Excerpt: ‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

The last story in Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories is a very interesting tale about a Singaporean mortician.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

Excerpt:

“What made you choose this life? It’s so…” he raised his eyes to the ceiling as he fumbled for a word, which wouldn’t come across as condescending, “…macabre.” Despite efforts, he couldn’t hold back the shudders that racked his spine.

Timothy suspended a pen over his note pad. He glanced at the fine-boned lady as she silently went about her task. She had the weathered face of someone who’d experienced her share of grief, and her skin was as sallow as the body which lay under the white shroud before her—or so he imagined.

She slowly laid out an array of equipment and materials on the three-tiered trolley beside her. On the top tray of the trolley, he eyed a row of brown glass bottles, silver canisters and various steel tools that she’d lined with painstaking care.

“I supposed you could say the profession chose me, rather than the other way around.” Her almond-shaped eyes crinkled at the corners as she paused in her task and looked up at Timothy. “The womenfolk in my family have always been White Ladies, you see. My mother, my grandmother, and her mother before her.”

He smiled and nodded to encourage the undertaker’s narration, his pen rushing furiously in an attempt to get it all, verbatim, despite the digital recorder he’d placed on the gurney in front of her.

“Techniques on how to prepare bodies after death were passed down the generations… Of course, the way we’ve handled things has changed over the years, but the premise is the same,” she said, her smile soft. “You see, many believe the way we prepare the body for the afterlife stems from the manifestation of society’s desire for some kind of continuity after death. It’s like a show of respect to those passing into the next realm, on the belief that we’ll be shown the same respect when we die. And this is especially true for the Chinese.”

~~~

Tina Isaacs’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

WRITE FOR US! We currently have 2 open submission calls

Excerpt: ‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas

Here’s an excerpt from returning contributor, Sheenah Freitas’ Nepalese fantasy piece.

Note: this is a flash story so the excerpt is shorter than others we’ve posted.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas

Excerpt:

In her earliest memory, she wanted to be a Kumari—they were one of the beautiful girls in Nepal worshipped for being the reincarnation of the great goddess Taleju. She believed she could feel power and wisdom exuding from those young girls. Young and old always clamored around the Kumari hoping for some sort of advice or just to be in the presence of a god. They thought the Kumari buzzed with divine energy.

She always wanted to be closer. She wanted to touch their feet, to be intimate with a god herself. But she was too afraid of what she might actually feel. What if she felt nothing at all? Or what if she did feel something? What would that do to her? Would she denounce her faith as a Buddhist and convert to Hinduism?

Despite everything, she lacked the courage to meet them.

But now, she thinks she will never see one.

She is dying.

Sheenah Freitas’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

For the first time in The Insignia Series, we have a fantasy story set in India. Nidhi Singh’s ‘The Last Train from Begunkodor’ is a wonderful ghost tale full of intrigue.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

Excerpt:

For all I suck at my cigarette, I find no joy, no soothing sting as the smoke whirls in. I turn it in my fingers, it is not damp or anything, but the stench and relish of tobacco is missing from my mouth and lungs. I am incredibly thirsty, but the boiling, sticky water from the train’s tap does not slake my drought. I glance again at the tattered piece of newspaper that had woken me, by rustling against my cold cheek in the night breeze as I’d hunched, catlike, in a long stupor I can’t recall since when, on the crown branch of a Junglee Badam tree.

It had announced the coming of a train to Begunkodor. I knew I must get on this train. Why, I didn’t know.

I rode the first bullock cart—perched between the swaying humpbacked beast’s horns—out to Purulia to board the 1283 Superfast Express. I lay for a while on the train’s ribbed roof, swung some from its shuttered windows, and then hung out with the atrabilious engine crew. I finally calmed down from all the rattling and lurching and found an empty wooden bench next to the latrines to puff at a cigarette I’d eased from a sleeping Naga sadhu’s robes. I have always been this uneasy and restless. I roam the marshes, string myself to floating mists, crawl through the sludge and entangled roots in the gaping depths, but find no rest. My memory betrays me and I don’t even remember what I look like— let alone know where I come from or where I am going. But this place Begunkodor beckons, and I am sucked like dark matter into the black funnel of its screaming, lonely torment.

Nidhi Singh’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

 

Excerpt: ‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

‘Birds of Heaven’ is a sweet literary piece by Filipino author, EK Gonzales.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

Maria sent the birds of heaven to every part of the world. At any given minute, someone wanted to give up and disappear. To each one, Maria sent out one of her birds.

Birds of every size and color left the aviary, singing of hope and love. Many returned with joyful melodies of people saved. Others came back with mournful tunes, of those for whom they were too late.

For each person saved, the birds burst into a wonderful orchestra, filling heaven with sweet music. For each person lost, the aviary darkened for a time, a sadness that all of heaven saw and felt.

For each person lost, Maria’s heart was pricked and filled with pain.

~~~

EK Gonzales’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell

Here’s a beautiful Japanese sci-fi piece by new contributor Russell Hemmell. The first story in Part II, our literary section.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell

They strolled along Sinus Iridum’s walking area, luscious and green—the dome’s borders looming in the distance. Artificiality nonetheless, it’s an awesome place, Chandra thought.

“Thanks for having me here.” Yumiko said with a timid smile. “Would you honour me and visit my home?”

“Certainly. When?”

“For the Todaji. There’s no better occasion to be in New Hokkaido.”

“Todaji? What’s that?”

“It’s the main event of the year. We celebrate the coming of spring and the cherry blossoms.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Yumiko.”

“What’s not to understand? It’s a water festival, and in Japan they regularly hold it.”

“See? At least two things in your sentence that don’t add up. This is not Japan, it’s not even Earth. And, water is at a premium everywhere on the Moon. Can’t believe things are that different in your settlement,” Chandra said.

“No, but…”

“Don’t you think that at least people like us, born and bred on the lunar surface—or under, depending on where your home is—should start building our own culture?”

Yumiko stared at her with a dismayed face. “I like traditions. I like festivals.”

“Of a place you have never seen, and of a language you can’t even write any longer.”

“I still speak Japanese.”

“If you were there now, they would treat you as an alien—and this is what you are, Yumiko. A human alien from the Satellite.”

Her friend lowered her head, remaining silent for a moment. “So you’re not coming.”

Chandra thought about it. “Is it dangerous? You know I’m still recovering from my training injuries of last term.”

“No danger. And it’s only a few hours from Russell Bay.”

“I’ll come.”

~~~

Russell Hemmell’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

‘Jentayu’s Tear’ is a wonderful story based on a Malaysian folktale. Enjoy!

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

The men screamed and pointed as he transformed back to his true form. His golden feathers blazed in the sun, his horn burning with pure fire; hot white, deep black, flickering blue. He spread his wings and took to the air, the force of each beat of his wings driving the little men to the ground.

“Fight me, Jentayu!” he screamed his challenge into the air.

Lighting flashed across the sky—and there she was before him. Her sleek blue-white feathers gleamed in the rain that now poured, her crest glinting like a diamond crown. For a moment, he caught his breath, mesmerized. He’d forgotten how beautiful she was. How graceful in flight, how tender in speech, how she’d been his closest companion for thousands of years as they ruled the Bird Kingdom together. But the rain was chilling him, dousing his fire, and this would not do.

“It’s not so easy to kill me, Jentayu,” he sneered.

“I’m not trying to kill you. It’s enough for me to just stop you from carrying out your
nefarious plans.”

“Nefarious! Hah. Maybe you should go back to school and learn how to use your words properly.”

“I said exactly what I wanted to say, Garuda.”

Another beat of his wings. The earth shook and he smiled. “We’ll see how you handle that.”

“Handle what? The earth shaking?”

“No. That.”

Jentayu wheeled in horror as the skies erupted in fire and brimstone. The eruption of the volcano filled her senses with searing heat, billowing smoke and the scent of wet ash. In retaliation, she called upon the waves. Two feet. Three. Five. Seven feet high they rose, water against fire. There was nothing she could do to help Merong Mahawangsa and his men now. They would have to survive on their own.

She pressed her apologies into his mind, directing the men to find safer ground far away from the battle. Away from the Garuda’s butchery.

“Would you really kill me, my brother?”

“I will destroy anyone who stands in my way—including you, Jentayu!”

And then they crashed against each other, hissing and snarling. Claw raking bloody claw. Beak scoring beak. Mighty wing buffeting mighty wing.

It broke her heart. Where they’d once touched tenderly, as brother with sister, as friends forged in the fight together, they now lashed out at each other. There was death on his claws, and deep sadness in her heart. She knew all his weaknesses. Had once protected them, as he had done hers.

But that was why she had walked away before, wasn’t it? Away from his delusions of grandeur, of conquering the world and being Emperor of All Earth—instead of being God’s emissary and protector of birds. She couldn’t just walk away now.

~~~

Anna Tan’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng

This Chinese demon-world story is just as exciting as the title! Written by the amazing Joyce Chng, who’s stories have appeared now in all 4 Insignia Series anthologies.

INS4-release-promoJPG

‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng

The entire cave kingdom gathered for the wedding ceremony. The bats escorted the foxes, the deer, the spiders, the snakes and even the lowest toads to the Great Hall, chittering away as they flew above the heads of the guests, guiding and scolding them at the same time. The snake women hid their smiles behind their long sleeves, their eyes shining with speculation. The spider women clustered together, weaving their silk idly. I had already received their tribute of the best-spun spider silk robes, a wedding gift for my bride. The foxes readied their cymbals and pipes to greet my bride when she appeared.

Fu Xi even procured a Taoist priest spirit for the wedding. He would prevent my bride from fleeing. Ideally, the matchmaker should be here, but she had already fled the kingdom. Humans are such fragile creatures, easily frightened and unaccustomed to our ways. My new bride would be human too, albeit now in spirit form. I hoped she would not frighten so easily.

At the right moment, when the stars aligned and the moon crossed the aegis, the Taoist priest broke the seal of the urn and whispered the words that would free the spirit within, the spirit of my bride.

Wisps of white smoke swirled out of the broken urn, forming the shape of a slender human figure. At first, the figure seemed to be kneeling, before unfolding like a cloth puppet. Features sharpened. The watching animals gasped.

I stared. The eyes of the white figure opened. They were luminous. Beside me, Fu Xi shrank a little.

The spirit of the young scholar shook his head and looked around, bemusedly. “Where the hell am I?”

“You are now married,” intoned the Taoist priest who then dissipated because his job was done. The words lingered in the suddenly cold air of the Great Hall. Some of the snake women turned pale, as if they were about to faint. The band of fox musicians started playing a wedding song. With a glare from Fu Xi, they stopped, the song tapering into a few discordant notes. Someone blew an out-of-tune pipe and descended immediately into an embarrassed silence.

“I—” I looked at my right wrist and baulked. Red thread glowed between it and the young scholar’s hand. He looked at me in amazement.

The young man, his eyes like a phoenix’s, his lips full and mobile, began to laugh merrily. “Looks like I am now married to you, lord.” He wasn’t afraid of me.

He wasn’t afraid of me.

~~~

Joyce Chng’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘Four Claws’ by Allison Thai

‘Four Claws’ is the first story in Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories.

INS4-release-promoJPG

 

‘Four Claws’ by Allison Thai

Yifei had never left the palace before. Had no good reason to do so, until now. And she hadn’t the slightest clue where she was headed. All she knew was that she had to get as far away from home as she could. Stopping, or turning back would kill her. Yifei flew past the outermost village to reach the mountain range, and only then did she slow down. Blood still dripped from her wounds, and she tried her hardest not to look down at them.

Pangs of hunger stopped her from going any farther. She needed something to eat. Despite frantic scanning, she saw nothing edible in sight. Only rocks and dirt. Yifei closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She let it out in dismay. Even her dragon-enhanced sense of smell could not do much if she had no training at all.

Something flitted overhead, catching her eye. Dark wings, still and outstretched, made wide, slow, sweeping rounds high in the air. Vultures. If vultures were around, that meant there had to be food nearby.

Yifei’s ears perked, and she glided closer to the site. Upon further inspection, she realized that the vultures circled over a body. A human body.

Her mouth watered, and the very act made her recoil with disgust. Was she really that hungry? Yifei squeezed her eyes shut. She could not stoop so low as to eat a human. She was an imperial dragon, a princess of the ruling Quan family—

No, not anymore. The title was stripped from her, just as the toes on her feet were ripped off. Clinging to dignity was just an old habit. A habit she had to throw away if she wanted to survive.

~~~

Allison Thai’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Write for Us – Submissions now OPEN!

~~~

Happy Release Day! ‘Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories’

HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!!!!!!!!

It’s finally here! The Insignia Series’ latest anthology is now available from Amazon and Smashwords. We’ll post links to other book seller sites as soon as they become actively listed. Also, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the various stories throughout the week.

A big thanks to all the contributors!

ASIAN FANTASY STORIES

INSIGNIA Vol.4 includes 9 Asian fantasy stories with a mix of literary, contemporary, myth-based, and historical fantasy pieces. Countries included are Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, China, India, and Nepal.

Rated 16+

an-ins4

CONTENTS

PART I:  Adventure / Folktales

‘Four Claws’ by Allison Thai

‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng

‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

‘Ribbons & Bones’ by Kelly Matsuura

PART II: Adult / Literary Tales

‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell

‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

‘Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas

‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

~~~

AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords |

| Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA |

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

 ~~~

Add on Goodreads

~~~

Excerpt: ‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

The final story in Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy is a moving Vietnamese piece by UK based author, Eliza Chan.

INS3-release-promo

‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

I had read the same line thirty times.

No matter how I tried, I could not find meaning in the words. Sighing, I looked up and realised the street lights had been turned on. Not that it made difference, the dim orange illuminated only that within whispering range, the shadow of a rubbish bag left below the lamp-post, or the helmet of a passing motorcyclist shining like a giant sequin in the dusk.

Thanh hadn’t noticed yet. She sat on the wicker chair like it was her sofa at home, her sandals kicked to the ground and her painted toenails wiggling every so often. Was it a good line she had read, or a reflex, I wondered. She looked so relaxed under the patio umbrella. What would she do if I leaned across and touched her? I knew I wouldn’t try. Not with the solid dark wood table between us, the dregs of café sua da between us, the used tissues, discarded knife and scattered crumbs between us. Not with the roar of traffic beside us and the waitress pacing with her jug of ice water, her heels clicking in time to the one noted cry of the cubes. Not with the mother bouncing her baby and the teenagers reading fashion magazines. Not with what she had had done, what we had decided, what had filled the last four hours in the quiet coffee shop despite no words spoken.

“It’s getting late,’ she remarked, folding over the page corner as she lay the comic book down on the table. She had carelessly placed it on a wet coffee ring. It would be ruined now. The brown stain would seep right through the unprotected pages until it had soaked in. Even the front, where those saucer-eyed manga girls smiled through impossible hair, promising easy escapism in moronic romanticism, would be ultimately destroyed.

Vâng,” I agreed, as I had agreed before. Where did these words come from? They were driftwood, carried with the tide against my volition, without my permission.

~~~

Eliza Chan’s Author Page

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy Page

~~~

More Excerpts:

‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

‘The Third Eye’ by Sheenah Freitas

‘Interlude’ by Eve Shi

‘The Island’ by Melvin Yong

‘Running from Shadows’ by Joyce Chng

‘Never Seen’ by Kelly Matsuura

~~~