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.

Saturday 25 October 2014

A Stranger Asks You to Promote a Book with a Typo in the Title

Signs of a problem: unsolicited email in your inbox; mouth open in horror.

The symptoms: anger; frustration; pain.

Your book has just been rejected for inclusion in a major bookstore’s core catalogue, your local paper has overlooked your book launch and your former university has released a magazine listing ‘Published Alumni’ that only includes fiction endorsed by conventional publishers.

Why, you ask, why is the world so prejudiced against self-published authors?

And then it happens: you receive an email asking you to help promote a stranger’s book. This, in itself, is not unusual. However, what stands out about it is that the book has a typo in the title. You scan its product page looking for signs of irony or child authors, but there are none. You wonder if failing to capitalise ‘I’ is a house style. But then you realise that the other instance of ‘I’, in the same title, is capitalised. You take a look at the cover. This contains the same capitalisation error, but on the second ‘I’ this time.

Steam is coming out of your ears. This is why your book is being overlooked.

It’s important not to let your success go to your head. Remember when you started out. Were your books completely error free? Did you accidentally make a typo in a first sentence? (Yes.) Remember that not everybody can afford an editor and not everybody is capable of the same attention to detail.

Then get mad anyway – it’s the title for goodness sake, the title.

However, no matter how frustrated you may feel, do not respond to the author with, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ If you are rude, you run the chances of upsetting the author.

Remember, you are not the grammar police, or the self-publishing police, or the eBook standards firing squad. Stay calm.

When an author tells you, “I don’t really care about polishing my book or perfecting my title. I just want to get my story out there,” you must resist the urge to scream, “But I care, and so do dozens of other hard-working indies.” One of the merits of self-publishing is that it gives everybody a chance to make their story heard. Let readers be the judge of whether they want to read As i Walk in my Mothers’ Footprints I smile :-).

Friday 24 October 2014

You Win an Award

The situation: congratulations coming from every direction; a new shiny badge, medal or trophy in your possession.

You feel: excitement; pride.

You may think that once the winners of a competition have been announced, the game is over. Alas, the game has only just begun. Now you must plan your acceptance speech. Readers, competitors and the competition organisers will be waiting to see your reaction.

The standard phrase in such a situation is ‘I didn’t expect to win.’ Even if all the other books had been written upside down, you still didn’t expect to win. If possible, deflect the praise by thanking your editor, cover designer and devoted spouse. This will make you appear thoughtful as well as victorious and may get you a discount on your next proofread. (I’m on to you – Ed.)

Do not say, “I was quietly confident I would get this award and it’s a relief to finally have it confirmed.” Do not say, “I’ve already spent my prize money.” Do not say, “Ha ha, suckers!”

However, modesty has its limits. You must use your success to pimp your work. Your book is no longer, ‘A quite funny book about field mice’; it’s ‘An award-winning book about field mice’. Your blurb no longer starts with ‘Mizzy, 31, is a mouse without a spouse’; it starts with ‘Winner of the 2014 Best Anthropomorphic Book Award’.

If the competition awards a trophy, get a friend to photograph you holding it, preferably with a surprised or comedic expression on your face, and post it to social networks. Find out if the competition organisers have made a blog badge. If so, copy the code into the sidebar of your website, so that it is visible to people whatever post they are reading.

The one time that you should not display a badge or trophy with pride, is if you win a ‘Best Effort’ prize awarded by the Robot-Donkey Porn Guild (unless, of course, your book is about robot-donkeys getting it on). A trivial or bogus-sounding award is more likely to damage than help your career

Thursday 23 October 2014

A Tween Vampire Romance Novelist Wants to Co-Write Your Next Crime Thriller

The situation: being faced with the question, “Do you think your detective would look better with fangs?”

You feel: embarrassment.

You’ve written four bestselling crime thrillers praised for their realism and factual accuracy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a friendly acquaintance has a “crazy idea” – “Let’s co-write your next book!” Your acquaintance is talented, popular and very amenable, but her forte is vampire romances for young teenagers.

You try to explain, politely, that you don’t think your styles will successfully mesh, but she tells you that the only thing holding your series back is the absence of fangs. Of course, you know that the introduction of a mythical creature will destroy your career, but what can you do to decline gracefully without offending your peer?

No matter how much you care about offending others do not, whatever you do, agree to co-write the book. The clash of styles will be a total disaster. Co-writing the book and watching your career go up in smoke will do more damage to your relationship than telling it straight.

Suggest, instead, contributing work to the same anthology. Opportunities to submit to anthologies are plentiful if you join popular writing forums. This will allow your acquaintance the chance to feel that you have co-written a book, without actually having to work together on anything other than promotion. You are both doing what you do best, and nobody gets hurt.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

An Unsolicited Novel Lands in Your Inbox

The situation: unsolicited email has a huge attachment.

You feel: feeling overwhelmed; guilt.

A kind reader writes you a personal email to tell you how much he loved your book and hopes that you enjoyed his review. You write back to thank him. He tells you that there is a little favour you could do in return – read his attached one hundred thousand word novel and give critical feedback. (Are you noticing a theme?)

This is a cunning trick, because he did you a favour first, so you’re feeling kindly disposed, and it seems rude not to help. You wish you had time to look at the novel, but you simply don’t.

The first thing to do is realise that once you’re quite well known, it is not physically possible to read and review the work of everybody who’s read and reviewed yours. What’s more – that’s okay. This is where you wanted to be, and although this particular aspect of being well known may make you feel bad, you are not in the wrong. There aren’t enough hours in the day to help everybody and that’s not your fault.

Whatever you do, do not make any false promises, no matter how much you’d like to help. This will heighten the mistaken sense of betrayal when you eventually have to let the budding author down.

The easiest thing to do is to open the attachment and have a quick peek at page one. If you’re lucky, the book might inspire you so much that you allow it to be one of the few books you can find time to read. However, the chances are that it won’t be your sort of book.

A glance at page one will often tell you that the brand-new novel in your possession is not the sort of thing that you could give feedback on even if you wanted to. This is useful because it allows you to get back to the reader in a way that neither hurts feelings nor makes you look like a haughty bighead. You can tell the author, in full sincerity, that you don’t know a thing about religious, historical fantasy and that his style is something so far removed from your own, that any comments from you would be useless.

If, on the other hand, the style is exactly the sort of thing that you could comment on, then you will have to navigate the situation a little more carefully. Do you have time to read the first few pages? It’s fine if you haven’t, but if you have, then the author is likely to be grateful for any feedback he can get, and this will allow you to gracefully decline giving feedback on the whole book.

If you don’t have time to read the first few pages, then is there another small favour that you could do for the author? Perhaps link to his blog from yours or recommend his work to a friend. You could even keep handy the details of somebody who offers reasonably priced critical feedback, so that you can pass it on when other authors approach you. All you can do is be honest with the author, write a polite email and hope that he or she understands.

Occasionally, totally splendid hotshot authors can get a little tired and crotchety. It is important to remember that, no matter how much stress you are under, “Hasn’t it occurred to you that I might be too busy to deal with yet another adolescent vampire romance?” is not a suitable response. You were once talented, unknown and desperate to succeed, remember?

Tuesday 21 October 2014

A Fan Posts You a Cat

Signs of a problem: courier arrives with ‘Pets You Like’ written on his van.

The symptoms: confusion; excitement; despair.

You’ve made a big public show of how much you want a cat. In fact, your author identity is practically founded on your love of cats. From your debut novel, Cats Rule the Earth to your recent offering, I’d Marry a Cat if I Could, your books are distinctly feline-themed.

So, when a fan decides to make your dream come true and inject a cat into your pet-free life, what could possibly go wrong?

Generally, cat lovers without cats suffer some form of circumstance that prevents cat acquisition, otherwise they would go out and adopt one of the many cats needing homes. This could be as simple as living on the top floor of a high-rise flat, being in rented accommodation or not having enough money to feed a cat. However, it could be something more significant such as having a lover who goes into anaphylactic shock whenever he or she hears purring.

A fan who posts an author a cat has some serious deficiencies in the forward-planning department.

Should a parcel delivered by a courier contain a cat, first, meet and greet the kitty. Next, find out if there is a return address handy. Inspect the sender’s name. Check that the cat hasn’t come from any of your competitors – the last thing you need is your nemesis getting a spy cat into your life. If you recognise the name of a fan, then it is likely that the cat is a genuine gift and not a spy.

You will need to liaise with the fan about the appropriateness of his or her offering. When contacting the fan, tread carefully. It can be considered rude not to accept a present but it’s better than keeping a cat in unsuitable surroundings. Talk to the fan rationally and explain that you are not in a position to adopt a cat. He or she will probably understand.

You may find that the fan intends to support the cat financially. Although this may sound appealing, it is best not to encourage the type of fan that would post an unsolicited mammal.

Do not return the cat. The sender is clearly not capable of thinking in the best interests of the animal. See if you can find a good home for the cat, or consult a cat rescue centre.

If, however, you are able to provide the cat with a good home, then you should grab this opportunity (not the cat) by its ears. Welcome the kitty into your life with open arms.

The fan probably expects you to call the cat after him – don’t.

Monday 20 October 2014

A Store Offers You a Golden Chicken in Exchange for Exclusivity

Signs of a problem: visualising golden eggs.

The symptoms: excitement; ambition.

You’re selling books in a variety of stores – not vast numbers, but a few here and there. Along comes the biggest store and offers you the chance to win a golden chicken. All you have to do is remove your books from sale in every other book store.

You think it through – a golden chicken, hey? You talk to authors who have already taken the plunge. Some say they haven’t won a chicken yet but are hoping to soon. A sizeable number report that they’ve already received a big, fluffy golden chicken, and it’s laying golden eggs left, right and centre.

You peer inside your chicken coop at your existing feathered friends. You have six healthy birds, all producing a small but steady supply of eggs. However, none of them is golden. Imagine all the things you could buy with your golden eggs: line edits, illustrations, high-class call girls… Of course, to qualify for a golden chicken you will have to wring the necks of all your existing birds. You look at your chickens – they have served you well, but perhaps it’s time to move on.

People who decide to enter into an exclusivity contract with a major store often find that their sales and earnings improve. Some of the benefits include being able to run special promotions and having your books included in lending libraries. An increase in visibility from a large store can make up for loss of earnings from all the smaller stores put together. But is exclusivity helpful in the long run?

Chickens age. Even if your chicken is popping out golden eggs faster than you can cash them in, its yield will trail off as it gets older. If you’re lucky, the store might award you another golden chicken, but there’s no guarantee. Even golden eggs will decline in value the more chickens are on the market. The government might decide to start taxing golden eggs, having an impact on their value.

More importantly, if you lose your golden chicken, you’ll have no chickens left. The store might decide to hide your chicken because some robot mistakenly thought its name was rude. The store might bring in a new rule that repossesses chickens owned by authors who don’t agree to a fifty per cent drop in royalties. Nobody knows what the store will do, but if you agree to be exclusive, you’ll be at its mercy.

Once your exclusivity contract has expired, you might be able to go out and acquire new ordinary chickens like the ones you used to have. However, if the breeds have become extinct because everybody strangled theirs in a scramble to get golden birds, you’ll be up shit creek without a wattle.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Your Talking Cow Protagonist Puts You Off Beef

The situation: illustration of a cheeky cow grinning at you; aversion to red meat.

You feel: nausea; despair; guilt.

So you want to write a kids’ book, huh? Talking animals are a time-honoured strategy when it comes to entertaining children. However, you do need to be careful when you anthropomorphise. Identify your favourite meat and steer well clear of the originating animal.

You may think that you’re a red-blooded, down-to-earth chap who could never turn down a steak, but after getting to know Mrs Moo-Moo, her adorable personality, her quirky habits and her cute bovine face, you may feel differently.

Should you start to feel a slight aversion to meat, you need to tread carefully. You have two options: lose an eating habit or lose your character. Take into consideration the popularity of your books. Do children love Mrs Moo-Moo? If so, then perhaps sacrificing beef is a small price to keep many children happy and your book in print.

Do not, whatever you do, start a series about talking vegetables. You do need to eat.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Your Cat Can’t Accept Your Writing Career

The situation: cat sits on keyboard at every opportunity.

You feel: frustration; sadness; disappointment.

Cats can have an attitude problem at the best of times. They like to know that they’re in charge – top cat, if you like. Therefore, it can be very difficult for a cat to accept that his or her human is a totally splendid hotshot author.

A jealous cat will sit on keyboards, trample on printouts and claw an author’s favourite writing chair. However, as these activities are common in felines, it might be difficult to tell whether yours is truly a jealous cat or just a cat. Ask your vet to advise you on how to determine whether or not your cat is jealous of your writing career.

Should, God forbid, you discover that your cat is harbouring resentment, then you need to let your cat believe that he or she is a better writer than you. This can be achieved by letting your cat trample on your keyboard and printing the results. Have your cat’s story ‘asbhsghasjsadhjkjjjjjjjjjjjjj’ framed and mounted on the wall beside your cat’s feeding station.

To make your cat feel extra important, drop quotes from his or her work into conversation. If timed correctly, “sdhjsdhjsd hash­hkj dddddd dddddddd” can sound very profound. Likewise, a little comic timing will have guests in stitches when you regurgitate “klkliiouoiuiooooo”.

Friday 17 October 2014

A Crocodile Eats Your Laptop

Signs of a problem: crocodile licking his lips; a few shards of laptop remain on the riverbank.

The symptoms: despair; self-criticism; frustration.

One of the biggest frustrations known to authorkind is loss of work. We’ve all been there – so engrossed in what we’re writing that we fail to take adequate precautions in the backup department. Then, the next thing we know, a computer malfunction has gobbled up our precious manuscript, and no amount of stamping and screaming will bring it back.

Yes, neglecting to make adequate backups is a common problem. However, though some file loss situations are unfortunate, others are plain stupid.

What on earth were you thinking when you left the only copy of your work on the edge of a crocodile-infested river? You’re a writer for heaven’s sake! Surely you could see foresee the inevitable conflict created by mixing ‘important manuscript’ and ‘large snappy reptile’.

Still, there’s no point having regrets. Once your laptop is in the belly of a man-eating beast, it’s best to focus on practical solutions.

Stage 1: accept that the laptop is gone. This is a crucial step that could save your life. Do not, whatever you do, attempt to retrieve any part of your laptop, even if you think you can see your hard drive spinning on the croc’s tongue. Similarly, you must not try to capture the crocodile. Yes, crocodiles have been captured by humans, but self-published authors are hardly known for their beast-netting capabilities.

Stage 2: vow to back up your work religiously from now on.

Stage 3: write down anything you can remember from the manuscript before you forget it. This could take some time so make sure that you are some distance away from the swamp before you take out your pen and paper.

Stage 4: use the experience to inspire an action and adventure thriller about a man who narrowly escapes getting eaten by a crocodile.

Stage 5: check that your spouse is okay.

Thursday 16 October 2014

A True Story About Your Ex Would Make a Great Book

The situation: re-reading series of angry diary entries; researching defamation online.

You feel: excitement; concern.

Your ex was a slugwaffle. Whilst recovering from the onslaught of slime that inevitably comes with a slugwaffle, you organised your thoughts by putting his actions down on paper in a diary format. You later look back and think, ‘Actually, that would make a bloody good short story.’

The friends you showed it to say, “That’s a brilliant story. Shame it’s true.” You read it through once more – sure enough, it has everything: a beginning, a middle, an end, drama, bittersweet humour… It’s perfect. What’s more, you need to make up for the lost writing time spent recovering from the shock of finding that the bakery of life served you a slugwaffle.

Do not, whatever you do, publish the story in its original form. In a defamation case, the burden of proof is on the writer, not the person trying to sue. That means that if things happened in private and it comes down to he said, she said, you will lose. It is your responsibility to prove you’re telling the truth, not his to try to demonstrate that you’re lying. There may be witnesses, phone records even, but since the larger part of a relationship is conducted in private, there are bound to be areas you can’t prove.

Secondly, be wary of simply changing names and dates. For a person to claim defamation, as few as one other person has to recognise him or her in your writing. It can be hard to completely disguise a character based on a real person, and even if you do, a slugwaffle would have no qualms about getting a friend to lie about an identification.

A statement such as: ‘This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real people is unintentional’ is never a bad idea but will not necessarily protect you from a lawsuit.

Even if you can defend your book in court, do you really need the hassle of being dragged through legal proceedings by a slugwaffle? Just imagine the mess!

Perhaps, at a later date, you can weave some aspects of your ex’s vile personality into a wider context. Then have a witch turn him into an inanimate restaurant chair who has to spend his life under the arses of men who don’t treat women badly, listening to them enjoy their lives.

In the meantime, rest assured that the fate of a slugwaffle is to one day be gobbled up and suitably expelled.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Your Ex Sells Your Sext History to the Press

Signs of a problem: people smirk at you in the street; your social network follower count doubles overnight.

The symptoms: embarrassment; loss of trust.

You knew your ex was a half-witted moron with a tiny dick and all the sexual prowess of a dormouse, but you didn’t know that he was also a selfish, untrustworthy sell-out. That is, until you saw your steamiest text reproduced as a tabloid headline.

When you told your ex that you fantasised about smothering his toes in HP sauce and licking it off whilst wearing an Indian headdress, you had no idea that the whole nation would suddenly find out about your sexual quirks. Worse still, the texts have been reproduced with the original typos. Had you known that your words would be read by more than just Half-Wit Wally, you would have corrected the predictive text errors. Instead, millions of people think you told your partner, ‘I want you to rub my clot with your gingers until I origami.’

Whatever you do, do not let the increased exposure go to your head. As a totally splendid hotshot author, you will have learnt to thrive on publicity. You need to recognise that there is such a thing as bad publicity. Do not agree to write a steamy response for said tabloid; do not decide to publish an erotic re-write of your novel about carp fishing; do not try to cash in by posting your topless photos online. Totally splendid hotshot authors have integrity. Similarly, offering statistics about your ex’s squidgy, sprout penis will make you look bitter and spiteful, no matter how accurate the description may be.

Rise above it. Neither admit nor deny the texts. If you admit to sending them, you will land yourself in it with the sceptics who think you planted the story. If you deny them, people may think that you’re protesting too hard. Try not to comment at all.

Instead, make sure that your website is up to date. Post an interesting, unrelated article on your blog and make sure that it links to your latest book. If you’re planning to launch a new title soon, can you bring it forward? These strategies will allow you to capitalise on the increased number of people searching for you online, whilst allowing you to maintain the moral high ground.

Oh, and delete your ex’s number. He’s clearly a knobcheese camembert.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

You Shout Your Pen Name in Bed

The situation: baffled look on partner’s face.

You feel: embarrassment; regret.

It’s been a good day – twenty sales and a new five star review. It’s hardly surprising that you’re thinking about the reviewer’s comment, ‘I want to bone this book’ while your partner is attempting some boning action of his own. It’s no wonder that those five stars are flashing in your mind as you reach the climactic moment. Your partner has no idea that you’ve mentally replaced his torso with a giant Booker prize. Then, suddenly, your pen name pops out of your mouth. The cat is well and truly out of the bag.

Your lover looks down at you. “What did you say?” he asks, glaring.

You have two options: lie or lie.

There are no circumstances under which shouting the wrong name in bed will sound acceptable, even if it’s your own name. Far better to make your partner distrust his own judgement. Flatter his ego; tell him you said, “Bloody hell, that was good.” He’d rather believe the lie than the truth and hopefully he will.

In future, if your day’s career success has made you stupidly horny, have a solo session before risking human interaction.

Monday 13 October 2014

Your Lover Shouts Your Pen Name in Bed

The situation: at the crucial moment, your lover opens his or her mouth and it’s not your name that comes out, but your pen name.

You feel: confusion; surprise; mixture of delight and concern.

Congratulations! If your lover shouts your pen name in bed then it means that he or she has recognised that you are a totally splendid hotshot author. Treat the first occurrence of this with pride.

However, it is important to keep your personal life and your author identity separate. Your author persona has to be self-assured, self-promoting and self-important (beneath the modest exterior). Your real persona needs to be human.

In your relationship, you and your partner need to be equal. You want your lover to date you, not your career. Let the first author-name-exclamation go by unremarked, but if your beloved continues to do it, suggest restricting the behaviour to special occasions.

This presumes that your partner doesn’t also have a totally splendid hotshot career. If he or she does and you might reply, “Oh Professor Stephen Prodnasal, PhD!” then referring to each other by your professional titles is not weird at all.

Sunday 12 October 2014

A Reader Stops Having a Crush on You

Signs of a problem: progressively less frequent emails.

The symptoms: self-doubt; fear; loneliness; grief.

Mocking the reader who sends you daily photos of his foot used to be a popular pastime. (“That tattoo on his left toe doesn’t even look like me! Ha ha ha!”) But then suddenly the photos stop. You don’t notice at first. But a week goes by and not a single inappropriate photo makes it into your inbox.

What? Your fan has given up? But why would he give up? What is wrong with you? Was your latest release not as splendid as your other work? Are you looking flabby in your latest press photo? Has he, heavens no, met another author?

It is important to remember that frequency and severity of crazed fans is not the only measure of success. If you’re feeling a little rejected, re-read some five star reviews to remind yourself how totally splendid you are. Then, consider releasing a photograph of yourself happening to wear lingerie (disguised as a publicity shot so that you don’t look like a sell-out). You will soon generate a new admirer and, if you’re lucky, that person may also buy a copy of your book

Saturday 11 October 2014

A Reader Develops a Crush on You

Signs of a problem: increasingly frequent emails; gushing reviews that use the word ‘alluring’ and the string ‘<3 <3 <3’; the creation of fan fiction.

The symptoms: feeling flattered (at first); feeling disturbed (second); feeling deeply alarmed (final stage).

Although you can guess a lot about an author from his or her books, most people’s concrete knowledge of an author is based on one two-dimensional photo and a brief biography. Yet it seems to be relatively common for people to develop crushes on authors. Don’t get me wrong, writing is a talent and talents are attractive, but there’s a line. Sending an author a vial of your spunk crosses that line.

Most reader crushes only get to stage one: mild appreciation – a few emails, a wacky ‘impulsive’ invitation to meet and some pleasant reviews. These are harmless – pleasing, in fact.

However, when a reader crush extends to the reader writing spin-off fan fiction, you need to pay attention. An innocuous sonnet about your protagonist is nothing to worry about. If, however, you’ve written a gritty crime thriller about body snatching and the reader re-writes a chapter so that a character based on himself gets to bone your rotting corpse, you know the crush has progressed to the downright disturbing stage.

It is important to know how to handle a reader crush, so that it never progresses to the sperm-in-the-post stage.

Here’s what not to do: don’t express an interest in being sent sperm in the post; don’t agree to meet him or her; if he or she buys anything from you that needs to be posted, don’t include a return address.

Always make sure that your emails are shorter than his or hers, keep emails polite but professional, and invent an imaginary partner. Even if you are married, you should make sure that the partner you report to fans is imaginary, just in case a jealous type tries to seek him or her out for a little afternoon slaughter. I currently have a small, blond boyfriend who’s not classically dangerous, but knows a trick that can render a man impotent with one simple wink. I haven’t had a single reader turn up on my doorstep since I started dating Wee Willy Winky.

Friday 10 October 2014

Your Gran Reads Your Anal Sex Scene

Signs of a problem: gran can’t look you in the eye; she’s sweating profusely.

The symptoms: mortification.

One of the hardest things about writing a sex scene is knowing that somehow, sometime, your family will read it. Then all sorts of questions will enter their minds: ‘Where did little Johnny learn the word schlong?’, ‘Has he ever tried using frozen yoghurt for that?’, ‘What is rimming?’

Of course, you could try banning them from your books, but there will always be an uncle or a cousin somewhere for whom a ban is the strongest form of encouragement. You made a special edit for your mum, replacing the five-page detailed bonk scene with the sentence, ‘Then they had some sex.’ You hid the paper copies when your aunt visited. Yet somehow your gran got hold of one. How did that happen?

However it happened, the consequences are the same. You and your gran have inadvertently bonded on a level that you were never supposed to, and there is no going back.

The following moves are inappropriate: asking your gran for feedback; asking your gran if people had anal sex during the war; asking why the pages are stuck together.

The only way forward is to ignore the problem and carry on as if it never happened. Play Scrabble together, watch bad family TV, eat her toffees, and never ever mention the book again.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Your Partner Prefers Your Rival’s Book

Signs of a problem: partner is chuckling; all your books are still neatly arranged on the shelf.

The symptoms: burning sense of betrayal; despair; anger; humiliation.

You arrive home to hear your partner in the bathroom chuckling. He’s reading a book on the loo. He loves it! you think. You rush inside to find your partner seated on the porcelain throne. The sight before you is the most repulsive thing you’ve ever seen – it’s not your book!

You expect him to hurry after you saying, “I can explain!” but he doesn’t even realise the gravity of what he has done; he’s cheated on you with another author.

“Who is it?” you demand, as he emerges from the bathroom pulling up his pants.

“Does it matter who?”

“Of course it bloody matters!”

Then he delivers the killer blow; his voice speaks the name of your arch-rival.

“Nooooooo!” you cry. He never laughed like that with your book.

It is important that you handle this situation with sensitivity. Your partner’s eyes are not yours to control. He is free to use his eyes as he sees fit and if he chooses to use those treacherous eyes to read the words of another, then telling him to rip up the pages and burn them could be considered over demanding and optically possessive.

Far better to find your rival’s worst ever book, and present that to your partner as a deterrent. Check eBook stores – does your rival have a title with three stars or fewer? If so, that’s the one to go with. If not, trawl through your rival’s old blog posts, starting with the oldest; somewhere along the way you will find an abandoned novel or a ropey short story. If needs be, email your rival and ask for a copy of a title that has been withdrawn from sale.

Now, present your partner with the runt of the rival’s litter. Confiscate the ‘funny’ title and let the affair prepare to die.

If, a week later, your partner is still reading work by your rival, lock him in the cellar and feed him only on pages of your rival’s work. “How much do you like him now, huh? Huh?

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Your Partner Doesn’t Read Your Book

Signs of a problem: poor excuses; your printout has undamaged crisp corners; he or she can’t answer your intensive quiz about page one.

The symptoms: pain; rejection; loneliness; frustration.

You know that your work is great and you can’t wait for your beloved to read it. Some days pass, and still the printout remains untouched. The pain begins to build. Isn’t your loved one interested in your work? Does he or she believe that it won’t be enjoyable? Doesn’t he or she know what your writing means to you?

Another week goes by and no progress. In fact, you wrote the book faster than your other half can be bothered to read it. Finally, after two months have gone by, you resign to the fact that your sweetheart will probably never read your book.

Break up! If you’re going to make it as a totally splendid hotshot author, then writing has to be the most important thing in your life. If your partner doesn’t appreciate the most important thing in your life, he or she is not right for you.

Even if your partner has read your book, it is important to never let it be known that writing is the most important thing in your life. Many relationships are compatible with being a totally splendid hotshot author, but few relationships are compatible with the truth.

On rare occasions, breaking up over a book may be an overreaction, for example if you share children or… Well, that’s about it really. It’s your book! If there are children involved then you need to ask a few more questions.

Is your book accessible to your partner? If you’ve written a twenty-thousand-word manual for drain covers and your beloved happens not to be interested in drainage or coverage, you might want to cut him or her a little slack. Likewise, if you’ve written a disturbing horror novel it could be considered unreasonable to expect an emotionally delicate spouse to jump at the chance to devour it. On the other hand, if he or she loves futuristic, cowboy adventures yet fails to read your title Robo-Cowboy’s Action-Packed Escapade, then let the custody battle begin.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

You Fall in Love With a Trad

The situation: your heart is exploding but you can’t share your excitement with your fellow indies.

You feel: warm fuzzy feeling alternating with periods of dread.

After a brutal street brawl between indies and traditionally published authors, the Prime Minister has threatened tougher penalties for author gang warfare. You decide that the best thing to do is keep away from those pesky trads.

One unexpected day at a café you meet her – a vision of beauty with raven hair, slender legs up to her ears, dazzling eyes… Your heart thumps. But what is that on the table beside her laptop – a traditionally published book?

“You’re just reading that, right?” you ask.

“No, I wrote it,” she says, smiling as if that’s something you’d like to hear.

Everything you dreamt of in those six seconds since first meeting her comes crashing down. An indie-trad relationship – could the world ever accept it?

Don’t spit at her across the table. Don’t declare, “It can never be!” Don’t try to show her the error of her ways.

The important thing to remember is that traditionally published authors are people too. They may do things differently from you and me but at the end of the day, we are all just individuals hoping to sell books.

The friction between the two types of authors exists because of fear and competition. Traditionally published authors worked hard to get book deals, and now that they’ve achieved what they always wanted, they’re not happy to see the industry buckle under the weight of self-published authors.

Some self-published authors have rejected conventional publishing to give themselves more control or money, but others have been rejected by traditional publishers. With so much rejection and resentment going around, is it any wonder that the two breeds of bestselling authors draw their swords from time to time?

Give your new love the benefit of the doubt. If you’d been offered a book deal five years ago, you might very well have taken it.

Of course, your fellow writers might not see it that way. Best fake your own deaths and run off to a foreign country together – to avoid bloodshed. You can then give birth to baby hybrid authors.

Monday 6 October 2014

Your Date Only Wants You For Your Feedback

Signs of a problem: your date brings up his or her novel within three minutes; your date pitches his or her idea and asks what you think; he or she doesn’t notice that you had your hair done.

The symptoms: frustration; irritation; dis­appointment.

You’re sitting opposite the person of your dreams, wondering how the date will end. Then, suddenly, out pops a tatty A5 notebook and with it the words “I wondered if you’d like to read my novel.” Your heart sinks. “It’s only one hundred thousand words,” you hear. “I’d really appreciate your feedback.”

If you are certain that the date only wants you for your writer’s eye, then you are well within your rights to storm out; you have been misled. However, it is possible, likely even, that a date may be interested in both your writing and a romance. In which case, you need to gather more information.

Quickly establish some ground rules. Do you want to be your date’s editor? Do you want to have to give your date honest feedback?

The literary product of your date’s blood and sweat could be absolutely dreadful. Do you really want to be the one to point out that a fourteen-year-old could write better erotica than Me and My Six-Inch Snake? But can you bear to start your relationship with a lie?

Of course, there’s the possibility that your date’s work will really excite you and you will be able to form an electric partnership where bouncing ideas off each other becomes a wonderful hobby.

But then again, what if your date’s work is as good as, if not better than yours? Do you really want to be in direct competition with your lover? What if your date’s book gets a five star review and, the same day, yours gets a critical review? There’s a lifetime of friction and frustration to consider

Additional Blog-Exclusive Advice

By Jim Webster

Now now please, this is your common sense speaking. Let us at least look at this manuscript. There are so many reasons for doing this, they are almost jumping up and down in their desperate attempt to be noticed.

Firstly, is this date the best looking thing you’ve managed to go out with since you walked your neighbour’s Labrador? A wise man is not going to be hasty at this point. Take the manuscript with a firm, confident hand. What is this charming creature writing? Romance? Don’t knock it, it sells. If it is any good this witty and intelligent lady can, in years to come, keep you in a standard to which you’ve always felt that you ought to become accustomed. Erotica? Well no matter how bad it is, it always leaves open the option for you to express your editorial opinion that the positions adopted on pages twenty three through to forty must surely be impossible and that it really needs intensive field trials to make sure what can and cannot be done.

Also at this point it might be the time to interject an element of humility into our own thinking. There are times when it pays a chap to contemplate his own sales figures. Are you feeling betrayed because your latest work has sold only four copies, and your mother and four siblings all promised faithfully to buy a copy? If you edit your date’s manuscript she could be grateful. Not merely grateful enough to sleep with you but perhaps even grateful enough to buy a copy of your book! Based on the amount of time an indie writer can spend promoting to get a sale, editing a hundred thousand word manuscript for a guaranteed sale probably counts as a short cut.

Sunday 5 October 2014

You’re Invited Out on a Date

Signs of a problem: the cute doctor you met in Asda just asked for your number.

The symptoms: excitement; feeling flattered; confusion.

You’re halfway through the second book in your epic fantasy trilogy when the woman of your dreams saunters over and asks if you can recommend a type of potato. There’s an instant connection. You quickly bond over price-matched kiwifruit and before you know it, she’s asking for your number.

Think very carefully before replying. Is the reason that you’ve written one and a half fantasy epics that you’ve had no distractions for twelve months? Will you really be able to give one hundred per cent to being a totally splendid hotshot author if you go on a date? What if a date leads to a second date? What if, God forbid, a date should lead to a relationship!

It’s one thing if you’re already married when the writing bug bites, but to let yourself get into a new relationship after you’ve embarked on your difficult career path could be considered irresponsible.

Imagine running your fingers through your cute lover’s hair, feeling the softness of her skin against the back of your hand, touching her smooth lips with yours ...

Now stop!

This is just the sort of thinking that will stand in the way of your totally splendid hotshot career. Before you know it, instead of books, you’ll be launching a trilogy of children (shudder)!

If you want to be a successful author, misery, loneliness and social isolation come with the territory. And don’t you let J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin, Michael Morpurgo, Jim Webster, Katie W. Stewart, Kath Middleton, Lynda Wilcox, Terry Pratchett, Dan Brown, Delia Smith, Nick Metcalfe, Susan Lewis, Neil Gaiman or Annabel Pitcher tell you otherwise.

I advise reading the our upcoming dating scenarios and familiarising yourself with common author-relationship clashes before agreeing to the date.

Additional Blog-Exclusive Advice

Chris Bailey

“What do you mean you can’t meet me tonight?”

You explain that you have to work on some scenarios for a fellow author, in hope of getting further exposure. Your date won’t understand. They never do. The hardest part of doing everything yourself, is the sheer time it takes. Often you’ll find yourself wondering what will come first: finishing editing your first book or the end of mankind.

You will have to make sacrifices and they will be difficult. You receive a selfie of your lady doctor friend wearing nothing but a stethoscope with the caption, “Are you feeling unwell?” You’re just about to leave your house when you realise, if you stay in you could have your blurb done by the morning.

You text back, “I’m feeling fine thanks.”

Well done.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Your Robot Story Generator is More Popular Than Your Books

The situation: hit counter soaring whilst royalties dwindle.

You feel: frustration.

You’re at university and an essay is due. In a pointless act of procrastination, you write an automatic story generator to amuse your friends. A computer program takes a few words either input by a friend or selected at random, and works them into a brief, inane story. Code then churns out a brief tale with no artistic merit whatsoever.

Years later, you begin self-publishing commercial fiction. You pay attention to the positioning of every single word. If a sentence doesn’t quite work, you rephrase it. You draft, you re-draft, and you re-draft again. You pay an editor to check it once, twice, maybe three times. So why does an automatic story generator gain more attention than your published books?

There you are, checking your daily web stats. Your story generator reached 10,002 hits whilst your beautiful author page enjoyed just 63. To make it worse, almost every story recorded was created from the words ‘knob’ and ‘titties’.

What is the world coming to? Why would people rather read random garbage called things such as Knobby Heights – A Tale of Passion on the Ditty Titty Moors than your heartfelt tale, Living With an HIV-Positive Mother?

Do not delete the story generator in a fit of pique. Do not email the author of The Boner Saga – A Paranormal Vagina Romance and tell him that he needs to wash his mouth out with soap and water. Your competitor in this case is yourself.

Yes, the generator’s success insults your career. Yes, it’s annoying. But, people are obviously enjoying it, so it must have some merit.

With the right advertising partners, a site with 10,000 hits could earn you a little extra cash – cash you could use to improve and promote your books, cash you could use to feed baby birds and put a roof over your Grandma’s head. There will always be morons in the world wanting to giggle about genitalia, so why not use knobs and boobies to keep Grandma dry?


Finally, you snap Dangerous, Squirting Boobies was just going too far. You slam your hands on your desk in frustration. Why must people constantly use your plot generator to produce stories about bosoms? Then you have an epiphany. If people want to write dirty stories so badly that they feel the need to twist a clean website to cater for their needs, then you have identified a niche - a niche that needs to be filled with However, when you see Fifty Shades of Floppy Schlong Dongadoodle land in your inbox, you realise that you have created a monster.

Friday 3 October 2014

Your Rival Rescues a Drowning Puppy

Signs of a problem: rival’s mug shot is in the paper; rival is unusually smug

The symptoms: jealousy; fury; feeling cheated.

Life is going well – you’ve got a radio interview lined up, you got a mention in the local paper… Then, just as you think you’ve got marketing cracked, your competitor dwarfs your efforts by only saving a drowning bloody puppy.

Do not stress. There are greater heroic tasks than saving a drowning puppy from a duck pond; for example, saving an oxygen-starved baby from a burning building.

To maximise your chances of saving an oxygen-starved baby from a burning building, try hanging out in a hot country, preferably somewhere near a nursery and woodland. Don’t be tempted to have a baby of your own for this purpose – stranger heroes are more likely to hit the news than parents saving their own flesh and blood.

Opportunities to be a hero are also increased by hanging out near a volcano, motorway, railway bridge or bank.

Be sure to learn extensive first aid, build up extreme physical fitness, and master hostage negotiation skills. The last thing you want your public to read is ‘300 die in disaster author could have prevented’.

Thursday 2 October 2014

A Jealous Rival Tries to Murder You

Signs of a problem: anthrax through your letterbox; bicycle brake wire cut.

The symptoms: fear; anger.

Your eBook is at number one in four different online book stores. Could your day get any better? Well, it’s about to get a lot worse. The author of the book at number two is on a murderous rampage. Unaware that your untimely death will only increase your sales, number two decides to try to make you the victim of a tragic accident.

A totally splendid hotshot author must always be on the lookout for trip wire, stray arrows and poisoned tea. A homicidal rival is likely to find a dramatic way to bump you off. That way, if caught, he or she will at least be able to write a compelling true crime book. Your nemesis, considering him or herself something of a literary connoisseur, may well choose a murder method from popular fiction. Hunger for a literary tie-in does make an assassination attempt a little easier to spot.

Do not enter any libraries, billiard rooms or pantries. Avoid candlesticks, paperweights and lead piping. And if you see a butler – run, run like the wind.

If you do get slain, just remember which of you got to number one first. Death is a bit of a bugger but a small price to pay for a chart topper.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

You Stumble Upon an Indie Who Claims to Have Sold a Million Books to African Penguins

The situation: author makes incredible claim; lack of verifiable evidence.

Your feel: anger; frustration; the desire to crush.

During your totally splendid hotshot author pursuit, you will come into contact with a lot of authors who make claims that you’d give an arm and a leg to be able to compete with. Sometimes, however, those claims seem somewhat dubious.

Doubtful claims are often so woolly that you can neither prove nor disprove them. But once in a while, you will encounter a claim so wildly unlikely, that even a blindfolded baby could detect the falsehood. But a blindfolded baby wouldn’t expose the fraudster. Should you?

On the one hand, a totally splendid hotshot author must maintain a pleasant, friendly façade. On the other hand, you’ve worked hard to get where you are today. Why should some imposter come along and start making bogus claims to fame?

Firstly, consider how easy it will be to get public opinion on your side. Look for facts that contradict the fraudster. For example, if he says he’s sold over one million copies to African penguins, check the penguin population of Africa.

If you don’t have enough evidence to sway public opinion, keep your trap shut, or you could come across as spiteful and cruel. Knowing in your heart that somebody is lying is not good enough.

If you do find yourself armed with statistics with which to rebuke his preposterous claims, pick the right place for your exposé. A public internet forum is a good option because other people will be able to look at the facts presented to them on neutral territory. It’s best not to kick up a storm on your own website, as it could mess with your carefully managed brand.

Now direct the author to the forum in which his or her integrity has been challenged. With a bit of luck, the author in question will re-evaluate his dishonest strategies and come back with a more honest marketing campaign. It has been known to happen.

However, it is much more likely that the author will continue to lie until he’s blue in the face, at which point, he will delete all his contributions to the conversation and recommence bullshitting in another corner of the internet.

Sorry, there’s no (legal) foolproof cure for lying pillocks. I’ve heard that ridiculing characters based on them in fiction can be cathartic. So let’s just say that once upon a time, a chap came along claiming to have sold millions of photocopies of his book on street corners. He was book-busking in the street when suddenly, his trousers fell down. Instead of a penis, he had a single daffodil, lying limp between the biggest load of bollocks I have ever seen. The End.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Another Author Is Disgracing the Name of Indie

Signs of a problem: somebody else’s self-published book is very, very, very, very bad.

The symptoms: irritation; superiority; sense of moral responsibility.

A new novel catches your interest and you download a copy. However, the very first word contains a typo. You read on – the second sentence makes no sense. You turn the page – chapter 2 is missing.

Not only have you wasted money on a book that is completely unreadable, but the author is disgracing the name of indie. Many people avoid independently published books precisely because they expect them to be badly written, and here is an author confirming the stereotype.

Stop and think about the situation carefully. How bad is the book really? If it’s just a few innocent typos in an otherwise excellent story, then reflect on where you started out; remember that proofreaders are expensive and consider a polite email to the author asking if he or she would like a list of typos (most authors will be very grateful).

If, on the other hand, typos are plentiful, the underlying writing is atrocious and the reading experience is excruciating, then a typo list won’t save the book.

As somebody who cringes whenever I think of my debut novel, I try to think that no author is beyond salvation; no need to sever fingers just yet.

This author just needs jailing and being taught to write. However, the police don’t take crimes against literature as seriously as they should. Therefore, we suggest sabotaging the author’s broadband connection. Ascertain the author’s address (see ‘Another Author Plagiarises Your Zombie Heptathlon’), break into their house and cut their phone cable with some wire cutters. Next, mug the author for their mobile. Watch YouTube videos until you’ve used up the data allowance, then post it back through the author’s letterbox. Whilst these measures won’t close all internet access avenues, they will pose a sizeable obstacle to publishing.

Note: whilst the police don’t take crimes against literature seriously, they take a hard line on vandalism, breaking and entry, and theft. Proceed with care.

I am in the process of setting up an indie charity. We collect money from successful self-published authors who want to protect the field. Then we spend our funds on dictionaries and grammar manuals for authors less fortunate than ourselves. Once my charity is registered, you will be able to look up details of how to become a stealth dictionary delivery guy.

Monday 29 September 2014

Another Author Plagiarises Your Zombie Heptathlon

Signs of a problem: a zombie heptathlon blurb other than your own appears before your eyes.

The symptoms: prickly face; fury; disgust; fear.

You’re just about to publish your book about a team of the undead competing to win a zombie heptathlon. You’ve been working on it for years and you know it will be a hit because every time you mention it, zombie-athletics fans wet themselves with delight. However, just as you are about to complete the eBook upload process, you receive an email. To your horror, the email is an advert for a book called Zombie Olympics.

You look at the sender’s name and feel your blood boil – it’s another member of the online forum where you first announced your intention to write a zombie heptathlon story. Angrily, you navigate to the forum. The treacherous author didn’t actually comment in the thread about your book, but you know he read it; your idea was too unique, too brilliant and too personal for another author to have come up with the same idea independently. Why, you had that idea back when your Auntie Maud died whilst training for a steeplechase. How many other authors would have had inspiration like that handed to them on a plate?

This is an insurmountable disaster. How will anybody believe that you had the idea first if your book is launched after your competitor’s? People might deem you the thief.

Firstly, relax – don’t forget how brilliant you are. Somebody may have stolen your idea but it is unlikely that he has the talent to execute it the way you can.

Next, sign up for a fake email account and write to the author pretending to be a local television news correspondent planning to interview him at his home. He will bite. Ask him politely for his address. Next purchase a small, cardboard treasure chest. Carefully cover it using shiny tissue paper and sparkling sequins. Now, squat above it and fill it with a poo. Once you are satisfied with your deposit, close the chest, wrap it in cellophane then brown paper. Send your gift by courier to the author of Zombie Olympics.

Do not be tempted to sign your offering. Do not be tempted to brag about the gesture online. Do not publically react to the copyright theft. It won’t be long before others start noticing the similarities between your books. Those who saw your earlier discussions about the content will put two and two together. At which point, you can stroll in and say, “Similarities? How flattering!”

You end up looking cool and confident and make the author of Zombie Olympics look like a sad wannabe.

Sunday 28 September 2014

A Competitor Gets a Publishing Deal

Signs of a problem: competitor becomes an insufferable hypocrite.

The symptoms: jealousy; anger; hypocrisy.

One moment your competitor is banging on about how proud he is to be an indie author. The next thing you know, he’s accepted a three-book deal with a major publishing house. You’re outraged – how could that sly hypocrite turn his back on indies and, more importantly, why did it happen to him and not you?

Take a moment to think this through. You are an indie author during the height of the indie book boom. You have full control over your content, your cover, your pricing and so much more. Do you really want a publisher messing with your hard work? Do you really want a publisher taking a tidy cut of your profits?

If the answer is still yes, then perhaps you don’t deserve to be a totally splendid hotshot author. You need to believe that you and your trusted band of freelancers have what it takes to woo the world. If you feel you need a mainstream publisher to do that for you, then you have lost your mojo.

Yes, publishers have their advantages – covering set-up costs, having existing relationships with bookshops and having contacts in the press, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

Remember, you are an awesome book-making machine. You don’t need an endorsement from a ‘big five’ publisher to validate your talent.

Your competitor has simply proved that his work fits what his publisher happens to be looking for right now. Often that means a book is about a fashionable topic, can be easily classified into one genre and is the right length for mass production. Yes, getting a publishing deal suggests that your competitor’s work is of a certain standard, but that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t.

Now that your self-esteem is returning, let’s get on to what to do about the smug and smarmy competitor.

Firstly, do not let him know that you’re jealous. His sense of superiority depends on being envied by others. Repeating your indie ideals may look resentful. You must congratulate him whilst expressing no opinion on whether or not you would like the same fate. You need to find the balance between “Each to his own, mate” and “Wow! You’ve reached the Holy Grail.” I suggest, “Well done. Hey, did you see the game last night?”

That will drive him mad.

Saturday 27 September 2014

A Competitor Asks You to Review His Painfully Bad Book

Signs of a problem: competitor starts sucking up to you; a book gets thrust into your hands.

The symptoms: despair; fear; embarrassment.

A pleasant but misguided fellow author has written a book called, Fast, Frightening, Ferocious and Fancy. It had a good cover, an exciting blurb and a selection of five star reviews. How were you to know that it would be a seventy-thousand-word, ill-disguised paean to his penis?

You agreed to read said book before you realised that it was the biggest load of tosh that your eyes would ever have the misfortune to look upon. This error of judgement means that its author knows that you’re reading his work and therefore is eagerly awaiting your feedback.

What can you do? You can’t tell him that his work is absolutely dire without causing offence but dishonesty can dig you a deeper hole. If, to be polite, you tell said author that you loved his work, the next thing you know, he could be asking for a review.

If you post a review online claiming that a typo-ridden, nonsensical celebration of a cock is a literary classic, you may as well take your career, punch it in the goolies and string it up to dry. If you post a review pointing out that the author has taken ‘vanity publishing’ to a whole new level, you will make a sworn enemy. It is important that a totally splendid hotshot author has no enemies – jealous seething competitors, yes; enraged nemeses, no.

There are a few solutions to this problem. You could claim that you have a strict ‘No reviews’ policy. Some online bookstores discourage authors reviewing other authors’ books anyway, as they could be considered ‘direct competition’ or part of dishonest review exchanges.

Another option is to pretend that you have RSI in your fingers and are saving your few remaining key presses for your masterpiece novels.

Finally, you could try the old favourite, ‘I don’t feel qualified to comment on something so different from my usual reading material.’

It is an overreaction to assassinate somebody for inadvertently compromising your integrity as a totally splendid hotshot author, but if he writes a sequel about the misadventures of his bollocks, anything goes.

Friday 26 September 2014

You’ve Got Writer’s Block and Your Sister Just Survived a Zombie Attack

Signs of a problem: sister looks tired and clawed.

The symptoms: concern; excitement.

For the last month, you’ve been unable to write. You’ve been bashing your head against your keyboard and efhguyefbhejferhrfb feiohefnd uisdffhysdf was better than anything your mind came up with, yet still not quite right. You’ve tried all the tricks in the book: having a break, having another break, exercise, clarity tea, listening to music. Nothing worked.

Then your sister comes running in, clothing in tatters. “Zo-om-bieeeeeeeeeee!” she cries.

“Where? Where?”

“It’s okay. I cut its head off with my pendant, the one with special significance because that friend who fell into a volcano left it to me,” she explains.

As your sister retells the details of her zombie clash, you find yourself grinning. This is perfect material for a book. It’s got a beginning (sister goes out for a packet of frozen peas), a middle (zombie pops out of the shop’s freezer) and a happy ending (sister comes home safe and sound, with all the ingredients for a delicious pea soup). You can’t wait to start writing.


This is your sister’s story, not yours. What if she wants to use it? What if you writing the novel keeps traumatic memories at the forefront of her mind? She may be happily raising a pan to the boil right now, but what about in six months’ time, when the flashbacks have really taken hold? She could be just starting to move on from the heinous attack when Bam! she sees your book cover and it all comes flooding back.

What about your sister’s reputation? Suppose she was going for a job and the interviewer, a die-hard member of the zombie protection league, recognises her from your book. You don’t want to let one zombie murder ruin an otherwise fruitful career.

Do not base fiction on your own family unless you are certain it’s what they want. You wouldn’t like it if your mum published a story called, ‘The Time My Daughter Fell Off the Toilet.’

Thursday 25 September 2014

Your Friend Hates His Cameo Appearance in Your Book

Signs of a problem: calls to your buddy go to voicemail; your buddy’s social network profiles mysteriously disappear.

The symptoms: sadness; rejection.

You’ve written a hilarious crime thriller about a bunch of self-published authors. It’s like a Jonathan Hill Maureen book crossed with Andrew Barrett’s award winning The Third Rule. Authors bump each other off left, write and centre. You’re convinced it’s the funniest novel ever written. “What,” you wonder, “will make it even better?”

Then you remember your best buddy. You talked him into considering publishing an eBook, and in five or six years, he might very well get round to it. You have a light-bulb moment. If you mention your friend in the most hilarious crime thriller ever written about a bunch of self-published authors, it will really help his potential, eventual book launch.

Obviously, you’re not going to name a main character after him – Damien Knickerwhistle suits neither a hero nor a villain. Instead, you use his name for a bakery assistant. You smile to yourself when you remember that, whilst a small part, the bakery assistant administers the poison that sets all the conflict in motion.

The next thing you know, Damien is furious with you. He didn’t want his name in a book. Now his estranged father might guess that he’s still alive and trace him to Peckham. It’s getting complicated, like David Wailing’s Fake Kate but with fewer red-heads.

Naturally, you had no idea that your best mate was in hiding, like a character trying to escape a David Haynes villain. However, it’s always worth checking with people before using their names. You never know who might be hiding a deep, dark secret. Seek permission just in case somebody doesn’t want to be associated with a character who sprinkles arsenic onto cupcakes. If you’re a children’s author like award runner-up Nils Andersson, you might want to avoid links of a murderous nature altogether.

Be careful about overusing author cameos, otherwise it could look like you’re just trying to show off all your celebrity connections.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

You Meet a Woman on the Train Who Writes Dinosaur Erotica

The situation: mouth open, staring with horror at your smartphone.

The symptoms: fear; revulsion; quiet amusement.

You board the train from Reading to Penzance. Alas, there are people everywhere – in the aisles, in the vestibules, on laps… Then you spy a free seat next to a casually dressed, middle-aged lady. You imagine her companion must have nipped to the loo or buffet car, but decide to ask about the seat on the off chance that it’s free. The lady smiles and moves her handbag.

A few minutes later, you bond over fruit pastilles. She likes the green ones (freak) and you like every other flavour, which makes her the perfect sharing partner. Eventually, she tells you she’s an author.

“Me too!” you coo. “What sort of things do you write?”

“Fantasy. My main focus is dinosaurs,” she explains. “I like to play with reality and imagine a planet on which dinosaurs and humans live side by side.”

You’re excited by this idea. You know it requires a vast stretch of the imagination, but your mind starts to conjure potential scenarios. The lady passes you her business card; it’s an elegant affair: ivory with just her web address. You tell her you’re training to become a totally splendid hotshot author and give her a bookmark.

When the lady pops to the loo, you can’t resist looking up her work. However, when your phone finally loads the page, what should pop up but a CGI depiction of a hot blonde straddling a pterodactyl. You blink a few times. Did you really just see a human straddling a pterodactyl?

A review quote jumps out at you, ‘Probably the best human-pterodactyl erotica I’ve ever read.’

You find your mouth laughing but your brain whizzing, as you study the dinosaur spread wings-down on a grassy lawn. How would that even…

The lady returns and you see her in a whole new light. This isn’t your regular fantasy writer. You start to blush and hide your phone behind your back. Must not let her know I know about the huma-dactyl sex.

She looks at the highly suspicious arm reaching behind your back (why didn’t you do something less conspicuous?). “Were you looking up my books?”

“N-no…” you stutter.

At this point, you have three options:

1. You can admit that you were researching her writing and try to keep a straight face while you debate how dinosaurs and humans could possibly mate.

2. You can pretend that you weren’t looking up her book and carry on the conversation as if you’ve not just seen a pterodactyl beak attempting to caress a nipple.

3. You can get up and move to another part of the train. (Suddenly, it’s abundantly clear why your seat was the only empty seat in the whole carriage.)

Do not ask if she happens to have any signed paperbacks on her for sale. Very bad people like to snap photos on trains and then upload their stolen moments to stupid, privacy-invading websites called inane things like ‘Spotted – Boys Who Look Pervy on Trains’ for nasty people to snigger at. Nothing would bait a spotter more than noticing somebody fingering a book sporting an illustration of a T. Rex mounting a bikini-clad nymphomaniac.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

You Ask a Friend to Create a Portrait

The situation: You’re scrolling through your friend’s portfolio, imagining your own portrait sitting amongst the sunsets and bumblebees.

You feel: excitement; vanity.

There comes a time in every totally splendid person’s life, when she needs a portrait of herself. It may be a photograph for the dust jacket of a first hardback, it may be a cartoon for the cover of a self-help book, or it may be an oil painting to mount in a downstairs toilet. Whatever the reasons, you must think long and hard before you ask somebody you know to create a portrait.

If you work with an illustrator, then she is the obvious first port of call. However, stop to consider how important your relationship with your illustrator actually is. Do you need to work with her again? Do you value your friendly-professional relationship?

No matter how skilled an artist, everybody has preconceived ideas about what they themselves look like, or what they’d like to look like. What if you’re in denial about the size of your nose and your illustrator draws it accurately? Once you’ve seen the drawing of your beaky nose, will you ever be able to work with your illustrator again without your Concorde popping into your head?

Everybody has a friend who’s into photography. If it’s a photo you’re after and you’ve exhausted the potential of the selfie, then a friend with a shiny DSLR is the natural next progression.

But does your photographer friend know your best side? Does he know that you like your head angled very slightly to the left to distract from your wonky eyes? Does he know that you like your face elevated to avoid looking double-chinned? Does he know that your hair needs to be parted so that it falls over your sun spot? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before enlisting your friend’s support. Otherwise you will either have to sound like a vain pedant or risk getting presented with a photo in which you look fat, wonky-eyed and sun-damaged. What will you say when your friend asks why you didn’t use his picture?

On the other hand, your photographer/illustrator might capture you so nicely that even your eternally critical inner self can find no fault (especially once you see the justice she did to your awesome white boots)

Monday 22 September 2014

Your Baby-Spamming Friend Moans About You Promoting Your Book

The situation: sarcastic remark beneath your latest cover upload.

You feel: annoyance; self-reflection.

You once had a good, attentive friend you enjoyed spending time with. Now, you’ve got a baby-obsessed monster with no appreciation that the world doesn’t revolve around her little pug-nosed goblin. Every day she uploads dozens of photos of her darling child: goblin eating baked beans, goblin eating baked beans with head rotated by five degrees, and so forth. Yet the second you upload a cover for your new book, she responds with, ‘I’m sorry, is this another book advert?’

Imagine her horror if you had been so disparaging about her darling child.

You’ve mentioned your new book three times during its launch week; she uploads baby-related matter at an average speed of three times per hour. When she’s not waffling on about her baby, it’s her husband. ‘I have the sexiest hubbie in the world!’ If that’s true then why is she on Facebook posting about him and not in bed enjoying his prowess?

Do not respond by telling your friend that her baby looks like a cabbage patch doll, unless you want her to never speak to you again. Do not stop telling your friends about your books just because one person has a problem with it.

You are trying to sell a product that may interest many of your friends. It’s not a mortgage, or tiaras or obscure pieces of computer equipment; you’re selling a book. More importantly, you need to sell copies to earn a living.

Your friend does not need to sell her baby. She does not need to market her husband. Her family is something she has regardless of whether or not the rest of the world think they’re amazing. Whereas you need to promote your books in order to pay the rent.

Provided that you write interesting, varied and engaging Facebook posts most of the time, there’s no harm mentioning your book occasionally. The same can be said for offspring.

Additional Blog-Exclusive Advice

Chris Bailey

We all have that one person who constantly uploads pictures of literally everything. “Here’s the dustbin looking lonely.” “Here’s my tea made by my gorgeous girlfriend.” If my gorgeous girlfriend made me tea, I’d be scoffing it down before it went cold, not taking a photo of it.

You will try your best to limit your posts on your chosen social networking site, but there will always be those people that are so self-absorbed, that they genuinely believe you’re the one spamming them, despite their constant sharing of pictures of a horse or philosophical quotes when you know damn well they don’t have a philosophy degree!

You may feel the urge to hunt this person down for making an unpleasant remark. Don’t do that; simply ignore him/her and move on. It is a constant struggle promoting your work. I would suggest, make a start on creating a network of like-minded people. Work on projects together and reap the rewards of the exposure it brings.

By Jan Hurst-Nicholson

I have come up with a wonderful strategy for when friends produce pictures of their offspring or grandchildren. I now keep copies of my book covers in my bag. I whip them out and explain, “This is my first, now three-years-old and sold 17,000 copies and 52 reviews. This is my second ....” And finally, “This is my newborn. Less than a week old and with two reviews.”

Sunday 21 September 2014

Your Elderly Uncle Puts Your eReader in the Toaster

The situation: smell of burning plastic; elderly uncle licking his lips.

You feel: despair.

You wake up to the smell of burning plastic. You hurry downstairs wondering if your elderly uncle has put the TV remote under the grill again. Then you realise that it’s not the TV remote you can smell but your eReader!

No matter how tempting it might be, do not reach into the toaster without unplugging it at the wall. Although this basic safety precaution may result in a few seconds of extra eReader toastage, it’s better to have a fried eReader than a fried self. Once the toaster is unplugged at the wall, pick it up, turn it upside down and shake it, being sure to reserve one hand to catch your eReader as it shoots out.

It’s highly likely that your precious eReader is cosmetically damaged. However, there is still a chance that it may be functional. Determine the extent of the damage by trying to open an eBook. Do not open one of your own creations as this could add to your distress, especially if the screen has warped.

Now, take a little time to mourn your eReader’s former health. If it has passed away, I suggest wrapping it in a cloth and burying it in the garden. Plant a tree.

Now, it’s time to deal with the elderly uncle. I suggest a home. It may take time but you will eventually find it in your heart to love a new eReader. You cannot risk it ending up in the juicer. Get out the yellow pages, find the nearest nursing home and ship your uncle out pronto. This has the added bonus that having to send an elderly relative into residential care is excellent material for a bittersweet novella about loss.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Your Forum Friends Suggest a Gathering

The situation: new thread appears suggesting a gathering.

Year feel: intrigue; excitement; nagging concern.

You log onto your favourite online book forum, only to find that a junior member has suggested a gathering. At first, this seems like a good idea – a chance to put names to faces, a little social fun, perhaps the chance to big up your book … However, do not forget that whilst you may talk to your forum buddies more often than to your local friends, they are still internet friends, with all the risks of meeting people on the internet.

Yes, Melody Lovemuffin may seem like a harmless young creative type with a charming sense of humour and a penchant for knitting, but for all you know, ‘Melody Lovemuffin’ could be the alias for a fifty-year-old ex-con who knows that his real name, ‘Skinhead Ironbutt’, won’t sell many romance novellas.

What if one of your internet friends is an author groupie? Such people trawl the net for authors and then groom them for private readings. They sometimes hunt in packs. Only last year, an organised gang of six groupies captured Matthew Drzymala and forced him to read a chapter of Bittersweet at knife point.

I’m not saying never meet your internet friends but do proceed with caution. Meet in a well-lit area. Do not consume much alcohol. Tell your friends where you’re planning to go. Make sure that you have a mobile signal. Under no circumstances should you agree to attend a booze-filled camping expedition in the middle of nowhere, no matter how appealing it might sound.

However, do not let your forum friends know that you have the slightest qualms about meeting them alone in a dark alley. Respond with optimism and excitement. Say, “Yay! I’d love to go on a vodka-fuelled caving expedition with you.” Then lay the groundwork for a family bereavement fib. Foreshadow with “My elderly Uncle Jimbob is very foolish.” This will add credibility when you later say, “Uncle Jimbob put his wet hand in the sandwich toaster whilst having a bath. I’m just gutted that I’ll miss the forum caving expedition because of his funeral.”

If, after much consideration and pepper spray acquisition, you decide that you will attend a forum gathering, then make sure that you are armed with plenty of promotional bookmarks.

Letting people know that you plan to market your book is a major faux pas. Remember: a totally splendid hotshot author must pretend that she is in it solely for the love of writing. Even if you need to feed seven kids, you must not admit that you have any financial interest in selling books. Therefore, you must pretend that you’re at a gathering purely for the love of gatherings. Empty your bag, crumple the edges of some bookmarks, and put your other belongings on top. That way, when somebody asks about your book you can say, “I might have one or two bookmarks kicking around in here.”

Similarly, remove the silver-plated fountain pen that you carry especially for giving autographs, and replace it with a cheap biro. That way, nobody will suspect that you are expecting to promote your book.

To get the most out of the gathering, identify your greatest rival among the group and buy him drinks. Hopefully, if he gets drunk too early he will disgrace himself automatically. If he’s one of those irritating buggers who just gets more and more sociable then nip into the loo and leave him a bad review comparing him to an illiterate hippo. Return to the gathering and subtly suggest that he checks his reviews on his smartphone (he will have a smartphone). Although many authors can perfect a graceful reaction to a negative review online, it is very hard to fake an elegant response to an illiterate hippo comment in person. Steam will come out of his ears as he rants and raves. If you’re lucky, he might smash a few items of furniture.

Once your main rival is down, it is time to shine. Refer to your phone for witticisms written earlier in the day, and reel them off as original thoughts. You will soon have your forum buddies eating books out of your hand.