Monday, August 29, 2011

Massive swears ***sweary update***

It's been a weekend of cinema trips for me, going from VERY GOOD to UGH, WHY DID I BOTHER. In reverse order then, I have seen:

• The Inbetweeners movie. I loved the TV show but hated this film. It just felt like it was a boring episode stretched too thinly across 90 minutes or so.

• Final Destination 5 (or 5nal Destination as I believe the studio initially called it before they realised it looked like they were calling it Anal Destination). I'm a big fan of this franchise of completely dispensable but highly entertaining horror movies, and this latest one lived up to the ridiculous precedent set by its predecessors. Particular kudos for an awesome opening theme, and a fantastic and totally unexpected tie-in to the first Final Destination (or should we rename that F1nal Dest1nation now?).

• South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Yes, I know this movie is 12 years old, but I ended up going to a special screening of it at the Prince Charles Cinema (the brilliant cinema where I saw a couple of Star Trek movies last year). Special why, you ask?

We were even given lyric books to help us sing/swear along.

Although I'll be brutally honest, I actually didn't swear along that much as when the lights went down I couldn't read the lyrics, and I was laughing too much; there was a woman behind me with a pitch-perfect singing voice merrily singing along to songs such as 'Kyle's Mom's a Bitch' and 'What Would Brian Boitano Do?'

You'll be pleased to know I did get some singing/swearing action though; before the movie started, the guy that had organised the screening took to the stage to lead us in a quick practise. We had a loud group "FUCK!" followed by us screaming "BIG FLOPPY DONKEY DICK!" We even sang a couple of songs.

video

Since the screening, I've finally gotten around to putting the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut soundtrack on my iTunes. Admittedly, I probably should've done this before seeing the film, not least because I'm incredibly amused by the fact that I now have a song in my library that is performed by Saddam Hussein.

Anyway, I can only hope that on the strength of their South Park screening, the PCC now organise a swear along to Team America, because that would be AWESOME.

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SWEARY UPDATE!

The PCC have posted a video of some choice, um, moments from the evening, including the aforementioned group "FUCK!" and "BIG FLOPPY DONKEY DICK!" And they're doing it all over again on October 8th; if you can, I highly recommend going along.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making an ebook is fun!

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the main things I decided I needed to do when I finished work was to finally pull my finger out and get my book (yes, that one I've been harping on about ad nauseam) on sale, or just shut the hell up and forget about the whole thing. My original idea years ago was to have 100 copies printed up and then try to find some way of flogging them to people because as I've said countless times, I do love a good ol' dead tree book. But then ebook sales exploded and while I can't say I'm a massive fan of ebooks personally, it would be arrogant and quite frankly just plain stupid of me to ignore their success.

As a result I began to look into it and discovered that Amazon just make the whole thing so damn easy for self-publishing authors, so I thought what the hell, I'll go Kindle. And before anyone says "but you're an Apple whore, what about iBooks?" yes, I am an Apple whore, but kindle is just easier, doesn't have any set-up costs, and to be honest Amazon have got the market completely collared at the moment; seriously, I read some interesting testimonials about author experiences and they all sold way more on the Kindle than on iBooks. And it's not like my book won't be available for iPads and iPhones because Amazon handily have an app for that. You can get it for free HERE. (They also do apps for Android, Mac, and PC, so you have no excuse not to get reading)

Now, when it comes to ebooks everyone always harps on about ePub, which is a file format that both Amazon and Apple will accept. Great! I thought, I can generate one file for both bookstores so if I do ever decide to go the iBooks route it's ready to go. I was even recommended a piece of free software that promised to convert a word file or PDF into an ePub file without any fuss. Yay for me, I thought; this will be piss-easy.

At this point I was feeling pretty smug.

Turns out, though, that by 'piss-easy' I actually mean 'a really rather frustrating experience.'

Basically this piece of software did generate an ePub file (it even had that cool page curling effect when I popped it on my iPad), but it also had some … Let's say ANOMALIES. Such as turning drop caps into little smiley tiger faces. Yes, TIGER FACES.

Isn't that just adorable?

As cute as that is, however, I thought it might just knock readers out of the drama of the story.

So I fiddled and farted around and tried different variations and different formats, each of which had their own peculiarities; one, for example, only put one sentence on each page, instantly transforming my breezy little novella into an 800-page epic to rival War and Peace. Eventually I just got massively frustrated, released a barrage of swears, and went for a run.

I decided to have another bash at it on Sunday afternoon, on the understanding that if I couldn't work it out I'd just pay someone to do it for me. And that's when I discovered that Amazon let's you upload your book as a word document and then preview it in a mock kindle screen. So I did that and … well, it looked quite good.

This is what the cover would look like as shown by the 16 shades of grey used by the Kindle's e-ink screen. This actually reads like a VERY SERIOUS CAPTION.

OK, so it had lost all the italics and some page breaks at the beginning, but a quick look on the Kindle community pages helped me work out how to rectify that - you just download the converted HTML file, fiddle around in the code a bit, then upload the amended version.

VOILA!

You can now purchase a little piece of me just for yourself. Look - it's cheap. Like me.

And just like that I was the proud father of an ebook, which went on sale Monday morning for the princely sum of 86p (I'm pricing low as it's short and I figure people will be more willing to take the risk of trying a new author if it costs mere pennies). It's a slightly surreal moment when you search Amazon for your own book and BOOM! there it is (also, if you look over there in the right-hand column, just under the 'about me' bit, there's an ad box. I think if you click it I get paid, so go on - give it a click, eh?). It's the culmination of years of work, and while I'd like to think I will at some point return to it for a limited physical print-run, my work on Waiting on a Friend, those characters I created and dropped into a storyline, is effectively done. How exciting is that?

Now, do be so kind as to go buy it while I get cracking on the next one, eh?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Freeloader

I'm now in my third week of fending for myself as a work-shy freelancer, and I'll be honest with you: I've not been terribly busy in the traditional sense of the words. That's not to say I'm not keeping busy, because I have been: I've written what I can only describe as a shit-load of letters to various publishers, and I've actually, 100 percent, honest-to-god finished work on my book. Yes, THAT book. The one I first mentioned on here about, oh, I don't know THREE OR FOUR years ago.

Admittedly I had thought it was finished a long time ago and it was just a case of me pulling my finger out and doing something with it, but then I let a chap from yoga read it whose opinions I trust greatly (he's an actor, don't you know, so I reasoned that he reads stuff for a living and thus has a keen sense of what's good and what's not), and who made no qualms about telling me that if he thought it was rubbish he'd tell me so.

Anyway, long story short, and fortunately for my fragile little ego, he actually really liked it (I swear to god he used the phrase "potential to be a proper little indie hit," which led to me needing a bit of a sit down), although he did have a few little comments and suggestions that he thought might strengthen the narrative a bit. And to be honest, those comments just reaffirmed some niggling doubts I'd had about it. That being the case, the last week has pretty much been dedicated to sorting all that out, as well as going back through the whole thing one last time so that 33 year-old me can tighten up the bits that 29 year-old me glossed over back in the day. So, essentially what I'm saying is that - YAY! - the whole thing is ready to go now. FOR REAL. My main intention is to pop it up on the Kindle store for the world to download to all manner of digital devices, but, y'know, I *may* have sent it off to a couple of independent presses too - SO KEEP YOUR BLOODY FINGERS CROSSED OR I'LL HAVE TO POP ROUND AND CUT 'EM OFF.

Basically, then, freelancing has been a very enjoyable experience so far (although that might change when I actually have to do some proper work). What I like is that I'm pretty much free to do as I please. I popped to Richmond last week, spent an hour in Starbucks writing on my iPad like one of those insufferably pretentious tits who insists on writing in public, and then because the weather was so lovely I ended up doing some topless sunbathing on the green.

Self-portrait of a freelancer in repose.

There was another photo of my vest draped across my legs, but as everyone on Twitter said it looked like I had my underpants round my ankles I'm loathe to post it here.

It's not all sunning oneself in public spaces, though: Friday afternoons are now exclusively dedicated to going to the cinema. Week one was Captain America (good blockbustery fun), while last week was Super 8 (which I loved; the fat kid in it might go down in history as this generation's Chunk from the Goonies); this week is Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and next week is Cowboys and Aliens. Good times.

On the downside, when I'm not galavanting around the countryside I am spending a considerable amount of time just sitting at my desk. And bearing in mind that I'm no longer getting a lengthy lunchtime stroll and my commute pretty much consists of walking down 12 stairs, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm at risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis. I might have to instigate mandatory midday runs on those days when I'm not indulging in, as one of my yoga teachers dubbed it, 'job-seekers yoga.' I'll tell you something though, it is nice getting to have a bit of a cheeky lie-in every morning.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

He needs TP for his bunghole

Am I the only one seeing this? C'mon, he's a total shoe-in if they ever do a live-action Beavis and Butthead movie.

Lord knows beggars can't be choosers now Potter's done and dusted.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Arts and crafts

So the one thing you're obligated to do when you leave a company is steal stuff, right? It's an unspoken rule. And don't sit there looking all holier than thou shaking your head - I saw you emptying boxes of propelling pencils and paper clips into your bag on your last day.

Anyway, so while the average person might raid the stationary cupboard like biro-hungry locusts (and in hindsight I should've gone straight for the post-it notes because lord knows I actually had to BUY some this week; on the plus side - tax deductable!), I pinched something a bit different.

I stole a tranny.

And no, I do not mean a transvestite. I mean a 35mm slide - you know, a photograph.

While looking through the thousands of images we had a couple of months back, I found a picture of William Shatner taken during the filming of Star Trek VI that I'd never seen before. Which is pretty remarkable because, trust me, I've seen A LOT of Star Trek pictures in my time. There wasn't anything particularly special about this image - from what I can tell it just shows Shatner chilling out between shots - but I liked it. I thought it was cool.

Here's Shatner on the set of Kirk's quarters, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool; possibly about to go shoot some b-ball outside of the school.

So anyway, as I was boxing all the Star Trek stuff up a couple of weeks back I came across the pictures again (not literally; I don't like it *that* much). My first instinct was just to scan it in so that I could use it as a desktop image on my computer or iPad, but then when I mentioned it to a friend, who will go unnamed to protect her identity (it was Yazzle Dazzle), she said "why don't you just take it? It'll only go into storage otherwise."

She made a good point, so I stuffed it in a little bag and nicked it.

Since finishing work, however, I've been looking at the sad little tranny sitting in the bag and thinking 'what the hellpiece am I going to do with that?' I mean, it's not like I can pop it in a frame because a) it's tiny, and b) being a tranny it needs light shining through so you can actually see what's on it.

But then during one of my increasingly frequent and in hindsight somewhat ill-advised when you have no income shopping expeditions I found the perfect solution: a freestanding solid glass lump frame that you slot your picture in the middle of. PERFECT! So I bought one, some black card to engineer a framework to hold the tranny in, and a new scalpel to allow me to precisely cut the card.

And in BONUS NEWS FACTS, lady on the till confessed she almost asked me for ID before she let me buy the scalpel; you have to be over 21. Utter, utter WIN, I think you'll agree.

My first attempt at my arts and crafts project was mounted on Friday evening. Unfortunately I was a little bleary eyed because I was tired, so my efforts were little more than an unmitigated failure. On the plus side, I managed not to chop off any fingers with my awesome new scalpel, so there's always a positive, eh?

Attempt number two took place this afternoon, and was considerably more successful.

Admittedly there's a bit of a bigger gap around the tranny than I'd hoped (which is mystifying because I took really precise measurements; I know this because I stuck my tongue out the side of my mouth while I did it), so I might go back and have a little fiddle at some point to try and rectify that, but I think you'll agree it shows the image off way better than a manky little plastic bag ever could.

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In all seriousness, I think I do know why I like this image so much. There's a scene in Star Trek VI where Valeris is looking at a painting hanging in Spock's quarters and she says something along the lines of "I don't know what this painting represents," to which he replies "it's the depiction of the the expulsion from paradise - it's a reminder to me that all things end."
Dear non-Star Trek fans: yes, it's the slaggy one from Sex and The City.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record as I harp on about leaving my job, I think this image - of Shatner on the set of the last original series movie - serves as a reminder to me that, indeed, all things do end. It's healthy not to get too comfortable doing the same thing over and over, so with a bit of luck every time I look at this transparency it'll spur me on to do new things and 'boldly go' where I've never been before.

Jesus, that was such a wanky sounding sentence, wasn't it? Let's just stick with 'I thought it looked cool and I wanted to steal something,' eh?