Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Article on Divine - Review of Me and Her.

Divine News

I have a new article on the Divine website, a review of Me and Her, a memoir by Karen Tyrrell. It is about her life with Bipolar Disorder. The review is very different from the personal review I had previously posted on my blog. This is the first paid book review I have done so I was determined to keep references to myself and my opinion out of the review. I think I succeeded.   

I originally submitted an image of the cover of the memoir to Divine in the body of the email with the article.

Unfortunately the image did not show up in the email when the Divine editor viewed it. So the story did not go up with the book cover as its image. I am trying to rectify this. 

The editor at Divine told me I needed permission from the publisher to use an image of the cover of the book. If that damned image in the original email had revealed itself to her I would have known about this proviso before the story went up on the site. Anyway, I immediately contacted Karen Tyrrell and I have forwarded her permission to use the image to the Divine editor.

Only at this stage did I think about not mentioning the book was self-published in the review. A year ago, I probably would have, but having seen how good carefully selected self-published books are, I did not even think it required mentioning.

I have read other reviews of Me and Her, all personal ones, and I can’t remember any of those reviewers mentioning the memoir was self-published. Perhaps they didn’t know, but I suspect most didn’t care. They had read the book and made up their own minds about the quality of the writing and editing of the book. I think readers and reviewers who refuse to read or review self-published books should rethink their intransigence.  

Me and Her is an engrossing, well written and edited book. I recommend it to everyone. I reckon most people will encounter mental illness during their lives, be it their own, a family member’s, friend’s or a work mate’s. This memoir will give you an insight on what to expect and how the support of family, friends and workmates seems crucial for the recovery of a person with a mental illness.

Next Article For Divine.

I have now started writing my next article for Divine, about my adventures in the public dental system. Since April last year I have made so many trips to the dentist I have become an expert patient.  

At the start of the first draft of the article I wrote a humorous opening paragraph about the various tortures dentists put their patients through, like how I am always troubled by them fleeing the room just before they irradiate my head for x-rays. But when I finished the draft I found I had written 1200 words, which is slightly more than the ideal 500 words for an article. So the opening paragraph was extracted. Now I just have to give the rest of the article an major floss and clean.   

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The French Battle Amazon. My Writing Expenses.

Those Communist French.

I read recently that the French government fixes the price of books so that French bookshops, including those online, cannot discount books by more than 5% of the RRP.  On further investigation I found this article in the New York Times.   French legislators even dictated to Amazon that its publishers can charge whatever they like on Amazon. It seems this law has helped bookshops prosper in France. It also seems to have affected the uptake of ebooks in France with them being only a lowly 1.8% of the market.

The fixing of prices by the French has benefited French Bookshops and probably French authors with higher royalties.  I have been trying to find out the actual price of the average just released paperback in France. The price would probably still be cheaper in France than here in Australia due to their much larger market where the cost of producing a book can be spread over more sales.

My Expenses Were how Much? 

I have been completing my tax return. In my previous tax return I had not bothered making any deductions for my writing income except for $20 worth of telephone calls.  But this year, after another government department demanded I create a profit and loss statement, balance sheet and depreciation schedule for my writing business, I did so.

I needed to revive long forgotten accounting skills I learnt during a never used economics degree, and excel skills I learnt a decade ago. I also spent a lot of time studying the information on the ATO site and made six phone calls to their surprisingly helpful staff.

I found my expenses were considerably more than just $20 worth of telephone calls. There were also printer toner cartridges, pens, pads, folders, a percentage of depreciation of my computer equipment, a percentage of my broadband connection, a new cheap camera, 60% of a new cheap printer, and home office expenses of 34cents per hour. The grand total was $485.

I have changed from thinking earning my writing income only cost me time.

And if You Have Been Wondering…  

No, I have not finished writing my novel. Just get off my back, my muse is being crushed by all the guilt. I have just written a few thousand more words over the past few weeks and I am halfway through chapter 48. Interestingly, the POV character in this chapter is having a hard time convincing those around her that they’re all deluded and she isn’t. A bit like I have felt when attempting to communicate with people this week. Perhaps I did die in a train wreck on Monday (my train from Melbourne was delayed after it hit a car pushed onto the track by hoons). Either that or a full moon is affecting an awful lot of people. But anyway I know perfectly well how my misunderstood character is feeling. 

And if you really must know, I have written 96,300 words. Will I crack the 100,000 before the world ends on December 23rd?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Enjoying Reading The Passage by Justin Cronin.

The Passage by Justin Cronin has been a bloody good read so far. It’s apocalyptic horror/science fiction that takes vampires back to being monsters and not the insipid morally confused fashion plates they have become. The vampires in The Passage are genetically engineered mutants that have reverted to a primeval state whose only goal is survival. They are the result of an experiment by the US military to create super soldiers, but instead of defending the US they destroy it. 

These vampires are not demons either, so anyone brandishing a crucifix or holy water will quickly have their arm ripped off. A shot to the brain or heart will kill them, but it has to be the first shot as there is no time for a second. 

I am really enjoying this reinvention of the vampire. It was about time that the sophisticated womanising vampire was torn to pieces and splattered with gore.  

Flashbacks Within Flashbacks.

Justin Cronin’s writing style surprises too. I can’t remember reading a novel that has had flashbacks within flashbacks. In The Passage a character will have a flashback showing how he or she came to be in their current situation and during that flashback they will reminisce about events in their life that affected how they acted in that flashback. It’s a bit like Inception sometimes and I have to remind myself what flashback level the character is reliving.

Killer Plot Too.

Cronin also did something that really jolted me as a reader. Spoiler Alert After 350 pages or so he had killed off all but one of the characters and story lines. The novel then jumps 100 years into the future. As a reader I was turfed out of the novel and it was like starting to read a completely new novel. But a new bunch of characters and story lines quickly sucked me back into the apocalyptic world.  

Cronin reminds me a lot of Stephen King in style and tone. King is quoted on the cover as saying the book is “enthralling…read this book and the ordinary world disappears”. As a reader who is totally engrossed in the story, I am rapt to know that the book has two sequels so I still have much more of the war against the monstrous vampires to read.   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ebook Price Survey

Price of Top-selling ebooks Continues to Rise.

It has been seven weeks since I last checked the prices of Amazon’s 100 best-selling ebooks. Some trends seem to be continuing while others are faltering. Overall, the price of a best-selling ebook seems to be going up.

The trends that continue include a drop in the number of ebooks on the list selling at 99 cents. This time there were seven ebooks at 99 cents, compared to three last time which was massive drop from 34 in February.

The number at the ebook guru price of $2.99 continues to drop. This time there were 15, last time 22, which was down from 32 in February.

$3.99 has been confirmed as a hot price with seventeen ebooks at that price, compared to 13 last time and four in February. $4.99 might be a new hot price too, with eleven at that price this time.  

Thirty-two ebooks were priced over $7 compared to 47 last time. But overall the price of the 100 best-selling ebooks is increasing. I think part of this increase is due to mainstream publishers publishing more ebooks and therefore making it harder for cheaper self-published ebooks to get on the list.

Ray Bradbury on Writing.

I recently read that Ray Bradbury recommends writing students write a lot of short stories. He said that if they write one a week, in a year they will have written 52 and “I defy you to write 52 bad ones. A story will come that’s just wonderful.”

A story a week! I would struggle coming up with the ideas for a story a week. And how long are these stories he suggests they write each week? As a writer I find it hard to keep any story under 5,000 words. As a reader, I find most stories under 5,000 words aren’t large enough to wow me with fully developed characters and worlds, and that offer an original take on an idea, theme or plot.

The more short stories I read the less I am a fan of them. Only about one in five engage my imagination while I am reading it. One in fifty I might remember the next day because the story resonated with me. And usually that one in fifty will be a story over 10,000 words. And I am so sick of stories written around a twist: ha ha I tricked you. Well many times the writer hasn’t because I have picked up the obvious twist well before it came along. How about exploring a theme or idea instead?

I know a lot of writer’s choose the short story route as a way to improve their writing and build up a reputation. But I can’t see the point bothering with a form of writing that generally fails to excite me. I much prefer to engage with a world and its characters over the extended period of a novel.  

Ray also suggested budding writers read a short story, a poem and an essay every night. What about novels? When I read a short story at night, I usually then pick up a novel. I do read a lot of newspaper articles, blog posts and web articles on writing, so they would go some way to making up my essay quota.

As for poems, I find most say nothing to me. For a poem to resonate with me I think I have to be in a similar head space to its writer when they wrote it. As my headspace is very different to most people, finding a poem that speaks to me is much rarer than remembering the short story I read the previous night.

But I must read a Ray Bradbury short story collection to see what his stories are like.