Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My writing week 4 (26)

I Survived Another Trip to the Dentist.
The big news of the week is that I seemed to have survived yet another trip to the dentist. This one was to no ordinary dentist, it was to an oral surgeon in Melbourne. I visited him on Friday to have some teeth out. I was particularly concerned bout one wisdom tooth that he had to remove. It had a vicious hook that went very close to a nerve in the bottom jaw. So far so good, I don’t seem to have lost any feeling in my lips or mouth. I got the teeth out in the chair, while awake, saving $2600.

The oral surgeon was adamant that I should be accompanied by someone when I left the surgery. I had originally arranged for my sister to accompany me. But she is currently in hospital dealing with bacterial meningitis. The first operation to stop brain fluid leaking out her nose didn’t work, so she underwent a second operation on Tuesday of last week. We are hopeful that this altered surgery worked.

So I arranged for an Aunty who lives in Melbourne to accompany me to the oral surgeon. She told me about Red Cross cars being available to country people returning from surgery in other locations. I had planned to catch the afternoon train/bus home, but what happened if I had excess bleeding? So after much messing around we arranged for a Red Cross car to drive me home.

On the bus on the way into Melbourne on Friday my Aunty rang, she had had severe pains in the stomach and had been at a hospital most of the night. So she would not be able to accompany me. I wished her well and then waited for calls from the Red Cross and oral surgeon, but they did not come.

My recovery from the ordeal was hampered by my white trash neighbours. They decided to have a party on Friday night. I went next door at ten to ask them to keep it down. They told me it was garage boy’s birthday. I told them I had just had oral surgery and they seemed to agree that the party would not go that late. At 1.30 am I rang the police. Probably just as well I did as the drunken/drugged youths could have gotten out of control. Five minutes after my call the party moved from the backyard back into the garage with the volume of the music turned down.

Successful Ebook Authors Don’t Make that Much Money.

I read an interesting article about author John Locke who has sold over a million downloads of his self-published ebooks. He sells them for 99c. And even with those massive sales, he only gets a return of about $35,000 an enovel. So if one of the most successful enovelists is only getting about half the average yearly wage for his novels, what do the millions of other enovelists get?

Interesting that the author of the article suggests there are two distinct markets, one containing people who buy only ebooks priced around 99c and another group who only buy ebooks at around $9.99. There are a lot of ebooks priced between these values, I wonder how well they sell.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Half way through the year and I am falling behind in my Goodreads challenge of reading a book every fortnight. I have read only eight books so far this year. But I have not helped my chances of achieving the goal by choosing thick epics like Under the Dome by Stephen King.

Still Having Problems with My Broadband.

Problems with my broadband connection continued. So I bought a new modem on Thursday. The link to ISP didn’t drop out for the rest of week, something it had previously been doing up to 20 times a day. But the link still seemed slow.

My Writing.

On the writing front, I started some research for my next article for Divine magazine. This one is about recycling televisions. How have you disposed of old televisions?

I also did a bit of writing of my short story during the few minutes I was not dealing with life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My writing week (4) 25

Hi all,

I eventually had a better week last week after a woeful start. I even did some writing towards the end of the week too, starting a new short-story. I am determined that it will be a short story and not turn into a novella or novel. I got the idea for the story when I saw a rainbow (awww shucks).

I am over my cold, yaaaa, so last Wednesday I went for my first swim in 27 days. My pent up annoyance with life must have had something to do with me swimming my best time this year. I find swimming a great stress reliever. I saw the rainbow on the way back from the pool on Friday.

I seemed to have fixed my internet link by replacing the aging cable from computer to phone socket and the filter/splitter. My link to the ISP has not dropped out since.

And Divine magazine has accepted two more article ideas I have, more about them in future posts.

But my sister’s graft to fix brain fluid leaking down her nose seems to have failed over the weekend. Her surgeon has not seen her since bleeding started on the weekend. She had been trying to arrange to be transported back to a Wodonga hospital, but that seems unlikely now.

Different Points Of View

I am reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome. When I started reading it, its distant omnipresent POV really surprised, even disturbed me. Most of the other books I have been reading lately have had a first person POV or a close third person. But it only took a couple of chapters to get into his distant POV.

When I write, I often think I am subconsciously influenced by what I am reading. So it was no surprise that I started writing the rainbow short story with a very distant POV, without even thinking about what POV to use. But a very distant point of view does suit the story I want to write. I don’t want the reader knowing, other than by interpreting his actions and comments, what is going on in the mind of the main character.

Future of Reading

I was reading an article in the Age about children in the digital age which said “the report found that even in an era of widespread electronic-screen exposure, print remained a constant in children’s media diets, although it varied dramatically according to age. About 90 percent of children aged 5-9 spend about an hour each day either reading books to themselves or having them read to them by adults.” So coming generations might not hasten the demise of the print book as much as I have been thinking they will.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

my writing week (4) 24

Hi all,

Yesterday, a deluge of health issues and other problems felt like it was going to sweep me down a river of despair, into a sea void of hope, filled with sharks that ripped apart... You get the idea. But today, a few dykes have been built to hold back the storm waters.

More about that next week, as this post is about last week. Particularly it is supposed to be about my writing efforts last week. Well, surprise surprise, I actually did some writing on four days last week, which is pretty good when compared to previous weeks.

Of the days I didn't write, one day was spent on a train and bus, escorting my mother down to visit my sister at St Vincents in Melbourne. My sister was getting anti-biotics dripped into her as she waited for an infection to clear so they could operate. They wanted to put a bit of skin grafted from her stomach up her nose to patch a leak. Brain fluid, for lack of a better term, was leaking out her nose. She had the operation on Sunday and it seems to have worked. Yaaa for my sister.

The trip to Melbourne did not help my cold. I was hoping to give it back to the citizens of Melbourne, but they didn't take it. They didn't seem as grumpy as when I first started what is set to become regular visits about a month ago. Perhaps that was because my grumpiness now exceeded theirs.

My sister had volunteered to accompany me to the oral surgeon in a little under two weeks. There is no way she will be able to do that, so I had to find a new volunteer.

My computer started acting up last week. The internet connection kept dropping out. I wondered if it was my wonderful never-cause-a-problem computer or perhaps the modem. Then my thoughts turned to my ISP provider. But what if the aging cable from the phone to the computer was the problem? Or the filter? Or, worse still the telephone line. Perhaps the nick in the cable I caused with the shovel while digging out drain pipes was finally causing problems. All I knew was that it would probably take a slow process of elimination to fix, something I really didn't feel like doing while I was as sick as a half dead dog.

The only good thing about having a cold, is that I have been reading a lot more than usual. I finished reading volume 4 of the Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, which I reviewed in my last post. I have read volumes one to four. Of the lot, volume 2 would be my favourite, followed by volume 1 and then volume 4.

I have been watching Outcast - a British science fiction mini-series, set on a newly colonised planet where everyone speaks with British ascents. So far, it is a lot better than similar attempts, as it is aimed at adults and has lots of dark secrets.

Speaking of adult science fiction, I am looking forward to the new series of Torchwood. It is to be screened on the cable channel BBC TV from July 9. Its premise is that suddenly no one dies anymore on planet earth. The last series of Torchwood was easily the best television science fiction produced that year.

Anyway, it's back to reinforcing the dykes.

Graham Clements.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Vol 4

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had read all three of the previous volumes of The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Like the previous volumes, volume 4 is an uneven collection with some good stories and some just so so. Unlike the previous volumes this volume did not have one particular story that stood out and shouted, aren't I great.

The best story for me was Richard Harland's horror tale Special Perceptions. It is about a delusional man's decent into madness. It really gave me the creeps and had me checking my own delusions.

As in volume two, Greg Egan had a story, Glory, set in the universe he created in the novel Incandescence. Glory asked the question, will knowledge eventually destroy the universe?

I also enjoyed Rjurik Davidson's science fiction story Domine, more for its style than its substance. The story made me work as I tried to figure out the relationships of the main characters to each other.

Rick Kennett's The Dark and What it Said also succeeded as a scary horror story that kept me guessing.

Most of the fantasy stories left me thinking, so what? Fantasy, especially epic fantasy, struggles in the shorter form. I enjoy fantasy novels, but fantasy short stories tend to be instantly forgotten. They fail to engage me with their simple themes of good versus evil and loyalty.

The best fantasy story in the collection was An Account of An Experiment by Adam Browne, which did explore a few themes like learned traits, and had some originality about it.

So overall, I liked many of the stories, but many of them lacked that something special, like a new idea or a major insight into humanity, that makes a story memorable.

Graham Clements.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My writing week 4 (23)

Hi all,

I still have a cold. The pharmacist's prediction that the latest batch of antibiotics would fix it in 48 hours has proven wrong. I was talking to an ex-neighbour the other day and he told me his wife had had this seasons "cold" for four weeks. Is it just me, or are colds hanging around a lot longer these days? I do have an autoimmune disease, so perhaps it is just me, and my ex-neighbour's wife. It's been two and a half weeks of lethargy so far. It's becoming depressing.

My sister may be in hospital for three weeks, as she waits for the infection to clear up before they operate on her. She has bacterial meningitis. I am hoping to escort my mother down to Melbourne to see my sister sometime this week. My mum does not feel secure in going by herself.

More on Ebooks

I have fallen behind in my newspaper reading (like everything else) so some of this might be old news. But I read that Charlaine Harris has joined Stephenie Meyer, Stig Larson and James Patterson as million ebook sellers. I was curious to see how much they charged and had a look on Amazon. Most of their ebooks were around the $8 mark. With their newer ebooks being around $10.

Another article in The AGE said that The Book Depository in the UK had a special deal with the Royal Mail, which exempted them from paying postage when they sent books to customers overseas. So it is no wonder they offer free postage. When you consider Amazon does not pay state sales taxes in the US and both don't pay Australia's GST and then they don't have the cost of running physical stores, they really have massive cost savings when compared to Australian bookstores.

The same article said ebook sales were currently only 3% of the Aussie market and expected to rise to 30% within a decade. I wonder where they plucked those figures from.

If more companies like Medibank start offering free Kobo ereaders, than maybe the ebook portion of the book market will be far greater than that in a decade. In the US ebooks are predicted to be 50% of the market in five years by a few people including the head of Sony.

I finished reading Cory Doctorow's polemic YA science fiction novel Little Brother and reviewed it in my last post.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cory Doctorow was a very enthusiastic panelist at Aussiecon4 last year. He tended to appear on panels about the future of writing and publishing, a subject that interested me, so I found myself attending many of the panel discussions he appeared on. As a small tribute to his energy during Aussiecon, I purchased a signed copy of the novel.

The story is set in a near present San Francisco. The novel centers around a 17 year-old geek called Marcus. Marcus enjoys role playing games and computers, but unlike your typical stereotyped geek, he has a social conscience and is prepared to stand up for himself.

The story begins with Marcus and his friends playing a game where clues are left around the city. The group find themselves near the bay bridge when terrorists blow it up. In the aftermath Marcus and his friends are all arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.

Marcus is eventually released into a changed world, where the DHS has imposed a massive security and surveillance crackdown. As a way of getting back at the DHS, Marcus uses his considerable computer skill to battle this crackdown.

The novel is written in first person. It has large "information dumps" about how to set up particular computer systems to combat prying eyes. These sections are almost written in second person as he tells "you" how to do it for yourself.

Cory Doctorow worked for four years for the Electronic Frontiers Foundation so the subject of web censorship is near to his heart. The novel is very much an argument against censorship and surveillance.

I did find the main character just a bit too good, a bit too courageous. But in the end I enjoyed the novel. Little Brother is a young adult novel, but adults will also enjoy reading it.

Cory Doctorow is into free agency on the web, so Little Brother is available for free download. As I found it easier to read on my Kindle, I also downloaded a free version of his novel from his website.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

my writing week (4) 22 The sickee edition

Hi all,

I still have a cold. Doctor has prescribed different antibiotics with a repeat. He gave me a medical certificate until next thursday. But the pharmacist reckons the antibiotics will do the job in 48 hours. I hope so, as I may need to go to Melbourne again on the weekend. My sister has bacterial meningitis and may need to undergo surgery in the next few days. She admitted herself to Albury hospital on Wednesday and was flown to St Vincents in Melbourne last night. She has had the condition before, about a decade ago - brain fluid leaks from the nose - and they fixed her up.

Her health concerns make my my cold and dental issues pretty petty. I will have to get used to going to Melbourne as I have two root canals and two crowns to be done at the dental hospital as well as a couple of other procedures. If I had to pay for it all it would cost about $9000. Of course I could wait the three years for the local dental clinic to do the job, but then I think I would just be getting two teeth removed.

For those who have had root canals, it is best to get a crown plonked on top as root canal doesn't seem to last otherwise. I will need to travel to Melbourne 13 to 17 times over the next few months to get everything done. Well at least I can read on the train.

And finally in this sickee edition, I have a new article up on Divine, this one is about cataract surgery. The surgery is nothing to fear and can drastically improve your eyesight.

I have a suspicion my next article for Divine might be about the dental system. I am getting a lot of first hand experience.

Now its time to go back to bed.