Excerpt: ‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

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

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‘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.”

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Tina Isaacs’ Author Page

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

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Excerpt: ‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

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

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‘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.

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EK Gonzales’ Author Page

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

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Excerpt: ‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

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

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‘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.

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Anna Tan’s Author Page

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

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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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.

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‘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.

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Joyce Chng’s Author Page

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

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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Excerpt: ‘Four Claws’ by Allison Thai

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

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‘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.

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Allison Thai’s Author Page

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

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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BOTW: ‘Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction’

This week’s choice for our Book of the Week feature is ‘Amok: An anthology of Asian-Pacific Speculative Fiction’ edited by Dominica Malcolm.

Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction

20741911Blurb:

In an anthology that spans from India in the west to Hawai‘i in the east, and as far south as Australia and New Zealand, 24 authors bring you an exciting range of tales set in the past, present, and future.

Discover characters like the Moon Rabbit from Chinese mythology, a kitsune from Japanese mythology, and the aswang from Filipino mythology.

Find out what arises when a struggling Malaysian student seeks help for her studies in Chinatown, and what happens when the garbage in the Pacific Ocean is seen as a valuable treasure.

Futures imagined stretch from amazing advances in technology to depressing dystopias.

Read these stories and so many more in Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction.

Featuring stories by:
Brett Adams, Jo Wu, Kris Williamson, Recle Etino Vibal, Tabitha Sin, Ailia Hopkins, KZ Morano, TR Napper, Terence Toh, Kawika Guillermo, Barry Rosenberg, Eeleen Lee, Jax Goss, Jo Thomas, Daniel A. Kelin II, Fadzlishah Johanabas, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd, Dominica Malcolm, Aashika Nair, Celeste A. Peters, Agnes Ong, Rebecca Freeman, NJ Magas, and Tom Barlow

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Book of the Week: ‘Wildfire’ by Mina Khan

I want to share a paranormal mystery/romance book this week. Wildfire is set in the United States, but contains some cool fantasy elements mixed with Japanese mythology. I have interviewed Mina Khan about this book before on my romance blog: click here if you would like to read it.

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Blurb:

Lynn Hana Alexander is a 25-year-old Japanese American shape-shifter haunted by guilt. She’s been questioning herself and her dragon abilities ever since she failed to save her grandmother.

When her best friend is threatened by mysterious fires burning up acres of West Texas, Lynn rushes to the rescue determined not to fail again. However, with a tempting firefighter, a flirty city developer and dragon pheromones distracting her, how is she going to find the arsonist?

And worse: is her primary suspect a malicious rogue dragon or the love of her life?

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Available From:

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Amazon  US

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Barnes &Noble

  All Romance eBooks 

Kobo Books

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Mina Khan’s Amazon Author Page

 Blog: Stories by Mina Khan

 Facebook Author Page

 Twitter: @SpiceBites