Writing makes you happy :-)

Happy FerretPhil: We all get down from time to time. Writers are especially prone to bouts of ennui thanks to the metal strain of creating breathtaking prose. It’s why we all self medicate with pints of absinthe.

Oh.

Just me then.

Well, be that as it may, writing a book can be good for your health. Not for the joy of escaping into your own world for a few hours, after all you can do that by reading a book and it’s a lot less hastle.

Nor is it because you must eat cake to keep those creative juices flowing, although it helps.

No, according to the BBC, happiness can be assured by having a long term project to be part of.

This makes sense. If you feel you are working towards a goal then life seems to have purpose. Stick anyone in a dull and meaningless job and they pretty quickly lose all interest in anything. I have been there.

For team NolanParker, there are two projects on the go. The first is publishing our first book. We’ve decided that by Christmas this year, it will be available in some form and the moment it is, we’ll be very happy indeed. Admittedly, this will quickly be followed by a project to persuade people to buy it but I can leave that to Mrs Marketing.

Project 2 is our next novel, also due to be in first draft state by the end of the year. Progress is erratic but we are getting there. Candice has threatened me that she’ll be writing a lot next week and I am to be on standby for fast reading and responding.

We actually have the story mapped out and most of the major sections written. Despite this, there’s still the fun of working out exactly what will happen along the way. We not only have characters with a life of their own, there is always another person imagining them as well meaning they really can pull unexpected moves on us.

Kinda makes it worth getting up in the morning.

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The importance of communication

talking toddler

Candice: I’ve been thinking about this over the last few weeks as the newer member of the household has started to tell us how she feels.

About two months ago we had a few words, ‘Daddy’ being the main one.  But now they are coming thick and fast as each day she learns something new.  You have to be careful too as something you say out of hand gets repeated back to you a day or so later.  I’ve told the other half he has to go easy on the swearing, especially in the car.

But it’s amazing to watch this little personality develop.  She can now tell us when she is hungry, if she has had enough food (or like last night the bowl gets put back down on the table with a “More”, it’s just like Oliver Twist) if she is tired and lots of other things which make life so much easier.  If we say bed time the next thing you know she is at the bottom of the stairs waiting to be taken to bed.  If she wants her teddy or cuddle blanket then she can ask for them.  It’s lovely to be able to communicate with her and I’m looking forward to how this develops, until we get to the ‘no I wont’ stage!

But Phil and I have been having communication issues too, both between each other and some external parties we have been desperately waiting for an answer from.  I find the world of email doesn’t always help.  It makes it easier to contact people but also much easier to misinterpret what they say or fill your day with answering the little short things and not actually getting anything done.

So I’m going to take a leaf out of Erin’s book and do some face to face talking and see if I can a) get some writing done and b) sort some of our publication issues.

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Scared of the night sky

Phil: Last week, the BBC was exhorting us all to go outside at night and watch the Perseid meteor shower. Every bulleton banged on about it. Even the weather presenters were basing their forecasts on the chances of cloud cover that might block our view of the spectacular event.

I’m always interested in this sort of thing. The Northern Lights are on my list of sights to be seen, somewhat lower on the list than “my book on the shelves at Waterstones with the word bestseller above it” but still on the list.

However, I’m scared of the Perseids and it’s all John Wyndham’s fault.

His novel, The Day of the Triffids, starts with an amazing night time display, resulting in most of the population going blind. Then they are killed by Triffids.

Day of the Triffids is a story I only really know from the 1981 BBC TV serial with it’s terrfying theme tune. Watching this as a kid, I was well spooked and having recently seen a couple of episodes re-run, despite the aged production values, it more than stands the test of time.

The book is on another list marked “Classic books I really should read one day”. If I’m honest, the list is driven by film and television rather than great literary quality. Logan’s Run is there as were the James Bond novels. Gulliver’s Travels and War and Peace aren’t any more as I have tried to read them and bored myself stupid.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I bet everyone has books they want to read one day. It’s just that others get in the way.

As for the meteors – I gathered my courage and stared at the night sky. I saw nothing. Despite a lack of cloud and little light pollution, there were no shooting stars.

I did wonder if the rhubarb was rustling ominously though.

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What’s in a word?

Jennifer Aniston and Jason Theroux

Candice: It’s amazing what rubbish the world now discusses as they have the opportunity to have verbal diarrhea through social media.

What has been causing a storm in the last week – whether or not Jennifer Aniston will be hypenating her name now she has married Justin Theroux.  Come on people, there have been bombs and explosions recently surely that is more important!

Anyway, we all get pulled in by the cult of celebrity but I found this interesting article yesterday which delved a bit more into where hyphen’s came from and how we all misuse punctuation marks.

I have to say I’m as bad as the rest in not knowing when to ‘s or s (its all about belonging apparently or contracting).  One job I had a member of our team had a MA in English Language so she was our go-to lady for all things grammar and punctuation.  I learn’t alot from her but without that regular conversation I’ve forgotten most of it!

I can also remember a few years ago a friend reading one of our early proofs and she only got so far.  Why?  We she got obsessed with our lack of hyphenation.  The book came back with red marks in the first few pages as she marked up what was incorrect, when I spent all my time telling her to concentrate on the story and not the spelling.  Lets say I haven’t let her have a copy since.

So, people, learn your grammar and punctuation and use it as much as you can for practice.  Snapchatting, Facebooking or Tweeting do not help these things!

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They’re playing Video Games

Phil: Research, research, research. I know people say “write what you know” but if I only did that, Candice wouldn’t speak to me and the chance of us making it in the chick-lit world would be slightly worse than a snowball in hell.

So, no nerdy train stuff Parker. Instead, I need to look into video games.

Might as well keep the anorak on then.

Seriously though, in the book, one of the characters plays video games with a group of people he’s never met. This provides some important plot points and a interesting twist. Apparently I am the best suited of the pair of us to write this bit. Any complains about stereotyping are met with a hard stare.

I was given my first computer, a ZX81 in 1982. It came with hardly any memory and a cassette containing 10 games that would fit into this tiny space whilst not taking very long to load. They kept me amused but I preferred writing my own programs, or at least fiddling with the ones on the tape.

A few months later, I received what might have been the first game with what’s called a “First person” perspective, the brilliant 3D Monster Maze. You ran around in a maze and somewhere there was a T-Rex. Since the computer didn’t have sound, warnings appeared at the bottom of the screen such as “Footsteps approaching” and the terrifying “Rex has seen you.”. I played that a lot, fascinated that you were running around and could only see what your character could see.

I was rubbish at it though.

After this, there was a ZX Spectrum with a few more games. Like all speccy owners, I had The Hobbit, a text adventure that followed the book. Sadly, I hadn’t read the book so didn’t progress very far, spending far too much time listening to Thorin sitting down and singing about gold.

Basically, I was rubbish at it

Later there was Knight Lore, an early 3D game where you watched the action from the top corner of a room, controlling your character from there. I liked the cartoon style and recall playing it enough that I recall the screen every time I hear King singing “Love and Pride” on the radio.

I never completed the mission, ‘cos I wasn’t very good at it. No staying power.

After this I didn’t play games until working at a vegetable research centre, I found myself in the IT department where someone set up a “First Person Shooter” type game we could play over the network against each other at lunchtime (cough).

My attempts involved bumping into walls and being killed by all my colleagues. Rubbish.

And that was it. Since I needed to write video game sequences, I felt it was time to have another go. £1.10 worth of spending at the local branch of Entertainment Exchange furnished me with two games – seriously, is there anything that depreciates faster than a video game? – one of which is called IGI Strike 2.

igi22As it turns out (I celeverly read the blurb on the back of the box) you play a special forces operative who has to sneak in to buildings and do stuff. There are missions and guns’n’stuff. It’s a lot like the game I’ve invented for our character. OK, it’s not cutting edge but I’m getting the idea.

Well, sort of anyway. Obviously I’m still rubbish at it. I couldn’t even work out how to get in the first door without looking it up on the web. When I do, there is running around and getting killed. I think is 40 goes, I nearly reached the first objective twice.

It’s all so confusing. Why are there so many keys to remember? Why can’t I move fluidly around the place without running at walls or taking 6 goes to manoeuvre through a door?

Still, I will persevere. I think I’m getting the idea now. I just hope not too many of our reader are hard core gamers.

Oh no, you can actually PLAY 3D Monster Maze here. No work for me then…

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Doing your homework

Candice : opening scene. 1940’s classroom with rows of single desks. There are only two desks occupied by some extremely over sized pupils.

Pupil one is over 6 ft tall. His hair is spiked up at the top and his face is filled by a big pair of glasses. Underneath his desk a pair of squeezed in hairy legs can be seen sticking out of grey short trousers. 

Pupil two is further back. She’s twirling her hair and loudly chewing gum, tapping her pencil on the desk in an annoying rhythm. Her crossed legs can be seen under the table, one foot swinging.

“Parker, have you done your home work ?” Pupil one looks up and nods vigorously at the teacher. “Yes, sir. I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed all my t’s.”

“Well done, Parker. Gold star for you at next report.” Parker smiles in a satisfied way, turning to look at the other pupil. 

The teacher turns to the other pupil. She looks at him and spits out her gum. “Nolan, have you anything to give me?” She mutters under her breath. “What was that Nolan, I didn’t quite hear you.”

“No Sir, I haven’t done it.” She looks defiantly at the teacher. 

“Well that’s not good enough, Nolan. We are all relying on you. Parker is particularly dependent on you so he can get the next parts of his gold star project done. What’s are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.” She looks at the teacher and then the floor.

“Come on Nolan, we know you are just putting this on. You don’t really mean that.”

The female pupil puts her head on the desk. A mumbling noise can be heard emanating from under her hands. 

 “Lift your head up Nolan. We can’t hear you.” 

“I can’t do anymore. I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment.” 

“Ok, well that’s fair enough. You just needed to say.” The teacher sits at their desk. “When can you do the work for?”

 Nolan lifts her head off the desk. “I need to have some time off work in a week or so to recover from some treatment, I was thinking I could do it then.” 

“That sounds fair enough. Ok with you Parker ?”

Parker nods, and then picks up his pen and carries on writing. 

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I’m in the pub!

pubwritingPhil: I’m writing this while sat in the Star & Garter pub and I’ve been here since 10am. It’s 3 o’clock now.

This isn’t as louche as it might sound, quite the opposite in fact.

For those of us who work from home a lot, any change of scenery is welcome. You don’t realise how much you miss the camaraderie of office work until you no longer have it.

So, a couple of people locally had a good idea. Every Monday, you can book space in a posh pub. The tables are there, if you bring an extension lead there is electricity and in the air all the free WiFi you could desire.

Drinks are on sale – obviously there is beer but also tea, coffee and soft drinks. While the normal state of affairs for a writer might involve a blood:alcohol level of around 50:50, for the more serious types sobriety is useful.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of working from different locations before. Taking myself out of my normal environment means I can focus. Of course I lack many of the facilities I have at home but if the job in hand only needs a laptop and mobile phone then I’m good to go.

Sometimes the pub acts as a holiday. Over the weekend, I put in quite a bit of work so today is a day off, or day on The Book. 1500 words written and a revised timeline produced in a spreadsheet rather than scribbled on a piece of paper stained with cake from the Dorridge branch of Costa.

This home-working away from home lark is a good idea. I can’t help feeling that there are lots of pubs that could offer the service. After all, we don’t need any supervision, just flog the odd drink and at lunchtime, bring the specials board over for our orders. When the day is quiet, I suspect we’re quite a boost to the takings.

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