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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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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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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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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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What’s your road to publication?

Phil: It’s Stratford Literature Festival time again. Sadly, we aren’t on the bill this year, but there’s still many sessions worth tootling along for.

“My Road to Publication” featured three debut authors talking about their first books with Meg Sanders, how they came about and what happened next. Ironically, thanks to refurbishment of the local library forcing this to decamp to the arts venue, the session took place in an adjacent local theatre (this is Stratford-upon-Avon, there’s a theatre on every corner daahhhling) which I’d never been in before. That made it even more interesting but I have to apologise for the lighting confusing my phone’s camera.

Anyway, the author were, from left to right, Emma Slade, Ruth Hogan and Harriet Cummings.

Ruth and Harriet were both conventional authors in that they have written fiction and writing has become their livelihood, albeit with some freelance copyrighting thrown in for Harriet.  Her novel, We all begin as strangers is inspired by happenings in her parents village. It’s actually her second book, the first absorbed a year an a half before being abandoned. The current book was written in a 3 month session where she devoted her time exclusively to the task.

Of the three, she is the only one with anything approaching formal training with a Faber Academy course. Despite claiming it didn’t provide any real technical knowledge, the course gave her the confidence to write a novel and more importantly, an agent as she had to take part in a mass pitching session. Fellow attendees form a feedback group for each other to provide help and support.

Ruth was an avid reader as a child and had always wanted to be a writer but kept finding excuses not to start, until a car accident in her 30s left her working part-time and with the time and no more excuses. Her writing method is interesting – a chapter at a time laid down in longhand with a fountain pen. This is then typed up on the computer and edited at the same time. Then the pages are printed and edited again. This contrasts with Harriet who writes the entire first draft before doing any editing. The idea for The Keeper of Lost Things possibly relates to a long forgotten, until a “What was your favourite book as a child?” question unearthed it, short story of a child who finds a teddy bear in a puddle and manages to restore it to its owner.

They say all books should start with a bit of a bang and that certainly applies to Emma’s. Her memoir starts with her being held hostage.

This is the least conventional story of all. Emma was a high-flying investment banker but when she saw a photo of her kidnapper after her release, the process of changing her life to becoming a Buddhist nun started. The book is a fund-raiser for her charity Opening Your Heart to Bhutan. written as a respite from her work towards becoming a nun, including creating several thousand hok mandana’s, unlike the others, this is very much a one-off. Buddhism teaches you to either be working for the community or be in retreat from it. Eventually she plans to go into full retreat, but at the moment it’s time to raise funds for a minibus.

All this is of course at odds with one of the first things all three were instructed to do by their publishers – get on social media. Ruth picked on Twitter and Instagram. Harriet is on Twitter too as is Emma. In the modern world, the author can’t sit back and do nothing between manuscripts – writing is just a small part of the job!

 

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