Thursday, December 1, 2022

Pukul Habis war story restocked; available on Amazon

Pukul Habis: Restocked with a new Amazon listing and ISBN, but exactly the same story of all-out war in Malaysia and Singapore.

I hear that many readers in Malaysia and Singapore received the books earlier this week. Some have finished it. Average reading time is about three days for fast readers - but please do take your time to finish the 400 page, 70,000 word story at your leisure, and pace yourself once the shooting starts. 

For those who have finished it, can I trouble you to leave a review on Amazon please? 

Many others are wondering how to buy it.

If you are checking the Amazon.com site from Singapore: Simply click on Shipping to Singapore. Please ignore the "Currently unavailable" note (Amazon sets such notifications. I can't control these messages).

Available from Amazon sites that serve your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Pukul Habis back story: Introducing the Mersing Line

1 December 2022 update:

Available from Amazon sites serving your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites show sample pages:

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

Note: No spoilers in this Pukul Habis back story

Although 22 years separate these two books, the two publications share common ground in one aspect: Defending the Lion City (published in 2000) and Pukul Habis (out this month) both discuss the Mersing Line.

To some readers, the Mersing Line may be a concept that is new, unfamiliar or sensitive.

The term, however, is not new. It appeared at least 31 years ago in an article by Dr Tim Huxley titled Singapore and Malaysia: A Precarious Balance? (Pacific Review, Volume 4, Number 4, dated 1991)

That article postulated a wartime scenario where the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) invaded Malaysia and advanced through Johor, the state bordering Singapore, to establish a FEBA called the Mersing Line across the southern end of Peninsular Malaysia.

Nearly a decade later, Dr Huxley delved into the Mersing Line scenario in greater detail in his seminal work, Defending the Lion City.

Pukul Habis developed the idea in a fictional story of war in Malaysia and Singapore that features present-day Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) units and capabilities, with some fictional ones added to make the story interesting.

How did I write the story? With not a little difficulty - this was my first attempt at war fiction.

I drew inspiration from authors whose books described big battles in such an engaging way that people likened their narrative history to novels.

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by military historian Antony Beevor is one book that reads like a novel.

Cornelius Ryan's 1966 best seller, The Last Battle, probably served as the prototype for future books on the battle for Berlin as the late journalist structured the book like a novel.

Historian Roger Crowley was praised for a similar approach for his books on ancient warfare. I was blown away by his 2008 book, Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World, for its narrative history that was such a riveting page turner.

Journalist Abraham Rabinovich's 2005 best seller, The Yom Kippur War, is yet another book whose novel-like narrative brought the brutality of Middle Eastern combat into the hands of many enthralled readers.

These are just a fraction of books that made an impression on me as I sought to develop my own writing style in past years.


Having read such books, I had a eureka moment one day: If historical narratives about real battles could be written to read "like a novel", then would the reverse also work? Could a fictional battle be written in a way that was so realistic, so compelling to sound like a real battle?

I decided it was worth a try. It was a difficult journey, but many people guided me behind the scenes. 

Along the way, I corresponded with authors like Abraham several years ago to learn about how he writes and how his ideas are developed.

American author, Larry Bond, was another author who provided useful guidance as Pukul Habis evolved. Mr Bond was credited by the late military thriller author, Tom Clancy, for his part in bringing the best seller, Red Storm Rising, from a  raw idea of a NATO versus Warsaw Pact war into book form. I read that book when I was an NSF and have re-read it several times.

As I thought about the non fiction historical narratives that read like novels, I realised that their story arcs did not seem to have any central character. Instead, it was the armed forces or city that was the protagonist, with the people mentioned in the narrative serving like a supporting cast who brought the story to life.

That was the approach I used in Pukul Habis.

The 400-pages that contain more than 70,000 words is the result of all that effort.

I have tried my best and hope you all enjoy the fictional war story.


Pukul Habis: Total Wipeout. Now available worldwide from the Amazon market that serves your country:

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Friday, November 25, 2022

Nice view of Malaysian IED jammer


Nice view of a special vehicle fitted with jamming equipment that was in the vanguard of the convoy for Malaysia's new Prime Minister.

The forest of pokey bits on the roof are intended to disrupt and degrade signals that could be used to trigger improvised explosive devices.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Early bird price: Pukul Habis book


What an incredible reception to Pukul Habis: Total Wipeout, a fictional story of war in Malaysia and Singapore.

Thanks to strong support from many early birds, Pukul Habis has been ranked as Amazon Singapore's best selling book since its launch earlier this week.

Please take advantage of the early bird pricing before next week. Might review. If ordering in bulk, please do so in batches of five? Any orders larger than that aren't captured by the tracker that ranks the books.

Available from Amazon Singapore, and from Amazon markets in your country.

Order early for the holiday season☺

1 December 2022 update:

Available from Amazon sites that serve your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

Why isn't Pukul Habis sold in bookstores?

Short answer: I wanted the book to have a global reach.

Here's the long answer: Pukul Habis was ready in early 2020 - pre-COVID. Before the pandemic shut down air travel, I had planned to fly to Bangkok to meet my publisher for what is called pre-press. These are the steps taken as a manuscript (usually a Word document) goes through final editing and layout before it is made ready for printing.

It was a go/no-go decision because Thailand signalled that it was tightening border controls. Many of you may remember those chaotic times in the first half of 2020.

Why Bangkok? Printing services are cheaper there. And my publisher offered to bring the manuscript to life for a friendship price. He's not a Thai national. He moved to Southeast Asia in the 1970s as a war correspondent to cover the war in Cambodia and has stayed there ever since. 

He's an old hand in the publishing business. Met him twice in person in Bangkok pre-COVID. Under his guidance, I learned a lot about how books go through pre-press, how they are printed, marketed and sold.

When I couldn't go to Bangkok, I assessed his advice and decided that the traditional model - print the books, ship to the market, sell in a bookshop - would not work during the pandemic. Remember that this was during the height of the pandemic when businesses were forced to close and there were widespread restrictions on non-essential movements. In early 2020, nobody knew when these restrictions would end; we were warned it could take years.

So based on his advice and what I knew about the book trade, I went to Plan B. Amazon would print, marlet and distribute the book through its global network. Amazon is the world's biggest book seller and I wanted to leverage this global reach. Amazon's website gives the new war story a global shop window.

Brick and mortar

Without COVID, the book would have been printed in Bangkok. Printing a book needs an upfront cost, and we would have to decide how many to print. Small print run = higher cost per copy. Large print run lowers the unit cost but comes at a risk: what if nobody buys the book? You could be stuck with possibly thousands of unsold books.

That pallet of books would then be flown (expensive!) or sent by truck to Singapore (cheaper but need to factor in transport time for the journey). You would need a warehouse to store the pallet. You would need a transport service to send the books to the bookstore. By that time, the publisher would have negotiated with the bookstore to allow the book to be sold at its chains. Bookstores charge a high percentage: I heard it is a double-digit percentage of the book's cover price, and this would erode margins or result in higher cost per book for the reader.

That's not the end of the story for physical sales.

Bookstores sell books from various publishers on a consignment basis. This means the publisher takes all the risks for damaged or unsold books. If a book cannot be sold because it is torn or if the pages are damaged, then the bookstore simply returns the books to the publisher.

Before COVID, my goal was to see Pukul Habis sold at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Ngee Ann City in Singapore - which is my default bookstore when I am in the mood to browse and buy. Kino at Ngee Ann City was my pre-COVID gold standard.

It would have been nice to have a stack of books in the store. It would have been great to be able to do a book signing to meet you all. With the advantage of hindsight, and having seen the warm reception on Amazon Singapore, I think the stock of books would have been cleared out fairly quickly.

My Bangkok publisher could sell the books via his website and mail worldwide. But who would know the book even exists? Which means that apart from a very niche audience of military nuts like youselves, and random netizens who chance upon this blog kementah.blogspot.com, Pukul Habis would fall below the radar of countless readers who love war fiction.

Amazon changed the game. It has given the brand new novel a global stage which allows readers outside Malaysia and Singapore to consider if it is worth reading about.

Despite ongoing news reports and stories of a real war raging in Ukraine, and with competition from established authors who tend to write about wars in familiar places, Pukul Habis appears to have caught the attention of readers. Here's how it ranked yesterday for War Fiction New Releases on Amazon's global store (NOT just Amazon Singapore's sales):

I am grateful to all of you who, despite the abundance of choices in war fiction, have decided to give a story on the admittedly niche subject of an unthinkable Malaysian-Singapore war a chance to land in your hands. Much thanks!

Do enjoy the story. Pace yourself once the shooting starts.


How to get your copy of Pukul Habis:

Available from Amazon sites that serve your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Pukul Habis books shipped out; reaches North American readers first

New York City, USA - First reported delivery
Thanks to Amazon's global supply chain, Pukul Habis has started reaching readers in North America! Here's a photo of the book in New York City Tuesday morning (22 Nov 2022).

And the one below shows the book in Canada yesterday afternoon - the reader reported that it was overcast and the sun went down early. He will take a photo outside later this week.

Canada

25 Nov 2022 update: Here is Pukul Habis experiencing the snow in Canada! I hope the stories will bring the reader to the stifling humidity of plantations in Johor, and the scorching openness of Federal highways as the action unfolds in the war story. Thank you Seb for the support. Enjoy the book! 


Sydney, Australia
Australia-based defence journalist and photographer, Roy Choo, brought his copy of Pukul Habis to see Sydney Harbour. 

I understand that Amazon boxes with the books should arrived in Malaysia and Singapore towards the end of next week. Someone in Singapore updated me that his delivery is due 1 Dec. A friend in Kuala Lumpur got his book via his Amazon UK account.

Ordering from Singapore? Get it from Amazon Singapore.

Have fun opening your box!

Available from Amazon sites that serve your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Pukul Habis back story: Why did you choose a Malay title for the book?

 

If you are one of the early birds in Singapore or Malaysia who bought Pukul Habis, you should receive your copy of the war story in the first week of December - dates flagged by Amazon show deliveries around 3 December for those who ordered the book on Sunday 20 November 2022.

Thanks to your keen interest and support, Pukul Habis was Amazon Singapore's #1 Best Seller in Books (as of yesterday), #1 in New Releases and #1 in Movers and Shakers.

Get your copy from the Amazon sites in your respective countries, or use Amazon sites that ship to your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

We will continue engaging you in coming days via this blog, Kementah.blogspot.com, while your book finds its way to you via Amazon's global supply chain. In the meantime, we will share the Pukul Habis back story to help you know more about the book before it lands in your hands. We promise no spoilers. 

Why did you choose a Malay title for Pukul Habis?

The book title is arguably one of the most important touch points with potential readers. The Malay phrase, Pukul Habis, has always resonated with me ever since I heard it as a full-time National Serviceman (NSF) while serving with the Public Affairs Department (now MCO MINDEF) in MINDEF in 1991. I was then an NSF media relations assistant. I typed the press release that announced the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Open Mobilisation on the eve of National Day 1991 and accompanied the Media Relations Officer, the late Captain V. Mano, to the Open Mob at an armour camp. 

So I experienced and saw firsthand the tension during that period. I wrote about Pukul Habis in one of my previous commentaries for The Straits Times. It was titled "A Strong and Silent Keeper of the Peace" and you can find it here.

"Do you know what Pukul Habis means?" CPT Mano asked.

I shrugged and replied that I did not. My Malay back in 1991 was poor to non-existent.

"It doesn't mean you whack the fella until he's finished. It means you really whaaaack the fella," he explained, dragging out the word "whack". I remember him pounding his fist for emphasis.

And the name stuck. 

I knew, even back in 1991, that this would make a great name for a book - though back then, I had no ambitions to write one.

While speaking to people on military stuff years ago, I found that certain terms elicited a strong reaction from people - especially Singaporeans who had served with the SAF at some point in their lives.

One was Pukul Habis. The other was Mersing Line (which we will address this weekend in another back story).

You almost had to whisper the terms when speaking in public. And dropping these terms in mid conversation seemed to make people's hair stand, almost like a bomb went off.

Now, when you are writing a story, you want to look for words that can make an emotional connection with the reader. You try hard to make  them part of the action, describe battle planning and combat scenes that place them at the heart of the war zone. And as a writer, I looked for words, phrases and situations that would hopefully keep readers engaged.

Pukul Habis was one such term.

To me, it defies direct translation from Malay to English. Loosely translated, it can mean "total wipeout", "complete annihilation", "absolute obliteration". I think you get the picture?

But in my view, the English translation seems to lack the element of controlled violence and fury that Pukul Habis connotes. 

I read many war books - a mix of memoirs, non fiction battle reports and fictional stories - before I decided a fictional story of a Malaysia-Singapore war was absolutely fascinating and would be interesting enough to write about.

The book Samurai, which is the memoir by Japanese Second World War Ace Saburo Sakai, wouldn't be the same if it was titled "Japanese warrior".

The book Das Boot, the book by German author Lothar-GΓΌnther Buchheim about the U-boat war, would probably have less impact if it was titled "The Boat".

Coming back to Pukul Habis, one feedback I got from test audience members was that the book would look "like a western novel" if it was titled "Total Wipeout". There would be nothing to distinguish it online from the many, many books as readers browse through Amazon's vast trove of war fiction.

I set out to make the book distinctly Malaysian, with a Malaysian Armed Forces war machine on the cover, and a title that would leave readers with no doubt that the story they are about to discover is one of a kind, unique to this region, and hopefully worth their leisure reading time.

Hence, Pukul Habis.

I hope you all enjoy the story.