Samantha is one of the first few Speculative Fiction writers in Singapore I’ve had the pleasure to meet. When Val (the bestie) said her cousin had written and published a fantasy series, I was intrigued. Fast forward about almost a decade later, and here she is - a stalwart in the local self-publishing scene.
Let’s see what she has to share about her works and our publishing scene, especially for speculative fiction.
A few years after “Blood on the Moon” was released, you re-released another edition - how was each release like and what were the differences you were happy to make?
The first edition was my virgin foray into self-publishing, and that was a significant milestone for me. The second edition was more of a return to my formative years spent with Gothic Lit with a contemporary take on it. So instead of letters and news articles à la Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I use instant message transcripts and emails to tell parts of the story. I would say that the incorporation of these different modes of narrative was the change I was most happy to make, because it added so much lovely texture to the story.
Alegria does fight to keep many things together - non-human relations, her relationship, her job, her life - how does she do it and how similar do you think the both of you are?
Hah, she does have a lot of moving elements in her life at the same time! I think in the first book, Alegria’s way of dealing with it was compartmentalizing, but it became apparent to Alegria, towards the end of Blood On The Moon, that this approach was not exactly the best. She definitely does a better job accepting the overlaps in all the (rapidly) moving elements in her life in Hunter’s Moon, and part of that is a result of her embracing the shadow sides of herself in Blood On The Moon. This is still going to be a big challenge for her moving forward, because there are always more moving parts.
As to how similar we both are … I think in terms of keeping many moving parts together, I was more like her when I started writing Blood On The Moon, and now I’m markedly less so.
Which one of your protagonists do you still want to have a barbecue with today and what would you talk about?
Oh, for sure I would want to have a barbecue with Joao — like literally, co-host a BBQ with the Prince of Sleet City. Not just because the meat would be perfectly seasoned (and also sponsored by the Sleet City Clan, muahahaha), but because … as I and my characters evolve in tandem, I feel at this point I have much more in common with Joao than I did when I wrote Blood On The Moon. I think we would have a pretty riveting discussion about impostor syndrome and the corrupting nature of power, and how one deals with both.
You have been to various countries and places for research and for some time to just write - Portugal, Indonesia, just to name a few - which have been your most fruitful and why?
That’s a tough choice! I would say that my first hike up to (very) high ground in Taman Negara, my solo sojourn to Koh Lipe in Thailand, my first ride on the northbound Malayan railway up to KL, which — I later learned — my great grandfather helped to engineer (the railway, not my journey, though he did sort of indirectly engineer that journey if you want to get super technical about it). Happily getting lost in the streets of Tokyo, and also my forays into the mayhem of Jakarta and Saigon, cobbled streets and the crisp, gentle Mediterranean winter for the first time … these were all very fruitful for me.
Why? Well, every place I go has something to teach me, and each place makes my stories richer. And these places stood out particularly in terms of the value of the gifts I received from my experiences there. The first railway ride on the northbound Malayan rail up to KL felt like I was time-travelling and there was a possible Narnia situation impending; Koh Lipe because every minute spent underwater hanging out with grumpy fish among the corals helped me to create the sense of the sublime in Hunter’s Moon, and Barcelona because it was there that I understood what it would be like to live in the Sleet City Clan, i.e., surrounded by really good-looking men all the time. So. Fun. (Non-facetious reason: it was there that I was inspired to start using ley lines in the plot.)
If you had to rewrite Alegria such that she didn’t meet any Daywalkers, what other communities would you have her meet and why?
I would really like her to spend more time with Southeast Asian Supes, like apsara, werecobras, and rainforest dryads. Because I think a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction focuses way too much on mythological and supernatural creatures in Western folklore, while this rich (and often terrifying) tapestry of Southeast Asian myths and spooks is largely unknown to international fans of these genres. Possibly she could also meet zombies, but sort of advocate for them as they have very few legal rights (or rights of any kind, really). I’m not ruling either of these out as smaller plot threads!
You have come to a point where you have to choose an animal partner for life - which one of your were-animals would you want by your side and why?
I would like a wereotter by my side for life. Because they move really fast in the water, and they’re fantastic at catching fish — and I am at my happiest when in any body of water and while eating sashimi (both at the same time would be so frakkin awesome). As far as lycanthropes go, wereotters are freakishly strong, making them also very handy with gardening and heavy lifting. Romance, thy name is … not Samantha. :P
So what’s next for you?
There’s the next book in The Daywalker Chronicles to write, titled Dark Moon Rising. Before that, I also have a surreal and absurdist comedy + sci-fi(ish) fiction project that will be released by the end of the year, titled Molly and Manuel Find Earth-42. It features parallel universes and sentient plush creatures, including a mercenary plush lobster.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
Yippee! About me TLDR: author of The Daywalker Chronicles, developmental editor, Cylon, and accidental sociopolitical commentator. Always happy to talk shop with makers of stories and other cool things/ discuss world-building of many sorts. Ping me on Twitter here (@mysterybunny) or find out more about The Daywalker Chronicles here.
That being said, that’s all for July! Stay tuned in August for another conversation with another regional storyteller - until then!
Yes, the Table of Contents is out and we’re at our last dregs of editing before we put this issue together!
To give you just a bit of background, this issue’s theme is: This is a Test - an issue that talks about stories where their characters embrace failure, coming out of it for better or for worse.
While I cannot confirm its release date for sale, Pulp Toast / Roti Bakar #4 will most likely be open for preorder by Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention.
For now, get a glimpse of our final list of stories:
Preorder updates will be up on our Facebook page once we send this issue to the printers. In the meantime, take a look at our current issues on www.pulptoast.com or on our Instagram.
I’ll be honest - I’ve been waiting for this challenge for a long time, so let’s just get right to it, shall we?
Prompts: Inner Demons, A failed delivery
World / Fandom: Inception
The Mind’s Eye
Karine looked down from the helicopter with bated breath. The chopper pulsed, its beat banging against the back of her head as they flew across the tree canopies, finally coming to a clearing in the middle of the forest.
“There,” her partner, Dr. Kang, pointed at a building in the middle of the clearing, “That’s where you need to go.”
“Don’t you mean, ‘we’?” Karine yelled over the chopper.
The look Dr. Kang gave Karine reminded her of her purpose for this mission. Making the final checks on their parachutes, both of them waited for the signal on their trackers to turn on, before loosening their grip and plunging into the forest nearby.
Landing among the trees, the pair recovered quickly, hiding in the shadows, sneaking their way to the building.
“There are guards,” Karine breathed, her hands shaking.
“And we’ll handle them,” Dr. Kang replied, bringing the walkie-talkie to her mouth, “Control, help us out here.”
Karine didn’t hear anything apart from a slight crackle coming from the speakers.
From where it was previously, the chopper swooped closer to where the pair landed, releasing a clip of bullets onto another forested area on the other side of the land. Yells ensued beyond the barrier of trees, followed by the sound of propellers whizzing away towards a far flung direction. Dr. Kang hazarded a peek from the shadows.
“All clear,” she gestured towards Karine.
Despite their chopper’s rather effective distraction, both of them kept to the walls of this compound, armed and ready for conflict. There were no gates or fences separating this building from its surroundings, and they had to be ready.
“Where’s it?” Dr. Kang asked.
“What are you looking for?!”
“We’ve been working up to this stage for so long, you’re doing a lot better than our previous attempts,” Dr. Kang said, “What are you looking for?!”
Karine darted her eyes to the top of the building.
“Good,” Dr. Kang said, “I’ll cover you.”
The building was an older, rectangular building reminiscent of army barracks from the 1930s. Serviced only by staircases leading up on either side of the place. Back and shoulders against the textured concrete, Dr. Kang took the led, armed and ready for any of the skeleton crew still patrolling the area.
“You know which room you need to head to,” she briefed Karine.
Both of them nodded, and the two sped up, Kang first.
When they reached the second floor, Karine stopped and turned left, “Here.”
Counting the doors, Karine finally stopped in front of the fifth closed door. She put her palm on the surface, then to the handle.
It clicked. Karine looked at Dr. Kang with a smile.
Dr. Kang nodded.
Pushing the door ajar, Dr. Kang’s head jerked up at the sound of a pair of footsteps speeding up from behind Karine. She pushed her partner through the door.
“Go! Go on!” Dr. Kang yelled to Karine. Panicked, Karine bursts through the room.
She cocked the gun she had, and fired twice.
The two bullets found their marks on each masked man’s shoulders, sending them back a few steps and Dr. Kang forward the same few. As she got closer, however, she started to recognize their masked silhouettes.
Firing a couple of times, the bullets missed their mark, the two masked men coming closer and planting themselves as a barrier between Dr. Kang and her. Determined to push through, Dr. Kang dove through the tiniest crack between the two, only to be grabbed and pushed against the building’s railings.
“We’re kind of disappointed,” the two men said, now flanking her on each side, “We were hoping you’d be dreaming a little bigger.”
The last thing she felt was her body lifted over the railing, and off the ledge.
She woke up to see Karine, her patient, looking over her, furrowed brows and concerned eyes. Tables turned, she thought, waving Karine away and propping herself up on the chaise lounge.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Dr. Kang breathed, “I think that’s it for today, you can set your next appointment with Yasha outside… I’ll see you then…”
Backing up a little, grabbing her handbag a little too quickly, Karine nodded and sped out the door.
At the last dregs of her recovery, Wynne Kang opened a drawer near her chaise, extracting an EpiPen. With still-trembling hands, she clicked and injected its contents into her shoulder, before slumping back into the lounge.
“Thank you all for coming to this lecture, I’ll be taking questions now,” Wynne smiled at the end of her speech.
“What is your view on using your proposed bio-technology for purposes not as altruistic as what you’re doing now?” a familiar voice sounded from the corner, one of the same voices from the treatment scape.
Catching the asker at the corner of her eye, she smirked.
“I see your taste hasn’t changed,” Wynne said, dropping Eames at the lobby of the Carlton.
“How much of Arthur rubbed off you the last we saw you?”
She shrugged and smiled.
“Fancy a trip?” he gestured to the lift.
“The compound’s not a toy,” she replied. He shrugged, then entered the lift. She followed.
There was shuffling behind the door the two of them stopped in front of. Wynne’s brows furrowed. Eames smirked, and unlocked the door.
“Okay, everything’s ready, let me know when she…”
Arthur, in his familiar vest and shirt, stopped just as he finally laid his eyes on Wynne.
“Arthur,” she greeted him.
She walked past the two men, leaving them in the front lobby. Past the open bathroom, she leaned over the living area and saw the familiar silver case, clipped close.
On the other side of the room, Arthur and Eames kept their eyes on her - both softened.
“I called Dom for this,” she said.
“Dom’s retired,” Arthur shifted his weight, “So it’s us or nothing at all.”
Wynne paused, looking at her previous partners when she first started in the business.
“Alright then,” Wynne said, reaching into her bag and extracted a spray bottle the size of a perfume sampler, “Then we’re going under my way.”
This was probably one of my most fun pieces to write, and one of the pieces I’ll most likely expand on. Stay tuned next month for another writing challenge!
My first encounter with Kane was during my friend’s graduation from Ngee Ann Poly - he was graduating as one of the top students in Film, Sound, and Video the year after I graduated from Mass Communications. Fast forward to 2014, and I see him waiting outside the interview room for the National Arts Council’s Mentorship Access Project.
Fast forward again, and here we are - releasing stories and talking about Arts Management, especially in the storytelling and publishing scene. Today, Kane and I talk about his work in various mediums, Maxine Starr, and turning our creative goals into reality.
Let’s get the technicalities out of the way first - Film, Prose, Podcasting - what are the main differences when you write for these mediums and how did you get into these areas?
Writing and developing content for all three are very different! For me, my first love has always been writing. But as I got older, I realised there are so many other mediums to spread ideas and tell stories. So I experimented and just exposed myself to everything.
I firmly believe in being a dreamer - and a practitioner. To get in there. To get your hands dirty. What have you got to lose?! So today, I'm a scriptwriter by profession but also a content creator and social-scientist (self-proclaimed). I'm personally fascinated by how stories can be told in different mediums, using new technologies, apps, and platforms. And at the same time, how can they engage people to read, take action or feel a certain way.
I'm fine with writing TV scripts and film, but realised many years ago that if it doesn't work, or I don't have the money to execute it, there's nothing stopping the idea from being a podcast series, short story, blog article or Instagram post. I feel many writers forget this - if it's a film they only want it to be a film. Then it gets stuck when they can't make it happen. If the goal is storytelling, then any medium should work for you. Just do your research into what makes each medium work first!
When I met you at our Mentorship Access Project, your project then was the first book of the Maxine Starr series. Since then, it has flourished - commendation by Mike Mingo, InkShares - will we be seeing Maxine soon, or where is she now?
That's right! YA-Sci-fi novel, Maxine Starr: Last Vanguard of the Zodiac, is probably my first big novel that I aim to release this year. I ran a crowdfunding initiative a while back on Inkshares, but ultimately, I think it wasn't as effective as I wanted it to be. Although the book cover was amazing - done by a mutual friend of ours called AK - I needed more experience. I rushed the campaign.
I realise that now, and I think in the age of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you really need to develop your own platform first before trying to get people to support your projects. So right now, that's my focus. I'm editing the manuscript with an editor and getting it in tip-top condition. Thereafter I will probably self-publish, as well as develop the next 2 books.
At the same time, you balance creation with your blog and podcast - what are your biggest motivations and strategies to maintaining a sustainable creative life?
Many really inspire me. One is Gary Vaynerchuk - he's a known entrepreneur, social media expert and writer. I really believe in his philosophy that if you want to lead a creative life and achieve your dreams - JUST GET STARTED. Don't talk. Just make stuff. Get it out there. Get feedback. You have time. Just create, experiment, adjust, and find your niche. Another person that inspires me is marketer and writer, Seth Godin. I love his daily email posts, and I think his mindset about what "creative" means, has changed me in profound ways.
That's why I decided to start my own blog and platforms. It's not for money. It's to spread ideas - as he so aptly puts it. If you're not spreading ideas, you are static and no-one will hear what you have to say. In fact, no-one cares. No-one owes you their attention. So earn it by creating great content that inspires and resonates with people. That's all.
Start with the audience first - what do they need? What do you have that can provide a solution? For me, that meant creating a unique platform where I talk about storytelling, film, media, but in a way I felt hasn't been done before. I just started, but I'm happy that I'm seeing results, such as my article on 'What Singaporean filmmakers can learn from A Quiet Place' and 'Lessons that Thanos can teach Singapore Creatives'. The rest for me is just time management and making sure I have multiple projects in various states of production. It makes me feel good to start, edit, and complete things every month. It's tough, but I only really write 1 hour a day in between work, family, and taking care of a baby... haha.
Going back to Maxine Starr, what was the inspiration to her and her world?
For me, the book was inspired by me playing around as a child. It was my sandbox world. I used to act out and pretend to be some of the aliens in the book, going on interstellar adventures. Later, it was inspired by my migratory experiences from the UK to Singapore, as well as astrology and cosmology. I've just always been interested in it, and I wanted to explore it in an action-packed, fun and adventure-styled story. From there, I developed the story over the course of nearly 10 years. A long time!
Give us a glimpse of the Zodiac Vanguard - which of the signs are you most likely to fit into and why?
Haha - well I'm Aries. I've always felt that if being "Aries" was an alien species, that race would have the ability to create regal-looking horns. Simple, I know, but cool! The species itself, in the book, is pretty technologically advanced, a firm believer in "the Gods will", and lives on an ever-shifting homeworld (eg. the trees are glass-like, the seasons change every week, and the starships are living, breathing behemoths with wings). So that's what I put in the book. But like some of the Arien characters in the book, they are also deeply emotional, sometimes stoic, and thinkers. Not good thinkers...they just think a lot. I think that sums me up.
Without too much of a spoiler, what can we expect next from your many creative avenues?
More podcasts, an R-rated adult-targeted novel about superheroes in Singapore, short stories, blog articles, and a gamer-themed sci-fi TV show called Glitch! that will be out on Toggle on Nov 1st!
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I'm a writer, storyteller and content creator that just believes in leading a creative, passionate life. I believe in failing, but failing forward, getting up, and making your dreams a reality no matter what. You can find out more on my website www.kanewholder.com, FB page, and Instagram. Cheers!
And that’s it for this month! Stay tuned in July for another Stories with their Tellers conversation with another creator.
Stories have many different functions or roles in our lives - lessons, marketing, escapism. For S. Mickey Lin, Uncanny Valley is the fictional culmination of his observations, experiences, and insights to the intriguing, different, and possibly disturbing aspects of Singapore or people in general… with an urban, fantastical twist.
Finally having a chance to go through this collection, I was easily captivated (and at times, humbled) by the relatable, yet quirky stories coming to life on the pages. If anything, Uncanny Valley reminds us that Art is meant to provoke, to disturb, and after all the “weird feelings” subside, inspire reflection and education.
The Apex opens the anthology strong with a man who can speak to the wind. Seeing Singapore from his vantage point, construction worker Jian Guo is the personification of the helpless wise - the ones who know better but are ignored over the flashy confidence of the powerful. The Mentor speaks of a thought most do not even consider voicing in fear of looking petty or being disregarded. When youth and talent outshine the experienced, even the most patient can lose their cool.
However, my favourite story had to be Moral Clarity in Small Numbers. Never have I been so shaken with at how a story can reflect a personal experience of mine so clearly. The change in tone from the story’s “antagonist” when the protagonist expresses a view against an unwritten “straight and narrow” is so sharp, be careful of the phantom stabs to the heart while you flip the pages.
Before we go though, Sharks of Singapore gets a quick bonus mention - mostly because it was in Pulp Toast #2 too. Hehe. - Imagine yourself trying to do the right thing, stopping a con man from cheating the elderly of their retirement funds. Now imagine yourself as the con man - what made you do it?
Definitely not for fun and giggles, Uncanny Valley will keep you entertained and thinking. Hopefully, we will be able to take that step to and look at others complexly. Perhaps then, we might have a chance to understand our humanity better.
Uncanny Valley is written by S. Mickey Lin and published by Marshall Cavendish. For more information on the collection or to get a copy yourself, click here.
Another month, another writing challenge. This time, it’s endings! Again, I get my prompts and challenges from NIka Harper’s Wordplay series on the Geek & Sundry Vlogs. It has been up for a while, but you can still check out these challenges for yourself here.
Prompts: Alarm Clock that Won’t Stop Ringing, The Joy of Watching the Sunrise, The End?
Wai took her time to inhale the night breeze.
Leaning over the edge of the balcony railing, she closed her eyes and let the wind from the sea crashing just below them play with her hair. Next to her, Chong stood, his hand ready to hold hers as she reached out for him.
“How long?” she asked.
“About now,” he replied.
While the dark indigo of the horizon started blending into a lavender blue, the same sky echoed with a trumpet orchestra - One of Wai’s favourite songs, Ride of the Valkyries. Chong tightened his grip around Wai’s fingers.
“Nervous?” she asked.
Chong smiled, before turning his gaze back to the lightening horizon.
“We haven’t gone this far before,” he replied.
Wai shuffled closer, letting Chong put his arm around her.
And as the horizon shifted colour at those few inches, the couple leaned against each other, finally watching the lavender sky gradient to a warm orange, brightening with the crescendo of the orchestra in the air.
Because who knew when they’ll be back again, at least on this layer.
Her eyelids protested against the jarring sound coming from her night stand, head pounding, throat parched. Like she remembered, Wai woke up, arms in the same way Chong and her left them on that balcony.
“How long, this time?” Chong croaked.
Wai checked her watch, the one she used from the first time.
“Real world time, or the time from that parallel?”
So that’s it from me for this first half of 2018’s worth of writing challenges. Thank you all for reading once again and see you all next month!
The Role-Playing Games (RPG) market has been on the incline over the past couple of years - thanks to series like Tabletop, Titansgrave, and Critical Role, the spotlight has returned to the gamers who sit around a table, living out the fantastical lives of their created characters.
Let's start from the top - what triggered the creation of Roleplayers, one of your more prominent titles?
It is all sorts of reasons combined. Firstly, I wanted to make a comic that was interesting to draw. A comic about roleplay gamers had many themes and genres that I could play with. I could draw slice-of-life scenes as well as fantastical scenes. Secondly, I was also into tabletop RPG and board games then so it helped that I was drawing something I was excited about. Thirdly, there isn't much comic content revolving around tabletop RPG so I decided to make a comic about roleplaying and based it on a premise that I myself would've wanted to read - The Big Bang Theory meets Dungeons and Dragons. Whether I had succeeded in capturing or conveying my original vision or not is another discussion.
Roleplayers was released before a surge in popularity of Tabletop games and RPGs in Singapore - How was reception different in the later issues when they were released during a time where analog gaming started to pick up again?
I was not aware that there was a surge in popularity for tabletop gaming between the production and release of Roleplayers. I knew the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out before Roleplayers but I didn't think many people in Singapore would pick up the game.I still don't think tabletop gaming is popular in Singapore today. I may be wrong and ignorant. Overall, the sales of the title is actually pretty consistent since the release of the first issue. This is especially encouraging for me to learn that units are moving despite a 2 year hiatus for the title with little to no promotion in the 2nd and 3rd year of Irrational Comics. The consistency in sales is a major reason why I decided to work on the title again. In fact, I've just completed issue 7 of the series as of this writing.
After a story arc with Roleplayers, you decided to create Kitsune (another Irrational Comics title) - what prompted the shift?
To be more accurate, after a story arc with Roleplayers, I decided to create two titles, Kitsune: Assassin For Hire and Socute the Corgi, primarily to experiment and test the market/platforms that I am selling my digital comics on. With one title, I would have no other statistics to compare in order to learn how well Roleplayers is actually doing or if there was really a market for the title. I wanted to test what works and what doesn't. Kitsune: Assassin For Hire is a comic for an adult audience while Socute the Corgi is family friendly. Two extremes of the target audience spectrum. I made 5 issues of each title over the course of the year and analysed the results. Roleplayers went on hiatus for me to do this.
I've stopped production of Socute the Corgi and focused on Kitsune: Assassin For Hire to confirm the results. The reality of the situation is that sales will always dictate whether a series survives or not. It costs time and money to make a comic series. If a series isn't selling, there is no way I can keep it in production. Also, it is important for me to state that although a family-friendly kids title such as Socute the Corgi did not work for me, that does not mean family-friendly titles don't sell. There are plenty of family-friendly titles such as Kazu Kibushi's Amulet and Raina Telgemeier's Drama that make hugely wonderful sales.
Now, I am working on Roleplayers and Kitsune: Assassin For Hire.
Roleplayers and Kitsune are rather different comics under Irrational Comics - what were your favourite and most challenging aspects of both?
My favorite aspect of both Roleplayers and Kitsune: Assassin For Hire is drawing the sexy girls! The most challenging aspect for both comics is in the storytelling. It is always a negotiation between sacrificing dynamism for clarity, exposition for fun moments, navigating between plot points, selecting and trimming scenes etc in order to tell a compelling yet visually arresting story. Visual storytelling, the craft of it, is so frustrating but so fulfilling at the same time. I just love it so much.
What would you rather have happen to you? A revenge-filled Dungeon Master or a friendly kill done out of the player's spite?
A friendly kill done out of player's spite. You never asked why so I'm not explaining. (Jo’s Note: DARNIT!)
If anything, what's your go-to race, class, and land in the realms of RPG?
Anything new we can expect from you soon?
Issue 7 of Roleplayers and Issue 11 of Kitsune: Assassin For Hire.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I am Derek Chua. I make comics. You can check them out here: https://irrationalcomics.wordpress.com/comics/. If you want need advice on, or want to talk about the craft of making comics, you can reach me at email@example.com.
Thank you all once again for coming down to take a look. Stay tuned for more talks with storytellers from the APAC region, and do check out Derek’s comics here!
When I first got into the indie publishing / storytelling scene in Singapore, I was bombarded with many new comic titles - Roleplayers (by Derek Chua), Dimsum Warriors (by Colin Goh and Woo YenYen), Charsiew Space series (by Benjamin Chee), just to name a few.
This title, however, got me when I was helping out at one of the first few sales tables during a 24-Hour Comics Day session at LASALLE.
What drew me to this comic was the notion that there was no dialogue throughout the entire book. Good comics often balanced the use of images, colours, characters, settings, and dialogue to tell the full story, so I was intrigued.
The first aspect I noticed was how immersive the comic felt - the details, the clean art, and the panelling all played a part in giving you a glimpse of how the setting was like. After all, the artist had no choice but to show, you can’t “tell the story” with words this time.
With that said, S!LENCE lets you dive into the world Tanky has created - a science fiction, survivalist landscape - with the cover’s character as your guide. A simple story that sets you up with a twist or two, what the artist has done in this case was to keep you flipping to the next page, while letting your imagination fill in the gaps that would otherwise be indicated through text.
Tanky’s S!LENCE is just one of his many works in this particular world, do give this a read if you ever have the chance to purchase any of his works.
Note: S!LENCE is read manga style - the front cover flips right instead of left.
Based in Singapore, Tanky is an illustrator and comic artist. Check out more of his works here.
This is out a little late, mostly thanks to some new stresses from the day job. Nonetheless, we’re pushing on! This month’s writing challenge - ghost stories. Not a huge fan of in-your-face horror, which seems to be the go-to whenever someone mentions ‘ghosts stories’, but let’s see how this goes.
Also, this short piece is for my good friends - Lyn and Raven - thank you for inspiring this story. LOL.
Prompts: Lilies to say goodbye, a needed conversation
Welcome, welcome! You must be here for the open house. You’re five minutes early, so why don’t you have a seat by the flowers while we get you come water.
Allow me to introduce our team - I’m Lily, and my partner here, is Lilly - yes, two Ls. People keep getting us confused, so that’s why she doesn’t talk to interested buyers. But not to worry, you are in safe hands here. Shall we start?
Now, what we have here is a newly-renovated, three-storey, semi-detached unit with a modern facade. The owners are rather keen to sell this place off, something along the lines of needing to find themselves after working to death in the city. Nevertheless, you’ll find that this property will be well worth your money.
This place boasts seven separate rooms, including the balcony with an open bar. Starting here, past the vast living area, you can see the outdoor patio and pool, that can be used for your morning swims and a nightly soak at the jacuzzi corner - the dark marble pool floors and lights do make this area rather romantic in the evenings.
The kitchen is outfitted with your usual fixings - stovetop, oven, microwave oven, a wine cooler, and yes, a walk-in fridge and freezer for all your needs. Huh? What floor entrance? Nah, that’s nothing - probably a floor cooler for more storage. Why is it locked? Well, you have people coming in all the time, you’d want to keep some privacy to yourself, right?
So this is level one, with a guest bathroom, a guest bedroom, and another smaller room at the corner that doubles as a library. You don’t have to fill this place up with books, but that was how the previous owners did up this room - you can also exit from this room, with a hidden door built in just for fun!
Any questions so far? No? Alright then, let’s head up to the upper levels, you can take a look at what the previous owners did to make this place a livable masterpiece.
Starting from the top, here’s their rooftop patio with an open bar and barbeque grill - great for your outdoor parties and such. Hmm? The deadbolt and security cameras? Those are for your safety, can’t have burglars taking advantage of this entrance, can we?
Here’s the Master Bedroom, you have the entire third storey to yourself - great for privacy and space to unwind. That being said, you have to admire the creativity of these owners, building a walk-in on such a small space! They even have a sliding door at the end of the corner for your laundry - convenient, ain’t it?
What do you mean you didn’t recall a laundry area? It’s clearly downstairs, you’ll see.
The second level boasts another two rather spacious bedrooms - for kids, or for entertainment. Hmm? More cameras? Might be a security thing - you can always remove them once you move in. And here… huh? What sound? What murmuring and muffled shouting? It must be your imagination, or the neighbours turning up the TV volume a bit too loudly.
Come on, let me show you the backyard, put your mind at ease.
There, you see? There’s nothing to worry about.
What’s wrong now? That door? That door leads to the library, remember where we saw it first? Huh? What do you mean the library was on the other side of the house?
Oh, you need to go now? Alright then.
Just remember to call us - it’s Lily and Lilly - and this place is getting offers, so remember to contact us soon! You don’t want to be that person.
I hope you’ve enjoyed what I managed to churn out this time - until next month!
I came to know about Terry Ho and his work about the same time I saw Joyce Chng’s work get published. Before ‘The Crown of Earth’s Desire’, the thought of an epic fantasy set in Singapore was almost unheard of - after all, whatever happened in Singapore?
This time, I got to sit down with Terry and pick his brain (and fictional time machine) on his processes and his characters’ adventures through the land of Turasik.
When we first met, The Crown of Earth’s Desire was probably one of Singapore’s first few epic fantasies. How did it feel to tackle a genre that continues to be heavy - did you already have a story in mind?
As a child, I was particularly drawn to myths and legends from around the world. Greek and Norse myths were among my favourites. The Fantasy genre is probably closest to Mythology – I grew up on a diet of Tolkien (LOTR), Eddings (Belgariad), Feist (Riftwar), among others. Naturally, it has also been my inclination to write Fantasy.
When I conceived of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, I didn’t have a fully fleshed-out story in mind – just a story arc and some themes and settings in mind. This is not unusual for writers embarking on fiction projects, as I learnt from the interviews of several well-known authors.
The basis of this story is significantly different from the histories many of us learn as well. How was research like, considering how our colonial history seems to be more prominent when it comes to access and research materials? Were there also advantages and challenges when it came to applying context but also keep true to the story of Turasik?
I didn’t actually do much research for the book. Pre-colonial Singapore / Temasek has always fascinated me, and since I wasn’t writing historical fiction, I could just loosely draw on local folklore. Along the way, I picked up nuggets of information about archipelagic Southeast Asia – traditional architecture, customs, trading practices, etc. – which I tried to adapt and incorporate into the story where appropriate. However, the book isn’t intended as an accurate depiction of life in 14th Century Temasek.
Each book shows points of view from each main character - Anna and the merpeople, Vijay’s clairvoyance (SPOILER ALERT). Was there any mythology you particularly had fun exploring and why?
I particularly enjoyed exploring the local and Southeast Asian elements through this series. Much of High Fantasy can be traced to Western myths and classics, so it was exciting to bring tales from our part of the world to life in a Fantasy setting. While The Forbidden Hill Chronicles also borrows from the mythology of other cultures (Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, to name a few), local legends remain at the core of this series.
Who would you rather have be your PhD advisor? Dr. Haw Meng Kah or Royal Mage Corai? Why?
The Royal Mage of course – child-like enthusiasm over a brooding presence anytime.
How about bodyguards - Makal or Muqa?
Makal – for conviction and loyalty!
The Forbidden Hill Chronicles is set to see another two books join the series (after The Crown of Earth’s Desire, and The Sceptre of Sea & Sky) - without too much of a spoiler, what can we expect?
A kaleidoscope of mythological themes, fantastical settings and, of course, magic! And a progressive revelation of the protagonists’ true nature – how each individual’s struggles and choices matter in the overall cosmic tug-of- war.
I have 50 words for you to go and promote yourself - Go!
I invite you to immerse yourself in a fantasy world different from, yet similar to our own – a world of vengeful spirits, powerful wizards, haughty rulers as well as fallible human beings. Books 1 and 2 of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles are available on Amazon. Please visit my Facebook page!
Terry Ho is the author of The Forbidden Hill Chronicles, The Manic Memoirs of Terry Ho and other works he’d rather not disclose. A Singaporean of Peranakan heritage, he has lived and studied in Singapore, the UK, US and France. Find out more about his works here.
And I’ll see all of you next month with a new storyteller!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.