Day Thirty-One

31 01 2009

And this blogger is really quite tired.

The blog-post-a-day-for-a-month experiment is rolling to an end today and it’s been fun but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t running out of steam. Tomorrow, when I’m not retrieving my niece from climbing the furniture, I’ll post what I learned during the strange topsy, turvy month that was January but I’m taking it easy today.

I posted the trailer Neil G considers his favourite but I’ll be honest the one that follows is my favourite. I used to think Neil G was joking when he said he had a library in his house and then I realised, after watching this, that he did in fact have a library in his house. Puts my four and a bit bookcases into perspective.

Coraline opens in the UK on the 8th May and is out in the US at the end of next week. Original material and the director means it’s suitable for anyone who can cope with A Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m aware that many of the people swinging by here will have seen this already, this is aimed at the others and a way for me to find it easily again.

Now I’m going to laugh at Google’s FAIL moment. Yes: I am aware this doesn’t display me in a mature light.





Friday Flash Fiction: A short story about nothing

30 01 2009

This post has moved. You can read the full post here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/a-short-story-about-nothing/

A  short story about nothing
By Neil Beynon

 

It begins on a street.

 

I do not know why.

 

Indeed I have no idea where this is going except that the street is wet from the rain and cold from the wind and in front of me someone lies bleeding. The whole thing has an air of not being real until their hand grabs my ankle then I can feel their stickiness seeping through my sock. There is someone bleeding at my feet, dying perhaps and all I am doing is standing here. My brain slips into gear…

You can read the full post here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/a-short-story-about-nothing/

 





Digital 101: Top five mistakes

29 01 2009

By day I earn my crust as a digital marketer for a large publisher. By night I write and try to draw as much attention to my writing as I can without people resorting to physical violence. In both cases I spend a fair bit of time online and I see a great deal of people (successfully publishing and complete novices alike) making their digital life much harder for themselves than they need to.*

1. Build it and they will come – No, actually they won’t. The classic error made by digital newbies (and a surprising number of published authors) is to build a site like a CV and wait for people to turn up. Like it or not: the marketplace is a crowded place and just having a web site isn’t enough – you have to give people a reason to visit and a reason to come back. You have to add value and that means content or community. Typically, these days it means both.

2. I don’t want to be visible on search engines – Then you won’t have visitors beyond your mates. People use search engines, in many cases they are now the main way people navigate the Internet and so if your site isn’t visible to them then you’re leaving traffic on the table. There are plenty of pieces of advice out there on how to configure your site to be “Google friendly” and I’ll be posting my top tips next week. If you’re not looking for legit ways to get people to link back to you, if your web page URLs are impenetrable numeric codes and you think meta is just a type of fiction then you need to brush up on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

3. It’s all about me dahling – Fair enough, I’m not interested. Bloggers, and I count myself in this, are particularly susceptible to this sin. To be honest regular readers, friends and family will probably have a certain interest level in reading about what’s happening with you but it won’t bring in traffic nor will it lead to people talking about your work. As I said earlier it starts with content: be funny, be interesting, be informative, start a debate, make cool art but there are no short cuts: you gotta graft. You can tape bacon to a cat if you want but if you haven’t done the graft before hand (and Scalzi did do the work) no one’s going to be around to tell the Internet you taped the bacon to the cat.

4. I don’t have time to look at other sites – Remember what I said about people linking back to you? The best way to get people to do this, in conjunction with providing interesting and entertaining content, is to find content on other sites to comment on or use as a kicking off point for a debate or to add relevant knowledge/experience to that are unique to you.

5. It’s mine precious – Copyright and the Internet don’t mix terribly well. To understand why you need to go back to the origins of the ‘Net in the Cold War and its role as a fail safe for data in the event of a nuclear war. The whole thing is built to allow rapid, cheap, easy distribution of content – it’s built into the DNA of the system and has permeated the culture of the people using it to the point where even repressive states like China struggle to stop it. You’ve got no chance and so if you’re going to get stressed about your content appearing on sites beyond your control, do yourself a favour: stay off the Internet. Equally it goes without saying you should only put stuff up online that you’re happy to stay online forever because you can’t control that either.

There you go, I hope this helps. This isn’t just for writers. It goes for photographers, artists, fanzines, webzines and pretty much anyone doing digital on a budget. In the coming weeks I will expand on some of these sins, explain how to get the basics right and hopefully get you thinking about your digital strategy in a different, more creative way.

Any questions: just jump on the comments thread or use the contact form.

* To be fair, there are people who do it well, amongst many: Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Futurismic, Weird Tales.





Columbo Villain of The Week: Gordon Brown

28 01 2009

This one’s going out for regular commentator Laura – took me a while but I got here in the end.

freckly_gordon_brown

Gordon Brown was born and raised in Scotland, his father was a church minister and his mother was called Bunty (NB – I haven’t started making things up yet: she really was Bunty Brown, wikipedia is never wrong). He has a PHD in history, worked in television (still not making this up) prior to entering parliament and famously came off worse in the whole Blair/Brown deal but rather better in the whole Alastair Darling Columbo Villain of the Week.

Over the years Gordon has spent time building his reputation on the idea that, as Chancellor, he presided over the longest period of sustained growth in British history and that he is ideally placed to steer us through this crisis. Oddly though he seems to have no idea as to what has caused this problem, no idea where the credit has gone or how to get it back. Now, I ask you: does this seem likely?

Let me refer you back to his PHD in History (something that should have led him to examine and analyse trends). Or perhaps drop in that he was fast tracked into university two years early and successfully muscled the slippery Tony Blair out of office, allowing him the office of Prime Minister unelected. No, ladies and gents, Gordon is not stupid.

He does, however, have a secret.

Yes, we can now reveal the truth: Gordon Brown is a troll.

gordonbrownpm

Gordon got used to doing deals from a young age when wandering far from his bridge he came across the infamous Pictish Fae and struck an agreement where upon he would be able to pass for human in return for service for the Fae. They are his secret backers, they are his skeleton in the closet and they are the creatures who actually run the banking industry. Yes, all the time you were giving them money they were in fact hiving it off to their own lands and leaving you with a bunch of dried leaves and chipping away at the economy one note at a time.

In return, Gordon gets to be Prime Minister, he gets to be human and he more importantly: he gets to tell the English what to do. All would be well except, unfortunately, companies have started to realise their dried leaves are not as valuable as they thought and so they’ve had to let people go and they in turn have discovered their own leaves are not worth as much as the money they put into the bank. The Fae’s masterplan is revealed as they are left owning swathes of the country allowing them to expand the borders of their own realm…but there’s a problem.

The TUC is suspicious, as are the Tories, and so they call in Kenneth Clarke to help work out what has happened. Ken, suspects foul play but knows he needs to get to work on his tax return and so he applies classic overseas outsourcing. Through his affectation for cigars and this new fangled Interwebs thingy, he has met a US detective who shares his obsession for Cubans (I mean cigars – before the lawyers call), the perfect man for the job.

Gordon’s not worried though. He’s got the Fae backing him and, whilst he hasn’t seen them for a while and his glamour seems to be cracking a bit and now he comes to think of it his money also seems to have been replaced with leaves, he knows they won’t turn their backs on him. Sure, there was this funny note about them owning Number Ten now and him having ten days to move out but he’s pretty confident that’s one of their bizarre pranks. It will all be fine if he could just get rid of that annoying Amercian that keeps dropping ash all over his deskside statue of Harold Wilson – look there he is again and what’s that in his hand? Looks like a mirror…





By way of raising a smile

27 01 2009

The really rather enjoyable Mock The Week crew on Gordon Brown:





Rabbit Holes

27 01 2009

I recall noticing a while back that there was some kind of meme coalescing around Lewis Carrol’s birthday (today) and thinking: that sounds like fun and: won’t have to think of content for that day. Today, after recovering from the shock that it was the 27th already, I noted that the meme was meant for Live Journal. I’m not on Live Journal and my day was so unspeakably mundane that, somewhat to my surprise, I can’t think of anything surreal to write.

For example, I was awoken this morning by an inanimate object that squawked at me until I got up and turned it off. Despite the sun being a good few hours away I then proceeded to eat reconstituted wheat mixed in with the milk of an ecosystem damaging mammal and stare at another inanimate object that was also giving off low-level radiation. From there I felt it necessary to walk at a speed that physically hurt to the station before running the final few yards and leaping onto a metal tube on wheels packed with hairless primates packed in so close it must have been either a mating ritual or the prelude to ritualised combat. Hot air circulated at waist level served to slacken the bowels in a bid to enhance the fight or flight mechanism whilst cold air from the various holes in the conveyance served to focus the mind.

After about forty-five minutes the train rolled to a halt in a large city made of stone and full of yet more hairless primates of varying levels of intelligence whereupon I resumed my earlier pace. Once at my final destination, a large stone building, I exchanged hours of my life for notes of paper that promised me gold if presented to the right person but not really, and for less-not-really-gold than I would have got if I presented the notes twelve months ago, and some of which I given immediately to a third party who, although having nothing to do with the whole mechanism, will lock me up if I don’t pony up. At that stone building I offer up some extra hours because you know: I have plenty and so on and so forth.*

See: nothing surreal there.

* from this point on the evening got considerably better as I met a friend for drinks and, on the way home, enjoyed listening to a very large lady talking very loudly on her mobile phone about her very inept friend on the other end of the line.





Don’t play poker with me

26 01 2009

gyygbde2Long time readers of this here blog will know that I have a long history of making a fool of myself in front of celebrities and people of note (the latter category frequently including writers). Today is no exception.

I didn’t set out to spot him. I am not a paparazzi, nor do I feel it necessary to accost people on the street for the autograph and to be honest all I really wanted was a sandwich, possibly a banana. What I got was an awkward pavement shuffle with Anthony Stewart Head as I tried to return to the office. Now, I thought I did a pretty good job of masking the whole OMG-it’s-him-that-played-Giles-on-Buffy-why-do-I-suddenly-want-to-drink-coffee-from-a-red-mug moment and adopted a Vulcan like exterior as I sidestepped him. Especially considering the long flowing coat he was wearing could have been straight out of the Giles costume cupboard. But judging from the look I got he must have caught my momentary lapse of recognition.

That’s right: he gave me the Uther Pendragon patented glower.

*sighs* At least I didn’t nearly kill him (Noel Fielding, bicycle, Oxford street, you get the idea).





Getting on with it

25 01 2009

The weekend has nearly gone again. They seem to fly by these days.

I’ve spent most of this one working on sorting out my bookshelves – I know: so rock and roll – as I could not longer find stuff I was certain I owned and, indeed, removing books from the shelf involved high risk of concussion. Anyway, they’re all back in order now and you do not need an advanced engineering degree to remove them without killing yourself. Also I found some books that I forgot I owned, I’m reading one of them now.

I had also intended to go to see The Wrestler this weekend and had I done so this post would have been a review. If the story of how I missed it was funny I’d relate it here but alas it was as mundane as it was irritating and so I’m left a little short of content today with a week still to go on my Blog-a-day-for-a-month experiment.

Speaking of which I think the experiment is going well. The traffic here has been up consistently through January bucking last year’s trend where traffic fell in the first few weeks of the year; although this weekend does seem to have produced something of an inexplicable ding and I’m uncertain how feasible it will be to carry on at this pace in February. Instead, and as more of a productivity hack for my fiction, I’m considering giving up telly for the whole of Feb.

This week promises to be pretty full on and I’m looking forward to getting back to the right side of the river next weekend.





Walk on by…?

24 01 2009

Things that demonstrate bias in reporting:

1. Only reporting one side of a conflict in a positive light.

2. Using emotive language such as terrorist or heavy handed that reflects a moral judgement on one side over the other.

3. Taking up arms for either side.

4. Providing intelligence on one side to the other.

5. Suppressing material that either portrays one side in a positive light or one in a negative light.

What bias isn’t:

Helping people who are in need with an appeal for humanitarian aid.

Serious BBC FAIL. That is all.





RT Neil Gaiman

23 01 2009

Kinda and because he asked:

And because Henry Selick rocks.