RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

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RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby TPMThorne » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:42 pm

Hello all,

I hope you'll forgive me for making my first post about my own work. Cynicism is understood, but please bear with me!

I am a self-published author, intending to publish work of a verying range in different genres. Under the pen name "T.P.M. Thorne", I've had the English-language novel "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang" as an available work since early 2012. Because I had - and still have - a number of ongoing projects, I mistakenly put promotion to one side on my existing work, and am now trying to put that right.

The novel is intended as a compliment to existing 3K literature. It takes the more modern approach seen in "Red Cliff" of focussing on the characters in a non-mystical fashion, and attempting to show a balanced view of the relationship between Liu Bei's faction and Eastern Wu. I have also looked at history rather than ROTK as the main influence at certain key points: to give two examples, Zhuge Liang - known mainly as 'Kongming' throughout as he is in ROTK - is therefore not an extensive contributor to the actual Red Cliffs battle, and he remains at the Chengdu court during the Hanzhong Campaign, as per history. This does mean that the focus frequently moves to other key figures such as Liu Bei, Sun Quan, Zhou Yu, Guan Yu, Ma Liang and Pang Tong, but the last act is centred on Zhuge Liang's efforts to repair the damage done by the revenge campaign against Wu and subsequent Southern/Northern Expeditions. Key relationships are shown between Zhuge Liang and Yueying, Ma Liang, Pang Tong, Ma Su and Liu Bei. Certain well-known events, such as the "Three Visits to Zhuge Liang's home" are changed for artistic reasons, while others such as the "Arrow Borrowing" during the Red Cliff campaign are absent as a consequence of Zhuge's revised role in the campaign. Finally, I should note that it is Zhuge Liang's strengths as a political maneouverer and tactician that take precedence, so it a very 'talky' work.

The first 10% of the novel is free to view at many eBook vendor sites, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, should anyone be interested.

All that remains to be said is thanks for reading - hopefully! - and I hope that my work does justice to the 3K stable of writing. Any feedback, positive or otherwise, is greatly appreciated, as I'll never improve without criticism.

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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:22 pm

Ooooo interesting. Can't believe I missed out on this thread when you first posted it! Anyway I need a new novel to be reading so I'll download this on to my kindle now and I'll let the scholars know what I think!
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby TPMThorne » Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:35 am

[EDIT]

I should note to all that I have added a sample of Act I to the author site, since some people don't like looking at the ones the vendors supply. It should be fairly readable on smartphone browsers as well as the desktop variety, not sure about tablets. Anyhow, the url is http://tpmthorne.com/, and follow the one and only book link from there.

Thanks,

T.P.M.Thorne
Last edited by TPMThorne on Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby Sun Fin » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:28 am

So despite downloading this months ago I've only just started reading it.

My initial thoughts are:

Ok a disclaimer; I am really, REALLY enjoying it. Whatever criticisms I come up with next need to be put in to the context that I've devoured a couple of hundred pages in about 3 days whilst being busy travelling all over England.

I really like the presentation of Jian Yong and other lesser thought of Shu figures, especially the use of Xu Shu and Ma Liang.

As one would expect from any novel written from the perspective of Zhuge Liang it is very pro-Shu and anti-Cao Cao. Doesn't bother me as I'm anti Wei anyway but I suspect it may alienate a few of you guys if you weren't expecting it.

It is for the most part historic rather than SGYY (Jian as a subordinate of Yuan Shu, Chen Dao's inclusion etc) however I've picked up on one error-the accusation that Sun Ce traded his troops for the Imperial Seal. As a hard core Bofu-ite it annoyed me when the author had clearly researched everything else so well.

It feels like it expects its readers to have prior knowledge, if I gave the book to my dad for example he would feel buried under the names of all the warlords etc who are talked about in the very first chapter.

I would recommend it to anyone who already engaged with and enjoyed the period but I'm not sure it'll be the novel to bring the 3K in to mainstream public thought in the West.
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby TPMThorne » Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:20 pm

Thank you for your feedback, Sun Fin. I appreciate it, and have taken all of your comments to heart. I did reply at greater length initially, but I just realised that what I was saying was actually needless!

...I've also read your insights in the topic "Ziyuan Huangdi (Historical Fiction Novel) " started by capnnerefir, and agree with you - reluctantly and regrettably, but I do - that many of the directions that I've taken are certainly risky with regard to finding a general audience, or indeed an agent or publisher. I did know that at heart, but what's done is done, although I'll certainly think differently about the approach I take on any future works that have a culture barrier to cross.

I certainly wish you luck with your own future efforts, and also those of capnnerefir, Tao Qian and others, and look forward to reading the outcomes.

Thanks to anybody that gives/gave the book a go, and again I say a sincere "Good luck" to all those that intend to get something of their own out there in the future. Hopefully, one day, there will be a larger market for 3K. And the sooner the better!

Regards,

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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:43 pm

So finished this at last.

Like I find whenever I read ROTK the period after Liu Bei's death just drags for me. With many of the earlier main characters dead or heading that way I just lose interest in the story.

It's also very long! This doesn't bother me as I read very quickly and know the 3K era well enough to pick it up a few weeks later and not be lost but I suspect that others might lose interest due to length!

I would consider splitting similar length works in to 2 separate novels in future.

All in all I want to thank the author for being the only person I'm aware of to actually have the determination and staying power to finish writing a 3K novel rather than just starting! (Myself, Crazed, scholar amongst many others fit in the category of people with stories left hanging). I've enjoyed reading it.

You've also inspired me to make a really good go at researching and writing something myself in a way no-one else has ever done before.
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby Nazne » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:33 pm

I'm a bit saddened that I didn't see this book earlier. Like Sun Fin, I really enjoyed what I've read so far (the Act I sample); the interactions between characters are much stronger than depicted in RoTK, and lends the historical RTK's events some flesh and blood. I'm not a research hobbyist by any means, so I can't speak on the authenticity of the historical detail, but as the novel is set from Kongming's PoV, the biases against Cao Cao and Sun Quan are certainly understandable as a part of his character.

There are a few things that bother me, however - not about the plot, but about the writing style. I'm going to be a little pedantic here; I mostly noticed the below issues because this story was otherwise quite engaging to read, and these particular issues threw me out of the flow.

Conversations are difficult to get through for me, because every time a character speaks you seem to use a different descriptive verb ("chortled", "chuckled", "sighed", "bleated"), or verb-adjective pair. The tone carried by that verb tends to contradict the tone of the character's words and makes the emotion behind a line of dialogue harder to interpret; the instances of "chuckled desperately" are especially confusing. If you ever edit or write more in the future, I'd recommend sticking to a neutral dialogue verb, such as "said", and letting readers draw their own conclusions about what emotional state the characters are in from the dialogue itself; show, don't tell.

I also noticed that there are a lot of ellipses used. I think ellipse usage is much more common in Chinese writing than English, and for a while I was under the impression that you were translating from Chinese and kept the ellipses to be faithful. However, overusing ellipses looks sloppy in English and I would recommend replacing as many of them as possible with other punctuation marks, which would also help clean up dialogue and make it "punchier". (There's actually a fan-translation of a historical/sci-fi novel, Will of Heaven, whose style I'm pretty fond of. Since it's based on the pre-Han general Han Xin's life and battles, it has similar topics of conversation as your novel, but goes in the opposite direction by keeping description and dialogue terse. It might be worth a look to see how others interpret the problem of writing historical scheming in dialogue.)

In general, though, I'm looking forward to sitting down with the full book later when I'm not so busy with academics, and I hope you'll continue to write to make RTK more accessible to an English-speaking population!
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby TPMThorne » Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:57 pm

RE: Sun Fin...

So finished this at last.

Like I find whenever I read ROTK the period after Liu Bei's death just drags for me. With many of the earlier main characters dead or heading that way I just lose interest in the story.


I couldn't help but pity Zhuge in his last years, chipping away at Cao Wei with nothing but the "Plan F" Team and Wei Yan. Writing those last 20 chapters without the likes of Jian Yong and Zhang Fei was tough.

It's also very long! This doesn't bother me as I read very quickly and know the 3K era well enough to pick it up a few weeks later and not be lost but I suspect that others might lose interest due to length!

I would consider splitting similar length works in to 2 separate novels in future.


Seeing the printed version (more on this below) I am at times inclined to think that I need to scale down: it's the size of some of my programming textbooks.

All in all I want to thank the author for being the only person I'm aware of to actually have the determination and staying power to finish writing a 3K novel rather than just starting! (Myself, Crazed, scholar amongst many others fit in the category of people with stories left hanging).


Many thanks. Everyone should try and get their stuff out there. There's an audience, and with the new digital mediums to launch yourselves, no better time for you, Crazed, scholar and the many others to say "Here I am".

I've enjoyed reading it.


Many, many thanks.

You've also inspired me to make a really good go at researching and writing something myself in a way no-one else has ever done before.


And you should put it on Kindle at the very least. That's free to set up, and gives you an immediate global audience. By contrast, the ePub route - while it puts you on nook, kobo, iTunes, etc - costs a small sum of money (though I have done it, I only did it after I had Kindle sales to guarantee there being a point). With Kindle, you're allowed to make corrections for free (ePub resubs cost), and furthermore, you can point publishers and agents at it in addition to the usual printed subs, and people will find it and read it regardless, as they have with my work. If even one person sees it and likes it... well, there's no fuzzier feeling, I think. To everyone, I say do it.

RE: Nazne...

I'm a bit saddened that I didn't see this book earlier.


So am I, because your points may have influenced my final proof-read before I went to print, a mere 6 days before you posted (the book is now available on Amazon via their print-on-demand CreateSpace service. Pricey, but means I have a physical, tangible thing to look at now).

So, unfortunately, I can agree with criticisms but do nothing about them now, really, except learn for future projects.

Like Sun Fin, I really enjoyed what I've read so far (the Act I sample); the interactions between characters are much stronger than depicted in RoTK, and lends the historical RTK's events some flesh and blood.


Many thanks!

There are a few things that bother me, however - not about the plot, but about the writing style. I'm going to be a little pedantic here; I mostly noticed the below issues because this story was otherwise quite engaging to read, and these particular issues threw me out of the flow.


Ready and waiting...

Conversations are difficult to get through for me, because every time a character speaks you seem to use a different descriptive verb ("chortled", "chuckled", "sighed", "bleated"), or verb-adjective pair. The tone carried by that verb tends to contradict the tone of the character's words and makes the emotion behind a line of dialogue harder to interpret; the instances of "chuckled desperately" are especially confusing. If you ever edit or write more in the future, I'd recommend sticking to a neutral dialogue verb, such as "said", and letting readers draw their own conclusions about what emotional state the characters are in from the dialogue itself; show, don't tell.


I like artistic whimsies like having someone laugh sadly when they feel helpless, or give an order with contradictory feebleness (bleat it, rather than bark it), or say something that should carry one meaning by the words spoken, but are, due to true feelings, delivered with the true emotion rather than the intended one. It's something I veer between leaving in to make a point and removing because I fear confusing readers. It's a tough call for me to make.

I also noticed that there are a lot of ellipses used. I think ellipse usage is much more common in Chinese writing than English, and for a while I was under the impression that you were translating from Chinese and kept the ellipses to be faithful. However, overusing ellipses looks sloppy in English and I would recommend replacing as many of them as possible with other punctuation marks, which would also help clean up dialogue and make it "punchier".


I use a lot of ellipses in my writing to denote various lengths of pauses during dialogue, in everything I do, not just this book (I have 2 other works that are, admittedly, not performing that well, written under a different pseudonym to keep them separate from this, which is doing OK - they are written in a very similar way despite being a different genre). I don't really use them in narrative - there, I would agree, overuse is sloppy - but because I tend to make characters pause or hesitate a lot during dialogue, they do tend to show up a lot. I do try to keep them under control, believe it or not.

In general, though, I'm looking forward to sitting down with the full book later when I'm not so busy with academics, and I hope you'll continue to write to make RTK more accessible to an English-speaking population!


I intend to! Thank you for your thoughts.

Regards,

T. P. M. Thorne
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby Aaron.K » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:32 pm

I purchased this back when Sun Fin had initially posted, and while I had wanted to make a post back then, but I wanted to read through the book first before I had actually said something. I'm not completely finished, but I am far enough through (about 47% according to the Kindle App on my android) that I feel like I can contribute to the thread.

I can't really make a comment on anything historical, knowing that the book is intended to be fictional, but I do like some of the uses of the historical record being set into the story (Xu Shu leaving at Chang Ban for example). And it's been quite a refreshing and entertaining read in that respect.

I would say one other thing that I particularly liked, was that you didn't go down the route that a lot of people tend to go down when writing a story about the Three Kingdoms period. And that route is; making some characters so unbelievably badass to the point that they begin to resemble their video game counterparts; a pastiche of the real person so to speak. But I have not really noticed that so far. All of the characters appear to be equally human, they have their faults, some try to hide them, others accept them and try to make themselves better.

In regards to characterization, I must say it's rather enticing. The characters seem to have more purpose to their actions compared to Luo Guan Zhong's novel, and they just feel like real people. Kongming grieves for people, even his enemies. And yet even when he's being a bit of a jerk in saying those things to Lu Su to goad Zhou Yu, he's not that much of a jerk about it like he is in SGYY. And then his frustrations with Liu Bei, and even seemingly lack of trust in him at times as well. It feels like I'm reading Zhuge's journal at times (and that's a good thing).

I've definitely enjoyed it so far, and I'm looking forward to reading further on, as well as potentially reading more stories about this time period from you. You've certainly got a talent at bringing historical characters to life, and I quite like that.

Keep us up to date on any future projects you might have. And now with this Kindle that I have, it makes reading on the go so much better.
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Re: RE: "Crouching Dragon - The Journey of Zhuge Liang"

Unread postby TPMThorne » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:41 pm

Hello Aaron.K,

I can't really make a comment on anything historical, knowing that the book is intended to be fictional, but I do like some of the uses of the historical record being set into the story (Xu Shu leaving at Chang Ban for example). And it's been quite a refreshing and entertaining read in that respect.


Thanks. The problem with any historical novel is balancing fact and "drama" (rather than out-and-out fiction, which I was really trying not to do). I really tried to adhere to events as they happened where I could, and where I had to invent, I tried to restrain it to the right side of "believable".

I would say one other thing that I particularly liked, was that you didn't go down the route that a lot of people tend to go down when writing a story about the Three Kingdoms period. And that route is; making some characters so unbelievably badass to the point that they begin to resemble their video game counterparts; a pastiche of the real person so to speak. But I have not really noticed that so far. All of the characters appear to be equally human, they have their faults, some try to hide them, others accept them and try to make themselves better.


Very, very deliberate. Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao, Lu Bu, Zhao Yun, Guan Yu etc. are very impressive historical figures, but making them superhuman (as is sometimes desired by some readers as much as some writers, I feel) can do a story injustice, even from a dramatic perspective. I wanted it to be "truthful" in its dramatic license.

In regards to characterization, I must say it's rather enticing. The characters seem to have more purpose to their actions compared to Luo Guan Zhong's novel, and they just feel like real people. Kongming grieves for people, even his enemies. And yet even when he's being a bit of a jerk in saying those things to Lu Su to goad Zhou Yu, he's not that much of a jerk about it like he is in SGYY. And then his frustrations with Liu Bei, and even seemingly lack of trust in him at times as well. It feels like I'm reading Zhuge's journal at times (and that's a good thing).


Thanks for saying this: because my novel reads from Kongming's physical P.O.V. for about 60% of the time, his opinions and actions might lend the idea to some that there is a Shu bias (intended or not). However (in line with exactly what you've said) I do try and show a balanced view of everyone, especially Zhuge: his blurring of moral lines, his allowing for some of Liu Bei's more dubious actions (and those of some others), his attitude -- an attitude shared by all of the advisers, pretty much -- that anything goes if it gets their lord to where their lord wants to be, and that none of the lords is perfect; that was important to telling the story.

I chose Zhuge as a focal point, but at times, he's actually a background character, his relevance at those times being "spiritual", i.e. his plan is what everyone's following/falling foul of so far as the temporary focus character(s) go. Zhuge knows that he has to double-cross Wu to get what Liu Bei needs/wants, and Zhou Yu, Lu Su, Lu Meng, Lu Xun all know that Liu Bei is a threat to them and their plans, intentionally or not (a weak ally, or untrustworthy, or at cross-purposes). But yes, at the same time, Zhuge does still have his doubts about Liu Bei (so far as my depiction goes), especially after the death of Pang Tong at the siege of Luo.

I've definitely enjoyed it so far, and I'm looking forward to reading further on, as well as potentially reading more stories about this time period from you. You've certainly got a talent at bringing historical characters to life, and I quite like that.


Thank you! I do want to do more, and probably will.

Keep us up to date on any future projects you might have. And now with this Kindle that I have, it makes reading on the go so much better.


As and when I have another project ready to go, I'd definitely do that! I appreciate your feedback.

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