Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (2)

Another of my meta fiction pieces, in fact this is part of the first piece I wrote for the Citadel when I first joined up as a member. It was intended for the Expand a 30 quest inspired by the fact that the Citadel have a large batch of submission that are 30 somethings composed of small interesting entries that are often worthy of expansion. This meta fic piece presents the background behind a particular set of hammer called Twin Lotus. It was an expansion of a short entry about a set of twin hammers with lotus-shaped heads that I wrote and which belonged to the 30 Hammers submission that was a collaborative effort between multiple members of the Citadel. Here it is:

In the Lu dynasty, there was a house of master smiths which is rumored to be descended from Liang Chu, the man who forged the great sword that the First Emperor, Hwang Ti, used to slay the great water serpent that was responsible for the Great Flood. As with any household that has a long history with a particular trade, every member of this household worked together at the forge, with the men being master smiths and the womenfolk helping out with some of the more menial but physically non-exerting tasks. It is in such an environment that a remarkable woman grew up, the rumored founder of what come to be known as Soul Craft.

Like other womenfolk in her household, this woman routinely helps out at the forge except where the others do so out of family duty, she is drawn heart and soul to the craft. Yet, like the women of her era, she is resigned with the expected role of females in society and does not dare speak of her dream of taking up the family craft rather than waiting to be married off to a family of similar caste to her own. Secretly, however, she observes her father and brothers at work and practices her smithing skills at the forge in the dead of night when her families are asleep, all the while waiting for and dreading the day when she will be married off.

Fate, however, intervened on her behalf. Through an undetailed event which left her household bereft of all the menfolk, she found the opportunity to take up the family craft. With the full support of the rest of her family, she masqueraded herself as a nephew of his father- the alternative to this would be for the whole family to starve or selling some of the daughters into a brothel so the rest can survive. Thus she became the master of the forge and in time expanded the fame and prosperity of her household to even greater heights than the days of her father. Her forge becomes the largest in the Dragon Empire and is renowned throughout, with youths from everywhere coming in the hopes of gaining an apprenticeship with her. So her story might have ended with her real identify never known to any one but her own family. However, as a master craftsman, her desire to reach the “perfect state” in her craft is so insatiable that soon she feels herself increasingly frustrated with her own inability to progress her craft further.

In the later years of her life, she often worked in the forge for an extended period of time without food and sleep, attempting to create the weapon of perfection. This continued for quite a number of years. One day, it was recorded, her apprentices suddenly heard such a loud exclamation of joy that they all stopped in the track of the normal bustle of activity to see her standing triumphantly, holding in her hands a pair of hammers. Then, to the shock of all of them, this remarkable woman collapsed. Her spirit, in departure, showed her true feminine form and with the most serene satisfying smile on her face, fled to the afterlife. The apprentices gazed upon the hammers in awe and all, with certainty, felt the essence of their mistress within them. This pair of remarkable hammers was put in a place of honor in the forge and remained so for many generations. Unfortunately, the Lu Dynasty soon ended, followed by a period of civil war, during which the forge was demolished and the pair of hammers disappeared.

It is believed that this pair of remarkable hammers is the first of the Soul Constructs created by a master craftswoman. Nowadays, there is no written record of what the pair of hammers really look like. However, given that the craftswoman is a devout follower of Buddhism and many of her work in later years also revolve Buddhism themes, it was speculated that these remarkable hammers might have a religious touch to them.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (22)

Today I want to share the lyrics of a song sung by one of my favourite HK actors who is also a singer. The title of the song is called “Have never possessed” and I like it because it feels like a reflection on life by a protagonist to me and I really like the ending.

Here it is:

Have never possessed                  Never ceasing to struggle in this life

Do you know that I                          forever lacks freedom?

Have never possessed                  And emptiness is never ending

Taking over everything

 

Have never possessed                  There happens to be an abyss between me and happiness

How to take issue with                  witnessing the passing one’s most loved?

Have never possessed                  I am only suited to a life time of sadness

Which will overshadow the few wisps of love I have

 

*Who makes reality constantly push me every second?

Who makes you strive hard without rest?

Tears dripping onto my heart

And yet smiling whilst struggling to contain my sadness

For the purpose of survival humans have to have courage to fight to the utmost

To accommodate such a poignantly sad tempo

So that when recounting the past in the future

There is no need to regret the past

 

Have never possessed                  One never ceases to lose and owe debts in this life

How does one                                   erase every bit of hatred and sadness?

Have never possessed                  A life time of happiness and laughs have ended

I turn and walk away                      Not regretting the past

P.S. I’ve neglected this blog again for two weeks because I’m trapped in yet another round of revision for my short story Thread. So today is another ‘big giveaway day’ when I’m going to post up two posts in compensation.

The Short Story and Me

So I’ve disappeared from the blogging world for 2 months and during that time, I was occupied by the revision for part 2 of Thread, my fantasy story based on an ancient Chinese setting published in issue 1 of Excursions from the Citadel. And now I’m onto the second round of revision for it. The number of participating authors in this venture of ours has now expanded to 6 from a basis of the circle of 3 including myself and it’s an outcome that I’m really happy about. Yet, lately I’ve been reflecting about the short story form and myself as a writer. And this is essentially what this post would be about.

I’ve previously blogged about why I write and now I think I should describe myself as a writer to put things into perspective. First point, writing is essentially self-expression to me and as such I don’t handle constraints very well. This includes the need to include specific elements, specific word counts, specific timelines etc etc. I’ve learnt to conquer the difficulty of specific elements encapsulated in a set theme that we have for this epub as reported earlier but I’m completely hopeless when it comes to time pressures (and we are aiming for quarterly publication though issue 2 has already been pushed back solely because of the need for revising my piece). I consistently overestimate my own speed at finishing a short story in the first place or revising it. I’m also likely to get very grumpy when I feel time pressure acutely because I have a high standard for my own work and I want to achieve a set standard in my mind. Secondly, I have by now a fair bit of experience by now with producing what I call “articles in prose” that is the main type of writing that we produce at my virtual writer’s home- the Citadel which tend to be around 2000 words. Dream-wise, I’ve always wanted to produce a fantasy series LoR style based on my Dragon Empire setting (fantasy ancient China essentially). And to be honest, short story is something that fits in between these two form, a form I felt awkward to deal with. Hence, my abandonment of the story that I had months on half way during the first issue. A third point is that I have a weird mixture of obsession with planning and impatience to start writing. Specifically, I can’t just have a vague idea in my mind and then start writing spontaneously, I have to do some brainstorming and planning first. And yet, after a certain point, I would get impatient with planning and jump straight into writing. For the short story, that is sometimes not a bad approach. I have previously blogged about how part 1 of Thread is such a joy for me to write-as-I-go. But sometimes I feel I am under-planning stuff. And all these that I’m sharing about myself is only the prelude to say that I think I prefer writing either a novel or something not considered publishable material but rather background information about a fantasy world but in prose is my preferred format of creative output.

Having said the above, I’m now going to go through the benefits of writing short stories/being part of this epub venture that I have personally experienced so that I capture both sides of the story. The foremost benefit is that it keeps me in practice. Sure, I have my bad days where I can’t even go beyond 100 words in about an hour (I write on train trips from and to work now that I’ve gone back to FT work) but I would definitely not have the two stories associated with my name that was published in issue 1 if I wasn’t part of this venture. While I sometimes feel very stressed with the pressure to contribute stories to this epub, I have to admit that it is such pressure that actually push me to not give up. While I could get practice via the Citadel too, there I can give up any piece with no consequence whatsoever and I don’t enjoy this luxury with the epub. Also, much as I don’t find the short story form to my preference, it is closer to the novel form than what I got to practice at the Citadel and so for nothing else, writing short stories would improve on my ability to plan a story and everyone following this blog would know that I’m big on planning. Plus I landed myself a long term collaborator who was the one who got me back into this enterprise after I abandoned it due to a complete stall that I just talked about. He stepped in to brainstorm with me on some loose ideas that I subsequently got but couldn’t get much further by myself. And he did this when we didn’t even know each other that well. I’ve told him already but I would like to say it again here: Thank you, you really were my saviour in getting me back into the venture with our collab piece, and you’ve been always available to me when I need support. Also, thanks for becoming the first fan ever in this world of Thread.

By the way, what prompted my reflection was that I’ve been feeling disenchantment and general fatigue with this epub venture due to a number of reasons. I had considered withdrawing from the enterprise entirely but now I’ve found a way for myself to be rid of the time constraints and so I will be fighting on.

Never give up, my fellow writers out there.