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:
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
Filed under Phil, Writing
Candice: 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 ?
Phil: 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 ?”
Filed under Phil, Writing
Phil: 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.
Filed under Phil, Writing
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.
You can find the original here: http://www.weldonowen.com/blog/how-book-born-because-you-kids-love-infographics
and a hat tip to Maggie Madly Writing for alerting me to it.
Phil: 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.
Filed under Phil, Writing
Phil: 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.
Filed under Phil, Writing