A Blogging Holiday

I’ve just decided to give myself a monthly blogging holiday and since October is my birthday month, I feel like I want to make this my annual blogging holiday. 

I am currently in a low energy phase with writing and that’s across the board. It applies to my main project, my side project and blogging. So hopefully a holiday will revive my energy for this blog. Meanwhile, I’m trying out or retrying out a new method of setting daily goals for my main project. So till we meet again in November. 

Writer Scam Alert- Shaw Academy

I’m writing such a post because recently I’ve run into a scam with the Shaw Academy which offers online courses of creative writing and other topics and one month of free trial. How did I first encounter this scam? Through a Facebook advertisement. 

So how do they scam you? Well, when I wanted to cancel the free trial, I had to click around 5 screens of stuff that ended in a final screen that asked me to contact their Student Support Coordinator and gave me a number and a reference number for the call. So I called them the next morning during their reputed business hours and lo and behold, what I got was an automatic voice that told me their office was closed due to COVID, their business hours were Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00 AEST and told me to try again during those times. I tried a second time somewhat later and got the same thing. I then looked up what exactly was AEST, thinking that perhaps AEST was in a different time zone but no, Google told me Melbourne time zone is identical to AEST. This is when an alarm bell rang off in my head and I googled Shaw Academy Scam and sure enough it was a scam. 

Luckily, there are known solutions to this scam and doubly luckily, I chose Paypal as my payment method as opposed to a bank card (else it seems you have to go through the hassle of cancelling your card to stop them). So I did the magic over at Paypal and took Shaw Academy off my pre-approved methods list. 

But, I also read how Shaw Academy unexpectedly reopens your account charging you. So ongoing monitoring is what I will be doing till the remaining of this year and probably till next year. 

And before I go, I think I’ve also learnt to be cautious about Facebook advertisements from now on. I thought they would have vetted people before letting a company that runs a known scam advertise on their platform. But ah well… guess money is the only thing in the advertising business. 

Finally, if you are a fellow writer, remember to spread the word around so that there will be no more unfortunates taken in by this. Till next time.

Moonlake’s Serendipities (2)

Above is a slightly different definition of serendipity that I first came across and understood the term but let’s just say I think of it as life’s little surprises. I haven’t reported on any life surprises for a while and since one just happened recently, I thought I would blog about it. So I had been playing around with the idea of starting my author interview series again and it even went as far as me having decided the two author candidates that I was going to approach (both were my FB friends). And then voila, FB told me it’s the birthday of one of them, specifically an author that I discovered last year whose work I really appreciated, Scott Oden who wrote A Gathering of Ravens. So I said happy birthday to him and he replied, then I told him about the interview and he accepted. What luck is that! 

So yes, the interviews are coming back but I am switching the focus. The last set of interviews were very much for fellow writers or more like aspiring writers. The new author interview series, however, would target readers. To that end, I’ve asked around at FB groups and while I’ve only received a few responses, they were very insightful and really helped me to home in on what type of questions I would need to be asking. 

The interview will go up sometime this month so stay tuned for that if you are interested in historical fiction or fantasy. 

What am I not writing?

Yes, you’ve read it correctly, in this post I am going to talk about what I am not writing. This is my attempt to set out expectations for my future/prospective readers *wink*

Let’s start with genre (and for those who need a reminder, mine is Chinese fantasy or fantasy in a Chinese setting with Chinese characters): I am not writing Chinese historical fiction but more like fantasy vaguely inspired by Chinese history. Basically, I am ‘stealing’ bits of real ancient China as a setting to fit into my story and then giving full reins to my imagination to modify or even change completely. And I am not definitely not writing any genre combination that involves romance (don’t get me wrong, I don’t have ‘a thing’ against the romance genre per se other than that it’s not part of my reading diet) since romance is one of the two elements that will get me into procrastination mode whenever I have them in my story.

The second part relates to style. I am not writing a page turner. That does not mean I’m writing a slow-paced novel necessarily but I am not writing something that is full of ‘hooks’ to get the readers interested in what’s going to happen next and has no other merit to it other than this momentum. I also do not necessarily write succinctly (I actually like what I call flowing prose which others might call verbose. I do not love long sentences for their own sakes but sometimes prose/description I especially like just happen to be full of semi-colons or made up of long sentences) nor do I write graphically (that is related to this aphantasia condition that I talked about earlier that I only recently found out is a thing and that I have, instead I go for what I call impressionistic/atmospheric writing).

And that’s it today. Next week, the second of my Remarkable Women in Ancient China serial comes up and then I will be releasing my novella A Thread of Chance over the reminder of February. So stay tuned.

Jigsaw Puzzles, Writing and Me

assorted puzzle game

So I just came back from my holidays and I wanted to write about something a little different from my usual focus: jigsaw puzzles. Actually, it was one of my childhood hobbies that I only recently picked back up. So what has it got to do with writing at all?

Well, jigsaw puzzles:

    Trained my intuition. That’s how I think of it anyway, so much when Mum asked me to explain how to go back about a jigsaw, I actually replied I used my intuition and that was too abstract an answer for her that she couldn’t understand what I meant. Anyway, so how is intuition useful for writing? Well, mostly the way I visualise a story is as different ideas (about characters, about a main situation, about the setting) all clicking together like pieces of jigsaw. But ideas are elusive creatures, you know. Sometimes I get divergent ideas on the same character or a particular point in the story. So I was hoping that the intuition I built up through jigsaws would transfer over when I outline stories. Then again, you can say I’m just making up an excuse for me to throw myself back into a favourite pastime 😛
    Taught me that I’m a person who does things purely because I enjoy the process. Yes, that’s right, jigsaws led me to such a self discovery and I think it’s a very important discovery. Shame that I don’t always keep it in mind! What this meant for me in terms of being a writer is that I need to be more mindful to keep the ‘play’ element of being a writer more prominent as I tackle each WIP. I’m quite self-disciplined in general. But the down-side of this is that writing often turns into a type of second job for me that is not much different from my FT job. And that’s not quite right because writing is actually my passion so while I need to persevere in it, I also need to loosen up in a sense so that I can also enjoy the process because that’s what feeds me as a person.

And let’s just keep it short and sweet today. Come back next week to hear about my writing update. Haven’t done one for a while now *rubs hand in anticipation*, aren’t you excited *wink*?

Where have you gone, Moonlake?


I went off to outline the first book of a Chinese fantasy series that I intend to debut with under the name of Moonlake (I am waiting until I have more materials before sharing details but stay tuned!). Yes, you heard me correctly, I’ve been outlining a book for almost 2 years now and I intend to wrap it up and move onto draft 1 in October this year. Why so long? Well, I set out to trial a more comprehensive outlining method and this is the result. I think my outline is more robust with this procedure but I also figured out where I could chop it down to a year in the future. We will see.

What else have I done? I’ve enrolled in two intensive online writing courses for the purpose of self-education. I’ve read a healthy number of books and watched a healthy number of TV series to replenish the well of inspiration I can draw upon.

And oh, I shall be back on weekly basis and stick to it more than ever before. I will also be shifting the focus of my blog away from being predominantly the documentation of my writer’s journey towards a split between writer-journalling and having more fun and relevant content for my future novel readers.

Glad to be back and hope to do better at engaging with my blog followers.

A Restless Mind

To be honest, I have more than enough things floating around my mind to blog about but as the title of this post indicates, I’m suffering from a restless mind at the moment. So I might as well commit the clamour to my blog and then move on. I think it comes from two main sources, both of which relate to the epub that I’m involved in. Basically, I’m mired in all these promotion campaigns for it (promotion on my own social media which I don’t usually touch, searching for book review bloggers, exploring tools available to self-published authors etc.) while I’m stuck on my second solo contribution towards the second issue of the Excursions from the Citadel dealing with wizards.


Now, this isn’t a sympathy-garnering post so I’m going to start talking about activities I personally engage in to deal with a restless mind:

  1. Reading/watching TVs/gaming: operating on the principle that immersion into these leisurely activities will distract my mind from its current state. I did that on and off yesterday and today. TV turned out to be the best amongst the three simply cos I’ve been watching a mainland Chinese spy thriller TV series on DVD with Mum together and a TV series always give you more opportunity to lose yourself especially if you watch it with someone else. The book is a short story collection and I wasn’t much in the mood of reading given that I could as easily read it on the train to and from work. Gaming, I’ve only got 80 Days Around the World Match-3 puzzle game on my PC now and that isn’t so fun after I’ve done the 81 Journey more than 15 times already. But that’s the only game that I actually bought after playing it for a bit.
  2. Chatting with friends which operate on the same principle above but give me more human interaction and you can discuss your concerns with someone rather than having it simmer perpetually at the back of your mind. I was only able to do this today but I think it’s working like a charm. At least, it eliminated one worry pestering me about the new story that I’m stuck on.


And I’m bringing this post to an end now. The activities I listed isn’t really helpful to get me out of the block I have with my story but this is just about my restless mind. At any rate, there are plenty experts more qualified than I am to give advice about how to get through Writer’s Blocks. I myself even have put a post on this topic based just on my own situations. Farewell for now, come back next week for a post with more substance.

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Grey

The peace of the kingdom


dark cloud


The prince sat

huge old throne

worn crown

worn sword

always alone

no kin

no advisors

duty as the peace

restlessly he fingered



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- 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.