Sunday, 21 June 2009

Publicity Photos - or the art of making silk purses from sow's ears

The challenge: Create a publicity photo without recourse to body-doubles.

Lesson One: Set the camera auto timer to more than two seconds

Lesson Two: Crop in close to avoid showing the desk clutter.

Use all the props. Can't afford dental work, double-chin's here to stay, so note the crafty use of hands.

Lesson Three: Lose the young and hip Animal hoodie. Black is good. And what's with this asymetric thing he's doing with the eyebrows. Keep that in. We're going for the inscruitable look.

The background though. Don't like all the bits of intruding angle lamps and wall hangings.

That's better. Lesson Five: move the writer in front of his bookcase. Make sure that at least one of the anthologies with his story in it is on the shelf. We've going with three copies here just to be on the safe side.
But there's another problem. What about the unruly, sticky-up tufts of thin grey hair, that 50 years of hard combing could never fix?

Yeah, baby. Bring on the hat!

Lesson Six: Hat trumps talent every time.

Now we're cooking. Here's where we hang a left and head down the dark and mysterious route.

Lesson Seven: Monochrome. The killer app. In one move we go all arty, we get mysterious, and we eradicate all signs of the pasty British skin pallor. And the exagerated wrinkles add gravitas.

And now, at last, we're ready for the final crop.

Look at that. Not even his own mother would recognise him.

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Long Words

Never use a long word when a short one will do.
Hey, this is good advice, even if not exactly original. It keeps people turning the pages. So what were they thinking of when they came up with the name for this village on Anglesey?

This is the original sign on the railway station platform.

Arriva have been helpful on this, their sign offers some guidance on the pronunciation.
I could have done with this half an hour earlier, on the train. You see, it's a request stop. You have to ask the guard to stop at this station or you'll be hauled off to Holyhead.
So how do you ask?
"Excuse me, we'd like to alight at Llanfairthingy."...Nah.
So I went with: "could you put us off at the first stop after Bangor please?"
The guard smiled. He's heard every angle, of course he has. He's probably even taken a few of the extreme linguistic failures all the way to Holyhead.
So how did it happen? Years ago the local council had a meeting to decide what to call the town, and maybe some bright spark councillor stood up and said "let's call it: The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave," because then we can build a massive visitor centre and sell all kinds of stuff to the coach loads of tourists who come to have their photo taken standing under the sign. Only he said it in Welsh.
And perhaps the mayor stood up and said, "ie." Which means "yes".
Because a short word is always best.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Writers of the Future

It occurs to me that I haven't said anything about Writers of the Future in my blog posts. There's a perfectly good reason for this omission, and goes something like this:

There are good things that can happen to a writer who is looking for the big break. Getting published is, of course, a good step forward. Getting paid for something you've had published is, without question, a huge leap along on the rocky road. There are competitions. Sometimes they pay and sometimes they might even include publication.

And then there is Writers of the Future. For the amateur genre writer this is the big one. This one has it all: publication, payment, kudos, not to mention a paid-for week in the US hanging out with fellow writers and getting an education from the pros. WOTF is the one every hopeful SF writer wants to bag and it's the one they should try to bag. So when I got the phone call last summer to say I would be one of those fortunate few I was... astounded.

After several weeks of walking around in a daze the doubts start to creep in. They've dialled the wrong number. My name's been mixed up with the wrong story. It's all been a big mistake. They'll find me out.

Then, after a while, the publishing contract arrives and it's got the right story name on it. So then the next round of doubts can start. The global economic collapse will cause it to be cancelled. Swine flu will spread and they'll ban all international travel. Or maybe I'll just simply freak out and they'll have a rule that prevents hair-rending dribbling maniacs from boarding planes bound for California.

But really, at the heart of all this there is the simple conviction – this can't be happening to me. How did this happen? It is a dream.

So I avoid blogging about it. I shy away from even talking about it. I am terrified of putting the mockers on everything. But suddenly there has been a rush of activity. Trans-Atlantic telephone calls, discussions about flights and hotels and... oh my. This thing looks like it's really going to happen.

So there's a new countdown panel on the blog. At time of writing it stands at 75 days. I'll blog about the lead-in. If I can, and if there's time (and if I can find enough wireless hotspots) I'll blog about the event.

Watch this space.