Author Archives: Candice Nolan

101 days in Lockdown

Image result for female cyclist on road

Candice: So, it’s 101 days since the UK went into full lockdown. Since then I’ve:

  • got very familiar with the local park and housing estate, as I’ve walked around them about 100 times.
  • been very creative with card and tissue paper, coming up with ways to entertain a 6-year-old.
  • made so many cups of tea I’ve lost count, though I don’t think going back and forth to the kitchen counts anywhere near enough steps on my watch.
  • sorted through a huge box of old toys and dolls clothes delivered by my parents and discovered lots of memories (and some great things for my daughter to play with).
  • moved around bedrooms in the house as I’ve tried to find the ideal spot to work, or make it feel like I am going somewhere different each day.
  • tried not to become obsessed with the deliveries arriving for the neighbour who is doing lots of work on their house.
  • got used to one routine: child at home juggling work and school work, to now drop off and pick up at school, with what seems like a very short window between the two.
  • used my bike lots, riding back and forth to school, escaping on bad days for longer bike rides to clear my mind.
  • discovered I can work out at home, but it’s not as effective as going to the gym. (Joe Wicks, you’re good but it’s not enough to offset the sweets/biscuits/Haribo that is consumed when you are having a bad day.)

I’ve proofread two books, read at least 10 more; some good, some truly terrible (Phil, why did you make me read ‘The unbearable lightness of scones’, that is 4 hours of my life I’ll never get back!)

I’ve got frustrated, been in tears, and been angry with the stupidity of all this, and all the people who will insist on putting stupid comments on social media. I’ve turned off my social media and then slowly dipped back in, but once a day rather than every half an hour, to temper my anger.

I’m still not sure what the new norm will be. I’ve got used to only going to the shops occasionally and timing it for when it’s quiet – my bank balance is much happier for this. I now look up when I hear the sound of a plane going over, as this is a very unusual occurrence. I crave a holiday, but I have no idea what that will look like when it comes. I know I’ll be shattered when I eventually have to start travelling to the office, and I’ll have no idea what to wear. And the idea of having to do my face and hair each morning….

But I know I’ll look forward to seeing people. I have really missed socialising. I’ve been lucky and seen quite a lot of my family but, apart from school-related people, everyone else has been hibernating. I went for a run on Monday with a work colleague, at a distance of course, but it was so nice to see someone different!

And my writing chum and I – well we have our second meet on Friday. Coffee, cake, either end of a park bench and book talk. Sounds good to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Something old, something new

OutNowtallCandice: What seems like not along time ago Phil and I met at a quango, in what we thought at the time was a bad recession, and found that we had a similar sense of humour and taste in cake.

We also found that we liked to write and wrote a book, and then we wrote another and we still have another in the pipeline.  Book 1 – aka Kate vs the Dirt Boffins was circulated, proofed and launched in a format we thought was pretty good based on the advice we’d had at the time.  But when we did Kate vs the Navy and realised the error of our ways, and that we really needed more input into our writing to make things perfect.  So in the background, I’ve had a niggle about Dirt Boffins as we have been writing Book 3, that Book 1 still isn’t perfect.

But we’ve finally managed to get it right, it’s taken longer than we thought but we’ve got there and last week the new improved version came out.  It has a beautiful new cover, thanks to CollisCreative, some great copy editing thanks to Catherine Fitzsimons plus a final read from my friend Alan (cheers Alan), and then some long nights with me going through it again to try and spot every niggle left.

And now it’s out there; shiny, new and still as good as it was the first time around. I’m still laughing at the same bits, I’m still wondering what happened in the story, and I’m still amazed that Phil and I managed to put pen to paper to create a great a tale.

Now it’s your turn, if you haven’t read it, please give it a go.  If you are on Kindle unlimited you can download for free, otherwise its only 99p.

The first five people to add a comment on this post to say how much they love Phil and my blogs we will arrange to get a free paperback copy to you (did we mention there is a paperback too?), in return for a review on Amazon.

It’s still our pride and joy, and we hope that you will enjoy it too 🙂

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

Good Omens?

See the source image

 

Candice:  Phil has been trawling the options for books and I have been looking through TV and film during this protracted period of self-entertainment.

Though the other day I did manage to get my hands on some more new books as we did a share session in our road, everyone bought their spares out on to the street and put them on a rug and then we took turns to look through the options.  I’ve picked up two chic-lit and a Steven King from that.

Ages ago I saw ‘Good Omens’ advertised on Amazon but wasn’t sure I was looking for that kind of programme at the time.  It’s based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and revolves around an Angel and a Demon who have been on Earth keeping an eye on things since the Garden of Eden.

One day the Demon gets told its time for Armageddon to start, he has to deliver a baby who will be the Prince of Darkness and start it all off when he comes of age.  However, he and the Angel quite like their life on Earth and don’t want things to change.  So they go about trying to stop the Prince becoming bad.

I read a lot of Terry Pratchett at University, and found it laugh out loud funny then, though have not read any of it since.  Neil Gaiman, I tried American Gods, his other Amazon TV show but lost it along the way.  (lets not also talk about how he has lost it along the way – um travelling in a Pandemic anyone…).  But this is just the right side of funny, dry and very well played by Michael Sheen as the Angel and David Tennant as the Demon.

In the weird times we live in at the moment there are a lot of books and TV I am rejecting as want something to distract me and lift the mood.  This is doing exactly that.  Its got touches of Python, some very stupid lines and set pieces which make you smile (last night they went to a Paintballing place and the Demon decided to change the guns to real ones).

Definitely a Good Omen to me of some good telly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Tried a good movie recently?

Le Mans '66

Candice: Though I love a good book, I do also enjoy a trip to the movies.  I find sitting in a dark cinema, surrounded by noise and a big screen helps me escape into another world the way books do.

Obviously at the moment cinema trips are a no-no, however, I have managed to watch a few good films via my Amazon account.

Having so much home time on our hands means that to differentiate between the week and the weekend we’ve taken to ordering a takeaway and sitting down to a film after the little one goes to bed.  Access to Amazon is like going to Blockbuster (for those of you who remember renting films) – it means you can pick from some good titles for not a lot of money and then relax with a film and a beer.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched ‘Hustlers’, the Jennifer Lopez film about a group of strippers who resorted to more creative ways to make money when the bottom dropped out of the market after the crash in 2008.  It was a good film, though I found it hard to work out why these girls would work together, as it is normally more dog eat dog with women.  And the outfits, or lack of them, were eye-opening!

Then there was ‘Blinded by the Light’, a great British film about an Asian family trying to integrate (or not in some cases) in Luton in the 80s.  Good tunes, flashbacks on clothing and hairstyles and comedy about British and Muslim cultures clashing.  Enjoyed that one.

Last weekend we bought ‘Le Mans 66’.  Its subtitle is ‘Ford vs Ferrari’ and it tells the tale of Ford’s decision to get into racing and knock Ferrari off its winning perch.  Why did they want to do that?  Well because someone in marketing told them their cars weren’t sexy enough.

I am a bit of a car buff (I used to drive an Alfa) so this wasn’t just a pick by the other half.  And I have to say, watch this film.  It’s two and a half hours long so we split it over two nights and we were hooked.  The race scenes pulled you in and you just wanted to know what happened.  There was an extra piece in Christian Bale’s character, a feisty mechanic turned driver who spoke as he saw, made even more funny as he was from Birmingham and still had the accent.

There was pace, tension, frustration, relationships and heartbreak, and some great car shots too.  I’m even more of a fan as my ‘midlife crisis’ car is a ’66 Mustang Convertible, the car that they use for the base of the race car.

Yep, that cheered up my lock in weekend.  Wonder what we can find for next week?

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Lockdown Buzzword Bingo

index

Candice: So we are pretty much all going through it at the moment – my feed is full of people telling me how exciting their day is, what outfit they are wearing, “look at how much fun I am having on video calls.”  Or sharing information, true or otherwise. about what is going on. There was even a programme on TV last night about 24hrs in Lockdown, um do you think we really need to know about that, I know there is the lack of stuff to show at the moment but really!

So I’ve done a ‘Buzzword Bingo’ list.  You know the ones, they get used for meetings to add humour and you tick off when a certain project-centric or verbose word is used.  It adds to the long day if you are at a particularly boring conference.

Tick if you have done the following:

  1. Worn the same clothes more than two days in a row (I don’t mean undies!)
  2. Not put your jewellery on
  3. Not worn any makeup
  4. Become so attached to your phone and checking on the outside world its become an obsession
  5. Walking twice as much as you were before this (for those of you allowed to go out for exercise)
  6. Taken part in Joe Wicks’ exercise class
  7. Discovered Zoom
  8. Spent a whole Zoom call trying to teach an elder family member how to make it work
  9. Found things in your house you thought you had lost
  10. Ordered random things online – crepe paper anyone?
  11. Felt like you are running the dishwasher/washing up twice as much as usual
  12. Constantly washing clothes
  13. Forgotten what day it is
  14. Had your child/partner walk in on a video call
  15. Let ‘things’ grow out (that’s ladies and men)

For the outfit and style things, I’ve gone through the wear the same and now trying to mix it up.  I have done my annual summer/winter swap which has added a whole new level of fun to dressing (‘I’d forgotten all about this top’).  Also re makeup, as I’m starting to look a little haggard and need that bronzer to zip me up, even if it’s only for a walk around the block.

Even the phone I’m looking at less – I check the BBC once a day for an update on numbers, Boris’s health and any sight of an end to this but Facebook has become BORING.

Walking, bike riding – I used to do a lot but in these few weeks my daughter has gone from a reluctant rider to a proficient one so we go for a bike ride every day.  The bonus of car free roads means she can get used to it without us worrying too much about her wobbling.  We’ve found we can get quite far in our allocated slot.  And yes we’ve done Joe but more for me than her.

Ah Zoom, yes fun to start but I spend most of the day on the phone so the last thing I want to do is speak to people at night too.  I did get the parent’s version to work, FINALLY.

Our house has become craft central as my little maker loves craft.  Paint is probably the thing in short supply now.  We’ve found some of her toys we lost by spending time sorting out stuff to make things with, and also made a lot of things with crepe paper!

It’s all blurring into one, and I do struggle each day to actually remember who I am and what I am supposed to be doing.  There is a pad next to my desk that I have to write it all down else, with the constant distraction of childcare, I forget what I was saying and doing.  Only my watch really helps me remember what day it is.  What I can’t believe is we are on week three.  When this started it felt like someone had chopped my legs off, but now it almost feels normal.  I know I am not going to enjoy getting back into the ‘chuck child at school and drive to work’ routine.  And I’m also going to remember that you don’t have to throw money at things to have fun, there are boxes in our house yet to be opened and games we still haven’t played, thank god for the sunshine and a back garden to play in.

Reading and Writing – well this hasn’t turned into the supper productive period because I’m still working but I’m definitely using books to help distance myself from what’s going on and writing, well that will come when it does.

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Science fiction?

Candice: ‘The camera pans an empty street, the roads are clear, a piece of litter rolls in the wind.  From a distance, the noise of an Ambulance siren can be heard.  A lone runner crosses the screen, bright in a day-glow orange top.  She pounds the streets, head phones on, fiercely concentrating on putting one foot in front of another. Suddenly a dog walker appears in her path, they look at each other as the pavement is only wide enough for them in usual circumstances.  She veers to the right, crossing the grass and on to the road to get away from her foe.  The walker is it out of her way and now it is back to car-free silence.’

For the last week I have been watching our world change in a way that none of us would have ever have thought of, even in the last month.

I was due to be going away in the first week of Easter.  I keep having flashing backs of a conversation with friends in January about booking a trip to the south coast, and then next thing I knew they were coming on our trip too.  Yet four weeks ago I was telling my daughter how much I was looking forward to a week away, she would get to play with her friends, us ladies had booked a spa treatment day.

And now I feel like I am living in a science fiction novel, or its a dream and someone is going to wake me up tomorrow.  What I have written above is not fiction, its fact.  We no longer have to imagine the life portrayed in these sci-fi pieces, it’s happening to us all.  And that is another thing I can not comprehend, it’s not just the UK it’s the world.  We are all in lockdown and we are all experiencing this.

There will be many novels, plays, films and history books written about this event.  And at some point in the future we will all say “Do you remember when it hit, what we did” but for now I think we are shell shocked.

I for one, am trying to record it all, because, like the birth of a child or your wedding day, you think you will remember it but you won’t.  Having my daughter at home means we are creating a daily diary of events so that I and she can look back and remember what it was like.  She doesn’t really understand what is happening.  Tonight she wanted to know if we can go to the shops tomorrow and I had to say no.  I’ve promised new toys instead as I don’t see them as an indulgence but a necessity.  She asked when we could go to the shops and I said hopefully four weeks but to her, that is ages (and to me too, to be honest).

With my writing hat on I’m already wondering if this will ever become part of one of our books.  The BBC are looking for scripts about it, perhaps Phil and I can come up with one?

For those who are locked in, now is the time to write about your fears and also your plans.  Keep positive and we’ll all have a big party when this is over.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

World Book Day … or is it?

index

Candice: I’ve been derelict in my duty this week.  I promised to write a blog about World Book Day and then failed miserably to do it for the day or the day after.

Phil was the instigator of the idea, obviously thinking that there would be loads of child outfit picking fodder in the concept.  However, due to the fact my daughter’s school just asks you to bring a book along I get out of all that faff.  To let you know this year’s choice was ‘The Little Mermaid’ – as it has been for about the last four years. #easy

I don’t know if it was the topic or the time this week (I’ve been busy and quite tired, I’ve not made it through any 9pm programme) but I just wasn’t feeling it.  Coronavirus has also taken up my thinking time, to holiday or not to holiday.

He’s even politely hassled me about it.  And I’ve still failed miserably.

But to get my own back I have managed to top up Book 3 with an extra 1000 words.  So nur to you Phil.  I suppose that was where my inspiration lay and last night at 10pm I was finishing off something from earlier in the week in the book, not writing this blog.

I have to say we’ve both struggled to get into Book 3. That’s not to say it’s not a good book, when I opened it up the other day I was again excited by the story, but we’ve got some good set pieces we just don’t know how to bring them together.

However, a break, and avoiding writing about World Book Day seems to have done the trick and I’m off to add a few hundred more this afternoon.

Inspiration = Found

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Busy, busy, busy

Image result for solihull library

Candice: Phil and I have been busy, busy, busy in the last week or so.  We are so close to having a suped-up version of ‘Kate vs the Dirtboffins‘ ready to get out there.  And have been looking at other marketing options so that this time it can have a really good push.

However, Phil has been traversing the country at his train shows and I have been tied up in workshops in the project I am working on, not leaving a lot of time for anything else.

Ah, but this is the life of most writers; working around the full-time job, family, fighting off a cold etc. ( I am also doing that at the moment – though not Coronavirus mind!)

We took a day out last week to convene over tea and cake and then get those laptops fired up.  We have always found working in the local library is a good spot as it has a good cafe (though this time I used my free tea and cake voucher for John Lewis down the road) but it also means we have to sit and work and not chat all the time.  That is our biggest downfall, chatting.  Being a team of two is great for writing and ideas but terrible for getting down to work sometimes, too much chat!

Anyway, Solihull library has some great desks which you can work from looking out over a courtyard, but also have subdued chat and drink coffee at too.  It means we don’t get ‘shushed’ all the time but the environment is enough to make us concentrate.

Some quick editing and then matching across the two different versions we’d been working on and then we were off.

There are a few new Chapters to put in, to split up the copy better, some continuity errors sorted and some new content.  Its nearly there.

We are both proud of the book, but have always felt it wasn’t quite as polished as it should be.  Now it’s a shiny penny.  So by the end of this month that penny should be on Amazon again, ready to be read by all.

And then on to finish book three….

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Blue Monday?

Image result for blue monday new order

Candice: When I hear that expression I have to say I think more of the New Order song (which I hate) than the term that is banded around for the third Monday in January.

Monday, and this week, is supposed to be the most depressing point of the year.  Christmas is over, the days are still short and dark, and we don’t have anything to look forward to until the next big holiday which could be months away.

This Monday has turned into even more of a confusing one for me, my daughter seems to have decided it’s her blue Monday as she doesn’t want to go to school. At the age of six, they are already testing children at school, and she is in the middle of her first round of maths and reading checks.  I think it’s far too early, but that’s the way the world works.

What I don’t want this to do it take away from her enjoyment of school and learning, including reading.  One of the things that lifts me in the world of short, dark days is a good book or film, something to drift off in to so I don’t have the think about all the rubbish going on around me.

To me, you have to spin the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ on its head and find positive things to do to make this time of year better.  As much as I am sure my other half would prefer not to have a birthday at the end of Jan, its something I use to keep us going as I like to plan a day out activity so we all have something look forward to.   Birthday or not it’s good to have things in the diary so that you can go – ‘today was rubbish but I’ve got that trip to the theatre, cinema, day out in London’ – whatever it is that floats your boat, in the calendar.

Having a small person does help too as she always wants to find out new stuff, and I like taking her to new things too.  We were watching the ice dancing show last night and she said she’d like to have a go so we are going to plan a trip to the ice rink in a few weeks.  She’s never been so it will be an experience and there will definitely be falls, but it’s all new and exciting in her eyes.

My other ‘Blue Monday’ is the eternal battle with writing and time to do it.  Phil and I had a chat in a very busy Costa last week about plot lines, and then I didn’t manage to get to the edits off the back of that.  However, after beating myself up for most of the weekend about it, I’ve got my planning diary out and worked out when I might be able to look at it.  That makes me feel better.  It might not be until next weekend but now I feel more comfortable because at least I know when I will do, rather than constantly going when can I write.

If you are feeling blue, go and book in something that you will enjoy – a massage, drink with friends.  You might not be feeling motivated but once you do something you’ll find that the need to hibernate lessens and you’ll want to do more.  Now to sort out the six-year-old’s logic about school…..

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Clever Marketing

Image result for lol surprise unwrapping

This Christmas has been a whirlwind of new sparkly, pink things. Not for me, but for the little girl in the household, who actually isn’t that little any more.

She is one of those people with a birthday very close to Christmas so we go through a very fast run of present buying from one event to another. She loves the excitement of having so many things together, but I find it hard 1) to be inspired so close together, 2) wondering how she will feel when she is older when she’ll want the two things further apart, as I have to say to her you can’t have anything else you’ve had your quota for the year.

This is partly driven by me being a June person. I’m used to having a good gap between the two so I have to keep reminding myself she doesn’t know any different. And also it’s not totally my fault as she was early!

Anyway, this year has been all about LOL Surprise dolls. For those of you have not experienced them, they are the “Cabbage patch doll” of this year, but without the fighting at the till. Why no fighting? Because you can get everything with a LOL on! Clothes, pants, drawing kits, hair bands, pens, games alongside the dolls themselves.

What is a LOL?

They stand about 6cms high and look like a combination of Betty Boop and a Manga comic. All big eyes and oversized head. They don’t do a lot but the fun comes from the opening. The creators have come up with a clever way to make you a) buy lots of them and b) keep you interested. They come wrapped up in a ball or other plastic container and you have to unwrap the layers, like pass the parcel. You don’t know what doll you are going to get inside and everything that comes with her is wrapped up in little packages. Each item, shoes, clothes, bag, is separately wrapped. It’s very clever as it builds the excitement not knowing what is in there and then constructing the little doll.

I have to say I get just as excited as her in the process, wondering what we are going to get, and I don’t even know what most of them are called though she seems to.

There are 100’s of dolls to collect, they keep bringing out new versions and types – glitter series, winter disco, OMG. So you want to keep adding to your collection. My daughter has about 12 of them, this is a small number compared to some of the children you see and hear, and at £10 plus a go that’s a lot of money.

As my sister in law said the other day, “I wish I’d come up with the idea”. They have taken the world by storm, seemingly by using YouTube as their platform for delivery. I’ve never seen an advert anywhere for them but my daughter found them on YouTube by watching the ‘unboxing’ videos. This has become a big thing, vloggers opening things they are sent to promote. Because of the format of the LOL they are perfect for this, and they have kids and adults drowning in excitement ready to open their next surprise. I know some kids have become rich with ‘unboxing’ and their parents posting the videos.

I have to say I think the dolls are harmless fun, as long as you don’t get pulled into buying them all. It’s not like sticker books where you bought a pack of stickers for a few pence and then swapped duplicates with your friends, you could spend thousands to get a full set with these. In that case, it’s all about control from the parents. But I do think that the world of marketing has changed so dramatically and this is a very clever use of the new media out there. I’d just like to know how to transfer that into bookselling.

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing