Category Archives: Books

Book 2: Status update

Status report

Phil: There you go, over the last 3 weeks you’ve been able to enjoy Kate vs the Dirtboffins opening chapters for free – and we’ve generously dropped the price of the e-book to 99p. Now you want to know where we are with the follow-up Kate vs the Navy.

Well, the proof readers have enjoyed it. We’ve looked at a couple of plot niggles but generally, thanks to our experience planning the story, there’s no wholesale re-ordering of chapters. Yay!

The whole lot is now with a professional editor who is sorting out all our typos and lumpy grammer. Much as we’d love to say it’s not neceassary, our readers say it is and even if they didn’t, we’d still do it as your text can never be too perfect. Yes, it’s going to cost money, but definitely, money well spent. One of the advantages of writing with someone else is you get to split the bill and convince each other how essential it is to take on the cost.

The cover design is also being outsourced with the intention that it has a similar look to the first book.

Release date? Well, we’re working on it. No promises, but soon. Watch this space…

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Kate vs the Dirtboffins – Chapter Three

That evening, Kate had had enough.  The day’s events had destroyed her wardrobe.  Her best suit was a disaster. The stains would probably defeat even her trusty dry cleaner.  She’d be claiming the whole lot back on expenses.

Driving back home for fresh clothes seemed like a better bet than sitting in the boring hotel bar and rehashing the day with her colleagues.  Pulling up into the underground car park beneath her apartment block, she sighed with relief.  The car had tested the speed cameras on the A14 to get back here, but all she wanted to do was collapse in her own bath with a glass of sauvignon.

Kate turned off the ignition and stared into space for a moment trying to think positive thoughts.

Great job – tick

Great flat – tick

Great wardrobe – big tick.

But in the back of her mind she felt maybe something was missing. Upstairs in her stylish home, the only welcome would be the faint meow of Olly the cat.

Turning to pick up her take-away from the passenger seat, a smartly printed business card was dislodged from the gap it had been jammed into in the dashboard. On the front it read:

Kate Smith. Chief Executive.

K.O.D. – Change Management. We make the difference.

She looked at the words for a minute and smiled; that was her, MD of her own company, something that gave her a warm feeling that wasn’t attributable to the heated seats in her car.

For Kate, her business was more than just a job, it was her life. Solihull born, educated at an average comprehensive, and the youngest of three children, her two older brothers had made sure she stayed the bottom of the pecking order at all times. Her mother had always shrieked in horror when Kate had appeared from an afternoon playing with the boys. She would be covered in mud, her clothing all torn yet there was always a big smile on her face.  Growing up a tomboy thanks to years of fighting with her older brothers had ensured she developed a tough shell, essential for climbing the corporate ladder in later years.

Hitting the business world running after University, Kate had discovered that she needed more than just a brash attitude and the ability to throw great insults to get on in the world. She had worked her way up by quick thinking and building an armour of designer suits to keep everyone at arm’s length. But behind this tough exterior, Kate’s life didn’t extend very far beyond her work. Obviously, she had acquired the usual disparate collection of Facebook “friends” but these were mainly old workmates and people she half knew from University. Most wouldn’t recognize her on the street, far less cross the road for a chat. It didn’t matter to her, she had crawled her way to the top kicking and screaming and wasn’t about to let a little thing like friendship get in the way of her career goals.

K.O.D. was really Kate’s baby and she had poured all her love and affection into getting the business off the ground.  Opening the door of her apartment, Olly mewed a greeting and curled himself around her legs, purring contently.  She walked across to her SMEG fridge and pulled out a bottle of a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Grabbing a glass from her cupboard, she made short shrift of the cork and enjoyed the sound of the crisp, clean wine as it glugged into her glass.

Curling up on the sofa in her Juicy tracksuit she stroked a purring Olly.

“Oh puss, what a nightmare day I’ve had.  I’m wet, dirty and knackered. To cap it all I saw Dave. You remember me telling you about him?  The one that got away.  Well Ol, he’s back, looking cute as ever. I just don’t know what to do.”

She buried her face in his warm, furry tummy.  Anyone watching would have thought she was just cuddling the cat but silent tears fell from her eyes as she snuggled him.

Seeing Dave had left her so confused and she really wanted to avoid talking about that in the hotel bar. If they guessed at a connection, her staff would all want to grill her about him, the man who knew ‘Ice Maiden’ Kate before she was so frosty.

A career girl through and through, the brush with Dave all those years ago had left her only interested in one thing, work.  Falling in love with a man, well that was a weakness and Kate didn’t admit to weakness.  As far as she could see it only got in the way of her true goal – to own her own successful company – and she was well on her way to that.

Only sometimes, when sat in the lounge of a friend’s house as toddlers ran round their legs and their husband made the coffee, did she find herself wondering what it would be like to be involved in a more personal kind of partnership.

Walking into her bedroom, Kate pulled a dusty box from the top of the wardrobe.  Opening it she looked down at the piles of curling photographs.  Rifling in the bottom there was a faux leather photo album.  Sitting on the bed she began flicking through the photos, taken from her university days.

Staring out from one page was a photo of her and Dave, in full rock climbing gear, on top of some mountain or other.  Kate had first met him on a trip to the Peak District and they’d bonded over crampons and Kendal Mint cake.  Something seemed to click between the two of them and it quickly became coffees and lunch every day at Uni.  She had a boyfriend, but quickly realised her feelings for Dave were different.

Leafing through the pages there was another memorable photo – her perched on the end of Dave’s hospital bed. They’d taken off climbing for a day for a break from the last minute exam cramming. Bravado and his Ford Escort had taken them to Wild Cat Crags in the Peak District where even hardened climbers had second thoughts about some of its heights.

Dave had saved her life, she’d lost her footing and found herself hanging 100ft in the air with only the rope and Dave between her and certain death.

The memory was still vivid enough to send a chill through her bones. Somehow Dave found enough inner strength to pull her back from the edge.  She’d never been so frightened in her life. It was a turning point, nearly dying sealed a determination that nothing and no one would get in her way.  Her time with the boyfriend was done, she wanted to be with Dave.

Sadly, things hadn’t turned out that way, Dave ended up in hospital after the climbing accident and by the time he came out the job he’d applied for had come through, in Washington DC working for a senator.  In a week he was gone.

Closing the album, she piled all the photos back in the box and returned it to the wardrobe.  Rubbing a tear from her eye, she turned towards the bathroom.

“Enough of this rubbish,” she said, looking down at a purring Olly, “time for a nice hot bath, a few glasses of vino and a good night sleep.  I need all the beauty sleep I can get these days!”


Candice: So, there you go, a taste of the fun that is ‘Kate vs the Dirtboffins’.

We’d love to know what you think, so to encourage you to read the rest we’ve reduced the price of our e-book to 99p

And for the first person to comment on this blog post we’ll send you a signed paper copy (worldwide postage, you will need to supply postage details).

Yes, a copy from Candice and Phil, just think in a few years it might be worth something!

So go on, buy either the  paperback  or e-book from Amazon NOW, have a read and then write us a review on Amazon.

And if you really like it tell all your friends.

Once we’ve got you hooked then ‘Kate vs the Navy’ will be out soon.  It’s got the same core team of Kate, Gareth, Tracey and Kelvin, but with thrills and spills with the team all at sea closing down a naval base.  Of course, things are not as simple as that, with Dave re-appearing Kate’s life and the Navy crew having other ideas about what the Ministry of Defence should do with them.

But hey, life would be boring for KOD if not.

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Kate vs the Dirtboffins – Chapter One

“Simon, come back from the edge, there’s a good chap.”

Kate inched her way across the roof, sliding stomach first on the tiles as she went.  When choosing an outfit that morning, the plans hadn’t involved dragging her best Armani skirt suit and Madden heels across a roof in the lame attempt to save someone.  She’d have worn something much more suitable from her extensive wardrobe, trousers at least.

“Look Simon, this is getting silly, you’ve made your point, now slide back towards me.”

Hanging on to the top of the roof of the Horticulture Investigation Agency offices, Kate wondered again how she got herself into these scrapes.  A successful business woman, with a wardrobe to die for, she was in this godforsaken part of Cambridgeshire to close a poxy little government outpost down. That’s what she was being paid to do anyway, but instead she was now teetering on the top of a rather unstable stately home, trying to save an equally unstable employee.  For God’s sake, she thought to herself, he was going to get a nice redundancy package, what was the problem?

Looking down towards the ever-growing crowd watching the display, she was glad of her old climbing experience. The height didn’t bother her, but a crampon and some rope would have been better than grappling with roof tiles and messing up her recent manicure.

A tile slipped and she nearly lost her grip. The crowd below gasped as she wobbled before finding a new handhold. Sprawled flat across the roof she yelled at the cause of her predicament.

“Simon, I’ve really had enough of this.  Can we just talk about it inside, over a nice cup of tea and perhaps a biscuit?”

The wind had started to get up just as the young employee decided to shakily stand up.  Looking past him, Kate could see a line of cars approaching, being led by a black Mercedes.

Oh bugger, she thought, that’s the MP arriving, I need to move this idiot NOW!

Risking one final lunge towards her quarry, the combination of rain and slippery ancient tiles made her lose her footing. Flailing to regain a grip on the building she punched the protester. For a moment he tottered on the edge. With horror, she could only watch as he disappeared from view.

“He’s jumped!” Came a voice from below.

“She pushed him!” Responded another.

A resounding ‘Oh’ echoed across the collective standing in front of the building as Simon fell slowly towards them.

There was a crashing sound. Kate looked over the edge, fearing the worst.  A sea of upturned faces stared accusingly in her direction. In the middle of the crowd, there was a large black car. In the middle of the car roof was a large green blob with legs. The door opened and a man got out, rubbing his head. He followed the gaze of the crowd and looked up.

Hang on, Kate thought, he looks familiar.

Forgetting her predicament for a moment, she peered through the drizzle and for a moment thought; that looks a lot like Dave. What is he doing here?

Chapter 2 next week. If you can’t wait, get the paperback  or buy the e-book from Amazon now.

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Who’s that Girl by Mhairi McFarlane

Phil: The moment you read that title, you heard the Eurithmics in your head didn’t you?

Well, I did. Presented with the book by Candice over cake, I wasn’t sure. It looked very chick-lit, but I know she wouldn’t be shoving anything rubbish my way so I gave it a go.

We first meet Edie at a wedding. During the day, just after the speeches, the groom decides to snog her. The bride spots this and things all fall apart.

Friends and colleagues not only abandon her, but thanks to the joys of social media (this is very much a book set NOW), they gang up and start bullying her. Leaving London for the family home in Nottingham, she has to face a father who has never really recovered from the death of her mother and a sister to hates her. That and getting used to not being in the capital.

The move north is partly engineered by her boss and involves ghost writing a celeb biography for the latest blokey hot totty from something that sounds a lot like Game of Thrones. He’s filming in the city, doesn’t want the autobiog written due to a secret in his past.

Basically, everyone has secrets (Edie wasn’t having an affair with the groom, but was flirting) and needs to take control of their lives. So much so standard. If I tell you any more, then SPOILERS.

What sets this apart is it’s a very modern book. We get loads of social media and also old-skool media problems. A row in a nightclub with the totty results in Edie being identified in the papers as a mystery woman attached to him. This gives her vile and bitchy workmates a chance to sell their stories. There are loads of communication channels, including an internal e-mail system that provides the chance for some blackmail and they all help to build the pressure on our main characters in a way that you don’t see in most books.

Even the ending, while leaving room for a sequel, is convincing and plays like grown-ups making decisions. Not very chick-lit at all, in a good way.

Not living in a metropolitan bubble, I found some of the workmate characters hard to relate to. They are bitchy and quite frankly, childish. Some of the actions are more playground bullying than proper adult behaviour – however, that’s because I live in a different, and probably considerably less well paid, world. That said, I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s a proper page turner with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The main characters all develop and change during the story and lots of loose ends get tied up in a way that satisfies the reader.

Lots of short chapters too which builds the pace and, as I found, keeps you reading. Not quite enough to persuade me to take that girly cover on a train mind you, even though by that point I really wanted too!

 

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Navigating your way to publishing success

Phil: While might be blisteringly succesful with our writing, I banked another £1.56 from sales earlier, we are both still interested in the whole publishing world. With this in mind, I attended a seminar at Stratford Lit Fest last week looking at the continuing changes in the industry. An interesting hour, which provided some welcome pointers.

  • Series sell better than 1 off novels. Readers prefer to invest in something that isn’t a one-off story.
  • Sales don’t really kick in until book 3 or 4. This seems pretty consistent – it worked for Harry Potter after all.
  • Differential pricing works. Price book 1 cheap to get people hooked and then offer the follow-ups at full price
  • Publishers are using e-books as a slush pile and picking up the best-selling ones. Traditional submissions still exist but more and more they are letting sales on-line handle some of the filtering process for them. Why read a thousand poor manuscripts when you can just cherry pick something other people already like and has a proven track record of sales?
  • The biggest trend is authors selling direct to readers. 9 out of 10 members of the Independent Publishers Group are doing this at events.
  • To sell non-fiction, try relevant special interest groups or sports bodies. They may be willing to offer grants to help pay for the work. At the least, they will offer a route to a potential audience.
  • Authors can go to the London Book Fair in April, it’s not trade only any more and there are seminars worth attending.
  • Quality matters. Do not launch without a professional edit. Likewise, get someone who knows the market to design the cover and don’t get upset if they reject your ideas on this.

Of the 40 people in the room, 1 had traditionally published and 2, including. me had self published. Only half the room seemed to be working on a book at the moment which makes me wonder why they had given up a Wednesday evening to find out about publishing.

Anyway, from this, I took that we are doing the right thing. Once Kate vs the Navy launches we are another book towards big sales. The point about the covers was well made too, long-term readers will know that we changed ours at the suggestion of our publisher to something more market-friendly. As a bonus, it’s more bloke friendly too, I’ve been reading something with an overly chick-lit cover recently and couldn’t bring myself to finish it on a train ride…

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Kate vs the Dirtboffins paperback – Out Today!

booflash

A big day today – Kate vs the Dirtboffins, the funniest novel you will read this year – IS OUT IN PAPERBACK!

Yes, you can head on down to your local Waterstones and order a real, physical copy for £7.99.

Check it out on the Waterstones website.

Or, if you are reading this at your desk and it’s wet outside, go to Amazon.

Check it out on the Amazon website.

And if you want the cheaper option, they have the Kindle version – and you can read our reviews!

Or if you’d like a signed copy, drop me an e-mail and I’ll sort it out post free.

That’s Christmas sorted then!

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History repeats itself

librarybooks

Phil: Life is funny isn’t it?

Many years ago, I used to be an obsessive visitor to my little local library. I’d head straight into the children’s section and delight in picking interesting looking books from the shelves. My default choice would be stories of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I read each book more than once. The Kirrin Island one never seemed popular with other borrowers so I know it cam home with me many times in lieu of anything better.

Decades later, I’m back.

This time the reading is rather more adult. Candice introduced me to David Baldacci and I find that there are several of his books on the shelf. I know I’m going to work my way through all these.

But I can. That’s what’s so wonderful about a library. And that hasn’t changed in years.

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