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GIVEAWAY: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao // a bewitching villain protagonist + court intrigue

Welcome back, booklings! Gather round our fairy ring of maitake mushrooms -- it's time for a brand new giveaway!

Today, we're giving away a copy of Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao, about a young girl Xifeng who will stop at nothing to win the emperor's favour and become the empress ... this budding sorceress will even eat her enemies' hearts. What a chilling villain origin story!

The paperback of FOTL was released in September, and the sequel Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix will be released on November 6! So this is a great time to join the giveaway.

Once you've entered, you'll receive an email with details on how to redeem bonus entries—so go and check it now! Because you entered, right? riiiiiight?

This giveaway is kindly sponsored by Rae @ A New Look on Books:

Need help with your book manuscript? Look no further! Freelance editor, Raven Eckman, offers affordable beta-reading and developmental editing packages, and is open for business. Email rae.anewlookonbooks@gmail.com for her resume, package details, and editing samples. Check out https://www.anewlookonbooks.com for client testimonies and more. It's time to get that manuscript ready to query or publish.


Full blurb (buy links here):
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.

Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins — sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance.
This prize will be shipped by The Book Depository. If you live somewhere TBD doesn't ship and win this giveaway, I will find a substitute shipping method or a substitute prize.

This giveaway will run until December 10th, at which point I shall select a winner and have a new giveaway for everyone else. Yay!

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GIVEAWAY: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan // Asian-inspired fantasy with f/f romance

Welcome back, booklings! Gather round our fairy ring of maitake mushrooms -- it's time for a brand new giveaway!

Today, I'm giving away a preorder of Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, about a village girl Lei who is taken to serve in the Demon King's court and ends up in a forbidden romance.

"That's so nice of--" NO. I am giving this away because I still have to wait TWO WHOLE MONTHS to get my hands on a copy, and if I must suffer, I shall throw this book in your faces so you can ALL suffer with me. MUAHAHA. #nicestdevil

This giveaway is now closed. However, great news — join my latest giveaway here, for a Chinese-inspired fantasy that with a bewitching villain protagonist!


Once you've entered, you'll receive an email with details on how to redeem bonus entries—so go and check it now! Because you entered, right? riiiiiight?

Full blurb (buy links here):
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
This prize will be shipped by The Book Depository. If you live somewhere TBD doesn't ship and win this giveaway, I will find a substitute shipping method or a substitute prize.

This giveaway will run until October 15th, at which point I shall select a winner and have a new giveaway for everyone else. Yay!

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GIVEAWAY: Reflection (A Twisted Tale) by Elizabeth Lim // mulan in the underworld!

Welcome back, booklings! Gather round our fairy ring of maitake* mushrooms -- it's my birthdayyyyy on Tuesday and my first giveaway of the year!

*the best mushrooms, go away portobello.

This giveaway is now closed. However, great news — join my latest giveaway here, for a Chinese-inspired fantasy that with a bewitching villain protagonist!


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Today, I'm giving away an absolutely gorgeous hardcover of Reflection: A Twisted Tale, which is the story of Mulan if she went to the underworld to save Shang. Regular readers will know that I never stop talking about Mulan, and I'm so excited for this book!
Full blurb (buy links here):
What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?

When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang's great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang's spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise--or become King Yama's prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend. Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it's too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him--and be lost in the Underworld--forever?
This giveaway is open wherever The Book Depository or Wordery ships. Friends in other places, feel free to leave a comment below to suggest other retailers that work for you -- and in any case, I'll send the winner another bookish gift as a substitute if shipping is an issue.

This giveaway will run until May 15th, at which point I shall select a winner and have a new giveaway for everyone else. Yay!

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UPDATE: I have an agent!! + blog changes!

HELLO DENIZENS. Your resident writer has news to announce, gather around with hot chocolate and takeout ramen!

I'm so so so thrilled to announce that I have signed with the amazing Kiana Nguyen at Donald Maass Literary Agency!

A little about my manuscript:

When sixteen-year-old thief Mo stabs a runaway witch-princess, she’s cursed to wear her face. To break the curse, Mo braves the unfamiliar world of witchcraft where she must survive the assassin hunting the princess—and equally dangerous, her own desire for power.

Also featuring: demons, a curse, magical food, Chinese folklore, and a villain origin story buried somewhere.

Read weekly snippets here:



And check out our Twitter announcements, too!
For long-time readers, you might have missed me (don't tell me if you didn't) during my abrupt hiatus for the past few months.

To remedy this, I've decided to change up my blogging plan -- I shall be running bimonthly giveaways for Asian SFF on this blog. The first giveaway will be held in March!


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GIVEAWAY: The Devil Orders Takeout is Baaaaack!

HELLO BOOKLINGS.

Yes, I am indeed off hiatus! And you know, let's not mince words and get right to the fun stuff: I'm relaunching with this international giveaway.

This giveaway is now closed. However, great news — join my latest giveaway here, for a Chinese-inspired fantasy that with a bewitching villain protagonist!


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Even though I'm off hiatus, you might not see me post too much from this blog!

Don't worry, though, for the next month I've written up several guest posts that will pop up around the blookunity. (I'll list them on this post as they go live, so you'll see them when you come back to redeem more giveaway entries!)

Guest posts:

(Thanks so much to these lovely bloggers for helping out with my relaunch!)
As for after that ... I've got some special plans, which I'll share with my takeout army shortly. So join us for the latest updates on this blog's destiny *drumroll*

I'm going to keep this short — join that giveaway, and watch this space!
book merch giveaway: INT'L, 3 prize packs!

Say hello in the comments section! And leave all your blog links too, I'm so terribly behind on bloggish news.

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Snazzy Snippets: I HATH RETURNED

BLOOKUNITY I HAVE RETURNED FROM MY HIATUS. With more Mulan + Swan Lake snippets.

(I know I still haven't read all of your snippets last time, but I'll get to them ASAP. My bad, school is killing me.)

Snazzy Snippets is a bimonthly link-up I co-host with Emily @ Loony Literate. For those who weren't around last time:
It’s an opportunity for writers! Every two months, we post a prompt or question for you to share a snippet of fewer than 500 words. It’s designed to let you have fun, analyse your work on a smaller level, or just write something to join in.

If you’re not a writer, or aren’t working on anything, don’t go back up the rabbit hole just yet. Read everyone’s wonderful snippets on the linky!
Still have questions? Snazzy Snippets has its own page on the blog, with FAQs and more. Take a look!

Reminder that this isn't just for novels! The prompts were designed with novels in mind, but most are also applicable to short stories, poetry, anything.

Without further ado, the prompts (themed around the past):

A snippet where characters consider their backstory
or
A snippet featuring a child (i.e. a freebie for you YA and MG writers)
or
A  snippet from something you wrote more than 2 years ago

Remember to include your post URL in the linky! I'll be sure to visit ALL your snazzy snippets.

For those who are new, I'll be sharing snippets from my WIP, a Mulan + Swan Lake retelling. It includes monsters and magic, grave robbers, deaf assassin-witches, witchy rival-lover dynamics, and lots of desserts. I like to imagine it as VICIOUS meets THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

1. A snippet where characters consider their backstory

“Don’t lecture me, huangfu, I might actually remember your wisdom.”

Her father sighed and began brushing the sugar strands on the seat into the palm of his soft hands. “I tried to motivate a little girl who skinned her knee running from a street-performer’s fire-spell. Back then you were afraid of magic. Now I am.”

For half a year, her royal mother spent the two hours before midnight to read Mak the most ancient magical texts, and two hours after to let Mak touch the magic. One morning, instead of her usual nap, Mak snuck out and tried to burn down the vegetable garden. Instead she’d burned out and spent a week in a hospital bed. That was the first and only time her father raised his voice to her royal mother.

Out loud, all Mak said was, “A wonder you had the courage to marry huangmu.”

“Even you fear your royal mother. But you still have the heart to defy her. So why do you hide from Yi?”

Because Yi promised a windstorm in those eyes. Mak could only hold a candle to this sister, and she didn’t know if Yi would snuff it out or set her life ablaze. “My mother and I aren’t competing for the kingdom.”

“Yi doesn’t want to steal your kingdom. She wants to save it.”
This snippet features our second main character, Mak, who is the princess and heir to the empire. However, her position can

When an incredibly talented (and incredibly gorgeous) witch shows up, one can predict the conflict.

More about that in the next snippet. Of more interest here are:
  • Mak's incredibly fabulous parents. Let me tell you, those two have backstory. Not written down, I mean, but I just know.
  • Mak learns magic and instantly decides to burn stuff. A girl after my own heart.
Oh, and since I'm getting back into revising this (aiming for mid-July, once I have all school stuff out of the way), I'm now sharing my writing progress every week to anyone who wants to be email friends!

Read weekly snippets of MULAN + SWAN LAKE

I'll start sending them next week, so grab your takeout and hop on the train!

2. A snippet featuring a child

Mak returned his smile and stretched her legs outside the car. “I’ll look up your almanac and charm a pack of tea leaves.”

“Try not to mix it up with your poisons this time.” Her father frowned again and didn’t even protest when Mak took the box of dragonbeard candy. “And Mak—you’re right to be afraid of her. Take care, my daughter.”

“I think I still have the poison left from last time to deal with enemy sisters.” The cold garage air pricked goosebumps on her bare arms, and Mak hugged the candy box closer to her chest.

“And if she becomes your friend? Witchcraft is a fellowship, and you even call her sister.” Her father pressed the button for the shuttle lift to take them back to the palace. “Coastguard or not, you’re competing with her. When your friendship turns sour, it will ruin you. She will ruin you.”

Mak smiled a careful skull’s grin. If ruination came for her, she’d destroy it first. “Then she’d be making demons. What a traitor to the coastguard.”

“Mak,” her father called after her as she stalked out of the lift. “The Huntress is the kind of woman who is made from the fire. You’re a moth dancing in the flames.”
Since this IS a YA retelling, I could have chosen literally any snippet. But here, I think Mak is behaving like a child who thinks she can take care of herself. So basically every child ever.

I included copious amounts of food in this novel (thanks Cait) but I actually managed to make it a device to show character development (?!?!?). I won't reveal all, but suffice it to say Mak talks less about candy/cake and more about ... you'll see. *winks*

(There's also a high-flying all-rounded A+ girl who loves coffee. Three guesses why.)
Well ... two guesses left.
This snippet, though, shows just how melodramatic and unrealistic Mak can be. As I said: after my own heart.

3. A snippet from something I wrote more than 2 years ago

“They only remember Mulan fought a war. They forget she weaved at her window, that she asked the emperor for a horse to take her back, that when she returned she donned face paint and gowns. They remember Mulan tried to be a man, and forget when she was a woman.” — from planning notes of this WIP
For those of you who are unaware, I love retelling Mulan. This retelling is so very much about femininity. I looked through my musings back from when I translated the original ballad of Mulan and found this gem.

I don't think it needs further comment, really, except that this WIP is all about femininity and China and mis-identity.

Also witches. Don't forget the witches and demons. Sound cool? Join me as I ignore schoolwork and dash through revisions:

Yes, weekly snippets about witches and demons sound FABULOUS

Alternatively, join my takeout army and read the spinoff short story about a deaf assassin-witch conquering cities and critiquing tea!

You may have noticed, by the way, that I no longer use the title Witches Black & Silver to refer to this WIP. That's because I've thought of a new, better name — and it's nearly quoted in one of the snippets. Guessing time, blookunity!

Which is your favourite snippet? What do you think the WIP's new title is? And how is your own writing coming along?


Twitter-sized takeout:

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Snazzy Snippets: Writers, let's get vulnerable + spin-off from Mulan + Swan Lake retelling!

SOOOOO. How did everyone do with Camp NaNoWriMo? Or other April-y writerly pursuits? Snazzy Snippets is baaaack for writers to share their snippets!

Snazzy Snippets is a bimonthly link-up I co-host with Emily @ Loony Literate. For those who weren't around last time:
It’s an opportunity for writers! Every two months, we post a prompt or question for you to share a snippet of fewer than 500 words. It’s designed to let you have fun, analyse your work on a smaller level, or just write something to join in.

If you’re not a writer, or aren’t working on anything, don’t go back up the rabbit hole just yet. Read everyone’s wonderful snippets on the linky!
Still have questions? Snazzy Snippets has its own page on the blog, with FAQs and more. Take a look!

Reminder that this isn't just for novels! The prompts were designed with novels in mind, but most are also applicable to short stories, poetry, anything. I'm sharing a short story snippet myself this time!

Without further ado, the prompts:

A snippet that was difficult to write (define 'difficult' as you like!)
or
A snippet you had a lot of fun writing
or
A snippet you plan to delete/significantly revise

Remember to include your post URL in the linky! I'll be sure to visit ALL your snazzy snippets.

2. A snippet you had a lot of fun writing

Right now, the Huntress had idiots to kill.

She pointed a finger at the chair she’d been tied to. Orange-red flames exploded around it, then she sent it flying into two of the soldiers. One, two.

Then someone fired his rifle and knocked the breath out of the Huntress. The bullet turned the silver embroidery at her shoulder red.

The Huntress smiled. The magic burned, yes, but so did she.

Tossing aside the remains of her stick, she gathered the magic to her. A heat wave, buffeting her face, curling in her palms, roaring in her ears—

(secret: magic echoed in her ears, and the Huntress didn’t know what to make of it.)

Three four five were summarily tossed out the window.

The last one, with a colonel’s rank bars, gripped his knives too tightly.  He crouched between the Huntress and the Idiot, his lips pulled into a grim line.

The Huntress half-turned away to sip at the tea again. The colonel rushed in, his knives flashing, and the Huntress smashed the teacup on his head.

Waste of good porcelain, she thought mournfully as the tea swirled together with the blood. “I hate pu’er tea,” she growled.
This snippet is from murder with teacups or just teacups, a short story starring the Huntress, a non-POV major character in the Mulan + Swan Lake retelling. The Huntress is a deaf assassin-witch who conquers cities and critiques tea.

The entire short story came from the idea of a teacup as a murder weapon, and a snarky one-liner commenting on the tea afterwards. Yes, I wrote it after watching Spectre. teacups is pretty James-Bond-inspired as a whole, but more like fem!James Bond in China.

Hey, they took him to space once, it's not that preposterous.

Be the first* to read the short story with teacup murder

*I lie. Shout-out to Cait @ Paper Fury for looking over the first draft for me! You're the most benevolent blogging queen. (Also the only one.)

1. A snippet that was difficult to write [first draft warning, y'all]

Mo knelt by the body. Mo tugged off her white jade earrings, stained with a bit of blood that looked black in the light. Silver glinting at the throat. A locket, in the shape of a wing, rusted silver. Mo lifted the head to tug off the locket.

1. long fingers with silver nails, very pale lips, [more monochrome]

2. dying witch.

3. dying was not dead.

4. witch = danger and death [and so on].

5. it wasn’t murder if they were dying

Conclusion: Mo slipped her knife between the witch’s ribs.

Her hands were shaking when she took the knife back out. Shaking too much, in fact, to continue tonight. She rearranged the witch-corpse and dragged her clasped hands to cover the wound.

“Sorry,” she murmured, putting a hand over the clasped hands. She’d pray but what prayers could she say when no gods were listening anymore?
A little context: recently an episode of the 100 aired. I don't watch the show, but as I understand it, a lesbian character died and the media began to reconsider the death of LGBT+ characters. Which is fabulous and necessary.

But guess what this person did in the first chapter of her WIP.
After talking with some fabulous people and reading soooooo many Tumblr posts about the issue, I rethought this scene. And rethought it again. I seriously considered setting this WIP aside for later.

As it's one of my extracurricular activities, I do need to finish it to graduate. So I reframed the scene and tried again. There's more spoiler-y context to it,

Another interesting point is that in the initial concept, Mo was five vicious feet of murder and mayhem. Somehow she became a girl who thinks all the vicious things and does none of them. So far, I'm liking this change.

3. A snippet you plan to delete/significantly revise

the tiger’s paws were on her throat now, and she choked—

no stop air moonlight, moonlight, and every breath broke another bone monster run there was blood under her nails, blood pounding through her brain run where? home’s gone drowning from one of the eight oceans she carried in her ribcage you have found a new home, Yi, but the monsters


No, she didn’t faint. She just executed a strategic retreat with no backup plan.
I actually like this snippet very much. We don't get inside the Huntress' head a lot in the WIP, but as we can see in the short story, it's a rather conflicted place. More details, sadly, would be spoilers.

The actual thing that needs changing are the monsters. While they haven't changed that much from the original concept, I realise that they conform more closely in Chinese to the term ε¦–ζ€ͺ, which I feel demon is a more accurate translation of.

It's sad to lose the monsters-and-magic alliteration, though.

But I really do adore this snippet, especially the last line. It's so snarky and unlike the Huntress that we see in the WIP, who's been through a lot more. Enjoy it while you can, world:

Read the short story with witches, snark, and teacups instead of vodka martinis

Which is your favourite snippet? What's your favourite atypical murder weapon aside from teacups (and books)? And do I use too many italics?!? (hint: no such thing.)


Twitter-sized takeout: