Sunday, December 26, 2010

My writing week 3 (51)

Hi all,

My computer acted up last week. I thought it was going to suffer a premature death. It wouldn't shut down properly sometimes, it stalled sometimes, and then it started beeping at me and turning itself off. I did all the diagnostic tests I could find, and it passed them all. I then did what HP help suggested, a systems restore (not a recovery). I restored the computer's settings to a week before the trouble started.

At the same time I found and installed a HP update for its modem that said it should solve problems with the computer automatically shutting down. I also fiddled with the connections to the CPU and rattled it. Either the restore, update or rattling seems to have fixed it. It has been operating without problem for five days now.

After messing around with the computer, I got back to some writing and finally finished the first draft of the novella I have been working on for months. I will now edit it and then get it critiqued. I reckon I have been writing if for so long that my writing style has probably undergone significant changes from the novella's start to its finish.

With the arrival of my new Kindle, I finished reading the ebookTimesplash by Graham Storrs. It's a time-travelling terrorist thriller, much in the mode of James Bond, but set 50 years in the future and 100 years in the past. I enjoyed it and my previous blog post is a review of it.

Among my Christmas presents were three books. Two by Aussie authors, although I am debating whether David Hicks had a bit of help writing his account of being imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. For a man who quit school at age 15 he writes surprisingly well.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and thinking up lots of writing and reading new year's resolutions, like must edit, get critiqued and redraft the novella and both novels while reading a novel a fortnight.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review of Timesplash by Graham Storrs

TimeSplashTimeSplash by Graham Storrs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel by Australian Graham Storrs. It is about terrorists going back in time and causing mayhem,resulting in ripples in time. These ripples splash through to the present causing havoc capable of destroying cities.

After a friend of Jay's dies at a timesplash gig, he becomes a policeman who is seconded by interpol to try and stop the terrorists. He is added by Sandra, the beautiful ex-girlfriend of the chief timesplasher Sniper.

From the start of the novel I was drawn in and the tension continued for it entire length. The novel travelled the world and, with my limited knowledge, that world seemed real. I was interested to read that Graham Storrs lived in London where much of the novel is set.

It reminded me of a James Bond type spy thriller set a few decades into the future. Perhaps the one quibble I had was the dialogue, which sometimes seemed more last century, than the way they might talk in mid-21st century.

This was the first ebook I have read. I read it on a Kindle which unfortunately malfunctioned towards the end, so some of my concentration was taken from the words and place on what the Kindle was doing. I had to get the Kindle replaced to enable me to finish reading the story.

I would recommend Timesplash to anyone in the mood for a fast paced adventure thriller. I reckon you don't have to be into science fiction, like I am, to enjoy it.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My writing week 3 (50)

Hi all,

I spent more time writing last week than I have for months. Most of my energy went towards an article I was writing for Divine online magazine. I really earned my money this time, because I changed and edited it at least 20 times. I finally emailed it to the editor this morning.

I managed to spend some time on my novella, getting it a few sentences, I hope, from the end. I have the final line, I just have to fill in a few words to get there. It has taken me way too long to write its 21,000 words.

My new Kindle arrived. I have used it for two days and it still works. Amazon are a fabulous company and they deserve to totally dominate the world publishing industry. Hopefully that raises the karma quota between me and them.

A courier just left with the broken one. I must have telekinetically caused something to go wrong with it because I kept the box it came in, in case I had to return it. I was lucky my mind caused it to malfunction within the 90 day warranty period. Maybe I just wanted to interact with the excellent customer service staff at Amazon.

I forgot to mention that a couple of weeks ago I read that Christos Tsiolkas, author of the much awarded Australian literary novel The Slap, recently re-read Couples, by John Updike. In my review of The Slap, on Goodreads, I had mentioned how similar it was to Couples. They were written 50 years apart, but both are about the hopelessly compromised and unsatisfied lives of the middle class.

Just read in The Age that book sales are down as much as 10% for this Christmas in Australia. The article reckons it is because of a general lack of spending and not Amazon.

To those who are inclined, hope you have a good holiday season and that you give and receive many books purchased from Amazon. I also hope the teenager next door gets a set of headphones for his ipod, from Amazon, and uses them. If not, my news year’s resolutions may focus around encouraging him to move out of the garage and live somewhere else. Perhaps the Amazon customer service officers might have some ideas.

Seriously, how many times can a teenager listen to the same CD full of doff doff doff? Evidentially hundreds. Over and over and over again. Someone should give him a book, purchased from Amazon.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

My writing week 3 (49)

Hi all,

My Kindle broke. Whaaaaaa. It had been given me trouble all last week. Most days it would work okay for 15 to 20 minutes and then for some reason the search box would just appear at the bottom of the screen. So I pressed “back” to get rid of it, and then it would reappear again and fill up with qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq, like a button was stuck. When I pressed q, jo8b came up. I tried to press “back” faster than the q’s came but to no avail.

The previous page button on the right hand side did not take me to the previous page either, it brought up the search box and filled it with a qjo8b. Ebooks would also automatically flip backwards through their pages. All this made it very hard to read.

I looked up the amazon website and there were suggestions for fixing similar faults of holding the power switch on for 15 seconds to reset the kindle. This I did, and it worked for a little while. But this morning the thing with the search box started as soon as I turned it on. If made it near impossible to navigate. So I sent a message to Amazon and they rang back.

The customer service officer wanted me to download an update to my kindle. This took me about an hour to figure out how to do, even when I sent another message and got them to try and help me. Luck and clicking enough icons eventually prevailed. But after installing the updated Kindle software the problem persisted.

While fiddling with the Kindle as the very gracious amazon customer service officer tried to work out what to do, I discovered that if I pressed j, qo8b would appear, if I pressed o, qj8b would appear and so on. It was like the j q b o keys had been corrupted. I told the guy this. Anyway he got me to reset the Kindle to the factory default. After a long time the Kindle came back on, but the problems persisted.

I could not re-register it because I needed to type in my email address, and when I got to .com, qj8b was entered instead of the o. So the guy is sending out a replacement Kindle. It will cost me postage. Hopefully nothing else. Interestingly when I was trying to connect to wireless after it rebooted, it came up with “Kerrys” wireless connection. I think there is a Kerry who lives over the back fence, but should I be able to detect her wireless connection on my Kindle?

I spent many hours fiddling with the Kindle and a couple of very late nights. Time I wished I could have spent more productively.

Google books opened in the US last week with three million free ebooks. That will put a dent in a lot of publisher’s and authors pockets. When I checked it out, it said that it was not available yet in Australia.

I did finally finish critiquing a very good novel: Datura Highway by Daniel King. He hopes to have it published soon. It’s an intriguing psycho thriller fantasy. I will be buying a copy. Its 60,000 words took me about 12 weeks to critique. So I am not the fastest. I sent him a critique after each chapter.

I finished reading China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. I found that it took way too long for the story to start. It’s nowhere near as good as The Scar. I will post a review soon.

Thunderstorms again interfered with my writing last week. Wangaratta had floods again. At least I did not have to water the garden much. But again I did very little writing. I did not even get started on my next article for Divine magazine. But I have managed to salvage something from the wreckage of today: I wrote that article. I now just have to edit it a few times.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Media's standards are slipping.

Hi all,

I have been marvelling at the incompetence of the media lately. I have noticed technical and intellectual stuff ups all over the place. Last night I was watching the local Prime news and for the third time in recent weeks the bulletin had blackouts and ads breaking in during news stories. Last night those errors wrecked a story on the Wangaratta floods, and as I live in Wangaratta I was particularly interested. I've heard that the news will be no longer located in the local region soon, they are moving it to Canberra, so maybe the current staff don't give a stuff anymore. Pity, I used to work for Prime.

Next we have The AGE, where I have frequently spotted typos over the past few weeks, making me feel better about all my typos. Are the journo's too overworked to check their work? That may explain their ridiculous front page story of a couple of days ago. Evidently WikiLeaks published a secret American memo saying the Australian media was full of stories about Kevin Rudd being a micro-manager and control freak. Need I say anymore. The ABC news last night didn't even state that the supposedly secret information was originally broadcast/published in the Australian media.

Then we have local ABC radio. I often listen to Joseph Thompson for a bit of a laugh as he tries to work his small town shock jock thing. He often interviews people via the telephone. Problem is, we can hardly hear them.

Maybe they all have shares in the web companies.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

My writing week 3 (48)

Hi all,

I have a new article up on Divine. This one is about my father’s time in residential care. He had dementia.

I looked on track to do a bit of writing last week, but constant electrical storms had me turning off my computer just as I was about to start writing. When I lived in Sydney my flat was struck by lightning and half the wiring had to be replaced, so I am can justify my concern of unplugging valued electrical items during storms.

My noisy neighbours also distracted me from writing. Their teenage son, who lives in the garage, was playing his doff doff music on Tuesday and after I went next door and my doorbell ringing was ignored, I went back into my backyard and I screamed – not yelled, the whole street would have heard my complaint – over the fence for him to turn it down, get some headphones or cease because the bass noise just flowed through my house and was driving me mad. Much to my surprise, the noise ceased.

I then decided to attack the problem from another direction, by attempting to soundproof my writing area. I called up a builder and he came and had a look. He reckoned it would cost $1000 just for the glass alone if I was to double glaze the room’s window. Probably $2000 all up, but would it reduce the noise by much considering the house’s wooden walls? I decided to experiment by getting a piece of pine board ($95) cut that covered the room’s 180 by 130 cm window and seeing how much sound it blocked.

After a very sweaty afternoon (remember the above mentioned thunderstorms) and much colourful language directed at a drill that’s trigger kept on sticking, I installed the window cover, using plastic turn buttons to hold it in temporarily in place. But since then, nearly a week, no noise has come from next door. I have seen the kid once in the backyard. Perhaps he is using headphones. I have removed the cover while I wait for the noise to return.

This week I need to write another article for Divine. I have the ideas and most of the information is in my head, so it should be fairly easy to write. I also will finish reading the last few pages of a novel I have been critiquing and send its author a final critique. I also hope to finish the first draft of a novella and start editing it before sending it off to be critiqued. But as I continually find, life is always throwing up obstacles to my plans.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

My writing week 3 (47)

Hi all,

I wasted a bit of time last week on a pointless ebook debate with a writer who just wanted to argue semantics and not facts. His original blog post said that he was against changing the parallel importation book laws in Australian, and had recently launched a book in a bookstore, but felt guilty because he purchased most of his books on Amazon.

I had a look at his website which had icons to buy his books directly from him or from Amazon. At Amazon, one of his books was half the price he charged directly, but I am sure he would earn more from a direct sale. If he, as an author, is not prepared to pay extra to support Australian authors and bookstores, why should other consumers?

He also had an ebook of the first book in a series for 99cents. The consumer in me keeps on warning that if ebooks are ridiculously cheap than, like many cheap DVDs, they are probably crap.

I have had a lot more enlightening debates about ebooks with other writers, like Graham Storrs. I am enjoying his e-novel Timesplash.

Divine magazine paid my second invoice, so I now have been paid for all four stories published. I talked to the editor this morning and my fifth article should be up this week. It is about my father’s time in a high care ward of a nursing home. He had dementia. I will probably start writing another article this week, its idea I will keep secret for the moment.

I ordered and received a leather cover for my Kindle, something I should have done when I originally ordered it to save the $20 postal charge. The cover makes it much easier to read when lying in bed as it opens like a book, allowing me to balance it on my chest. It will also protect the screen from scratches. The ease of reading the Kindle’s bigger print has me reading a lot more.

Along with the above, I worked at the Victorian elections on Saturday and spent a bit of time reading the training manual, so I did not make time to finish writing the first draft of my novella as hoped. Maybe this week.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

My writing week 3 (46)

Hi all,

I spent a lot of time fiddling with a new Kindle last week. It arrived on Tuesday, three working days after I had ordered it. It took a couple of hours to charge, connected to the USB port of my computer (the power adapter was yet to arrive). I couldn’t figure out how to transfer another copy of Graham Storr’s ebook Timesplash from my Amazon account, Kindle for PC or from Lyric Press, so I purchased another copy for $4.40 from Amazon. It took a long time to download, probably because the battery hadn’t completely charged.

I enlarged the font size up, finding it a lot easier to read then the tiny print in the paperback I had been reading. I tried out the text to speech function. The voice reading the text was more natural than I expected. But I immediately heard one of the problems with text to speech software when it mispronounced a word. The sentence went something like this: Graham read the ebook. Instead of pronouncing read as red, it pronounced it as reed.

The following day I downloaded Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat Cradle to check how fast the downloads actually took, and it only took a minute. The power adapter arrived. At the end of the week, I ordered a leather case to protect the Kindle’s screen, something I should have done when I initially ordered it. I would have saved $20 postage.

I felt some smugness after reading an article in The Age by Charles Wright comparing ipad to Kindle. It said the Kindle screen was much easier to read. Battery life was much greater for the Kindle, and it was lighter and therefore more comfortable to prop up when lying in bed. And the range of ibookstore titles doesn’t compare favourably with Amazon. Add that to the plan costs for an ipad and it costing $450 more, and a Kindle clearly comes out as a superior e-reader.

I finished an article about what happened when we moved my father into a nursing home. My father had very bad dementia at the time. I emailed it to Divine online magazine of Thursday. I don’t know when it will be up.

I did a bit of critiquing and wrote a tiny bit of writing of a novella. I will finish the first draft of it this week. I certainly read a lot more last week as a result of the Kindle being much easier to read than a print novel.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aussiecon4 - editing panels.

Hi all,
I attended two sessions on editing at Aussiecon4.
Editing the Novel.
Panellists were: Simon Spanton editor at Gollancz; Zoe Walton a publisher at Random House; science fiction author and freelance editor Jean Johnson; and Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan.
They started the discussion by answering the question of how long a book should be. Simon said that a novel should be as long as the story takes to tell. Ginjer said that for a large novel, Ace used different formats to fit the words in or they just charged more for the novel. Young adults like chunkier books. Fantasy readers like more padding, description.
Simon said editors are not there to be creative and that he never came up with a solution to an editing problem that was better than what the author thought up. He said it was increasingly difficult to get good copy editors.
They said that an author can refuse all the changes an editor makes, but then the reader might spot all those problems. Editors don’t want an author to agree with 100% of changes.
Jean Johnson came across as a bit too overbearing. I don’t know whether her appearance on the panel would have increased her sales.
How we Edit
The panellists were: Simon Spanton, once again, but looking a little bit under the weather; Amanda Pillar, in-house editor at small press Morrigan books and; John R. Douglas, who has 21 years experience as an in-house editor than freelance editor.
John said he worked with an author to find out what story they wanted to write. He removed most adverbs when editing. He said he spent a lot of his time explaining to management what the science fiction book he was editing was about, because they had no idea about the genre. He reckons it helps if the editor has a science background.
But Simon – who edits Stephen Baxter -said he had no science knowledge. He said you must remember that you are editing a novel. He trusts that the hard science fiction writers have gotten it right, adding that they were usually scientists. He said the main task was to ensure the novel was consistent.
John said editors with production houses like to work with authors who get it nearly right at the start, so the editor can edit enough books to satisfy management. He said the workload per editor is increasing at publishing houses. One of the big problems with books he edits is that most authors know a whole more about the world their novel is set in than they remember to tell the reader, and they leave it too late to give the reader vital information.
John said that publishing on demand is delivering hundreds of thousands of not very good books.
Simon said that things that interrupt the story are a problem: too many tricks risk knocking the reader out. (Graham here - that is why I didn’t like the novella that won the Hugo “Palimpsest”by Charles Stross, I was continually being thrown out of the story by information dumps, histories of the future and a plot that jumped all over the place.)
Simon said that publishing houses no longer have paid readers to troll through the slush pile. It was the last thing he looked at each day if he had time. Unless a novel from the slush pile absolutely blew his head off, it was not going to be published.
John said that he got rid of 90% of the slush pile very quickly He would dismiss submissions by the first line or page. He only spent about 5% of his time on the slush pile. He said that editors needed to spend 95% of their time on signed clients and couldn’t afford to waste their time thinking about the novel they might miss in the slush pile.
The editing panels did not have a lot of new information for me. They confirmed the fact that publishing houses are caring less and less about editing so a writer, especially a new writer, will have to try and get their story as structurally and grammatically correct as possible before submitting it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My writing week 3 (45)

Hi all,

I'm a paid writer. I received a payment for the first two articles I wrote for Divine.

I immediately used some of my writer's earnings to go over to the darkside: I ordered a Kindle. It's supposed to turn up this week. Then I can rush onto the Kindle store and fill it with free ebooks. I will never have to pay for a book again. Just joking. Anyone who has read this blog knows I am no fan of free or stupidly cheap ebooks. I will pay what I think is fair and just because it only costs $2.99 won't make me any more likely to buy it.

I have just checked the Kindle top 100 bestseller list for the first time in about five weeks. Last time, you might remember, 51 were free. This time there were 44. An upward trend? Not really, as there were 14 ebooks from $0.01 to $2.00 with just about all of these being 99c. I noticed that someone has decided to charge 99c for some of the classics that dominate the free ebooks. Last time there were about ten ebooks at $2.99, the going price recommended by ebook gurus, this time there were none. There were four ebooks priced from $2 to $3.99, 18 from $4 to $8.99, 11 from $9 to $11.99 and nine over $12.

The most expensive book was George Bush's bullshit autobiography. Good grief, as if that guy could write. Dick Cheney obviously wrote it with a little help from Rupert Murdoch's bullshit artists. It was $19.13 and came in at number one on the list.

I am speeding up the critiquing of a novel, which I am quite enjoying. The author has managed to maintain a high level of intrigue for more than half the novel. I printed out another story to critique last week, but it turned out to be one of those with a twist at the end, where everything before the twist is just filler. I am not a fan of stories just written for a twist or pun at the end. So I did not critique it.

I only did a tiny bit of work on the novella. My productivity last week was again hampered by lack of sleep due to dropkick neighbours on two nights and heat. I am getting ready to flip the nasty switch if it happens again this week.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

My writing week 3 (44)

Hi all,

Surprisingly, the neighbours have been quiet for most of the past week. Their teenage son, who lives in the garage, has not had his doff doff doff music on since last Wednesday night, and then it was only on at level low enough to be drowned out by a fan. I find it hard to believe, after our history with the neighbours, that he stopped due to me asking his mother to get him to turn it down last Tuesday. Perhaps other neighbours have complained, like the one I spoke to them last Tuesday too. They would have been most affected.

It is so good to get some sleep. I reckon I need at least eight hours a night, especially on swimming days. With more sleep I found myself doing some writing, critiquing and reading last week.

In my last writing week update, I forgot to mention that I had another article published on Divine. This one was about the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. It was the first straight news item I had written for the magazine and I wrongly tried to personalise it a bit. So the editor made a few changes. I have written and had published two articles in October. That makes four all up.

I plan to write another article this week. This one is about what happened when we placed my father in a nursing home. It is a companion piece to a previous article I wrote about caring for my father who had dementia.

I have work for the Victoria state elections on the 27th of November. Before then, I need to read an 80 page manual, watch a training DVD and complete online training. They certainly make you earn your money.

The excellent x-file-ish Fringe is back on GO this Wednesday. So along with Caprica and Stargate Universe, I have some good new release science fiction to watch. I just wish the morons at Channel 7 had promoted The Event as science fiction, as I only read this week that it had aliens in it. I have missed all its episodes so far. Dumb dumb dumb Channel 7. No wonder no one is watching it. Hopefully it will turn up on cable.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My writing week 3 (43)

Hi all,

I am feeling really tired today. Lack of sleep and stress has got to me as we engage in preliminary skirmishes in what looks likely to be a long war with the neighbours. Surprisingly, their dogs have not been the problem, they have been drowned out by the mindless thud thud thud of dance music.

The teenage son who moved into the garage got a stereo, and knowing his musical tastes are so fabulous decided to ensure all his neighbours could hear it. I went over at 10 last night and asked his mother to get him to turn it down. He did. But the noise has been back up today, so it looks like it will be a nightly event, until we get nasty. We have form with the neighbours, so I don't expect them to do the right thing without numerous actions.

I talked to another of their neighbours last night, just before I went and complained, and their history of the people living next door is full of drama. I'm not going to risk slander by restating it here. The neighbour said that another neighbour had also had run ins with them. I have previously spoken to a further neighbour and they were not impressed with them.

I have been searching the web for cheap soundproofing ideas. Double glazing is not cheap, and will it work? The noise seems to come through our wooden walls too.

So this is what happens when you take a week off writing and exercising, your neighbour's arsehole levels increase.

I do hope to get back into my routine this week. Either that or start digging trenches.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Stop to smell the roses

Hi all,

It's one of those rare occasions that I have the house to myself. On these occasions, I usually take a holiday from my disciplined program of exercise, knowledge gathering and writing activities. I usually watch a few videos, listen to some music, have a few drinks, think about life and writing, and watch the world go by.

I have looked through my DVD collection and watched The Heretic and Razorback among other films. After watching The Heretic, I am wondering if it should be included as a science fiction film, because its premise has Linda Blair's character and a priest being telepathically connected with a electronic instrument.

Razorback depicts a lot of redneck Aussies and I wonder if that is why it was so derided. It did go on about Kangaroos becoming hunted to extinction from overhunting. Which was always bullshit.

I have thought up a personal article to write for divine. An article about my fascination with fire, which ended when youthful misadventure resulted in me being on fire. Years later I worked for the forestry commission and fought a couple of bush fires.

I have been wondering about my neighbours. Particularly those who keep dogs. On my left are neighbours who have gone through four dogs in about four years. I complained to them about a very loud barking German Shepherd. It disappeared a few weeks later. They then got a Labrador, which didn't bark much, so much so that we don't know when it disappeared. They recently got another a Jack Russell that barks during the day, but not much at night. Then just recently we could hear whimpering from their garage, they had another dog.

I was shocked to see them walking both dogs a few days ago. I have never seen then do it before. Meanwhile, I heard whimpering from the left side house. A house vacant for a few months because both owners died. I stuck my head over the fence. A big brown shaggy coated dog that looked like the neighbour's of two houses down was there. I looked out the front of their house, a pest controller vehicle was there. So they must have temporary locked the dog in the dead neighbour's back yard so it would not get poisoned. The dog disappeared at the same time as the pest control vehicle.

Today, two days later, more whimpering. That dog is back in the dead neighbour's yard. I am assuming it is because the owners plan to hold a jazz festival party in their backyard. They once kept us up all night with one. But it has been raining all day, so good luck to them.
So will they remove it, or not care if its whimpering turns to barking and keeps me up. Why are so many dog owners such arseholes?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

My writing week 3 (42)

Hi all,

I had a very busy writing week last week. On Monday I sent in a pitch for three articles to Divine magazine. One of them was a review of this weekend's Wangaratta Jazz Festival. The editor suggested rather than a review, that I write more of a news item alerting people to the coming festival. I agreed to do it, which meant that instead of a three week deadline, it would need to be submitted by today.

I read through the Jazz festival website and then rang the publicist of the event to ask a few questions, she asked me to email them to her. To my surprise she replied very quickly. She even sent a couple of requested photos to use for free. I also rang a few motels to check out their accommodation situation for people with disabilities: they were booked out up to two years in advance.

I had already done some preliminary research at the tourist info board, before I sent in the pitch, so I was then right to write it. It took a couple of hours to write and then I edited it once every day, until Sunday when I emailed it in.

On Wednesday, the editor sent me a revised copy of an article I had written called Live Long and Prosper. The editor had suggested a personal article which told readers something about the magazines writers. I had written an article connecting two things that are important to me: science fiction and global warming. He had made only a few changes to the article I had submitted, mostly to suit the site's writing style. The article went up on Thursday.

So I have had three articles appear, with another one hopefully up this week. The editor was also happy with the two other ideas I pitched to him.

Divine work kept me away from progressing very far with the novella I am writing. Perhaps this week.

I forgot to mention I read issue 47 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine a couple of weeks ago. The first issue I had read since issue five. If issue 47 is any guide, the magazine has improved, more science fiction, less high fantasy. The standout story was The Ship's Doctor by Charlotte Nash, her first sale. Closely followed by Acid, written by Debi Carroll. The format of the magazine was cleaner and there were no attempts at humorous fillers about ASIM. Patty Jansen, the editor for this edition, did a good job.


Aussiecon 4 - The market sessions

Hi all,
I have finally gotten around to writing a post about three marketing sessions I attended at Aussiecon4. My first attempt got lost on a click on my mouse and since then I have been busy. Well, busy for me.
The three sessions I attended were enlightening. They emphasised how hard it is to get published, but after you’ve been researching publishing for a while and joined a few writing groups you already know it’s darn near impossible, so what more can be said to put me off. What’s that, I have to sell your soul? Sorry I’m an atheist.
Anyway, by the time I get my novels ready to be published, ebooks will have drastically changed the publishing industry. So much so, that many of the people who spoke at these sessions will be working in other industries.
What we Publish.
This session featured editors from the three big US science fiction publishers. Patrick Neilsen Hayden from Tor, Ginjer Buchanan from Ace, and Toni Weisskopf from Baen. Alex Adsett, a publishing consultant, was the fourth member of the panel. Tor works with Pan Macmillan in Australia.
There was some playful (?) tension between Patrick and Ginjer during the session.
They started by talking about book formats in the US. Trade paperbacks are only sold to bookselling specialists in the US. Supermarkets only sell mass market paperbacks.
Baen is increasingly using the tradepaperback as the original book for an author. But they also use ebooks, hardcovers and mass market. Ace doesn’t do original ebooks.
For the customer who can’t wait for the release of the next book from an author, Baen has started to sell ebook review copies at a premium price.
Ace and Tor said that military science fiction is a big sub-genre at the moment, especially around father’s day.
They said the third novel from an author can prove to be the hardest to get published. If their first novel doesn’t set the world on fire, which the vast majority don’t, a publisher who believes in an author may still take a chance on a second novel, but if that doesn’t sell, then it is very unlikely that an author will get a third chance.
Ace said it was very hard for an Australian to get an agent in the US. Agents want to be able to meet with their clients, and send them on book tours etc.
Be warned, Baen said that if you are unagented and get accepted by a publisher, and then go out and get an agent who attempts negotiate the contract, they won’t be very happy.
Fantasy outsells science fiction 2:1 in the US. I would have expected fantasy to outsell science fiction by a lot more. I think it would in Australia.
I heard about the book depository for the first time. Alex said it is the new Amazon because its books and delivery charges are much cheaper. From what I have been reading on sites like Goodreads, it certainly seems to be taking off in Australia. Does Amazon care enough about the small Australian market to even fight back?
I left the session thinking that US science fiction editors did appear human.
To Market: How to sell your Short Stories.
The legendary science fiction author and editor Robert Silverberg created a bit of tension with Canadian novelist Cory Doctorow on this panel. Chirpy novelist David D Levine, Australian novelist Angela Slater and Leslie (did not catch her surname and it was not listed on the program) were also present.
The panels started by telling us how they first got their short stories published.
Robert Silverberg said that a famous writer moved in next door who turned out to be Harlan Ellison. He introduced him to the editors of his magazine and said Silverberg was a great writer. Silverberg sold two stories and they all lived happily ever after. He said he made himself useful. If they needed 75,000 words by Tuesday he did it.
Cory Doctorow started sending off stories when he 16, he sent them to fanzines and didn’t get paid anything for them. He then sold a couple of short stories to minor magazines. He went to Clarion (a reoccurring theme) and conventions. He said he didn’t think it made his writing any better, but personal contacts helped. He worked as a columnist for a magazine who published his first professional story after seven years as a columnist. He kept on pressing for them to publish his stories and was turned down time and time again before they finally said yes.
David D Levine broke into the industry in 2001. He became a technical writer straight out of college. He didn’t write fiction because it was too much like work. Fourteen years later he decided he wanted to so, he went to Clarion. He sold some stories and entered competitions like Writers of the Future, which he thought was excellent publicity.
Angela Slater had a really supportive supervisor while she was studying for a masters in writing. She stressed you should be polite to everyone, because you never know who you’re going to be working with. She was approached by Tantalus to republish some of her stories as a collection.
Leslie met her collaborator on eBay, Mike Preswick? She bought one of his books, and said she hadn’t read any of his short stories. He said we can’t have that and sent her some of his stories. She critiqued them and sent them back to him. She said maybe she could do that herself and they collaborated, and they sold that story. Then she wrote a couple of her own and sold those to Asimov and Analog. Now all of her stories are pre-sold. She’s a Campbell nominee. She’s only been writing for two years. Her first story was written in October 2008 and published in November.
David said personal contacts are not necessary. But he had only been getting rejection letters from Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine and then he met the editor, who recognized his name from those submissions and had been watching his work get better, and was just waiting for one of his stories to be good enough to buy. He had actually been rooting for him.
David asked whether an online presence was important for the other writers.
Angela said her agent told her to set up a blog and a website, because people were looking for her.
Leslie said she didn’t have much of an online presence, no website, but she had written a couple of articles, one recently about being a writer for the past year.
David has had a blog since before there was a word for it. He has a Livejournal blog, and says there are a lot of writers who talk about the craft on Livejournal.
Cory Doctorow has a big online presence from Boing Boing.
Robert is not on Facebook or Twitter. He has a website that is maintained for him.
Robert then asked if they though it was possible to make a living selling short stories.
Cory said no because they still only pay 3-4 cents a word. Sometimes there are cases where he is offered $4 a word, but a lot of those were solicitations, and in order to keep getting those, he would have to keep up with the ones he had been offered. Even if he could keep up, he couldn’t live off that.
Angela said that even if you submit a short story to an anthology, the best you’re going to get is $50 and a copy of the anthology.
David said for unsolicited stories, check out
What I got from this session is that once your writing reaches an acceptable level, it is who you know that is going to get your short story published, but don’t expect to make any money out of it.
The Future of Short Fiction
A small panel for this session as two members failed to turn up. Cory Doctorow did though. By now he might have been thinking he had a stalker because I had seen him in four sessions. His enthusiastic performance over those panels had me buying one his books, he had even gone to the trouble of signing all of the books in the dealer’s room. I saw him scrambling under a table to find boxes of them to sign. The other panellist, was Australian short story writer and fiction editor of Borderlands magazine, Stephen Dedman. He muttered something about having a hangover, I think.
Cory felt that the short story format was ideal for the web. People did not have the discipline to read long novels on computers as they were constantly multitasking from one application to another.
Stephen thought the web would be the salvation of the short story. It would allow a short story to be the length it needed to be, not restricted by submission guidelines in paper magazines. I have often thought that the novella may become a more accepted form as an ebook.
Cory hoped that publishers would try to make the physical edition of anthologies/novels more beautiful, so people would want to own it, rather then downloading an electronic file.
Cory said no one has ever made money from selling short stories, and the future will be no different.
Cory said podcasting of stories is one growing market. He recommends escape pod, a website that passes the hat around to get money. It has 20,000 listeners and buys reprints.
They agreed with an audience member that short story writing is all about making a name for an author, not about making money.
Cory thought was a good idea, where you can create your own anthology for $14.95 from a selection of stories and get it sent to you.
Cory has monetised typos on an ebook collection, you point out typos, he will fix it, and include a note in ebook referring to you.
This session was on Monday afternoon, so I think the panellists and audience were a bit Aussieconed out by this stage.
But I have not finished yet. I still have posts to make on: the future of publishing; the future in general; and editing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My writing week 3 (41)

Hi all

I have been busy writing and doing paperwork type things for DiVine online magazine. I read their writer's guide, and you will hopefully see some of their advice on writing online in this blog with more shorter sentences and less thirty-three word sentences like this one. They reckon the ideal length is about ten words. I probably was told this in the Interactive Writing subject in my Master of Creative Writing, but then again I might not have been.

After reading the writer's guide I rewrote the last article I had written and emailed it to them. It's a personal article, telling people something about my interests. I choose to talk about the possible connection between solving global warming and science fiction. I included headings. (Not sure about putting them in a blog.) The article has yet to be accepted. From now on we have to query the editor before we write a story.

I sent my first invoice in for two stories that are already up on the site. In two weeks I should receive payment and then I will be running around yelling: look at me, I am a paid writer.

I also got a photo back that will be used on the DiVine site. It made me look human so I have decided to place it on my blog and other pages. The professional photographer actually got me to smile. The previous photo on this blog was from about ten years ago. As you may have noticed, I have attempted to cultivate a beard since then.

Last week I also did some research into another article and found myself frequently writing down ideas and adding to others.

Other than DiVine I spent some time catching up on my newspaper reading. I am not sure if they sacked the proofreader at The Age, but I kept on spotting typos. In one article they had the Federal Government spending $60 BILLION on pumping carbon dioxide into the ground. I think that should have been $60 million. I saw three other typos in that edition and the one I read today had two typos in one article, witting instead of willing, twice.

So with DiVine and my newspaper reading, I had little writing time for my novella. I did a bit. One good session and I will have the draft finished.

I also did not get around to my Aussiecon post on the Marketing sessions. But have faith, it will appear soon.

3G Problems with Kindle

(There you are, I got a heading in.) I intend to buy a Kindle with some of my writing money. But I read recently about a person having 3G connection problems and telstra couldn't give a stuff. It left me wondering if 3G downloads will work in Wangaratta. If you have a Kindle, have you had these problems?


Sunday, October 10, 2010

My writing week 3 (40)

Hi all,

I really enjoyed the Divine magazine introduction/training day on Friday. I went down to Melbourne on Thursday night and stayed in the same hotel in which the training day was being held. There were twelve other writers, some with obvious disabilities, others it was hard to tell, and like me, they weren't shouting about it. I spoke to about half of the group during the day - I'm not great at small talk, so I am not one to cruise a room.

Two of the writers from last year's inaugural intake came along to tell us about their experiences. One named Graeme writes science fiction too.

I learnt that we would be paid for any of the articles we sent in with our applications that were put on the magazine's website. Two of mine were: one on how ebooks will make reading easier for people with a disability and the other on looking after my father who had dementia. It feels like found money so I will spend some of it on a present for myself, perhaps I will finally go over to the darkside and buy a Kindle. We are also told that we could submit more than one article a month.

There is a second training day this week on Tuesday for about ten other writers.

Along with a 60 page Writer's Guide, we got some snazzy looking business cards, complete with braille notations and a free memory stick. I also got free accommodation for the night before and after. I know two of the other writers came from regional areas, Traralgon (not far from Heyfield and Newry in East Gippsland where I lived as a child) and the other from Geelong.

When I arrived in Melbourne on Thursday I noticed a lot of police on the streets (must be a state election coming up), but on Saturday morning they were all gone and there were a few beggars about. Not that I think police should be running around hassling those who are desperate.

On Wednesday I attempted to write a blog post on three marketing panels I saw at Aussiecon, but accidentally deleted the 1000 words or so I had written and then a thunderstorm came along, so I packed up for the day. The rewritten post should be up on Thursday this week.

I watched the first two episodes of Caprica and it looks like it could become a science fiction classic. It centres around the creator
(played by Eric Stoltz) of the cylons that destroyed most of humanity in Battlestar Galactica.

This week will be bit of a catch up week and one of preparing myself for writing at Divine by doing such things as reading the Writer's Guide. I also hope to make a bit more time to write the novella I am still working on.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

My writing week 3 (39)

Hi all,

Just got the signed contract from Divine in the mail. It came with a form to fill in if I wanted to be excused from getting an ABN number. Wasn't sure if I should have one or not so I contacted the tax office, who wouldn't give me a definitive answer, instead directing me to an article on the tax office website. Read the article and then asked my sister who works for the tax office, and I have decided, my main reason for writing for Divine is for recreational purposes and not as a business venture, so I won't have to get an ABN.

I am currently critiquing a spec fiction novel and have to get a move on, don't want it taking four months like the last one. Fortunately this one is half the size. Its first two chapters have me intrigued, the initial setup reminds me of the recent series The Prisoner, not in story, but both have someone in a bizarre location trying to figure out where they are and how they got there.

I don't have any additional reading to do for my remaining Aussiecon posts, unlike for the last one on climate change, so I hope to write the rest of them this and next week. I reckon I have four more to go, covering eleven panels.

For those who missed it, Caprica, a prequel to Battlestar Galactica started on 7mate last Thursday at 9.30. I messed up recording it, so I need to catch it on sevenyahoo. Caprica is set 58 years before the original.

I didn't do a lot of writing last week, and this week will probably not be much better as I have relatives visiting at the moment and I go down to Melbourne for a couple of nights to attend a training day at Divine later this week. Looking forward to it.

So far I have not run into any gloating Collingwood fans. The bloke at the corner store missed his opportunity this morning. The replay didn't really feel like a grand-final to me so I don't think it should count.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aussiecon 4 - The Climate Change Panels (Part 2)

Hi all,
I attended four climate change sessions at Aussiecon 4, two of them I wrote about in my last Aussiecon post.
Designer Planet: Averting Climate Change with Geoengineering.
This session was conducted solo by science fiction author Gregory Benford. He is also an astrophysicist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. I have read a number of his novels including the excellent 1980 Nebula Award winner Timescape.
During the talk he gave out his email address so people could request further information, I did so. He emailed back a number of articles including two which comprised much of what he said during his talk, and an excellent article Prozac for the Planet by Christopher Cokinos, about a geoengineering conference which he attended.
Gregory Benford started by telling us that greenhouse gases make up 388 parts per million of the atmosphere, and that is increasing by 3ppm per year. (Currently world attempts focus on keeping it below 450 ppm, which would cause an expected 2 degrees Celsius average global temperature increase).
He says after us pumping 200 years of CO2 into the atmosphere, a ½ metre rise in oceans is inevitable.
He said that no economist he knew thought we could replace our current energy sources with renewables in less than 50 years, so we have to find other means of fighting global warming. He seemed very doubtful about the planet’s governments getting their act together and reducing our greenhouse gas output to anything near what was required.
He dismissed space based reflection of sunlight back into space as it would cost about three trillion dollars.
One surprising point he mentioned is that while tropical countries clear their rain forests, the temperate nations have been growing more trees, with tree coverage rebounding in the US after 1950.
He thought about half the US CO2 emissions could be captured if the US grew tree crops on economically marginal croplands. In the short term this would work, but we would soon run out of land. Soaking up the world’s present CO2 increase would take tree planting over a country the size of Australia. But trees absorb more sunlight than grasslands, so they might increase warming in the long run.
This left other advanced technological paths to global climate stability.
· Renewable energy, but it has a high capital cost.
· Burying crops in oceans
· Magnesium carbonate bricks
· Pumping liquid CO2 to the bottom of the ocean
He said that 4-6 pg of CO2 accumulates every year. He estimates that the cost of removing that CO2 10 trillion dollars per year
He had had conducted an experiment on one way of reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many crops leave an unused residue of 30% of the crop. This residue could be bundled together and floated down rivers on barges and then dropped into the ocean, below the ocean’s thermocline so the carbon it released stayed in the oceans for at least a thousand years. This method could account for about 13% of the total US carbon emissions in 1990. Acidification of the oceans is occurring in the top km, so the bundles would be sank much further down.
He said this method operated at a 92% efficiency. Whereas turning crops into ethanol only had a 32% efficiency.
He then suggested a way of geoengineering the planet to reflect sunlight back into space. He said we could compensate for the effect of all the greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution if we reflected one percent of the sun’s light. This would solve the greenhouse effect for many decades.
The best way to reflect the sun’s rays would be by spreading dust or droplets of sulfuric acid into the stratosphere. Tiny particles stay aloft for several years. According to his notes “the amount of droplets or dust needed is at most ten times smaller than the amount already blown into the atmosphere by natural processes.”
But there are possible side effects such as the ozone layer being affected.
So he suggested an experiment should be conducted over the Arctic. He thought this might gain ground because the US, like Russia, hides its subs under the Arctic, so the military might be agreeable to an experiment that prevented the sea ice from melting. He said that the KC10 extender plane, airforce mid-air refuelling jets, that are just about to be retired, could be used to spread the dust. He suggested it would cost about 2-3 billion dollars to screen the Arctic for a year.
“Ken Caldiera, who holds the chair at the Carnegie Institute at Stanford University has modelled the idea of Arctic cooling…his preliminary findings show that a full scale program of adding aerosols at stratospheric levels could restore the Arctic within a few years.”
More sea ice means less dark sea and more reflection of sunlight.
I was not too sure what would happen after a successful experiment. I got the impression that cooling the Arctic substantially, might slow global warming over the entire planet. But, as Gregory said, we can’t just keep pumping aerosols into the stratosphere to combat a continual increase in greenhouse gases, the oceans would become more acid, and a disaster could happen if the aerosols failed, leading to a sudden increase in temperatures. He sees the spraying of aerosols into the stratosphere as a measure to stall climate change and give us more time to reduce the output of greenhouse gases.
I left the session a bit more hopeful for civilisation, as geoengineering the planet might be a solution to our political unwillingness to do anything substantial about climate change.
Climate Change: Possible Futures for Planet Earth.
Authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Sean McMullen, moderator Grace Duncan, an exhausted science communicator Tiki Swain and environmental scientist Jonathon Cowie.
I had heard much of what Jonathon Cowie and Kim Stanley Robinson had to say in previous sessions on climate change. Jonathon reiterated some of the science, Kim, stressed the need to use all possible greenhouse gas reduction methods, like reverting to sailing ships and using a combination of organic and genetically engineered food production.
Sean McMullen stressed that we had to change our values, to use less energy. He had gone from living in a 17 room mansion to a two bedroom flat. He hoped there would be less food wastage. He felt the soft underbelly of reducing greenhouse gases was reducing waste.
Tiki hoped there would be more emphasis on the sharing of resources, ie, the sharing of farm machinery between farmers.
Personally, I think we should try everything including nuclear power, genetic engineering, banning air travel in favour of large sailing ships and teleconferencing, and geoengineering, and start implementing it now.
I grow a lot of my own veggies and fruit. We installed a solar hot water panel last year. This year we got rid of the old gas heater and installed a thermostatically controlled one. Not only did doing the above decrease my greenhouse gas output but it saves us money. Energy prices are only going to keep on going up. I don’t own a car and walk everywhere, even though I live in the country. Walking gives me time to think, about writing, about climate change, about the future of humanity.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My writing week 3 (38)

Hi all,

I was reading a blog post by Joe Konrath who has written a book called the Newbie's Guide to Publishing and has a blog of the same name (he also has five or so novels in a detective thriller series). He makes a good argument from the author's side for charging $2.99 for an ebook, but I am not so sure about his argument from the consumers side. You can argue all you like about what price a consumer is willing to pay and what price ebooks will eventually be, but those arguments have to be backed up with what is happening in the publishing world.

People who have read some of my blog posts and comments on other people's blogs about ebooks would know that I am not very hopeful about the short term future of the publishing industry. They would also know that I reckon the price of the average ebook in the near future will be zero. People who read this blog would also know that about once a month I visit Amazon's bestselling Kindle ebook list to see what prices were charged for the top 100 bestsellers, something I have neglected to do for six weeks as I have been busy writing for Divine online magazine and I went to Aussiecon, but just a few minutes ago I went and had a look.

The story so far, in the beginning about a third of the ebooks in the top 100 were priced a $2, about half a dozen were free, about 12 were $2.01 - $4, with the majority being about $7 to $12. This situation remained relatively stable for about six months. About 10 weeks ago things drastically changed. There were now no $2 ebooks, with that third of the top 100 now being taken up by free ebooks. There were also less ebooks in the $2.01 to $6 range. The same prices were evident when I had a look six weeks ago.

Today I found that there were five ebooks priced at $2.99, so perhaps some authors have quickly taken Joe's advice. There were also 15 ebooks priced from $4 to $9.99 and 29 ebooks priced over $10. That leaves 51 ebooks, all free. So the trend from the data suggests that most ebooks will be eventually be free. Interestingly, one of the free ebooks, coming in at number 96, was The Communist Manifesto.

I know I am only looking at the top 100 kindle ebooks. One day when I get time I might try to go through the top thousand. And the situation might be different at the Book Depository, Barnes and Noble or ibooks. But if they are following the same trends as Kindle, it looks like I might have reached the right conclusion. Whether any of my reasoning is correct is another matter.

I have been feeling tired lately due to illness, but feel like I am finally over it. This morning I swam a lot faster in the pool and did not fall asleep repeatedly while reading the newspapers (I do most of my reading lying on the couch or bed). So I hope to do a lot more writing this week of the novella, which I only wrote a 500 words of last week. I also want to write another Divine article this week.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Aussiecon 4 - The Climate Change Panels (Part 1)

Hi all,

I attended four panels on climate change at Aussiecon. Kim Stanley Robinson appeared on three of them. He appeared to be a committed environmentalist who hopes that humanity, and Americans in particular, will change their behaviour to solve the problems of climate change.

I personally don't have that much faith in our solving of climate change, due to a misleading media run by greedy billionaires who could care less about the world when they are dead.

I think we will only start to act when it is too late. A lot of people forget, or don't know, that greenhouse gases we are pumping out today, will stay in the atmosphere for centuries, so when climate change is at its worst, it will stay that way for centuries. That is unless science comes up with an answer. A lot of people hope science will come up with an answer. One of the panels questioned this hope, another provided this hope.

Destroying the Future to Save the Planet: The Environmental Politics of SF/F.

The panelists included: Kim Stanley Robinson, John Clute (science fiction reviewer and critic), Jonathon Cowie (environmental scientist), Glenda Lake (fantasy novelist), and Tom Moylan
(Glucksman Professor of Contemporary Writing and Director of the Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies, University of Limerick) as moderator.

Kim Stanley Robinson stressed our need to live more environmentally friendly lives.

John Clute's idea that science fiction might mislead us into to thinking that science can come up with a answer to climate change dominated this session. He blamed this on
Robert A Heinlein, who as an engineer lived to solve problems, so his stories and novels usually had science solving a problem.

Jonathon Cowie, said that 26% of
UK physics graduates decided to do physics because of science fiction. If they read Heinlein then they would probably believe science offers a solution to climate change.

The panellists believed we are approaching a tipping point -
Cowie mentioned UK chief scientist John Beddington's perfect storm of food, water and energy shortages in 2030.

So perhaps after 2030, a world in turmoil will no longer be able to afford to fight climate change.
Climate Change and Utopia

A solo Kim Stanley Robinson presented his ideas on climate change and science fiction utopias.

He disagreed with the concept of sustainable development, which he thought was humanity saying: let’s just continue to live like we have, but get away with it.

He has a garden and solar panels.

He wishes they had a preferential voting system in the
US so environmental parties would get a look in at the elections.

He mentioned that one-third of humanity's food comes from the oceans, but greenhouse gases are raising its PH level which might kill the bottom of the food chain.

He thinks we are in a Wylie E. Coyote moment of having just run off the edge of the cliff, with a legs still pumping as we see the drop (climate change) below.

He believes it is still possible to get to a carbon neutral state, but it would take some severe action. Nuclear power has to be used as a bridging technology. Genetic engineering might also be part of the solution, for example, rice that can survive two month floods instead of the previous two week floods. He's against notions of purity, i.e., that the solution has to be pure and contain no nuclear power, no genetic engineering.

On science fiction, he mentioned how science fiction writers now concentrate on dystopias, whereas decades ago they were trying to image the perfect society. He reckons it is much easier to write dystopias then think up utopias

He feels that there might be topic saturation about global warming in the news, so many readers might not want to read about it in science fiction (this had alarm bells ringing in my head).
Overall the panellists in these two panels doubted that science fiction would provide an answer to global warming.

I have still yet to read all of Gregory Benford's additional notes on his talk, so I have decided to split the climate change panels into two posts. Hopefully I will have the second post up early next week.