Sunday, December 27, 2009

My writing week 51

Hi all,

I had an okay Christmas day with family, enjoying cooking lobster tails for the first time.

Christmas gave me a great excuse to do little writing, but I'm looking forward to the start of the new year to really get stuck into it again. A couple of ideas for short stories have flashed into my head, so I might begin the year with some writing before resuming the editing of Stalking Tigers.

For those proclaiming the book is dead, it might survive a few more years as a report on the radio said that 70% of Australians gave someone a book at Christmas, making books the most popular present. No mention of Kindles either. I gave two books as gifts and received two as gifts, as well as a Collins' book voucher. Both books I received where by Australian authors too.

The London Times had a list of the best 100 books of the decade - even though the decade still has one year to run - and a science-fiction book, The Road, topped the list - even though its author, Cormac McCarthy, would probably be offended by it being classified as science fiction. I thought it was the best novel I read last year, and one of the best I have read in the past decade. I reviewed it here.

I have read five other of the books on the list: 72 The True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey; 54 Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss; 22 The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pulman; 19 The Corrections, Jonathon Frazen; and 7 The Life of Pi, Yann Martel. I don't disagree with any of them making the list.

Happy new year. I am looking forward to a much better 2010.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

My writing week 47-50

Hi all,

It's been a while since I had the time to write a new post, time in which life has changed a bit for me. I also haven't written much in the past four weeks, resulting in very little to report on the writing front.

So what's been happening? My father survived the removal of a tumour on his bladder, but the experience has worsened his dementia. He suffers from vascular dementia, and we think he might have suffered a/some mini strokes while he was in hospital. He no longer can tell the difference between night and day, and gets up to shower and eat breakfast at anytime of night. He also constantly goes to the toilet. My mother is getting very little sleep and has to try and ignore his nocturnal wanderings if she is going to avoid a breakdown herself. Medication just seems to make his condition worse, with him collapsing in the kitchen last week. We are getting differing assessments of his dementia from a variety of people, some say he would be easily re-assessed as high level care, others say no. We have to wait until January the 7th for him to be re-assessed.

My health is finally on the improve. YAAAAAA me. I returned to swimming last Friday after a six week break due to cataract surgery and then bronchitis for three weeks. I still need to get the second eye done, having cancelled it once because of my father being rushed to hospital and a second time due to bronchitis. I now have to wait until February the 9th next year to get the second eye done. Just as well the right eye's cataract is not as bad as the left eye's cataract was, so the contrast between eyes is not that bad, still I frequently suffer tired eyes.

I lost my job due to constant time off with illness. Two weeks ago the boss asked me if I still wanted to work there. I told him I could not guarantee my attendance would improve. I asked him about getting a three month leave of absence, in the hope that my health would improve - I had a theory that my bad health run this year is due to an immune suppressant I have been taking for an underlying health condition - but he said no. Oh well, I enjoyed the job, but not the early starts as they left me, along with everything else going on in my life, feeling perpetually tired.

I went and saw my specialist a few days later and he agreed that the immune suppressant (Imuran) was probably slowing my bodies healing, so we agreed that I should stop taking them.

My bronchitis finally faded away last week and I restarted editing chapter nine of Stalking Tigers. It probably wouldn't have been a good idea to be editing the story in the previous weeks as the main character would probably have taken on a lot of my feelings of helplessness.

I am hopeful the removal of the drug will lead to a much healthier 2010, and much more writing/editing/critiquing/reading.

Merry Christmas to those who believe, otherwise don't let consumerism consume you.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Australia's health system sucks.

My father has survived, we think, the removal of a tumour on his bladder, but still can’t urinate. The Albury Private Hospital wanted him out on Friday. But then found he couldn’t urinate, so they hooked him up to a colostomy bag and said we could take him, knowing full well, that because of his dementia, he has a past history of removing catheters and IV drips from himself – he has done it on three occasions. So if he came home and ripped the colostomy tube out, we would have had to rush him to hospital. We refused to take him until having some sort of nursing help available. My mum is depressed, he is depressed, I am feeling absolutely useless. I wish I could be there to help but I have a cold, which is getting worse, and I don’t want to give it to my father of mother. We still don’t know if the tumour was cancerous. We can’t access help from dementia organisations in Victoria until my father is shifted back into Victoria, so we are trying to get him shifted to one of the local hospitals, before accessing help and then finding out what we can do next. The health system is far too complicated, far too money orientated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My writing week 2(46)

Hi all,

My left eye seems to have come through cataract surgery well, with 20/20 vision restored to it according to the ophthalmologist. I could read the bottom line of the eye chart with my left eye, but I still need glasses to read. Perhaps when my eyes are equal, after cataract surgery on the right eye next Monday, I might discard the glasses. As it is, I am now using an old pair, the first pair of glasses I got in fact, as I type up this post.

I have had a few concerns, like stinging eyes after eye drops due to dry eyes, and there is a tiny flutter of light in the middle of the eye, especially after I have been in bright light or have just woken up. I don't see it when reading or using a computer.

Much to my surprise, I was able to do some writing/editing in the afternoon of the surgery and have continued doing so since. Just 10 mins to half an hour, as I get a dullness just above the nose after a while, a thick head. So my run of writing every day since January 1st 2008 continues.

I am sort of happy to hear that Labour decided not to change the Parallel Importation laws. I read a lot of newspaper and web articles about it, but I am still unsure whether changing them would have been that bad as nearly all I read was written by people with vested interests. The most persuasive argument, to me, came from authors who detailed how their royalties would fall. I am totally unconvinced that fiction books would have been cheaper if the laws changed, non-fiction books would probably have, but not necessarily non-fiction by Australian authors only published in Australia. I also have doubts on how big an effect changing the laws would have had on the very low number of Australian authors receiving Australian publishing contracts.

Last week, the hopes of many unpublished writers of Young Adult novels would have turned into fantasies when they heard that Australian author Rebecca James will receive 1.2 million in advances for her first novel, Beautiful Malice, a thriller. It had better sell a few copies.

The countdown continues, only four more days to my second cataract operation.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Cataract Surgery.

Hi all,
I know a few readers of this blog are considering undergoing cataract surgery, so I have decided to write a post on my experience, so far.
About four months ago I had conjunctivitis which left me with one very pink left eye, and not so pink right eye. It cleared quickly but I was worried it might have damaged my eyes. Instead of talking to the doctor about whether this could have occurred, I started examining my eyes by closing one eye when reading and I noticed that my left eye had a foggy patch, like I was wearing scratched glasses, right in the middle of the eye. I also noticed that the print of whatever I read became clearer when I closed my left eye.
My mother had just had cataracts removed so I immediately thought, I must have them too, either that or macular degeneration, which was being heavily publicised at the time on the television. I had to wait two weeks for an optometrist appointment. He quickly confirmed that I had cataracts, in both eyes, which came as a surprise as I could not see them on the right eye. He made an appointment for me to see the one ophthalmologist in Wangaratta a month later.
With as much dread as one who knows that someone is about to recommend that I let them cut into my eyes, I turned up to the ophthalmologist. He added to my tension by keeping me waiting for an nearly an hour, before his assistant measured my eye lenses. She had a lot of trouble measuring the lens in the left eye, having to use an ultra sound machine, after the first machine failed to get an accurate measurement. It was then back out to the waiting room for another half hour.
When the ophthalmologist finally saw me, he told me the chances of successful removal of my cataracts was less than normal, and there was a chance that the operation could leave my vision just as bad or even blind an eye. This freaked me out and I didn’t really listen to why. It wasn’t until a second appointment that I heard the membrane between the lenses of my eyes and the rest of the eye was thinner than normal, due to my parent’s genes. He said if the membrane ruptured, then he would perform a second operation to repair it, but there were chances it would not be successful. I had asked him the odds of successful cataract removal when I walked in, and he had refused to answer. In the end he said that it was 400:1, and I had two eyes to do.
An appointment had already been made for two weeks later to get the surgery done in Benalla Base Hospital, so all I had to do was arrange a week off work for each eye (with three weeks between operations) and then wait. But an infection in my mouth caused me to cancel the first operation.
Last Monday, at 8am, I arrived at the Benalla Base Hospital, feeling ready for an adventure. I was directed to a waiting room that slowly filled with people twenty to thirty years older than me. I tired to finish reading the last 40 pages of Jack Maggs, as I listened to one of the elderly patients espouse his views on everything from Aborigines - they all got pregnant when the baby bonus came in, to Gough Whitlam - he nearly sent the country bust and Rudd’s just as bad, to global warming – it doesn’t exist. Perhaps his cataracts made it impossible for him to read a newspaper, but then he said he had a lot of time for the views of Rupert Murdoch, another person lost to the dross of the Murdoch press.
After about 40 minutes the anaesthetist’s assistant came around and took me to her office and asked me a few questions, weighed me (their scales had me two kilos lighter than the ones at home), and got me to sign my life away. I then went back to the waiting room. Fortunately the Rupert Murdoch fan had left, so I sat back and tried to finish the last 30 pages of Jack Maggs before I lost my eyesight. Twelve pages later a nurse called my name.
I was taken into a room with two other patients, both sitting in wheel chairs. Eye drops where put in my eye, which made it hard to continue reading, so I had to converse with them. One remarked that I appeared young to have cataracts. Another said that her daughter had had them and blamed being out in the sun playing tennis for them. I told her my cricket theory: if excessive sunlight caused them then we would hear about cricketers having problems with cataracts, as we hear about their problems with skin cancer.
The nurse wheeled one of them out and soon came back with the empty wheel chair for me, and then put some more eye drops in my eye. It seemed that most of the patients, like me, where getting their left eyes done. Our conversation had dried up, as worries took hold, and I tried to read some more of Jack Maggs, only to be interrupted by the nurse, who relieved me of my back pack, watch, glasses and book. So all I had to do was worry. Fortunately, they did not keep me waiting too long as the nurse returned to wheel me down the corridor, commenting that it felt like the tires where flat.
She pushed me through the swinging doors of the operating theatre where an anaesthetist’s nurse and a curtain barrier waited. I thought the operation might be done sitting upright in the chair, so I asked the nurse and she told me that shortly I would be transferred to a surgical bed. She asked me a few questions as we waited. Every now and then she would peek around the corner of the curtain. I heard no groans or panicked rushing. About ten minutes later, the ophthalmologist appeared and put a texta mark over my left eye.
I then waited a few more minutes before the curtain was pulled back. -no blood stained floors, no worried faces – and wheeled into a side room where I clambered onto a bed. I was then asked the same series of questions again, like have I had an allergic reaction before. I amused the anaesthetist with a story about a trip to the Wangaratta Base Hospital where its anaesthetist had taken four attempts to insert an intravenous drip into my hand. This one inserted it first go. More eye drops and then a light weight, wrapped in cloth, was placed on my left eye.
If you are thinking of getting your cataracts removed you might what to skip the rest of this paragraph. The sedating drug going into my hand was doing a great job because the anaesthetist then inserted a needle into the corner of my eye. Just a slight sting. The weight was removed.
I was then pushed into the operating theatre and told to close my eyes. Some sort of glue was brushed over my face and then white plastic wrap applied. I watched as something pushed against the plastic and then cut though it, but not into my eye. A light was shone through the gap and into my eye, making it impossible to see anything. Something was then attached to the eye lids to keep them open. The ophthalmologist then told me to watch a light, which I dutifully did as he moved the laser around. I felt nothing. After about ten minutes he stopped and inserted something, the plastic lens I guess. He then removed the device holding my eye lids apart and the plastic from my face and taped a plastic shield over my eye. He told me everything had gone well.
I had survived.
I was wheeled out of the operating room and into an enclave where another nurse took my blood pressure a few times before. When she was satisfied that I had survived, I hopped into a wheel chair and was wheeled to a tea room for a cup of tea and sandwiches. After about half an hour the nurse came with a bag of goodies: Panadol, and three different eye drops with instructions to use them only if I was in pain. The package contained a note saying patients could do their normal activities, like lawn bowls and golf, but no swimming. I also was told I had an appointment to see the ophthalmologist the next day at 8.35.
I managed to perch my glasses on the end of my nose to finish reading Jack Maggs while waiting for a bus home.
There where no problems overnight, just the feeling that I had a slight lump in the eye. I slept okay, but woke up too early for the appointment. I showered, but kept my head out of the water, as instructed. Off to the clinic.
For the first time the ophthalmologist did not keep me waiting for an extended period. He removed the shield and I immediately noticed that colors where much more vivid and black was no longer greyish but black. The world had more texture and wasn’t as smooth as it had appeared before.
He checked my eyes and said everything was fine. I was given the eye shield back and told to use it for the next three nights. I was then told to put two lots of eye drops in my eyes four times a day, on rising, lunch, dinner and before bed. When I got home I put the first lot in, they stung a bit, and then five minutes later, as instructed, the second lot.
I went into the bathroom to examine my eye, very red and surprisingly bruised. I could see my freckles again, every strand of my beard, and every other blemish. I turned on my computer, the colors where so bright and the text a black, but a bit blurry, so I took off the spectacles I usually wore when using computers and put on an old pair. Much better.
I picked up a newspaper and found its print much blacker and I could read it easily with my ex-computer glasses, which at one time had been my close reading glasses. I could see the effect on my vision of the remaining cataract in the right eye. My vision is clearer still, when I close the right eye. The floaties in my left eye, don’t seem as noticeable too, I hope the same happens when the cataract is removed from my right eye.
Over the past few days my eye has become less red and the bruise has faded. The only hassle has been putting in two lots of eye drops, four times a day. My eyes sting when I put in the Chlorsig, and it seemed to be getting worse. Unfortunately, it came with no information, so I logged onto the internet and found some which said if you have a burning sensation after using it, call your doctor. I did, but of course it was just after hours. Fortunately I had his mobile phone number, I rang, he answered and said it wasn’t a problem, I just had dry eyes and should buy some tear drops.
The next day I did, interestingly the droplet’s packaging listed seven causes of dry eyes, including swimming (I swim three times a week), computer stare and air conditioning (it has been 35 or more every day this week so the air conditioning has been getting a good run). I have had no stinging since I rang the ophthalmologist.
Occasionally it feels like something is rubbing against the eye and I am getting the occasional flash of light into the left side of the eye, but that seems to be settling down today.
I got all this mail yesterday including: the hospital bill of $245, artificial lens bill of $310, ophthalmologist bill of $1100. I had been quoted $950, but upon ringing his clinic I was told his charges went up at the beginning of November, at the same time as the Federal government cut back the medicare rebate from $626 to $416, so I am out of pocket considerably more then I had hoped. And I am still yet to get the anaesthetist’s bill.
I have another appointment with the ophthalmologist next Tuesday to see how it is progressing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

my writing week 2(45)

Hi all,

Thought I would post a day earlier than usual as I probably will be incapable of writing anything much over the next week or more due to cataract surgery at 9am on Monday. Glad the surgery is in the morning, my anxiety will have less time to build up.

I had an interesting - for me anyway - writing week. I finished the second draft of chapter nine, which is vastly changed from the original in content and the attitude of main characters, but still gets to the same ending. I then had a look at the next chapters because I thought they could just be padding until the next twist came along. I found chapters 10-13 could be removed from the novel without having any major effect on the story, so I have cut them, 22,000 words in all. The second draft is now 127,000 words, about 6,000 less than the original.

I've been thinking that if my novel gets published as an ebook I could include a deleted chapters section, like the deleted movie scenes on a DVD. Readers might be interested in how the main character went about solving one of the issues he had near the end of chapter nine.

I hope to be back reading, writing, networking and blogging soon.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

My writing week 2(44)

Hi all,

The countdown until my cataract surgery hasn't been postponed a second time and is diminishing too quickly for my liking, with only a week to go. If the surgery is in the morning next Monday then I probably won't be doing a weekly blog post next week. I wonder if I will be doing any writing at all for a while. My compulsion of writing every day since new year's day 2008 will probably end - 671 days in a row so far. I reckon I need a break anyway.

Hardly a word of the first draft of chapter nine of Stalking Tigers still survives. Surprisingly, the chapter is still going to get to where it originally went, but the characters will arrive with different attitudes.

I read that Dymocks, in an attempt to appease some of the many who oppose changes to the parallel importation laws, suggests the setting up of a levy to help Australian authors writing "culturally worthwhile" works. Just imagine a Liberal appointed body judging what is culturally worthwhile: is it about Robert Menzies? does Gerald Henderson recommend it? did Les Murray write it? I have doubts on whether any science fiction writer would be judged by any literary body outside the speculative fiction arena to be writing something "culturally worthwhile".


Sunday, October 25, 2009

My writing week 2(43)

Hi all,

When my eyes are fixed, I am going to try a writing idea mentioned at the Emerging Writer's Festival. One of the panelists suggested that a good way to learn another writer's style was to type up one of their books. The novel I am writing is in the first person and past tense, so I decided to choose a similarly written novel. I remembered that James Bradley's The Deep Field is in first person, but it is in the present tense. I hoped Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake was in first person, but it isn't. I thought The Life of Pi by Yann Martel might be, and it is. It is also in past tense. It has the added advantage of partly being set in the jungle, because a lot of mine is set in the Australian bush. I won't type up the whole thing, just the chapters set in the jungle, and then see if I can find other critically acclaimed first person/past tense novels to study.

Still not doing much editing/writing due to tired eyes and mind.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

My writing week 2 (42)

Hi all,

I expected to be in a state of panic today as I prepared for cataract surgery on Wednesday, but after a meeting with the opthamologist last week I am relatively calm. Firstly, the opthamologist explained to a more receptive patient (me) the reason he had said there was slightly less of a chance of success with my eyes. He said the membrane under the lens on both of my eyes was thinner than normal, so there was a chance that it could split which would mean a hastily arranged second operation that usually fixes that problem. After initially refusing to give me any odds on the overall chances of success, he said it was probably 400:1. After a bit of thought, I decided I would play blind-in-one-eye roulette with a 400 chambered pistol.

The second reason is that, due to an infection, I have had to postpone the cataract surgery for three weeks. Nothing like putting time in the way of a good panic. The first cataract won't be done until the 9th of November and the second two weeks later. I have had a good practice, so my panic will probably be much better next time.

I am no longer editing Stalking Tigers, I am redrafting it. I have deleted and rewritten so much of chapter nine that I can no longer call it editing. The redrafting is mainly due to the compounding of subtle changes I have made, in previous chapters, to the two main character's behaviour that have rendered later actions out of character. It will still get to the same ending, but by a different route.

When reading Saturday's Age I thought I had slipped into an alternative universe, one where ignorance and peer group pressure didn't exist. In the book section there were not just one rare review of a science fiction novel, but two. And one of them was by an Australian author. Shit, hardly any books must have been released last week. The Australian was KA Bedford's, Time Machines Repaired While U Wait, which has just been published in Australia. I read the imported version earlier this year and thought it one of the better science fiction novels going round. I posted a review on this blog a few months ago (one of these days I will teach myself how to put in a link to a previous post, but not today as I will be too busy writing a panic guide).


Sunday, October 11, 2009

my writing week 2(41)

Hi all,

The countdown has begun: only nine more days until I have cataract surgery on my left eye. My stress levels are rising as I ask, what happens if something goes wrong? If the cataract surgery is unsuccessful and leads to my vision becoming worse in the left eye, I am highly unlikely to agree to surgery on the right eye, at least not until I consult a number of opthamologists (eye surgeons). I suppose I could get increasingly thicker glasses so I could read with the right eye, so at least for a few years I would be okay. Hopefully by then, new procedures would ensure success with the removal of the cataract from the right eye. And maybe they will eventually be able to fix the damaged left eye with stem cells or some new technique. All will not be lost if something goes wrong. Still it is a bit of a worry.

I finished editing chapter eight of "Stalking Tigers", only another twenty chapters to go. I added 2,000 words to it, which I wouldn't want to do for the other chapters or the novel could blow out to around 170,000 words.

I am hopeful that after the next month, with new eye lenses, my eyes will no longer strain to see commas, and my writing and reading output will dramatically increase.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

My writing week 2(40)

Hi all,

I'm still editing chapter eight of Stalking Tigers. I'm doing very little writing or reading at the moment due to tired eyes, general tiredness and devoting time to other things, like gardening. Warmer, wetter weather has caused a weed and snail surge in the garden, as well as a rapidly growing lawn. I was only going to plant tomatoes and lettuces over the warmer months so I wouldn't have to spend too much time watering, but I have already added carrots and will soon plant some beans. Oh well, I can consider it research for my novel as some of the story revolves around the stranded characters becoming self-sufficient in food.

Dan Browne has knocked Stephenie Meyer off the top of the bestseller lists. His new book, which has been getting good reviews, sold 126,000 copies in Australia last week.

The new science fiction series FlashForward looks promising. It's based on a Robert J Sawyer novel and like Lost has a continuous story line. Its premise has everyone in the world blacking out for 2mins and 17 secs. During that time they all experience a flash forward to the same moment six months in the future. It's currently on Monday nights at 8.30 on Seven, but probably will be shunted back to 10.30 in a couple of weeks and then disappear from the screens until it turns up on pay TV.

I went and saw two science fiction movies last week - another reason I did not do much editing. Only one of them lived up to their great premises. Surrogate was set in a near future world where the majority of people live their lives through a personal android they're virtually linked to. The movie turned into a pedestrian thriller with an awful ending, one often used in science fiction where some fascist decides that what is good for him is good for everyone. Bruce Willis - its star - should have remembered the lessons from 12 Monkeys (one of the best science fiction movies ever made) where a fascist releases a virus and kills 99% of the world's population.

The other film was District 9, where a huge spaceship stops over South Africa and over a million aliens are accepted as refugees. Years later they are living in a huge ghetto and racism against them is rampant, so the authorities decide to move them far away from the general population (sort of like putting refugees on Christmas Island). It has a gimmick of being filmed in a documentary style for much of the movie and has some of the most seamless special effects I've seen, with the computer generated aliens blending perfectly into real world scenes. Its ending leaves plenty of room for speculation. I reckon its one of the most original and better science fiction movies of recent years.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

My writing week 2(39)

Hi all,

Literary Agent Nathan Bransford wrote a good post on "show not tell" last week. I am reasonably sure I am aware when I am telling and not showing in my own writing. When critiquing I frequently point out instances of telling, eg, when the POV character is described as sad or unhappy. I also often point out instances of the author writing "he felt like" or "she looked at", where writing what he felt or describing what she looked at would do away with the need to tell of that action.

I still tell in my writing. In the novel I am working on, where the characters take a logical sequence of steps to set up their lives on a newly terraformed planet, every now and then, to speed the story along, I tell the reader a summary of what has happened between shown scenes. I might tell them how they did put in the building's foundations before a scene where I have them putting up the walls.

I've just read the national bestseller lists for last week and Stephenie Meyer's novels are back on top again, she has numbers 1,2,3,5 and 10. Her sales might have been given a boost after her novels where banned from some school libraries in Victoria for being too "racy".

I am still slowly editing chapter eight of Stalking Tigers, with the amount of time spent on it decreasing last week. Having tired eyes and blurring vision doesn't help.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

My writing week 2(38)

Hi all,

Last week was one of the most stressful in my life. My father, who has the early stages of dementia, had a hernia operation on Monday. His health is not that great so the operation was not without risk. The operation went well, but at 11.30 that night I was awoken by knocking at the back door. I opened the door and it was my father in his PJs and dressing gown with an intravenous needle in his arm. We found out later that he had also removed a catheter, before shuffling out of the hospital about one and a half kilometres away. I asked him why and he kept on saying, "there was nobody there". The pain killers were obviously making his dementia worse. A call to the hospital found them frantically looking for him. They had called the police, who arrived a few minutes later and took him back to hospital. My father's deteriorating mental state is a huge and saddening worry.

On Tuesday I went to the dentist to have a crown put on a tooth. Unfortunately, as the dentist was putting it on, he noticed another problem, so I have another trip to the dentist in a few weeks.

Wednesday I went to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) and found out about the cataracts that had mysteriously developed on my eyes. I was in for a couple of shocks. Firstly, the unsympathetic doctor said that there was less of a chance of success of removing the cataract form my left eye than the usual 95 out of 100. Why, I am still yet to find out as I was freaking out at that stage. Then I found out the cost - about $1850 for both eyes done in a public hospital in Benalla 50k's away, or $3700 at the private hospital in Wangaratta (the same private hospital my father had walked out from). Or I could wait 9 months on the public waiting list. I opted for the Benalla public hospital, with the left eye due to be done on the 21st of October.

After I got home, I fumed about the
ophthalmologist's attitude, but unfortunately there is only one in Wangaratta, perhaps only one in the surrounding region. When my eyes cleared from the examination's eye drops, I read the information pamphlet given to me. I then wanted to know why me as cataracts don't usually become prominent until people are in their 60's, and that is over a decade away for me. I also wanted to know why my chances of success were worse. It is not as if I am unhealthy, in fact, I reckon I would be fitter than 80-90% of people my age as I swim three kilometres three times a week and lift weights three times a week. I also walk a lot. I rang the ophthalmologist on Thursday, but he, of course, was in surgery. He still has not rung back. I did get some answers from the receptionist, but not to the above two questions.

On Thursday I did some research on cataracts on the web that provided me with little reassurance.

On Friday I woke up with diarrhoea - probably due to stress - and missed work.

So I had a wonderful week. But surprisingly, I did more editing of Stalking Tigers last week than I did the week before. As they say in the not classics: go figure.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

My writing week 2(37)

Hi all,

I wasn't as tired last week so I spent a bit more time editing Stalking Tigers than in previous weeks. Perhaps my goal at the moment should be to increase the amount of writing/editing/reading I do from week to week. I actually did some fiction reading too.

I went "inactive" on and I am surprised that I haven't been booted from OWWW because of my lack of critiquing. I have decided to devote my critiquing energy to KSP, but I won't be doing much until after my eyes are fixed. I continue to worry about my appointment with the eye doctor this Wednesday.

Stephenie Meyer's run of having the top four selling books in Australia has finally ended, with Kathy Retchs now holding the number one spot, followed by Meyer and then Richelle Mead (with another bloody vampire story). Meyer then has four to six. This could be only temporary as her sales will probably increase after some Victorian school libraries banned her novels for being too "racy".

I hope for more positive posts in the weeks to come.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

My writing week 2(36)

Hi all,

Ridiculously tired last week. Went to bed at 6.30 on a couple of nights. If I had not figured out that I am a bit stressed at the moment, then I would be worried about it. Stressed about my cataracts; stressed about work, where ongoing renovations see the place in an orgy of disorganisation every morning; and stressed about my father's up coming hernia operation (my dad's health isn't great).

My father's operation is in just under eight days, so hopefully my stress levels will reduce after that. I see the eye doctor two days later and who knows what that will do to my state of mind. But the renovations just go on and on. So it would appear that I am not going to get much writing and editing done over the next couple of months.

I am about half way through editing chapter eight of Stalking Tigers. No critiquing or fiction reading last week.

At least the Lions won.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Writing Week 2(35)

Hi all,

I’ve finished editing chapter seven of Stalking Tigers – that’s if I can resist the temptation to go back to the start of that chapter and go through it again. I can always find something to change. The chapter ended up 1500 words longer, so much for cutting it back.

I am thinking about dropping out of and devoting my critiquing efforts to just KSP, where I am waiting for someone to put up the first few chapters of a science-fiction novel, rather than start critiquing mid-novel.

I had a look at the Conflux virtual mini con, an online speculative fiction forum, held over last weekend. James Minz, a senior editor with Baen Books who also worked at Del Rey and Tor Books, had some interesting comments.

He was asked: what makes a gem stand out from the slushpile? He said “it's all about the storytelling. If there's strong story, the rest is negotiable. Don't get me wrong, you don't know how to use the English language properly, you're probably doomed, but after that it's all about making the reader want to turn the next page. At Baen…I am looking for strong plot-driven stories with heroes you just want to root for. We're about spaceships and dragons and guys in doublets jumping a motorcycle over a group of 17th Century rabblerousers.”

So I don’t think Stalking Tigers would be a good fit for Baen. Although it has a strong plot, it is probably more character driven. It is not an action novel, it is more of a psychological drama/thriller.

He was also asked: how hard is it for a non-American to break into the American scene? He said “honestly, it can be a plus. Having a Canadian, or an Aussie, or a Brit could potentially help a publisher to get the novel distributed into more places, i.e. it's not easy to get US publications into Aus, but having an Aussie writer can open that door. The only real barrier would be if there too much colloquial use of Aussie English (not the spelling stuff--that's not a big deal at all, but turns of phrase that don't translate culturally, that kind of thing.)”

Someone asked: How lucrative is the epublishing market? Is it really the way of the future? He said “the vast majority of our business is still traditional publishing, but we do very well with electronic publishing. Very. Well. (btw, Baen has been selling ebooks via the internet for more than a decade at this point.) ‘Is it really the way of the future?’ Sort of. Yes, but with HUGE Caveats.”

Richard Harland used his appearance to help launch a website with 145 pages of writing tips for speculative fiction writers. I’ve only had a brief look, so I can’t tell how useful it might be yet.

Unfortunately, a few of the guest writers seemed to have problems with the technology.

I came to the forum late, but would probably not have asked any questions as I don’t have any pressing questions for writers, editors or publishers. At the moment I just want/need to concentrate on writing, critiquing and reading.

I’ve managed to get through the past five days without freaking out about my eyes. I just hope there’s not too much drama with getting the cataracts quickly removed.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Out Damned Spot

Hi all,

Over the past few months my vision has been losing focus, especially after a bout of conjunctivitis about two months ago. I began to interrogate my eyes by reading with one or the other closed and discovered the left eye, the one most badly affected by conjunctivitis, had an opaque patch, right in its centre. It was like trying to read through badly scratched spectacles. I noticed too, that the world become a lot clearer when I just peered at it from the right eye.

I made an appointment to see an optometrist, but got a bad dose of bronchitis, missing both it and work. As I waited for my bronchitis to disappear, I thought the opaque spot was probably the reason my eyes felt tired a lot of the time, as the left eye strained to see through the fog and the right wondered what was up with its partner. I also noticed my eyesight seemed hazier on cloudy days.

I remembered being told a few years ago that I had cataracts slowly forming on my eyes. The optometrist assured me that they shouldn’t be a problem “for years”. That to me meant decades, not four or so years. My mother had cataracts removed from her eyes last year, so I shouldn’t get them for decades. An ad on the television suggested everyone over fifty – not quite yet – should get an eye test for macular degeneration, and then a software developer appeared on Millionaire Hotseat who suffered from it. With glasses on, he said Eddie was a blur. How the hell did he write software?

My bronchitis finally started to settle after two weeks and I rang and made another optometrist appointment. When I got there, a child with a patch over an eye, prolonged my suspense. Cataract or Macular Degeneration? An optimist might have been thinking, hoping that a few eye drops would clear up the problem. Finally it was my turn.

I stressed to the optometrist that as I was a writer my eyes were bloody important to me. In other words, don’t stuff your diagnosis up. I then told him about the opaque patch. No reaction. I mentioned the conjunctivitis, no reaction. I told him I swam for three and three quarter hours a week, no reaction. Maybe he did not connect swimming with chlorine. He asked me whether my family had a history of eye problems. Not my damned genes again.

He left the room to test the strength of all the glasses I had brought down with me. When he came back, he tested each eye: eye charts, dot charts, bright lights, grid patterns, a puff of air into each eye, the whole works as I waited for a groan of discovery.

He finally finished and told me I had cataracts. Great, just what every writer wants. He told me that they would only be done once, and then spent five minutes dampening my concerns about what if I got them again when I was old, as he explained that as they cut out the eye’s lens and replaced it with a plastic lens, I would never get cataracts again. I just love the thought of someone cutting my eyes.

Now I have to wait three weeks to see an eye doctor, who hopefully won’t come up with any reasons why the cataracts can’t be removed.

At least he only does one eye at a time so if he stuffs up that eye, I can tell him to forget about doing the other.

I want another body, this one keeps breaking down.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

My writing week 2(34)

Hi all,

I spent most of last week catching up on things I had put off while sick, so there wasn't much time for writing. I'm still a few days behind in my newspaper reading. I don't chuck them until read, so they can pile up. I once got eleven weeks behind, but after some months I eventually caught up.

I find reading newspapers very necessary for my writing, not just the stuff on writing and books, but anything that might give me an idea of future trends. For example, I reckon if you are writing a science fiction book set on Earth in the near future you will need to include the effects of global warming in it or give an explanation of how science fixed it (because it looks very unlikely that any useful global agreement to stop it will eventuate).

If you write a book set 50 or so years from now, you will need to extrapolate the possible effects of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, medical advances, population changes, other technology, even future fashion and entertainment. All these trends are shown in quality newspapers (ie not printed by News Limited).

In relation to global warming, I have been following the debate for well over a decade and have noted that the forecasts of its affects have been getting progressive worse as previous forecasts have been exceeded or appear to be grossly inadequate. Therefore, I feel okay about writing stories set in the future where global warming is/was worse than currently expected.

Would writers of other genres get as much out of newspapers? Certainly they could get story ideas and should read the writing/book sections, but would they need to study the papers as much as I feel a science-fiction writer should? A crime writer might read most of the articles about crime, but I wouldn't think there would be much of use for a horror, fantasy or romance writer in newspapers.

If I I chucked out unread newspapers I would not have read that Steve Amsterdam's science fiction, post-apocalyptic novel, Things We Didn't See Coming, won the Age book of the Year. With Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road winning the 2007 Pulitzer prize there seems to be a gap opening up in the publishing world for apocalyptic novels set in the near future.This might help when pitching a novel that I finished the first draft of before I started my master of creative writing.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

My writing week 2(33)

Hi all,

Once again, bronchitis limited my writing exploits last week. I had been turning on my computer and editing for a few minutes each day just to continue my run of writing every day, but at the end of last week I went back to the start of a chapter and found that editing while in a bronchitis daze is not a great idea, I had missed heaps.

I had arranged to join a critiquing group, based in WA, and received confirmation last week. This group have the advantage of no weekly/monthly quotas and novels are critiqued a couple of chapters at a time. After taking about four months to critique an entire novel on critters, I think sectionalising them is better for both the critiquer and critiquee. I found a few familiar names in the group's participants as I have networked with them using facebook.

The past two and a half weeks have been a waste of time, they might as well have not happened. Unfortunately, my bronchitis doesn't seem to like going to work with me as my recovery has gone into reverse after work on Friday and today.

I miss swimming too.

Poor me, poor poor me.

I did watch a bit of telly and discovered that the new GO channel is screening Fringe on Wednesday nights which I was getting into before it was taken off air. It is on after The Sarah Connor Chronicles which I have seen the first two seasons of and is up there with the best science fiction series. It has terminators and future travellers galore, all seemingly with different agendas.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Science fiction novel short listed for Age book of the year

Hi all,

Steven Amsterdam's novel Things We Didn't See Coming, is on a short-list of five for the Age Book of the Year Awards. The novel "makes use of science fiction and apocalyptic themes" and much of it is set in the near future. The Age also says his writing "recalls the work of writers such as Aldous Huxley and Cormac McCarthy".

I saw Steve speak at the Emerging Writer's Festival and he either didn't mention the speculative fiction nature of his novel or I missed it. So out of the 30 or so writers I saw speak over nine sessions two wrote science fiction. Steve told us about his long road to being published (see previous posts). I wonder how much of that was due to his novel being science-fiction?

It's great to have an Aussie science fiction novel achieve mainstream acclaim.

I have a number of reasons to buy Things We Didn't See Coming: readers of this blog would know that I am into apocalyptic fiction and I enjoyed the suspense and bleakness of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

My (cough) writing (sniff) week 2(32)

Hi all,

Well its official, worst cold ever. I have missed work for two weeks - I wonder if they missed me. I've even resorted to health food store remedies, like marshmallow root tea, in an attempt to get rid of it. It is improving a little day by day. When I am not coughing or blowing my nose I am usually dozing. My attention span is about ten seconds. I've been turning on the computer and briefly checking my emails and facebook and myspace and then spending about 15 minutes attempting some editing of Stalking Tigers - just to say I've done some writing - and then turning the computer back off and lying back down on my bed. I've been feeling so tired I don't even have the energy to be grumpy.

I look forward to getting my life back.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

My writing week 2(31)

Hi all,

I've got bronchitis, with one of the worst coughs I can remember having. Maybe it's some kind of germ revenge after I got over the flu and conjunctivitis in only a week earlier this winter. I have spent most of the past five days in a daze, which is not that conducive to writing. I've already erroneously deleted this blog post once.

Anyway, last week I finished redrafting chapter seven of Stalking Tigers. Now I just have to edit it. I came across a problem near the end of the chapter when I realised the characters had left out a stage in what they were doing. Perhaps nine out of ten readers wouldn't have noticed it, but I decided to include it anyway. This created the problem of them probably not having enough time to complete everything I had them doing on that day. As their physical activities are linked to character and plot development, I feared I would have to rearranging a lot of chapter eight and then nine and so on, but I managed to fit everything in to the end of chapter seven and that day.

I critiqued a story last week. After sitting here and thinking about it for a while, I can't remember what it was about. I did have a bit to say from memory. No reading, too busy coughing and dozing.

I've just read that Labour's National Conference resolved "that the Federal Government should give priority to preserving the economic and cultural viability of Australian literature and book publishing". An ALP working group will prepare a report to be considered by cabinet when they decide on the Productivity Commission's proposal to remove restrictions on parallel imports. So there is hope that Labor might reject changes to the copyright laws.

I've been thinking, shouldn't the Productivity Commission be investigating booksellers like Dymocks, Coles and Safeway, because, from what I've read, 30 to 50% of the cost of a book goes to the bookseller.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Emerging Writer's Festival, part eight.

Hi all,

The Best Way Forward was the last session I attended at Melbourne’s Emerging Writer’s Festival. It discussed avenues a writer could use to improve their writing.

Steve Amsterdam told us a story that turned some of my prejudices around, but reinforced others. He was born in America to a literary agent mother. As a child she let him read her slush pile (a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t). As a sixteen year-old he read pitches and synopsis sent to her and she let him send out rejection letters. He then worked for Random House for a number of years, before moving to Australia and competing a Master of Creative Writing at Melbourne University.

Now you would think that someone with his background would have a big advantage in getting published. That was not to be. He joked that he used to work for the biggest publisher in the world, but was finally published by the smallest publisher in the world, an Australian independent.

He said the Master of Creative Writing concentrated too much on theory, but the good thing about it was workshopping with some of its students. They have met once a month for the past three years and he likes their varied and reasoned prejudices. They sound a bit different to the people I did my masters with, most of whom worked for the Canberra public service and didn’t seem interested in critiquing (probably because most of them didn’t seem interested in reading, and except for a few of us who were writing genre fiction, they also seemed to have trouble thinking of anything to write about).

I wonder if Steve asked his mother to be his agent.

Rijn Collins has had over seventy short stories published. To get her writing out to the world she started an online workshop and they created their own online magazine.

I felt a bit downcast at hearing their stories as I am having trouble finding a suitable workshop.

Stu Hatton, a poet (dressed all in black) and creative writing teacher at Deakin University spoke next. He said a mentorship, organised and paid for by the Australian Society of Authors, with Dorothy Porter had really helped him. For a mentorship to succeed the student and mentor have to be able to relate to each other’s work. I found it interesting that Andrea Goldsmith, who was in a relationship with Dorothy Porter, also worked or works as a writing teacher at Deakin University.

Stu also said he leaves anything he was written to stew for a while and he tried to quell his desire to impress.

Poet Pooja Mittal has an editor as a mentor.

If only I could find a suitable mentor.
If only I could find a suitable workshop.
If only writing and life and everything was easy.
But it seems Malcolm Fraser was right.

The festival had finished for me. I felt the best session was Seven Enviable Lines for the amount of information imparted. Just Write Damn It was good for motivation and the Great State Divide got me thinking about all the white man’s guilt inside me.

Overall, at $40 for the weekend, the festival was too good a value for any unpublished writer living in Melbourne to miss. I had to travel down from Wangaratta and stayed two nights, so it cost me a bit more, but I still found it excellent value and left with lots of ideas to think about and implement.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

my writing week 2(30)

Hi all,

The only way I will meet this month's deadline is if aliens abduct me and my computer and zoom me off at light speed, slowing time outside the ship. Then, after deciding I was not the threat I appeared to be, returning me at the end of the week. But I would probably spend all my time trying to get onto facebook, myspace and twitter.

I am two-thirds of the way through editing chapter seven of Stalking Tigers. I had planned to be at the end of chapter nine by now. Bloody tax office: it was all their fault. I spent over an hour on the phone to one of their customer service people. She didn't have a clue, and then passed me onto a tech person who seemed to be be reading from the same manual: our clients are morons, treat them as such. All I wanted to do was put in a tax deduction for a work related course I had done, but stupid Etax wouldn't let me. So I kept on fiddling and wasting time, all for a tax saving of $15 or so (the deduction was for $85). Aliens should abduct them, they're the real threat. I should know, I've worked for the ATO.

I critiqued a story. Yaaa me. It was an okay story, but had a convoluted twist at the end where the main character suddenly did something without there being any clues to her motivation for doing it. You can have twists, but they have to make sense, like in the movie Drag Me To Hell, which had a coin/button in the envelope to explain it. I should have seen it coming.

I didn't have time to write my final post on the Emerging Writer's Festival, hopefully I will have post it on Thursday.

The Melbourne Writer's Festival guide appeared in the Age a week or so ago. It was sub-titled: War meets Humour, Mystery meets Sci-fi..., so I hoped for a few science fiction sessions, but all I found, after wasting my time trawling though its 27 pages, was one session with the only science fiction writer mentioned, who wouldn't even be there in person: China Melville interviewed via satellite. Woowee. I am not going.


Monday, July 20, 2009

My writing week 2(29)

Hi all,

Two weeks into my first deadline period and I have an awful lot of editing to do in the next 12 days to achieve my current deadline. I am a third of the way through editing chapter seven of Stalking Tigers. Chapter six was the first chapter that actually decreased in size, by about 450 words, while being edited. It's unfortunate that I seem to have so little time to work on it as I am enjoying it when I do.

For the second week in the past four weeks I failed to make the deadline for a critique that I was working on for critters. I had read the story twice and written comments all over it, but I only had half an hour to write it up. I think, as with the other story, a part of me was wary of destroying the confidence of its writer by pointing out every thing I considered needed fixing.

I actually read some fiction, while sitting in a waiting room, I've am still too tired to read at night.

I got angry when I heard that the Productivity Commission have recommended, with little evidence of its benefits to consumers, the removal of copyright import laws (with three years grace between the passing of the law and it coming into effect). This will mean the bookstores like Dymocks and chain stores like Big W will import copies of books from overseas rather than wait to see if an Australian printed and published version is put out. So Australian publishers will not get the profits of selling Australian versions of overseas authored books. Less profits, means less money to take a chance on new Australian authors, and less money to spend promoting them. It will also mean that any Australian author who signs a contract with an overseas publisher risks the oversea's version being imported and competing against the Australian version (assuming they also have a book contract here). Usually overseas versions attract less royalties for an author. Dymocks and Big W may bring in remaindered overseas stock for which the author will receive nothing.

The Productivity Commission wants to do this because it thinks, having no data to prove it, that books might become slightly cheaper in Australia - that's if Dymocks and Big W don't just pocket any difference. Australia's number one selling bookstore, Angus and Robertson/Borders, disagrees with changing the current laws. Yaa for them. Similar changes to copyright were introduced in New Zealand, destroying their publishing industry. If the Rudd Government introduces laws to implement these changes I will be voting Green in the next election. I will also never set foot in Dymocks again.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Emerging Writer's Festival part seven

Hi all,

This is the seventh – yeah I’ve milked my attendance for all its worth – post on the Melbourne’s Emerging Writing Festival, held in the last weeks of May this year. I went to nine sessions over the second weekend. In this post I cover two sessions, the first, Out of the Mouth of Babes, was about writing for someone else and the second was a debate Art Vs Craft.

After the Crashing and Bashing and Smashing Through session, I found myself sitting in the Yarra Room as panellists for the next session set up. I had no idea what the session was about, but having nowhere pressing to go I remained and hoped that science-fiction had been secreted into the programme, but judging by the quarter-filled room, it was more likely to be a session on poetry. Eventually, the moderator announced that it was about ghost-writing and writing for others. I thought they might have something interesting to say so I stayed and listened.

Rhod Ellis-Jones spoke about writing speeches for the lord mayor and other political people. He surprised, when asked by an audience member if he would write a speech about an issue he had opposing views to, by saying that he wouldn’t work for someone who had different views to his.

Matt Davies told us how in awe he was of the front of one of the people whose biography he had ghost written when he saw them on television explaining how difficult it was to write one particular section of the book. Amazingly, Matt seemed content with no one knowing he had written a number of so-called autobiographies.

Adam Rozenbach, a comic who writes for a lot of television programs, said he even wrote for shows he thought were crap.

It was time for lunch and to watch the crowd of gathering angry Indian students in Federation Square. They were protesting about perceived racist violence directed against them.

I was late getting back to the town hall and opened the door of the Yarra Room to see Bugs Bunny standing behind the lectern. Thinking I was about to step into an alternative reality, I watched as Bugs spoke for the art side of the debate. Bugs said that when writing art there is no need to worry about a plot. He used the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy as an example. It’s about father and son wandering along a road a few years into a nuclear winter. I’ve read The Road and it is more a moment in time than a story where the main character set about achieving some life affirming goal. Besides survival, the father and son’s major goal is getting to the ocean, just to have a look, otherwise they would just sit down and die.

Bugs then ripped his head off revealing poet Nathan Curnow. He sat down, immediately stood back up and argued the craft side. I am not sure which side won.

Elmer Fudd did not follow, instead it was Kirk Marshall. He wrote A Solution to Economic Depression in Little Tokyo, 1953, a 2007 Aurealis-nominated graphic novelette. He spoke rapidly and used lots of academic language, rendering his argument incomprehensible to most of the audience. Somewhere in his stampede of words he probably defined what art and craft were, but I am not sure. He mentioned a letter of compliant against Jonathon Frazen’s award winning novel The Corrections – It’s about the lies four members of a family tell to each other, themselves and the world. The letter writer complained of the lack of story in The Corrections. I found The Corrections engrossing as the lies the family had survived on for years slowly unravelled. From memory, it, like The Road, did not have a central plot where a major goal had to be achieved.

So the main message I was getting was that art based writing paid little attention to plot.

Krissy Kneen, whose memoir Affection, a memoir of Sex, Love, and Intimacy will be published by Text Publishing in August 2009, was the last to speak. She said art without craft is just wankery, but craft without art becomes a template, the same old same old.

I have always leaned more to craft than art, or substance over style. I’m no fan of incomprehensible poetry. The science-fiction novel I am working on has a strong plot. It very much follows the template of the Hero’s Journey, but not by design, that just happened. Originally it was a novella with a hanging ending and the journey only just beginning, but as I expanded it into a novel it started going through the other stages of the Hero’s Journey. Is it also a work of Art? It is for me. As I wrote in an essay for my master of creative writing on the aesthetics of writing: the art worthiness of a piece of writing is decided by those judged to be judges (usually upper class, private educated, white males).

In my last post on the emerging writer’s festival I will cover a session called the Best Way Forward, where writers told us how they succeeded in getting published.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

My writing week 2(28)

Hi all,

I was just reading about mega-seller Jodi Pilcout's writing day. She gets up at 5.30 and goes for a hike - doesn't say how long - and then presumably has breakie and showers and gets the kids off to school before spending the rest of the day writing until the kids return. If she has a half-hour lunch, that would be about 7 hours writing. No wonder she's written about 19 novels. But then, a little further on I read that on average she gets 250 emails a day from fans and she claims to answer every one of them. Answering 250 emails would take me more than seven hours, even if I had a series of standard cut and paste responses depending on which book they mention.

Anyway, I reckon if I had seven hours spare for writing I would quickly find other very important things to do. Some of them might even have some link to writing, like writing blog posts. Surely Jodi has a blog too, probably a couple, maybe even a PA to write them for her.

Anyway, my first week of editing Stalking Tigers under the supposed duress of deadlines did not go well. I finished redrafting chapter six and I am now editing it, but I had hoped to be nearly finished chapter seven. So what went wrong. Well, I have been recording VCR tapes onto DVDs and my VCR started to die, so I spent time fiddling with it, before going out and buying a new one. My watch band broke three times and I successfully, or so I thought, reconnected its links twice, before going out and buying a new watch. The lawns were getting a bit long, so I got out the lawn mower and its front wheel jammed, but I managed to fix it (yaaa, I didn't have to buy a new lawn mower). My printer jammed and I decided to replace its printer cartridge in the hope that might fix the problem. But when trying to cut the new cartridge out of its packet the scissors fell apart. Have I set a scene for you? Even the toilet brush broke in half while I was cleaning the toilet.

I did manage to critique a story though. I had read that one of the common faults in stories occurs when a writer glosses over action scenes, for example, instead of describing a fight, they tell the reader there was a fight and who won it - presumably the main character - and then continue on with the story. Well I finally came across one of those stories on critters. I pointed out that the author's continual baulking at action scenes destroyed any tension in the story.

I also read a few chapters of a novel for the first time in a while.

Hopefully nothing breaks on me this week so I can spend more time writing.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Emerging Writer's Festival, part six.

Hi all,

Day two of my weekend at Melbourne’s Emerging Writer’s Festival began with a session called Crashing, Smashing and Bashing Through. It was the first panel to have a real-life science fiction writer on it, so there is at least one emerging science-fiction writer getting published who has opinions on writing. His name was Chris Morphew. He told us that he had 376 rejections before he met a publishing assistant at church (and here I was thinking that everyone who worked in publishing worshipped satan). This publishing assistant mentioned a series of young adult books that they wanted ghostwriters for. Chris applied. They liked his work and after her repeatedly pitched his own science fiction series The Phoenix Files to them, they agreed to publish it. He said don’t be afraid to have ridiculous ambitions.

Freelance writer and journalist Sarah Ayoub said it was important to call yourself a writer. I have had problems with calling myself a writer, but after writing/editing a novel on every day for the past year and a half, I figure I am entitled too. I think it was in the first session I attended at the festival that the moderator asked for a show of hands from the writers in the audience and collectively we slowly put our hands up, showing our insecurity about calling ourselves writers.

Sarah said it was important to showcase your work, such as on a website. She recommended finding someone whose career you admire to ask to become your mentor. Would many Australian science-fiction authors have the time or inclination to mentor? I know one who does. Finally Sarah said it was important to network, both face to face and on social network sites. Twitter was good for plugging her blog. I have since joined twitter and use it to plug my blog.

Novelist Kathryn Heyman had an original pitching idea. She suggested you say in your pitch covering letter that you met the agent/editor at a writer’s festival, even if you didn’t. Just make sure they actually went to that writer’s festival. She said only approach agents after you have written the good book. This was mentioned a few times throughout the festival, especially by writing teachers who were amused by their students asking questions about getting published before they had written anything.

She felt that knowing what your main character wants is essential to the writing of a good book. Well the central character in the novel I am writing has a number of desires, most of all to survive the situation he finds himself in. To survive, he needs to find out what is going on in the mind of the person who caused his predicament.

My next post on the Emerging Writers Festival will be a combined post on two of sessions one of which was a debate on Art versus Craft.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

My writing week 2(27)

Hi all,

I am not in the most positive mood at the moment - except for the readers of this blog, I seem to be surrounded by uncaring morons - so it's probably not a great time to be conducting a mid-year review of my writing efforts this year, but here goes anyway.

At the start of the year I wrote:

I want to finish the last three chapters of the first draft of Stalking Tigers. I then want to tidy it up so I can put it out into the critiquing world. While it is being critiqued...I want to rewrite a novel I wrote the first draft of back before I did a few writing courses. Finally, I want to redraft Stalking Tigers after it has been critiqued. I should finish writing the first draft and have time to tidy it up by the end of January. I will then give myself six months, to the end July, to rewrite the other novel. This leaves five months to write a second draft of Stalking Tigers.

James Spader as a barman in some obscure movie said: How do you make God laugh? Make a plan. Ha Huh. I did finish the first draft of Stalking Tigers, but it was more like five chapters and 25,000 words, and it took me to sometime in March, if I recall correctly. Since then I have been editing it, but what was supposed to be just a structural/grammar/punctuation/consistency edit has turned into very much changed second drafting. I have redrafted the first five and half chapters, or 30,000 words, with about 100,000 to go.

At the rate I am going it will take me to the end of the year to finish it, which isn't good enough. My output must increase. Rather than some arbitrary word limit, I will give myself a major deadline of 28th September to finish it. With weekly deadlines of a chapter a week to start with, building up to two chapters a week, so I finish the whole redrafting in 12 weeks.

So the plan is:

chapters 6-12 by the 2nd August
chapters 13-21 by the 30th August
chapters 22-28 by the 28th of September

I can hear God laughing again, and I'm an atheist.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Emerging Writer's Festival, part five.

The Pitch was the final session of the Saturday I attended the Emerging Writer’s Festival. The ground floor hall of Melbourne’s town hall was, once again, packed with about 300 writers eager to be told, at least I was, that it wasn’t as hard to pitch to publishers as everybody else had said. This session was one that had piqued my initial interest in the festival.

Most of the publishers were from small independent magazines and not from the major book publishing houses.

Chris Flynn the editor of Torpedo magazine suggested that when pitching to him, or any other publisher:

1. Read the submission guidelines
2. Read the magazine
3. Don’t keep on sending the same stories out
4. Submit one story to a particular magazine at a time
5. Don’t say how wonderful the story is and go on about your previous publications, the story will be judged on its merits.
6. Be nice.

Nothing surprising there, except for number five, as I have been told that many publishers are interested in a writer’s previous publications, which would seem the case, as successful writers are a useful marketing tool for a magazine.

Emily Clark from Aduki Independent Press, which publishes non-fiction books, essays and magazines, suggested the following:

1. Know the publisher
2. Know your market: tell the publisher who will read your book.
3. Don’t burn your bridges

A while back I put the petrol and incendiary devices in the back shed, but I haven’t locked it yet.

Editors from Going Down Swinging, Stop Drop and Roll, Framelines, Meanjin and Tresspass also spoke.

I was disappointed with this session because the speakers seemed to be more concerned with pitching their magazine to the audience, rather than giving me some insight into how to get them to read my submission. For the first time that day I noticed members of the audience leaving, but perhaps it was getting close to their dinner times.

Overall, the first day was a very good informational and motivating experience. I came away feeling energised about writing and determined to brake through.

On Sunday I went to four more sessions, the first of which, Crashing and bashing and smashing through, will be commented on in my next post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My writing week 2(26)

Hi all,

My writing/editing/reading/critiquing output failed to increase much last week, even though I had overcome the flu and conjunctivitis, as I spent most of the week trying to catch up on other things. It was good to swim again and lift some weights, I really felt lethargic and semi-useless when not doing them.

I finished editing chapter five of "Stalking Tigers". Probably a better description of what I am doing is writing a second draft as I am cutting out 2000 or more words a 5000 word chapter and then adding in somewhere around 2500 new words. I am making so many changes to each chapter that I then need to go over it again and edit it. Chapter five ended up 500 words longer then it was originally.

One of the reasons for all the changes is that I had tended, in the early chapters at least, to have the main character despair too much over his situation. I have cut back on this, making the character more pro-active, and hopefully letting the reader despair for him. I am making him a more resilient character, one who clicks into scientific mode faster and uses his intuition to attempt to solve his dilemma. Before he spent too much time, I felt, coming to terms with his situation. The coming chapters show him struggling with his situation, so I don’t need to overemphasis it in the first few chapters.

Tim Winton spent most of his Miles Franklin acceptance speech criticising the Productivity Commission's suggested changes to Australian copyright law. He pointed out that Breath was published in May last year and under the proposed changes his Australian publishers would now have to compete against non-GST taxed imported versions for which Winton would receive little or no royalties.

I did the first reading of a short story for critters that had so much wrong with it that I would have spent hours writing the critique. The writer would have offended half his potential audience with his offensive portrayal of women as little more than sperm catchers. Unfortunately, when I got around to writing up the critique, I only had less than an hour until the critter's deadline, so the writer will have to do without my criticisms.

I hear thunder in the distance, bye.


Friday, June 26, 2009

The emerging writer's festival, part four.

Hi all,

The Revolution will be Downloaded was the fourth session I attended at the Emerging Writer’s Festival. The spiel for the session suggested I might find out about new writing markets and ways to promote my writing online. The Yarra Room was full with writers eager to learn about new opportunities.

Rachel Hills, a writer, editor, project manager and social commentator who has been publishing online since 1998 spoke first. She suggested using Google Profiles to collate all the online information about yourself. It is a quick summary page of your blogs, websites, and social networking activities which you can direct people to. I have started creating my own simple profile page, which I just linked my Facebook profile to. One suggested way to use the profile page is to put it as a link at the bottom of emails instead of having multiple links to blogs and websites.

Rachel has been blogging for a few years and stressed that you have to blog every day to capture a following. I don’t agree. It depends what you blog about. Literary Agent Nathan Bransford has a substantial following based on two posts a week. I haven’t got the time to read someone’s blog every day, so why should I expect anyone else to read mine everyday. Currently I will glance through the directory of Networked Blogs on Facebook or Myspace blog directory to see if any of the twenty or so blogs I have joined have something really interesting to say in the first sentence. If they don’t, I will skip most of them. I am thinking of dumping one blogger because she blogs three or more times a day and just clutters up my Networked Blogs directory.

Angela Myer, an emerging fiction writer and literary commentator, said you shouldn’t blog because you feel you have to, you have to enjoy it. She recommends enhancing a blog by using all the available media, like video and music. She emphasised that a blog has to have a theme, not be all over the place, and says the best blogs are personal. When I started this blog, its subjects were varied, now it concentrates on writing. I aim to share with readers, most probably other writers, my endeavours to finish writing something that is more than publishable. Once achieved, the blog will shift to my attempts at getting published while still talking about the writing process.

Darren Rowse, the founder and editor of, a Top 50 Blog Globally (as ranked by Technorati) and one of the leading sources on the Web for information about making money from blogs; and James Stuart, an online poet, were the other members of the panel.

Twitter was mentioned as a good promotional tool, so I relented and started my own Twitter account.

The session didn’t really introduce me to anything new. It did give me a few things to think about when blogging and got me experimenting with Twitter and Google Profile.

My next post will hopefully cover a couple of the sessions, including one on pitching.