Catching Up on Disney Movies

I’ve started a minor binge of Disney movies consumption i.e. 3 or 4 movies per week. Why am I doing this? Well, I came to the 3 Act structure late, I only learnt about it through the online courses I did several years ago, before that, I thought the 3 Act structure was just the beginning, the middle and the end. And after talking to a friend, I realised using movies as opposed to novels as templates to dissect the 3 Act structure would be more efficient simply because you could go through a movie in much less time than a book. So that started me on this track, especially after I stumbled upon a site with all the Disney movies. And then I thought I might as well catch up on those I haven’t seen before. 

Like every other child, I was a fan of Disney cartoon movies and then I just outgrew cartoons altogether. So needless to say, I stopped watching Disney movies. So what am I finding during this latest bout of Disney movie watching? Well, the main thing is that I think the simple story sometimes is the best. In light of recent scripts, whether TV drama or movie worldwide, that basically stank. Stank in the sense that they were written hobbled from the first, when the script writers did not focus on the basics but instead on gimmicks, on adding bits of supposedly clever dialogue, humour, side plots that overwhelmed the main plot, twist endings that came out of nowhere etc. etc. etc. Something I haven’t yet seen in Disney movies. 

What else am I finding? Well, I have grown up and I enjoy them less. What I mean by that is that they no longer held the same magic than if I was to watch them as a child. That comes with age and maturity, I guess, nowadays the stories that tend to strike a chord with me tend towards more sophistication and complexity. On the other hand, it is still pleasant to pass the time watching a simple story that touches on really basic stuff that everyone needs to know about life, all under the guise of my self-education on writing. 

And that’s my share for today. See you all next time.

Chinese Lore- A Selection of Mythical Fauna (1)

South Sea Butterfly (aka Hundred Illusions Butterfly)

Physical Description:

A huge butterfly that still weighs about 80g after its massive wingspans are cut off

Lore:

It is said that sailors of South Sea had once encountered something as massive as a sail that fluttered by and hit the sails on their ship. They hit this thing with a heavy object and it fell down in a scattered form. The sailors took a take at it and found that it was a massive butterfly. They cut its wings and weighed it and found that it was about 80g. They consumed its meat and found it to be delicious.

Alternatively, it was said that it was a species of butterflies native to the Sea Market (as in half of the term for ‘ mirage’ in Chinese) and its shape was ever changing. Hence its other name- the Hundred Illusions Butterfly.


Wang Yu Fish (Wang Yu means Lord’s leftover) aka Wu’s Leftover

Physical Description:

A fish that has only half of its body intact from head to tail.

Lore:

According to legends, the Lord of the Wu region (around the Jiang Nan province in modern days) had only eaten half of a fish dish and discarded the leftovers into the waters, which then turned into the species of Wang Yu Fish.

There are stories of how when there is a leak in a pond, a Wang Yu Fish could not go with the flow of water and lay dying. Someone shone a mirror in front of it and seeing its own reflection in the mirror, the fish thought it was whole again (or there were two of them) and it was able to go along with the reflection.


Lu Shu

Physical Description:

A horse-like creature whose head is white, with tiger-like stripes on its body and a red tail.

Special Properties:

Its call is like folklore music. Wearing its skin improves fertility.


Qu

Physical Description:

A fish shaped like a cow, has a snake-like tail and wings growing under the ribs.

Special Properties:

Its call is that of yaks. Its meat is a preventative measure against boils.

Adventures abroad the Chen Xing- Chapter 1

I had earlier talked about the story I was writing based on my weekly gaming session and from today I will be posting one chapter of it each month. Below is the first chapter. 

Chapter 1

“You sure this is a bar? Looks like a bookshop to me.” I asked Aurora. 

“That’s just why it’s the new rage here. Because no one expected a bar to look like a bookshop.” 

I thought about it and shrugged. We walked in. I looked over the interior. It looked more like one of these bookshop/cafe combos except for the bar in the middle. The bartender handed us each a menu made to look like a piece of parchment. I looked over the items and raised my eyebrows. Techno. Roberto and Julianna. Hunter. All book titles. This place really runs to theme. 

We ordered. “Want a bookmark to go with it?” He gestured to the sandwich stand. We nodded. 

“Not to ruin our R&R my friends,” Estella began, stirring her rainbow colored drink with a toothpick and watching the colors dance within its depths, “But the Xing is down to about a 1/nth of a tank of fuel, and unless you all enjoy meals from a can the larder could use a top off too.” She softened the news with a slight smile. “On the upside, some fresh melons and star fruit will be ready in the garden sometime the week after next.”

I made a big stretch where I sat. “Time to talk to a few people and see whether we can pick up odd jobs.” My eyes travelled across the bar lounge, trying to decide who to approach. I’ve got drinking buddies aplenty and that often came in handy. I got ready to stand up but was stopped cold by what Aurora said next.  “By the looks of it an old friend of ours has been making a ruckus in the near by systems too,” She slid the newspaper across the table towards me.  “If Theron’s Hand wants to form a militia they might be willing to pay for folks who can help train them, or willing to keep the danger from reaching their doorstep in the first place.”

“They’d probably pay top dollar for shipments of arms and building supplies too.” Estella commented as she read over my shoulder, “Maybe pick some cargo up for resell if we’re headed that way?”

“Sounds like a plan.” I stood up. “Want to head to the market to check out prices?”

Aurora gave an enthusiastic assent.  “Let’s keep an eye out for Jake too, he might be slinking around hoping to find easy marks with all the unrest Faene is causing, If we can take him in the bounty would keep us in the air for a good long while.”

I frowned at the mention of the bastard, he fooled me good at the start. My face reads like an open book, I’ve always known that. So I waved Aurora off when she asked me about it. Estella tried to comfort with a grin and some words. I just nodded. We briefly split as me and Estella went onto the market while Aurora went to take care of the tabs at the bar. 

***

The market seemed particularly crowded on that day. Despite that, a man immediately drew my attention. He looked like a crane amongst a group of chickens, being the single man decked out in a suit surrounded by a group of workmen. A businessman with the usual dodge. “That aetheric converter isn’t going to build itself!” He was yelling at someone as I walked past his shop. I was going to stroll on but Estella suggested we approach him. I shrugged and strode right up to him. “Can we do anything to help?”

The businessman was probably not used to bold women. He looked shocked for a moment before he started sizing me up. “If you happen to know how to build an aetheric converter from scratch, or have an extra lying around somewhere, my employer will make it worth your while.”

“When do you need it by?”

“Considering it’s holding up construction of the new illium processing plant, any day I don’t have it is costing my employer a great deal of money. But I don’t think there’s one between here and Hale Prime.” 

“I think Hubert might be able to throw one together with my help,” Aurora whispered in my ear. I didn’t see when she caught up but it was perfect timing. 

“What’s a good price to charge? I’m going to ask for 50% up front now.” I whispered back.

Aurora shrugged and referred me to Estella, who gave me a minimum figure of fifty thousand and sixty for the situation the man was in a bind. I settled for the in between figure. “Fifty five thousand with half paid up front.” 

The businessman scratched the back of his head for a moment, looking out at the horizon. “I can maybe do 15k now. The rest I can have by day after tomorrow”

“Deal.”

He motioned to one of his workers and whispered into his ear, then reached into a pocket and pulled out three 5k chits. “When can you have it here? And, just to protect my investment, I want Roland here to stick with you until I get my unit up and running.”

“I’m not the one building it, but since you are having someone attend on us, you know we are not going to pull any delay tactic on you.” I let him know, so that his man would not get the idea to stick to me personally. 

“Well, he’ll follow the money until you get whoever is building it to build it.” He walked off and motioned his men to follow him, leaving behind someone who looked as dumb as a donkey. 

“I don’t suppose you have a broken one we can use for spare parts and a refurbishing base?” Aurora gave the man a charming smile while introducing herself. “Aurora Lieos, I’ll be helping oversee the device’s construction.”

I mumbled, “what a great choice for a supervisor.”

Roland furrowed his brow,  thinking hard. “I can show you the broken one.”

“Yes, that’ll be perfect, we take the broken one, use it to make a working one, give that to your boss for money.”

He smiled a lopsided smile. “Yeah, boss’ll like that. Come on.” He gestured and started walking.

“No need to treat him like he’s daft.” Estella cautioned Aurora quietly, “Some people are smarter than they look.”

Aurora nodded, accepting Estella’s point. “By the way, I saw some scruffy looking punk kid checking you two out as you left the bar, he took off out the back when he spotted me eye balling him, so stay alert, whoever he works for knows we’re here.” She whispered to the two of us. I was thinking over this when Roland led us to a beat-up hover truck and gestured for us to crowd in. 

It was at least a 20 minute ride until he pulled up to the plant a little way further outside of town. The building itself looked about 90% completed, not counting the clearly demolished piece of wall that he parked behind. Roland took us through the ragged hole in the wall, easily sidestepping pieces of broken glass and siding. 

The remains of the old aetheric converter glared at us inside. The blast marks around it showed the cause of its demise. “That’s the broken one” Roland stated the obvious. 

“What happened to it? Someone get mad and shoot it full of holes?” Estella asked him. 

“It’s broken.” Roland replied with the shifty-eyed look. As if we could not see for ourselves. 

“We could have Roland and whoever else is around here load it up for transport back to the Xing, or just have Hubert come out here and work on it.” Aurora mused out loud, to change the topic I assumed. 

“He’d have to bring all his tools and everything with him, easier to just do it back on the ship,” Estella pointed out. “Besides, we fix it out here, he can stiff us on the bill and run us off with his group of workers, if it’s on our ship he can pay us before he loads it up to haul off.”

Aurora confirmed with me and I agreed that was the best. I left the rest unsaid. Aurora asked Roland to load the converter up with the help of some of his co-workers since it was clearly a job for more than one pair of hands. He eagerly took up the offer, rubbing his hands together. “I be right back.”

Moonlake’s TBR List for 2021

For the year of 2021, I’m slightly ratcheting my reading goals back up to 12. Taking out my Broadening Horizon Reads, that leaves me with 5 spots for fantasy and 5 for mystery which I will alternate between Agatha Christie and Laurie R. King. 

The remaining 7 spots will be occupied by:

  • The Twilight of Gods by Scott Oden: I meant to read this last year but my local library did not stock it when I searched for it and so it got pushed to the side but I still intend to follow Griminir’s adventures. 
  • Either The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang or Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay for my Oriental fantasy read of 2021: I liked River of Stars a fair bit previously but the blurb of Under Heaven does not draw me that much. So I’m actually leaning towards the Poppy War 
  • Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier: I’m a bit taken with the Blackthorn and Grimm trilogy ever since I read Dreamer’s Pool last year. I went on to read book 2 and this is book 3. It serves as a good light reading for me. 
  • The Buried giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: Someone reckoned this to me as research for my WIP but not sure
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams: this was to be one of my Broadening Horizon Reads (BHRs) but apparently The Help is not literary fiction as I thought it is but historical fiction and so I need something else for my 2nd BHR. 
  • The Help- I’m reading this because one of the books I read last year on writing novels devoted an entire chapter to dissecting this novel structurally. So I decided to read the novel, do my own dissection and then go back and read the relevant chapter in order to further my own understanding of the 3 Act structure. 
  • The Cloud Atlas: I’ve been curious about this book ever since I first heard about it through the Outlining course with UBC on edX and apparently this is sci-fi which I’ve never read before

As per usual, I’m completely whimsical but checking my goodreads account with my TBR list for last year, I did end up reading 4 fantasy exactly and the exact 2 BHR I said I would read. So that’s not that far off :cheesy grin:. 

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- December 2020

The Hollow by Agatha Christie 

It started off quite unlike any other Christie story- each of the opening chapters read almost like a character portraiture but in an interesting way. But overall, it’s up to normal Christie standards. Hard to say that I really liked this story above any other of hers but it’s not a bad specimen of Christie’s work.

Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King 

After a long absence (like 10+ years), I finally found this series again but it seems like the charm had partially worn off for me. I mean, I still think it’s a solid detective mystery and it still reminds me a lot of the original Sherlock Holmes except that we’ve now got a new strong female detective Mary Russell in the mix. But perhaps I’ve just almost forgotten all about Mary. Nevertheless, she still comes across as a competent and worthy partner to Holmes. 

Nemeton by Christopher Lee

I had my eye on this project back when it was running for Inkshares- I was intrigued by the underlying world and then left it collecting cobwebs on my Kindle bookshelf due to my aversion for Kindle reading. As of the time of writing, I’ve just started it. Expect a fuller report in the March re-run of this serial post for next year. 

What Moves Me: One Step Away

I’ve been trying to get closer to my emotions- I’m predominantly rational with only a tiny wisp of sentimentality so I’m very hard to be moved to tears or be driven by impulse. Not that I have not ever experienced those things, just that they happen rarely and don’t stay with me for long. And I’m starting to find it as a potential impediment to my writing. Well, perhaps not an impediment per se but something that blocks me my way to better. So for that end, I’ve been re-reading a bunch of online novels where I clearly remember I was moved and trying to capture the moment at which I was moved and figuring out the how and why. 

Today I’m going to share one such moment with all of you which I call the “One Step Away” Moment. What it actually entails was actually the reforming of one of the antagonists of the novel, when she realised she had taken the wrong turn in life and changed tact. 

So what am I finding touching about this? I think it’s the idea that one choice or one perception change is all that matters, to eventually spark a whole series of changes that create totally different life outcomes. Personally, I think that’s an especially empowering concept. Have I experienced this first hand? I guess, in some ways, yes, although in my case it’s more of a case of mistaken conception of an academia career in the before case versus a research day-time job coupled with a life-time writing ‘career’ in the after case. So it’s not a dramatic reforming or reversal in life direction in my case, more of a shift in focus. But yeah, it earned my empathy, pure and simple. 

This is my share for today. Come back next week for my December Book Discoveries. And if you have similar moments to share, let me know in the comments. 

Chinese Lore- A selection of Mythical Flora (3)

Li Tree

Physical Description:
A tree with square leaves and yellow flowers that sprouts tiny floss on their petals.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears are fist-sized. Consuming them will greatly improve one’s memory, might even make someone attain photographic memory.


Zhi Chu

Physical Description:
A plant that looks like okra except that it has red flowers.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears are like Chinese honey locust with a hard husk outside. Consuming them has a similar effect to drinking Red Bull or other strong energy drinks.


Du Heng

Physical Description:
A plant that looks like spinach and has a stink.


Special Properties:
Putting this grass onto a horse can make it run faster. Consuming it can also heal abnormal growths in the neck area.


Yao Grass

Physical Description:
A plant with vibrant growth of leaves, yellow leaves and fruits resembling the dodder plant.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears would make you more attractive or likeable.


Lore:
Yan Di (a legendary figure in the prehistoric age who invented farming and herbal medicine, reputedly a minotaur) has a beautiful daughter who passed away before she was married (i.e. young). Her spirit arrived at the Gu Yao Mountain and became the Yao Grass.


Wang shu he

Physical Description:
A large lotus-like plant that is about 1.3m tall and has up to four flowers growing up of each stem.


Special Properties:
Its leaves are curled up in days and only uncurl at nights. Specifically, they only uncurl at the appearance of the moon.


Lore:
Reputedly, they are the tribute paid by a kingdom to the south of ancient China.

Reviving enthusiasm in the Work

To be honest, I don’t have full answers to the issue of reviving enthusiasm in a writing project but based on recent experience, I think the following things have helped:

  1. A writing routine- Lately, I’m keeping to a routine of working on my WIP for 5 days a week and 1 page of writing per writing day plus specific writing related tasks every day of the week 
  2. One of my writing related tasks is the compiling of what I call craft summary, a set of extensive notes on the writing craft. One of the ‘lucky finds’ of doing this is that I re-discovered the section on dealing with procrastination that I had written up for the set of How to Write a Novel online courses that I did a few years back on the edX platform. Which leads to
  3. Doing a side writing project purely for leisure 

That’s my short share for today. If anyone has other strategies, let me know via comments. 

Moonlake’s Writing Mottos (1)

What you are seeing in the picture above is my vision board that I created a few years back to reaffirm my identity as a writer. As you can see, it’s mostly uplifting phrases or writing mottos. 

However, today I want to blog about a motto that isn’t up there (yet), that I’m feeling keenly right now. The motto is: The Chase has got to be worth it. 

What does it mean in context to me and my writing? Well, I am very much a process-driven person as opposed to goal-oriented. So it’s not enough for me to have a goal dangled in front of me to push on. Nope, I need to be enjoying the actual process of doing something in order to be motivated to continue with it. So now I think you see how the motto applies to me directly: I need to be enjoying the process of writing a novel in order to continue writing it. 

So why am I feeling it keenly? You can probably guess. I’m in a low energy phase with my WIP at the moment. This was a project first conceived by me at the end of 2016 and now it’s already nearing the end of 2020. I have still not completed a first draft for it. That will be my aim for next year. 

And what am I doing about this? I’m doing another side project or pleasure project, to get me to once more feel the excitement of writing. I’m also trying to find different entry points into scene writing, thinking of trying on different methods other than my usual. I am also trying to keep myself accountable in terms of time use. At the time of writing, I’ve kept track of three weeks’ time use via an Excel file. I create a new sheet for each week and block out half an hour per row from 8:00am to 9:00pm. On each sheet I would make grey my day job hours as well as other major time commitments and then record down how I’m using the other half-hour slots around my week. 

And that’s my share for this week. See you around next week.

Broadening Horizon Reads-2020

I’ve skipped a year but my Broadening Horizon Reads are back. This year, I’ve picked a psychic thriller and a military fiction. Below are summaries of my main take-away from each of them:

Desecration by J.F. Penn 

I’ve reviewed this earlier. As a writer, I’m sure what I’ve taken away from it other than that each chapter is really about a single event. Since this is still a detective mystery, it works charmingly because it makes you feel that each chapter, you are alongside the protagonist uncovering a new clue to the mystery. As to why I even mention this as being noteworthy since most contemporary fiction share this, it’s because that’s not how I used to structure my chapters and I’ve talked all about this in a previous post. 

Operation:Jaguar by Lyman Rate

I’ve learnt some key lessons or rather have some key lessons confirmed for me through this book. In particular, it showed me the downside of the omniscient perspective and the importance of scene design. Actually, in a broad perspective, the lessons can be distilled into a single point- be conscious of your choices as a writer. 

I will be continuing my Broadening Horizon Reads in 2021. In all possibility, my BHR for next year will be the Help (literary fiction) and Watership Down (fantasy with animal protagonists).