Adventure Abroad the Chen Xing- Chapter 20

I walked into a bar that I espied on the way. It was a little place tucked away in a corner. When I walked in, I realised it was one of these dingy places. Still, I’ve seen worse. I sat myself down on the bar stool. Before I could even order, a woman walked right up to me. She had a lined face and grey hair but still looked strong as if she was used to a life of physical labour. And she had the skin tone to show it too. She had on well-worn but good quality work clothes. “Excuse me…”

I moved a little out of the way to make room for her, thinking that’s what she’s asking.

“Um… no, I mean, umm, do you have a moment?” She looked nervous. 

I looked at her and wondered what she could be wanting. “I guess.” I finally said.

“If I’m not mistaken… you look like a soldier or at least someone who knows their way around a tough spot. I mean, everyone else here is like me, a rancher or farmer. We don’t see rougher types like you very often. Am I right about that?”

“Yes, are you hiring?”

“Well, um, yes. You see, me, and well, a few others, could use some help, and we’d all pitch in to pay.”

“The job is? I will consider it after I hear about it.”

“Well… um, let me order you another drink” and she signaled to the bartender. “You see, a lot of us have been having problems. Machinery broken, animals slaughtered, crops poisoned, but we don’t seem to be able to find out whoever is behind it all. Our bosses are getting nervous and we’re getting nervous ourselves. A few have been injured by the busted machinery, and our bosses don’t have endless money to keep pouring into this place. But it’s home to the rest of us, and we want to keep building something here”

“Hmm…” I drummed my fingers against the table top, “a bigger job that I expected. How much are you paying?”

“I guess it depends on what you can do for us. None of us are rich, so not a lot. At least finding out who’s responsible. I don’t know about taking them on or anything, but if we knew what was going on, maybe we could take care of it. But I also think it’s a dangerous job. These are people willing to do very bad things.”

“I’m not alone, I have a crew, so let me take this back to the others. If we make a decision, do I come back here for you or?”

“Yeah, I’ll either be here or just tell Sammy over there,” she pointed at the bartender, “and he’ll know how to get hold of me.”

“All right.” Sometimes things just fall into your lap. For good or ill. I could really use a drink to drown the worries with the Old Boy, though, as least for a while. So I ordered my drink and then a couple more after that. 

At some point, Aurora walked in. “How’s the local brew? Next rounds on me.” 

Estella nodded to me, “Guppy here is a real natural at driving, makes me wonder if she might not be able to take our old girl out for a space jaunt someday too.” That excited Guppy no end. 

“Light refreshments only.” I answered Aurora, pointing to the glass in my hand. “I have a potential job, Sammy here will act as our messenger if we agree to take it on.” I indicated the bartender.

“You’ve been busy it seems,” Aurora smiled wider, “What needs doing?”

“Sure,” Estella ordered a light mixed drink and 2 slices of pie. “We could use the extra cash, so long as it isn’t too seedy.”

“Well, it’s a bit like the converter job, except on a larger scale. Someone tampering with machinery and crops alike. Local workers are gonna chip in and pay us to do what we can.” I told them. 

“So they want us to find the people responsible. and then what? Run’em out of the area?” Aurora tilted her head as if in thought. 

“I wonder if the incidents are related? Whoever’s putting the squeeze on the miner might be doing the same to every independent business on the frontier here, trying to drive them all under so a corporation can set up shop.” Estella contributed her thoughts. 

“Find out who did it, at least. The rest is up in the airs. We might not get paid for anything after that. I doubt they can afford it.”

“Investigating whoever it is might also lead us to find out more about who else might have the pull to hire mercs,” Aurora nodded at that prospect. 

“Sounds like an easy enough job, did they say how much they were willing to pay?” Estella asked me. 

“Not directly, I told the woman we will chat again after I discuss it with you all. I’m not expecting much, something to tie us over for the short term.”

“Sounds good,” Estella glanced over at the bar tender. “We might be able to get a better deal in local goods and services rather than straight up credits as well, if there’s anything we need for the ship or our crew still?”

“Depends what they have to offer, but credits are useful beyond today, let’s hear their full offer first, also we can ask them about that black building you mentioned, I’m sure they know something, it’s not as if it sprang up over night, someone had to buy the land, build it, they probably know what services it offers at least.” Aurora suggested. 

“Something hush-hush or uppity-uppity, I’m guessing.” I shrugged. 

“Yeah, probably, either way feel free to let them know we’re interested in the job.”

“You heard all of that.” I told the bartender as a way of officially accepting the job offer. He told us that the woman, Julie apparently, would be back soon. 

“In the meantime, what’s the deal with the black spire building in town?” Aurora leaned forward towards him. 

He rolled his eyes. “Oh, them. Bunch of annoying types from the Inner Worlds. Came out here to do surveys or some crap. Bunch of scientists in lab coats running around being useless. Each and every one with a stick rammed up their asses and looking down on the rest of us.”

“How long after they showed up did your problems start?” Estella asked him.

He blinked and went silent as if he didn’t understand what was being asked. 

“I’m pretty sure they’ve already ruled out the obvious suspect.” Aurora said so quietly it was almost a whisper.

“Umm… let’s see. They were here before that. Maybe a year or more? I’m not really sure, come to think of it”

“Thanks, that’s helpful.” Estella shrugged. “No harm in being thorough.”

“True that. The pie will be here soon.”

“Anyone see where Guppy ran off to?” Aurora asked us, out of the blue. Then I realised the kiddo was gone. 

Estella looked down, into her pockets. “”Out for a joy ride would be my guess.” She shook her head and concluded. 

“I’d be mad, but given none of us told her not to.” Aurora chuckled, “So long as she brings it back in one piece and the fuel cost comes out of her cut of the job I won’t make a fuss.”

“You’re way too soft on her, she needs to learn she can’t just run off without telling anyone.” Estella gave me a mock glare, as if I had rubbed off on the kiddo. “Can’t imagine where she might of learned that little stunt.”

I shrugged.

“I’ll speak to her, don’t worry, let’s get this job sorted first.” Aurora assured Estella. 

Julie came up. “Hi. Sammy said you’re ready to talk about the job?”

The gals and her made the necessary intro, and we went through the job again. She was under the impression that it could be a dangerous job and did not want us unaware. 

Estella grinned while looking over at me. “I half expected that’s the reason you were hiring people like us rather than more.. Respectable sorts.”

She blushed and looked down. “Well, you look like you can take care of yourself if it comes to it…”

Aurora admitted that we were no strangers to violence.  “Though we prefer to keep on the side of law and justice, when there’s a way to.”

“We also don’t have much money. We can get together 4, maybe 5 thousand, but that’s it. Better to give you what little we have though than to be driven out of our homes.”

Aurora nodded in understanding, “Two thousand sounds pretty fair to put a name to your hostiles.” Then she looked over at me and Estella. 

“Closer to 2500 was my thought, we do need some more fuel for the ship and some spare parts for the buggy.”

I shrugged. I can live pretty lean if I needed to. 

“That’s a deal,” she said. “Do you need anything from me before you begin? I’ve got a list here of some of the places that were hit and what happened.”

“I was just about to ask that,” Aurora looked over at Estella, “Also my companion here was wondering about the sciencey types at that shiny building in town, have any of the locals had any unpleasant dealings with them of late? Or ever really.”

She half smiled. “Define ‘unpleasant’.”

“Anything beyond the usual haughty attitude and coldness.” Estella complied. 

“They’d rather run us over than admit we exist. Keep to themselves. Far as we can tell they work in wilderness areas that haven’t been settled so we don’t really see what they do. Everything they got is as shiny as that building. New looking, fancy, high-tech. But the bosses say they’re ‘surveying’, whatever that actually means.”

“I doubt they’d bother pestering the locals then, no profit in it.” Estella took the list from Julie and looked it over, reading out loud the highlights to me and Aurora. It seemingly covered a wide range. Sabotaged machinery, poisoned crops and livestock, a few injuries… 

“Wait, what was that last you just said?” I asked. 

“Was it an Atherium converter that was sabotaged?” Estella tried to confirm with Julie. 

“Oh, yeah, that was a bad one. I thought ol’ Frank was dead for sure. That doc sure patched him up but good.”

“He’s lucky to be alive.” Estella commented. 

“That doc, would her name be Jessica by chance?” Aurora asked her.

“Sounds familiar, maybe. I didn’t meet her though.”

“I don’t suppose you know where we can get a map of the local area?”

“I can bring you one early tomorrow. Or they got some at the shop down the street.”

“I’m also wondering, has your local sheriff looked into this?” Estella started a different thread. 

Julie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, he’s looked at every single one of them. Just shuffles his feet, says he can’t find a single clue, and just wanders off. I think inept is the word I’m looking for.”

“Inept, or bought off. Either way, we’ll do our own investigation, kick over some rocks, see what crawls out,” Aurora promised her. 

She thanked us and shook all of our hands. 

“We’ll get to the bottom of this, and provide you with all the proof you need to take further action.” Estella promised her as she returned the handshake. 

“Or have us take it for you.” Aurora added. “Vigilante locals on a lynching party can get out of hand in a real hurry, hurt a lot of innocent folks, and that’s no good for anyone.”

Her face went blank. “I suppose it will depend on what you find.” I didn’t have a good feeling about that but didn’t comment. 

“Fair enough, we’ll keep you in the loop.” Aurora said. She nodded and left us. 

Estella suggested we go back to the Xing, except that we were short of transport. But Guppy had a com band from the ship so we called her. Or Aurora tried. All we heard was static and other background noise. 

“You know Sam, I get the real impression some days Aurora has a lot more in common with Guppy than she lets on, the way she never seems surprised or upset by that girl’s antics.” Estella commented to me. 

“Help Aurora!” came through in a high-pitched squeal, and then silence. 

“And like any good drama, the too adventurous kid now needs rescue.” I commented. 

Aurora  sighed. “We’re coming kid, but we need to know where you are first, can you describe your surroundings?”

Just silence. 

I want to put it behind me…

This is just a line invented by Laurie Wagner who runs Wild Writing. I took it instead of any of the lines from the poem. That happens. I found out when I’m not inspired by a line, I just am not. This piece is not just about me. Laurie’s Wild Writing is more about truth and self healing but the way I do Wild Writing is not exactly that. It’s more me letting myself go as a fiction writer. Sometimes it is about myself, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s stuff I’ve read, watched, heard, sometimes it’s just prose. So this piece is like a combination: some of it me, some from recent readings, some just prose my subconscious threw up. 

I want to put it behind me. The roving eyes, the grasping hands. 

I want to put it behind me. The scornful words, the nickerings. 

I want to put it behind me. The martyrdom of always putting others first. 

I want to put it behind me. Always going along even if I don’t like it. 

I want to put it behind me. The accommodation, the submissiveness. 

I want to put it behind me. The forgetfulness of nobody ever done me wrong. That generosity had only ever returned and clubbed me in the face with it. 

I want to put it behind me. The fire that has burned into my eyes, my soul. 

I want to put it behind me. The darkness, the fear. 

I want to put it behind me. The sound of water drops, dripping down from the ceiling. 

I want to put it behind me. Endless bank statements. 

I want to put it behind me. The endless attribution game. 

I want to put it behind me. The same argument emerging again and again, in different forms and often the same. 

I want to put it behind me. The sound of bullets striking flesh. 

Remarkable Women in Ancient China (15)- Chi Zhao Ping

Who is she:

  • Essentially a female Robin Hood
  • A renowned peasant rebel leader against the Xin dynasty (or New Dynasty, its literal meaning) that separates the Western Han from the Eastern Han (the Western Han precedes the Eastern Han, I think the direction delineation probably signifies a change in the capital as these things go). I believe she might have been the first peasant female rebel leader in Chinese history but not 100% sure. 

Notable Life Events:

  • Actual birth date and date of death both unknown but she started her rebellion in AD 21 autumn and had gathered thousands under her banner. Her rebel army basically opposed taxation, raided local administrative offices, killed rich landlords, robbed nobles and spread the wealth to those in poverty ala Robin Hood. 
  • In the summer of AD 22, she combined her forces with another rebel leader, together gathering 100 thousand under their banners. 
  • In AD 23, the Xin dynasty finally collapsed and rebel leaders like Chi Zhao Ping did contribute a large role to it. 

Why is she remarkable:

  • She is not a household name or anything. I came across her via random Google search in Chinese. As for whether her deeds were remarkable for her period, I would say the answer is 50-50. Firstly, she does predate female suppression which I was led to believe was something started in the Ming dynasty which was formed in 1368 AD. In comparison, the Tang dynasty at around 618 to 907 AD was deemed to be the dynasty in which females were the least suppressed. So Chi Zhao Ping clearly predates both these dynasties and her era is certainly not the foot-binding ‘a virtuous woman is an uneducated woman’ days. On the other hand, there are a lesser number of female rebel leaders known compared to female generals (albeit a bunch of female generals are fictional figures or cannot be definitively tied to a historical figure)  and certainly none known before Chi Zhao Ping. So I think there is something about this to be noted. 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

  • Again not seeing much personality behind the deeds but she must have been a charismatic and capable leader. 

Moonlake’s Movie Discoveries (2)

I am now making my way across the family section of kidsmovies.io. My weekly routine now is such that Thursdays and Saturdays are my movie days and I’m watching people/humanoid main characters on Thursdays and animal main characters on Saturdays. I’m not really an animal person in general but a bunch of Chinese online novels starring animals have kind of turned me on. Plus, I did like a few of them here and there as I’ve previously detailed. 

In the family section, there are a lot of romances, especially teen romances like High School Musical and Teen Beach, not to mention the Cinderella re-makes (there were six A Cinderella Story: xxxxs not to count the standalones). I don’t think I’m recommending any of them for a non-romance viewer which I definitely count myself as being. 

I kind of liked the Despicable Me movies because it offers something a bit different from the usual angle- the angle of a villain (although he gets reformed at the end). The same token goes for the Descendants trilogy although I think I might have preferred Despicable Me just a tiny bit to Descendants.  

I think the two movies that really stuck in my mind are A Dog’s Purpose and its sequel A Dog’s Journey. To be honest, I skimmed through the first a little but the ending was very worthwhile. The purpose that the dog found could well apply to the life of anyone or anything. And I’m personally a little fond of films with that kind of meaning to it. The sequel was a bit like the original and again the ending was worth it. 

They had recently made a movie for Monster High and it wasn’t as good as the cartoon version for me. It was okay but nothing stands out. I mean, I just saw the movie and the cartoon ones as two different things of a loosely related theme and the same set of characters. I also watched the 2022 Pinocchio just yesterday. I really cannot remember anything about the original other than the broad gist and I liked it so I can’t say anything about a comparison. For an adult me, 2022 Pinocchio was okay but I think I had grown too old to appreciate the basic story.

We are learning…

The jump-off line is from New Day’s Lyric by Amanda Gorman. 

We are learning the way of it, the way to move, the way to navigate through time. 

We are learning to unravel, to delve into the inner workings, to know what was once unknowable. 

We are learning to dissemble, to bide our time with it. 

We are learning to skate, dive, rollerskate, or not at all. 

We are learning to write, to sing, to draw, to paint, to render a piece of self or whatever onto the other. 

We are learning to laugh, to cry, to be ourselves, to be human. 

We are learning to don masks but also to cast them aside. 

We are learning to endow the opposite, to meet the shadow side. 

We are learning to tap into ourselves, but also to replenish and refill our wells. 

We are learning to buckle up and bite the bullet. 

We are learning to manipulate time or the record of it. 

We are learning to show up for ourselves. 

We are learning to freewrite. 

We are learning to be a small achiever. 

We are learning to persevere. 

We are learning to experiment. 

We are learning to take multiple approaches. 

We are learning to improvise. 

We are learning to not cast our sights too far. 

We are learning to mix work with play. 

We are learning to mix deduction with pleasure. 

We are learning to live.

Adventure Abroad the Chen Xing- Chapter 19

We landed on a farming community some distance from the Frontier, that looked large enough to have a vehicle seller. Only Jessica had been here before and she couldn’t tell us much except that it was a quiet place. We decided that made it safe enough for us to split up in two teams: me, Estella and Guppy to get a buggy while Aurora went with Jessica to get supplies. Aurora gave Guppy a sly wink before we parted from each other. “If you ask Estella nicely you might even get some driving lessons on the way home.”

Guppy spinned to Estella, her eyes big and making weird sounds. 

“No might’s about it,” Estella told her firmly, “We own a buggy, everyone knows how to drive it, no exceptions, too useful a skill not to have.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “It’s also damned fun!”

Guppy skipped around, all bubbly. 

“I’m not sure if this crew and ship is the best or worst place for her to grow up,” Aurora commented to Jessica, “But I’m pretty sure she’s loving every second of it.”

“You said she came from the, uh, tunnel rats? If that’s the case, she’s much better off with all of you, no doubt about it. Most of them don’t make it to adulthood. And the ones that do… well, it’s not a bright future”

Aurora agreed and sighed, “Real bad lot, her previous crew, we have unfinished business with their leader, he’s not the kind of guy you turn your back on.”

“Oh, I don’t think I ever saw him. I’ve stitched up my share of the kids, but I did my best to never cross paths.”

“We’ll fill you in on him after our shopping trip,” Aurora promised her. “Hopefully he’s moved on to a more lucrative place, or that convoy of mercs that was riding towards our ship last time scared him off, still curious who hired them and why.”

“The way you reacted, I gather they were not your average sort of mercs. Any theories about them?”

“I figure they’re the kind someone with a lot of money to burn would hire to make an example out of someone, or at least they’re not the small time mercs that just intimidate people, they show up to spill blood.” Estella looked uneasy at the admission.

“But, then, who has that kind of money? And why would all of you… I mean all of us be worth it?”

“That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?” Aurora shrugged. “The usual sorts we make enemies off are run of the mill thugs, they don’t have deep enough pockets to hire that kind of muscle, let alone that convoy that rolled on us when we lifted off the other day.”

“My working theory is rivals of that guy we fixed the Atherium converter for, rival mining corp or whatnot, we’re keeping him in business, that makes us someone to take out so they can go back to cutting his profit margins.” Estella said, then looked over to Aurora “Your talent for fixing and making machines out of nothing is a game changer for a major guild, they might just want to capture you and force you to work for them, make them shiny new toys to outdo the competition?”

“It’s not like I go about bragging about my talent. Hue did most of the repair work on that converter anyway, so they’d have no idea I was involved.”

“And why do they want to cut his profit margins? This is the frontier. It’s wide open for people to come in and set up shop. I don’t see much competing out here.”

“Someone sabotaged his converter, apparently there’s a push to turn this planet into a mainstream supplier instead of the quiet backwater it is right now, or at least that’s what we were told.” Aurora explained. 

“Sam was the one who cut the deal with the owner,” Now I was the one Estella looked at. “Did he seem shifty to you? Like he was hiding something?”

“You know those businessmen. Always have something up their sleeves.”

“But why would there be money in stopping progress out here?” Jessica looked confused. 

“It’s a while ago but I get a gist of mostly resistance from the everyday people, not sure about big money. Maybe there’s something else here that we haven’t been told.”

“I don’t think any of the locals would have the kind of money you’re talking about though.”

“That’s what I’m saying. That converter thing was a done job to me. And then we had that adventure at the asteroid and well, makes everything seem so long ago.” I said. 

“Maybe someone wants what we know about the moon,” Aurora paused, “Did either of you tell anyone about our moon adventure?”

“So would anyone come after you for a job you did awhile ago? The more you all tell me about this, the more confused I get.” Jessica said. 

“Well, I bragged a little to the old boy.” I said after a pause. 

“As in Scorsby?” Jessica asked. 

“Yes, we know each other for a while now and that’s what we do together.”

“Hmm, you told him and then these mercs started showing up, I wonder if he’s behind it all then?” Estella glanced towards the horizon in thought.

“But why would he hire mercs instead of just asking us for details or to show him the place? It’s not like we’re trying to keep it a secret.” Aurora scratched her head in confusion.

“Actually, I thought everyone knows how to get to that junk asteroid, it’s so close. But now that I think about it, I think the old boy’s trying to suss out the route to it?”

“Or the way inside?” Estella nodded. “There’s a fortune to be made in salvage alone, let alone being able to take the place over and turn it on, whoever did that would own the entire star systems trade hub if they could control the moon.”

“Assuming that’s his goal,” Aurora nodded in agreement, “There’s also the possibility he knows what’s down there, and wants to make sure we don’t live long enough to tell anyone else what we’ve found, keeping the secret for later exploitation, or just because he thinks it’s too dangerous.”

“He might just want the asteroid for himself.” Then Estella clarified for my benefit. “I confess it wasn’t exactly easy to locate, if not for the ship flying us there on its own I doubt we’d of never found it.”

“Sounds like our friend Scorsby might not be as nice as we originally thought.” Aurora concluded. 

I thought about it for a while. “The old boy sure is not all up-and-up. That makes him fun in some ways.”

“Being blackmailed by him surely isn’t fun.” Jessica said grimly. 

“True, so when you told him about the asteroid were you two alone? Thinking if someone overheard they might be behind it rather than him.” Estella suggested a different story. 

“We were at his office. I went to him to get a reference to black market doctors. It was that day I met Jessica.”

To be fair his office could be bugged, but the more I hear about his shady dealings the less inclined I am to assume his innocence.” Aurora said. 

“Well, hopefully you’ll keep an open mind when you interrogate him over drinks later.” Jessia said. 

“Life’s no fun. One day you are drinking buddies, the next day you have to cloak and dagger stuff.” I lamented over life’s turns. 

Jessica puts her hand on my arm. “I’m sorry, Sam, I really am. I guess I didn’t realize I was putting you in that position. I’ve been thinking too much of my own situation.”

“It’s not you putting us in that position. Jessica, if Scorsby’s the one hiring Mercs to take us out, your involvement is secondary.” Aurora told her. 

“Still, I can see that it’s a difficult thing. It sounds like you have a lot of history with him.”

I sighed. “It’s not you. I’m too willing to believe, and go over my head all the time. It’s like I’m always drinking, when I’m not.”

“It’s ok, Sam. We all have our moments. I managed to get blackmailed.”

“It’s time to get to work.” I concluded and walked off in a different direction to Aurora and Jessica. I didn’t really know where I was going, I just wanted to leave the conversation. After a while, Estella caught up with me from behind and pointed out that the town was in the other direction. “Unless you know of a good dealer on the outskirts?” She asked me hopefully.

“Uh? Oh, I was… I thought we were meant to split up. Then seemed a good time to.”

“Oh, um yeah..” She smiled awkwardly. “Well the buggy dealer is that away so…” She gestured towards the town. I turned in the direction indicated and started walking. 

“You okay?” Estella asked me after a couple minutes of silence. “I know the whole situation with Scorsby is sketchy, but.. It might still all work out okay?”

“I’m not worried. Sam’ll kick his butt if he’s tryin ta mess with us. Hey Sam, what’s the biggest butt you’ve ever kicked?”

I turned around and showed Guppy a twisted smile. “Too many I’ve kicked, hard to tell which is the biggest.”

She got a big grin on her face. “See Estella, nothin ta worry about.”

“Is it just me, or does that building stick out?” Estella asked me and Guppy, “It looks like it was built by someone other than the original colonists.” I looked at it and couldn’t find anything familiar about it. I did note that it was very defensible and commented so. 

“I’m sure you could take it, Sam.” The kiddo had so much confidence in me that I might have been touched if I was that sort of person. 

“Now I’m curious,” Estella started walking towards it. “Might as well see what’s going on inside, worst they’ll do it tell me to leave when I walk in the lobby. It’s probably a law firm, it looks like the kind of intimidating structure legal vultures would build.” She muttered to herself. 

There was a transparent wall near the entrance but it sort of wavered, which I took to be some kind of shielding mechanism. The door slid open, however, as I followed on the heels of Estella. 

We went straight into a small lobby with a couple of uncomfortable chairs and a well-dressed man sitting behind a desk. There was no logo like you would expect in a corporate building. 

“And who said I’m the only one who wanders off?” I muttered under my breath. My eyes invariably were drawn to the few holes high on the walls that did not look particularly inviting. “May I help you?” the man asked in a cold voice. 

I pretended to cough, signalling for Estella to look up. I saw her glance up and nod slightly. 

“Yes, I’m new to town and learning my way around, is this the right place to inquire about hiring mercenary services?” Estella asked the man, playing it cool. 

His mouth almost disappeared into a thin, lipless line. He glowered at us for a while but finally said, “I’m sorry, but you have come to the wrong place.” He had an accent that’s hard to place. Not strong but noticeable. 

“I see, so what is this place again?”

He sneered in response. “If you don’t know, you have no business here.” He turns away from us as though that’s our cue to leave. 

“Yep, they’re second rate, just like we thought,” Estella gave me a nod as she started walking back towards the door,

I shrugged and followed her out of the building. “We’ll send Aurora back there later, I’m betting she can learn more, she’s better at social graces, I prefer the charm of a cockpit.” Estella said. 

We proceeded on to our actual task- the buggy buying, which went smoothly. We went for a large hover sled style of craft, which burned through most of our funds. 

“That taps us out for savings, time to look for more work once we get this Scorsby business settled.” Estella commented. 

I nodded “Time to go back.”

“Okay Guppy, I’ll drive us part way home, get a feel for our new ride, she handles okay, you’ll take us the other half.” Estella offered Guppy, who giggled. “I can’t wait, Estella.”

Estella fired up the sled and nodded to me. “Ready to head back? Or do you want to chill at a local bar for a bit while I pick up Aurora and Jess and haul their stuff back home?” She asked me. I decided to take her up on the offer and climbed back out. 

We know this though we forget…

The jump-off line is from the poem Nothing Wants to Suffer by Danusha Lameris. 

We know this though we forget. We know that abduction of children occur even in advanced developed countries. We know that there might not be a tomorrow but we feel confident that there will be one for us. 

We know this though we forget. We think that we will always have who we have even though we know they can leave, can leave us any moment for whatever reasons. 

We know this though we forget. We know that women are by nature prey to men. 

We know this though we forget. Reality is not set in stone but constantly shift with memory and perception. 

We know this though we forget. We might not continue believing what we believe in now. We might but it is not guaranteed. 

We know this though we forget. We always take ourselves to be more constant than we really are. 

We know this though we forget. Whatever suffering we have, there are bound to be someone who suffers worse. 

We know this though we forget. No one can have it all. 

We know this though we forget. You can’t plan for everything. 

We know this though we forget. There are words but then also attitude, meaning and subtext. 

We know this though we forget. Luck runs out. 

We know this though we forget. 

Craft and Curiousity Reads- 2022

Paradise by Toni Morrison

The original intention was for me to study the omniscient POV with the Bluest Eye and this book by the same author was not written in that same POV. But what the author has managed to do is that even though each chapter is seemingly named for a single character, it has managed to not only tell the story about that single character (in some chapters, the naming is very loosely related to the character) but encompass much more. And obviously my own stories run towards a largish cast so there are definitely things for me to learn in that way. 

The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell

I’m not quite sure what I’m taking out of this book and the genre noir thriller. The book isn’t especially my cup of tea. I didn’t even feel that it belonged in thriller but feel that it probably fit better under literary fiction perhaps? There isn’t any particular craft elements that I feel I need to take away from it.

Moonlake’s Writing Update- October 2022

To be honest, my WIP hasn’t been going well at all. I’ve lost energy for more than a year now but I’m still inching along on it. And in September, I finally found the cause! Basically, I have a bunch of missing content that doesn’t support the book structurally. Practically, that  means I’m back to outlining some new chapters and I will go on from there. 

And funny thing I knew this problem existed a few years ago when I was doing the online novel writing course but I kind of shoved it under the carpet in order to build momentum in writing. And actually, the breakthrough in September came about because I felt like I’m in the mood to do some mechanical exercises on my WIP (Jeff VanderMeer who starred in some of the lesson videos for the online writing course once said that dong mechanical exercises really helped him and I think I was inspired by him on this occasion) and voila, I’ve self detected the main problem with the story. And writing a story is like detection or doing jigsaw puzzle as I liked to think of it. 

So that’s it. Still fighting on. 

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- September 2022

Before we get to the good stuff, I’ve apparently already finished 31 books this year. Woohoo! And my gaming group has finally come back together after a long hiatus and we are running a Shadowrun game so I’m reading quite a fair bit of the novels in that setting to get up to speed.

Fantasy

Born to Run by Stephen Kenson

It’s a good light reading: the story starts fast and you can really speed through each of the tight short chapters if that’s your thing. I tend to be slow to warm up to characters and I think I did start feeling for Kellan right towards the end of the book. 

Poisoned Agendas by Stephen Kenson

I enjoyed the second installment of Kellan’s adventures and the title is nice, serves as a bit of a double entredre with respect to the story.

Fallen  Angels by Stephen Kenson

Things are coming to a head for Kellan and I’m glad that she found her happy ending. 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

One of my friends recently finished this and I just remembered it when I was searching for my next fantasy read. I would say that it’s not for everyone and not particularly for me. The plot is really wandering and the protagonist seems quite aimless most of the time except that you understand it is something deep seated (I wouldn’t say what it is for fear it becomes a spoiler) that drives him which ties up with the author’s conception of the source of magic which has a bit of freshness to it. I also felt like a key setting of this series is like a tribute to (or alternative take on) the Chronicles of Narnia (although I just watched the movies, never read the books). Also, this is urban fantasy and my preference obviously still runs towards the more classical fantasy set in ancient times. But I still intend to finish this series if only because I was interested in a development later on in the series when I first heard about it (and that was before my friend mentioned he had read this book)

The Magician King by Lev Grossman (Penguin audiobook)

At first I thought I made a big mistake in listening to an audiobook version of it because the story itself is just so meandering or I should say the early Quentin chapters were meandering just like book 1. What really saved me was really the Julia chapters plus I was curious about her in book 1 (I also knew about the sections on Julia before I dipped my toes into the trilogy and that was what attracted me to read this series to see how that worked in practice besides that the fact that my friends recently reading book 1 reminded me of this series).

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (Penguin audiobook)

The grand finale ties up a few loose ends from book 1 and 2. And if Quentin was drifting most of the time in book 1 and 2, in book 3 we finally see a Quentin who knows what he is doing. And I must say it does have a satisfying ending. 

Into the Shadows edited by Jordan K. Weisman

This is a collection of 8 Shadowrun short stories plus one novella at the end. Unlike most short story collections, the stories actually all tie together at the end so that might be something to look forward to if, like me, you tend to prefer novels to short stories. Other than that, the stories themselves all have the usual fast pace style for this setting. 

The Forever Drug by Lisa Smedman

Still a good fast-paced adventure in the Shadowrun setting. I’m not quite sure about my feelings about this novel though. I thought I might get a cliffhanger feeling from the novel but that’s not what I felt. Then again, maybe that is an academic concern (side effect of my job and how my mind works). 

The House of the Sun by Nigel D. Findley

Another fast-paced adventure from the Shadowrun setting that I like okay. The name of the book doesn’t come clear until the very last few chapters. 

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

I like it so far- the protagonist is part of a prophecy or rather three different prophecies which gives this prophecy business a fresh twist. I was also drawn to this series because it features a magic system based on language and the author’s portrayal wasn’t quite how I imagined it but it’s still interesting. I’m not finished with this novel so more to follow on this and subsequent books of this trilogy in December. 

Mystery

The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell

This novel was packaged as a noir fantasy thriller but I’m not feeling much of the thriller aspect. I mean, there is a central mystery and there is a kind of twist at the end that didn’t feel like a twist, more a revelation of previously hidden information. But I still feel like it’s more like a loose urban fantasy- set in the modern with fantasy elements. There is another additional narrative line that features a fictional comic and the characters in the comic that actually feeds back into the main plot of a pharmacist with a young son who has fallen into coma and his encounters in this new clinic which specialises in coma patients. Overall, I feel like this novel is more literary fiction than anything else. It’s got some deep themes but the writing is not actually meant to absorb or excite you.

Literary Fiction

Paradise by Toni Morrison

I was going to read her The Bluest Eye to study the omniscient POV but since I was giving priority to ebooks I borrowed this instead. I don’t think the story is particularly my cup of tea. I didn’t find the story engaging and I was sometimes confused by various townspeople. But I did like the ending. I had expected a much darker story based on the start but turns out this is a story about hope and personal redemption. So I can’t say I like the book personally but I think it is well written for those who actually read literary fiction as their main genre.