Monthly Archives: May 2012

Summer madness

Will Smith. Yes. He really looks like this. Everything else is airbrushing.Phil: Yesterday the Nolan and I sat in a pub garden chatting in the sunshine. Today we would be inside where it’s warm and not wet. You may mourn the end of summer, but I don’t for one simple reason:

Will Smith.

Any time the sun comes out in Great Britain, every DJ on the radio breaks into his or her summer records box. Top of the list is always “Summertime” by Will “Fresh Prince” Smith.

Imagine the scene. The clouds part. Sunbeams stream forth and bathe the ground with delicious warmth. Somewhere in the distance a radio is playing. The moment the first photons bounce off the slowly drying grass we hear “Drums Please….”

Followed by a howl of pain and the channel being changed. It’s no use. Even Radio 4 is playing the bloody record.

It’s not just the ubiquity. The lyrics annoy the hell out of me. As a writer, all I can see is holes in the timeline. The third verse (with my “issues” marked in red )runs as follows:

it’s late in the day and I ain’t been on the court yet
hustle to the mall to get me a short set
yeah I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there
(that should be ‘cos shouldn’t it. Please try harder)
the temperature’s about 88
hop in the water plug just for old times sake
break to ya crib change your clothes once more
cause you’re invited to a barbeque that’s starting at 4
(4 ? I thought it was “Late in the day” before you went to the mall and jumped in the plug then changed your clothes. Doesn’t sound late to me.)
sitting with your friends cause y’all remincise
(‘cos again. Pay attention Smith)
about the days growing up and the first person you kiss
and as I think back makes me wonder how
the smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia
all the kids playing out front
little boys messin round with the girls playing double-dutch
while the DJ’s spinning a tune as the old folks dance at your family reunion
(your family BBQ has a DJ ? How posh is that ? What’s wrong with the radio. Oh yes, it’s playing Summetime)
then six o’clock rolls around
you just finished wiping your car down
(Didn’t stay long at the BBQ did you ? Takes me an hour to wash the car properly. More if I wax it AND clean the inside. Sounds like someone jumped the queue, nicked a couple of burgers and wolfed them down. Probably got ketchup all over his shirt front.)
it’s time to cruise so you head to the summertime hangout
it looks like a car show
(You’re hanging around a car park ? How sweet. Do you also loiter outside off licences trying to persuade grown-ups to buy you cider ?)
everybody come lookin real fine
fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon
(When did you do that ? I reckon looking fly from the beauty salon is going to take at least a couple of hours. When I get my hair cut it’s twenty minutes and the only style I request is “shorter”. Why do you want to look fly anyway ? I saw that film with Jeff Goldblum and can’t see many people wanting a bit of that look.)
every moment frontin and maxin
chillin in the car they spent all day waxin
(No they didn’t. Not if they have been to the barbers, JD Sports and a BBQ. They probably dropped it off at one of those dodgy hand car wash places)
leanin to the side but you can’t speed through
Two miles an hour so everybody sees you
there’s an air of love and of happiness
and this is the Fresh Prince’s new defintion of summer madness

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the third verse so you can’t expect greatness. Even the national anthem has descended into stuff about crushing rebellious Scots by this point (technically verse 4 but since the anthem doesn’t, unlike Summertime, have a chorus, we are about the same point in the song).  I don’t care. Will Smith has earned more in PRS fees for this one song than the GDP of Peru so he could reasonably have been expected to put in a full days work on the writing.

Despite this, we get the same tune every time it stops raining, not the far superior song of the same name from Porgy and Bess. Now THAT is the Phil Parker’s definition of summer madness

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Fifty shades of … Hum

Fifty Shades of GreyCandice: Before I went on holiday I mentioned I’d read Tess Daly’s book while I am away and give you some feedback on it. However, when I went to find it in Asda, it’s wasn’t there, so I had to buy some other options.

One of them was called “Fifty shades of Grey”. Dark cover and mysterious description on the back, I assumed it was some kind of murder mystery or serial killer style book. It’s part of a trilogy, none of which I had heard of before.

Anyway, it’s my third book to read on holiday and I’m chilling on the sunbed when things start to get weird in the book. Coming home I have read a description of the book, it said ‘mommy porn’. Ah now I understand what I have bought.

There was I chilling, surrounded by people, and the book is talking about them having S&M sex. If I wasnt red from the tan I’d have been blushing. Now I’m not a prude but it does go abit OTT in this book, to the detriment of the storyline.

Finally finished the book today and I’m confused if I want to go on with the trilogy. I want to see how the two character’s relationship pans out. But I’m not sure I can take anymore of the rather overtly graphic sex scenes.

Rich and I liked to watch the series ‘the Borgias”, it was a good bit of costume drama rubbish. But it had a lot of random sex scenes, which we mostly fast forwarded through. Not necessary for the storyline we thought. This book felt the same, so I did a lot of skimming.

So the jury is out on if I buy book two… Has anyone else read them ?


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Embarrassing Handbag Contents

Giant Handbag seen at WelshpoolPhil: The 5-page challenge is going well. I’ve knocked out the basic story for the scene. Now it needs a few more laughs injected into it. So I’m asking for your help.

In the scene, a handbag is dropped and it’s contents spill out. If this happened to you, what could be the most embarrassing item on display ?

A few rules:

My scene featured two female characters, so we are looking for something that you (assuming you are a lady – dressing like on at the weekend doesn’t count) would be ashamed for another women to see.

  • No sanitary products. There are a couple of reasons. The first I won’t tell you but it relates to the place all this is happening. The second, men can find tampons embarrassing but not women (If the mere mention of a tampon makes you snigger, you are a teenage boy. This blog, and our book,  is not for you, please go to your newsagent where you will find magazines with ladies showing their boobies. Bye-bye). On the other hand men don’t understand why the wrong colour lip-gloss is a major disaster. It’s a gender thing.
  • No electric willies. That one’s been done a million times. Boring.
  • No gimp masks. See above.
  • Whips. Seriously, no one carries these in handbags do they ?

Please drop suggestions in the comments section below. The authors decision is final. If we really like your idea, perhaps we’ll sign your copy of the book for free at a major launch event in the future. We might even let you have a photo taken with us. If it’s absolutely brilliant, so funny it gets us a publishing deal, we’ll buy you a cake at the same time. A nice one too, not some supermarket multi-pack jobbie.

Note: For those wondering why I don’t just ask Nolan to come up with an idea, I’m sure she has never carried anything embarrassing in her handbag and if she has, it might be better for our friendship that I stay innocent of its contents. Anyway, at the moment all I’d get suggested would be fake tan – “I wouldn’t want anyone thinking my healthy glow wasn’t real, would I ?”


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A naked lady stole my homework. Honest.

BurlesquePhil: Some achieve procrastination, if they get around to it. Other have procrastination thrust upon them.

I had an evening earmarked for the 5-page challenge. Tea and chocolate were to hand. The computer was warmed up and ready to go. I even had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write. Not a finished article you understand, but enough to get started with and watch develop on the page. I even had a killer first line. The deadline for when my tanned friend returns was focussing my mind too.

Then a ‘phone call from work. They were short of a person to steward a show. No one else was available, would I go in. Grrrr

Which is how I spent the evening when I should have been writing, looking after a burlesque show. Keeping tabs on the audience while a pretty lady took her clothes off on stage. It’s not my fault at all.

Never mind, there is always tomorrow. And I’ve still got that chocolate, so it’s not all bad.


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How a book is born

Phil: This diagram is going to be on every single writing blog but I don’t care. It’s still funny and backs up a lot of what we have been saying recently.

How a book is born

You can find the original here:

and a hat tip to Maggie Madly Writing for alerting me to it.


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Is a giant cabbage funny or wierd ?

Book cover - third go with footy cabbagePhil: I’m puzzling over this whole 5-page challenge thing. With a long training course I’m taking part in turning into a software demo thanks to a lack of Internet, there has been time for my mind to wander…

Initial ideas revolved around the scene involving a giant cabbage. We (well I anyway) even liked it so much that an early version of our book cover featured the vegetable (New readers please note that we originally touted the book with the title “Seeds of Change” and then decided this wasn’t funky enough to leap from the slush pile).

I think cabbages are nearly as funny as sprouts. They certainly taste and smell just as horrible. Thus, when we needed a giant vegetable, a cabbage it was. Not a carrot, that’s just rude (see also marrow, parsnip and anything else slightly willy-shaped) or a banana which is technically a herb apparently.

But, can you just spring a giant brassica on unsuspecting readers ?

I fear not. When you are well embedded in nolanparker world – which is not a new theme park but could be in a few years – then anything can happen and a giant cabbage makes perfect sense. At the start of the novel, perhaps we still need to be a bit gentle with the reader. We are funny not weird, and I’m pretty certain enormous veg aren’t chick-lit, so as far as that plan goes, I’m as stuffed as an artichoke on a middle-class dining table.

But, then I think a bit more. The scene I’m thinking of is described as happening after another event involving in a ladies toilet. We don’t actually say much about the lavatorial incident, but if I flesh it out we end with the cabbage and leave the reader dangling for a while before picking matters up a few chapters later. It’s even possible to drop hints that will make people say “Oh, so THAT’S what they were on about at the start.”

So, that sounds more like a plan. I’m training again tomorrow, time to do some more thinking.


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The 5 page challenge

Gingerbread ManPhil: I don’t quite know how it happened, but out of our post-festival discussions, we decided that The Book needed more than just a good “hook” at the start. What it needs is a whole chapter to grab the reader by the (metaphorical) balls. Autumn Barlow suggested many months ago that we ought to try a prologue and that sounds as good a way of doing the job as any.

So, because Nolan is on holiday (Again. Yes, I have been left to look after the writing shop while she swans off to sunny parts. Do I complain, of course not. I mean it’s not like I can’t remember the last time I took a proper break. Well, it is but I don’t worry, hard work brings its own rewards. I will take a bit of pleasure from making sure the country is still running while she tops up the tan and drinks strange, exotic cocktails by the pool. I digress) which leaves me with a week to try to come up with something. It’s not like I have to go to work or anything…

My mission, is to write 5 pages that could be described as “kick-ass”.

They need to throw the reader into the middle of one of our more uproarious passages but in a way that allows us to return to the scene later on without anyone experiencing a great big unpleasent dollop of deja-vu. As well as this, I have to introduce some mystery by dangling snippets of plot that will be resolved toward the end of the book but without giving any important details away. No pressure then.

I can’t even remember how we decided that this ought to be 5 pages long. Perhaps someone mentioned it at the event, but it does seem a reasonable length. If you can get the reader to page 5 with a suitably sore bottom then they will presumably stick with the rest of the book to find our what the hell you were going on about.

All this is like being back as school – teacher will summon me to her desk, and I will be expected to present my homework for approval. After I say “What a lovely tan you are sporting” at least, or no gold star for me.


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Understanding the publishing model and why luck matters

Phil: After the Literary festival session, while everyone else rushed to have books signed, we had an interesting chat with Gareth Howard about the publishing model. Earlier in the evening, the idea of publishing as a business was touted. It’s an uncomfortable fact for most people gripped with the urge to write that if you want to see your words in print then you need a marketable product. Not just a good book, but a book that will sell.

One way, as we have discussed, is to be famous. If Alexa Chung (a name I picked out randomly from yesterday’s Metro so I assume she/he is famous) writes a book then it’s on the shelves. Pippa Middleton has publishing advances on offer that would allow most of us to give up work. Cynically I suspect that this isn’t because she is the new bard but more to do with having a nice bum at her sister’s wedding.

The other way is to be pushing something people want. Gareth was relating how he had worked in TV commissioning. In that industry, producers wanted certain types of programme and if you had them, you got the money. The same idea works with books. At the moment, even the owner of a pert derriere couldn’t flog a story about a boy wizard or teenage vampire. The world has been there and done that.

“But what do they want ?” I hear you cry. Dunno. And if I did, I’d probably have a go at writing it myself and become fabulously wealthy. That’s the problem.

However, it is also good news. Have you sent your novel off to a thousand agents with only rejection slips to show for it ? Worry no more. It might not be that you can’t write. Maybe you don’t need to spend hours agonising over every single word. Your problem is that you don’t have what they want at this moment in time.

You need to be lucky as well as good. A mediocre written story and agent knows they have a home for will be more readily accepted than a super one that’s unfashionable. OK, so you might start a new fashion but very few business people are going to bet on that. Far easier to tell your boss you’ve hauled something out of the slush pile, especially if it is headed “by Selena Gomez” (apparently the most searched for celebrity online. No, I don’t know who she is either. Presumably that’s why people turn to Google).

Which brings me to back to us. We are trying to sell a love story with a background firmly set in the recession. The funny stuff that goes on in the background revolves around a quango being closed down. That makes it topical – and if the double dip recession goes triple dip, we’re still in with a shot – yet hopefully with a story that transcends time. All we need is a bit of luck. Mind you, I bought a lottery ticket that evening and didn’t get a single number…

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Stealing our Thunder!

Candice:  Phil has a particular bone to pick with Celebs who seem to get their books, what ever drivel they are, published really easily.  I remember him coming to me particularly annoyed after hearing Tess Daly on the radio, talking about her latest book, and saying the whole process had been particularly easy and then she was off to the next thing while she had her publishing deal ticking away in the background.

Now, I don’t dislike Tess, she seems like a nice down to earth sort of girl, but in between presenting Strictly and sorting our her husband’s sexts, she’s whipped out the obligatory 80,000 words and then carried on, while the rest of us are struggling to get a deal and hold down the day job.  Phil is convinced you have to be a celeb to get published.

I don’t particularly agreed but I do think swishy hair and being on telly can’t hinder.  I’m trying, I have the hair (when I can be bothered to straighten it) and I am on telly, occasionally, but of course you only see my arm, leg or back most of the time ( which can’t help!).

However, the final nail in the coffin is an article I caught over the weekend, how she was in LA to discuss the film they are planning to make from her book.  “WHAT” you cry.  I want to be wandering around in the sunshine on someone else’s dollar, please.  And to cap it all, she’s been pictured wearing the green dress from M&S Limited Collection I was going to get for my birthday party, and I can’t find it in stock anywhere now.  Hum, maybe I don’t quite like her so much any more!!!

But, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.  I’m off on holiday soon, so I’ll do some research while I relax.


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Beer and book festivals

Betty Stoggs BeerPhil: A few posts ago, Ms Nolan commented adversely on my ability to have a drink without feeling poorly the next day. I retorted that it must have been something to do with the quality of the beer, and not my ability to handle it. I don’t think she was convinced.

So, purely in the interests of science, I headed off to the Long Itchington Beer Festival to see who was right. Obviously, I took no pleasure in this, although the pint of “Betty Stoggs” was particularly good, but did it just to prove a point. After all, I can’t be going around having my manhood impuned on the Internet can I ?

You’ll be pleased to know that despite consuming (for the purposes of science as noted earlier) twice as much beer as I had after the book festival, in the morning I felt absolutely fine. Point proved. Nolan – Nah Nah Nahnana.

Talking of the book festival, I opened yesterdays Guardian to see a piece by Deborah Orr recommending a couple of writers. Who should be smiling out from the page ? Only that Rachel Joyce who we saw at the festival.

Rachel Joyce Review in the Guardian



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