Nine years? Finally! (Dynasty of Summer)

post by: Ticana Zhu

It was early in 2012 when I heart the song, “Princess of China” by Rihanna and Chris Martin. I liked the song, it wasn’t bad. Then, I watched the music video. My first reaction was to laugh. Okay, it entertained me. But somewhere beneath it all, I felt a little offended.

“Princess of China” on youtube

I read about the rationale behind their video, because I didn’t want to believe they’d set out to be offensive. I think somewhere I saw it was an homage to old kungfu movies. Okay, I’ll buy that. At least Asian actors were cast.

After my amusement and disgruntlement settled down, one phrase remained in my mind: “That’s not how a Princess of China is like in the old Chinese dramas I used to watch.”

It started out as a short story. Just something small to illustrate how I recalled regal woman in the Chinese dramas I’d watched. The “princesses” if I may. A response to the “Princess of China” music video.

Then, the story kept going. There was so much I wanted to honor, not only from my love of period dramas, but from aspects of my culture that I appreciate. (Yes, I am Chinese)

Over four hundred pages later, I finished Dynasty of Summer.

I’d finished 90% of the first draft back in 2012, but things kept popping up. Like, you know, marriage. And other life changes.

And for a few years, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to publish Dynasty of Summer. It’s such a far cry from the usual sci-fi/spiritual works I’m accustomed to.

Now, nine years later, I’m finally putting out Dynasty of Summer: Part One. It’s the first half of the book, set to release August 14th this year. Part Two will be released in 2022. If you’d like a chance to win a free copy, please sign up for our mailing list:

It’s an action-adventure novel, filled with twists and turns. Princess Summer is daughter to the Emperor’s fourth concubine during the Xia Dynasty. After stumbling upon her half-brother’s corpse, she finds herself faced with dangers she couldn’t begin to understand. As if those troubles weren’t enough, she’s ambushed while traveling to her betrothed’s kingdom. Summer was meant to live in luxury and safety with her new husband, but instead finds herself amongst bandits.

With the aid of her brother from a shared mother, Winter, and friend, Hanming, she navigates her way back home to Zhenxun. Yet once she returns, Summer discovers treachery had been living alongside her in the palace her entire life. It’s not long before she finds herself a target.

I hope you liked the synopsis! I set up an author ig account. It’s pretty fresh, so I’d appreciate it if you could give me a follow @ticanazhu

Thank you for reading!

I’m Alive

Post by Ticana Zhu

My apologies for the late post. With so many things occurring on a global scale, I struggled to organize my thoughts. I’m doing well, however. No real complaints. My shelter is secure—for now. I have plenty to eat and new pets. ​(But not eat the new pets XD)

Writing is not progressing, but I have found respite in the quite moments of the day. My novels are nearly complete. I merely feel they lack a certain finesse. Once I feel better about them, they’ll roll into production. It’s the quite moments that allow me to reflect deeply and identify what’s missing.

There’s not much else of interest to report. I did have a thought the other day. That our lives here on Earth are as fleeting as a glimmer on the crest of a wave. That our existence runs so much deeper. As deep as the ocean. I fear death, yes I do. But I can’t help but wonder what lies on the other side. It could be nothing. Then what would I worry about? It could be nightmares. Or, it could be finite peace. As in, a peace that never ends. I’m sure the truth is someplace in between.

Take care, everyone.

This is not a sponsored post.

The Moon

post by: Ticana Zhu
Starting in June 2020, we will be posting once per month, alternating between Ava Reiss and Ticana Zhu. Blog posts will appear the first Tuesday of the month.

It’s perhaps the moon that first started my interest in science-fiction. I thought asteroids were merely lost moons, without planets. That was where le Petit Prince resided. I wanted to live on “a moon” with a soft glow. A place near twilight when dreams are sweetest.

There’s always been something comforting about the moon. That it’s been there to see the birth of humanity, and will be there long after we’re gone. (Unless something unpredictably catastrophic occurs.)

A song I grew up listening to had a line that went something like, “The moon walks beside me.” It indeed feels like a companion at times. A un-judging presence offering at the very least a guiding light on the darkest of nights when streetlights falter. With the exception of the nights when it rests. Yet even on those dark nights when it renews itself, it gives us quarter to let out our darkest selves. If anything, to merely face our murkiness. Recognize, contend with, and accept a difficult truth.

At most, it offers up a feeling of freedom. Freedom in knowing that in comparison to its presence, we are nothing. Freedom to know that even if we amount to nothing, it will still continue to watch over us, un-judging. That we will all be forgotten, but it will not.

With the nihilistic concept translated to day-to-day, it allows us to take a breath, and not push so hard. Even if we can reincarnate, and our souls are eternal, the life we’re in now—in the state it’s in now—cannot last forever. Each person should take that to mean whatever they wish. I choose to see it as a reminder to live in the present. We never know when life can end.

With Covid-19 ravaging the planet and usual operations interrupted, we’re all granted a breather. I recognize this isn’t entirely a fair statement. Many are stressed out of their minds, trying to figure out how to pay the bills without employment. Those who are employed are adjusting to new methods. Whether it’s telecommuting, educating children from home, or added safety precautions. Yet, it’s undeniable that even if it’s not a “pause” button, the speed of things have certainly slowed.

I, for one, had been trying to use this time to push ahead. But the truth is, though some sectors are denying the effects of the Covid-19, it will run into roadblocks where it intersects with other industries. Because of this, I’ve been spinning in circles, moving little. It’d be frustrating.

It finally occurred to me to ease up on the gas pedal. To accept that things are outside my control. I simple poured myself a drink, and sat beneath the moon. Basking in its loving glow.

Wishing you all better times.

Inevitable Creativity Block

post by Ticana Zhu

These past few weeks have been rough. I’ve hit creativity block pretty badly. It shouldn’t be that surprising, because I have a bad habit of taking on too much. Yet, I’m the type of person who loves to live inside her head—a place where the stories never die. I thought the inspiration would keep going. I had hit a sweet drift in “the zone.”

However, tedious day-to-day things have carved away my time. It’s forced me to use my left brain. Things to deal with changes in insurance. Decisions around the house, and getting finances in order. Things that are far from creative. Little by little, I thought less and less about my stories. I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to coast in “the zone” of effortless imagination.

Lo and behold. My manuscript—about 80% done in its final edit—has just been sitting open on my computer.

Dynasty of Summer has by far the most positive feedback from beta readers. It’s about a princess who has accepted the role given to women in her society. She’s obedient, prepared to marry for a treaty between empires. Yet the turmoil surrounding her empire has her attacked on her journey to her betrothed. She finds herself amongst bandits, and presumed deceased by her father, the Emperor.

The princess (Summer) ends up finding power in her own right. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.

I started this novel in 2012. It kept getting interrupted by life… Getting married… buying a house… switching jobs… At one point, when I picked it back up, I had forgotten that I’d actually finished the first draft!

I keep telling myself I’ll push through. That this story will be done this year. I even set a June deadline and a September release date. I’m hoping things work out. The story hasn’t had the best track record.

I will say this. Unlike other stories I’ve written that evolves over time, forcing me to go back and make structural changes, this one has remained true to its core.

Now… if I can only get past this creativity block…

This is not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.


post by Ticana Zhu

I was like a tumbleweed.
A Rose of Jericho, blowing in the wind.
I’d land for a bit. Spread my leaves and turn green.
Until the water fades.
Then I’d wrap up my little self
and tumble, tumble away.

I wonder, then, if I could choose the wind?
So meticulous I’d be, which way to drift.
Until I’d remember. The beauty of tumbling.
Is freedom from choosing.

Yet one day I know, my roots will grow deep.
I’ll become vulnerable as I first flower.
Then I’ll grow, and grow. And grow.

Goodbye little tumbleweed.

Hello, to “?”

This is not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.

Prophetic Dreams

post by: Ticana Zhu

Last month I posted about prophetic dreams. I thought I’d clarify. I don’t know if indeed I have prophetic dreams. Some friends seem to believe I do, and at times so do I. To be honest, I can only recall four things that I dreamt about which became reality. Most are insignificant to my daily life.

  1. I dreamt I had a blowout text argument with someone. Happened a few days later.
  2. I dreamt about the girl someone I knew was going to marry. The world thought he was single, though he was actually secretly seeing someone. My description matched. They did get married. Still are.
  3. Since I was little, I kept dreaming about my immediate family living in a hotel. We ran it and it was in a warm place. Found out recently, my mother’s aunt (whom I didn’t know existed until recently) owned and ran a hotel in Tsingtao. This one’s kind of a stretch, because my immediate family doesn’t run it.
  4. The raven dream before my car accident. (see Karma)

I’m certain there are more “prophetic” dreams, but most of them are for things that aren’t incredibly significant. Perhaps someone buying a certain type of shampoo and there was a certain type of weather outside. You see why I don’t commit them to memory. But they’re fun when they pop up. (The raven one was NOT fun.)

When I have dreams that are “prophetic,” they usually carry a certain kind of tone. My dreams fall loosely into three categories. 

  1. Lucid dreams. I would say just less than half of my dreams are these.
  2. Beautiful, nonsensical adventures
  3. Have a “serious” tone. These are generally the prophetic ones.

I don’t have nightmares often enough to create a category for them. However, I did have a frighteningly serious dream of someone I care about falling to his death. It’s instances like these where I pray that I’m not a prophetic dreamer, that everything is just gibberish. This qualifies as a nightmare.

There is another serious dream where a specific person got furious with me on facebook over a careless post. This has yet to happen, though its tone was similar to the text feud dream that came to fruition.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that it’s a double-edged sword. It’s all fun and games if you see things that can indicate the future. However, if that future is not a positive one, sometimes we wished we didn’t know, or that the ability isn’t really an ability. 

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in December 3rd, for our next post, by Ava Reiss.


post by: Ticana Zhu

At the end of August, I got into a fender bender. Everyone walked away from it. I was upset but it was my dream car. I had waited fifteen years before I got it and I’d only owned it a year and a half. … And it hadn’t been an easy piece of property to take care of! From the windshield being cracked by a random freeway rock in the first four months, to rude strangers leaving dents. (Obviously, I didn’t see who did it). I did try to investigate, but the properties had no cameras. I don’t know if it had anything to do with its size. It’s a mid-sized SUV. Previously, I drove a little sports car, and didn’t have such issues. (maybe a tiny chip from a freeway rock, but a windshield kit fixed it right up!)

If I can help it, I park my new SUV a distance away from others at every chance. On top of that, I obsessively circle it every time I return to the parking lot. Or at the very least, a cursory glance for obvious disturbances.

On top of that, the summer before (2018), I nearly got rear-ended. I was stopped in traffic on a freeway on ramp. Another SUV came barreling towards me, unable to stop , though I could tell she was trying (we were on a downward slope). I saw it coming and swerved out of the way. I avoided the collision. The lady in that car and I exchanged a look. She appeared grateful. I’m pretty sure I looked pissed. But I didn’t let it fester. After all, nothing happened.

All this care… it only enhanced my annoyance when a minivan slammed into me while I was stopped in traffic.

Every now and then, I have a prophetic dream. The night before the accident, I dreamt of a raven. It perched quite close to me and cawed. When I tried to chase it away, it didn’t move. Unspooked. I waved an object at it, quite close, but not quite hitting it. It was unfazed. I began to get an eerie feeling. When I woke from the dream, I still had an off sensation. I googled the meaning of a raven dream. (Of course, this isn’t always the clearest method to understand something, but it was a start.) It didn’t make me feel better that one of the things it forewarned was death. Another was inevitable misfortune. But as I set about my day, the dream was brushed to the back of my mind.

A few hours later when I got rear-ended, the first words out of my mouth were: “That explains the raven.”

This was clearly misfortune.

Still, it could’ve been a lot worse. I’m grateful it’s not.

As the day continued, I began to wonder if I had somehow accrued bad karma. Perhaps I’d done something that led to this giant disappointment. I was vending for Space Tigers at the Oktoberfest. Many people brought their dogs to the event. At the end of the day, there was a beautiful, sweet german shepherd that came through. Her owner was friends with a neighboring vendor. By the end of the night, she’d taken a liking to me and slept on my feet. The owner talked to us for an hour or so and she gave me most of her attention.

I then found out her name was Karma.

I couldn’t help but smile. For a little while at least, I had good Karma. (pun intended)

Perhaps sometimes, even if you have prophetic dreams about it, an accident is just an accident. You can still have good karma.

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in November 5th, for our next post, by Ava Reiss.


post by: Ticana Zhu

A short update today. I’m neck deep in edits and as well as … you know… #life.

Dynasty of Summer is progressing well. I finally finished editing draft six. It feels like it’s almost there… Oh yeah, haha, renaming Colors of an Empire to Dynasty of Summer. The main character sees auras, hence the first title.

Loss of Orbit, I’m considering renaming it Falling from Orbit. Falling from Orbit was the original title I’d wanted to use, but didn’t want it to be too confusing with Ava Reiss’ Fall of Ima.

In reflection, I wanted to share why I chose the secondary protagonist’s name, Kayden Loganberry. (In Falling from Orbit)

When I was six, I went to this summer day care program because both my parents worked. The teachers took us around town. Swimming on Fridays, and bowling on Wednesdays (with bumpers). We even took field trips to farms, movies, and other education places. Of course the library was a weekly stop.

We’d bring a packed lunch and eat at picnic tables outside. There were loganberry bushes that often dropped their fruit. We were told not to eat them, but of course we did! Thus, loganberries are infused with my earliest memories of reading.

And of course… if you’ve read the synopsis of Falling from Orbit. You know Rosi and Kayden were headed to a “summer camp,” but instead went to Mars. With all the books I’ve read that summer, and the places they took me, I felt miles away from Earth. And I loved it!

It only felt appropriate to honor that period in my life with a character naming!

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in October 1st, for our next post, by Ava Reiss.

Tea with Rosi and Summer

Post by: Ticana Zhu

I’ve been having writer’s block. Like, really bad writer’s block. The usual tricks weren’t kicking it. I went for long walks, a few late night drives. I found new tunes that were inspirational. I ate healthy and took naps. I even picked up a few books, but my heart wasn’t into reading. This rarely happens. I knew I needed to step outside my comfort zone.

In trying to find ways to summon the imagination, I wondered what kids did. I considered that my characters were, in ways, imaginary friends. I thought about a typical tea party girls played with imaginary friends, and felt a spark of inspiration. Embarrassment quickly followed. How silly would I feel if I set out a cup of tea across from me? Wasn’t I too old for those games?

Yet, maybe I could do it all in my head. Maybe if imagined sitting down across my from character(s), I could interview them with a list of questions. It would allow me to consider their responses. Thus, helping me re-immerse into their worlds.

Below are two interviews- in my head- with Rose (Rosi) Tian and Princess Summer.

T= Ticana
R= Rosi
S= Summer

T: Good morning Rosi, how are you liking your tea?

R: It’s nice, but I prefer chicha morada. (smiles apologetically, and takes a sip)

T: I’m sorry, it’s all I have in my humble home. Tell me about where you live?

R: For the moment, I live in Shonds, on Mars. (her eyes gaze wistfully to the sky)

T: Is it cold there? How do you stay warm?

R: It’s not so bad. There are biodomes deep in the crust. The districts are interconnected and climate controlled. (Rosi’s eyes spark as she speaks endearingly)

T: You seem to love Mars a lot. How does it compare to Earth?

R: (eyes drooping) I miss Earth a lot. It’s hard for me to come back to visit. There’s lots of sad memories here.

T: Would you like to share?

R: No. (appears to shut down)

T: That’s okay. Why do you live on Mars?

R: (reserved) my job.

T: (waiting for Rosi to say more. When she doesn’t) What do you do?”

R: (Eyes cold) If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

T: (chills down my spine, giggling nervously) Well, I wouldn’t want that. Umm… well, I hear you’re well traveled. What are some of the places you’ve been, and where’s your favorite?

R: (easing) Jupiter and Palettia. There’s nothing more rejuvenating that Jupiter’s deep cloud hotsprings. There’s a chemical reaction that helps people who’ve been altered to survive extraterrestrial conditions. Palettia is a planet filled with good people and great times. I have many joyous memories. It’s like a second home to me.

T: Are these places I can visit?

R: (shaking her head) Not unless you get a body alteration, but you need a DNA test to confirm you’re viable for one. Only a small percentage of the Earth’s population is. Humans of Earth’s evolution have made them poorly equipped to leave the planet. Besides, Earth’s a silent planet. You can just leave without permission of the local systems’ government.

T: What’s a silent planet? What’s the local systems’ government.

R: A silent planet is one where the inhabitants wish for their descendants to be oblivious to life elsewhere. Haven’t you asked yourself why humanity on Earth can’t pinpoint their origin? It was by design. There’s many reasons why a culture would wish to do this. Earth in particular was done by peoples who wished to lead a simpler life. The local systems’ government is just that. They’re a republic made up of local solar systems.

T: You keep referencing humans of Earth. Are there human’s elsewhere?

R: (tender smile, as if pitying me) Of course. Humans are just one of many sentient species across the universe.

T: Universe? There’s life in other galaxies?

R: (nods curtly) definitely.

T: Well, what about-?

R: (a device on her wrist beeps, she interrupts) I need to go. (She pulls open my window and hops into my backyard. A craft appears from thin air and Rosi jumps in. Before I could comprehend what I just witnessed, she disappears into the clouds.)

T: Bye?

(Later that day)

T: (bowing deeply) welcome to my humble abode, Princess Summer.

S: (long robes cascading behind her, she fingers my book shelf) These are strange-looking scrolls.

T: They’re called books. Would her majesty like some tea?

S: (beaming sweetly) Jasmine please.

T: (pouring a cup) Would the Princess like a seat?

S: (stares at my kitchen chair with a back. glances at me questioningly)

T: (I make the motion to sit, but not lowering my bottom on the seat. It would be rude to sit before a royal)

S: (slides uncertainly into the chair) This… is a strange cup. (she pokes at the handle on my British-inspired tea cup.)

T: I understand times are different now. You’re from the Xia Dynasty, about four thousand years before mine. What do you do during your days?

S: (gingerly lifted the tea cup to her lips. She blows gently, and sips slowly. Delicately, she sets the cup back down). I practice calligraphy and spend time with my sisters. (her eyes glaze) They’ve married and moved away though.

T: Oh? How wonderful. Do you have a love interest?

S: (appears nervous) I do. But we’ve been separated. There are dangerous people around me.

T: (gulps) I’m sorry to hear. How are they dangerous?

S: (eyes deep and woeful) They wish to take the Empire from my father. I was supposed to marry into the family overseeing a troublesome territory. The union was supposed to ease the strain of political relationships. But… (her eyes cast to the side) My entourage was attacked during the journey. I can’t go home. If I do, it’ll be seen as a betrayal.

T: Is your love interest the man you were supposed to marry?

S: (cheeks deepen in color, appears ashamed). No. He is a friend of my brother’s. But I know I can never be with him. I know my father will try once again to resolve conflict. In doing so, he will need me to marry.

T: It must be difficult. How do you deal with it?

S: (lips smile, but eyes do not) I accept my fate. Personal happiness must be sacrificed for the greater good.

T: But what if you’re given a path that allows you to choose?

S: (eyes danced briefly with hope) I’ll say this to you because you are in a time not my own. If I should be given the choice to select my own destiny, I would take it, no matter how difficult the path. (the light leaves her eyes) But such is not the case for young women like me.

T: But… you never know…

S: It’s true, many things are uncertain. Perhaps I have yet to see what my fate brings. (smiles uneasily)

T: Is there anything else you’d like to share today?

S: Find a beautiful reason to live, and hold onto it. (sips her tea. Then pushes the saucer to me) It’s been a wonderful visit, but I’m afraid I must take leave. A princess has many duties.

T: Of course, thank you for your time.

S: (stands, and walks through a time portal in my wall)

This little dialogue practice helped me get in touch with the identities of my protagonists. Rosi Tian is the lead in Falling from Orbit, a sci-fi YA novel due out at the end of 2020. Princess Summer is the main character in Colors of an Empire, also due out at the end of 2020.

Falling from Orbit synopsis:
Rosi’s excited to learn that her mom’s old friend, Natasha is taking her to Space Camp in California.  When their plane lands in Antarctica instead, Rosi finds her fate in the hands of a questionable woman. Hours later, she is at a Space Camp, but on Mars. Unable to tell her parents the truth, Rosi must keep life on Mars a secret.

The years roll on with Rosi second-guessing Natasha at every turn. The woman gives incomplete answers to all her questions and tells Rosi about the legendary Phoenix respawning the universe. The girl’s doubts double as Natasha places her  in an elite squad, Division Seventeen. There Rosi makes new friends, many who comfort her when she’s forced to fake her death on Earth. As Rosi pieces together Natahsha’s shadowed past, she learns how their fates are tied.

Synopsis for Colors of an Empire:
Summer is daughter to the Emperor’s fourth concubine during the Xia Dynasty. After stumbling upon her half-brother’s corpse, she finds herself faced with dangers she couldn’t begin to understand. As if those troubles weren’t enough, she’s ambushed while traveling to her betrothed’s kingdom. Summer was meant to live in luxury and safety with her new husband, but instead finds herself amongst bandits.

With the aid of her brother from a shared mother, Winter, and friend, Hanming, she navigates her way back home to Zhenxun. Yet once she returns, Summer discovers treachery had been living alongside her in the palace her entire life. It’s not long before she finds herself a target.

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re all as excited as I am to have Rosi and Summer’s stories become available!

This is not a sponsored post. Tune in August 6th for our next post, by Ava Reiss.

“Osmanthus and Tea Roses”

post by: Ticana Zhu

Summers for me meant family reunions. More times than not, I’d spend nearly three months in China. For each phase of my childhood, a different scent painted the backdrop.

In my younger years, there was jasmine and gardenia. Little girls or old ladies from the country often sold blooms. Thin wire twisted around the stems, and you could wear them in your hair or clipped to your shirt. Sometimes, they were even tied to a string and you’d have a bracelet. Playful and innocent, just a whiff brings me back to my grandmother’s bedroom.

As I grew taller, and school got harder, chrysanthemum seeped into my world. I had nosebleeds a lot during tween years. My mother often made me consume mung bean soup and chrysanthemum tea. “To lower yang energy in the body.” I soon became a fan of the flower’s flavor. A bit bold, and acquired, but made me feel grown up. Plus, I loved playing with the petals in my glass. Yes, I took my tea in a tall glass. It felt elegant!

Osmanthus and tea roses became my world when I came of age. It was around the time I held adult discussions with my relatives. I’d long known the phrase, “吟诗作画.” It inspired my parents when they selected my Chinese name. Loosely translated, it means “Words of poetry paints.”

Because I was behaving more maturely, my grandfather let me borrow books from his library. My grandfather spoke fluent English. His library included British literary classics that his most of children and grandchildren couldn’t read. Many were from his years studying English at Beijing University. 

I recall one summer, he had smatterings of osmanthus around. His sun-drenched office seemed warm, despite dustiness… and once, a smooshed mouse my cousins and I found under a heavy volume! We screamed and ran away! To this day we couldn’t figure why he left it there!

With volumes tucked under arm, I’d walk back to my uncle and aunt’s where we stayed. The scent of guihua (osmanthus) lingered on pages as I read, curled on the couch. For a few weeks straight that summer, my aunt brought home tea roses from the market. She said they struck her fancy. She placed them in a tinted jar in the living room, catching just the right angle of light from the sun. Beside it, I poured over my grandfather’s books. The fragrances swirled around me as I awakened to my name. Like the books I read and the phrase that inspired my parents, I so wanted to paint with words.

I picked up a pen that summer and made a concerted effort at writing. I didn’t have a tale in mind. Instead, I described the world around me. I wanted to illustrate vivid images, like ancient poets. I wanted to record feelings, transcribed eloquently. 

I refused to show my works to anyone, feeling embarrassed. Innately, I knew my work wasn’t ready. Unbeknownst to me, in picking up our room, my mother stumbled upon a few pages. “You’re only describing colors, and the way things look,” she critiqued.

Fidgeting in awkwardness, I responded, “But paintings only show you what you see,” I alluded to 吟诗作画.

“Writing gives you more (to work with) than paint,” she explained.

My mother handed the pages back to me. For a few days, I thought about her words. Little me came up with a slew questions. What is a painting? Is it just a photograph before the age of photographs? Why do people take photographs? To remember something, right? Why remember? Because it made them feel good?

I asked what made me feel good that summer. It could have been the taste of the homemade dumplings, the feel of the cool stone moon gate in the garden, or the scent of thunderstorms. I realized in that moment, seeing was only one sense. To truly paint with words, one needed to immerse the reader in a world of senses.

I picked up a pen again. This time, before the ink hit the page, I closed my eyes. I imagined myself in a world of gray. A blank canvas. If I were to share my trip to China with my friends back home, how could I illustrate it?

I pictured the pathway between my grandparents and my uncle and aunts. The pebbly parts glistened playfully whenever it rained. Sometimes in a flash storm, water cascaded down steps like a miniature waterfall. The sound reminding of a softer Niagara Falls. What about taste? Should I include the sensational food only locals ate? I could share my favorite recipes. It then struck me it might not be something teens cared about. Then why should I write? For whom should I write?

At a loss on where to start, I squeezed my eyes harder. Clearing my thoughts, I tried to focus on all senses, except sight.

The cicadas buzzed in chorus… The empty page, smooth beneath my fingertips…

Yet… louder than all, the scent of osmanthus and tea roses.

Slowly, I lifted my eyes. A grin alighted my lips. I took a moment and enjoyed where I sat in the little room, etching it in golden memory. Breathing deep of lovely fragrances, I set my pen to page. I can’t say what I wrote was glorious, or even good at all. Yet, it allowed me to understand why I wrote. It was to record moments that could be easily forgotten in time.

Now, whenever I think of when I started to feel like a writer, the scent of osmanthus and tea roses come to mind. I’m sitting once more in my uncle and aunt’s living room, or my grandfather’s library. Even though the same buildings are gone… and my grandparents have passed. Reunions will always exist for me, because I’ve painted them vividly in my journals.

As Anais Nin wrote, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

Now, I’d like to share other experiences with the world. What new medley of senses could I illustrate, transporting the reader into new worlds?

Thank you for reading! Ticana Zhu will have a new post every third Tuesday of the month. Next post on, Ava Reiss (posting every first Tuesday) chats about her present writing project.
This is not a sponsored post.