Category Archives: Candice

101 days in Lockdown

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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.

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Kate Vs the Dirt Boffins – Out today!

Kate vs the Dirt Boffins - Out NOW!

It’s in the shops (OK, on Amazon) now – the brand new version of Kate vs the Dirt Boffins!

Available on Kindle and paperback, we’ve added bits, taken out the typos and there’s a bonus authors interview at the back.

Perfect for all the family – head over to Amazon and grab your copy now!

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Good Omens?

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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.

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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?

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Lockdown Buzzword Bingo

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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.

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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.

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World Book Day … or is it?

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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

 

 

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It’s a Jungle out there

SHARK!!Candice:  Phil and I have been trying to get our whole book thing off the ground for nearly ten years now.  Some lovely readers may have been following us for the whole of that time (thanks – no plaques or gold watches I’m afraid).  Along the way we’ve been to a lot of conferences about writing and promoting books, talked to a lot of people about writing and promoting books and written a lot about writing and promoting books.

We would be the first to say we aren’t experts in either, but we’ve given it a darn good go.  My background in Marketing has helped with some of the ideas but there are two things we have been lacking in, money and time.

Along the way, we’ve worked with and paid for services from people, and some of this has been good and some of it not so good.  We’ve been promised the world and had delivered the Isle of Man.

So this is a cautionary tale for those interested in writing and then marketing their product.  NOT EVERYONE IS ON YOUR SIDE.

We are not going to name names but here are some hints and tips on what to look out for:

  • Rights – do you own the rights to what you have produced and can you get hold of it easily if you want to get out?
  • Do they want payment upfront?
  • Can they prove what they will deliver, and you don’t pay for everything if they don’t.
  • What do their reviews say – and not just the ones on their website?
  • What are other people similar to you doing?  Are they happy with the service and would they recommend anyone?
  • Are they TOO cheap?

Phil and I have reached the point where we really need some help with our marketing and have identified that social media would be a good route to tap into our audience.  But when you search the web for someone to do Book Marketing the options are infinite.  Costs vary from £100 a month to £2500 for one press release. Everyone promises to deliver a great return, but I know from experience marketing is very hard to quantify unless to have a good marketing plan.

Now, luckily for us, I have already done the groundwork and we have social media sites created, we just need followers which then lead to sales.  Everyone I talk to I ask the same question – what’s your conversion rate?  I want to see some numbers here for my dosh, that certainly what I would expect from a business to deliver at work.  It’s called ROI – Return on Investment.

We are still looking but if anyone out there has some advice or good agencies they have used please let us know.  We want to keep away from the Sharks and sell some more stories.

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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….

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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…..

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