This week in pictures

For five years, up until late 2012, I produced a regular “Week in Pictures” gallery for the MSN UK website. It did rather well and I had entertained the notion of continuing to produce similar galleries on a site of my own.

But, quality news images are expensive and I have too much respect for working photojournalists to just steal the images and post them without proper clearance. I’ve also been spending much of my time pursuing other avenues of interest and chasing jobs that offer new challenges.

(That’s not to say others haven’t had great success in posting unpaid, uncredited, and sometimes fake photos on twitter. @picpedant is great at calling these out.)

But today Getty Images launched the ability to embed their images for free. This article has the details, along with some caveats and warnings. It will be interesting to see how many, and who, adopt this new feature. I figured I’d give it a go.

And so, for the first time in 18 months, here is my Week in Pictures…

A Boxer dog looks out from its kennel on first day of Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham, England.

Revellers walk the street during Los Indianos carnival on in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain.

1LT Ryan Spinuzzi-Nichols from Reno, Nevada with the US Army’s 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment patrols through a village near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A parade goer poses prior to the 2014 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Snakes are collected and rolled before putting into the oven in the village of Kertasura, Cirebon, Indonesia. Snake skins measuring in the hundreds of metres are sold to bag factories in the West and Central Java provinces on a monthly basis.

British climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk trains in ‘The Depot’ climbing wall in Nottingham, England, ahead of the forthcoming Bouldering World Cup season.

People celebrate during a long exposure at a street carnival bloco in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A large storm cloud covers the Sydney CBD in Australia.

My niece, ladies and gentlemen

At Christmas I got to meet my niece, Maisie, for the first time. She’s awesome in that way an unashamedly proud uncle knows she is. Naturally I shot a bunch of photos of her, a small selection of which you can view here.

However, my favourite photo might be this outtake, taken by her father, in which Maisie begins perfecting a facial expression that will be much needed when she has to listen to her uncle telling stories. An expression I call “the affectionate skeptic”.

"Yeah... sure."

Portrait Photo Series: Jessie

I shot a whole bunch of photos of my friend Jessie the other week. Here are three. I’m still working out how creative I want to be with the others. Simple colour tweaking, additional graphical elements, or all-out scene creations like the third one below?




Wow, I DO move my hands a lot when I talk

Friends have often told me I move my hands a lot when I talk. So much so they’re scared I’m going to accidentally smack them. I’ll be honest, the odd pint HAS flown from a table surface while I’m talking about something or other.

But, until now, I’ve never had photo evidence.

When I was teaching in Madrid, I handed out my camera (along with a few university cameras) so students could play with it and a selection of lenses while I explained f-stops and ISO settings and shutter speeds.

According the metadata, these images were all taken within the same 120 second period.

He's handy, in't he?

My favourite is number 7.

“Have you thought about self-publishing?”

Those who know me know that I write novels. Given the time it takes to complete a novel when working a full-time job, I’m pleased that I usually succeed in completing one within 12 months.

I’m used to responding to questions from friends about the latest novel and what I aim to do with with it now that it’s as good as I feel I can make it. I tell them, as briefly as possible so as not to bore them, about researching literary agents, about choosing those who may both be interested in representing the novel and best able to get a publisher interested, and why it’s standard practice to only send the first three chapters and wait to see if the agent wants to read the rest.

If the friend is interested, perhaps because they’d like to write a novel someday,  I point them in the direction of Slushkiller and explain why rejection letters are all part of the process.

But not this year. This year I get a new question.

I recently completed a novel, one that I’m proud of. One that is a huge jump in quality and concept compared to my previous attempts. One that is buzzing with a potential I haven’t felt before. But this year I don’t have the same conversations described above, now I get…

“You thought about self-publishing it?”

“Why don’t you put it up onto Amazon? You can do that now.”

“Just put it online yourself.”

“You should do what [insert name of recent self-published author on current bestseller lists] did.”

Hoo boy. If I get into the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing, the advantages and disadvantages, then this post will be a lot longer than I planned. Instead, I’m going to cut down to the basics and give a direct answer to the “Why don’t you self-publish?” question. I’ll attempt to do this without going off on tangents.

But before I do that. A tangent…

I’m not against self-publishing. I’ve experimented with placing my work online for free on and off for several years now.  I’ve used Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, etc for both long and short works (two short stories are still available). I enjoyed the process. Especially designing my own covers. I believe self-publishing has a chance of someday becoming just as effective, if not more so, than traditional publishing. I am certain it will continue to get easier, bigger, more popular. But for my current novel, right here and now, no, self-publishing doesn’t hold any interest for me. For a simple reason. (This is where I end the tangent…)

Let’s say I self-publish this novel as an ebook. I format the novel myself. I copy-edit the novel myself. I design the cover myself. Or I can pay for some or all of those services if I’m willing to spend money I may not make back (I’m not). I send it out the the world’s kindles and nooks and kobos. I hope people who have never met me will buy it. I can self-market the novel and those who I don’t piss off with email spam and dull promotional tweets may even buy it too.  If I’m lucky, maybe thirty strangers who have never met me will pay to read the novel. I’ll even get a little bit of money for that. Enough for a whisky and a bowl of pork scratchings.

If I continue to be lucky, and the novel is good enough, some of those who buy it will really like it. They’ll tell their friends. Another bunch of people will buy it. If I’m even luckier, the strangers’ friends will buy it. After a few months, who knows, 200 or 300 people might’ve bought it. That’ll take a lot of luck though, even if the novel is super-amazing-awesome.

And so on.

Now, let’s say I go down the traditional publishing route. I edit the novel as best I can and send it to thirty literary agents who might be interested. Not all at once. I send it to five, and each time one rejects me, I send it to another agent.

See what’s happening here? By self-publishing I can hope thirty strangers might read it. By sending it to agents I’m guaranteeing thirty strangers will read it. But I’m choosing the strangers. And if one of these strangers likes it, they know other strangers in publishing companies. All it takes is one of those other strangers to like it enough to buy the rights.

I get paid an advance. The book is professionally copy-edited, designed, and marketed. The book can not only be found on ebook readers, but in physical bookstores. The novel reaches both a wider audience and a better targeted audience.

Now, I understand the appeal of self-publishing. There’s no rejection. Your novel is out there. Attempting to get an agent and then a traditional publisher interested in your work invites rejection. And you will get a lot of it. For years. For this novel, your next novel, maybe the one after that. But doesn’t that tell you something? It told me something. It told me my writing wasn’t quite good enough. Not yet. That’s okay. I’ll keep writing, keep getting better, until it is good enough.

The TL;DR version? Self-publishing is hoping thirty strangers read your novel and like it enough that a couple of their friends buy it. Attempting traditional publishing is guaranteeing thirty strangers will read your novel, but if they recommend it, hundreds if not thousands buy it.


Further Reading:





Chuck Wendig’s personal writing rules

Last week I finished reading Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. I knew of Wendig’s work after coming across his blog earlier this year, but this is the first of his novels I’ve read. I’d actually gone into the bookshop to look for a copy of Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, which they didn’t have, spotted Blackbirds on the shelf and decided it was about time to give it a shot (and not knowing what I’ll go home with is one reason why I still prefer physical bookshops when given the choice).

What did I think? Well I’m not much of one to review books, but I will say it was very enjoyable. It’s a fast-based pulpy affair about a young woman, a drifter, who can foresee when people will die. Considering I was looking for the acclaimed Sandman Slim (I ended up buying it through the iBookstore) which is also an urban fantasy with pulp crime sensibilities, then this was a more than satisfactory purchase.

If you like your urban fantasy fast-paced with pulp stylings then I recommend Blackbirds. (And Sandman Slim if you’ve yet to read that.) I’ll certainly be buying the sequel.

But Blackbirds isn’t the main reason I started writing this post. I actually wanted to recommend a link for writers. As I said, I first knew of Wendig through his blog, and his blog is chock full of advice for writers. Here are 25 of his personal rules for writing. You might not agree with all of them, I don’t, but that’s where the word “personal” comes in. However, I suspect you will find at least one nugget of gold relevant to you.

5. Aim Big, Write Small
Writers need goals. I don’t mean one goal. I mean a nearly endless and evolving series of goals — you don’t just say, “I’m going to write a novel.” Because, duh. That’s bare minimum shit. You want to have a career planned out. This isn’t a short game. It’s a long con. Look as far down the line as you can — to retirement, to cremation, to the time when nano-bots resurrect you to write one more bestselling holo-vid. That way, you can always course correct to try to move yourself further toward those goals. But — but! — whereas your career is a long-con, each story really is the short game. You want to keep your head in that story. You want to treat it like it’s everything, like everything hangs on this one project. (In part because it may.) To put it differently, have the larger path plotted out — but focus on each step upon that path as if it is your last.

25 Of My Personal Rules For Writing And Telling Stories
Blackbirds on Amazon
Sandman Slim on Amazon