Saturday, 30 June 2012

Being self-employed, and dealing with HMRC

If you are a writer and make any income from writing then you have to fill in a self-assessment tax return every year (even if you have another job that is PAYE - Pay As You Earn). It is one of the joys of being self-employed.

Warning: there may be some irony being used in this blog post.

I'm going to detail an experience I had with HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs).

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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Prometheus (film)


Last night I saw Prometheus at the cinema, Ridley Scott's attempt to create a prelude to 1979s Alien. I love the film Alien. It is one of those rarities where I can't find anything to criticise in it, nothing that distracts from the central ritual of experiencing a story. Blade Runner (also Ridley Scott) is another of the handful of films that I can't fault. I knew very little about Prometheus on entering the cinema, so did it live up to Alien? [Note - please don't read on if you haven't seen Prometheus but intend to: this post contains spoilers.]

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Friday, 22 June 2012

Review: Horror Shorts

Horror Shorts
Horror Shorts by Drew Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



I wavered about how to rate this. The six stories range in sub-genre from creature feature (‘Toad-Lickers’; ‘Crownford’s Secrets’; ‘No Smoke Without Fire’), to ghost (‘The Washroom’), to sci-fi (‘Harry Wilson’s Dad’), to mad scientist (‘The Grave-Robbing Doctor Hawthorne and the Lady in the Black Veil’). Some of them walk a fine line between cliché and comfortable genre expectations. My favourites, which I would recommend, were ‘The Washroom’ with its creepy mystery and well-placed reveal; and ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ for its complete hopelessness and fast-paced horror. They are both the kinds of things I would like to see more of, and if all the stories had been at this quality I would have rated it as a four star collection. There is nothing wrong with the other stories, they just didn't capture my interest and hold it in the same way. I think Drew Brown has a good imagination and should focus on bringing us the unexpected and atmospheric.

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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: Ivory

Ivory
Ivory by Steve Merrifield

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



[Contains spoilers] I had read reviews about the slow pace, that it only picked up towards the end. This is true, but is not necessarily a flaw, more a matter of taste. I was happy to follow events in a slow-burn way, but it won't suit the impatient.

The novel is a strange mix. On the one hand there is some good writing, convincing detail ("shoved it whole into his mouth and gnashed bitterly at it, swallowing with self-loathing"), good use of painting as analogy/theme, professional plotting, and original ideas (the twist at the end caught me by surprise, having fallen for the red herrings as to the truth about Ivory).

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