Author: paddyK

Story ahoy!

Blogging, eh? How old-school is that? Look at me, being all last-decade.

But I had to make this rare blog re-surfacing to announce the publication of my very first paid piece of fiction. It’s a very short piece in Analog and it’s out this month.

Let me repeat that. Analog! After shopping this story around to lots of outlets, some of them tiny, some of them even NON-PAYING, I finally got picked up by one of the giants in the field of science fiction. They even paid me actual money (well, okay, a check I’ll never cash) to purchase and print my story. Like I’m a proper writer or something.

analogThe story is entitled “Lonely Hearts of the Spinward Ring” and it’s quite unique. You want to know more, go buy Analog and read it. Seriously, the number of people who asked to see it for free … support the damn writer, people! (But beware: the electronic version, according to reports I’ve had, may not, for reasons obscure, have my story. So paper is best.)

I gave the story an interesting name as I have a theory that stories with cool names get published more easily than stories with boring names. Also, it makes it that much easier to google it and see what the public are saying about it. Not that I’ve done that. Ahem.

So yeah. I’m sort of a published writer now. Twenty plus years of sending stories out, collecting paper rejections, then email rejections, and one day it just happens. Well, one day and then waiting a whole year for the thing to finally come out. So one day-ish.

My tips to budding writers? Be stubborn, get better, and don’t die too fast.

/ paddy

Removing My Pants

Writers like to class themselves as either pantsers or plotters. If you don’t know what these mean, I’ll let you fantasize in your filthy little minds for a bit until I explain further in the second paragraph. Ready? Then here it is.

Plotters are the ones who, as you might guess, plot out a book before they write it, in lesser or greater detail. Maybe scene by scene, maybe chapter by chapter. But when they start to write, the structure is in place.

pantsPantsers, on the other hand, like to fly by the seat of their pants, meaning they’ll dive into a book with a few ideas, a fuzzy picture of the end, a general feel of where they want to go, and then just write their way into the unknown.

I always thought I was a pantser. The five books I’ve written up to now were all done that way.

The five books I’ve written up to now also did not find an agent or publisher. Hmm.

I started on my current book two years ago. I got halfway, realised a few things were wrong, went back and rewrote quite a bit, they ploughed on until I reached the end in February. 140k. A long draft.

I started draft two in April, and worked my way through it with a growing sense of unease. Something was wrong. But hey, I’d correct that in future drafts, I thought. Closer to the end, I had to backtrack a few chapters to re-do some parts, and I kept on going, as the bad feeling grew, until last week when the whole damn thing came crashing down around me.

I couldn’t deny it any longer — the book had deep problems. The plot was patched together, new ideas welded on as and when I thought of them. There were too many characters and their motivations were weak. The protagonist wasn’t being active and was often just floating along with the plot. There were too many clever ideas drifting around, many with vague and forced connections to the plot. I wasn’t sure what my protagonist wanted. I’d placed many interesting scenes into flashbacks instead of into the current timeline of the story. In short, I’d basically lost sight of how I wanted my book to be.

It was a really tough few days, and I was quite depressed for a few of them. But in the end I picked myself up and sat myself down and put on my firm voice. “Right,” I said. “Listen. The book is fucked. That is clear. So let’s rebuild it.”

plottingI rebuilt it in the following way. I cut a few sheets of A4 paper into playing-card sized pieces. On them I wrote bad things with the story, good things with the story, and any and all fun ideas and scenes I had in my head. I arranged the papers around me on the floor and proceeded to stare at their blank faces while I tapped a pen against my forehead.

I started with the main character’s motivation. What did he want? What would he be burning for throughout the story, the thing I’d keep on dangling before him, letting him get close to it, before I pulled it away again?

The thing was obvious. So obvious I’d missed it before. I wrote it down, and it got me filling in the rest of those papers. And by damn it worked. In a few hours work I’d eliminated several characters and plot points, streamlined the story, heightened the tension, brought back a fun character I’d for some reason thrown out in the first draft, arranged the world of the story to be less complex and allow for more drama, and returned the spirit of the book to how I’d envisioned it at the start.

Once all those paper bits were ready, I shuffled and arranged them into chapters, noting briefly what needed to happen in each one. I’m almost done with that now, and wow, what a difference. It’s a damn sight easier to correct a plot problem when it’s a few sentences on a page them when it’s two chapters in a completed draft.

I expect to be done with the outlining in a day or two and then — deep breath — I’ll start back into the new draft. A draft that will be fun to write as I know more or less where I’m going in every scene and why. A draft that will unavoidably add six months to the production time of this novel, but which will also result in a way better book.

In my experience, this is how revelations occur in writing. You hit a massive problem, you get depressed, you feel useless and terrible, and then you try something crazy and suddenly it’s fun again. Reaching that point is a great and terrifying thing. Because it shows you know your own writing, and it shows you can feel when things are wrong and need major surgery. You’ve learned, basically, how not to lie to yourself. That feeling is gold. When you get it, cherish it. And then go and smash something to pieces.

I’m now sure it works best for me to write a sprawling and creative first draft, full of ideas and mad shit, then deconstruct it into a proper outlined plot for the second draft. And in the future, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

With pants or, hopefully, without.

/ paddy

The Twittered Writer

I’ve been on twitter for quite a while, making my hopefully amusing comments, getting to know people, growing my network, hoping for a nod from a celebrity, all while massaging my massive ego. You know the way it goes.

So here’s two annoying things I’ve noticed that writers often do on twitter.

First thing. Many writers seem to believe than their main purpose on twitter is to mercilessly plug their books. They’ll post several times a day, often the very same post over and over, expecting these blatant ads to increase their sale. And I know this because of several conversations I’ve had with writers of this kind. They honestly believed they’d shift more copies of their book the more often they posted about it, often expecting sales to be directly proportional to the number of posts.

WaitsIt doesn’t take much of a genius to realise this isn’t how it works. People go on twitter primarily to interact with interesting people, or with people who share their views. If I have a person in my feed who’s constantly plugging their own book, I’ll unfollow them fast as fuck, as will many others. Endless spamming means fewer people who listen. The way to sell books is to carefully build up a big network, like the excellent Jen Foehner Wells has done. People who follow you because they find you interesting. And then, very occasionally, inform them of a new book or special price deal.

That works. Battering people over the heads with constant ads doesn’t.

The second thing is kind of related. Often, when I follow a writer, they’ll send me a direct message (a private email, basically) with an ad for their ebook. “Thanks for following! Please buy my book here: amazon.com/shittyBook.”

Again, this isn’t how it works. You do stuff like that, people will see it as spam, and unfollow you in a big hurry. It seems painfully obvious that nobody wants this, and yet people still do it to me every week. One guy, when I pointed it out that it was rude and unwelcome, lost his mind, started flamethrowing me with swears, and blocked me.

So, writers — quit the auto-ads. If I find you interesting, I’ll click on the link to your book whenever it pops up, and, if it seems good, I’ll buy it. Otherwise just make with the funny links and cat videos and amuse me. Yeah?

/ paddy

The He and the She of it

I’m currently working on Rare Beasts, a contemporary fantasy described by many as being Leprechaun Noir, which is a phrase I quite like and a genre I will, of course, have claim to have invented when the time comes.

Anyway, the main character in the book is a female-to-male transsexual. This was suggested originally by my fiancee back when I was deciding whether to make the MC male or female. I dismissed the transsexual idea at first but then realised … yeah, why not? And thus Bren McCullough, mythical animal poacher, was born.

The book is nearing the end of its third draft, and will soon be ready for beta readers. However, I decided to present the first three chapters to my writing group to see what they thought of it. And one thing that came across was that they wanted the character’s transsexual nature to have a point in the story, to “mean” something. But I disagree, and severely.

You see, the point of having a transgender character is precisely that it doesn’t mean anything. Some people are transgender, but that isn’t the most interesting thing about them. It’s just a part of who they are. You never have to justify the gender of a character normally in fiction. Nobody asks: “but WHY is he male?” Bren is a expert in his area, a guy out having an adventure. Being transgender colours his experiences, sure, but no more than being bald or overweight would. I don’t see why it needs to be defended as a story point. It just is, and I think it makes the story stronger through the very fact of not being important.

There is also the point that many literary agents are clamouring for books featuring characters of atypical gender. The world has enough moody young men-men or victimised women in its stories. I decided to go a different route and see where it got me. And to be honest, I’m very glad I did. Bren is awesome and I’m glad to have made his acquaintance.

Note: the book will be ready for beta readers in three weeks or so. If you want to get in on the action, feel free to follow me on twitter and I’ll let you know when the time comes for tossing it out to the wolves.

/ paddy

A Great Day for the Irish

I am rarely proud of my country. I’ve nothing against Ireland, but it always seemed to me a weird thing to be, proud of something over which I had no control. I like Ireland, sure, but I’ve also had to grow up in it, deep in the countryside, where I experienced at first-hand the guilt and harshness and brutality and misogyny and block-headed thickness of the place.

gay-over-gloveBut yesterday the people of Ireland were asked if any two adults could get fully and properly married, regardless of their gender, and they said: sure, why the fuck not? They said it loud and emphatically, bringing back a 62% vote in favour. A resounding YES, allowing any two people in love to tell the world.

I admit many tears as I watched the day unfold on twitter. The 50,000 plus who came home from living abroad just to cast their votes. The high YES counts coming in from the more broken-down and poor of our urban areas. Every constituency except one voting yes (I’m looking at you Roscommon-South Leitrim). And all those men and women standing on open streets and crying and hugging with happiness.

The NO side, led by Catholic groups, are of course not happy. Well you know what – tough. Ireland’s moved on and they’d better start moving on with it. Their long stance against homosexuality has always been kind of hilarious as the Catholic Church has more gay man in its employ than your average Broadway musical.

The scenes from Dublin last night were brilliant to watch. People thronging the streets in rainbow colours. Queues out the door and around the corner for The George, Dublin’s most famous gay pub since 1985, back when it was against the law to be gay in Ireland. Gerry Ryan of Sinn Féin (and previously the IRA) sharing a stage with the incredible Panti Bliss, Ireland’s top-notch drag queen. And just a general air of fucking niceness. I’m sure every pub owner around the centre of Dublin was crying tears of pure profit into the wee small hours of the morning.

gay-tweetSo today, for the first time in a good long time, I can safely say that I’m proud to be Irish. We passed equal marriage, the first country to do so on a popular vote, thereby opening the door to a segment of our own population, a group long abused and persecuted for no reasons of their own, and we let them finally come inside.

And no pun intended. Unless it was.

(Correction: Gerry Adams was apparently never in the IRA. Although he knew of them.)

/ paddy

Give Us This Day Our Daily Book

In my ongoing attempts to get people to buy my damn novella, I did a dirty and terrible thing. No, I didn’t touch someone’s foul regions. I found a website that promised to make people find my book and I paid them fifty dollars to do so.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, when the fuck is Chase Gioberti going to return from the dead and put everything right in Falcon Crest? And the answer to that is – soon, my sweet and cuddly ones. Very soon.

writerSo, the website. It’s called Book Daily, and what you do is you make an account and a profile page for your book. Then you pay them fifty dollars and sit back and fretfully wait. The site has an impressive mailing list and sends out a newsletter every day highlighting a few chosen books. And very, very occasionally, one of those books is yours. The idea is that those occasional mails, and your book being always visible on their site, will give your sales that knee in the groin that they need.

Now. Here’s the first problem. The vast majority of people using the service and getting the daily email newsletter are writers themselves, with books on the site. In other words, slightly crazy people who don’t buy other people’s book and just spend their time and money convincing people to buy theirs. Not the best audience ever.

The other problem: the books these people write are shit. They are excrement. I dutifully checked each and every book I was mailed and not once did I see one that wasn’t an appalling literary abortion. They were all terrible. TERR-I-BLE. If you don’t believe me, go on, have a look. Lots of bizarre Christian novels, for some reason. Lots of heart-stoppingly awful detective books. And some books so incomprehensible I’ve actually come to view them as poetry. Like this masterpiece.

Here, to back me up, are some numbers. The image below shows my exposure on the Book Daily site:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 20.08.04Those are large and impressive numbers, I think you will agree. 6124, for example, is a VERY large number. Are there any numbers larger than that one? Very few. Twenty or so, I’m guessing. If that.

However. Over the course of my campaign on the Book Daily site, I had ten sales of my novella. Not ten per day, or ten per orgasm. Just ten. And two of those I bought myself. Sorry, but I did. And, of the other eight, I can’t even be sure they all came from Book Daily.

For fifty dollars, I could have bought forty copies of my book and “sent it to friends”. Or I could have got a nice massage. Or bought a kilo of mouldy cheese. Spending it on Book Daily was not worth the money.

In summary, take your fifty dollars and shove it anywhere you like – into a donkey, over a rainbow, up your own arse. Just don’t give it to Book Daily.

/ paddy

A Comment To End All Comments, Maybe

I made what I believe to be my best internet comment ever last week, but it was lost in a long thread and went criminally unnoticed. So, to boost my ego, I will now tell you exactly what it was, and watch critically as you clap.

So yeah. The thread was on the Facebook Space Opera group. A person posted the following question:

Suppose an agreed-upon true evil (let’s suppose 99%+ agreement here, a Hitler of sorts) author had written a space opera. Five of your trusted friends reviewed the book blind, and said it was a must-read. You know who the author is. Would you read it? Does the work of art have value independent of the nature of its author? Would it matter to you whether the author were dead, or still alive and profiting from your purchase?

villainNow I’m sure that point of this post was to get at the whole author-ethics debate that’s farting along in science fiction circles right now. As in — are you allowed to like a writer’s work if the writer turns out to have the wrong politics?

Given the massive kerfuffle in the Hugo Awards at the moment, it’s a very reasonable question. Personally I judge stuff as stuff and leave the creator out of it. If a person I despise makes a thing I like, I think they should be paid for that thing, regardless of how I feel about them otherwise. That’s not weird. I’m sure I’d hate most of my cultural heroes if I met them at a dinner. And they’d probably hate me. Art is art. You’re not buying a person. Just some art they made.

Anyway. As a reply to this particular question, I posted this repy:

One of the most unhinged psychopaths of all time was old-testament Jehovah. And I hear his book still sells quite well.

I thought it was great. Not not many other people did. I guess they’re just too busy. Oh well.

/ paddy

One Soul, Cheap, Barely Used

With Deep Shell now on amazon and not exactly selling in droves, I decided to pull my sleeves up and throw some money at the problem.

Wait, you may ask, is there a problem? Well, yeah. People aren’t buying my excellent novella in the numbers I desire. And how many do I desire, you might wonder? Seven billion copies. After that I’m happy.

Ebook advertising is hard. You can only bug your friends and online acquaintances so much and after a while the only avenue left open is filthy, dirty advertising. So I bit the nipple and went with a couple of options.

The first was Amazon. They work hard to inform authors of Amazon Marketing Services, which places a tiny banner for your book in front of prospective buyers. And it does. The problem being the next step.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 18.49.40Here’s the latest data for my amazon campaign. As you can see, of the 1671 people who saw the ad, 1670 of them didn’t click on it. Which isn’t great, as stats go. I don’t think I’ll get very far with that one.

Another option is Book Daily, suggested to me by the nice people at Space Opera: Writers group on Facebook. Here you pay the site fifty dollars a month and they send your book out in their newsletter to all the people who signed up, plus promote it on their site. The problem being the people who signed up are probably also self-published authors who want people to buy their books but aren’t necessarily ready to shell out for someone else’s.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 19.01.04So what’s left? No idea. Short of shoving leaflets through my neighbours’ doors and accosting strangers on the street while holding a sweaty clipboard, I can’t think of another good way to market a rather good kindle short. You got ideas, you let me hear them. And the cheaper the better.

/ paddy

Foot-washing Thursday

I took the Thursday of Easter week off, giving me five free days off in a row. This is nice as I get to write uninterrupted for several hours in the morning, my best writing time, for many days in a row, while it snows outside. Yes, it’s snowing.

Today is Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday (apparently) and, in Sweden, Skärtorsdag. Apparently it’s called that as “skär” is an old word for “clean” and the name refers to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet before the last supper. Or maybe that you clean the house for Easter. Personally I’d call it “Supper Thursday” but I guess that’s not mysterious enough.

washThe swedes take Easter seriously. Well, seriously in that they gladly take the holidays and go do family stuff, but not many of them do the whole religious thing the way we did when I was a sprog in Ireland. Back then, in school at least, the whole week was an uninterrupted stream of guilt and misery. The teacher on many occasions got us to draw men being crucified to death on a cross. I think I was ten then. Then there was the ash, the masses and the oddly-named Good Friday when not a single fucking thing was open and people embarked upon desperate train journeys because that was the only way you could buy alcohol.

We had eggs, though — proper chocolate eggs. The swedes have eggs too, but they are made of cardboard and just filled with regular sweets. Boo! Luckily you can get chocolate eggs in the English Shop. Half price all next week.

In Sweden, Good Friday has a far more honest name – Långfredag, or “Long Friday”. And that is the day in a nutshell / eggshell — long and miserable. Good for writing though. And for thinking about death and chocolate.

If you find yourself far from an Irish church and want to watch the Easter celebrations live, try this, one of my current favourite things: a webcam in an Irish nunnery. Streamed 24/7 for your holy convenience. I’m not being ironic. I do actually enjoy it.
Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.30.02I would leave with saying “Have a happy Easter!” but that’s not really the point of Easter. So at least have some chocolate. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.

/ paddy

How to Use a Toilet

In honour of April 1st I decided to re-post the most popular post from my old blog, from the murky era of 2006. How to use a toilet. Enjoy. Just watch out for the push-through.

how-to-use-a-toilet.jpgWe live in a world of excessive information, where every single product, no matter how simple, has instructions (place this toothbrush in your mouth), warnings (do not place this toothbrush in your neighbour’s mouth) and a “help line” to call (Yes, hello, can you tell me something interesting about my toothbrush please?)

However there are two things, things we use every day of our lives, that come with absolutely no instructions whatsoever. I’m talking, of course, about toilets and toilet paper.

Where are the informational videos, the “how-to” books, the evening courses? Are we born knowing how to use triple-ply, or do we get secret training during gym class, or learn from the older boys or from farm animals?

Well now the ignorance will come to an end with this definitive guide to toilet use. So wipe down the plastic ring, pull your undies way past your knees, and let’s get defecating!

1) The reading material. Now when I feel a certain pressing need, the first thing I do is to find something to read. I will hop from foot to foot in agony while scanning the bookshelf for something light, simple and distracting. A great toilet writer, I find, is Bill Bryson. So let’s open up Mr. Bryson’s “Notes From A Small Country” and away we go!

2) Pick a toilet. At home this tends to be no problem but in public it can be troublesome. The public toilet checklist has a few points to consider:

  • Hook on the wall to keep bag or jacket faeces-free – check!
  • Less than one meter of space under the door – check!
  • A seat devoid of unidentified stains or piddle – check!
  • Distracting ambient noises to hide farting or grunting – check!

3) In a quiet toilet, you may be worried by your “splashing” or “plopping” noises. A good way to minimise “plop” is to tear off some paper and drop it in the bowl before your business begins. This creates a handy “silencer” and people passing by will wonder what you are up to in such exquisite silence.

4) Also a quiet toilet may be a little too quiet to allow you to apply the necessary pressure. Some good “masking” tips here are:

  • Stick fingers in ear and make “hmmmmm” noise
  • Turn on water as covering fire
  • Flush repeatedly and hope for noisy re-fill
  • Cough or clear throat in a very loud and obvious manner

5) So then, your flank is covered and your business is underway. Good for you! However, if there is a rapid build-up of solid matter in the bowl, you will get a sudden and powerful stink, not so good if you are at home or in the office! A good trick here is the supplementary flush—getting rid of the first batch, and its smell, as quickly as possible, and then settling down to enjoy the rest of the process. Nobody will care if you flush a few times, and the next person in will thank you.

6) Now the last of the brownies have emerged, and its time to think about the wiping. First, though, you will need to give a little shake, to dislodge any clingers. Then reach for the toilet paper and tear off as many sheets as you think you require.

hello_kitty_toilet.jpgNote: there are many schools of toilet-paper use. Some people go through a roll of the stuff per day, whereas others split the two-ply paper in two thinner sheets to stretch it out until the summer. I generally take 2 or 3 sheets at once, so lets deal with this method first.

Simply fold the sheets once or twice to make a larger, thicker sheet that covers the front of the hand. Then apply it to the area in question with a quick wipe, applying just a little pressure.

Those who prefer many sheets might take the “wraparound” method, which is simply to wrap the entire hand with paper, front and back. This is very wasteful, especially in these resource-troubled times, although you can redeem yourself by using both the back and the front of the hand before dropping the paper in.

There is also the “ball” method, which consists of ripping off as many squares as you can fit in your hand and crushing them into a fat, bulging ball. Not a very efficient way to wipe, and shame on you if you use it!

If you have a water source nearby, you can dab some water on the paper to improve the cleaning effect. But beware, not too much or you risk a push-through (see point 8)!

7) An interesting question emerges about the wiping process – should one wipe towards the front or towards the back? Ladies tend to avoid wiping forward as it can cause some unspecified disease, but I find that the forward wipe gives a good deal more effect. May I suggest that the men-folk wipe back a few times, and then finish off with a forward wipe, with a spot of water for that all-day fresh feeling!

8) Push-through can happen to the best of us, and nothing raises a shiver like a sudden finger poking where it should not poke. But breath deep, and do not panic, you can recover the situation! Finish the wiping process with a “wraparound” and keep the offending finger covered until you can get to a source of soap. Do not, under any circumstances, pick your nose at this point!

Apply a thick layer of soap to the finger and leave it sit for a minute, without any water. Then rub it in well with a paper towel and rinse. There may be a slight, lingering odour but as long as you avoid shaking hands for the next hour or so, nobody will be any the wiser.

9) It happens that you begin the process and then find that no paper is available. There are several things you can do in this situation, in ascending degree of disgustingness.

First check for paper towels in the vicinity; they are coarse and sandpaper-like but will do in a pinch. If there are none then check carefully through your bag and pockets for napkins or tissues. If this comes up blank, try a few sheets of paper from a notebook or paperback – old school, but does the job! If this fails, then you are in a bind! You can either choose to sit there until you air-dry (never guaranteed) or else choose an item of clothing you could do without and tear it into strips. I find that socks are a good option – soft, easy to tear and easily replaced!

10) Now it’s time to flush. This should be simple enough, but once in a while you will get a floater. This is the determined little chap who will just not go under, popping up over and over like Jaques Costeau. A floater cannot be flushed in the conventional way, and must be dealt with carefully. Remember: a floater in somebody else’s house can end a relationship as sure as a dick on the dinner table!

So here’s what to do: tear off a few sheets of paper and drop them carefully over the floater. Give them a minute to soak in, and then flush once more. The floater, with its extra ballast, should now go under without any further struggle.

If this fails you will have to dismantle the floater with the toilet brush and flush down the pieces. And if this fails, all you can do is drop in enough paper to hide the little guy, and hope the next customer does not notice.

11) Sometimes the flush will not work. This always happens at parties, especially when a queue is building and you have just had the chilli con carne. But panic not, you can always perform that most ancient and complex of rituals: the manual flush!

Simply take the biggest container you can find and fill it up with water – rubbish bins are recommended, but even a plastic bag will do. Now pour as much of the water as quickly as you can into the bowl, making a big “schlunk” noise. Now repeat until the little monsters have left the building! And, as a bonus, you can have a chuckle by telling the next person in line that the flush is out, and watch their face squirm in anguish.

12) Now we have left the area of actual toilet use and are entering the realm of etiquette. You will not want to make the next toilet guest uncomfortable, and nothing does this more effectively that skid-marks. You know what I’m talking about – those long underwater streaks that a skilled forensic scientist could use to work out the gas content of what you had for dinner.

In short: do not leave any skiddies! There should be no trace of your passing, so grab that toilet brush and give it the old one-two.

Toilet brushes can be troublesome. First there is that small pool of liquid that they sit in, otherwise known as “poo soup”. Then there is the fear that bits of fecal material will climb up the brush, across your arm and do a little dance on your tongue. Then there is the problem of “flick” when you extract the brush and its worrying, flexible prongs. But no matter – if you skid, you must brush!

I generally give the skid a good old scrubbing and then flush. Just before the flush is done, I extract the brush and swirl it in the flushing water, making it hopefully a bit cleaner, and then replace it for the next brave soldier.

If there is no brush, you are in trouble. A determined stream of pee can sometimes wear down a skid-mark, but if this fails you can make a temporary brush by wrapping a pen or other long object in a tight wad of toilet paper.

Only the bravest among us will actually put their hand in the water and scrub manually, but if you want your place in heaven then sometimes this must be done. Just remember to wash that hand well afterwards, ok?

13) And finally, everything is done and clean and sparkling, but don’t go just yet! There is still the problem of “linger”, that troubling scent in the air that tells the next person in that you have some bad intestinal disease.

So open the window, if there is one, and fan the air like a madman to circulate it out. If there is some air freshener, for God’s sake spray it now! Otherwise you will have to poke around in the bathroom cabinets for something scented that you can spray – deodorant, perfume, even hairspray. Failing this, you could try mouthwash, sprinkled around in a hearty manner or else toothpaste smeared liberally around the walls.

If there is absolutely nothing to be done, then you have to brave it out. Simply exit the bathroom, close the door theatrically, wave a hand in the air and grin insanely while you say “Listen friend, do not go in there!” And then you leg it as fast as you can to the other end of the party and put a bag on your head.

So there you have it, a lifetime of toilet tips condensed into one easy-to-use guide. Now get out there, eat something dark and spicy, and make us all proud!

/ paddy