Monthly Archives: July 2012

Creating a Buzz with the BBC

Phil: Last week, Candice posted about her day as an extra on the BBC Tv series “Casualty”. This seemed to generate a bit of interest in our blog and I thought readers who enjoy a bit of blatant self-promotion would like to know a bit more. Apologies for going a bit nerdy but the details are interesting.

The first thing I spotted was on a counter tracking visits to the site. It seems that someone using a computer at the BBC had looked at the post entitled “Casualty” followed by the tab “Meet the authors” and finally “Kate vs the dirtboffins”.

“That’s interesting”, I think, “I wonder if someone is looking for next years new 6-part blockbuster series ?”

Sadly not. Well, possibly not anyway.

A little more investigation shows that the Beeb automatically track mentions of some programmes using their “Buzztracker” system, which you can read about here: . Mentioning Casualty rang a bell somewhere and they spidered our blog, following up with a manual check which involved taking a look at the authors of the piece.

Casualty Home PageNolan obviously passed muster here because a link to this blog then appeared on tha Casualty home page: in the “Buzz about this programme section”

At this point, I was frantically texting and e-mailing the details over so madame could check it out for herself. Needless to say by the time she got there we’d fallen off the page again, but we were there !

Why did we fall off ? Well, I had just Tweeted our appearance and maybe the BBC check Twitter and correlate the results to avoid over-promotion from attention seekers. Alternatively, they might have decided that it wasn’t suitable for the main page after all – they prefer discussion on the latest episode that has gone to air, not moving scenery mentioning anything that might be coming up in the future. Not that anything was mentioned, what with there being an NDA document signed and everything. That and the role played wasn’t pivotal as far as our star was aware.

Is this information useful ?

Dunno. Maybe if you are a writer keen to comment on current telly, if you can work out which programmes the BBC is watching social media for then you could make your blog a traffic magnet for a while. I suspect the moral is you never know who is watching your writing on the web.

Anyway, if the BBC are still interested, I know a book that could be the next televisual Brideshead Revisited, Blott on the Landscape or Jewel in the Nile. Why not get in touch ?

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ImageCandice: I was lucky enough to get a stint on BBC Casualty last week, down in Cardiff.  It happened to be the day after the Doctor Who Experience opened, shame because the day before I could have been hanging out with Cybermen.

Anyway, after a rather early start and 104 miles under my belt, I found BBC Cardiff.  Lets just say I had to sign a disclosure to say I wouldn’t take photos or tell story lines so I can’t tell you much, but its a nice place.  To be honest I don’t watch Casualty and I was only on set for 1 hr so I have no idea what was going on, but I’m keeping stum.

However, I met some very nice people on the day.  There was loads of extras, and in talking to them I found that alot of them were regulars.  And when I mean regulars, I mean people who have been doing it for 15 years!  One lady had started off bottom of the food chain, like me, and worked her way up to Doctor Someone (not Who – same building different extras). And another whose job it was to “meander” ie loiter in the back of shot as a Paramedic. These guys are the meat of a show like this, and you might not recognise them week in and week out, but they make the whole thing look real.  However, now I’ve met them I am sure I’ll be spotting them left right and centre.

I was a lowly visitor in waiting room, but I might get a nice shot if I’m lucky.

Part of the point of this day is to meet other people who expand my horizons, and on Friday I did.  I ended up spending most of my time with Scott, Paul and Steve, who entertained me greatly in those long hours between 9.30am (when we left set) and 5pm (when we were signed out).  We even ended up playing hang man out of boredom!  But the stories I get told are just as interesting as the day and I like to lodge them away for future writing ideas.

However, I had competition as there was another writer in our midst.  Paul, who writes articles and stories for a magazine called StarburstNow he was a proper “whovian” and we did have a nice chat about who was the best Doctor.

So, Phil and I might have to tackle SciFi at some point, because we might have a route to a publisher!

On a final note, as I was leaving, Russell T Davies drove past.  Now that was rather cool.


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Writing food

Tea and ToastPhil: Regular readers might have spotted that we mention food quite a bit on this blog. It is true that we frequently discuss our literary ambitions over cake and so it would be wrong of us not to mention the subject occasionally. Besides, we want to be commercial authors and lots of people like cake so why not like people who write about cake too ?

Man cannot live by cake alone no matter what any French Queen likes to suggest. Sometimes he needs food that tunes his brain in to doing some work.

I often find myself sat in front of a keyboard, knowing I have a couple of thousand words ahead of me and not really feeling in the mood to let them flow from my fingertips. There is one sure-fire way of changing this situation:

Toast and Marmite.

The yeasty goodness seems to throw a switch in my head that gets the creative juices flowing. Two slices seem to be enough, and on mass-produced bread. The good stuff is a luxury and more suited to reading books in front of a fire than writing by the light of a monitor.

Does anyone else have foods that perform the same function ? Is there a list of writing superfood somewhere ? Is it likely to contain tofu ?


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Bradley Wiggins, Thanks to chick-lit, I know what he’s been through

Photo by Marylene Evrard

Phil: Congratualtions to Bradley Wiggins on winning the Tour de France. And congratulations on the Tour for its excellent timing.

I’m not much into sport. Years of being the last person to be picked for any team at school has left me with mental scars and a conviction that anyone who plays football in defense is only there because no one wanted them on the team. Thus, if the news is full of a Great Sporting Event, I’m looking the other way.

Not this time though. OK, so I watched about 20 minutes of the entire coverage, about long enough for Bradley and his sideburns to cover the distance from London to Birmingham, I didn’t switch off every time the subject popped up on the TV or radio.

All this was thanks to my recent very reading of Cat by Freya North. While I suppose I should have been paying attention to the lurve story, I was just as interested in the details of le Tour that provide the backdrop. I know that some the riders in a team are there to support the stars. When the sports pundits talk about team members helping each other, I understand a little what this means. Having ploughed through a big fat book I even have some concept of the length of time the whole thing takes – after all, the main news channels in the UK weren’t interested in some stupid Froggy cycle race until a Brit looked like he was going to be doing well. Then they became as big a fans as the eponymous Cat and her fellow characters in the book, even if the real life journos we probably surprised the riders weren’t all in strippy T-shirts and selling onions along the route.

So – chick-lit has enriched my life. That can’t be right can it ?


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The Cathedral Killer

“…and up on your left is the site of the gruesome murder of Sir Charles Dunstan of Horwich. Sir Charles fell out with the local land owners and was strung up like a pheasant, gutted and left to die with his entrails hanging out. ”

Oh my God, this is boring, thought Josie. I should be at home with a bottle of wine, box of Milk Tray and the Mad Men box set. The warm feeling from thinking about Don Draper even took the edge off the pouring rain for a few seconds.  Snapping back to reality, she realised that the rest of the group had moved on and had to scurry to catch up.  Getting left behind around the back streets of York on a dark wet night was not her idea of fun.

When her boss, Editor of the local rag, had picked up on a new Town Ghost tour and suggested she cover it, she expected it would be dreary, but not this bad.

York, a city full of historic monuments and some quite horrific murders, was an ideal place for aspiring actors looking to make easy money.  By dressing up as funeral directors they could earn extra cash between stints on Casualty, telling stories to tourists.  For most, the best they could hope for was a role at the York Dungeon, scaring higher fee paying day-trippers by jumping out at them.

Having moved to the city from Derbyshire armed with a degree and loads of unpaid newspaper experience under her belt, Josie was hoping to make her mark on the crime desk, or even some investigative reporting.  Everyone had to start somewhere, so when the post of junior reporter at the York Post came up, she had jumped at the chance, promising herself one year there and it would be off to London for something on the Nationals.

Earlier that morning, while delving through the scut work of writing up the births, deaths and marriages, the Boss ambled in.

“I want you to look into one of the Ghost walks, it’s been a while since we’ve covered one for the “Things to do in York” section. This one seems new,” he said, waving a flyer under her nose, “Get yourself down tonight and give me 500 words for the morning.”

500 words for the morning. That’s my night gone.  Looking out of the porthole of a window from her dungeon-like office she stared at the pouring rain.  No one is going to be doing anything “ghostly” tonight, she realised putting her face in her hands, it’ll just be me and the down-trodden luvies.

Later, grabbing her coat on the way out, she stood under the door over hang outside the office and looked upward. The rain had eased into just a light drizzle under a leaden sky.  Avoiding the puddles as best she could as she walked away, she pulled the coat further round her, tying the belt to try and keep the cold out.  No one would realise it was nearly May, she thought, trudging on.”

Does that leave you hanging…


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A taste of things to come?

Candice:  Phil and I have been beavering away in the background for the last few weeks working on our next project.  We’ve mentioned that we have been looking for new ideas and have been drafting something different from the usual.

Now Phil’s done all this research into Chick Lit, but no, to be different we haven’t written a Chick Lit story, but a horror story.  As he pointed out it has generated a few comments in our weekly meets in the local near my work.  Especially if the people listening also work there…. Hum that woman in Marketing was talking about murder at work… (well, to be honest, I feel like murdering some of them sometimes).

Anyway, the story is now finished and has been submitted to a writing competition.  It’s with a magazine called Writer’s Forum who publish entries every month and you can pay extra to have a critique of your entry.  Well, we are not expecting to win on our first entry (well, I am, but just trying to be modest) but we both think this is a cracker so are dying to see how we get on.

Writing a short is a different kettle of fish to a full book.  We both got a bit lost into the reasons why our characters would do what they do when I pointed out, “We don’t have to explain, that’s what a short is all about.”  My favourite parts were coming up with a punchy start and crafting the ending that just leaves things hanging.  It was actually quite nice to not have to finish it off and round it up to explain all.

So, I thought you might like a taste of what we have been writing.  I’m not going to give you it all until we’ve got the competition feedback, but tomorrow we’ll give you a taste of Nolan Parker, Horror Writers of repute.


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How to write Chick Lit – Part 3

Phil stared at his Citizen Men’s Skyhawk Eco-Drive Bracelet Watch and sighed. Turning back to the Samsung SyncMaster monitor, he reread the words on the screen through the pair of Paul Smith Green Pironi Spectacles. Try as he might, the blog posting wasn’t going well. Sometimes words would tumble from his thoughts but not tonight.

Perhaps some refreshment would help. Strolling over to the Maharani Drinks Cabinet, a recent addition to the room from John Lewis, he contemplated filling the Villeroy & Boch Scotch Whiskey  tumbler with another measure of Fabulous Grouse but thought better of it when he saw the level in the bottle was already below the birds foot.

No. A clear head called for something less alcoholic. Heading to the kitchen, he leaned on the worktop of the Ikea Factum units to think what would turn the creative taps back on. Perhaps a Le Creuset Stoneware Mug full of Yorkshire tea would be enough. It was too late to consider firing up the Krups Nescafé Dolce Gusto KP 2106 coffee machine for a dose of concentrated caffeine. Anyway, that was the wrong sort of stimulation. Chemically induced hammering at the Logitech Wireless Touch K400 keyboard might produce lots of words but most of them would only be suitable for filling the Rexel bamboo waste bin that lived under the Alphason San Diego desk.

Opening the Ramsjo cabinet, he spotted the solution. Nothing soothes the fevered writers brown like a steaming Mr Men mug filled to the brim with Green And Blacks Organic Hot Chocolate heated up in a Sharp Compact Touch microwave oven.

The pastel green Smeg fridge illumiated the kitchen as he opened the door and and grasped a bottle of Waitrose semi-skimmed organic milk. Staring at a tin of John West Grilled Sardines on the shelf, Phil paused to ponder the next line of the blog post. As he watched the mug rotating through the tinted window of the microwave oven, he knew that this had better do the job.

It was his turn to post to the website and if he didn’t produce the goods, Candice would be pulling her Blackberry curve mobile phone from the depths of the Gabor  Modena Handbag and speaking very sharply in his direction. He could imagine the conversation,

“Parker, you haven’t posed anything today you hopeless…”, PING – the microwave finished it’s work and interrupted his train of thought.

Settling back down into the Berlin Leather Franklin Office Chair cradling his drink, Phil pondered the chick-lit he had recently read. The contents of Flawless by Tilly Bagshawe floated across his mind. Words and chocolaty aromas mingled in his thoughts.

Suddenly, the room lit up. His wife had returned in her Audi A6 and the beam from the Osram bulbs briefly illuminated the walls, freshly painted in colours chosen from the Dulux 50 shades of grey range. The sudden brightness crystallised his ideas. Not pausing to welcome Nikita, who he had met through the website, his fingers flew across the keys.

He typed like a man possessed. Possessed with the spirit of chick-lit. Possessed with the sure and certain knowledge that if you copy the Google shopping search results, drizzle with a perfunctory plot and wrap it all in a pink cover, every woman will want to read your work.


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How to write Chick Lit – Part 2

Candice:  Ok, so Phil’s done his research.  Probably abit arse about face as we have already written the book, but its a good way to shape this group of 80,000 words into something that a nice publisher might like, based on his reading experience.  However, there is something fundamental missing in his experience, he’s not a girl.  I suspect that’s why ‘Cat’ went down better than ‘Flawless’, but that was part of the test.

I also liked ‘Cat’ more than ‘Flawless’, and I’m the audience I think we are aiming this book at.  Not someone who wants soppy rubbish, but a woman with a brain who wants escapism but realism.  As Neil has commented, people have real experience of the Tour de France, unlike the high flying world of gems and castles.  None of us can understand that so its chance at grabbing us might fade.  I suppose it’s also a bit like the programs I like to watch. Give me ‘Buffy’, ‘Lost Girl’ or ‘Fringe’, set in reality but with escapist moments, rather than ‘Star Trek’ which I have no interest in at all.

So where to now?  Does Phil need to put on a dress and feel some relationship angst.  Um, no, that’s why he’s part of this writing partnership because he brings the Male to FeMale.  He’s the comedy buffer to my comments on shoes and handbags.  Though he does like a good Peplum….

I feel that more research is never enough in this case.  As you followers know I am always reading books, and each one helps to shape how I might approach our writing.  But I still think we need to tackle the other two areas we have set ourselves: submission of short stories (one written and just needing final tweaks), and attending a writing group (mainly for research as I not sure it is our thing, too much navel gazing).

Now I have surfaced from under a few weeks madness at work its time to do the final polish on our horror short and get it sent.  And maybe, if you guys are lucky, we might let you read it too…

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Chick-lit for beginners: Flawless by Tilly Bagshawe

Flawless by Tilly BagshawePhil: For chick-lit book 2 I’ve been reading Flawless, a book you can judge by its cover. A cover I wasn’t going to be seen opening in a public place.

First up, the author’s name. Once upon a time Tilly Bagshawe would have been the second under scullery maid in a posh house. Cook would have shouted “Tilly Bagshawe, I want t’hearth blacked until I can see my face in it.” only to receive the reply “I’m sorry Cook but I have to go upstairs for a good rogering by Squire Simkins and you know he doesn’t like me to be covered in hearth black. Says it proper puts him off his stroke.”. Now she writes glossy novels. That’s female empowerment for you.

Second, the cover is shiny pink and purple. The authors name is as big as the title and in a scripty font. To top it all, there is a lady on the front in a pose that can’t have been comfortable but a photographer thought was both glamorous and sexy. This is chick-lit big time. Chick-lit that is to literature what Dynasty was to drama.

Anyway, the plot. This concerns Scarlet Drummond Murray, Andy’s less well-known sister (I might have made that bit up) an ex-model who now designs gemstone jewelery whilst worrying about the lives of people digging diamonds with her international campaign “Trade Fair”.

The male leads are Jake and Danny Meyer, a pair of rough but lovable cockneys (pronounced cock-N-eys) who deal in diamonds. There’s also Brogan O’Donnel and his wife, a friend of Scarlets, along with her and Jake’s families.

Some stuff happens, Scarlet spends the whole book hating and then shagging then hating then shagging again before finally marrying Jake. Danny runs off with big, bad Brogans wife and has a baby. That’s about it. 483 pages.

Best line ? “Poor old Hamish. It wasn’t his fault his family were so inbred he’d been left with the IQ of a cow-pat.”

(Second best line – “Leave him alone you bitch, he’s mine!” although that was written in pencil beside the bit where Scarlets friend tries to chat up George Clooney so it might not count)

You’re probably getting bad vibes from me. If not, pay more attention. I’d guess that on a sun-lounger this is a great read. It rattles along well enough but in truth I couldn’t give a toss about any of the characters. Scarlet is written as the sort of person who spend all her time feeling for other people like a 1st year social science student with a large collection of Morrissey CDs. The idea that she spent her time while modelling thinking about the latest Oxfam report because it was “all so superficial yah” didn’t work. In fact, I was mostly on the side of the people who wanted her to shut up.

Added to this, I couldn’t really work out how she made a living. There was the jewelry designing but it wasn’t clear what this involved. Did she make the stuff herself ? Unlikely as later in the book, once her Notting Hill shop has been torched and she’s relocated to LA, there is much e-mailing of designs around the world. This makes me think the “design” is a posh girls doodle that some more talented person has to turn into reality.

In fact the whole premise seemed a bit thin to me. Money seemed no object to anyone – there is much jetting around the world for everyone for a start. Yes, Danny is broke when his business is hammered by a cuckolded husband but you never really believe in any of this. I know it’s only a story and a bit of escapism and perhaps it’s just a world I can’t imagine really existing. Even one of the crutial plot lines, where Scarlets’s brother threatened with being exposed as gay doesn’t ring true. Would a newspaper really make a big story out of “Banker plays for the other team ?” – I doubt it, who’d care ?

Worst of all though, the happy ending relies almost entirely on a deus ex machina. Near the end, up pops a random Aunt who happens to be extremely rich, loves Scarlet, understands Jake and leaps in at the last-minute to sort everything out. The newspaper is paid off, the ancient family estate is saved from disaster when a manager is brought in to run it saving Scarlet from having to do this instead of running her shop in LA and marrying hunky Jake. There’s some other stuff too but I can’t remember what. I do know all the ends are neatly tied up. Everyone gets married and lives happily ever after.

I did begin to wonder at some points if the author had a bad experience with her mother as both matriarchal characters are real monsters. Maybe but I suspect it’s more likely that she based her research on some US reality television and sit-coms. The characters are caricatures, the plot as thin as the aforementioned Dynasty storylines. However, sometimes you want Dynasty and not Chekhov (nerd note: Anton  not Pavel), especially when covered in sun tan lotion and drinking something with an umbrella in it in the same way kebabs trump fillet steak sometimes.

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Phil: It seems that’s automated SPAM checker decided a short while ago that our witterings failed some test in its little silicon mind. The result was that this blog found itself suspended. Sorry about that. We hadn’t gone away.

A quick e-mail dispatched to the helpdesk and they soon realised their mistake. No one stands between Nolan, Parker and our readers !

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