Admittedly I have a little bit of imposter syndrome because I don’t write in just one genre. I’m greedy and as a speculative fiction writer, my stories may involve horror, fantasy and science fiction all mashed together sometimes. For my horror author pic I used the PITU app which I adore to make myself look eerie. My husband says I laugh like a maniac whenever I use this app, but I can’t help it, it’s hilarious to play with!
For this panel I will be reading a pure horror story – My Girl, which I made a YouTube reading of (link here) earlier this month. It was inspired by a time when I had a miscarriage. In this story, a woman has a chance to giver her dead baby life by stealing the life of another baby’s. If this was possible, would women do this? I have no doubt that some would and some wouldn’t. It depends on a person’s values in the end even if they are in a horror story.
I’m also trying something new at this panel, the King Sumo raffle service. We’ll be giving away some Dark Helix books in a digital raffle and one audience member will walk away with a few books.
To get everyone into the holiday spirits for some merriment and laughter despite COVID-19 still lingering about, here is a podcast of me reading a story about mom cancelling Christmas after finding a severed Barbie doll head. I had originally written it for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017. Text of the story is re-posted below, enjoy!
The Year Christmas Got Cancelled
One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting.
A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.
“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.
Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”
My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”
Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.
“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury.
I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.
“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”
“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.
Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”
“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.
My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.
“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.
“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.
“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.
I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”
“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”
As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents.
Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses.
There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”
After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.
My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!
Last week I had a business meeting with The Artist Blueprint Company‘s President (let’s call him K) and we really like to eat while talking. We went out for Taiwanese hot pot buffet and we cooked a lot of raw food (beef, lamb, chicken, pork, quail eggs, vegetables, noodles, etc) in a boiling cauldron of soup. The Artist Blueprint is another publishing company based in Toronto that specializes in diverse stories. We have done very different things as Dark Helix is broadening its horizons on subject matters (we got a lot of criticism from the Asian community about our Trump book) and exploring magazine publishing while Artist Blueprint is looking to create more merchandise creation beyond their current e-books. We are always looking for opportunities for collaborate and it’s good to brainstorm together.
Alas that night was my husband’s “night out” so I needed to bring my 3 year old son to my meeting. He’s ok once Paw Patrol is on the iPad (I admit I feel guilty for having judged other parents for doing this before I had my son) since he falls into zombie mode and I can talk without interruption. I’ve been asking for permission to bring my son along to informal meetings because it makes my life easier. K is a really cool guy and he has no problems. In another meeting my husband had a work emergency and I had to bring my son because I couldn’t find a last minute babysitter. The person I met with was male and he was questioning me on my motives (meeting was for planning a literary conference). He said I should focus on being a mother and to drop my volunteer work for conference planning. I told him that all my work is to make a better future/world for my son…On the flip side, in a meeting with ladies on creating a seminar series for writers, they said they wanted me to bring my son so they could play with him!
On Twitter today, a business reporter, Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) shared her story about how hard it was to get to a tv station to do reporting on behalf of the New York Times because of child constraints. She talked about how hard it would have been to book a nanny for 7am on the day of before rushing to the tv station and that she gave up many opportunities because of her child. The trolls came out, both males and females. Males told her that she made journalists seem lazy because they couldn’t do their job properly. Females said that sacrifice was inevitable and to stop complaining. Both sexes went on about how their jobs were worse and how they can handle life better.
At a recent conference, someone told me that they were surprised that I had a child. I don’t try to hide this, but I don’t bring it up either unless asked. I am very aware there is stigma from some against people with children because it is deemed to be a weakness. That children are the ultimate excuse when deadlines are missed, the reason why parents can’t do more social events, etc. For those who are balancing trying to keep a social life, work and be a good parent, it would be nice to see more encouragement rather than beat downs on Twitter. For every one nice comment there are thirty comments about how weak the parent is and how stupid they are. Why can’t people just be nice to each other?! We all have our own struggles and in helping each other we can all do a little bit to make the world a better place.
Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.
Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.
Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.
I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!
We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.
The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.
The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.
“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.
The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive?
I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.
But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.
Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.
A few weeks ago, I commented to my Viking husband that men are supposed to be able to breastfeed. After all, they have nipples like women and granted, they would need a boost of prolactin hormone, but it is a possibility. A Scientific America article talks about the real possibility of breastfeeding men and how throughout history there have been references of men breastfeeding babies in the absence of a mother.
This youtube video here shows a man pumping his breast and doing feeding his infant son. The reactions are fairly negative from his friends who thinks he is being weird and even his wife gives him an odd look towards the end. If a baby can get nutrients and a range of protective antibodies from the mother, I think it would be beneficial to get a fair share of protection from their father too!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my husband’s reaction to a potential experiment. He thought I was being silly, but I was serious about attempting to make him produce milk! Really feeling the shaft here as I have to carry this baby thing for nine months, not sleep due to lots of bladder pressure, rejig my organs, have a painful childbirth, take 1 year off and breast feed (my sister compared breast feeding initially to a shark attack). Also, my productivity in everything is slowed down as well since I am exhausted all the time which makes me feel useless on a daily basis. Of course he says he’ll pay the price in different ways…so we’ll see!
On Goodreads I recently met Cynthia Vespia, the acclaimed author of the fantasy saga Demon Hunter. Her first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official signing.
I’m currently working on the sequel to my acclaimed Demon Hunter series, titled DEMON HUNTRESS. It follows the daughter of my lead character as she follows in her father’s footsteps and takes up the role of hunter.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Every author has a different voice. I have been told I’m a multi-genre writer. I’ve included romance in horror novels, and comedy in thrillers. I write what comes naturally to me to make the best story possible.
Why do I write what I do?
I write what I like to read. I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I was a kid reading Piers Anthony or C.S Lewis. As I grew my tastes grew into more mainstream thrillers. So I still dabble in both genres. I can’t help where I get my story ideas.
How does my writing process work?
I get a spark of an idea and develop it from their with a rough outline. My character profiles will go in depth but I tend not to flush out too much of the actual story because it ruins the spontaneity.
Throughout December 2013 I had been travelling throughout Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, S. Korea since there was a major family wedding in Korea.
To my surprise, people thought that I was whatever they were and would speak to me at length before realizing I didn’t understand. Then I would get the “this girl is a deaf mute” look. This has happened before in China (I speak Cantonese, not Mandarin), but I didn’t expect people to think that I was Japanese or Korean.
My Viking husband labelled me the “generic Asian” as he was quite amused by all this. With his red hair and beard, people didn’t even try to speak to him. I learned how to say “I don’t understand/don’t know” in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. However, people sometimes interpreted this as I didn’t know the answer to a question. My brother in law suggested that I learn how to say “I have a mental disability” which may work better.
I was so amused by my new nickname that I decided to rename my blog to “Musings of a Generic Asian” from “Musings of JF Garrard”.
Unfortunately, there was some negative stuff as well which was obvious from angry speech and body language – that I am a terrible Asian as I am hanging out with non-Asian people. Usually it would be an older Asian man that would come up to me directly and say a long speech with nasty glares.
I was being made to feel ashamed that I was a bad Japanese/Korean when I was Chinese. I’ve never traveled to China with my husband, so I’m not sure if we would experience the same thing there. Generally, I think this happened so often because the older generation wants to enforce their rules on the younger generation.
Regardless, it was a wonderful trip and I have been inspired to create art again after a visit to the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and National Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksugung. It was amazing to see the fusion of Eastern and Western art techniques and the powerful messages behind each piece.
I don’t think I’ll see my husband much this year as I want to finish up a few books, travel to a few conventions, start a podcast and create some cultural identity art!
Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll put together my pics and comments, so stay tuned!
Last night I saw a live musical performance of Once and told my Viking husband afterwards that I would rather see someone was being bludgeoned to death in a Takeshi Kitano gangster movie than the romantic stuff that happened on stage. “I wonder why this is?” I wondered out loud. “It’s because you understand violence more than romance,” he replied.
We continued our conversation a bit more. To his surprise, I told him that all throughout high school I had read a lot of romance novels, ranging from Harlequins to Amanda Quick. This was popular with the students because I attended an all-girls Catholic high school and many girls wanted to know what the opposite sex was like in relationships. The plots were fairly predictable as there was usually a free spirited girl rebelling against something, then she meets a handsome man and there is some conflict before they usually fall into each other’s arms reluctantly while rolling around several times having hot sex. There is usually a serious commitment at the end of the book to seal a happy ending and the woman lives happily ever after.
Having fallen in love and experienced crushes, I am familiar with the irrationality of such emotions. There is this high of joy you get when you discover another person. However, such feelings don’t last forever or else you will burn out as you devote all your energy into feeding this love or crush obsession.
Perhaps I am just annoyed that romance stories are very one sided as they are written generally by women for women and the men behave oddly in them. If I meet men who was incredibly good looking, charming and with a silky tongue; I would wonder how many women he has charmed and if he has any STDs. Also, what are his motives for acting in such a manner? Why would they talk to me out of all the females available?
To genuinely fall in love takes time; as I believe true love is learning and totally accepting someone for who they are, including all their faults. Over the course of a novel, film or musical, character development is usually rushed so I usually don’t have time to comprehend why someone would fall head over heels with someone else. The story lines run so fast that in the blink of an eye, people have gone from being strangers to getting married. People are complicated creatures and the notion of longing for romance confuses me. It’s like “Waiting for Godot” – the harsh truth is that most of the men on the planet don’t have a clue about romance as it’s mostly stuff made up by women.
OK, I am sounding very old and cynical, so let’s change the topic!
The latest Takeshi Kitano movie, “Beyond Outrage”, is about a war between crime families so the different generations of gangsters go out and kill each other in creative ways; ranging from a drill to a baseball throwing machine. Simple, primitive and understandable!
Update: My husband argues that love is a chemical reaction in the brain after meeting someone, a type of attraction. That’s fine because you have to be attracted to the person in the first place, but I stand by my belief to fully love someone you still have to know them or at least think you do. There has to be some type of connection!
If I were to commission you for a manga, what kind of information do you need? A script of some sort, I imagine?
A script is okay, but a novel-like format works better for me. I love reading novels, and as such, I tend to get a better image of the scenes in my head compared to script-like stories. 🙂
What is your favourite manga? Why?
I don’t have a certain top favourite (since I have lots of favourite manga and anime), but for the shoujo-type manga, I fell in love with NANA, Card Captor Sakura, Kareshi Kanoujo no Jijou, and Zettai Kareshi. For the shounen, I’ll always love Naruto and Death Note, and am currently getting hooked with Shingeki no Kyoujin. I also liked horror and suspense manga like Goth and Jisatsu Circle.
I don’t really like manga and anime for the art style or what~ usually; its impact on me while reading it is what I look into. Did this manga tickle the imagination in a way that either I relate so much to it, or that it leaves my brain thinking about it for a few days or even weeks? I guess I love series that leaves my mind in a deep thinking state after I read it.
What is your dream job? Well, you are already living it – or perhaps better way to put it – dream commission?
I’ve always wanted to work on published love story or horror/suspense manga. I’m also working on my own title, a comedic love story, and I may be releasing it by next year. (im currently writing the story J) Other than that, I still want to pursue my studies and go for a multimedia art school (once I get me enough funds for it) so I can learn all sorts of stuff to become a professional all-around artist and illustrator. 😀
Have you ever turned down a commission?
Oh yes, a lot of times. And it breaks my heart to turn down offers of illustrating beautiful stories just because the client wants a rock-bottom price for the art, I mean, I would definitely love to draw for them, but of course, I have bills to pay too, right? Aside from that, there are a lot of stories that didn’t suit my style, (like shonen stories, sci-fi, action, sports), and I always try my best to be honest with my clients if I know that my art style isn’t gonna be the best one suitable for their kind of story. I don’t want to accept a request if know that I can’t do my best on it.
For people who want to become manga artists, what tools would they need? Do you use tablets or certain software? What tips do you give in general? (Eek! I know one is to backup stuff as there was a huge issue when her computer died…damn electronics!)
Yes, having backups of your files would be one of the most important ones, if you’re going for drawing manga digitally (especially after what I’ve been through with my pc when it broke down on me since I do everything on my PC~ haha..😀 I use a graphics tablet, and Paint Tool SAI + Photoshop CS3 for drawing. I can’t give that much advice for traditional mediums in manga, since I do stuff digitally, but I do believe that investing time to study the art and everything about it that you use will be very helpful in the long run. . Also, take in mind that there will always, and always be people in the industry that are better than you, but don’t let that get you down. Lastly, always be open to new ideas, like what my artist friends are always telling me.
I’m still starting up, and I’m looking forward to learning more as well.
Eri-chan is from the Philippines and she is a young independent manga artist. She currently has several projects on the go at once so she is a busy woman! She is also very brave as she is involved with cosplay activities which I often want to do, but I feel too old…
Hi Eri-Chan, thank you first of all helping me out with my project. It’s been a blast and a lot of fun. So can you tell me a bit about your background and how you became a manga artist? What inspired you to become one?
Thanks, Jean~ I had fun drawing your characters as well. You have such a very nice imagination to come up with such interesting and diverse characters. 😀
About your question, I was originally in college, taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management. I felt that it wasn’t for me, and that it’s just not what I wanted to do. I’ve been living alone since I was 12 (so that makes it 8 years ago), and been paying for my studies since then, and happiness means everything to me. So I dropped school and worked as a call center agent as I tried to rebuild my first love, which is anime and manga art. When I’ve got the beginning equipment I needed to start as an artist, I left my (really toxic) job and stayed home to draw all day for people who found my art fascinating for their projects. It was something I really liked doing, although I tend to get picky with the projects’ genre, since my style most likely suit shojo and love stories. I never really imagined myself doing this when I was a little girl, I mostly thought of myself as someone who might be a businesswoman in the future, but I guess it’s just that this was what I loved doing, and I love seeing my completed works.
My dad used to be an assistant comic book artist during his teenage years. He was my first idol when it comes to art, and he taught me the basics when it comes to drawing. My dad was a kinda boastful guy, and at first I just wanted to prove him that I can do better than him… and suddenly I just got hooked with drawing. I fell in love with seeing what I created, and that wonderful feeling of “Oh god… I made this artwork?!Wow.”, because honestly, up to now, I still can’t believe that I can draw like this. 😀 So yeah, my dad was pretty much mostly the one who inspired me.
I don’t really know how to draw, seriously, but I love anime very much. When I was in my first year in High School, there was this girl classmate of mine who draws anime really, really great and I was so amazed that I asked her to teach me how to draw. She said no in a really disrespectful way, and I got kind of pissed off and frustrated. Back then, I drew like a 5 year old! I know how to draw some forms, but it was like a kid’s drawing compared to this classmate of mine. That summer break, I locked myself in my room with a cheap book on how to draw manga that I bought, and practiced day and night while watching animes. I guess that was the time that I started to learn and improve. I was driven by frustration and the will to draw better that that girl who embarrassed me. When classes started again, she was very surprised by the improvement. I continued drawing during classes and my spare time (eventually got better than that girl, haha), until the only thing that’s driving me to draw is my love for what I’m doing itself, and my love for the characters that I draw. 🙂
Is it difficult to be a freelancer? I mean, lots of people dream about being their own boss! Although most of the time I saw my husband filling creating lots of paperwork (taxes, invoices, etc) when he was freelancing…
Yeah, it’s pretty difficult, especially when people don’t really acknowledge that you actually work. In my case, my relatives think that I’m just playing around. I’m still young, after all. The most difficult part for me, I guess, is when clients undervalue your art for something cheap and “just a drawing”. I put my heart to what I do, and it really hurts me when people don’t give enough credit to the work. It’s like being stabbed face-to-face.
Another thing is marketing yourself. There are LOADS of great artists in the Philippines, and most are being overshadowed by the popular mainstream ones. Finding a place where you can find clients who may be interested to have you illustrate their story is a bit of a problem, especially for a young, starting up artist like me.If we put up a blog or site, exposure is a bit slow. So we tend to go to freelancing sites like Fiverr, of which even though it kinda lowers the value of the artworks, the exposure to possible clients is good.
Do you usually draw manga for Asian countries? Or is there demand in other countries? Also, do the publications do well?
Most of my clients are from America, Europe and Australia. 🙂 There are just so many talented writers there, and they all want to see their works fleshed out in a Japanese-style manga. I don’t have many Asian clients at the moment, and here in the Philippines, the manga industry and publications is just starting up. Most of the few manga being published are cheesy love stories, so I guess it might take a little more time and market tests before other genres make it big here.