Male vs Female

Excerpt from the letters page in last weeks Adelaide Advertiser:Advertiser letter

The scales are weighted against women’s books in the same way they are for women’s films, in that men won’t go to chick flicks any more than they will read a book written by a woman. However, women will read books by men and see blokey movies. – Virginia Taylor

Phil: Is Virginia right?  Will men only read a book written by a man?

The publishing industry certainly thinks so. It’s why Jo Rowling became JK Rowling. George Elliot also suffered the same way many years earlier.

I’d like to think we have moved on, even in Australia. I’ve no problem with the sex of an author but then perhaps this isn’t really the issue. It’s more to do with the look of the book and the genre it is published in.

I’d suspect that while they might not mind the content, most men wouldn’t be comfortable with the pink and frilly covers wrapped around the contents. I’ve certainly been there!

Sadly though, Ms Taylor is arguing for separate male and female literary competitions and here I think she is wrong. In a competition, the judges should be adult enough to ignore the writers gender. Ideally, they shouldn’t know the name at all so the decision is made entirely on the plot and story.

We both hope to be judged on our writing merits. While we’re going to sit on the fertile, and crowded, chick-lit shelves, let’s hope that once his wife or girlfriend has finished chuckling along to our plot, the macho man can put down the mammoth he has single-handedly brought home from the hunt, turn down the testosterone and just enjoy a good, funny, read.

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Bad Sisters by Rebecca Chance

Candice: My excuse for my post being late today is that I’m actually on Australian time to correspond with Phil’s travels…

Anyway, while he is off swanning (I’m allowed to say that this time as he is actually on proper holiday) then I’ve got a lovely piece of throwaway holiday writing to blog about.

I picked by ‘Bad Sisters’ from my trusty charity shop in Stratford.  The cover hit the right note, heels and sparkles, and I knew by the synopsis on the back this wasn’t going to be Chaucer. Well I dived in late in to my holiday after reading some crime fiction and then disappeared into the world of easy reading for a few days.

The book is about three sisters – Maxie, Devon and Deeley.  Each leading separate lives because many years ago they bumped off their step father because Maxie said he was touching her up.  Cut to 20 years later and Deeley is back from her comfortable life in LA with no man and no money, Devon is eating her way through her house not to face her marriage troubles and Maxie is social climbing with her politician husband.

Along the way they rub each other up the wrong way, go off with each other’s husbands and have sex (but not that much for a ‘bonkbuster’) before Deeley opens her big mouth and drops them all in it.  The Police come knocking, all hell breaks loose and one of them gets her comeuppance.

I read this book so quickly I skipped whole sections due to the fact I didn’t really care that much what happened, I just wanted to find out who did it in the end.  I suppose that’s the good part, I did want to know what happened, but on the way I wasn’t worried who I trampled on, as I didn’t care for any of the sisters apart from Deeley.

Its funny this book, as I finished it, and I might consider another Rebecca Chance novel, but I didn’t think it was the greatest chic lit of this style I’d read because, though Maxie wasn’t the nicest of character – I didn’t really find her one to hate either, which might have made other things make more sense.

Even though what Phil and I have written is classed as Chic Lit comedy I still think it has more depth that this, I’d like our stories to be something that people don’t finish and immediately think I’ll throw that in the charity bag.

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Guide books, too good to be true?

brysonbookPhil: I’m writing this from my hotel room in Adelaide, Australia. Travelling around for a couple of weeks, a guide book of some sort is invaluable. Pitching up in a town and exploring is perfectly fine but having a guide in a book makes better use of limited exploring time.

I don’t really need much help with this leg of the trip as a programme of visits has already been provided by the people who invited me over. However, in preparation I’ve been re-reading Bill Bryson’s book “Down Under” for a few pointers.

Bryson is a very entertaining, and therefore successful, travel writer. I’ve read all his travel books but now I’m on the ground, they turn out to be more use for the armchair traveller. Once inspired to buy tickets, go and get something more practical.

Adelaide gets hardly a mention in the book even though the writer visited. This is odd as it’s a beautiful city full of attractive Victorian buildings. The streets are clean, it feels relaxed, just the sort of place Bryson loves. Not to worry, as I get to enjoy my exploration.

Adelaide Station

One section of the book covers a train called the “Indian Express” which runs from once side of the country to the other. I’m going to be taking the Adelaide to Sydney section of this run next week. Bryson travelled 1st class but obsesses about the people in “coach” until he accidentally finds his way in there and then describes the occupants as owning “124 pairs of sunken eyes” that follow his progress to the refined end of the train.

I will be travelling “coach”.

You see, when you ARE a successful travel writer, opportunities open up. When Bryson ends up in coach, he’s returning from riding up in the locomotive cab. Not something the average traveller gets the chance to do. He’s riding 1st class because his publisher is paying, they don’t annoy their best-selling writers with uncomfortable trips unless there is a very good reason.

Even at the one stop I’ll be making, Broken Hill, he’s off on a pre-arranged trip into the country. Me, I’m hoping that the town is as delightful as he describes. Google street view suggests the most exciting feature is a giant branch of Woolworths.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Vicarious travel is what books and TV series offer. Maximum interest in minimum time. Just don’t beat yourself up if your trip isn’t quite as action-filled. I’m not.

Adelaide Shops

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Ten top tips on Writing

Wedding NightCandice: For the blog we’ve interviewed a few writers and found a few relevant articles to help with the writing process.

This week I’ve found one from Sophia Kinsella, of the ‘Shopaholic‘ fame.  I have to admit I am not a great fan of her books. I’ve read a few but found the many character quite annoying, but I thought there were some good points in here.

I won’t list all the ten – you can read them yourself here but there are a couple which I thought were particular salient as Phil and I have decided to have a book two brain storming session in a week or so.

Carry a notebook – this is one I’ve thought about doing before as, as soon as we had a discussion the other week about book two ideas started popping into our head.  Luckily they are still there now, but one bought of baby brain and they may be gone at any moment.

Just get to the end – not such a hard thing for us as there is always someone else to drive you on but you do hit a wall occasionally.  Just keep plugging away until you get there and then you can rehash what you have written.

Walk and drink cocktails – I can definitely support the second half of this statement, whether it has anything to do with writing is another thing…!

This one I’m not so keen on though – Get a great Agent.  Well we’d all love one of those thanks but we can’t all have one.

Enjoy and let us know what you think.

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Do infinite holidays mean no days off?

The Case

Phil: Richard Branson has allowed the people who work directly for him to take as much holiday as they like. People have suggested that this is fantastic but I think it’s a clever ploy by the beardy one.

According to the BBC, the rules are:

“The assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

Now the world of work splits into two types of people. Those who would take days off at the drop of a hat, and people like me.

The former are the ones booking Christmas off the day after the festive period. No matter that she let her colleagues cover the tinsel days last year, Ruthie is taking next year as well. Days off at the drop of a hat? No problem, someone else can worry about keeping the work going.

Me, I have NEVER felt 100% comfortable I’m up to date. Even if I did, I lay odds that someone else on the project will be finding reasons why we all need to work harder. Give me the Branson rules and I’d never take holiday.

As you read this, I should be heading for an airport. Through last two months have been a nightmare of trying to get ahead with work and you know what? If it all fell through, a bit of me would be relieved.

What’s this got to do with writing?

Well, you know how we’ve not written our second book yet. This isn’t due to lack of will, or even ideas. There’s lot’s of those going around the Nolanparker minds. It’s just so much easier when you don’t have a proper job. I wonder if Richard needs a couple more employees?

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One Summer : America 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer by Bill BrysonCandice: Months ago, Phil wrote a post about bringing a book that was too thick to read on his trip. That book was ‘One summer: America 1927′ by Bill Bryson. I subsequently bought it for my holiday in June, forgetting that he’d already got it (though mine was paper back).

I’ve finally just finished it, but that has nothing to do with a) the quality of the read or b) the thickness of the book. I really enjoyed it but it was so thick it took me ages to read over lots of nights before bed.

So what is it about ? In 1927 lots of things happened. The main thing was Charles Lindbergh being the first man to fly across the Atlantic. Then there was Babe Ruth’s home run record, some quite bizarre murders and convictions which mean a trip to the ‘old sparky’, prohibition, Al Capone etc etc. I can see why he picked this era, there was a lot going on.

In its self it doesn’t sound that interesting. I’m not really a historian and American history just makes me laugh as it’s so short. One of the things that was commissioned in 1927 was Mount Rushmore. Now I though that was really old, ie it was done in the 1700’s, not the 1920’s. If it was the UK, it would have been. But what do I expect? I fight my way through lots of Americans every day as they are wetting themselves over William Shakespeare.

But the way it is written is in the usual Bryson style, with a wry smile to what is going on. For example; at that time everyone wanted to crack the crossing on the Atlantic by air. So many people died in the process it borders on lemming mentality. But Bill just lists them all as another one who disappears after giving his wife a goodbye peck and saying don’t wait up and is then never to be seen again. It’s so everyday that it almost funny but actually it shows just how hard it was and how it took all these souls to make air travel as easy as it is today.

The same can be said for many other things in the book where companies rose and died in a short period of time, mainly due to their mad pursuit of one goal or another. But their failure led to a new car design or TV being created.

I loved the book, it was really interesting, informative but also fun. I now know a lot about one period in America’s history, but actually I know a lot more about how some things came about, and it’s something we have to thank them for. Just don’t ask Logie Baird who really invented T V.

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Disposable books

2booksPhil: Next week I’m going to be enduring a long, and hopefully boring*, flight. To pass the time I realised I needed some reading material.

This should be a fantastic opportunity to grab a book I’ve always wanted to read and have a proper wallow within the pages. To me there is something wonderfully decadent about reading a book in one sitting. It’s as though I really ought to be doing something useful, like curing terrible disease or composing a grand concerto or washing up, but instead I’ve chosen to lounge around and read – an activity that has no better outcome than enjoyment.

Sadly, there is nothing sitting in the “to read” pile that fits the bill. If I wanted to read it and I own it, it’s been read. I’ve had a bit of a stressful time recently and dipping in to a story helps take my mind off things for a few minutes.

The other problem is that while I plan to take the books on the aeroplane, I don’t have any intention of lugging them around with me or bringing them back home. Thus they have to be “disposable”. Obviously I’ll be aiming to drop them off somewhere where another reader can enjoy them but if that fails, it’s paper recycling time.

Searching charity shops has unearthed a couple of possibles. World War Z by Max Brooks has been on my list to read for a while, since someone at work read it and I was fascinated by the idea of a zombie war thing. Presumably the recent (and apparently not very good) film has seen a re-print making this relatively rare book available on the second-hand market.  It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen it on the shelf.

The other, The Excursion Train by Edward Marston is more of a leap into the unknown. OK, I picked it because there is a steam train on the cover and a whodunnit is perfect for a single sitting reading as I might remember what is going on when I reach the end.

I’m sure neither author wanted envisaged their words being read in quite this way but then we all choose books for different reasons. I’ll let you know how I get on.

*Boring flights are good. No-one on a passenger plane wants an exciting trip in the same way we prefer uninteresting trips to the dentist.

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