Monthly Archives: December 2011

Resolutions for 2012

Choc chunk cookie with added SmartiesPhil: On my calendar, 30th December has been marked “Writing Day” for many weeks. I’ve written it so large there was no chance of squeezing anything else in the box. Even if I crossed it out, I couldn’t add anything in its place.

On this day, we had decided we’d meet up and start Book 2. Lunchtime waffling was no substitute for a good solid writing session at the spiritual home of nolanparker wordsmithing, Solihull library. While we both write at home, it seemed that a session in the right atmosphere with no possible distractions was required to get the new book started. They say every journey starts with a single step. We were just struggling to take that step knowing how much effort the journey will require.

However, all did not go to plan. The library has an excellent cafe in which we met to refresh ourselves before taking up our wordy processors. And there we chatted.

Unusually, the chat wasn’t random. It focused on lessons learned from writing Book 1 and how they could be applied to Book 2. Then the focus moved back to some feedback received on the first story (Candice will be blogging this soon) and maybe how we should re-work our existing tale. In fact, after just over 2 hours, a four cups of tea and accompanying cookies as well as some toast, we felt it time to head to the pub for lunch and even more chat.

The upshot of this was no real writing, apart from some notes, but lots of productivity. Instead of ploughing ahead we stood back and were critical of what has been done to date and then formulated a plan to use this to achieve the aim of a published book. Maybe it’s easier for a pair of writers but as we brain-stormed (I don’t care if that term isn’t “correct”, it saying “mind-showered” in this context just sounds rude) we came up with different ways to work on our story that would tell the same tale but even better, tighter and in a more marketable way. We stopped being precious about things and found that we could think the unthinkable. Hopefully this means we might be able to achieve the unachievable.

So the resolutions for 2012 are simple:

  • Write Book 2 – We’ve mapped out the basic plot and main incidents and with this we can begin filling in details and doing the fun stuff. Last time the story developed organically, this time we have done things the “correct” way around which will save lots time rewriting things as new sections are dropped into the manuscript which then has to be adapted for continuity.
  • Make some changes to the order of the Book 1 text. Not yet though. Those ideas will mature in the back of our minds for at least a month. We’ll walk away from them and come back and take another look to see if they are as smart as they sound in the heat of a Wetherspoons.
  • Eat more cake.

Sounds like a plan.


Filed under Phil, Writing

It’s A Wonderful Life

I'd like a cake THIS big please Clarence.Phil: As the festive season turns inexorably toward the new year. I find myself looking for some hope in 2012. Hope that our book will find someone who loves it whose name isn’t either Nolan or Parker.

Hope arrived this morning on the radio. There was mention of the classic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You’ll know it of course, George Bailey suffers as things go very wrong for him and decides at Christmas to chuck himself off a bridge because the world would be better if he’d never been born. His guardian angel, Clarence, arrives and give him the chance to see how mistaken he is. The world would have been a much worse place without George. By the end he realises this, is saved, returns to his family and then is surprised by the rest of the townsfolk showing their appreciation of his efforts. Queue happy ending.

The film is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern called “The Greatest Gift” written in 1943. Unable to find a publisher, he turned the story into a 21 page Christmas card and sent it out to 200 friends. One of the cards was given to RKO Pictures producer David Hempstead who showed it to Carry Grant. He liked it and immediately saw himself in the lead role. From that point, the rest is history – although in the end, Bailey was played by James Stewart as Grant was already making a different Christmas picture, The Bishop’s Wife.

I think the moral I want to take from this is that unconventional means can get your book published. Maybe if we stop doing what we are supposed to do, which plainly isn’t working at present, and try something else, we’ll get a result. Maybe what we have written is a great screenplay that will be filmed, become a blockbuster, and then someone will be tasked with the novelisation. If we can get George Clooney in one of the lead roles, then at least one of us will be happy.


Filed under Phil, Publishing

A KOD Christmas – Part Two

Last time Tracey was busy helping her boss, Gareth, find a suitable present for his wife. When we left them, they were being drawn inexorably towards the lingerie department in a local store with Gareth seemingly determined to…

Look, if you don’t know what’s happening, go back and read part one first.

Tracey could see the entrance to underwear department ahead. If she didn’t do something quickly then Gareth was in for an eyeful of the sort of garments married men can only dream about.

“Phew, I’m a bit tired. Hadn’t we better get this lot back to the office so you can wrap it?” She suggested hopefully.

“Tired Tracey? I thought you liked to ‘shop ’till you drop’ ? I didn’t get it before but I see what you mean now. I’m having a great time.”

He was too. There had been a second visit to the perfumery for “just another look at the skin treatments” although it seemed more to do with having pretty assistants rub cream into his hands.

All too suddenly they were in amongst the underwear. Gareth stopped and stared at the racks of garments. Then at the photos of the models wearing some of them. Tracey could swear she saw his jaw drop open and eyes widen.

“Well. I. Err.” He was lost for words.

“Don’t you think we should get back to the office now. The door’s this way I think.” She tugged his arm

“Yes, you are probably right”. He turned to follow her and for a moment she thought she would get away with it, then a smile played across his face, “You know Tracey. I think I have an idea. I wanted to really surprise my wife and I think some frilly underwear might do it.”

“Oh, I’m not sure. I mean you have bought her loads of lovely presents already. It’s ever so difficult to buy lingerie anyway. I mean it’s so hard to get stuff that fits properly.”

“Lingerie.” He let the word roll around his tongue. Tracey could feel herself going pale. “Oh, I think it could be a bit of fun. I’ll need your help to chose something though. I don’t wear this sort of thing, well not since boarding school anyway ! Ha ha ha.”

Another mental picture appeared in Tracey’s head. It was so horrible that for a moment she forgot to breathe.

He chuckled to himself and started to wander through the racks. Picking up a camisole he held it up to the light. “Do you ladies like this sort of thing?” He asked.

“Um, yes. It’s lovely” she choked on the reply. At that moment he could have held up a bin bag and she’d have concurred.

He put the first garment back and started fondling a diaphanous negligee, making approving noises as he did. Tracey looked on as each item was hoisted up for her approval. This went on for what seemed like hours until something in her head snapped.

Right, she thought, if that’s the way he wants to play it, he’s going to end up with something that will put a damper on his Christmas day. She looked around for the least suitable item in the store. Over in a corner was a range called “Coricarsi divertimento” with a amazonian model looking fierce in something red with black edging. Bingo, she thought, and held up an item for his approval.

“That range is very popular with husbands.” Called out the assistant, with the air of someone who knows just how much of it would be returned unworn in a few days time.

Gareth looked at the photo for a moment and with a big smile, agreed.

“What size sir ?” asked the assistant.

“Oh, erm. I’m not sure. There was a lady in the cosmetics department who looked about right. Could you go an ask there? “

“Don’t worry sir. I’m sure I can quickly find out.” And suddenly the assistant was approaching Tracey with a tape measure.

“No ! It’s not for me !” She squealed.

Gareth realised what was happening and blushed the same colour as the cheap red material of the basque he planned to buy. “Oh no ! It’s not for Tracey. My goodness no. She’s er, just helping me. It’s for my wife.”

The assistant gave him a knowing look. “Very well sir. Perhaps if you can give me a rough idea what size.”

He paused. “Erm, this big ?” He suggested holding out cupped hands in front of his chest.

“Very good sir. I think I can work it out from that.” She grabbed a hanger from the rail. Tracey noted that she didn’t appear to look at the size but was very careful to run it through the till as fast as possible and attach the receipt to the bag with a well practised movement. While he paid up, Tracey had a quick look to make sure no one who might see her was going to spot them leave the shop. After all, if one person could get the wrong idea about her relationship with Gareth, who knows what one of her mates might think if they saw them together.

He seemed to taking his time over payment, she could hear his booming laughter from the counter as she surveyed their exit route. As they left, the assistant was on the phone laughing, looking in Tracey’s direction,  but they were out of earshot. Heading for the doors and an escape back to the real world, the other people working in the store did seem to be looking at her in a way that she wasn’t entirely happy with.

Stumbling into the empty office with bags full of bounty, Gareth looked rather more like Isla Fisher than James Herriot for a change. Everyone had gone home. Everyone except Kate, Gareth’s workaholic business partner.

Tracey wasn’t surprised to see a light on from her office door. With only a cat to go home to, she suspected that the firms one-woman driving force would have happily worked through the 25th  like a modern day Scrooge. Hearing the noise of the pair’s return, Kate opened the door to her office and surveyed the scene.

“Been having a good time Tracey ? Indulging in a little last minute shopping I see.”

Gareth stood up behind the pile of bags. “Oh Kate. Sorry, I thought everyone had gone home. These aren’t Tracey’s, she has just been helping me pick up a few presents for Olivia. I’m a bit hopeless at this sort of thing and wanted a woman’s perspective, if you see what I mean. Obviously I would have asked you but you were, errr, a bit busy.”

“Really. Well you’re right of course, but I’m surprised Tracey could spare the time either.” Kate approached the bags and started to read the labels.

Tracey thought she had better defend herself, “Oh come on Kate, it’s Christmas Eve for god’s sake. I just thought I’d help the big G bring a bit of festive cheer home. Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves didn’t we?” She looked at Gareth for support.

“Oh yes. It was tremendous fun. Look, I picked up this lovely perfume to start with.” He proffered the package in Kate’s direction.

“I know, I can smell it on you.” She said, wrinkling her nose.  “How many different ones did you try out ?”

He looked a little embarrassed. “Well they did seem very attentive. Tracey thinks I might be turning into an, errr, metrosexualite. Apparently that’s what happens if you rub too much cream into your skin.”

Kate was picking at the other bags. “It’s metrosexual and don’t worry, you can’t catch it from moisturiser. Even if you could, they’d need a big pot to convert you.”

“That’s a relief. I didn’t like the sound of it much. Here, take a look at these gloves, aren’t they lovely?” He held up the bright pink gloves. Kate recoiled from the colour.

“Not really might sort of thing, thank you. What have you here though? Is that a Radley bag? Not the one I’d pick but its nice.” She held the bag up to get a better look.

“Well, I’ve Tracey to thank for pointing me at that one. It’s got good firm straps and quality leatherwork, just the sort of thing my wife appreciates. Can you see the little doggie on it too ? Cute eh ? It gave me an idea as we were leaving the store.”

He dived into a bag. With horror, Tracey realised that it was the one from the lingerie section. She prayed that he wasn’t going to start waving the contents around. Not because Kate would be embarrassed, but because she might think that it was Tracey’s suggestion. As it was though, he seemed to be fiddling around in the bottom. Suddenly there was a buzzing sound.

Gareth stood up. “I bought a little something for our pets to play with. I thought it might keep them occupied during lunch. Here, take a look!” With this, he tossed Kate the gift.

Instinctively, Kate caught it. She looked down at her hands and realising what they held, let out a squeal and threw it on the desk between them. The yelp startled Tracey who had never heard Kate make such a girlish noise. Then she looked at the item on the table.

“Where did that come from?” Tracey asked

“Well, you went shopping with him. Is it your idea of a joke young lady?” Said Kate, looking down her nose.

“Not a chance. I mean we bought some underwear but we didn’t.” She was lost for words, “I mean when ?” Then it hit her. The time taken to pay up at the last counter. Gareth laughing with the assistant.

He realised that both women were staring at him. He wondered why.

“Don’t you like it? The nice lady in the underwear section sold it to me. Its call the Big Bonner apparently. I was surprised they sold pet items there but she assured me it would be greeted by howls of approval. Have I done the wrong thing?”

Kate and Tracey looked at each other. The “toy” was vibrating itself across the desk. It reached the edge and fell off with a plop on to the floor.

“Kate.” Said Tracey carefully, “Do you want to tell him or shall I ?”

“Tell me what?” asked Gareth looking confused. Kate walked across and whispered in his ear. As she did his face turned the colour of Santa’s coat.

Poking the toy with the toe of her shoe, she assured him, “Never mind Gareth. Olivia never need know!”

As they closed the door on the office, Kate turned.  “Sorry guys, I’ve realised I’ve forgotten something.  You carry on, have a nice Christmas.”

Making sure that Tracey and Gareth had disappeared down the stairs, Kate started scrabbling round on the floor of the office in the dark.

“Where did that pesky thing go… I could do with a good back massager.”

Merry Christmas Everybody from Candice and Phil

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A KOD Christmas – Part One

Traditionally, it’s the time of year to bestow gifts on your family and friends. Since we are too stingy to put anything in the post to you all, here is something we’ve put together in the spirit of the season to amuse and entertain, so pour yourself a big glass of mulled wine and break out the mince pies then read on:

It was the day before Christmas and in the KOD offices, little was stirring apart from the mice and even they were being pushed around half-heartedly surfing the web rather than doing any useful work.

Gareth walked in the main office with a glum look on his face. One of the web guys nodded toward him and then quipped to his colleagues, “Horse walks into a bar, barman asks, what’s with the long face?”. They chuckled, but the object of their amusement was too deep in his own thoughts to notice.

“Whassup G ?” said Tracey, the woman who’d fit nicely into the cast of ‘Made in Chelsea’.

“Well, it’s that time of year, and as much as I love my wife, I really don’t know what to get her for Christmas.” Gareth replied, looking more depressed by the second.

Tracey’s ears pricked up.  Could this be an excuse to nip off early?  Any chance of a shopping trip, and she would be there like a shot.

“Blimey, you’ve left it late. The big day is tomorrow you know…” Tracey left that hanging to really drive the knife home and then said, sweetly, “Would you like me to help?”

Gareth’s face lit up like a city centre whose Christmas lights had just been switched on by an X Factor runner up.  “Oh would you? That would be marvellous. Thank you so much.”

“No problem. We’ll need to crack on though.” She was quickly in her coat and heading out of the door as Gareth followed her much admired bottom.


 Tracey entered the department store like a Hollywood starlet arriving on the red carpet. She paused for a moment in the doorway to drink it all in. The sights. The smells.

The store was wearing its full festive finery. Fairy lights glistened. Baubles sparkled. She was in her element.

The real twinkles were in the products all laid out in front of her, every one whispering sweet nothings to her credit card. As she and Gareth walked towards the cosmetics counters they disappeared in to a haze of a multitude of perfumes.

“Wolf’s bane, madam, great for your man to smell manly at Christmas”

“Fairy’s breathe, a mere whiff of scent for only £50 for 10ml”

“S*x on the beach, a great present for the auntie.”

The staff crowded round as Tracey had a reputation as a big shopper. They could see their end of year bonuses becoming as plump as a maiden aunt after Christmas dinner. Arriving in her wake, Gareth got pushed out in the crush and was left standing at she was whisked off to one of the counters.

“Would you like…”

“Can I interest you…“

“Try this…” said each one, as they covered her in smells and powders.  Tracey lapped it all up, like a queen with her subjects.

“Huh, huh” Gareth cleared his throat rather loudly.  Tracey came out of her revere and remembered what she’d come for.

“Ah yes.” She paused. “Ladies, we need some help. My colleague is in need of something for his wife for Christmas.”

The staff looked at Gareth standing in front of them, wearing a suit that had once been expensive, but not for many years. The matching waistcoat, tweed ensemble and elbow patches put him firmly outside of their usual customer base.  In fact, he’d looked like be more comfortable knee high in pig shit than in the middle of a department store. He was  really an unknown quantity. Each person tried to decide if he was a prospect worth working on. Maybe he would be better in Marks & Spencer. On the other hand, Tracey had brought him along and if she wasn’t known for associating with anyone who couldn’t sustain a decent line of credit.

Gareth tried to return the stares. He was feeling uncomfortable and wondered if he had been wise to take up the offer of help. This wasn’t his sort of thing really.

Sensing that her boss was contemplating making a bid for escape, Tracey stepped in. She was in charge here and was going to make sure everyone knew it. Drawing herself to her full height of 5’ 6” in her 3 inch heels, she wished she’d worn the extra high Loubutins for effect.

“Gareth, why don’t you describe your wife to these ladies and she if they can help.” Tracey smiled at him sweetly.

“Well, er. Um” he fumbled.

“She’s very into country pursuits.” Tracey leapt in. “About five foot five. Size errm.”

She looked at Gareth. His face was of a man who has been asked a question he had no hope of knowing the answer too. He looked around trying to find someone of similar stature.

“About the same size as you” he blurted, pointing at one of the assistants from the Clarins counter.

Olivia, Gareth’s wife could, at best, be called matronly, at worst, fat.  As a cattle farmer she was at home in hunter wellies, hand me down cardis and a barbour jacket, shouting loudly at her prize herds.  If Gareth was not your usual department store customer, Olivia would struggle to know what to do in a town centre let alone a clothing store.

Tracey looked quizzically at Gareth, she had only met Olivia a couple of times and recalled someone a little different than the lady he was pointing to. She also remembered crazy hair, a preference for tweed based clothes, a slightly agricultural smell and a high pitched snort when she had been overheard discussing clothes in the staff room. This wasn’t going to be easy.

“Perhaps some perfume sir ?” asked the lady he was pointing at “Do you know what scent  Madame prefers ?”

“Perfume? I don’t think my wife has any real preference. I mean she has these bottles you know. On the dressing table. All you ladies do don’t you?”

Tracey remembered Olivia and decided that her preference was probably ‘Eau d’bovine’ so something a little less rural would probably be a good idea. Gareth was stuttering again so she rescued him.

“If you’re not sure, why not go for something unusual. Something that you really like,” she growled slightly on the last words. “Maybe a new scent would work wonders for the two of you. Something a little spicy perhaps?” She was warming to the idea, even if there was a mental picture of her boss that would take a few tequilas to dispel.

Unexpectedly, Gareth suddenly seemed very enthusiastic about the idea and was soon being indulged with whiffs for the finest scents to be found in Solihull. He’s a bit of a dark horse, thought Tracey.

After half an hour, Gareth was carrying a tiny bag that has cost him a surprisingly large amount. He joked that he hoped his wife would mind him coming home smelling of another woman’s perfume but was obviously enjoying the attention. One of the assistants had even rubbed a little moisturiser into the back of his hand, which seemed to brighten his mood considerably.

Tracey guided him towards the handbags next. He didn’t seem that keen to leave the cosmetics section, but she pointed out that time was marching on and he really couldn’t just hand over one present could he?

“There’s one thing a woman can never have too many of – Handbags.” She announced as they rounded the corner.

“Well, Olivia does like something stout in leather.” He replied.

I bet she does, thought Tracey, a picture of her employer tightly trussed for a night of passion  shot into her mind. As they stood there, Gareth cooing over the material, the image quickly evolved into him wearing a full gimp suit. If he said much more she’d need therapy rather than alcohol to blot it out.

He continued, “In fact she’s very particular about leather goods. Likes plenty of grain apparently. I remember her talking about it when she came back from a local tannery. Something to do with showing the quality of the hides apparently. My wife is very particular about hides. I suppose it’s what keeps the insides of the cow in place after all.”

“I hope the insides of the cow have been removed by the time they get in here.” Quipped Tracey, wincing. “She’ll need somewhere to put her lippy !”

Tracey picked up a Radley Mortarberry bag and showed it off to Gareth. It wasn’t her style of course, as it didn’t come studded and in snake skin, but something good and solid seemed more suitable for a lady who wanted to carry more than a mobile, a bit of make-up and a tiny bit of spare underwear. Olivia didn’t strike her as the clutch bag sort.

“What’s that on the side?” enquired Gareth, fiddling with the dangling emblem, “Is it a little cow ? Oh, she’ll like that”

“It’s a dog actually. Still an animal though. I suppose it could be a cow if you squint.” Replied Tracey.

“Hmm. I don’t think Olivia would be fooled by that. She knows her livestock. On the other hand she’s got a bit of a soft spot for the yappy little fellows. Good firm strap too. I like that.”

He held that bag at arms length and admired it. Tracey thought he seemed to be enjoying stroking the rough leather a bit much but at least he seemed happy and soon he was carrying another rather nice looking carrier bag.

Success seemed to release Gareth’s inner shopper. He started to lead Tracey a merry dance throughout the store, stopping off at various departments and adding to the haul. A Hermes headscarf and Jaeger cashmere sweater were quickly added to his growing collection. Instead of acting as personal shopper, Tracey started to wonder if she should be holding him back. After all, it was her who was the big cheese in this world, not her boss. Besides, she didn’t want him making regular trips to the store and catching her shopping in the future, when she was supposed to have, ‘just popped out of the office on an errand’.

On the other hand, his transformation into a serious shopper gave her a warm glow of satisfaction, although some of his purchases seemed a bit random. Quite how his wife would react to a garlic press, even one promoted by Jamie Oliver (“He’s that cockney chap on telly isn’t he ? The one with the fat kids and chips or something.”) and a pair of fuchsia leather gloves (more cow skin, she noted) along with some curling tongs (he had nearly broken the pair while playing with them and handed over his credit card out of embarrassment. Tracey wondered how long they would last with Olivia’s thatched mane).

As daylight faded in the outside world, the assistants were starting to look restless with home time approaching, and began to be a bit less welcoming, even to a pair staggering under the weight of a number of bags. Tracey pointed this out to Gareth, but was pooh-poohed by him and her hopes of skiving off early began to fade away.

Suddenly she was shaken out of her disappointment. Being able to navigate the store with her eyes closed she realised the unthinkable was happening. Gareth didn’t know it, but the next corner would deposit them in the lingerie department. Surely he didn’t plan that? Standing in the ladies smalls with her boss was her idea of hell.  Far too embarrassing. She looked around for an alternative route to the exit but knew there wasn’t one. Her only hope seemed to be to get enough momentum to drive him out of the store without stopping.

Can Tracey escape a session with Gareth in ladies underwear ?

Will she ever get the terrible mental pictures of her boss out of her mind ?

Can we bring this story to a suitably festive conclusion ?

Find out on Thursday in A KOD Christmas Part Two !

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Christmas Parties

Candice : As this post goes live I’ll be putting the finishing touches to my outfit before my office Christmas party.  Hopefully it’ll be abit better than last year where I ended up getting smashed because, being a contractor, I didnt really know too may people that well and ended up walking in on my own.  However, the ensuing glasses of vino on the free bar and Argentine Tango impressions helped to build my reputation and I did end up having a good last month as everyone had a bit more of an inclination of what I was really like.

Anyway, the Christmas Party is key to our story.

The team from K.O.D. stood outside the imposing doors to Oswythal Hall and wondered what they were doing there. HIA’s Christmas parties were described by the staff as “legendary” and this one was to be last big get together before the place would be closed down. Gareth had been really surprised when the invite landed at their office, as he thought they burnt all their bridges with the government agency;  what with the fact they’d been instrumental in the close down and had personally given everyone their marching orders, an all. However, the invite had been insistent that they attend to ‘Celebrate the end of an era, which you have been an important part of’, as the covering letter stated.  Tracey had even taken a call from a member of the HIA staff checking they were coming, though she couldn’t remember which one it was.

Without giving the game away, there’s conflict, snogging, dodgy outfits and the unmasking of one of our more mysterious characters.  There’s no bottom photocopying, but only because, by this point the photocopiers have been sold on to cover costs.  Seriously though, it would be far to predictable.

So, I’m off to throw some shapes to some good tunes I hope and down a few glasses of medicinal plonk.  Flashing Christmas tree badge anyone?


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Filthy pleasures (apparently)

Phil: It’s amazing what you learn from books. Today, I had a day off and decided to do a bit of crimbo shopping. Well, you have to start some time and with the big day many months away in my head, I can afford a gentle start…

Anyway, it gave me the chance to do one of my favourite things, cosit myself on a train with something good to read, some music (& headphones, I’m not 12 and on a bus with my stupid tinny mobile), a drink and excellent cake. The train was going to Worcester, the book appropriately “Eleven Minutes Late” by Matthew Engel and the cake a chocolate and orange muffin. The last item was purchased from the Millies Cookies concession at New Street Station which makes the best muffins in the world.

I think there is nowhere better to read than on a train. It’s safer than doing the same thing while driving a car for a start. I can’t read in cars and buses without getting all travel spewey anyway. No, for me, a warm train seat with food and drink is ideal – you read for a bit then stare out of the window for a bit, then more reading followed by more staring by which time the scenery has changed so you get something different to look at. Because you are on a train, there are none of the distractions that you find at home to take the pleasure out of reading. The washing up doesn’t call, there is no ironing and you can’t use the computer properly (Technical note: yes you can I suppose if you really want to but it’s a lot of effort to ruin a perfectly good journey. A bit like putting Brussel sprouts in a Knickerbocker glory. Better for you but not what you really want if you are honest)

Anyway, as I read, I discover that maybe my love of train travel isn’t all it appears to be. There is a quote from Freud on the subject:

A compulsive link of this kind between railway-travel and sexuality is clearly derived from the pleasurable character of the sensations of movement.

So train travel has the same effects as (reportedly) perching atop the washing machine while it goes through a spin cycle Sigmund ? If that’s true, why do so many people look so miserable while they are doing it ?

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Oh what shall I wear?

Cheese on the left, chalk on the right.Candice:  As my writing partner has pointed out, he’s not really a christmas party man. However, I like some shape throwing and love the concept of Christmas, so I’m kinda in my element.  (Do the expressions “chalk and cheese” come to mind – though I think it’s the contrast with having the same stupid sense of humour that makes the writing work).

Anyway, a key part of the whole process is the outfit.  Every year I say to myself, I’ll just get one of my old numbers out and that will be fine.

But as the day approaches I realise I’m bored out of my mind with that dress I wore twice last year, so have to have something new.

Where I am working at the moment, the shopping is poor.  This leads to mad sessions on the internet when I get home, ordering stuff from websites.  The other half has been at home so he’s chief receiver of my many parcels (to the point I got a, “You’ve ordered alot of new clothes recently” to which I sweetly replied, “But they’ve mostly gone back.” Flutter eyelashes)  Debenhams sent me five different dresses in three different parcels for a mad trying on session the night before the event.

I’m not alone in this though.  We went to a ball on Thursday and I had panicked call from the sister, saying can I come around to assess her new purchases as she’d had a last minute internet moment too.  Lucky Debenhams is all I can say!

So I might like the whole party concept but the reality it is just as stressful for me, in a whole different way.

Don’t even get me on shoes and accessories.

Ah well, at least this year I came up with a corker.  Though my facebook photos are going to look abit samie as I’m going to three events, all with different people, so I can reasonably wear it to all three.  Or maybe not…..  asos where are you!

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What writers do apart from writing.

Phil: A terrible realisation hit us this week. It’s been nearly a year since Kate vs The Dirtboffins was “finished” and we’ve not really done much since then. Well, not much of what you might consider proper writing. There was of course the short story (still available for free download on the left hand side of this blog) and a couple of other bits we’ve noodled with, but no actual real writing.

At first this was a shock but in fact it highlights a simple problem – defining what being a writer is all about. The popular perception is that authors sit in their garrets churning out great slabs of text. The only breaks in this routine are lunches with publishers, trips to literary festivals and the occasional lie down on the chaise longe with the back of ones hand against the forehead awaiting the creative spark to strike again.

Which is pretty much what we want. The garret will probably be an office but apart from that it’s all good. Lunch at the Ivy every few weeks for the publisher to massage our egos – Check. Stage appearances to talk at enthusiastic crowds of fans – Check. Awaiting the creative spark – well it’s probably going involve bouncing ideas around in a cake shop rather than a piece of furniture last made for Queen Victoria, but – Check.

Trouble is, that isn’t what it’s all about. OK, so the writing bit is fundamental to the process but for the aspiring author it isn’t all. Editing matters a lot too. We aren’t at the stage where everything that hits the page stays there. Much of this year has involved punting the text out to our test readers and then trying to decide which of the comments they have made need to be incorporated. Each one is a step towards the perfect book, but it takes time and matters nearly as much as writing the flaming thing in the first place.

Next there is the submissions to agents and publishers. That all takes time too. At least that bit should go away once someone gets the message that this is the publishing phenomenon we believe it to be. I’ll happily swap this for lunches in good restaurants !

When we had our trip down to London a few months ago (was it really June ?) several of the other attendees hadn’t twigged all this. One lady got quite angry and announced that she wanted to be “A Writer” and was considering hiring someone else to do all the administration of submissions and editing. Presumably the phrase “independently wealthy” could be applied ‘cos I know I’m not getting paid for any of this ! Which if course is the other issue – we both have to eat and that means work. Proper paid work, which uses up even more writing time.

Having said all this, at least part of the reason we did this was for the fun of writing a story and in the pursuit of a publishing deal it’s easy to forget that. Kate & Co’s tale is no worse for existing in a very limited form and there should be a joy in simply making stories up. So we really will crack on with Book 2 next year. A writing day is already on this years calendar.


Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing

Party pooper

Phil: ‘Tis the season to be jolly apparently. For some it’s also the time of dread. Lurking towards the back-end of every year but advancing inexorably like the rubber shark aimed at a swimmer in Jaws, is the office Christmas party.

It will come as a surprise to many that not everyone looks forward to this event. Those most surprised will be the annoying busybodies who on the first day of December, delight in festooning offices with tinsel, cheap decorations and worst of all, mistletoe. They fail to understand that the people you work with aren’t your friends – you only spend time with them because someone is paying you. If the money stopped and you couldn’t escape then the walls, and much of the heavy-duty office equipment, would run red with blood.

In Kate vs The Dirtboffins, Kelvin is the man for whom the best Christmas present would be an extra shift covering for everyone else while they are out enjoying the forced bonhomie. Instead he finds himself stuck at some else’s office “do”. At least he has developed a survival technique that geeks everywhere will be proud of:

He wasn’t comfortable at parties. Unable to dance and hopeless at small talk, especially when he couldn’t hear what anyone was saying, his normal plan was to stand in the corner with a smile plastered on his face, nodding up and down to the music and hoping that no one noticed he was there. That usually worked and but in the unlikely event that anyone came along he’d just put his phone to his ear, hold up one finger and mouth, “I’ll be with you in a minute”.  They’d soon get bored and walk off.

Now you are probably thinking that I’m dead miserable – and you’d be right. Blessed with the agility of an oil tanker and a lack of co-ordination that would make even a government department blush,  I can’t dance and even if I could, would never have the nerve to ask people I might want to dance with. You have to see these people again the next day when you are all sober after all. Dulling the pain with alcohol isn’t always possible either. Working out in the back of beyond once, I needed to drive home at the end of the day and so was on the Diet Coke. This wasn’t the case for everyone though, if your partner is collecting you then you can get completely s**tfaced and spend what seemed like 50 hours trying to persuade the bloke from the IT helpdesk that wearing his tie around his forehead would be fun.

But there is worse. My all time favourite Crimbo party horror tale happened when I worked for the Ministry of Cows. We organised a party in the office. Since we office staff were pretty poorly paid, everyone brought in some food and drink and a merry time was had (bus or walk home – Yippee). That was until the least popular member of the veterinary staff turned up with partner and kids in tow. Each had brought a Tupperware bowl.

An empty Tupperware bowl.

They proceeded to fill these up with food, snapped the lids shut, and left.

Seasons Greetings to you all.


Filed under Phil, Writing

Searching for…

Phil: If we want to increase the numbers of readers to our blog, as the “web guy”, it behoves me to do a little bit of analysis and see what is bringing people here already. Maybe then we can brainstorm in a room with a whiteboard, identify our strengths and weaknesses, build on these and develop a new and more successful paradigm or something.

Anyway, the searches that have brought people here can be broken down into groups:

1: Answering the big question

“What is something a woman can never have too many of ? asks someone. The answer is probably found in another query – “I will never have enough shoes an bags” also “women can never have too many shoes”

So, from this we learn that women can’t have too many shoes and bags. Top advice there for men looking for suitable Christmas presents. Remember the golden rule though, keep the receipt ‘cos you probably bought the wrong ones.

2: Grazia and the writing competition

The search term that brought more visits than any other was “grazia writing competition” and this was closely followed by “grazia orange writing competition”. I guess that the webmaster for the magazine was wondering where all her visits were being leached off to – the answer was HERE !

Some time afterwards we were picking up traffic for “grazia writing competition winner”, which unfortunately not was Ms Nolan unless she’s not telling me something. I can’t think that is the case as it’s not likely I would have wanted a share in the prize – I don’t do handbags and there’s no way they would do those high heels in my size (that was the prize right ?).

3. Caroline Sheldon, we love you

After spotting a piece tied in with nanowrimo on the BBC featuring Caroline Sheldon, I pointed out that the slush pile shown on telly might well have contained our manuscript at the time. Disappointing as it was that we hadn’t been taken up as top clients, at least we got a reply. The searcher for “coroline Sheldon agency hasnt replied” obviously wasn’t so lucky, although it would have helped if they could spell the name properly perhaps ?

4. Get your kit off

Are you looking for a “nude business woman” ? Or perhaps you like a bit of tech with your filth and prefer a “nude and laptop”. If you are a real geek, you’ll just be looking for a “nude laptop” whatever that is (look at the dual cores on that motherboard). Some of you obviously don’t want a chilly tractor though, which is why we get as many visits from “tractor cover” as “business woman nude”.

5. And finally, cake.

Regular readers won’t be surprised that we gather a lot of visits from cake fans. Be it “millionaire shortbread”, “orange cake”, “custard turnover”, “greggs pasty” or the more exclusive “tractor cupcake”, this blog appears to be the destination of choice.

Which means this blog could be neatly encapsulated by a front cover of Grazia showing a picture of a cake in the shape of a literary agent who’s modest is only covered by a strategically placed handbag or two. Now, over to marketing.

Update: I’ve just discovered we are Number 1 on Google for “maplin weirdos”. I’m not sure what that says about us.


Filed under Phil, Writing