Wanted: Home for a writer

Kleines CaféPhil: Working from home, I prefer to write fiction somewhere that isn’t my normal workspace.

While I might have all the facilities to hand, there is also the nagging feeling that I should be doing something that pays the bills, not messing around with stupid ideas of being the next JK Brown.

The problems is, finding somewhere to decamp with my laptop.

This becomes worse when there are two laptops to consider. Our last two attempts at working in Leamington Spa library have been thwarted by a lack of table space. People might say that libraries are dying off but they are certainly popular with those looking for somewhere to spend time driving a keyboard.

Last week, I had a meeting in Rugby and so decided that I’d try their library for a bit. Despite there being lots of tables, I only just managed to bag the last spot on one with power points. It was OK, but I don’t really feel comfortable on a round table in the middle of a room. After a couple of hours, I felt spent and trundled home.

Where do other people write?

I’ve heard of using cafés but that’s going to be expensive if (like me) you feel you ought to have a drink on the go at all times. I can’t countenance the idea of occupying space for half a day on the basis of a single hot chocolate – even if the coffee shop concerned can’t be bothered to pay it’s tax. That and I’d eat too much cake.

What’s needed is somewhere with people around, but people who can be relied on to mind their own business. Pubs, generally, are too busy. Or at least the chain ones where you might feel justified in drinking very slowly are.

After that, I’m not sure there is anything left. I know I should be able to work anywhere but the words flow better if I feel that I’m in the right spot for writing.

Any suggestions?

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Writing as two

Candice:  Phil wrote in our last blog about not having the speed to write everything that was going round in his head.  Now, I’m a bit of a better typer than two fingers and the thumb but it still doesn’t mean you can get everything down.  But to be honest it’s a nice problem to have.

I probably went into delivery mode when we met the other week.  That comes from how I work, and what I have been hired for over the years, problem solving and getting things done.   Phil had been saying he was going to write that section of the book for awhile but I think he was struggling with where to start, I got the iPad out and an hour later we’d thrashed out the ideas.

It makes me wonder though, what you do you do if you don’t have a Phil and Candice? We are the exception rather than the rule, being two heads writing one book.  In years to come I see that is what the interviews will be about, “So tell us, how do you write a book with two people?”  To be honest, in other writing circles its not that unusual.  TV and Film particularly usually have more than one writer, sitcoms and soaps could have five or six to keep the ideas flowing week on week.

In our case I don’t know exactly how or why it works. I have to say if you put Phil and I together you’d think we were an unusual, non-romantic, couple for many reasons, but some how our brains are on the same wavelength.  And we know our characters.  I can just see where, when writing this now three part chapter, when my bits fit and then where I need Phil’s comedy expertise.  If this was my book on my own, it would be funny but not as funny at it is as a two.  If it were Phil’s it would be much more comedy and less romance.

Going back to the brain storming, I just don’t know how you do it without a sounding board.  I can write happily on my own once I have the structure.  It actually a strange process as I am writing the present but plotting the future in my head.  Sometimes you get a bit confused as you are so far ahead in your head, you forget what you want to say here and now, but it also means you can see where your characters are going which helps shape the present.  But what Phil and I do is work out the big picture, how do we get from A to B.  Often the route doesn’t stay exactly the same as we originally worked out but its gives us a starting point.  Without that you don’t have a cohesive book.

So it was a good job we both got a contract five years ago in an obscure quango, else we’d never been a quarter of the way into Book 2.

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Faster fingers, FASTER!

How to type diagram

Phil: Last week, Candice and I sat down and talked out way through one of the main chapters in Book 2.

When we started, it was nothing more than a single line in the plan. Allocated to me, I’d a fairly simple outline in my head where I set up the story with a quick tour for our heroes.

An hour and some cake later, we both had several pages of notes and the single line expanded to a multi-layered chunk of story with an awful lot happening – a million miles away from the realitcly simple chunk of text I’d expected to churn out.

Buzzing with ideas, Candice has already written a couple of pieces where she abuses our characters a bit. My job is to weave these in to the main set-up text I’m supposed to be working on. The one chapter set-up now looks more like three with many subtle twists and turns along the way. It’s a lot better than the initial idea.

Trouble is, I’m also buzzing with ideas and here’s the frustration – I can’t get the ideas out of my head fast enough. There’s loads going on in my brain and now I need to get them on to the page.

Years ago, I learned to touch type but never progressed to the stage where it was faster than my two fingers and thumb (for the space bar – get me) technique. Even if I did, I still couldn’t keep up and find the letters tripping over each other as I try to put them in some sort of order.

One day there will be a faster way. A Johnny Mnemonic plug in system where ideas can flow straight in to the computer perhaps. Or we’ll get rich enough to employ a bank of assistants who can take dictation.

Can’t happen fast enough.

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Are you being safe today?

Candice: No, this is not a reference to Fifty Shades of Grey (I am not going to see the film even though Phil seems to think I should) but an unashamed plug for a project that I worked on.

Last year I was working for the Farm Safety Foundation (aka Yellow Wellies) encouraging people to be safer when they farm.  Being a highly dangerous profession (just check out the HSE stats) I thought this was a worth while cause.

One of my projects was to find a way to connect with the younger audience – and between us on the team we came up with re-recording a song that struck a chord with the farming community, ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ by The Wurzels.

Well with some negotiating and an trip to their recording studio, we came up with a new version. In fact I had a lovely day hanging out with the lads making their part of the video (and being invited to get ‘scrumpied up’ with them!) I then left for pastures new and hoped my little project would come to fruition. And this week it did.

So you can see the new version ‘Farm Safety is the Key’ on You Tube. So if you know anyone who works in a dangerous job, farming or otherwise, send them this funny video and let them think a bit more next time they want to cut corners. And if you watch it to the end you might just see my name in the credits.


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Picture this.

DredpicsPhil: If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a graphic novel a better read than a normal book?

While I might be as nerdy as they come, graphic novels always passed me by. I suppose it’s easy to group them in with the comics I used to read as a kid. Fun, but for a fast reader, even as a child, Buster or Whizzer and Chips didn’t hold me for very long.

When we write, both of us picture the scenes in a series of images or as a piece of film. There are segments of our book that are very visual indeed with elements of slapstick or action movie going on. Would these translate to a series of drawings?

Out of curiosity, I spent a whole 99p on the first issue of a new partwork based on the Judge Dredd character from 2000AD. I know a bit about the main character, have seen both films, although the cognoscenti tell me the first one is a million miles from the comics, and am a bit curious.

Book 1 is titled “America” which you might think refers to the country but is in fact the name of a female character, admittedly named after the USA but long after said country had ceased to exist in the way we know it.

America represented a serious turn for Judge Dredd and the first 4 stories are found in this collection. All are complex and not a little disturbing in places. There are twists and turns along the way and you do find real character development.

I was fascinated by the way the artwork moves things along. Many of the panels are narrow to pick up the pace of the story. They only provide glimpses of the action for the same reason. Unlike the sort of comic I was expecting, the size and detail within each picture varies enormously – there are a lot of subliminal messages being given before you study the picture itself.

Stylewise, I was reminded of the sort of smokey, dirty world that Phillip Marloe lived in, even though this is over two centuries after he would have been around. Maybe, like with the detective novels, audiences like a vicarious view into the underbelly of society that they prefer to view from a safe distance.

Reading the book took me longer than I expected. Not as long as pages full of text but a more than a couple of hours for the whole thing (sorry, no page numbers and it’s too late for counting). More to the point, I really enjoyed it. Not enough to buy the full series, which while it looks like an excellent deal would consume too much valuable shelf space, but at least I sort of get why people like this stuff.

So, could Kate vs The Dirtboffins be a graphic novel?

Possibly. We’d need a talented artist and then have to agree how every scene would look. Maybe this spoils the “pictures are best in your head” thing but they that won’t stop us when Hollywood comes a callin’ will it?


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Running on Caffeine and Sugar

Candice: I’ve had a hell of week, starting off with a drive to Hull which I thought would never end and ending up with a trip in an Ambulance to A&E for me and the little one. She’s fine but it was a bit of a shock.

So I come to Friday, before three days off work next week, and am playing catch up. This week, and with the dark days too, I think I’ve been running on adrenaline, caffeine and sugar.

I’ve got a stinking cold to, so there was I supping tea and taking a cold and flu tablet this morning (active ingredient, Caffeine) and I though, need to  be careful here Nolan.

What did we do before stimulants?  A few years ago I worked out that my regular stomach problems are related to too much caffeine, so I cut it out.  The terrible headaches and other effects of going cold turkey made me realise that it is not a good thing to be reliant on.

However, recently I seem to have become more reliant on it again, which I initially put down to new job.  But actually I’ve worked out I probably always do in the darker months, as I get a level of SAD.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but as long as I don’t end up looking like the side of a house, and getting the jitters, I’ll keep eating the sugar and taking the caffeine until the world gets a bit brighter.

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Don’t wanna go to BAFTA

baftatweetsPhil: On Sunday I returned from a busy weekend, tired but not enough to go straight to bed. I flicked on the TV hoping to find something mildly diverting that would entertain me without engaging my brain.

What I got was the BAFTAs.

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies. They normally seem to be a large group of people who earn far too much for what they do spending an evening congratulating each other on being marvellous and allowing us serfs to look on in awe and wonder.

Too stunned to operate the remote control, I watched for a few minutes and realised something else. It looks really, really boring.

If you don’t stand a chance of winning anything then you spend the evening watching people who do. Looking at the number crowded in there, I bet the winners were less than 1% of the attendees.

At this point, I decided I didn’t want to go and sent Candice the tweet above.

It seems she does.

This might not be the problem you might expect. For a start, there are 26 awards and it’s reasonable to think that the film of The Book will sweep the lot. If the table is at the back of the room, that’s an awful lot of walking back and forth and my friend is far fitter than I am. She might need to wear trainers under the big frock of course.baftapic

The main issue is that no-one wants me there.

Look at this photo of Eddie Redmayne and his co-star in “The Theory of Everything”, Felicity Jones. As you can see, she is holding the trophy. The only problem is that it’s HIS trophy. She was a runner up and didn’t get one.

The press though, have decided that the person holding the gong should be the pretty one, even if it is rubbing her defeat in her face.

Conclusion: Because all the blokes wear dinner jackets and can’t be poured over by fashionistas who will decide if their outfit is “a disaster” (fashion journalism, your name is hyperbole) they aren’t really important and might as well go down the pub or watch the thing sat on a sofa with a bag of crisps.

Which suits me fine.

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