Author Archives: Candice Nolan

Reality too close to home

Police at scene in Enfield

Candice:  I like reading ‘police procedurals’ – I love the mystery and trying to work out who done it, often with some downtrodden main character leading the charge.  The gore, the horror, what happens next, the twists; they are all part of a good story.

However, the other week my local area became part of its own police drama which made me think about things a bit differently.

Monday morning I’m getting text messages from friends, ‘hope you are ok’.  Ok, ok in relation to what?  We are out with the in-laws in a park an hour away from home.

I reply – what do you mean?  They respond to say that there has been a double murder not far from our house!  Shocked to say the least. I log on to the web and discover that the night before, while we’d been tucked up in bed, a young man had decided to stab his ex-girlfriend and her mother.  It comes out later that he has a history of violence and she’d been calling the police earlier in the evening because of problems but one thing led to another and he decided to step over the line and viciously murder these people.

Reading this story in a book it would have been a great opener; screams heard in the street, two people lying dead outside their house and a van seen driving off at speed.  But this isn’t a book, its real.

For the next week, if I drove around the area I’d find my route blocked by TV crew vans and police tape. It was most surreal, like being in a show.  There were times when it felt like you do on the motorway when there is a crash,  you can’t help but look.  But I also thought of the people involved and the horrible impact on their lives in having someone taken away.  It made me hug my daughter a bit tighter at bedtime.

The experience won’t stop me liking my reading material but it will make me think about how fiction can become fact and how different that is for those involved.

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Yin and Yang

Image result for post it notes on a tableCandice: Phil wanted me to write about our trip to the Writing West Midlands event, which I will do, but actually I thought it would be good to comment on our meet to discuss Book 3 on Friday.

People always ask us how we write as a partnership, who does what, and how it works.  To be honest, it’s like being in a working relationship with anyone, some are better at some bits than others.  I’m more ‘task’ focused and Phil can be more ideas.  We are each others ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’. I can be as creative as you like when the need takes me but I had limited time on Friday for discussions so wanted to get our timeline sorted.  Why was the timeline so important?  Well, we had reached that point, 35k words in, that we’d written lots of sections that tailed off at the end because we kept asking the question ‘what happens next?’.

Everything, whether book or work project has a beginning, middle and end.  There are probably ups and downs before you get there but without knowing your end goal then you won’t be able to achieve it through these bumps.  Writing is the same, if you don’t know where your characters end up, all the lovely set pieces and plotting come to squat as you end up writing something that doesn’t make sense.

Part of the other problem with Phil and I is we like a chat.  He talked about his holiday, I talked about mine and the next thing we knew an hour was gone.  Then he starting firing storyline ideas at me.  I had to put my hand up and say ‘STOP’.  The ideas might all be great but we need the timeline.

The other thing you need to make sure you can deliver on your project is the right tools.  I hadn’t ga ot pen or paper so off I walked to WHSmiths and bought post-it notes and coloured pens and then we were ready.

The first job was to write out what we’d already written and put it in the correct order (as in the book it’s not linear).  And then work out the gaps.  Time was ticking and it became like a game of ‘Countdown’ – we’ve got two minutes how do we solve it.

In the end, we only built the comedy storyline, the love one still needs work, but that means that a few more thousand words can be written; and a few other ideas were bounced around.

Tea drunk and off home I went, feeling satisfied with our activity.  Now I just need the time to write 🙂

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Did we mention it’s hot?

DAddp8rXkAAQFoFCandice: Those of you UK based, and who live in England and Wales particularly, may have noticed something over the last six weeks.  Its REALLY HOT!  Those of you who read this blog and are not in the UK, might be confused as to why that is important.

Well, the usual story with UK summers is – sun, lots of rain, some cloud, a little sun, lots of rain, some cloud.  This is particularly prevalent over the six weeks of school holidays where poor parents run around trying to find ways to entertain children in terrible weather.

However, this year is different.  We have had amazingly good weather, and for a long period too.  Both of these things are unheard off.  People are running around desperately trying to find ways to stay cool. Fans are selling out, hosepipe bans are coming in, and Lido attendance has gone through the roof.  This week alone we’ve had a warning from the Met office to stay out of the sun as it will be in the 30’s every day.

Great, you say, but not so good when your country isn’t prepared for it.  We don’t have air con in our house so every night I struggle to sleep properly.   Every weekend, rather than looking for things to do in wet weather I’m looking for things to do that keep us cool (I’m an expert on where all the splash parks are).  And I am actually hiding from the sun myself, unheard of.

The irony with all of this is Phil is away this week and has found the rain.  He’s gone to the Isle of Man, and posted a picture of a torrential downpour from his boat crossing.   Being the non-sunworshipper of the partnership I thought he’d like this weather but my comment to this post got a rude word!  Well if that’s how you feel….

How are you coping?

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Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Drinks: Sunday Times Bestseller ebook by Gill Sims

Candice: I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved the title – it’s what caught my eye when Phil and I were doing some work the other week on polishing our Amazon entry and looking at books that we would like to be listed by.

So, I bought it, and reading the blurb on the back about a Mummy struggling with balancing job and life who has an idea the might help solve her problems, it sounded interesting. With her job being in IT I had an idea what that idea might be, but hey I’m too good at solving plot lines.

I started the book and immediately got annoyed with the main character. She reminded me of the woman in the TV show ‘Motherland’ who supposedly holds down a high-powered job in PR but also makes a tit of herself on a regular basis – saying and doing the wrong thing. I understand some of that chaos, I am currently writing this in a notepad while my daughter is doing her swimming lesson, I had to borrow a pen as the one I packed seems to have disappeared and I’ve got toothpaste on my top (not mine). #multitasking

The style also annoyed me as its written in a diary style and initially its very staccato and frantic and you just want her to take a Valium. However, as the book develops (and the writing style slows down) I found a lot of truth in the story (too much in some cases). The arguments over who’s turn it is to look after the kids, whose job is more important, etc are too close to the bone. And her thinking about trying to find time for yourself.

But by the end, I’m slightly jealous of her as she invents a game which becomes a global sensation, and in the end, brings her together with everyone who she thinks isn’t on her side. The game is about trying to get the kids to school, and the working vs non-working mummies at the school gates and all the other fun stuff. I’ve already had a snapshot of that with nursery and school fun starts soon. But the other mummies actually are jealous of her working. At the finish, she has money, drinking buddies and it even smooths her relationship with her husband as money is always the other worry in a working family.

The book is funny, and though annoying at times I did enjoy it. If you are a working parent, male or female, it might make you think about some of those snappy conversations you have with your other half.

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The Party by Elizabeth Day

Image result for the party book

Candice: After all of this talk of holidays I thought I ought to write a review of one of the books I read while I was away.

I picked up The Party as I liked the sound of the premise, not unusual but thought it would be a change from my usual police procedural.

The story is around Martin and Ben who met at boarding school, went to University together and are now about to celebrate Ben’s 40th.  They come from two different worlds, Martin from a single parent family of little means who managed to get a scholarship to the school, Ben from an old moneyed family.

Martin is an odd, isolated character, who displays almost psychopathic tendencies with some of his actions; as when he kills a bird that has fallen, injured into the school playground.  This gives an insight that all is not well with him.

By the time he meets Ben he is a boy very much on his own and Ben takes him under his wing, for no reason that I can see. Ben makes sure Martin is not bullied and takes him back to his house during the school holidays.  By the time they go to University Martin’s mother is doesn’t really feature in his life. But that’s Martin’s plan.  He can see opportunity in Ben’s family, and a life that he thinks he deserves, a life of money and privilege.

The book cuts back and forth between past and present, explaining how Martin met his wife as well as scenes at Ben’s spectacular party.  Now turning 40 Martin is a journalist who has just published a successful art book, Ben a stockbroker with an obscene amount of money. His party is being held in the grounds of his lavish pile in the Cotswolds with all the current celebs and political figures attending.

Their relationship is not as it was, Martin hero worships Ben but he starting to move away from him, neither of their wives like the closeness of their relationship too.

Intercut with Martin’s story is his wife’s, Lucy,  told to a therapist.  We discover she is currently in care because of something that happened at the party.  As the story unfolds we find a woman who lacks confidence and was swept off her feet by the silver tongue of her husband.  But she’s not that stupid and over the years had put two and two together that there is more between the two male friends.

With the party coming to a close Ben and his trophy wife break the news to Martin and Lucy that they need to stop seeing them.  Ben is standing to be an MP and Martin carry’s a dark secret,  at University they were involved in a car accident where a girl died.  What Ben’s wife doesn’t know (but Lucy has worked out) is that Martin took the fall for Ben, mainly to tie himself even more closely to his friend.  Ben’s family has been funding Martin’s lifestyle ever since.

I was disappointed with this book.  I read it very quickly, interested to know how it panned out though I had an idea that something like the accident would have happened.  But how disappointing was the ending?  To me Martin gives up at the end, he is just left living on his own talking about making a plan to get back to Ben but that feels weak.  Lucy is the strong character as she separates from him and also shows her anger at Ben and family by lashing out at them, hence why she is seeing a therapist.

So worth a read but prepare yourself to fall off the edge at the end.

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Holidays why bother…


DSCN1663Candice: 
Phil’s told me I should respond to his blog post about holidays.  I definitely NEED to respond to it or else a lot of holiday companies will be shutting their doors over the next few weeks as people start to question the reason for having a break.

I think my writing partner has missed the point of a holiday,  but that might be because of the type of holiday he takes.

Phil: working holiday, lots of photos and films, sometimes talking about trains, lots of exploring, not really enjoying the whole flying thing.

Candice:  and relax….. beach, pool, sunbed, sun, a round of breakfast, sun lounger, lunch, sun lounger, dinner, cocktail and then bed before doing it all again the next day.  There definitely has to be sun, books that I can spend time enjoying, sights to see but not too many that it takes away from the relaxing.

There is one change to the Nolan holiday in the last four years, the inclusion of kids club and mini disco.  The second is almost more important than the first for the family addition, it’s the first thing she asks for when we get on holiday.  The funny thing is we’ve been to Cyprus and Mexico in the last six months and they have played mainly the same songs!

I suppose my need to have at least one booked comes down to a few things.  There is more to life than work and my holidays are my release from the constant round of nursery drop off, work, meetings, gym and week upon week feeling the same.  I love the heat and get terrible SAD so need to know I’ve got a chance to get some sunshine under my belt when the UK doesn’t comply. And I always like to get something new out of these trips, visit somewhere I haven’t been, have an experience I haven’t done before. You cant see Chichen Itza in the UK.

And yes there is the whole build-up to the event: packing, planning, dieting but I have the luxury of working for a big company so don’t have quite the same pressures as Phil (i.e. someone to cover my role), and then there is the full inbox on return, but I wouldn’t give up having a holiday for anything, there’s more to life than those emails.

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20,000 words

sitting-at-desk-pain.jpg

Candice: So there is often a conversation when we get just past this point in book writing where Phil and I will go “How are we ever going to get to 80,000 words?”

This time around we are motoring along, with over 20,000 words in the bag and, with an overnight in a hotel for me this week and a long flight for Phil coming up, we will easily get to 30,000.

I’ve been busy putting together the random collection of ideas we have already written into one document so we can see how the flow is working and what gaps we can spot.  Though we have already had a few plotting sessions often, even with something written down, we can go off piste as an idea takes us, and then you have to work out if it will fit with everything else. A perfect example is a forgotten chapter, written months ago, that references a character than Phil has brought back, but with them having a different name and the chapter having an end that doesn’t fit with our timeline.

After an hour over tea in Solihull Library the other day we’d pinned down a few more things in my spreadsheet, both plot lines and dates and then spent a pleasant hour and a half drafting up 1500 words each, before the high stools that we had to sit on gave me so much back pain a lunch break had to be called.

At the moment I can see us creeping towards that magic number easily, we’ve two chunky plot threads that need to be fleshed out and then a big finale which always takes at least a third of the book.

So don’t knock the spreadsheet.  Though I have to say I think we’ve hit that point much earlier this book, it just shows how you fine tune your art every time you do a new one.  We’ll have this book out by Christmas…

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