68. DUBLIN SPARK LIT THE BLUE TOUCHPAPER FOR MY SECOND NOVEL

LISTEN to any Dublin taxi driver and they’ll tell you that you can’t fling a Bodhran tipper* out of the window without hitting a writer.

Sorry, but I’ve lapsed into gaelic since spending three days in the fair city to launch my difficult second novel Spark Out. And it’s certainly true to say that the only people I saw who weren’t writers during my brief but highly enjoyable stay were those kind people who served me their finest beers, spirits and other sustenance to help me survive the ordeal.

This was the second time I had been to this wonderful event run by the book promotion service, Books Go Social. I had asked Laurence O’Bryan (pictured below) – the brains behind the company – if he might be able to fit my book launch into his jam-packed schedule. Even though he had Hollywood producers and best-selling authors to accommodate, he was delighted to oblige, and kindly filmed the event as well.

laurence

BooksGoSocial logoHaving not ventured out of the famous Gresham Hotel last year, I pledged that I would see a bit more of the famed Dublin nightlife this time around. The trouble is that once you become embedded with a group of writers, even the most introverted is itching to tell you of their latest project or their creative journey.

As a result I became part of the fixtures and fittings of the Academy Plaza on this occasion, spending the days enjoying lectures on every aspect of my craft, from first sentence to organising book launches, and nights ensconced in the bar, swapping tales with fabulously entertaining company.

wendyh     There were too many good speakers to list but I would just like to make quick mention of Scottish dynamo and crime writer Wendy H Jones (right). Having lived a full and varied life before beginning a “life of “crime” she drew on her experience as a nurse to inform us: “I can assure you that no one has EVER died of embarrassment.” Wendy was encouraging us to get out and take risks, to ask local book stores and other enterprises to stock and sell our books, or allow us to perform book signings and launches.

A testament to her success was when she visited her local bank branch near Dundee and was not only invited to do a book signing but was then approached by head office to do an entire tour of Scotland’s banks. Brilliant work!

wendybook

As for myself, despite having to compete with the clinking of cutlery and what seemed like a demolition derby going on in the nearby kitchen, I think my speech went down well.

I was pleased with the banner that I had bought on eBay and had delivered straight to the venue without actually seeing (I feared there might be an awful spelling mistake in it or something, but luckily that wasn’t the case). I was also delighted to be able to do a short reading from the new book and give out three as prizes to those people who could come up with a tale about their favourite fictional baddie.

To finish off I did a reading from the novel which you can see here…

At the end of it all I was feeling revved up, the adrenaline flowing… there was nothing for it than to retire to the bar again and mingle with the glittering company.

* A Bodhran tipper is the stick with which you beat an Irish Bodhran, or drum.

  • Spark Out is available in paperback this Saturday (July 1) and can be obtained through Amazon or ordered through most good bookstores. It will be available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited from July 10. 

66. BUSKING FOR A BIG BREAK: ONE WEEK INTO KINDLE SCOUT

I FEEL like one of those lost souls wandering tube trains late at night, putting little packs of tissues on the seats with a short note to explain their dire circumstances.

When they return later asking for a donation in exchange for their kind gift, most of us pretend not to notice them, even though the strong smell is pretty hard to ignore.

Your heart tugs at you, telling you that to dip into your pocket and hand over the meagre change that lies there among the shredded tissues would be the humane thing to do and could make a world of difference to this person’s life.

Your head warns you that it’s the start of the slippery slope: TV programmes and newspaper articles have alerted you to being taken in by professional beggars. They dress down deliberately and even sit in a bath of urine before hitting the streets and robbing good, honest, hard-working people of their cash.

So you put your head down and pretend you are reading your Kindle while waiting for the scruffy oik to move on, which seems to take an age.

You hope that after his shift ends he won’t be returning to a rat-infested squat, but to his four-bedroomed country mansion in Epping, therefore fully justifying your ‘snub’.

OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I don’t like begging for anything. This week, however, I have tried every far-fetched scheme in the book to garner support in my bid for a Kindle Scout contract.

I hadn’t attempted this route to publication before. With my first novel Crossing The Whitewash I took it all on myself – the writing, the research, the cover, the formatting, the uploading, the pre-publicity, post-publicity, the placement of the book, the emails alerting book shops to its availability, the launch: the whole kit and caboodle.

I’d heard about Kindle Scout, of course, but it seemed like just another popularity contest and I doubted many people actually succeeded in their task.

spark-out-cover-medium-web

Two years on, though, and I took the plunge. Having heard a bit more about it I decided I would enter Spark Out for a Scout deal. If it failed I was no worse off for the experience – If it succeeded? “Woohoo!” in the words of Homer Simpson. That’s a $1,500 advance that will immediately cover my costs of enlisting proof readers, editors, cover designers and all, even leaving me some money for social media adverts.

A week in and I am addicted, but as someone who just wants to write books and get them into the hands of as wide an audience as possible, I’ve started to scrape the bottom of the barrel in the search for support.

KSdayone

It began pretty well, my Facebook chums and Twitter acquaintances all weighing in during the first few days. I jumped straight into the Hot and Trending category and stayed there for four days.

Now, though, I’ve slipped out of it, and I am wondering how the hell I can revive the interest.

I have resorted to doing Periscope readings of parts of the book, the equivalent of the busker in the underground holding out a cap and hoping someone will show their appreciation when all they are interested in is getting from A to B.

Today I have even gone through my Goodreads list of friends, sending some of them personal messages and hoping that even though they don’t know me from Adam they will take pity on a poor writer and click the link to my Kindle Scout page.

scouting1stweek

Perhaps things will pick up as I get closer to the end. If they don’t, though, I will just have to throw myself on the mercy of those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing and hope their editors believe Spark Out is worthy of their charity… together with a nice, juicy contract.

  • Sound familiar? Let me know your Kindle Scout experiences in the comments

 

65. BREAKING NEWS: I’VE ENTERED THE KINDLE SCOUT PROGRAMME AND NEED YOUR HELP

IN the social media kindergarten where all the kids are holding their hands up shouting “Me! Me! Me” I’m appealing for people to help me get my squeaky voice heard.

I’ve been reluctant to try these voting schemes before as I’m such a shy, retiring personality I worry I’ll end up with ‘Nil pwan’ like the very worst Eurovision song contest performer.

Sometimes, though, you must be brave and bite the bullet.

This morning I stepped into the unknown and put my second novel Spark Out up for a Kindle Scout contract.

spark-out-cover-medium-web

The way it works is that you give all the details of the book, submit the manuscript, cover and other relevant information about you as an author and your previous work – in my case the first book in the Boxer Boys series Crossing The Whitewash – then have a month to convince people it deserves to be published.

Once that period is up, those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing will make a judgement call on whether your work has garnered enough interest to carry their stamp of approval.

If it has you will then have all the power of Amazon behind you in terms of marketing and publicity – a useful tool I’m sure you’ll agree.

Once the campaign is up and running I will provide you readers with further information on how you can lend me your support.

With a $1500 advance also on offer if the book is successful I will be off to buy a mansion in the Maldives and you’ll never hear from me again.

That, at least, has to be worth your vote.

64. Like Kim Kardashian, I broke the internet: Why backing up your work is vital

I’m often reminded of a comment I came up with during a particularly heated discussion in my younger days: The internet is just a passing phase.

I say younger but I was approaching 50 and modern life was starting to wear me down. People were telling me newspapers were going to be read on tablets, we’d be organising every facet of our life on our phones and at some stage we would all have a chip inserted in our bodies by which we would be identified.

Now, two out of those three things have happened – and I don’t imagine the other is far away. How long will it be before you enter a store only for all the adverts to speak to you personally, like in the Tom Cruise film Minority Report?

cruisegap

Anyhoo. The upshot is the internet is NOT passing and, for all the things it does to make life easier, when it goes wrong we are left completely impotent.

My Sky broadband is a pretty temperamental creature at the best of times. There’s nothing worse when you are doing something your life depends on – like sharing a meme on Twitter – when you suddenly realise your signal has gone.

As a pretty mild-mannered person my reaction is generally to tut quietly to myself, then make a coffee and relax, telling myself it will all be better soon.

Only joking! No my reaction is to shout, scream, blame the world and the wife, then slide the little “wireless” switch up and down manically until I get a reaction. As soon as I let go, however, that nasty X marks the spot emerges again to tell me the connection is broken.

Dilemma. I can either sit there and hold the button in all day while trying to type with one hand – not always easy – or I can take further action.

moony

In my case further action means turning into a latter day Keith Moon of The Who and bashing your computer in the same way he attacked his drum set.

A few well-placed fists and the screen turns into a sea of wavy lines. Try to restart and it asks you to click a button that says “computer repair thyself”. You spend the next eight hours watching a notification which says the work is in progress when, in fact, the stupid machine is as bamboozled as you as to what has gone wrong.

In an age when human beings are surplus to requirements, now and then you find you actually have to leave the house and communicate with another person.

Up the road is a small shop in the middle of a rank of down-at-heel establishments selling chicken and such. It calls itself the Computer Clinic. It is actually the computer equivalent of an over-stretched hospital in a war zone. Dying terminals are stacked floor to ceiling, aged keyboards hanging precariously from shelves, wires like intestines litter the floor waiting to trip you up.

Eventually, once you have negotiated your way through the obstacle course like a contestant on an early episode of the Crystal Maze, you find a human being behind a counter.

“What’s the problem, sir?”

“The computer doesn’t seem to be working.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, the connection went down and I gave it a bit of a tap to try to get it working again and the screen went all fuzzy.”

I can see in his eyes that he knows exactly how gentle my “bit of a tap” was.

“Do you want to save all the data?”

“Absolutely, yes. Definitely.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Come back in a few days.”

                           *                                           *                                      *

So I return a few days later and he hands me the computer. He’s fixed it – and for £40! It is such a bargain I bung him an extra tenner.

I plug it in and it boots up straight away. No fuss at all. It takes seconds. Much better than before… but then, that’s because it doesn’t have any of those lengthy documents, or sizeable picture files or anything like that to worry about. All my data has been removed, contrary to instruction. “Aaaaaaargh!”

He’s changed the soddin’ hard drive and erased years of hard work – not to mention all my favourites, meaning my passwords for everything have gone down with the ship.

The thought dawns on me. My next great novels were on that hard drive! They had been backed up from some software called Scrivener, but unfortunately not saved to the cloud. That’s 160,000 words of two potential best-sellers GONE.

kimk

If I really was going to punch the life out of the laptop now is the time. But somehow I restrain myself. Kim Kardashian once claimed to have broken the internet, but it still works despite her best efforts. Maybe I can repair the damage.

I contact the computer butcher (sorry, surgeon) and ask if anything can be saved.

“I couldn’t even start the computer with the old hard drive so I removed it but it is still here,” he says. “I will see if I can salvage anything.”

Hope. An anxious two-day wait follows, then I pop into the shop, my heart in my mouth. “I seem to have saved some things, but not others,” he says.

I check it on screen and, to cut an even longer story short, I am able to save my masterpieces.

This near thousand-word rant is almost a book on its own but it carries a very important message for fellow writers. Always back up your stuff, and don’t treat your laptop like a drum set. Whether you use an external hard drive, dropbox or whatever, the technology is there to save your hard work before disaster strikes.

After all, you don’t want to be caught out like Kim Kardashian and me – with your pants around your ankles.

62. Spark Out: Cover reveal

THEY say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I certainly hope you can in my case. In my humble opinion, my cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith has excelled herself with Spark Out, the second book in my Boxer Boys series.
Jane, one of the members of the prolific author-collective Triskele Books, has a simple but effective way of working with authors and her covers can rightfully take their place alongside the very best on the virtual bookstand (or, indeed, in book shops if you are lucky to find anyone prepared to stock your book… hint, hint Waterstones, WH Smiths and Foyle’s).
It’s all about genre, really. Jane asks you what type of book you have written and invites you to submit covers you like in that genre. Once you have provided some examples and explained the kind of imagery best fits with your story, she sources them and sends you a variety to choose from. Once you have done that she then gets to work.
two-covers
Crossing the Whitewash was my first book and because Spark Out is part of a series Jane wanted to stick to the overall style. As you will see the name is very similar as is the idea of taking a silhouette image, in this case a man and a boy, and adding a background significant to the story. For Crossing the Whitewash we used the Millennium Stadium, for Spark Out it’s the QE2, which carried 3,000 troops to war in the Falklands back in 1982.
For me, the image of a soldier’s eyes, facepainted with camouflage and the Union Jack, was striking, and we used it above the title in the same way we used the knife in the first book.
So that’s it. I hope you like it.
The book has just come back from my American Editor, more of which later, and is now with my wife Liz, a qualified proofreader. I will soon be selecting Beta Readers to get a free copy of the book and give me their comments while hopefully posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads on launch day. If anyone is interested please let me know via the comments on here and I will get back in touch.

61. Tune in for a magical ride with Mystery Thriller Week

IT’S BEEN  a long time! Sorry about that but I really have been incredibly busy. Not only does the day job take up a lot of my time but I have also been working hard promoting my first novel Crossing The Whitewash over the Xmas period, while sending my second novel out for editing and starting a third as part of NaNoWriMo.

I just had to post this week to tell people about a wonderful new on-line project that I have become involved in.

Mystery Thriller Week is a group set up on Facebook for writers, bloggers, readers, reviewers and just about anyone interested in the genre to swap ideas, learn about a wide variety of books out there and discover new authors. It is all supposed to kick off from February 12, but some people have started the ball rolling early.

jenniferalderson

Jennifer S. Alderson

There are a lot of us all shouting for attention, so I am delighted that my book is one of the 15 that has been included in Jennifer S Alderson’s blog about Mystery thrillers based outside the US.

As readers will know Crossing The Whitewash switches from humdrum life on a busy inner-city housing estate to the wide-open spaces of the Welsh Valleys, so just about perfect for Jennifer’s subject matter.

Please have a read and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I’ve been experimenting with Facebook Ads again and am delighted to say that I seem to have hit just the right tone with the current one. During December I sold over 100 copies of Crossing and this month I have sold nearly 50 in the four days so far. On one particular day I peaked at 20 copies, and realised that I was also advertising on Instagram. It may have been a fluke because there is no way of knowing who saw what before going onto KDP and taking the plunge.

NYad.png

Much of it is down to targeting which I have now honed, directing the ads at people in the over-45 age group who are fans of thriller writers like Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin and Martina Cole.

top20hit

When I broke into the top 5,000 sellers on KDP I was delighted, particularly with my novel appearing in the top 20 of hard-boiled mysteries alongside household names like Stuart MacBride, Phillip Kerr and Gordon Ferris. It’s the perfect boost with the new book, a prequel, due out in February or March.

50. Climbing the charts like a Take That comeback single

SIX months ago if my sales graph had been a print-out from a life support machine doctors would have pulled the plug. To say things were flat lining would be like suggesting the Alps were “a bit hilly”.

Tonight I am basking in the heady atmosphere of being no 43 in the Urban Kindle sales rankings, having tried every trick in the book to resuscitate my baby.

Well, as an Indie Author, you can never give up hope, can you? The traditional publishers might whisk the plug out as if they had finished the ironing, rather than destroyed a promising career. We have a greater emotional attachment to our sickly child.

In the case of Crossing the Whitewash it had taken me four years hard labour to give it life and I wanted it to have every chance of succeeding.

To be fair I had plenty of advice about how to revive the patient, but the trick is deciding what is genuine help and what is designed to make a quick buck out of you. You have to wise up to those blowing on your neck telling you a hurricane is on its way, and it isn’t easy.

Still, by experimenting with Twitter and Facebook ads, changing categories and key words, and enlisting help from Social Media experts claiming to have hundreds of thousands of followers, the recovery has been a steady one.

The problem is I have no way of gauging what has worked and what has not. I just know that over the last month or so sales of my beloved novel have looked much rosier – in terms of Kindle anyway.

The fact none of the big bookshops will stock my novel, even though I emphasised my connections with Bristol, Wales and London and made a big selling point of the fact the Rugby World Cup – a backdrop for the novel – was taking place last September and October, has been hugely disappointing.

Tonight, though, I am pretty happy. In the hourly Amazon rankings I see that in this country my novel has reached an all-time high at no. 10,508 of all Kindle paid sales, fiction and non-fiction (and if you knew how many people are trying to flog books in this format you would know why I am so impressed). In the Urban category I have broken through the top 50 barrier. Admittedly it is one of the more “niche” genres but even so it gives my heart a flutter to see my baby actually featuring in one of the best-sellers charts.

kindlegraph

 

Of course, the spin off of this is that my novel is likely to be seen by more potential readers. With 24 reviews, 16 of which are 5 stars, it should begin to feature much higher on the search engines, which will improve its visibility for potential readers.

At £1.99 Crossing is still in the virtual bargain bin, of course, so there is little hope of making any profit or giving up the day job. The first ambition, though, is to establish myself as an author and with the latest news I think I can say I am starting to do that.

I’ve got some new marketing tricks to try out over the coming months in the hope of raising sales even further. An audio book is in production and there are plans to promote it through a video in conjunction with my narrator and producer friend Samuel Haskell.

The key, eventually, is to establish a fan base and hopefully then those four or five sales a day will multiply handsomely.

arnie ad

Meanwhile, the current Facebook ad seems to be the one pulling them in. I’ve made a strength of the fact the American eBook competition judge described Arnie Dolan as terrifying, and I’m delighted to say it must be working.

 

49. There is a snobbery barrier erected by traditional publishing industry

THERE is a lot of old rubbish out there – novels which should never have seen the light of day.

That’s certainly a view many take about self-publishing: that because the writer failed to interest an agent or one of the big publishing houses their work isn’t worth a cursory glance.

With the massive rise in self-publishing it shouldn’t be surprising that some of the fayre on offer is hard to stomach. But then again I’ve read plenty of bilge masquerading as literary genius churned out by traditional publishers, including novels by some of the industry’s biggest names.

On occasion I have taken the plunge and bought the next release from a best-selling author, only to consider it to be hugely disappointing, poorly written and badly researched.

I have even found myself questioning whether the author actually wrote the book, or whether a well-honed team of editors, plot developers, proof readers and researchers put together the new release by committee just to keep the cash rolling in.

Let’s be honest, it is hard enough to write one novel, let alone churn out one or two every year as some writers seem to do.

In my view, self-publishing at its finest is an antidote to this tunnel-vision way that the mainstream publishers view things. If you are looking for something bright, new and entirely original you are far more likely to find it if you wade through the lists of self-published authors out there. I grant you, though, finding the gems can be hard.

Someone has to break the mould some time, though, or we’ll be reading the same plot lines and ideas for time immemorial.

You could compare it to the indie music boom, when hard-working, original bands fought back and released their own records after being constantly ignored by the mainstream companies, who preferred talentless acts because they looked good and had a decent gimmick. To a certain extent the Indie labels won, and we have all reaped the benefits.

This week I attended a meeting of the admirable London Writers Cafe, a group organised by the dedicated Lisa Goll for people intent on seeing their work appear in print.

The guest was Louise Buckley, a former editor with one of the traditional publishing giants who has taken the leap to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In short, she is an agent with Zeno Agency and is keen to build her client list.

Louisebuckley

 

Louise’s main brief was to explain what she would look for in an author’s opening page, and there were some very useful hints and tips on covering letters, synopses and first chapters.

I did ask her whether she would consider taking on self-published authors, though, and her response was pretty emphatic. She said no traditional publisher would be interested in taking on a book which has already been published, so she would only consider a self-published author if they were offering up completely new material.

This surprised me seeing as the company she used to work for – Pan MacMillan – gave Kerry Wilkinson a nine-book deal on the back of his first three self-published novels and, no doubt, repackaged and promoted his original material, too.

Of course, Kerry was a No.1 Amazon bestseller so he is an exception to the rule, but surely an agent should be willing to take on a self-published author on the strength of what they have already achieved?

On that note, I see that Rachel Abbott – another self-publishing success story – does have an agent in the highly-regarded Lizzy Kremer.

rachelabbott

 

Rachel has done wonders off her own bat, and the fact she still seems to bump into this “snobbery” given her fantastic number of readers and followers is hard to credit. Her Guardian article this week is a real eye-opener…

45. Battling distractions

THIS blog entry is a paradox. I am writing about distractions and this little rant is a distraction in itself.

What I should be doing is working on Header (working title), the follow-up novel to my debut effort Crossing The Whitewash. Instead I am writing this to give you an idea of how easy it is to be dragged from the beaten track, a victim of the savage, wild beasts we know as “everyday things”.

I’ll explain. This morning I sat down to work on a particular chapter of the new book. It is actually a prequel to Crossing, in which we get to know Arnie Dolan’s father Big Mo,  a dangerous career criminal with a different set of values to many of us.

It is set in 1982 and Big Mo is planning a Post Office raid. Beforehand, though, he makes a visit to his guru, a bloke who helps ease his tensions with a massage and some sage advice. Like everything with Mo, even this visit is accompanied by drama.

He parks up his car, using a disabled sticker he has obtained from someone “on the council” who owes him a favour. This causes a serious altercation with a member of the public.

Trouble is: Try googling Disabled Disc 1982 or such like and see how you get on. Typical of everything on the internet, nothing really happened before 1990 unless someone decided to write about it on Wikipedia.

I want to get it right so it starts nagging at me, distracting me from the scene I’m trying to write. It seems like a good excuse to ring my 91-year-old disabled Dad.

Trouble is, he refused to use a sticker before he was 65, even though he had managed to survive very nicely thank you on one leg from the age of 12. His memory isn’t great (unless you want him to remember films from the 1940s) and his hearing is even worse.

The result was a long, drawn out conversation – with me shouting down the phone to be heard and losing my voice, already on the wane because of a bad case of man flu – and failing to get a satisfactory answer. “I don’t know, I didn’t have one,” was his final answer. Pfft.

I decide to chase the problem up later but as I cut the call I see a text message on my phone. It is a reminder that a buy-now-pay-later loan I took out years ago is due for payment in seven days.

It’s the first time I have ever had a reminder of something that goes through automatically by direct debit, so I decide to ring the bank. I wait 15 minutes before being able to speak to the relevant person.

“Oh yes, it is just a new system the bank is trying out.”

“But it alarmed me something was wrong and I thought I had better ring you. The number I had been given was 0345 which is no doubt expensive and I’ve been waiting 15 minutes to speak to someone. It has probably cost me quite a lot of money on this silly call.”

“Sorry about that. You can always complain.”

“Yes, I think I will.”

This involves looking up a number for the complaints dept, ringing them, putting in all the account details, sort codes, security numbers, inside-leg measurements and amount of times you figured in a 20-run opening batting partnership in your works cricket team over a five-year period.

Before they put you on hold.

Eventually someone answers, apologises, puts you on hold again… and eventually says your complaint has been approved. You will get £12 back in your bank account within the next two hours.

Having started the whole “research” business at 10am, now having written this blog because I am still steaming over the bank’s stupid text message, my distractions have lasted just over two hours. Actually novel-writing time today? About 15 minutes. See how easy it is?

A small addendum: If anyone knows anything about Disabled Drivers discs in the early 80s, please send me a message. I will be most grateful for the information.

 

 

41. To Cut A Long Story Short

The fact that my recent blog entries have turned into song titles is, I assure you, complete coincidence. They just happen to fit perfectly the subjects I am addressing.

Fresh from success in the Writer’s Digest EBook awards, I’ve decided that possibly the best way to market yourself and get your writing recognised is to put it out there for analysis, dissection and critique.

I must admit I still get a few shivers when I write that last word – critique – after the early stages of my novel writing adventure and the microscopic scrutiny that the traditionally published author Richard Blandford put my original manuscript through.

But in the end I’m pretty sure it was all worthwhile because I came up with Crossing The Whitewash, a novel which has had its fair share of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and now this honourable mention across the Pond (see earlier blog entry).

There aren’t too many competitions where they will look at your whole book and give it a forensic examination, but short stories are, well, another story.

Throughout the year there are plenty, spread across many towns and even in different countries. Having lived in Bristol for four years previous to my move back to London I had no idea, for instance, that both Bath and Bristol run short story comps.

I’ve just entered one myself, organised by the Writers & Artists Yearbook, and I know the good folk at the Triskele Collective run one themselves.

During my research though I also came across a very useful blog from a rather off-the-wall character called Christopher Fielden (pictured), who manages to fit his writing in around his day job and drumming in rock bands.

I assume he is another Bristolian, as he is part of a Stokes Croft Writers group. On his website you will find plenty of useful information about writing competitions so it is worth clicking here to visit his blog.

I’ll let you know more about my latest short story exploits when the competition results have been announced. Hopefully you will see it one way or another.