Sunday, February 28, 2010

My writing week 3 (8)

Hi all,

During the past week or so I've been enjoying writing during the short periods I found time to write, being disappointed when I had to stop. This is very much a positive sign for the future. It could be because the section of the novel I am currently editing/redrafting is where the story twists and heads in a very different direction to where most readers would have thought it was going, that change may have also revitalised my attitude to editing it.

One of the books I am reading, and expect to be reading for most of the year, is the massive Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature. After getting through 50 pages of assorted introductions I finally got to the writing. The anthology starts with some letters and diary entries that really highlight the ignorant and racist treatment of Aborigines by the first white settlers. I expect the book to not only familiarise me with a lot of aspects of Australian literature, but also Australian history. Science fiction was briefly mentioned in the introductions, but I will be surprised if any of it appears in the anthology.

Now to my continuing study of ebooks. Stephen Page, the chief executive of Faber & Faber in London was in Melbourne a week ago for a symposium to talk about digital publishing. In article in The AGE it mentions that Faber & Faber's ebooks are priced at between 12 and 14 pounds or $20 to $24 Australian. This is much more than the price Amazon wants to charge for its Kindle books ($9.99 US) and much more than the $11.99 US that seems to be the current price for just released ebooks from established authors. Will Faber & Faber eventually be forced to lower their prices? After shelling out $250 for a Kindle and/or $500? for an ipad, a reader would have to buy a lot of ebooks to recover the cost at Faber and Faber's price. Don't get me wrong, good on Faber and Faber, they should set the best price possible for themselves and ultimately their authors.

Price wise, nothing much has changed on the Kindle bestselling top 100 list, with 28 selling for $2, four for $2.25 to $3.50 and three for free. The $11.99 price for first editions of well known authors seemed to be more established when I checked a few minutes ago.

I will be interested to see what obstacles life throws in the way of my plan to do a lot more writing and editing this week.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Writing Week 3 (7)

Hi all,

My eyes are still adjusting to cataract surgery so they tire easily. When I went to the ophthalmologist last week I learnt the right eye is weaker than the left so if I will still need glasses for reading. I need to wait another two weeks before I go to the optometrist to get a prescription for them. The surgery does seem to have been successful. Yaaaaaa.

My father seems finally to be settling down in the nursing home. I actually got a few words out of him when I last visited while he sat in one place for most of the time we were there, but he still keeps on falling over and knocking his head. His doctor and the nursing staff have finally settled on a strategy of giving him low doses of morphine to diminish the pain he says he is in; he can't tell anyone where it is. He is still on antibiotics so we don't know if he's still suffering from a urinary tract infection following the removal of a tumour from his bladder, or the pain could be from him falling out of bed and hurting his back a few months ago or just from the almost thrice weekly tumbles he takes at the home.

I just did my weekly check on the 100 bestselling Kindle ebooks and the number of cheaper ebooks fell from previous weeks, with only 26 of them selling for $2 compared to the usual 40 or so, and two for free. $11.99 seems to be a common selling price with the big name authors like Dan Brown and James Patterson. I wonder how much of the $11.99 they get.

I joined the ebook world last week when I downloaded Kindle for PC and then Graham Storrs' novel TimeSplash. If his novel had been on paper my resisted entry into the digital print age would have probably been delayed. His novel was half the cost of the big authors.

It will probably be a couple more weeks before everything, especially my eyes, settles down and I can finally devote much more time to writing. I am looking forward to increasing my output and really taking up the challenge to become a published author, one whose ebooks sell for at least $11.99.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

My writing week 3 (6)

Hi all,

Cataract surgery on my right eye last Tuesday gave me a reasonable excuse for not doing much writing last week. Just did a tiny bit every day so I can hopefully look back on this year and say: well at least I did a bit of writing every day. I am hopeful that my output will really increase from now.

I see the
ophthalmologist again tomorrow for the second and last test on my right eye. If it follows the same procedure as last time, I will have an eye chart reading test as part of it. My left eye is now 20/20 and my right eye should be the same as it has the same strength lens. Unfortunately, 20/20 vision doesn't seem to equate to not needing glasses when reading and using a computer. Oh well.

The real shame about having the surgery now on both eyes is that in a few weeks - touch wood - I won't be able to use bad eyesight as the excuse for all the typos I seem to be making lately - or perhaps with improved eyesight I am only just starting to see them all.

As in the previous two weeks, I have gone and checked Amazon's Kindle bestseller list to check out the prices of ebooks. Thirty were selling for $2, four for $2.25 to $3 and two for free. Interestingly, a lot of the $2 books were classic speculative fiction like Frankenstein and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Four of the top ten were selling for $2. Overall, the prices of ebooks on the list are much the same as for the previous two weeks.

Perhaps next week I will finally start a blog post with: I did an amazing amount of writing last week. Yeah and Tony Abbott might raise women to somewhere above sub-human status.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cataract Surgery, part two.

Hi all,

It seems that my right eye has survived cataract surgery - wait a sec while I touch some wood. I had it done on Tuesday and went and saw the
ophthalmologist, or Dr Nick as he is called (no relation to Dr Nick in the Simpsons), yesterday. He said everything is fine. When he removed the eye patch there wasn't the big transformation in my vision that had occurred after I had the left eye done. Its cataract had been more substantial and when it had been removed my vision became much clearer, with textures more prominent and colors more vivid, especially black. This time my vision only slightly improved, with perhaps a few more freckles becoming visible. It will probably be a week or so before I have an idea of what effect it has had on my reading ability.

My right eye isn't as red as the left was and there is no red splotch near its centre as there was with the left eye, no bruising around it either. In fact, two days after the surgery the right eye is giving me such little trouble I am in danger of forgetting about depositing eye drops in it four times a day.

I was first cab of the rank on Tuesday morning. After hearing two nurses saying that the doctor was waiting, my name was called and I was taken into the side room for eye drops, they stung like last time. Instead of waiting twenty minutes or so for the next lot of eye drops I only waited around five this time before being wheel chaired into the operating theatre. Unlike last time, I was aware of the injection being made below the eye, as the anaesthetist told me he was about to do it. Last time I couldn't remember it happening. The weight they put on my eye didn't seem as heavy this time, which probably accounts for the lack of bruising, maybe because the right eye wasn't as cloudy as the left it meant lesser weight needed to be used.

I was much more aware of what was going on this time, and I was only kept in post op for a couple of minutes before being wheeled out to the tea room. I don't think they gave me as much anaesthetic, perhaps because last time I probably looked like I was ready to bail out of the operation at any moment.

As of this moment, I can say that it was well worth all the worry and expense and I can now start looking forward to a much more productive year in writing.

Now I better splash in a few eye drops.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

My writing week 3 (5)

Hi all,

Not a lot to report on my writing efforts last week as I wait, with rapidly escalating dread, for my second eye to have cataract surgery tomorrow. Just hope it goes okay.

I finished reading the third and final volume of Terry Brooks' fantasy/science fiction series The Genesis of Shannara. I reckon his writing improved during the series as I wasn't noticing so many cliches near the end and I was stopping to admire a few sentences. I enjoyed the plot with its message that children are going to have to cope with the mess we created. I will post a review sometime in the future.

I read a bit more about ebooks, evidently Apple will pay publishers 70% of the listed price, which is probably why Amazon has said it will change from the current 35% to 70%. Australian publishers like Allen and Unwin don't seem too concerned about ebooks, I hope they're not just putting on a brave face.

As I did in my last writing week post, I've had a look at the Amazon bestselling ebook list and found that half of the top ten were selling for $2 and one of the others was $2.25. In the top 100, 32 were selling for $2, with another five were around $3 and two were free. When I checked last week, 34 were $2 and four were free.

If you were wondering about the state of my father, they are finally taking him off all the drugs he was on, something they said they would do when he first entered the nursing home four weeks ago. They have finally realised that the drugs are useless in getting him to sleep, which we had already told them had been happening before he was admitted to hospital. He is falling over from lack of sleep and we are worried he might do some real damage.

The state of my eyes will decide when I make my next post, bye to then.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Year Million, ed by Damien Broderick, a review.

Hi all,

I've finally gotten around to reviewing the non-fiction book Year Million edited by Damien Broderick.

Damien Broderick is one of Australia's more prolific writers. I've enjoyed a number of his novels and thought his short story collection The Dark Between the Stars the best single author science fiction collection that I've read, but it was his non-fiction book The Spike that had a big effect on my thinking about the future: humanity might survive after all with the technology singularity of the Spike saving us from ourselves.

The Year Million is a collection a essays from scientists about what they think humanity might be like approaching the year million. Some of the scientists are also science fiction writers. None of them thought we would be extinct, which would have made for a shorter book, but Gregory Benford did point out that protons would decay in 10 to the power of 34 years.

As a science fiction writer, I had hoped that I would glean some ideas for future stories from the book's 14 essays, this didn't really turn out to be the case, but perhaps one day I will write a story where virtual lifeforms try to escape from a collapsing Dyson Sphere (a computer that surrounds a star). In his essay, Robert Bradbury thinks giant computers or Matrioskha Brains attached to solar sails and orbiting stars would be far safer than Dyson Spheres; so our future might involve living as virtual entities in virtual worlds contained in Matrioskha Brains. Not according to Rudy Rucker who says that creating a virtual world with all the randomness of the real world would require all the resources of a real world and more.

Jim Holt questions whether SETI research is on the right track in sending out mathematical signals containing prime numbers, as more evolved civilisations might find prime numbers and the maths revolving around them overly simplistic and ignore such messages.

Robin Hanson's essay is about the rush to colonise space as various groups compete for new resources. He says that people who colonise a planet and decide to stay put will fall behind in the technology stakes.

Some of what the other authors had to say had been covered in the above mentioned The Spike and The Last Mortal Generation, also written by Damien Broderick, so their ideas did not stand out as something memorable and new to me.

I would suggest that Year Million not be read just before bed, when tiredness can cause some of the technical aspects of some of the essays to be confusing. My scientific education ends at year 12 physics and I did find some sections of a few of the essays hard to understand.

Overall, I felt a bit disappointed with the book as I wanted a more tangible picture of what they thought a day in the life of an entity might be like in a million years time.


Monday, February 1, 2010

My writing week 3 (4)

Hi all,

I have spent a bit of the week discussing and researching ebooks, prompted after reading a number of articles about ebooks in The Age, one of which declared 2010 to be the year of the ebook. I thought I better see what all the fuss is about.

I went over to Amazon and checked out if they shipped Kindles to Australia and their price. Well they do and it costs $256. I had already read that Apples iPad will cost about $560. Not sure whether either price is US dollars or not. My cursor hovered over the purchase button while my finger hovered over my mouse, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy a Kindle. It felt too much like supporting a huge oligopoly as they and Apple will probably monopolise the ebook industry in a few years.

Being what they are, Apple and Amazon will compete aggressively to get the most users of their reader. They have three main ways of doing this: first, create a better reader; second, have more ebooks on their shelves and; third, price.

In an article pointed out to me by writer Alan Baxter, amazon might up the royalties it currently pays for ebooks from 35% to 70% in a bid to get more ebook titles on its site. The sticking point is they want to keep the retail price below $10 for an ebook. But I am sure this won't last as once Amazon and Apple have heaps of content/titles in their ebook stores they will then compete on price and start to put the squeeze on publishers and authors, who probably will have little choice but to take what is offered. Amazon this week removed all of Pan MacMillian's ebooks reportedly because Amazon wanted the ebooks prices dropped from around $15 to $10.

I checked out Amazons top 100 selling ebooks for yesterday, four were free and 34 were $2. The publishers and authors of the $2 books will be getting a whole 70 cents. They better be massive sellers. Admittedly, a few of the $2 books were ancient relics which could be out of copyright so the author wouldn't be getting anything.

Anyway, my concern about ebooks got me thinking: why worry about it now? Why not wait until I have a book published? After all, at the rate I am editing my novel it might be a decade or so before it is finished. This might be after the great ebook flood of free promotional ebooks, free out of copyright ebooks and free illegal downloads of ebooks that destroys the publishing industry and author incomes. With ebooks only making money for anyone, including Amazon and Apple, after consumers realise that they are only going to get a quality edited product when they have to pay for it.

I wonder if other writers who are yet to be published worry about the future of publishing or just get on with the job of writing and only turn their attention to the publishing industry once they have written something they think is publishable. If they are lucky enough to be accepted for publishing, they then turn their attention to self-promotion and creating a market for their book. Or do most writers try to get in early with the self-promotion and make themselves anxious by researching how hard it is to get published and sell more than a few copies.

I did a bit more editing of Stalking Tigers this week than last. My motivation at the moment is a bit shot as I wait for cataract surgery on my second eye, due next Tuesday. The mystery will be gone this time, but I don't think the dread will have decreased much. And then I have a month or more with eye drops and not being able to swim, followed by a month or so of eye aches as my eyes adjust to their new focus. That's assuming everything goes right.