Remarkable Females in Ancient China- coming to you soon!

ancientChinesewomen

Yes, I’m creating yet another lot of quarterly serial posts both so I can more or less stick to it and it might dovetail into other related posts (still chewing over possibilities).

So essentially, this lot of new posts will feature remarkable female figures from ancient China that I compiled mostly from Chinese Wiki and other Web sources. And now you wonder what I mean by remarkable and why I’m doing this lot of new posts, don’t you?

Firstly, I can’t say I have a tight definition on remarkable- I’m mostly just looking up specific names that I came across that piqued my interest. However, I think it’s fair to say that if a female name has passed down through such a long time in history then that is remarkable in itself.

As to why I’m undertaking such a project, well, I’ve been noticing for a while that I have greater difficulty writing female characters compared to male characters despite my gender. In terms of my genre of Chinese fantasy, I found that I’m often boxed in by this idea that Chinese women in ancient times didn’t have much agency. And that obviously presents a major problem for fiction- a story of a protagonist without agency is going to be very dull to readers. So my solution is to do more research into this topic and dig out examples where women do have agency. Plus, I’ve found that I don’t much like researching for novels so this is my perfect excuse to do it on a consistent basis.

Stay tuned next week for the first episode of this brand new series!

Reflections on My Outlining Odyssey

beige analog gauge

Every now and then I like to reflect on things and that time has rolled in again.

But first, a bit of context for those of you who hasn’t read previous posts: I started outlining my WIP in Dec 2016 and was originally planning to finish outlining at the end of this year. I deliberately decided to experiment with a more comprehensive outlining process to address the issue of writing myself into dead corners. But now there is a minor change of plans and I’ve already gone ahead into draft 1. Still, I think I should be able to claim that it was an outlining odyssey that I had undertaken (and I just like the sound of the word odyssey so bite me :P)

So what were the main take-aways from this journey that lasted 1 year and a half?

  • I’m happy with the general process now which mainly involves iterations on the traditional outline (just paragraph summaries of your scenes, you can put anything there, mine tend to be event summaries with bits of dialogue)- I think it allows me to produce outlines that are the tightest I’ve ever written so far
  • I use an Excel tool to supplement the traditional outline and it usually invites in my inner critic so bad that I can only use it in small doses every day. I think it’s a needed tool and gives me important insight but not sure if it’s worth the time inefficiency. Maybe move to the editing phase, not sure.
  • In between iterations, I have some natural cooling periods and I decided to use time more efficiently and invest them into collaborative short story ventures (think I might have mentioned this)
  • Micro goal setting is definitely a valuable accountability tool. If I just have a big goal and no micro goals then it’s very easy to get off tracks for months and not do anything writing related

That’s it for this week. Next week, I will talk about the idea of a new serial post that I am considering. Stay tuned.

Where have you gone, Moonlake?

I'mback

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

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- 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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Moonlake’s Lyrics (20)

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.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (19)

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

 

Let’s Cry

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