Monthly Archives: April 2016

No, you are NOT wearing a codpiece!

cuecardwritingPhil: The big day is here. I spent yesterday evening sat in a coffee shop writing my cue cards.  We’ve four each, which seems a very small number until you realise that we’ll only have 3 minutes 45 seconds for each. We’re going to have to talk fast…

By now, every surface of Nolan towers will be covered in clothes as decisions are taken on the most suitable outfit for presenting at a literature festival.

In this respect, I have things easy. Men, especially authors, aren’t judged on what they wear.

It being the 400th anniversary of ma homeboy Billy S’s death, I wondered if I should mark the occasion by dressing in full doublet and hose. Checking the fashion press, it seems that “doublets were padded over the belly with bombast in a “pouter pigeon” or “peascod” silhouette” and what with that being my natural shape, it seemed a look ripe for a comeback.

I checked with my fashion advisor and asked where I might purchase the required codpiece, not being familiar with stores stocking high fashion.

An e-mail response told me I am not wearing traditional Shakespeare costume. Something to do with an unpleasent mental picture.

So, it’s back to the wardrobe to see if I can find anything with leather elbow patches.

Of course, if you want to see what we did wear, and more importantly, pick up some suggestions on how writing as a team could help you complete your novel, get yourself down to:

New Voices – Romantic Comedy at the Stratford Artshouse 3pm today!



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Nerves of steel…?

CaptureCandice: So D day is nearly upon us. Phil and I will be hanging out with the Shakespearean lovies on Thursday and doing out bit to talk  about the trials and tribulations of writing a book at Stratford Literary Festival.

To be honest even the thought of it makes me fell slightly sick.

I don’t mind getting up in front of audience to talk.  Over the years I’ve done a lot of drama and presentations and once I get going I’m fine.  But is the build up I hate.  Thursday morning I will be a wreak and am trying to fill it with other things so I don’t think about it all.  By the time 2.55pm comes about I’ll probably be being sick in the loo.

Saturday night I was watching RSLive.  It was a brilliant show celebrating 400 years of the Bard with a raft of stars showing how many ways he has influenced people, from Duke Ellington to Cole Porter.  It was very clever in showing us the breadth of Shakespeare’s catalogue and its not all the boring text that you had to study at school.

However, the show went on for a few hours and as the actors came on to do their bit one of the things I thought of was, ‘they must get nervous waiting in the wings’. Lets face it, does Dame Judi Dench still get stage fright?

But I have learnt over time that sometimes adrenaline does you good.  I have literally been throwing up back stage before going on to do a play, and then once I am on stage I can remember every line because I need the adrenaline to help me.

Luckily, Thursday is more off the cuff but we have our cue cards ready and have planned a talk that we hope people will find interesting.  Roll on 3.30pm and I can relax with a cuppa.

And  if you are coming don’t hesitate to come and talk to us after, when I’ll  be feeling much more chipper!

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Victoria Wood – RIP

Phil: Sad news this week. One of the countries greatest writers has died. Victoria Wood has died after “a short but brave” battle with cancer aged 62.

Being able to turn her writing hand to comedy and serious work, it’s the funny stuff I’ll certainly remember her for. The temptation is to list all her output, but everyone is doing that.

I remember seeing her live with a crowd from work back in the late 1980s. We roared with laughter, even the blokes, although we had to imagine what the Liletes diagrams actually looked like…

No, just enjoy what I think is the one of the greatest comedy songs ever written and performed. The ballad of Barry and Freda.

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Your search history

Candice: You know you are having a bad week when you start to type in your search into Google and when you put in d the word “diarrhea” comes up.

Luckily it’s not me being ill but another, smaller member of the household.  She’s fine in herself but not so well in other areas.  This means, of course, that she can’t go to nursery.  We are now a week in and I’ve used up all my grandparent passes so the other half and I are stepping in to the breach and having to take some time off to look after her.

But I am always harping on about time and the issues with having a child so I will shut up!

I did manage to squeeze in some book time the other day as we have  new typeset version of our book, courtesy of Clink Street. However, in the transfer from Word to Indesign a lot of the formatting has changed, and we have spotted some typos.

I’ve also had a colleague at work read the book and give me some good feedback on it (its a bloke so that’s even better) but also give me a list of things he spotted.

Between the two we now have a long list of things to change to make the printed version even  better!  However, by the end of the two hour proofing session my eyes were going a little screwy.

I have a recommendation to anyone who needs to proof read their work.  Read it from the end.  You don’t get distracted by the meaning and the story, you literally just spot the mistakes.

After many missed speech marks and full stops, it definitely worked for me.

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Starting with a bang but without a script

Bang!Phil: We’re working hard on our Stratford Literary Festival talk at the moment.

For a while I’ve had an idea that we should open with a little reading from our book. It’s what proper authors do, and the passage I’ve selected pretty accurately describes the events that started us writing. Just as importantly, it’s not very long. I hate it when an author spends ages reading to the audience – we can read, what we’ve paid for (Note: Our event is FREE!) is to hear things that we can’t get from the page.

Needless to say, the Nolan has other ideas. Something to do with getting the elevator pitch out first. Apparently, there might be people who don’t know the book because they haven’t read it yet.

Maybe my thoughts are falling into the classic new writer trap of too much setup. We need a bang to start with before returning to our core theme. In the book, we threw someone off a roof, but that’s hardly appropriate for a genteel literary festival, so we’ll try something else.

After that we need a proper theme. The story of Candice and Phil might entertain us but we know it’s no use to anyone else. No, what we are going to do is expound the benefits of writing as a team. This sort of session is filled with unrequited novelists who are struggling to get the book finished.

We both know that without the other, we’d never have finished The Book, but finding and working with the right person isn’t as easy as it sounds. You can just as easily end up with a punch-up and one less friend on Facebook as a completed manuscript. Get it right though and an extra person offers benefits for the next stages of the process too.

Next stages? Oh yes. Writing the thing is only the start. For a start, you have to go and talk about it to real live people!

How we deliver this is also under discussion. My first go ended up as a script, but that’s no good. We’re both experienced presenters at conferences and neither of us ever reads the slides on-screen or writes a script. That way leads to stilted delivery and an audience playing with their phones.

No, we need cue cards and the confidence to banter. A rough outline, to be finally agreed over cake, and then we’re off. You’ll be getting the full NolanParker experience. The half hour session is going to fly by!

Now go and book a ticket!

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The 100 – challenging TV

Logo of the 100.jpg

Candice: I’ve quite got into a TV programme recently.  Its on its third season, as they would say in the States, and I totally missed season one, but I’m currently playing catch up.

What is it about?  Well the premise is 97 years on from a nuclear war, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent back to the Earth from their home in space to find out if it is habitable.  Of course, many things ensue as they find that not everyone was killed and the world has turned into a dog eat dog (or in some cases, human eat human) world.

Into season three and everyone from the ‘Ark’ space station is now on the Earth, but they are locked in battle with the ‘grounders’, those who survived on the ground and are back in more medieval times. We are also now finding out more about how the war actually began.

So far, not that different from other post apocalyptic shows.  However, what I like about this one (apart from the gratuitous shots of Ricky Whittle’s chest, yes the one from HollyOaks!) is that you never know what is going to happen next.

In most of these long running American shows, in each episode the main characters end up in a situation where they might die and then, through a number of twist and turns, they live another day.  With The 100, sometimes they don’t.  I’m not sure how much is writer choice and how much is the way that TV shows are going (I believe Game of Thrones is similar) but it leads to a much more interesting show as you really don’t know if they will survive or not.

I have to say I am hooked, I watched three episodes the other night as I had some time to myself and by the end I’m not sure I can wait for the next one. (especially as I’ve just found out another character dies… I won’t tell you who, but let us just say there will be less abs in the world).

I’m not sure how this would work in a book, as you need to stay engaged with your character from start to end. This works as there are so many main characters that loosing one means you don’t loose interest, you just grab on to another character.

Give it a go, it’s certainly worth a watch.

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Not Quite Nice

notquitenicePhil: This must have been a cracking elevator pitch:

“I’m one of Britain’s best-loved actresses and my name-drop-worthy friends will write some great comments for the cover.”

You can just see the publisher’s eyes light up. Easy publicity, loads of sales, and the chances are our author can actually write so we don’t need to pay for someone to ghost the novel. Result!

And so it came to be that Celia Imrie wrote “Not Quite Nice”.

The story: Theresa is forcibly retired from her job. With a husband a distant memory, a daughter and grandchildren who consider her little more than staff and a desire for change, she ups sticks and takes flat in Bellevue-Sur-Mer in the south of France.

There she becomes involved with the ex-pat community and high-jinks ensue.

My sister hated it and gave up part way through. My mum only finished it because she was bored in hospital. Julian Fellowes said it was, ” A very witty novel by a very witty woman.”

I said I’d give it a go and you know what? It was OK-ish.

This is obviously a first novel. The setup takes far too long, and doesn’t the author know how French property laws work. There are too many characters, I couldn’t honestly tell you who half of them were. All the action happens in the last third of the book.

There’s an important fact given away far too early, for no apparent reason. And he plot hinges on a journalist being sent out to cover the story of a group of ex-pats no-one has heard of living in France. She’s there for a trashy magazine and stays around for a week. I’m sure that unless you are a best-loved actress, no magazine spends that sort of money on covering a story unless there is the promise of aliens and incest.

All this suggests that the publisher skimped on editing, that and a few road bumps in the text that a proof reader should have quickly nailed. The naked man jumping out of a window would have made a great opening for a start.

Presumably they were so intoxicated with the idea of a famous name on the cover, other considerations went out of the window. I’m sure that if a “civilian” had written this, it would still be in the slush pile but then publishing is a business and sales matter. When you have a Sunday Times Bestseller, you don’t worry how you got it there.

So, I’m a little bit jealous. But what the book does prove is that all those rules new authors have shoved down their throat aren’t that important. This isn’t a great work of literature, it’s a fun book to read on a sun lounger, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Give me a fluffy and amusing book over some tedious, pretentious lump of paper any day. Not Quite Nice won’t win any literary prizes but it will entertain a lot of people and at the end of the day, that’s what we do this for isn’t it?

(Incidentally, if you are an aspiring author, don’t forget to come along to our session at Stratford Literary festival. It will be brill and funny and Candice says I have to mention it in every blog post)



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Is there something you should be telling me?


Candice: I am currently reading a book called ‘How to be single’.  I will write a review when I have finished it as I not sure about it at all at the moment.

However, the other week I had to go on a longer train journey and I looked at it and thought ‘I’m not sure that I want to be reading that in public’.  Why, you might ask.  Well the wedding ring might make people think twice about why I am reading it!

(Can I just add that this is the wedding ring for the wedding to my husband, not my surrogate husband Phil, yes we have to explain that concept again in a few weeks when we go to the Lit Festival as the brochures are out and we are a ‘husband and wife team’.  Its a good job the other half has a sense of humour.)

Just a few years ago this wouldn’t have even crossed my mind but with the advent of tablet phones and kindles now hardly anyone reads obvious books.  I think its a shame as some times I would get ideas for what to read next looking at what was popular on the train, or by the pool, and its also great publicity for those who are trying to sell  books.

I can remember reading ‘Fifty Shades’ before it all kicked off as a big deal. I’d bought it based on the blurb on the back and thought it was a romance novel, little did I realise.  I was sat by the pool on hols and one of the saucy scenes started, I blushed under my tan, but no one was really aware what I was reading.  A week or so later it was all over the press and I would have been hiding it under my towel.

Another holiday I was one of many reading ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown in the airport waiting area, I nearly sidled up to people to ask them what they thought.

But now I would have no idea what anyone is reading.

So I shall keep reading the book in the privacy of my home and hope that the other half doesn’t notice the title !



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