Live and Let Live (2)

As promised, here’s the second snippet and we’re still following the same mother-daughter pair as last time:

“I don’t know why you love mucking around so much, you do it day and night. You are only in the thirties. You’ve got plenty of time to muck around later in life. Your priority now should be making money.” Right, as if I could know for a certainty that I would live the standard old age. Even if I could, who is to say that I would think a life living how she wants me to live- getting and keeping a secure full time 9-5 job and keep having numbers piling up in my bank account, would be superior to a life of “mucking around”. Besides, who says that I intend to muck around for life? I’m just not ready to move yet, especially if I’m being pushed. And here we go again, the “should” business again. I have no idea why she gets the idea that there is only one correct way of living, one correct thing to strive for at a particular life stage. For her, everything is money, money. It’s almost like she feels that one would starve without enough savings. But really, I’ve still got enough savings to last me another year. So why should I rush into a job, any job just for the sake of money? She just doesn’t get it that, to me, it is far more important to me to at least not hate my job rather than just racking in pay from week to week. And if I tell her that, she’s gonna sneer at me and say that I’ve never appreciated fully the responsibility of managing day-to-day finance for a household. Right, I haven’t but I know that one could trim down on living expenses any time one puts one’s mind to. But I can’t be bothered telling her. Every time we try to resolve our differences in perspective, we end up arguing. And she’s much better at arguing than I am. Twisting my words, pulling back examples of what she had sacrificed throughout her life for me, she’s the expert at all those tricks. Me, I’m usually cowed by her in the end. So I’ve long since given up arguing with her. No point, no point to it at all.

Moonlake’s Work pile (3)

Today I’m going to talk about my novel projects which include:

  1. The Crunalan Steppes series (World of Zia- 5 books): I have named all 5 of them and was trying my hand at the first- the Return of the White Deer. It is basically historical fantasy (a sub-genre of historical fiction, basically historical fiction+fantasy as the name indicates, thought I would mention it for the sake of those not familiar with the term, I didn’t know it myself until I looked it up at the early stages when I questioned whether my idea was too weird). What I’ve done was to use historical characters and then put my imagination to work to fiddle around with them and actual history to derive at this series. I chose this series to make my first attempt at novel writing because I seemed to really suck at characterisation so I thought why not take ready-made characters and that was the premise on which this series came about really. It is stalled now- I need more time to work out some detail in the underlying world for the plot to advance even though I’ve already mapped out way in advance how the plot moves forward in broad sketches. But details, details, I need details….
  2. The Divinity War series (Salagon Desert- a trilogy): The protagonist is male for this series and the main focus of this series would be the Divinity War, which is a war fought between established deities and an alliance of semi-deities and newer deities (or maybe just a different faction of deities, not sure about that particular detail yet). It is really the prequel series to the Earthern Sceptre series and come from the same inspiration source but with a difference. More will be discussed below.
  3. The Earthen Sceptre series (Salagon Desert- a trilogy): The sequel series to the Divinity War series, it is really based on an unfinished (and probably abandoned) book on a Chinese website publishing online novels. Anyway, this book I’ve been following was a bit unlike most of the other fairly low quality novels up there that I just read for leisure to get me out of the ‘downs’. The writing itself is still mediocre but I actually feel that it chimed with me in some way. So about a year after it was abandoned by the actual author, I felt that it was really too much of a pity and decided to rectify the situation by using the excuse of ‘continuing the story and finishing it’ to start my very first novel series. It’s not really like I would be infringement copyrights because I don’t intend to publish it for sale even if I finished it. As it went, well, I got good progress with it because really, I’m more or less sticking to the events occurring in the book but putting in my own words (the online novel had really gotten so long as to be enough to occupy a little over one book and in actual published form, I would imagine that it would a trilogy or something like that instead of one long book). But as things go, I felt that I really wanted to fiddle with the original story a lot in terms of characterisation, introducing new side-plots etc. that I felt I might as well start on something totally new and from me. So I’ve officially abandoned this project. But I don’t know, I still feel it would provide great satisfaction to myself if I could finish this series one day and not feel so much pity for the promising online novel that I had enjoyed that just hung there. So I might come back to this yet. And anyway, somehow the idea of the Divinity War series as a prequel series to this just came around. In actual fact, the Divinity War series was originally going to be the series that I would be trying my hands at but I was really stuck on characterisation.
  4. The Dragon Empire series: this is the series that I really want to do and described on the About page of this blog. As thing currently stand, I have gotten down the World itself in broad sketches in terms of history and various aspects that I concoct up for the fantasy genre. But again, I’ve drawn a total blank in terms of characters to put in the series. So while I’ve put this down as a writing project, it really isn’t a current one but rather one simmering at the back of my brain. However, I do have high hopes that eventually it would come to the fore, especially since I’m continuing to develop it through my region building activity at the Citadel.

So that’s the complete overview of things on my work pile. I will provide occasional updates from now on when things change significantly.

Moonlake’s Work pile (2)

Continuing from where I left off last time, I will be recounting more of the projects on my work pile. They are not listed in any particular order but I will separate them into two groups, one related to my writer home (the Strolen’s Citadel) and the other for novels. In this post, I’m just going through my Citadel projects. They include:

  1. The Kaiju (a massive creature ala Godzilla style) quest: I had previously written up a myth adapted from Chinese folklore/literature that is titled the Dragon and its Nine Off-springs where each of the Nine Off-springs are Kaijus in their own rights. So I had 2 ideas springing from this sub that could fall under the Kaiju theme. One is about the tallest set of mountain ranges created from their spines after a fight between two of these Dragon Off-springs that result in both dying. The second idea related to one of the Offsprings that is a water-dwelling creature. I had some vague that the milk from this creature would be feeding its children (various water life-forms at the body of water) and a group of nomadic people living near it.
  2. 20000 under the sea quest: Same inspiration as above but thought I would be writing about another of the water-dwelling Off-spring and the sunken city associated with it. To be honest, I’m a bit muddle between this particular project and the second idea for the other quest. But then again, I do have 2 water-dwelling creatures for the Nine Off-springs.
  3. Legendary People quest: I had a legendary figure for my stalled novel that I was keen to develop (just to round out the underlying world if for nothing else) but well, the novel itself is stalled so…. But anyway, I’ll talk about my novel in greater details below, which I realised I haven’t actually done up to now.
  4. Fallen Empires quest: Got the idea that it would be written from the perspective of someone who experienced the Sundering of Zia (which is the name of the world for my novel, as well as the only continent on this particular world) except that I don’t really know what this narrator would be writing about (maybe the history of the Dragon Empire, which is really just I named the equivalent of ancient China in my world). So, as you can see, a very vague idea for a submission really since I don’t even know what I would really be writing about here.
  5. Let there be Light quest: A sword called the Shadow Bearer, inspiration from a mythical Chinese sword whose blade is invisible (I thought I will say this ability is cos it interacts with light in a certain way or something like that)
  6. Oceanic quest: the Oceanic equivalent of the Silk Road?
  7. Organic NPCs quest: There’s an article that a Strolenati had written about how to build up a character from layers of impressions and knowledge about the character (much like how one gets to know a complete stranger) and this quest is basically about using the way described in this article to write up a character. I have a few characters lined up from various novels I might write about one day (yes, I always have large numbers of projects on my work pile, all of which I thought I was going to do eventually. In reality, of course, I do all kinds of whims). Anyway, characters is forever my weak point so we’ll see how things go.
  8. Shards of the Storm quest: based on a submission written by a particular Strolenati about this sword that is the weapon of a diety but got broken up into various shards. The Challenge here is to write about an item made from the fusion of such a shard with other ordinary materials that is not a weapon. My current idea is a vase that contains such a shard and can predict the onset of storms. This idea seems pretty bland to me but well, that’s all I have now.
  9. The Spouse Challenge: I owe 2 entries for it. This is basically a challenge to use the spouse generator we have up on the Citadel (we have a list of random generators for use in roleplaying and other uses you want to put them to) that generates characteristics for the spouses of characters including detailed looks, wealth, fertility and detailed social relationships (up to 6 contacts that he/she could be friendly/hostile to and the reasons for why)
  10. The 5-in-1 for the Strolenati Guild Quest: So Guilds is again just a bit of fun we have whereby we can apply for membership at various Guilds and the application process involves writing up specific numbers of submissions on specific themes and passing a specific threshold for the scores given to these submissions (yes, at the Citadel, your submissions get scored by others but really it’s just sort of a feedback mechanism on how well liked the sub is to others. While some might get upset over it periodically, in general I find it an integral part of the Citadel and I like it just as it is). Anyway, the 5-in-1 is really just a writing challenge where you have to take 5 submissions, neither of them your own, and somehow use them all to create a new submission of your own.
  11. Region building- again just something you can participate for extra fun. Regions are what you can claim once we have built up 15 or more submissions around a central theme of your choosing. I definitely plan to create a region for the world of Zia. I also have another high magic fantasy world cooked up (I just love world building) but it’s a bit neglected. I’m thinking of writing 2 more submissions about the broad sketch of its magic system and history and then releasing it as a map challenge (we have two going on now, whereby someone provides a map and other Strolenatis can claim regions on it to take as their own and write up).

Moonlake’s Work pile (1)

Today I’m a little short of time what with doing freelancing work and other errands. Also, I’m recently a little slack in writing ever since my novel stalled although I’ve started to work on a few short writing projects again. Anyway, I know from personal experience that having my writing commitment public somehow gives me great motivation to finish things. So this is basically what today’s post will be about: showcasing a list of my current (and long overdue) writing projects aka my work pile.

 

The current project I’m actually on is the write-up of a legendary set of 2 swords. This weapon actually exists in Chinese history i.e. it is the weapon of a famous historical person, but I’m adding fantasy components to it. I’m still borrowing heavily from Chinese history and folklore though so I guess you would call it more of a creative adaptation exercise. I should also mention that I’m writing it as a submission at my writer home- the Strolen’s Citadel. It goes towards my attempt to earn a new badge for having completed 10 quests at the Citadel. For those not familiar with the Citadel, quests are writing challenges with a deadline of about 1-2 months (basically just a bit of fun that we have at the Citadel and also effort to entice new submissions by members). Anyway, I’ve currently done 6 and this submission I’m working on now will be the 7th. It is for the quest called “What makes weapons magic” and the weapon I’m writing is magic basically because it is so legendary a weapon in my fantasy world that people who come across it would think it’s magical and it is really the psychological effect that gives it its ‘special powers’. There are still details that I need to fill in here and there but that’s the gist of it. I’ve also planned the other three quests that I might do which include: 1: the Fire quest, for which I would write a short treatise on the topic of nether flame aka ghost fire (what they are, how many types there are etc.); 2. the Villain quest, for which I would be cheating slightly and re-using one of the villains in my ‘stalled’ novel; 3. The Sounds of War quest (all war related things), for which I would be writing a sort of diary entry or mental dialogue (like in the Live and Let Live post) of a semi-deity who was involved in the Divinity War, essentially a war between established deities and an alliance of semi-deities and possibly newer deities (or the other faction amongst deities).

 

There are more on my work pile but I’m running out of time today. So bye for now.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (13)

I haven’t posted one in ages and since I’m feeling too slack today (or rather let’s say I spent a long time on Hangout today), I’m doing today’s post on another set of song lyrics. This one is fairly deep. I can’t say that I’ve experienced all of the things talked about in the song but I’ve certainly saw enough of them in books and on TV to be moved by the lyrics. The title of the song is called “Exist”.

The lyrics is as follows:

How many people are walking but in effect trapped where they are?
How many people are living but it is as if they have died?
How many people are in love but it is as if they are in separation?
How many people are smiling but (their eyes are) full of tears?

*Who knows to where we should go to?
Who understand what life has become?
Do I find an excuse to continue to merely live?
Or fly high and keep my anger?
How should I exist?

How many times you are receiving prestige but feel humiliation?
How many times you are crazy with joy but then feel twice the pain?
How many times happiness comes but your heart is broken?
How many times brilliance comes with you seeming like you lost your soul?

# Who knows to where our dreams belong?
Who understand what dignity has been degraded to?
Do I find a reason to be carried along by the tide?
Or go forth bravely and break away from the cage?
How should I exist?

Repeat *(but skip last line)

Repeat #

Improvisational Writing

A neat trick!

Live to Write - Write to Live

I took an improv class in Cambridge this winter. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since 2008, when I did improv during a Master Coach training. Since taking the class, I’ve been using some of the techniques I learned to get more words on the page. Here are two of the ways I’ve incorporated improv into my writing life.

Warm-Ups: Every week, at the beginning of class, we would do a series of game designed to warm us up; to get us out of our heads and into our bodies. I’ve started doing warm-ups at the beginning of my writing sessions. One (silly) warm-up I do is write a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet, relating each word somehow (even tangentially) to the previous word (not all the previous words, just the word before that word).

An example: Apples Bruise Colors Design Elements Forever Granite Houses Invite…

View original post 312 more words

Live and Let Live (1)

I had delved into the stats on WordPress to find which category of my posts are most popular and Random Writings won by hands down. And since I’ve already exhausted all of my old outputs, I figured that I would start a new pile (especially now that my novel is in ‘stalled’ status) to appease my followers who miss them sorely.

This time, instead of just random writings, I got the inspiration to write a short story in snippets (the main reason being that the best I could do in these random writing sessions is to reach the 100 wordcount). Anyway, the story will be about a mother-daughter couple who have an irreconcilable clash of life philosophies on the main. However, this is purely unplanned writing so I have no inkling how things pan out later as to whether I will have just have brand new characters for each single snippet or whether I would go on with the mother-daughter duo in the current snippet. Unlike a conventional story, each snippet will start with a sentence that the mother says and then follow up with the daughter’s internal thoughts. My beta reader for the novel that I’ve abandoned (for now, hopefully) has commented that I have the habit to get into character’s heads a lot and here I’m just going for that in the max. I don’t think how the readers would like it but I like to experiment with different things now and then and this is one of my attempts. For now I would name this story “Live and Let Live”

Below is the first snippet:

“If you want to move up, then you move down.”

Her implicit beliefs of how the world operates has ever been that people are segregated by different social classes that become insurmountable barriers between their interactions, that the world is forever out to “get you” such that if you are on alert 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to push yourself towards improvement and racing ahead, then you fall back in the natural order of things because everyone is racing ahead and finally that everyone wants to race ahead rather than contemplating the fact that some- such as me, might simply refuse to participate in such a race that she pictures and instead do their own things. Yes, contemplating is definitely the right word here, not acknowledging, she holds the strongest belief that her view of how the world operates is the truth rather than just her own perspective and her own reality.

This time, I think I want to aim for this serial post to become recurring at set times since I sorely need to keep in practice for creative writing now that I put my novel on hold. However, since I just started afresh so I think I will aim for a recurring post every two weeks rather than weekly. Say let’s just settle for every second Friday starting from the 29th of this month.

“What does Writing Mean to you?”

I skipped out on the post yesterday because I was preparing the response to selection criteria document for a job- yes, that most pesky activity that one could be engaged in! Having said that, I’m applying for a job in familiar fields so to speak and there would be no more weird questions at interviews as I’ve encountered when I was trying to make a switch.

 

Anyway, personal life aside, I’ve decided to base today’s post on the question of “What does Writing Mean to you?” I don’t think I explicitly mentioned it here but I was trying my hand at novel writing and was working on the first book of a five book series. But then let’s just say a number of things happened both with the writing itself and my life circumstances such that I just couldn’t continue.with it. That was in February of this year. At that point, I had meant to come back to it, say in a month maybe, but now the status on this novel just ended up being “stalled”.

 

Now, to be honest, I never really had the ambition to be a published author up to a year ago, except to dream that one day (possibly when I’ve retired) that I would try my hand at novel writing. Now, I can only say that novel writing is much higher up in priority in my life but I can’t really say that I want to be making a living out of writing. Still, I would like to be able to be in a position to produce a high quality fantasy series one day. And note that, I say fantasy series, not just a book, for I’ve found that what I enjoy most out of writing is the creation of a fantasy world and really, as a reader myself, I love the extent of immersion into the fantasy world that only a series can provide. So really I think at this stage I’m just trying to re-affirm what writing means to itself, and hence this post.

 

So what does writing mean to me? Well, in essence, it is an activity that I immensely enjoy. It provides me with a sense of freedom that no other activity could. When I’m writing, I could live in the moment and not think about anything else (on a good day, that is, I of course encounter Writer’s Block very often etc. etc.) In general, I am very good at self-therapy when I feel down and I’ve just found out that writing is the ultimate form of self therapy available in my hands. For me, it is also a form of self expression, in a format that I feel comfortable with and actually adore (yes, I’m an introvert and I’m the type of person that hate being induced to talk when I don’t feel like talking). So yes, writing for me is purely and simply a leisurely pursuit, much like how I love to watch TV drama and love to read books. Also, I think there is beauty in words, just by individual words necessarily, but definitely when they flow together and create certain effects. At high school, I already know that I enjoy writing but well, I’ve always been very intellectual (nerdy for some), very rational, very practical and I worry about the prospect of earning a living as an author. I’ve always had the impression that earning a living as a writer is some sort of “rich people’s occupation” if you are working age (hence my dream used to be that I would pursue writing in retirement).

 

Anyway, I think I’ve gone onto a side-track. As I’ve said, my ambition is not to be a published writer. Rather, what I would like to produce one day is a fantasy series that I deem to be high quality. I don’t really care whether it sells or not but I want to produce something that I deem worthwhile, as simple as that.

 

This post has ended up being random personal musings as I suspected it would but I really feel that it’s time for me to put things down in words somewhere so that I don’t forget about what writing really means for me and then to get side-tracked into a million of other things that do nothing to do with me and the type of writing that I am pursuing. And at the end of this post, I would like to thank any of you who ventured to read (and finish) this which is really a self-therapy that I’ve concocted to move me forwards on my stalled novel and writing in general. So cheers and stay tuned for more posts that are less rambling.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- May 2015

I’m going out tomorrow so posting in advance again. As I promised, this will be about the books I’ve read in the last 3 months and what I thought about them. For my new followers, I don’t do book reviews per se because I’m not really objective as a reader of books in general. I can appreciate good writing but as a rule, a book either chimes with me on a personal level or it doesn’t so my bookish posts are what I call “quick and dirty summaries of my thoughts on series, standalone books and authors”.

The actual books that would be covered in this post include:

  • The boy with the porcelain blade by Den Patrick
  • Giant Thief by David Tallerman
  • The Tower and Knife trilogy by Marzarkis Williams
  • The Murder of Roger Ackryod by Agatha Christie
  • The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

Here’s what I thought about each of them:

  • The boy with the porcelain blade- to be honest, I’m sort of indifferent about it on a personal level. It is an okay read in general and it’s the first book of a series but I don’t think I’m too keen to follow the actual series, preferring to be done with the book as a standalone. That, however, is not to say that Den Patrick’s writing style is bad. Even though the story is only set in a castle, I don’t feel the underlying world being ‘constricted’ in any sense (which is what I hate in a fantasy story). Also, I do feel that it is interesting that he had decided to tell the story in alternating chapters that go between the present and the past. As for the effect of this storytelling method… well, I can only say that I personally feel that it has been a hit-and-miss. At some points, I feel that it worked really well, the chapter that delved into the past added an extra layer of depth when put together with the previous chapter on what’s happening in the present. At other times, I could see no clear link between the two consecutive chapters on different timelines so then the chapter on the past becomes a kind of annoying obstacle to the sequences of events unfolding in the present that you want to follow. So overall, I would really prefer that the chapters on the past are put in sparingly rather than the current alternate chapter structure. The story itself features some detailed scenes of swordplay, a few mysteries as the plot progresses, light brushes of politics at intervals and a kind of dark gothic feel.
  • Giant Thief-  A good light read for me, quite fast-paced, starring a typical rogue (a thief) as the protagonist and his adventures after stealing a giant to earn his freedom from forceful conscription into the army
  • Tower and Knife- it has been an interesting read for me since it is my first-time exposure to the ‘grim fantasy’ niche. It definitely tells a layered story in that in each book of the series, the protagonists face a different enemy but the underlying source of the threat (pattern magic) remains the same and in each book, some extra layer(s) of truth about this underlying threat is revealed. Such layering also happens at the level of individual character actions. All in all, I quite like such a layered story telling approach. Also, I feel that each book of this series can be read as a standalone as in each book, new character perspectives are presented which is something new to me and I find that quite interesting. Of course, I prefer to read the trilogy all together as I did because of the layering and in general I’m just more used to fantasy trilogies that “hang together”. But as I’ve alluded to before, I always need periods of “light reading” after a good fantasy series that I really sink into. While this series is definitely not light reading in terms of content, this relatively standalone nature of the books in this series is good for any fantasy readers who doesn’t feel like being drawn into an actual trilogy/quartet/quintet etc.
  • Murder of R.A- a quite unique twist in terms of the culprit and by quite unique, I mean that I think I’ve read another book of hers where she did the same thing. This copy at my local library includes a foreword and afterword by Laura Thompson who is a biographer of Christie and in my opinion, reading them in addition to the actual story not only gives you more insights into Christie as a person and her conceptualisation of the book but is an enjoyable experience in and of itself.
  • The Enchanted- I forgot about it when I did my post on unusual reads. I actually didn’t pick this book on my own but because I joined a book club and it was designated as the book of the month. The story is set at a death cell prison, with the narrator being a death-row prisoner observing about the blossoming love between a ‘fallen priest” as he calls him who works at the prison and a lady who works to help death-row prisoners get a kind of re-assessment (or get clear) before they are due to be executed (I don’t know the actual technical term for it, this is what it roughly is in my own words). There’s some beautiful prose in this book but more, I like the fact that it tells of a lot of disturbing events but doesn’t tell it in a very sentimental way that gives the readers emotional baggage.

I have the following books currently borrowed but haven’t started to read yet:

  • The Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
  • A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters

Going forward, I have the following books marked on my reading list, not in any particular order (all of them available at my local library):

  • The Noble Warriors trilogy by William Nicholson (YA)
  • The Desert of Souls by Howard A. Jones (historical fantasy mystery)
  • People of the Weeping Eye by Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear (historical fantasy)
  • Shadow’s Son and Shadow’s Lure by Jon Spurk
  • Wolfsangel by M. D. Lachlan (historical fantasy mystery)
  • Keith McCarthy mystery books

I have scrapped both the Imriel trilogy by Carey Jacqueline and Ian Irvine’s trilogy off my reading list, the former because only book 2 is accessible to me and the latter because my fellow Strolenati told me that the it was no good (he said that Ian Irvine doesn’t seem like a bad writer but it looked like he was writing according to trend, resulting in the creation of one-dimensionality on a grand scale). I’m contemplation about the Mistborn trilogy from Brandon Sanderson because somehow my local library only has the first book of the trilogy in English but instead has the full trilogy in Chinese. While Chinese is my mother language, I never has a thing for translated books (I read some of the world classics in childhood which includes Pride and Prejudice and reading it again in English as part of high school literature analysis really drove home to me how much loss occurs in translations). On the other hand, I have read multiple positive reviews about the series so now I’m of two minds on it.

That’s all for books for May. Stay tuned for the recurrence of this post on the first Monday of August.

P.S. This is the second long-read that I’ve written and I’m still surprised by it.