Tag Archives: historical

An Excerpt From My WIP!

7f0fd5177658b000d1ae168b63c1503aI’ve finished the crap draft rough draft of my historical fiction set in feudal Korea (the Joseon Dynasty, 1800). I haven’t felt so enchanted and so lost in a world for quite some time, as I’ve spent years working on Night Flower, which has come to feel more like an essay I really enjoy revising.

Also, because it’s been a while since I fell ‘head over heels’ in love with a story since Night Flower, at first I was worried this story wouldn’t work out like the two other novels I attempted to write (the first one I finished drafting but didn’t like. The second one I couldn’t get past the outlining stage). But with this WIP, my gut is telling me that I’ve found The Story. The positive signs:

  1. I finished the draft and still feel good about it.
  2. I am in love with the history. And this is so crucial for me. Research is what inspires much of my plot and character development.
  3. I wake up in the middle of the night with new plot ideas.
  4. I have an ending for this story that I like.
  5. I have a thesis theme for this story that I want to further explore.
  6. I can’t stop talking about this story.

Now that I have the bare, bare bones of the story set in place, it’s time to return to the first chapter and actually make this story readable. The challenges I’ve faced so far while writing this (and will continue to face) is the lack of resources. I mean, there’s tons of great books on Joseon Korea at my university libraries. But it’s not much compared to the massive resource available if I were to write another novel set in England. Also, certain materials I need for my novel (i.e. primary sources) have yet to be translated into English, so a good deal of my time is spent translating the Korean into English. It’s laborious, but it’s paying off.

I’m just having so much fun with this story.

Anyway, I wanted to share an excerpt from chapter one. But before I do, here’s a brief summary of the story (which, if you follow me on facebook, you’ve already read):

Seol, a seventeen-year-old slave girl in 19th century Korea, must assist Inspector Han when a Catholic woman is found dead with a strange symbol carved into her face. Together, they traverse from mud-covered alleys to exquisite mansions in search of a brutal killer.


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Chapter One

The dirt road outside the Eastern Palace usually clamored with life: women crowding the fish stalls, farmers carrying their produce, scholars with their silk robes, monks and traveling merchants. And there would always be a mob of children, faces burnt and glistening in the sticky heat, chasing after their rivals. But for the past few days the capital lay still under the heavy pall of silence, the entire kingdom mourning the king’s death.

“Feels like a ghost village…” My voice resounded, then silence returned, intensified by the rain pitter-pattering against black tiled roofs. I lowered the satgat over my face, a straw hat pointed at the top and wide at the brims, allowing the rain to dribble off. “What a strange and eerie day.”

“And the days will become stranger yet,” Officer Sunwou said. “They say that when King Chŏngjo died, an astonishing phenomena occurred.”

“What happened?”

“The rays of sunlight collided and burst into sparks, like fireworks. Then there came a terrible noise of weeping from Mount Samgak. It was a bad omen.” He eyed our grey surrounding as he adjusted his sash belt, worn around his black robe. “The old order has passed, and the new will come with a river of blood. From what I hear,” his voice lowered into a whisper, “the king was assassinated.”

I quickened my step to walk alongside him. “Assassinated?”

“By fatal poisoning.”

“Not from an illness?”

“Perhaps from an illness. But others say Sim Hwanji poisoned the king.”

“Who’s that?”

A sharp laugh escaped him. “You don’t know? How can you not!” He peered down at me, arching a thick and youthful brow. “Everyone knows. He’s the prime minister, the leader of the Old Doctrine’s Principle Faction.”

Old Doctrine, Principle. There were four major factional groupings, usually referred to as the four colors, but after the murder of the Crown Prince Sado in 1762, the established party lines had further split into sub-factions. Biting my lower lip, I frowned then offered a guess. “They’re the King’s rival faction, aren’t they?”

He snorted but remained silent, so I assumed that I was right. “Why would they poison the king. If the rumor is true, that is. What does the prime minister want?”

“Such a child you are. What’s the one thing everyone in the palace wants? To stabilize their shaky power.” He clucked his tongue and waved me away. “What use is it for a slave to know such things? And I’ve told you many times, a woman shouldn’t talk so much.”

Obediently, I retreated and followed in his shadow. He was right, of course. Among the seven sins a woman could commit, one was talking excessively. A man could even divorce his wife because of her chattiness.

I blamed my brother for this sin of mine, this longing to understand the world, to collect as much information as I could from the learned. For here in the capital, the scholars were not generous like Older Brother; no, they were self-willed, their knowledge like stubborn fishes, which when you seek to catch, will strike back at you.

“You there.”

I looked ahead. Investigator Han stood in the near distance, watching me from beneath the wide brim of his hat, the string of beads that strapped his chin trembling in the gust of rain. Behind him were two officers, the coroner’s assistant, and the clerks. The police artist was busily sketching something. As I hurried towards the Inspector, two officers spoke somewhere behind me:

“Found by a watchman.”

“When?”

“He was patrolling the West Gate, and at the end of his watch, there she was.”

I gathered my hands before me and bowed to Inspector Han, deeper than was necessary. He was to me the great spotted leopard from my village: the speedy and well-muscled hunter who excelled at climbing and jumping, and in slipping silently through the grass with scarcely a ripple.

“You called for me, nauri,” I said, addressing him by his honorific.

“Have a look at her.”

He was gesturing at a lump a few paces away. I walked towards the shadow of the weather-beaten fortress wall that enclosed Hanyang, the capital of Joseon, then clenched my teeth as my stomach turned to water. It was a woman. She lay sprawled, her face on the ground. A noblewoman by her dress and jacket, made of a closely-woven ramie cloth, beautifully patterned.

“Flip her around,” the Inspector ordered. “We have yet to see her wound.”

I stepped over the corpse, crouched, and grabbed her shoulder. This was why the Capital Police Bureau kept female slaves like me: I was an extension of police-officers, my hands used by them to arrest female criminals and to examine female victims. An inconvenience, but gentlemen were forbidden from touching women who were not directly related to them. It was the law, Confucius’ law.

[To be continued…]

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Who is Watching Outlander (tv series 2014)?

Ugh! I wish I could post a review of Outlander ep1 but my laptop died on me. So my first impression review (I did one for Death Comes to Pemberly and The White Queen as well) won’t be posted anytime soon. But I’m so worked up right now with the show that I just had to use my phone to update!!!! WHO IS WATCHING????

Anyway I just wanted to share their beautiful intro:

 

[ O t h e r s ] Continue reading

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Upcoming Period Dramas 2014

THE OUTLANDER (STARZ Summer 2014)

I read the first book always thinking to myself, I bet one day this series will be turned to a movie/tv series. And I was right!!!

Follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. -Starz

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TURN (AMC Spring 2014)

Set in the summer of 1778, show tells the story of New York farmer, Abe Woodhull, who bands together with a group of childhood friends to form The Culper Ring, an unlikely group of spies who turn the tide in America’s fight for independence. -AMC

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[ O t h e r s ]

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Belle (2014)

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12 Years a Slave (2013)

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Invisible Woman (2013)
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Death Comes to Pemblerley (2013)

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In Secret (2014)

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Jamaica Inn (2014)

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The Crimson Field (2014)The.Crimson.Field.S01E05

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NEW Period Drama: The Invisible Woman (2013)

The_Invisible_Woman_posterThe Invisible Woman is another period drama I intend to watch (along with these other two films), and it centers around Charles Dickens‘ secret affair with a young lady, starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones.

The reception for this film seems to be a bit mixed. But I’m watching it anyway!

But yeah… Charles Dickens. Whenever I think of him I’m reminded of my second year in university when my prof tried to make our class read Bleak House in TWO WEEKS. Let me just say, two years later, I’m still working on this book. So far, I’ve only managed to finish reading one of Dickens’ work: The Great Expectation, which I do remember enjoying.

Anyway! Enjoy the trailer!

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The Case of the ‘Man who sued his wife for being ugly’ from the Perspective of a History Fanatic

1770

A STORY HAS BEEN GOING VIRAL RECENTLY about a man (Jian Feng) who successfully sued his wife for having an ‘incredibly ugly’ baby. At first, he accused his wife of cheating [because, according to his logic, ‘beautiful’ parents does a ‘beautiful’ child make], but the wife admitted that she’d spent over $100,000 in plastic surgery. The husband therefore claimed that she got him to marry her under ‘false pretence’.

This court case reminded me of something from history: women & cosmetics in 18th century England…

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In 1770, men’s fear of being tricked into marriage by means of cosmetics was so real that a law was introduced in Parliament (subsequently defeated) to ‘protect men from being beguiled into marriage by false adornments.’ This act demanded: that women of whatever age, rank, or profession, whether virgins, maids, or widows who shall seduce or betray into matrimony, by scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, shall incur the penalty of the law as against witchcraft and that marriage shall stand null and void.

I’m not saying that the issues surrounding the Jian Feng-case and the 1770 Act are one and the same, but they parallel in interesting ways: women altering their appearance to meet a cultural standard of beauty, and men outraged at their wives for their ‘counterfeit vizard’ / ‘false pretence’ and taking the legal system to a whole new level of ridiculousness.

Is history repeating itself in one way or another?

This is food for thought. Enjoy the meal, my dears.

Current Writing Music:

To quickly update readers about TRC’s progress, I’ve FINALLY finished the rough rewrite SAMSUNGof the story and have printed out the first-quarter of the manuscript. I’m so glad I now have a hard-copy version of the MS, as I find it really difficult to concentrate on the story when reading it off my laptop screen. So, I’m sorry trees, but I decided – what the heck – I’ll waste paper by printing each round of major revisions. BUT, I promise trees, I’ll make up for wasting lots of papers by reusing/recycling all that I print out ❤

And HERE is the story of my first querying (trying to get published) experience in 2009.

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