Friday, July 15, 2016

I've been busy.

Just noticed it is about six weeks since I posted anything on my blog. I have been extremely busy with my degree in web design. I am currently building a new website for one of the subjects, and it has interactive elements, ie, things that move on it, like a slide-
show of pictures, and hotspots that when rolled over reveal further information. It involves using JQuery and Javascript, both of them I had not used before the course, so it is a steep learning curve. 

This is a photoshop mock-up of  what I am trying to do:



And that is just the homepage. If you are curious how I am going, the website is under construction at grahamclementsauthor.com.  It needs to be complete in four weeks time.Those little arrows on the side of the slideshow took hours to figure out. 

I have done alright in the course so far, I scrapped in a high distinction for the previous web design subject and a distinction for the other communications subject. Nice to get high marks, but that is not what I am doing the course for, I am doing it to learn to build websites from scratch using code.

I have been averaging 40 hours a week studying and after my two hours per day exercising and gardening there is not much time for writing. I do a few minutes every day. In about five weeks my subjects for my degree will change to more theory, so less of spending four hours trying to get an icon to brighten on a web page. Then I hope to have more time to write and read, I rarely have time to read for pleasure these days.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

New Blog Look.

I have just updated the look of my blog. I am trying to create a consistent web presence online by ensuring that my blog, website and social media look the same and are connected. This desire for a consistent web presence is a result of what I have learnt in my studies for a Bachelor or Arts (Internet Communications). I have just completed the first two subjects.

One of the subjects, Web Communications, had us creating a new web presence, so I created a new blog on Wix, a new Facebook page, a new Twitter account, and joined Wattpad for the first time. As part of the assignment we were supposed to consistently style all the sites. The central node is here.

The other subject was an Introduction to Internet Design. In that subject we had to create, from html and CSS code, a website. I choose to do one for author Graham Clements. For that website, I pretended that I had published four novels that are in reality only unpublished, and in need of redrafting, manuscripts. I am quite proud of the site I built, and the header and background image from that site forms the basis of my new blog design. Once that site has been marked, I will make a few changes to it, like turning its published novels into works in progress, before announcing it to the world.

I am very much enjoying the course and I have found it a huge challenge, as I knew nothing about photoshop and CSS, and a minute amount about html before I started the course. Starting tomorrow, I start two new subjects. 

Wattpad is a site where people publish stories for others to read, for free. I have so far put up two sections of one story. Writers are encouraged to only put up 2000 words at a time, so I have put up two sections of an 8000 word story, which I did not have time to proof read, once I do (and we are not allowed to alter our web presence until it is marked), I will add a link to this blog. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Studying...not much writing.

I've been extremely busy with my course since I started it. I reckon I am averaging 50 hours a week on it. And I have developed a nasty habit of persisting on a problem until I have solved it, eg, staying up to 2am, or waking up in the middle of the night with a possible solution to a problem, and turning on the computer to try them out - eg at 12pm one night and I kept at it to 4am, 

I am learning a great deal. One subject has me creating a website from scratch using html and css code. The other is more theory about social media, but the final assignment is all about creating a web presence, in my case I am creating a blog on Wix with connecting Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Wattpad accounts. All these connecting social media have to be new and not existing accounts and all have to be viewable by someone who is not a member of those applications, and all have to have a similar appearance,  ie the header photo and title, and all have to based on the one theme. 

I was wondering about how good the Curtin University course is. Recently a newspaper article said that the communications department at Curtin, which runs the course, is rated in the top 100 communications departments in the world. That' should give you an indication of the challenge the course is. I have a Master in Creative writing, where I wrote essays, but for this course, I have had to learn how to write a proper essay. 

I am doing surprisingly well considering the challenge, but not so surprising considering the work I am putting into the course. My three graded assignments so far have been a distinction and two high distinctions. In the web design subject I now only have to get 0.1 marks for the final assignment as I now have 49.9 marks out of 60. In the other subject I am sitting on 13 out of 15. 

So I have not have much time for writing. The most I have done recently occurred when I put an old story on the website I am building. I wrote it about 15 years ago. It hasn't dated because it is about time-travel (haha). It is one of the few attempts I've made at humour and I really enjoyed it (yeah laughing at my own jokes), but I was fixing up things as I formatted it for my website.

Otherwise, my writing is going so slow only a time-lapse camera would show some movement. Every day I spend a few minutes redrafting my novel, just so I can feel like I am still a writer. I am currently about a fifth of the way through the redraft.  

One of the huge ironies of this course, with its emphasis on the web and social media, is that I now have very little time to play with social media and check out what my friends are up to. So please don't feel neglected, I am neglecting everyone and everything not course related, except for my exercise program. 

Hopefully when I get into a routine and get an idea of what is wanted is required to do well at this course, I will have more time to spend writing and engaging with others online. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Studying/Writing

I am now a full-time student, studying a Bachelor of Arts (internet communications) through Open Universities Australia. Most of my course is conducted online through Curtin University in WA. Only last Sunday did I find out that my Austudy had been approved – eight weeks after I applied. Surprised the hell out of me. I had had conflicting reports from Centrelink about whether I would be approved. One document said yes, another no, one call centre person said yes, another no. One Centrelink CSO at the local office said yes. One Centrelink manager on Facebook said yes. It was just as well I persisted with my application.  I could only afford to study full-time if receiving Austudy.

The course so far - six weeks in, and two assignments done, one for each subject – has been a real challenge. Especially the second year subject Intro to Website Design. I knew nothing about photoshop, which I had to quickly learn to make mock-ups of the website I have to build for the subject. Huge first assignment for it of a Blueprint of the website.

What made the challenge greater was I have been sick. First my ulcerative colitis became active, and the drugs I take for it make me very tired. And then I had a kidney stone that hospitalised me for three days. It is still in there. My kidney was infected, so they could not reach the stone and zap it with a laser. So they put a stent in it, to force the tube open. I need to go back on the 19th on this month so the doctor can go back in and have another go.

So, with all the studying and messing around with Centrelink and illness, I have done very little writing in the past two months. Just a bit of editing/redrafting nearly every day. I have nearly caught up with my course – hopefully by Monday. But Assignment two is due for web design in just over two weeks. All I have to learn to complete its draft of my website is html. And then I have to write an essay for the other subject in the two weeks after that. Last week I spent around 52 hours on the course. I think this week will be about the same. So I don’t think I will be doing much writing for a few weeks. I have stopped critiquing too. But maybe in a month or so I will be able to get into some routine that allows writing for an hour or two a day.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My (changing) Writing Efforts in January.

January was a very moody month for me. I had a great break in Melbourne for a few days. I stayed in St Kilda and played tourist. I went to the cricket too, a one day match. I thought Australia was going to lose, but Glen Maxwell hit 94 runs and Australia beat the Indians. I had my birthday, and got a couple of books I wanted. But on that same day, a letter was being signed, informing me that the writer’s program at Divine was being scrapped. I rang the editor, she confirmed that the website is changing to more of an information site, so few, if any, articles will be published on it. I was nearly in tears.

After 52 articles over five and a half years I am no longer paid to write for Divine. Although I had a few ups and downs while writing for the site, overall it was a great site to write for. I got to write on many different subjects and in many different styles. I interviewed writers and actors with disabilities, and a professor who had programmed robots to aide people with disabilities. I reviewed films about people with disabilities. I wrote about personal experiences like what it is like looking for work with a disability. Through my research for articles, I discovered Australia has one of the worst attitudes in the world to people with disabilities. We refuse to employ them or show them on our television screens, and seem to be satisfied with condemning many of them to live in poverty.

I was so involved in writing for Divine. I was always reading about disabilities in the media. But now it is gone. I can only hope I get another opportunity to write such wide-ranging articles for an organisation that cares about more than click bait.

So I was on a real downer after I read that letter. But even on that day I started planning for my next stage of life. I had been thinking about doing a website design course for a few years and using my writing skills to create awesome websites. I did some research and found there is a high demand for website designers in Australia – I had thought the opposite. I then found an online course full of website design subject, through a government approved provider, Open Universities. I found out I could get not only fee-help but a commonwealth supported spot in that course (if I had enrolled in time). I rang Open Universities to ask some questions, and ended up enrolling. If it turns out to be a captain’s pick, I can still withdraw before the census date at no cost. Now I am going through the process of claiming Austudy.

With all that going on, I have done little writing. I am still in chapter ten of the redrafting of my novel Branded. I added about 2500 words to it in January. I did not critique anything in January either. Twice I printed out stories from critters.org and read them once, but I did not get around to reading them a second time and scribbling all over them. And I read very little fiction in January too, maybe 50 pages on the train to Melbourne. I am still too tired at night to read.

If my Austudy claim is successful and I start the course, I will need to devote about 30 hours a week to study (the study guide says 20-24hrs). So it is going to take some determination to ensure I make substantial progress in my redrafting of Branded. Hopefully I can.   

Oh, and I did get one last article up on Divine in January. It’s a review of AccessibleMelbourne, a free Lonely Planet travel guide for people with disabilities.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Ranking of 2015's Science Fiction Movies.

As I have done the last few years, here is my review of the 2015 science-fiction films I managed to catch up with last year. Compared to 2014, last year was a huge letdown for science fiction. In 2014, there was the wonder of Interstellar, the cleverness of Predestination and the action packed thrills of Edge of Tomorrow. All of them are better films than anything released in 2015, except for perhaps the one that topped my list.

2015 was the year of the sequel, only one of them was good, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To my surprise, a tear nearly crept into my eye when the Star War’s logo hit the screen to the fanfare of the original music. But gee, wasn’t the film derivative of the first film and thus very predictable. I knew what was going to happen as soon as Hans Solo stepped onto that bridge. Still, with all its similarities to the first film, I found if fun to watch.
Of the other sequels, Jurassic World was okay, because all I was expecting was dinosaurs chasing stupid people, and this is what I got.

I went and saw Mad Max: Fury Road primarily because it was sought of Australian made, and I hoped it would return to the world building and character development of the original. I never thought much of the second and third movies. I am not much into car chases, especially when they are all computer generated and look so fake. My main memory from the movie is wondering how eleven or was it twelve people fitted onto five motorcycles, especially when Max and his saviour got bikes of their own. I really could not have cared less whether Max or anyone in the truck survived, as what was the point of them surviving? In 2014, Australia made four science fiction movies – Predestination, Infinite Man, The Rover and These Final hours -  that were, in my opinion, much more original and therefore much more interesting, and fun to watch than Fury Road.

The last sequel was Terminator Genisys, a film that I struggle to remember. It was a pathetic attempt to wring more money out of the franchise.

For most of last year, Chappie was easily the worst movie of the year. It was a childish story with childish acting. The story was suitable only for tweens, but then they swore a bit and had a bit of violence to give it a MA rating. So its director Neill Blomkamp has now made an all-time classic in District 9, an okay film in Elysium, and a turkey in Chappie.
But near the end of the year, I finally watched the CGI mess Jupiter Ascending. A film that hoped its many unconvincing CGI battles would distract the viewer from the stupid plot, stupid ending, and cartoonish acting of Eddie Redmayne.   

I thought there were two stand-out films for the year. The Martian was what I have been wanting from science fiction, a story of survival and discovery. But it was a bit predictable. To up the ante, I just knew that something was going to happen to his potato crops, and I knew the crew of the ship would turn back as soon as they found out about his survival. But to watch an astronaut use science to survive was engrossing.

Just before the end of the year, I finally saw Ex Machina. I had been really looking forward to seeing it, but the local cinema did not put it on. It’s about a computer programmer who wins a prize to go to an out of the way laboratory to test an AI to see if it is sentient. At one stage during the film I started to wonder if the guy doing the testing was an AI himself, which the film did a great job of answering. The ending surprised. It was definitely not a predictable film. And there was not an explosion or laser pistol or alien in sight. It’s a thoughtful film. The type of film I would like to see more often. It was my pick of the best science-fiction films of the year.

This is how I rank what I saw last year:

1. Ex Machina
2. The Martian
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Jurassic World
5. Infini
6. Project Almanac
7. Self/Less
8. Wyrmwood
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
10 Terminator Genisys
12. Jupiter Ascending
13 Chappie.


The first three are must sees. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Writing Efforts in 2015.

2015 is over. I won’t miss it. It was a year when tiredness had me questioning, more than usual, my writing abilities. In April, I had a bit of a writing breakdown when I realised my writing was going nowhere slowly. I simply wasn’t writing enough. I still aren’t, but my word count did go up after April, at least until I finished writing a first draft of a novel in October. After that, it was onto redrafting, editing and proofreading.

I wrote about 113,000 words for the year, an average of 300 or so per day. At the beginning of the year my goal was to average 500 words a day, and if I had just been writing first drafts and redrafting I might have come close. I wrote on all but nine days of the year.

I wrote a 6,000 word short story for a Christmas anthology for the Australian Writer’s Forum. If you want to read it, there are links to the free ebook on a previous post.

But my major writing effort was finishing the first draft of a novel called Branded. I originally wrote the first two chapters of it for a writing for young adults subject in my masters and then put it away for eight years. I pulled it back out for 2014’s National Novel Writing Month, and about 130,000 words later, finished the first draft in October. I am currently about a quarter of the way through redrafting it, and so far I have added an extra chapter.

Critiquing. 


One of the issues that really concerned me in April was the lack of critiquing of my writing. I did get two and a bit critiques of my short story. No one said they loved it. But that has rarely happened in all the years I have been writing. So either my writing sucks or my stories are crap, or they fail to connect with the average reader/critiquer. The story could have a better ending, which I will add if I ever think of one.

I do hang on to the positive responses to a few bits of my writing from lecturers in writing courses. I received one such positive response for the first two chapters of the novel I am working on.

In an effort to find more writers on my wavelength, I joined The Australian Writer’s Forum, and rejoined Critters.org and started critiquing for both. From May, I critiqued 20 stories and a 66,000 word novel for critters.org, and three stories for the anthology for the Australian Writer’s Forum.

Reading.


Did I mention I was tired? I started the year tired, and then, in about August, another dose of one of my various chronic illnesses made me even more tired. From August to the end of this year, I read three-quarters of a novel. Before that, I had read about seven books for the year.

Divine.


In April, grumpy me has a hissy fit when my editor at Divine dared to do her job, and ask for changes to an article so it would conform to government guidelines (Divine is funded by the Office For Disability and hence the Victorian State Government). Fortunately, I pulled my head in and edited the article. After a two-month break, I wrote another four articles for Divine and I and currently working on the first for the new year.  

My Writing Goals for 2016. 


Get more sleep. If I can get on top of my chronic tiredness, both the quantity and quality of my writing should improve, as well as my general demeanour. I have been a grumpy bastard all year. And I also am going to spend less time on Facebook and more time writing or learning about writing.