The fourth installment of the Check Your Luck series, NIGHT OF THE PONTIANAK, was released one month later than planned, in January of this year rather than December of last year. Unfortunately, it looks like the last episode in the saga, FIVE CARD DRAW, JINN ARE HIGH will also follow the same pattern and release in April rather than March.CYLA-Part-5-200x300

As I’ve said on many an occasion, I’d rather delay a little while and get it right than rush something half-baked to stores.

As a bit of a sop, Sandal Press will also be releasing all five volumes in one digital AND print omnibus edition. At the moment, we’re talking to a number of local printers. Although we have an account with Lightning Source, we are still looking local to source our review copies and that takes time. This is a big step for us, so we want to make sure we do that right as well.

The downside of running your own press is that a lot of work that’s handled by others is now your responsibility. So the learning curve for Scribus has now joined the competition for writing time while we get our first print manuscripts ready. The family have been very understanding but I still wish I had an extra twelve hours in the day. I’m sure you know how I feel.

The first Sandal Press newsletter has gone out for this year, with the next one slated for June. If a bit of genre diversion appeals to you, click the newspaper icon in the leftmost column of this page and join our band of loyal subscribers.

FIVE CARD DRAW out in April #uf

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March 1st, 2013

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I decided to hijack Sausage’s slot this month to bring up a topic that’s been bugging me for the past year. I happily subscribe to JA Konrath’s blog. I find the guy to be informative and forthright and, even if I don’t believe 100% of what he’s saying, I won’t deny the passion with which he says it. Which brings me to something I don’t believe in — Table of Contents pages for novels.

In his otherwise excellent blog post on “Ebook Parts”, Konrath mentions the order of particular pages in an ebook. In particular, he mentions:

4. Hyperlinked table of contents. Links should go to every part of the ebook mentioned here, except the cover art.

Why? Personally, as a reader, I find ToCs at the front of a novel incredibly annoying.

I think it’s because my mindset when reading non-fiction is completely different to that when reading fiction. When I read non-fiction, I am in a more measured frame of mind. I deliberately peruse the Contents page to give me an idea of the structure of a book, and to let me know where it’s beginning, what it’s going to cover and where it will end. I often go back and forth within a non-fiction book but have found, over time, that — after the initial reading of the Contents page — I rarely go back to it. Instead, I rely more heavily on the Index. That’s because a non-fiction book is the equivalent of a reference for me and I want to get to particular places, or hop between them, as fast as I can. Maybe it’s not a good trait, but I’m an impatient non-fiction reader.

Fiction, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. When I open that novel, I want to be entertained. It’s great if the fiction contains some technical knowledge that tickles at my brain (from how to jump off a train without killing yourself, to the different spectral classes of stars), but I don’t consider that mandatory. I don’t find myself hopping from, say, Chapter Ten back to Chapter Three and onward to Chapter Fifteen too often, although I do go back a couple of pages on occasion when I’ve been distracted by something chronic (an argument between the kids being a good example). Interestingly enough, I have never opened an ebook, looked at the Contents page and thought to myself, “Right! I think I’ll start at Chapter Four!”. And, unlike a non-fiction book, I sure as hell don’t want to know how the book ends before I’ve started it!

If I have the mindset of the average reader (and I think I do), I’m not sure why ToCs are considered a standard part of digital novels. The aren’t in print novels. In fact, after perusing some of our home library, the only places I found Contents pages for standalone novels were “Les Miserables” and in a Bicenntenial hardcover set of the complete works of Charles Dickens. You know, “classics”. And the old ones at that. I didn’t find them in any of our Joseph Conrads, Heinrich Bölls or even “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

When Sandal Press first started up, I did what everyone else seemed to be doing and put ToCs at the front of our books. But then, after thinking about my own preferences, I stopped. Konrath suggests that maybe I should start up again but I’m not so sure.

If anyone would care to weigh in, do you think a ToC is essential in a novel?

February has rolled around and I thought I wouldn’t have much to say, especially after a record-breaking three-month-release January for Sandal Press. February will be quiet as I continue working on the last Check Your Luck book, although ideas for promotion, future editions, sequels, marketing and promotion continue to fly across the breakfast table and Pit (the floor lounging area behind my work machines) all the time.

With little else on the release front to write about, then, I have to say that keeping motivated is an ongoing issue for us. We are quite isolated here in Malaysia, and while I have some very good writing friends, it’s difficult to have a conversation with them when juggling time zones and the curve balls that get hurled at everybody’s lives.

This is why I developed the “Publishing Game”, which is really an offshoot of my original “Writing Game”. Here are the rules:

1) There are twelve months in a year. Every month, Sandal Press should have done something significant towards the goals of the press. Usually this means a release.

2) There is one month taken out of the equation for “Vacation” and one more for “Help!!!!!!!!” (a general crisis call), but that’s it.

3) If Sandal has multiple releases for a month, those additional releases can be allocated to subsequent months.

4) Retro-allocation of books to months are allowed. (If I have an empty slot in, say, May, and two releases in June, I’m allowed to retro-allocate one of my June releases to May.)

So, for 2013, and three releases so far, I have January, February and March covered. That means that, if I want to stay in the “Publishing Game”, I need to come out with something in April at the latest. And so on.

In this fashion, Q1 looks good, but Q2 is looking a bit iffy.

It’ll take a whole year, of course, but I’m hoping to have ten slots of something filled up by the end of the year. I’ll periodically update the blog with Sandal’s progress but, in the meantime, wish me luck, and I’ll catch you in March.

During the short month & #publishing game #indie

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February 1st, 2013

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We is luky where we live cos we has many new yers. We jus had januerree new yer and mama sez we wil have chyneeze new yer. I hope my getz mor fud for chyneeze new yer.

SausageIt haz bin raining lotz cos its the monzoon seeson but it will get hot soon. I lik hot. I lik to li in the sun then my comez into de houz and li on mama. Itz ezee cos mamas chair is on de floor. I lik chairz on floors.

I wil tel u abut were my lives. It iz hot. We have squeerels. They clim trees n maek fun of me from the trees. They do this cos they kno my cant reech them. They are v meen. We also hav lotz of burds. A hummmmmngburd visits evry day. I want to investeegat it but it always sitz behind the windo, so all my can do is li down n watch it. We hav no monkees. Mama sez ther used to be monkees but ther ar no monkees aneemore. I wood liek to see a monkee but mama doesn liek them. She sez they can steel our catz so my sez they cant be all bad. Ha ha.

We also hav fish but they ar meen too. They splash my if my getz too clos to ther fud. But I is a smart bul terrier. I can hold my breethe when I eat ther fud.

I getz breekfirst snax then furst dinner then second dinner. The wast and litel dinosore feedz my. I also getz tablety so my iz strong n smart, liek fish and vytamens. I liek my tabletys.

I shall tel u the secretz of the too stoopid katz next tiem. Bye.

Sausage

PS We had the strangest experience a few days ago. Our modem/router gave up the ghost. In fact, J says he actually heard it deteriorate! No matter how many times we rebooted, the lights would come on but we couldn’t get internet access. So we took it to the shop and — you guessed it — it started working again! Don’t you hate it when that happens?

If you have a look to your left at the top of the inner sidebar, you’ll see that COLLATERAL DAMAGE is there! Just click the link and it will take you to a page where you can download the novelette in a bundle of formats…all for FREE! We’ve got a couple of reviews for it already and people seem to like it, so pass the word around and enjoy.

Many new yers #sausage #bulterrier

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January 20th, 2013

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And welcome to 2013 and you, blog visitor! Wasn’t 2012 a roller-coaster of a year? I’m sure the only people who weren’t tugged this way and that were those already living under rocks.

On one hand, January and the start of a new year is a bit of an artifical boundary for Sandal Press…we’ve been planning this year’s tentative releases for the past five months now. On the other, you can’t really ignore Christmas and the gift du jour of an ereader for close friends/family members. With this in mind, Sandal has three new releases for this month AND two of them are free!

2012-Sampler-200x300The Sandal Press 2012 Sampler contains partials of all our major releases for the previous year. That means you get to read the first three chapters of:

As a bonus, you also get The Check Your Luck Agency. The whole thing, unabridged. That means that this year’s Sampler comes to a whopping 90,000+ words, and it’s all free. The Sandal Press 2012 Sampler should be hitting major etailers by the end of this week.

UPDATE: If you’d rather not wait, the Sampler is also now available at our website!

Speaking of The Check Your Luck Agency, the penultimate part of the 5-part Check Your Luck series, Night of the Pontianak, will also be out by the end of this month.

CYLA-Part-4Fiona Li has been forced to temporarily close The Check Your Luck Agency. But is this too little, too late?

Another player has entered the host of ills plaguing the Check Your Luck gang, but is it connected to dreaded Adam Lau? And, as if Ursula doesn’t have enough on her hands, her next-door neighbour has roped her in to talking some sense to the parents of a “cursed” child. There’s a dinner looming with Shariff’s parents, and a mysterious young woman embroiled in a tragedy, not to mention a spot of baby-sitting Fiona’s spoilt son, all overlaid with a persistent ghost’s pithy comments. And let’s not mention the vampire!

Price is $3.99

And lastly for January is an erotic sf romance novelette called Collateral Damage.

CollateralDamage-200x300No good deed ever goes unpunished.

Meyal Lit has been alone on an orbital for the past six months, analysing the remote planet of Falcin V. It’s a lonely job but, if it means financial security for herself and her family, Meyal is happy to grit her teeth and do it. That is, until a rival exo-geologist on a station on the opposite side of the planet contacts her.

Even though they work for competing companies, loneliness drives Meyal and Waryd together. In between work shifts, they indulge in small talk and chat-sex, knowing nothing can come from their liaison. Then Meyal gets confidential news that could change the entire way she and Waryd operate. If she does nothing, Waryd dies; on the other hand, if she saves her rival, she can kiss her dreams of financial independence good-bye.

What’s a smart, introverted geologist to do?

If that tickles your fancy, you’ll be pleased to know that Collateral Damage will also be available for free.

So that’s the big news for January. Our website is starting to fill out a little bit, although still not at a pace I’d ideally like, and we hope to have many more stories for you in 2013. Stay safe and we’ll talk again early next month.

Evrybode in de hous is v xcited. We hav a tree. Its not reel but has lotz of lits. Mama sez de katz has tryed to clim the tree. Ha ha. Stoopid katz. I hav a speshul hat. When my wears it, evrybode laffs. I make evrybode happy. I is a gud mini bul terrier.

Evrybode hooman goes out shopng but my cant. Mama sez my is not aloud in publik placez coz my is a dog n we lives n a mooslim cuntree. I feel sad coz my wantz to go wit mama n evrybode outside. Insted my is stuk garding the houz. That iz boring n the katz dun talk to me. All my do is sleep. The katz sleep to.Sausage-Xmas-1

But my iz not lazee. Mama tayks my for warks evry mornng. The katz sta hom n sleep. Lazee katz! We go sniffin dun de street. I ignor the serkueritee gards cos my hav bettr things to do. Mama sez my iz a gud gurl.

It is Rismas. Mama sez my mus giv lotz of luvz to evrybode. Luvz to mama n tata n litel dynosore n de wast n my spose to the stoopid katz to. If u giv me fud my mite luvz u to.

Mama sez my mus say mary rismas to u. Mary Rismas!

Bye.

PS We tried to get one of those antler hats on Sausage. Needless to say it didn’t work. She’d rush to the other side of the living room and then lie there and look at me. The only way I got THIS shot was by holding a treat above her head. I think that explains the shark-amid-the-chum look on her face.

Regardless, we’d like to echo Sausage’s sentiments and wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2013. Sandal Press is planning big things for the next year and I hope you’ll stick around and help celebrate with us.

Sausage the bul terrier: Rismas is comeing!

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December 20th, 2012

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(Before I get into this month’s post, a quick note that NIGHT OF THE PONTIANAK has entered the editorial cycle. But I’m still banking on a January release.)

When I first started researching self-publishing, I was surprised by how many authors concentrated on the gate-keeping hurdle of traditional publishing, and not on the business angle of self-publishing. Having nurtured several start-ups, it was plain to me that self-publishing was always, first and foremost, a small business. And, as with all small businesses, it’s never enough to merely produce the product, you have to quality test it, package it, monitor distribution and sales channels, do your best to come up with effective marketing, and so on. And, being a small business, initially at least, all of that massive “other” work, completely unrelated to the product itself, must be carried out by the founder.

I knew, just from what they were blogging, that a lot of authors weren’t mentally geared to step into the shoes of a Small Business Owner. I also knew that the failure rate of small businesses within the first five years is phenomenal. Start Up Business Hub, for example, has the following chilling statistics

Failure rate of small businesses:

Year 1 – 85%

Year 2 – 70%

Year 3 – 62%

Year 4 – 55%

And while self-publishing is the gentlest of small businesses to begin with (and I’ve started a few, so believe me when I say that), I knew that the failure rate would still be high.

This is a long introduction to my thoughts on a recent post from April L Hamilton, founder of that wonderful site, Publetariat and, at one time, committed self-publisher. In her post “Indie Author vs. Indie Entrepreneur”, April says:

I’ve said all along that in order to really make a go of earning a living as an indie author, one must approach it with all the verve, dedication and business acumen of an entrepreneur. I stand by that to this day, but here’s what’s new: maybe not all of us need to be, nor even want to be, indie entrepreneurs.

I completely agree with her. Being a self-publisher, where the goal is to be a commercial success and make a living from self-publishing, is hard. Where I disagree with her is with the comparison that you must approach it “with all the verve, dedication, etc.” To my mind, that’s drawing an artificial line between self-publishing and business. There is no line. It’s the same thing. If you’re not an entrepreneur, then the chances of succeeding in self-publishing are slim to nil, in my opinion.

This new paradigm of indie author-entrepreneur (I’ll abbreviate it to IAE in this post) is totally different from what the idealized picture of being a Published Author was just a few short years ago.

No, I disagree. The idealised picture was, and still is, concentrated on the book and not the activities surrounding it. What has changed over the past few years, is that more authors who started a few years ago are now having the realities of what they’ve done (and not done) shoved into their faces.

A few years into it, many indie authors are stopping to reassess. The initial rush of excitement over being able to call our own shots and write our own tickets is over, and now we’re wallowing in the morning-after hangover realization that being a successful IAE means spending at least as much time on the business and promotion side of things as on writing.

Yes but, again, only if: (a) you didn’t realise what you were taking on in the first place; and/or (b) you thought you had the skill set to pull it all off but are now coming to the swift realisation that that’s not the case.

To my mind, self-publishing is at that intersection of two very difficult, and philosophically opposite, activities: writing (creative, sporadic, nail-biting) and small business (pragmatic, methodical, nail-biting). What they have in common, besides the nail-biting, is the need for a strong, unbreakable belief in what you’re doing. And if that belief wavers in any way, then you’re headed into failure country.

So my prediction is that more and more self-publishers will find that the constant worries, frustrations, issues, time-traps, and lack of quick returns are just not worth it for them, and they’ll drop off the self-publishing wagon. And that’s an entirely valid decision to make. Knocking your head against a brick wall in the hope of breaking through is only for a small segment of people. As I’ve said, I’ve done it a few times in other industries so my head has grown accustomed to the pain. But I can well understand people who think that that sounds like nothing more than a cup of insanity. In my more sober moments, I tend to agree.

For those people who are self-publishing as a hobby, nothing has changed. They can continue as they always have done, for the sheer love of it and nothing else. For those who are looking to make a living out of it (and I don’t understand why we need to be coy about that goal when we live in such capitalistic times), but find that they are unwilling to dissipate their time- and/or resource-limited energies in non-writing related tasks, the digital presses and traditional publishers will still be there for them. I’m stubborn, and maybe even stupid, enough to keep going at this gig for a few more years. But that’s just me.

 

Why some self-publishers aren’t #indie

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December 1st, 2012

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I am sorree my is late this month but mama wuz sik. So my had to look after her. She is better now so my can talk abut fud.

First my never gets enuf fud. If u culd talk to mama abut that n tell her my needs mor fud my will like u mor.

Mama makes my fud. She also makes de catz fud. We eat a raw fud dyeit. Mama sez it is healtheeer fer us. Fluff the big wite cat was the furst to eat raw fud. He is now 9 yeers old. He is v grumpy. I wunder if it is becos he eats raw fud. I wont be like that. I like raw fud. I get xtras like krill n egg n yogert n cheesee. Sumtimes my also gets samwichs. I like sardeen samwichs.

Mama tryd my on kibbel but my poos were v soft and not tasty at all. Mama sez my shuldnt sa things like that but its my blog so my can sa what my wants. And its the trooth and mama always sez we must tell the trooth so my dont kno why she wuld be upset wit my telling u that kibbel poos taste bad.

Mama thinks my eats everything but she is rong. I dont like mushrooms n also my dont like raw prawns. I will eat a prawn cos my is a brave minee bul terrier but my doesnt like it v much. I also don like my zinc tablts. They taste funny. I likes my fish tablts n other tablts. But my dont like zinc. So you see my suffers. I dont eat enuf fud and mama gives me zinc tablts. If u culd talk to her about that my will be yur friend. Maybee. Bye.

Sausage

PS Well, darling dog, you’re going to have to learn that not everything that’s good for you tastes good too. In other news, Sausage was right. I got a bad bout of tropical fever and Sandal Press was effectively offline for a fortnight. I’m slowly recovering now, but it means that the fourth book in the Check Your Luck series, NIGHT OF THE PONTIANAK, won’t be ready for a December release. It’ll be out in January instead. 

Sausage teh bul terrier: About fud

Posted on

November 19th, 2012

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We were knocked off the intertubes yesterday by a large lightning storm that hit the Larkin (Johor) area. But thanks to the wonderful guys at Time dot com, we were up and running again within 3 hours. Thanks guys!

Needless to say, then, I can’t use that as an excuse to explain why this blog is late! What I can say is that I’m currently in a writing frenzy. It just so happens that, every second book or so, something happens and I manage to average 5-7,000 words per day. Unfortunately, this only lasts for, interestingly enough, five to seven days.

I’m in the middle of one such frenzy and, really, I want to concentrate on it before it goes away.

I’ll do another post once I’m in a calmer frame of mind.

November?! Already?!

Posted on

November 1st, 2012

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Sum peepls want to kno what my is. I is a minee bul terrier. Minee bul terriers is smart. Smarter than catz. Minee bul terriers is brave. I chase away de rubbish men and serkueritee gards on scooters. Minee bul terriers is good at garding. If tatas chair sqeeks my barks at him to warn him that the chair is abut to attak. If sumone brings in a box my barks to let mama kno that the box is abut to attak. Boxs are my enemy. Litel dynosore is my human littermate. Her bed cliks. I bark when it cliks to warn her that de bed is abut to attak.

I live in a v dangerus house. I hav to bark when if sumthing wants to attak. If my was not around evrybodee wuld be attakd. That is already a v important job without beeng maskot of sandal press.

But my do not gard the catz. They hav sharp klawz. They have klawd my nose when my has tried to explain de rools of de house to them. I do not explain de rools of de house to them any mor but my still pertecks my fud from them. They is v sneeky. One of them even likes cheesee which is my treet not there treet. But one of them tries to eat it any way.

I wanted to talk about fud but my has run out of space. I shall tell you about fud next time. It is my faverit subjek n my knos a lot about it. Bye.

Sausage

POSTSCRIPT: The first Sandal Press newsletter is about to go out, packed to the brim with news! If you’d like to get in on the action, just click the big newspaper icon to your left. You’ll be taken to a sign-up page at MailChimp. Hope you join the party.

Sausage teh bul terrier: I is a bul terrier!

Posted on

October 15th, 2012

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