Since you stated on the DeFiore & Company website that you’re interested in fantasy with strong world-building, and spunky, stubborn characters who don’t do what you expect, I think you’d appreciate CURSE OF THE NINE-TAILED FOX, an 87,000-word young adult fantasy novel inspired by Japanese mythology. Fans of Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas will enjoy this story. It’s a stand-alone with series potential.
Seventeen-year-old KUROKO, a fox-spirit with a gift for snarky insults and secret yearning for companionship, steals from the Goddess of Foxes to survive in the gang ridden slums of Itazura. Caught red-handed, the Goddess sentences Kuroko to death. When HIKARU, an arrogant male warrior blinded by revenge, tries to kill him, a mysterious power saves his life.
Unable to kill the irreverent thief, the Goddess of Foxes curses Kuroko and orders him to retrieve her katanas from the Underworld. If he refuses, the Fox Goddess will rip his soul from his body and turn him into a mindless servant. He’ll need every wily sleight of hand and thieving trick he has up his sleeve to steal them.
On the path to reclaim the katanas, Kuroko falls for Hikaru--the first man he’s ever had feelings for in his entire life. At the same time, lonely Kuroko forges his first friendship with SUSANOO, a devious god with a penchant for pranks, laughter, and cunning games. After a stinging betrayal, Kuroko faces an impossible choice. If he doesn’t steal the katanas, he’ll lose his soul and become a mindless slave to the Goddess of Foxes for eternity. If he succeeds, he risks losing the first person he’s ever loved.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
CURSE OF THE NINE-TAILED FOX
If I’d known from the start that home was a feeling instead of a place, I could’ve saved myself years of suffering. But a wise-a** once said--like the stupid prick knew the secrets of the universe at the ripe old age of nineteen--“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
Uh huh. Sure.
As a fox-spirit who spent the first seventeen years of my life hated by the rest of my kind, who grew up in the slums of Itazura with hunger for a friend and violent street gangs for enemies, I knew firsthand those words were a steaming pile of cow dung. The journey sucked, and from where I stood, the destination wasn’t much better.
I scrabbled along the rooftops of the palace, hurling myself from one red, shingled awning to the next. There was nothing elegant or graceful about the way I skittered across the roof like a demented crab. My black fox ears twitched backwards, listening to the pursuit of thundering footsteps, and my bushy black tail lashed to keep my balance. It wasn’t exactly easy to scale a five-story palace in the heart of winter, with a layer of ice covering everything, snow numbing my face, and nothing but a dirty, tattered, threadbare kimono to keep myself covered.
The snowy courtyard blurred twenty feet below me, and my heart rose into my throat with every jump. Even though I slipped and slid my way across the icy surface, and nearly fell to a snowy death with every other step, I couldn’t stop the wild grin from stretching my cheeks too tight.
I’d just snuck into the sacred palace of Inari Okami, Goddess of Rice, Fertility, and Foxes and stolen a jade figurine worth at least 100 gold kaiki. Even though I couldn’t count high numbers without an abacus, I’d memorized the currency. Each silver taihei coin was worth twenty copper maiho, which meant one gold kaiki coin was worth twenty silver taihei and forty copper maiho. I had no idea how the exchange worked, but it meant I’d be able to live in luxury for the rest of my life with 100 gold kaiki.
I cackled and clutched the treasure to my chest. Suck on that, self-centered, horrible excuse for a goddess. I didn’t think of it as stealing. I’d simply taken what I deserved, because she sure as h*** wasn’t using it. I mean, the thing had dust on it. Dust! Why did she need a five-story palace filled with priceless works of art that she never saw, while kitsune starved and struggled to survive in the slums of her so-called “blessed city of Itazura?” The lady had an ego large enough to feed all of us homeless orphans if she ever bothered to notice we existed.
While I cradled my expensive figurine like a babe, the chilly wind tore through me with the force of a thousand blades. My teeth chattered, and my entire body throbbed with shivers, but I felt more alive than I had in months.
With this, never again would I have to fall asleep at night with hunger cramping my belly, ensuring I never had a full night’s sleep. With this, never again would I nearly freeze to death in my lame excuse for a hut, with its tilted, termite infested walls, broken windows that dumped snow all over me with every gust of wind, and patched-up roof that poured rain on me with every storm. With this, never again would I sleep on a pile of miserable straw crawling with lice, and the gods knew what else, while shivering in the winter and boiling in the summer.
With this, I would finally have a life, instead of the piece of crap existence I’d been stealing, clawing, and fighting to survive day to day.
My nose quivered. I recognized the palace’s bushi, the royal samurai, by their smell. The scent of polished steel and ginger, of old blood and leather. Each noble samurai had at least four tails. They looked unfairly warm in their yoroi armor, the tiles of linked gold metal leeched of color by the white winter air. Their katanas, the long-curved swords easily the length of my torso, and wakizashi, less threatening swords the size of my arm, remained sheathed at their waists, but for some reason they thought it would be smart to wave their spears at me. The naginatas never came close to my tail, the pointed tip quivering at the end of a bamboo staff with a red ribbon, and did more to knock them off balance than to knock me off the roof.
“Stop, thief!” one shouted. “If you do not--s***.” I heard a very pleasing thump, the clatter of claws grinding against ice and stone, and the sound of a fading shriek as the bushi fell off the roof.
I counted on one of my hands and snickered. One bushi down, three to go.
The other samurai decided to focus their attention on not dying instead of shouting useless threats at me. Unfortunately for them, their heavy armor weighed them down. Fortunately for me, my kimono could barely pass as a table cloth, and let me fly like the wind. At least ten feet of distance separated us, and none of them had managed to close that distance by even a few inches.
The torii gates, carved of bamboo wood in the shape of an enormous entryway and painted blood red, loomed ahead of me, separating the inner courtyard of the palace from the white outer gates. The rest of the city spread out in a tidy grid of streets and buildings, like the patches of a quilt behind a veil of white, fluffy snow. My heart pounded with excitement. If I made it to those torii gates, I could vault over the walls of the outer courtyard and lose the bushi in the city. I’d be free, and then I’d be rich. I salivated thinking of the kaiki the jade fox would bring me, fantasizing about the heavy, delicious clink of the golden coins in my coin pouch.
At that precise moment, as if to remind me of my lowly place in the world, my tiny straw sandals caught on an uneven tile, and I pitched forward.
Did I say fly like the wind? I meant tumble down the awning like a bird with a broken wing caught in a cyclone.
The bushi skid to a halt and watched me fall, snickers and guffaws falling out between their panting breaths.
S***, s***, s***. Keeping the jade fox tucked under one arm, I flailed my other hand, legs, and tail, clawing for purchase. Sparks flew as my jagged talons slid across the icy red tiles of the awning. My dirt encrusted nails cracked, and I hissed as blood welled to the surface, leaving a very clear trail of red down the roof. By curling my toes into the awning, I managed to slow my mad tumble to a helpless slide, but then my tail was in open air, and then my feet were in open air, and then I made one last helpless grab at the awning before the rest of me flew into open air.
And then I fell twenty feet to the snowy courtyard below. I closed my eyes and curled into a protective ball. There was a flash of white, a searing pain in my arm, and then everything went dark.