Wax & Wane Published Today!

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales from Nosetouch Press is released today! It’s now available for order through Amazon.

My spotlight¬†with Nosetouch Press was featured on their website yesterday. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hardcopy of my contributor copy when it arrives. I’ll be doing a longer blog post once I receive it.

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Wax & Wane Pre-Order!

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What a wonderful way to end 2015 and start 2016! Back on November 30, I submitted my fantasy short story, “Vial With Her Cure,” to Nosetouch Press. Literally one day later, on December 1, my story was accepted by the editors, D.T. Neal and Christine M. Scott! Fastest acceptance ever. I was so giddy!

Getting work published always feels amazing, and the sensation is further enhanced when your work gets published in a book with a BEAUTIFUL cover! Just look at this cover. I think this is the prettiest-looking anthology I’ve been in yet!

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And this hardcover! Wow, I am in love. Even though I get a complimentary paperback copy, I think I’ll just snag a copy of the hardcover for myself. ūüôā

Just updated my Twitter cover photo too, to show off the beautiful cover artwork even more.

Wax & Wane is currently available for Pre-Order from Amazon, and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

Also, Nosetouch is seeking patrons. If you love speculative fiction, I suggest checking out their Patreon page.

To end this post on a non-writing-related subject, here’s a photo of some of the fabrics from my Samurai Jack genderbent cosplay, which I just started working on this past week, and am hoping to finish in time for AOD (Animation on Display) in February.

How is your 2016 starting out? ūüôā

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Halloween 2015

Autumn and winter are my two favorite seasons of the year. I love the cooling weather, the changing of leaves, the pumpkin treats that are in season, the togetherness that is fostered among families as the holidays draw closer, and dressing up for Halloween! Usually, something in the autumn atmosphere inspires me when I’m working on creative projects. Admittedly, I would enjoy this time of the year much more if I wasn’t bogged with exams to worry about.

Studying in my Jack Skellington robe.
Studying in my Jack Skellington robe.

*sigh* It’s been difficult to write lately with all the stress. Ever get that feeling of all these ideas building up in you, but everything comes out as garbage when you try to write or type things down? At tonight’s Halloween party, where everyone told a spooky story, I dressed up in my Doll cosplay (100% sewed by myself!) from Black Butler, and read aloud an excerpt from my copy of Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride.

Me reading "The Ghost Bride," by Yangsze Choo
Me reading “The Ghost Bride,” by Yangsze Choo

In non-writerly news, was just published in the Halloween issue of PUMP Magazine. The makeup and styling was all by me. I bought the Putumayo dress when I was in Harajuku two years ago, sewed the bow, and bought the voodoo doll pincushion from Etsy.

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Photography by Lauren Wilkinson

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!

“Corvidae” Anthology Review

Corvids are fascinating creatures. My favorite birds, in fact. I’ve looked forward to reading “Corvidae” ever since editor Rhonda Parrish put out a submission call, and it did not disappoint. I really enjoyed that all stories dealt with the supernatural and folkloric aspect of the corvidae, and that each story was distinct in terms of characters, setting, and story. Here are some of my favorite stories, in the order they appear in the anthology:

Whistles and Trills by Kat Otis

Set during an alternative version of World War II, the main character Morgaine survives an airplane crash in the alps, where she’s in danger of coming face-to-face with the Nazi allies, the ice giants, or as Otis calls them, the Frost Chieftaincies. Morgaine encounters a curious Chough who has motives she’s initially unaware of, and the story ends with a victorious hope.

The Valravn by Megan Fennell

On a stormy night in a little cabin in a Medieval forest, Klara¬†and her mother receive a mysterious visitor at their doorstep. He is a storyteller named Rikard the Bard, and despite Klara’s fascination with him, her mother’s hesitation to provide him shelter from the storm is an omen of the bard’s true nature.

Visiting Hours by Michael S. Pack

Even set in a hospital in contemporary times, Pack manages to weave in folkloric magic in times of grief when the main character, Lorraine, is mourning for the impending death of her terminally ill son. A raven appears as a recurring character, and the grandmother of one of the young patients tells Lorraine that ravens come for everyone, frightening Lorraine, especially with the open-ended conclusion to the story.

Raven No More by Adria Laycraft

Running away from abusive boyfriend, Sandra runs away into the wilderness and encounters a trickster raven who, at her impulsive request, changes her into a raven. Nuu-Chah-Nulth culture is featured prominently, for when Sandra realizes that she hasn’t seen the last of her abusive ex, in her attempts to turn back into human, she becomes a white raven, a harbinger of the end of the world. I appreciate learning Nuu-Chah-Nulth folklore, and Sandra’s raven tattoo in her human form is a powerful and symbolic touch.

The Tell-Tale Heart of Existence by Michael M. Rader

In this very captivating (and morbidly hilarious!) twist on Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, a PhD student’s thesis was rejected by the thesis committee, inciting him to carry out his revenge by targeting¬†his adviser, Dr. Dupain. Feeling that Dr. Dupain was a bastard who had exploited said PhD student’s best years, he sets out to kill the old man, only to face quite a surprising twist that I didn’t expect. The narrator’s language, mimicking the cadence of Poe’s tale, is thoroughly engaging until the final sentence of this dark tale.

Sanctuary by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Sophie, a wildlife rehabilitator, narrowly misses hitting an injured crow with her car. She takes in the crow, Annabel, and¬†trains her for a research project with the hopes that the research will earn her and her rehabilitation center a grant cash prize. While working on her research, a¬†mysterious young man named Jun, who had saved Annabel from Sophie’s car, appears at odd hours to help out with her research. However, it seems that no one else aside from Sophie and Annabel is aware of Jun’s existence. The growing friendship between Sophie and Jun was very intriguing, and¬†the shocking ending makes me look forward to reading the follow-up to this story in Corvidae‘s companion anthology Scarecrow.

Postcards from the Abyss by Jane Yolen

A beautiful poem on grieving the passing of loved ones and connecting with them with memories and stories. Corvids are featured as agents passing between the world of the living and the dead.

Flight by Angela Slatter

This enchanting fairy tale was a great way to end this anthology. Princess Emer finds herself transforming into a raven against her will, due to the curse of her aunt, the Black Bride. When she finds herself a captive of the Black Bride, her mother, the White Bride, trades herself for Emer’s freedom, and it is up to Emer to save her mother with the aid of a talking raven named Bertok.

Summer Commute Sampler Reads

One of my cousins asked me earlier this summer, “How do you find the time to read so much?”

I respond, “When I’m commuting to and from work, I do one of these three things: read, write, or sleep.”

This past summer, I’ve been the marketing intern at a food delivery startup in San Francisco called Bento, and because of my free student bus pass, I prefer to take the bus over Bart. And pass the time by reading.

Because my semesters are so busy, summer is usually the one time of the year when I can have leisure reading binges. Hoarding books from the library every summer is a tradition I’ve kept since I was in elementary school, so here’s a sampler of some of the books I read in Summer 2015.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

Why did it take me until now to read this? Anyway, I’m so happy I finally did. Reading up on World War II from Asian perspectives is one of my favorite historical topics. I hate sappiness, but the romance here is beautifully understated, sweet, and innocent. The details of the settings made me feel fully immersed in Seattle in World War II (I still need to visit Seattle one of these days), and I enjoyed following Henry through his childhood of being bullied (I was rooting and cheering on Henry during his epic wagon escape through the city streets!), dealing¬†with his traditional and traumatized father, crushing on Keiko, and living¬†through the years that the U.S. was in the war.

I could write a longer review, but I think this Twitter conversation with Jamie Ford sums it up. XD

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Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War II, by Laurence Rees

This was a difficult book to stomach. I still remember watching a clip from the BBC documentary that accompanies this book in my high school world history class, and sobbing after class was dismissed.

I’m most impressed with the research and the interviews¬†conducted, with both victims and the Japanese war criminals, many of whom, to this day, have gone off on their merry way without being punished. Even when squirming while reading¬†horrific first-hand encounters of what happened under Japanese brutality, it was fascinating to hear different voices from different people: the Chinese victims, the comfort women from different parts of Asia AND Europe, the European and American victims, and (what I found the most fascinating and esoteric), the Japanese veterans themselves and how they were raised to believe what they believed when they were fighting during the war. They believed that everything they did was in the name of the emperor, and when pressed with questions of why they committed the atrocities they did with such cold blood, their answers of, “It was for the Emperor” draws parallels to the Nazis declaring, “I was just following orders.”

Lust, Caution, by Eileen Chang

I haven’t seen the movie, so I thought I’d read the novella¬†first. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with translation (I’m sure it’s much better in Chinese), but I couldn’t really feel engaged with the characters. You know how one of the biggest rules in writing is to “show, don’t tell”? Well, there was WAY too much telling here, and hardly any showing at all.

As enticing as the premise sounds, (a young student and former actress seduces a Japanese collaborator in an assassination plot), I was not once convinced of any emotions that occurred between any of the characters.

I know Eileen Chang is a very celebrated modern Chinese author, but I can’t help but to think that I need to improve my Chinese A LOT. To the point that I can actually read giant blocks of text (ahem, stories and novels) without the aid of a Chinese dictionary. Maybe then I can be more appreciative of her writings.

However, in my freshman year of college, I did enjoy the English translation of her short story, “Sealed Off.”

Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan

Although I think it’s going to be difficult for Amy Tan to beat out her accomplishments with¬†The Bonesetter’s Daughter, which is my personal favorite novel of hers, The Valley of Amazement comes very close.¬†I was drawn into the lush, beautiful details of the Hidden Jade House, the courtesan house owned by the protagonist’s mother. The gorgeous details of the settings remind me of the beautiful descriptions of colonial Malaya in Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride (one of my favorite books, which I read last summer), while the themes of sexual awakening and dynamics between the female characters remind me of the liveliness of Lisa See’s characters (I’m guessing Lisa See may have been an influence? In the foreword, it was noted that they had traveled together when Amy Tan was researching this book, and See had told Tan to use the name Moon Pond for the village in this book).

We follow Violet, the half-Chinese protagonist, from her childhood of growing up in her American mother’s courtesan house, where she questions her father’s absence and her mother’s seemingly neglectful behavior towards her. I was very upset when Violet became separated from her mother, and the series of unfortunate events that follow her through¬†much of her life. It is sad, but she does find pockets of happiness in the end. The ending left me wanting much more, though.

My favorite character was Magic Gourd, a courtesan that Violet has known since childhood. Even with Magic Gourd’s tragic past, she’s plays the role of the comical sidekick, so that even when the novel twists and turns into horrible adversity, she’s faithfully present. As long as she’s there with her crude sense of humor, at least I, the reader, know that things will turn out okay.

China Dolls, by Lisa See

I’ve been reading Lisa See’s books since high school, and I think this is her best novel yet. I always love it when authors can immerse me in the setting of their stories, whether it’s a real place or fictional, and growing up in the Bay Area, attending Cal, and constantly commuting to San Francisco for work, I loved spotting little bits of recognizable pieces that See has written about.

Ruby, Helen, and Grace are three very different young women who all have aspirations to be showgirls in the Oriental nightclub, The Forbidden City. I’m very impressed that See is able to effortlessly juggle between the different point of views of all three girls, showcase traits that make us find¬†them both endearing (I loved Helen’s goody-two-shoes persona and devotion to her family, Grace’s grit to run away from home and go after her dreams, and Ruby’s sassy and tell-it-like-it-is attitude) and flawed (Helen did something unforgivable that I won’t spoil, Grace was a white-washed country bumpkin who wouldn’t get over her love interest Joe, and Ruby was promiscuous). But even with such three different characters, the chemistry and enduring friendship between all of them was very convincing.

The one character I did not like was a Cal student named Joe. Mainly because¬†he came across as this fratty white boy who¬†wouldn’t stop¬†breaking Grace’s heart. Then, she¬†kept going back to him even after he hurt her not once, but twice. I kept thinking, “Girl, you can do so much better than this boy. Please dump him.”

The epilogue, in which there was a reunion with the three protagonists and their friends from their showbiz days, was very touching, and everything in the novel came to a full circle. All the research and interviews that Lisa See conducted with real Chinese-American showgirls who were stars back in their days really shone in this novel, making the read an even richer experience.

Finding Iris Chang, by Paula Kamen

Another book that caught me trapped on a vehicle (this time a bus, not a train. I seemed to have develop a habit of getting trapped in public transportation this summer, lol. When the bus arrived to my destination, everyone exited, including the bus driver, leaving me locked on the bus. I just sat in the bus until the driver came back, and people who were waiting at the bus stop told her that someone had been locked on the bus.).

Anyway, I FINALLY finished Rape of Nanking after starting to read it in high school, left the book alone for years, and then went back to finish it. Right after finishing it, I had to read this insight into Iris Chang’s life, written by her close friend, Paula Kamen. As a fellow Taiwanese-Chinese-American, I could identify with many traits in her background: protective parents, the desire to¬†succeed¬†in your career, growing up geeky, etc. What really impressed me was how focused Iris Chang was in her research and writing career, and how research and publications came so easily to her. For example, when she was able to locate the elusive scientist Qian Xuesen for an interview, a difficult feat that other writers and researchers had yet to successfully do, her publisher was so impressed that they signed her on to write her book, Thread of the Silkworm.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

What a beautiful book of integrating all the different perspectives from everyone of the Lee family of 5: James the Chinese-American father, Marilyn the Caucasian mother, Lydia the eldest daughter, Nat the son and middle child, and Hannah the youngest daughter. The novel starts off announcing that Lydia is dead, and throughout the whole novel, I wondered about the true nature and cause behind Lydia’s untimely passing, and I have to say I appreciated the twist in the end.

There are a lot of themes that I’m sure fellow Asian-American will identify with: dealing with the pressures of academics and careers and¬†living up to your parents’ dreams. Many other themes are present, such as the the desire to¬†fit in, yearning for a different life, belonging to nowhere, and questioning what one wants in life. I would say that my favorite character ended up being Nat, the middle child, probably because his drive and interest in the sciences and engineering and the way he was protective toward his sisters remind me of my brother.

I’m also very happy to say that my friend, fellow author Meg Elison, and I got to attend Celeste’s reading when she came to the Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco. It was lovely to hear her read an excerpt in person and lead a discussion on the background of the book.

Meg and I at Celeste’s reading. She also signed my copy! ūüôā

Upon compiling this sampler of my summer reading, I also realized I had a hearty list¬†of books by authors of Chinese¬†descent. Either that, or the focus was on Asia, such as Horror in the East. Anyway, I’m super-excited to learn a lot in my 20th-century Chinese history class this Fall! ūüôā

I’m a #pg70pit Slushie Reader!

Thanks to Lara Willard, the lovely host of the¬†#pg70pit Contest, I have the honor of being one of the slushies! You can read more about me in her post #pg70pit Surprises and Slushies, though I’m sure the giveaways are much more intriguing ūüėČ

Happy to be a slushie!

So, I’m going to be on the lookout for MG, NA, and¬†Adult speculative fiction! Lara has all the requirements and guidelines for submission here.¬†Mainly, I’m just voting on entries and nominating favorites for the giveaways, and I’m responsible for ALL the MG and Adult fantasy and sci-fi. Yep, that’s right. ALL OF THEM.

Since I’m only seeing the 70th page of the entries, good writing will the main thing I can really judge by. But as an idea of what I’m drawn to:

  • Fairy tale retellings, motifs, and diction
  • Gothic sensibilities
  • Steampunk
  • Ethnic diversity
  • Strong, smart, and seamless integration of science into the stories, whether it’s biology, chemistry, engineering, etc.

I don’t expect everything I read to match up with my tastes, but that doesn’t matter. Even though I love spec fic, I read amazing books outside the genre all the time.

Also, don’t be shy! Stop by my Twitter and Tweet at me! ūüėČ

I look forward to your entries!

Duende Despite Language Barriers

Earlier this year, after I gobbled up season 1 of Attack on Titan, read all the available chapters of the currently on-going manga, and listened to the OST repeatedly, I still felt the need to satiate my AoT hunger. Never thinking that I would be the kind of person who ventured into the realm of reading doujinshi (self-published works in Japan, often including fan fiction and manga of pre-existing franchises), I tumbled down that rabbit hole once I stumbled across these covers in my Tumblr feed:

“Dolls” and “Debriefing” by Zokugun Porno/Inu-moto (two names that this artist goes by).

Entranced by the beautiful covers, I read “Dolls” first (warning: NSFW). I tend not to read a lot of fan fiction because I generally find the art crappy and the stories lacking depth, not to mention nothing is canon because it’s not from the original creator. But I admit that I have come to enjoy Inu-moto’s works more than the original AoT¬†series (sorry Isayama).¬†It’s somewhat difficult for me to put into words why I’m so drawn to his/her works (I can’t tell if Inu-moto is male or female, as there are no pictures of him/her online). There seems to be a consistent theme of loneliness, isolation, pain, trauma, concealing feelings, and longing and missing someone. “Debriefing” (also NSFW) is a total heart-breaker. If you read the comments section of the link, you’ll see confessions of readers crying. But even though the stories are sad, even painful and triggering, they all seem to end with the message that everything will be alright, even if it is bittersweet.

I tend to be picky when I purchase comics. I have to not like, but LOVE both the art and the story. If the artwork is beautiful but I’m not crazy about the story, I won’t purchase it, and vice versa. And I have never spent money on fan fiction…until now. I did some more research (ahem, internet stalking, forgive me), found Inumoto’s website, Tumblr, and Twitter, and after much thought for a couple of months, caved in to the temptation to purchase 4 of his/her doujinshis from Japan via the proxy service Treasure-Japan. Comics in Asia are SUPER cheap (in Taiwan, I can purchase one volume manga for $3! Compare that to at least $12 here in the U.S.!), but proxy service commissions and international shipping adds up, totaling to about the same cost to buy 4 volumes of mint edition comics here. My confirmation email said it would take up to 3 weeks to arrive to my address, but it ended up being 1.5 weeks, arriving to my apartment building this past Tuesday. Woohoo!

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning!
I felt like a kid on Christmas morning!
I can't get over how beautiful they are in person! How smooth they feel against my fingers and the weight of them in my hands!
I can’t get over how beautiful they are in person! How smooth they feel against my fingers and the weight of them in my hands!

Of course, every creator loves it when they see that other people are enthusiastic about their work. Even though I speak no Japanese (except for random vocabulary here and there, and kanji, thanks to being bilingual in Chinese), with the help of Google Translate, here’s our brief conversation in Japanese:

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One of my friends, who’s fluent in Japanese, kindly translated his/her Tweet to me:

I’m deeply moved!!!! I’m so happy! thank you so much! I was worried that I might have made you go out of your way, but I’m so happy to have received (it). I’m so happy I even got to see pictures! I’m really so happy. Thank you so, so much!!!!!<3<3<3

Well, this post ended up much longer than I had expected. Thanks to this article from BoredPanda, this illustration and definition of the Spanish word “duende” sums up my feelings for Inu-moto’s works. I hope to create works that make others feel the same.

Art by Marijia Tiurina
Art by Marijia Tiurina

First Blog Post–Tarot Reading and Summer Reading List

Reading given to me by Benebell Wen
Reading given to me by Benebell Wen

I suppose my first blog post would be a good way to mark a fresh start. It’s been about two months since I received a reading from tarot master, Benebell Wen, during her author reading at Barnes and Noble back in March for her book, Holistic Tarot. It’s rather fitting that Ten of Swords and Death appeared early on (one of my pet peeves is when tarot amateurs think that the Death card literally means death, which is far from the truth. It represents fresh beginnings. I digress).

Now that school’s out for summer break, I feel a huge relief. For those who have known, the past 5 months have been the worst semester I had during my time at UC Berkeley, with Fall 2013 coming in second place. It was just 5 months of constant anxiety, stress, uncertainty, hopelessness, pain, and recurring nightmares. But now that the semester is over, strangely, I’m starting to think it ended up being my most memorable semester because I overcame several trials and tribulations. There were times when I thought of giving up, but I am very lucky to have wonderful friends who were there for me when I needed them, and helped me get through this semester.

Speaking of Fall 2013, during that semester, I was in so much pain, I just wrote. I wrote and wrote and edited and repeated that process for over a year, and it culminated into a novel, a steampunk Little Red Riding Hood retelling that was, frankly, really depressing. I received full requests, had agents and editors tell me it has merit to it, but no one took it on in the end. I actually read through the manuscript last week and realized why they didn’t, because it was that triggering AND depressing. The project is currently shelved. Even though that was heartbreaking, I learned a lot from the experience (no mistake is a true mistake if you are able to learn from it), and you know what? Even though that was over a year of hard work with nothing to show for it, I don’t regret writing it one bit, because writing that novel was incredibly cathartic, and I believe I really polished my ability to write a novel. It was definitely my strongest novel yet, with cleaner plotting and world-building and character development. Even though not everyone liked my characters, I got really great feedback on it. It was a marker of that period of my life, and I’m always writing something, even if it’s just fragments of short stories that get cluttered up in my Google Drive. I think I know what’s going to be next.

Oh, and welcome to my new author website, currently under construction! I figured it was about time I had a more professional-looking one, as my old Blogspot blog was outdated. Definitely time for new beginnings!

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A fraction of my 2015 Summer Reading List. This is probably a hint of what’s cooking in my head.