On #publishing, #editors and #quality

I’m not going to dive into the Hachette vs. Amazon fracas. There are steadier minds than mine currently involved in that, although I will say that there are a few authors I won’t be buying books from any time soon. I don’t mind a healthy debate (I am an ENTJ, after all), but propagating untruths is counter-productive in the long-term.

What I wanted to cover today, however, is related to the Amazon/Hachette thing. It’s about editors. I’ve been reading a lot about Big 5 editors over the past year. How they’re selfless, overworked, underpaid, and have to do too many other jobs. I have followed the trials of several writers as they’ve submitted manuscripts to publishers, only to wait and wait and wait! because…yep, you guessed it…the editors are overworked, underpaid and have to do too many other jobs. In fact, I now tend to regard Yer Average Big 5 Editor like this:

If you consider each chocolate to be a manuscript, you start getting some idea of how overworked those poor editors really are.

But seriously, let’s examine that metaphor a little more carefully. If a person really is as overworked and underpaid as we’re constantly told a Big 5 Editor is, how effective is she? Look at all the overworked, underpaid people who surround you in your daily life. Would you consider them to be productive? If a Big 5 Editor is in a time crunch, will she (a) push back against an unfair workload, or (b) give the work the barest minimum possible and move on to the next task on her gargantuan list? I’ve read about shoddy editorial work from Big 5 houses as much as the next writer, so I think I know which option is more likely.

These people, then, are supposed to be gatekeepers? Ones who can’t even get back to writers about their submissions within, oh, few years? (I’d link to different blogs but there are so many writers out there who’ve been left hanging for months, extending into years (including me) that you can just search for them.)

Here’s the difference between a Big 5 Editor and a Freelance Editor. When a Freelance Editor has enough work, she doesn’t take on any more. She usually puts up a sign that says, “My submission queue is full. Please check back in x months”. Unlike a Big 5 Editor, a Freelance Editor is more likely to concentrate on quality because she isn’t stressed or overworked. What I’d like to know is, how can this model possibly be detrimental to books or to their readers? Because that’s what we keep hearing. Somehow the stressed-out Big 5 Editor–constantly afraid of missed deadlines, bad first-week sales figures, bad cover art, corporate downsizing, sickness, looming manuscripts, conferences, marketing calls, etc. etc.–equals quality, while the structured Freelance Editor–who only takes on what she can finish–equals dross. It doesn’t make any kind of sense, does it?

Yes, of course I know there are self-published works out there that have been written in a day and flung up on various ebook sites. But I also know there are self-published works out there that go through the same kind of process as traditionally published books. The only difference is that it’s the author’s publishing enterprise that’s controlling the workflow, not a third party.

You know how you were (and still are) told that the best person to look after your interests is yourself? How is it that that advice holds true for things like finance and health, and yet is untrue for the very personal product of your sweat and imagination? Seems to me that a lot of authors are being sold a bill of goods and the problem is, they’re buying into it. As JA Konrath says (although I don’t agree with him all the time), very “Stockholmy“.

PS Sandal Press has two (edited) releases in September, together with a two-month promotion. Go to the Sandal Press blog for more details!

GuardingHisBody-200x300 RepublicTales-200x300

Two #SF space operas 50% off!

We’re getting to the end of the month-long birthday celebration and promotion of Sandal Press’ two new online stores. First, the offer, then some thoughts.

From 21 to 31 August, use the checkout code “4ksaugustinreaders” at either store (and only at Limited Run and Gumroad) to get QUINTEN’S REVENGE and QUINTEN’S CHOICE for 50% off. That’s $3.00 each for two novels. Both books include four formats (Epub, PDF, Mobi and PRC) and are DRM-free.

QUINTEN’S REVENGE (Perdition #2)

QuintensRevenge-200x300Quinten goes after the bastard who killed his wife…

After seven years of enforced isolation, Quinten Tamlan is back on his game and he wants the head of Faks Somen, now leader of the Mitres Raygun pirate cartel, on a platter. There’s only one problem: he only has one ship and two other crewmembers, and that’s not good enough to go up against a well-protected gang of cutthroats.

Knowing he needs allies, Quinten attempts to track down the old members of the ST Alliance, but they’re all dead. The only people willing to assist him are an old pirate and the son of someone he once had a lot of respect for. But the old pirate is the mother of the man who last betrayed him, and there’s something very mysterious about Delee’s son.

Meanwhile, Faks is holed up somewhere, laughing at him. But, Quinten vows, not for much longer.

83,700 words

QUINTEN’S CHOICE (Perdition #3)

Whatever happened to Vigo Halan?

QuintensChoice-200x300After helping them successfully free a group of Transitionals held at the secret Rannler facility, the best bounty hunter in the galaxy suddenly disappeared. A year and a half later, Quinten still doesn’t know what happened to her.

Then he gets a message from the Telaris system that raises more questions than it answers. Is it Vigo? If so, what is she doing at the edge of Republic space? If it isn’t, who are they, what do they want, and why are they using her name?

83,000 words

These books are NOT standalone, so if you picked up QUINTEN’S STORY for free, now’s a great chance to pick up the next two and get three novels for the price of one.

Thoughts

We’re not expecting to make a gazillion dollars overnight in our stores, but we are laying the foundation for a direct-selling strategy. With this in mind, every future Sandal Press release will first be available at our store for one month at 50% off retail price. Only after this month is over will the books be released to other etailers, at full retail price. We will also be running promotions at our stores that won’t be run at other etailers. The best way to stay on top of this, and grab discounted books, is to subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll be notified whenever a new release is about to hit the shelves and have the opportunity to get a DRM-free four-format bundle one month ahead of schedule for half the price of what you’ll pay at Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc.

I hope you stick with us.

Two novels free #sf #sfr

Sandal Press has just celebrated its third birthday and we have a set of three promotions for you, but only at our newly-launched stores at Limited Run and Gumroad.

Here is the second: From 11 to 20 August, use the checkout code “4ksaugustinreaders” at either store (and only at the two stores mentioned) to get BALANCE OF TERROR and QUINTEN’S STORY for free. Both books include four formats (Epub, PDF, Mobi and PRC) and are non-DRMed.

BALANCE OF TERROR

 

Save one man or save billions? It’s Moon’s choice.Cover for Balance of Terror

Stellar physicist Moon Thadin and amnesiac savant Srin Flerovs are on their way to possible sanctuary with an old research partner of Moon’s. But between them and safety lie a cunning arms dealer, a suspicious pirate captain, and a universe of unfamiliarity.

Refusing to turn her research into a weapon, Moon and Srin outran the Republic inIN ENEMY HANDS, only to find that the anti-Republic rebels they’re heading for want her knowledge for the same reason, and they’re willing to trade critical gene therapy for it. Withhold the therapy and Srin will die. Share the research and billions will die.

Can the needs of one ever truly outweigh the needs of many?

A full novel, and winner of an SFR Galaxy Award, this book is for readers who like scientist
-heroines, PoC main character, aliens, hidden agendas and a love story that defies reason.

Novel: 76,000 words

 

QUINTEN’S STORY

 

Quinten Tamlan was once the scourge of the Republic. Then he disappeared….Cover for Quinten's Story

It’s been seven long years for Quinten Tamlan. Scarred and bitter, he has lost direction and the spark of idealism that once fired his resolve.

Until he decides to take on a new crewmember. Quinten believes he has his own problems. He believes he is alone and forgotten. He is wrong. Quite wrong.

Another novel, and the first in the Perdition series, this book would appeal to fans of space opera, evil empires, redemption. This one isn’t SFR but does have romantic elements.

Novel: 69,200 words

Remember, just use the code “4ksaugustinreaders” at the checkout ONLY AT OUR NEW STORES AT Limited Run or Gumroad to get both books free in a multi-format bundle and completely DRM-free!

Get ready for 3 promotions this month #sf #sfr

Sandal Press has just celebrated its third birthday and we have a set of three promotions for you, but only at our newly-launched stores at Limited Run and Gumroad.

Here is the first: From 01 to 10 August, use the checkout code “4ksaugustinreaders” at either store (and only at the two stores mentioned) to get OVERCLOCKED and THE PIRATE’S GRAND PLAN for free. Both books include four formats (Epub, PDF, Mobi and PRC) and are non-DRMed.


OVERCLOCKED

OverclockedIn a new world, there are new challenges, new dangers…new ways to die.

Carl Orin, Basement Five’s first cybernaut is lost in a universe of bits and bytes. His rival, Dr. Tania Flowers, should be happy that karma has bitten Carl in the backside, but she’s itching to get into cyberspace herself and what better excuse than a one-woman rescue mission?

Tania thinks she’s prepared for what she’ll find, but she’s about to discover that the digital world is more dangerous than she imagined. When she finds Carl, she faces a bigger issue than her injured pride. An AI-fuelled botnet is devastating the digital landscape, and only a suicide mission into its core will avert total disaster. In the midst of their rekindled passion, hard decisions need to be made. Who will attempt the impossible? Who will stay behind? And what happens if either of them fails?

This book will appeal to readers who like cyberpunk, a PoC main character, contemporary setting, and movies such as Tron and Matrix.

Novella: 32,000 words

THE PIRATE’S GRAND PLAN

ThePiratesGrandPlan-200x300Gilthen Ahn is captain of the Darck Banks cartel, a pirate band working deep in Republic space. He has six ships under his command and, unless he finds money to pay off his substantial debts, he’ll lose everything.

Tera d’Olzon is a privileged member of Republic high society, trying to make a difference by thumbing her nose at everything her family stands for. Unfortunately, things haven’t quite turned out the way she anticipated and, while running from Security Forces, she is “rescued” by Gil’s cartel.

The reasonable thing for the cartel to do is to ransom her. But that won’t bring in enough money. So Gil hatches a plan…

For readers of historical romances, those who like PoC main characters, sarcastic heroines, space pirates and Pyg(malion) in spaaaacce!

Short novel: 41,000 words

Remember, just use the code “4ksaugustinreaders” at the checkout ONLY AT OUR NEW STORES AT Limited Run or Gumroad to get both books free in a multi-format bundle and completely DRM-free!

J’accuse! Richelieu lives #nsa #gchq #espionage

I read a recent article by Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica (Ars editor learns feds have his old IP addresses, full credit card numbers). It’s not a long article and I urge you to go read it but, if you don’t have the time, here are a couple of takeaway points:

  • The amount of information collected and retained by the government is mind-boggling in how extensive it is (right down to diet and seat change requests).
  • The information collected is being retained far beyond what is officially stated. The government says “five years”, the reality is nine years and counting.

The rational conclusion is that there isn’t too much to worry about because any government retaining information to this extent would choke on the data. When everything being collected is 99% irrelevant, the argument goes, how easy is it going to be to find the 1% of data that is relevant?

That assumes that the government is interested in immediately relevant data. What if it isn’t? While reading the article, I was forcibly reminded of Cardinal Richelieu’s words:

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

And I thought to myself: what if that tsunami of data is one of the objectives of the whole exercise?

Imagine this: The government is after someone and they discover that Jo Bloggs sits in the next cubicle to Prime Suspect at work. There’s nothing stopping an intelligence service from dragging Jo in. No charges. Just a “friendly chat”.

Intelligence Service: We want to recruit you to spy on Prime Suspect.
Jo Bloggs: Piss off.
IS: Really, that’s your answer?
JB: I’m not ratting out anyone. You want to arrest Prime Suspect. Go find your own evidence. I’m not doing your dirty work for you.
IS: I see. Okay. I’d just like to say this: That’s a nice job you’ve got there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it.
JB: What? What the hell are you talking about?
IS: Don’t mind me, I’m just flicking through some old records. Seems that you once phoned a known felon, asking if he had any “weed” for sale! We have photos of you in your car heading for Downtown.
JB: How did you–!
IS: You don’t think we only use freeway cameras for TV stories on high-speed chases, do you? You stopped at a QuickieMart and withdrew $100 and bought yourself a Giant Gulp (nice hairstyle, by the way), then went on to Shady Street, where you met the known felon. Later that night, you posed a photo on your Headbook profile with the caption “Completely f(*&!ing wasted!”, and an IM chat with your friend, Best Bud, the following morning mentions “sticky heads”.
JB: Ha! All this is years old. I haven’t broken any laws.
IS: That’s true, but perhaps your employer might be interested in what kind of person their Team Lead is? I’ll just hand this information over to them. I’m sure you have nothing to worry about.

Or maybe it was the time you didn’t report that scrape you gave someone else’s car in the car-park? Did you ever sign a co-worker’s form, even though you didn’t really witness their signature/know them for more than 6 months/work with them for more than 2 years? Maybe you lied to your significant other because you had a date to go to the casino with some friends or screw a stranger in a motel room? How about the time you grabbed a smoke in a no-smoking zone? Ever gone joy-riding in a supermarket trolley? Streamed porn while the family was out? Maybe you were a car-racing speed demon as a teenager? Did you ever hit someone in anger? Had a complaint letter written about you? The list goes on and on.

Even worse, what if any of these were wrong? What if the customer wrote an incorrect name on the letter? What if it was a house guest who streamed that video? What if you only went to the casino because you were afraid a friend was going to gamble too much money and you wanted to stop him/her? It doesn’t matter. Implication is enough. And I’m reminded of Richelieu again.

Even if you’re honest, you’re not infallible. We’ve all made mistakes, said things we’ve regretted, done things we wish we could have retracted. We’ve also done the right thing, but under murky circumstances. Why? Because we’re human. In the past, we could depend on time and memory to blunt the consequences of some of our rash actions. That day is long gone.

While I was composing this blog post, I came across an article at Naked Capitalism. The headline speaks for itself: High-level NSA Whistleblower Says Blackmail is a Huge -Unreported- Part of Mass Surveillance (Yes, I’m a regular reader of Naked Capitalism and an avowed socialist, in case anyone’s interested in that kind of thing.)

As the article states: “the American [sic] government has a long history of blackmailing people — including high-level officials — with knowledge of their sexual peccadilloes.”

I’m suggesting that the intelligence services of many countries are now using technology to expand the scope of potential blackmail victims. With the vast amount of data available, there is no need to only target high-profile marks (a previously expensive proposition). Why, the data and metadata pours in, with hardly any effort needed at all, except on the part of HPCs (High Performance Computers) to do the tabulating and indexing. All an agent then has to do is enter a name and some known particulars into the vast sea of databanks dotting the continents, and go grab a coffee while the query is executed and the data assembled. And before you can say “Bob, my aunt’s de facto husband, is collecting welfare in a fraudulent manner”, Jo has been dragged in and is being shown various youthful transgressions as a way of forcing her cooperation in any manner of things.

America’s National Security Agency has already acknowledged that half a dozen analysts have been caught trawling databases for inappropriate material on partners or love interests. Other leaked documents have revealed how U.S. and British intelligence discussed leaking embarrassing material online to blacken the reputations of their targets [emphasis in original –ksa].

Unfortunately, you can’t prove me wrong because…I’m not.

Deconstructing the family in #Anglo culture #Amazon

In lieu of having any modern philosophers to look up to (yes, I’m really that dismissive of the so-called still-living philosophers I’ve read…”The Art of Life” by Zygmunt Bauman is a real wall-banger and, when I’ve simmered down enough to analyse it a bit more objectively, I may do a review of it), I thought I’d do a deconstruction of the latest Amazon Fire ad. I first read about it on Nate Hoffelder’s blog, The Digital Reader. Here’s the ad:

Nate’s criticism of the ad is on a technical level, but I was personally appalled by it on several philosophical and psychological levels.

Firstly, note the family dynamic. No fathers. Two youngish mothers presumably having a coffee. The kids are not sitting next to their parents but are at a separate table. In effect, they are a separate group of customers. The children could be completely independent, not even with the two women. That’s important to bear in mind.

The kids are comparing features on their phones when one parent leans over to ask how things are going. She then gets a spiel from her daughter and both parents look surprised. Why? Where did the kids even get the phones from? Are we supposed to believe that two eight-year olds have enough cash to pay, not only for a $849 phone, but an associated data plan? With what? Proceeds from that ubiquitous USian child’s lemonade stand, no doubt.

The parents look surprised. Wow! Amazon Prime! They didn’t know that. Really? They paid for the phones but they didn’t know anything about them? Are they idiots? Well, actually they are. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? The kids are zipping through pages like pros, while the mothers sit without a single piece of tech to distract them. Because they’re…stupid? Well, yeah.

My first thought when viewing the ad was that North America is living in its own bubble that has absolutely no congruence with anything happening in reality. In this bubble, 8yo children are smarter than their parents, women are ghost-inseminated, and kids pronounce on technology with the kind of savvy of grandparently curmudgeons.

Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything dark and dastardly about this. Hanlon’s Razor (never ascribe malice to something that can be explained by stupidity[…or laziness –kaz]) informs me that the whole “kids are smarter than their parents” paradigm is one well-loved by Anglo civilisation. A paradigm that I’m also unfortunately seeing in local ads. It appears that by aping what mat salleh (white man) culture is doing, Asians seem to think that they’ll also obtain similar hip cachet. Why innovate when you can copy? It’s a tried-and-true method used by many Asian countries in several areas.

But let’s get back to the ad. You can see a complete disconnect here between generations (and even partners) within the same family. Don’t trust parents, kids. They’re stupid. Trust technology! Technology is your friend! To be fair, I see the parents as being equally culpable in this cosy little scene. Where is the parental responsibility? Are the mothers really that dismissive of what their children are up to, more interested in their lattés than their children’s interests? Which comes first, the lack of parental involvement or the idea that parents are too stupid to understand anything?

The problem with ads like this is that you soon start to believe the bullshit. And when there’s a disconnect between you and your child, you end up thinking to yourself, “well, that’s the way it is”, when, actually, it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Meanwhile, children are left without an anchor, without guidance, vulnerable to the ploys and wheedling of interests only concerned with their own bottom lines. That bottom line may be money or it may be influence but, in either case, society is impoverished. Thanks, Amazon, for spelling it out so clearly in thirty-two seconds.

Why I don’t care about selling in #Malaysia #Singapore #ebooks

Recently, author Andrea K Höst interviewed me for her blog. Here’s the interview. (I’d like to thank Andrea for the wonderful questions and encourage everyone to buy/sample her work.) When she asked about the publishing scene in Malaysia/Singapore, this was part of my response:

I have spent the last year speaking with publishers and distributors across the two countries and, to put it bluntly, I don’t write the kind of books that readers want to read. I’ve been told repeatedly that the Check Your Luck omnibus is too long. People are too busy to read such big books! As for SF, the average reader doesn’t even know what speculative fiction is. (Of course there are exceptions, but I’m talking about general trends here.) And the bestsellers break down into either short (<200pp) books full of ghost/”real story” vignettes or get-rich and cookery non-fiction. There is also very much a “nostalgia” element to all this. Readers appear to prefer looking back (“the good ole days”, “the trials of WWII occupation”, “kampung (village) life”) rather than looking forward. Self-publishing is a viable option, and there are a lot of small regional presses throughout south-east Asia, but the books only seem to do well within the parameters I’ve stated. Oh, and school workbooks. I’ve been told they are major revenue streams for most local presses.

In case anyone was thinking I was a bit harsh, the Letters section of The Star newspaper this past Sunday (22 June 2014) vindicates my pessimism. KR from Klang, Selangor, writes:

…While other countries formerly under British colonial rule have produced outstanding writers in English, we have produced at best two.

The quality of writing of most writers here is at best mediocre. The line between genres has been blurred, and works of fiction are thinly disguised memoirs or biographies.

Where is the true fiction of quality, with its gripping prose? Some books are merely a collection of articles from newspapers, cobbled together and published as books. These writers are then celebrated as authors.

It is also not just the covers that seem to attract readers willing to buy Malaysian books in English. Malaysian readers seem to enjoy anecdotal and episodic material. Travel tales, ghost stories, real life experiences of hoteliers, flight personnel or self-help books do fly off the shelf. These books are light, easy reading, rarely thought-provoking or profound. Publishers print what will sell.

Daphne Lee wants to “… get Malaysians who say they love books and want Malaysian literature to flourish to translate their words into actions”. How is that possible when the reading public itself is not into reading, let alone reading well written works that might demand more of their time and mind?

KR finishes:

Abby Wong’s article entitled “He reads, he excels” earlier in Star2 (Book Nook, May 18) revealed the depth at which reading is done at schools in Australia. Compare that with what is read in Bahasa Malaysia or English in Malaysian schools. The emphasis is definitely not on reading here. We do not seem to encourage the reading habit at school, so there is no exposure to good writing and the beauty of the written word. How then can we produce works of quality, whether it be in Bahasa Malaysia or English?

And s/he is right. Beyond very quick reads that require not much thinking, there really is no appreciation of the written word. And definitely no appreciation for longer or more thought-provoking works. I see this as part of a much bigger political agenda because if people start (*gasp*) thinking, they may actually start talking about inequalities in society. And if there’s one thing that totalitarian systems don’t like, it’s when their citizens stop drinking the Everything-Is-Awesome (hat tip to The Lego Movie and Mark Mothersbaugh) Kool-Aid.

Under such circumstances, why would I even attempt to market an Asian-based urban fantasy here? While we may rant and rail at the “whitewashing” that occurs in North America, it’s still kilometres ahead of the apathy and locked-down mentality that exists in south-east Asia. Sad but true.

Upcoming book tour #exotic #uf

I will be on an almost-month-long blog tour, promoting THE COMPLETE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY. There’s a US$25 Amazon Gift certificate in the offing as well so if you have some spare time, why not follow along?

VBT-TCCYLABanner

19 May: Room With Books

20 May: Our Wolves Den

21 May: The Write to Read / Deal Sharing Aunt

22 May: Mixed Book Bag

23 May: Sharing Links & Wisdom

26 May: Book ‘Em North Carolina

27 May: Musings & Ramblings

28 May: Andi’s Book Reviews

29 May: Lessons From My Reading

30 May: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews & Interviews

02 June: Fundinmental

03 June: Long and Short Reviews

04 June: Queen Tutt’s World of Escapism

05 June: Kit N Kabookle

06 June: Let’s Get Booked!

09 June: CR Moss

10 June: Tina Donahue / Albert and Uttley

12 June: Booklover Sue

13 June: Queen of All She Reads

 

Restaurant review: The Spice Kitchen, Bukit Indah

Restaurants are popping up everywhere in JB nowadays, and finding one that sounded interesting and wasn’t too far away was something we couldn’t ignore. Especially if it had a Groupon offer attached. Here’s what Groupon had to say about The Spice Kitchen deal:

Today’s Groupon takes things up a notch with an Asian meal at The Spice Kitchen in Johor Bahru. Choose from:

Meal for 2 people for RM45 instead of RM102.90 (only RM22.50 per person)

Meal for 4 people for RM75 instead of RM205.80 (only RM18.75 per person)

Each group of 2 people gets

Choose 1 from:

 

Set A (RM88.70 value)
Hot and sour soup
Cauliflower Manchurian
Chicken and egg fried rice
Kung Pao chicken
Mango kulfi

 

Set B (RM77.90 value)
Chicken chingari, hariyali, or cheese tikka
Lucknowi Dum lamb biryani
Aloo Ghobi Matar (gravy dish made from potato, cauliflower, and green peas)
Gulab jamun (without ice cream)

 

Set C (RM74.90 value)
Chicken cheese tikka
Butter naan
Chicken butter Masala
Steamed rice
Carrot halwa (dessert made with fresh carrots and milk)

With two adults and two kids, I bought a 4-person meal and, the following week, away we went.

SpiceK

I would describe the restaurant’s decor as “bunker”, due to the concrete interiors. It really works in hot climates and gave the restaurant a modern, edgy air that I liked.

Our first problem, however, came with our order. Note how the Groupon said, “Each group of 2 people gets…”? Well, not so fast. Two of us wanted Set B and two of us wanted Set C. “Oh no,” the manager told us, “we can’t do that.” “But we paid for 4 people,” I said. “Yes, but you didn’t buy two separate Groupons at RM45 each. You only bought one Groupon for RM75, therefore you can only choose one set and you’ll get two of them.”

Now look. Do you want me to come back to your restaurant or not? Because, fella, the full price of the second set we chose was actually cheaper than the first, and we didn’t even choose the most expensive set! If I had been the manager, I would have let it slide because I’m running a hospitality service, it’s a relatively new restaurant and, really, it wouldn’t have cost anything to please the customer. But no, Pompous Ass Manager insisted that we could only choose one set. Okay, two lots of Set B, then.

Two lots of this for four people? I don't think so... (Objects appear bigger than in reality)

Two lots of this for four people? I don’t think so… (Objects appear bigger than in reality)

Then, “do you eat spicy food?” “Yes, we eat spicy food.” “Well, it’s not enough to say that, madam,” Pompous Ass tells me. “How spicy do you want it?” Good grief. “Medium,” I finally said. It’s difficult to know what a particular restaurant considers “hot”, so I went with the easiest option. “Medium? Are you sure, madam? We are talking about spicy food here.” “Yes, medium, thank you.” Was it because J is white? Maybe.

By now, I wasn’t in a very good mood. Pompous Ass assured us that the food would be more than enough for four people (“We’ve never had a problem yet, madam!”). It was mostly lovely.

The chicken chingari tikka came straight from the tandoor oven and was well-seasoned but a little too lightly for my taste. It seems that each “Set B” only contained four nuggets, because we got eight nuggets for four people. In fact, the chicken in the picture above was actually a four- or five-person portion, not two. Chew slowly.

The Aloo Ghobi Matar, with chunks of cauliflower and potato, was lovely. The kids liked it and I promised them I’d make more such curries at home.

The Lucknowi Dum lamb biryani felt like it was a cheat. We know, because we benchmark against J’s homemade biryani every chance we get. The real way to make biryani is to combine a cooked saucy lamb mixture with soaked-then-drained uncooked rice and bake them together in the oven until the rice is cooked. It’s nerve-wracking because you’re always wondering if you’ve put in the correct amount of sauce for the amount of rice, but J is a master of this.

I can understand that commercial kitchens like to be a bit more predictable, as it seemed to me that the lamb was cooked separately to the rice and then combined at the end. The rice did taste like it was cooked in meat stock, but there was no real marriage of flavours between the chunks of meat (admittedly tender and quite big) and the rice. J was jealous because the rice grains were more separate than his, but his tastes nicer. The kids agreed.

The extra dish of dhall was delicious and welcome.

But it was also not enough. In fact, we had to order another round of food because three out of four of us were still hungry. In the end, if we hadn’t bought the Groupon, we would have paid RM300 for lunch for two adults, a tween and a young teenager. This is for comparable food that we could buy at our local Indian Muslim streetside joint (Hamid’s Indian Muslim Kitchen) for about RM50.

I think I would have been prepared to be a bit more lenient if Pompous Ass had, at any point, enquired after our meals. But he didn’t. In fact, he made sure he turned away from us when it came time to pay the bill, not looking at us or even making eye contact when presenting the bill or handing J his change. The second he put the bills and coins on the counter, he spun around and walked away. Now that’s just cowardly.

To make up for this, the rest of the staff were terrific. Prompt, courteous, friendly. But, thanks to Pompous Ass, we’re not ever going back. YMMV.

The Spice Kitchen,
Wisma SP Setia, No. S3-0120, Jalan Indah 15/1, Bukit Indah
Great staff, interesting interior, nice food, small portions, condescending attitude
Link to original Groupon deal (not sure how long the link will last)

NOT RECOMMENDED

 

New cover time! #sf #sfr #uf #homeschool

Ugh, the past few weeks have been terrible for blogging, not because I don’t have anything to say (you know me!) but because the new homeschool schedule is leaving me squeezed when, last year, I had lots of room to breathe. This year, the subjects being taught are:

  • English
  • Reading & Film Club
  • Maths
  • Martial arts
  • Geology
  • Astronomy
  • “Soft skill” interests (world cultures, creative thinking)
  • Cooking (theory and practical)
  • History
  • Science
  • Music (theory and practical)

I think that covers it. Classes are held in the morning and evening, so the entire family (that includes J) can participate. Being older, TW has also begun C programming.

So anyway, I’ve got to come up with a day that feels like a good, steady blogging day and, until that happens, you’re going to be confronted with posts that jump all over the week. Sorry about that.

Maybe it’s because the Chinese New Year is much more of a celebratory time around here, I didn’t even countenance any resolutions back in December, but moved on some over the past couple of weeks. And they had to do with covers and distribution.

Firstly, covers. The prevailing wisdom has it that if you have good writing and a good blurb, you should end up making a few thousand dollars a year from your self-published gem. Ha! Now, I don’t think it’s my writing and, while I hate writing blurbs, I think mine are okay. Which led me to covers. I have revamped the covers to WAR GAMES and THE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY. Here’s the simplest one to explain:

WarGames-ebook-200x300 WarGames-cover-200x300
Old New

When it comes to the Check Your Luck stories, I bit the bullet and made several changes:

* I got rid of Books 2 to 5. You can now just download the first book (THE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY) and, if you like it, buy the omnibus (THE COMPLETE CHECK YOUR LUCK AGENCY). No halfway books to distract anyone.

* Because of this, I have reduced the price of the omnibus from US$8.99 to US$6.99. Considering that price is for 227,000 words of a multi-edited book, I think that’s a more than fair.

* We are also told to divide our foci, using a different pen-name for each genre we write in. Screw that. Seriously, I’ve had no traction from my “Cara d’Bastian” pen-name and have decided to put everything under the Augustin name where, I think, more people know me. From past sales reports, it couldn’t hurt. At all. Really.

* Then there are the covers:

WarGames-ebook-200x300 WarGames-cover-200x300
Old New

I have also made some changes to the way books are distributed. Normally, I stand, checklist next to me, and tick off each etailer as I upload. I’ve hated this for several reasons:

* Smashwords is completely inflexible about how ebooks are to be formatted. I can’t, for example, have a lack of indentation on my Copyright page, and indentation in the main part of my novel. I also have to have a Table of Contents for a damn short story! I have to rely on their wonderfully-named “Meatgrinder” to produce a sub-standard PDF. (Yeah, you go tell a client that you’re putting their baby through the “Meatgrinder” and see how they feel. It’s not funny, it’s unprofessional.) The list goes on. So Sandal Press, regardless of how Forbes feels about it, is giving Smashwords the boot. Too much hassle for too little gain.

* Amazon pays me by cheque, which is a method of payment that went out with pulse-dialling. The minimum it costs me to cash an overseas cheque is SG$45 (US$35). You add it up. And I have to wait for the good ole postal system to get the cheque in the first place. Archaic!

* The Kobo dashboard is worse than useless when it comes to granular royalty reporting…when it works.

* Every change through XinXii has to be done via email to Customer Support. There is no dashboard where you can upload new versions of books, for example.

* I couldn’t find a good way to get to Overdrive and, thus, libraries.

And so on and so forth.

Then I came across a mob called Ebook Partnership. They distribute to several major sites for a flat fee of US$40/title/year (if you met the 5-book minimum) and I pocket 100% of the proceeds. Paid electronically. Every month (after a minimum threshold has been met). I think Ebook Partnership is a great idea for self-publishers outside North America, so I’m trialling several titles with them. If anything looks fishy, I’ll let you know. (I think you know that by now.)

In addition to all this, I’m also working on the first draft of the third Perdition book, QUINTEN’S CHOICE. I plan to have both the third and fourth books out this year (QUINTEN’S CHOICE / QUINTEN’S GAMBLE), and the fifth and sixth (the last!) next year. I have the names, I have the arc, I have synopses. It’s just a case of getting down and writing the bloody thing.

What’s happening at your end, stalwart reader? Care to share?