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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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Kate vs the Navy – Chapter One

“Dave!”

Kate Smith squealed in surprise and nearly fell over the chair in her four-inch Louboutins.

Dave. How could Dave be working here? Didn’t Gareth remember what happened at Christmas? Oh my God, this was going to be a disaster!

In the world of control-freak Kate, surprises were not permitted.

This was (almost) her company. Gareth might be her business partner but only in a strictly silent sense – if he knew what was good for him.

Dave Thomas was a nearly forgotten university flame who’d just happened to come back into her life during a project last year. After snogging Kate’s rather drunken face off at the closing-down Christmas party he’d scuttled off to his estranged wife in the States. He was certainly not supposed to be back in her office, let alone being announced as a partner in the firm.

Tracey Dunn-Jones, office tart and general nosy parker, sniggered in the corner. She’d worked out what Gareth had been up to by sneakily checking his diary when he’d mentioned a solo trip and meeting in London. Who did they know who was based in London? Only the disgraced aide of an MP who’d recently lost his job over the closure of a certain vegetable research station. Putting two and two together made a potentially very exciting five. Time to sit back and watch sparks fly, she thought.

On the other side of the room, IT nerd Kelvin was flummoxed by the whole situation. He remembered this Dave guy from their last job and considered him far too cool. He’d preferred the company of the researchers with their tractor-emblazoned jumpers to this cut-price James Bond clad in designer clobber. There had been some hoo-ha at the Christmas party apparently, but he’d been too busy with the tech guys, checking out the latest gadget, to work out what all the fuss had been about. To be honest, the moment people had started flashing their arses he’d ducked out for some fresh air.

The scene seemed to roll out in slow motion.

Dave had walked in to the room all smiles and was about to open his mouth when the shriek came from the side of the office. From the corner of his eye, he saw Kate – looking rather fetching in a pencil skirt and pleasantly form-fitting blouse – stumble and then right herself. As he turned to face her, she lost her footing again.

Kate’s favourite designer footwear wasn’t designed for such reactions. Putting all the pressure on one shoe had caused the heel to snap off, and she was suddenly falling backwards towards a desk. Kelvin, standing behind her, was slow to react and she’d hit the edge of the furniture before he could catch her. Her head hit the desk with a resounding thud, causing her to spin sideways and hit the floor with a crunch. There was a resounding oh! from the rest of the team as they ran over to see how she was.

Gareth Fothrington-Thomas, the fifty-something owner of KOD who was more renowned for his contacts than his business nous, might have the words “Managing Director” on his card but right now he could neither manage nor direct, just stand watch things unfold. A thought flashed across his mind – if only his wife was here. As an animal expert she’d done mouth to mouth on cows; he wasn’t even sure where the first aid kit was.

As everyone crowded round a stunned Kate, she just lay there looking up at them. Although her head hurt more than when she’d had too many cocktails and ended up in the ice bar in Spain, she was OK.

Back off everyone,” she said in strident tones that could be heard across the office. “I’m absolutely fine.” She began to stand, pushing helpfully offered hands out of the way. Dave had joined the throng and was trying to get past the gapers to help. However, as Kate began to rise he spotted something through the crowd. Blood was trickling down the side of her face from a cut on the side of her head.

As everyone backed off – Kate was not a woman to argue with – she heard a few murmurs about her bleeding head. She touched her crown and her fingers came back red. Oh bum, she thought, that’s really going to ruin my Dior base.

Thump!

The crowd turned round to find what had sounded like a sack of potatoes hitting the floor. They looked at each other trying to work out where the noise had come from. A pair of Hugo Boss brogues could be seen peeping out from behind one of the desks. Kate leant over the desk to see what was going on, and found Dave flat on the floor, pale as a sheet and out for the count.

Oh God!” she groaned. “What are you doing down there, Dave?”

*

KOD Associates, business change consultants, occupied the top floor of an office block in a bland part of Solihull town centre. The name meant ‘Kiss of Death’ and was a private joke. Kate had tried and failed to get her post-university career off the ground for a while and then, always a self-starter, she’d teamed up with Gareth, an old work colleague who had some contacts and money, to bring her ideas to life. Sensing an opportunity provided by the downturn in the economy, they had set themselves up as the go-to company for those who wanted to slim down a business. Their breakthrough job had been managing the spectacular closure of a government-run quango, the Horticultural Investigation Agency (HIA for short), after the last general election.

It had been a memorable job in many ways. Not just because of rioting staff, radioactive potato disease and an MP more concerned with climbing the greasy pole of power than telling anyone the truth, but because of the damage inflicted on Kate’s wardrobe. The rough and tumble of their countryside activities had not been kind to her raft of designer skirts and high heels, and the mental and financial scars were still healing.

And then there was Dave Thomas, aide to the MP who had commissioned the work.

Kate had thought she’d traded all that hormone rubbish for a cool, calm business mind. Suddenly, the one who’d got away years before was back on the scene and her body discovered a supply of oestrogen.

Working on the quango closure had brought media attention that had continued over the last few months. Kate and Gareth were regularly asked for interviews but, annoyingly for Kate, hers seemed to centre on the contents of her wardrobe and being a woman in a man’s world. Gareth was the one who was asked about the company, even though he was ill-equipped to answer questions with anything other than “I rely on Kate to do all the thinking.” She was still pondering whether or not to accept the invite to Loose Women but on balance thought there were some loose ends she might prefer to tie up before being stuck in a television studio with a bunch of hormonal C-list celebrities.

However, with the hubbub of the HIA debacle dying down, KOD needed to find something else to get their teeth into and replenish the dwindling coffers: having expanded rapidly off the back of that job, they had higher rent and more staff to pay.

*

The crowd had reassembled. Dave was still out cold and Kate was trying not to drip on him. Why wouldn’t her stupid cut stop bleeding?

Come back for Chapter Two next week

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I dream of NaNoWriMo

Phil: This time next month, hundreds of eager writers will be beavering away on their latest novel as part of National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo.

Since finding out about this event, I’ve dreamed of taking part. The idea of hammering out the first draft of a book in a month sounds great to me. Needing a deadline to get anything done, I can imagine the joy of racing the calendar to reach the glorious conclusion of your story.

Not this year though. Sadly, there are far too many deadlines in my work life to allow me to enjoy some creative writing. I know that if you want to write, everyone says you will find the time but even if I could, I’m not sure a few hours extra screen time in the evening or early morning is what I need on top of the day gawping at the thing.

What I need is NaGoFoAWa month – National Going for a walk month. Fresh air and exercise will do me more good. Perhaps I should start a movement?

Never mind. Maybe next year. If you are feeling inspired however, visit the NaNoWriMo website.

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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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Beriberi doesn’t cause diarrhoea. Try dysentery.

Phil: We’re hard at work on the Kate vs the Navy’s edits thanks to some really superb work from proofreader Catherine Fitzsimons.

All the way through the manuscript, Catherine has annotated changes and made suggestions. Working on these is a little like the days of handing your work in to a teacher and seeing what they have written at the bottom of the page.

We’d expected little more than a tidy up for the grammar and spelling plus some useful text formatting. What we have is far better. Catherine has read the book and provided all sorts of plotline advice. There are notes about references that appear later in the book, the sort of the things you only know when you have fully grasped the structure of the narrative. To be honest, I think she knows our book better than we do!

Along the way there are also technical points such as the sort of illness one of the characters could have suffered in the past, although Candice was glad to have read this AFTER eating her Warwickshire Rarebit lunch (It’s like Welsh, but with local ingredients since you ask).

Once you get over the idea that someone has criticised your work, then the process of applying many of the suggestions is great fun. For a start, we have to really think about sections of text, some of which require a bit of head-scratching. However, the result will be far better than we’d have managed on our own and makes the service well worth every penny.

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Do TV adaptions kill book sales?

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Phil: As I watched the final episode of Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling, I wondered about the sales of the book it’s based on.

Obviously, JK Rowling (writing as Robery Galbraith) isn’t worried about the royalties, but I’d certainly be interested to see how the sales fare. Surely, most of the joy of any whodunnit is trying to work out who the criminal is, and once you’ve seen it on telly then the secret is blown. OK, you might still enjoy the read but part of your brain is always going to be shouting, “The butler did it!” as the characters bumble arnound trying to solve the crime.

Or does knowledge of the outcome allow you to get on and enjoy the story?

(Note to broadcasters – This isn’t an issue for Kate vs the Dirtboffins, there’s loads more to the book than the whosdoingit aspect, which is why any adaption will be so succesful the other channels will just switch off to save electricity. Please start the bidding war for rights now.)

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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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