Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 and how I discovered e-Books.

Every time I reach the last day of the year I chastise myself yet again for not having finished writing a novel.

It's been happening for nearly a decade now. Well! The year isn't over yet so maybe I will manage yet. You will know tomorrow if I succeed, I am sure.

As for the year that is past, what can I say? It's been a somewhat challenging year for me but there were lots of good mixed in with the bad. But in general I would call it the year Ted discovered the eReader.

I've been somewhat vocal on my dislike of ebooks, if not on this blog, then in conversation with fellow readers and friends. My dislike for them was borne out of a time when Amazon had not yet launched its Kindle, and the only eReaders available on the market were expensive, bulky and most terribly, impractical to buy books for.

This was also a time when people still thought that eBooks were a thing you read on your computer screen. I thought this a terrible thing, and still do. Reading a 150,000 word novel at my computer desk is not a comfortable thing to do.

Everything I knew about eBooks seemed to be wrong. It just didn't fit for novel reading. Computer screens strained your eyes. The sitting position was painful over long periods. Reading software were buggy, slow and inconducive.

But that was five years ago. I heard about how eReaders with e-Ink had advanced so far that they were now able to replicate perfectly the appearance of ink on real paper but those eReaders remained elusive and I had no friends to demonstrate me its wonders. Until a colleague at work decided to get a Kindle that is.

At first I mocked him for getting one. I asked him why he would want to get an eReader when he could just go out and buy the book he wanted to read at the bookstore. In Malaysia, getting a Kindle is a bit of a hassle, legally getting books on to them is a bigger hassle. I really didn't see his need for getting a Kindle especially when our office is located next to a shopping mall which hosts two of the nation's major bookstores.

And then he brought it to work and showed it to me. It was a Kindle Keyboard. It was light. The screen was perfect for reading text. It could hold a gajillion books. It's only flaw was it didn't have a backlight, which wasn't a big deal, since normal paper books don't have backlights either.

I understood. I got it. I saw how this thing was the future. No, not the future. This was the present. Normal books are obsolete. Yes, they smell nice but that's it. I saw the Kindle and I knew, I wanted one as well.

This was around the same time Amanda Hocking was making the headlines for becoming successful as a self-published author on Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing programme. I was aware of her successes and envied her but I wasn't paying attention just yet.

Not until my friend John Ling announced that he was starting a small press that would publish e-books and asked if I was interested in submitting that I felt I needed to pay more attention to digital publishing.

So I started researching. I rediscovered several writer friends who had found success with digital self-publishing. I discovered new authors and new books that I loved.

But most importantly, I learned how to publish an e-book. I published two short stories as an experiment and as a learning project for myself. They didn't sell well (I didn't expect them to) but I learned a lot putting them out for the world to download and read.

Now, on this last day of 2011, I've rediscovered a new vigour for not just reading but writing as well. I've been buying and downloading a lot of new books for the Kindle app on iPad (something I'll have to make do with until I get a real e-Ink reader) and reading much more than I used to. I'm also writing more than usual because I feel I can get my stories out faster to an audience rather than waiting several miserable months from a magazine only to get a rejection.

All's good, I say. Now... if only I could finish that elusive novel...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Staring At Your Sales Figures.

I don't remember who said this, it was either J.A. Konrath or David Gaughran, but it goes something like this:

"Staring at your sales figures every minute will not make them go up."

Very true indeed.

Then why the hell can't I peel my eyes away!!!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

In the Top 100 Best Selling Book for Horror!

I had a promotion yesterday to coincide with the launch of my short story ebook, Zombies Ate My Muslim, where I gave it away for free.

If you missed out, well... sorry! Keep checking this blog or subscribe my to Twitter feed @tedmahsun to find out when my next promotion will be.

At the end of the day I managed to get 93 downloads on Amazon US and 30 downloads on Amazon UK. The book also wound up on the Top 100 Best Selling Kindle Books for Horror. (EDIT: It's since gone back down to somewhere in the 80,000s.)

So, not bad I guess? 100+ downloads was more than I expected. My aim for making the book free was for exposure and I got that. But I also wanted the people who downloaded it to write reviews on Amazon and so far I've had none. Reviews are important to get people to buy the book as well as visibility of the author.

Perhaps in the coming days?

If you're one of the awesome readers who downloaded Zombies Ate My Muslim and you enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon! I would appreciate it very much!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Zombies Ate My Muslim.

Zombies Ate My Muslim is my latest short story ebook:

All he wants is to have a simple life.

And that simple life he wants to spend with his celebrity girlfriend, Barbra Streisand. But unbeknownst to him, his darling Barbra has become a Muslim... which isn't a bad thing. Except for the rampaging zombie horde outside his front door who only want to eat Muslims.

Between the Muslim-hungry zombies and the Google Robots that want to steal his Brussels Sprouts, can he save the woman he loves before she gets eaten? Will things ever be simple for him?
Available at:

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Worst Part is Waiting.

I had a lightning flash of an idea last weekend. It was the midnight of Sunday turning into Monday and I had wanted to go to sleep but suddenly there came into my brain a brilliant seed of an idea for a short story that I just had to sit down and write then and there.

So I did.

I hammered out a 3700 story about zombies. I don't usually like zombies. In fact, I hate zombies as a genre, but this idea seemed so good at the time I didn't want to lose the energy of the moment. When I was done, I reread it and I was pleased. It came out not-so-bad, if I do say so myself.

Over the next few days, I rewrote it, gave it to some friends for advice on improving it and rewrote it some more after I got said solicited advice. My friends said they liked it and well, if they liked it, I suppose some other people out there would like it as well.

At first I had wanted to self-publish the story on Amazon but something inside me said I should try submitting it to a certain magazine that I had had my eyes on for a while now. So I said to myself, why the heck not. Let's submit this story. If it gets accepted, hey nice, I'll have another published credit to my name (something I haven't had in a while) and yet another leaf in my laurel wreath. And if it's rejected, no probs, I'll just pub it on Amazon myself.

But I forgot it's the Christmas season. I don't think the magazine staff are going through the slushpile at the moment and even if it's just for the rejection I'll probably have to wait until next month the earliest to get a reply. Gahhh.

I hate waiting.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Thoughts on Medieval Islam.

I was asked yesterday to write something fictional that was related to my Malay background. I replied that I wasn't interested in doing that anymore because I was more interested in writing something that was inspired by medieval Arab/Islam.

My friend asked why medieval Arab and not Malay. And while at the time I simply answered, "Cos the medieval Islamic period is more interesting", I feel I should expand on that a little bit.

The truth is, when I first started this blog, I was all about writing something that reflected my roots and heritage. I wanted to write The Great Malaysian Novel. I wanted my stories to be infused with Malaysiana.

And I did. I wrote several short stories of which I feel reflect quite accurately the Malaysia that I personally know. Unfortunately those stories have never really been published, not because I think they're rubbish (although I do occasionally reread them and think they are a bit rubbish) but because I feel they are a little too personal for me to share with the rest of the world. They are just fiction but somehow I have an emotional bond attached to them that I cannot sever by releasing them into the wild. Doing so would be to bare my soul to the judgemental masses and I don't think I can do that.

Publishing those stories would mean exposing them to be criticised by readers and while I'm generally immune to brickbats and am quite welcoming of constructive criticism, I really cannot allow any leeway when it comes to these stories.

After writing those stories I realised that I had needed to write them as a sort of cathartic process and after I had done that I was ready to move on to other things. And so I moved on to writing fantasy inspired by the medieval Arab era.

And why that particular period? Well, it's like asking someone why they like the European Renaissance period. Because the period featured interesting people such as Galileo and Da Vinci.

Well, the medieval Arab period was the Renaissance before the Renaissance. The Muslims had conquered most of what remained of the Roman civilisation during this time and the great Arab scientists and thinkers of the era were lucky to have been able to study well-preserved documents of science, mathematics and history dating back to the Greek period.

Using ancient texts as their reference, the Muslim scientists began to build upon and add new information to what had already existed and these new developments were documented. This was the time of Ibn Sina, Ibn Battuta, Al Khwarizmi and Omar Khayyam.

The discoveries of these Muslim pioneers would later be brought over to Europe where it would inspire the Europeans to greater heights and usher in the Renaissance.

To say that the Medieval Islamic period is rife with inspiration for fantasy and science fiction stories is an understatement. I'm surprised more people haven't dug in this treasure trove of inspiration but hey, more for me I guess?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Occupy Amazon!

Hey guys, check it out:

Secret Operation in the Matriarch's Kitchen (Kindle Edition)

I'm finally on Amazon! Hurray! I'll probably hit Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo within the next two weeks as well. Hopefully this will improve sales... even if a little bit.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Pat on Back.

Well it's almost 24 hours since I unleashed my first ebook into the world. (You didn't buy it? Why the heck not? Go and correct this grievous error right now!)

How many people have bought it so far?

*drum roll please*

A grand total of TWO.

That's actually two more than I expected so I guess that's not so bad, even if I sold those two copies to two close friends. Definitely not something to sniff at!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Secret Operation in the Matriarch's Kitchen is now an ebook

About four years ago, I wrote a story about alien home appliances that came to Earth to save their fellow instruments from the shackles of human enslavement. It was called:

The story was published in an anthology called Write Out Loud which I haven't seen in bookstores for quite a while so I think it must be out of print. Even when it was in print many people complained they couldn't find it and unfortunately I could not help them as distribution was out of my control.

Well, four years later and we're in the midst of a digital revolution when it comes to book publishing. I thought I might as well publish the story as an ebook and see what happens. Consider this some kind of experiment on my part.

You can get The Secret Operation in the Matriarch's Kitchen on Smashwords for US$0.99 in every digital format you can think of. If I'm lucky, one day maybe the ebook will appear on the big online bookstores such as Amazon, B&N and Apple.

Bibi Misbah's Review of Secret Operation in the Matriarch's Kitchen

Friday, 25 November 2011

Stephen King: 1, Haruki Murakami: 0

I started out reading Murakami's behemoth of a book, 1Q84, but when a friend gifted me an e-book copy of Stephen King's 11/22/63, I read the first few pages to check it out... and was hooked.

Now I cannot go back to 1Q84. Well, at least for now. King has me caught in his death grips of superb writing and excellent plotting.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learned to Love the E-book.

Okay. I can now admit it. I love e-books. Digital ink.

O! glorious digital revolution, let it wash over me and cleanse me of my perve for paper!

A friend let me testdrive his Kindle some time back and ever since then I've been slowly falling in love with the idea of digital books. Today, I had a trial run of sorts with my iPad loaded with Stanza and Naomi Novik's Tongues of Serpents by taking it on my daily commute to work, and it's been brilliant so far.

Enjoying very much the ability to define words as I read them. Vocabulary +1!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

1Q84 and NaNoWriMo.

Well, I just bought something:

Thing is, as huge a Murakami fan that I am, I wasn't planning on buying it so soon. I felt I had outgrown Murakami and didn't really feel like reading a huge tome, especially if it was a meandering one like Kafka on the Shore. Not that I do not like Kafka. Far from it. It's just that, well, I want to read other stuff too.

But it seems the God of Books has other plans and sent fate to intervene? I was made aware of some excerpts of reviews with statements such as "his best work since Wind-up Bird!" and "the opus that would define his oeuvre!"

I realise this might be hyperbole but come on! I had become intrigued. And then today a colleague said he had it for his Kindle and had already started reading it. He said it was great so far. That was the last straw. I knew I had to read it as well.

So, one trip to Borders... and here I am. I haven't even ripped off the plastic wrapping yet. I am savouring this delight of holding a virgin Murakami book that I know nothing about. (I've been avoiding articles about Murakami for the past year to stay as spoiler-free as possible.)

Rather surprised it contains all three volumes, though. I thought the British edition lacked the third volume and I don't think this is the American edition. Weird.

Anyway, time to write for Nanowrimo and then start reading as my reward for hitting 2000 words!

Currently Available E-Books

Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Nook