So, I’ve been silent for a while because I’ve been busy with writing (and coursework and now my final year exams next month X__X). A few people have recently reached out to me, asking me to keep you updated and I’ve had dozens of questions about where my work is available.
I just want to take a moment to clear this commonly asked question. At the moment, the only place my work is available is on my hard drive/notebooks. After all that happened, that’s the only place I trust. Also, by not posting online, I’m free to edit as I go along, write at my own pace and everything feels more fluid (i.e. I’m not committed to keeping anything the same).
Another common question is when do I plan to publish? And why don’t I just self publish via Amazon? Well, since I’d like to go for traditional publishing one day, publishing my work via Amazon is not a good move at all. (While some titles have been previously published out there, those are the ones who made crazy sales when self publishing. For average people like me and you, it isn’t worth the risk unless you only intend to self publish.)
Now, some bad news for most of you. *hides*
Back in 2015, I initially wanted to write a story set in a Chinese inspired world about a rubbish disciple and a prodigy master. Up to then, I’d only have a bunch of false starts of novels throughout my teenage years and wrote a lonnnngg star wars fanfiction when I was 17. In other words, I’d never written and finished a novel. Added on to that, it was set in a culture I wasn’t familiar with. So, I then ended up instead writing what would become the TWW that most of you know me for.
However, I was still insistent on writing that initial, more challenging idea. In summer 2016, I had another go at trying to write it. I got inspired by a legendary female ninja clan who hired prostitutes and orphans, and then that novel became Glass Dragons.
Around last summer, I really started to reflect on what was wrong with Glass Dragons. And the issue was that I was trying to write two different stories. The setting was trying to be both Chinese and Japanese (because of the two different ideas), and my protagonist was trying to be a badass ninja and an awful disciple at the same time. I also do think that what most people loved about this story was the dynamic between Yuna and Shao – which meant I needed to strip the story back to its initial idea and write about an awful disciple and her progidy master.
It was binging on dozens of xianxia dramas that it finally clicked. I became familiar with the culture enough to feel confident to write about it and studied mandarin so that I understood how naming of people and places worked and then create my own. And I’ll keep marathoning dramas and studying mandarin and history books until I have represented this culture to the best of my ability.
Studying mandarin meant I was able to name Yuna and Shao properly. And they are now Lu Yulan (卢玉兰) and Li Shao (黎劭). Of course, Yulan took on the hopeless disciple role entirely and I fleshed out what her goal is, her background and why she is so terrible. And now I’ve ended up with what I’ve been writing for a past few months and I’ve tentatively named it “Bound by Jade”. (Quick explanation: they both belong to the Jade Dragon Order, Shao is the future Jade Dragon – i.e. leader – and the Yu in Yulan is 玉, meaning ‘jade’ and then they are bound together by fate, despite all the trials they have to overcome. That’s why I’m going with this title RN 😊)
I did share Yulan and Shao’s initial meeting in a post from November, but I wanted to add another snippet today for any GD readers still out there. I hope that the essence of GD still lives on in BBJ and this is essentially a reimagining of that original draft. And I hope this is visible in this snippet! I actually think that Yulan’s personality fits Shao much more. She’s mischevious, somewhat awkward and even more stubborn this time around.
It was in the center of a glade that Li Shao came to a stop. Here the bamboo was as tough as rock and towered over us. He sat on a nearby rock and pointed towards an axe lying in the grass.
“Get cutting,” he said, flicking out a plain white fan.
I glanced at our surroundings. “Get cutting?”
“There’s an axe right there and bamboo all around us. What don’t you understand?”
“What I don’t understand is why you want me to cut wood. If you immortals need this chore doing then fine, but why don’t you just use magic to cut down dozens at once?”
“Since I’m your master, if I tell you to cut wood then you cut wood. Now chop, chop. Get to it.”
I grumbled and lifted the axe up, which was much heavier than it looked. What did chopping bamboo have to do with cultivating? I’d expected to spend the day meditating or sparring – not doing this of all things. Maybe Li Shao just wanted to annoy me. After all, he’d objected to teaching me to begin with. Surely this had to be some sort of revenge.
I struck the bamboo with all my might, pretending it was instead the grumpy immortal. But the blade glanced off the wood and almost bounced out my hands. Despite the force, the axe hadn’t even scratched the bamboo.
“What kind of trees are these?” I exclaimed, whirling around to face him. “They’re impossible to cut!”
“They aren’t impossible to cut,” he said, snapping his fan shut and flinging it towards the tree is been trying to chop into. The paper sliced straight through the wood, all the way to the other side and the fan flew back into Li Shao’s outstretched hand. “In fact when I was five, I could already chop down these trees in a single strike. That’s how easy the task is.”
“I bet you used your magical fan back then, as well,” I huffed. “That’s why you found it so easy.”
“Of course it was an axe I used, just like the one in your hand.” He snapped his fan shut and tossed it over to me. “But you’re more than welcome to use the fan.”
It was a struggle to catch it one handedly and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself by dropping it. Luckily I managed to secure my grip and exchanged the axe for the fan. I flicked it back open and ran my fingers across the paper inside. It did seem like an ordinary fan but who knew what magic was hiding inside. Legend said immortals imbued all sorts of objects with energy.
“Aren’t you going to give it a try?” Li Shao asked with a wry smile dancing upon his lips.
“Fine, fine,” I said and swept the edge across another bamboo tree. Nothing happened, of course. Nor did anything happen the second time – not even a scratch. Even on the third time, the only result was Li Shao’s smirk growing.
With a scowl, I snapped the fan shut and hurled it towards his head. Unfortunately, he only raised his hand and caught it before it could hit him.
“I suppose you prefer the axe after all. Of course, this fan is an ordinary fan and it is through my magic alone that it could slice through the bamboo.”
“And why didn’t you just tell me that?”
“It was a useful lesson. You must stop looking for shortcuts and instead focus on the task at hand. And even if it were indeed a magical artefact, a weapon is only as good as its master. Without any cultivation, it would be as useful to you as it is now.”
While he insisted it had been to teach me, it was hard to believe that with how he’d smirked at my attempts. Most likely, it had been for his amusement.
I picked the axe up once more and whacked the tree over and over until I could barely feel my arms. Yet I continued on, even though the sun shone high above us and drew out more of my strength with every strike.
By the late afternoon, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t help collapsing against a rock. When Li Shao noticed I’d stopped, he began fanning himself – no doubt to spite me since my cheeks were burning up. I did wonder whether he’d purposely brought it along to annoy me.
“Aren’t you going to continue?”
“What? I can’t even take a break?”
“If you find this tiring already, then clearly the path to immortality isn’t for you.”
I gripped the axe and leapt to my feet. “Of course it is my path! It’s not my fault you won’t even let me catch my breath. What kind of slave driver are you?”
“If you put as much energy into chopping as you protesting, perhaps you’d have already cut down the tree.”
I pressed my fingers to the cut I’d made in the wood. It looked almost halfway. “Do I have to do this until dark?”
“Indeed,” he said. “Unless you’d rather return to the mortal realm. If it proves too much for you then I can take you back.”
“That’s exactly what you want, isn’t it? To get rid of me.”
“Of course I don’t enjoy wasting my time on a useless mortal. It is best for both of us if you go back to where belong.”
“I’m not going anywhere. So, you’d better just get used to me already.”
“Suit yourself,” he said with a sigh. “It’s your own time you’re wasting, as well as mine. And since you’re a mortal, you don’t have a lot of that.”
I pulled a face at him and returned to my ever tedious task. At least the axe was good for venting my frustration. “And what about tomorrow?”
“What about tomorrow?”
“I mean, what will we – well, I – be doing? Not chopping bamboo again all day, surely?”
Li Shao shrugged. “You’ll see tomorrow.”
“Why don’t you just tell me now?”
“What difference will it make? You’ll have to do what I say all the same.”
Since it made no difference, I didn’t see why he refused. Though I supposed the difference between him answering my question and not answering was obstinacy. Still, I was just as stubborn as he was and pestered him for the rest of the day. But even by the time night fell, he hadn’t relented.
This scene reminds me of the Trial of the Black Ox from GD, where Shao doesn’t let her drink or eat, yet brings water along for himself to spite her. I hope I’ve kept the essence of their dynamic mostly intact and expanded on it 😊
Obviously everything is subject to change and this work might not ever get published. And before anyone asks, nope, I’m not posting it anywhere online 😂 I’m currently 21k words through it and hope to finish the first draft of the first book by the end of summer. I was also wanting to write the entire story as one piece before going back and editing out the structure into separate books (though I know where I want the breaks to be – but we’ll see!)