Monthly Archives: February 2012

Style tips from the Oscars ?

Olympia Le-Tan clutch bag held by Michelle Williams. Who is famous.Candice: Now we all love abit of Oscars action… Ok well I do, especially all the red carpet glamour. One year I’d like to be doing my acceptance speak saying ” only two years ago I was glossing the doors on the landing on this day…”. Instead I sky plus the coverage and watch the red carpet section to see who is wearing what. Now regular readers will know my writing partner is not known for his style tips. Confusion still regins over some of the outfit descriptions I have written in the past.

However,today I received an interesting email. ” Did you know Michelle Williams went to the Oscars with a bag that looked like a book, can you blog about that.” Hang on, this is the man who knows nothing about fashion, where has he found this information, thinks me. Well apparently he read it in the Metro.

However, my research comes up with something quite different. Yes, the lovely Miss Williams does like a nice book clutch. She’s recently been seen with an Arthur Miller and the Catcher in the rye. The first a nice reference to ‘My week with Marilyn‘ I imagine. But for the aforementioned Oscars bash she didn’t carry one. Someone failed in their research, oh Metro style editors.

But exploring this further, a book as a clutch bag, interesting choice. The bags are made by Olympia Le Tan, and retail for around £1000. Sell the number of Harry Potter’s JK has for that value per book and you’d be one rich author! By why a book as bag, is it in case you get bored during the ceremony? Stick a few in the middle of the dance floor on a night out and you wouldn’t pull, they’d think it was a bunch of librarians. Or is it just an American trying to look intellectual… I don’t know myself but perhaps this is the future of the printed book… Forget publishing one, it’s all about where you can put your lipstick!

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A cunning plan…

Top new book by JK Rowling. Yes, really. Honest.Phil: I’ve cracked it. As soon as I read that JK Rowling is going to pen her first book for adults, I knew what had to be done.

Up and down the country, people will be trying to hack Ms Rowlings computer, desperate for the first read of the new novel. All we need to do is leak our story under her name and wait for the deal. What publishing house could resist ?

Then, once she admits she didn’t write it, we reveal ourselves as the true authors. You lot can back us up (a free copy of the book AND lashings of cake for anyone willing to testify) and the printing presses can start working overtime.

Or maybe, we need to start a rumour that JKR is writing under a pseudonym. Yes, that might work. All I have to do is write:

nolanparker is the new and especially secret pseudonym for J K Rowling

hold on, to be on the safe side

The harry potter lady J K Rowling is writing under the soodunim nolanparker

let the interweb pick it up and sit back to wait.

What could go wrong ?


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The return of the peplum

Peplum FrillCandice: Nearly a year ago to the day, Phil wrote a post about not understanding the women’s clothing and particularly being stuck by a “peplum frill”

Now, at the time of writing, a peplum was something that was a severe throw back to the 80’s.  Think shoulder pads, big hair and mobile phones that needed their own carry case.  However,as is the way with the world of fashion, I open my weekly copy of Grazia magazine and find the peplum has returned.  A quick look round the shops and I can see them everywhere.  Slightly less pronounced than last time as they no longer are accompanied by those massive shoulder pads but still there.

So now comes a quandry.  The peplum was a sarcastic decription on the style of one of the characters, and a way of defining her so that readers could just jump in and see what she was really like.  But, nearly two years since conception, suddenly a style tip which made someone seem abit backwards is now making her the height of fashion.

This is must be a common problem with authors, as the wheels of publishing move slowly.  Referencing current events can date things  as politics, fashion, music etc all change so quickly.  What do authors do – not reference things so current but lose the strength of their story, or keep in the reference and rely on that fact it will be set in one place and time.

I’m loathed to take my peplum description out.  Hopefully with the addition of blue eye shadow, the soundtrack to “The Breakfast Club” and the peplum being a on a shiny pastel suit it will help to keep our character stuck in time.

But hang on, what’s this in Grazia, “Blue eye shadow on the return…”  ARGH!


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Decision to make ? Well dig in !

Cake selectionPhil: Over the last couple of months, regular readers will know we’ve been talking about our second book. It’s very much at the planning stage but as this is the fun important bit, we’re not rushing.

In my head, there are a couple of possible storylines. They are similar but the tale encounters different twists and turns along the way. What I didn’t know was which one would be good and which absolutely brilliant. The only way to find out was to dig in a write some stuff to see how they turned out.

Obviously I wasn’t going to write two entire books and then discard one. For one thing I’m too lazy and anyway, they will (in my head) both be such great works of literature that to lose one would deprive the world too much. Can you imaging the great and good of the Guardian book supplement in tears ? Newsnight review abandoning anything other than wailing and gnashing of teeth at cultures great loss ?

So, I decided that a couple of decent length synopsis would do the job. Each starts and finishes from the same point – we have a story arc to fulfill after all – but I played with the journey in some major ways.

In this respect it’s a bit like looking at a cabinet full of massive puddings in a pub and not being able to decide if you want the banoffee pie or the strawberry cheesecake or the custard slice. The most satisfactory solution is to have a go at all three, then you are confident you’ve eaten the best one. Anything else leaves a lingering regret that perhaps the pie wasn’t as good as the others.

So, that’s what I did with the writing and as I worked my way through both options matters became a lot clearer. By the time I’d finished I had a pretty good idea which version was sweetest and most fulfilling. One option seemed a bit thin whereas as I wrote, the other developed into a full-flavour and very satisfying result. Just to be certain, both were packed off to Candice with no indication which I prefered. It didn’t matter – we both liked the same one and for the same reasons.

This sort of literary experiment is new to me but works very well. It’s another stage in the process of becoming a writer. It’s, yet again, more than just writing.

(Note for gluttons: Those cakes can be found at the Woodfield Farm Pub in Doncaster.)

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How Geek can you go ?

Phil: Pondering a bit of story I’m going to write, I found myself in a quandary between creating a realistic character and writing something impenetrable to the majority of readers.

The scene in question involves our man from IT, Kelvin. In the scene, he is being introduced to the bridge of an experimental lifeboat. Now modern lifeboats are  a mass of navigation instruments and electronic displays that allow the crew to monitor all aspects of the boat as well as working out where the heck they are in a stormy sea, all from the relative comfort of a specially sprung chair. Our hero’s eyes light up on seeing all of this and he says, “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the starship Enterprise !”

But would he really say that ?

At first I wondered about shortening it to “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Enterprise !” because he would know that the vessel refered to was a starship and thus the word is redundant.

Then something in my head says that Star Trek is far too mainstream for someone living in the depths of the IT department. After all, it’s a popular television show that even girls have (apparently) watched. Should we go for something more obscure ?

How about “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the  Millennium Falcon !”. Good, but maybe not. A gurl once watched Star Wars so it scores limited geek points.

Maybe “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Discovery One !”, but the 2001 reference is probably a bit out of date. Anyway, we already have a character called Dave so I’m afraid I can’t do that.

What about “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Liberator !”  (Pause for certain gentlemen to enjoy the memory of leather-clad Sally Knyvette) (Non-nerd note: I am referring to the classic late 70’s BBC TV series Blakes 7. If you needed that I’m answering my own question)

Or “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Serenity !” (Non-nerd note: Refers to the American series Firefly which was basically Blakes 7 badly done by Americans.)

Or “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Nostromo !” (Non-nerd note: This was the space ship from the film Alien. Good geek points for knowing this I think)

Or “Wow, it’s like the bridge of the Dark Star !” (Non-nerd note: Space ship from the film of the same name. If you didn’t need that hint then slice you in two and the work “Geek” runs through you like “Blackpool” runs through a stick of rock)

I should probably stop typing now.

You’re all looking at me like I’m odd aren’t you.


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Love is in the air !

There is no greater love than that of girl for cake...Candice It’s not going to be a long post, this, as I have returned from a cinema trip to see Girl with a dragon tattoo and I’m pooped. However, the whole thing got me to thinking about the whole ‘love thing’ and how it is portrayed in literature and on TV.

Now the film I’ve just been to see is not a good representation of this at all, but the one I went to see yesterday might be closer. Though it was War horse and that’s not man woman, it’s man horse ! However, bestiality aside, the whole things left me abit cold as I like strong characters and strong relationships and that film gave me neither, just soppy bits and a funny red skyline (see the film and you’ll understand) I do wonder if Spielberg has shares in kleenex.

When reading my customary holiday read, chick lit, I get really annoyed if the main female character goes all woosy when she gets a bloke. It winds me up so much I sometimes can’t finish the book. So when it comes to Nolanparker style you know you are going to get a good, strong female character. It doesn’t mean she’s perfect, not by any means, but her scrapes along the way make her more human, but not a walk over.

Think Pride and Prejudice rather than Mills and Boon. However, on this famous day, would any of these ladies be getting a Valentines card? To be honest I’m not sure, possibly because any man in their life might think they wouldn’t be interested, and I think they are more likely to be senders than receivers, it’s a control thing !

On that note I’ve recently found a new TV show that I like, called ‘lost girl’. The premise is interesting and the main female character, plus side kick, have guts but don’t always make the right choices. I suppose, if we were to even move from novels to scripts, this is the kind of person I would write. Think Buffy for the noughties. Not sure if Bo from Lost girl, or Buffy, would be that interested in Valentines day, they’d probably be too busy saving the world!
So, who’s your favourite strong female character ? And would you send her valentines card?

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Do we need to win friends to influence people ?

Wine glasses - Empty onesPhil: I went to a book launch last night. It was a bit random – an e-mail arrived inviting me for no better reason (I think) than that I lived in the area. Still, I thought, it might be interesting not having been to a launch before what with the publishing world being too blinkered to pick up our efforts so far.

On arrival, I picked up the obligatory glass of wine and looked around. There were a few people turning up and gradually the room got busier. The problem is that while everyone else was having a good time chatting, despite my best efforts, and admittedly I’m not brilliant at this, I wasn’t. Assuming that I’m on my own at this sort of do, it’s usually simple enough to spot another lone soul and go and talk to them. Except there weren’t any. Seriously, I was the only person who didn’t know someone.

Earwigging conversations, I worked out that the marketing people had very sensibly got in touch with local writers groups. They had turned up en masse. I have never been anywhere so cliquey. You know things are bad when people won’t even return a glance. I mean I’m not George Cloony or anything but I might as well have been carrying a bell and shouting “unclean”.

Now neither of us belong to a writers group and have never felt the urge to join one. To be honest, they always look a bit terrifying. A room full of writers desperate to get published and hammering away at various potboilers. Get a bit of success and while they might on the face of it appear happy, as soon as you are out of sight, pins will be stuck in your effigy.

But is this right ? Has anyone out there got any experience of writers groups ?

Did they help you ? Does one person take over and dominate ?

On one hand I think it might prompt me to get a move on with stuff, on the other membership will turn what is fun into a chore. Perhaps I will be filled with inspiration, or too many ideas will turn me into a ball of frustration as I can’t focus on the story we want to tell. Maybe at a group, we would meet someone useful in the quest to get published, or (more likely I think) do these people avoid groups like the plague for fear of being bombarded with half-writen manuscripts and demands for feedback.

As for the launch, I drained the glass and bailed out. Next time I go, I want to be the one at the front with my name on the cover.


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Rutting in Rutland

Map Addict by Mike ParkerPhil: Early on in our writing process, we were establishing some characters and Ms Nolan produced a wonderful description of how one of the main characters met his wife. He is a buffoonish slightly aristocratic chap, she is a good, solid, tweed clad, wellie wearing gal more interested in breeding cattle than children.

The action took place at a hunt ball and involved comedy clothing, projectile vomiting and some hot portaloo action. It was funny, very funny indeed, but as a well brought up lad, I wondered if it was a bit over the top. Think the more outrageous Tom Sharpe stuff rather than fluffy Mills & Boon. Maybe I just don’t get invited to those sort of parties, but I have been in the odd temporary toilet and never found them enticing. Is it different for country folk ? I don’t recall anyone in The Archers going all gooey at the smell of Elsan blue rinse.

Then I read the excellent book “Map Addict” by Mike Parker (no relation) which contains this passage:

I knew I had to take a trip to Rutland the day a mate told me that it was the wife-swapping capital of England; the Land of Rut indeed. My friend lives about fifteen miles away over the Leicestershire border, and told me of Rutland residents in her social circle who regularly find themselves at parties where a fumble in the hot tub is just for starters. These Rutlanders are commendably lacking in coyness, as you’d expect from people who spend large parts of their lives hanging around in the company of toms of quivering horse-flesh and randy dogs.

Lack of prudery, and an honset get-on-with-it lustiness, are undeniably central facets of the true rural existence – not the Move to the Country version, with its Chelsea tractors and stripped pine, but the real, horny-handed version, more Massey Fergusons and stripped housewives. Rutland, true to its agricultural heritage, just like to get ’em off and get on with it.

So, Nolan 1. Parker Nil

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Candice: Our regular readers may have noticed a lack of activity in the Nolan part of Nolanparker.  This is has been some what related to sheer volume of work and lack of computer for the last month.  The iPad is lovely but it has its limitations, as does my work laptop which only has IE6 and therefore can’t cope with most sites (yes, don’t ask, we complain alot too!).  Volume of work is another story, two projects launching at the same time means that Nolan hasn’t always known which way is up. 

However, good news on two fronts:  one – launch date next week then might be able to see wood for trees, two – COMPUTER IS FIXED!  Hallelujah, I hear you cry, OMG its been along time coming.  Broke down between christmas and new year, and newly fixed machine returned on Friday.  I’ve just spent the last three hours installing driver software, configuring emails etc.  Post over and I’m going to die on the sofa with the Sunday Times as that was quite enough!

You just dont realise how reliant we are on these things until you lose them.  Banking, bills, holiday shopping, even music. And most definitely writing.  After Phil’s and my brain storming session over christmas it was all systems go in Jan… it’s now the 6th Feb and we’ve moved precisely no where.  Of course this is always related to time allocation as much as computers, January has been a busy month outside work, getting rid of those christmas pounds in the gym as well as celebrating the other half’s birthday (nice weekend break in Chichester).  But, it really has been the computer as I have tried to write on the pad but without a proper screen and key board its only really good for emails and short notes.

So, my new years resolution starts in Feb.  And it’s not to give something up, its to get back into something.  Time will be allocated to the thing I’ve not had time or technology for, but which the brain never stops thinking of ideas about – the Book.  Both 1 which needs editing, and 2 which needs starting!

Slightly delayed too but really like this post about getting those writing resolutions for 2012.

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Write now for Christmas

Phil: One of the things most people overlook when they consider being a professional writer is that you don’t get paid like normal workers. When I’m not being an aspiring best-selling author, I write for hobby magazines and have a bank account that shows the strain of this sort of work.

The way the world works is that you write some stuff and submit it to an editor. He or she then decides if they want it. Assuming all is OK, the article goes in a pile.

One day, the editor will look at the pile and hopefully pick out your article for inclusion in the magazine. Exactly how long this will take is a mystery. Editors create a “flat plan” of each issue aiming to produce a publication with a mix of content most of the time. Thus if your piece fits the mix it’s in. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the pile for next time. Think of it being like the way an artist uses paint from a palette – he will have a selection available and use as much of each as is required to paint the picture. If they decide yellow is not required, then the yellow squirt is untouched. The main difference is that you can’t put the yellow back in a tube.

Anyway, the article goes in the mag, the sub-editor fiddles with it, a designer does stuff on a Macintosh computer and then the printer has a go. Eventually the magazine finds it’s way to the racks of WH Smith or similar. All being well, people buy it and the publisher makes some money. This is good because if they have some, hopefully the author will get a bit of it.

What happens next depends on the individual publication. Some of those who pay me send a sample issue containing a cheque. That takes a month from the date of publication, sometimes more.

Others like to be invoiced. That’s quite scary for new authors but a quick search on the web will find some sample invoices which can quickly be gingered up with your own name. Fill in the boxes with the correct amounts (Since I provide my own photos, payment is by the page) not forgetting to include any expenses that have been agreed. You don’t get much and must never try to slide anything by if you want to work for the editor again, but it’s important to get all you are due.

The publisher will probably want to do bank transfer. This is good as far as I am concerned. Firstly, the money arrives quicker. Second, it’s a pain to set up so discourages the editor from breeding a pool of too many authors. Once you are in, you are in. Sort of. There are sadly grey people in accounts who don’t mind doing admin so it’s not that much of a deterrent.

Anyway, you send the invoice off an hopefully it gets paid. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not but usually within a month.

The point I’m making is, all this takes time. A feature I wrote in October last year will appear in the March issue. Although this arrives in February, payment will be in March. That’s 6 months from typing to spending the cash. If that sounds like a long time, it isn’t. Two or more years isn’t uncommon.

Even if you have a regular column, the delay can be significant. I wrote the stuff for a February issue before Christmas, payment in March again.

Now I don’t just write for a living. I also work front of house at a theatre and in December we have pantomime. Loads of work, means better than average pay for the month but this comes at the cost of less writing time. Less typing means less magazine money but not at the same time as the extra panto money arrives. No, Christmas has a sting in its tail as my  lighter output will result in less income in a month or so.

The trick is to try and front-load editors as much as possible. Once you have a good relationship you need to get a lot of good-quality content in that pile so they can keep pulling it out without reaching the bottom while you are doing other things such as being on holiday or ill. Some pieces will have faster progress through the system such as product reviews or newsworthy content but unless a feature has been commissioned, it hits the pile.

The same problem hits book authors of course but with a massively greater lead time between writing and earning. I think JK Rowling had at least a years gap between acceptance and cheque arrival other than an advance that would last a month. This is on top of the writing time required for a novel. If our book were picked up tomorrow, 2013 is the earliest we’d see the first million pound cheque.

Still, all that sitting around in front of the screen isn’t really hard work is it ?


Filed under Phil, Publishing, Writing