Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 48, Year 4


Hi all,

I had an enjoyable and stress free Christmas: good food, good company, and appreciated gifts. It wasn’t too hot and the neighbours kept the noise down. They were probably too busy watching the huge LCD TV they got for Christmas, the box of which is still on the front porch so the world, including local thieves, can know about their increasing carbon footprint.  

We had prawns, lobster, oysters, and mussels as well as the traditional turkey and roast spuds, and pavlova with blue berries on top. But just about the most delicious food was some home-grown tomatoes that had finally ripened a few days before.  

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had an enjoyable time.

Plenty of Aussie Science Fiction to Read

The gifts I received included four books, three of which were science fiction, two of those were written by Aussie authors. Along with books I bought for myself when looking for gifts for others, I now have six new science fiction books by Aussie authors to read. I hope there are some memorable and innovative stories among them.

I find our authors are as good, if not better, than those in the rest of the world. Aussie novels like The Sea and Summer by George Turner, Quarantine by Greg Egan, Genetic Soldier by George Turner, The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, Capricornia by Xavier Herbert and Red Queen by HM Brown are among my favourite novels. The Dark Between the Stars by Damien Broderick is easily my favourite one author short story collection.

My Novel Writing Efforts

The pace of my novel has changed from a slow build up of tension to lots of action. I found the change of style for action scenes hard, but my writing began to flow as I wrote more of them.

I achieved my goal of 1000-2000 words on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I even did some writing on Christmas Day. I wrote around 4500 words for the week. I am beginning to think the novel might greatly exceed 120,000 words because at 65,500 words, I think I am yet to reach the halfway mark.

Now its time to try and remember if there were any decent science fiction movies apart from Rise of the Apes, and television apart from Miracle Day and Fringe for my year’s best lists in my next post.  


    

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 47, Year 4


Hi all,

MyNovel Writing.

I’ve finally made time to write this week’s post. I’ve been too busy writing. Last week I wrote just over 1,000 words on each weekday and a few hundred on the weekend. I ended up writing 5410 words for the week and starting chapter 30 of my novel.

I did a lot of research for the novel on things like gravity, g-forces, acceleration and velocity. I even tried to get a flight simulator going, but I have little patience for anything that does not work straight away. Playing with a flight simulator might have given me descriptive ideas for the novel, and been a bit of fun.

I finally put my VCE physics to use, using it for calculations for the novel, and for adapting information from distance/acceleration/g force calculators I found on the web.

Most of the novel has been a slow build up of tension. Only in recent chapters do action scenes begin. I found it a struggle to adjust my writing, but after a few action scenes I am enjoying writing prolonged action sequences.

At 60,900 words, I reckon the novel is about half written.

My DiVine Writing.

A new editor of DiVine magazine liked a couple of ideas for articles I have. One will take a bit of research, the other I can write virtually off the top of my head as it is about my illness, ulcerative colitis.

Christmas Stuff.

The Book Depository kept their promise to deliver Christmas presents I ordered within 10 working days. Next year I think I will only give gifts I ordered from them, and avoid shops full of junk that no one who is not completely feed-up with searching for something reasonable, would buy. The retailers in Wangaratta are appalling.

On that festive note: Merry Christmas to everyone. May Santa bring you heaps of books, preferably science fiction written by Aussie authors. Don’t drink too much and may you tolerate your relatives. If you are a climate change denier may Christmas bring you a subscription to a non-Murdoch newspaper and the time to read it.

Graham.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My writing week: Issue 46, Year 4.


Hi all,

I’ve nearly finished my Christmas shopping. I just hope the Book Depository keeps their promise of delivering within seven to ten working days. I used the Book Depository because my local books shop did not have the audio books I was after and I loath crowded shops.

I cringe at the thought of shops full of old people who have parked their electric vehicles, trolleys and fat bums across aisles. My head hurts at the thought of listening to Paul McCartney sing over and over how wonderful Christmas is. I sympathise with Harry’s in The Slap every time I am stuck in a queue with a parent who seems to have no intention of stopping their kid from screaming.

It seems that I have become a real Christmas grouch. Apart from being an atheist, except when I visit my father’s grave, I think the Christmas spirit could do with a good Marxist reboot. I think Christmas would be much happier time for all if we all it we just forgot about the gift giving (even retailers. Consumers will then spend more evenly during the year and wouldn’t return piles of unwanted gifts). There would also be fewer no-longer-cute-and-cuddly-puppies discarded in the months after Christmas.   

Christmas shopping also interferes with writing and thinking about writing. My goal last week, the first full week after NaNoWriMo, was to write 7,000 words. I completely blame Christmas shopping for not achieving that goal.

I started the week okay with 1040 words on Monday. But then on Tuesday, I spent too much time in Big W looking for some DVD’s that they didn’t have. When I finally got home I only had time to write 440 words.

On Wednesday, I wrote 1127 words, even after being side tracked into writing a review of Ian Irvine’s, The Last Albatross. On Thursday, I was back proving that except for food and grog, the retailers in Wang sell absolutely nothing I want to buy. They should spruik Wang as a great place to save. When I finally got home, I ended up writing 750 words. Friday, was my best writing day of the week, just, with 1130 words.

I had decided to only write if I really had to on the weekends. On Saturday, it was back to skulking around the shops. At last I found a present for my sister, yay. Relieved of Christmas gift agonies, my thoughts instantly returned to my novel and changes that needed to be made. I just had to do some deleting and then writing when I got home. I wrote 550 words for the day. On Sunday, exhausted from Christmas shopping, I took it easy and only wrote 220 words.

All up I wrote 5037 words for the week. I had written 55,600 words of the novel and was in the middle of chapter 27. Now if it wasn’t for Christmas…

Scribe abandons trade paperbacks.

I am a bit behind in my newspaper reading, so my outrage at Scribe is about six weeks late. According to the Bookmarks column in The Age on the 29th of October, Scribe has abandoned the trade paperback. Fools. Most of the new books I buy and am given for Christmas are trade paperbacks. I buy them because they have bigger print than paperbacks and are cheaper than hard-backs and look better on my bookshelves than paperbacks. It looks like I will be buying less books and getting less Christmas gifts published by Scribe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review of The Last Albatross by Ian Irvine

The Last Albatross (Human Rites, #1)The Last Albatross by Ian Irvine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Last Albatross is set in a near future Australia where the technology, environment and economy is failing. It is a story of extreme environmentalists versus, in the beginning at least, an apathetic materialistic woman and her partner.

The heroine of the story is Jemma. She is an overweight, unconfident school-teacher who wants to have a child. Her older partner, Ryn, is a computer scientist who forecasts the damage from major weather events. At the start of the book he is working on a program that forecasts the effects of the collapse of one of the Antarctic ice shelves.

In his youth, Ryn and a mentally unstable friend Hercus found a bar of plutonium at Maralinga and buried it in a relative’s back yard. There it remains for years until Hercus returns into Jemmas and Ryn’s life. He is distressed about materialists destroying the environment is going to get rid of them all. And so the adventure begins.

I did not really like the characters. Not my type of people. Jemma had sold her soul to un-fulfilling nothingness long before the novel started. Ryn was too rapped up in his work to care about anything. Hercus wanted to blame the world for everything bad in his life. In the end, only really Jemma came close to redeeming herself.

I did have a problem with technology constantly refusing to function throughout the story. Although the Australia in the novel is a virtual corporate dictatorship, I still kept on thinking, only fools will buy the corporation’s goods if they don’t work. Others will buy, make, illegally import, invent some other product that actually works or just go without. Basically I thought Jemma and Ryn fell into the fools category, the type of people who keep on going back to the Reject Shop to buy a replacement for something that just broke.

I think the novel was too long. It should have ended with Jemma and Ryn’s attempts to stop Hercus using the plutonium. Instead, it continued with Jemma improbably taking over a speech in front of world leaders from her ailing husband. I thought Jemma’s and Ryn’s reputation was so soiled at the time that it would be a bit like Lindy Chamberlain addressing a child care conference. We know a dingo did it, but still there is baby’s blood thrown by the media all over Lindy.

The novel ends up portraying all environmentalists as extremist nutters. This aspect of the novel really rubbed against me. I was surprised to see the author himself has/does work in the environmental field.

Overall, I thought the novel okay, it did keep me reading. I was just frustrated by its character’s motivations and some of its ideas.


View all my reviews

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 45, Year 4


Hi all,

Half of last week was taken up with successfully completing National Novel Writing Month. Apart from a great sense of achievement, that I could actually average 1667 words per day over a month, I also finished with a sore lower back from my desk chair. The back seems to be on the improve today, after a swim, adjusting the chair and spending less time sitting in it over the past five days.

New Article on DiVine

On the last day of NaNoWriMo I got an email from the editor of DiVine magazine wanting me to write a short article about a research project into the experiences of students with disabilities at school. I got up early the next morning and wrote the article and it was up on the site an hour later. We were both happy with the quick turn around; a nice quick earner.

Novel Going Well

My first draft of the novel is probably not halfway written yet. It should end up at least 100,000 words. At the moment I am 6,000 words into part two of its projected three parts.  

My plan for the novel seems to working well. Sometimes the characters take the storyline away from the plan, but they then seem to naturally return the narrative to my outline.

I hope to continue writing the novel at about 7,000 words a week. At that rate, it will be a couple of months before the first draft is finished.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo - the finish


Hi all,

I started the final nine days of National Novel Writing Month needing only to write 10508 words to reach my 50,000 target. That should have been easy as I was averaging over 1800 words a day. Did I make it?

Day twenty-two: I had the house to myself for the next four days. You would think that would mean an ideal environment to write, but I like to take a break and slob around when alone. I was nearly four days ahead of schedule for NaNoWriMo, my brain was beginning to tire and I was developing a sore lower back from siting at my desk, so I decided to only write a bit on each of those four days. On day twenty-two I wrote only 464 words, for a total of 39956.

Day twenty-three: 287 words for a total of 40243.

Day twenty-four: 110 words for a total of 40353.

Day twenty-five: releasing I was leaving myself a lot of words to write in only five days I wrote 1006 words for a total of 41359.

Day twenty-six: I now needed to average close to the original daily total of 1667 to finish on time, so I upped the word count to 1965 for a total of 43324 words.

Day twenty-seven: 1685 words for a total of 45009. But then I accidentally deleted a chapter from my computer. I had given the chapter I spent the day writing the same file name as a previous chapter and then saved it. Ahhhh. Fortunately I had been backing up every night and was able to recover the deleted chapter from a memory stick.

I then spent a lot of time updating my plan for the next few chapters to ensure that indecision would not limit my word output on the final few days.

Day twenty-eight: 1731 words for a total of 46740 words.

Day twenty-nine: 1692 words for a total of 48422.

Day thirty: I only needed to write 1578 words. My back ached and sudden temperature changes had caused my asthma to suck my energy away. My sister visited. It was her birthday, so I had to at least say happy birthday. It was just as well I didn’t check my email early because the editor of Divine wanted me to write an article which needed to be submitted the next day.

I was checking my word count every 100 words or so and adding them to my excel spreadsheet so it would tell me exactly how many words I had to go. Finally the excel world count said 50014.

Yay me. I had done what I thought impossible. I had written more words in the past 30 days than I had written in the past six months.

What I learnt from NaNoWriMo

I can write 1500 – 2000 words a day. It takes about four hours of writing. Another ½ hour of planning, and many hours of thinking. Before I did NaNoWriMo, I would usually turn my computer on and have a look at what I had written the previous day and spend most of my time fixing it and not moving forward. With NaNoWriMo I mostly ignored what I had written previously.

I did go back and ensure that a character’s hair had not changed colour and I changed the dialogue of one character and made a few changes for the sake of consistency. I also scraped a couple of paragraph starts of a two chapters because I thought of a better way to start them.

But I did very little editing. Which left me with the thought, why bother editing at this stage? Especially as I tend to totally rewrite a story/novel on the second and third drafts. Why try to fix what will be rewritten? I think formerly my attitude was a bit like if I died, then someone might turn on  my computer and read my stuff and think I can’t write.

So from now on, my first drafts of anything are going to be an unedited sprawl of missed commas and split infinitives.

  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaNoWriMo Week 3


Hi all,

It’s the end of week three of National Novel Writing Month and I am feeling tired and of need of a break from writing. In the last two days in particular I have felt like just lying on the bed and dozing. Anyway, I forced myself to write past distractions until the writing eventually became easier. Here is how I went:

Day fifteen: Must have been an easy day’s writing because I can’t remember any issues. I finished chapter thirteen, or so I thought. I wrote 1837 words for a total of 27641.

Day sixteen: I was tired. I changed the ending of chapter thirteen and then wrote chapter fourteen which ended up feeling a bit like a fill in chapter. It might not survive an edit. But I need something to break chapter thirteen from chapter fifteen. I wrote 1947 words for the day. Total 29588.

Day seventeen: I realised that for consistency I better start making a plan of the interior of the spaceship much of the story is set on, which I did. Wrote 1839 words. Total 31427.

Day eighteen: Did some research on heart rates. I had written 900 words by lunch, but found distractions after eating. Eventually got back to the writing and wrote 2140 words. I am two-thirds of the way to the 50,000 mark with 33561 words in total.

Day nineteen: Another daily count in the 1830’s with 1833 words. Total of 35394

Day twenty: Really did not feel like writing. It was a real struggle to get the words out until a flash of insight near the end of the day. I wrote 2099 words for a total of 37493.

Day twenty-one: I felt just as tired as the previous day, which is not the way to start a week. I have decided to divide the novel into three parts. At the moment I am nearing the end of part one, so I reckon the novel will be around the 110,000 words. I wrote 1999 words for the day for a total of 39492.

I am averaging 1880 words a day. I am now 4492 words ahead of schedule. I am very much looking forward to a couple of days off writing.

In other news, Bravenet apologised for sending any email messages I sent the previous week to their spam account. They have given me a month’s free hosting.

I also finished critiquing a novel and reading Patrick White’s intriguing, over punctuated Voss. I will review it when I have finished NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaNoWriMo Week 2


Hi all,

It’s been a busy week of writing and frustrations about writing and technology. I have wondered if technology would intervene in my attempt to get to 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Although I have had no computer mal-functions so far, trying to solve problems with my email (Bravenet) have taken time away from writing.

My email has probably been doing the worse thing it could possibly do: telling me it has sent messages when they haven’t been. I was debating edits to an article I had written for Divine, and suddenly he stopped receiving my emails. He ended up ringing me to find out if I still wanted the article published. I did.

I have contacted Bravenet to see if they care enough to actually fix the problem. They took months to fix a previous problem where my word attachments were being turned into a mess of symbols at the receiver’s end. Needless to say, once I have time, I will be moving my website and email hosting somewhere else.

New Article on DiVine.  

I have a new article up on DiVine today and it is about weight loss. It is particularly aimed at people with disabilities. One thing I knew, which was reaffirmed by my research, was that many weight loss programs have a physical exercise element. Physical exercise can be very difficult for people with certain disabilities. I found a very interesting site in Sparkpeople which is a bit like a Facebook for people who want to lose weight. It has groups for people with disabilities and groups for chair exercises. Because DiVine is a Victorian Government site, I had to severely reduce references I wanted to make to Sparkpeople.

NaNoWriMo.

My goal for the second week of NaNoWriMo was to write more words on each day of the week than I did for the previous week.

Day eight: I spent a while discussing (at least I thought) edits on the DiVine article so I did not get to writing to 2pm. I still managed to write 1788 words which was a fraction over the previous Tuesday’s total. I had written 14416 words in total.

Day nine: I was very angry when I started writing; not the greatest frame of mind to write in. I did some research and found a suitable point in space for the story to be set in. I finished chapter six and then wrote up a lot of notes. The novel’s plot is looking very good. I wrote 1740 words for a total of 16156.

Day ten: More quick research, this time on the brain and what parts of it do. There were no interruptions as I was blissfully unaware that my email wasn’t working. I wrote 1771 words for a total of 17927.

Day eleven: I felt like crap all day, with a sore back of the head, sore hands, even a splinter – which I removed – in the tip of a finger. If I was going to concede defeat on writing my daily quota, this would have been the day. Instead, I wrote until I finished chapter nine. With lots of small chapters, this novel is different from the other two I have written. I wrote 2100 words to scrape over the 20,000 words.

Day twelve: I was distracted by finding my email wasn’t working. Again I didn’t start writing until after 2pm. But I still made the quota and I still bettered last Saturday’s word count. I wrote 1839 words for a total of 21866.

Day thirteen: And I failed to better last Sunday’s word count. I finished chapter eleven and thought that would be a good place to stop for the day. I figured out I am writing at about 500 words an hour, but I am not going back past the current sentence I am writing to edit. I also spend about half an hour a day sorting my notes out. And many hours thinking about the novel. I wrote 2059 words for the day and a total of 23925.

Day fourteen: Again I was distracted by my stupid email. I am fed up with Bravenet and I sent them an email telling them so. I would not recommend Bravenet to anyone, their customer support is probably the worst I have encountered – and I have dealt with Amazon to get a Kindle replaced. I managed to settle the mind and do some writing. I wrote 1879 words and passed the halfway mark for a total of 25804 words. 

I only missed bettering the previous week’s daily word counts on one day. I am now 2471 words ahead of schedule.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

My NaNoWriMo week.


Hi all,

I have just finished the first week of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This is how I faired:

Day one: I started a brand new novel. The ideas for the novel had only been pulled together over the previous few days. I was not sure whether I would get anywhere near the 1667 words required on average per day.

The first chapter was to introduce the main character, his predicament and his somewhat drastic reaction. I wrote this chapter in first person. I finished the chapter and then thought about stopping for the day as my word count was at 1630, just below the average of 1667. But I was reminded by a friend that it’s easier to begin writing the next day if you have a scene set and started, so I wrote the first 70 words of chapter two. I wrote 1700 words for the first day.

Day two: When walking back from the pool, I thought up a better way to open chapter two, so I scrapped the start and began again. I then had to stop and walk to the dentist and then spend a lovely hour and twenty minutes getting a root canal finished.

Chapter two is written in third person and the story is told from three different POV. I felt like I was creating distinct voices for each of them. I wrote 1710 words for a total of 3410.

Day three:  I went back and did some editing (naughty Graham) and deleted about 100 words. The writing for chapter two became more technical as characters followed step by step procedures. I finished chapter two and started chapter three. I wrote 1647 words for the day, so I did not make the average daily quota. 5057 words in total.

Day four: On the way back from the pool I found myself stopping to write a lot of notes and, once again, I thought of a better beginning to a chapter I had started, so I scrapped some more words. Chapter three, like chapter one, is one long scene, and when you don’t need to stop and think about setting a scene it is a lot easier to punch out the words. After I finished writing, I spent some time sorting out my notes for the novel. I wrote 1760 words for a total of 6817.

Day five:  I woke up a few times during the night to write down ideas for the novel. When I got up the next morning, I immediately snatched up my notebook to write more notes.  When I finally began writing, I finished chapter three and was well into chapter four before stopping.

I am finding that writing at this pace certainly helps with remembering what is happening and keeping a character’s voice consistent. I wrote 1760 words for the second day in a row, for a total of 8577 words.

Day six: Writing seemed very easy. I finished chapter four and was well into chapter five when I stopped, rushing to 2197 words and a total of 10774. I am finding the more I write, the more I want to write.

Day seven: A few things interfered with my writing time, like the editor for Divine sending me an edited version of my next article with changes, some of which I did not agree with. I spent a lot of time composing an email that explained why I thought some of his changes diminished the article. Then the house insurance bill arrived and a long discussion broke out about whether we are under or overinsured. Did yet another online insurance contents estimate – came out much the same as the previous ones. Just as well I had written around 800 words before I checked my email and mail. I then managed to write another 1000 words or so for a total of 1854 and a week one total of 12628.

After week one I am 959 words ahead of schedule. I have amazed myself with my output. I have written more in seven days than I usually write in seven weeks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 44 Year 4


National Novel Writing Month.

Last week I finished and submitted my next article for DiVine magazine. The article is about weight loss for people with disabilities. I then finished re-writing a short story. Before I had time to think about what to do next I saw a post about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and decided to give it a go.

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in November. About 300,000 people worldwide usually attempt NaNoWriMo.

Those who have read this blog would know about my miniscule word output, so me deciding to write 50,000 words in a month is a bit like someone who just occasionally jogs around the block deciding they are going to run a marathon on every day of November.

Once I committed myself to the idea of NaNoWriMo, I had to come up with a scenario to push me onto the starting line. I considered using a 2000 word excerpt of a young adult novel I had written for my masters as a starting point. Alternatively, I could have added 50,000 words to one of my novels in progress. The better one is at about 15,000 words, while the other one is at 40,000 words and not getting anywhere fast.

But I knew I would more likely achieve the 50,000 words with something new, as I find the early words of a novel a lot easier to write. The later words seem to come out slower, probably due to attempts to keep the plot and characters consistent.

I decided to use a novel scenario I have had floating around in my head for years. On Friday, between sets of weights and watering the veggies and pot plants, I wrote down pages of notes. I have been frequently adding to those notes over the past few days.

I have a main character, a theme, a scenario that covers the whole story arc, an internal and an external problem for the main character to solve, a problem for the secondary characters to solve, and a problem for the main character and secondary characters to solve together.  I have figured out the first half of the novel – assuming it doesn’t take a more adventurous route.

For the first time, I am going to write chapters from alternative points of view. I am even going to change from first person to third person with the alternating points of view. This approach was very effective in Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood.

And of course the novel I am going to write is science fiction.

So I will probably not be making much noise on the web for the next month. I hope to update my blog every now and then with how my NaNoWriMo race is going.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 43, Year 4.


Hi all,

Amazon’s Latest Publishing Exploits.

In the past couple of weeks two articles about Amazon’s publishing ambitions have backed up my thoughts that they will soon dominate the publishing industry. The first article in Publisher’s Weekly was about the launch of Amazon’s new publishing imprint called 47North. This imprint will publish Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

47North had signed 15 titles when it launched and included a series by Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear. All titles will be available in print, Kindle and audio formats.

The article also mentions an author who signed up to Amazon publishing because of their better ebook royalty rate. Traditional publishers, it would seem, are going to have to raise their 25% ebook royalty to compete with Amazon.

The second article appeared in the NY Times. It starts by announcing that “Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and ebook form.” “Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”

Literary agent Richard Curtis is quoted as saying “everyone is afraid of Amazon”. Amazon is offering authors the opportunity to cut agents out. One of Amazon’s executives says “the only really necessary people in the publishing process are now the writer and the reader”.

I have been thinking that agents are probably going to have to reinvent themselves if they are going to survive into the future.

As for book reviewers (critics) there are thousands of them on the web, but will they disappear from the press? I know I have yet to buy a book based solely on its reviews on Amazon, but I do look at them. I am aware that the five star reviews for a book could be written by friends or aliases of the author. While the zero star review might be written by a disgruntled writer who is angry at the world. In last week’s blog post I listed books I want for Christmas. I read good reviews of all the books I wanted in The Age.

The article also said than an author’s contract with Amazon forbade her discussing its details. This is worrying.

Contagion

While watching Contagion I pondered what viruses the person who packed the lollies I was eating may have had. The film could make a person as paranoid about germs as Jaws made people scared of sharks. I found Contagion engrossing. Its one of those rare films, for me these days, where my attention only briefly wandered.

It’s a story about the outbreak a flu type virus that kills millions around the world. Stephen Soderbergh directed it and it is very like another movie of his Traffic. The story is told from multiple viewpoints in a rather unemotional style. But it is deceptively subtle. You need to watch and think.

I left the film wondering if I had just watched a science fiction film or just a medical thriller. For a story to be classified as science fiction, science has to be essential to the plot. In other words, if the science is taken out, there is no plot. If the science was taken out of Contagion, then a fair bit of the plot would have gone with it. There would have been no search for a vaccine. The film would have been mainly about the civil attempts to contain the virus, so about a quarter to a third of the film would have gone missing.

If the film had been science fiction, it could have gone the way of the Andromeda Strain and remained mainly in the research labs. I think such a film would not have been as good. I doubt whether Contagion will be judged as science fiction for the Hugos.

My Writing Efforts

After a lot more research, I have all but finished my article on weight loss for people with disabilities. The research has made me feel fat, but at least I now have a lot of information about losing that fat. I hope to submit the article to Divine by Wednesday. I only briefly worked on the short story I am writing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 42, Year 4

Hi all,

If I Had Written Terra Nova…

I am still watching the American made in Australia science-fiction dinosaur series Terra Nova. The last couple of episodes have shown promise, but have only just passed being mediocre.

In the last episode a virus caused memory lose and the scientists trying to stop it forget what they were doing. This is not exactly an original plot for science-fiction. I quickly worked out that the main character’s cold virus would kill the amnesia virus, but unfortunately it took the supposedly brilliant doctor a lot longer.

I still don’t like the main characters. They are too selfish. The main family has no hesitation putting their comforts ahead of the survival of the settlement; they are a bit like apprentice Doctor Smiths from Lost in Space.

Terra Nova’s real problem is it is trying to be a family drama set in a world of dinosaurs, rather than a science-fiction series.

If I had written Terra Nova, I would have started with the main character’s living their lives in 2140. I would have shown them at work and school and interacting with society. This would have given the characters a chance to start behaving like people from the future and not from the noughties. While they lived their lives, I would have shown the porthole being discovered and then explored, and then how they figured out it was on a different time-line. Then I would have shown the first settlers establishing Terra Nova.

I think a much more original series would have resulted, with more believable characters who I actually care about.

Christmas Book Wish List.

A few relatives have been asking what I want for Christmas, so I gave them a list of books to choose from:

The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood, HarperCollins
The Waterboys, Peter Docker, Freemantle Press
Machine Man, Max Barry, Scribe
Black Glass, Meg Mundell, Scribe
Things we Didn’t See Coming, Steve Amsterdam, Sleepers Publishing
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu, Corvus
Ark, Stephen Baxter, Gollancz
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, Fourth Estate.

Just about all these choices come after reading good reviews for them in the Age.

John Carpenter’s The Thing.

In preparation for seeing the new prequel to The Thing, I once again watched John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. For those who don’t know the film: an alien space craft is discovered buried in the Artic ice. Its occupant, once thawed, invades human bodies and mimics their owners. Paranoia quickly takes hold at the Artic base as one by one they die. It is truly a great science-fiction film.

I am a great fan of Carpenter’s horror and science fiction films, like Escape From New York, The Fog, Halloween, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China, The Prince of Darkness and They Live, even his remake of the Village of the Damned which Wikipedia calls a misfire. Carpenter also turned me into a great fan of Kirk Russell.

Reviews suggest the new prequel of The Thing is nowhere near as good as Carpenter’s version, but how could it be?

Proofreading.

Every now and then I have cause to look over previous posts on this blog and I quickly become ashamed and frustrated with the number of typos I find. My punctuation and grammar really isn’t as bad as some might think when reading my blog. Obviously just editing on screen (up to three times a post) is not working. So I did some research on how to improve my proofreading.

I could identify with Mark Twain who said:

“You think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes & vacancies but you don't know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along.”

So this week I have decided that after an initial edit on the screen, I will print a draft post and check it on paper (so much for saving paper). I will read the text aloud. I will even read the text backwards, sentence by sentence as suggested in proofreading articles. In the future I also plan to leave a draft post for a day before proofreading it. But some typos are sure to still slip through.

And those who read this using Notes on Facebook, the random removal of spaces between words is caused by Notes, not by my lack of proofreading. I have notified Facebook of this problem. For a cleaner version click on the note title until you get to my blog.

My Writing

Last week I did a lot of research for my next Divine article on diets for people with disabilities. I also typed a few words closer to finishing rewriting a short story. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 41, year 4


Hi from slightly agitated Graham,

Yahoo’s brainless menu system.

I don’t have the patience for inane and illogical website navigation systems. I never liked Yahoo’s busy look and cumbersome navigation system, and only use Yahoo when I need to access an online writing group to download a file. I was trying to access that group today, but Yahoo told me I had to create a profile first. WTF: I already had a profile. I closed the box and tried again, but it repeated its demand, so I clicked on create a new profile.

A new box opened, telling me to add a new email address. Why, so Yahoo could spam me twice? I added a new email address. It then wanted me to add a new alias for using yahoo groups. When fuckyouyahoo was rejected, I tried grahamclements. It said someone already used that, probably me, and I should choose another alias between 2 and 16 letters. I typed gjc, but it said choose a longer alias, it seems their system can’t count.  

I eventually found an appropriate length alias. And then it asked me to choose which profile I wanted to use. The reason it seems for wanting me to create a new profile was so I could choose between them. Unbelievable.

Writer's Contract Terminated After She Self-Publishes.

Hawaiian author Kiana Davenport had her contract for a novel with a traditional publisher cancelled after they discovered she had recently self-published two short story collections. The publisher also demanded she return her $20,000 advance.

Kiana has written a well read blog post about what happened with lots of comments. Most of the comments condemn the publisher. A lot complain about the Big 6 publishers treating authors like serfs.

Even though Kiana’s short story collections had been rejected by her publisher and others, if I had been in Kiana’s situation I would have done the courteous thing and told the publisher I was going to self-publish.

Why couldn’t the publisher have just told Kiana they were upset and asked her not to do it again? According to the author the publisher had a fear and loathing of Amazon. Perhaps the discussion between the publisher and the author/agent was too bitter for them to continue working together. Or perhaps the publisher really was just use to treating authors like serfs.

I couldn’t help thinking the publisher might have had other reasons, legitimate or otherwise, for terminating the contract.

The Big 6 US Publishers.

As I don’t have a novel manuscript of publishable quality yet, I am have done little research about publishers. I had not heard of the Big 6 publishers before reading Kiana’s blog post. I have since done some research and the Big 6 are:

Hachette
HarperCollins
Macmillan
Penguin
Random House
Simon & Schuster

Most of the Big 6 have dozens of publishing imprints. Macmillan owns science fiction publishers Tor and Orb. Penguin similarly owns Ace and Simon & Schuster distribute for Baen. As far as I could tell, the evil overlord Rupert Murdoch only owns HarperCollins.

At the moment most of my interest and research in relation to publishing concerns the ebook revolution and self-publishing versus traditional publishing. 

My Writing.

Once more, I wrote every day last week, but as in previous weeks, I did not write that much. I have just about finished rewriting a short story, which I will hopefully finish this week while starting research for my next couple of DiVine articles.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 40, Year 4

Hi from Grumpy Graham,

I felt so tired last week, moody too. I also worried about pains? strains? in the lower back. But I still managed to write a little every day.

I have nearly finished the second draft of a short story that has grown from the nice size of 5,000 words to an awkward 6,600 words. Perhaps I am enjoying the voice I have created for its main character, a curious dog, too much.      

I also got into critiquing a novel. I have previously critiqued a now published novel from the same author.

Terra Nova

I am one of the few people in the world who wasn’t a producer or writer of the new science fiction series Terra Nova. It premiered on Australian TV last night. I think there must have been at least ten producers as well as four writers for the first episode.

The series is set near the end of this century in a grimy and overpopulated world. A porthole is discovered that can take people back 85 million years. It is a different timeline, so they can’t stuff up the future. A settlement is established and humans get to flee the bleak future to live with the dinosaurs.

The plot for the first double episode had holes wide enough for a herd of dinosaurs to stampede through. The one that really irked me was the fact that the main family consists of a cop and a doctor who for some reason had a major compassion and brain fade when deciding to have a third child. They could only legally have two children. This meant that they would have to hide the third child from the authorities forever: what a great life for the kid. So I have the parents pegged as arseholes at the moment.

The characters all seem to have been transported from the 1990’s, not the 2090’s. Apart from the dialogue being full of 1990’s clich├ęs, the kids behaved in the same spoilt manner as today’s kids, not that of kids who have had to live in very austere times where an orange is a rare and special treat and where authorities seem to ruthlessly tackle law breakers.

Other plot elements include a group of settlers who have broken away from the settlement and a mad missing son of the settlement’s commander. The son runs around writing predictive equations on rocks.

I thought the dinosaurs being near bullet proof was ridiculous. You reckon if they were going to send people back to a world full of dinosaurs they would at least take decent weapons, like machine guns with uranium depleted shells that the US army currently uses to shoot up tanks or even a few rocket launchers.

Unlike Primeval, this series seems to be trying to take itself seriously, and if the first episodes are anything to go by, I think it will struggle.

And I really appreciated Channel Ten putting up graphics telling me an ad break was coming up soon. It gave me ten or so seconds to decide what to do during the break: perhaps ring up Channel Ten and tell them to piss off the graphics.  

Bookshops Closing in the UK.

I have read a number of articles in the past few months about the diminishing number of bookshops in the UK, but none as foreboding as the figures contained in Sept 10’s Bookmarks column in the Age. It said that in the past six years 2,000 high street bookshops have closed in Britain, leaving 2,178. English authors have 2,000 less places to sell their books and 2,000 less places to promote their books. Online shopping and ebooks were blamed for the decline.

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

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.