Title: THE GEARS OF WAR
Word count: 73,000
After spending years pretending to be his dead sister in order to keep his grief-maddened mother stable, a gender-confused boy goes to war to learn how to be a man. His priorities change when an enemy soldier, a girl whose soul resides in a war golem, saves his life on the battlefield. They desert together, unaware that their friendship might just change the course of the war.
Q1: In your MC's voice, what costumed character do you most relate to and why?
I’m my own costumed character. Whether I dress as my dead sister or as my parents’ son, it’s all pretending.
Q2: As an author, what makes your manuscript a tasty treat (unique/marketable)?
English-language Asian fantasies with elements of steampunk and alternate history (Second Sino-Japanese War) aren't all that common. Besides, there’s never enough SFF with genderqueer characters as protagonists.
Every morning, Kiyoshi rose from sleep as a boy with messy hair, a slim frame and, usually, an urge to pee.
Every morning, he folded his futon and knelt before the shrine honoring his sister’s memory, gazing at her sunny face and burning incense for her. Aiko, the name on the picture said. Aiko, meaning beloved. Beloved of an entire family, jewel in the eyes of her parents and role model in the eyes of her little brother.
Every morning, he brushed his long hair until it lay straight and still against his back, dipped fingertips into bowls of cosmetics to outline eyes and lips and slid into one of his sister’s kimono.
Every morning, Kiyoshi entered the kitchen as a dead girl.
“Aiko!” her mother said, waving her chopsticks. “You’ll be late for work again. Hurry and eat.”
“Yes, Mother. Sorry.” Aiko’s lips were always quick to smile with infectious cheer; they spread now in sheepish apology.
Kneeling at the low table across from her mother, Aiko began her assault on the feast spread before her: miso soup, steamed rice, a rolled omelet, a bowl of fermented soybeans, and various pickled vegetables. She ate as if to fill a bottomless hole, wielding her lacquered chopsticks like a weapon to slay her breakfast.
“Eat, eat,” her mother said. “You’re a growing girl and you have a day of hard work ahead.”
Her mother’s name was Hanako, flower child, a strange name for a woman born and raised in a city made of cogs and smog where flowers were rarely seen in any other state than dead and dried.