I had started writing the outline for Purple Python, the third book to the installment of the Hourglass Series. It will be from Jessica point of view, she is half Vietnamese, half American.
As part of my research into the horrors of the Vietnam war, I had watched Miss Saigon at West End in London. I had downloaded a book called Unwanted – A memoir of childhood by a Amerasian survivor of the Vietnam war. His chilling depictions of the final days before the last planes leaving Vietnam had lead me to shake my mind off it and write this post. My hair stood on ends when he wrote about how the last planes left the US embassy without his family in Vietnam when they lost the battle to the communist.
On hindsight, I am very very fortunate not to experience any horrors of war in my lifetime. My ancestors had made a good decision to depart China during the civil war and migrate to Nanyang and resettle to new unknown lands. They contributed to the community by teaching, volunteering at the clan association and resettling other families. They made contributions to the society at large by imparting Confucius ideology for a civil upright society.
Now, my generation enjoys global mobility and interconnection with the world due to technological advancement in communications and accessibility. I had the privilege to study in Australia and attain fluency in English as my native language. It was only in Australia I discovered about Vietnamese refugees and how they were referred to as “boat people” and how they risked their lives to go on boats to seek refuge in Australia. I was so insulated and I had no awareness that this existed till I traveled and was exposed to the world at large.
I am now using Alan Watt’s “90 Day Novel” as my guide to write Purple Python as it has worked so for my first two books. It examines through the process of inquiry to building worlds and characters. A sentence that really hits me now is that, “the story lives fully within yourself.” I had never believed in that, I had thought that the story is constructed outside myself. But now, I had discovered this sentence is true. The whole universe of the Scarlet Queen and Hourglass Series is existing within myself and through a process of rigorous inquiry, that it would be materialized in this world.
I am now on Day 5 out of Day 90. I will be on a cruise for a year end vacation with my family and friends in a large group including my grandparents. On the four day cruise with no internet connection, I will continue to be engaged in the inquiry as it says to “write daily and not stop”.
I used to watch television shows where by the Chinese God of Love would tie a red silk on mortals to amuse himself. When he ties a red silk on two unsuspecting morals, they will fall in love. He would tie the red silk on a beautiful lady and a ugly man and watch how that plays out. He would amuse himself by sitting on a tree and laugh at their folly.
In Ancient China, marriages are arranged. The notion of romantic love wasn’t accepted. It was more commonly accepted that one should be filial to their parents and parents should decide their children’s marriages with the consultation of a matchmaker. The love deity, however, runs havoc on the moral world by his “mismatches”. Couples would pray to the love deity in the temple in hope that they will love the person they are match made with. Furthermore, they will not know who they would marry till the actual wedding day itself.
If this is still true in this day and age, I would have been married at age 19 to my mother’s preferred match – the eldest son of a steel tycoon. We had no chemistry, and there was no topics I could speak to him about. We went from one place to another, dining and spending extravagant amounts. I pitied him but I just had no feelings for him. I tried to like him, but it was rather unreal, untrue and forced. Anyway, I was glad it ended. I felt so much better after that. Love can’t be created out of nothing, without an emotional connection, it is hard to make it happen.
I like writing about topics on “red paint”, “red ropes” and “red hourglass” etc as it all links to the ancient God of Love. It is almost a permanent mark on a person once it (the love) happens. In the western world, Baby Cupid is the God that induces loves in young couples. But in the Chinese world, it is an old man who amuses himself with his own antics.
In my latest book, BLUE ORCA, there is a chapter on Red Paint. It is a metaphorical description on a tattoo mark that brands someone for life – in this case, red paint was the defining moment that life changes for the main character, Mimi. The next test I am setting myself up to do is to write concretely on Red Ropes and how the act of bondage entwines with love.
Faced with an almost completed manuscript that knocks me in and out like a racket ball, it hurls in another direction.
When I resist it,
it haunts my thoughts.
When I attempt it,
it takes my soul.
When I relish in it,
It gives me my existence.
I had been on a nine months writing marathon and the fire is burning out. I will finish the race by end of this month. Thank you for reading this and sharing my diabolical journey and life that made my novel sequel, Blue Orca possible.
After yesterday’s Aikido Lesson, I noticed I had some bruises on my legs. I woke up feeling so hungry that I almost ate a whole chicken to the amusement to the food server when I requested for more meat. I must look petite to him. My appetite is still not curbed yet and I am craving for more food. I must have exerted so much energy in one lesson. My muscles are sore, and my imagination is wild.
My Blue Orca daily word count still stands at 600 words a day and at that rate, I am going at turtle speed. I hope to speed up to 1000 words daily. The fastest speed I wrote the Red Hourglass was when I was on holiday in Madrid and staying on my best friend’s sofa. He says I must have felt completely relaxed to write so fast. I have no clue how some writers can do 2500 words a day, that is quite a stretch.
I am heavily referencing and reading non fiction material for resources. I believe to write 2500 words a day requires either a super good memory and situational writing, a good internal mastery and self discipline, or a super detailed outline. I am already diverting from my original outline, which I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing but I will see what my free form writing comes out of it.
Anyway, my “human” limit is at 1000 – 1500 words per day for quality writing or I will just start writing rubbish and it will sound off. At that rate, it is most likely I will complete the first draft of Blue Orca some time in May 2016.
Now, I have to figure out how to feel completely relaxed to write and I am contemplating about learning Tai Chi or Qi Gong…
The students lined up in a row as I knelt alongside with them as we bowed with our hands and forehead to the ground to the invisible air before the lesson started.
I spotted the Taoist logo of yin and yang on the back of the white uniform shirt of one of the students. Then I spotted that their Chinese names were engraved on their skirts. Starting from the bottom as a white belt, I was humbled by the experience as my eyes opened to learning a new skill set – martial arts.
The focus was on maintaining postures and being present in the moment. It involved mental and physical concentration and before the lesson started, I was sweating all over from meditating on my knees.
After a few body rolls that involved lifting my legs to the air on my back and standing back up, I felt dizzy. When I finally stood up the blankness of white clouded my vision. I wonder if I am physically fit to take this on and fight when imitating postures is lesson one.
Now, I am curious to learn Qi Gong to complement my martial arts training.
A usual question posed to me by westerners: Why are the Chinese so smart and studious? It as to do with the philosophy of Confucianism that governs our daily actions. The cultivation of our soul lies with artistic merit. A scholar-official was expected to be proficient in four arts – strategy, music, painting and calligraphy.
If translated to contemporary settings, the four arts would mean:
Strategy: Business and investment decisions
Music: Playing a musical instrument, dance, performance art
Painting: Drawing, painting, visual arts
Calligraphy: Writing articles, poetry and prose
Sons and daughters of scholar-officials were expected to be proficient in all four areas and continue their family legacy to serve the government as a official. They were expected to be role models of the society by the cultivation of virtue by studying and living their lives in accordance to classical Confucian texts. For thousands of years, families of scholar-officials intermarried and kept their lineage and status in the society. There was not much social mobility and one was born into a particular social class.
One of the ways that a merchant or farmer can move upwards in society to gain the prestige of a scholar was to pass the imperial examinations. Unfortunately, the imperial examinations was abolished in 1905. Soon after, the monarchy was overthrown and the scholar-official class system was dissolved overnight.
Subsequently, the Communist government massacred millions of intellectuals and landowners who could read or write during the Cultural Revolution. They burned thousands of books and closed schools. Traditional arts such as the traditional Chinese tea ceremony, erotic paintings and masters of knowledge disappeared during the turmoil.
My maternal great grandfather was the son of a scholar-official who was the provincial governor of a district in China. He escaped on a one way junk boat to Nanyang. In doing so, he left his family, connections and landholdings behind. If he did not escape, he would most likely be eliminated.
In Nanyang, he joined the clan association which helped him secure a job in a bank. During the early 1900s, most people could not read or write and literary skill was highly valued. Our family prospered as a result of his decision to depart China.
Still sticking to ancient traditions, my grandfather married my grandmother, whom he met in college. They were both considered scholars at that time as most of the population were uneducated. My mother married my father, who was a scholar from a British school, which subsequently led to me being more proficient in English than Mandarin. My extended family members are mainly in occupations as white collared workers/teachers/administrators. The tradition still lives on but in a different contemporary setting.
Maybe there is a sense of truth that my displays of talent is the result of thousands of years of cultivation that I am still subconsciously following today. It may be that the Chinese ideal of a Renaissance Man, is a person who displays scholar-gentry traits.
As a result of which, most Chinese aspire to be proficient in the four arts to maintain their status in the society. Ever since publishing my first book, my status as been somewhat elevated to a “maker of works”, which is a very prestigious and flattering title in mandarin.
Traditionally, the Chinese has been very liberal in expressing eroticism in their literature and paintings, similar to the Greeks, but this part of history has been erased with the Cultural Revolution. I am reverting back to what was formerly censored and erased to create a new consciousness that we need not be so prude and stifled in the 21st century.
This week, I will enroll in Aikido Class to write the sequel to the Red Hourglass. It is a decision I had been contemplating for some time, and the minimum commitment is a few months without traveling. I am scared but I will do it to write fighting scenes better.
My parents had never enrolled me in any extreme physical sports for the very reason that they do not want me to get injured. As their only daughter, I was a spoilt princess who was accompanied by a maid since I was born. I made friends with another princess in my school, she also had a maid who carried her school bags to fetch her home after our remedial lessons.
She always had cookies in her lunchbox. Or stickers, or pens. Like me, she was the only daughter. We both attended an elite school that was inaccessible unless one had connections or money. The difference is that, her endless gifts and cookies were the result of her parents fighting for custody of her.
Her skin was as white as snow. I had a tan as I liked running and cycling outdoors. She avoided the sun at all costs by walking in the shade as we shared cookies out of her lunchbox as we walked to the bus stop with our maids tagging behind us.
My mother always warned me to not talk to strangers or they would “kidnap” me to another country. With my newly found best friend, I never worried about getting kidnapped on the way home. I grew out of thinking everyone was out to “get me”. There were so many princesses who were prettier and more desirable than I was – a rough tomboyish girl.
Towards my teenage years, a friend noticed my unconventional nature to talk to and befriend anyone from any social class, which was not the norm. I challenged myself to make friends from a different ethnic group by sitting beside someone of a different ethnicity, which to the astonishment of my classmates, who preferred to pair themselves up in homogeneous groups.
The Australian concept of “fair go” appealed to me, along with the lack of hierarchy and informal business settings lead to a reconstruction of my belief system. As a result of which, I had much deeper conversations than I was formerly used to while in Melbourne. And also, I managed to get myself in the right project teams by observing which type of personalities would complement my skill sets (which of course, I would naturally collaborate with someone who is structured, organised and detailed orientated). I tried to carry forward this attitude of openness wherever I went, even with resistance.
I believe the world is leveling with globalisation and open collaborative opportunities exist widely. Watching the latest Star Wars movie made me realise that the movie is an accurate reflection of open collaborative work environments in this era using project management software. We will randomly chance across someone, form a team, operate a space ship and accomplish a goal, before the group breaks up and we form another group again. It is random, and a diversity of skill sets allows us to accomplish goals faster.
I believe there are other princesses out there trying to build their kingdoms and I am just one of the many. The limitation of my success is the limitation of finding the “right” teams. Which, I intend to explore more on this area the next few years.
The black dog is keeping me company as my outward productivity falls. This black dog never seems to disappear. As much as I want it to, it comes back again and again. First, it was a large hound that was hungry and desperate for food. It chewed on my intestines and stomach. It chewed my brains. It chewed everything and split it out, leaving me in pieces. To escape, I fell into a deep hole so it can no longer get me.
In the deep hole I recuperated in my sleep. Flashes of demons and large shadowy monsters permeated my dreams as I ran and ran. However, the presence of magical star dust under the moonlight healed my wounds. Very slowly, I climbed out of the deep hole, whole again. The earth was green, the rainbow filled the skies. Life was full of beauty and magic.
Then, the black dog came back, this time not as a large hound, but a tiny chihuahua that keep nibbling on my ankle. I shook it off, but it bit harder and harder till my ankle gave way and I knelt on the ground. I struggled with the tiny black chihuahua, hammering it head first onto the ground. “Bam!” it’s small skull cracked. What I thought would be a bloodied chihuahua became a zombie chihuahua. It bit my fingers, it bit my toes, it bit my ears. I pushed it away as it’s barks became louder and louder as it turned into a ghostly howl. I grabbed the chihuahua by it’s tail and hung it upside down. It struggled wildly as it howled. I flung it into the ocean. All was silent.
I went back to my life, but I lost the strength in my ankle. Soon, I realised that I had lost the strength in my fingers. My body was weakened by the little terror. I pushed on, thinking it was just a small incident, but now, I am defeated. I have to go back to the black hole to rest. Hopefully, the star dust will heal my wounds again.