by Azrael Tseng
New to my port? Little time, too much to read? This should help.
|Thank you Samberine Everose for the beautiful awardicon that graces this letter!
you are my favourite person in the world. Without you, I would not be me. The writer part of me would wither and whither would I flee?
THE BACKSTORY (skip if you're not interested in how my writing journey made me stumble onto WDC)
My short bio mentions that I have been writing for over two years now. I started two months after my son Lynx was born in July 2014. I wrote him as the protagonist in my first attempt at a novel "Was Eternal - Hope Falls" [GC], and finished a really terrible and boring first draft in three months that no one would read, except me. I loved it and hated it. It was beautiful and terrible. I begged my friends to give it a try, and the staunchest of them gave the dense prologue a try. None survived. My sister lasted a page. I had discovered the cure to lectiophilia.
I refused to give up. Two plus years later in late December 2016, I finally finished my 10th major edit/overhaul and was desperate to push it out to publishers for review. I had rewritten the same 200,000 word story 10 different times, possibly making it worse every time. It became my Frankenstein monster. Every single one of its flaws (I thought) was clear but dear to me. I badly wanted it to succeed, but what I really wanted was approval and encouragement -- not an endorsement of the patchwork quality of my amateurish work, but of my heroic and unnoticed efforts.
I checked out online publishers, and saw a novella contest by Tor.com for high/quest fantasy. The deadline was in 6 days. I wrote like a madman and churned out "The Fifth Claw" [13+] by the January 12th deadline. It's been 4 months and I've gone from 88 to 13 in the queue to be read. In my fantasy world, the novella is the bait for publishers to ask about my novel. That will probably never become reality, sadly, but one can hope, right? (Update: My novella was rejected, and till this day no one has asked about my novel -- I am a prophet!)
Next I tried my hand at https://publishizer.com's 'Queerly Lit' book proposal contest, and came up with "Balls! When A Girl Has Them - The Novel" [13+]. I cut my teeth on drafting book proposals and managing fail online fundraising campaigns from that experience. But the five out of twenty chapters I managed to conjure up somehow caught the attention of 4 different publishers. Sadly they were either self-publishing companies or hybrids, who offered to publish my work only if I paid them between $1500 to $2500 for their packages. Too poor to afford such options, my dream of a big traditional publishing house arriving at my door with a palanquin to parade me down the street in victory, and present me with a big, fat advance flew like a cuckoo out the window.
Then came WDC. I didn't know what it was. I signed up on a lark, and tried my hand at one of the contests "The Dialogue 500" [18+]. A depressing month later, I popped back in and received a dose of ambrosia -- I won! Really? I needed more of this drug, and so I started trying out for more contests, which brings me to Robert Edward Baker ...
His first review of one of my stories was the best thing I had read for years (note that I had previously been obsessed with my Frankenstein monster, and the only other literature I made time for was Facebook and student essays... okay, I confess I read the news too). I heard the celebratory music -- you know the one you get when your character levels up in a game? I felt my brain expand. I saw on my stat sheet -- +1 narrative structure, +1 character development, +2 use of language. Woohoo! Two years of hard work had made me no better, no worse as a writer, but one insightful review? I upgraded my membership immediately after that, like I was shouting to my wife, "Where's your credit card?!"
Master Bob continues to be one of the writers who helps me hone my craft most, especially my unrefined language and weak sense of poetic structure. But I've since come across so many other amazing writers and poets here, who will all eventually find their way into "Insatiable" [E], where I list all the very best writing and writers on WDC I have read (in my opinion). The great writing and ideas I come across here inspire me to up my game, and better my writing.
And so this is where you come in. Thank you for your patience in reading my backstory. Now it's time for the fun and work to begin!
If you're a hardcore fan who's trying to systematically go through every single item in my WDC portfolio, here are chronological lists of everything I've written:
ITEMS TO REVIEW
Now of course you may simply just skip to any of the folders in my portfolio and choose to review whatever catches your eye to read. I like to dabble in different genres, so you should find something worth your time no matter what your preferences are. But if you want to help me out, these are the items I really want to improve, because I know there's something not quite right about it and I need your input!
This is my first attempt at steampunk western. Do I need stronger, more likeable characters (especially the protagonist)? Are the steampunk elements too superficial and cosmetic, or just bland and unexciting? What did I do right and wrong here? Any feedback, especially from fans and more experienced writers in this genre, will be most helpful and appreciated!
If you enjoyed the above story, or like reading about dragons in general and kungfu, then you may enjoy this 9-chapter novella. I feel like this may be my unique entry into a fantasy market already saturated with dragon stories of every kind. By using Oriental dragons to hook dragon fans, I hope to introduce Eastern philosophy, history and culture that is part of the heritage I grew up with to Western readers. I would deeply appreciate any kind of feedback on this work, especially with regard to whether it is a publish-worthy effort. If not, which areas need to be improved for it to become so?
Another first attempt, this time at anthropomorphic aka furry fiction. Meant to be a scifi mystery, I tried writing from the third-person omniscient narrator perspective for the first time and got some feedback about viewpoint errors. What are the rules regarding the God perspective? Did I succeed in making the Wers a critical component of the story, or are they cosmetic in function? Did it feel scifi-y enough?
MY RECOMMENDED PORTFOLIO READS
i've decided to reorganise this part to list my most recent writings by genre, as well as my recommendation(s) for older works in that genre.
For an adventure story from my mountain-climbing days, check out
This poem is from a dark period in my life
Another poem, this one from my childhood!
Evergreen Recommendation: Not my most polished piece, but this one's deeply personal
More of contemporary history, this is supposed to be somewhat inspirational as well.
An origin story for one of my many characters in the Was Eternal world, with a slight dash of romance
Probably the most awesome female samurai who ever lived and died the bushido way.
Evergreen Recommendation: Flash fiction for Outlander fans.
My first attempt at pure punk fiction, set in the Was Eternal world as well.
Short sub-2000 word version of the 5000-word version, this should appeal to fans of James Herbert.
My first attempt at steampunk, which I'm still learning about.
Still very much a first draft, this story is set in Japan's famous Suicide Forest.
This is actually the second story from my collection of stories about the diverse people living in Singapore.
A 2018 Quill nominee, this one is centered around Native Americans.
Evergreen Recommendation: My folder dedicated to tales to make you gasp won the 2017 Quill for Best Short Story Collection. There's probably something in here that'll make you scream or find out what the last thing you ate has been doing inside you.
For pet lovers everywhere.
A celebration of nature as well as of the family, this touches on the second-most important festival in the year for Chinese every autumn.
A dark, satirical poem about surviving the apocalypse.
Evergreen Recommendation: Inspired by the manner of my grandpa's passing, when he could no longer recognise his family gathered around him.
One of three stories of mine to appear in Plot Pourri, an anthology of short stories by Singaporean writers, this was my second attempt at scifi.
Inspired by a horrific true story, this mixes heart-wringing with the macabre.
This one is a short but true account of my days as a teenage runaway sleeping on the streets.
Published on The Pangolin Review, this short poem won a Quill!
Like every other writer out there, I want to be published and recognised for my writing efforts. With self-publishers and writing sites like WDC, this actually wavers between dreamscape and reality. So my bigger, grander dream is...
To be financially comfortable enough to travel around the world writing people's stories for them. Why?
This was the real reason I started writing in the first place -- I wanted to 'immortalise' my thoughts and ideas in fiction for my son, so that he would always have and know that part of me. And I believe that is what many people want -- for their children and grandchildren to know their stories, and to know them.
The catalyst for this came in April 2016 when my grandmother passed away at 94. It had always been at the back of my head to one day learn her dialect and communicate with her enough to learn her stories. She had 9 children, survived World War II, lost two children (one to Japanese yakuza) and spent most of her life searching for the lost son who was never found. She had bound feet, developed a hunchback from years of hard labor, and was a character fit for a novel and a movie. But I never learnt her stories -- not from her own mouth.
It made me realise how many people might leave our lives and our world without anyone really knowing them, and it made me very sad. So instead of just making up stories, I figure -- why not help other people write down their life stories, add a dash of drama or a rippling of romance? Then I would present their written stories back to them as a gift to pass down to those who would read and know them.
Sigh, that's my dream.