Thursday, August 13, 2015

I know you've been busy, but what on earth have I been up to?




Are you into Morse Code?

Just asking.

It’s part of a new book I’m working on.


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____________ The picture above: yes, I’ll admit, weak photo skills. But hey.

On the left: cover of a booklet by the National Library Board. It’s part of their current Read@School programme, which is all about creating a reading culture among the young. Complete with Teen Reading Ambassadors.

THE MOST FABULOUSLY INCREDIBLY AWESOME SINGAPORE BOOKS is what the booklet’s called.

Being featured in it is really inspiring us to work 10x harder.

Sherlock Hong Book 4 is on the way. It’s called THE LEGEND OF LADY YUE. Spent the last weekend (long National Day holiday) finishing this.

It’ll be available soon from Marshall Cavendish. Please pre-order on Book Depository, Amazon, etc, if you’d like worldwide delivery.

Will be sharing more details.

Meanwhile, read about how this indie series of ours evolved into one of Singapore’s most newsworthy publishing projects this year.




____________ I started Super Cool Books four years ago, around the time I realised that books are a very important resource for helping parents bond with children. Sharing a good book can lead to hours and hours of discussion and creative interaction.

Mamawearpapashirt is a local mummy blog by June Yong. She spends lots of time with her children and is also always thinking about ways to give them more meaningful growing up experiences.

We were honoured to do a special Lion City Adventures giveaway recently with Mamawearpapashirt’s Facebook community of like-minded parents. If you took part, thanks for sharing your suggestions. It’s a real thrill to feel the genuine enthusiasm from all the parents. Taking our children out and spending quality time together will always be a big thing.

There’s also an interview on the Mamawearpapashirt blog about how we put together this book, and why it’s so important to me.

Excerpt:

What do you want young readers to take home from this book?
The realisation that we live in a fascinating place, and there’s so much to appreciate about our local history, geography and culture. I hope kids read about the Singapore River and imagine how it enchanted Sir Stamford Raffles so much that he wanted to create something great here. I hope kids learn about the early settlers and how people came up with ideas to make money. I hope kids are inspired by modern marvels like Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Discovery Centre. And I hope kids feel the urge to go out and explore Singapore with their family and friends.

You can read the whole interview: Link



Photo by Linn Shekinah

____________ If you want to write books for children, and especially if you’re into picture books, one good place to get started is Linn Shekinah’s blog.

Linn won the First-Time Writers & Illustrators Publishing Initiative Award with her picture book, The Watchtower Warrior. She’s also the creator of the English/Chinese Asian Spice Kids series, which was published with support from the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism.

Linn writes commentaries on her blog about the local kidlit publishing industry, and often runs interviews with local authors. Recently she shared a long essay tracing the evolution of locally produced picture books over the last 50 years. (Link)

Thanks to Linn for featuring Lion City Adventures on her blog last week, and taking the time to ask me lots of interesting questions for her Little Lit Author post. (Part 1 and Part 2)

Seriously, there are things here that nobody had ever wanted to know before.

Example:

3 Quirky things about Don that nobody knows

1. When I was young I had a really vivid vision that I would grow up and work on a spaceship.

2. Quite often I have to look up the difference between “each other” and “one another”. I seem to know which one to use if I don’t stop to think about it. But if I even hesitate for half a second, my brain goes blank.

3. When I’m in a car and I hear the turn signal indicator clicking, my brain automatically starts to compose punk rock guitar riffs to accompany it. For this reason I avoid having to drive.

And it’s all true. Go over to her blog for the full articles, and more:

Little Lit Author: Don Bosco [Part 1]
Little Lit Author: Don Bosco [Part 2]
Little Lit Book Review: Lion City Adventures
Lion City Adventures: A Trip Out




____________ Rosie Milne’s Asian Books Blog compiles updates and special reports about the publishing industry across Asia. There are not enough blogs around that do this, and I always find her posts informative and even inspiring.

I recently had a chance to introduce Super Cool Books on the blog, and put out the message that we’d really like to connect with more publishing startups in the region.

If you check out the post, you’ll see how I tried to explain our editorial direction, highlight our interest in transmedia, and invite potential collaborators to get in touch, all in one big breathless paragraph.

Thank you, Rosie!

Link




____________ And in case you missed this earlier, Felicia Low-Jimenez also interviewed me for the Kitaab website. We talked about Lion City Adventures, how I got started with Super Cool Books, what I think about how children's books are published in Singapore, and I also said:

“But children eventually outgrow their younger selves. When they’re older and they look back, they’ll treasure the books that provided them with kind insights and sincere companionship. They’ll appreciate authors who explain the tricky bits of life in an honest and non-judgmental way — like what JK Rowling managed to do with her Harry Potter series. And that’s how certain titles become classics. They’re educational like that. Which is why when I work on my books, I remind myself that I’m not writing for children, I’m really writing for future adults.” 

Read the whole interview, and discover other great Kitaab content about Asian writers: Link




____________ I thought this was lost forever, but no. I found it again not long ago in my storeroom. It’s a story project I started fifteen years ago. Monkey’s Blood.

I’m hoping to work on it some more and develop it again through Super Cool Books. Perhaps next year, or maybe the year after. And not just as a novel. More like a transmedia project, or an alternate reality game for teens. To help inspire me back then, my friend Koh Hong Teng did the awesome illustration, based on the story. He’s now an acclaimed comic book artist. Do check out his books. (Link)

Those were really fun days. And it's great when your friends are talented and they try to help you!




____________ What else is coming up: watch out for more news about Lion City Adventures Book 2. And also the new Sherlock Hong edition by Marshall Cavendish, four books launching before Christmas. And also my other ebook series for teens, Eastern Zombie Society, which I am trying to find time to finish and launch.

Take care, read what you love.


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Monday, July 27, 2015

Our SHERLOCK HONG series has been acquired by Marshall Cavendish, the new edition will be launched later this year with a few new stories


Sometimes we get to take our dreams a little higher. I'm thrilled to share that our SHERLOCK HONG book series has been acquired by Marshall Cavendish for an expanded international release. Which means there'll be more books coming out, a completely new look, and we'll also get full distribution around the world. Thank you for your awesome support, and your kids too. If you own an original Super Cool Books edition, do take good care of it, one day it will be a valuable collector's item. Because the future belongs to the young and brave!

About ten years ago, an illustrator friend of mine asked if I could come up with a cool story idea for a graphic novel. That was when Sherlock Hong was born. I wrote a short introduction for him, and came up with summaries for a few adventures. That project wasn't developed further. But I couldn't stop thinking about the character. And then in early 2012, I happened to be at a local creative writing school and we talked about the kind of books that we would love to publish. So I told them about Sherlock Hong. They were enthusiastic about the idea, and that was how I came to write the first Sherlock Hong novel, The Immortal Nightingale.

That creative writing school was Monsters Under the Bed. The same day that we finally got the publishing contracts sorted for the new Sherlock Hong edition, last week, I also received a surprise phone call from Eugene Tay, the founder of Monsters Under the Bed. He was inviting me to a launch party to celebrate their new workshop space at 492 Changi Road. That was wonderful news! I went down and said "thank you" in person. For helping to promote the very first Sherlock Hong story, back when it was just an ebook that I had created on my laptop at home.

Since then, we've produced three Sherlock Hong adventures and a number of fun learning events. We've also received generous support from many other readers. We'll be featuring them in the coming weeks.

There's an old African saying, that it takes a village to raise a child. In the same way, I've learnt that it takes an entire community to make a book successful. No author can do it alone. And these days, no single publisher either. I'll be really busy this week making plans for the new Sherlock Hong edition, and also finishing up the first of many new stories for this young detective. This time, there is so much more excitement in the air. So much joyful anticipation. Because I know Sherlock Hong belongs to all of us.

I wish you happy reading!


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Blast from the past! A photo from early 2012. 
Eugene Tay, founder of Monsters Under the Bed,
with some copies of the very first Sherlock Hong paperback edition.
  
Last week I visited Monsters Under the Bed's
new workshop space along Changi Road.
It's a cosy and colourful hideaway for young writers
to develop their imagination and learn to craft their own stories. 

Here I am with Leroy Lam from Monsters Under the Bed. 
He's also working on launching the MonstroCity virtual learning world for kids.
He wrote a short story in the Saga compilation.


BONUS: A gallery of Sherlock Hong designs over the years.
They bring back lovely memories. What an awesome journey
so far. And so many more new adventures to come! 

























































Wednesday, July 8, 2015

FRIENDS OF SUPER COOL BOOKS // Film producer and novelist Abhigyan Jha explains the magnificent secret of India’s epic stories

I spoke at the recent Broadcast Asia conference. Made many new friends there, including a very enthusiastic and prolific storyteller from India named Abhigyan Jha. Abhigyan is a screenwriter, TV producer, novelist and indie publisher. He’s been experimenting with innovative ways to tell his stories and create new publishing opportunities. And he’s been at it long before Super Cool Books got started. I’m really thrilled to have him as a guest on this blog. Here, he talks about how he got started as a novelist, his big break when his self-published novel was made into a long-running TV series, and also why he thinks Indian writers and filmmakers can create such uniquely powerful story experiences.

— D


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MEET ABHIGYAN JHA
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Failure is a wonderful way to begin
I founded an advertising agency with my future wife & co-author Mrinal when I was 19. It was called Utop Ideas & Approaches (Utop.i.a). It did very well for about 18 months & then our biggest client defaulted on the payments for the biggest print campaign our fledgling agency had done thus far - and we were promptly bankrupt at 21. We decided to fall back on the one thing we knew we were really good at — we liquidated the agency & wrote our first novel, November Rain.

We published it with 51,000 INR borrowed from Mrinal's mom as no one wanted to publish what they termed "Pulp Fiction". That book got into the hands of people who went on to become the biggest producers in the Indian TV industry & we became television scriptwriters. Ten years after it was self published, November Rain became the first English language novel to become a prime time Hindi TV series in India. It ran as the Number 1 show on India's TV network Zee, for 300-odd episodes.

To an Indian - LIFE is A Story
India has the longest possible tradition of narrative fiction. We have two world famous epics — Ramayana & Mahabharata — which are told to all children from an early age. Besides these, we have 18 other epics which are told in different ways to everyone born in India. Indian epics differ from the Greek epics in that we have the concept of Navarasa — the nine emotional responses or emotional takeaways that allows a work to be called Epic. So the aim in India has been to never attempt monochromatic stories which seek one emotional response, that's either a comedy or tragedy. Indian tradition seeks a heady mixture of comedy, tragedy, horror, kindness, pity, disgust, music, dance, etc. It's very similar to Indian cuisine, which mixes the maximum possible ingredients with the most diverse food chemistry. Italian cuisine is monochromatic — pastas are never made with clashing flavours. Indian cuisine can be bitter, sweet, tangy, salty & HOT, all at the same time.

Like I say in my Third Book - Soul Search Engine:

"On the winding road, knowing
it was never ending
knowing it was perfect for me
the willing wayfarer
of the Eternal Way"

It's almost 23 years since November Rain was written & we have done thousands of TV episodes, 4 books (3 novels & 1 non-fiction), 4 films, 1 children's play & we have gone on to publish books by other aspiring authors. We have five ready-to-print works, out of which Bolshevik Conspiracy — about an alternate history of the world from the time the Soviet Union crashed in 1989 to a different future in 2017 — is the most ambitious.

If you have a great idea, you must bring it to life, even if no one else will. Bring it out in whatever form you can afford to. Create. Tell stories. As our publishing imprint’s tagline says: Life Is A Story. Books are relatively inexpensive to create in comparison to films & TV shows, so the ability to experiment with different genres & new ideas is far more possible with books.


LINKS
Official website: http://undercoverpro.net/
Personal page: https://in.linkedin.com/in/abhigyanjha






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