Sunday, February 27, 2011

My writing week 4 (9)

Hi all,

I had a busy week last week with a few things happening on the writing front.

New article on Divine.

My article on writer’s with disabilities was posted on Divine. The article features multi-award winning Australian science fiction author KA Bedford. I also interviewed Karen Tyrrell for the article, a writer who I think is very close to joining the ranks of those with a published book. The article is the largest I have written for Divine and its responses indicate it is one of my best.

Acknowledged in Daniel King’s new novel Datura Highway.

Last year I critiqued a terrific manuscript, Datura Highway, for Daniel King. The novel has just been published by Vexil Publishing and is available on Amazon. I did not expect the very nice acknowledge of myself he placed in the novel.

Datura Highway is a fantasy/science fiction/mystery novel. It begins with the main character in a very strange building full of statues. He doesn’t know how he got there, but finds a list of obscure clues in one of his pockets. As he travels through the huge building, the meaning of the clues, and the twists they entail, become apparent.

I enjoyed the story’s fast pace, symbolism and freshness. It kept me guessing until the end. I would recommend the novel to anybody who enjoys a good mystery, especially those who are into speculative fiction. I intend to post a review in the coming days.

My writing.

I did not write much last week. Asthma, at least I hope that is all it is, continued its assault over much of the week. I blame the humidity and constantly changing Wangaratta weather. Perhaps increased pollen in the air, due to more growth because of more rain, has something to do with it. My early morning swims in the coolish outdoor pool might be part of the problem too.

I also had a few appointments that decreased my writing time on most days.

I had planned to get stuck into my next article for Divine. It is about how ebooks might affect the publishing industry, particularly in Australia. I already have a lot of information to whittle down for a 500 word article.

So it looks like my rewriting/editing of my novella will, once more, not progress far this week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My writing week 4 (8)

Hi all,

If you haven’t heard yet, Angus and Robertson and Borders were placed into voluntary administration last Thursday. There stores are expected to continue trading as normal. There are 103 stores Angus and Robertson stores. Sixty-one franchises should not be affected. Borders has 26 stores.

We don’t have an Angus and Robertson or Borders in Wangaratta so it won’t effect my book buying. I have never been into a Borders, but had thought of them as a big American company who probably would not promote Australian authors as much as an Australian owned bookstore would. A Reading’s customer, in one of the Age articles, described Borders as a two dollar shop, making it even less likely that I would venture into them.

But it is a shame to hear that Angus and Robertson is in trouble.

Online sales were not the cause.

Online sales might have had a slight influence on Borders and Angus and Roberston’s problems, but economic analysts are saying the major cause was their owner REDgroup’s debt.

According to Age analyst Michael Evans “the private equity owners of REDgroup Retail, Pacific Equity Partners, had a simple plan – bulk up its existing bookstore business by buying a fresh revenue stream in Borders, strip out costs from overlap, then flog the combined business to the public in a float”.

Other booksellers also blame poor management and business models. Chris Redfern, who owns a bookstore in Albert Park, is quoted saying Borders had “appalling management, hopeless customer service and a poor range of books”.

Author Richard Flanagan was scathing in his opinion piece on the retailer’s troubles. He said REDgroup was “overly indebted, seeking to make up the growing difference between its mounting debt burden and its more humble income by using its businesses to fleece customers and suppliers”. He gave as an example the attempt to charge publishers up to $20,000 for shelf space.

He said, “while REDgroup's chairman, Steven Cain is now telling the federal government the company's failure is in part because of the government's decision not to open up the book market to parallel importation and thus, supposedly, cheaper books, that didn't stop the company routinely charging above recommended retail prices for its books. If it was worried about retail pricing, it wasn't reflected in its own pricing structure”.

REDgroup’s troubles are bad news for authors.

Flanagan saw the demise of Borders and Angus and Robertson as bad news for the Australian Publishing industry, saying it will cause many large publishers to “continue the process already begun of sacking staff and slashing their Australian lists, telling authors that despite their promise or their record that the market has vanished. To survive they will concentrate ever more on the books stocked by the discount department stores - Kmart, Big W and the like: celebrity titles, overseas mass-market hits, cookbooks”.

Some good news in the book retail world.

John Manigan reported in an article in Sunday’s Age that Melbourne’s Little Bookroom opened a new branch on Friday. It specialises in children’s books. One advantage the owners of the Little Bookroom think they have over online booksellers is that a parent can come in to their store and ask well informed staff what book is suitable for a certain age group. Expert knowledge is seen as a major advantage for small independent stores.

I have begun to worry over the past few years that most bookstores in Australia will close because of online trading, but as REDgroup’s debt seems to be the cause of Borders and Angus and Roberston’s problems, I can still hope that not all Australian bookstore owners are in similar financial trouble. I can’t blame their closure on online sales or ebooks.

My writing efforts last week.

In between reading many articles about Borders and Angus and Robertson, I did manage to do some editing/rewriting of my novella. I actually progressed further into the novella too. But this week I will be spending some time gathering all the information together for my next Divine article on how ebooks might affect the publishing industry. If you’re a publisher, feel free to send your thoughts to

My article about authors with a disability, featuring interviews with multi-award winning science fiction author KA Bedford and very close to being published writer Karen Tyrrell, should be up on the Divine website this Thursday.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

My writing week 4 (7)

Hi all,

I hand no excuses last week for not writing. Well maybe. The humidity and constant temperature changes set my asthma off so I was feeling a bit run down most of the week. Still, after submitting my latest article to Divine on Monday, I had plenty of time to spend editing my novella.

But I can’t seem to edit; I just end up rewriting, changing nearly every word I wrote. I spent a fair bit of time on the novella last week, compared to previous weeks anyway, and ended at nearly the same place. I find myself checking what I rewrote the previous day and revising that and going back to the start to see how it flows since I made all those changes, and then rewriting that. So I am not getting anywhere.

But I don’t spend anywhere near enough time writing. When I do, I usually start getting involved right at the time I know I have to stop and do something more important. The task is always greener.

Goal Setting: Who Needs It?

I keep on reading blog posts about articles on goal setting and committing to writing, but I usually loose interest in reading them, because most of them are just repeating common sense.

Many of them stress the need to make writing your number one priority. But I have a few other number ones. Family. Exercise. Staying informed – a must, I think, for a science fiction writer. How else am I to theorise on future trends if I have no idea what the current situation is? And what about reading? But there do seem to be a lot of writers who don’t read much, especially the wannabes.

Why I Want to Write.

A few of the articles on writing goals suggest writing a list of why writing is important. Well here goes.

1. It gives me an interest.

Shit I better come up with some more essential than that.

2. I want to learn, to grow, to think, to use my brain.

There are many other ways I could do that.

3. I want to influence the way people think.

Come on, say it: I want to change the world.

4. I want to tell an original story.

That appears to be bloody hard to do.

5. I want to leave the reader with a lasting thought or idea.

I read too many stories that are like most action movies: forgotten the minute I leave the cinema. When looking through my bookshelves I see titles that I know I enjoyed reading, but have absolutely no idea what they were about.

I have no thoughts about becoming famous, and rarely think about being published. The ebook revolution is going to make becoming a published author mighty hard for the foreseeable future, unless I choose to self-publish a free ebook. This might have my sub-conscious asking: what is the point writing if no one will ever get the opportunity to read my stories?

6. Obviously it is important that I get paid for my writing.

I am currently paid, very good rates, to write an article a month for Divine magazine. Perhaps that has diminished some of my need to be paid for written fiction. Maybe in October when my contract expires, the desire to be paid might lead to increased motivation.

At the moment I just want to complete one of the various stories/novels I have written and get a positive response from at least a few people who read it.

A timeline to complete a novel or story might be handy, but recent experience has shown that any plans I make are usually totally smashed by other things in my life. So I am currently reluctant to make plans. I prefer to just wander along and hope one day I finally finish a story.

Who knows, maybe I am just in throes of deciding whether to just give up. Maybe my subconscious has decided it is all too hard to succeed or maybe I am just losing interest in writing fiction. But then I will be out walking, checking out how much the creek’s waters have risen in the past few days, and suddenly ideas and descriptions and sentences will come flooding into my head. Some of these thoughts will be for Divine articles, but others will be about the stories I am writing. I am particularly excited when they are about my novella. So there is a part of me that definitely wants to write.

This week I hope (I typed plan, but then deleted it) to write more.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review of Years Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 2

Hi all,

This is the best of the three volumes I have read in the Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy. I had thought volume one (2005) was good, but that was mostly based on the stunning first story, Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan. I felt a bit let down by volume three (2007), with its depressing concentration on death as a theme. Volume two (2006) is easily the best.

I liked most of the stories in volume two. I didn't find myself thinking: what was that all about? Or more depressingly, not another good versus evil sword and sorcery story. What's more important, I actually remembered what some of the stories were about days after reading them. The two standout stories were the two novellas. The shorter the story the less likely it will have an impact on me. Speculative fiction stories need to be long so the author has time for world building. So novellas generally appeal more to me than stories under 5,000 words.

Greg Egan's Riding the Crocodile tells of attempts by near immortals to challenge themselves by making contact with the mysterious Aloof at the centre of the galaxy. This novella was part of the background for Egan's novel Incandesence published a couple of years later. I have read that novel and I found it a hard, but rewarding read because of its ideas. This novella is a lot easier read, it doesn't require a physics degree to understand the concepts, but it still explores many science and morality based ideas.

The other novella was Dirk Flinthart's The Red Priest Homecoming. It's a sword and sorcery tale that doesn't suck. Why, because it's not about some novice becoming the prophetised saviour of mankind. No, it tells a tale from the point of view of a naive totally unmagical, totally unwarrior like young man, who finds out that his family have been infiltrated by sinister beings. He is more of an observer than a hero. He finds his preconceptions of others drastically changed by the end of the story.

Of the shorter stories I particularly liked Skien Dogs by Leanne Frahm. It's about dogs that have been upgraded to the intelligence of humans, but as a side effect they both have cancer tumours. I knew a twist was coming, but went the wrong way in thinking, so I was surprised by it.

I enjoyed Stephen Dedman's Watch short story about a man trying not to be the last to die just before midnight. It had a killer twist at the end. Martin Living's Running, which has thrill seekers try to outrun one hell of a destructive monster was also a standout.

Volume two has me looking forward to reading volume four, which is waiting on my shelves to read.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My writing week 4 (6)

Hi all,

Authors with disability article submitted to Divine.

I’ve just submitted another article to Divine online magazine. This one is about authors with disabilities and features great responses from interviews I did with KA Bedford and Karen Tyrrell.

I had a bit of trouble verifying some of the information I had originally included in the article, especially in regards to whether some famous writers had epilepsy. Epilepsy sites were claiming Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe as epileptics, but I could not find any original biographical source to back that up.

It appears they claimed Charles Dickens because of his great descriptions of epileptic characters, but perhaps someone close to him had epilepsy. Lewis Carroll seems to have been included for similar reasons, especially some of the scenes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There’s argument that Edgar Allen Poe could have just been suffering from the effects of too much booze. And Agatha Christie’s private life, was very private. As a result, I removed any reference to epileptic authors from my article.

Hopefully the Divine article will be up in the next couple of weeks.

Amazon ebook sales larger than paperback sales

Amazon announced on the 27th of January that for every 100 paperbacks sold it sells 115 ebooks. It also sells three times as many ebooks as hardbacks. But when paperbacks and hardback sales are combined, they still outdo ebook sales. The figures don’t include downloads of the millions of free ebooks available on its site. If they were, I think overall ebook downloads would have been considerably more than sales of print books.

I have neglected my novella over the past few weeks, something I plan to rectify this week.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Writing Week 4 (5)

Hi all,

I am a bit late this week with my post. When it hasn't been too hot to write, I have been working on an article for Divine.

Where Have All The Free Ebook Gone?

I had my first look at the Amazon Kindle ebook bestseller list on Tuesday and found no free ebooks in the top 100. Had consumers finally decided there is no such thing as a free lunch and, rather than contribute to the destruction of the publishing industry and author incomes, decided to pay for all their ebooks? I don’t think so. There are still thousands of free ebooks on Amazon. What has happened, it seems, is that Amazon no longer lists free ebooks in the bestselling lists.

Why have they done this? Is it because a free ebook is not “sold”, just downloaded, and therefore it can’t be a bestseller? Or is it because Amazon wants to hide the dominance of free ebooks? Or is their some other reason.

I have been checking the top 100 bestselling ebooks about once a month for the past year and over that time the number of free ebooks in the list went from about a third to half. So by the end of this year, free ebooks could have made up two-thirds or more of the bestsellers. Amazon would not be making any money out of two-thirds of its bestselling ebooks, did it want to hide this fact from its shareholders? Or perhaps they were worried that consumers who looked at a bestselling list that included so may free ebooks would think why should I ever pay for them.

The new free on the bestselling list is 99 cents, with 23 of the top 100 at that price. To me, charging 99 cents is like saying, I’m not sure my ebook is good enough for someone to actually pay me for it. There were 13 ebooks priced from a dollar to $2.98. At the ebook guru recommended price of $2.99 there were 11. From $3-4.99 there were seven. From $5-$7.99 there were 18. From $8 to $8.99 there were 5 and at $9 and over there were a massive 21. One price was unknown (not available in Aust) and another was 95 cents.

Ebooks Now Available Through Readings.

Yes, you have read right, the Melbourne institution Readings bookstore is now selling ebooks online. Be warned the website is annoying to navigate with many deadends. They are selling a very limited number of ebooks from publishers like Text Publishing. They are using Monocle, open source software, so anyone with a web browser can read the ebooks. If your ereader doesn’t have a web browser, you wont be able to read their ebooks.

I was amazed at the prices that Readings were charging, they averaged around $15 per ebook. How much of the $15 would the publisher and then the author get? I will be interested to see if they bring the prices down so they can compete with Amazon.

Lack of Sleep Limited Writing.

It uncomfortably hot for sleeping last week and it didn’t help when Garage Boy decided to play his doff doff music until three in the morning. It was at that level where it was just discernable over the noise of my air conditioner. On another night I might have been able to ignore it and fallen to sleep. But not that night. I found earplugs and my white noise CD useless against the bass noise. I turned end to end in bed so my head was not next to the window. I told myself to ignore the noise, it was the heat keeping me awake.

I ended up going outside and screaming something like: I would like to get some sleep tonight, so will you turn the fucken bass down or put some headphones on you stupid little prick. The music went off. He has kept it down for the past week too. I have previously tried to reason with him, but abusive yelling seems to be the only thing that works.