May 31, 2011

zhAke Rattle and Roll - iPad App for ebooks





Today's Bangkok Post discussed a new home-grown iPad app to read magazines and books called zhAke, which is pronounced "Shake", despite the fact that there is no "sh" sound or any "z"s in the Thai language. Nevertheless, it is from a developer in Thailand, which is refreshing seeing how most games and apps in Thailand seem to be repackage jobs from Korea.

From the Bangkok Post:

Once the market grows it then will be developed to an interactive version. "With the same format as a printed magazine or PDF file, the publishers do not need to make high investments," Silaraks said, adding that Outer Box's team has already prepared everything for the publishers from start to finish.
Based on transactions, 30% of revenue will go to Apple, while the publishers and Outer Box will take 50% and 20%, respectively.
The 50% to the publisher is the same percentage that Asiabooks ebooks store is offering, which isn't bad, so I decided to download the app on my iPad. Right now, the only ebooks are from Ajarn W. Vajiramedhi, who is a famous monk that always seems to be on TV and the commercials before the movies. The magazine section is a bit sparse too, which proves the Bangkok Bugle's point that iPad apps for magazines in Thailand are duds. They really need to get more publishers on board to get this app off the ground, but there is definitely potential.

The layout is nice, and the swiping on the page is crisp, but there is just not enough content yet. There is also no monetization of anything at the moment, so it will be interesting how they accomplish this feat, because hardly anyone in Thailand has a credit card.

I download "Delightful Duties", one of W. Vajiramedhi's books, for free in the zhAke app and it's in both Thai and English. Under "A Husband's Duties Towards his Wife" it lists that one should "Let her take charge of household duties". That's something I'm onboard with, and I hope there's more ebooks to follow (both Thai and English).
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May 30, 2011

Good Girl at New Asian Writing - A Short Story about a Royal Thai Police Officer


The good folks at New Asian Writing have published my 3,200-word short story "Good Girl". The story is about a police officer in Bangkok trying to save face with his friends and neighbors by dealing with his drug-addicted girl friend. It focuses on the concept that people try to ignore or take the easy way out of problems in their own community because they see it as "the polite" thing to do.It is actually based on some true events that I witnessed at the apartments I used to live at, whereby a police officer's girlfriend would run amok through the building while he was off doing his job. I'm not trying to get up on my high horse and say "Thai people ignore domestic abuse", because I did nothing to stop it either.

The protagonist, Pon, is a fictional character obviously, but he is part of a real police division in the Bangkok Metropolitan Police - Thong Lor Station. Sure, I've heard all the rumors about corruption on the force, but if I only made about 10,000 THB ($300) per month and I had to pay for my own gun and uniform, I might find some ways to make ends meet too. I try to play on this moral ambiguity by having the people involved in obvious criminal activity seem like nice guys.

Thailand's strange because everyone knows there is problems, but people try to sweep them under the rug or politely play down the severity of the issue. Why else would the Thai military hold a press conference to say that there would not be a coup?

I hope you enjoy the story, and hit me up with some feedback. Thanks to my little brother, Ben, for editing.

New Asian Writing - "Good Girl" - by Paul Salvette
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May 27, 2011

Writing on Thai Politics

In my two years in Thailand, I have learned three important things from wiser people than myself: grabbing a taxi on the top level instead of the bottom level at Suvarnabhumi saves you the 50 baht "airport fee", you're less likely to get sick from street food than restaurant food, and never discuss politics with a Thai person. Avoiding the latter is difficult, because like in most countries, politics manifests itself in just about everything. Even in the cozy confines of my wife's village in Khorat, the English teacher once asked me, "So, what do you think about Thaksin?". I tried to divert the topic by talking about my recent admiration of Dok Som See Tong (a super classy Thai soap).

Politics is a pretty nasty topic of conversation in any country, but in Thailand it's exceptionally ugly. If you're a foreigner, it is considered very impolite to comment. Thai people are normally receptive to us farang types, but don't think they want to hear your political opinions on their home country. I can somewhat sympathize, because I used to hate euro-weenies lecturing me about the evils of George Bush inside American borders. Think speaking your mind on the current political situation is a good idea? You should talk to Dan Rivers, who got suitcase-tossed out of Thailand for making perceived pro-red shirt remarks.

However, eating the forbidden fruit and discussing politics with Thai people has yielded some interesting observations:

1) The typical media tagline about red shirts being ignorant, oppressed peasants from the northeast and the pro-Abhisit contingent being fancy Khunying ladies is not always the case
2) There is a ferocious struggle for power and resources and no one knows how it will end
3) Since Thai culture is so much about saving face, it is difficult to understand what people are really thinking
4) Ordinary people tend to bear the brunt of poor decisions and corruption of politicians
5) There are no good guys and bad guys in this story

I'm interested in exploring some of this complexity in contemporary Thai society in two novellas. The first would be about a middle-aged woman whose son in the army was killed during a red-shirt protest in May 2010, and he haunts her dreams until she finds the killer. The second would be about a group of politicians and businessmen who get together and convince a 12 year-old boy from a working-class family to make all the major decisions for the country. What do you think?

I haven't started writing either, so I'm very open to suggestions. I plan to write it in a way that someone could enjoy the book without having ever set foot in Thailand or read about it in the paper. First off, I don't know enough about the situation to write a really detailed book that talks about all the different players that run this country, and, second off, it probably wouldn't sell well. Remember David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, where you had to have all this prior knowledge of the Twin Peaks series prior to seeing the movie. That thing was a collosal dud.

The story basically has to be accessible, but conscious of the complexity of the situation and the people involved. Should be fun to try to write, and hopefully I don't get deported.
Democrat Party Poster at On Nut BTS Station Taken Last Weekend

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May 22, 2011

5 Things I Learned from Stephen Leather

Two Great Authors in Thailand: Stephen Leather talking and the Back of Christopher Moore's Head
Today, I managed to cajole the bosswoman into going to Wordplay which was being billed as "Bangkok's First Literary Festival" at the Neilson Hays Library on Surawong road in Bagnkok. The misses had to drop off a hefty stack of 100 and 20 baht bills from our shops at the local Kasikorn bank, so I narrowly missed Christopher Moore's talk, but I bet it was good. At 2:15pm, I had the choice of listening to author Stephen Leather talking about eBooks or to David Thompson, a chef who caused some serious controversy last year when he made a comment about the decline of Thai food. Seeing how my sophisticated culinary skills consist of eating whatever is put in front of me, I opted for Stephen Leather's talk.

The acoustics in the room were pretty lousy, but the talk was very interesting. Stephen Leather has been writing and published for quite some time, and he had some big, recent successes selling eBooks on Amazon. Here's 5 bits of wisdom I was able to pick up from him:
  1. Getting Published 25 Years Ago Was Terrible - Maybe things were easy when the Gutenberg Press first came around, but getting something published back in the 1980s sounded like a huge pain in the ass. Stephen Leather said that you had to spend days slaving over some crappy word processing system, and the big publishing houses expected the manuscript to be perfect and on gleaming white paper. These manuscripts would be submitted to a publisher and typically sit in a slush pile at the publishing house until some poor unpaid intern brought it to the attention of an editor. He noted that after the proliferation of computers and word processing software, more people were able to write books which brings us to #2.
  2. Getting Published Today is Terrible - Now that technology has made it easier to go about the task of actually writing something, obviously more people are doing it. Most of the publishing houses, not keeping in step with technology, have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts and only get them from agents. However, Stephen Leather did not have very nice things to say about agents in general at this talk or at his guest post at Joe Konrath's last week when he called American literary agents "horrible, self-centered, arrogant shits". Therefore, getting through the gatekeeper system towards being published is a challenge.
  3. eBooks are Great, but You Need to Write Well - Stephen Leather devoted a lot of his talk to discussing how eBooks are marketed and sold to consumers, and also how he had some success with self-publishing his own work. He said that with this new technology in place, it was a great time to break down the barriers between readers and writers, but he wasn't trying to preach some gospel from "The Secret" or anything. He said that since anyone could publish, it is important that you write well to distinguish yourself. During the Q&A, I asked him how to not "Write Shit" as he advised in his blog post recently. He said that there was no secret really, but you had to be clever, have a good plot, good character development, and work hard to put a novel together. He mentioned that his novels take 6-8 months to complete. He also recommended all of Joe Konrath's blog if you are getting started or his book:The Newbie's Guide to Publishing (Everything A Writer Needs To Know).
  4. Time Spent Marketing eBooks - Stephen Leather said when he was writing for the publisher, it was about 95% writing and 5% self-promoting.  With his eBooks, he said it was about 50% writing and 50% self-promoting. This makes sense, as 25 years ago there were no blogs, facebook, twitter, Kindle boards, and other signs of the modern age. However, I personally think these forms of outreach will be better in the long run, as it allows you to get direct feedback and kiss ass to the customers actually buying the product rather than some dickhead critic.
  5. My 6-Year Old Stepson Will be Well-Behaved if Given an iPad - Unlike everyone else, I made the faux pas of bringing in my kid to this talk. The nice lady running the event told me about the children's workshop at the fair, which I assume was code for get your kid the hell out of here. Luckily, I had my iPad with me and I let him play Grand Theft Auto. I'm probably not winning stepfather-of-the-year award, but there was hardly a peep from him during Mr. Leather's talk except his fingers sliding across the screen. A good tip for other dads I learned at the talk!
Many thanks to Stephen Leather for giving this talk on an extremely hot day in Bangkok. The streets were practically vacant in the city today because it was so damn toasty, and it was nice to get inside some A/C and hear words from someone who has been in the business a while. I think I'll send him a thank-you email, because everyone likes those.

If you're interested, be sure to check out Bangkok Noir, which has Stephen Leather and lot of other interesting writers who focus on Thailand.

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May 21, 2011

How to Self-Publish an eBook in Thailand

There are a lot of aspiring writers (Lindsay Buroker's blog is excellent) discussing tips and tricks for self-publishing eBooks on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. But, the internet totally failed me while researching how to self-publish with the big book sellers based in Thailand.

In an archived article from the Bangkok Post, I found some scant information that Asiabooks, the biggest English-language book seller, was looking to start a self-publishing service. Their website didn't have too much information, so I found it the old-fashioned way, I contacted them.

Following an email exchange with the Business Development team at Asiabooks, I can confirm that there are opportunities for self-publishing at the Asiabook eBook store. Here are some of the details:
  1. Asiabooks pays author 50% of sales at the end of every month (in Thai Baht)
  2. Author responsible for cover, editing, content not plagiarized, etc.
  3. A formal contract is required that is valid for two years
  4. Author can set the price of the e-Book for sale on the Asiabooks site (this is very important and great for the Author)
  5. Pricing policy is similar to Amazon, and the minimum price for a book will be about 30 Thai Baht (~$US1)
  6. eBooks can be published in PDF or ePub formats (formatting tips for PDF and ePub files can be found in the free Smashwords Style Guide)
  7. eBooks need an ISBN (you can buy them here)
  8. Author must provide meta-data and FTP their files per Asiabooks' instructions
While the process for self-publishing hasn't been made totally formalized yet, it is possible at this time if you write to them. Presumably, they are still designing the component of their website where authors upload their book directly. Right now, you can contact their business development team as follows:
  • Orapin_T@asiabooks.com (Khun Orapin is Director of Business Development at Asiabooks)
Most books on the Asiabooks eBooks store are priced between 200-400THB, which is sort of high for eBooks. Additionally, the lazy publishers trying to sell here didn't even bother to include jpegs of the cover art on some of the books. This provides a great opportunity for the author looking to break into the market with 30 THB books, as it appears no one else is doing it at Asiabooks at this time.

Many thanks to Khun Orapin and the Asiabooks team for sharing this information with me. Now, I have to get to the arduous task of actually writing something that could be sold!
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May 19, 2011

First Submission Gets Accepted - The Curfew






Many thanks to Matt over at Thriller Killers n' Chillers for thinking that my 1,100 word story "The Curfew" was good enough to post on the site. Sure it wasn't a paid gig, but it's a good start.

The story I wrote is about Thai teenagers running amok after a curfew is implemented in Bangkok due to political unrest. Exactly one year ago, the military cracked down on the Red Shirts protesting in Rajaprasong (about 1 mile from where I work), much havoc ensued, and a curfew was put in effect for about a week. It was big international news last year, so no point on dwelling on the specifics. The government seized control of all the TV stations, and I recall there was just the Prime Minister and the military talking at these press conferences and looking very disheveled. It was sort of like the opening scene of Dawn of the Dead, and it was very bizarre. Also that night, some young punks threw a rock and busted a huge glass pane window at our internet shot which set us back 10,000THB (300 bucks) to replace. That was sort of the inspiration for the story.

Check it out here, and I'll add to the tabs on top if you prefer PDFs.
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May 18, 2011

The Promise of Thailand E-Books


Meet Noon, who is my colleague from work. Noon is from Bangkok, well-educated, speaks good English, and, unsurprisingly, does not like to read books about bar girls. After annoying her for 5 minutes, Noon was kind enough to fill me in on what she does like to read in English. She said that she enjoys "psychological" thrillers such as Silence of the Lambs, where you can try to figure out "what's going on in the killer's head".  Sounds easy enough to write something she might want to read, but now we have to take a look at delivery.

I would estimate that Thailand is typically about one to two years behind the technology times than in the US. For instance, Facebook wasn't that big here until recently, but it's taken off like a rocket, as evidenced by my wife playing Texas Hold 'Em poker and leaving weird updates in Thai on my wall. Therefore, I figure that eBooks are primed to get big here in the very near future.

I looked at the Asiabooks website (the biggest publisher of English-language books in Thailand) and read some news about them concerning eBooks, but there's nothing on the page about self-publishing. Additionally, many of the eBooks are in the 200-400 baht range (about $6-12). That might not be bad if you're living on a US salary, but wages in Thailand are about 1/5th of what they are in the West. When you can feed a family of four, plus beer for Dad, for about 300 baht, it's going to be a tough sell for one lousy eBook to a Thai.

Rather than whine about Thailand, I decided to write the Book Buying Department Manager, Ms. Charinee Piwong to see if they're will be opportunities to publish in the 30-40 baht range:
Dear Khun Charinee,

I read with great interest your article in the Bangkok Post on 29/3/2011 discussing Asiabooks' expansion into the eBook market here in Thailand. After perusing your website today, I was unable to find any information about authors looking to self-publish eBooks and sell them through your website. Respectfully, I would like to inquire as to whether this feature will be made available in the future, and if so, would you be able to provide any information on the policies that will be implemented to permit this (i.e. royalty percentage to the author, formatting requirements, etc.).

Thank you kindly for your time, and with your permission, I would be delighted to post your response on my blog to share with other readers interested in self-publishing in Thailand.

Sincerely,

Paul Salvette
PA to Mr. Mechai Viravaidya
Mechai Viravaidya Foundation
Bangkok, Thailand
 Will let you know when they get back to me, but this might be a great opportunity indeed if Asiabooks decides to go this route. Who says you need big whitey at Amazon to sell book to Thais.
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May 16, 2011

The Problem with Thai Dialogue in English

Lost in Translation Perhaps
I'm trying to write a variety of short stories about Thai characters being confronted with challenges and making poor decisions that have consequences on others. One of these stories I just submitted to New Asian Writing, and I hope it gets published. Many stories about Thailand come from the perspective of a foreigner, and I'm trying to find a different niche where readers learn more about things from a Thai eyes. Even though I'm a farang, I have the benefit of living in Thai neighborhood, having a Thai wife, and working at a Thai company, so I get to see a bit more than what you would on a 2-week vacation.  Although, I still have an awful lot to learn about this country.

For obvious reasons, I need to write in English, but I want to capture some of the subtleties of the language in the casual dialogue of my characters. This is a bear of a task, because literal translation would be completely unreadable in English. You also can't slip in Thai terms every other sentence, or people will think you are some kind of an asshole for making them flip to the glossary every 2 minutes (unless its Clockwork Orange, this is very annoying as a reader).  For example, a dialogue between two brothers asking if they were playing a game on the iPad might literally translate as follows:

"Older [informal Thai name], playing game on iPad, is it?"
"Playing. But finish more two minutes already, [informal particle indicating you are friends or family with the person]"

A conversation with your supervisor trying to get him  to look at paperwork might translate like this:

"Mr./Mrs. [formal Thai name], respectfully request approval on document financial, [formal particle used in polite speech]"
"[formal particle indicating acknowledgement]"

Since no one wants to read something spit out from Google Translate, it is necessary to take some poetic license. The Thai language has no plural, no tense, and pronouns are almost always dropped. But compared to English, there is much more complexity to dialogue based on the seniority of the person you are talking to.  If you are talking to a member of the Royal Family, it is a completely different language altogether.  So how the hell do you get this across in an English dialogue where the characters in Thai?

I'm reading Bangkok Noir right now, and the different authors do different things with the dialogue for Thai people. A few authors use English-language colloquialisms when Thai characters are talking, which I personally think makes the setting sound a bit off.  It's almost like they're not Thai. Perhaps it's best to set up a clear boundary between formal and informal English language, and then that will help convey the importance of social status on the structure of Thai language. I tried to do that in the story I just submitted, but I think I will need to improve on it. We'll see.
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May 14, 2011

Angry Readers are the Best

So, my wife runs two internet cafes in Bangkok (one on On Nut 44, and one on Udom Suk).  Our customer base is about 40% Thai kids, 40% Thai teens/young adults, and 20% members of the African community (primarily from Nigeria, but also some from Cameroon).  Occasionally, I help her in these small business endeavors, and I've learned a few things about doing business in Thailand.  1) It's a bad idea to have an internet cafe open on Songkran, 2) Thai teenagers with goofy haircuts and souped-up scooters may be not liked in the neighborhood, but they are welcome at our place (assuming they have at least 15 baht), and 3) Nigerians are the best customers.  Why are the Nigerians that live in the eastern part of the city the best, you ask?  Because they tend to complain about everything.

I realize I am making some broad generalizations here, but Thais usually do not complain to my wife or our staff, as Thailand is a culture known for its modesty and respect.  While this makes it a pleasant place to live and have a family, it is absolutely detrimental to business.  If a customer is pissed off about something and they take their business elsewhere, you will never know how you can improve and you just lost money.  However, if a customer makes a big stink about the headphones being screwed up or Skype not having the latest update on computer #14, then you can fix it and similar other problems with your business.  The customer becomes gratified that you have addressed their complaint, and they recommend their friends to you.  In essence, you have to kiss a lot of ass when it comes to small business.

Some people may say that writing is an art and above all this sort of petty service provider - consumer relationship, but I don't see it that way.  So, if something is messed up with my writing, I hope that someone will raise hell about it so I can adjust my technique.  Both Stephen Knight and Stephen Leather have advised not to write shit, but it's helpful if you could get an idea of what readers think is "shit".  If the world of e-publishing is as big a revolution as some are saying, then the only thing important is whether your readers like you or not.  Nothing else matters.

I was a JO in the Navy for close to 7 years, and I am already familiar with all the sorts of abuse people can heap upon each other.  So, please, feel free to be angry.
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May 11, 2011

Editing - Because You're Not a Genius

Wayne From The Wonder Years (in case you missed the reference)
Despite years of inflicting psychological torture, I have convinced my little brother to help me edit some of the work I'm trying to crank out.  He's got a full scholarship to law school, so he's no Billy Carter or anything. My initial hubris led me to believe that editing your own work was the way to go.  I do it at my job all the time, so what's the big deal. 

However, one peril of the self-publishing industry is that you don't have teams of poindexters to read over your manuscript before it goes to print.  Stephen Knight found this out the hard way, when one of his readers notified him of a typo (apparently it pisses people off and makes you look like a rube).  I'm reading his book The Gathering Dead right now (which I recommend), and it is page-to-page action.  I guess when you're reading your own work, you're looking more at the big picture and overall themes rather than a comma being out of place or whether each sentence is comprehensible.

So, thank you, little brother, for helping me stay on the straight and narrow and not look like an imbecile.
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May 9, 2011

Writing A Short Story - Like a Virgin

I'm trying to put together a decent 3,000-5,000 word piece to submit to New Asian Writing.  It is about a Bangkok cop who has a girlfriend addicted to meth that he loves and the problems that ensue. My Thai colleagues have informed me that writing about her stabbing him would be too cliche, so I put in an different kind of ending that I thought might be interesting.

The problem I'm having is that there's too much setting up the narrative through the initial action and conflict, and then it just ends rather quickly.  So, it's kind of like getting laid for the first time - all the build up and excitement, and then two seconds later the whole thing is over.

If it was a novella (~20K words), it would be no problem, since you always have some space to throw in some new characters, more dialogue, different situations, or more backstory.   Flash fiction (<1,000 words) is also easier, in my opinion, because you only have to explain one moment in time followed by a zinger at the end. For short stories the reader, at least when I'm reading, wants a little bit of plot development, more than just a one or two interesting characters, well-explained conflict, and a good ending.  It's hard to do in under 5,000 words.

Hopefully this story will come together by the second edit.  Guidance is much appreciated.
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May 8, 2011

But My Housekeeper Said...

There was a recent graphic from one of my favorite websites, Not the Nation, and it looks as though the genre I'm trying to dabble in (horror and speculative fiction) has been spared the ridicule.  Not the Nation is like a Thai-themed The Onion and, it is completely merciless in who it pokes fun at.

The second one, "The Adorable Wisdom of my Thai Housekeeper" is actually a trope I have heard from more than one executive-level expat.  No shit, I have heard people try to explain that they knew everything about the ongoing political crisis and the red shirts' motivation because of what their housekeeper, nanny, or maid from the northeast told them. It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad.
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The Game Plan towards Self-Publishing - Shameless Self-Promotion

Joe Konrath has a great post up today with some guidance on self-publishing.  I also bought his e-book, "Newbie's Guide to Publishing", which was very helpful for people, like me, looking to get into the writing business.  Although, he has changed his tune over the years as new technologies and services have arisen (Kindle, iPad, etc.) and readers want to consume information differently.  To show you how fast things can change, just 5 years ago Joe was saying you need a publisher and agent or you were in trouble, and now, he says only a boob would stick with legacy publishing. 

That's certainly comforting to hear, as the royalties are much better, and you can spend more time directly with the readers for their feedback, rather than going back and forth with a publisher.  However, it sounds like you can't just throw some books on Amazon.com and expect them to sell.  Therefore, a campaign of shameless self-promotion is needed. 

My goal this year is to get two or three novellas in e-book form on Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles new PubIt program, and Smashwords.  To ensure they don't get lost in the ether with no sales, I need to have a plan to get my name out there.


Luckily, I have a bit of experience with PR/marketing/schmoozing/networking as part of my day job with my boss, who is somewhat famous in Thailand.  It's just accepting the challenge of working for myself instead of waiting for someone to tell me what to do. 

Let's have a look at my plan.  If anyone who has experience thinks this plan is terrible, please let me know:

1) A Website and Blog with Decent Traffic  - Back in my previous life, I used to blog a lot, and I managed to get about 300 hits/day before it fell by the wayside.  The reason it got somewhat decent traffic was because:

a) It had unique content
b) I talked a lot with other bloggers in this particular community (milblogging)
c) I left comments on a lot of blogs with high traffic
d) It was controversial and at times offensive 

There's no surefire way to get traffic, but those four seemed to help.  At the time I had a handle (LT Nixon), since I did not want to feel the wrath of my superiors in the military for talking shit about the current state of political affairs.  So being obnoxious and controversial was no problem.  Now that I use my real name and have probably grown up a bit, I pledge to not be a dick.  This will hopefully not result in me being boring. 

2) Getting Flash Fiction and Short Stories Out There - Over the last week, I've found a lot of great websites that publish e-zines or in blog format flash fiction (<1000 words) and short stories (which SFWA defines as up to 7,500 words).  So far I've submitted one 500-word piece to Everyday Fiction, and one to Micro Horror.  Even if they get rejected, I can always fix it up and try somewhere else.  Getting some stories approved by the editors of these various sites will generate some interest and some traffic back to this site.  It certainly can't hurt traffic.

3) Developing Rapport with  Readers - Like any business, writing has customers (aka readers). One thing I've learned helping my wife run her internet cafe businesses is that if you're not dong whatever it takes to make your customers happy, you might as well close up shop and go home.  For writing, my goal is to respond to most emails, comments (good or bad) on this site or elsewhere to help develop a relationship.  This will also help improve my writing, which is essential.

4) Social Media - I really do not like Twitter very much, but it seems like it is a prerequisite for anyone trying to build up their brand name.  Luckily, I know how to use it as part of my day job (Mechai Viravaidya's Twitter is here if anyone is interested). I intend on getting a Twitter account in the coming weeks and trying to build up some followers amongst the general English-speaking public in Thailand and the writing community.  Regarding Facebook, I need to think about how to make this interesting for readers, because right now it is only geared towards friends and family. I have about 400 friends, but I'd always welcome more.  Most of the personalities in Thailand only have Facebook fan pages if they are really famous.  Creating a Facebook fan page for myself would be incredibly presumptuous and pompous at this stage in the game, but if anyone wants to friend me and see pictures of the family eating dinner and my wife's Farmville status, please feel free.  Will have to think some more on that one or perhaps see how successful authors are doing it if they utilize regular pages instead of fan pages.

5) Professional Contacts - At my day job, I have over 2,000 contacts in my Outlook.  However, it would be tremendously unprofessional of me to send out a blast e-mail hawking my e-books to these poor people, as they are my contacts because of their relationship with Mechai Viravaidya and our organizations, not with me.  But, it never hurts to occasionally "mention" at various functions that I'm getting into the writing racket.  Will have to learn as I go on this one and not piss anyone off.  I mentioned to Khun Mechai and one of our directors that I was going to try out writing, and they seemed quite supportive.

The initial promotion is important, because no one is going to buy what you are selling if they don't know you exist. Nothing in life is easy, especially when it comes to making money.  We do our best to make ends meet and hope that things end up okay.  Probably the only easy money is if you are born into it, and if you were, send some over here, Thurston.
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May 7, 2011

Second Submission - Scavenger

To push my luck, I tried for a second submission today after putting on a paper a 500-word idea about a dumpster baby.  I submitted this one to Microhorror, and the editor sounds like a decent guy, who doesn't have a bunch of condescending legal speak crap on the submissions FAQ.

I'm hoping that this flash fiction will be part of a series I want to do about an apartment block in the On Nut area of Bangkok.  I live in this neighborhood, and you wouldn't believe all the strangeness going on.  Basically, each story will be about one tenant at the apartment or someone associated with the place.  More to follow.

Here's the story below (also in PDF):


Scavenger
by Paul Salvette

            Pong slowly wheeled his cart down the narrow soi on the left-hand side as motorcycle taxis, pick-up trucks, and the occasional youth on a bicycle maneuvered around him in the orange dusk of Bangkok.  His three hours of work had been somewhat productive today, and he had acquired about 4 kilos of crushed aluminum cans, a massive stack of cardboard, and some galvanized steel that was carelessly left behind a machine shop.  This would net about 300 baht at Mae Sudha’s scrap yard when he finally reached there.
            For his last stop of the night, he parked the cart next to the Fun-Zone internet café, as the owner sometimes left broken keyboards and mouses outside for him to pick up.  This evening, however, the owner peeked out over her cash register and dismissed Pong with a wave of her hand behind the large glass pane.  Undeterred by this lack of good luck, Pong decided to have a look in the two rubbish barrels on the side of the shop.
            Pong tied a bandana over his face and sifted through the usual trash he found in this working-class neighborhood of the city: stryofoam bowls of rancid noodles and broth, moldy fruit, used condoms, and absolutely nothing of value.  Pong grabbed onto a piece of broken plywood to examine it and saw what looked like a large baby doll. He cleared aside a wad of tissue and noticed that this doll was breathing slightly.
            The baby was badly dehydrated, had cigarette burns on its face, and could barely move.  Pong gave the baby a slight poke in the ribcage, and the baby let out a muffled, but ghastly, cough.  How could someone do this to a poor, innocent child?  Pong surmised that the discarded infant belonged to one of the teenage gangs he always saw racing up and down the street with their chopped exhaust pipes and outlandish haircuts.  How repulsive.
            Light suddenly glimmered on the discarded CDs hanging on the back of his cart.  These functioned as reflectors while trudging down the street, but they also came in handy when nosy authority figures wanted to give him a hard time.  The security guard for the adjacent Baan Nguu apartment block stepped around the corner with a flashlight, and Pong discreetly covered the baby with the wad of tissues.
            “I have told you before, Pong, that you should not come here when the Manager has not yet gone home.  You should only scavenge after 7pm.”
            “No problem.  I will leave right away.”
            Pong could not inform the security guard about the baby, because it would certainly invite the attention of the Phra Khanong police.  He still owed them 1,500 baht after being caught playing cards two nights ago, and he did not have any money on him at this time.  He knew that one of his fellow scavengers, Sirithip, would be making the rounds on this same soi in about two hours.  She would know what to do with this unfortunate baby.
            Pong wheeled his cart onto the soi heading towards the scrap yard to collect his money for the day.

Glossary:
Soi - a side street or alley
Baht – Currency in Thailand (300 baht is about $US10)

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First Real Submission - A Daughter's Inquiry

I've got a quick 400-word blurb that deals with passing judgement and class divisions in Bangkok called "A Daughter's Inquiry" that I submitted to Everyday Fiction.  If you make the cut, the payout is 3 bucks, which isn't much, but it would make it my first time being paid just to write.  I enjoy the site, and they usually run some pretty quality stories.  Here's one I liked. The email they sent me indicated that they would get back to me within 60 days, so we'll see how things go.
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Udom Suk Commute

Udom Suk Road in Bangkok (aka Sukhumvit 103)
Rather than being able to bear the thought of a rejection for my first piece of flash fiction (stories under a 1,000 words), I submitted it to a website, Thailand Stories, that automatically publishes everything.  This cowardly approach may not be a ticket to success, but hopefully I can get a bit of constructive feedback.

The story is about a man named Chertchai on his way to work, and he witnesses a horrible accident.  It deals with guilt, the fragility of existence in the city, and a few other things.  But don't take my word for it, please have a look below (also available in PDF).
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Udom Suk Commute
by Paul Salvette


The Toyota Vios overcorrected and slid uncontrollably into a group of men and women that were performing work on the support beams for an overpass on Udom Suk road.  As the car slid into the construction area and the series of orange cones closing off the lane, a woman frantically waving an orange flag dove onto the sidewalk.  The man behind her, who had been intently examining the rebar at the base of the concrete beam, was not so fortunate. 
The left side of the Toyota’s hood smacked into the man’s backside, popping him out of his rubber work boots and sending him approximately 30 meters into oncoming traffic.  The Pepsi truck making its early morning deliveries had no time to stop, and the man’s body bounced off of the windshield before being crushed under the wheels.  The truck driver noted with horror that the truck jumped twice as the body passed under his front and rear axle.
            Chertchai stopped the car 20 meters before the scene of the accident and ran out of his car immediately.  After four strides, he realized that, in a frenzy, he had forgotten his blackberry in the center console.  He retrieved the device and urgently scrolled through his contacts for his cousin at the local police district while walking quickly towards the accident scene. 
About ten of the construction workers were gathered around the Pepsi truck screaming at each other in a dialect that Chertchai could not fully understand, but he assumed was from Isan.  Other people had also gotten out of their cars to see how they could be of assistance.  A few congregated around the smashed Toyota that had been stopped by a large generator at the construction site after hitting the man.  The driver was slumped over the airbag unconscious. The truck driver, about 20 years old, stood on the side of the road in his oil-stained uniform, dazed and in shock at the sight of the dead man. 
From a distance, Chertchai could see that, strangely, the shirt wrapped around the man’s head to protect from the mid-May sun was still in place.  However, his pants were almost completely down to his ankles with his genitals exposed.  The man’s chest had been completely crushed by the truck, and a streak of blood lined the road.  Besides the occasional funeral, Chertchai had never seen a dead body before, and he stared intently at this gruesome display of mortality.  Before he could get a hold of his cousin, the police arrived with sirens blaring.
One of the police officers examined the corpse and began questioning the construction workers.  Another police officer spoke to Chertchai, “Sir, I think we have all the witnesses we need.  You can return to your vehicle.  We are sorry that you had to see this.”
“Thank you, and it is no problem.”
Chertchai felt relieved that he had done what he could.  Boss Suanchai did not appreciate it when Chertchai was late for work.  Luckily, Chertchai grew up in this neighborhood of Bangkok, and he knew a shortcut off Udom Suk.

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A Reason to Write - Bangkok is Interesting

While I've only lived in Bangkok for two years, there has already been a lot of madness in this city: a near civil war, unexplained grenades exploding, rumors of a coup, massive corruption, and numerous shenanigans.  And that's just what's in the news.  Beneath the smiles on pretty faces that the Tourist Authority of Thailand pushes and the cheap beer joints in the guidebooks, there is a city with a very rough edge to it.  In this chaotic landscape, you find some fascinating people trying to hustle and get by on a day-to-day basis.  People from all walks of lives have completely unique and interesting tales to tell.

However, judging by the a lot of books published about Bangkok (in English), there seems to be only two things going on Bangkok:  1) Foreigners trying to scam naughty bar girls, 2) Foreigners stuck in Thai prison, and 3) Foreigners inconvenienced by various bouts of civil unrest.  Not to say that these topics aren't of interest, but I humbly believe that there is a lot more to this city than what appears to be available.

Here's an interview with author Collin Piprell where he discusses this dilemma. Hopefully, I can find a niche for people looking for something different about this intense place.
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May 6, 2011

Baby Needs a New Pair of Everything

The Bosswoman's Village Upcountry
So, the wife is pregnant, I have three boys already, a little sister-in-law that wants to go to nursing school next year, plus aunts and uncles from my wife's village that think I'm a walking ATM. To get a bit of extra income last year, I helped the bosswoman get her two internet cafes up and running, but a little bit more cash flow would always be nice.  I currently have a day job in the non-profit sector that is enjoyable and allows me the opportunity to meet a wide variety of interesting people (from the very rich to the very poor).  What the hell, that's enough life experience to become a writer, isn't it?  At least I'm not living in my parents basement.

I've always enjoyed writing, but I never thought about actually trying to publish something.  After reading a few helpful websites, especially from Joe Konrath, I figured that I'd give it a shot.  Information is so easy spread in this day and age that the traditional barriers between the writer and reader have totally collapsed.  It is best to enjoy it while we can and try to publish some mid-level fiction for $0.99/e-book before the elites figure out how to take it all away from us.  Like any new venture that provides a service, there will be a lot of trying to figure out what it is readers want.


Thanks for reading, and I welcome any feedback, kudos, criticism, questions, hatemail, and even crazymail.
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