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).


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.]


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.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Blazing Trailers - promotion

If you have self-published a work then you need to grab all the free publicity you can get with both hands and squeeze lovingly. You should know about Blazing Trailers. Nowadays many books have a 'trailer' - images or video with music and text, promoting the book. They're easy and fun to make yourself, or you can pay for a more professional service. These can be hosted on a site like YouTube or Vimeo, and from there can be affectionately embedded on your website or blog.

Blazing Trailers are one of the paid services for creating trailers, but they also act as a showcase for everyone's trailers, for free. So as an author you can have a page dedicated to your work, and if you have multiple titles then also an author page which acts as index to all of them. Their site acts as a magnet for readers looking for new books, where they can browse trailers until they find something that intrigues them. If you've gone to the work of creating a trailer then you should make it as discoverable as possible, caress it with the attention it deserves; don't neglect services like this that won't cost you a penny, just a few minutes to set up a page. And if you haven't made a trailer, browse the site and look at other people's trailers for inspiration, see what works and what doesn't. Then go and make the Citizen Kane of book trailers for your work.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: 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).