Tag Archives: characters

How general elections happen

Downing Street
The scene. Downing Street. The Prime Ministers office.

A telephone rings.

“Hello. Theresa May here.”

“Mornin’ Tezza. ”

“Errr, good morning. Sorry, who is calling?”

“It’s me Tezza. Candice. You don’t know me, but I have a bit of a proposition for you.”

“A proposition? Is it about Brexit? I’m a bit busy at the moment.

“Brexit? Naaaah. This is much more serious.”

“More serious than Brexit? Not Trump? What’s he done now?”

“Don’t be daft. It’s about a book, and that idiot probably hasn’t read any.”

“Well, I errrr.”

“Basically Tezza. I’ve got a book to sell and it would help me enormously if you could do one of those general election things.”

“Sorry. You want me to call a general election to help you sell a book?”

“That’s about the size of it. Don’t worry, there’s a bit of wedge in it for you.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see how that would help. Surely everyone will be too busy reading our election pamflets to bother with fiction?”

“I don’t think so. Besides, if we are talking about fiction and political pamflets…”

“Very funny. I still don’t see how an election helps.”

“Let’s just say that when your book came about ‘cos that muppet Gove sacked the greatest writers wot England has ever produced after an election, then the medja are much more interested in our story, especially when the alternative is some numpty in a suit banging on about policies an’ stuff.”

“Ahh. Good thinking.”

“I knew you’d see sense. Shall we say a score?”

“A score? I’m afraid young lady, and I’m assuming that despite sounding like an effeminate Danny Dyer, you are a young lady, I’d want at least a monkey.”

“Ooo you callin’ and effeminate Danny Dyer? Listen lady, you might hold your little finger up when drinking a cup of the old rosie but I know what’s what. A pony at most.”

“A pony? In cash.”

“Cash. No questions asked.”

“Oh go on then. It’s better than having to look at Corbyn every Wednesday anyway.”

“Good Gell. You know it makes sense.”


And that, ladies and gentlemen is why the UK is having a snap general election. It’s all part of our plans for world domination.

Please note: None of the characters in this scene are related to real people. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. I have to say that or Candice will kill me.


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No libraries = No Terry Pratchett


Phil: This week’s blog post was set to be something whimsical and lightweight. Then I sat in my hotel room on Saturday night after a couple of bottles of pomegranate and strawberry cider washing down a rather nice curry, and flipped on the telly.

Terry Pratchett – Back in Black tells the author’s life story. Paul Kaye plays pTerry (as his fans call him) and along the way we meet both famous and non-famous readers. We see how the literary establishment hated his books complete with a cringeworthy clip from a review show that those taking part will probably wish to forget, and later decided he was A. Good. Thing. Along with another clip of more literary people saying this.

I’ve tried but failed to read Pratchett. I ought to love it but I can’t find a way in. It doesn’t matter, the documentary is brilliant, affecting and a superb celebration of the man.

What struck me was that before he wrote, he read. Everything. Well, everything in his local library starting with fantasy and then history, “Blokes in helmets bashing each other” as he described it. Reading planted all the seeds for the character in his stories.

This week, I read in my local paper that our council is making more cuts. Headlines are those for old people or children but tucked away are libraries – again.

I’ve said before how my local library was essential for my development. I’m not going to compare myself with Pratchett but to lift a line from the documentary, I’m a human. He is a human. My poo stinks. His poo stinks. I loved my library. He loved his library. He is a writer. I want to be a writer.

Does it matter if we deny kids the chance to wallow in reading? Probably not. After all, do we need people with imagination?

Sorry, I’m ranting. Go and watch the programme on iPlayer while you have a the chance. Just keep some tissues handy…

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The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

captureCandice: Phil lent me a book a while ago by an author that I like – David Baldacci.  I’ve read a few of his books and Phil found this on in the dark recces of a charity shop.  He picked it up because it had the mention of a train, I said I’d wait to read it because of the mention of Christmas.

So I picked it up last week.  December was almost here and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to crack it open.  To be honest I’d already had the Christmas tunes on for the little person.  She’s learning some songs for her Christmas play at nursery so we both needed some practice in remembering the words to ‘Away in a Manger’.

To start I wasn’t sure.  The book is about a chap taking a train from east to west coast America to spend Christmas with his sweet heart. Train travel isn’t that popular in the States, everyone flies or drives, but he’s been banned from flying due to an air rage incident so decides to follow the footsteps of his distant relative Mark Twain and take two trains that criss cross the country.

The book was written over 10 years ago and you can tell with some of the technology that is described, it initially distracts from the book, but then the plot gets going.

So, Tom was once a war reporter.  His long time girlfriend up and left him after one to many close escapes and he hasn’t heard from her since.  Who is on the train?  Eleanor, the once girlfriend. In the great tradition of all stories love does not run smooth and she hates him on sight as he still hasn’t worked out why she left him. Just as they are starting to come  together then his girlfriend arrives and friction pushes them to the limit.  Will they or won’t they get together?

There are other fun things happening on the train too.  A young couple have run away from their families to get married, a thief is stealing valuable items and a retired train engineer is watching the skies as he predicts a bad storm is coming. So just as things are calming down an avalanche hits the train and they all get stuck running out fuel and water.

Love conquers all as Tom saves his woman and the train but then the twist appears.  The girlfriend, the marriage are all a sham, set up by the film director employer of Eleanor who knows she is still pining for Tom and wants her to finally get her man.

Initially the book is much too detailed about trains, and I was thinking this was more Phil’s bag than mine.  But once we got over that it’s actually good fun and you want to know what happens.  Some of the characters are larger than life and it gives the story a nice Christmassy feel.  What doesn’t get resolved is the Mark Twain element which is a shame but all in all it gave me a nice introduction to the Christmas season.

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Brexit. How would Kate vote?

Ballot boxPhil: Today is the day. We can all toddle off to the polling station and do something democratic.

For what seems like several year, the two sides have been shouting at each other, and anyone else within earshot. Some of us have even tried to take an intelligent interest and concluded that it would be more fun to beat the leaders of both campaigns with a large, wet, fish.

This isn’t helpful though, so with my authorly head on, I wondered how each of the main characters in our book would vote.

Kate – A no-nonsense voter, I suspect Kate instinctively doesn’t like anyone telling her what to do. Sent to Brussels she’d have the EU sorted out in about 20 minutes and several bureaucrats would find their positions altered by the rapid application of a Jimmy Choo to the backside. However, politics doesn’t really interest her unless there is a way for KOD to help out closing down some branch of government. Vote: Probably leave.

Gareth – With Olivia his wife from farming stock, Gareth will have been informed as to his voting intentions fairly early on in the campaign. Like most people in the agricultural world, Olivia is conflicted. On one hand she doesn’t like all those rules and regulations, on the other, once the forms are filled in there is a healthy subsidy to consider. While the leaders of the Leave campaign might say they will continue to pay this, none of them look like the sort who could handle a heifer so they probably can’t be trusted. Besides, Olivia has a sneaking admiration for the good arse of the Belgian Blue which strike her as proper, solidly built livestock, so those Europeans can’t be all bad. Vote: Whatever he hits after shutting his eyes and jabbing the paper with the pencil.

Tracey – Well, Italians are rather nice, but look, there is a handbag sale on at House of Fraiser. Vote: Sorry, better things to do.

Kelvin – Having spent quite some time on the Internet reading up on the pros and cons for each side, Kelvin will have found the tenor of the debate rather more aggressive than he enjoys. Both sides will have enjoyed a meek promise to vote for them as they harangued passers-by from their stalls in the high street on the basis that they would them leave him alone with his steak bake. Vote: Remain for a quiet life.

Doubtless some of you are wondering who these people are. The solution? Vote Dirtboffin and buy our book!

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Regional accents on the page. A good idea?

Leprechauns of IrelandPhil: Allroit bab?

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted an interesting story on the Birmingham Mail website. The 50 top words and phrases that say you’re from Birmingham or the Black Country. I tweeted this to Candice with the tag #poshbrummie – because she was born and brought up in the Midlands.

“oy I am not a brummie!however I did used to go to the outdoor…but not the back of rackhams” was the repost, followed by sharing the article to her friends on Facebook.

Reading through the list shows just how rich Brummie lingo is. Those in the south might need subtitles but for those living in the middle of the country, there’s a lot of fun in recognising certain words and phrases. Saying someone is going round the “Back of Rackhams” for example tells you that they are probably a “lady of the night” or at least  a customer of same. And no, you don’t get points on your store card. In fact when they say “Love being recognised?” then answer is probably, “No”.

Anyway, I am reading Meet Me in Manhattan by Claudia Carroll at the moment. Holly Johnson (no, not the Frankie goes to Hollywood one) lives in Dublin (bonus points for a non-London setting) and is Irish.

Or should I say Oirish.

The trouble is the Carroll has given her a regional accent on the page, and it’s bugging me. Every “Feck” brings to mind either Father Jack or Mrs Brown as played by Brendon O’Carroll. I’m expecting a “Top O’the mornin’ ” at some point followed by discussion of the little people.

In Kate vs The Dirtboffins (Buy it now!), it never occurred to us to give anyone much of an accent. All the main characters are accent-free because we wrote how we spoke and neither of us has an accent. Not even the one is definitely NOT a Brummie.

Should commercial fiction be like this or are regional dialects on the page a good thing? Would a soft southern shandy drinker Londoner or worsem an American, be put off if we included some Midlands colloquialisms? When was the last time you read a book with an accent?

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Things that make me go…ARGH!

outitwcPhil: At our recent Lit Fest talk, Candice explained that one important feature of our books was a strong female lead. Read any amount of chick-lit and you’ll find women who are otherwise quite sensible yet go to pieces the moment a hunky bloke appears on the horizon.

When you are a normal, functioning female, this is apparently incredibly annoying. She tells me in no uncertain terms that the female population do not spend their days swooning and dropping into a dead faint at the merest hint of manlyness – and since this never happens when I’m around, I’m bound to agree.

Anyway, I too get annoyed by characters in the media. Sadly these are often real people.

I consider myself a practical type of chap. Give me a flat-pack piece of furniture and I’m confident that I can transform it into something like the picture in the catalogue with the merest hint of hitting things and swearing. I have a working knowledge of machinery and the contents of a toolbox.

Were I a proper media luvvie however, I would have to proudly proclaim my complete ignorance of anything remotely practical. Worse, I’d hurl snide insults at the sort of people who do have practical skills. It’s well-known that when the oil runs out, those well versed in media studies will rule the world, not anyone capable of constructing shelter or purifying water.

Douglas Adams was right when he wrote about the Golgafrinchan B ark.

Anyway, there I am reading Tony Hawks latest book, Once upon a time in the West Country. Unlike previous epics involving fridges and Moldovans, this isn’t about a crazy bet but an account of his meeting someone, moving out of London, settling in the West Country and having a baby. There’s also a few chapters involving a pig and cycle ride.

All the way through though, he bangs on about being completely unable to do anything practical. If it involves tools, ratchet straps or even plugging in the battery on an electric bike, Tony is out of his depth.

A couple of times, this would be funny but it’s a constant refrain. As far as I can tell, without his next door neighbour, he’d have high-tailed it back to London after a month having been unable to work the taps in the new house. This is especially frustrating as I enjoyed the other books, think Tony is an excellent comedian and undersung charity worker.

I found all this as exasperating as my friend finds swooning ladies. How did we get to the stage when an inability to do anything, or to stay upright at the first sight of a gentleman’s chest become something to be proud of? I’m going to write some top spanner action into future books. Perhaps, like Charlene in Neighbours, even lady wielding spanner action. That will confound the stereotypes!

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The 100 – challenging TV

Logo of the 100.jpg

Candice: I’ve quite got into a TV programme recently.  Its on its third season, as they would say in the States, and I totally missed season one, but I’m currently playing catch up.

What is it about?  Well the premise is 97 years on from a nuclear war, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent back to the Earth from their home in space to find out if it is habitable.  Of course, many things ensue as they find that not everyone was killed and the world has turned into a dog eat dog (or in some cases, human eat human) world.

Into season three and everyone from the ‘Ark’ space station is now on the Earth, but they are locked in battle with the ‘grounders’, those who survived on the ground and are back in more medieval times. We are also now finding out more about how the war actually began.

So far, not that different from other post apocalyptic shows.  However, what I like about this one (apart from the gratuitous shots of Ricky Whittle’s chest, yes the one from HollyOaks!) is that you never know what is going to happen next.

In most of these long running American shows, in each episode the main characters end up in a situation where they might die and then, through a number of twist and turns, they live another day.  With The 100, sometimes they don’t.  I’m not sure how much is writer choice and how much is the way that TV shows are going (I believe Game of Thrones is similar) but it leads to a much more interesting show as you really don’t know if they will survive or not.

I have to say I am hooked, I watched three episodes the other night as I had some time to myself and by the end I’m not sure I can wait for the next one. (especially as I’ve just found out another character dies… I won’t tell you who, but let us just say there will be less abs in the world).

I’m not sure how this would work in a book, as you need to stay engaged with your character from start to end. This works as there are so many main characters that loosing one means you don’t loose interest, you just grab on to another character.

Give it a go, it’s certainly worth a watch.

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