New Horizon Outreach

I attended a free writing summit in January. No groundbreaking knowledge came to me but I did pick up a few useful knowledge and I’m now doing a free mini writing course that is helping to get me into touch with my emotions. Anyway, one of the useful knowledge that came via the summit was the idea to try other creative endeavours and new experiences as potential ‘research’ into characters or just to get into a different mindset. So I’ve dubbed my attempts at new experiences the new horizon outreach program. 

To be honest, this is not the first I heard of this idea. After the set of writing courses I did, I founded a Facebook group for my fellow students and someone mentioned in passing about new experiences, though not in immediate context to writing. But somehow something just clicked in my brain this time around and I decided to give this a try. So in essence, every Saturday I am going to devote at least half an hour to doing something that I haven’t tried or done for a very long time. 

I started with easy things. The first week, it was drawing. I had watched a commercial about children drawing kits and it had octopus among seaweeds. I thought it would be easy to replicate from the mental image I had from that- just a small circle (the mouth) within a big circle (the head) and then eight tentacles. The result I got was more like some kind of robot or evil monster. So I resorted to Googling how to draw an octopus and surprisingly, I enjoyed it. I don’t remember enjoying drawing as a child but somehow drawing brought back a short burst of child-like joy. 

In the week that just went past, I did origami. Again, I had done origami before as a child but all that really stuck with me (besides the paper plane or paper boat, neither of which I can guarantee I still can fold) was this flower that looked nothing like its real-life equivalent. I only had rectangular A4 paper at home so I picked the only one I could do from Googled folding instructions which was those for making an envelope. I think I did moderately okay except that I could not complete the last step which required me to tuck in a triangle. I was reminded that origami was an art requiring precision in folded corners which I often fell short at as a child and apparently still do. But as an adult, I wondered about how potentially different this art is for an origami master. Like, for them, is it more about ability to replicate patterns via manipulating papers via folding? 

Now, to bring this rambling post to an end, I have two other activities on my to-try list but then I think I’m running short of ideas:

  • I am going to try being a Game Master (GM) in the dice rolling role-playing gaming that I do instead of just being a player. Instead of having a fixed GM, we are taking turns this time being the GM. But for starters, I’ve sold part of my fantasy ancient China setting to my gaming group and we are shortly going to start a game in it. 
  • Maybe I will try making a Chinese knot? I haven’t got the materials though so I might try calligraphy instead. 

Reader vs Writer (1): Elements of the Fantasy Genre

I just thought it would be fun to compare myself as a reader and writer. And where better to start than the genre of my main staple in both reading and writing? So here we go.

Sub Genre

Reader Moonlake: Epic fantasy by hands-down and mainly adult, some YA occasionally. Sword & sorcery as light reading. High magic fantasy please. Continue to not quite understand and not really read urban fantasy. 

Writer Moonlake: I want to write epic high magic fantasy. My WIP is definitely fantasy but what sub-genre is it? No idea. 

Character names

Reader Moonlake: I don’t care, especially about pronunciation. It’s not as if I’m actually reading out loud to myself in my head when I’m reading. Reading to me is more about consuming words and being soaked into the literary images and atmosphere. And even if the author provides a page of how character names are supposed to be pronounced, sorry no guarantee that I will take it into my head. 

Writer Moonlake: Hmmm… let me think about it. I want a name that will fit the character. Well, I do for my main characters at least . 

Made-up Language

Reader Moonlake: I enjoy it in general. It’s something different to experience once in a while. As long as I don’t get too obsessive in flicking over to the back to read the glossary provided every time a made-up word crops up. 

Writer Moonlake: It comes and goes as an ‘obsession’. I don’t actually set out to create a language ala Tolkien but for some earlier projects, I just end up creating a bunch of made-up language as I write the story or brainstorm on world building

Magic

Reader Moonlake: I like the old-school magic ala Tolkienesque magic fine. I’m not averse to different conceptions of magic once in a while but I don’t think I’m interested in magic realism. I don’t actually really know what that is but it’s something akin to Sandersen’s exposition through action with the metal magic in Mistborn, then no thanks. Reminds me too much of physics. 

Writer Moonlake: Magic is lurking in the background to the WIP. But it is there. Does this mean I’m writing high magic fantasy or not? 

Adventures Abroad the Chen Xing- Chapter 2

When we arrived back at the Xing, Roland pointed at it and said “You’re… uh… sure you can fix the converter?” Couldn’t blame him, I might have thought the same if I saw a ship cobbled up together like that. What could we do when the only materials came from a junkyard? 

“It’s a long story- how we put together this ship- but it is running beautifully.” I assured him. Estella did the same. 

Roland looked skeptical. “If ya say so…”

“So what happened to the original converter again?” Estella asked him with a conspiratorial smile.

“Uh… Sam… you said something ’bout a story?”

“How about we tell it over a drink?” I exchanged a glance with Estella before leading the way into the ship.

“I’ll let Hue know what’s going on,” Aurora said before walking off. I nodded. 

At the lounge, I hopped on over to the mini-bar. “What do you fancy? A beer or something stronger? A Chen Xing special perhaps?” I was clenching my hands under the counter where no one could see, trying to reign in my temper over Roland’s shifty talk. Turned out the guy was way smarter than he looked. He must have picked up on my feelings nevertheless. “I do somethin wrong?” He asked. 

“No, what makes you say that?” I tried to sound casual.

Roland paused over the choice of beverages and then seized a beer. “You sure you ain’t mad or somethin? Ya look sour.”

“Oh, that’s just my norm. Isn’t that right, Estella?”

Estella nodded. “Yeah, once you get to know her she’s really easy to get along with, so long as you’re an honest sort.” I caught the emphasis on the word honest and was sure that Roland would too. I looked over to him. He choked on his beer and then tried to pretend nothing happened. I grinned at that. Time to bare my fangs. 

“Why the big reaction? Do you have something to hide?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Hide? What? No. Um, I’m just a worker, doing my job like the boss wants. And I don’t want the boss getting mad. He hur… um, he puts a write-up in yer file, I mean.”

Estella let out a deliberately noisy and dramatic sigh, shaking her head. “Treating Sam like she’s stupid never ends well for anyone, last guy who did that….” She let her voice trail off with a regretful look. I gave her an appreciative nod. 

Time to ease up a bit. “If we keep it amongst us like buddies, then the boss ain’t gonna know, you know? So what’s with the blast marks? Anyone with eyes can tell what they are.” 

Roland looked across to Estella to get her promise of silence and then continued fidgeting some more before he let out a sigh, took a big swig of the beer, and looked towards the side, stubbornly avoiding eye contact with us. “There’s folks who don’t want no illium plant on this world. Say it brings in unkindly types.”

“Hell, I’ve lost control before and damaged stuff in a fit of rage.” Estella lied with a shrug meant to convey nonchalance. “If that’s what happened, it happens to everyone once in a while.” I figured that was her way of getting him to elaborate. 

“I’m no techie so I don’t know what an illium plant does. What types of unkindly types?” I figured I would go the direct way, plus what I said also happened to be 100% genuine. 

“It’s some kinda thing to do with refuelin deep explorer ships tryin to find somethin out there. But ya know, once ya got a illium plant, regular folks gonna come settlin and takin up space. But I don’t care about none of that. Just doing my job, ya know?”

I nodded, pretending that I understood. 

Estella seemed to have read my mind or perhaps she really understood. “He likes the quiet life, a plant like that comes on line and pretty soon you got families, kids, industry and cities springing up around your ears. Gets to the point a fella can’t throw a stone without hitting someone else’s home, or hear’em self think over the racket from people bein people.

“Yeah, that’s the talk. You musta heard ’em cause that’s what they’re sayin. Me, I don’t mind. There’s always more work somewhere and people don’t bother me none.”

I replied with a noncommittal “Right”. A pistol shot rang outside. I rushed towards the noise. Aurora had a slip of girl pinned down not far from the ship. Our little ‘hostage’ was screaming and struggling against Aurora like a wild cat, looking ready to scratch Aurora’s eyes out. 

“What’s going on? Where’s H squared?”

“This kid and her pals grabbed him when I ducked inside to get some wire for the converter.” Aurora gestured to the trash pile, “They dragged him in there.”

I called out for H squared but got no response. 

“How many were there?” Estella walked up, pulled a flashlight from her hip pouch and passed it over to me. I accepted it and started moving over to the trash pile. 

“About five or six?” Aurora replied, “Didn’t get a real accurate count, they had him mostly in the pile by the time I got out here.” She indicated the girl she had pinned down with a movement of the head. “Except for this straggler.”

Roland trailed over after Estella. “Ugh, stupid gutter rats. Just drown it. Do us all a favor.”

“They’re not armed with anything but trash, so go easy on them.” I heard Aurora raising her voice.

“He’s hardly serious.” Estella tried to smooth over the tension, “Though a bath might not be a horrible idea.” 

I turned back momentarily to give my stance. “Yeah, we will do no such thing. It’s just a kid.”

“You even try to put me in water and I’ll gut every last one of you.” The girl screeched her defiance. 

“Now what’s the big idea of hating water? A hot bath is the best thing in the world, well, after getting to sleep in in winter.” I said. 

“Then get talking, or I’m giving you a full on bath, with soap and everything.” Aurora threatened her while frisking her over for hidden weapons. I could see a smile that she was trying hard to suppress. “Why’d you take our pal, and where’d you take him?”

“I ain’t a snitch,” she replied with as haughty a tone as she could manage, which did not amount to much. 

“I’ll wash her clothes too. Maybe even give her a hair cut.” Estella chimed in. The gal knew her timing. 

“And you can’t threaten me, cause I’ll take you all out if you even try it. I can hold my breath for a long time. Like 30 seconds, or even longer.”

I shone a flashlight at the trash pile. There was actually a ‘tunnel’ into the trash that went underground. I groaned. “We have a tunnel crawl ahead.”

“Oh, go ahead. Try to find them. They’ll gut you in the dark before you even know they’re there. We’re fierce.”

“Right, kiddo, you are as fierce as kittens to full-grown tigers.”

“Oh, well in that case-” Aurora took out a candy bar from her pocket. “I guess we’ll have to do things the easy way.” She tore the wrapper off with her teeth and held the candy bar where the girl could see it. “Let’s start off with something simple then, what name do your friends call you?”

Defiant silence. Aurora passed the candy bar to Estella with a wink.

“They call me ‘I’m gonna gut you.'” The girl tried to ignore the candy bar but her eyes kept travelling back to it. 

Aurora gave the girl a temporary cold treatment by enquiring about the size of the ‘tunnel’. 

“Several feet and then it turns. That’s why I was groaning.” I replied.

Estella played the bad cop part well. She broke off a piece of the candy bar and started eating it slowly. “Oh hey, nice, chocolate nut, my favorite. You want a bite?” She offered the kid. “I’m gonna gut you? I.G.G.Y. Iggy, I like it.” She smiled happily.

“I’m telling ya, yer wastin time. Them gutter rats a useless bunch.” Roland interjected. 

“How far does it look to go down?” Estella asked me. 

The girl made a frustrated noise. “That’s not my name. It’s what I’m gonna do to all of you. You’re so stupid.” She kept eyeing the chocolate. 

Estella dangled the candy bar so close to her that she could take a bite of it. “Well, unless you tell us your real name, it’s going to be Iggy from now on.”

The kid snapped at the bar like a snake and smirked at Estella. “See, I can bite all of you that fast.” She announced triumphantly with chocolate smearing her teeth. 

Aurora continued letting Estella have the limelight by starting a theory about why H squared was taken. “Someone wants him, guessing they paid the local rat patrol to bring him to them, probably to fix something.” She glanced over at Roland. “We were a bit open about Hue doing the actual repair work, then again one of those kids was the one from the bar…” Looking down at the girl, she continued, “Wherever they took him I doubt they’ll hurt him once they realize how useful he is as a mechanic, so we got a little time, unless you want to rush the tunnels and over take’em? Kids will move slow hauling Hue’s unconscious butt along.”

“Maybe we’ll call you Nipper.” Estella made it sound like this was a result of deep thought and her subsequent gesture- patting the girl’s filthy hair- was entirely unconscious. “Up to you Sam, I trust your judgement.”

“Nipper is dumb. Iggy is dumb. You’re all dumb. Where’s more chocolate?”

“Or Bitesy. Your choice.” I told our little captive. “So who volunteers to stay behind and look after Bitesy?”

Estella smirked at my comment. “Chocolate is for people with names,” She held the candy bar up in offer. “So what’ll it be? Nipper? Iggy? Or?” She let the sentence dangle tantalizingly alongside the candy.

The kid made an exaggerated sigh. “It doesn’t matter, my friends are just gonna kill you all anyway”. Looking keenly at the chocolate, she finally said. “It’s Guppy. Don’t laugh, or I’ll gut you.”

“I’ll hang back and watch the girl, get her cleaned up a bit, see what I can learn about the situation.” Aurora smiled at the girl. “Guppy is pretty.”

“I’m not pretty. I’m dangerous.” The girl glared back at Aurora. 

“All right, me and Estella will go do the tunnel crawl then. Roland, what are you doing?” I didn’t want him unaccounted for and running amok on our ship. 

“I’m gonna sit here and look after the converter. You can waste yer time with them.”

Satisfied, I let Estella know it’s time to get a move on. 

Estella nodded her assent. “I can probably sense them down in the tunnels with my talent, might help us pick our way through the maze.” She smiled warmly at Guppy. “I have a plant in my garden called a Magenta Guppy. It has this beautiful purple and gold flowers shaped like a bird’s eye, most beautiful thing when it blooms in the moonlight.”

A tear formed in the corner of Guppy’s eye and she snuffled. Then she went on to describe exactly how her friends were going to kill everyone in that strangled voice. I did not quite know how to react. Children were confusing to me. 

Estella passed the remainder of the candy bar to Aurora. “We’ll be back, stay alert, whoever hired these kids may come sniffing around again.”

I started heading towards the tunnel, impatient for action. But Aurora stopped me so I could hand her the advance pay and also told us where to find her and Guppy when we came back. The girl made another retort. 

Estella snickered as she followed me into the tunnel. “Knowing Aurora, she’s probably going to wind up adopting the kid,” A pause for reflection. “She seems to have a soft spot for the down-trodden.”

I shuddered at the idea of having Guppy on board with us every day. “That will be fun indeed.”

Me and Estella squeezed into the opening one after the other, trying not to get snagged on bits of protruding metal. The tunnel was so narrow that we had to crawl. It turned dark not very far in. 

From behind me, there was a sort of cluckly sound and a soft blue tinted light came on. “Glow stick, should work well enough in here.” Estella explained. 

“Thanks, saves me from putting a spotlight in my mouth to light the way.” 

After worming our way through somewhat regular bends and twists, we came to a fork in the tunnel. “Which way?” I asked Estella, hoping that she could sense H squared somewhere ahead. 

“Dragging Hue, they probably left some marks.” She offered, by which I assumed her power did not work here. I crawled down the left fork which seemed more well-used. Then a feeling came over me that perhaps the right was the correct path. Too late to go back so I just noted it to Estella. 

“Good idea, if we start back tracking now we’ll lose them for sure, and I trust your judgement, let’s see where this leads.”

The tunnel continued on. I thought I heard the distinctive mumbling nonsense of H squared somewhere ahead. I felt my entire body go back into relax mode, a subtle but important difference. A few more twists and turns and then there’s a faint light visible, reflecting off of the next corner. 

“See, I knew you picked right the first time.” Estella whispered eagerly.

I smiled. “We should hurry up.”

Estella put a hand on my leg and squeezed it briefly. “I heard something around the corner.” She whispered.

I inched forward on my stomach and peeked around the corner. A piece of metal was jammed between the floor and ceiling of the tunnel. It would have been easy for the unsuspected to knock into it. 

We carefully negotiated our way around the trap. An opening stood in the tunnel around the next corner, with a ladder going down. A head of unruly hair was in our vision for a moment before it got swallowed by the ladder. 

“The trap’ll stop ’em. They won’t be able to make it in here when the whole top caves in.” A voice drifted up from below. I signaled Estella to hurry.

We looked down the ladder onto a large cave, where the kids all gathered around a confused looking H squared. On one side stood a small man in large clothes with an iron crown surrounded by a few armed toughs. Jake Camden, our long lost ‘friend’. 

Writing Updates- February 2021

So this is an ad hoc writing update because I already changed my writing goals after one month in 2021. 

So basically I’m still continuing (being plagued) by the decimal draft process where I just cannot create even a full rough draft but have to proceed via partial outline, partial draft form for a block of scenes. And so given this, I’m still going through chapters much quicker than if I can do an actual draft. So the new goal for this year is to finish draft 0.8 by June. After that, I will take a one month’s cool-down period to outline my tentative next project. Then in August, I will go back to the WIP. 

That’s it, short and sweet for today. Come back next week for the second chapter of my science fantasy novella. 

Remarkable Women in Ancient China (8)- Xu Zhao Pei

Who is she:

  • The first divorced wife of a royalty (in death)
  • Was associated with the idiom “Mistress Xu was half-old” referring to a woman past her prime but still charming

Notable Life Events:

  • Born to a line of prominent officials (her grandfather was the Prime Minister and her father was also a high ranking official) under the Southern Qi kingdom in the period of the Northern and Southern dynasties around 420-589 AD
  • Married Xiao Yi, the would-be second Emperor of the Southern Qi kingdom, when he was the Crown Prince (a thoroughly political marriage, apparently the Crown Prince was only 9 when they married) 
  • Was ordered to commit suicide by her husband for reputedly murdering his favoured concubine
  • After she killed herself by drowning in a well, Xiao Yi sent her body back to her family as a divorced wife. This happened three years before he ascended the throne as Emperor.

Why is she remarkable:

  • She probably wins hands down on ‘most discourteous royal wife’. Not only did was she boldly jealous while cheating on him with multiple men- that idiom of hers came about due to the praise of one of her lovers, she would also only make up half of her face (see the pic for potential effects) whenever her husband visited her (which was seldom) in order to mock the fact that he was blind in one eye.  

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

In a way, she tickles my fancy in a karmic justice sense. I mean, here is this woman who is unhappily married and she will just do anything that pleases herself to get back at her husband. And she had the power to do so, which was not how dramas and movies starring Court women in ancient China usually made me believe (although I have to say with this series, I’m starting to learn that’s not always true. There are a number of exceptions but that doesn’t shake the overall impression). Not that I condone this kind of vicious revenge cycle that she had with her husband but I understand this is a way of her coping with her fate in a feudal society. In some ways, she reminds me of the first woman I blogged about in this series, except not as smart but equally willful in others’ eyes. 

English reference on her: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Zhaopei

Moonlake’s writing updates- January 2021

I finished off last year with a draft 0.75, not quite what I had aimed at. Instead, I’m aiming for draft 0.8 to be completed by end of this year. Beyond that, I have no plans as yet, I think one year plan is sufficient as far as this debut novel is going. It will be done when it is done. That’s my current attitude towards it. 

What else am I doing? I will continue with the Adventures Aboard the Chen Xing novella. The game from which it is based on has concluded last year and my gaming group has been taking a break since Christmas pretty much, yet to resume. I’ve currently got up to about 7 chapters in total now but I think revisions are upcoming for chapter 3 onwards. I feel like I’m not playing with voice as much in first person as I should be. 

And that’s all for today. I am writing amongst 37 Celsius degree heat so that pushes me towards short and sweet. See you all next week. 

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:.