Category Archives: Ebooks

Bored in Korea? Read a book!

Slide1Teakettle Mountain, the story of one loser English teacher’s quest to not be a loser, has been re-released on amazon.com. Check out the story reviewers are calling “a joy to read”—available now for $2.99, less than a third the cost of a cup of coffee in our adoptive homeland!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Literary News

Item. Teakettle Mountain will be available for free starting in about two hours (Around 12AM Tuesday Pacific Time / Around 4PM in Krrrreeeya) until Friday at the same time. Snap up a copy before it’s too late!

Item. After several rejection letters, an agent I queried has requested more materials for Sorabol, which I’m currently attempting to publish via more traditional methods, after having already put it up on amazon as a kindle ebook. It’s still very possible that he’ll pass on it after taking some more time to look it over, but I think I’ve passed a sort of milestone in the authorial cursus honorum—getting a reply which is not a rejection form used for the slush pile.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sorabol’s Opening Lines

Nothing was normal about the death of the monk named Ichadon. At his own insistence the execution was a public event paid for by the royal purse. Treasurer Jee of the Sixth Bone Rank wrote that the signs erected and the criers employed for advertising in the weeks leading up to the beheading cost in excess of two thousand knives, and that urgent repairs to the walls of Acha Fortress were halted for several weeks as a result. Though it cannot be said that the attendees did not get their moneys’ worth, further spending was incurred after tiered seats were constructed at the execution square, before the Great Dolmen in the center of the capital city of Sorabol. Minister Pan, also of the Sixth Bone Rank, estimates that ten thousand citizens were gathered in attendance. Ambassadors from Northern Wei, Southern Liang, Hundred Vassals, Kaolee, and the Dwarf Kingdom, were present, and greatly impressed by the remarkable events which occurred on the Eighth Sun of the Fourth Moon of the Thirteenth Harvest in the Reign of Great King Fa, who ruled during The Era of First Establishment [527 CE].

Get the Kindle ebook on amazon for $2.99.

Tagged , , ,

Book Report

Sorabol’s free promotion has ended, but it can be considered quite a success. It was at the top of two of amazon’s lists (Historical Fiction and Asian Myths I think…) and it was also around number 1,100 in the entire Kindle store, which isn’t bad at all considering the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of books available. A lot of people downloaded the book, far more than I ever expected, in fact; my writing has never really been read by more than a handful of readers, and I think that this ploy has increased my exposure. I may be experimenting with more giveaways in the future—since, at this point in my life, if I had to choose between being read and making money, I would definitely choose the first option over the second.

Thanks to everyone who decided to take a look at this book. I hope you enjoy it.

Tagged , ,

Sorabol Free For The Weekend

My novel about medieval Korea, Sorabol, is free for the weekend. Please download and enjoy.

Don’t forget to check out the trailer, or learn more about my books here.

Tagged ,

That Horrible U

I’ve been submitting my book to agents and publishers over the last few weeks, and today I received my first rejection. The turnaround was so fast I’m not sure they even looked at my submission; their reply was sent just seventeen hours after my email, and, thinking I had nothing to lose (beyond the slight chance of being blacklisted by a publisher which doesn’t seem to be interested in me to begin with), I decided to ask them what had turned them off about my book—concerned that there was some glaring error in my query letter or some issue on the first page that I’ve missed—though I doubt they’ll respond.

Before I even opened the email I could tell that it was a rejection, because the first sentence was followed by a U, for Unfortunately. Oh what a painful U that was! I felt a physical stab in my gut thanks to that unfortunate U! It’s been years since I’ve been rejected by anyone: here was proof that someone somewhere disapproved of my work—beyond, of course, the vast, silent, cosmic indifference of the internet.

At first I found some solace in the fact that numerous successful writers have been rejected dozens of times before finally breaking through. Then, of course, there are the authors who do give up and move on to other things—perhaps millions for each one who succeeds—and on top of that there are countless published books that are never read by anyone. In short, by submitting my book, I am more or less asking for pain, suffering, humiliation, and defeat.

These are bad odds. These are sperm-level odds.

But the sperm can’t help but swim. The alternative—to ignore the urge to create, or to live as a coward, terrified of defeat—is so unbearable it is actually unthinkable. It goes inconceivably beyond that stab in the gut I felt when I saw that horrible U.

Those who do not try cannot win. Bring those rejections on. Give me another hundred. Another thousand. Let me print them out and stuff them under my bed in vast santa sacks. Let me grind them up and drink them for breakfast. They are my nectar and my ambrosia. I can’t live without them. Nor can I hope to succeed.

Tagged ,

Kingdoms In The Sun

kingdomsthronekefa

You find whoever you’re looking for whenever you’re not looking.

Ian James was lost in Asia. Having slogged through six months of teaching English in a South Korean public school, he escaped to Indochina to ply the waves of the Mekong River and wander the city-sized temples of Angkor Wat, romancing whoever he could find along the way, struggling to find a purpose to his existence. This search for love and meaning seemed hopeless until, at last, he found her: Gold Silver Jade, the heir to the throne of the Korean Empire, clopping along the streets of Busan in gleaming stilettos.

Standalone sequel to Teakettle Mountain, Kingdoms In The Sun is a genre-bending travelogue, mixing the memoir of an exile with the fantastic shaman-laden history of modern Korea. Dark, amusing, and unpredictable, you won’t be able to put it down.

Get the Kindle book on Amazon for $2.99.

And now, an excerpt—

THE DEMON

Several years of patient misery later we find Yi as a rather marriageable eighteen-year-old woman consulting the services of a matchmaker, formerly a certain shaman and philosopher. The city outside her old house with the sign in both Chinese and Korean letters is roaring because it seems as though every tinderwood lean-to in Gyeongju is being swept aside and replaced by a four-story rectangular apartment block of bright pink cement. Bulldozers are roving rampant through the city, along with dozens of cheap Doosan cranes, backhoes, and dumptrucks, while thousands of helmeted construction workers are pouring into the troughs left in their wake, hauling away the debris and erecting the largest structures anyone’s ever seen, usually in two months or less for each building. These operations are all directed by young men in strange suits and ties that flap up against their shaven faces in the dusty wind.

The cement flows in rivers. Government offices, motels, Turkish Bathhouses, karaoke rooms, restaurants, schools, light industrial factories with blue-striped smokestacks, a hospital, a dozen pharmacies, a university, two new bridges to span the Elder Brother River and two to cross the North Stream that flows into it, banks, a train station, police and fire stations, bus stations, even gas stations, all with English signs that nobody can read, with strange English names written in the Korean alphabet, like “Chelluh Menshyeon”—Chère Mansion—which people can sometimes sound out, though nobody knows what they mean. The apple orchards are cut down, sculptures from the Shilla Dynasty are accidentally dug up and then purposefully carted away into the new national museum, and the president himself orders his army of workers to carve out a new lake and erect a complex of enormous modern hotels, golf courses, and theme parks for the tourists who will soon come to see the giant Buddha in the mountain and the grassy burial mounds whose bellies are being disemboweled with pickaxes and toothbrushes by teams of archeologists.

Capitalism is attacking this nation. American and Japanese money is pouring in, and everyone is working around the clock. Yi and her family can afford to eat rice now and then, although most of the time they have to stick to prepackaged noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They treat themselves to meat no more than once a month. Hot tar ozone fills the air, as does the scream of machinery, while airplanes are floating in the white sky like bits of silver origami, and trains are pounding along the tracks as fast as the workers can lay them, and hordes of little children are running around everywhere. There are squarish boxy cars on the roads—motorbikes—green taxis designed like cigarette packs on wheels—all honking like they’re getting paid for it.

Every single man spends every single moment of every single day smoking cigarettes, and they all start this habit the very moment that first follicle of pubic hair sprouts out of their crotches. The decadent days of the meter-long tobacco pipes that only the yangban nobles could afford—resting them on their ashtrays—have receded into the ancient past, although you can still find some of these pipes gathering dust and pollen in the junk stores at the traditional markets.

Sitting on the hard wood floor before a squat wood table, the two women, the old and the new, shout through the machine-gun clattering of a nearby jackhammer, as sunlit dust billows through the gaps in the walls. Neither one can hear the other—

“What? What? I can’t—”

“Check this one out! Good prospects! Has a trade! A tailor! You can never lose a trade! You’ll eat rice every day! Meet Mr. Bak!”

“What—?”

The matchmaker slaps down a black-and-white photograph of Bak looking handsome and serious while refusing, like everyone else, to smile in front of the camera.

“You’ll never have to worry about food if you marry this one!”

“What?”

Bak was a remarkable creature, resilient like a volcanic rock that’s still burning with glow long after the end of the eruptions which gave birth to it. His family had descended from far more recent nobility: up until the 1990s Busan was producing most of the world’s shoes, and his parents had owned a prosperous shoe factory in the heart of the city back when it was Fuzhan under the Japanese. Then, one day, before the war, the factory burned down, they lost everything, including the joke-bo, or the family’s entire genealogical history, a series of very old books which set down the names and occupations of their ancestors extending back two thousand years to the days when people in Korea were not yet capable of producing bronze. Bak’s tough ritzy mother, glammed up in gems, was reduced to penury. The stones went to the shareholders and loan-collectors; rather than start over from the very beginning again her husband liquefied his mind in alcohol and expired late one evening by collapsing into a dirt street and choking on his own bile. After conceiving her second child with him—the first was stillborn a decade before, though since she was a daughter only the mother mourned the loss—this woman struck out on her in own in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea, where she opened up a restaurant in a traditional market near the old Japanese train station. Here there were a few relatives around who might be able to help her out now and then on those increasingly frequent occasions when she didn’t possess a single won to her name.

There was also another set of relatives in Busan, although this group didn’t help her at all. Her husband had been rich enough to afford a second wife, a concubine, or chup, and through this wife he’d sired an entire family which was so wealthy they lived in a house with a courtyard and a water fountain. She begged them for help each time they got together to sacrifice on the anniversary of her husband’s death, but they always refused because it made them happy to see this first original and legitimate wife, this powerful woman, forced to the most pathetic desperation. It was pleasing to see her beg, and even more pleasing to gently, politely, turn her down.

Her second child, Bak, was a screamer from the first, and caught nearly every illness known to man, though because of his family’s poverty his immune system had to fight off all of these diseases without the aid of food or medicine. His mother was so poor she couldn’t afford to eat rice more than once every couple of weeks; even getting his fingertip pricked by the local acupuncturist was far beyond her means. In her own words, Bak “nearly died four times.” He rounded out his grave childhood illnesses with a bout of polio which shriveled up his right leg and left him barely able to walk on his own for the rest of his life, catching the disease a decade after a vaccine had been found for it in the Beautiful Country. His leg was now thinner than his arm.

He’d already learned to walk by that time, but after the days of shrieking and vomiting and sweating had ended his mother found that whenever she stood him up, he fell down again, like a marionette with no one to hold the strings. She was forced to carry him in a white sling on her back as she cooked spicy red stews, washed dishes, and waited on tables, enduring daily questions from her customers (“Why can’t your boy walk?” “What’s wrong with your son?” “You know your baby’s too big for that sling!”) with smiling patience long after he was a heavy two- and then three-year-old with his long legs dangling down her back.

But this was only the beginning of his troubles. Bak’s single mother had to work at her restaurant all the time, locking up her shop between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and dinner and ten at night, to hawk the city’s best gimbap on idling trains. Sometimes she had no choice but to leave her toddler trapped inside her little windowless apartment with some food and the human equivalent of litter boxes, in the absence of running water. There he passed the time by screaming his heart out by the door.

Tagged , , , ,

How To Write An Ebook

Finding an idea and taking the time to thrash it out into a short novel is easy enough; transforming a .doc into a .mobi (the file format used by Amazon.com) is slightly more complicated. I first used Sigil, which is fairly simple to use, though it helps to have a slight knowledge of how coding works, and an awareness that google can answer most of the technical questions you have, if not all of them; once you paste your words into Sigil, you can turn your idea into an .epub, which is the more-or-less “universal” format used by e-readers these days; then, if you get your hands on Calibre, you can convert that .epub into a .mobi in a few minutes, which means that it’s ready for Amazon.com. All of these services are free, and although Sigil has a few bugs (I have to switch to the code view when I insert images, or else the entire ebook is destroyed), Calibre is flawless.

There are other services (like Smashwords) that will do all of this converting work for you, but I’ve seen some of their books and I haven’t really been impressed with the polish that goes into them. I tried to send a file to Lulu once, and didn’t hear back from them for a month; when I finally did get a reply, they said that they weren’t able to read the file! If you learn the ropes (which I was able to do thanks to the endless help of Omid Mikhchi), and handle every aspect yourself, you can really create something that shines.

I accidentally sent Amazon three epubs just yesterday when I published my loosely-related trilogy of ebooks about Korea, and that venerable website surprised me (pleasantly at first) by converting them into mobis, but then one of my friends, who had very graciously purchased these books, informed me that they were missing their all-important tables of contents, which necessitated some re-publishing on my part. For the moment at least I wouldn’t trust Amazon to do a file conversion thanks to this mishap; it seems like using both Sigil and Calibre is the way to go.

One extra step in between writing and publishing is, of course, editing. Two years elapsed from the moment I first conceived of writing about Korea to the moment, yesterday, when I found myself thinking that I was finally finished; almost all of that time was spent re-reading, tweaking, changing, deleting, and adding to, what I had originally written. My editing process is slightly unique, and maybe worth mentioning here: I send the epub to my iPhone and read the ebook there (as though it’s already been published and finalized), using the notations feature in iBooks to mark the things that I want to alter. I also try to read everything aloud, imagining that my harshest and most fearsome critics are listening to me—literally picturing them in my mind, trying to hold them in my head, as I read—and to keep myself from getting too sleepy I might even walk around my apartment (or wherever I happen to be) while I read. Then, once I’ve gotten through the entire book, I go through it again on Sigil, insert all of the edits, email the new version to myself, and repeat the process. I must have done this at least fifty or sixty times over the course of the last two years, and I know that if I look through my books again I’ll find things that I want to change. Unlike George Lucas, however, I will not change them. At this point I’m a little sick of the subject, and also painfully aware that the ebook market is seemingly mostly interested in young adult vampire fiction, rather than books about cross-dressing Jewish lesbians running around in medieval Korea.

As for publicizing my work, aside from using facebook, this blog, and reddit (where everything I post is either ignored or downvoted into oblivion), I am obviously totally clueless, and also somewhat hesitant to flash the cash, because I don’t have any. Asking people to review my first book, Teakettle Mountain, on Amazon.com, was definitely rewarding, since everyone who got back to me liked it, but it did not transform me into Amanda Hocking, so I didn’t really bother to go around begging people to review my other works. Instead, I created a trailer, but I have to confess that this aspect of the ebook publishing process is a mystery to me; if my readers have any suggestions in this regard, I’m all ears.

Tagged ,

Brief Update

All of my books are now listed here for your delectation. I’ve been working really insanely hard on them for the last six months, and hope that I may now be able to return to blogging for a bit.

Tagged