Monthly Archives: June 2016

Change the schedule to take on the world

npworldAlbert Einstein: Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Phil: Which is why we are making a change to our blog posting schedule for a few weeks.

The truth is that we’ve been plugging away posting on this blog since January 2011. Posts have been good and regular, Candice on Tuesday and me on Thursday. That’s an awful lot of words.

Over this period we’ve completed a book and half written another. There has been a literary festival appearance and many sessions in the audience at other people’s events. We’re quite proud of all this.

But, it’s time to move to the next level. What we can’t report is massive sales.

So, the time previously poured into blogging is being shifted to marketing. La Nolan is in charge of developing A Plan. A big plan.

Of course we won’t be abandoning the blog completely. I’m daft and sentimental enough to keep plugging away. We’ll aim for a posting every Wednesday. That way this doesn’t become one of those dead blogs littering the Internet. More importantly, we’ll need a web presence once The Plan goes into action and it will look better if there aren’t holes in the posting history.

So dear blog reader. Don’t go away, we’ll still be here, just not quite as often. If you miss us, did I mention we’ve written a book?

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Brexit. How would Kate vote?

Ballot boxPhil: Today is the day. We can all toddle off to the polling station and do something democratic.

For what seems like several year, the two sides have been shouting at each other, and anyone else within earshot. Some of us have even tried to take an intelligent interest and concluded that it would be more fun to beat the leaders of both campaigns with a large, wet, fish.

This isn’t helpful though, so with my authorly head on, I wondered how each of the main characters in our book would vote.

Kate – A no-nonsense voter, I suspect Kate instinctively doesn’t like anyone telling her what to do. Sent to Brussels she’d have the EU sorted out in about 20 minutes and several bureaucrats would find their positions altered by the rapid application of a Jimmy Choo to the backside. However, politics doesn’t really interest her unless there is a way for KOD to help out closing down some branch of government. Vote: Probably leave.

Gareth – With Olivia his wife from farming stock, Gareth will have been informed as to his voting intentions fairly early on in the campaign. Like most people in the agricultural world, Olivia is conflicted. On one hand she doesn’t like all those rules and regulations, on the other, once the forms are filled in there is a healthy subsidy to consider. While the leaders of the Leave campaign might say they will continue to pay this, none of them look like the sort who could handle a heifer so they probably can’t be trusted. Besides, Olivia has a sneaking admiration for the good arse of the Belgian Blue which strike her as proper, solidly built livestock, so those Europeans can’t be all bad. Vote: Whatever he hits after shutting his eyes and jabbing the paper with the pencil.

Tracey – Well, Italians are rather nice, but look, there is a handbag sale on at House of Fraiser. Vote: Sorry, better things to do.

Kelvin – Having spent quite some time on the Internet reading up on the pros and cons for each side, Kelvin will have found the tenor of the debate rather more aggressive than he enjoys. Both sides will have enjoyed a meek promise to vote for them as they harangued passers-by from their stalls in the high street on the basis that they would them leave him alone with his steak bake. Vote: Remain for a quiet life.

Doubtless some of you are wondering who these people are. The solution? Vote Dirtboffin and buy our book!

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Rick Astley nails it

Phil: So there I am listening to Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2 last weekend and he’s interviewing Rick Astley about his return to prominence and No.1 album. Suddenly Astley says something profound:

“It’s never been easier to make music that gets ignored.”

By jove, I think he’s got it!

It’s true. Anyone can cut a track (I know all da modern lingo daddy-o) sitting in their bedroom fiddling with a computer. They can even knock together a video and release it to the world on YouTube.

And the world probably won’t even notice.

The same thing is happening in publishing. Whereas writing used to be the preserve of a select band of people, monks mainly, now any numpty can string together some words and stick them up on Amazon for the world to buy.

The trick is to MAKE the world beat a path to your door, or at least the webpage selling your book.

So the skill is no longer making the product, it’s selling it. Marketing people are the new kings. Nolan is going to be insufferable now I’ve worked that out…

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Agents are a good thing. Right?

Agent of ChangePhil: Conventional wisdom is that the path to seeing your book appear on the shelves at Waterstones runs:

  1. Have great book idea.
  2. Write book.
  3. Pitch book to agent.
  4. Agent sells book to publisher.
  5. Publisher prints lots of copies which sell like hot cakes.
  6. Writer buys yacht.

It seems this isn’t the case. Last week’s literary event saw us listen to some horror stories of books that agents loved but ultimately never made it to the shelves.

All of the ladies had snagged literary agents, some more than one, but in each case the response had been along the lines of “I love your book, but I can’t sell it to a publisher.”

The issue seemed to be that they weren’t writing genre fiction. Good as the books were, they didn’t fit within the narrow definitions of the silos publishers like to work in. They want YA fiction with vampires, they don’t want vampires and requited love. That’s chick-lit and a whole different audience. Apparently.

Of course, the Ladies of a Certain Age weren’t having any of this. As one explained, at their age there wasn’t time to leave their book sat in a pile for months on end. I guess that this is one deadline that focussed the mind! More to the point, all had led full lives and weren’t the sort to put up with being messed around. If a door needed kicking it, they were willing to do this to achieve publication.

I suspect this is why co-publishing appealed. Spending money didn’t seem too much of an object, the important thing was to move the project on and they were willing to do what it takes to get things going.

Perhaps this is just another example of how the world is changing. Publishers genre silos are all very well, but maybe they are restricting the books that people can find and enjoy. As we discussed on the trip back home, music has changed with anyone who fancies being in a band able to produce and distribute from their bedroom.

Books take longer to write, and there is much more of a desire for physical product, but as we keep hearing from other authors, the “proper” way is no longer the only way.


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There is no age limit on writing

Authors Of A Certain Era banner

Candice: Phil and I went to another Lit Festival event this weekend, over in Worcester. I must add I do like Worcester as a town, though the M5 is a swine for roadworks. Going there always takes me back to my big birthday a few years ago where I did a river cruise as my party and had a great night.

Anyway, the event was billed as ‘Authors of a Certain Era’ with four retired ladies who had come late to writing. Each lady proudly brandished her book, written at a time in her life when she thought it was about time to get on with it.

Each book was different, though with the title of the event and the ages of the ladies you would have thought they would have all been writing historical drama. There was a real mixture from First World War romance to present day romance, via on line dating, plus boarding school stories and a murder mystery. Each admitted that they were inspired by their own experience but some more than others. The First World War piece was based around a family secret where as the murder mystery more on plot and liking a certain area of Paris.

They all talked about writing what you know, so don’t write something aimed a women’s magazine readers if you don’t read women’s magazines.

I think the most interesting quote was from Pam who said she didn’t think she had an interesting life but the more she thought about her time at boarding school the more unusual she realized it was, and how it would make a good story.

Each had their own thoughts on how to move into writing and how to eventually get published. They had all done courses, ARVON being the one most mentioned which I have heard people talk about before. They also were members of writing groups and they waxed lyrical about having other people to criticize their books helping to make them better writers. They also said it gave them confidence – either the feedback from friends, family or writing group or entering competitions, which winning gave some a real boost.

They are all ‘co-published’ which means not self published in the sense of creating your own book format and publishing it on Amazon, but published through a company who vet and only pick books they want to published, but you pay for some of the costs and do your own publicity.  They mentioned Silverwood and Claret press.

All in all the event was worth going to because this were four interesting ladies. One thing it pointed out is that they didn’t just lead normal lives and then decide to write on retirement, they’d done a lot before they got there.  I suppose it just supports the quote, ‘if you want something done give it to a busy person’. I not sure if their books were my cup of tea, but then I am  not sure if I am their audience, but good on them to keep going, even in to their 80th year in one case, I hope to still be in the same boat when I get to retirement.

For more information on the authors and their books:

Barbara Lorna Hudson           Timed Out

Elizabeth Mapstone           The Amazon’s Girdle

Pam Nixon           But I’ll Remember This

Heather Rosser       In the Line of Duty




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Read. My. Book.

This IS the book you are looking for.Phil: The route to fame and fortune is more convoluted and full of unexpected pitfalls than negotiating a trip around Ikea on a Sunday. We’ve learnt to our cost that when other authors tell us something will be a problem, it usually is and we should pay attention.

One problem we didn’t expect was persuading people who have bought or been presented a copy of our book to actually read the thing.

It might seem like a small problem, but if we want to become rich and famous, and we do, then people need to read the story and then be so pleased that they tell others about it. That way word of mouth will spread, sales will rocket and we can buy more cake.

From an authors point of view, it’s really difficult to explain the reticence to open the pages and enjoy the fun. To us, this is a baby and we want everyone to love it, or at least to tickle it under the chin and make goo-goo noises.

To everyone else, it’s just another book. OK, they know the author but that’s just luck.

Of course there is the dread that it might be terrible. Far easier to put off the reading rather than admit you don’t like it perhaps.

So, I’m on a mission. Everyone I suspect of owning a copy is now being badgered to get reading.

I’ve emphasised that I don’t mind if they don’t like it – and I really don’t. After all, we all like different things and not everyone is going to love our book. People with no taste for example, they won’t like it. And stupid people. And possibly Michael Gove.

Seriously though, not everyone will love it but if they don’t I’d like to know this and even possibly why. That way, maybe the next one will be even better.

Of course, when they do like it (yes, WHEN, no author really thinks they have written anything but brilliance), some glowing reviews on the web and perhaps an Instagram photo holding the book and grinning. Maybe tell everyone you know on Facebook, remembering that copious linking would be appreciated.

Which brings me to you lot. Our blog readers. Have you bought a copy yet? Why not? Come on, just click on the picture of the book cover on the left of this page. It’s a really good read!

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Regional accents on the page. A good idea?

Leprechauns of IrelandPhil: Allroit bab?

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted an interesting story on the Birmingham Mail website. The 50 top words and phrases that say you’re from Birmingham or the Black Country. I tweeted this to Candice with the tag #poshbrummie – because she was born and brought up in the Midlands.

“oy I am not a brummie!however I did used to go to the outdoor…but not the back of rackhams” was the repost, followed by sharing the article to her friends on Facebook.

Reading through the list shows just how rich Brummie lingo is. Those in the south might need subtitles but for those living in the middle of the country, there’s a lot of fun in recognising certain words and phrases. Saying someone is going round the “Back of Rackhams” for example tells you that they are probably a “lady of the night” or at least  a customer of same. And no, you don’t get points on your store card. In fact when they say “Love being recognised?” then answer is probably, “No”.

Anyway, I am reading Meet Me in Manhattan by Claudia Carroll at the moment. Holly Johnson (no, not the Frankie goes to Hollywood one) lives in Dublin (bonus points for a non-London setting) and is Irish.

Or should I say Oirish.

The trouble is the Carroll has given her a regional accent on the page, and it’s bugging me. Every “Feck” brings to mind either Father Jack or Mrs Brown as played by Brendon O’Carroll. I’m expecting a “Top O’the mornin’ ” at some point followed by discussion of the little people.

In Kate vs The Dirtboffins (Buy it now!), it never occurred to us to give anyone much of an accent. All the main characters are accent-free because we wrote how we spoke and neither of us has an accent. Not even the one is definitely NOT a Brummie.

Should commercial fiction be like this or are regional dialects on the page a good thing? Would a soft southern shandy drinker Londoner or worsem an American, be put off if we included some Midlands colloquialisms? When was the last time you read a book with an accent?

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Catching up on my reading

bookPhil: One of the nicest parts of writing with the Nolan, apart from the cake, is the broadening of my reading matter. Just 7 years ago, I’d never dabbled in anything on the chick-lit spectrum, in fact my reading choices had been quite limited. Odd, as I was a voracious reader as a child but somehow, apart from a bit of Sci-fi, I’d drifted away from the paperbacks. Now, I find myself presented with all sorts of books, and try to return the favour.

Anyway, I’ve been catching up a bit on the backlog with a couple of novels in just over a week.

First up, “How to be single” by Liz Tuccillo, which the Nolan read on a train a couple of months ago, embarrassed in case anyone spotted her wedding ring and wondered if it was an instruction manual.

It’s not, although I think it wants to be a bit more serious than just a novel.

What we have is four women, including the narrator, all very different apart from living in New York. Are you aware of Sex and the City? You are? Well, it’s like that. A lot like that.

Basically, our narrator works in publishing (Like S&TC Carrie) and punts an idea to her boss (Candace. As in Bushell, who wrote S&TC) that she’ll go around the world investigating what it’s like to be a single woman in different countries. She’ll even pay her own expenses.

Yeah. Right. Like that’s going to work on the back of a book deal for a new author.

Anyway, she heads off around the world and there is a bucket of cod psychology and stuff. The mostly barking friends turn up sometimes and there is a bit of shagging. Probably some other stuff but if I’m honest, half way through France I got bored and skimmed most of the rest.

To be fair, I’m not in the target market for this book. In fact, I’m so far away from the target market that I couldn’t find it on a map. Or even a globe.

Rather more succesful was Strictly between us by Jane Fallon. My enthusiasm for this book was piqued by Candice writing a blog post that I wasn’t allowed to read as it gave away important plot points. I managed to avoid reading it and am glad I did.

The book is a lot of fun. For a start, it’s firmly written from inside the main characters mind. She not only leads the reader through the story, she actually talks directly to us in a fourth wall breaking style. Later on, we have the same effect from other characters. Suddenly we are seeing scenes from different viewpoints and most of the time each person has a very different take on the situation.

Each character seemed believable too. Our lead Tamsin isn’t perfect and her foil Bea isn’t all bad. Maybe bad-boy Patrick has no redeeming features, but then that’s chick-lit for you.

The pure first-person point of view works really well and I’d suggest that this could be happily read and enjoyed by either gender. Chick-lit is just a label to help people work out where the main market is.

In sport terms, I guess we call this a draw. I’ve sent a book in the other direction and it will be interesting to see how it’s received.

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