No libraries = No Terry Pratchett

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Phil: This week’s blog post was set to be something whimsical and lightweight. Then I sat in my hotel room on Saturday night after a couple of bottles of pomegranate and strawberry cider washing down a rather nice curry, and flipped on the telly.

Terry Pratchett – Back in Black tells the author’s life story. Paul Kaye plays pTerry (as his fans call him) and along the way we meet both famous and non-famous readers. We see how the literary establishment hated his books complete with a cringeworthy clip from a review show that those taking part will probably wish to forget, and later decided he was A. Good. Thing. Along with another clip of more literary people saying this.

I’ve tried but failed to read Pratchett. I ought to love it but I can’t find a way in. It doesn’t matter, the documentary is brilliant, affecting and a superb celebration of the man.

What struck me was that before he wrote, he read. Everything. Well, everything in his local library starting with fantasy and then history, “Blokes in helmets bashing each other” as he described it. Reading planted all the seeds for the character in his stories.

This week, I read in my local paper that our council is making more cuts. Headlines are those for old people or children but tucked away are libraries – again.

I’ve said before how my local library was essential for my development. I’m not going to compare myself with Pratchett but to lift a line from the documentary, I’m a human. He is a human. My poo stinks. His poo stinks. I loved my library. He loved his library. He is a writer. I want to be a writer.

Does it matter if we deny kids the chance to wallow in reading? Probably not. After all, do we need people with imagination?

Sorry, I’m ranting. Go and watch the programme on iPlayer while you have a the chance. Just keep some tissues handy…

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A Purrfect Love Story

Candice: In the last two weeks I have finished two books. That sounds like a lot but the first one took about six weeks to read and the other around five days. What does that say about the books ?

One was ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ a book in a series around the Jason Bourne character, though not written by the original author but someone writing in their style. It’s the first Bourne book I have read, though I have seen a few of the films which I did enjoy. They were a less stylish version of Bond with all the thrills and spills, plus lots of near death situations where the protagonist manages to escape. Why do the book take so long to read? Well there were so many plots and sub plots, led by characters with long and confusing names I totally lost track of who was who and what they were trying to do in the end. It doesn’t help when you only read a chapter a night but even when I managed a few hours on it I was still lost. Cut out a few sub plots and it might have made more sense.

That brings me to the other book I read. The other half had bought me ‘ A Street Cat called Bob’ for Christmas. I’d heard of the story but they had also made it in to a film last year that I had hoped to see and didn’t get there. The story is around a recovering drug addict who is befriended by a ginger tom. After finding that this cat seems to be homeless he takes him on as a pet and the story revolves around how, by having Bob around, he decides to really turn his life around, get off the methodone and try to find a proper job. Life isn’t easy on the way, Bob gets ill and other street sellers take offence when the cat becomes such a star in Convent Garden, stealing their tips as they see it.

I really enjoyed this book, though written more like a collection of blogs than a book the story touched a cord, especially as I am a cat lover too and can see how having one in your life could make a difference. Before my daughter came along my cat was my baby !  I romped through each chapter wanting to know what happened to Bob, not his carer. The book finishes quite abruptly leaving me having to buy the next to find out how they moved from street stars to big screen stars.

Learning…less is more.  Keep the story with some twists and turns but not too complicated or you will turn the reader off.

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Playing with your imagination

playmobilediverPhil: Imagination. We’ve all got it, but adults have it sucked out of us if we aren’t careful.

I’m reminded of this as I was strolling around the London Toy Fair last week. While I was carefully looking for items for a couple of magazines who had commissioned coverage from me, being a big kid, I couldn’t resist taking a peek at some of the other goodies there.

Both Candice and I were Lego fans as children. We have similar stories of towns built and played with. Both remember the lives that our tiny plastic people lived in our minds.  I know that this is a direction Nolan Junior will be encouraged in.

Looking around the show, there were plenty of toys that did very little. Lots of “collectables” for sticking on a shelf too.

Mostly though, there were toys you could make up stories for. Figures could leap in and out of wooden trains, boats and cars or go for a ride for adventure.

Children don’t worry so much about realism either. Why shouldn’t a wooden train set be set in medieval time? And if it is, why shouldn’t a dragon pop its baby in a goods wagon for a ride?

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It all looks like good fun to me. Far better than plonking the youngster in front of a television. That way leads to a world where you think an Excel spreadsheet is entertainment!

Grown-ups are normally deprived of purple dragons but writing is a socially acceptable way to give your imagination muscles a bit of a workout. Daydream for a bit but get yourself a keyboard or a pen and starts jotting things down. Once you get going, it’s addictive.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and add a bit to a story…

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Word counting

wordcountPhil: There has been a lot of writing going on over the last couple of weeks. We’re back in the zone with new scenes full of laughs (me) or luurve (her).

I can’t help but keep looking at the word count though. When we started this writing malarkey, I found something on the web that said the  benchmark is 80,000 for a sensible length novel. Kate vs the Dirtboffins made it there and the current project shouldn’t be any shorter.

Reading through our work so far the main structure is in place, but quite sketchy sometimes. New scenes are required as well as plenty of smoothing out of the ones already in. Experience has brought us to this point far quicker than we managed first time around. At this stage we still had the story in the wrong order!

Now numbers aren’t everything, the story will be as long as it needs to be, but I don’t suppose I’m the only author to fixate a little bit on the count. Many famous storytellers aim to produce a minimum number of words each day. Not because this matters especially, but because without it, you don’t have a goal to aim at. At least knocking out the text makes you do something, even if it all ends up in the bin after the first edit.

This caused me a bit of pain recently. A couple of hours hammering the keys, and I’d not quite made the magic 1000 words. I was 50 short.

Then I realised that I’d been working on the opening scenes for part of the time. I’d not added words, I’d taken some out and changed others. Result – tighter and better reading, but a lower overall count!

I guess that proves that numbers aren’t everything. Not that I’ll convince Candice that I’ve been working hard if the count keeps going in that direction!

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January – what is the point?

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Candice: I have to say I don’t like January.  In the UK it just seems to be a really long month that is dark ALL THE TIME ! It’s a bit of a bummer as two important people in my household have their Birthday’s in January so I do my best to get as excited as I can about that but when it wake up every day to another pitch black morning, I’m struggling.

Talking about waking up in the dark I am slightly obsessed with looking at what time the sunrise is on bbc website.  Its still only 8am at the end of the month!  What this also means is that I struggle to get motivated to do things at either end of the day. Once its dark I want to curl up in a ball and eat chocolate.

I don’t see the point of the other things people do in January:

  • Dry January – don’t really drink that much, not because of the hangovers but because it really upsets my stomach. I’d rather down the odd margarita and enjoy it than drown myself in booze.
  • Joining a gym – argh, get out of my way.  In the last few weeks going to the gym has been a nightmare.  It’s a sea of people in pristine gym gear trying to work out how to use the equipment. I’m a regular goer so this annoys me as they are all hogging the machines I want to go on.
  • Complaining about over spending – don’t spend thousands on your other half and your children and this won’t happen.  Big presents don’t show love, spending quality time together does.
  • Setting resolutions – anyone who does this only ends up in a bad mood as they fail miserably to achieve them.  Set yourself little targets across the year and then you’ll better when you get there.

Phil and I have started the year well though.  We haven’t set a resolution but we have set a deadline. We love a good deadline.  There is editing and new chapter writing going on in the back ground, and we are both enjoying it a fresh.  Looking out for more new stuff soon.

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And on to 2017

pantocardPhil: Last week I looked back at 2016, now it’s time to anticipate 2017.

Candice’s Christmas card sums it all up really. Not the bit about thigh slapping, that’s a reference to my front of house panto work over the festive period, no, 2017 is all about writing book 2.

We’ve no choice, the last page of Kate vs the Dirtboffins tells the eager reader that Kate vs the Navy will be out this summer. People have actually asked me about it.

Summer seems a long way off, but once you factor in lead times for proof reading, cover design, messing around etc. it’s really not.

Good job someone has been busy with a fresh and fabulous chapter for me to read arriving on 3rd January. Only another 20,000 words to go then.

And hopefully a bit more publicity for the Dirtboffins to. We’re working on it. Busy year ahead!

 

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That was 2016 that was…

Phil: Today is the one post of the year when I can legitimately look backward. The news telly people have been doing it for a couple of weeks to save themselves the bother of going in to work so it’s fashionable.

Anyway, for team Nolanparker, 2016 has been a very important year. For a start, we published The Book in paperback:

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If you haven’t bought a copy, please do so from the links on the left of this page. It’s not just me who thinks this is a good idea, the reviews for the electronic version are really good. We’ve plenty of other people who have read it and say the same. Even my mum likes it although she doesn’t think much of Tracey…

With the book out, we’ve been on the road doing our thang in front of real audiences. First there was Stratford Literary festival:

Strat Lit Fest 2016 - 1

A “proper” festival appearance means we are “proper” writers. Even JK Rowling wouldn’t have enjoyed better cake in the festival green room. Perhaps her audience might have been bigger, but those who came, enjoyed us a lot.

After this, we gigged in London, where the Queen lives:

candice-in-focus

Thanks to Steve and Kim for sorting this out for us. I think our brand of storytelling mixed with pantomime shouting at pictures of Michael Gove went down very well with the metropolitan audience. And Candice got to wear a shiny top and nice shoes.

Best of all though, we have readers. A few promotional events in the year mean we know over 100 people have a copy of the story in their hands or on their Kindles. Getting our words out there is what it is all about. And every time someone tells us they liked them, we are full of smiles.

So, what about 2017? I’ll talk about that next week.

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