Some times it’s all a bit much!

Candice:  Its been busier than usual in the Nolan house hold over the last few weeks, what with birthdays and new bathrooms.  Even our lovely weekend away the other week was enjoyable but brought extra stress too.

People often ask me how I fit it all in and, to be honest; on Saturday both me and the Husband (that’s not Phil) did wonder how we were going to manage.  It was his big birthday party and the day was planned down to the detail, list and everything, to make sure it was already for the party.  Neither of us slept well the night before thinking about what we had to do.  From 9am it was:

  • hairdresser visit for me
  • pick up helium balloons for him
  • take daughter to music class
  • MOT his car
  • have food
  • tidy up house and prepare spare room for guests
  • go to venue and start decorating room plus entertain two year old
  • meet grand parents
  • have dinner
  • get ready
  • feed and put daughter to bed
  • meet baby sitter
  • discover cat has brought mouse in, try to catch, give up
  • get to venue

and finally, drink wine while circulating the room, cut cakes, sing happy birthday, cut more cakes, encourage people to eat cake, speak to lots of people for a short period, dance, share out birthday cake, dance and then it was Midnight.

Then it was clear room, get home, try to catch mouse, give up, go to bed!

I need a day off.

And that I have tomorrow, but tomorrow’s day off is all about tidying up the house, fun!

And then somewhere in there Phil will be asking me what we are doing about marketing the first book or writing the second.  At the moment its all pie in the sky, which I find frustrating, but I will find time the same way I find time to go to the gym.  But it will probably have to wait until I have three days off at the start of March and I can really get my head into it (and I won’t be recovering from organising a party).

My advice, don’t beat yourself if you can’t do it just now, but make sure you plan in some time to write, else  you won’t be happy.


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Say it with Triffids

The Day of the TriffidsPhil: Back in August I mentioned that I’d never read John Wyndham’s book “The Day of the Triffids”. It was in a list of classic novels I felt I should read one day.

Browsing the shelves of a second-hand bookshop a few weeks later, I bought a copy for the princely sum of £2. Only 5 months later, I’ve managed to read it.

Short version: It’s excellent.

Long version: Even if you’ve not read the book, most people are aware of the basic story. A meteor shower (or is it?) blinds most of the population. Our hero isn’t affected thanks to a spell in hospital and has to escape London and try to survive.

Compounding the problems are the Triffids – mobile, carnivorous plants. Blind people are easy prey for their deadly stings.

The key to the book is a good, solid concept. The idea of a world full of blind people is bad enough but when they are being hunted by killer plants then you’ve really stoked up the terror. Stoked it up enough that we don’t bother to question the absurdity of walking, thinking, plants.

Of course the horror doesn’t end there. With the reader imagining themselves in the position of the hero, they then have to understand some terrible decisions that have to be taken. You can’t save a city full of blind people. One character tries – he captures some of the sighted and attaches them to groups of ten sightless people with the idea that they will act as the eyes for the group to help them scavenge for supplies.

The awful thing is that even he has to realise that this isn’t a practical option. You really do have to switch off your compassion and abandon people to their fate. Perhaps this was too shocking even for Wyndham as a mysterious plague appears to kill off the population rather than contemplate leaving them to a slow death from starvation or to be killed and eaten by the triffids.

What we have is a fight to survive. A fight that involves a great deal of practical work. Sad as it sounds, I like to think I’d be good in this sort of situation. When society has collapsed then you want someone who can make a shelter. Not that I have any desire to find out, but it’s impossible to read a book like this and not wonder how you would cope.

At 272 pages, this isn’t a long book but it doesn’t need to be. There are twists and turns along the way. The action takes place over a long enough period that the world gradually changes too. Towards the end we begin to wonder just how long the survivors can hold out.

Written in 1951, it hasn’t dated too badly either. Maybe the female characters are of their time – one is admonished for claiming that starting up a generator is something women could never do. That’s quite an achievement on its own, although perhaps life was simpler then, and the temptation to introduce elements that would seem old-fashioned today wasn’t so great.

An excellent read. You might need something funny to cheer you up afterwards though. Perhaps some comedy romance?

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Partners… in name only!

startlitfestCandice: I’ve just come back from a weekend away and was surprised to see a text from Phil yesterday while doing the big car unpack with my little assistant.

Apparently, Phil and I are married.  Though I am not sure my husband is aware of this….

A few weeks ago we had the luck of being signed up to talk at Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival in April.  Yes, we are famous… well actually we were just cheeky and asked.

However, the person who has written our bio has assumed that we are a ‘husband and wife writing partnership’.  Um… not sure about that one.  This is not the first time this has happened, as Adele Parks made the same assumption when we met her at the Lit Festival last year. I suppose; we hang out together, have written a book, blog and do other things together so they have put two and two together and made five!

So, just to set the record straight.  I am married but not to Phil, and have a lovely two year old that is also not Phil’s! Phil, I assume, is married to his work…

However, we are great buddies who enjoy bouncing ideas off each other. And we look forward to talking to everyone at the Lit Fest about our writing partnership. (Tickets available now)

Does this make me a bigamist?

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Oh for the time to be so prolific


Phil: Being in need of something to read on a train journey recently, my original choice having turned out to be desperately dull, I dropped into a charity shop and picked up “Poirot’s Early Cases” to keep my little grey cells amused.

Inside the front cover is a shocking list of Agatha Christie’s other novels. It fills a page.

A quick check of Wikipedia reveals she wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections and 6 romances. 86 books in around 60 years.

Oh to have the time to be so productive.

As Candice has mentioned, we’re both really busy with work at the moment and this has seriously dented any plans at getting our second book knocked into shape. I’d love to get back to it but at the moment it’s not paying any bills and so must sit on the back burner for a while.

I wonder if being free to write all day is such a good thing though?

Famously, for Christie, it wasn’t. She suffered from overwork churning out her massively popular novels. Her fans wanted more and she did her best to keep them happy.

Perhaps it takes a little “real” work to keep the writing ideas flowing?

Our books are set in a world that I hope is recognisable to our readers. If we could spend all day lounging around writing, would we churn out the literary equivalent of those albums produced by bands about being rich and famous once they are able to divorce themselves from the reality that first inspired their music?

Mind you, I wouldn’t mind the chance to find out.

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Don’t know which way is up

upsidedowncakeCandice: The last few weeks have been a bit all over the place in the Nolan household.  The other half has been away a lot for work so I have been leaning on the grandparents to look after the little person so I can go to the gym.

I’ve also started to train for my annual big running event, and then failed miserably to do more than 1 big run.

There has been lots of end of year stuff happening at work, nothing that you can really get your teeth in to but things that have to be done.

And to cap it all we have workmen in building a bathroom, something I have been really looking forward to but now its here I’m not enjoying it so much.

So, I’ve gone from having a nice weekly routine to not being sure where I am and when.  And when you have two people to get ready each morning, that makes things twice as hard.

I’ve turned up at work without my work mobile, forgotten my lunch, got to the gym without a towel or the right clothes.  And trying to work from home is out of the window as I keep getting requests for tea or questions about pipes.

So focusing on marketing the book had been in fits and starts to say the least. Phil has also been busy so there are snatched emails or meetings to talk book.  We even met on Saturday to get some head shots done, and I ended up chasing Erin round the Pump Rooms while he and the other half talked cars.  No book planning there.

So I am hoping February will bring a more settled routine, a groovy new bathroom and a marketing plan.

Can I just add we now have a 4 star Independent review on Amazon – so get buying people!


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You’ve gotta be in it to win it

WinPhil: Radio 2 are running their annual 500 word short story competition for 4 -13 year olds. A story writing competition has got to be a good idea and I wish it had been around when I was young enough to enter.

As a child, I loved writing stories. I quite liked illustrating them as well. Somewhere there is a Mr Men story complete with drawings in a notebook by P.Parker. However, much as I enjoyed writing (something that all children have beaten out of them by school English lessons) I wonder if I’d have got beyond the “nice idea” stage of entry?

Little Phil loved building with Lego. Really loved it. You know how much time kidz nowadays spend hunched over video games? That was nothing compared to me and Lego.

An opportunity presented itself one day. The local toy show ran a Lego building competition. The rules specified the size of baseplate but after that you were on your own.

I knew this was my time. I was the greatest Lego builder in the world. Whatever I did was going to be brilliant and I’d sweep away all others with my magnificence.

Building started. I can’t remember why but I’d decided to build a dolphinarium. There would be a pool, a stand for the crowd and a couple of performing dolphins.

I had decided that to be extra special, the pool would be full of real water. Also, since tiny dolphins were impossible to make with bricks, mine would be made of Blu-tack. It was going to be brilliant.

Sadly, Lego pools aren’t waterproof and I quickly had a wet bedroom carpet. Blu-tack isn’t very good for making strong dolphins either, at least not strong enough to stand on their tails as though leaping for a fish.

Unable to solve these immediately, I lost interest and before you know it, the closing date had passed. I looked at the entries in the shop window and knew that I could have done at least as well, if not better. The difference was that they had entered and I had only dreamed of it.

The good news is this is a lesson learned. We’ve launched our book into the world simply because it will never sell if we don’t. By last summer we were both fed up with being nearly authors. The world is full of people like that. Those who think they would like to write a book. We had written one and just needed to get over the line with a final push.

OK, we aren’t selling millions, but then Harry Potter took a while to take off and there is the Nolan marketing battleship yet to be deployed. It doesn’t matter, with the book out, things might happen. If I’d actually removed my dolphinarium from the soggy bedroom and taken it to the toy shop window maybe I’d be a professional Lego model maker by now.

So, if you have a child young enough to enter 500 words, get them writing. If they don’t enter, they can’t win.

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Writing something else


Candice: So this week I have a new challenge.  Phil and I have come up with a hair-brained scheme to sell more books, more about that in a future blog, however making it work involves writing some terms and conditions.

I do have some experience in this area through previous and my current job, though I normally have a team of legal advisors to help me work out if they are right or wrong.  But this time we are on our own.

If we can get them right it will mean a lovely thing we can talk about and run some PR around, and hopefully shift us into the hundreds of books sold.

But, like all writing, I’m struggling where to start.  Running on the treadmill last night I had a few things rolling round in my head but I need to get them down on paper.  It’s just like writing for the book but without all the exciting story lines,  ‘It’s just the facts’.

This is all part of the next stage of being a published author.  You can’t just put something out there and then hope it will be read.  Every day you need to be coming up with creative ideas to make people buy it, when you don’t have the name and don’t have the big publisher marketing budget.  We just need to keep chipping away and then we’ll have sold a hundred, two hundred and onwards.

So keep your eyes peeled

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