, I hope I’ve given you a reason to. ::twinkle::

Close Crop:

forthright on Patreon >>

ART: Trust Building Exercise

Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate. Let’s call this a little encouragement to fit in a reread of Bk5 before the autumn release of Bk6: Pimiko and the Uncharted Island. Because this time, there’s no time skip. The events of the fifth miko flow right on into the sixth.

I have planned a whole array of trust-building exercises. ’Twould be a shame if they went to waste.”
Akira bit. “Like what?”
“Walking together, shopping together, dining together. I’m told cycling and snorkeling are popular activities for tourists. And did I mention shopping? Because boutiques are on my agenda. And Rafter passed me Wind-and-Tide’s food truck bingo board.”   
“That … actually sounds kind of fun,” ventured Akira.  
Fun is one of the perks of traveling with the well-heeled, somewhat dubious second son of Smythe Manor. My tastes are expensive, my pockets are deep, and our time is short. Let’s frivol away the next five days in extravagant ways … because this, too, is part of Argent’s plan.”

Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate
Amaranthine Saga, #5

Trust Building Exercise | art by Fox of Twilight

. . .

Within ten minutes, it was abundantly clear that Magda was out to have fun, and she seemed intent on dragging Hallow and Suuzu straight into more. Barely a block along their way, and Hallow sported a new pair of sunglasses, and she’d wrapped Suuzu’s head in a fancy turban.
Jacques approved. And snapped pictures. And found some shimmery gloss that he applied to Akira’s lower lip.
“Where’s your usual sparkle?” he asked softly. “Are you actually intimidated by pastels?”
“I feel like a one-man boy band.”
Uncle Jackie took his hand. “Rather the goal. But I need you to relax into this role. If not for my sake, then for his.” He angled his head toward Suuzu, who was undergoing similar indignities.
Suuzu barely resembled Spokesperson Farroost anymore. The lavish headcloth might count as a disguise, and the freshly-applied shimmer of gold on his bottom lip was sort of pretty. But the concern in his best friend’s gaze snapped Akira to attention.
“Better,” murmured Uncle Jackie. “Now stop trying to decide how to act.”
“I can’t act.”
“That is painfully obvious. So how about this? You drag him about like you usually do, and we’ll improvise around you.” After a beat, he leaned close to whisper, “And avoid mirrors.”
Akira glanced around, wary of reflective surfaces. “Why?”
“Pastels.” With a teasing smile, he said, “We need more time to build up your resistance.”

Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate

::close crop::

ART: Nestmates

Akira and Suuzu. They’re the closest of friends, the lifelong sort. And their story threads straight through the Amaranthine Saga. We haven’t had art of them since they were in middle school, so it was time for an update.

“Nestmates” | art by FoxOfTwilight

Quarterly Art Card. As most of you are probably aware, I create art cards as thank yous for my patrons. More and more, I’ve begun including story snippets on them. Little scenes or outtakes. The next Quarterly Art Card will go out in March, coinciding with the vernal equinox, and THIS is the art I chose to feature. AND I’ve written a scene to go with it, just a private moment between Akira and Suuzu, set near the end of Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate. Completely original. So if you want MOAR of these nestmates, I hope you’ll consider joining the ranks of supporters over on Patreon >>

zoom in

ART: Noble Son

Pocket Puppy. When Mikoto receives the gift that is, was, and always will be Glint Starmark’s answer to grief, he looks for a name that’ll be just right. His puppy is tiny, just a puffball, really … especially compared to a big guy like Mikoto.

Noble Son | art by FoxOfTwilight

The puppy was a bigger handful than he would have guessed. Not literally, of course. He was more of a scant handful, barely large enough to count as canine. Especially in a village where Kith-partnered battlers rode their dogs.
The girls had been quick to suggest names. All of them cutesy. But Mikoto firmly rejected them. He wasn’t leaving something so important to them. Plus, he’d wanted a name with more dignity. Which had brought Yulin to mind. And then the name was suddenly there and perfectly right. A doggish name that was already an endearment. Noble.

Lots of other Mikoto art. Follow his tag >>

ART: Roommates

Colt and Hallow. More art for Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate, which rounds out the six who make up “Hisoka’s finest.” Boon & Moon are partners. Juuyu and Sinder are partners. And here are Colt and Hallow.

Roommates | art by FoxOfTwilight

Since When? Hallow was first introduced back in Governed by Whimsy. At the time, he was still an adolescent.

“You need to meet my friend. Hallow and I share a compartment. We’ve been friends since he was just a little guy.” Turning expectantly toward the door, Colt said, “Come along, Hallow. She’s warded.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Hallow stepped into the open. He was slim and pale, a youth with sharp features and a stiff manner. Straight black hair hung loose around his shoulders, and he glanced around the room with deep red eyes.
“Come along, Hallow,” Colt repeated. “Don’t be such a grump.”
Flashing a look of injury, Hallow flowed across the room with a swooping gait that caused the leathery folds that webbed under his arms to billow slightly. He presented himself to Greta with a silent bow.

Governed by Whimsy (Songs 04)

In Governed by Whimsy, Colt is the theater company’s healer. If you piece together the pertinent details, you’ll figure out that both Colt and Hallow are from the Glintrubble cooperative. “Glintrubble is a cooperative that specializes in mining and shaping the stones that amplify a reaver’s abilities. Their community includes horses, rabbits, and bats. And reavers, of course” (Michael Ward, Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox). Yes, Hallow is a grandson of Trisk & Glinna Brunwinger.

His regional accent was a match for Colt’s, lending credence to their long association. “How do you do?
My name is Hallow Brunwinger. I apologize for withholding myself from association. Especially if my presence can bring some comfort.”
“You’re … half?”
“Yes.” He lifted an arm, giving her a clearer look at a misfit wing. “Bat clan.”
Greta asked, “Your mother?”
“She is well enough. My father was human.” Hallow’s gaze turned apologetic. “I’m not sure what any of you expect from me. It’s not as if I was much use during my own birthing.”
Colt slung his arm around Hallow’s shoulders. “You’re here. Isn’t that enough?”

Governed by Whimsy (Songs 04)

More than two centuries later, readers caught another glimpse of this duo in Mikoto and the Reaver Village. Sinder mentions them in passing, because he’s close to them. (Two words: elite taskforce.)

  • Lost in a daydream in which Juuyu and Hallow were sent to extract him, Sinder nearly missed his cue.
  • The man smoothed the shirt over his back, pulled free his thick braid, chafed his arms—all the fussing made Sinder miss Colt.
  • Surely there was some strategic significance here. Offensive and defensive potential? A possible means of protection, both for them and for their sibling? Hallow would figure it out if anyone could.
  • “Are they insane?” he muttered. Hallow was obsessed with tuned crystals, so Sinder had been exposed to every variation known to carry Cadmiel’s song. That’s why he knew that this rookie scheme might actually work. But not necessarily in the way they hoped.
  • Hallow must have grabbed the phone because his voice came sharp and clear. “Get to him. Immediately. His crystal’s vibrating nearly to pieces, and its song tells of pain.”

Mikoto and the Reaver Village

Which brings us to Book 5 in the Amaranthine Saga, when Fumiko meets the oft-mentioned “elite taskforce.” Hallow’s all grown up now.

**NOTE** If you haven’t yet read Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate, the remainder of this post contains excerpts which might be considered spoilers. Comments are also suspect. You have been warned.

::twinkle::

ART: Lost Harbor Lockets

Added security, you understand.” When Argent Mettlebright sets his trap for the Gentlemen Bandit, he arranges for a security team he can trust. So Juuyu Farroost meets the formidable duo known as the Lost Harbor Lockets. ::twinkle::

Lost Harbor Lockets | art by FoxOfTwilight

. . .

“Curious?” The woman smiled broadly and crooked a finger. “You can look, but don’t touch. They’re loaded.”
The sigils stood out like lace upon her skin, inked in white, shimmering with power.
“These are what I like to call a competitive edge.” She turned, encouraging his perusal. “This set has shields for deflective attacks. Ever been hit by an airbag in a moving car?”
Juuyu’s eyes widened.
So did her smile. “Broke my nose once. Gave me the idea. Defensive measures can pack a wallop. So does my partner. I’m Magda Locket, by the way. We’re the Lost Harbor Lockets.”
As if he should recognize them.
He met her palms and admitted, “I am … unfamiliar.”
“Seriously?” Magda propped a hand on her hip. “We’re on the battler circuit. The games are televised and everything. Ever watch any extreme sports? No?”
“I apologize.”

Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate
Amaranthine Saga, #5

ART: Elite Trackers

Assembling a Taskforce. With Fumiko and the Finicky Nestmate‘s release date a mere 20 days away, I’m teasering all I can without spoilering anything of import. Since these two are known entities, they’re getting their turn in the limelight a little early. You already know that Juuyu and Sinder are partners. What I’ve never mentioned (before now) is the identity of Boonmar-fen Elderbough’s partner. ::twinkle::

Elite Trackers | art by FoxOfTwilight

If you haven’t had the chance yet, I do hope you’ll pre-order Book 5 in whatever format (or formats) you prefer. Print/Digital release is October 22. Audio is scheduled to release on November 9. And I’m now open for pre-orders on author-signed books.