Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rediscovering a Gem

Candice:  I’ve recently rediscovered a TV show that I used to watch, and am enjoying it again.  I watched the whole of the first series of Episodes and really enjoyed in, lost season two as forget to series link it.  But series three has just started and if by luck its found its way on to my Tivo box.

What is Episodes?  Well the premise is too successful English writers who’s show gets picked up by an American network.  They get transplanted to LA and then the fun begins as the complexities of making shows in Hollywood with big money and big egos kicks in.  Matt LeBlanc plays a great caricature of himself as an arrogant, self centred actor who was once a big deal and now is not.

During the first series, every one fell out with each other, everyone slept with each other, and they all had fun playing the Hollywood game.  At the end of series two the writers were so desperate to go home they were glad when their show got cancelled … but then for the start of series three they are pulled back into the fun as it gets recommissioned out of spite (Matt has landed a part on another show which another network).

The show is dry and subtle funny, I can’t believe some times some of the things they get up to,  but it all feels plausible as we have all been told about how bad it is behind the scenes in LA LA land.  The last episode I watched Matt found out his accountant had screwed him, he got very upset and was wingeing to the two writers.  But they found out he’d only lost half his money, and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t survive in $32m!

Its my kind of funny and I look forward to getting the remote off the other half tonight and seeing what they have been up to this week.

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You can’t say no to the Nolan

5/4/2010: To-Do ListPhil: When Candice asked last Thursday, referring to reaching the half way point writing Book 2, “Are you up for it Phil?”, my first reaction was,


Right at the moment, I’m busy. OK, I’m always busy, even if it’s not what people might refer to as “proper” work, but right at this moment a major project has just taken off, I’m embarking on another for a different publication and some deadlines for the same people have crept up on me. And there is a little cluster of tiny deadlines to look at that I’m trying to ignore for a few days by not opening an envelope.

A bit of midnight oil is being burnt at the moment but despite this, and mindful that I don’t have a husband and child to run, I console myself that at least, unlike my friend, I’m not in training for some sort of fun run. If I’m busy, there’s one less trip to the gym which is (mostly) fine by me.

Truth is, a change can really be as good as a rest. Last week we met up for lunch in John Lewis cafe (posh or what?) and quickly fell into book chat. Looking at the manuscript with all the bit’s we’ve written in place, the story is really coming together. It’s following the plan we produced months ago and generally, we’re happy.

I wondered if one area we were lacking was the big “set piece” comedy scene. Book 1 has 3 or 4 of these and we love them all. Book 2 was shaping up to be more conventional. Funny in lots of places but without a real blast. Candice suggested that this wasn’t a problem and could partly be down to the much more professional way we are working. Maybe as we go, we’ll find a place to build those belly laughs in as we put the detail together.

And she was right. As we talked through some of the future writing, one of us came up with an idea. A little bit of revenge gone wrong.

And then the other took the idea an pushed it a bit.

For a few minutes we played plot-writing ping-pong with ever funnier ideas. Ignoring the glances of the pensioners enjoying modestly priced refreshment nearby, a few minutes saw at least one set-piece all but written.

If you’ve not worked like this, I can honestly say you don’t know what you are missing. People ask us how we write a book as a partnership. I can’t think how it’s possible to write one when you aren’t working with someone else.

For a start you can’t give up easily as there’s someone else to chivvy you along or pick up the baton and run with it for a bit. Mostly though, we develop ideas quickly and kill bad ones nearly as fast.

So I might be busy but up for the 40,000 word target. Just not this week.

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It’s a numbers game

Candice: Phil got very excited the other day.  He sent me over some new words and a new total – 25,000.  Now we’ve obviously set ourselves a target of the first draft of the book  by the end of June.  This was always optimistic but we both need a deadline else we’d just swim around for ages with lots of ideas (that’s not an area we have an issue with) but not actually put pen to paper and still be talking about writing book 2 now.  The thought of the first book being out there soon (we hope) is also a great motivator.  FYI – if you want to find out more about online publishing with some great help see Dandylion Publishing.

So I had chance to read through his new words the other day, all together now in one document so we can easily see we have a story on the way.  But I finished it and went, hang on a minute, there is more than this.  I mentioned to Phil and he’d got so excited when the word count got to 25,000 he’d not actually checked if there was more.  I told him to stop short changing us.

Checking back on everything in our drop box I estimate there are an additional 1,500 words in there.  Not much but enough to push us closer to 30,000.

So why I am I so obsessed with numbers.  Well I’m not really, the book will be finished when it is finished, and I think this one is going to be longer than 80,000 as we have a much better plan and structure than last time.  But having that number attached to it makes you feel much better. We’ve written nearly a third of it, and we are within touching distance of 40,000. ie half way.

So, as I do like these deadlines I’m going to pitch for 40,000 words by the end of June.  I’m away for a week during that time so I can have a go at writing in between sessions on the sun lounger/chasing toddler around.

Are you up for it Phil?

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Real friends

FreindsPhil: Last week, Candice mentioned her love of social media. The joys of being able to contact an authors whose book you have enjoyed directly and tell them.

All this is fine but it does create problems. For a start, what about people who don’t like your book? How is it to be bombarded by criticism?

You can say, “Well I don’t take it personally” but that’s got to be almost impossible.

The problem is the intermingling of public and private persona’s. Nowhere is this more of an issue than Facebook.

In my own field, I am mildly famous. I blog, I write for magazines, I turn up at exhibitions where people come and talk to me. All this is part of the job and absolutely marvellous.

But, because of this, lots of people have requested that they be my friend on Facebook. Currently there are 18 awaiting acceptance, none of whom I have met as far as I know. Once this started happening, I made a rule that if I don’t actually know you, I don’t accept you as a friend.

Facebook is where I keep in touch with friends and as I’m not a 12 year old girl, I don’t gauge my life by having a stupidly large number on-line. I like to think that everyone on that list is someone I could go for a drink with. Someone I actually remember meeting more than once for a start.

Those who randomly get in touch are probably lovely people but I can’t be sure they aren’t axe murderers. As such, I don’t want to accept them. Discussions, jokes and anything else shared on-line is to be shared with like-minded people, not just random bods who got in touch.

In the future though, is this going to be an option? Once The Book is published, how do we deal with all the people who will then want to be in touch?

Do we have two groups of people – real friends and professional friends (fans?) and do we both need two sets of personality on all social media to divide the two?

Is it time for Nolan Parker to become a real (virtual) person and sign up for Faceybook and Twittier?

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Getting up close and personal

CaptureCandice: I’ve commented before on how I like the social media, Twitter especially as it gets me up close and personal with people who wouldn’t have given me the time of day before.

When I was growing up if you wanted to get close to someone famous, you queued outside the stage door or joined their fan club. This, if you were lucky, you’d get sent a regular newsletter and perhaps a signed photo. But you’d never get to communicate with them face to face.

Previously we’ve met/seen authors at event and then but some social media jiggery pokery we’ve got them to do an interview with us. I have to say this more me than Phil but then if am the cheeky one of the bunch (hence why I will be on Loose women).

I don’t have the time to keep tweeting as much as I would like, which is probably why I only have just over 100 followers but I can see, if I did I would struggle keep off it. It’s bad enough at the moment with our habit to have our phone with us at all times, so that any little thing that comes in we are checking. Some times this is a good thing but some times a terrible distraction as that flashing symbol means we don’t really concentrate on what we are doing and just jump around all over the place. This is emphasized by the fact I have finally upgraded my Blackberry to a Samsung Galaxy which I’m finding easy to use and also even easier to check my social media only! Any way, this blog isn’t about the downsides of our ‘always on life’.

So a few weeks ago I finished The Seafront Tea Rooms. I blogged about it and @ it at the author. She came back saying thanks for the review.

Then I sent something to Rob Sinclair, who Phil met last week at his met the author session, he said look forward to meeting you and it gave Phil an introduction.

I then sent something to Adele Parks to say looking forward to her session, she said thanks. And then when we met her on the night it was the opener to a conversation as I mentioned we’d ‘chatted’ over Twitter.

And finally, I’d just finished The Miniaturist, which I loved, I sent something to Jessie Burton, its’ author. I said ‘I wanted to know more’ and she said ‘you’ll just have to wait and see’.

It’s amazing to see a response from the people who’s book I be just read. For them it must be nice to get a true response, rather than just a formal review in a paper. This is their audience so it’s their chance to communicate to them, as well as us readers to get a buzz from getting a response from some one who is famous.

It’s also a very clever marketing ploy, as I now want to read more of their books as I think I know them and they like me.

Phil said Rob spends half his day on social media, and I think you would have to to respond to everything that comes in. But it’s worth to get that extra reader to engage with you and want to come back for more.

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It was 60 months ago today…

Phil (with apologies to Lennon and McCartney):

It was sixty months ago todayWritersBand
Mikey Govey told two friends to write
They’d been going in and out of work
But he said it’s now time for you to go
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Nolan Parker’s crazy writers team

We’re Nolan Parker’s crazy writers team
We hope you will enjoy our book
We’re Nolan Parker’s crazy writers team
Sit back and let the story flow
Nolan Parker writers, Nolan Parker writers
Nolan Parker crazy writers team
It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like read our tale to you
We’d like read our tale

I don’t really want to stop the show
But I thought that you might like to know
That the writers going to type some words
And they want you all to read along
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Miss Kate Smith
And all her friends, who work for KOD!

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A late afternoon with Paul Merton

Paul MertonPhil: Paul Merton had hurt his hand.

The bandage was an industrial injury. He’d been writing a screenplay for a film and sprained it. You see Merton writes everything longhand. Everything. Including both drafts of his 100,000 word autobiography.

As he explained to the packed Stratford Literary Festival crowd, he doesn’t own a computer or mobile ‘phone. “I’m just like everyone used to be.” he remarked to our great amusement.

Not only does he write by hand, he works in pencil. It’s a marvellous way to judging progress apparently. You can literally measure the work done by the length of your tool. He likes proper pencils too, attempts to foist plastic versions on contestants of Just a Minute by the BBC were firmly rebuffed.

Listening to Merton talk about writing is interesting because he’s best known for improvisational work – Just a Minute, Who’s Line is it anyway, The Masterson Inheritance and so on. All of which require no writing whatsoever, indeed very little preparation at all. Just a Minute contestants are shown the subjects in advance but most just use this opportunity to come up with some loose ideas. Only once has someone gone away and swotted up in an encyclopedia – and it showed.

This wasn’t how it started however. A shy boy fascinated by clowns, Merton (then Martin, he changed his name to join Equity) found inspiration at a bus stop one night and rushed off to spend 6 weeks honing a 3 minute sketch about a policeman who accidentally find himself taking “what I thought to be a sugar-coated chocolate confectionery but now know to be a hallucinogenic.”.

Performing this on stage got him started in showbiz and since then he has specialised in slightly surreal comedy that can be an acquired taste but I certainly enjoy it. Alongside this have been the long running radio and TV panels shows including Have I Got News For You.

I can’t say I learnt much about the craft of writing, and there’s no way I’ll eschew the word processor for a pencil, but it was very interesting to peek behind the curtain of the sort of shows I aspire to appear on once we are famous. And it was a hilarious way to spend an hour.


Lit Fest Pencils_web


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The importance of research

Candice: Last week Phil and I went to an event as part of Stratford Literary Festival.  Billed as ‘Adele Parks and Jill Dawson – researching for fiction’ we thought it would be worth attending for two reasons: one I’d read some books by Adele so was curious to see what she was like, and second we’d just had a long conversation about whether we needed to get something factually right for the book, so I thought it would be good to see what they said.

I was the last one in as had had to get there by train and it was running 15 minutes late.  So I snuck in the door, sat down, and off they went.  If I’d been a minute or so later I could have been replacing Adele and been ushered into the front !

Settling in to listen we had an introduction to the two authors, one a regular historical writer and the other usually a writer of romantic fiction who had decided to explore something else.

Both ladies had similar but also different approaches.  Jill was more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ writer, she planned some of her work but admitted that she didn’t really know how the end would work so just let the writing flow.  Adele was more of a ‘post it note on the wall’ kind of girl, working out her year so she’d finish the book in time to go on the family holiday.  This has obviously worked as she’d turned out 15 books in as many years.

Both admitted to researching as they went, writing some and then going off to find out something they didn’t know.  This might also mean trips to the places they are actually describing, though in Jill’s case it seemed the place and historical story she based her book on often came first, and this is what drove her writing.

It became very clear, particularly in Adele’s case, that she had become extremely engrossed in her subject.  As a first time writer of a fictional book based on fact she’d wanted to get the true story across of the ‘spare brides’, those left behind after the first world war.  She’d delved into the detail so much that she now had a house full of posters and knick knacks from that era.

Some of the best points from the interesting hours talk were:

  • Your readers need to stay in the moment.  Detailed research is good but only if we, as a present day reader, understand it.  ie don’t use a term that means nothing today
  • Also, they need to be unaware that you have researched, the story feels natural to them
  • You need to know when too much research is a step too far.  It might be nice to include that point, but only if it adds to the story.
  • And finally, it doesn’t have to be true as long as you, the reader, believes.  Going back to Phil’s last post about action books, they are terrible for this, putting someone in a situation where they would die but miraculously the come out unscathed.

I’m still unsure about this last one, but then I am a terror for picking flies in story lines or looking for mistakes in films so perhaps I am the extreme.  I just want to make sure with this book, as we are talking about things I know nothing about, that the reader doesn’t get put off by us getting our naval terms wrong.

Anyway, I got a lovely signed book at the end and had a brief chat with Adele who also seemed lovely!

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