Excerpt: ‘Reborn’ by Nidhi Singh

Hi everyone! This weekend I’d like to share a few excerpts from stories in our latest anthology,  Insignia: Asian Birds & Beasts.

‘Reborn’ is Nidhi Singh’s third story with The Insignia Series, and is set in the jungles of India. It might change how you feel about snakes…..

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‘Reborn’ by Nidhi Singh

Excerpt:

A couple of pale flabby tents, damp with the rain, had been pitched in a clearing. A tall bearded man, attired in the dress of a Shikari, a hunter, stood still near the entrance to the campsite. He smoked nonchalantly, with one foot propped on a black boulder. A double-barreled gun of exceptional length, probably an old flintlock, leaned against his other leg.

He pressed some tobacco leaves in Kasyapa’s hand: a customary welcome of the Gond tribals. The Shikari, called Manjhi, was about fifty years of age, tall and sinewy, with a singularly mild face, and a long, scrawny neck, deeply seamed with many scars. His meager form was arrayed in a sort of hunting shirt of greenish brown, belted at the waist with sambar leather. Around his head was a small, tightly twisted turban of the same hue as the rest of his garments. At his belt he carried a long machete, a horn of powder, and a small wallet containing bullets, flint, and steel.

He and his ancestors before him enjoyed a fearsome reputation, of having shot dead man-eaters here, wrestled bison barehanded there, and cut down many an attacking leopards and beasts of prey with their formidable daggers.

“Welcome, to the land of Sher Khan,” he said, pumping Kasyapa’s hand in his giant, calloused grip. “I’ll be your guide.” He smiled, showing a strong row of broad white teeth.

The Shikari led Kasyapa to where some easy chairs and a camp table, covered with tea and toast and fruit, had been laid out. Kasyapa sank into one of the chairs, stretched out his legs, and closed his eyes with a sigh of intense satisfaction. Meanwhile, a flustered campsite host with a clipboard and fluttering papers shepherded the bellowing children into their tents.

“What are you keen on?” the Shikari asked after tea had been served in earthen bowls.

“The usual suspects,” Kasyapa replied. “How are the sightings?”

“Fair. Usually near the watering holes—plenty of cheetal and sambar here for the king of the jungle.”

“How do we go in?”

“By jeeps, obviously. Elephant rides are also available, but not for the kids without supervision. We’ll leave in batches—mornings and afternoons. You and I could ride an elephant, though. An elephant can strike out into the heart of the jungle. He makes his own road.”

“Okay, what else? We’re here for a week thereabouts.”

“There is a tribal arts center. The kids will like the wood and clay playthings. You could take home some trinkets for the missus? The camp guys have organized a boat ride down the Pench river too. You will see alligators—hundreds of them lounging on the white sands on its banks, and beautiful islands. And the camp guys usually throw in a campfire on the last day.”

Kasyapa nodded and looked away into the thickening mists as they began to settle on the treetops. “Don’t you ever go out on foot?” he suddenly asked. “What about these National Geography guys?”

The Shikari slapped his thighs. “I knew you were not the normal babu who looks for comfort or textbook adventures. You look fit enough to me. But the jungle—are you quite up to it?”

“What about the kids?”

“Don’t worry, there is a guide on each vehicle. The staff knows how to handle the rowdiest of them.”

“Just for the record, we’ll accompany them on the safaris and boat rides, and when they’re in the camp, we could strike out.”

“Sure. There is a cost, though. And there are dangers; slippery tracks could land you in bottomless ravines, there are bears, panthers, snakebites, and if you’re lucky, Sher Khan.”

“I am okay with that. Are you?”

The Shikari sniggered. “I fear no tiger now. They fall before me like the mango at which the boy throws his stick.”

~~~

Nidhi Singh’s Author Page

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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Add on Goodreads

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Interested in writing for us?

A new submission call opens Sept 1st. Full details are on our Submissions Page.

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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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AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

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

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

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Add on Goodreads

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WRITE FOR US! We currently have 2 open submission calls

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.

~~~

Allison Thai’s Author Page

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

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AVAILABLE FROM:

| Smashwords | B & N | kobo |

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

| Amazon DEAmazon JPAmazon IN |

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Add on Goodreads

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Write for Us – Submissions now OPEN!

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The Smashwords Summer Sale is on!

Need more summer reading?

Now’s your chance to pick up any anthology from ‘The Insignia Series’ for just 99c!

That’s right, all 3 books are 50% off during the Smashwords Summer Sale,

which runs until July 31st.

 

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Follow the link below to see ‘The Insignia Series’ books on Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/18403

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BOTW: ‘Serpentine’ by Cindy Pon

Sorry I haven’t posted a book feature for so long!

I love the artwork on this cover, and the story sounds interesting too. It’s going on my YA reading list! I think the sequel is due out in September…

‘Serpentine’ by Cindy Pon

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Blurb:

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

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Find all buy links on Goodreads

Visit Cindy Pon’s website

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And a quick reminder to writers: submissions for ‘Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories’ will close June 30. I hope to see some more great stories come in during the next two weeks. 🙂

Memorial Weekend 99c Sale!!

Happy Memorial Weekend to our US friends! I’ve just moved back to Japan so am a little sad to be missing the holiday weekend, but I have great memories of trips to Chicago and Lake Michigan in previous years. It’s also pretty nice here in Nagoya. 🙂

I thought it was a good week for a little sale, so how does getting ANY Insignia Series anthology for just 99c sound?

99c SALE – May 27-30

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All three anthologies will be only US0.99c (or he equivalent in foreign currencies) this weekend on both Amazon and Smashwords sites.

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories

Insignia: Chinese Fantasy Stories

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy

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And writers, don’t forget to check out our Submissions Page. We’re currently seeking fantasy stories set in any Asian country, with Asian heroes/heroines. We need a good variety of both nationalities represented and also styles of fantasy. We lay out the stories in two categories: ‘Adventure/Folktales’ and ‘Adult/Literary’. YA stories are very welcome, and we have a special request for stories set in the India/Himalaya region. Deadline is JUNE 30, and more details can be found on the main submissions page.

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HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, WHEREVER YOU ARE!!!!!

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.

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‘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

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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

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Excerpt: ‘Running from Shadows’ by Joyce Chng

Our second story from Singapore is by regular contributor, Joyce Chng! Her previous stories have been YA fantasy, but this one is definitely for the adult category this time around. 🙂

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‘Running from Shadows’ by Joyce Chng

Siri took her time climbing the stairs leading to the nightclub. She could hear the steady techno bass beat coming from the open door—the door was always open, like all the women who passed through it—and licked her lips, tasting the waxy lipstick.  The air was stale with cigarette smoke and vomit, laced with the pungent after-scent of alcohol. It was still early; most of the guests would only appear after ten. There was a ship in town and there was the promise of cold hard cash.

She dressed for work—a tight bustier and mini-skirt showing off her long, slim legs. Six inch heels, pushed up her buttocks to give the illusion of perkiness and perpetual youth. Her pimp, Chan, gave her the clothes. He also pocketed most of the hard cash. The rest she kept and some she sent back home.

A couple of working sisters passed her, already tipsy. Siri blinked. Shadows followed them, like dark waves. She was reminded of the shimmering effect on a hot day, shimmering heat above hot tar while the road steamed with cars passing her by. She blinked again. The shadows were gone.

~~~

Joyce Chng’s Author Page

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy Page

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More Excerpts:

‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

‘The Third Eye’ by Sheenah Freitas

‘Interlude’ by Eve Shi

‘The Island’ by Melvin Yong

‘Never Seen’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

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Excerpt: ‘The Third Eye’ by Sheenah Freitas

Here’s an excerpt from the second Filipino story in Insignia Vol.3., written by Sheenah Freitas. It is a short piece, based on local folklore and magic.

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‘The Third Eye’ by Sheenah Freitas

Some say the only way out of the provinces is to marry someone rich. When a class graduates, it’s almost as if a great migration happens, as hundreds of hopeful women pack up and head to the city. Many will come back. Some will stay because they found success, or simply because they’re too ashamed to come back.

My sister was one of those girls. The night before she was to leave for Manila with a group of girls from neighboring villages, she told me how our superstitions would be the end of us. How if we kept believing in imaginary creatures, we’d always be seen as stupid. Ignorant. Impossible.

She spat on our beliefs, cursed our way of living, and then pointed to a tree where a family of duwende lived. Our family apologized to them on her behalf and offered them food, but my sister rolled her eyes at us. I guess she was too sophisticated for such things. She had too many dream and aspirations.

But all of that ambition was wasted.

She’s dead.

Her body was found beside the duwende tree in the morning.

~~~

Sheenah Freitas’ Author Page

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy Page

 

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More Excerpts:

‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

‘Interlude’ by Eve Shi

‘The Island’ by Melvin Yong

‘Running from Shadows’ by Joyce Chng

‘Never Seen’ by Kelly Matsuura

‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

Excerpt: ‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

We’re very excited about the release of Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy, the third anthology in The Insignia Series. As a preview, we’ll be sharing excerpts from all the stories over the next few days, beginning with ‘Horse Feet’, a paranormal mystery by Filipino author, Celestine Trinidad.

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‘Horse Feet’ by Celestine Trinidad

Maria stood before the large black horse bound to one of the trees, feeling a sudden and completely uncharacteristic pang of pity for the creature. A circle of salt had been drawn on the ground, keeping the tikbalang enclosed within its borders. Someone had thrown salt at the creature itself as well –crystals glimmered in its mane, and the portions of its skin where the salt had touched it looked raw and red, like fresh burn marks.

“He’s been like that since we caught him, Lady Sinukuan,” the man standing behind her said. Kapitan Alfredo, the captain of the village of Wakas, Tayabas, was a short and stocky man, his bald head only reaching up to Maria’s shoulders. “He hasn’t said anything, except when he asked for you.”

“That is unusual, indeed,” Maria said. “Most of the time I have trouble just getting him to shut up.”

“He said that he was under your protection, My Lady. Was he speaking the truth?”

“Well, in a manner of speaking, I suppose he is,” Maria replied.

“How do you know him?”

“He is—” Maria was about to say, ‘a suitor’, but stopped herself in time. That was what she thought he was in the beginning, indeed, just one out of the many suitors who sought the hand of the guardian diwata of Arayat in marriage. But—as much as she loathed to admit it—he turned out to be more than that, unsolicited though his help had been. Under the circumstances, she felt that she should acknowledge him this time. “He has been of great assistance to me in some of my other cases.” She hoped he really was unconscious, for if he had heard speak like this, she would never hear the end of it. “What has he done, Kapitan, for him to deserve a death sentence?”

“Murder,” Kapitan Alfredo said bluntly.

“Murder?”

“One of my servants, Ernesto, had been missing since dinner last night,” Kapitan Alfredo explained. “My son Felipe went to look for him, and he found Ernesto’s body in the forest. And then he saw this creature running away from the scene.”

Maria’s eyebrows furrowed as she considered the matter. “And how was Ernesto killed?”

“Trampled to death, it looked like.  I saw the body myself. There were all these bruises in the shape of a horse’s hooves all over his body. Exactly how a tikbalang would kill a human.”

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Celestine Trinidad’s Profile Page

Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy Page

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Want to write for the next Insignia anthology?

See our new Submissions Page

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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

‘Spirit of Regret’ by Eliza Chan

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