An adventure of my life time!

Posts tagged ‘female traveler’

435. Interview by Bookglow

Describe Wings of a Flying Tiger in one sentence.
It is a heroic tale in which ordinary Chinese risked their lives to rescue and safeguard a downed American pilot in WWII in China.

What led you to write it?
Wings of a Flying Tiger is a work of fiction. But to me, a Chinese-American, it is also personal. I was born and raised in China. My mother and grandma had lived in Nanking and escaped from the city just days before the notorious Nanking Massacre when the Japanese soldiers slaughtered 300,000 innocent Chinese and raped 20,000 women in six weeks. Both my mother’s and father’s families fled to Chungking, where Japanese frequently bombed the wartime capital. My father told me about the repulsive smell of burning flesh, and as a young child, he had nightmares about the raids for several years. A good friend’s father drowned when Japanese attacked his boat; even unable to swim, he jumped into a river to avoid being blasted. A Japanese friend sincerely apologized for the atrocities her fellow countrymen had committed. She knew a former soldier who forced naked Chinese women to march with them to bring up their morale.
China was an isolated country while I was growing up. We were told that the Americans were “devils” and the American soldiers were crude and cowardly. I didn’t read or hear anything about the Flying Tigers until I came to the US as a graduate student. I was touched once I learned the truth. And the more I read, the more I was touched. I wanted to thank the Flying Tigers. What is a better way to show my gratitude than writing a book about them?
The story of the Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteer pilots who helped China fight Japan in WWII, has been a fascinating and enduring topic for over seventy years. Most of the books, though, were nonfiction written from the perspectives of the pilots. This novel is a rescue story from the points of view of both the airman and the Chinese who saved him.
As a Chinese, I’m thankful for the Flying Tigers’ bravery and sacrifice; without their help, the course of the Chinese history might have been changed, my family might not have survived, and I might not have existed.
As a U.S. citizen, I’m honored to write a book about the American heroes. It’s a privilege. A duty.

How long did it take to write?
It took me three months (fulltime) to finish the first draft, but it took me two more years to rewrite, again and again. I have no idea how many drafts. It was an ongoing process.
In those two years, I shared the book, chapter by chapter, with three writing groups. And a retired journalist volunteered to edit my manuscript. The final version is 25% longer than the first draft. But it was exciting to write “The End,” even if it was a rough draft.

Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
I like fiction writing, especially historical fiction. It allows me to create characters in a historical setting. I enjoy the process—learning the history and producing likable or hateful characters. I get the chance to create the people I’d like to meet in real life or love stories I long to have. I feel powerful and, at the same time, a great sense of responsibility. It’s thrilling and rewarding when all the pieces fall into place.

What book most influenced your life?
Many books influenced me at different stages of my life in different ways. If I have to pick one, it is a Chinese author, Jin Yong.
His novels belong to a genre called wuxia—martial arts and chivalry. His books have a widespread following in many Chinese-speaking countries and have been translated into many languages.
Unlike typical martial arts novels, Jin Yong places emphasis on patriotism and heroism. Many of his books are set in history when China was occupied or under the threat of occupation by foreign forces. He often includes unforgettable love stories, along with references to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, martial arts, music, and philosophical thoughts. In his novels, historical figures intermingle with fictional characters.
I admired the heroes he created; I was deeply moved by the incredible love stories he created; I learned some Chinese history and culture from reading his books. I hope that my books will provide those wonderful feelings to my readers.

Where do you write?
I can write anywhere! I love to travel, so I learned to write wherever I go. A few times I wrote when I was waiting for my flight or on the plane. I wrote inside the smelly, cheap hostels or motels on rainy days. When ideas came during hikes, I sat down by the side of the trails and jotted down those precious thoughts on a small notebook or my cell phone. Although I’m not picky about the place, I won’t purposely go to coffee shops to write, as a lot of people like to do. Never understood the allure.

Is there any one thing that especially frustrates you about the writing process?
Born and raised in China, I learned English as a foreign language in school. The learning was limited and sometimes even wrong. I came to the U.S. in my early twenties as a graduate student for a career in science.
My first English “teacher” in the U.S. was TV. I didn’t even have the concept of the commercial. I thought accidentally I touched the remote control or there was something wrong with the TV when a program suddenly jumped to unrelated subjects. In China, at the time, there were two stations, broadcasting from 6pm to 10pm. There were no commercials. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.
I’ve always loved reading, but creative writing was a dangerous career in China. As famous writers, my grandmother and aunt were wrongfully accused as counter-revolutionary Rightists. I had to choose science—a safer path. Fiction writing was only a faraway dream; writing it in English was beyond my wildest dream.
I learned fiction writing by reading lots of books. When I wrote my novels, I’m sure I spent more time than most people. I had to constantly check two dictionaries—Chinese to English and English to Chinese. Even so, no matter how hard I tried, I still made grammatical mistakes. That frustrated me the most. There were plenty of times that I laughed and scolded myself for being so stubborn to embark on this journey that seemed almost impossible to succeed. Nowadays, so many people write; everyone has an advantage over me.
I wish I’d grown up speaking English. I wish I’d had proper education or training. Since I can’t change the past, I just have to work harder.

Any advice for novice writers?
You mean I’m not a novice writer anymore? J Even having two novels, I still have mixed feelings—shyness, unease, excitement, pride—when I call myself an author.
Writing is hard. If you don’t have a burning desire, don’t do it. But if you are passionate about it, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.
Start today. Keep writing! Don’t give up. Persistence. Perseverance. Patience.
I’ll share several useful Chinese proverbs with you:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“Every step leaves its print.”
“If you work hard enough, you can grind even an iron rod down to a needle.”
Looking back, I’m amazed that I finished a novel (actually three—two have been accepted for publication; one isn’t good enough to share with anyone), by writing down one word after another. If I can do it, anyone can.

What’s next?
I’m working on a story based on my grandmother. She was the first Chinese woman to receive a master’s degree in the UK. Returning to China, she became a professor and a famous writer/playwright. Her play was in production for years. However, in 1957, she was wrongfully accused as a counter-revolutionary Rightist. During Cultural Revolution, she was fired from her job and ordered to sweep streets. Later, she was kicked out of the house at the university. In 1973, she died alone in a small village. As the political atmosphere changed in China, she was once again a celebrated writer/scholar. She was called one of the most gifted female playwrights in Writing Women in Modern China: An Anthology of Women’s Literature from the Early Twentieth Century published by Columbia University Press in 1998. There is a park opened in her name in her hometown.
My grandma’s life was a mix of triumphs and tragedies. I’ll try my best to write it down.


434. My Novel Is in the “Spotlight”

The sun is shining on me. 🙂 I’ve worked hard for years. I’ll enjoy the brief “spotlight.”


433. Wings of a Flying Tiger: Prologue

“Get the hell out of there, Jack. Now!” Danny Hardy barked into the radio.

Through the debris that erupted from the enemy plane he’d shot down, he gazed at a flaming aircraft emblazoned with tiger’s teeth. God, please, he silently prayed, hoping to see his wingman pop out of the airplane any second.

Danny hadn’t heard Jack’s voice on the radio since he’d been hit, but that didn’t stop him from calling out again: “Jack, bail out!”

Minutes ago he’d sent two Japanese aircraft spinning down to earth, but now Jack Longman’s plane was on fire. Two Zeros flanked him. He’d been hit from both sides. Fire blazed from the fuselage tank of his P-40 and roared into the cockpit. His airplane remained level for only a moment then plunged, nose down, toward the earth. Rolling back the canopy, Jack leaned left and tumbled out of the plane, which was now wreathed in smoke. When he opened his parachute, part of his body was on fire.

Danny let out a relieved breath when he saw Jack’s tall figure drop out of his airplane. One corner of his lips tilted upward. But before his smile had formed completely, to his horror, a Japanese fighter dropped on Jack, firing a heartless spray of bullets.

“No!” Danny cried. His heart thundered. Waves of panic spread throughout his body. It all had happened too fast. He wasn’t close enough to catch up with the Japanese. Helplessly, he watched as his best friend was strafed to death while strapped in his parachute.

“Jack!” A lump formed in the back of his throat and burned as Danny tried to choke back tears. He couldn’t let the enemy get away. He roared after the Japanese. His P-40 wasn’t as versatile as the enemy airplanes, but it was faster in a dive. Flying Tigers were trained to exploit that advantage. Within seconds, he caught up with one of the two fighters that had killed Jack. He brought his guns in line for a shot from the rear. Before the Japanese pilot realized his fate, Danny poured a salvo directly into his cockpit. Flames erupted from the Zero. A fireball spun earthbound.

This maneuver exposed Danny’s P-40 to the other Japanese fighter, who fired at him from the left. An explosion blasted his left wing, and the plane shook. At the same time, bullets riddled his cockpit. One of them grazed his scalp; others buried themselves in the instrument panel. Blood gushed from his forehead, covering his goggles and blocking his sight. Red spots spattered the white scarf around his neck.

Pulling his stick with his right hand, and lifting his left to wipe the blood off his goggles, he realized that his left arm and leg had been injured by shrapnel. In the midst of the white-knuckled fight, the excruciating pain hadn’t hit him until now.

Switching to his right hand, Danny pulled off his goggles. Once he could see, he checked his left wing. What he saw made his blood run cold. The explosion had left a hole two feet in diameter, halfway between the wingtip and the root. He was astonished the wing was still attached.

The shock didn’t last long. No time to waste. He was trained as a fighter pilot, and fighting was second nature.

Ignoring the throbbing pain, Danny hauled his P-40 into a tight turn. Advancing the throttle, he flew toward the enemy fighter who had shot at him. His engine roared. The force jammed him into his seat. Bullets ricocheted through his plane, flashing like firecrackers. But nothing deterred him. Swooping toward the fighter, he thumbed on the gun switch and opened fire. His tracers strafed the front of the Zero.

The Japanese seemed startled by the American pilot’s comeback. The bravery of the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, was well known by this time, the summer of 1942, but this Tiger was completely insane. The little airman flinched, yet held his course.

“If you don’t ram into me, I’m going to ram you!” Danny shouted, sweating beneath his sheepskin-lined jacket. He knew he shouldn’t do this—the Japanese pilots were disciplined flyers; they were not cowards. And Danny had no intention of dying. However, this Zero was the one that had shot Jack down. Revenge was the only thing on his mind. He had no plan to turn around.

Might as well take someone with me if my number is up…

Although he had lived only twenty-seven years, that was long enough to destroy twelve enemy airplanes. “Let’s make this one the thirteenth!” he shouted, his hand on the trigger and death in his eyes.

The two planes were so close that Danny could see the stone-faced Japanese pilot glaring at him. For what seemed like an eternity, they stared at each other. Time slowed as their planes closed in. It was a contest of wills.

A split-second before the crash, the wide-eyed Japanese pilot lost his nerve and tried to peel away from a head-on collision, a maneuver which left him vulnerable.

Danny jumped at the chance and blazed with everything he had. His hand never left the trigger. His tracers tore the Zero to pieces.

He watched the enemy plane turn into a fireball. It streamed black and white smoke, went into a rapid spin, and plummeted to Earth.

Danny had no time to celebrate his success. Hits that he’d sustained during the death match made his plane wobble like a drunkard. He had to abandon his P-40. As he prepared to jump, he glanced down at the exotic highlands unfolding below him. Yunnan Province of China was composed of magnificent mountains and sweeping plains. He was over a mountainous region carpeted by lush green trees. Somewhere beneath the shady canopy lay his best friend’s body, burned and riddled with Japanese bullets.

Suddenly, Danny changed his mind. By now, fewer and fewer of their aircraft remained intact. God knows we need every single one. Their air-worthy planes were already outnumbered—today four P-40s had had to fight two dozen Zeros. Now, with Jack’s death, two airplanes would be gone if he bailed out.

Danny felt exhausted. He grimaced. The injuries to his head, arm, and leg were nasty, but something else was wrong. Could it be the cold he’d come down with during the past few days? No matter how tired he was, Danny refused to let his plane go down. Not without a fight. Not until he’d tried everything he could. With one last look at his damaged left wing, he took a few deep breaths and forced himself to lean back against his seat. His hand clutched the stick in a death grip, and with what seemed like a superhuman effort, he fought to stabilize the aircraft.

He didn’t think about dying, he was too involved in keeping his P-40 in the air. Setting his course toward Kunming, Yunnan’s capital, he tried to level the plane. But it was so crippled, he could barely maintain control.

He had managed to fly for twenty or thirty minutes, but the mental pain of losing his best friend from childhood, the physical ache of his wounds, as well as that mysterious illness―whatever it was―all crashed in on him, and suddenly the aircraft would not respond to his commands. The stricken P-40 snapped into a spin, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t recover it.

Now he had no choice. With his last ounce of strength, he slid back the canopy. The wind screeched and plastered the skin over his face. He was barely conscious when he tumbled, head over heels, into space.

431. My First Novel: Wings of a Flying Tiger

This is my other adventure–publishing a novel!

It’s been a long and hard journey, but I did it—my first novel will be published soon by Open Books. Wings of a Flying Tiger is a historical fiction about rescue of an American pilot in WWII in China. Its sequel, Will of a Tiger, will be published in November.
Here is the website about the book, the author, and pre-order:…/wings-of-a-flying-tiger/order.html

Please help me to spread the word, my friends!


430. SA Trip (the end): Huerquehue National Park

Huerquehue National Park is located in the foothills of the Andes, about an hour east of Pucon, Chile. The park has a number of lakes and surrounded by several volcanos. I spent a whole day hiking there. It is very quiet and peaceful. The view didn’t take my breath away, but the tranquility did.

Well, this is a great ending to an incredible trip.

(The monkey puzzle tree or monkey tail tree–Araucaria araucana)


429. SA Trip (29): Bariloche to Pucon

(Fire-eyed diucon)


428. SA Trip (28): Bariloche

Situated in the foothills of the Andes, Barliloche is a touristy city in Argentina. With a number of lakes nearby, it is pretty. However, we only got to see a small part of the area. The day we were there, there was an Ironman Race, which blocked part of the city.

We were able to take a cable car to the top of the Otto Hill. It was cloudy. I couldn’t see anything. I sat in a 360° rotating cafeteria, waiting for the weather to change. Luckily I didn’t have to wait for too long. The clouds parted and the surrounding mountains, lakes and the islands in the lakes appeared. I stepped outside and took some pictures. The wind was so strong and cold that my hands became numb in a short time. Well, at least I saw part of Bariloche. 

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