Tag Archives: novels

Books by Book Merah

Book Merah has primarily published the works of Stephen Black, the exception being Singapore Literature prize winner Cyril Wong.Book Merah is now open to discussions with writers.

Stephen Black's books and stories are often set in Asia, and combine research with storytelling. The links below lead to reviews, descriptions, photos and videos, as well as links to Amazon and Unglue.

I Ate Tiong Bahru

A bestseller in Singapore...
black and white book covers

Bali Wave Ghost

Obama Search Words by Stephen Black

Obama Search Words

Red chairs, and Cyril Wong: the cover of Fires.

Fires, by Cyril Wong

the cover of furikake; a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name, Stephen Black. Also on the cover is a description: short stories about rice seasonings.


The word 'Stephen', a rectangle of black and a red dot/
red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

Red Dot SAD

Publishing Magnates
Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.
Book covers of Singapore books
cover by Debbie Ding

Contact With Shadow

Lance, the moose from Secret Donut World, contemplates a skull, ala the poor Yorick scene from Hamlet.

Flame Magnet

Alphabet Spikes

Book covers from books by Book Merah. Authors include Stephen Black and Cyril Wong

Despite having produced one bestseller, Book Merah has done no marketing. Marketing will begin in 2020.


Hello... To see me bray like a donkey as I briefly describe the books, click here. To see an informative interview shot in Bali, click here. For complete descriptions of the books being given away, click here. The schedule.... FIRES Red chairs, cyril wong and FIRES free downloads over for now... ........................................ FURIKAKE photography as part of book cover designiron fire riceballs and red thumbkway All the free days have passed... ........................................ I ATE TIONG BAHRUIATB_front in Singapore, available at Booktique, Naiise and Books Actually ............................................ OBAMA SEARCH WORDS Obama Search Words by Stephen Black free downloads over! ................................ BALI WAVE GHOST black and white book covers  Free downloads on Amazon: September 27,28 and 29.   Interactive Fiction...Go to the site to find PICASSO IN THE RAIN! https://ifcomp.org/   I ATE TIONG BAHRU AUDIOBOOK SAMPLE  Video interview about the books   Kickstarter coming soon!! Thank you for stopping by... Drop a line! And, honest reviews on Amazon or Goodreads are always appreciated! THANKS   Stephen Black

Lorong 16

Carlyn lit the blowtorch.    Tango delicately lowered his body so he could stare deeper into the rat’s eyes. The rat smelled Tango's breath and immediately pulled its head back and flattened its body against the bottom of the cage. It couldn’t move back any further. Tango’s nose almost touched the slowly frantic whiskers. The rat started shivering. The cookie pan was ready. Carlyn stepped back. The rat’s tail had been moving back and forth wildly. Now it stopped. Carlyn remembered when that rat was born, when it was pink and blind. Tango opened the cage and she closed her eyes, waiting.  Click, click, click,click.  Then, the red hot corner of the cookie pan and the very brief little sizzling sounds. Calmly, Tango picked up the newspaper and walked towards the door that led to outside. Mad Dog held it open and Tango lobbed the rat in front of the window.  ”Now!” said the girl in the white dress, the moment the rat’s body hit the ground..  Tango went into the greeting room and stood next to Douglas. The rat had quickly regained consciousness. Now it was letting out long screams, gasping for air and trying to run on its pawless legs.It didn’t go far. It became still.  ”Now!” the girl in the white dress said again.  The girl watching the clock said “Forty five seconds”.  “I win!” said the girl in the green sequinned dress happily, “I bet forty-eight! I win again!” The other girls grumbled in Cantonese and looked ready to kill her.Rizal trotted in, immediately disappointed that he’d missed his chance.  “The Hold’s getting stronger,” Tango said, understating the obvious.”Yesterday was a minute fifteen.” Douglas turned and walked away. Tango and the girls watched as Carlyn ran out, grabbed the dead rat by the tail and dashed back in,holding her breath the entire time.    Tango and Rizal had been talking as they walked from the greeting room to Tango’s office.Now, in the doorway to Tango’s office, Rizal stopped. Douglas was inside, sitting behind the coffee table topped with two glasses, a bucket of ice and an almost empty bottle of Glenmorangie. Rizal had been talking about getting more plants from a grower in Malaysia, one up in the Highlands.”Just need a car and a couple of masks for two days… Four hundred dollars should do it.”  “I’ll think about it.”  “Sure, boss.I’m ready any time, but the sooner the better. Safer that way.”  Tango closed the door and sat back down. Douglas took care of Tango’s drink.  The silence between them was comfortable,as it always was. Sometimes,though, they had music.They listened to the vinyl LPs Douglas had brought over with his treasured record player. The two had memorized and discussed LPs by Fritz Kreisler, Jelly Roll Morton, The Replacements,Dick Lee,Frank Sinatra and Helen Reddy. They debated Hendrix vs. Prince vs Tommy Emmanuel and complained about the Cantopop the girls listened to.Douglas taught Tango some simple blues riffs on the piano.Once in a while Douglas played and Tango sang. Always they ended with Love and Happiness by Al Green.  Finally, Douglas leaned forward.  “Just a coincidence... best plants are at a nursery up near the casino…”  “Probably. Another coincidence... Rizal needs 400 bucks and a cash advance.”  Douglas looked around the room, then looked through the one way mirror to the greeting room.There the wall behind the couch was completely covered by greenery. “Rizal really does know how to take care of  plants. I wasn’t happy to let him go.”  “Your loss, my gain. He replaced the rotten wood on the windows. Sealed  ‘perfectly. Took care of that fan. Haven’t had a blackout since he started.I think he’s changed...” Tango took off his jacket, went over and carefully hung it in the flimsy Ikea closet.“...but if he hasn’t, outside he goes. If he’s lucky, he’s lucky. But if The Hold’s like it is today, he’s got twenty seconds to make it to McDonalds.“If they’re open...”  “...and if he’s got money for the guard.”  Douglas was leaving in four days, moving to the mountains near Yogyakarta. The two met the day Tango moved in. The Hold didn’t have a name then.    The first deaths occurred on a cruise ship, the night before it was supposed to dock in Singapore. Only two thousand passengers died. The Straits Times said the deaths were caused by Indonesians burning poisonous plants as they cleared the last remaining jungles for palm oil plantations. Then, two days later, a wave of death struck from Tanjong Pagar and Sentosa to the oil refineries in Jurong and beyond, up into Malaysia: ten thousand people. Scientists then said that global warming and air pollution were interacting to create “super blankets” of carbon dioxide. People could not escape Singapore fast enough. Within a week, the unexplainable asphyxiations--similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, had filled the  Central Business District and the surrounding areas with corpses.The homeless camped in the MRT stations, gathered on Mount Faber and in the inner parts of the heartlands. The world listened as scientists explained why this disaster was uniquely Singaporean. Then, the same catastrophe occurred in Houston. Then Amsterdam. Then New York. Yokohama, Shanghai and Long Beach. Millions of people poisoned by breathing in fatal amounts of carbon dioxide. Within three years most of the world’s coastlines were graveyards,all deathly still because of something like Crib Death. The Apocalypse was started by carbon monoxide poisoning, the coastal lungs of the planet unable to refill themselves with oxygen, with Life. Almost no one knows why this happened. There’s a knock on the door. Before Tango can reply, Wendy pokes her head in. “Papa, the American! She cut her wrist again!”  Tango looks at Douglas, rolls his eyes and empties his drink. ”And you think my life is nothing but looking angry and orchestrating orgies of mass destruction,” He puts his glass down with a surprising softness and rolls his office chair back, ”well…it aint.”     Wendy steps back. “Room 12, Papa. Rei found her.”   Without speaking, they rush upstairs, down the hall, towards the red light above Room 12. To be continued

A great discount/ semi-On Kawara artwork/Fashion!?/a neologism/books/moving

Simple description: I am moving (shifting as they say in Singapore/the UK) and hope to get some of my artworks in the hands of people who understand them. Pay what you like for the following printed books:  Bali Wave Ghost, I Ate Tiong Bahru and Furikake. All of these books have received positive reviews and all are described on this blog elsewhere. As for the T-shirts: -they are a means of disseminating information about "compung", a word I have created. I am now looking for organizations about neologisms, so as to find ways to register "compung" or get it into the mainstream.Compung documentation (T-shirt) - they reference On Kawara as well as Prince's use of symbols and  the substitution of letters for words -they promote the Kampung GUI. GUI stands for ground up initiative, a concept that I strongly believe in. -they feature my "unaesthetic" aesthetic. Fun, maybe challenging...   SO... get in touch if you are interested. I would be happy to connect these limited edition artworks with people who "get" them... Onward! Kampung GUI tour pointing SB The books are a limited edition, joining these others.  

Our Little Drummer Boy (excerpt from Bali Wave Ghost)

OUR LITTLE DRUMMER BOY We'd skyped friends and family all over the world, teasing them about their snow and our Christmas on the beach. We constantly posted photos and selfies and SeeThings: our sunburns, the concert, our drunken faces; our hungover faces. Me with some fans. Sasha pointing at monkeys. The skinny kitten in the Ubud market and a funeral procession in Seminyak. Francesca, in the middle of the hotel’s garden, asleep in a swinging rattan chair. Fat Sergie lifting up his fake Santa Claus beard to show off the brand new naked woman surfing on his neck: she rides above a sea of other tattoos-- so many and so close together, that his skin looks like tapestry. I picked some flowers. A Balinese woman lit incense sticks and placed them on a small stone altar; Sasha videoed her every movement. Fran sketched the rice field. The table: teapots, cups and mugs of coffee, crusts of toast and bits of omelets on plates. In one corner are banana peels, oranges, pieces of snakefruit and the four magenta ovals of untouched dragonfruits. A pile of Bali t-shirts and little bags of coffee, topped with the big wooden penis bottle openers Sasha bought in Kuta. Sparrows and hummingbirds dart about and tiny geckos sunbathe on the railing. Between two green coconuts is an almost empty bottle of vodka and an ashtray full of the remains of hand rolled cigarettes. In his majestically dramatic style of broken English, Sergei is telling us about his bass player's girlfriend’s sexual preferences. Suddenly he dashes out to the street. He comes back with an ancient local woman on his arm. They are beaming. She has a few teeth. With clownish, charming gestures Sergei arranges for the warung staff to bring her food and drink. He takes her straw conical hat, her sickle and her bag full of vines and weeds. He grabs me by the arm and points to the shoddy brick wall. Throws the bag at me. "You make stage properly nice with grass in bricks! I shall get guitar!" I begin decorating the warung’s back wall with clumps of weeds and vines. "Beautiful! Like mistletoe," Sergei says when he returns. He drinks from the bottle, then grabs a clump of vines. He holds it over my head like a noose and kisses me. “Merry Christmas, Comrade Orgasm Donor!" He kisses everyone, especially the local woman, who smiles even more. Vodka again, then Sergei uses his arm to wipe the fruit off the table. He sets the sickle on the table and tries to make a hammer out of weeds. He gives up. He passes me his SeeThing rig, puts on the conical hat and opens his guitar case. He starts by joking with Sasha and Fran. Then, quite seriously, Sergei starts singing The Little Drummer Boy. In Russian. Sasha picks up the wooden penis bottle openers and uses them as drumsticks. My memories go back to Springfield. Fran holds a tissue to her eyes as we all join in on the chorus — even the shy cook from Surabaya comes out and sings. Ba rumpumpumpum, rumpumpumpum... The only other customer gets up and leaves. "Merry Christmas to you sir," Sergei yells after him, not missing a beat. Ba rumpumpumpum, rumpumpumpum... The last chorus ends and immediately we are clapping and yelling out Christmas wishes in English and Russian. Francesca points at her watch, looks at Sergei and slowly makes a statement in Russian. She then tells me I have a job to get ready for and that I should be more professional. With a fury that makes us go quiet, Sergei hits her with a clump of weeds. Fran throws it back, starts asking questions without waiting for answers. Stunned, then embarrassed, Sergei begins tapping his pockets. Sasha laughs .Everything instantly becomes brighter and I don’t know if this is because of vodka or moving clouds or the relief that they didn’t start fighting again. Fran calls a taxi. Sergei becomes a warm-hearted perfect gentleman and returns the hat to the smiling Balinese woman, then goes to hunt for his passport. Sasha swigs the last of the vodka, looks right at me and, in a serious voice, says, “She knows if you’ve been bad or good. Barumpumpumpum” The taxi arrives. More relief and I didn’t really drink that much and “Merry Selamat Pagi Christmas Mr. Taxi Driver!” Sasha says. Amitroxidyl trouble with reality again starting, I think. We hug each other and make promises to meet in Moscow. Sergei comes back out yelling, his arms spread like wings. Back in the U.S.! Back in the U.S.! Back in the U.S.S.R.! His tattoos, his long greasy hair and the brass knuckles in his voice make the driver uncomfortable. Sergei howls the part of the song where the Beatle harmonize like the Beach Boys. Woooeeeehooohooo!!!!! Woooooooeeeeeeehooohooo!!!!! He squeezes in on Fran’s lap, crushing her. She laughs and elbows him hard. Sergei leans out the window and points at me. You don't know how lucky you are, Mr. Orgasm Donor boy! The video shoot is just down the street. The road is shady and quiet and I tell myself I am sober and vodka has no smell and the amitroxdyl is behaving itself. From behind rows of motorbikes I hear a gong. I go look. In the middle of a circle of men, two roosters are attacking each other. The birds start slowing down like they are becoming distracted and a few men shout at them and then the yellow and black one leaps and the metal on his claw opens the face of the other. Blood flows from where the eye was and the white bird’s head jerks and sways. Winners start collecting money. I walk on, tapping my pockets and looking through my bags: passport, photocopy and the letter, bottles of water, a kilo of oranges, a loaf of bread, jars of peanut butter and grape jelly... cigarettes! I forgot cigarettes. I step into the first warung I see. There’s only one customer; the man who didn’t like our singing. He’s reading a Bible. I look for the toilet. I come out, and am surprised to see Timothy Lee dramatically holding up a copy of Bahasa Indonesian for Beginners. He barely acknowledges me as he lectures the man. “For many reasons it is crucial that he learns Bahasa. And you must impress upon him the fact that it greatly behooves him to join the exercise routines on Fridays.” The stacks of plastic cups of water behind Timothy Lee sparkle with sunlight. The inside of the warung is green, and in the kitchen hangs a frame filled with golden words from the Koran. Stacked plates of food are near the window. Outside, a black SUV rolls by, filled with a Caucasian family all wearing red and white Santa Claus hats. In the back of the warung, a television hangs from the ceiling. Home Alone is on and the star, a blonde little boy, is yelling in Indonesian at a pair of dimwitted bad guys. "Forgive me for possibly appearing to be insensitive, but I need to clarify a financial matter. Right now your son is most likely in a tiny cell with at least twenty other men; criminals... I cannot now determine how much it'll cost to get him upgraded to something civilized... but if you want me to negotiate on your behalf for a private or semi-private room, I'll need you to sign this...“ The man signs. ‘‘As for the future, we do have a few options. You can comfort your wife with the truth, which is very different from what appears in the media. And, whatever you do, do not read any of the poorly written books about the place. They are nothing more than feeble attempts at sensationalism, poorly written bad journalism. What your son will soon discover is that it’s boring. That may seem a strange thing to say about a jail where riots and stabbings occur frequently, but trust me. If your son keeps to himself he should be fine. I'll make sure his case stays in the headlines. Timothy Lee throws me the newspaper he’d pointed to. I read it. DRUG BUST AUSSIE GETS EXECUTION FOR XMAS Timothy Lee is talking to a bricklayer from Humpty Doo, New Territories. There was heroin in his son’s surfboard. His son is a drummer. "Based on my knowledge of the Shephard case, I’m aiming for parole, not "asimilasi", or assimilation. I'll go over all this later. For now, the most important thing is that you and your son have some quality Christmas time together. " A Balinese man, muscle-bound and uniformed, walks in. A small frangipani blossom behind an ear, sunglasses, and lines of white ash making a V on his forehead. He points at a plate of chicken. Outside, directly across the street, a red circular Coke sign hangs above a desk surrounded by people waiting in metal chairs. Pakta Integritas says a banner. Lapas Denpasar says another. To the right, a pack of journalists and men with video cameras are waiting for me near the gates of Kerokaban Prison. Timothy Lee looks directly at me. “And, of course, I will press the authorities to investigate your son’s claims that he was framed by Russian musicians.” The man stands up and our eyes meet. (For some reason, WordPress is not displaying the controls which include the ability to italicize. Hopefully the lack of italics has not caused confusion. If you would like to be one of the test readers for Bali Wave Ghost, drop me a line.)

Book Merah Projects, Indonesia-related (Hello Frankfurt Book Fair!)

Notes on the Fay Weldon Interview in the Independent (March 4, 2015)

Headline: Fay Weldon interview: ‘Abandon your dignity and write a racy page-turner’ Writers should “abandon literary dignity” and write page-turning versions of their thoughtful masterpieces for the e-book audience, the acclaimed author Fay Weldon has suggested. Not my kind of headline... The 83-year-old author, who has written more than 50 works including The Life and Loves of a She Devil, told an audience at The Independent Bath Literature Festival that a different type of reader needed a different type of writer. ah... Ms. Weldon is from the write-for-your-audience school. Fine. I prefer to explore the art of writing, then see if anyone is interested in my discoveries. Also, regardless of one's intentions as a writer, marketing is key. Authors should write a literary version for publication in print form, and a racier “good-bad” version for those who use e-readers such as the Kindle. Weldon revealed she had considered expanding a recent e-book novella for print. I like the idea of two versions. Coincidentally, I have been experimenting with a novella form of my latest novel, Bali Wave Ghost.However, the amount of "raciness" in both are the same:almost none. When I am able to do so, I will execute a plan in which every copy of one of my novels is unique. “Writers have to write now for a world where readers are busy, on the move and have little time for contemplation and reflection,” she said. “The writer has to focus on writing better, cutting to the chase and doing more of the readers’ contemplative work for them.” In terms of mobile and ebooks, I agree, almost completely.However,I think the experience of reading a printed book is still rich and meaningful and allows for contemplation and reflection. But both of these points are dependent  upon the reader and the reading experience. Weldon expands on the theme on her blog, quoting a survey in The Bookseller last year which showed that 90 per cent of book buyers read e-books with genre and commercial fiction comprehensively outselling literary fiction. (This seems to be the link, though it displays as being posted in 2014.) One e-reader company, Kobo, also revealed the most read books last year were romance, followed by crime and thriller novels and fantasy. In August, academics presented a study that showed Kindle users were “significantly” worse at recalling events in a mystery story than those reading in paperback. A European research network studying the effects of digital text reading said “research shows that the amount of time spent reading long-form texts is in decline, and due to digitisation, reading is becoming more intermittent and fragmented”. This information is not surprising. Now, "everything is mobile" supposedly. I am cautious of studies and surveys. As I write this, a woman is sitting outside reading a paperback. She seems to be deeply engaged with it, and has been for the past 45 minutes at least. Alice Mangen, of Stavanger University in Norway, a lead on the study, said it “might make a difference if the novel is a page-turner or light read…compared to a 500 page, more complex literary novel.” There are so many variables connected with the acts of reading and writing that this statement is difficult for me to comprehend.Writing for the sake of art and writing for the sake of sales are not mutually exclusive ideas.Ms. Mangen's statement appears to be either/or.Harry Potter: isn't it a complex literary novel that is also a page turner? Weldon wrote on her blog that the works that sell best in e-book form were fast-moving event-driven stories “with no lingering on obscure complicated ideas,” and that authors should “abandon literary dignity” and write two versions of the same novel. She added: “Writers can’t expect the same version of their book to serve both markets.” Very interesting idea.I wish there had been follow up questions: Thoughts on sales figures of both versions? What would publishers think of this and how would the different versions be marketed? The two markets: something like "fluffy entertainment" and "lit er a ture"? She continued: “What the new reader wants is surprise, suspense, entertainment and it doesn’t make you any less of a writer, just a more accomplished one. But maybe something is lost just as it is gained.” I believe "old readers" wanted those attributes as well. Her novella The Ted Dreams appeared originally as an e-book before it was published in her new collection Mischief, which provides a survey of her work over five decades. The Ted Dreams was exactly the same in both versions? “I thought for The Ted Dreams I might expand on the themes in print that I had thought might be boring,” she said. “I could still do that but I’d rather get on with what I’m doing now.” I am unclear....so, she did not practice what she is preaching? She said that she can read books by writers such as Martin Amis in book form, but “in electronic form I tire”. Eye fatigue? The weight of the ebook reader? Unpleasant feeling in general? Why? ................ I became aware of this article because of an email notification from Digital Book World. The link to the article was entitled,"Should Authors Write Differently for Digital (the Independent)" I was hoping to read about the following: KEYWORDS AS SUBJECT MATTER Imagine a new genre, one in which trending keywords are "writejacked", that is to say that the authors of (mostly) pre-written novels wait until the moment when they can integrate trending key words into their novels and immediately publish them. The MO here is part 24 hour writing competition, part SEO optimization exercise. I have written a short story that experiments with this idea. Not much to report yet, but drop me a line if you would like to learn more. FAN FICTION Would love to learn about non-vampire, non-TV show related fan fiction. Certainly there must be some great books being produced as fan fiction which are not related to mainstream pop culture. I am also experimenting with this in my collaboration with Ezio Barbero, a novel series based on food and the history of the Majapahit Empire, including  excursions into  the time of Alexander the Great and  WWII. (Mulan meets The DaVinci Code with a dash of Anthony Bourdain). COLLABORATIVE WRITING PROJECTS Kindle Worlds Joe Konrath/Kindle Worlds. Michael Bunker.(Full Disclosure: Michael and I have a project in the works.)Nick Cole There are many others; collaborations have been going on since humans learned to do whatever it is that humans do. NEW WAYS TO WRITE, NEW WAYS TO CONNECT WITH READERS, NEW WAYS TO MAKE BOOKS So much is happening that it is hard to keep track of. Wattpad.Reedsy Uncovered Books, Unglue It, Kickstarter I have experimented with several of these sites. Am always looking for ways to connect with people in the most efficient manner possible.Hopefully I can keep whatever is left of my dignity.

The weekend I won an Oscar, a Grammy, the Nobel Prize and a Golden Horse.

To give you some background...
I'm a transnational artist/writer. Born and raised in the United States, I have lived in Japan, Hong Kong and Paris. Since 2002, my base has been Singapore. I am writing this from Bali. In the physical world, I am somewhat friendly, but am definitely not one who joins groups. I don't really use social media.
To give you some background...
I Ate Tiong Bahru is a portrait, a lyrical documentary about a place I lived in Singapore.
IATB was self-funded. The cover is stark: just the four word title,written in black letters on a white background. The back cover is completely white. My name isn't on it, there isn't a photo of Tiong Bahru's Art Deco buildings. I didn't ask a famous person for a blurb. For the most part, The Straits Times and other Singaporean media organizations seem to be unaware of IATB.
To give you some background...
The day I "won all of the awards", I hadn't slept for about forty hours. I had arrived in Singapore at 9AM, which meant that I left Bali about 6AM, which meant that I was at the airport about 4 something, which meant that...
The bus stop incident is part of this. At the bus stop, I squeezed an uncooperative container of sunblock. The top shot off covering me with goo. Blobs of white sunscreen dried on my shirt and pants, most of them around my crotch.
My meal of laphet is part of this. After I dropped off my bags, I ran errands. I had to pick something up at Peninsula Plaza. In Peninsula is a food stall that serves the best laphet in Singapore. Laphet is tea leaf salad, a Burmese traditional food. I love it. I ate some, including the many little cloves of garlic. I
The unwanted books are part of this. A book shop (in Tiong Bahru, of all places) decided not to carry IATB. So I was carrying a bag full of my books that had been rejected.The plastic bag that the books were in was becoming frayed and holes were appearing.
And it began raining. I got very wet. I have forgotten to mention that my shoes needed to be replaced.
AND SUDDENLY I WAS AT AN ART OPENING. I had planned to go to the opening AFTER I'd had a nap, a shave and a shower. After I'd put on fresh clothes and bought new shoes. But, one of my errands took me very near the art space and so....
I went and I was welcomed. Not just welcomed, but treated like a celebrity! (I have never, ever wanted to be a celebrity, let me make that clear.) Attractive, intelligent women wanted to be photographed with me! Handsome, successful men looked me in the eye, shook my hand and listened to me! I was given wine and special curry puffs and a very good otah-otah!
This is what I mean by "winning awards!"
I am sharing this because the excitement was real. Genuine.I Ate Tiong Bahru, and the writing within it, had connected with people. Those people were interested in me not because of where I had gone to school, not because of my sexuality, not because of advertising or FB "likes", not because I'd been endorsed by the media, not because I was in the right clique, not because we were in a slick art space or trendy book store etc. etc... My clothes and shoes were wet. The rain made my hair look like a mop. I resembled a homeless person(in more ways than I care to admit), but the words in my book had been perceived as having value.  IATB was referred to as an "icon"!
The next day, I was at the Tiong Bahru market from 7AM to 2 PM. Then I was Booktique, from 3-7. Again, I was overwhelmed. A woman living in Tiong Bahru told me that she read the book to her son! And she wanted two more copies! I smiled and thanked her, but inside I was close to tears. Other people also came up to talk about their experiences with the book.
Another thing you should know I that I do not write to please the reader. I write to challenge the reader, albeit in a caring and thoughtful way.  IATB is not" feel good nostalgia".
So the weekend was unforgettable. No red carpets, none of the "friends" that always appear at openings and book launches, no reviews in influential media...just that indescribable feeling that occurs when a genuine, heartful connection has been made.

Surfing a 200 foot wave (from Bali Wave Ghost)


No chop, no boils. The surface is strange and smooth, like the skin of a giant blue beauty queen. My  board’s rock steady, clean as a bone. A deep, deep breath, oxygen for the control center. Mission Apollo. Science, magic and luck. Hey, ho… let’s go!

The blue  becomes battleship gray. Memories are useless: this monster’s made from an earthquake and winter storm swells. Nothing like it ever. Pressure fronts from the Indian Ocean, the tides, the shape of the cracked plates far below me and the moon: all now joining forces to make this moving mountain of water. I could be consumed. The path to the barrel  begins at the peak, but the peak’s fifty yards long. At least. Gut feeling. Go! Paddle like crazy. Shifting; The water’s starting to slope, forming  a ramp, a cliff. Power! Paddle harder! Intercept! There! In the rush! The edge! Thirty feet ahead. Mist and wind, my ribs above the foam. The edge: twenty feet.  Niagara! I thought 80, maybe 100 feet high-- this is double that. Everest! Everest meets Sandy! No horizon. Far away, dark blue water covered with teeth. Sunrise blue. Thunderclouds near the shore. Lightning. Mist becomes all. Cannot see where the drop starts. Everything focused on getting speed. I must shoot over the the top of the wave. I must.

I leap off.

I am soaring.

My eyes blink. Within that blink, for one millisecond, I am euphoric. Celestial. Weightless. I drop. My eyelids lift  and data collection resumes but... THERE IS NO VISUAL DATA. I swivel my head. ZERO DATA! No horizon line. No sky, no ocean below. I can’t gauge my arc. White, everything is white. I'm falling through a cloud. My feet clutch the board. Arms out, hips twisting like a belly dancer on speed; bowlegged and crucified. My senses are screaming: The immensity of this is like nothing else. This is impossible.! I REMEMBER TO COUNT.

One I'm dropping in front of something nine, ten times bigger than Jaws. Waimea’s waves go 20, 24 feet- a 20 second ride. I’m on ten times that. Two minute ride. No leash.  Pray no boats or sandbars. Or reefs.

Two Steady. Find a reference point. Something besides the roar, the white bullets, the rivers like pipes. The waterbombs. Who said surfers are just monkeys with sticks and swimwear?

Three Mind and body centered, man. Be a gyroscope, dude, a gyroscope...

Four This monster’s gonna break left… or right? Steady, steady.  Steaaaadddyyyy. The trance, the calm. Enter  IT. The moment. Steady as a planet. Totally aware, totally relaxed. Give yourself another millisecond of euphoria. You've been falling for days.

Five This morning I woke up on clean white sheets next to the most beautiful woman in the world. Now I'm surfin' a tsunami.

Six This is my last ride.


Eight Survival stance. Water bombs getting bigger.  Arms out, flapping. Feet still holding the board. Aerodynamics and gut feelings. Speed. I'm on the nose of a jet in a crossfire hurricane. Zero fatigue. Contact when?

Nine How to calculate when I cannot see? How to prepare for touchdown? What to aim for?

Ten Reality. I’m falling in front of a twenty story train made of  tons and tons   of water. A speeding wave the size of a city block... My feet clutch my board. No horizon. I see myself dropping into nothing but white foam waiting to hit me.



A self-interview by Stephen Black about Bali Wave Ghost is here.

THIS STORY'S CONCLUSION WILL APPEAR IN BALI WAVE GHOST, A SOON TO BE PUBLISHED NOVEL BY STEPHEN BLACK. DROP AN EMAIL TO bookmerah+ at; gmail.com if you would like to preorder. More information about Bali Wave Ghost.

Contact With Shadow

The above video was made for a Kickstarter project to get Contact With Shadow funded. It was likely the first Singapore-based crowdfunding project, and it fell far short of its goal. No one in Singapore really understood what crowdfunding was, I had no 'fans", unknown writer, it was not easy to send money, etc. etc. I learned a lot.

Contact With Shadow combines a history of printing in Singapore with one man's intense grief. Molecular food figures prominently as well.

Contact With Shadow is on Unglue.it


Full of an insane amount of grief, Singaporean history, printing press lore and sweet memories of love, to read Contact With Shadow is to experience loss-- and redemption.
The story: a Cambridge research student comes to Singapore to learn about the island's pre-Linotype printing history. His wife, an amateur chef, is killed by lightning. Overwhelmed with a sense of loss, he struggles to write his thesis. More often than not, his words are about the woman he loved. A bureaucratic "assistant" enters the picture, as does a Hollywood producer...
Contact With Shadow is an experience, not just a reading experience.

"It's a double pleasure to read this... First, there's the joy of gleaning nuggets of knowledge about Singapore and the printed word hitherto unknown; and second, there's the childlike wonder of never knowing what Stephen Black has in store for us on the next page."

~ Ng Yi-Sheng, 2008 Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize

The cover was created by Debbie Ding and Shazanah Hassan.

There was once an exhibition about Contact With Shadow
at the WOODS IN THE BOOKS Bookshop (Singapore)


It grew from the ground and the grass punched her and the metal on her sandals sparked. Her jeans opened as I watched her hair change. My wife was in the air. Her mouth distorted as the muscles around her eyes bulged and creased. The brightness disappeared. Still in the air, her fingers stretched as though someone’d yanked a wire in her arm. She fell and I ran to her in the sound of the bang. I touched her lips.


I feel this project is my lifework. I mourn the loss of the handwritten letter as well as all of the handcrafted printing machinery created before the Age of Linotype.


Sentosa... A Malay word meaning ‘tranquil’. In the interview it is mentioned that the Sarkies brothers, who were Armenian, used the name Sentosa for their house on Bukit Timah Road. The Sarkies Brothers are most famous for having established Raffles Hotel.


There’s some jazz on the hi-fi and everyone’s on the verandah. Helen’s beautiful in her strapless dress and her cheeks are glowing and this will be even better than drunken Bugis with its balconies full of bouncing transsexual breasts. This will be better than the blue movie at Maxine’s birthday party. “A pervert!" Helen says again. “Leather and shoes!”


We’d just arrived. It was very late, we were jetlagged and we didn’t have any Singapore money. We made rice with olive oil and furikake and drank a small bottle of 7-11 wine using a chipped coffee cup. Dessert was a mango, eaten by candlelight. I told her about the Tamil king who was given a magic mango, one that would make him immortal. He served it to his favorite poet.


Dr. Jack knew how to communicate with the future and he was obviously using a code. About two hundred years ago he sent a message on its way to me.


Plantin’s legendary studio was the Silicon Valley of 16th Europe, full of elegance and the world’s most sophisticated ink measuring and application technologies. Now, thankfully, it is a museum. We went. We held hands, her heart racing like mine. The drawings were there — Garamond’s original drawings**!The 380 drawings that Claude Garamond brought to life! The drawings are a monument, a landmark in the evolution of European printing and civilization! Garamond’s font of 1540, the masterpiece he created for King Francois!


We finally left the Sri Lankans and found a bus back to Boon Lay. We laughed upon seeing the Cambridge Industrial Park on Pioneer Road. On the train she told me about a new food she was creating. Two people will sit at a table with a very large glass tray between them. The tray will hold a liquid food and in the liquid will be floating white foods. Each person will use a dark sauce to write words on the white food. The staff will then turn on hidden fans to move the white foods, as if they are sailing, or floating like icebergs. 'Icewords' is what I am calling it.


We finally got home and went to sleep and now I’m waking up and she is not here. Forever.