Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art. Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography. Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost,  I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others. This post is gives you some idea of my current projects. Thank you for stopping by. Stephen Black physical laborers
black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here. To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here. Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life "interesting"... I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close... and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that's yet another story.) In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do. However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don't remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas. They still are. I've been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more. Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg IATB in virtual gallery Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It's part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books. Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books. το πνεύμα του Ιανού After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I'll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it. This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era. This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author's Guild. Although I've done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations: 1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy. Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. Stephen King
Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About... And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers... The title of Guy Kawasaki's excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.) Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading. 2. A great writer or a great marketer... ....or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells. Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below) Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages... 3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers. Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church! Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you're not truly independent. OK, A bit of an attention grabber there...but the author's need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These "automatic partners" will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author. Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood. Consider: -the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010) -the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets - the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles - writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking's first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010. E.L. James' book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans? These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW! However, the writing is..."not terrible" or worse
I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/
There are "indie success stories" about authors who "rode into town" on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these "indies" were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers. As the 'first mover'possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition... Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: "...was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." There certainly are "ebook only" indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don't know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any "ebook only" awards? Here, authors talk about their sales experiences. 4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this. Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways. It is an exciting time. Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3 visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks  

i ate tiong bahru limited edition glass sculptures/JDMIS/certificate of authenticity

iatb-glass-signing-at-jdmis I am honored  that the Jewellery Design and Management International School have agreed to oversee the certificates of authenticity for the edition of signed(etched) glass artworks in the crowdfunding campaign now on ZingoHub. (You can learn more about JDMIS here.) As stated on the crowdfunding page,  a total of eighty-eight glasses will be signed with an etching pen and numbered. A certificate of authenticity will be enclosed with each glass. I have known Tanja Sadow, the dean of JDMIS, since I arrived in Singapore in 2002. I know that many jewellery-making success stories are associated with the high standards of JDMIS and I am thrilled that JDMIS has agreed to oversee the authentication process of the i ate tiong bahru glass artworks. iatb-cup-certificate-of-authenticity    

THANKS! Crowdfunding success= free ebooks by Stephen Black and Cyril Wong

The i ate tiong bahru glassware  crowdfunding campaign went 30% over target in the first three days!  To celebrate and say "thank you", I am giving away ebooks. i ate tiong bahru  A national bestseller in Singapore, iatb is a collection of short stories about Tiong Bahru, a community living in an estate composed of uniquely styled Art Deco buildings. "Unlike anything else I've read.""Black's love letter is one of the best introductions to a country and a state  that you might read" Art Review Asia. More reviews here. I Ate Tiong Bahru book cover Free download from Amazon on October 30,2016.
If you are an art collector, an adventurous reader and a drinker of caffeinated beverages, YOUR DREAM HAS COME TRUE...(click to join the club)
Obama Search Words Stephen Black's first book;a dynamic, it captures Barack Obama in a style like no other. Free download from Amazon on October 30, 2016. osw-cover Obama Search Words was once enrolled in an Unglue campaign. Here is the video produced for that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo-4cmUQubA Furikake Japanese rice seasonings, love and a look at life in Clementi, a small town in Singapore. Free download from Amazon on October 30, 2016
photography as part of book cover design

a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name

Bali Wave Ghost "a mad work of genius", Richard E. Lewis, author of the bestseller Bones of the Dark Moon, a novel set amidst the horrific killings in Bali during the Sixties. Free download from Amazon on October 30, 2016
black and white book covers

Proposed cover for Bali Wave Ghost, the latest book by Stephen Black

Fires by Cyril Wong, who is a Singapore Literature Prize-winning poet, fictionist and critic.Free download from Amazon on October 30, 2016
Red chairs, cyril wong and FIRES

George Parel's design is clean and eye-catching

Flame Magnet- Do not download this book unless you are adventurous. This isn't something you read, it's the start of a lifelong journey. Free download from Amazon On October 30, 2016
lance from Secret Donut World

Flame magnet is go!
Art by David Severn

Contact With Shadow....not free, but becoming unglued! Check out the video as well as a photo exhibition. CWS is an undiscovered classic, full of melancholic swirling laments about lost love. amidst exquisite descriptions of Singapore. Also includes plenty of references to history and little-known baked goods. Contact With Shadow bookmerahatgmaildotcom
Book Merah titles in a free ebook giveaway

Book Merah titles in a free ebook giveaway

Headtalker Notes: i ate tiong bahru glassware project

My HeadTalker i ate tiong bahru glassware campaign is here. My understanding of how HeadTalker works is this: someone who supports a HeadTalker campaign is agreeing to let HeadTalker, for only one time, post on his or her social media site.
In my case, if someone supports my HeadTalker project, a post will appear on his or her social media site on October 28, 2016 12:00pm Eastern Time (US & Canada)

The message, and a screenshot of the glassware project on Zingohub, that will appear is this:

"drinkers, art collectors, T-shirt wearers and book readers:welcome!https://hdtk.co/3DI6A"

That link goes to my crowdfunding campaign. My crowdfunding campaign is for an edition of glasses, "normal" glasses, T-shirts, books, ebooks and more, all related to i ate tiong bahru. My crowdfunding campaign is here. To say this another way, someone who supports my HeadTalker campaign will automatically, and for one time only, have a post that tells people about my glassware crowdfunding campaign.... for which I will be very, very thankful! Any questions, please ask...this is a first time for me, and I have researched carefully and I think the above sums it up. But yes, last time..If you support my Headtalker, they will, for one time only, make a post on your social media site for my glassware project. T H A N K S If you are a writer or considering using HeadTalker, or a similar service called Thunderclap, you should read this great post by Steve Vernon. Another excellent account of a user's experiences, this one by Paul Towers, on his Project:Startup Blog.

Deepavali at Galicier (the second of a two part excerpt from i ate tiong bahru)

Hi! The first part of this post is here.

Gula melakka is easy to melt and difficult to burn. It’s in many of Galicier’s treats: steamed tapioca, putu mayu, onden onden, kaya jam, ongol ongol and, of course, huat kueh. Gula melakka is used in breads and cookies as well, but its taste can become subdued when used with yeast. Potassium, iron, nitrogen, zinc, selenium and other minerals are all found in gula melakka. It’s the only plant-generated source of B12, which is necessary for red blood cells and a healthy nervous system. Yes!

After getting Soh Kee Soon’s approval, I pick up a few shavings. Gula melakka is softly crystalline, like fine moist sand. Almost gooey. On my tongue, the shavings become a sweetly wholesome syrup.

Customers walking into Galicier are greeted by shelves full of macaroons, containers of kaya jam, lady fingers and at least five kinds of breads. Cakes: Black Forest, chocolate, mango, pumpkin and more. Here and there traditional bamboo containers are used as decorations. On a table, a small wall made of plastic tubs full of cookies of all kinds. Almond combinations abound: coffee almond, cinnamon almond, chocolate almond, green tea almond and more. Like any Peranakan bakery, Galicier has pineapple tarts.

Power 98 reports that the thunderstorms will continue all afternoon, then wishes everyone a Happy Dewali before playing a Guns N’ Roses song. The rainy national holiday seems like any other day. The flow of customers has been steady. Most walk in, but a few park on Tiong Bahru Road, turn on their blinking hazard lights and run in to order.

Speaking in English, a woman tells her two children about the photo of Tan Lok Wee. The woman’s father used to take her there. Jenny, speaking in Teochew, had told the woman the Tan Lok Wee/Galicier story. The woman is excited and emotional. The kids are bored.

Jenny says this sort of thing happens all the time.

Next door, on the corner, is the Prata Paradise. A few doors away on the other side is The French Bookshop. At night, on the other end of the block, the packed tables of Sin Hoi San clog the passageway. Sin Hoi San specializes in seafood. From inside their bubbling tanks, risks of lobsters, casts of crabs and porns6 of geoducks intimidate those waiting at the bus stop.

Most evenings the manager, Cheong Seck Wee, weaves his motorbike through the tables and begins cruising through the streets of Tiong Bahru. His ride is covered with lights, decals and flags. When I lived on the third floor of Moh Guan, I’d watch him from the window. Classic Chinese ballads softly played from speakers on his glowing, blinking motorbike. He rode slowly, like the lost ghost of a parade.

Next to Sin Hoi San is a provision shop, a time capsule from the days when customers bought 20 kilo bags of rice. Now, in the age of supermarkets and 7-11s, the shop sells small things like canned drinks, instant noodles, fruits and bread. A few times a year, there will be baskets of green spiky durians in front. The uncle will sit beside his weathered stand with a knife and gloves nearby.

“Galicier is stuck in the Seventies,” says a newspaper clipping on the wall. I would disagree. Galicier is as timeless as gula melakka, pure water, honey or bread.

(i ate tiong bahru is available on Amazon)

Deepavali at Galicier (the first of a two part excerpt from i ate tiong bahru)

i ate tiong bahru is a self-published book by artist/writer Stephen Black. Despite having received almost no support from governmental or media institutions, it has become a national bestseller and preparations are now underway for a second edition. The success of  i ate tiong bahru has been due to word of mouth and I am very grateful to those who have enjoyed iatb and told others. I apologize that the format of this post does not follow that of the book....

Dewali in Galicier

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asks.


The back room of Galicier, the pastry shop on Tiong Bahru Road. Rain taps the tin roof as Pricilia and I stand near the shiny, tube-like contraption.


“Let’s do it!”

I lower my head slowly; I could be scalded. Pricilia quickly lifts the lid. Flavored steam rushes at me. My open mouth, my nose, my chin, my eyelids, even my forehead; all suddenly become one happy tastebud. I gulp the delicate, narcotic vapor. Immediately I become an angel in a heavenly cloud of butterscotch. I become a warm knife gliding over soft pancake butter and maple syrup. A streetlight in a tropical mist of caramel, a kite in a windy molasses sky. I am steamed gula melakka.

Pricilia smiles. “That is why I like making fuat kueh.”

Gula melakka thrills me. It’s organic – yes! Produced in the countryside, it allows people to develop their own businesses without moving to cities – yes! It’s full of vitamins – yes! It tastes great – double yes! Gula melakka is a traditional “medicinal sugar” in the Ayurvedic tradition and one of the world’s first spices. Long produced throughout Southeast Asia, gula melakka is known by many names, including jaggery, gur and palm sugar. The word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Sanskrit equivalent of gula melakka.

Strictly speaking, gula melakka is made only from the Palmyra palm. However, gula melakka is often made by small independent producers, each likely having a different production method. Some producers, for example, include refined sugar or add sap from other types of palm trees. Interestingly, the pure, fresh sap from the palmyra palm tree is also the basis for the alcoholic drink known as toddy.

The owner of Galicier, Mr. Y.S. Tan, grew up in a kampung where gula melakka was made. He often saw men quickly shimmy up trees to then slice and smash flowering buds with mallets. The men would then affix a “Mongolian pouch” or clay pot to the wounded buds and climb back down. The next morning the sap was collected, boiled and poured into bamboo tubes or glass molds. After the water vapor evaporated, the hard pieces of gula melakka were wrapped in paper and sold.

When Jenny was a child, gula melakka came wrapped in coconut leaves. Over eighty years ago, her grandfather, utilizing the skills he’d learned “from the Europeans,” set up a bakery named Ton Lok Wee. After he returned to Hainan, Jenny’s father took over the bakery. Mr. Tan began working for Jenny’s father in 1969, when he was eleven. Eventually, Tan Lok Wee closed, mainly because of the expansion of Orchard Road. When Mr. Tan decided to set up his own bakery, he had a partner: Jenny. The two were married thirty-three years ago.

Half of the people in Galicier gathered around me, trying to explain its Chinese name. To write something like ‘Ga-li- cier’ in Chinese, three characters are used: ka li jiaKa means something like ‘invitation to an event with the feeling of a wedding or family get-together’. Li could mean ‘power’ or ‘profit’ and jia means ‘family’ or ‘good’. Something like that. Mr. Tan also told me that Galicier is a city in Brazil.

On the wall behind the cash register, are two photos of Ton Lok Wee. The largest, a black and white street scene of Orchard Road, was taken in 1975. Behind the bakery is a wallsized advertisement for the “natural living color” of Setron TV. Also in the photo is the famous parking lot that, at night, became filled with food stalls, strings of lights and people eating and drinking, all surrounded by colonial architecture.

Jenny moves her finger over the photo, remembering the Cold Storage, the bottom of Emerald Hill Road, Centre- point and her father’s bakery. Taped onto the photograph’s white sky is a faded color photograph of Ton Lok Wee. In front of the bakery a young girl smiles at the camera. Her name is Soh Kee Soon and she’s Jenny’s eldest sister.

Soh Kee Soon is now seventy years old and sitting next to me. She is methodically cutting blocks of gula melakka; shaving and crumbling it. The shop uses as much as three kilos a day. The radio plays Madonna and Eighties dance music, but the rhythm of Galicier is the tapping of Soh Kee Soon’s knife against the cutting board.

(i ate tiong bahru on Amazon)

Crowdfunding Success… or is it?

This post outlines my current crowdfunding campaign: why it successfully went over target within three days and why that is somewhat of a mixed blessing. Background For my third attempt at crowdfunding, I planned a campaign for glassware to be engraved with the phrase i ate tiong bahru, the name of my book, a national bestseller in Singapore. Prior to this, I had created a sample of the engraved glassware and it was met with support. One store had immediately expressed great interest. A successful crowdfunding campaign would allow me to do two things: 1. Create an edition of 88 numbered and signed glasses for art collectors. (I consider iatb to be a conceptual art project, but to explain why would require a separate post.) 2. Conduct a small marketing test. The amount was set at $650 dollars, which would allow one hundred glasses to be purchased and engraved. Procedure I made a video, prepared my budget and rewards. I chose to work with Zingohub because I had happened to meet Sayantan Das, the co-founder. I was impressed by him, as well as Zingohub's focus on Southeast Asia. (I should mention that Tiong Bahru is a community in Singapore.) Because Zingohub is new, I would be one of their earlybirds, meaning more attention would be given to my campaign than if it were one of the thousands on Kickstarter or other bigger crowdfunding sites. There could have been some of those unforeseen downsides that come along with a new IT company, but all went well. If anything, I was the weakest link as I decided to start a campaign very quickly during one of the busiest times of my life. Finally, I should mention that Zingohub includes an online store, which is a great idea. So with input and assistance from Zingohub, I had my rewards and video prepared. I then wrote to about twenty people that I thought would be interested in the glassware, either as an artwork or just as a simple fun household item. Then we went live. What happened... Well...within three days I went over target by 30%! Number one of the first glass in the edition of 88 was sold, for $589! I thought that the lower numbers in the edition, which sell for $59 (including a book) would be purchased first. Plus, 4 people wanted the package which includes a coffee session with me. Finally, one person pledged a very welcome dollar to be mentioned on my social media pages. Am I happy? YES.... BUT... What needs to happen next...
I really had not put my full campaign into action. I thought that of the twenty people I contacted, some would respond and the campaign would look positive from the first day. I never thought I would meet my goal so quickly, let alone exceed it.
So, now I am following through with the rest of my campaign plans. My rewards are, I believe, a good value and now I must push this value as a reason to participate. The "fun" of being part of a support team is now somewhat diminished. This is bittersweet, as it is a great feeling to be part of a team that struggles and slowly achieves success.Now, those who support my campaign are probably doing so more because the rewards, rather than because of the thrill of supporting an uncertainty. In any event, I am very thankful for any support, existing or incoming in the next two weeks. I hope that I can find at least another six supporters. Sixty supporters.... As it is now, I'm asking myself if six people are a crowd... The i ate tiong bahru glassware campaign is here. The book that started it all is on Amazon.

Flame Magnet

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.
M. C. Escher (supposedly), posted on The Dude's Facebook page  Thank you for having the courage to buy Flame Magnet. Ultimately, you will receive at least 12 stories, all for free. Flame Magnet is an experiment, a new way of using Amazon and recognition of the fact that an electronic book can be a flowing, shifting thing. Flame Magnet also acknowledges the power of algorithms, gaming strategies and word of mouth sharing/advertising. You have paid 99 cents for an empty shell. A year from now, your shell will be full of at least twelve stories and Amazon will be selling Flame Magnet for $5.99 or $12.99 or $34.99. I will, as soon as possible, email you a version of Flame Magnet that contains five stories. The stories are: Lipstick and Snow, Lorong 16, Deepavali at Gallicier and  Ronnie and the Burns. The other two stories will remain a mystery, but here a couple of hints: Motown and Bali. Lipstick and Snow was featured in the premiere issue of Staple magazine, Lorong 16 is a dystopian dark comedy set in the Geylang district of Singapore and Ronnie and the Burns is a documentary about Ronnie See, the leader of the first rock band in Singapore. Deepavali at Gallicier  first appeared in the bestselling book i ate tiong bahru. The story documents one day at a traditional Peranakan bakery in Singapore and is one that I have received the most comments upon.     Ultimately, there will be at least a dozen short stories in Flame Magnet. The stories will be about James Brown, Singapore National Day in Plain Vanilla, 3how, Verrie Larch, Deepavali at Gallicier Peranakan Pastry Shop, Mom's Farm in Bali, a little bar in Tokyo on a wintry morning, Singapore's First Rock Band, Secrets of You Tiaow  and much more. In short, your 99 cents is an entry into a literary project that will grow with time. Your "investment" will increase, as every time I add a new story to the Flame Magnet ebook file, you will receive it, at no extra charge Let me repeat this  another way. You have bought a subscription. As soon as I have your email, I will send you the latest version of Flame Magnet. You will get 3 or 4 files in the next six months. The last file sent to you will have at least twelve stories. Again, there is no extra charge, even though the completed ebook version of Flame Magnet will sell for almost twelve dollars! Thanks for being so bold and open-minded. Welcome to the Flame Magnet adventure!     (Oh yes... I should say that I am extremely excited about the stories in Flame Magnet. They are very different from my Bali Wave Ghost novel and i ate tiong bahru, which became a national bestseller in Singapore. Oh yes again...as I write this, there are about 20 days left in my crowdfunding campaign. I have already exceeded my goal, but there are still a number of rewards left.  

notes on the book Seen and Unseen by Russell Darnley

Russell Darnley's experiences in Asia are somewhat like my own. We've both spent considerable time in Bali, Singapore, and Indonesia, where Russell lived for a number of years. I lived in Japan, another place that Russell wrote about. Russell is Australian; I'm American.  Seen and Unseen is  a collection of short stories  based on Russell`s memoirs but, as I read, I often found myself remembering similar situations, or comparing his descriptions of a certain place with my own. Russell's  ability to speak Indonesian put him in the midst of the hospitals and makeshift morgues of Kuta immediately after the Bali Bombing. Reading his words, I felt like I was there. This sense of being beside  the author occurred  throughout the book, and thankfully, often in much more positive places than Kuta during that terrible time. Russell's writing style is, for the most part conversational. He recreates dialogues and places them within a chronological structure. This simple method allows him to provide easily understood insights into complex matters. Russell gracefully overcomes the challenges of using non-English words in an English language text. We can understand, for example, an Indonesian word because of its context or by the way it's used by a character. Russell  spent a significant portion of his life in Indonesia. The result of all of this is that we can how political decisions affect peoples lives, especially those political decisions involving more than one country.

photo of Russell Darnley from www.anza.org.sg

In short, I enjoyed reading Seen and Unseen because it was like having an intelligent older relative sharing with me the details of a life well lived. To give you an idea of the scope of the book, I present you with a few titles of the book's twenty-nine chapters: Sid Thompson and D Company Red Poppies and Janur An Encounter With White Australia Surviving the Sixties Balikpapan: Looking Backwards and Forwards Kampanye- The Campaign Procession An Unusual Kind of Thunder Singapore 43 Years on I should mention that Russell gave me a copy of Seen and Unseen in the Tiong Bahru Market, which is where we met. Finally, I wrote  a book, Bali Wave Ghost, that constantly makes reference to the Bali Bombing. Seen and Unseen on Amazon FWIW, Russell has been spotted in The Oak Bar. (I apologize for the formatting of this post. I am unsure as to why my previews always show a much more attractive spacing and layout, but once I publish, the posts look like this one...)  

The Oak Bar

Hey everybody! Russell, Pavle, Xu Xi and Bernard! I'd like to introduce you to O'Brien Brown and Carl Adams! I've written about them elsewhere on this blog. Carl wrote about the first slave freed by Abraham Lincoln, a woman named Nance. O'Brien wrote coming of age story set in the Sixties. So, do poke around on the links and enjoy your selves! The next round is on O'Brien Brown! .....Oh yeah! My crowdfunding campaign reached 130% in the first three days! But yeah, there are still some great rewards left!http://www.zingohub.com/en-GBL/stephenblack/i-ate-tiong-bahru-limited-glassware-edition...... (first post on the blog follows...)I like to introduce people. My hope is that some of the people here will look at some at some of the links of the others, possibly interact, as well as  introduce other people to "drink with". Pavle Radonic... Fresh toddy in JB, a bottle of the good stuff at Vic's... Here is the bio used in the text and photo project we did together: A Melbourne, Australia writer of Montenegrin heritage, Pavle Radonic has been living and writing intensively in the South-East Asian tropics for five years. Oddly and unexpectedly, in this time he has become a kind of minor Malay Archipelago specialist, at least from the Western perspective. Pavle has divided his time between peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (Jakarta & Jogja in particular). In Australia his writing has been  published in a range of literary journals and magazines; more recently his work from this region has appeared in Ambit Magazine (UK), Big Bridge (US) and The Literary Yard (India), among others. A literary miscellany more than blog can be found at: www.axialmelbourne.blogspot.com   Xu Xi... Yes, we have had a few drinks together; Hong Kong, Manhattan and Singapore. Her latest novel is called The Man in Our Lives. The Jakarta Post did this very thorough interview with her. Russel Darnley... We drank coffee in the Tiong Bahru Mouth! I'm hoping we can exchange words about our books...his, called Seen and Unseen, includes a chapter on the Bali Bombing, the event which, tragically, launched the career of Mr. Orgasm Donor, a character in my novel entitled Bali Wave Ghost. Russel, fluent in Indonesian, did volunteer work immediately after the Bombing and the notes he began taking at that time became the first steps towards Seen and Unseen. Bernard Jann... At  least once, Bernard probably had a glass near his computer in Europe and I probably had a glass near my computer in Asia. So there ya go. Bernard's website is here. He once helped me research some Croatian oldies:
.....................cheers! SB...................

The Japanese Photographer in Bali Wave Ghost

In my latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost, there is a character named Kuroyama, who lives directly above the main character, Odie (Mr. Orgasm Donor). Kuroyama is a fictitious character, but one based on my research, life experiences and time-spent-viewing-the-works of photographers like Daido Moriyama, Eikoh Hosoe andAraki, My first introduction to the world of Japanese photography was a book called New Japanese Photography, which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at MOMA in 1974. I imagined what it might be like if an established  Japanese photographer in his "golden years" moved to Bali... an excerpt is below. ............... -the image used as the header was created in Ubud, Bali as part of a collaboration between Stephen Black and Mee-Young Arkim. There are several posts on this blog describing the photographic intentions of the project. Here is the first. -an exhibition by Daido Moriyama is currently being presented as part of the Singapore International Photography Festival -FWIW, in Tokyo I ran SPP, an art space with Barae, a dance/performance artist who occasionally modeled for Araki. Here is the beginning of one chapter from Bali Wave Ghost...


On our bed, an open book. A two-page black and white photo of a naked, hairless Japanese young man in an office. His body is covered with white powder and his head is stretched so far back that the smooth, eyeless surface of his throat is where his face should be. His hands are arthritic. Like a praying mantis pinned to a desk, his body screams at a fluorescent light.

Two hours ago there was a knock on the window. ”Herro. Here I am Kuroyama.” I put on my pants and opened the door. Kuroyama looked like a lost tourist who’d just been shopping. “Do you know butoh?” he asked in his deep voice.

Butoh lives upstairs, I think.”

Kuroyama gave me the crisp white bag he’d been holding. “Butoh is art of death with agitation spirit. Please enjoy with relax feeling.” He smiled. I looked at the sky and discretely pinched myself. Kuroyama lit a cigarette and brought it to his big teeth. “Dance of reaction to human darkness. Also, please be sharing with Miss Francesca.” He smiled again, and nodded with the seriousness of a bow. “Sanku you.” He went upstairs.

It has been quiet since then.

I have a feeling Kuroyama is now directly above me, looking at the same book, the same images, at the same time.

Another black and white image. Grainy. Another Japanese body. Lips, cheekbones, nose. Throat. Her eyes are white dust and her breasts are in rags. Arching against, kicking against a dark wooden floor. Serene yet terrifying, like a long-killed mermaid. Her hair is Fukushima.


Bali Wave Ghost on Amazon