Friday, May 28, 2010

Abnormal Service Will Be Resumed Soon

Apologies for the lack of updates in the last few days, I'm hurrying to get an entry together for this - why not have a go yourself, if you're not already doing so?

Anyway, back soon - in the meantime, nano-blogging takes place on my Twitter account, if you're that keen on seeing what's inside my head at random stages during the day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Okay, You Two, Level With Me - Are You A Couple, Or Not? Yes Or No? What Is Your Situation, Eh?

Tch, I should have known better than to try to get a straight answer out of a book-TV pairing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wow, Have You See Who's In This Film?

I can't wait for this film to come out!

I love the work of Bruce Tracy and Willis Morgan!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Am I Telling You About A Writing Opportunity, Or Just Finding A Way To Justify Using This Picture, Which I Find Aesthetically Pleasing?

The answer is, of course, both.

Anyway, instead of biting your nails with anticipation for the shortlist for the Alibi Crime Writing Competition (you did enter, right?), why not put your fingers to more productive (or, at least, creative) use by entering the Perfectly Formed Short Story Competition, being run by Waterstones, Pan Macmillan and the Arvon Foundation.

Stories can be in any genre as long as they're under 2000 words, though (the opposite to the BBC writing Academy) if you've had fiction professionally published you're not allowed to enter.

The prizes seem pretty good - the winning story'll be published in a forthcoming issue of Books Quarterly, Waterstones's promotional magazine, and you get to go to a lunch with some folks from Pan Macmillan and on a week-long Arvon course (all about writing and the like), as well as winning some Pan Macmillan books. There are a couple of runner-up prizes too.

So, worth a go - nice short wordcount, and with online entry, you don't even have to buy a stamp.

Full details at the link above, or, if you can't be bothered to sweep your mouse up the page a bit, then here it is again, lazybones: tch, you appal me.

EDITED TO ADD: Oops, forgot to say, the closing date is 1 July. I appal me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Used To Work With Someone Whose Parents Wouldn't Let Her Watch Magpie When She Was Young On The Grounds That It Was 'Common'...

... but looking at this LP from one of the presenters, I think that they were probably just trying to shield her from the wanton perversion simmering below the surface of a seemingly innocent children's TV programme.

Shocking, it is. I'd write to my MP if I was confident he could read.

Hands away from the swimsuit area please, Mr Robertson.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Got A Book About How To Break Away From The 9-5? Need To Design A Cover For It?

Stick some text at the top, a silhouette of someone reclining in a palm-tree supported hammock (make sure they have one leg crooked), and you're done.

Take the rest of the day off. Again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Got A Film With The Word 'Boy' In The Title? Need To Do Some Marketing For It?

Blue background, title in big yellow letters, and your lead character front and centre.

Job done, take the rest of the day off.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Historic Occasion, Indeed

That's right, yesterday was the first UK General Election since I started this blog.

Anyway, despite the fact it's still all rather up in the air, thought I'd share a few stray thoughts about it, in no particular order:

  • Nick Griffin of the BNP didn't win the seat he stood for, despite vigorous campaigning over the last year or so, including appearing on BBC's Question Time. In fact, the BNP share of the vote was down from the last election, which leads me to conclude that the BNP might have been better off campaigning less, as it seems the more people see them, the less support they have. Certainly suggests that they shouldn't be censored or banned in case it leads to a huge increase in their support.
  • During the campaign, a lot of play was made both in the press and online about David Cameron's background, calling him a toff etc. There's certainly a point lurking under the personal attacks - that he may not be able to relate to other sections of society, etc - but I'd imagine it would be unacceptable to suggest a candidate from, say, a very poor background would be unsuitable for office? Inverted snobbery is, let's not forget, still a form of snobbery.
  • It almost feels a bit like 1992, when the polls were fairly far off the mark; in the same way that 1992 voters seemed to say they were going to vote Labour and then get into the polling booth and vote Conservative, a lot of voters said they were going to vote Lib Dem and then didn't do it when that X needed to be made.
  • Increased coverage of the actual mechanics of the UK voting system, which I think is an interesting angle: questions about voting reform and the flaws of the current or proposed other systems, and even, on the day, concerns about voters being unjustly turned away from their polling stations. Good to see the system not just being accepted 'because it's there'.
  • Distinct lack of canvassing in my constituency, really - leaflets from Labour and the Lib Dems, nothing from any of the independents, and not a single ring on the doorbell to ask about our voting intentions. It's probably my cynicism about these things, but I like to feel wooed a bit, made to feel special.
  • Thought the BBC coverage was pretty good, and the ITV stuff I saw seemed very hesitant and uncertain (with a lot fewer people; seemed the BBC had thrown all its recognisable news staff at the evening). I was fading at around 1am, I don't know how Paxman and Dimbleby managed it. Does the BBC News department endorse polyphasic sleep or something?
  • Finally, and let's put any kind of partisanship to one side and face it: none of the parties should try to claim this election shows a ringing endorsement of them or their policies, or any kind of mandate. Thankfully, none of them have done so.
    • Anyway, we do live in interesting times...

      Tuesday, May 04, 2010

      I Am Now Max Clifford

      One of the problems facing writers is their anonymity; the old joke in Hollywood used to be that an airhead actress was so keen to further her career that she slept with the screenwriter.

      And in a way, it remains that way to this day; for every Jo Rowling or Stephen King that you might recognise, there are a hundred writers who you wouldn't recognise if you tripped over them in the street (where, I guess, they'd be lying due to the writerly tendency to seek solace in the bottle, but that's a subject for another time).

      And of course there are the Salingers of this world who actively avoid publicity and camera lenses - fine for writers, but not the sort of thing you can really do if you want to be an actor or member of a band (The Residents and The Art Of Noise have dedicated, but let's face it limited, fanbases).

      It's an inevitable consequence of being the one who puts the words into the heads or mouths of other people, of course, but in an increasingly personality-driven age, where celebrity (of no matter how nanoscopic a level) is the great leg-up to success, what can a writer do to increase their chances? What, what, what?

      I'm glad you asked that question. I've been thinking about this a lot, and in fact I spent the whole of last night looking through my collection of Grazia and love it magazines, and I think I've figured out two of the best ways to get famous quick. They seem to work across a whole bunch of forms of entertainment, so I don't see any good reason why they shouldn't help writers (then again, I am an idiot).


      1) Have a tragic story to tell

      Maybe it's schadenfreude, or maybe it's schwarzwalder kirschtorte, but people love to hear tales of terrible tragedy. If your parents kept you in a sack in a box in the cellar even though they lived in a bungalow, then you shouldn't shy away from writing or talking about it.

      In all honesty, even if you didn't have a tough childhood, you shouldn't be afraid to make it up like James Frey did. Once you've sold millions of books, you might have to apologise, but by then you've banked the money, and apologising on the Oprah show is all the more bearable when you can go home to your gold-plated mansion in the Caribbean.

      Be careful not to go too far, though; whilst we all know that the audience for tragic memoirs is always keen to hear more tales of childhood neglect and abuse, know the limits: claiming to have beaten to death by a cruel step-parent might make your offering of a manuscript hard to swallow, as might getting too far into the world of make-believe; only the most gullible of publishers would stick 'Non-Fiction' on the back of the cover of your memoir of how you suffered in Narnia under the Snow Queen, or how your home in Helm's Deep was affected by a nearby battle.

      2) Claim there was chemistry between you

      This is an old showbiz trick, often used in films - if the film isn't getting very good reviews, a few well-placed leaks about some on-set shenanigans between the leads can help increase press coverage. Obviously, this is rather dependent on the film - Two Weeks [sic] Notice and, more recently, The Bounty Hunter saved a lot of money they'd have had to spend on marketing by pretending the leads had "more than just on-screen chemistry, know what I mean, nudge nudge", but it's less believable when stated of the cast of Monsters Inc, and so blindingly obvious as to not even be worthy of claiming about the cast of Suburban Shagfest 3 - Spank You Very Much.

      However, to do this you'll need to have someone to claim to have chemistry with. This is fine if you're married co-writers like Nicci French, very wrong if you write with a family member like PJ Tracy, but as most writers work alone, to avoid accusations of being in love with yourself (an allegation often levelled at more solipsistic writers, who tend to be at the literary end of the scale, or bloggers), it's best to find someone else in the process to pretend to have been having an affair with.

      For many writers, this will have to be an agent or editor, though this of course means you have to have been accepted (and not in that way) by them prior to this stage; it's not likely to help your submission very much if the query letter has a PS saying "if you take me on I will do things which are illegal in several EU countries" unless you're very confident both of your manuscript and of your own attractiveness, regardless of whoever opens the submission. And you'd probably need to send a picture to prove your point. A nice one, tastefully lit. With the top button undone, just to make sure. Yeah, you look good like that. Oh yeah baby, you know what I like. Uh-huh.

      Um, seem to have strayed from the point a bit there, but if you're going to go down the chemistry route (either real or faked), it's probably best if you, or the person you're working with, is a known quantity to the world at large. In most writing instances, that's not likely, and even if it is the case, it may not work - Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller, but if she saw it as a way to get a foot in the door of writing plays, it doesn't seem to have worked.

      Anyway, those are my two theories, and if you give either of them a go, do let me know how you get on. You might think I've made a mistake by telling you how to do it, but I've already started to use these approaches as a leg-up into being published, and am hanging round literary agents' offices with my shirt unbuttoned down to the waist. And if that doesn't work, I plan to write a misery memoir about my traumatic years spent trying to make it as a writer.

      All the bases covered there, I like to think.

      Sunday, May 02, 2010

      Up Above The Streets And Houses

      Despite the usual Bank Holiday weather, this morning Mrs Wife and I went for a brief helicopter flight along the Thames. Here, by way of proof, are pictures from mere hours ago...

      The Excel Centre in East London. I think you can see the queues for the next series of The X-Factor at the right of the building (seriously - they're holding auditions there this weekend).

      The Tower of London, with Tower Bridge in the bottom right corner (with the skid of the helicopter)

      The mother of Parliaments was the turn-around point for our trip, so it necessitated the mother of all steep turns. No, it wasn't just me being all artsy with the framing of the shot, this is how it was.

      And heading back out towards East London, and Soanes Towers, we see the Dome and Canary Wharf. Not everyone's cup of tea architecturally, either of them, I know, but to me being this close to them says one thing: I'm almost home.

      On which note, I shall get back to enjoying the Bank Holiday Sunshine, which is currently dripping down the windows. Hope you're enjoying this Now With 50% Free weekend.