Monthly Archives: March 2016

Meet the readers

NolanParker signPhil: Team NolanParker is back in marketing mode. With our appearance at Stratford Literary Festival next month we’re working out what we need to say, and then where else we could say it.

In our heads we know that you can’t sit behind a computer and expect to sell a book. The music industry has already discovered that the money is in concerts putting artists in front of their fans. The book industry has found a similar thing – how else do you explain the growth in festivals, all of whom are promoting “star” authors?

People like to be entertained and in the book world, that means sitting in the same room as an author and watching the writing monkey dance.

Now we aren’t stars yet, so we need to take a different tack. What we have done is publish a book. Yes I know that loads of people have done that, but there are many times more who think they’d like to do this and will turn out to meet someone promising to tell them how to do it.

Let’s face it, the whole self-help industry is based on a small number of people dangling the prospect of an improved life in front of others who hope that the next book or lecture will be the one that solves their problems without them having to change anything.

Cynical I know, but practical too.

Anyway, once we’ve lit fested, we’re wondering who else we can go and talk to. How do you snag a booking to go and talk to a group of interested people? It’s easy if you are famous, the group will approach your agent with money and all will be fine.

Once we solve this, there is another task – making the best out of the session. From a commercial point of view.

With that in mind, we’ve just signed with Clink Street Publishing to produce physical copies of our book. Our versions were OK but they don’t look as professional as we’d like. Therefore we’ve followed the path trodden by other authors of our acquaintance and gone to a professional for professional services. Best of all, once complete, readers can head into proper bookshops like Waterstones or WH Smiths and order our book!

This means when we meet people, we have the chance to flog them a book. T-shirts and badges with out faces on can come later.

First though, we need to sort out some bookings. Anyone know some groups who fancy an hour or so’s entertainment with a literary feel?

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Not what you bargained for

Candice: When I was growing up there were strict rules about the eating of Easter eggs. Each egg would take three days to eat, splitting the two sides of the main egg in half and then eating the middle.

I’m not very good at having willpower. Usually having cake or chocolate in the house means I have to have a nibble at them. But this whole rule about the Easter eggs was one that was not broken, even across all these years.

However, in the last few years I haven’t really had eggs for Easter, I’ve had bars of chocolate as I really like a nice expensive style from hotel chocolat.  But since the arrival of an extra member of the family we have old fashioned eggs in the house. Well I thought they were… But they have changed. No longer are there three parts to egg, now there is only one.

Yes, disappointingly the world has changed. Due to cost cutting I would assume, you now get one whole egg and no goodies inside, well unless you go a lot bigger. How am I supposed to teach my daughter about restraint when it’s hard not to eat it all in one go !

When writing it’s hard to be constructive over what you have done. It’s precious to you and any criticism goes straight to the heart. Writing as a pair helps as you can take better criticism from you writing partner as you are also giving them feedback. But this where restraint must also come in as you need to decide some times that the feedback rings true. So cutting that scene that you loved writing so much or moving some stuff around might hurt but it’s best not to take it to personally. Just crack open that Easter egg and eat it all in one go.

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Grab your marketing opportunities

VFPhil: On Tuesday, spring had sprung, the sun rose early in the morning and the daylight had woken me up. Flipping the radio on I listened dozily to Venessa Feltz. She was looking at the story of a Big Issue seller who had married one of his customers. In an effort to generate some feedback, the question, “How did you meet your partner or one of your friends?” was asked.

Team NolanParker have always felt that the way we met (quango, redundancy) makes a useful handle to hang a story on.

For many minutes I pondered doing something about it. Lounging half awake in the warm, only the thought that I’d regret not grabbing this opportunity made me sit up and grab the tablet.

A few minutes later I’d fired off an e-mail:

I met my friend Candice while working for a quango. When it was closed down we found ourselves having to go to the office while things were wrapped up but had no work to do.

Somehow we discovered a shared passion for writing and 5 years later our novel “Kate vs the Dirtboffins” has been published!

We’re appearing at Stratford literary festival next month – who would have thought something good could come out of losing your job?

Not a long story but enough for a dozy person to type on a tablet computer. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it but in the run up to the 6am news, the letter was read out verbatim!

You can hear it here, 58 minutes in.

Now Candice might consider Radio 2 unfashionable, but then she buys clothes in Marks & Spencer so I no longer think she is entirely reliable on matters cool. Even she was impressed with my guerilla marketing though. What I didn’t know at the time was that the name of our book will have been heard by over 3 million people. Not bad!

OK, so I don’t suppose this will result in a rush of sales. At that time of the day you’re half asleep or doing something useful, but you never know. Maybe a major Hollywood film producer was listening and can’t get the title out of his mind now. Maybe it will be the start of something big. Or maybe I just need to be chuffed that I bagged a bit of coverage while not fully conscious.

If I can do that though, what can I do when I wake up properly?

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A little bit of exercise does you good

house07Candice: I went to body combat last night. It’s part of my usual routine, though at the moment I have ramped up my gym activity as there is a holiday looming so the bikini calls. Also I feel like I am finally coming out of the winter low, it’s not got hot yet (well not for longer than a day) but it’s lovely and light in the morning which makes me feel better when I have to get up at stupid o’clock to go to London.

So there was I punching and kicking to my hearts content but also thinking about what I need to do.  There is a scene in our book where Kate is giving it some on the cross trainer as she has had a bad day. I didn’t have a bad day really but just focused on what I needed to get done in this 4 day week before the lovely long weekend.

So I was planning my outfit for today, smart but sensible as I am on the tube. Thinking about what we might be able to get done this weekend as the epic redecorating of the back bedroom is a moving along again (old house means you always find more problems when you peel back the wallpaper). Planning what we are going to do with the little person to keep her entertained. So that was probably why I didn’t always get the routines first time !

I know Phil has mentioned he is struggling to get to the gym. At the moment I am not, I’m struggling to find time to do other stuff around my gym attendance. Thank god I’m not trying a to train for a half marathon again this year !

But I do find it worth while. An hour working out helps to clear the brain and sort out problems, and somewhere in there there might be a germ of an idea for a story.

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Enjoying springtime


Phil: Sat in John Lewis cafe this week with Candice, we both agreed that writing mojo has been missing recently. Truth is that life has been getting in the way of authoring recently.

Life is that stuff you have to do that fills your waking hours and stops you doing the things you dream you really want to do.

Self-help gurus will tell you to stop doing dull stuff and concentrate on things that make you happy. That’s lovely for them but like most stuff in the self-help industry, it’s difficult to reconcile with real life. You can’t stop going to work just because you fancy skipping through pastures dressed in something floaty from Laura Ashley and looking like the lead from a Timotei Shampoo advert.

However, it is important to have a dream and keep plodding toward it. After all, you do the dull stuff like visiting the supermarket and cleaning the car for a reason. If that’s all there is then I’m off to Dignitas. The gurning idiots in the adverts might be excited by 25 different types of washing powder but I rather hope there is more to life than wondering which one will soften without fading colours.

Anyway, another thing I’m struggling with at the moment is going to the gym. It’s not life getting in the way but roadworks. A set of roadworks between me and the leisure centre that would require me to spend 25 minutes in a traffic jam each way every time I wanted to go. Since I’m not that much of a fan, I usually find something better to do. Three weeks and counting so far and judging from the lack of work going on behind the cones, it could be another 3 before things return to normal.

In this case this cloud has a silver lining. I love springtime. It’s by far my favourite season full of new life bursting out everywhere, and every year I always think, “I must get outside and make the most of it” and every year I am busy and it’s summer before I know it.

So, in place of the gym, I’m taking a morning constitutional. That is, I go for a stroll when I should be lifting weights. I take a camera and snap scenes along the way.


I love walking and find it helps me think. In my head I have a good start on the spiel for our session at the literary festival, or at least the opening few minutes. That’s when I’m not simply letting my mind drift, which is quite a lot actually.

Anyway, next time Team NolanParker meet up, hopefully one of us will have enjoyed Prosecco on the patio with the girls and I’ll have enjoyed a good few pleasant walks in the gradually improving weather. And we’ll be as full of mojo as we were of coffee cake on Monday.

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I need some fun

Candice: This weekend has been another round of madness in the Nolan house.

We went to a first birthday party on Saturday and then the other half was sorting the redecorating of a bedroom for most Sunday so I was in charge of entertainment.

While someone was napping Sunday afternoon I enjoyed some quality me time in the sun (yes Spring seems to have finally appeared) reading the paper.

But when it gets to Sunday night I am frustrated, as yet again it is another weekend where I haven’t done anything as an adult.

What didn’t help was the fact my sister was off for a week abroad with the other half and my hubby had been out on the razzle on Friday night.

So I’ve decided its time for some fun.  The change in the weather is also driving my need for something that involves drinking and dancing, as the lighter evenings mean I don’t feel so tired.  Its time for some Prosecco on the Patio!

So I’ve texted some of my girlie mates about a night out.  Since most of us have become parents we seem to have lost the ability to want to go out and just let our hair down. Girls only means that we don’t have to find babysitters so that’s not an issue, but money and generally feeling tired is.

So far I haven’t had much response but I am counting my chickens that someone will take up the gauntlet and get me out of my funk.

Ginger CakeWhen Phil and I met for lunch today we were also discussing feeling a bit down about things. We both admitted to loosing our writing mojo as the book hasn’t taken off quite as we wanted and we are feeling the ‘what is the point of writing book two’.  I am sure that this comes to us all, as having an audience for your work motivates you to write more.  Having some appreciation makes it all worth while.

But I think we have managed to lift ourselves with some plans for marketing and taking time to write.  We also have Stratford Literary Festival looming and need to prepare our spiel.

So with some cake in our bellies we set off into the bright sunshine with some new hope.

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Books for children

Phil: Last week saw World Book Day so Candice asked on Twitter “Whats your favourite children’s book” sending around a few of our favourite authors. And me.

Daisy Waugh was first with a reply – The Secret Garden. My favourite book ever, inc. all the others, except mine

Which is interesting. How many of us, if asked for our top ten books, would include something we fell in love with as a child?

Julia Crouch came back with – Winnie the Pooh. I re-read it last month, and it’s still glorious.

Of course a good book is a good book no matter how old you are.

Polly Courtney’s daughter is only a couple of years old, so much more up to date – If I delegated this Q to my daughter, she would say Peppa Pig. Or more accurately, “Gekka!”

It seems that Peppa is the darling of the 2 year olds as Candice admitted  – We love peppa in out house. sent her to nursery with chicken licken today.

Now I think I might be responsible for Nolan Jnrs Chicken Licken interest. My mum tells me I used to drive her mad asking for it to be read to me many times a day. The story involves Chicken-Licken, Foxy-Loxy, Henny-Penny, Ducky-Lucky, Draky-Laky and co. So for her first birthday, the young Nolan received a copy. I’m chuffed she likes it, or maybe mom has sent it hoping it will be lost in transit!

Ron Sinclair is more pragmatic – hmm depends on age band! Mr Men books for younger ones, Discworld books for older!

Discworld is a series I’ve never been able to get into. I don’t know why but young Phil might have been different. Many hours were spend playing Fighting Fantasy books and I suspect that the satirical fantasy world of Terry Pratchett would have appealed greatly. I might even have read Harry Potter.

paddleAs it was, I’ve plumped, not for Thomas the Tank engine as you might expect, but Paddle-to-the-Sea. It’s a lovely story about a carved wooden Indian in his canoe released into the great lakes by a child who carves him. Each stage of Paddle’s journey is illustrated with a big watercolour and often footnotes explaining some of the things he encounters along the way. Both educational and entertaining, I’ve loved the idea of toys going on a journey and wondering what they would get up to ever since.

And Candice? I always loved the Faraway Tree series. Escapism is my thing.

I’d never heard of these despite being a devotee of Enid Blyton as a child. I read all the Famous Five books several times and probably all the Secret Seven too. Was I deprived?

And what is your favourite children’s book?

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Another week, another bug!

Candice:  All in all it has been another interesting week in the Nolan household.  I’ve had a few days off work and had planned to do some book marketing/writing stuff.  However, as is always the way there aren’t enough hours in the day/week/year to do what I need to do and to cap it all I have been ill, AGAIN!

So, over my days off I’ve stripped the wall paper in our back bedroom and prepped it for decorating, been to a Mother’s Day tea party, watched Andy and Jamie Murray thrash the Japanese in Davis Cup Tennis doubles, and then spent all day in bed with a stomach bug.

Now this one I don’t think I can blame on the daughter. To be honest I’m not sure where it came from exactly but I do know one is doing the rounds.  Let us just say 12hrs of being sick on a regular basis was not the best way to spend my Mother’s day.  I did get that lie in they all talk about you getting on Mother’s day but not for the right reasons.  I did not actually get out of bed on Sunday!

I feel much better today considering, but a bit weak which is not surprising.

So my planned book marketing activity has all gone to pot.  After the first press release didn’t cut it (I’ve obviously lost my touch), round two is in the  making plus a plan to use some of my insider knowledge from work to decide when is the best time to send it. And I might have to badger them with a phone call too.

I was also going to have  play with tweet deck so I can do some planned social media activity to keep those steadily rising follower figures going up.

And I was planning to carry on my new gym regime, started last week and something that was really motivating me.

So, its back to the drawing board for this week, gym trips included in that, but I’m sure I can work out a new plan.

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Dickensian characters

DickensianPhil: Bit of a catch up post this time. I’ve been meaning to write about the BBC TV series Dickensian for some time but all the book stuff got in the way.

I’m not big on TV series as a rule. Years ago, everyone in the office I worked in was watching “Heroes“. We enjoyed it right up until the end when the plot fell apart and great disappointment ensued. Since then, I’ve never really bothered keeping up with telly stuff.

In the run up to Christmas the BBC heavily advertised their new show. The idea was to take a cast of mostly minor characters from Charles Dickens stories, stick them in a small area of London and off we go.

Dickens aficionados were doubtless horrified but I suspect the man himself would have been perfectly happy. He knew how to write popular stuff. Stores were serialised in print with readers eagerly buying each issue as it appeared.

I had an advantage in that apart from “A Christmas Carol”, I don’t know many of the original works at all. I could enjoy the characters unsullied by notions that someone was ruining a well-loved original story.

Even the first gripping storyline, who killed Jacob Marley, didn’t annoy me. In the book, Marley dies in his bed but here he is murdered by the docks. Does it matter? Not a huge amount. This is almost fan fiction. Suspend disbelief and just let the story move on. At least there is the splendid Inspector Bucket, “Of the detective” and the only actor other than Alistair Sim to make a decent job (in my mind) of playing Scrooge.

Actually, you had to like this because the first episode was full of people who all looked a bit the same but once the Whodunit thread clicked then it was easy to concentrate on it while gradually learning about the other characters. Very clever writing drawing you into what could have been a complicated set of plots without the viewer noticing.

Taking characters written by another author and using them in your own story is surely a compliment. I’d be dead chuffed to find Kate & Co. turning up in stories we hadn’t written. This will take a few books and perhaps the first feature film to happen – after all you need to be immersed in the world of KOD first.

On-line reviews of Dickensain have been largely positive. Professional review were less kind but these were usually written by someone desperate to show that they had read the books and could only accept a pure approach. Me, I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend you look out for repeats or DVDs to binge watch.

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Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley

Candice: The other week I was in the supermarket and along side the weekly shop I dropped into the book aisle.

Now, a few years ago I would have been a regular loiterer, as well as being seen in second hand book stores, but now a regular read is not so high on my list of priorities so I don’t go there as often.

However, in between baby meals and veg I fancied something to keep me entertained.  I also knew I had some reading time coming up with a two day trip away from home coming up.  So I picked up ‘Wickham Hall’.  The description on the back caught my eye, mainly because the main character’s name was Holly Swift, and the last name Swift is my alter ego. But it also seemed like a fun romp (as we like to say in literary circles). I also liked the fact it was based in Stratford upon Avon and Henley in Arden, both areas close to my home, so I could picture them taking tea on the high street or going to the pub by the river.

The book itself is based around Holly getting her dream job as Events Coordinator at her local stately home.  Growing up in its shadow she has been there many a time for an walk round the gardens or a summer festival but this means she can actually be part of it. However, as this is a romantic comedy, things don’t go exactly to plan as her new boss has to leave and she’s left holding the fort until the heir to the home returns, forced into his role as Events Manager until he takes over the whole place. Of course, he doesn’t want the job so sparks fly and we have enough twists and turns before we get to the finale where they head off together into the sunset.  (Sorry plot spoiler).

The book was originally serialised as four parts and you can tell as you get to the end of each season.  I have to admit, as I raced through the book, I would have struggled to wait the next few months for the next one!

I really enjoyed this book.  It was exactly the kind of in-flight/hotel read I needed as a nice piece of escapism.  I have to say my trip was quite boring and this made the dark dreary hours disappear.

Well worth a read, or save it for the sunbed on your next holiday.


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