Tale of the Drunken Sword: Writing from a Place of Joy

Book cover: Tale of the Drunken Sword. Asian woman in white dress with sword at her side surrounded by red autumn leavesOnce in a while you get a story that feels like a gift. The story flows together and it’s an absolute joy to put down the words.

It’s a rare occurrence for me. I mean, I love writing and enjoy each novel or short story. I enjoy the work that goes into it and how much effort it takes to smooth out a rough draft to make it into something close to what I envisioned. But occasionally, the story feels, not like work, but like play. From start to finish.

That’s how writing Tale of the Drunken Sword felt to me. It was an idea that had been percolating for some time and I let my head pick it up shortly after leaving the stressful day job. Writing this story was a celebration.

I used to take piano lessons starting in elementary school and through high school. (Surprise, stereotypical Asian?) I was never particularly good at it. I’ve always noticed that people like my sister have a different relationship to music. The way she heard songs and even the way she processed sound seemed to have so much more to it than when I listened to music. This was long before she took up piano lessons again and became the awesome pianist that she is now.

It was always work for me to play the piano. Work that I liked, but work nonetheless. And that’s probably why I quit when the going got tough.

There was this one time, a couple years in, when I was playing a song for my piano teacher and afterwards she asked me if I loved playing the piano. I told her I did. (I actually asked my mother for piano lessons, not the other way around. And then she made my brother and sister take lessons too because, heck, she already bought a whole piano for me.)

My teacher said the way I played that song made her feel that I really loved playing. Most of my piano lesson memories were of heavy sighs and getting the same song re-assigned week after week because it was obvious I hadn’t practiced enough. And me scraping by the annual Guild and Certificate of Merit tests because I could wing the theory even if my playing was only so-so.

But I always remembered that compliment because I did really love it. Or I loved it when I could play — but it just wasn’t so easy to just play every song.

As I was finishing the edits to Tale of the Drunken Sword, I typed in a fix to a sentence and I noticed how my fingers rolled off the keys. Even as clunky of as I was of a pianist, I have the muscle memory. I did play for years and years.

It felt like I was at a piano playing a song, the way my hands were moving.

I’m writing this down now in my cognitive science way of trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Because when this happens, it is as rare as lightning striking. The desire to try to hold onto the magic and save it for “next time” is so strong.

Writing is a lot of work for me but sometimes my writing brain will turn off. And I can hear the music.

Tale of the Drunken Sword is a short wuxia swordfight fantasy that’s full of awesome. Great for a one-hour read over lunch break.

You can buy it here:

Amazon | Kobo | iBook | Nook | Gumroad (alt for .mobi)

My Fair Concubine – June 2012

Unofficial blurb:

During the Tang Dynasty, the imperial court used a practice called heqin, or peace marriage, to form alliances with their barbarian neighbors. The alliance brides were officially recognized as Tang princesses, however often it was the Emperor’s niece, palace concubines, or daughters of high-ranking officials who were sent to the fronteir instead of a true princess with royal blood.

Chang Fei Long has been called back home upon the death of his father to learn that the family is swimming in debt. Before his death, his father arranged for Fei Long’s sister to become an alliance bride to regain favor with the imperial court. When Pearl begs for mercy, he can’t bring himself to force her into marriage and exile to a barbarian land. As a result, he has to come up with another false princess to go in her place.

Yan Ling is a servant at the tea house where Fei Long goes to brood about his troubles. When she mistakes his musings as a proposition for sex, she dumps a pot of tea on him and gets thrown out into the streets. Now homeless and destitute, Yan Ling begrudgingly accepts Fei Long’s offer to train her as a replacement princess.

This lighter look into Tang Dynasty culture takes place in the capital city of Changan, going from courtyard mansions to the infamous entertainment district to the seedier parts of the city. In an homage to the classic story of My Fair Lady, Fei Long and Yan Ling are joined by a clever maid and a flamboyant actor as they work to fool imperial rivals and navigate the complicated landscape of their growing attraction.