Sunday, August 29, 2010

My writing week 3 (34)

Hi all,

I have been accepted by the online magazine Divine to write one article per month for the next twelve months. The original request for writers had only six month contracts, but I still reckon I have more than enough ideas for articles.

Divine is aimed at people with disabilities but topics are wide ranging. I still have no idea how much I will be paid per article and will probably have to wait until my first meeting with the management of the magazine in early October to find out. The contract period does not begin until October which gives me plenty of time to write a couple of articles and get ahead of schedule. One of the articles I plan to write will require a bit of research, another two might come from the this week's Aussiecon 4.

Yaaahooo Aussiecon 4, which I have been sooo looking forward too, starts this Thursday, and I will be down in Melbourne for the whole convention. I was worried that I might run out of things to do but I have just finished going through the programme and I have highlighted 83 panel discussions. About a third are must attend, like the one on climate change geo-engineering run by mega-science fiction author and physicist Gregory Benford, loved his novel Timescape.

Besides lots of science fiction sessions there are plenty of discussions conducted by editors too. One session on medical ethics might make a good article for Divine. I also particularly want to see Sean McMullen and Chine Mieville in action.

Between sessions, I hope to say hello to many fellow writers who I know through social networking sites. I also hope to catch up with a few friends that live in Melbourne. So I am going to be really busy.

Last week I did a bit more writing of a novella, with its new extended ending finally near completion. I also did some critiquing.

My next blog might be a bit late next week as I am sure I will have plenty to write about.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

My writing week 3 (33)

Hi all,

Civilisation has not ended yet, there is still hope that the fascist Tony Abbott and his hopelessly self-serving underlings won't form the next government of Australia. At least there was hope at 12 noon today (Monday) when I watched the ABC news, which had the vote at 73 Labour, 70 Liberal, 3 independents, 1 Green and 3 seats in doubt. I didn't really think there were that many rich white Christian males in Australia. Anyone else who voted for them probably reads the crap in the Murdoch press or believes the crap on commercial television news.

I worked at the Rutherglen polling booth in north-east Victoria on Saturday. Our local member - opposition spokesperson for science and innovation and practicing luddite - Liberal Sophie Merribella easily won the booth but, interestingly, the Senate vote was much closer. This could mean that for the House of Reps a lot of voters were convinced by Sophie's media advertising campaign and/or the low quality of the Labour candidate, or voters were concerned with what the Liberals might do if they control the Senate.

I just read in The Age that professional writers in Australia earn on average $4000 a year, so most of them, if they have kept themselves informed on politics, would be hoping for a Labour rather than a Liberal government. Abbott will hoe into the poor and blame them for their plight if he manages to form a government. A few of his last minute policies included cutting 1.5 billion from schemes aimed at helping the poor to get to university and from schemes to improve poor schools.

And of course nothing will be done about climate change if Abbott gets in as he will be too busy cutting money from climate change programs because of the GREAT BIG LABOUR DEBT (that will be his government's often repeated line for the next term). If Labour forms a minority government they will be even more scared of a mining company campaign if they try to do anything about climate change.

With Obama's democratic party about to be wrecked in mid-term elections in the US, the world's main hope for something occurring on climate change is the Chinese, who are doing things such as shutting thousands of polluting factories and becoming the biggest user of renewable energy in the world.

I think society is in for a very hard time over the next century unless science comes up with a timely answer to climate change - bring on nano-technology and genetic engineering. Any future generations - assuming some survive the environment's destruction and wars over water and food - will look back at us with hatred. We are so selfish. Ignorance is no excuse.

About the only positive is that a world ravaged by global warming makes excellent material for apocalyptic science fiction.

In among all my angst about the results of the election and completing online training for it I did a bit more writing of my novella. It is still nowhere near finished.

And yaaaa there are only ten more sleeps to Aussicon.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

My writing week 3 (32)

Hi all,

Not much to report on the writing front this week so this will be a brief post.

I still haven't heard from Divine the online magazine that I sent a couple of articles too. I sent them an email last Monday and was told that they would get back to all submitters later that week, they didn't.

A couple of weeks ago Divine sent an email asking if they could run one of the articles I had written. I said I would be happy for them to use it if it meant that I would be getting a contract. They sent another email saying they were yet to decide on the writing contracts. A few days later when I looked at the Divine website there was my ebook article.

I had a choice of asking them to take it down and perhaps causing them to look negatively at my application, or to let leave it up and hope that Divine had reasonable ethics, it is run by a State Government department. I should have been clearer with my emails, but not wishing to offend...oh well, I can only live and learn.

I did a bit more writing of my novella, I seem to be getting further and further away from its end.

For the environment, the poor, the non-christian, for Australia's future infrastructure development, for multiculturalism, for Australia's original inhabitants and for a fairer Australia, I hope Abbott doesn't get in this weekend. The only informed people who would vote for Abbott are rich, male, white Christians.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Queen, H.M. Brown, A review.

Hi all,

I decided to read Red Queen, by Australian author H.M. Brown, after reading a review of it in The AGE. The review was positive and said that the novel had won last year’s Aurealis award for best horror novel, but that is not what had me wanting to read it, it was the prospect of reading an apocalyptic novel set in Australia that raised my interest.
The novel is set after a virus has decimated the population. Two brothers, Shannon and Rohan, are hiding from the virus in a very well stocked cabin in the Australian bush. The story is told from the viewpoint of 23 year-old younger brother, whose life is dominated by his much older brother Rohan.

The brothers have electric power from a water wheel, sheep, chooks and three shipping containers full of plentiful supplies for two people. They are constantly on guard for the arrival of virus carriers and thieves, and always carry rifles. Shannon stays up at night to guard the cabin.
Their monotony of survival is wrecked when Denny, a smart, sexy woman appears. The conflict she creates between the brothers is not the cliché of a sibling rivalry fight over her: it’s more subtle, as she attempts to manipulate the brothers into getting what she wants.

The conflict between Denny and the brothers keeps the tension high throughout the novel. The fact that there is an outside world with a deadly virus that could intervene at any moment is forgotten as the reader tries to figure out what Denny is up to.

I did wonder at it winning the Aurealis for best horror novel. The only real horror element is the virus, which could easily have caused it to be labelled as science fiction, but if it was labelled just as a thriller, it could be mistaken for being a crime novel. It is possibly a hard book for the publisher to pigeon-hole.

Red Queen is one of the best thrillers I have read, due to its constant tension and polished writing. I found myself stopping to marvel at some of the author’s short quick descriptions. I also appreciated the novel’s shortness; it didn’t seem to contain any unnecessary scenes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My writing week 3 (31)

Hi all,

Back to ebooks this week. It seems that publishers might lose control of ebooks quicker than they thought according to last week's Bookmarks column in the Saturday Age. It said that agent Andrew Wylie has made exclusivity deals with Amazon, cutting out both publishers and other ebook sellers. In effect Wylie has set himself up as a publisher.

I wonder how Wylie will feel when authors start cutting their agents out of ebook deals and doing it themselves, after all, if Amazon, Google, Apple dominate as the seller and pay the same royalties to everyone, what point is there of having an agent for an ebook? And when ebooks dominate the publishing industry in a few years time, what relevance will agents have?

It has been a month since I checked the prices charged for the Kindle bestselling top 100. Last time I was surprised at the demise of the $2 ebook and again I found none in the top 100. Last time there was a massive increase in free ebooks, accounting for a third of those on the list, 35 were free this time. Eighteen of those were classics. Most of the others seemed to be romance. Last time there were 16 selling from $2.01 - $3.50, this time there were none. The cheapest few were $4.60. The majority of the rest of the ebooks were from $8.99 to $12.99.

So the market seems to be polarising, free or $8.99 to $12.99. I wonder if this has changed the business plan of many ebook authors who were/are selling their ebook for $2. Perhaps a lot of readers suspect a $2 ebook, anticipating them to be badly edited or self-published. Maybe authors/publishers are finding $2 to be uneconomical and are increasing the price. Or a lot of consumers might already have declared their intention of never paying for an ebook, not even $2. One reason for some of the free ebooks would be people testing their devices to see if the download works.

I finished reading the excellent thriller/horror/apocalyptic novel Red Queen by Aussie H.M. Brown. A review is pending.

My novella has only grown slightly over the past week.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

My writing week 3 (30)

Hi all,

Politics has been making me sick over the past week, physically. I have had diarrhoea and asthma, so you could say that the current election campaign is giving me the shits while leaving me breathless.

I believe in keeping informed, so I have been reading about the campaign in The AGE and listening/watching it on the ABC. And I am very concerned for the welfare of the poor and desperate if Tony Abbott gets in. I wonder if people who are unemployed and under 30 have heard about his plans to take away their dole payments if they don't move to where there supposedly is work, even though their might be no accommodation for them to move into, like in mining towns in WA and agricultural towns like Griffith. If they don't have a vehicle, how will they get around?

I wonder if people who are upset about electricity price rises realise that by doing nothing about climate change electricity prices will continue to rise as electrical generators continue to put off new investment in infrastructure and become more reliant on using expensive gas turbines to generate power. Gas turbines were originally built for peak period production of power, but are now being used to supply more of the base load, because of this, the energy generators are saying that electricity power prices will continue to rise. In Labour's rejected ETS package those on welfare and the poor were due to receive subsidies of 120% of increased costs due to the ETS's implementation.

Those who are so against refugees arriving by boat because of the failing infrastructure in Sydney, and vote for Abbott's reintroduction of failed boat people policies, will also be voting for an increase in boat people. This is because Abbott will do a nothing about climate change because he doesn't believe in the science, and rising sea levels, lack of water and the resultant wars will lead to tens of thousands of refugees flowing over our borders. They wont have to travel half way around the world to get here because the will be coming from nearby pacific islands.

I wonder if Nauru is prepared to house tens of thousands of refugees for years. In their desperation for money to boost a failed economy, they probably have not thought that far ahead.

I fear that the housing currently being built for Aborigines will be slashed. Labour had 300 houses built or being built last time I heard.

I also fear that when Abbott gets in he will say, as the conservative government in England said when recently elected and as John Howard said when elected in 1996, that the deficit was bigger than expected, so we have to cut cut cut. Currently in England they are trying to cut government expenditure by 40%. They want the poor to turn to charities. In New Zealand, upon election, the new conservative government put the GST up. So what and by how much will Abbott cut welfare, health, education when he gets in?

Interest rates will only go down under Abbott if all the cuts he makes to expenditure decrease Australia's growth, ie, if unemployment rises, so there will be more poor having to cope with less welfare and increased costs.

Because of the mining boom inflating our exchange rate, farmers will continue to find it hard to compete in overseas markets. Less tourists and students will come into Australia. What happens when the minerals run out? What happens when the rest of the world puts a carbon tariff on Australia's minerals and produce?

But at least the current political climate is good fodder for writers. If you are writing a novel set in the near future you have plenty of conflict to choose from.

In amongst coughing fits and trips to the thunder box I did a bit more writing of my novella this week. Parts of it are set in a future Australia, so it takes into account what a globally warmed world's collapsing civilisation might be like.