Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Grey

The peace of the kingdom

hung,

dark cloud

rain

The prince sat

huge old throne

worn crown

worn sword

always alone

no kin

no advisors

duty as the peace

restlessly he fingered

throne

then

crown and sword

the dark cloud broke……..

The numbness of the day settled on me. The cold winter morning was punctuated  with the static on the television. The new/old VCR sparked and the tape inside stuttered. It was what woke me up.

Howls erupted suddenly from the walls and floor. I reached for the stereo remote and played my favorite Halestorm song at full volume. “I miss the misery” blasted the air.  It combined with the howls into an ear-shattering cacophonous wall. Used to this mayhem I fell back asleep and dreamed of 22 years ago……

As promised, above is an excerpt from Grey, one of the two urban fantasy pieces included in the first issue of Excursions from the Citadel. Just to make it clear, this piece is not written by me by rather by one of my two collaborators who contributed our creative efforts towards this publication. I’m hearing that there might be some slight delay that makes it not ready for March 1st release but I’m not definite on this point yet. I will definitely keep all of you updated though. And stay tuned throughout this week for daily release for excerpts!

Excursions from the Citadel- A Review by Moonlake

I’m really happy with the overall quality of the epub at the moment and this is what prompts me to write up this post in which I would give an outline and reviews of all the pieces included.

 

Let’s talk about Thread first (this is my blog so of course I come first :P). I feel this is the stronger of my 2 pieces in the underlying ideas. However, since I wrote this whilst the closing of submission is real close, I fear that my execution might not have done the underlying idea justice but judge for yourselves. Shapeshifters only come into this story in a very peripheral way and that’s the way it’s like for all except for a single chased-by-shape-shifters story in this collection. Thread part 1 sets up the journey that two Chinese wizards or Geomancers will set out on to search for a plant that is part of the cure for the Crown Prince who have fallen to a fatal malady. It includes two coolly described scenes of how a Geomancer divination is done. The setting is a fantasy version of ancient China. It has 100% genuine Chinese feel to it because it is written by a Chinese, yours truly. And me and another collaborator of mine on this issue are pretty much head-over-heels in love with my prose on this piece (he is, I’m a modest person so I will just say I’m solidly happy with the prose I’ve produced). But enough of tooting my own horns.

 

Next, I want to move onto my personal favourite in this collection, which isn’t written by me. It is also the only novella in this collection, titled Winged Invasion. It is the story of a false hermit asked by a group of shape-shifters to undertake a ritual for them and instead of the shape-shifter being forced into a situation of being pulled between two conflicting allegiances, it is the human protagonist that is in such a situation. As I said, I think that’s one “turning things on their heads” approach that can be done with a shape-shifter theme. And it’s my personal favourite because it chimes with me on a personal level. And there’s also a lesson that I think everyone can take away from this story in general.

 

My second favourite, titled Grey, is a work written by yet another of my collaborator. It is a very dreamy, slightly sad story interspersed heavily with poetry that unpacks a lot of the feel of this piece in a very tight way that leaves a lot of ‘aftertaste’ in one that I personally always appreciate in a piece. In fact, it could just as equally be one of my favourites except that it doesn’t really chime with me on a personal level despite that the writing really wooed me. And I was wooed both on the idea and execution. This story only relates to the shape shifter theme insofar as a key character has the ability to shift forms. We have half of the pieces which aren’t really about conventional shape shifters so that’s why we are calling this issue “Shifting shapes” instead. A subtle change in wording but more encompassing in meaning.

 

Here’s another piece by me but in collaboration with the author of my second favourite piece of the collection. The name of the story is Labor of an Empress. It is basically a long poem in the words of my collaborator who wrote all the poems in this piece that were only edited or changed in minor ways by me. One can also call it a mood piece but it is also a character growth story for the protagonist, the Empress in the title. In the words of my collaborator who authored my personal favourite, it’s a very lyrical piece. In my own words, it is a quite charming piece containing a substantial number of imageries that I hope readers would appreciate.

 

We’ve also included a piece for a mature audience. The title for it is Lady down the Hall and the last word in the title should tell you that the sole theme of this story is decadence in a particular way. The title of this story is how the shape shifter in this story is known as.

 

Last but not least is the shape-shifter chase story that I mentioned previously, titled Atop a Pine-covered Mountain. It introduces two new elements/twists to the mould of a chase by not only shape-shifter but what-have-you. The first one is that the protagonist is someone with a lot of false bravado rather than any of the innocents or character you are really fond of nor any of the villains or manipulative people with ambitions. The second one I will leave to you to discover at your leisure.

 

That’s all for stories outlines and reviews. Again, stay tuned over next week for excerpt releases. I will release one for all six pieces from Monday-Saturday Australian time.

 

Excursions from the Citadel- out to wander the world

The first issue of the Citadel commercial epub, Excursions from the Citadel, will be out on Amazon Kindle on March 1st! We are taking advantage of the 5 days of promotion on Amazon in which our ebook will be free to targeted readers. So if fantasy or just good writing is your thing, tune in to this blog for announcements about when it will be going for free! It holds the collection of work by three authors including myself or “the circle of three” as we’ve dubbed ourselves. The theme is shape-shifters as I’ve already mentioned in a previous post. Before I delve into anything, I would first like to put up the following two links that provide good summaries of the different types of shape-shifter stories there are and the functions a shape-shifter serves in a story:

Themes in shape-shifter stories: http://www.writing-world.com/sf/shape.shtml

Role of Shape-shifter in stories http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/shapeshifter/

 

Now, shape shifter is a very popular theme lately I was told and Keyword Analytics tell me the same thing. But I have to say that personally I think of it as a lame theme in the sense that I feel like the majority of stories starring shape-shifters fall into a couple of moulds that just don’t interest me or I’ve grown tired of. So if you are someone like me, I want to say that you can rest assured that the Excursions from the Citadel doesn’t have a single story in it that really falls into any of the conventional moulds as I think of them or if it does, then it tips around on its head.

 

We have 5 and ½ stories included in the first issue- the half a story is the first part of a two-part running serial story written by me, what I called Thread in my first post of this month. In this post, I want to focus on discussing how each of the stories relate to the designated theme of shape-shifter and takes it beyond the conventional moulds that I personally find hard to relate to.

 

Firstly, most of stories have applied the concept of shape-shifters as a story element in a broad way. By this, I mean specifically that it has taken the two concepts of transformation and transcendence under the umbrella of shape shifters or rather shifting in shapes as we prefer to call it.

 

Transformation is easy. A shape-shifter is technically a sentient being able to shift into another form, usually a bestial form when we think about shape shifters. But three of the stories here are really about shifting in shapes which is subtly different from such a conventional image of a shape shifter. In particular, who says that one of the form has to be a sentient form? That is how two of the stories have incorporated the transformation element of the shape shifters theme. The other story doesn’t go this route but is still subtly different from the conventional sentient being to bestial shape-shifter image that everyone has grown used to.

 

Transcendence can be seen as Mental or Character Transformation. It can also be about a final moment that leads characters to euphoria and a higher state to where they were. These are essentially character growth or self discovery stories and the element of a shape-shifter or shape shifting plays a somewhat minor or peripheral role in the story. In this issue, we have one story each with the theme on character growth and self discovery. We also have one story that I already alluded to briefly in the above paragraph that I think belongs to this category in the sense that the ending is imminently satisfying for the main character involved.

 

Now, we do have one story that includes the conventional shape-shifter and is essentially a story of a protagonist being on the run from shape-shifters. And there the novelty mainly comes from the type of the protagonist that the author has chosen. There’s an additional novelty in the setup for this particular story but I’m not giving all the elements away so I won’t get into it here.

 

Overall, I think this particular volume that I’m personally involved has something to offer for both those who really like to read anything involved shape-shifters or some like me whose taste run the other way. But don’t just take my words for it. There will be excerpt releases on this blog over the next week starting from Monday Australian time. On each day I will release a single page or scene’s worth of except for a particular story. So stay tuned if you are an avid reader of fantasy, the shape-shifter theme or just appreciate solid good writing.

 

Also, next to follow is my own personal review of each story in this epub which will provide more of an outline of what each story’s plot is. It’s a biased review but I’m in the mood for it.

 

 

Chinese lore- Legendary Horses

Pictures of all the horses can be seen here . Listing over there is in reverse order to this post here.

No. 10: The Yellow-hoofed Flying Thunder (Zhao Huang Fei Dian)

As its name indicates, it has four yellow hoofs but its body is white throughout. It is a very tall, powerful, dignified, elegant and yet arrogant mount. It is the preferred mount of the villainous warlord Cao Cao (the closest pronunciation is Chow Chow) whenever he returned in triumph after a battle.

No. 9: Stolen Pure Black (Dao Li)

One of the eight legendary horses used to pull the carriage of Zhou Mu Wang (a warlord of ancient times), it was said to light black all throughout and with a slender neck. It was said to be a very strong and fast horse with a great temper that makes it hard to tame.

No. 8: De Le Biao

Its fur is a yellowish colour with white showing through with its mouth being of a light black colour. It was ridden by Li Shi Ming, second emperor of the Tang dynasty when he recovered a part of the land in the modern Shan Xi province. It is put in the first place of honour among one of the burial places of the Emperors of the Tang dynasty.

No. 7: The Jade Lion that Shines in the Night (Zhao Ye Yu Shi Zi)

It is white throughout, with nary a hair of a different colour. It was said that this horse was of a foreign breed and could travel a thousand Chinese miles in a day (about 300 km- 550 km depending on the dynasty of reference). It originally appeared in the Water Margin (one of the 4 classics in Chinese literature about a bunch of righteous outlaws/grass-root rebel heroes) driving a section of the plot and has since been said to be the mount of a number of people such as Zhao Yu of the Three Kingdom era (his signature image is a rider on a white horse wielding a silver spear).

No. 6: The Yellow Horse Speckled with White (Huang Biao Ma)

As its name indicates, this horse has white spots on its yellow hide which are concentrated around its belly and its ribs. Its mane contains tufts of white hair that are shaped like a full moon. Consequently, it also has the nickname of “the Jade-headed Dry-straw Yellow of Xi Liang” (Xi Liang is a place). In addition, this horse’s ribcage will always be visible no matter how much it is fed, earning it the nickname of “the Dragon with Protruding Bones”. It is reputedly the mount of a famous general in the early days of the Tang dynasty who is called Qin Chong.

No. 5: Shadowless (Jue Ying)

The mount of Cao Cao of the Period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China (starting from the ending days of the Han Dynasty). From its name, it is clear that it runs so fast that its shadow won’t be able to keep up. It was recorded in The Book of Wei (a historical record) that Shadowless was hit by a volley of arrows on its cheek and legs (presumably to its death) and in the same battle Cao Cao was injured on his right arm.

No. 4: Melancholy Dew Purple (Sa Lu Zi)

The mount of Li Shi Ming (2nd Emperor of the Tang Dynasty) when he vanquished Wang Shi Chong of the Luo Yang province on his Eastern campaign. It was killed by an arrow in its chest and is in the first place of honour on the place dedicated to mounts within the Emperor’s tomb.

No. 3: Black Piebald (Wu Zhui)

The mount of Conqueror Xiang (major competitor to founder of the Han dynasty, also his sworn brother). It is a horse whose body is purely black and shiny (like a bolt of black silk) and has four hooves as white as snow. For this reason, it is called the Black Piebald who Trod on Snow (Ta Xue Wu Zhui). It has a long and smooth back and short hips and strong limbs. In the legends, after Conqueror Xiang slayed himself with a sword alongside the Black River (Wu Jiang), this horse followed on the footsteps of his owner by jumping into the river.

No. 2: Di Lu

The mount of Liu Bei of the Period of the Three Kingdoms, it was famous of having borne its owner across a mountain stream spanning several Chinese miles called Tan Xi and thus helping him to chase the opposing army chasing him. It was the most famous horse of its ear but was still one of the more renowned ones. In particular, its popularity was greatly heightened as it appeared in the work of Xin Qi Ji, a famous poet of the Southern Song dynasty.

No. 1: The Red Rabbit (Chi Tu)

Its original name has the same sound (and the second character is almost identical except for having an additional part to it) but actually means “a ferocious red horse like a tiger”. It was reputedly of the breed of “Han Xue Bao Ma” or Blood-coloured Sweat Horses which is a breed of horses imported by the Chinese whose sweats is blood-coloured. It has become a term used to describe a really good horse as in the saying “Chi Tu among horses, Lu Bu among men” (Lu Bu happened to be one of its owners who was reputedly the greatest warrior of his time). It lived in the same era of Di Lu and was the most famous horse of its era and possibly ever afterwards till now. It was reputedly first the mount of Dong Zhuo and was given to Lu Bu as a bribe to win him over. After Lu Bu’s death, it was given to Guan Yu by Cao Cao (who killed Lu Bu) to try to win him over from Liu Bei (who was Guan Yu’s elder sworn brother). After Guan Yu was slayed, it was said that Chi Tu missed him so much that it refused to eat anymore and died.

You walk past a thousand stories in one day. What will you do with them?

Just like to say that this is so true.

What Inspires Your Writing?

This week the spotlight shines on Devon McLaughlin, a fantasy author from Delaware and our latest winner in the ChapterBuzz writing contest!

I asked Devon about what inspires her writing. The answer she gave is fantastic, and she even offers some great advice to budding writers in the process.

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Would you like to be profiled here? Learn more about the contest and get writing!
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So, Devon, where do you get your writing inspiration?

It is a bit like trying to explain to a scientist what “love” is. A writer’s inspiration can be smoke and mirrors…or quite tangible. You walk past a myriad of different stories every day. What you do with those ideas is up to you as the writer.

I write fantasy and gothic paranormal because I enjoy those subjects. I write (and read) to escape. And I am not the only one.

For many of…

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The Concept of Meta Fiction

I mentioned something called Meta Fiction in my last post and since it’s not a well-known term I think I better explain what it is in a follow-up post.

 

Basically, I have come up with the following definition for it: it is a piece of prose written in the voice of a fictional character but rather than telling a story, it presents world meta or trivia. One can write and probably can only a meta fiction in one of the 3 following ways:

  1. As a single or a series of diary entries
  2. As excerpts from a fictional book
  3. As verbal conversation between two fictional characters

 

Now, as an example, I would provide the following excerpt of a fictional book that I wrote up on the Citadel, my Virtual Writer’s Home:

When a life is snuffed out through a cause other than old age and natural ailments, the spirit lingers in the Mortal Realm rather than immediately entering the Spiritual World, as is its due. The incorporeal form attached to such a being is what is commonly referred to as a Ghost. A ghost is bound to the Mortal Realm for as long as the time it takes for his physical remains to return to dusts or ashes. During this period, although a ghost can no longer influence the material world in any way, it is generally free to wander the world and enjoy new sights. In fact, a ghost is at a greater advantage when doing so compared to average humans as it can travel at a faster speed.

From individuals done to death by violence, however, a different type of ghost forms. These are spirits confined to the site of their deaths until their time to enter the Spiritual World. In addition, they differ from average ghosts in that their memories can manifest in a way that are physically seen by humans, although these memories do not actually take on a corporeal form that allows human to interact with these memories. Furthermore, such manifestations occur quite rarely, as the memories of these ghosts have to be drawn out through a medium that acts as a focus for memory recall. In general, the only activity that these ghosts engage in is to wander aimlessly among the sites of their demise. As a result, they are generally known as the Restless Horde.

Furthermore, there are some among the Restless Horde that are bound to the Mortal Realm even after their remains are no more. These are called the Bound Ones. They are the individuals who died with an overwhelming sense that there is still something left unfulfilled in their lives. Thus, their spirits are barred from the Spiritual World until such times when they are reconciled with their fates, either through being satisfied that they have finally fulfilled that which is on their minds at the time of death, or losing all hopes in ever attaining whatever it was they desired in life. There is also a third possibility. As time goes on, a particular one among them might be driven mad by the failure to attain their goals and be doomed to forever being barred from the ultimate haven for spirits. Mortals should be very careful of items strewn around potential scenes of carnage, for these can house a Bound One who might be able to usurp the place of the spirit natural to a particular physical body. This is what is commonly known as possession.

~ an excerpt from Primer on the Spiritual World

Write-as-you-go plus Write-what-you-know

In between my commitments to my Writer’s home and the epub, I have most of my time occupied for time, not to mention that I’m back to FT work for a year. So I figured I better sneak in time whenever possible to actually write a post rather than doing lyrics posts or other alternative forms of what I call ‘slack/rush posts’.

 

What I’m referring to in the title of this post is actually what I experienced while working on a short story for the epub. To anyone who has read my About Page, they would know that I dream of writing a fantasy series based on ancient China, not now but one day. Now, for the epub, we had somehow decided that we will impose a theme on each issue and the theme for the first one yet to be released will be shape-shifter. Now I’m the type of writer who can’t really write with any type of pre-imposed constraints and a theme unfortunately often works as one on me. But somehow amidst my “turning the theme on its head” attempts due to personal dislike of the shape-shifter theme (actually the irony is that I’m the one who suggested it but that’s a long story for another day).one single scene of a teacher teaching children to write, two pieces of information from a HK TV drama and the Internet respectively and one of these ‘turning the shape-shifter theme on its head’ ideas of mine just came together and suddenly I’ve got a short story set in ancient China.

 

Now, I won’t delve overlong into my planning stage except to say that I cheated by chomping the story into two so that I can concentrate on the part where I know everything in a broad sketch way. In actual writing, I still encounter ‘blocks’ caused by details that I haven’t thought out completely as wont to crop up unless one actually works out all the meta-world stuff first. I’ll admit that while I cannot completely ‘wing it’ and just write, I also don’t have that kind of patience to delve down into that kind of level of details before I write. So going back to that particular story I was writing, I fully experienced the joy of ‘write-as-you-go’ as I call it as I was writing it and I think it’s a showcase of the power of ‘write-what-you-know’. To be honest, I didn’t really have belief in either before. I can handle a bit of ‘write-as-you-go’ but prior attempts show that I often write myself into a dead corner beyond an article type of creative writing which is what I do at my Writer’s home. Not real fiction in the way of novels and short stories but what I call meta-world fiction in which I write up particular aspects of a world in pretty much an article format but with prose. It’s been dubbed ‘meta fiction’ by the current leader of this Citadel epub that I’m participating in now. And I never really had respect for the idea of ‘write-what-you-know’ by which I mean that I know it’s technically correct but I have no personal use for the limitation it imposes on one’s writing (again, no limitations/constraints please!).

 

But everything has an exception as my Chinese short story (it’s called A Thread of Chance or Thread for short) shows me. I guess the take-home message from this experience is this: turn whatever you normally think of as constraints/limitations on its head and apply it differently and just see how it works out. You might get pleasantly surprised.

 

May everyone find some pleasant surprises of their own!