Focussing on why we are doing this

FocusPhil: Tuesday saw the first of our Book 2 deadlines pass and as Candice commented, we missed it. Fortunately she’s still so mellow from her holiday that we’ve agreed to just move the deadline 6 months.

A deadline has been useful in motivating us to get words on paper but ultimately, the only people who care are us. And if we say the deadline can move, it can move. It all comes down to why we are doing this.

I think we do it because writing a story is fun. When we sit around a table talking about plot lines we both come alive. This isn’t just the sugar rush from the cake we’re stuffing ourselves with, bouncing ideas around is really, really fun.

OK, so the fun has to come to an end and serious writing has to begin but once the keyboard hammering is done, there is the delight of waiting to see what the other half of the team thinks of the new words, or the fun of reading something new featuring our characters. Sometimes the story evolves in a different direction to the discussions and that’s good too.

So, we need a deadline and will try to stick to it but for the moment, life gets in the way for both of us.

Serious entrepreneurs would argue that a laser-like focus on the project is the key to success. That’s fine but Phil’s still gotta eat so paid work needs to come first. After that I’ve a project that may in time become proper paid work to gobble my time. For the moment then, neither of us expects to be able to live off the proceeds of The Book. Well, at least not if the Nolan shoe and bag budget isn’t to take a massive hit anyway.

Does it matter? Money isn’t everything and writing fiction provides a different sort of reward. Maybe in an ideal world, we’d both chuck work in and become full-time authors.

But I wonder if that would take some of the fun out of it?

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Stop beating yourself up, Nolan

Candice: It has been commented before that I am my own hardest task master.  If it’s not done and perfect then I get angry with myself and everyone else.

Well the last week I went on a lovely holiday to a place called Ile de Re, an island just off La Rochelle in west France.  It was lovely, we had great weather and all the family went to stay in a house with its own pool. I’d promised myself that I’d try to do some writing.  We wouldn’t be going out that much in the evening so this would be a chance to crack open the iPad and churn out some words.

Ah, the best laid plans.

Well, every night Erin would go to bed and then we’d crack open a little beer bottle and sit on the sofa.  Then I’d open my book and relax.  The next thing I’d know it was midnight and time to go to bed.  So the sum total of no words got written.

And you know, I don’t feel bad about it.  I had a lovely chilled out week, which I really needed, and I just don’t know when I would have found the time.  I know time is always an excuse that people use not to write but I’m sticking to my guns.  I really didn’t have time, or the inclination.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given  up on finishing book 2 but I just think Phil and I have to be realistic.  I went to an entrepreneur event a month or so ago and the main thing I took from it was have one focus.  When this guy was getting his business off the ground then that is all he did.  He didn’t train for a marathon, bringing up a small child, go on holiday, nothing moved his focus from what he was doing.  Both Phil and I don’t have that luxury.  He’s in the middle of launching a new magazine, I’m currently applying for a new job and  looking after my ever time-consuming daughter.

So I’m moving the goal posts.  We said the first draft of book 2 by today.  We havent achieved that but we have put in 30,000 words and lots of ideas.  We had a conversation before I went away that we should move this to later in the year and then break off at one point to do the final touches on book 1 before it goes live.  Seriously, what is the rush?  We need a second book to follow the first but we won’t really need it until next year so lets prioritise and work out what is important.  And I think that will help. When I was training for the half marathon it was literally the be all and end all by the month before I did it, and that was hard as it just sat in the back of your mind – must go for a run, must go for a run.  I think the book has become has become a little like that, all pressure without the enjoyment. However, I am going to find some time to do some writing, put in a slot in the week like I do with training, but I am going to try to be more realistic.

It will get done but in a way that works for both of us.

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Playing with your technology

Candice: I’ve been a Blackberry advocate for years and up  until recently I had both a work Blackberry and a personal one.  I really liked two things about these two items: the keyboard and the ‘bounceability’ – ie I can drop it and is still works.

I’ve been reticent to change to a touch screen phone as a few years ago I had an LG Cookie and it had a habit of ringing people when it was in my bag.  The final nail in the coffin was when it rang my sister while I was having a conversation about her to one of my friends, a good conversation mind, but still not necessarily something I wanted her to hear.

But I finally gave in the other week as I had to upgrade at the end of my contract and plumped for a Samsung Galaxy Ace 4.

Now this blog isn’t a plug for phones, but its all about that little problem we all have, putting them down!  Since I got my new toy, it has been just that, a new toy.  As I try and work out how to work the ruddy thing I have become addicted with checking updates on it.  Its got all kind of whizzy things that you can do and I can finally read my emails and do social media without needing a magnify glass.  But I do problems with it being distracting.  With all these new things I can do on it its too tempting to be checking my emails, surfing for new shoes, tweeting etc, when I should be doing something else.  So I’ve turned my notifications off and am trying to wean myself off the new toy. If I’m not careful I am going to turn into the kids I weave around when I walk to work in the morning who are so focused on their phones they don’t see me.

The downside is, even with the fancy cover I’ve bought for it, I still worry that I am going to break it, and it doesn’t fit in my back pocket as neatly as my Blackberry but in other ways its great.

I have even been using it for a bit of writing.  Phil and I are having our on going discussions and I’m away this week so am having some time to ponder ideas.  But I think with my new phone I can write up some words without causing myself RSI.

I still don’t like the predictive, I’ve made some strange posts and sent some weird texts since I got it but otherwise its been a good time to move on.

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Is fictional life too cheap?

FireproofPhil: Another new genre for my reading – the crazed psycho murder mystery.

Fireproof by Alex Kava is part of a series based around FBI detective Maggie O’Dell. She’s a criminal profiler and you’ll be unsurprised to learn, has a basket full of personal problems to contend with. In a weird way, it’s a bit chick-litty in that with a failed marriage in her past and a new boyfriend she can’t really open up to on the horizon, the series is almost a search for Mr Right, just with some dead bodies along the way.

It’s the bodies that made me feel uncomfortable.

Thinking about it, I’m not happy with the whole randomness of the death. Everyone who dies appears to be unconnected with the murderer and their murder is just to make a point to someone else.

If you spend your life getting under the skin (not literally, that’s the murderers) of these people, it’s hardly surprising you go nuts.

No, it’s the randomness, the cheapness of life that confuses me. I know they are fictional, but the people on the slab had imaginary lives leading up to a (usually) terrible demise. They grew up with hopes and dreams, snatched away by someone who could have made the same point by scribbling on a Post-it note.

You’re probably thinking I’m a stupid, sensitive soul – I do get that this is fiction and murders make more interesting crime stories than scrumping apples from a tree. One of the few box sets I own is the Inspector Morse series, but with this the murders were rarely random.

In real life, 80% of victims knew their killers. And there were only (only!) 640 in the UK in 2014 – you can see a map of them here if you want. That’s still 128 random killings but compares to 1,713 road deaths over the same period, 398 of whom were pedestrians. Essentially, you are over twice as likely to be run over as randomly murdered. Not forgetting that this 80% is only person knowledge and doesn’t include gang violence where collateral killings take place making the chances of being a victim even lower for “normal” people.

And yes, there is a superstitious part of me that thinks I might be increasing my own chances by writing about the low probability of this.

Basically, random murder is somewhat rarer in real life than it is in fiction. Maybe that’s what makes it so fascinating. I wonder though if spending all your time reading or watching (on films) random murder desensitises the viewer to it all?

All it makes me feel is icky. I think I prefer my books with a happy ending.

Oh, and I worked out whodunnit half way through.

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Learning to Walk Again… a pun on the Foo Fighters

Candice: It was supposed to be a big day in the Nolan calendar today. I was supposed to be driving down to London, to Wembley stadium, to watch ‘Foo Fighters’ this evening, but as we all know Dave Grohl had a bit of a stage boo boo last week and has broken his leg.

I’d been really excited about this.  I bought the tickets back in December and it was one of those situations where I’d heard about the tour on the radio and was poised and ready over the PC at 10am that morning ready to keep refreshing until I got a ticket.  Well it was even easier than that as it was such a big venue so I got tickets straight away.  So they have been sat in my drawer waiting for today.

In the mean time I’ve seen other bands but none as waited for as these guys.  Years ago I saw them in Hyde Park, this was pre-kids for most of my friends so we had a lovely afternoon in the sun waiting for them to come on and then a good mosh out.

But no, I’m listening to the radio last Saturday when they start talking about Dave Grohl, lead singer of Foo Fighters, having fallen off stage.  As the day progresses the story becomes more detailed outlining how he’d missed a jump during a particularly rocky number and broken his leg.  And then they cancelled the next two concerts.  So the speculation became – will he do it in a wheel chair, like he did after he broke it, or will it be cancelled.  Half of me wanted it to be cancelled as i wanted to see the man on full form, but the other half still wanted to see them.  But when the final news came on Wednesday that it definately wasn’t happening the depression set in. and its still here today.

The date is even annoying as Blur are playing Hyde Park this weekend, someone else I’d like to see, but I didn’t get tickets because of today, damn I could have gone!

I really don’t know what is going to make up for it.  It looks like we are going to get refunds, rather than them rearranging the gig, which is really disappointing as who knows when they will tour again, and if I’ll be able to get tickets!

So I’m going to meet Phil soon and we can talk book and other stuff to get me out of the doldrums, but I’ll still be playing all my Foo’s albums today and closing my eyes to think of Dave.

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Step Back In Time by Ali McNamara

Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished… He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home – Opening narration from the TV series Quantum Leap.

timetunnelPhil: And there you have it. Pretty much the plot line from the book “Step Back in Time” by Ali McNamara.

OK, so the time jumping is partly to improve the lot of others and partly to teach main protagonist Jo-Jo how to live a better life, but that’s the only real difference. Well that and the Quantum Leap accelerator is a zebra crossing and white sports car. And Al is called Ringo.

Our story takes place in the World’s End area of London – a very clever move as it allows Jo-Jo to judge the time she’s arrived in by the clothes everyone, including herself, is wearing. Move away from the Kings Road and to be honest, no-one is so achingly trendy.

The other clever move is that the book is perfectly aware just home many plots it’s ripping off. Jo-Jo remembers Quantum Leap at one point for example and mentions Dr Who at another when the whole time jumping thing is being explained to her. I enjoyed that a lot, it’s a nice knowing nod to the reader.

It’s also a good thing that we don’t mess around too much with why Jo-Jo is leaping. She has a guide (he owns the record shop near where her leaps take place) who talks her through it and explains how she changed peoples lives in the previous leap. She also grasps the situation pretty much straight away providing a welcome escape from pages where the reader wishes she’d just get on with it. We’ve read the back of the book, we know what’s happening, now crack on with the story.

For Beatles fans, there are puns on song titles to be spotted throughout the story and if you don’t spot them all, a list at the back of the book.

This is a pretty undemanding read, but in a good way. The story bustles along at a pace. You know it’s all going to be OK in the end and along the way all the cultural references are great fun.

If I have one problem, it’s that the the gist of the story is, “Woman, stop spending all your time running your own successful business. You need a life beyond work and a bloke to complete yourself.” But then this is chick-lit after all so I guess it goes with the territory.

One to read on the sun lounger with a cool drink.

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Clever book titles

Phil: I’m reading “Step back in time” by Ali McNamara at the moment. There will be a review next week once I’ve rattled off the final 80 pages (Spoiler: I’m enjoying it) , but the thing that struck me was across the top of the cover:

From the bestselling author of From Notting Hill with Love…Actually

Notting Hill?

Love Actually?

Weren’t they a couple of massive films from a few years ago?

Admittedly, I’ve not seen either but I do remember the titles.

I can’t work out if this is clever or sneaky marketing. How many people think they are buying a book written by the authors of the films? (Note: Both films were written by Richard Curtis)

More to the point, surely there is some sort of copyright thing going on?

Could we call our book “Fifty shades of the prisoner of the Davidic Code”?

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