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Kate vs the Navy – Chapter Two

The old man of the sea looked out over his domain, and he was happy with what he saw. Through the window, the view was dominated by the noble grey steel bow of his vessel. Around him, the orderly world of the bridge. Everything was in its place, ready to be called to arms at a moment’s notice. There was nowhere else he would rather be.

His hand gently caressed the ship’s wheel but, in his mind’s eye, he saw himself wrestling with it as a southwester tore across the bows, rain lashed fiercely into the port side, and the crew looked to their captain for reassurance that, yet again, he would lead them safely to port.

No such worries now: for the moment, they were tied alongside. A gentle swell caused the deck to roll sensuously beneath his feet. The feeling put him in mind of a lady he had known in La Paz. For a moment he lost himself in the memory.

Rubbing the gleaming brass handle of the ship’s telegraph to remove a smudge, he looked forward to a day when it would be firmly thrust from ‘stop’ to ‘full ahead’.

Soon, my beauty. Soon,” he whispered, as if to a lover. “We’ll have fire in your belly and a world to explore. Soon.”

Looking out over the ocean, he could see the sunset. It was a nearly prefect evening, but the sky promised things would change. Storm clouds were gathering ahead.

Come back for Chapter Three next week.

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Timetable for launch

Phil: We have a plan. After a lunch that was so serious we swapped cake for sponge pudding and custard (a move the BREXIT negotiators would be wise to copy), a plan has been formulated for the launch of our next novel Kate vs  The Navy.

*

Gareth Fothrington-Thomas has made a huge mistake. He’s given Dave Thomas a job without consulting Kate. And Dave and Kate have history – embarrassing, complicated history.

But the Ministry of Defence have just asked KoD Associates to oversee the closing of an almost-forgotten naval base. It’s the company’s biggest contract yet, and a good performance could mean Kate can finally buy Gareth out.

However, nothing is ever straightforward. Tracey views work as a chance to have fun. Kelvin’s virtual life is far more exciting than his real one. And Captain Norris and his crew not only want to stay employed, they’re also keeping a secret. A rather large grey secret.

When Kate misses a key meeting she feels the whole process slipping out of her hands. Even an unexpected upturn in her personal life can’t compensate for the worry that things are about to go horribly wrong …

Join the team who first appeared in Kate vs the Dirtboffins as they become reluctant and unwelcome guests on a tiny island, battle local wildlife and tackle the Royal Navy in another madcap adventure.

*

So, dear reader, you will now be champing at the bit to crack open our latest work. Well, here is the timetable:

8th November – Chapter 1 on-line

15th November – Chapter 2 on-line

22nd November – Chapter 3 on-line and book available to buy from Amazon

29th November – Book reaches the top of all sales charts and we are the toast of the literary world. (I might have made this one up, it’s not actually on the plan)

Along the way we’ll be showing you the new cover and talking to bloggers to sort out some reviews. In the meantime, you lot start saving your pennies and clearing your calendars, you have reading to do!

 

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Mr Gandy proves that people are more interesting than things

Phil: Another novel from the “heading to the charity shop” pile in our house, Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour has an interesting premise and proves to be a pleasant read.

Tim Gandy finds himself newly compulsorily retired from his graphic design job. His wife has no real interest in him, as do two of his three children. Just as he’s wondering what to do, the wife drops dead. You might think that this isn’t a great start to a story even from someone as warm and fuzzy as the countries favourite gardner, but it provides a catalyst for the rest of the book. Gandy decides to head off to Europe on a tour in the manner of aristocrats from years long past.

Along the way, he encounters lots of special people and has a few adventures – just the sort of thing you’d expect from a novel.

Gandy is a lapsed artist and propelled by his (deliberately) ancient guidebooks, he’s determined to see some of the great artistic treasures on offer. It’s here where the book bogs down a bit with little more than lists of “wonderful” things seen. I get the feeling that like many people he feels that art from hundreds of years ago is automatically beautiful whereas later stuff isn’t quite as worthy. I’ve been to the Louvre and while I agree the Mona Lisa is disappointing, it’s nothing compared to the miles of dreadful religious paintings that fill the corridors leading to it.

Anyway, when not looking at things, the story nips along with the sort of entertaining events that happen in novels but rarely in real life. I’d bet I could spend the rest of my life painting watercolour around Paris without being accosted by a beautiful chanteuse, although in this case, it’s probably a good thing.

Despite being retired, Gandy isn’t old, or at least not properly old so he can be useful and get around. He still wants to do things and not just reminisce. I’ve not read anything with an early retiree as the main character before and it’s slightly odd as you find this is just part of his life and things can and will change in it.

Fun? Yes. Did it make me want to follow in his footsteps? Not really.  Were I lounging on a sunbed (or in the room of a Holiday Inn which is where I read it) though, it’s pretty good.

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The Keeper of Lost Things

Phil: Meeting up with Candice on Monday for a chat through our edits, I shoved a book her way. All being well, she is on holiday as I write so I knew something for reading on the sunbed would be appreciated.

The author, Ruth Hogan, was at one of the Stratford Literary Festival sessions I went to earlier this year. At the time I wasn’t feeling flush enough to buy the hardback copy of the book, but the premise sounded really interesting so when the chance came to get a paperback, I did.

Let’s start with the description on the back:

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

Basically, Andrew has collected lots of stuff, carefully labelled it, stuffed it on shelves and intends to find the owners to return it. He doesn’t, but leaves the task, along with his house to Laura. There is also a dead fiance to consider, hunky gardner and special child.

Yes, it sounds a bit rubbish when I describe it like that, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  Probably best I don’t write the elevator pitch.

One of the highlights is that for many of the objects, there is a short story attached. Apparently, this was what Andrew wrote to make himself a successful author. The trouble was he wanted to write pieces with an edge, his publisher prefered fluffy happy tales and eventually, they parted company. I loved these little tales and suspect that there is a real book to match the fictional one in them.

Ruth weaves a couple of major plot strands through the book and for a while I couldn’t quite work out how they related to each other but by the end, everything ties up neatly and you have a happy “Oh, that’s what was happening moment.”

I enjoyed the book but it’s not perfect, there is some supernatural stuff that I could have lived without as I felt it dented the real world the rest of the plot lived in and Andrew seemed to do that literary thing of just deciding to drop dead in his rose garden in an unexplained way too.

Ultimately though, the basic idea is novel and pretty strong which overcomes any objections. I certainly enjoyed the read and picked it up every time I had a few minutes, always a good sign. It’s a pretty light and fun story which I expect the Nolan will enjoy as much as the sunbathing.

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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 Two

When Simon had got up that morning he decided enough was enough.  He’d had it up to here with Kate and her consultant cronies. They had no right to waltz into his nice safe life at HIA and decide to close it down. Triple dip recession or nothing, it wasn’t going to happen on his watch.

His boss, Clarissa, had noticed something different as soon as he’d walked in to the laboratory.  The large holdall was unusual enough but nothing compared to the look of steely determination on his face.

“Simon,” Clarissa looked at him, quizzically.  “What’s up with you?”

It was unusual for her normally shy assistant to look like anything in the morning, at least not until he’d had something foul from the coffee machine.

“Clarissa, I’ve had enough! We’ve been walked all over by these shoddy management consultant types. Someone has got to stand up to them!”

He waved the holdall at her and stomped off towards the staircase.

Is he planning to join a gym and go all ‘Schwarzenegger’ on us?  She thought, before returning to the Guardian crossword.

*

Struggling with a particularly tricky three-down, it was several minutes before the commotion coming from outside the front of Oswythall Hall registered with Clarissa, but since the answer eluded her, she wandered outside with the rest of the staff to find out what was going on.

Looking up at the roof she was horrified to see a man dressed as a giant cabbage standing on the roof, brandishing a protest banner.  It took a while to work out it was Simon in the vegetable costume.

Well that explains the holdall at least, I’d have been a pensioner before he beefed up enough to go ‘Terminator’, thought Clarissa as she smiled to herself.

*

Perched on the roof of the historic hall, Simon was pleased to see such a big response to his protest.  He unfurled a banner to make sure everyone got the message.  “Save our science. Keep HIA alive”.

He hoped they could read it as he’d had a limited choice of colours to paint with so the words were murky brown rather than the blue and red he had been after.

Down below the crowd turned to each other, “Do you know what it says?” One said to another.

“Nope, something about science, but it looks like he’s starting a dirty protest to me.”

“Best get out the way,” said one of the older members of staff, “in case he starts throwing it too.”

The pièce de résistance of the protest, Simon considered, was a costume borrowed from the local amateur dramatics society. Many years ago they had presented a series of plays to local schools promoting a healthy eating message and for part of this the cast dressed as fruit and vegetables. The giant cabbage costume had seemed the best way to drive his point home as well as keeping the rain off its wearer.

From his vantage point, Simon could see a small crowd gathering, or at least he thought he could, the vision from inside the costume wasn’t very good and he wondered if the, slightly smaller, radish costume would have been a better choice. It would certainly have been easier to get through the skylight.

Never mind, the press would be here soon and the man from the government. This was the big time for his protesting career. He’d probably be on national telly, there would be questions in parliament, the government would see the folly of their decision and HIA would be saved. Simon would be hailed as a hero. There would be a big pay rise and the pretty girl in the accounts office would talk to him.

*

Desmond Barrington MP looked out of the car window. For the twentieth time since they had left London he enquired of his driver how much further it was to go. Whoever planned the roads obviously didn’t have the benefit of a ruler and the constant weaving wasn’t helping his digestion. The driver repeated that they were nearly there and went back to concentrating on peering through the rain and avoiding ditches. The only good thing about this trip, he ruminated, was the overtime involved in getting his passenger to and from the depths of Cambridgeshire in a single day.

Dave Thomas sat beside his boss. He really wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip to HIA.  Yesterday’s meeting with the scientists based there had left him feeling unsure if they realised that Doctor Who was just fiction and Call of Duty was only a game.  Reality seemed to be a loose concept in the outer reaches of a town called March.

There was also this Management Consultancy that Desmond had got in to close the place down, their MD had the same name as someone he went to University with.  He was dying to meet to her, just to see if it was the same person.

As the car approached the institute they saw, through the rain, a collection of blue flashing lights.

“What on earth is going on here?” asked Barrington. No one had an answer. The driver pulled up behind a fire engine.

“What are you stopping for? Get me to the door. It’s throwing it down out there and I don’t suppose Dave thought to bring an umbrella, did you Dave?”

Dave hadn’t, so the car advanced past the crowd. His boss wanted the front door so that was where he was going.

Just as Dave stepped out to open the car door a large ‘Oh’ came from the crowd.

“Look out!” someone shouted.

Crunch went the roof of the Minister’s car as a research assistant encased in a giant vegetable costume hit it.

“What the hell was that?!” shrieked the Minister, ducking back into the car, “Dave, are they shooting at me? Sort it out, NOW!”

“Owwww,” said the man in the costume.

From her vantage point, Kate could see the occupants of the car emerge rubbing their heads and staring in disbelief.  They saw a cabbage shaped Simon shouting about how the Government was trying to kill him and pointing upwards. Slowly their gaze followed his finger and they looked up to see where he had come from. A creeping realisation hit Kate, it definitely was Dave Thomas. Even after all these years she still recognised him.

Dave peered through the rain to see a dark haired woman looking over the parapet.  Hang on, he thought, that does look a bit like the Kate I remember. He squinted, trying to get a better view but she had vanished.

In the melee, no one noticed a figure break off from the group surrounding the injured Simon and walk towards the Minister’s car.  Tapping the window of the Mercedes, he watched the glass slid down.

“Everything acceptable, Desmond?”

“What do you mean, my car is wrecked!” The MP shouted at the hooded figure.

“Yes, but you got the desired result, didn’t you?”

Peering out the window Desmond tried to get a better look at the mysterious figure but couldn’t see a face. Turning, the figure walked off in the crowd, a sly grin playing on its lips.

Chapter 3 next week. If you can’t wait, get the paperback  or buy the e-book from Amazon now.

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