Monthly Archives: September 2011

Super Thursday

Christmas Cakes by K.Suzuki

Phil: Today, apparently, is “Super Thursday”. It’s super because today is the day that the publishing world releases all the titles destined to appear in wrapping paper under Christmas trees across the nation. 200 hardbacks and 300 paperback are born today, three times the number normally released.

For those of us not included in this mass book birthing, it’s a bit of a sad day. We wonder what might have been.

Or do we ? To be successful in a crowd of books you need to stand out. Most writers released today will do this by being famous on the telly. If you want to read James Corden then you’re in luck. Personally I wouldn’t use him to prop up a wobbly table but that’s most because he’s a beneficiary of the BBC stunt casting policy (that’s where people are dropped into TV shows so their name can appear in the credits rather than because they fit the role, see also Kylie Minogue and Katherine Tate). I’m mean he’s probably a nice chap but if I was faced between chosing his book or one with a grinning Jamie Oliver looning out from the cover I’d run out of the shop screaming.

But I digress. I don’t want our book to appear on Super Thursday. I want the sequel to appear then. Kate vs The Dirtboffins is holiday reading I think (actually I think it is great literature and there will be university courses devoted to it but Terry Pratchet is in the queue ahead of us) just the thing to while away a few hours on the sunlounger with. I’m sure my colleague would agree with me if she wasn’t busy testing this theory as I write ! I wonder when the “Super” day for holiday books is ?

I suppose like everyone who has put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, I want my words to be treasured just as much as I treasure them. I dream of a day when people buy the book because they yearn to read it, not because it looks OK to give as a gift to Aunty Norris and that’s another one-off the list of things to buy. As the bumper sticker might say, “A Christmas Book is just for Christmas because you’ll have finished reading it by Boxing Day.”

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Do you have a notebook ?

Phil: Whenever I read about writers, they always seem to mention their notebook. It lives beside the bed for midnight scribbling and is carried at all times in case the muse strikes and great thoughts have to be committed to paper or be lost forever on the winds.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been very good with notebooks. At school I took the attitude that if I needed to know stuff in an exam it was better in my head than scribbled on paper, which might account for my derisory exam results. Later, at work, while others fill endless pads with verbatim reports of meeting, I take part in the meeting and just jot down any action points. Not being very good at multi-tasking, I reason that if you want a full and complete record then video the thing or get a shorthand taker to write it all down. If I’m in the room I’m then my role is to help make decisions and drive projects forward. Anyway, the average meeting is full of waffle which the world can live without.

That hasn’t stopped me acquiring the obligatory pad. At my desk, the sort of jobs I do require me to jot things down so I can keep track of them. One of these pads is half full of web page addresses that have been coloured in with highlighter pen as I kept track of project progress. The layout is best described as freeform. Some might say chaotic but I don’t feel that I should be hide-bound by the convention forced on me by those horizontal lines – writing up the page sometimes works well and if I add a few arrows and lines in then I know what is going on. Didn’t Leonardo de Vinci leave notes people had to decipher ? Yes he did so it’s obviously a mark of genius.

Anyway, that is the big notebook. It makes the photo because I used it at the firm where I met Candice and our book idea was born. Thus, it has work at the front and great literary ideas towards the back.

The smaller book is my writing notepad. At A6 size it is small enough to lodge in my bag so it can travel around. As well as an elastic band to hold it shut, there is a bookmark ribbon so I can find where I was last jotting. The covering is a sort of rubbery/vinyl affect which isn’t leather, as prefered by many writers of the romantic persuasion, but seemed when I bought it more appropriate than cardboard. The rules of being a writer say this is important and if you have a nice cover, you will put better thoughts inside.

I’m not sure about this but I do jot down ideas. I also record observations for when I’m writing one of my other blogs. It’s easy to forget detail and when detail matters it should be recorded for future use. There’s also a collection of random ideas and the genesis of both Kate vs the Dirtboffins and Kate vs The Potter along with book 2 in the series – yes we are working on it ! In years to come I expect I will have to donate it to the British Library or perhaps the Bodleian so it can be saved for the nation.

Candice has a notebook. Her book is A4 sized and covered with paintings of shoes. She’s a lot more organised than me and has neater writing. I sometimes feel guilty when we are chatting and she’s managing to take notes at the same time, so some of the scribbles in my book are there to salve my conscience when I feel I ought to write stuff down too.  I can guess which one future historians will find more useful.

But, the question is, which comes first ? Being a writer and buying a notepad or buying a notepad and then deciding you fancy being a writer ?



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Kate vs The Potter – a free short story

Kate vs The PotterPhil: In between cakes, Candice and I have been working on something special, a short story featuring the characters from our book.

Best of all, we are giving the electronic version of this away for free !

If you follow the link below, you can download the story from, then settle down with a nice cup of tea and a cake to enjoy.

Download Kate vs The Potter

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A woman can never have too many shoes

Candice:  Enough with this cakeness – not that I can eat any as have bikini to get in to soon!

As any woman will tell you, you can never have enough shoes.  Though I have to say, looking at my joint wardrobe at home (plus the shoes in the loft and garage), my other half is catching up!

Anyway, I love shoes.  I’m a big fan of handbags too, but they are less of an impulse purchase, mainly because I only like designer handbags, so I keep my shoe collection stocked up and the handbags are more birthday and Christmas.

On an aside, if anyone can recommend how to get a leather Marc Jacobs bag cleaned, would be much appreciated.  It’s a light tan leather and the handles and base are looking abit grubby.

Both Kate, our protagonist and Tracey, the book’s other main female character, also have my shoe fetish, though they wear the ones I can only afford on real special occasions – Kirkwood, Louboutin, Choo.  Ah, one can dream…  Their shoes and clothes are integral to the reader’s interpretation of their character, though their outfits are abit more sensible that those in Sex and the City.

So, starting a new job recently, abit of a wardrobe revamp was required to fit with the new image.  Couldn’t really afford or justify a whole wardrobe change, so decided to opt for a few new pairs of shoes.

Over the last few years I’ve worked in a few different places, some of which I had to travel by train to, and some by car. Now this means different shoes as train equals walking a distance the other end, car equals struggling to change gear with heels but being able to change when you get there. So I’ve got sensible shoes for walking and not so sensible for car based jobs.

The new jobs is a drive so I decided it was time for something abit snazzier.  I also feel that one:  you feel more professional in heels and two: smart shoes make a better impression.

So, the other half and I had decided that it was time for a mini break (in a Bridget Jones stylie), so off we toddled to Grantham.  Now, those of you who might have been near Grantham may have heard of “Downtown”.  It’s an out of town department store with a Boundary Mill thrown in.  We’d not heard of it but drove past on the way to the hotel and thought “hey up, lets have a look.”

Two hours later I’d was in shoe heaven, as, when I’d got past the “Padders” I found the LK Bennett department.  I spent a blissful half hour trying on every style available in my size.

After getting my chosen purchase home, I decided they didn’t quite go with the outfits as I’d planned.  So, a week or so later I toddled of to the local Boundary Mill to return them.  Ah, but things aren’t that easy are they.  In Walsall, they had an even larger selection (and Hobbs too) so, after a break for coffee and muffin while deciding, I came home with not one but two pairs of LKB shoes.

And they have gone down great guns at work.  They are both snakeskin, one set bright green, the other blues and greens.  Popping pair of those out from underneath a table at the end of a sensible meeting has certainly generated some conversations, and reputation for great shoes!

Trouble is – I want more.


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Cup cake week day 7 – Yummy

Phil: So at the end of a weeks work of cake, what have we learned ?

Well, I discovered I can relate any form of cake imaginable to books, and specifically our book. It’s a useful skill that takes pride of place at the head of my CV and should ensure lucrative employment. Or possibly a stay in a padded room.

Oh, the last cake ? A simple Tesco chocolate cupcake with a Chinese Ball Cake balanced on top of it.


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Cup cake week day 6 – Chinese chickens

Phil: These are big cakes. Probably half as big again as anything we have shown this week. Despite this, they are still individual portions apparently.

I did not, you might be surprised to know, buy and consume one. I mean, they look lovely in a giant cake sort of way. When I’m in Chinatown I like to gaze at them through the windows of the shop. They are so pretty. The photo of the chickens came out best but the Pandas were nice too and the Garfield style cats and the Elephants. All lovely but ultimately, not something I will be eating.

I’ve got books like this. I buy them because they look nice and I really intend to have a go but there is always something else to do. I worry that the anticipation of the read will be better than the reading itself. There is the worry that to really get into the book will require a lot of dedication, rather like ploughing through a cake you enjoyed the first few mouthfuls of but towards the end realise you are chomping through sheer bloody-mindedness.

War and Peace was like this. I tried, I really did, but it defeated me. I couldn’t keep track of the story or all the characters. I managed one and a bit books within it but in the end my mind read the words but didn’t really comprehend their meaning.

And today’s tenuous connection to Kate vs The Dirtboffins ? Well, most of you are looking at the book without being able to read it. In a way you are viewing it through a pane of glass, you can look but not touch. Don’t worry though, in the absence of a real publishing deal, we are working on ideas to at least let you have a bit of a taste. Watch this space…

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Cup cake week day 5 – Pink with a star

Phil: This glitzy little number is from Patisserie Valerie in London. Yes dear readers, for the love of cake I went down to the big city in search of the best confectionary in Great Britain.

OK, I actually went because I love wandering around London and Chiltern Trains were running a cheap deal. I still bought the cake in the capital from a pearly king having been unable to believe my mince pies when I saw it. This photo was taken on some staging used to show off a new Vauxhall in front of a church. Don’t know why they felt the need to do this, and there was a man taking photos of the car which seemed odd until I realised he had set it up. Just to keep him happy I pretended to photograph the car and not just the cake.

Anyway, my method of navigating the capital is a bit like the journey readers go on when opening a new book. I knew of a couple of places I wanted to go but really I just like wandering around London and seeing what I find. The unexpected is what I’m looking forward to. One minute you are in Parker Street (yes it really exists) thinking that you should start heading for the station. Next you are in theatreland with all the bright lights and glittery people. Next it’s Chinatown. Then outside Foyles Bookshop surrounded by other bookshops. A trip down a side-road and everywhere is selling musical instruments. Then you are on the edge of Soho but being a good boy, skirting around this. And so it goes on.

None of this was planned and all of it was fun.

Which is why we read fiction. If you know exactly how it’s going to turn out, the journey isn’t quite as enjoyable. Yes there are books you can read more than once, but it’s never quite as good as the first trip into the unknown. For a start, unless your memory is terrible, you’ll never experience those moments when you desperately want to read faster to discover what is going to happen or the frustration when the real world gets in the way and the reading has to be put on hold. Who hasn’t read a book in a single session ? Isn’t it glorious but also feels a bit naughty ? Like wallowing in a particually good cake.

Of course this only works if the writer has done their job properly and dropped a few twists into the plot. I knew we were getting the hang of it when I re-read some of the manuscript and realised that without thinking about it, an interruption was dropped into the middle of a story strand and it worked. In fact there were several strands running and the reader bounced their way between these a bit like my trip down musical instrument road and back into book shop avenue. I’m quite pleased about all this as I suspect everyone who write their first book is. Hard-bitten old authors will be wondering what the heck I’m on about since to them it’s as natural as breathing.

The cake by the way was lovely. Hopelessly impractical as a take-away item as the icing sticks to the inside of the bag, which explains why doughnuts are so popular. Not at all sickly either. I know it looks like every mouthful will see the eater on a sugar high powerful enough to get them running up walls, but in reality it’s a good spongy based with creamy topping. Not sure about the white chocolate star though, especially since I read that dark chocolate is as good for you as a run.

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Cup cake week day 4 – Orange with pink bits

Phil: Being a bloke, the whole cupcake thing always struck me as a bit “girlie”. The cakes are always pretty colours, not something that would appeal to macho types such as myself.

Take today’s example. It’s a sort of peachy orange colour, smells of fruit and to top it all, has pink sprinkles. Short of being bright pink, could it be any more feminine ?

Despite this, it’s perfectly nice cake. And I speak as someone who has eaten a lot of cake in his lifetime. Maybe I’m going all metrosexual in my confectionary preferences, or perhaps I’m just greedy and will eat pretty much anything.

But is there such a thing as a cake for blokes ?

In the book world, it’s easy to see who reads what. If it’s got guns, gritty soldiers or Andy McNab on the cover then it’s a blokes book. Pink stuff, flowers, a cartoon of a woman or some shopping and it’s girls that are the target market.

Our book though is a bit like the orange cake. It isn’t very girlie but definitely has chick-lit running through it. We’re not daft, this is the biggest market in the world and targeting it makes sense. Realistically, I don’t like stuff about guns or gritty soldiers and I’m not called McNab so I’m not going to bend my writing in this direction. Mix that with someone who does like a bit of shopping and fashion but could lay out Bridget Jones with a swift right hook, bake for a few months and out pops a sort of chick-lit lite story. As we say, she will enjoy it but he will read it and have a laugh too.

Just like the cake. She might buy it but it won’t stop him wolfing it down.

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Cup cake week day 3 – Chocolate Butterfly Cake

Phil: Is this a butterfly cake or, since it is brown, should it be a moth cake ?

Whatever, it be it’s got you licking your lips. A rich brown cake which has been hollowed out, filled with chocolate flavoured filling and then the removed parts chopped in half and reinserted in a decorative stylie.  Add in some colour from the healthy orange juice and lemonade (the good properties of this will cancel out the bad ones of the cake. FACT) and the silver of a weathered pub table and you have quite a nice scene.

The problem is that the cake, while promising so much, wasn’t that exciting. Sure, it was a good solid, if a little bland, chocolate cake, but there was a bigger issue – the height. I mean, I have a big gob yet couldn’t bite it properly. Maybe posh people will use a fork but there wasn’t one available and only after I finished did I remember the emergency spork I carry in my bag (can you spot I was a cub scout ?). This could have resulted in a horrible cake-related injury. Could I sue because the dimensions were wrong ?

Which brings me back to books. The more observant will have noticed that as many series progress, the page count soars. Early Harry Potters were little more than a pamphlet. Printing the last book required the deforestation of half of Europe. At the time of release, sharp braking on commuter trains resulted in many deaths as the part read books flew forward into unsuspecting people on the way to work.

As Candice has mentioned, our efforts are slim at just over 80,000 words, but adequate. Sure we could have stuffed some more description in but this wouldn’t have done any favours. In fact there is a whole chunk of story consisting of several pages that got the chop as the first batch of test readers indicated that it slowed the pace  up at one point. We both love it but it had to go for the greater good.

A bit like the bottom centimetre of this cake. If someone had realised this, my jaw wouldn’t ache.


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Cup Cake week day 2 – Custard and Apple Turnover

Phil: I know what you are thinking, “That’s not a cupcake”.

And you know what ? You’re absolutely right. However, today’s lesson is about thinking outside of the box. Doing the unexpected.

Now I like catering custard. Some people think it’s horrible slimy stuff but they are wrong. It’s delicious, and so as soon as I saw this cake in the shop, I knew it was going to be mine. It’s even got apple in it making this a healthy cake !

The choice of cake isn’t the only off the wall choice today though, the shop I bought if from was. It was a butcher’s shop. You can see a hole in the top crust of the puff pastry where the meat-wrangler poked his thumb through not realising that puff-pastry has to be treated with rather more reverence than a side of beef.

The problem with this cake is its size. You really can have too much of a good thing. In this respect it’s like a Dan Brown novel. By the last page you feel you’ve enjoyed yourself but slightly bloated at the same time and a little bit guilty.

But – look at the cake – it’s got a big smile on its face ! And that dear reader, is what anyone who reads out book has.

So the moral of this blog post is to try something new. Chomp on an unusual cake. Sign a couple of first time authors for a 6-figure publishing deal. You too could be grinning from ear to ear.

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