Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 39, year 4

Hi all,

New article on Divine: Men’s Sheds.

If you have always wondered what men get up to at a Men’s Shed, I visited one a couple of weeks ago that resulted in an article for DiVine magazine. 

Fixed Facebook Newsfeed

Anyone who uses facebook would have noticed they have turned the newsfeeds into even more of a popularity contest, with the top section dominated by the top stories. I was annoyed as it made it more work to see what all my friends were up to. So after trying several things like changing the language setting to UK English – this worked for one day – I stumbled on to a solution within the top stories. Here it is:

  1. I highlighted lists on the left hand side of my homepage and clicked on the more that appeared.
  2. I clicked on create a list.
  3. I called my list friends.
  4. I clicked on add friends.
  5. I then clicked on the pictures of all my thousands and thousands of friends.
  6. Now when I log in I make sure I am in the friends’ list newsfeed by clicking on it.  

He/she at the Start of a Sentence.

One writing comment that caught my attention last week said that really good writers only use he or she to start a sentence three to five times a page. Whether this is true I don’t know, but less repetition can’t be bad. So I counted the he/she starts in my latest story. Page one: five (hey, I’m a good writer, just), page two: twelve (damn, let’s change a few), page three: three (no problems there)… I assume the same goes for using I when writing in first person.

David Hick’s Nominated for Literary Award.

I was surprised to read that David Hick’s autobiography, Guantanamo: My Journey was shortlisted for the non-fiction prize in the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards.But I wasn't surprised to hear that it didn’t win. Although it is a compelling book, it is not of outstanding literary merit. It is not badly written for someone who didn’t complete high school. I must post my review of it soon.

DiVine Articles: A Breakdown.

I had a twelve month contract with DiVine that ends in a week. In that time I wrote twelve articles. Both of my sample articles were also used by DiVine. Happily, DiVine and I are keen to continue working together. They pay professional rates, but the catch for all you writers out there is that you have to have a disability and live in Victoria.

The fourteen articles I wrote covered: ebooks, writers with disabilities, disabilities in science fiction, dementia, studying online, gardening, recycling televisions, universal remote controls, the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, cataract surgery, and the Wangaratta Men’s Shed. A diverse range of subjects.

Some of the articles were from personal experience, others from research on the web, others were the result of email interviews, and many involved ringing people and asking them questions. Only one, on the Men’s Shed, was the result of me attending a venue and personally interviewing people. I am setting myself the challenge to interview in person more often, but face-to-face story opportunities are limited in the bush.  

I reckon my best article for DiVine was on writers with disabilities.

My Fiction Writing

I am still editing my short story, which is unfortunately getting bigger – it is now 5,600 words, and I am changing plenty of he/she’s.

Including my writing of the DiVine article, I wrote every day of last week once again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 38, year 4

Hi all,

Even though appointments and gardening ate into my writing time last week, I still managed to do a bit every day. I continued re-writing a short story and started work on my next article for Divine magazine on Wangaratta’s Men’s Shed.

I had been putting off contacting the Men’s Shed because I wasn’t sure whether it would work as a story for Divine. In particular, I was concerned whether people with disabilities were welcome at the shed.

I initially procrastinated by deciding I needed to get a new camera for pictures for the article. The software for my two second-hand cameras did not seem to be working anymore. Once I purchased a new camera, I then used the excuse of not knowing exactly where the shed was.

Even though it was magpie swooping season, I planned to walk out to the shed on father’s day, visiting my father’s grave on the way. But it rained. That put contacting the Men’s Shed off for another week as I really could not be bothered going on a long walk on Monday to Saturday. I already swam or did weights and exercises on those days.

The next Sunday it still looked like rain, but I managed to walk out to the Shed with only a bit of drizzle at one stage. The shed is situated at the Wangaratta sale yards and it took me an hour to get there

Fortunately no one was at the shed, probably all at church or hungover, so I took some rather uninspiring photos of the shed and walked home. I was only swooped by one magpie, just after I turned to return home, but the weather had given me an excuse to carry an umbrella to ward it off.

Knowing that I could walk there, my procrastination finally came to an end and I rang and talked to the president of the Men’s Shed last Wednesday. I arranged to attend their “meeting” that day. It was a nice sunny day as I took a bit of a short cut and followed the railway line out to the shed. Along the way, I came across one of the now infamous mud holes under the railway line.

When I got to the shed, they told me about all the work they do for people with disabilities – repairing bikes, running camps, making wheelchairs. And then I saw a guide dog that belonged to the vision impaired co-ordinator of the shed.

The shed had easy access and a toilet for people with disabilities. Some of the members had even heard about Divine magazine. Needless to say, the Wangaratta Men’s Shed was perfect for an article.

I initially thought I had too much material to fit into a 500 word article, but I easily managed to include all the information in the first draft. Now I just have to jazz up the writing a bit.

Price of Ebooks to Rise?

I think it might be wishful thinking, but the CEO of the Australian Publishing Association, Maree McCaskill, reckons the price of ebooks will increase. In an article in the Sunday Age (28/8/2011) she says:

“Companies like Amazon are designed to exact the best deal for themselves. Australian publishers have to bargain pretty hard to get the best deal for their authors and publishers to make money on it. I predict prices will go up because they use it as a loss leader to establish a market and it’s not sustainable.”

I think she is referring to publishers when she says it is not sustainable, because I am sure Amazon would make a profit even if all the Kindle ebooks were selling for 99 cents. It is also clear that she is thinking about authors with publishers selling their ebooks for $2 -$3, not authors without publishers (those who self-publish, and those with traditional publishers who keep or regain their ebook rights).

Readings and Bookish ebooks

The Age article mentioned how independent retailers like Readings were fighting back by selling ebooks online. I had a second look at Readings just to see the price they were selling their ebooks, most were more than $9.99. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was a typical $15.99, Amazon had it for their Kindle at $7.99. Embassytown by China Mieville was $21.99 at Readings, it is not available at Amazon and $20.49 at the Book Depository. Sabriel by Garth Nix was $15.26 at Readings and $9.99 at Amazon.

For the majority of ebooks Readings isn’t anywhere near competitive on price with Amazon. For Readings ebook business to make money they will have to rely on the willingness of Australians to pay much more, in most cases, for their ebooks. Unfortunately, I don’t think many will. Overseas customers will not pay $15 for an ebook when they can get the paperback for far less, so I think Reading will get no overseas sales.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 37 Year 4

Hi all,

I finished the first draft of a short story that I have been slowly plugging away on for a few weeks. My main character’s voice had evolved by the end of the story, so I immediately started rewriting it. The story is only 5100 words at the moment, which is small for me, hopefully it doesn’t get too much bigger.

I wrote every day of the last week – spending more time writing than the previous week.


Torchwood: Miracle Day, finished on the weekend. I very much enjoyed it, although the episodes varied in quality. The first few episodes were all action as the characters fought for their lives. There was not a lot of character development or back story until midway through the series when we got an episode concentrating on Captain Jack Harkness’ past.

I found the episodes that concentrated on Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) the least enjoyable because they did not seem to be moving the plot forward. I also had a hard time liking Rex, the CIA agent.

A lot of familiar faces from science fiction popped up during the mini-series, Nana Visitor from Deep Space Nine, John de Lancie (Q) from the Star Trek franchise and Francis Fisher from Eureka.

The final episode satisfactorily brought the mini-series to a conclusion. There was a final twist, which I think most people would have seen coming.

Torchwood vs Doctor Who

Doctor Who really pales in comparison to Torchwood. At the moment, Doctor Who generally lacks suspense as it lurches from problem to solution in quick succession. The most recent episode, Night Terrors, was a tad more suspenseful and had a bit more tension. I was glad it had moved from the “death of the doctor” story line. As we know the Doctor will not die, so I find no suspense in their continual harking back to him being zapped in the first episode of this series.

Those Evil…

Read this quote in an article in the Age Good Weekend about censoring video games:

“the increased prevalence of gross forms of wickedness is due to a general  poisoning, mental and physical, which fills the minds and the veins of its victims with a more deadly venom than we have hitherto known.” This was written in 1869 by US Methodist Reverend J.T Crane and he was referring to novels in general.

Authors Losing Contracts Due to Collapsing Retail Market

According to the Bookmarks column in the Age, mid-list Australian writer Peter Klein had a publishing contract for his next book cancelled by Pan Macmillan because of insufficient orders to justify a print run. Two other authors have suffered the same fate. The publishing director at Pan Macmillan said that 20 per cent of the market had gone with the closure of Borders and Angus and Robertson, shops that consolidate mid-list authors. Supermarkets are not interested in writers who sell less than 5000 copies of a book.   

This is something to consider before buying books online from the UK or US.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Writing Week: issue 36 of year 4

Hi all,

Last week I wrote every day for the second week in a row. But unlike the week before when it was all non-fiction, last week it was all fiction. I am still not spending anywhere near enough time writing, but some writing is better than none. Hopefully I can build on last week’s efforts this week. 

I spent a bit of time on other writing relating activities, like setting up a group’s page on Facebook for this blog.

New Article on Divine Magazine

I submitted a new article to Divine online magazine last Monday and, much to my surprise, it was up on the site by Wednesday. That’s two articles for August.

The new article is about why I love gardening. The article is an attempt at a more whimsical tone. Over the past year’s 13 articles for Divine, I have attempted different styles and tones, from serious informational, to personal accounts of tragedy, to uplifting interview based articles.

Book Sales Up in Australia

An article in the Age states that book sales rose 0.4 per cent by volume in 2010, with 66.2 million books sold. The bad news is that the value of those sold books dropped by 4.2 per cent. But with those sales not including purchases from Amazon and other overseas vendors like the Book Depository, the number of books purchased by Australians would be much higher.  

Book Depository Vs Amazon

As the two large online booksellers merged recently, the above heading could be considered inappropriate, but there are still differences in price, postage and delivery time. I recently used the Book Depository for the first time after deciding Amazon’s postage costs added too much to the cost of a purchasing a single book.

The book I wanted to buy cost $15.20 on Amazon, but postage pushed that up to $24.95. At the Book Depository, the book cost $20.19, with no charge for postage. The book also arrived in less than a week, much quicker than the three weeks or more I have waited for Amazon to deliver.

Review of Under the Dome by Stephen King

Warning, spoilers. I posted a review of Stephen King’s science fiction thriller Under the Dome last week. I did not want to have spoilers in the review so I did not say that I reckon King might have been having a go at his readers. In the book a dome was placed over the inhabitants of a small town by an alien race so they could be amused at the antics of those trapped inside. But King was inviting his readers to have similar voyeuristic intentions by enjoying the carnage wreaked on the inhabitants of the dome. I enjoyed the book, so does that mean I would make a good callous alien?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review of Stephen King's science fiction epic, Under the Dome

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished Under the Dome's 880 pages. What an epic, so much death and destruction, so many arseholes - King certainly enjoys writing about corrupt fools and the fools that follow them.

The novel starts with an invisible force field suddenly enclosing a small town. It traps the local cafe cook, Barbie, an ex-Iraq veteran, as he tries to flee small-town persecution. Barbie then has to deal with the local council, headed by car dealer Jim Rennie. Rennie also happens to be a major drug manufacturer and religious psycho. In real life he would be an ideal Tea Party Candidate. Unknown to Rennie, his son, Junior, is suffering major delusions and has embarked on a murder spree. Much mayhem results.

When I first started reading Under the Dome, I was struck by the distant third person it was written in, partly because I had recently read a lot of books written in first person. The distance that King stands back is a lot like watching a movie, and it did not allow me to really get to know the characters.

But what a cast of characters, it was huge. The story is told from about twenty different character's point of view, usually corrupt arseholes or the people resisting them. The fools that followed only had brief appearances as they were usually lead over cliffs. I can't help but think that King was commenting on the real world ignorance of the American electorate.

I found the novel sagged a bit in the middle. It was foreshadowed that the main character would end up in jail. I waited and waited for this to happen. Once he was in jail, other more interesting characters took over the telling of the story.

It took an awful long time to find out who made the dome and why, but that just added to the suspense - would Barbie and his mates be stopped by Rennie and his lackeys before they have a chance to get rid of the dome.

The novel posses an underlying question, are the novel's readers guilty of the same motivations as the creators of the Dome?

There is a reasonable resolution, but most of the fun is getting there.

Under the Dome is a very enjoyable science-fiction thriller that could make a great big budget mini-series.