Almost couldn’t make it today as I was rushing to finish off my solo story for issue 1 of the epub. We are rushing to the finishing line now, 90-95% there on all stories except this one I’m wrapping up today. So today’s post will have to be another lyric post.
The following song is a Cantonese pop duet sung by Anita Mui who had already passed away, I really liked her husky voice for one who often appreciates the lyrics more than the tune. The title of the song is called “The heart is still cold”. As you can tell from the title, it’s a bit of a morose song but has a somewhat positive ending. By the way, if you feel a sense of déjà vu about the lyrics, that’s because I used it as a writing prompt earlier for my Random Writing series. It goes as follows:
(F) Seen through all the cold stares My heart is used to them and do not sigh for them
Cold laughter seemingly dissipate suppressing the brilliance within my dreams
Love is like cold rain that intermittently comes back and forth
Making me experiencing enough of coming together and drifting apart so I frequently walk alone now
(M) Having loved and hurt also because depression loves to lean on me exclusively
Cold arrows pounce on me even though I’ve fallen down on my behinds all by myself
A love that will accompany one to old age is ultimately rare
Love often plays tricks on me I am passing through amidst stumbles and falls
(F&M) Still caring about you a lot but my heart hurts
Cannot help passing off love to another in the final end
The cold night is long and deep dream is deeper
One is gradually used to continuing drifting along the path of love
(Tomorrow I continue to drift along the path of love)
(F&M) The star dust in the sky is like eyes that secretly weep
As if weeping for the lost youth that hasn’t returned
Now alone (I) silently sigh
Endless indifference and coldness are already left on the roads.
If you are one of my followers, you probably can tell that I’m getting slack again. Whenever I do, I post up a set of lyrics or dig up some old pieces of random writing that I did. Sadly, I’ve run down most of my stock save for a very few.
Now, the man reason I like the following set of lyrics is probably because it goes so well with the TV drama for which it is the theme song. The protagonist is an ‘ugly’ woman: well she’s a beauty faking to be an ugly maiden and then a magician (not Gandalf magician, modern magician but story is set in ancient China) comes along and swaps her head with her childhood friend who really is ugly so she becomes ugly. It’s a love story of course as you will see from the lyrics below.
Anyway, the title of the song is “The Price of Love” and the lyrics goes as follows:
If eyes can separate right from wrong
Right at this moment have you seen through me clearly?
The honesty hidden in the bottom of my heart
How do I harnest it to compose a love song with you that will last a thousand year?
Judging me from my social position
A female like me would you love her deeply?
If appearances make people fall for the wrong person
How do I make you look closer at me so that you will see me true
I don’t know how to lie and cheat don’t you know my goodness?
I still believe that honesty is me and my deep love still hasn’t changed
Come See for yourself
It’s not scary to use up a whole life
Even using up this life no begrudging no regrets no hatred
This is the price of love
Today is the last day of my ‘chilling out’ from the epub venture so I lost myself in chat for the most of today. So here’s another set of lyrics. It is a song sung together by a male and a female. The title of the song is called “Effective medicine that tastes bitter”. Consistent with the song title, there are many metaphorical references to Chinese medicine terminologies and it basically tells the story of a couple that didn’t make it.
(F) No lights still people around it is considered good luck if we hugged before
Even if we are patients we’ve hung on for so long that the tea have become bitter and then the bitter tea have turned back into sweetness in aftertaste
(M) So glad a fortunate one learnt to be content with one’s lot after losing love
The attraction you left behind in the past have all risen above themselves and become the key ingredient of a medicine
*(F) Never mind that your kiss yesterday have made scars out of me
Happiness become cruelty it still left a lasting impact on me
(M) Having shared the flaw of falling in love don’t wait for pity anymore
(F&M) That pain in the past is like the Ten Commandments prompting you and me to strive for rebirth
#(M) After driving a bitter concoction a sweet candy will be given to me (F) the cure for the past works
(M) To dry away tears (F) Even if what had once been possessed is lost
(F&M) No matter how trying it is in the end it will end up plain as water
(M) When you and me have got to a certain age (F) we get tired of whatever we loved best
(F&M) Yesterday no matter how perfect it will be snowfall eventually turning into water
(F) The tears shed will recede with the tides one day (M) will be a fit match for happiness one day
(F&M) Looking back on the beautiful snowfall it will still stay within your heart
(F) If still remember the past love breaking up shouldn’t be considered bad luck yet
If loves hang on till the heart have suffered then the love will be deeper
(M) In this world thousands of people love can be passed over as gifts of course
The imprint of your hand left on the cheek to let another kiss
Okay, I promised a made-up post for forgetting my weekly post a while back. Here it is while I have some news to share.
I have completed a second short story, this time a sole effort, for the epub venture. Okay, technically, it’s only half the completed story but I’m running it as a two-part series so it’s completion by that definition. It is a fantasy story based on an ancient Chinese setting that I’ve always wanted to write a series on one day. I’m quite happy with it at the moment even though I haven’t yet received any feedback on it. But I personally think that I’ve captured the vibe quite well (of course, I’m Chinese myself) and I think I’ve finally fully taste why a lot of writing advices say “write what you know”. Everything just comes so naturally on the page even for scenes that I have difficulty envisioning at first. Without counting the time to plan (which only took one day really), I wrote up part 1 (just under 3000 words) within a week which is quite fast for me with my tendency to dawdle over wording if I’m feeling uninspired.
Anyway, so now we have 5 stories and my recently finished story that’s going to published in a serial format, which is ‘one more’ than our stated aspiration of having at least 5 stories for the first issue of our epub. We are rushing towards the finishing line now on this enterprise and I just want to share this happy news with all of my followers and any other casual gazers. We are hoping to build this epub into a quarterly ezine in the long term but we’re mainly just testing the waters this time. But if I might say so myself, except for one story that still needs some substantial work, I think most are pretty close
I think this post is actually due last Sunday but because I was so excited to share the news about short story writing, it gets pushed back. But I’m sure we’re all used to my whims now if you’ve been following me and isn’t a casual passer-by. If you are, this is a series I run recurring every 3 months which isn’t book reviews, just quick and dirty summaries on what I think about the books that I’ve read recently.
So let’s get down to the substance by recapping all the books that will be reviewed. Books will be grouped by category since I picked up few short story collections and gaming books. They include:
Standalone novels and series
- Moby Dick
- Shadows Trilogy by Jon Sprunk
- A Dead man’s Ransom by Ellis Peters
- Hope to Die by James Patterson
- Days of the Deer by Lilliana Bodoc
- Shadows and Stronghold by Elizabeth Chadwick
Short story collections
- A Dreadful Murder & other criminally compulsive tales by Minette Walters
- Harvest Moon by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara and Cameron Haley
- Tortall and other lands: a collection of tales by Tamora Pierce
- Destiny quest: The Legion of Shadow by Micahel Ward
- A Million Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
- Being Elizabeth Benett: create your own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster
- Cavern of the Snow Witch by Ian Livingstone
Here’s what I thought about each of them:
- Moby Dick: I only got to the second chapter and I did not get motivation to pick it up again. I knew it was a classic but didn’t realise it was so classic as to remind me a little of Charles Dickens. I felt like it doesn’t chime with me in vocab or in the ‘worldview’ that underlies the story.
- Shadow’s Trilogy: I thought it was a two-book series when I picked up (Shadow’s son and Shadow’s Lure). But later I found out it’s actually a trilogy. Anyway, I decided to stop reading a little into book 2. How shall I describe it? Well, I was okay with it enough that I continued into book 2 but I think the main issue I have with this series is that I don’t like the writing style of the author nor the basic setup of the story. Essentially, the main character is an assassin with morals and he ends up helping the daughter of his would-be victim that he didn’t kill. While reading book 1, in the back of my mind I keep getting the feel that I’m reading a trope from video games (Assassin’s Creed, never played but see ads on buses a few times). In fact, the book feels a bit like a video game transposed into a book- having fast-paceish action, a worn plot and no prose or maybe no prose that I like.
- A Dead man’s Ransom: Pretty good as I remembered it. And then it’s hard not to compare it against the Sister Fidelma series by Peter Tremayne. All I want to say is that I like both. I can personally empathise with Sister Fidelma more but Brother Cadfael is like a fatherly figure and I like a fair bit too. And some of Ellis Peters’ prose regarding what Brother Cadfael’s ‘psychological profile’ of other characters are just sublime
- Hope to Die: JP’s certainly got a unique style of his own, what with the switching between first person perspective for his protagonist and third person for all other characters in different chapters. The other thing of him that’s different to most other novels that I’m used to is that he writes really short snappy chapters. In a thriller/mystery, I think that’s an overall plus since it ensures a fast pace. I think I will add him to my list of comfort writers from now on.
- Days of the Deer: it’s a translated work from Spanish. I might be biased against translated works in general (ever since I read Pride of Prejudice in high/secondary school in Australia and finally has a basis of comparison against the kid’s version of a translated-into-Chinese version of P&P) or it might be that I read this directly after James Patterson above. The first chapter didn’t really draw me and since I’ve got a long queue of books from my local library during this time, I’ve decided to skip this.
- Shadows and Strongholds: It’s a bit of historical fiction/romance but it’s not whimpering/head-over-heals romance that I have an abhorrence against. In fact, when I first picked up, I didn’t realise it was a romance since the backcover blurb advertised it as a coming-of-age story. Well, it wasn’t far off since foremost it is about the protagonist, a boy with a self-confidence issue coming to age and growing into a man. The plot of him finding the ‘perfect match’ for him, a childhood play-mate who’s a spirited lass and sometimes too prone to jumping to conclusions, is secondary to his own growing up plot but at the same time, it’s really the two of them together I think that really draws one into the story. Another author added to my comfort reading list- I think she does good work with characters that I’m trying to improve on for my own work.
Short story collections
- A Dreadful Murder…: 3 short stories, 2 of which are based on true murders. The author said in the foreword that each of the three are written in different styles and that’s the ‘selling point’ of this book. I like the first the best, followed by the last, but I don’t like the second one at all.
- Harvest Moon: again, a collection of 3 stories. The first unpacks a lot of character within the length of a short story because it’s mainly based on Greek mythology. There are some bits that I like about it and some bits that I don’t. Overall, it’s an okay story. Second I like the best, a story about how a thief(?) from the poor quarter gets recruited into the fantasy equivalent of a police force and grows into her new role in the midst of a serial children murder case. Third is really an urban fantasy about a gangster evading a death curse with the Angel of Death to implement the curse and I like it the least. Probable reason being that I don’t really like urban fantasy all that much in general.
- Tortall…: Since I’m pretty read up on Tamora Pierce, this is the favourite of the three short story collections that I read in this period for the pure reason that I’m fairly familiar with her Tortall setting. I also like how she’s included two related stories within this single volume (starring same two characters and adventures one after the other).
In case anyone’s wondering, these are books where you play as a given character like a RPG. You can’t read them in a linear way. Passages are numbered with random length ranging from a couple lines to a few pages. You start from whichever passage denoted by a number Foreword or Intro tells you to flip to and go from there. At the end of each passage, there are a few alternative instructions telling you where to flip to next. And, you usually need a dice to roll which can affect what ending you can get.
- Shadow of the Legions: the way it proceeds with a quest system feels quite PC gamish, especially calling to mind the Diablo series, but it provides a fairly good fantasy adventure
- A Million Little Mistakes: The basic setup is that you’ve just won a million dollars worth of lottery and what would happen to your life from that point on. I don’t really like the way that sometimes the character are forced into doing things that just aren’t me and in this book, you can a very short plot arc most of the time. But the author did tell you at the start to mark the page you were on last so that you can always return to it and make an alternative choice. But what really makes this book unique is that the author tells me that in this book “If you aim to do good it might not always give you a good ending and the same is true vice versa, just like real life.” Something to that effect. At first, I was thrown by the very short plot arcs and this thing of the character doing things just not me. But there’s something about this book that keeps on compelling me to continue searching for an alternative ending that I like. And I did eventually. It’s an ending where the character is well contended and I’m well contended. Most importantly, I think this book is trying to send a message that “go with your heart, that’s the sure thing to give you a good ending.”
- Lizzy Bennett: I don’t like this book at all. The setup tells to keep track of all these stuff (which a normal gaming book does- equipment listing and character sheet are the 2 musts) but they don’t really come in play in terms of affecting your ending. Okay, the only thing that affects your ending is Lizzy’s intelligence score but even the author says you can fib it since the ending just goes two ways based on a threshold. But what really gets me is that the author’s asking us to play as Lizzy and she doesn’t like Lizzy herself, it seems. She’s downright patronizing towards Lizzy, therefore towards the reader.
- Cavern of the Snow Witch: The author is one of the two who wrote a whole bunch of these books and I think his name (along with another guy he usually co-authors with) is a brand name in this genre. It’s an okay storyline but probably is, I think there’s only one positive ending out of this and there’s only the single path to get to that positive ending. So that makes the whole book a little linear. It’s a long time since I’ve read him and his co-authors though and I can’t remember whether that has always been their trademark.
Okay, that’s it for December’s Book Discoveries. Stay tuned for the April re-run of this series.
Firstly, Happy New Year, everyone (While today is not New Year’s Day, this is the post of mine that you are reading this year) This must be the most dramatically titled post of mine so far. This is driven by the fact that I just completed the first short story in my life (technically untrue but let’s say my adult life) this week!
It’s not a solo effort and in fact comes about precisely because it’s not a solo effort. I’ve talked about how I’ve joined the epub group at my writer’s home the Citadel and how I decided to discontinue the short story that I had spent months working on for it. I had even gone so far as to notify everyone that I would only be only collaborations from now on for the venture. But guess what? I got back into this enterprise last week when I suddenly got this story idea in my head based on a world setting that I had constructed on a broad sketch level (not my Zia setting but another one, it’s called Kalimon). As it happened, it didn’t work out after I started doing an outline for it because it doesn’t have a clear conflict but have two hidden conflicts. Add on top of it the deadline now in place for story submissions- 15 Jan, I decided to ditch the story not wanting to start another and then abandon it. So I spent a whole day tearing my hair out and spewing insanity in the chat box of the Citadel and finally I said I would go with a cheesy Chinese folklore adaptation if I can’t think of anything. That was last Friday.
As it turned out, another member of the writer’s group was available to chatting and he helped me iron out a simple straightforward plot out of one of these Chinese folklore type of information that I had compiled from the Internet. A collaboration was formed and he took the first draft in his hands. We agreed that we would do alternate revisions and each revision would be a total relinquishing of control onto the other’s hands. And he basically did the entire first draft in one day! It was only about 1000 words and mostly just laid down the necessary skeleton of the story (my co-author being more inclined to write poetry and having a shorter attention span as both writer and reader especially with the length of works). But it was exactly what I needed! So ta ta, my second draft of this story was completed just yesterday. While it’s not a personal masterpiece, I’m quite content with it and I released it out in the open to be commented by everyone in on this venture.
And does the story stops here? No, it doesn’t. I thought up another short story yesterday (okay, the idea snippets came a little earlier, sometime during this week when I was writing up draft 2 of the collaboration) and today I’ve already finished scene 1. I only planned 3 scenes for this and I had a little hunch that I might need to think a little more about the transition from scene 2 to scene 3. But since the deadline’s place, I’m doing a little cheat wherein I decided to put this story into 2 parts and I’m only writing up to the completion of scene 2 for the deadline. So everything’s sunshine with my writing short stories.