Monthly Archives: February 2016

Bringing presents home from nursery

Candice:  My daughter regularly comes home from nursery with things she has made for us. Cakes, drawings, crafts. But this week she brought back the other thing that she some times comes home with… A bug.  A virus to be exact. Something she has then given to me, the other half and not forgetting having it herself !

Tuesday involved a family trip to the doctors to be diagnosed and a prescription for antibiotics for the little person.

So come to today, the husband is back at work, the daughter at nursery and yours truly still under the weather.

So there hasn’t been much reading, writing or anything else this week. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed.

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Introducing Dandylion Publishing


Phil: Many, many months ago, you will have heard us mention that we’d done a deal with a publisher. Then things went quiet and just before Christmas we self-published on Amazon. You might have wondered what was up.

Well, truth was that we really had signed a deal, but the process of coming to market took longer than anyone expected so we decided to jump early. Our publishers are the newly launched Dandylion Publishing.

We showed Jade and Sarah our novel 18 months ago they loved it. After the usual round of edits, some of which we agreed with and so we ignored (they took it very well), the book joined their list and then things went quiet as the list was built in preparation for the website launch. Anyone who has been involved with a start-up business knows that things take longer than expected so went away and started work on Book 2.

However, Monday saw the “soft launch” of the business so we can tell you about it properly.


Two aspects of Dandylion appealed to us:

First, they aren’t based in London. When we met the owners, they explained they wanted to work in publishing but not to relocate to the capital from Leeds. You might not think this matters much but we were determined to set our book in the Midlands and London publishers like London locations.

Second, the business model works well for authors. If Dandylion accept your book, you agree terms for publishing based on a series of services they offer. No money changes hands but you agree how much each party receives from every sale. We’ve gone for the full-fat Fitzgerald service which included copy editing, proof reading, story structure suggestions etc. as producing a quality book mattered more than the income.

For the writer, it means that the publisher has a financial interest in selling copies of your book. If they don’t than they see no return on the work they have put in.

So, if you are an author looking for a publisher, give Dandylion a go. We’ve met them and been bought dinner (OK, a TGI Friday burger each, this IS a new business) and they are lovely people. Of course we like anyone who loves our book, so perhaps we are biased.

And if you are a reader interested in something new for your e-Book thingy, then see what their growing collection can offer you.

Visit: Dandylion Publishing.


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By Gove, I hope he’s got it!

GovePostPhil: You have to feel sorry for Michael Gove. Being the Secretary of State for Justice is a pretty thankless job. Your “customer base”, the criminal population, is never going to like you. Worse, the people who should support you in the party are more interesting in bringing back whatever punishment their kids have read about in a Horrible History book read to them at bedtime.

There’s also the constitutional stuff which at the moment is going to involve a lot of European Union documentation. None of that is going to be a bundle of fun to read at the end of a long day.

What MG needs is something light and entertaining, which is why he will be so pleased to receive a package including this letter:

Dear Mr Gove

You are probably wondering why anyone has sent you a novel, especially one that appears to be as far removed from your normal reading as it is possible to get. The reason is simple, without you, this book wouldn’t exist and neither myself nor my co-writer Candice, would have ever had the pleasure of writing anything like it.

The story starts in May 2010. You had just become Secretary of State for Education and we both worked as contractors for Becta.

When you announced Becta’s closure, we found ourselves in an unusual position. We had to come in to the office every day or we wouldn’t be paid, but obviously there wasn’t anything to do. So, we and the other contract staff chatted and joked about setting up a “Change Management” company to handle other similar situations. This gradually morphed into the idea of writing a novel. We shared a similar sense of “Tom Sharpe” humour and found ourselves sharing ideas. Before we knew it, we had half a book.

New employment found, we couldn’t leave the book alone and continued to work on it. Along the way we started a blog, interviewed other authors learned an awful lot about publishing and eventually self-publishing. It’s been a fascinating process.

Now Candice is Head of Propositions with an electricity generator and I’m a features writer for several hobby magazines. At Christmas last year we finally launched the book so people who had politely listened to us excitedly talking about it could see what the fuss was about. We’re now firing up the marketing machine to try to see if we can have some success, there is an appearance at the Stratford Literary Festival in the diary already. Beyond this, a second book in the series is already half written as we are enjoying the process so much.

So, it seemed only fair to send the person who got us started a copy. You’ll appreciate that six years ago we weren’t exactly happy but the passing of time has shown that something good can emerge from adversity.

Yours sincerely

Well, it’s the very least we could do. We’ve sent a copy to his boss as well. He’s probably also looking for something to take his mind off meetings with grey eurocrats.

Of course this story has formed the basis for a special Nolan-crafted press release which hopefully makes it more interesting that “local person writes words”. We’ll find out how well this works in a few days.

Beyond this, there is the matter of our literary festival appearance. I’m not sure we can advise people who fancy writing a novel to get made redundant first, but we’ve proved it can be a starting point.

Happy reading Michael!

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And the PR machine gets rolling

Candice: So I finally pulled my finger out over the weekend and issued our press release about the book.  I even came up with a funny header line – something that takes me back to brainstorming sessions when I worked for Birmingham City Council where we all sat round trying to come up with a cracker for our press release.  Yes, the council  did do things that needed funny headlines, well at least the part I worked for in Leisure and Tourism.

I have to say in those days issuing a press release also involved faxing it to a list attached to the fax machine and then ringing round to check it was received, not emailing it direct to the right person, how things have changed. So hopefully this weekend will see our mug shot in the local press and a few more books sold.

Doing any PR really does take me back a few years to something I loved doing.  I didn’t enjoy doing the ring round and trying to sell a story though.  The guy on the picture desk at the Post and Mail was quite abrupt and if you didn’t get him within the first five words he’d cut you off!  But the excitement of getting coverage and seeing something you’d written and set up actually in the paper, on the radio or even TV was the thing that made your day.

I haven’t really done it for a few years now (though I do have a PR agency that I manage at work) but I do like to dip my toe in occasionally and try and remind myself how its done.

So what is the release about… well all will be revealed later in the week but I’ll give you a taster with the header.

“By Gove I think he’s done it!”

Make of that what you will….

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Give and take

Chinese New YearPhil: Our session at Stratford Literary Festival is going to include something about “the challenges of writing together”. While we might not be married, despite what the early publicity might suggest, I have a feeling that it probably has some similarities.

On Tuesday, Candice mentioned that “Phil will be asking me what we are doing about marketing the first book or writing the second” and she’s right. However, Phil knows that his writing other half is a busy lady. A high pressure job and child, not to mention the temptation to stay in the newly completed fancy-pants shower all day, steal time from her literary pursuits.

He understands this completely while recognising that at this stage, Book 1 is all about the publicity. He might joke that marketing is all colouring in and playing with glitter, it does actually require quite a bit of skill and only one of us is a black-belt in the subject.

So it’s time to be understanding and go away to do something useful instead. After all, there is a second book to write and so I’d better go away and re-read what we’ve done, then add to it.

Of course, I’m not sitting around idly all day no matter what it looks like. January saw me slogging my way through a number of projects, all of which had to be delivered at the same time. February felt a lot more like the turn of the year than January 1st, but I still have one big event this weekend, maybe I should take up the Chinese calendar rather than the western one! Hopefully, from Monday, things will look a bit clearer. Mind you, I’ve said that before.

Like all relationships, there is give and take. We both bring different skills to the partnership. We also encourage each other and that’s going to be a big part of our talk.

Writing on your own must be a slog sometimes. It would be all too easy to stick the book in a drawer and forget about it for a few days. Those days turn into a month and the month a year.

If I want to enjoy cake with the Nolan, this can’t happen or I’ll get “the look” from the other side of the table. She knows that if we don’t meet up for a while, or there is no blog post on a Tuesday, I’ll be nagging. We cajole each other and thus the project makes progress. Maybe not as quickly as it might but there is progress and that’s the difference between writing a book and wanting to write one.

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Some times it’s all a bit much!

Candice:  Its been busier than usual in the Nolan house hold over the last few weeks, what with birthdays and new bathrooms.  Even our lovely weekend away the other week was enjoyable but brought extra stress too.

People often ask me how I fit it all in and, to be honest; on Saturday both me and the Husband (that’s not Phil) did wonder how we were going to manage.  It was his big birthday party and the day was planned down to the detail, list and everything, to make sure it was already for the party.  Neither of us slept well the night before thinking about what we had to do.  From 9am it was:

  • hairdresser visit for me
  • pick up helium balloons for him
  • take daughter to music class
  • MOT his car
  • have food
  • tidy up house and prepare spare room for guests
  • go to venue and start decorating room plus entertain two year old
  • meet grand parents
  • have dinner
  • get ready
  • feed and put daughter to bed
  • meet baby sitter
  • discover cat has brought mouse in, try to catch, give up
  • get to venue

and finally, drink wine while circulating the room, cut cakes, sing happy birthday, cut more cakes, encourage people to eat cake, speak to lots of people for a short period, dance, share out birthday cake, dance and then it was Midnight.

Then it was clear room, get home, try to catch mouse, give up, go to bed!

I need a day off.

And that I have tomorrow, but tomorrow’s day off is all about tidying up the house, fun!

And then somewhere in there Phil will be asking me what we are doing about marketing the first book or writing the second.  At the moment its all pie in the sky, which I find frustrating, but I will find time the same way I find time to go to the gym.  But it will probably have to wait until I have three days off at the start of March and I can really get my head into it (and I won’t be recovering from organising a party).

My advice, don’t beat yourself if you can’t do it just now, but make sure you plan in some time to write, else  you won’t be happy.


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Say it with Triffids

The Day of the TriffidsPhil: Back in August I mentioned that I’d never read John Wyndham’s book “The Day of the Triffids”. It was in a list of classic novels I felt I should read one day.

Browsing the shelves of a second-hand bookshop a few weeks later, I bought a copy for the princely sum of £2. Only 5 months later, I’ve managed to read it.

Short version: It’s excellent.

Long version: Even if you’ve not read the book, most people are aware of the basic story. A meteor shower (or is it?) blinds most of the population. Our hero isn’t affected thanks to a spell in hospital and has to escape London and try to survive.

Compounding the problems are the Triffids – mobile, carnivorous plants. Blind people are easy prey for their deadly stings.

The key to the book is a good, solid concept. The idea of a world full of blind people is bad enough but when they are being hunted by killer plants then you’ve really stoked up the terror. Stoked it up enough that we don’t bother to question the absurdity of walking, thinking, plants.

Of course the horror doesn’t end there. With the reader imagining themselves in the position of the hero, they then have to understand some terrible decisions that have to be taken. You can’t save a city full of blind people. One character tries – he captures some of the sighted and attaches them to groups of ten sightless people with the idea that they will act as the eyes for the group to help them scavenge for supplies.

The awful thing is that even he has to realise that this isn’t a practical option. You really do have to switch off your compassion and abandon people to their fate. Perhaps this was too shocking even for Wyndham as a mysterious plague appears to kill off the population rather than contemplate leaving them to a slow death from starvation or to be killed and eaten by the triffids.

What we have is a fight to survive. A fight that involves a great deal of practical work. Sad as it sounds, I like to think I’d be good in this sort of situation. When society has collapsed then you want someone who can make a shelter. Not that I have any desire to find out, but it’s impossible to read a book like this and not wonder how you would cope.

At 272 pages, this isn’t a long book but it doesn’t need to be. There are twists and turns along the way. The action takes place over a long enough period that the world gradually changes too. Towards the end we begin to wonder just how long the survivors can hold out.

Written in 1951, it hasn’t dated too badly either. Maybe the female characters are of their time – one is admonished for claiming that starting up a generator is something women could never do. That’s quite an achievement on its own, although perhaps life was simpler then, and the temptation to introduce elements that would seem old-fashioned today wasn’t so great.

An excellent read. You might need something funny to cheer you up afterwards though. Perhaps some comedy romance?

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Partners… in name only!

startlitfestCandice: I’ve just come back from a weekend away and was surprised to see a text from Phil yesterday while doing the big car unpack with my little assistant.

Apparently, Phil and I are married.  Though I am not sure my husband is aware of this….

A few weeks ago we had the luck of being signed up to talk at Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival in April.  Yes, we are famous… well actually we were just cheeky and asked.

However, the person who has written our bio has assumed that we are a ‘husband and wife writing partnership’.  Um… not sure about that one.  This is not the first time this has happened, as Adele Parks made the same assumption when we met her at the Lit Festival last year. I suppose; we hang out together, have written a book, blog and do other things together so they have put two and two together and made five!

So, just to set the record straight.  I am married but not to Phil, and have a lovely two year old that is also not Phil’s! Phil, I assume, is married to his work…

However, we are great buddies who enjoy bouncing ideas off each other. And we look forward to talking to everyone at the Lit Fest about our writing partnership. (Tickets available now)

Does this make me a bigamist?

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