I’m terribly excited to announce that Have Monster, Will Travel, the 4th book in the Monsters in Hollywood series is now out! Joanna and Tokaki are great characters. I had a wonderful time with them.
Monsters in Hollywood, Book 4
All of Hollywood is talking about Calypso Production’s new top-secret action movie, and Joanna is tapped to be the Production Designer. There’s just one big issue: the lead actors are monsters. Literally.
Bound by tradition and discipline, Tokaki’s clan of shapeshifers has maintained the old ways even as they’ve retreated from the human race. When members of another clan come up with a plan to expose and explain their hidden existence, he agrees to help. As the warrior who trains all others, he knows how to inflict both the maximum, and minimum, amount of damage. Because of this experience he’s asked to become something they call a “stunt coordinator”.
When Joanna and Tokaki meet it’s electric, and not just because Joanna watches him shift from a massive white tiger into a handsome, naked man. Tokaki is fascinated by the outside world, especially Joanna, who’s colorful in more ways than one. When he takes Joanna to a hidden temple deep in the Chinese mountains, neither expects she’ll be risking her very life. In order to save the woman he loves, Tokaki must turn to his family for help, risking the secrets his clan has kept for a millennium.
Click on the cover to read the first chapter.
You can purchase Have Monster, Will Travel at most retailers.
Copyright © 2012 Lila Dubois
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Tokaki was balanced on one of her prop stools, flipping through a portfolio.
“You read the script, and you draw or paint pictures that make the words come to life.”
“Basically, yes. Until the PD—that’s production designer—the script is just bones.” Jo picked up a sketchpad and a charcoal pencil. Taking them over to Tokaki, she knelt beside his stool so he could look down at what she was drawing. She quickly sketched out a human skeleton in the shape of the famous Vitruvian man.
“You are very skilled.” The admiration was clear in his voice and Jo felt a blush heat her cheeks.
“In pre-production lots of other people become part of the project. The producers—that’s Lena and Margo—and talent—that’s your friends—and other technical people join in and they’ll start to decide what the person should look like.”
Jo faintly sketched the outlines of a body around the skeleton. “Will they be fat, will they be skinny? Those are all decided in pre-production. That information comes to me if it’s integral to the story, or I decide based on what I envision, or the talent decides how they will play the character.” Jo tipped her head back to look at Tokaki, not sure how much of that he would have understood, but he nodded.
Jo returned to her sketch. Flesh took shape, hiding the bones in the shadows of muscle and sinew. Arms, legs and torso all appeared.
“The PD creates the person. It’s over the skeleton of the script and with the input of all the other above-the-line—that just means important—people, but the PD creates it. Have you ever watched DVD extras and the ‘making of’ for big movies?”
“Well, if you see drawings or short animations of characters or places in the movie, those were done by the PD. They are the visual representation of the script.”
As she spoke, she sketched in a heavy-featured face. Then, just for fun, she gave him ram’s horns.
“That is beautiful.” Tokaki seemed sincere, despite the ram horns.
“Thank you.” Jo shifted under the weight of the compliment, aware that she was kneeling at his feet like a supplicant. “It may be beautiful, but it’s just a picture. If I were a graphic artist, my art would only ever be this.” She tapped the tip of the pencil on the pad. “The magic of movies is that I turn my art over to the production crew, some of which I’ll oversee—the art department. Then the production team, the crew, the actors,” Jo raised the sketch book to her lips and blew across it, “breathe life into it.”
Tokaki took the sketchpad from her. He traced his fingers over the sketch, blurring the charcoal. “I’m sorry. I ruined it.”
“No, you didn’t. It was just a moment, come and gone.” She tore the page out of the sketchbook. “So, Tokaki, am I pronouncing your name right?”
“I always wondered how that was pronounced.”
“You know another person by that name?”
“Not really, but there’s this manga character with that name. I think. How would you spell it in English?”
“You like manga?”
“Of course. Great visuals, classic stories.”
“I’ve collected them for many years. You’re talking about Fushigi Yûgi?” Tokaki raised a brow at her.
“You know it? I love it.” Without thinking Jo propped her elbow on his thigh as she looked up at him.
Tokaki looked at her elbow, where it rested on his knee. His eyebrows were drawn together over his dark eyes.
“Oh, sorry.” Jo stood, stumbling a little. Her lower legs had gone numb from sitting on them.
Tokaki caught her elbow. She could feel him behind her. He smelled foreign, like nothing she could name.
“You are more than I expected.” He whispered the words.
“Why would you expect anything?” Jo stared at the far wall of her studio, not seeing it. His presence was seeping into her. She was hyper-aware of her breaths, the curve of her back where the heat of his body soaked through her clothes.
“Humans who would help my people? I did have expectations.” He applied pressure to her elbow. Jo resisted for a moment before allowing him to turn her.
“What did you want?”
He examined her face. Jo was depressingly aware of the fact that she had on almost no make-up, she hadn’t put on moisturizer and probably had horrible bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. His dark eyes sparked, his lips were stern but finely chiseled.
“I wanted nothing. I expected to enjoy you as I enjoy…manga or video games. I did not expect you to be,” he lifted a lock of hair from her face, “mysterious.”
Jo licked her lips. “It sounds like you think of humans as toys or pets.”
“Should I lie to you?”
“I enjoy humans, human things. The other clan thinks my breed is ignorant of human ways, but I go to the human city and market. I have traveled in human countries—Russia, Egypt, Thailand. We have known the humans for all of their history.”
Jo shivered. It was truly frightening to hear him speak of humans in this way.
“Are you, I mean, were you a god?”
“I was not, but my father’s father, a thousand years back, protected the emperors of the countries you now call China, Japan. My ancestors were not gods, they were guardians.”
“Compass guardians,” Jo said. She blushed slightly—the only reason she knew that was from the manga.
“And you still think of the humans a lesser beings. Toys.”
“Lesser? No. But you are so unaware of what the world really is. Real beauty, real pain, real fear—humans don’t know those things. Being among them is like…”
Jo took a breath. She had to bite back a defense of her race, her species, but it was easy to understand where he was coming from. His critique—a crippling lack of awareness—was the battle cry of great philosophers and poets. Maybe some of them hadn’t been human either.
“For you we must be like ants, scurrying around not knowing that we’re in a little plastic cage.”
He searched her face, and for a moment she thought his gaze lingered on her lips. “Nothing so simple. But to watch humans create and build and grow, while forgetting what they once knew, intrigues me. I want to understand them.” He once more brushed back her hair.
Jo shivered. He hadn’t touched her skin, just her hair, but the ends trailed over her breast and shoulder in a sensation so delicate it was almost imagined. “So you’re an ethnographer.”
“What?” He tipped his head to the side.
“An anthropologist, studying humans.”
“Studying. Yes.” He laid the back of one finger against her cheek. “But you are mysterious.”
“But you are. I can feel it, and if I were in my true body I would see it in your ch’i.”
“You can see that?”
“Life energy? Yes. All my breed,” when she wrinkled her brow in confusion he explained, “my family. Those who are like me and who are part of my clan. My breed can see human ch’i.”
“Would you describe it for me?” Jo couldn’t think of anything she’d like more than to know what the world looked like through his eyes. “Sometimes I imagine that I can see energy moving through a room. I imagine strings when there’s tension or brushstrokes of light following people as they walk across the room.”
“You see ch’i without ever seeing it.”
“I’ve never told anyone that before”. Tears she couldn’t name caught at her throat. He hadn’t thought she was strange or attributed it to artistic whimsy. “Will you? Will you describe it for me?” Jo leaned forward, wanting, needing to know what he knew about the world.
Tokaki cupped her elbows, his fingers curling around her arms one by one. “Your world is different through my eyes.”
“I can’t believe all these things we assumed were myth are…”
“We are still your myths. Your,” Tokaki’s head dipped toward her, his eyes searching her face, “magic.”
Jo breathed in the word, heart thumping. She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to taste his otherness that frightened, offended and attracted her.
Fingers trembling, Jo reached up to touch his face, to bring him into the kiss she so desperately wanted.