Author Guest E.E. Ottoman on Song of Spring Moon Waning, Story Inspiration and Book Contest

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have author E.E. Ottoman here today.  Ottoman’s recent release Song of the Spring Moon Waning was recently reviewed and is one of my highly recommended stories.Song of the Spring Moon Waning cover

Book Giveaway: To go along with  E.E. Ottoman’s guest blog, we are giving away one copy of Song of Spring Moon Waning.  To enter, just leave a comment, as well as your email address or method of contacting you in the body of the email.  By leaving a comment and entering, you are agreeing that you are over 18 years of age. Contest ends 3/15.

I asked E.E. Ottoman to talk a little bit about the inspiration for this  magical story, and the ancient Chinese setting because I felt that it came across not only as authentic but artistic as well.

E.E. Ottoman:

I wrote Song of the Spring Moon Waning in the winter of 2012-2013. When I started I had it in my head that I was going to write a fairy tale. Not a retelling of a fairy tale, although I love those, but a story in the style of a fairy tale with all the imagery, and motifs of a fairy tale where the protagonist learned something about his or herself by the end. I debated where and when to set it but the only thing that felt right was Medieval China.

Now for full discloser, I study history. When I was writing this I was in graduate school for history. I don’t though study Chinese history. I study Asian American history, and although I focus on the Chinese immigrant community I only look at that community in the United States and then in the late 19th century or early 20th.

Song Dynasty China, which is what Song of the Spring Moon Waning is based on, is not only a totally different country from the one I study, but also many hundreds of years too early. I had taken some classes on Chinese history though and for one of them written a research paper on same-sex relationships in Chinese history. I had also done significant research into the lives and roles of palace eunuchs for another project before I started working on Song of the Spring Moon Waning. So the ground work for that was already laid out.

Still having done one or two research projects in no way made me qualified or ready to portray an entire society and time period.Which meant that in order to write Song of the Spring Moon Waning I had to do a lot of additional research.

Lucky for me studying history at a major university did give me the upper hand in doing historical research. I had access to academic databases, I could and did check lots of books out of the university library. Plus my advisor at the time WAS a historian of China and even more lucky for me focused on the Imperial examination system.

A lot of the research I did was pure factual: how did the examination system work in the Song era, what did people wear, what did houses look like, how where dreams thought of and interpreted, was there a Song Dynasty equivalent of fast food?
I did my best to find the answers to all these questions and any other details that came up while I was writing. I tried to do as much fact checking as I could using the resources I had.

That meant I did a lot of research up front, but also as I wrote I was constantly stopping to check details. A large part of my editing was also fact checking, although I’m sure from a straight up history perspective the story is a long way from being error-free.

Song of the Spring Moon Waning isn’t just a historical though it’s also a fantasy story. So in order to better understand how fantasy elements could be combined with a historical Chinese setting I started watching loads of wuxia tv shows and movies.

For those of you who don’t know wuxia is a genre of art and fiction that revolved around a chivalrous martial artist figure. According to Wikipedia:

“Modern wuxia stories are largely set in ancient or premodern China. The historical setting can range from being quite specific and important to the story, to being vaguely-defined, anachronistic, or is only used as a backdrop for the action. Fantasy elements, ranging from fantastic martial arts to ghosts and monsters, are common elements of a wuxia story but not a prerequisite. However, the martial arts element is a definite part of a wuxia tale, as its characters must know some form of martial arts. Themes of romance are also strongly featured in some wuxia tales.”

Song of the Spring Moon Waning is not a wuxia story since neither of the main characters are martial artists. It does combined a premodern Chinese setting, fantasy elements and a strong romance. Also learning about modern wuxia stories allowed me to better understand the way Chinese history and fantasy are combined in Chinese media itself.

China — especially premodern China — can often be portrayed in US media as a mystical or magical place but it is almost always in a distinctly Orientalist and therefore racist way. Because of this, I very much did not want to base my own story only on Western representations of Medieval China or Chinese fantasy.

Actually I’d say Hollywood is a really bad place to start for anyone who wants to write any sort of story based on any Asian culture. The faster you can forget any movie made or popularized in the US the better off you are. Luckily we lived in the computer age and it is easy to find good movies and shows made in China for a Chinese audience, even with English subtitles. That being said :: puts my historian hat on:: movies and tv is never a substitute for actual historical research ::takes my historian hat off::

I also read a lot of Chinese folk tales and tried to soak up the way that Chinese fairy tales are constructed and the kind of imagery that is used in them. I also can’t emphasize how amazing my friend Ginger was. Having grown up in China, she knew all different versions of various folk tales and kindly told me every single one in detail and let me ask questions about them. At the end of the day I took all this and combined it into a story that also had my own unique style and voice.

Song of the Spring Moon Waning, for all the fantasy elements, is very much a story about Wen Yu, about his struggles and insecurities and about his relationships with Liu Yi, how that relationships changes him and makes him look at the world in different ways.

I hate stories that tie everything up in the end and much prefer my fantasy and fairy tales to have the heroes going off to take part in more adventures. So that was exactly how I ended Song of the Spring Moon Waning. Wen Yu has learned to make his own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. Now he and Liu Yi are ready to face more adventures together.
Song of the Spring Moon Waning is part of the Jade Mountain series which also include Zi Yong and the Collector of Secrets, also published by Less Than Three Press. You can see more about it here. The third book in the series will pick up where Song of the Spring Moon Waning leaves off.

I am excited about it and I hope you all are too.

Thank you so much to Melanie for having me on her blog.

STRW:  And my thanks to E.E. Ottoman for a fascinating look at the inspiration behind this remarkable book.  I can’t wait for the next story to arrive.  Remember, to enter the contest to win a eBook copy of  Song of Spring Moon Waning, leave a comment below and an email address to I can contact you.  The contest ends March 15th.  Good luck everyone!

I leave you with a picture of the Snow Dragon Jade Mountain in China.JadeDragonMountain12

Song of the Spring Moon Waning coverBook Details:

ebook, 32,000 words
Published January 15th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
ISBN13 9781620043004
edition language English
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You can follow E.E. Ottoman on:

Review: Song of the Spring Moon Waning by E.E. Ottoman

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Song of the Spring Moon Waning coverStudent Wen Yu is studying for the Emperor’s exams when a note is slipped under his door asking him to return the song thrush given into his care while the owner was sick. The only problem is that Wen Yu was never given a song thrush.  Although Wen Yu tries to put the mystery of the note aside to continue studying for his exams, he is unprepared when a second note arrives containing the same message.

Perplexed and intrigued, Wen Yu finds studying impossible and starts to look for the mysterious Liu Yi, the author of the note.  The trail of clues leads Wen Yu to the emperor’s castle and the beautiful imperial eunich Liu Yi.    Liu Yi is suffering from a mysterious ailment and believes that the ancient poems in his possession will contain information that will end his affliction. But the poems are in an unknown language. To get that information Liu Yi hopes that Wen Yu can translate the manuscript for him.  Soon Wen Yu finds himself obsessed by the collection of mysterious moon poems and his need to help Liu Yi.  The more time he spends with the beautiful Liu Yi and the poems the less time he has for studying, forcing Wen Yu to question what matters most in his life, obligation or love?

From title to storyline, Song of the Spring Moon Waning has all the lightness and delicacy of a Chinese brush painting set to words.  I am hard pressed to express just how easily the reader slips into this mesmerizing world, one that is ancient in feel and lyrical in tone.  Like most traditional Chinese poetry, Ottoman’s story deals in vivid expressions and juxtaposition of nature and the world around them.  The author captures the grim realities of a student studying for the Emperor’s exam, hoping for a better life for himself and his family versus the splendor of the imperial palace and those that reside there.    The mundane, realistic lives of the merchants and city dwellers  is contrasted with the magic of talking turtles and song thrushes with messages to impart to those in need as well as those who are needed.    Even the language of the story seems to flow with the rhythm and images found within ancient Chinese poems themselves.  And what may seem to be simple and straightforward is actually quite complex in design and message.  From characters to plot, Ottoman’s story has so many layers to it, and yet it never feels heavy or unwieldy.

With each new twist of plot or vivid description, the author infuses the tale with such enchantment  and age that it acquires a feeling of timeless storytelling. You can almost hear the parchment rustle or the faint whisper of an ink brush across the silk of the painting as the tale unfolds on the pages before you. The love poems between a dragon and a jade rabbit act as an impetus for a mortal love between student and imperial eunich.  But that mortal love may also hold a much longed for solution to the immortal lovers separation, thereby completing a cycle of romance and love.  Additionally, there are secrets that lie just below the surface for those involved in this timeless pattern, no matter if that facade is unworldly or earthly. One more intriguing aspect to this surprising story.

So much about Song of the Spring Moon Waning resonated with me,  including that amazing cover.  Having always loved ancient China, from its history to its artwork,  the manner in which Ottoman drew on and then seamlessly folded into the story elements  gathered from Chinese lore and culture made me further appreciate this author’s creativity and style.  This goes for components that might have inspired as well as those Ottoman imaginatively created.  The Chinese Moon Goddess and the rabbit, the dragons and the pearls, all are recognizably Chinese elements that people might be familiar with.  Taoist shamans of ancient China, the Wu, were said to communicate with animals, so the inclusion of the talking animals of the story, the turtle and the birds, felt both inspired by ancient lore while feeling imaginatively fresh.  And I could picture the Dragon of the Jade Mountain conversing with the Jade Rabbit, Great Physician of the Moon Palace, just by looking at a picture of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain,JadeDragonMountain12 so important to artists and Taoists alike.  Even the rhythm of ancient Chinese poets is hinted at by the flowing narrative with its delicate touch and references to  early Chinese culture, whether it be clothes or  food offerings.

Then at its heart is the love that springs forth between Wen Yu and Liu Yi.  At first glance it appears to be a gentle love story, but appearances are deceiving. Just under the surface lies a relationship of complexities and secrets where nothing and no one is as they seem.  The one person who seems so straightforward in background turns out to be the one with the most to hide and perhaps lose.  And Liu Yi who has already lost so much when his parents sold him to the palace as a eunuch, also appears to be a character that has it all, at least in material terms. What a complex character.  He is the one who has not only come to terms with his past and physically altered condition but Liu Yi is also the one who has gained the most materially but is not afraid to lose it all.  What is the truth of gender? Is it physical or what lies inside? And does love comes with requirements or boundaries?  Is the love between a dragon and jade rabbit any less than that of mortals? This aspect of the story may be the most amazing of them all.

Only the end of the story felt less complete as quite a few main plot threads were left unresolved. Just as the characters set out on a quest the story ends.  I found this abrupt ending startling considering the thoroughness and attention to detail Ottoman brought to the book as a whole. But upon contacting the author, I found out that Song of the Spring Moon Waning is the first in a series, so the unresolved plot points made sense as they lead into the sequel, one I can’t wait to read.  Do I wish it had continued past that point?  Absolutely, but I am not sure that I would have been happy at any break in this throughly addicting story.  It’s just that good.

Song of the Spring Moon Waning has so much to offer.  It’s enchanting, the love stories haunting, and the plot both imaginative and layered.  Ottoman has delivered a story that surprised me with its twists while captivating me with its atmosphere and lyrical narrative.  Consider this story one of ScatteredThoughts Best Novels of 2014.

Cover artist Aisha Akeju has done an amazing job.  This cover is gorgeous and perfect for the story within.  Again, one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best Covers of 2014.

Book Details:

ebook, 32,000 words
Published January 15th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
ISBN13 9781620043004
edition language English
You can follow E.E. Ottoman on:

The Wanda Alston Foundation and the Week Ahead in ReviewQ

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Wanda Alston Foundation logo

So, great news! The Washington DC Metro Area now has a shelter for LGBT youth, the Wanda Alston Foundation.  For those of you familiar with our area, this name may sound familiar and it should.  Wanda Alston was a LGBTQ activist in Washington, DC. She was a cabinet member of the DC government and served on the Board of Directors for National Organization of Women. Highly respected and admired, she worked and campaigned for the Democratic party and Human Rights Campaign. Sadly she was killed inside her home in the District in 2005.  Her activism and legacy lives on today in the Wanda Alston Foundation.

The Wanda Alston House was the name of a previous organization that operated a shelter for LGBTQ youth that closed.  Now newly restructured and reorganized, the Wanda Alston Foundation is fully operational and needs our help and support.

First, it needs donations.  Here is a list from the director of immediate needs for their shelter:

  • Toiletries: Toothbrushes; Toothpaste; Brushes, Combs; Deodorants and lotions
  • Houseware: New blankets; pillows; sheets and towels.
  • Travel: token and fare cards for youth travel to appointments such as interviews
  • Donations: Donations to support programmatic needs are great too: visit our website for information or now donate via credit card/pay pal.

Secondly, it needs volunteers.  If you live in the Washington, DC area and have a skill or craft that you believe could beneficial to residents ( ie. math tutor), then contact the foundation’s director at the address listed below.  I also have a link to the foundation located to the right of the blog itself.

Or connect with them online at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Organization Contact Info:

Kenneth J. Pettigrew
Director of Programs
Wanda Alston Foundation
300 New Jersey Ave NW Suite 900
Washington DC 20001  (202) 465-8794 Phone (202) 347-0130 Fax

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Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, March 3:         Convergence by Talya Andor

Tuesday, March 4:         Heidi Belleau/Lisa Henry’s King of Dublin Book Tour & Contest

Tuesday, March 4:         The Professor #4 Every Inch of the Way Book Tour

Wed., March 5                 Song of the Spring Moon Waning by E.E. Ottoman

Thursday, March 6:       King of Dublin by Heidi Belleau & Lisa Henry

Friday, March 7:              Come to Me by Megan Derr

Sat., March 8:                  Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

Review of Private Dicks: Undercovers Anthology

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Who doesn’t love a private eye? Private Dicks: Undercovers includes a range of cases from all manner of private investigarors in quite the variety of worlds.  From rock stars to werewolves, from Steampunk to the Old West, the species involved may change, but the game is always the same. The private dicks grab a case, solve the mystery, bring the miscreants to justice and end up saving the victim, who just might be the love of their life.

So here are the stories, including some that entertained and enthralled:

Temper by Siobhan Crosslin—Reese is a lone wolf, always on the outside looking in at what he never has had but always wanted, a pack to belong to.  But as an investigator being on the outside has always worked to his advantage as has his ability to deceive.  Reese’s latest case brings him a world of trouble right from the start.  He is sent to investigate a pack that might be at the center of a series of wolf killings and kidnappings.   This investigation means Reese has to infiltrate the pack itself by becoming a pack enforcer, a role that will bring him close to the pack alpha. But his investigation is in peril from the moment he meets Donovan, the alpha and the rest of the Deepine Pack.  They are everything he has always wanted, and Donovan is the wolf who grabs his affections right from the start.

I loved this story.  Reese is an endearing shifter, a wolf in need of a mate and a pack and no expectations of that ever happening.  It is clear that his  past and perhaps current status has involved abuse but he wants to do the right thing no matter how hard that might be to accomplish.  Crosslin did a wonderful job with her characters and world building.  I found that Reese, Donovan and the rest of the Deepine Pack engaged my feelings almost immediately.  The story left me with more questions than answers about how the society in her universe was structured.  There are dragons, shifters and other supernatural beings, each with their own rules and regulations.  And while it might be too much to ask for more information about the world they all lived in given the length of this story, she made it so fascinating that it begs for an expanded version or a sequel. One of my favorites in the anthology.

The PI and the Rockstar by K-lee Klein— Mason Cason is a detective and a good one.  While not flashy in the least, he has made a good living by being an excellent investigator.  Mason’s latest case is a doozy.  A man and his daughter arrive in his office and want him to find the guy who impregnated his underage gum snapping overally made up daughter, a man who just happens to be rockstar named Jade Jonathan Lee, Mason’s private and business worlds collide.  Both his love life and his reputation are at stake if he doesn’t take the case and solve the mystery.

Mason Cason considers himself to be just an average looking man, a plus when it comes to tailing people for his investigations.  It is a nice touch from Klein to give us an main character who isn’t drop dead gorgeous, although his boyfriend certainly finds him attractive.  Mason is so well rounded a character that his looks become secondary to his intelligence and humor.  There is a wonderful surprise in this story right at the beginning and it sets the tone for the rest of this very enjoyable story. Plus I will always be a sucker for Asian rockers.

Glamour by Holly Rinna-White—When his little brother is kidnapped, Jason hires Eric, PI and long-time crush, to find him, terrified of what will happen if people learn his brother is unregistered psychic. But Jason’s own psychic abilities make him a target too for the same people who have kidnapped his brother.  And Eric’s own secrets threaten the investigation and time is running out for all involved.

I found this story to be one of the least successful of the anthology.  The author has set her characters in a world that needs more clarification as to  its inhabitants, their psychic abilities and the governments laws concerning its regulation of its peoples.  There are aliens, who may not be aliens at all, half humans, and their acceptance within human society that got confusing. It  appears that there is a government psychic registry which was never really explained and that added to the confusion about Jason’s brother.  I never felt connected to either the characters or the turmoil in their lives so I never got into the story.

The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey-The Virginia  Gentleman is a well known bank robber with a number of kills under his belt.  When he plans a robbery, he finds he needs 3 more people for his plan to succeed and he finds them in Wilton, Mr McCoy, and his young ward/man who appears to be in total fear of the man he is traveling with.   But nothing and no one is who they seem to be as one is an investigator on a case he is close to solving.  But first there is a gang to be cobbled together and a train to rob.

This story takes place in Wyoming in the 1800’s and contains some very neat twists, especially at the end.  There is also the subject of child abuse that is dealt with in a subtle and sensitive manner.  Historical fiction is a tough subject to tackle and Alison Bailey does a lovely job with her descriptions and details.

The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr-Esmour used to be a very good thief but now holds the title of Inquisitor to the King and lives in a palace.  He got there by means of a lover’s betrayal and penance bracelets he must wear that reveal the truth of the gilded cage he lives in.  When the youngest Prince informs him that they must set off to investigate a slavery operation that is kidnapping women and children within the kingdom, Esmour finds he has to work with the person who betrayed him, the former lover who used his love to put shackles on Esmour’s wrists, that would be the Prince himself.

The Royal Inquisitor is one of my top stories of the anthology.  Megan Derr once more effortlessly creates a fantasy world that never feels less than complete and peoples it with characters we immediately love and understand.  Esmour is typical Derr fantasy character.  He is layered, his past complicated, and his love life comes with it’s own facets of angst and abiding love.  Esmour is paired with Prince Teigh, aka Master Amabel the spice monger who Esmour fell in love with.  Teigh is more than a match for his former thief and has the secrets to prove it.  The story is less about the investigation than about bringing the former lovers back together, something Derr accomplishes to the reader’s total satisfaction.  Just a lovely story.

Regarding the Detective’s Companion by E.E. Ottoman-James is a private investigator with a disability.  A carriage ran him over as a boy and now he must use either his crutches or a special wheelchair to get about. Being a private investigator has brought him a mixed bag of cases including cases of dubious content.  So he is not surprised when he is hired to investigate a murder at the College for Natural and Computative Sciences. The prime suspect is Professor Hollingsworth, a respected scientist whose radical ideas have made him many enemies, including James’ client.  That client wants the Professor implicated in the murder whether he is guilty or not and James reluctantly takes the case because he needs the money.  He is hired by the Professor under the guise of being his research assistant but James is not prepared for what he finds, including the mutual attraction that springs up between them.

Ottoman gives us a richly detailed Steampunk world into which the author places this most complex of private detectives. James has a complicated back history that includes being raised by a priest after his mother gives him up because of his injuries.  James also has a somewhat fluid morality, he does what is necessary to live and if that means lying and tampering with the results of his findings on cases, well, then he will do that too.  He is highly intelligent and comes equipped with a marvel of a steam driven wheelchair.  I liked him immensely for his faults as well as his tenacity.  Professor Hollingsworth unfortunately doesn’t have as many layers as James but still is a wonderful match for him.  The problem here is that the length of the story gives the men, their building relationship and the solution to the murder enough space to accomplish all this story cries out for.  There are so many great elements here but in the end it all feels too rushed  and incomplete to be a satisfying tale.

The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter-Quenton works for his father’s agency and when three dead bodies are left on their doorstep, he decides to investigate the case for himself. But Quinn’s father wants Quinn to stay inside and tells him that there are more things involved here than he can explain to his son. It involves demons, and a curses manor and all things evil.  But the last body was a friend of his and Quinn figures with the help of his father’s assistant, Oz, he can track down the murderer and solve the mystery before more bodies pile up.

This is the only story of the anthology that is m/m/m. It revolves around Quinn, Oz and the mysterious Sebastian who live in a supernatural world of demons, witches, and the Church. Carter gives the reader several mysteries, including the fact that there is more to Quinn himself than even he knows.  The problem is that we don’t get enough of anything here to understand the characters, their relationships and the world they live in.  Especially rushed is the romantic relationship that builds between all three men.  One moment Quinn meets Sebastian and the next they are kissing on the way home.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  This is probably my least favorite story here.

Too Dangerous by Sasha L. Miller—Shi is still bitter over the breakup with his boyfriend who stormed off after an argument and never came back.  Shi was a professional and he knew which cases he could handle and which were too dangerous, something his ex Elis never believed.  Then a top member of the galactic governments comes to him with a special mission.  A top secret black ops group was murdered one by one until just one operative remained.  That man was the captive of the drug lord behind the murders.  His mission?  To go undercover, retrieve the missing operative and return home with him.  Not a job Shi wanted to take then he is given the last piece of information.  This missing man is his ex boyfriend.  Now Shi must accomplish what no other investigator has been able to do but the payoff is one he wants above all else.  Elis safe.

Miller takes the final private investigator of the anthology and lodges him precariously in space in the only science fiction story of the group.  I like the characters of Shi, he has a touch of the hard bitten private eye about him even though its now on a galactic level.  Shi and his ex lover are both men with questionable pasts and even more questionable talents, none of which seems to be communication.  Miller gives us a nifty little mission in space along with the gritty details of being a space grunt and the work they do.  The mission resolves itself a little too quickly and it ends in a realistic happy for now which suits our main characters more than a HEA would.   I liked her space age take on the private detective and  only wished the story had been a little longer to flesh out the mission and their back relationship.

One thing I have always enjoyed about anthologies is that I get to read stories by new authors as well as revisit the worlds created by people who work I value highly.  This has a bit of both here and while not all the stories are of the highest calibre, there is enough here in all types of settings to recommend you pick it up and enjoy the world of the private eye!

-lee K