Tales of Inspiration (3)

Today I’m going to talk about the inspiration underlying my current WIP. 

I’ve alluded to this before: for many years, I was an active member at a website where you can submit what I call articles in prose on world meta: all the different aspects that make up a world. It was there that I first came up with my fantasy ancient China setting. I had a whole folder of ideas on the setting: some fairly well-formed, others bare snippets. 

It was some time back in 2016; I wanted to start a novel project but was totally out of ideas. Nothing jumped out at me from my idea journal so I flicked through that folder for my setting. And ah ha, straight away I was excited by a document titled cave nomads and that became the setting for my WIP. 

As for the plot, to be honest, for the life of me, I could not remember how they came to me in any details. It felt like they dropped down on me from the sky. But as far as I could make out reading over my early notes, I think they must have been a by-product of me thinking about the history of the cave nomad society and their Chinese roots.

So far, this is all about internal processing. Where’s the external impetus part of this formula that I’ve going on in this serial post? Well, I arrived at the cave nomad concept because I was just randomly thinking about nomads and different terrain types one day. I believe I had a short spell of fascination with nomads as a result of some of my previous attempts at novels and short stories that featured nomads. 

And that’s all for today. Check back in next week for a brand new post under my Remarkable Women in ancient China series. 

Moonlake’s writing updates- June 2020

I’ve recently discovered that the story in my WIP is actually larger than it currently is. Furthermore, I feel like my handle on the key structural elements of my story is not yet solid. So what this means is that I’m starting to feel that it might be awhile before I can actually finish this book 1, with lots of back and forth between outlining and drafting. 

Given this and my only working half-days, I’m starting to feel a lack of efficiency or productivity in my writing. So I’ve lately gone back to writing some article in prose for that site I used to frequent (it used to be my writer’s home but I fell out of love with it at the same time as I broke off from the epub; I started working on a submission for it these two weeks). But that isn’t novel writing and I feel it doesn’t hone my novel writing skills. 

So I’m playing with this idea of doing a side project, a story that can be told in episodes that I can post as a serial here on my blog. I only have rough ideas but I thought I might like to write in first person for a female main character. Why? Both my WIP and my tentative next project (that story about grandmother, mother and daughter) have female main characters and yet I’ve always felt female characters come harder to me to write. So I figure it’s good to get plenty of practice. As for first person, somehow third-person comes more naturally to me (I think that’s because I’m an outliner and I always outline in the God-seeing viewpoint) but I’ve been told before that my first person passages are actually powerful. So I thought it would be good to develop something else in my writer’s repertoire. 

And that’s all for today. Let me chew on the serial story some more. I will keep all of you informed.

Moonlake’s writing updates (9)

I felt like short and snappy today so let’s do this in Q&A format. 

Where are you at overall? 

I’ve finished draft 0.6. 

What’s that- draft 0.6?

It’s the second iteration of my decimal drafts, I started with draft 0.5. 

What’s with the decimal drafts?

It’s a thing to get rid of my perfectionism, telling myself that I’m doing a draft that’s not even draft 1 yet. 

What’s coming up?

I’m currently doing a bit of structural work on my story, taking the whole of March for that at least. In the short term, I will focus on draft 0.8 and then draft 1. Not sure if there will be a draft 0.9 in between. 

The time horizon for these drafts? 

Definitely draft 0.8 done by end of this year. And then draft 1 done by end of next year. 

What other longer plans? 

Longer plan is of course is to finish the other books of this series (yes, it’s a series, still not of indeterminate length i.e. unsure how many books. Feeling more like it’s at least a trilogy now but still not 100% sure). And then once I have three books written, I can start looking at debutting. 

And that’s it for today, check back in next week when I talk about the Chinese influence in my writing. 

Gaming and writing

I am someone with selective taste and that extends to the number of genres I read as well as my hobbies. I’ve previously blogged about jigsaw puzzles, I constantly blog about reading and today I’m going to talk about my gaming hobby and how it figures into my writing. 

Firstly, I do two different types of gaming: PC gaming which are mostly hidden objects but sometimes include match 3 and time management games. I was very into roleplaying games but I had given up the PC variety because they were too time consuming. Nowadays, I only play in roleplaying games of the dice-rolling variety (ala Dungeon and Dragons or Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone plot-your-own-advenutre/gaming books for those who don’t know what I’m talking about) and that is confined to one weekend session every week. 

So how does gaming figure into my writing? Well, it:

  • Fills up my creative well by exposing me to ideas about character, plot, elements of magic etc. 
  • Similar to the above, I do need a little pure leisure time for a balanced life and gaming fills that spot 
  • For the roleplaying game, I have hopes that it would eventually feedback into improving one of my shortcomings as a writer which is in characterisation. I often have difficulty getting into my characters and my weekly session gives me an opportunity to become another character for 4 hours every week so I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to apply such role-playing skills in getting closer into my characters so that I can write about them. 

What other hobbies do my writer followers have that figure into your writings? I would be interested to hear about them in comments. 

Tales of Inspiration (2)

Today I’m going to talk about the inspiration behind my novella A Thread of A Chance and how the external impetus+internal processing framework discussed in the first post of this series works in giving birth to this particular story. 

The external impetus actually comes in two parts: the first is the anthology series I was part of and now closed the door on which had set themes for each issue. The theme for the very first issue was shapeshifters and that’s the keyword that partially gave birth to A Thread of A Chance. The second part of the external impetus was a single term from this Hong Kong kungfu TV drama I had watched: The One that Escaped. That’s it: those 2 terms combined gave birth to A Thread of A Chance. 

Now the internal processing part. Actually, I think I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t have a thing for the shapeshifter term at all. Like I actually thought it was lame even though I was the one who came up with the term (ironic, right? Basically, I came up with the term cos that was the term that seemed to be the common thing between all of the stories going into that issue 1 of the anthology. I’m a practical person so that was the practical term that I came up with). So how does my mind deal with this? Well, it thought outside the box and ta ta, I came up with a constellation that is a shapeshifter and named such. What about that term from the kungfu drama? Somehow my mind tagged it to the end of the ancient Chinese phrase that says “Fifty great paths, The Heaven creates Forty Nine” which meant there was always an element of change (I think, I came to Australia when I was 12 so while I have a strong interest in ancient literature, I’m not 100% confident that my understanding is always correct when it came to such archaic terms). Then my mind took it further and combined it yet again with this idea I had of geomancers (people who practice feng shui, that Chinese practice of placing objects in certain spots around your home/work space to enhance luck) as mages and gave it the new phrase with the tag-on term a new meaning: that it was about “a thread of a chance”, the whole term being a direct translation out of Chinese. 

And that’s it for today. If you feel like this story of the inspiration source behind A Thread of A Chance is interesting, let me know in the comments. 

Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (4)

This is the last bit of meta fiction that I had written for the Citadel. It is part of a collaborative submission I did with MysticMoon for the Kaiju (monster of massive size ala Godzilla style) quest. This whole submission is based off on MysticMoon’s idea of a chimera creature created through scientific means i.e. DNA mixing and I mainly helped to create the underlying context of how such research came about. Anyway, the following meta fiction (mostly in diary entry form) is really about the lead scientist who created this ultimate chimera monster that became effectively Godzilla running amok. The original inspiration for this character is this youtube clip of a Captain from a space opera that MysticMoon pointed me to but the name of the show/movie never registered on me.

Dr. James Wooden

11:00 a.m., Sydney, Crown Center, Press Conference

With an air of self-assurance, Dr. James Wooden strode in, smiled and seated himself. In a charcoal black suit, Dr. Wooden conveys the image of a true gentleman.

“Welcome to the Press Conference on Project Chimera. As everyone here is well aware, now farming has to be done predominately either with animal or human labour. Also, the radical movement is gaining momentum and causing major disruptions to our lives.  Now, I ask all of you, what do we do about them? Well, my answer is that we create something that will simultaneously address these two problems…  Now, is there any questions?”

18/05/3031

Finally, those walking monies have given me the funding for my Project Chimera! Imagine the fame I will get when I create the perfect animal that will solve the two most pressing problems of humanity at the moment.

19/05/3031

What specimens of DNA should I use to create my Chimera? Let me see, grizzly bear for its strength and ability to sustain mob attacks, the Tasmanian devil so that it will have a rapid reproductive cycle, snakes so that it would have a means to quickly immobilise those pesky radicals and yes, the giant squid from Japan that has that delicious gene with the propensity to mutate, why then my Chimera can continuously breed with other species, creating unique offsprings. Who knows that those walking monies won’t take the fancy to getting their special pet Chimera and give me follow-up funding on project extensions?

10/01/3032

Curse those radicals, here I thought this ghost town of Alice Springs would be the perfect place to set up my research compound and all my Aboriginal ‘assistants’ have escaped in the confusion as well. I know, I will move to Bourke in New South Wales, surely there the opportunities to ‘recruit’ more Aboriginal ‘assistants’ are plenty as well.

08/11/3032

Those ethnical guidelines that scientists are supposed to uphold are damn nuisances. What’s the difference between a non-lethal venom that will paralyse someone so that they can be killed and a lethal one that directly kills? Damn hypocrites

~ excerpts from a partially recovered personal diary of Dr. James Wooden found at the site of the destroyed research compound at Bourke, NSW

Moonlake’s Meta fiction (3)

The following three bits of meta fiction are written to tease out a set of two legendary places called Still and Limbo that I wrote up for one of the quests at the Citadel. And I don’t think I can sum up these two places better than the following tagline I wrote:

“Two forgotten places there be- Still and Limbo,
Still where Time is forever Still,
Limbo where Naught is ever Remembered.”

The Abbot cordially greeted the Lord who strode in regally clothed in fineries that would not look out of place in court but somehow had an unkempt look about him. He looked about to speak but then being lost on the choice of words, was irked and started fretting about. Seeing this, the Abbot smiled knowingly and calmly reassured him, “You have come to the right place. Fret not over it. But this is not the right time and place for the kind of talk we’ll be having, not yet. Let us retire to a more private place.”

The Lord seemed pacified by the words and followed the Abbot meekly into the Inner Sanctuary. He did not take note of anything but the white-robed figure drawing him onwards as they traversed through a long corridor. Otherwise, he might have noted and indeed given voice to the contempt in his servant’s eyes of the dilapidated state of the Abbey and its measly decorations.

In the Lord’s mind, the concept of time passage had fled entirely. All of a sudden, he found himself alone with the Abbot in a study.

“Now we can speak freely.” The Abbot looked at him with his keen eyes. “Now which are you, one who seeks a quiet place for a contemplation, or one who seeks contemplation indefinitely?” An amused smile came onto his lips when he said the latter.

The Lord was confused. “What difference does it make?”

“None and a great deal.” The Abbot smiled enigmatically. Then an otherworldly gleam came onto his eyes. He recited the following verse in a grave tone:

“Two ever that seek Still while One only craves for Limbo,

The Two urgently need Contemplation and the One yearns for not Remembering.

One of the Two pursue falsely for the Hope of Longevity,

Yonder the Lust for Limbo is ever Pure.

Be it the Two or the One, seek Still or Limbo need not be.

Still and Limbo calls its like, whether or not Like beware.”


A series of images flashed past in Garmon’s mind. Garmon knew not from whence they came for he had never seen or even heard of the ritual depicted. For all that those images rippled and undulated and everything seemed to be shrouded under shadows, Garmon knew instinctively that what was shown was a ritual to achieve one purpose. A purpose that fitted with his need, at least for now. Without further contemplation (which was somewhat strange if he reflected upon the instance later, he had always been a cautious man), he started performing the first step of the ritual that would start a process that there could be undone once started…

When he came to again, he found himself in a place that contained no sound nor any odours. Neither was there any sight to behold. Everything here was of a murky colour- it looked like grey at first but upon closer observation, it contained a little of every possible shade he had ever seen and more. When combined together, the murky colour gave off an impression of desolation, comfortable desolation. Just then, Garmon felt something… a concept evaporating from his memories like wisps of smoke that faded to nothingness. But he shrugged it off as it was not important. What was important to him now was the contemplation of this place that he was in now. It was a misty place. No, that’s not right. It was a shrouded place, for sure, but not by mist. Even the lightest mist had weight but this place was shrouded by something… impossible to cipher but definitely weightless. When he reached out his hand to touch it, he felt nothing as if it did not exist at all. But Garmon knew it was there. Just as he knew that this place, this realm he had just entered was a forgotten place, a thoroughly and completely forgotten place, a place that does not exist in his world nor any others. It is a place where you get to forget everything, even yourself, pure bliss for someone who wants to forget, wants to forget everything, wants dearly and most of all to forget himself.Just the place for him.


Iblinikalis, Master of the Ebony Tower, Loremaster of the Uncharted Realms, Paramount Explorer of Arcana Extraordinaire, looked into the scrying orb in front of him. He was looking on the landscapes of a realm lying outside of the physical world (an arcane realm by definition) that he was thinking of claiming fief rights to as First Discoverer. Actually, looking on would not be the correct words for the experience. For Iblinikalis had perfected the art of scrying. Not only could he determine at will what sights to see of a location, he could actually experience of the location as if he had truly visited it.

This arcane realm he had just recently discovered was a strange place. It was not bizarre with a totally different of basic laws governing over its functioning like some of the others that he was Lord of. No, in that aspect, it operated much as the realms of the physical world. Its physical landscape was also ordinary- it had mountain ranges, rivers and streams, flat land covered with vegetation and all other types of terrains that could be found on Taineer, his own home Realm. And yet there was something odd about it. No wind stirred the plant lives, they lay dormant on the ground like creatures that had been hibernating for eons. The streams and waters did not flow, their waters lying stock still like those of a lifeless lake. Yet, there were no unpleasant odours as one might expect from a place without any exposure to the winds. No, in fact, the air was filled with a light crispness of a morning in early winter. It was just that there was a complete absence of any movement- and therefore any sound, at all in this place. It was a place that was still and idling. It was a place that seemed entirely frozen in time.

Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (1)

Today I’m supposed to post my Book Discoveries for March but since I’m committed to finishing off a short story before the end of next week, I think I might have to delay the book post until the end of this month. Today I’m going to recycle one of the meta fiction pieces I have written and posted up in my writers’ home at Strolen’s Citadel. The meta fiction doesn’t stand on its own so I might as well re-post the whole submission. The meta fiction is the block of text with a blue background.

The War Drum of Oyr

Description and Properties:

The War Drum of Oyr looks like a conventional war drum made specifically for one player. It is only special in so far as it was made from the skin of Oyr the One-Legged Cow and had inherited the full power of its Call of Thunder. An enchantment laid onto it by a mage of later ages unearthed its full potential- to compatriots and allies, it can reverberate at great distances but always at a suitable volume to uplift their spirits; to foes, none can escape from its beat of doom no matter how far away they are. Some rumours say that the Drum also has the effect of driving bovines within a large radius to wrathful stampeding.

Yet, the War Drum has been long lost. Therefore, it is uncertain to what degree the added enchantment has worn off or if it has expired altogether.

Lore:

The main debate between sages on the War Drum of Oyr is neither over its construction nor its whereabouts- both are unknown and it is as simple as that. Instead, they argue incessantly about whether Oyr is a unique creature come into being before the ages of time or it was a conventional cow which accidentally swallowed a Shard of Storm and became the creature that legends describe- a one-footed cow four times as large as any conventional cow which can emit a sound like thunder.

Now, you want to know about its construction and possibly its whereabouts? Well, let’s see what scattered accounts there are in the form of colourful local lore and tales from grandsires. There are lots, in fact. They’re not as trustworthy as the words of sages and oft conflict with one another- not that sages don’t- but it’s a hobby of mine to keep track of such rumours and tales revolving around legends. So that I can form my own personal conjecture over the truth. It will probably never come to light, the truth, but one can find one’s enjoyment by seeking to tease out what it could be.

Where shall I start? Let’s start at the beginning. Curiously, the earliest tales recorded of the Drum’s construction was some time after the Great Exploration. And as we all knew, the Great Exploration brought back many artifacts from foreign origins. It might be pure speculation on my part- certainly, no sage had ever entertained the possibility before. At any rate, as many as eight or maybe even more kingdoms claimed that their founder played an unequivocal role in the construction of the War Drum. And yet, there wasn’t a single rumour or family tale floating around of the actual crafter of the War Drum. I find that another curious aspect and it just happens to match up so well to that speculation of mine.

More on the stories about construction themselves? Let’s see. As many as five kingdom’s founders were a great hero and counted among their exploits the deed of having slain Oyr the One-footed Cow though so far as I can see, there is nothing that Oyr had done which qualifies its slaying as being a heroic deed. Ah well. These great heroes tend to be an impulsive lot, slaying anything that doesn’t fit into their mold of conventionality. Wait, there was one among them who claimed that it was the decreed of some obscure immortal who showed him that it was the sure way to defeat his villainous foe. But we only have his own words for that. Then, two others chanced upon- or rather were directed upon by divinity- on the carcass of Oyr. The last is the ultimate showcase of the hubris of humankind, in my opinion. It claims that Oyr itself willingly gives up its own life so that its skin can be used to construct a war drum that will forever ensure that the Righteous triumph. What nonsense, there has never been a single war waged in the name of true Righteousness throughout the history of humans! For the ambitions of single men or as a last resort to violence when two interests irreconciliably clash! That’s what all wars come down to, ha!

Where is the Drum now? Well, foremost there is the claim that it is buried with whichever kingdom founder that really has an instrumental role in its coming into being. That clearly turned out to be false for some of these claims. Which ones I don’t know and am not that interested to find out. Then, there is the legend about the War Drum being restless in mortal hands and never willing to stay with a single mortal beyond several uses, sometimes just one. Of course, war drums had come into fashion over the last few centuries. Enchanted ones made by Hiter musician-wizards abound now. Somehow, these artifacts were being mixed up with the War Drum of Oyr itself and we now hear colorful tales of some of these more special war drums’ histories being passed off as the history of the Drum of Oyr. I have chased down a few false trails myself but it is too early to proclaim that I have found the single true path.

And that’s all I can say at this stage. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some references that I would like to find for another of my conjectures over the buried truths of history.

Character Sketches (3)

This is the last of the character sketches based on the prompt of Feeling Tearful amidst a Misunderstanding:

“I will transfer a million to your bank account right away.” He said coldly and the words reverberated in her ears like a gong.

She felt moisture welling up within her eyes at the same time a mass of weight materialised within her chest. Here her reflex took over and she inhaled deeply. That made the weight within her chest curl into a little ball and pressed this ball down within her body until she couldn’t feel it anymore. It also arrested the tear drops where they were. She was not going to give satisfaction to one who could so wrong her as him. Not in this way.

She felt outraged. How could her? What had she said? Merely that being able to physically roll in money won’t be bad, and that only in a joking voice, and he threw money in her face like that? How dare he!

To be honest, I had great difficulty with this particular combo and while this exercise was supposed to be impromptu in nature and the whole passage should be written in a single train trip, I had such a difficult time writing up this passage that it ran over two train trips. I think there are some awkward expressions above that I can’t even fix when I’m typing this now so ah well.