Writers – Don’t Be the Party Guest From Hell

writer from hell

Have you read my latest book?

Most writers understand that social media is like a party. And despite many of us preferring to skewer our eyeballs with our quill pens rather than attend one, in our normal, non-writerly lives, we actually know how to behave at a party.

  1. You don’t stand at the door and scream “Here I am!”
  2. You don’t jump up and down in the middle on a pogo stick yelling “Please notice me, I’m nice! You’ll like me!”
  3. You don’t wear a T-shirt with your life story on it and hand out pamphlets containing all the bits that wouldn’t fit on the T-shirt.
  4. You do converse politely and ask questions without looking over someone’s shoulder to see if someone more important has arrived.

And so on.

Yet something happens to us when we morph into that terrifying creature – The Writer With a Book to Promote. All etiquette goes out of the window. We forget how to behave at parties and turn into the Guest from Hell. We squeeze mention of our beloved tome into every possible conversation, resulting in conversations like these:

Dialogue One

Innocent Normal Party Guest: Hi, I’m Susan, nice to meet you.

Writer Guest from Hell (WGFH): Did you say “meet”? OMG, “meet” is the third word from paragraph two of Chapter One of my shape shifting book “A Vampire Millionaire Ate My Gay Hamster”! You must be telepathic! Do you want to see? Here I’ve got a few copies, I’ll show you…

Dialogue Two:

Innocent Normal Party Guest: Hi, I’m Susan, nice to meet you.

WGFH: Hi Susan, my name is Fiona Cameron Tankard, also known as F.C.Tankard author of “One Tweet and I Was Gone – a Psychic Relates the Last Thoughts of Coal Miners’ Canaries” available on Amazon Kindle for just $1 this week only…

Dialogue Three:

Innocent Normal Party Guest: Hi, I’m Susan, nice to meet you. I’m a Scorpio, what about you?

WGFH: Scorpio – that’s like a scorpion, right? I think they’re found in the desert. Hey – if you add “s” to desert you get “dessert” – that’s amazing because I’ve written about desserts in my new book: “Teach Your Cat to Cook”.

Dialogue Four:

Innocent Normal Party Guest: Hi, I’m Susan, nice to meet you.

WGFH: Hi Susan, I’m Fiona, nice to meet you. I can’t help noticing you’re pregnant. What an amazing coincidence because I’ve just written a book called “Bat Keeping for Teens”. Do you want a copy? It might be useful in a few years when your little one is grown up and you get a bat. Or look, I’ll tell you what, it’s on Kindle, I can easily make some changes. Cross out “teens” put “babies”. I mean, the bats won’t know the difference. Susan? Hello? Where’s she gone?

Then there is the ultimate conversation between TWO Writer Guests From Hell. I use the term “conversation” in its loosest possible sense.

Dialogue Five:

WGFH 1: Hi, I’m Susan, author of “The Glittery Ghost of Tinsel Hill”. It’s number 1 on Amazon in the Sparkly Spooks for Singles Living in Latvia category. I can sign a copy for you if you like. I have a special pen.

WGFH 2: I have my own special pen, thank you very much, which I only use to autograph copies of my book “Detective ‘Red ‘Admiral and The Case of the Cursed Cocoon in the Crypt”. It too is an Amazon bestseller in the Lepidoptery Private Eye category, I’ll have you know!

The moral? Well, you’re not a half wit. At the party that is social media, be caring, be nice, be a good listener, be interesting and maybe, if you’re lucky – someone will ask you about your book. And if they do, only mention it once. OMG, did I just write “once”?   That’s amazing, because that’s almost an anagram of one of the characters I nearly included in my novel…

(Exit, pursued by a bare faced cheek)

The Mechanic, the Ferrari and Knowing What You’re Worth

The mechanic, the ferrari and knowing what you're worthThe old mechanic looked up from under the hood of a Maserati 250F as a well dressed man got out of a tow truck and came into his workshop.

“How can I help you, sir?”

“ I’ve inherited this old Ferrari Dino,” he pointed to the gleaming red car on the back of the tow truck. “And it won’t start. I’ve got a buyer coming specially from New York tonight. I’ve tried everywhere. Can you help? Please?” He mopped at his brow with a white silk handkerchief.

The old mechanic wiped his hands down on his overalls and walked over to the truck. “She sure is a beauty,” he said. “Don’t make them like this anymore, do they?”

The younger man looked exasperated. “No, they don’t. Maybe because they don’t work.”

“Oh, they work all right. You say you’ve tried everywhere?”

“Well, first I tried to fix it myself, I-”

“You know about classic cars?”

“Well, no, not really. But I read some stuff online, looked at a few forums, watched a video or two. I figured it couldn’t be that hard.”

“And how long did that take you?” said the old guy as he began unloading the Ferrari.

“Don’t ask. Anyway, I realized I couldn’t do it.”

“What line of business you in, sir?”

“I’m in real estate. Been in it for 20 years. There’s not a thing you can tell me about buying and selling property, I just love it.” The man’s eyes gleamed and he looked off into the distance.

“I once tried to sell my house myself,” said the old man. “But I got into such a mess with all those contracts and legal things, I just gave up. Pop the hood would you?”

“Oh, it’s not that hard,” said the younger man as he leaned into the car. “You just have to know what you’re doing, otherwise you just waste so much time.”

“Yup, sometimes it’s best just to stick to what you’re good at,” agreed the mechanic.

“My neighbor’s son Barney took a look at it,” said the man.

“He a mechanic?”

“No, well, you know, he really likes cars. Always tinkering. And the price was right.”

“He fix it?”

“No. Then I tried that big shiny new place in town. They had this offer on to fix anything on any car for $50. Well, $49.99 actually.”

“But this ain’t any car.”


“They fix it?”

“It worked for half an hour then it stopped again.”

“No kidding.”

“Guess this needs a specialist.”

“Guess it does. Now me, I only do Italian cars and only cars before 1970. I had a guy the other day almost in tears cos’ I wouldn’t look at his 1980 Lamborghini. But I told him pre 1970, that’s my thing. Don’t touch nothing else. But some people just don’t get it.”

The businessman nodded quickly, keen to get on with his story. “Then I took it to that guy down the road from here. He sure was busy, line of cars waiting all the way round the block.”

“You mean Arthur? Arthur’s the best mechanic in town. ‘Cept me, of course. We started out together 40 years ago. He works real hard. Ten, twelve hours a day sometimes and no break for lunch.”

“Why does he keep working? He must be rich by now.”

“Well, you know, here’s the thing. He can’t afford to stop because, as you said, he’s so cheap. He only charges $25 an hour. I told him he was crazy, because he’s ten times faster and better than when he was younger so he’s actually making less now and working on more cars. Don’t make no sense to me. Anyhow, I’m surprised he couldn’t fix it.” He took out a torch and began peering into the engine, wiggling at wires, twisting cables.

“Oh, I didn’t take it there. He couldn’t do it today, too busy. Plus I figured if he was that cheap he couldn’t be much good. Sounds like I got that wrong.”

“You did.”

“So can you fix it?” The man looked at him with eyebrows raised high, his forehead wrinkled.

“Yup. I can.”


“Yup. Cost you $5000.”

“Five thousand dollars!”

“You want it fixed today or not?”

“Yes, but $5000…” The man looked at the mechanic, at the Ferrari and at the tow truck then shook his head as he reached for his wallet. “Okay then, guess I’ve got no choice. When should I come back?”

“Oh, you can wait,” said the old guy, pocketing the $5000 and picking up a hammer. He reached into the engine and hit something with the hammer. “Try it now.”

The businessman turned the key in the ignition and the Ferrari growled into life then settled back into a throaty purr. The old mechanic smiled. The younger man stood with his mouth open.

“But you just charged me $5000 for five seconds work. All you did was hit it with a hammer! How can you justify that?”

“Well son,” said the old man. “It took five seconds to hit it, I agree. But it took 40 years to know what to hit and where. And that’s what you’re paying for.”

Then he started whistling and went back to work on the Maserati.

by Fiona Tankard, working on valuing my own experience as a writer. 

How to Survive the Winter in Your Tuscan Farmhouse

DSCN1362 It looked so enchanting in the warm summer months, didn’t it? With its terracotta tiled roof and its wonky walls. There were twinkly fireflies in the garden, the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine filled the air as you sipped your glass of Chianti on the terrace and dreamed of living a simpler life in Italy. But everything changes once winter comes.

It gets cold in Tuscany. Damn cold. Bone-numbingly, why-the-hell-did-I-buy-this-place cold. Here are some ideas to help you cope until spring.

Layers – layer everything – clothing, bedding, children, pets – to create an insulating effect and prevent that romantic Tuscan icy gale from howling through all your unsuspecting nooks and crannies.

Farm animals – remember all the expensive animal-stall remodeling you had done? Maybe it’s time to undo that and reinstate the old practice of having farm animals living downstairs. In that way, all their lovely body heat wends its way upwards to where you are. This is energy efficient, adds an authentic, earthy aroma to your home and will stand you in good stead with Italian neighbors who live in sensible, modern, warm apartments and may be looking to house surplus cows, pigs and sheep at low cost.

Fireplace – that walk-in cavernous stone inglenook with its cute little seats may have seemed delightful when you first saw your farmhouse, but be warned – it sends heat whooshing right up the oh-so-charming chimney and onto the vast uninsulated tiled roof where happy birds sit and warm their little birdy toes. Oh, and sleeping wearing all your clothes inside the hole next to the fire meant for the copper cauldron is not the answer.

Windows – yes, you may have been baffled by how tiny the windows in your farmhouse were. It is quite incredible how peasants working 29 hours a day in the fields and then crawling home exhausted to a meal of warmed up bread and water didn’t make the most of the views. Some people have no soul. But those new north-facing floor-to-ceiling picture windows you had installed don’t seem such a good idea now, do they? Still, at least you get a good view of the snow heading horizontally at you.

Temperature – repeat after me – “64 degrees is hot, 64 degrees is hot, 64 degrees is hot…” Your body will slowly adjust. Either that or – well, best not think about the “or”.

Weights and Measures – it is a very good idea to get acquainted with the various ways to quantify products to keep you warm. You buy wood by the quintale, wood pellets by the kilo and GPL gas for your central heating by the litro. Another good word to get to know is Euro. It takes a lot of Euros – many thousands of them, in fact – to buy enough of the above to keep the house at the target temperature of 64 degrees. (P.S.A very common question from established Tuscan farmhouse owners is “How on earth do you get the temperature up to 64 degrees?” You have been warned.)

Clothes – forget any ideas of sexy Italian fashion, such as the plunging necklines and small pieces of fabric worn by “showgirls” on TV. Your clothes now have one aim and one aim only – to keep you from freezing to death in your house. It can be an interesting exercise to see just how many items you can wear at once, you will be very surprised. But remember that Italians still very much judge a book by its cover, so try to avoid going out in public in your farmhouse clothes unless in an emergency. If it is really necessary, then act as if wearing a beret, three cardigans, two pairs of socks and several scarves all in different colors is the latest look in New York or London.

I hope that has given you some useful ideas. Battling the elements can be very character building and makes you grateful for the little things – like sitting in front of a cosy fireplace with a glass of local wine, wrapped in dogs and blankets and watching the snow. Some things are worth putting up with!


Letter to a Spammer

Dear Mr/Ms Juicy Louboutin Replica Shoes

As you have clearly spent so much of your valuable time posting comments on my blogs it is only fair that I should reply.

I feel we have a lot in common as you have commented on all my blogs. You clearly share my interest in writing, finding homes for unwanted animals in Italy and the tarot. Do you know how unusual it is to meet someone that is so much on my wavelength? Is that why you are called Replica? Anyway, I am so pleased to have met a fellow writer/animal lover/italophile/tarot coach!

On the subject of your name, may I ask you about that? I have heard of people being named after football teams and film stars but never shoes! Was your mother a shoe fanatic? Did you change your name by deed poll? I’d love to know. If I could respectfully suggest that you use a different and perhaps slightly more innocuous one when you are posting comments then it might help. Otherwise people could get the wrong impression about your posts and think you were a – sorry about this – spammer.

Talking about your posts, I hope you don’t feel offended that I delete them? It’s nothing personal but I am just not sure some of my readers would appreciate the full depth of thought and meaning behind them. Of course, I fully acknowledge the fact that you had followed my advice about tapping into the creative right hemisphere of your brain when you posted the comment: “Lying in the mud only people who never before would not fall into a pit.” That is a very ‘right brain’ comment and you are obviously thinking out of the box. Well done!

However, I must admit that, much as I am a lover of the cryptic repost, your comment on my post ‘Don't Forget the Ordinary Dogs' about finding a home for Argo had me foxed, if you will forgive the pun. You wrote: “Blow off an armful of dream.” Was that in code? Is it an anagram? Maybe you were offering Argo a home? I’m not sure how I would get him to the Ukraine, but I could look into it. If you could elucidate then certainly I could post any clarification you would care to offer.

Ah offers. That brings me to your emails. Now, you can’t fool me. I know your style. Being a writer I pride myself on recognising a certain turn of phrase and so I knew it was you when you sent me that very nice email this morning offering to donate $5000 to my Pets in Italy website. Just to digress for a moment, as I used to be an EFL teacher maybe I could give you a few tips on grammar? Take the phrase: “I am in my late 70's with no child.” In English the plural of ‘child’ is ‘children’, so we would say "I am in my late seventies with no children." Just a pointer for next time. Also I am slightly worried about your precarious physical position as you write: “I am on wheel chair now.” I hope that is a misunderstanding on the use of the preposition rather than a septuagenarian balancing feat. (Mind you if you are still wearing your Louboutins at 70 plus, then good luck to you, I say!)

Finally, you have asked in a recent communication if I would look after a large sum of money for you left by a distant relative in Nigeria. (You get around, don’t you?) I would be more than happy to do that. All I need is for you to send me your bank details and online password, a photo of yourself in your underwear (you asked me if I wanted one) , your credit card (original please) and ten pairs of new juicy shoes in size 6.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon, (I know I will!)
Your friend, Fiona