Sunday, April 17, 2011

These Are Asian Werewolves, Lah!

Last Thursday night, a small cozy bunch of readers gathered at an East-side neighbourhood restaurant called The Garden Slug to give support to local writer J Damask's (@jolantru) digital book launch. The urban fantasy book is titled "Wolf At The Door" and published by Lyrical Press.

The Garden Slug was a snug little restaurant in a rather secluded location, so Red Dot Diva was quite surprised to see that there was already a rather busy group of diners on a mid-week.

It was definitely very nice to meet J Damask for the first time that night. Damask was really excited about the book's launch and admitted that she was nervous and happy at the same time.

Red Dot Diva didn't know many of the folks who attended the book launch. But that certainly didn't deter her from having an enjoyable evening - which consisted of good food and smart-fun, howlingly-raucous company. While friendly chit-chat was made, everyone tucked into their appetizers and noms. The dishes were very well-presented and Red Dot Diva thought the pizza crusts were especially fragrant and quite yummy.

Intermittently, Damask threw simple quizzes about the book to test the knowledge of the readers, and chocolates (both Hershey's and Cadbury's!) as well as autographed cover prints were given away as prizes.

During one of the interludes, Red Dot Diva requested for Damask to personalize and autograph the book's cover prints for herself and Evil Twin, @_mriel. BTW, someone thought that Red Dot Diva and Evil Twin @_mriel were real-life sisters. Haha. If that were true, that would actually made the Evil Twins brand even more evil. *g*

Avariel also got the book cover digitally signed on her iPad. It really looked good on the iPad screen.

As the boisterous night tapered to an end, the group adjourned to the next room, which was quieter, so that Damask could read a section from Chapter 2.

Here's a vid clip of Damask's reading an excerpt from "Wolf At The Door". This was where the main character talks about "The Lang":

After which, a short Q and A ensued, with folks particularly interested about how Damask came up with the story and what how she got the book published.

Damask revealed that she wrote "Wolf At The Door" as a personal challenge to herself and she dove right into this crazed idea after she had just delivered her baby. It was finished in a frenzy within a month or so, as she weaved the familiar Red Dot Island landscapes and cultural setting with the dark fables about werewolves.

Scifi/ fantasy fans or geeks are well-aware with how such genres are perceived on Red Dot Island - not only by publishers but by other media companies as well. Other than those banal "local/ Asian" ghost stories that seem to sell quicker than a pontianak can moan, the other popular "best-sellers" seem to consist mainly of feng shui, cook books and those stress-inducing school assessment books. Generally, local publishers seem wont to taking the easiest, fastest money-making way out, rather than the more creative.

Around the time her book was ready, Lyrical Press was actively looking for "urban fantasy" genres to sell, so Damask decided to write to them immediately. Lyrical loved the book. The editing process was brutal, but it proved to be crucial in putting Damask's creative ideas and work to the test. And now.... "Wolf At The Door" is finally out for the world to indulge in!

Damask also teased the group with some spoilers about Book 2, saying that she "loves torturing Jan Xu" (the main character). In the next book of the series, Jan Xu will face very tough challenges as she finds that her world beginning to crumble.

She also hints that other clans that will be making their appearance in the series - "The Feng" (phoenix) and "The Hu" (foxes). "The Long" (dragons) have already been earlier introduced in this book.

Red Dot Diva then decided to ask what Damask's next personal writing challenge will be:

By now, Red Dot Diva bets that those who have been reading this post are now curious what the wolfy book is about and what it is like.

"Wolf At The Door" focuses on Jan Xu, who happens to be a housewife, mother, ex-teen vigilante and a member of "The Lang" clan. Her rebel sister Marianne reappears in Singapore with a boyf(r)iend who seems to have a darker motivation of his own. And Jan Xu battles and tries to protect all that is important to her.

First of, Red Dot Diva warns that there are hardly any references to rippling six-pecs or boob-alicious bods that one can wolf-whistle at. Just in case, one is expecting the kind of hot bloody mess like "True Blood" or "Being Human". In fact, the creatures aren't *really* werewolves like those one commonly sees or reads about. In Damask's own words, they are more like "wolf-weres", i.e. wolves being man.

Adding on to this twist regarding lycanthropy, Damask has effectively used the Singaporean urban landscape as a vividly modern yet supernatural background for "Wolf At The Door". It was an interesting stark contrast to the more spiritual and primal yearnings and motivations of "The Langs" and other other worldly clans.

When she bought the book, Red Dot Diva was at first, very curious about which direction the "almost done to death" topic on werewolves was going to go. One has to understand that it is very rare that a local Red Dot Island writer decides to tackle the urban fantasy genre and yet has the ability to not "over-Westernize" the story.

Damask does it both bravely and beautifully in "Wolf At The Door". Bravo!

As she digitally turned the pages, Red Dot Diva was surprised that she found herself captivated by the intricate mythology and the relatable characters. The language and the dialogue especially, were very adeptly handled by Damask. This is despite the many scene-switches between what is going on in the current timeline and the sublimal dreamscape that Jan Xu gets immersed in.

The underlying tone of the prose was still Asian/ Singaporean and Damask's writing style, thus suited the story perfectly. She manages to bridge the gap between the yearning of a local islander's heart for a simpler, freer, happier life, and the rapid progression of "cosmopolitan-modernity" that has been imposed on so many recently.

This is a story that Red Dot Diva's wild wild soul could clearly identify with. Therefore, she is giving "Wolf At The Door" a chillingly moonlit howl of a Red Dot. Take some tentative steps into the world of the "wolf-weres", and one will find their sharp claws sinking into one's literary mind.

If the digital sales of "Wolf At The Door" turn out to be successful, the book may jolly well go to print. So, if one is intrigued by the premise of the book, go buy it at Lyrical Press! Or at Amazon (Kindle) store.

Red Dot Diva thinks that it would truly be fantastic if an accomplished artist would be able to work with J Damask and get the book printed as a graphic novel. She think it would look bloody gorgeous in that medium.

At least in her overly-imaginative mind, it would!


Follow J Damask on Twitter and send her comments about the book, or to keep in touch with her!

She also has her own website. Click here.


Specially for those non-local folks:
Pontianak - A vengeful, female ghost in Malay folklore usually disguising herself as beautiful, young woman to lure its victims. Its favourite meal? The victim's guts/ organs.

Lang - Mandarin word for "wolf"

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