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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Thanks!

October 23, 2011 1 comment

After 12,000 reads, it’s probably time to say “Thanks!” I appreciate you stopping by and coming back for more. For me, it’s about spreading a bit of joy and pulling people up to say, “Hey, did you notice that …?”

Categories: Writing

Beautiful book bag

August 3, 2011 2 comments

I love my latest book-ish thing…

Book bag

It protects my precious books in transit.

A pouch for a writing pad, a slot for pencils and a snug spot for my beloved book...

Order yours from http://www.olvarwood.com.au/gifts.html

And, because caring is sharing, here’s a quote from the book I’m reading (The Story of a Novel). These words of Thomas Wolfe were originally published in 1936, but the feeling still holds true for those afflicted with the need to write. At pp.36-7:

It seemed that I had inside me, swelling and gathering all the time, a huge black cloud, and that this cloud was loaded with electricity, pregnant, crested, with a kind of hurricane violence that could not be held in check much longer; that the moment was approaching fast when it must break.

Categories: Australia, Books, Craft, Review, Writing

Office politics: What to do about the milk?

July 6, 2011 8 comments

This may be a short, but very significant post.

What do YOU do to stop co-workers using up ALL of your milk within a day of purchase?

I’m convinced that someone on my floor is bathing in my milk like Cleopatra, because it disappears Just Like That. I wrote my name in permanent ink pen on it, following office protocol. I also tried writing the name of crankier, slightly scarier individuals on it. Today, I tried something new….

Will this deter the milk thief?

I don’t mind the occasional sharing. However, from my last bottle of milk, I only had 3 cups of coffee (which is enough for one day of average output. No coffee, no workee).

If this doesn’t work, I’m thinking of writing EXPRESSED BREAST MILK on the bottle. Although, that might be going too far. After all, I  don’t need to include the word “expressed”, because it’s self-evident. If it weren’t expressed, well, it’d be a breast in the fridge (and no-one wants that).

Does your workplace have this problem? What are your handy hints?

Global Corporate Challenge (and another day at the office)

May 22, 2011 4 comments

Teamwork is something that most offices aspire to. This week, teamwork has taken on a new spirit, with gazillions of suckers, like me, putting on a pedometer and logging into a teamsite to record daily steps taken as part of a 16 week challenge.

It’s a virtual walk-around-the-world gig, which raises money for Children’s Challenge, Footprint Initiative and the Foundation for  Chronic Disease Prevention. And, I suppose, it’s good for us. Let’s not mention the fun.

Some people take it very seriously. Others, have already been caught out shaking the pedometer under their desks, which can look like something much worse (there has been an increase in loud laughing at the office, of late).

I’m up against another team, whose members ride to work, have personal trainers and are otherwise intimidated (in the nicest possible way) by the super-fit former PE teacher on staff.

Being against gratuitous exercise, I was lucky enough to get my daily count up this weekend by jiggling away at a fabulous 40th birthday party which had an 80s band until midnight. For anyone out there, with my allergy to exercise, that’s my hot tip #1: dancing to 80s music counts. Who can resist bouncing up and down to the outlandishly positive sounds of the 80s?

So, for 16 weeks, watch this space, as I explore what it means to be a good office-mate and fit global citizen. I might even start to enjoy exercise that doesn’t involve being first at the mid-year David Jones shoe sale.

Parents and teachers, take a look at the Children’s Challenge site and see if it’s something your schools could benefit from (it’s free to a limited number of applicants).

Have a great week, and try not to lock yourself in the fire escape if you’re going with the stairs instead of the lifts. That would be my tip #2.

LOL: Crimes against language – dot dot dot

April 3, 2011 1 comment

I make a living from using words as well as I can. People pay me to make their words work for them, not against them. I see all sorts of crimes against language and clarity which make me want to rant, but laughter is more fun…

Jacqueline Howett’s response to a “discusting” book review

April 3, 2011 4 comments

In case you hadn’t heard, Jacqueline Howett self-published the unfortunately named book “The Greek Seaman” and more unfortunately still, over-reacted to a reviewer, in what might be the longest tantrum online.

Here’s the original review by Big AL:

If you read The Greek Seaman from the start until you click next page for the last time I think you’ll find the story compelling and interesting. The culture shock felt by the newlywed bride, Katy, who finds herself far from her native England, living on a cargo ship with her seaman husband Don is a good story in itself. Katy adapting to this all male environment with a crew of mixed nationality, most non-English speaking, is compelling. Whether Katy and Don will survive the criminal conspiracies the ship owner and captain have planned is yet another conflict that should keep a reader in suspense to the end.

However, odds of making that final click are slim. One reason is the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant…

Her response:

This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me AL.

Who are you any way? Really who are you?

What do we know about you?

You never downloaded another copy you liar!

You never ever returned to me an e-mail

Besides if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors.

Your the target not me!

A little taste of the novel in question:

She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs.

Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance.

I’m not sure I have enough time to read more about this stocky ballerina who marries a seaman. I’m not even sure how one goes about watching someone hypnotically – when I look at my cross-eyed cat for too long, my eyes get watery – does that come close?

Her angry, error-laden responses (see comments), including two F offs in full glory, make one wonder about:

* how a self-proclaimed writer could have such a limited command of language

* why people treat online communication so flippantly (and disregard manners)

* the danger of bias and self-delusion (the deep end of too much positivity, perhaps?).

Sadly for other self-published writers, Jacqueline makes a good case for traditional publishing, where very few writers make it through the hoops of fire.

Google her for more details on how to get her book. Or, you could find a big nest of green ants and roll in it.

Beware of parents

March 23, 2011 2 comments

Language is a wonderful thing; but it needs to be used sparingly and with caution.

This is especially so, with signage in high traffic areas.

“FOR THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN, PARENTS NOT PERMITTED”.

That’s a classic.

Coffee shop? Really?

February 13, 2011 6 comments

Imagine my surprise, when my new boss led me in between and behind old buildings and under a boom gate for our first team meeting over coffee. Coffee shop? Where? Is this some peculiar initiation ceremony for writers?

Squeeze through a little gap to get around it, or just go under it. All in the name of coffee...

What was even more surprising, was that we couldn’t get a seat. It was packed.

Wooden bench seats & tables inside and coffee machines screaming their own happy tune. Brisbane's hip new place for caffeine.

What does this say about Brisbane’s sophisticated coffee-drinking set? Would you like to get mugged with your coffee, or would you like your coffee in a mug?

Now that I’m back in the city working, after a long stint in the burbs, I’d appreciate any tips on places to go. Do you know of any cool places?

P.S. This place is somewhere around Elizabeth St Brisbane. Have fun trying to find it!

4,000 Thank you’s

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment


This week, my little blog surprised me by clocking its 4000th visit, so I thought it a good time to say, thanks for swinging by (and coming back). I hope 2011 treats you well.
Smiles,
T.

E-books & the death of book stores

November 9, 2010 5 comments


With the arrival of e-books, people in publishing are deeply worried about:
A. the survival of brick ‘n mortar book stores; and
B. the future of traditional paper publishing.
What the conversation is missing, is the consumer.

What do consumers want?
Do they want paper books to continue as they are?
Do they want physical book stores?
Do they prefer e-books and e-stores?
Can they continue to have both?
Will they mind waiting longer to get Print On Demand books, instead of just taking something off a shelf?
What about the cost of books and e-devices?

In this post, I’ll focus on the effect of pricing and invite your thoughts.

The price of books & the death of book stores

The price of books in Australia is always a contentious issue. They seem expensive and yet, very few authors can live off their writing and book sellers are bleeding. People in all aspects of publishing live modestly. There’s lots of love, but not a lot of money. Why?

Book shops are diversifying more into gift lines and coffee, since book selling is becoming uneconomic due to:
* on-line selling;
* predatory discounting practices of department stores; and
* e-book retailers because (in Australia) brick ‘n mortar stores aren’t able to sell e-books (why?!).

I’ll briefly touch upon the main players in the price wars.

Parallel importation?
Over a year ago, book sellers, led by Dymocks, thought that parallel importation would save them. The New Zealand uptake of that policy proved disastrous. You can’t have eggs without chickens. Killing local publishing to save local book selling is at best, wonky thinking.

Predatory pricing
Big department stores sell books cheaper because they demand around 70 per cent off from the publishers, and they use cheap books to lure more people into the store to spend money on other things (to offset the discount). This dynamic works for consumers until the competition is killed off, then prices go up and choice goes out the door. It’s not competition; it’s a killing field.

GST
In Australia, GST is applied to all stages of a book’s production. No government has been open to dropping it. Economists tell me it’s because book sellers will apply the GST savings to their own bottom line and not pass it on to consumers.

So the choice is: GST revenue to the government to churn and burn, or leave it in the industry so that more businesses can keep their doors open (and possibly, pass on price reductions to consumers in the line of normal competition?). Frankly, I would’ve thought that an “Education Revolution” (to use a Labor Party slogan) might’ve included books.

E-books will be the final blow to Aussie book stores, unless…
E-books are currently retailing around $9.99 on Amazon and according to Michael Hyatt, there’s no likelihood that prices will sustainably drop below that point. E-publishing and e-distribution, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t deliver big cost savings.

I think that once publishers work out all the other funky things they can do in the e-world, prices will eventually go up because they’ll be producing more on-line content to sell their books. Publishers will rise from the ashes of burned out book stores insofar as they’ll be selling directly to online consumers.

In America, e-books are rapidly gaining popularity. The Aussie uptake has been slow and the publishing industry has been reluctant to respond to the new paradigm. Australia doesn’t have the population to shoulder massive market changes as readily. That being said, we can’t put it off any longer.

Conclusion
So, what will e-books do to the price of books in Australia? Not much, it seems, unless the government removes the GST from the equation and revises competition law. With the GST in place, more people will shop on-line to avoid it and brick ‘n mortar book stores in Australia will continue their rapid decline in the face of anti-competitive practices by bigger players.

People will go to book shops to have coffee, browse inside books and then purchase them (either in paper or electronic format) elsewhere, online. That’s not a sustainable business model. Book sellers had better come up with something new, quickly, to value-add to the experience of loving books.

While $9.99 for an e-book is up to half the price of a traditional book, you have to buy the e-reader as well. And even though they are coming down in price, will you be buying one for your kids this Christmas? They aren’t so forgiving when dropped. And how many e-books do you have to buy to make up the savings as against the cost of the device?

I’m not against e-books. I’m not advocating for them, either. I love what’s inside books and where those books take me. People should have a choice. I just hope that the Australian government and industry get the balance right, before our favourite book shops bleed out.

QUESTION:
What do you wish you could tell the government or publishing industry in Australia? Do you think book shops will survive?

N.B. I encourage all respectful views. Feel free to disagree, without being disagreeable. No-one has all of the answers. Sharing is caring.

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