Saturday 1 November 2014

You’re Assassinated Mid-Series

Signs of a problem: breath absent; skin cold to touch.

The symptoms: feeling pretty darn cheesed off.

Your friends warned you about the dangers of tackling stalkers, cocaine addicts and critical reviews but would you listen? As a result of your pig-headedness, you are now dead – assassinated by Shit-Hot Rod.

Now a ghost, you tread familiar paths, watching the destruction you left behind. Your stalker writes fan fiction set at your funeral. The Igbo people say a prayer. Your cat sits on your bed mewing. Somewhere, on the other side of the country, an author dedicates Fifty Shades of Triceratops to your memory.

As news of your death spreads, sales of your books – children’s stories about flatulent giants – soar through the roof, making money that will support your confusingly on-off lover and allow the pet rescue sanctuary to build a kitty hotel.

Ah, your flatulent giant series. You re-create it in your mind – giants bottom burping whilst up ladders, giants bottom burping whilst up beanstalks… such varied comedy gold. You feel a pang deep in your stomach when you realise you will never be able to tell the world whether Bogusbill Motorwaylegs survived the avalanche that killed three squirrels.

Or will you…?

If you’re a responsible writer, you will have left a will detailing how you would like your series to end in the event of your death. You will have named the perfect author to do the deed. A pity that few authors are so forward thinking.

In the event of no specific direction, you could try using your ghostly powers to possess your target author. If you prefer a lighter touch, you could transmit your outline for the conclusion using paranormal telepathy.

Make sure you choose your author well. You should pick somebody familiar with your genre and tone. A prissy, flowery writer might not be able to capture the full power of a giant’s fart. An erotica writer might describe aspects of the giant’s bum that children are better off without. A drabblist may fail to convey the intricacies of a giant’s scent. It takes skill to replicate effectively the style of a totally splendid hotshot author.

If ghost-writing isn’t for you, see if you can be reincarnated. Fan fiction endings will be plentiful by the time you’re old enough to write again, so you’ll have to go through the laborious process of rising to fame once more. This time, try to do it without making quite so many enemies.

Friday 31 October 2014

A Reviewer Misunderstands Your Ironic Self-Help Book

Signs of a problem: rating drops; critical review count increases.

The symptoms: rejection; defensiveness.

You’ve written an ironic self-publishing guide, because, let’s face it, you’re a pretty big deal now that you’ve had some badges featuring your cover specially printed. You know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but you’re okay with that.

Then it happens: the one-star review.

It includes all the nasty one-star clichés like ‘I’m glad this was cheap’, ‘I’ll never read another book by this author’, ‘I wish I knew how to delete books from my eReader’ and ‘I wish I could give it no stars’ all under the title ‘Smug claptrap. This woman cannot be serious. Terrible advice and unrealistic situations.’

Suddenly, you’re not ‘okay with that’.

Do not respond to the reviewer saying, “You misunderstood my book, you frigging, humourless pillock.” Do not copy and paste the dictionary definition of satire. Do not say, “I’ll never read another of your reviews, either – hah!” Do not beg the reviewer to try another of your books. Do not say, “I’m not smug. I’m funny. You obviously have no sense of humour.”

Just quietly enjoy the fact that the reviewer does not possess the level of intelligence necessary to identify satire, when you and all your talented friends do. You can’t help having an IQ of 135 (snigger).

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Paparazzi Photograph You in a Bikini

Signs of a problem: photo of you scantily clad appears on cover of tabloid.

The symptoms: embarrassment; rage.

You’re sunbathing in the garden of your new, top-security home, drinking cocktails with your latest toy boy. You think you catch a glimpse of a face above the surrounding wall but tell yourself you’ve had too many margaritas. That wall is almost twenty feet high.

The very next day, a photograph of you sunbathing is splattered all over the press. What’s more, the photographer has captured your worst side.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re a woman. Whilst both sexes are perfectly entitled to wear a bikini, if you’re a man, that’s a whole different media minefield.

On seeing the less-than-flattering photograph, you may be tempted to provide the media with a more flattering shot. This is a perfectly valid move, but do bear in mind that it will prolong the interest in your figure, whereas taking no action will allow the situation to blow over relatively quickly.

Taking legal action could draw attention to the picture, though it could deter the paparazzi from future privacy invasion.

Do not pose for a men’s magazine. They cannot be trusted. Remember when they computer-enhanced Gail Porter’s bum and then projected her naked image onto the Houses of Parliament?

Far better to make a joke out of it. How about, “That’s not what I look like in a bikini, this is!” accompanied by a humorous cartoon parodying the photo. Or you could write an ironic article titled ‘Judge Rules that Author’s Boobs Are More Interesting than Their Books’.

Before you do anything, consider your brand. Do you bill yourself as a slightly racy piece of hot stuff or do you prefer to let the public believe that you’re a cupcake-baking tea drinker who likes to wear a floral pinny? If the majority of your target audience are prudish conservatives then seeing your semi-clad body popping up all over the place could put people off trying your books.

At the end of the day, it’s your body and you can do what you like with it, provided you don’t take it to receive a Booker prize wearing nothing but a fountain pen. I’ve heard that’s frowned upon.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

A Fellow Author Urges You to Step Aside

The situation: midlist author ranting and raving; your face on the cover of national newspapers (not hers).

The symptoms: outrage.

You’ve made your first thousand million. Books are flying off the shelves. Your titles boom straight to number one the moment they’re released. It’s safe to say you’re doing bloody well.

In a deviation from your usual, chirpy children’s fiction, you decide to write a crime thriller for adults. You’re a little apprehensive about the change of audience. Your fans are mostly under twelve and now you’re writing for grown-ups.

But boom!

The Blackbird’s Kicking a Strop goes straight to the top of the crime chart. You won’t need the extra millions, but your favourite charity might. You’re ecstatic.

However, less than a week after the launch, you see your face on the front of a national paper. Nora No-Sales from Nowhere-in-Particular has urged you to stop writing. Why? Because you’re bad at it? Because your books are traumatising people? Because your books glamorise abusive relationships? No, because you’ve ‘had your turn’.

Her argument is that your work is dominating the book market, thus compromising the sales of other authors’ work. (It’s not sour grapes though, she’s careful to add. So it’s definitely not sour grapes.)

Do not stop writing. Do not pay the slightest heed to her words. You are perfectly entitled to keep publishing and take your career in whatever direction you decide.

If your extra shelf and column space is stealing the limelight from other deserving authors, you could perhaps use some of your vast fortune to support new writing schemes, open an independent book shop or start your own literary magazine. At the end of the day, earning a living through writing books is not a crime.

Do you really think Nora No-Sales would turn down the chance of serial number one hits if she could?

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Your Talentless Mate Demands a Part in the Film Adaptation of Your Novel

Signs of a problem: mate buys you many drinks; mate starts talking with exaggerated diction.

The symptoms: dread; guilt.

A major film studio wants to make your novel into a blockbuster movie. It’s a dream come true. You haven’t announced it yet, but you have told a few close friends and family. Suddenly, your best mate becomes unusually overdramatic – his diction has improved considerably and he is making overblown hand gestures. Then it dawns on you – he wants a part in the film.

It’s not that you don’t believe your best mate has what it takes to be a film star; it’s just that he’s a cockney mechanic with a marked speech impediment and a missing leg. Had you known that he would suddenly develop film star aspirations, you might have written a part for a cockney mechanic with a marked speech impediment and a missing leg but as things stand, you’ve only written parts for bidexters who can pronounce the full alphabet.

Being the good friend that you are, you consider adapting a character to suit your friend, but no matter how hard you try, a tale about five clog-dancing mountaineers just cannot accommodate a unidexter.

Stop right there! You’ve only told a few close friends and family about your film deal, yet already at least one person is after a part. If you cave now, you will be making compromises left, right and centre. If you accommodate your flamenco-dancing dentist, your soprano window cleaner and your bedridden aunt with only one eye, your story will become so warped that you will jeopardise your film’s success. That’s if you have any wriggle room to begin with; it is unlikely that the film studio will allow you to make casting decisions – something your friends will have to learn to accept.

However, “Sorry mate but you don’t have enough legs or consonants,” is not going to do your friendship any good. Neither is giving him false hope. Lay it on the line. Tell him you don’t have any control over casting, and promise him a seat at the premiere

Monday 27 October 2014

A Fellow Writer Offers You Cocaine

Signs of a problem: fellow writer sniffs a lot and then invites you into a toilet.

The symptoms: shock.

You’re at a book fair at the local library, when a seemingly straight-laced writer of historical fiction pulls you into the disabled toilets and offers you a line of coke. At first, in your naivety, you think the white powder might be some tasty lemon sherbet, but when your fellow author leads by example, the penny drops.

Do not snort the coke. You may be a celebrity now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to become a cliché. Remember that you are a famous author, not a singer, model or actress. Celebrity authors buy small holdings in the country and treat themselves to speciality teas; we do not develop drug habits and spend our hard-earned cash on getting high. We get our fixes from five star reviews and chart climbing.

So, when you meet a writer who has lost his or her way, it is important to remember who you are, and be true to yourself, rather than get caught up in that showbiz kerfuffle.

Even so, there’s no need to be rude. A simple, “No thank you, I have too much self-respect to try that sort of thing, and so should you,” will do.

Also, depending on how much respect you have for the library system, you may want to tip off the staff that their historic building is being used for snorting Class A drugs. Assess how much you like the author in question. Does he post pretentious messages in your favourite forum or is he a modest soul? Does he read your books? If you like the chap, wait for him to leave before tipping off the library staff.

Of course, if the librarian is the dealer, your report will fall on deaf ears. For further advice, surf the web for one of the many available books of the ilk, How to Tell if Your Local Librarian is a Cocaine Dealer.

Sunday 26 October 2014

A Man on the Tube Asks You to Sign His Cock

Signs of a problem: passenger fumbles with trousers, pen in hand.

The symptoms: disgust; fear; revulsion.

It’s always flattering to be asked for your autograph. However, there are certain things to consider when such a request arrives: Do you have time to stop? Do you have a pen handy? Is the autograph book a pulsating trouser snake?

If somebody asks for an autograph when you are in a hurry to get somewhere, e.g. catching a train, visiting the cinema or attending the birth of your child, you will need to seriously consider whether you should stop.

In theory, you can give an autograph in less than thirty seconds, but in practice it’s best to take your time. Ask the reader their name and whether they’d like a dedication or just a signature. You will be tempted to ask what they think of your books. Signing an autograph can take several minutes. The process will no doubt be rewarding, but will it be as rewarding as being there when your son opens his eyes for the first time? Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers.

Carry a pen wherever you go. You do not want to turn down autograph opportunities through equipment failures. If you don’t have a pen, then you need to consider whether or not to write in blood. Are you a horror writer? If not, best avoid bodily fluids.

There is one circumstance under which giving an autograph is always a bad idea – if the fan wants your signature on his willy. Yes, giving an autograph can be a very uplifting, smug-making experience, but handling a tube passenger’s cock is an effective antidote to feeling good.

It is important not to seem dismissive whilst, at the same time, not leading the reader on. An effective word for use in such situations is ‘engraving’. If that doesn’t put him off, then you’re well within your rights to change carriage at the next possible opportunity.