Thursday, 30 June 2011

Friends, Facebook, and Keanu Reeves - I really do need them all!

So, Tom survives another week on 'The Apprentice' - thank the Lord! He's so nice, I can't bear it when Alan Sugar is nasty to him, and why the hell is Melody still there? Get rid of the woman! Something she said last week, and I quote:- "We're not going to a car boot sale, or up north..." she made it sound as if coming "up north" was akin to being asked to spend three weeks in Helmand Province in a tent! Anyway, enough about my obsession with 'The Apprentice' - but I'd just like to say that I want Jim or Tom to win, failing that, Helen - but it was during last night's episode that I started thinking about friends.  And that's friends as in people you get on with and socialise with, not the TV programme - which, I'd just like to say, I thought was vastly over-rated. 'Frasier' was so much better and has stood the test of time far more successfully.  I'm still watching at least one episode a day thankls to the Comedy Central channel.  I've gone off on a tangent again haven't I?  Oh yeah, friends.  And God knows why I was thinking about this during 'The Apprentice' (I may have started thinking about it during 'Waterloo Road' actually but might have got slightly sidetracked whilst trying to work out whether Robson Green really was attractive or not) but it's been on my mind a lot lately.  For some reason. 
Friends are a very important part of life I think.  I don't have a "best" friend as such, but I do have a small group of friends that, I have to say, I absolutely adore because they've put up with a lot from me - from my going on about my writing to my whining when I received agent rejections to my incessant hijacking of Facebook for the marketing of my books! But, even though we don't speak every day, and we very rarely see each other in person because we all live quite far apart, I know they're always there.  At least, I hope they are because they've all been very quiet lately and sometimes my paranoia comes out to play and I think they're avoiding me!!
But it's why places like Facebook and Twitter are very important to someone like me. They're not just an important marketing tool for my books, they're also a lifeline to stop me from going completely loopy!  They're where I go to speak to people, to keep in contact with my friends, and without social networking  I'd be lost.  Absolutely lost.  As a writer you sometimes spend large chunks of time cutting yourself off from everything and everyone else so you can concentrate totally on creating characters and stories and immersing yourself in that make-believe world, but you can't do that for too long because you start to go slightly stir crazy after a few hours!  You need a little release, a little escape, and sometimes 5 or 10 minutes prattling on about how particularly bad 'Eastenders' is at the minute (even with David Essex in it) and having a laugh over owt and nowt can really lighten your mood, because you suddenly realise that you aren't on your own, that there are people out there.  So they're very important to me, social networking sites.  And so are my friends.  I just want them to know that, incase they're reading this!
Keanu Reeves - necessary escapism.
As is Keanu Reeves - he's also very important to me, at least, my DVD of 'Point Break' is because I can get more inspiration from watching that movie than I can get  anywhere else, believe me!  And it's a great form of escapism, because Mr. Reeves looks hot in that film! So hot that when it first came out in the cinema me and my sister went 5 nights in a row to watch it, (I was 20 years younger back then remember - and had a quiet week that week!) I swear, I could act the thing backwards now.  And it's not even that great a film if I'm being honest, but I just can't get over how gorgeous Keanu looked in a wetsuit!  He almost made me want to take up surfing... 
So, anytime I need a real dose of escapism that doesn't involve logging onto a computer, 'Point Break' gets an airing and I'm quite happy to sit on the sofa and mouth every line along with Keanu.  It's either that or 'Mamma Mia' because I also have a huge crush on Pierce Brosnan, which does tend to disappear for a good few minutes whilst he's murdering 'SOS', but that's another movie that gives me a much needed boost.  Every time I see it it makes me smile and that's good.  That helps.
But, back to the subject of friends, because without them you lose a lot of much needed support in life and sometimes we all just need a little kick up the backside, a little bit of encouragement.  We just need to know that someone is there if we ever need them.  That's all.
And, thanks to facebook and Twitter, there is also the opportunity for me to gain not just fans (fans!! I should be so lucky!!) and people who may like my books, but also to gain new friends.  Because I'm beginning to realise that, in this day and age, you can have great friends that you don't need to see every day thanks to the wonders of the internet and social networking.  So I hope to meet many more new people in the future, and make many more new friends with shared interests and similar outlooks on life, because that's what it's all about, isn't it? Social networking.  Meeting new people, making new connections.  And some may even turn into people you will know for the rest of your life, who can tell?
But, before I lapse into some kind of personal phsycology session I'll bring this rambling blog to a close.  My point was (because I'm sure I had a point when I started this) that we all need something else to take us away from work or the drudgery of everyday life.  We all need an escape, we all need people to talk to.  We all need friends.  And no matter where we find them or how we discover those friends, it's just good to have them around.  And I, for one, never take them for granted.
And should anyone out there want to get in touch with me via Twitter or Facebook, you can find me here.  Frequently...  https://twitter.com/#!/michellebetham or https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.432090052040.207734.530097040#!/profile.php?id=530097040  or my Facebook Author page (I'm quite sensible on here - but I do need more people to 'Like' me so if you feel like doing that...) https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.432090052040.207734.530097040#!/pages/Michelle-Betham-Author-of-Romantic-Fiction-Chick-Lit/123901564359634

Right, time to think about lunch...maybe with Keanu...

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wimbledon, writing and receiving reviews - all things that make me smile!

Started the day pulling up dead weeds from the back of the garden whilst listening to Andy Gibb ('I Just Want To Be Your Everything' was a classic, don't mock!), watering my wilting pots and then sticking the bread machine on so we have some fresh bread for dinner tonight.  See, I don't just sit here all day tapping away at a keyboard, I can have a whole day's housework done and dusted (literally!) before Jeremy Kyle's finished, giving me plenty of time to concentrate on my writing for the rest of the day.  It's what I do!!  Although, I'm not actually intending to be tapping away at this keyboard for too long today anyway because there's a rumour going round that Andy Murray's playing some hot Spanish bloke in his Wimbledon Quarter Final match this afternoon and I've never been one to say no to a nice piece of eye candy - especially if he's Spanish!  I'm sorry, but any British solidarity I might have had left for Andy Murray (which was very little, I have to admit. Just can't take to the guy) disappeared a long time ago.  No, I'm afraid I'm rooting for Rafael Nadal or Novac Djokovic because I enjoy watching them play, plain and simple.  I've never really been one to get the Union Jack flag out just because we have a British tennis player making an appearence.  My favourites have always been foreigners - take Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Michael Stich, Jimmy Connors, to name but a few.  All of them have played outstanding tennis in their time and I've loved watching them all.  Can't say I remember a time when I last loved watching a British tennis player.  Oh, hang on, yes I can.  Virginia Wade winning the women's single title in 1977, I quite enjoyed that, but only because we were dragged out of our primary school maths class and herded into the assembly hall with the school's only colour telly because all the teachers wanted to watch the tennis!  Yep, back in the days when the women's final was played on a Friday.  Showing me age now.

Feliciano Lopez & Andy Murray.  Which one do you fancy
Anyway, an afternoon of watching attractive Spanish tennis players doesn't mean to say that I'm wasting valuable writing time, oh no.  I can always put it down as a research exercise.  I write romance, remember?  I need to get inspiration from somewhere.  It's not exactly teeming with George Clooney look-a-likes where I live.  But, bringing me nicely onto the subject of my books again,  I've got reviews now!!  For both books!  I'm not boasting or anything - I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'm not one to blow me own trumpet, although I'm fast learning it's necessary sometimes - but it really is quite nice. I mean, it's not nice when people tell you it's rubbish or that they've read better when it's been wrapped round a large cod and chips, (now I'm really showing me age! And no, nobody's ever said that about my writing - yet!), but when people actually take the time and the trouble to pop a few words on the books' Amazon pages to tell me how much they've enjoyed them, well, that's nice.  It makes me smile, and makes me realise that maybe I might actually be doing something right after all.  Infact, because I haven't actually mentioned my books here for a few days now, read the reviews for both of my eBooks here:-  http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Matter-What-ebook/dp/B00537TKN8/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1  and  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Too-Much-Trouble-Paradise-ebook/dp/B005628JE6/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1  If I'm getting reviews I might as well make them public, because they're very good reviews.  Five star reviews even, and that's good in the world of the new independent author because reviews are everything.  If people just having a quick browse around happen across your books and see that other people are enjoying them then it just might encourage them to spend a couple of quid and try them out for themselves.  I hope so anyway, because it makes everything worthwhile when you read somebody's kind words about your work.  And it's not an ego boost, it's just gives me - as a writer - a feeling that I can do this, that I can write stuff that people want to read, and it encourages me to keep going, to continue on this journey.  I just hope that I continue to receive more lovely reviews and that people continue to enjoy my stories.  Because that really does make it all worthwhile.
Ok, time to go check the bread, feed the dog, and get ready for an afternoon of tennis.  Wonder if the lovely señor Lopez looks even better in High Definition...

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Monday, 27 June 2011

Welcome to another week! Musical musings and a little bit more.

Had a lovely weekend.  Didn't do anything earth shattering, just the usual stuff - food shopping, gardening, ironing.  Not that interesting at all.  But this weekend was Glastonbury weekend, and whilst you would never get me anywhere near a tent, (although I do wear wellies when the situation calls for it, which can be frequently up here in the North East of England between the months of November and March!), I am quite happy to chill ouit on my sofa at home and watch the goings on from there.  I've been doing it for years now, and even though I'm not at the actual festival, I can still feel the atmosphere and I love it.  Even better now I've got an HD telly.
Can't say I liked every band/artist I saw (Plan B is well over-rated in my opinion, as are U2) but I certainly had my eyes opened to a few I am now looking up and downloading onto my iPod.  Laura Marling is one - an extremely talented young singer/songwriter.
Hurts - a band to watch in my opinion.
A band called Hurts is another - and these have to be good because both me and my husband liked their music and it's very rare that our musical tastes are ever in sync!  Although we both love The Killers, but up until now they've been the only band we can agree on.
And one last band that I absolutely loved at Glastonbury was Pendulum, and how this lot have passed me by I don't know because they are just the kind of thing I love.  Beyonce was also great, although I only saw half her set due to getting engrossed in 'Bride Wars' which was on TV last night, but from what I saw she pulled it off in style!  And I loved her sparkly ankle boots...but I've already got her on my iPod, so discovering some new music and new artists (new to me, anyway) has been good, because music is very important to me.  I use it to relax to, I use it to lighten my mood if I'm feeling down and, most importantly, I use it as imspiration for my writing.
Every book I've written so far has a kind of 'soundtrack' to it, a collection of songs that helped inspire me, that helped me shape both characters and storylines and if I didn't have that music to look to I'd probably have found it a lot harder.  But that's just the way that I, personally, work.
Pendulum - new iPod material for me!
At the minute, for instance, I'm listening to a lot of rock music (mainly Foo Fighters and Nickleback) because the book I'm currently editing ready for publication is the story of a female rock band roadie therefore that kind of background music is essential in my eyes.  Not that you could ever call rock 'background' music, but you know what I mean.
Anyway, enough of my musical ramblings.  I could go on forever about music and influences and how one particular Nickleback song practically gave the idea for a whole section of 'No Matter What' but I'd be here all day and I don't want to bore anyone too much. Suffice to say that if I ever lost my iPod or my iTunes music library I wouldn't be a very nice person to live with.
So, it's Monday again, and after a week of not really knowing what I was doing last week, I'm ready to kick off this week much more focused and with amuch clearer idea of where I'm going.  I've even made a list of ideas and possible strategies to try but, unlike last week when I felt as though I was flailing about with no direction, I'm calmer now with a whole new attitude to everything.  Logging on this morning to find out that I've sold a few more books over the weekend (both 'No Matter What' and 'Too Much trouble in Paradise' have sold over the past few days) has helped my mood, ofcourse, but it's still only Monday so there's still time for another midweek meltdown!!  But I'm not planning on it this week.  I have it all in hand now.  My husband said to me in the car on the way to Tesco on Saturday that there was a difference between 'aggressive' marketing and desperation and that kind of hit home with me.  Maybe I have been coming across as slightly desperate in some of my attempts at marketing, but I am still learning.  And grateful for every piece of information I'm taking in.
So, I decided to have a whole weekend without even looking at the laptop and it's worked.  I managed to chill out, (thankyou Glastonbury TV coverage!), re-group and get my head together.  I also managed to get the lawn mowed, wash the car and catch up with the ironing because I can't chill out 24/7, it just isn't me!  Mind you, after a hectic morning yesterday I was to be later found lying on the sofa with the dog and a packet of peanut M&M's watching 'Wedding Crashers' thinking how much better Bradley Cooper looked in 'The Hangover' and doesn't Owen Wilson have lovely eyes?  My thoughts on Vince Vaughan need no mentioning - he's one of my favourites, that's all that needs to be said.
So, a rest away from the writing/marketing/blogging did me the world of good because I'm back fresher, calmer and more focused, ready to take on everything I need to - and ready to start writing again.  That's the important bit.  And although I may not have physically done anything regarding my writing over the weekend, I can't switch the old brain off, so I've got stuff up there in "storage" just ready to be used this week.  Good ideas come from everywhere for me, and I can pick up inspiration from anything so don't think I've been completely idle! 
Right, I'm going now.  It's so hot here in the North East today (unusually so!) that I've got every window in the house open but that in turn means the dog can hear every little sound that's happening outside and he's now clocked a bloke on the field out the back playing with his own (much quieter) dog and decided to voice his opinion on the matter drowning out Fleetwood Mac in the process!  How I concentrate at all sometimes is a mystery...
Oh, before I go though, I just want to mention this site:-https://sites.google.com/site/1500authors/author-submit
A great site, not only for authors, especially eBook authors, to submit their book details and have them listed (I have 'No Matter What' listed here) but, if you're a Kindle or a Nook reader and you're looking for something to buy, then there are hundreds of books from lots of different genres listed here.  It's been set up by an author called Marti Talbott, so if you're looking for a new eBook give this site a go.
Ok, I'm definitely going.  The dog's now not speaking to me because I've asserted my authority over him, although he's not having a problem shouting at the gas men out the front who are digging up our street as we speak!  Oh well, reality bites as they say.  And I've got washing to hang out...



Friday, 24 June 2011

From crippling self-doubt to ultimate self-belief - what a difference a day makes...

I love writing.  I also love going to Take That concerts and pretending I'm 23 again but if I did it every day I'd be exhausted and start to get bored.  Which is why yesterday was a bit of a turning point for me.  And I'll tell you why...
I started writing - seriously writing - just over a year and a half ago, after deciding that it was now or never if I wanted to follow that dream of becoming a writer.  In that time I've completed three novels and spent copious amounts of time researching and contacting suitable agents, stressing over the impossible task of writing a-one-side-of-A4 synopsis (you try doing that for a book that spans 20 years!) and then feeling that disappointment kick you in the stomach every time a rejection e-mail comes through.  You take the (very rare) advice that some agents give you and you work on that, send out your next book in the hope that that is the one which will gain their attention but it's never to be. It certainly wasn't for me.  The rejections kept coming and I'd started to lose all faith in myself and my writing.  I'd loved my books when I was writing them, and I loved them once they were edited, edited again, then finally finished.  But with so many rejections for all of them it's understandable why so many authors begin to wonder if it'll ever happen.  And that's how I felt.  It was beginning to feel like an impossible and thankless task, that I was wasting my time concentrating on something that was never going to happen.
And then a friend sent me a link all about eBook self-publishing, and all of a sudden I had a new found energy for writing again.  I had a purpose, something to aim for.  So, I set about re-editing my completed novels and quickly published two of them on Amazon.  At first the excitement of finally seeing your books out there for real, actually there and for sale, it's quite exhilirating.  But it's a short-lived high, believe me.  Because, as I've mentioned before in a previous post, self-publishing also means self-marketing and that is where another seemingly impossible task and a hell of a lot of hard work really begins.
So, I've published two books, they've sold a handful each in just under 4 weeks but in those 4 weeks I've been through so many emotions, so many highs and lows I can't begin to tell you.  Ranging from utter excitement and deluded expectations to crashing lows and a complete loss of faith and lack of any motivation.  Once again my love of writing had waned, given way to thoughts of just giving it all up as a bad job and forgetting that dream I'd carried with me for so long.
'No Matter What'. My first eBook.

Why?  Because all I've done since I published that first book just under a month ago is look at marketing strategies, think of ways to get my name known, try and work out how to sell these books that I worked so hard on because, at the end of the day, I wrote them to be read.  And the fact they're just sitting there and nobody's buying them isn't because they aren't any good, it's because I'm not marketing them well enough.  So I became obsessed almost with eBook marketing.  All day every day I've been consumed with it, my head spinning with things I've read, information I've tried to take on board, and I think it all came to a head this week.  I'm not ashamed to say I had a mini-meltdown round about Thursday lunchtime, just as 'Bargain Hunt' was starting.  No, yesterday was not a good day for me.  I was on edge, probably a little crazy at times, and everything - as far as I was concerned - was pointless.  Writing was pointless, researching anything was pointless because I just couldn't do it, I'd lost it basically.  The self-doubt was, indeed, crippling.  I was questioning everything about myself and my writing.  Was I good enough?  Were my books good enough?  Would people ever want to read anything I wrote?  And getting into a Facebook discussion with somebody who basically thinks any form of self-publishing is Satan's tool probably wasn't the best idea but I wasn't in a good place yesterday afternoon!  And it was like a red rag to a bull when she asked me if I'd considered "improving my writing" by joining a writer's club.  No, I hadn't considered it and I won't be doing so any time soon.  I'm not saying my writing is perfect - whose is?  As writers won't we always question our own work, I mean, I've edited all my books God knows how many times and I know if I was to read them through again I'd still find something I could change so there has to come a point when you just have to leave well alone - but I don't want to join a writer's club, and that's just a personal choice, for personal reasons.  To be also told that authors who self-publish only have a "one in ten million" chance of making it was also a comment that didn't sit well with me, not because it wasn't true but because thinking that the odds are any better once you're signed with an agent would be incredibly foolish.  To begin with, getting an agent in itself, as I've already mentioned is an uphill struggle of mammoth proportions so I'd like this person to come back to me when she's found one to represent her and then tell me how easy it was.  And secondly, once you have that agent there is no guarantee that your books will even get published let alone sell.  I read an interesting blog yesterday (whilst having a cup of tea and 3 packets of chocolate digestives, always good for meltdowns!) by an author who had several agents, and a suitcase full of problems with all of them.  They couldn't manage to market her books or find a publisher for her and when they did the books just weren't selling.  The agents then either just "disappeared" or refused to contact her and give her any help at all.  So she got rid of the agents, turned to eBook self-publishing, and sold more books and made more money than she ever did with an agent.
Now, I know this is not the norm, and this particular author mentioned nothing about how she marketed her own books once she was doing it all alone (which I would have been very interested to know about) but what her blog did do was give me a little glimmer of hope.  And, believe me, I needed that glimmer of hope more than anything.  I had so much negativity floating around me yesterday even the dog was keeping well away. 
'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'. My second self-published eBook.
But I still wasn't feeling in any way positive about anything, even after switching the laptop off for the day I still couldn't switch off my brain.  I still had God knows how many things on my mind and I did not appreciate my husband's comment about how he thought I was becoming more bitter as each day passed because I wasn't selling millions of books!  Bit harsh I thought, considering I hadn't done anything to provoke that comment, I was just trying to watch a particularly explosive episode of 'Come Dine With Me' and minding me own business.  It also wasn't true.  I am not becoming more bitter as each day passes because I'm not selling millions of books.  I don't expect to sell millions of books, but I would like to sell some.  I would like people to read what I've written ebcause that's the whole reason I went into this in the first place.  But it was that (uncalled for) comment from my husband that kind of brought me back down to earth with a bump.  It was the turning point, the thing that made me ignore 'Eastenders' and instead think of just what it is that I want to achieve from publishing my own work as eBooks.
You see, what had happened yesterday was that I'd burnt myself out almost.  I'd come to a point where I was just going round and round in circles and achieving nothing because I was pushing myself far too hard, and expecting far too much from myself far too soon.  I published my books under 4 weeks ago, and I've sold some, it's not like none have sold.  But somewhere along the line I'd started expecting more of myself than was necessary, and I suddenly realised that I didn't have to be marketing myself all day every day to the point where I was starting to annoy people and put them off my books rather than make them want to read them.  I'd turned into this crazy-deluded-eBook-author and all of a sudden writing had stopped being fun; it had staterd to become a chore.  And that was something I had never wanted to happen.  I love writing.  I love that I can do it every day if I want to, but I'm not sure doing it every day is always the best idea.  Same as spending every day marketing and promoting is also not the best idea.  A happy mix of both is the way to go, and why I couldn't see that before I have no idea.  Well, I do actually.  I'd just been taken over by the need to get people to notice my books and read my stories because for so long that is all I've wanted.  But what I have to realise is that this is a marathon, not a sprint (the old analogies are always the best!).  Things are not going to happen overnight.  Things are going to be slow, and I have to get used to that.  I do everything at a million miles an hour in life but this is one thing I cannot rush.  Slow and steady, and hopefully I'll get some results.  I'm not expecting to be the next JK Rowling, I'm not expecting to become a million-selling author (won't knock it if it happen though); all I want is for my name as an author to be known, and for my books to be read.  And it won't happen without me putting in some hard work, but burning myself out and turning into a crazy, gibbering wreck because I'm trying to do it all in a matter of weeks, well, that won't help anything.  Least of all me. 
So, yesterday was a bad day, an horrendous day, but a day that probably needed to happen in order for me to gain some focus - something that has evidently been missing for me since this all started.  I'll take the weekend to think about a proper and sensible plan of action as far as marketing and promoting my book is concerned and stop steam-rollering into everything with no idea of what I'm doing or where I'm going.  I'll also start doing some serious writing again.  Because that's what's got lost amongst all this marketing craziness.  I'd lost my love of writing, and writing is what I love.  That's why I'm doing all of this in the first place.
So I'll continue to keep on pushing my books, and I'll continue to write more.  But I'll continue to do both at a sensible pace, and not wish for the world.  Because that way, anything and everything that happens will be a bonus.

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

'No Matter What' - My first novel, and a true labour of love.

"Write about what you know".  How many times, as a new writer, have you heard that?  Personally, I don't think you need to take it quite so literally.  Why?  Well, as writers, aren't we supposed to have vivid imaginations and the ability to embelish?  Aren't we supposed to be able to take a subject or a situation and turn it into anything we want it to be?
You see, I think it's not so much write about what you know, more about what you feel comfortable writing about.  And I think it was my own battle with this one piece of advice (write about what you know) that delayed me writing my first book for so long.  Because I always knew that the first book I was going to write was going to be 'No Matter What'.  But, because it was a story that involved a place I'd never been to and a situation I'd never been in I always thought, am I going to be able to carry this off?  And, more importantly, are people going to believe in my story and my characters?  And if that wasn't enough, you find yourself surrounded by people saying you should look at what's in vogue right now and write about what people seem to want to read, but I can't do that.  We may be in the midst of a young-adult-based-vampire-stories phase (or whatever they are, I don't have kids, I know nothing about this and do not, in any way, find Robert Pattinson attractive) but I couldn't write one of them to save my life!  I know I've probably contradicted everything I just wrote before by saying that - I did say we, as writers, should be able to turn any situation into what we want it to be - but I was probably generalising just a little too much.  What I should probably have said was, if you have a subject you're passionate about and you feel a pull towards that subject as a theme for your book, then take that subject and work with it to your advantage.  Make it what you want it to be.  But I think to write about something, just because it's popular, even though you have no interest in it whatsoever - that could be a mistake.  If I'm not feeling something I can't write about it, which is why I ignored everything that was seemingly being thrown at me, sat down, and wrote the book I wanted to write. 
'No Matter What' - or the basic premise for it anyway - was conceived way back in the very early 90's.  I've always had a very vivid imagination, I've been writing stories all my life and have often been accused of sometimes living with my head in the clouds.  But that's just me, I'm always thinking, always planning, and almost 20 years ago the first seeds of my first book were sown.  I had the characters (or most of them anyway) already there in my head and the story never left me.  It was always there as the years went on, growing, evolving, waiting to appear.  Because I always knew that, one day, I would write it all down and turn it into that book it was always going to be.  Writing that novel was almost a defining moment for me.  To get that story - a story I've carried around with me for almost 20 years - down on paper and see it as a finished book was such a great sense of achievement for me.  But still people were saying that something like that would never sell because it was a book based in Hollywood written by a woman who lives in the North East of England.  Ok, so I've never been to L.A., I've never been an actress or dated a Hollywood superstar, I've never done anything like that - and I never will (although, if Keanu Reeves ever offered...) but does that mean to say that I can't write about it?  And make those characters and the situations I put them in believable?  Yes, I can.  Because, although the story is set in Hollywood and the characters are mostly all rich and famous and glamourous, they are just people in situations that all of us go through at some point in our lives - they feel sadness, loss, happiness.  They fall in love and have their hearts broken, they have family secrets - their lives are just as complicated as anyone elses.  The fact I've made them rich and glamourous is because I write books for escapism, I want people to lose themselves in another world for a couple of hours.  I don't do gritty realism, I can't write that stuff.  I'm not saying I don't like it, I just can't write it.
My absolute heroine, as far as the literary world is concerned, is Jackie Collins.  She has the ability, in my opinion, to completely draw you into another world, a place where you can lose yourself and be completely involved in the story and for years - decades - I have read her books and admired her writing.  She has inspired me more than anyone else to follow my dream.



And whilst 'No Matter What' is not a Jackie Collins carbon copy - I wouldn't be so stupid as to think I could pull that off - it is certainly a Jackie Collins-inspired book.  I've taken that word escapism and created a world that I want people to become involved in, to get lost in.  I want people to care about these characters I've created and feel what they're feeling.  I want to take people away from their everyday lives and be somewhere else for a little while.

It took 20 years for this book to see the light of day and I'm very, very proud of it.  It may not be the "in" thing at the minute, but surely romance and escapism are always going to be popular to some people?  Surely a good story and strong characters are always going to be a pull to some readers?  There are no vampires or ghosts or paranormal activity of any kind - it's a contemporary love story, a two-decade-spanning saga that takes us on a journey with these characters, it lets us into their lives and follows them through every emotion and feeling they go through.  It's a story I wrote to be read and enjoyed, that's all.  A story I loved writing.  I just hope and pray that more people get to hear about this book and give it a chance, because that's why I write - to give people enjoyment.  To give people a story worth reading.
So, if you like your romance with a bit of a kick, you want a story you can get lost in and a good long read, then check out my debut eBook.  Perfect for a holiday read or before-bed browse; something to get lost in on the journey to work.  It's the kind of thing I love to read, which is why it's also the kind of thing I love to write.  If you're interested in taking a look and finding out more about the story then you'll find details here:-
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00537TKN8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vk24nb01A3GGE

Ofcourse, here's another question - as a writer, should we stick to just one genre?  Do we de-value ourselves by writing different styles of books?  Or does showing we're versatile open more doors and gain us more readers?  Well, that's a question for tomorrow I think...

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New book, new project, new wave of excitement!

Had a long think last night as I lay in bed, wishing I hadn't had quite such a large measure of vodka.  We bought some new glasses from Tesco over the weekend you see, because I have a terrible habit (I seem to have a lot of those actually, come to think of it) of breaking the ones we already have (my husband says it's the Greek part of me coming out) and although these new glasses are very nice, they're a lot bigger than the old ones  - think Brian Potter's vase in 'Phoenix Nights' and you've just about got them.  I'll be altering the measures accordingly next time I fancy a little nightcap.
Anyway, like I said, I was thinking last night and decided that, as much as I love writing about the characters I've already created in books already out there (I'll be sparing you the plugs today - you know where to find the links to Amazon should anyone want to purchase my eBooks, and please feel free to do so.  I'd be very grateful!!), it's time to take a step back from them for a while and create some new ones.  So that's what I've been doing this morning.  I've been making notes, building new character ideas, playing with story outlines, and it's been fun.  Creating new characters is always fun, I find it quite exciting to turn these people from words on a page into something "real" (you know what I mean) with personalities and habits and little quirks that will, hopefully, make them interesting enough for people to care about them and want to read about them.  Still trying to decide in what style I'll be writing this new book, but it is definitely going to be a comedy, set in my native North East of England. 
I always like this part of the writing process, even though in the beginning it used to frustrate me because I just wanted to get straight on with the writing and get into the book as quickly as I could.  But you learn, as time goes on, that you can do that, but your life as a writer is made a little easier if you have your characters almost sorted and your story outlined, even briefly.  Ofcourse things will change as you start writing - they always do.  As characters develop and the story moves forward things are always going to change, that's inevitable.  These characters I'm creating are new even to me, and I need to get to know them and grow with them and let them turn into the people they're going to become and that can only happen during the writing process.  Which is what I love about doing this, it's what I love about writing.  I start out with a blank page and a handful of ideas and before I know it I've got a whole new set of characters and a story I'm totally involved in!  To start with nothing and end up with a completed book is a real achievement to me; an even bigger one if I know that people are enjoying reading my stories and buying my books because they like them. 
So it's a bit of a short post today because, now I've started on this new book, I really want to see how much of it I can get planned and structured today.  If I can end the day with a clear idea of where it's going and I'm happy with it all, then I can settle down infront of 'Holby City' tonight feeling like I've actually done something useful today, and that I'm moving forward.  It's been a while since I started anything new - I've been so busy preparing my existing completed novels for eBook publication - and I really can't wait to get stuck in, get involved with these yet-to-be-fully-expanded characters.  But I'm excited to see where they - and the story - take me.  I'm ready for that exciting journey, and it starts right here...

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Monday, 20 June 2011

More Monday musings.

I've just been outside mowing the lawn, sorting me pots out, that kind of thing.  And as I was crouched down trimming me borders with a pair of lawn-edgers so blunt they wouldn't even tickle you, I found my head spinning with what felt like a hundred things I want to do but no clear idea of when I'm going to do any of them.  I've got two more books on the go (both follow-up novels to the two books I currently have for sale on Amazon - 'No Matter What' http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00537TKN8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vk24nb01A3G and 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005628JE6.  I'm not going to miss a chance to plug them am I?  This is my livelehood now you know!!) but I couldn't help wondering whether I should write something completely detached from those two books next, maybe create a new set of characters because, let's face it, I have no real evidence that the characters from 'No Matter What' or 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' are actually popular yet!  I'm still waiting for any kind of book review to appear and let me know whether I have successfully created people that anyone actually care enough about to read more adventures of.  But then again, haven't I always said that the whole reason I went into this self-publishing lark was because it gave me the freedom to write about who I want and create the stories I want to write?  Saying that though, it's still pointless writing anything that nobody wants to read.  And that's why I found myself dead-heading pansies and fighting with myself over what I should write next.  Dare I start a brand new book and have three on the go at once?  You see, in a way, I don't think that's too bad an idea.  Sometimes it all depends on what mood I'm in as to what I actually feel like writing so if I had three completely different books on the go at once then I could spend my days writing whichever book took my fancy on any given day.  Now, that's either going to work really well or give me one hell of a headache, so I'll keep thinking about that one.
I have a terrible habit of thinking about a million things at once.  My husband says it's something I do a lot - think about too many things at once whilst not concentrating on any of them fully and he's probably right because last week I tried to put the kettle in the fridge and the rational part of my brain knows that isn't where it should stay!!  But I've always got a lot on my mind, I have an inability to wind down, an aversion to relaxing.  I was a lot better at it when we lived in Tenerife because the whole feel of that island just makes you want to kick back and sit still for a few minutes, and it's usually too hot to go racing about like a blue-arsed fly anyway.  Unlike Britain.  For some reason - and maybe this is just me, I don't know - but when I sit down, even just to have a cup of tea, especially in the middle of the day, I feel guilty!  I just can't do it, I cannot just let everything go, switch off and relax!  Even during 'Coronation Street' I'm still thinking of what I'm going to write the next day, which chapters I'll work on, etc.  Although, I have to admit, I did let all of that go when I was watching 'Drag Me To Hell' last night, a film that was both terrifying and hysterically funny in parts.  It's the bit with the goat that did it for me.  I was all for sleeping with the lights on until that bit happened.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, my inability to relax.  Nope, I just can't do it.  Relax, that is.  Which is why I need to get me brain in gear and decide just what it is I'm going to give my full attention to next because I'm dangerous without something to focus on.  I can end up wasting a whole day just faffing about when I could be doing something useful.  And then I end up feeling guilty that I wasted all those hours and beating myself up over it and punishing myself by not letting myself chill out!  I may be a bit neurotic actually, I need to work on that...
I spent a lot of last week working on my third completed novel, editing it ready to convert into eBook form, but I've now decided to put that on the back burner, one decision I have managed to make without having a three hour debate with myself!!  I think having two books for sale is enough at the minute and putting a third out there in such quick succession to the other two is something I'm going to wait to do.  I need feedback and reviews from the other two first before I stick a third one out there.  I'd like people to get a feel for my writing, enjoy (hopefully!) what I've done so far before I start shoving more down their necks!!  But I do want to get my teeth into something else now, because for the past few weeks all I seem to have been doing is editing, converting, uploading etc. etc. and I haven't actually been doing any writing.  And that, after all, is what I love to do.  Write.  And I may even write something other than novels because, whilst watching an episode of the bloody hilarious 'Phoenix Nights' (Peter Kay is a legend of comedy in my eyes) I had an idea for a sitcom of my own, (see?  I just can't switch off!), and I might just write it too, if only to see if I could actually do it, because it'd never get made.  Even I'm intelligent enough to realise that I have as much chance of my dog Archie being made Deputy Prime Minister (although sometimes I think he could do a better job) than I do of getting any sitcom I write past anyone in the BBC/ITV/Channel 4 etc.  But it's a challenge I might just undertake because I reckon my idea's a winner.  Not telling what it is though.  Not yet anyway!! ;)
So, as we head into another week I might spend the rest of today thinking about my next move, what book I work on next, how do I continue marketing the books I already have out there without people getting totally fed up of me mentioning them...it's all got to be done.  Then there's my website.  That's got to be created too, although at least I have that in hand - you see, I just can't help my brain running off at a hundred miles an hour! God knows how I managed to stay focused enough to complete three novels.  But, the thing is, once I set my mind to something I can totally lose myself in it, and that's what I need to do now.  Find that book that I want to lose myself in.  And stop worrying about everything else going on around me.  But before I do any of that - one, two, three...and breathe.....

Follow michellebetham on Twitter

Saturday, 18 June 2011

It's the weekend, and nothing exciting is happening...

But that's the story of my life that is.  The most exciting thing going on in this house tonight is a home-made curry with home-brewed lager (we're beating this bloody recession, I tell you!) followed by Kung-Fu Panda and an episode of 'Casualty'!  But, do you know what?  I'm quite happy with that.  Gone are the days when I can be bothered to get tarted up and head down to Whitley Bay for a night of watered-down lager (because that's what we used to get back in 1992.  I drank the equivalent of 3 pints on the average Friday/Saturday night yet I was still stone-cold sober when I got back home).  I haven't got the bloody energy anymore to be honest.  I'm still recovering from that Take That concert 3 weeks ago!  No, I'm quite happy to have a quiet night in, arguing over what film to watch.  Suits me just fine.  We always end up watching the film I want anyway!!
Right now I'm watching 'Only Fools & Horses' repeats on Gold and wishing I hadn't started looking at eBook marketing strategies.  I know I've got tons of work to do in that respect because so far the amount of books I've sold is still in single figures and my confidence is quite low, but I just didn't really want to think about it until Monday.  It's an uphill battle of mammoth proportions this self-marketing lark and being reminded of just how big a job I've got ahead of me has almost put me off me chicken madras.  It's actually made me feel quite sick to the point where I'm beginning to wonder if it was worth going into this self-publishing business in the first place.  But ofcourse it was.  I'm just panicking because this is all still new to me and I'm still learning.  I think I'll be learning for a long time actually, this is not an easy or a quick job.  I've more than gathered that now!  It's still putting the fear of God into me though.  But what I have to do is keep the faith, I know my books are good, there's a market for them, I know there is, I've just got to corner that market, gain a fan base - no matter how small - and work hard to keep them.  Sounds easy when I say it quickly.  I just don't want to feel like I've failed at something I've wanted all my life, and I also have to remember that I have only been doing this for 3 weeks.  3 weeks, that's all.  So maybe I'm trying to run before I can walk, we'll see.  Anyway, I'm just rambling today, but sometimes writing it all down helps make sense of it more and I can stop beating myself up about the fact I've only sold a handful of books.  So far.  I just need to get a different mindset, realise I've got a long road ahead, and know that it's going to take time.  I worry far too much about everything, that's my problem.  So tonight I'm going to chill out, drink home-made wine (it's very nice, and cheap! No bloody recession is stopping me from enjoying a drink, and none of mine is watered down!) and get ready for next week, when I'll throw myself completely into this self-marketing lark. After all, if this is the route I've chosen to take with my writing, then it's all in my hands, isn't it? 



Friday, 17 June 2011

I've got a new eBook out - of course I'm going to plug it!

Ok.  So now I have 2 books to plug, but seeing as my latest eBook has literally just appeared on Amazon, let's concentrate on that one for now.  'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' is a bit of a departure from  my last book, 'No Matter What' (still available to download from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.u/dp/B00537TKN8/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vk24nb01A3GGE ), which was very much a saga of epic proportions, but very good, and if you like a story with a lot of twists and turns, very much in the vein of Jackie Collins, then I think you might like 'No Matter What'.  But anyway, back to 'Too Much Trouble...'  This was a book that I loved writing.  I mean, I love writing all my books but I loved writing this one because it contained humour - or, at least, I hope hope it contains humour, I suppose I'll have to leave that up to the reader - and it involved something very close to my heart.  Darts.  Yes, darts.  It's a romantic comedy, set mainly on the beautiful island of Tenerife (where I lived for 2 years, so I know the place well) and the male lead character is a darts player.  But we're not talking Eric Bristow or Ted Hanky here, oh no, I've created a young and sexy darts player (and yes, they do exist, but I've already been over that in Wednesday's post) with a "bad boy" attitude, the kind of man that a lot of women would fall for.  But we're not talking a Mills & Boon romance here, oh God no, this is very much a humourous book.  A light-hearted and fun book.  The main characters are Geordies because I'm a Geordie and I think we have one of the best senses of humour in the world, and I've tried to bring that humour into what is basically a love story.  It's chick-lit, when all is said and done.

But this book wasn't done entirely without help, although I did write a lot of it during the Professional Darts World Championships last December/January just to try and get a feel for some of the atmosphere of a large tournament such as that one, but I did get a bit moody when Paul Nicholson got knocked out in the second round because he was providing me with more research than he realised and I could have swung for him getting knocked out that early!!  Anyway, no, I needed some real help as far as knowing what it was like both out front and backstage at a big darts tournament and without the help of Kristian Brown from the 'Darts, Beers and Cheers' website (a great fansite for any darts fan - check it out!) I'm not sure I could have got some of the scenes in this book quite as accurate as I hope they are.  He's also helped me out by giving my eBook a plug on some of his sites and on Facebook and Twitter which, to an independent author who is still very much learning as far as self-marketing goes, is a huge help.  I'm so grateful to him.  He helped me make this book the best it could be, and he also made me realise that to actually get out there and attend some sort of darts event is something I really have to do.  I've followed this sport for decades now and have still never been to a live tournament - although we did talk about going to the recent Premier League night at Newcastle Arena but we didn't like to leave the dog for all those hours and my other half was put off by the fact that he wouldn't be able to drink.  He said going to darts and not drinking has to be against the law and I kind of agree with him!! We'll get there one day.

So, 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' has finally been (self) published and I'm really proud of it.  I really am.  I hope it proves that I can write different kinds of books, although I am under no illusion that you can please all of the people all of the time.  I can't imagine there's a person in the world who can do that.  I just want to appeal to as many people as I can with my books, and I just want to try and make people aware of me, as a new and determined writer.  I'm still at the beginning of a very long and very tough road to any kind of recognition, infact, at this stage I'm just ridiculously happy to know that I'm selling a handful of books, but I will stay on that road, I'll keep plugging away, and maybe one day people will finally know my name.  I don't want to be Jackie Collins (well, it would be nice...) I just want to be able to keep writing books, and know that people enjoy reading them.  Is that really too much to ask?

Anyway, before I start rambling - and that's a distinct possibility because it's Friday, my brain is frazzled, and I've had no chocolate all week - here are the first 2 chapters of 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'.  Take a look at them, read them through and see what you think.  If it sounds like your kind of thing then pop over to Amazon and download the whole book (only £2.29 - bargain!!), and if you know someone who might like it then tell them about it.  Oh, and although it's an eBook you don't have to have a Kindle to read it.  There is a free app (Kindle for PC/iPhone/Blackberry etc...) that will enable anyone to read eBooks on almost any device.  Have I sold it to you yet?  I'm trying my hardest here!!  Ok.  The free chapters.  Here we go....




'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'

Try the first 2 chapters for free!!


1

            “She wanted to be a WAG, that’s the only reason she married him.”  Fran sat
 back in her chair and smiled smugly at me. 
I stuck my tongue out at her.  “I think you must be mistaking me for you, you sad, Z-list-celebrity wannabe.”
I was right too.  I had never harboured any desires to have an oversized chandelier in my hallway or drive a monster-sized pink 4x4 whereas Fran, on the other hand, would have sold her own mother for a store card at ‘Cricket’.
“I thought he was a darts player,” Connie said, looking into her empty glass of gin and tonic, poking around with her straw, checking to see if there was anymore she could drain from the bottom.
            “He is,” I replied, taking the glass out of her hand and putting it down on the table.  “And just get another one will you?  We’re in Tenerife.  It’s three euros with a mixer for Christ’s sake!”
            “So, why did you marry a darts player if you wanted to be a WAG?”  Jo asked.
            “I never wanted to be a bloody WAG!” I sighed, somewhat exasperated.
            “They have wives and girlfriends, don’t they?” Fran said, completely ignoring my protestations.  “The term isn’t exclusive to footballer’s y’know.” 
I was starting to tire of this conversation now.  I couldn’t even remember how it had started because the subject of my ex-husband wasn’t one I ever brought up out of choice.
            “It’s not the same though is it?” Jo went on, pouring some of her gin into Connie’s empty glass.  Laziness in the extreme; couldn’t anyone be bothered to get up and go to the bar?  It was about ten steps away.  “I mean, darts players…none of them are exactly David Beckham are they?”
            “Oh, I don’t know,” Fran grinned.  “He’s quite a looker is Molly’s ex.  Quite sexy with a dart in his hand actually.”
Not happy with the way this seemed to be heading I started gathering all our empty glasses onto a tray, deciding that a trip to the bar might as well be my job as I seemed to be the only one not enjoying this little chat.
            “Hit the bullseye a lot then did he?” Connie giggled, shoving a handful of peanuts into her mouth. 
            “Apparently so,” Fran winked.  “And from what I can gather, he gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘Double Top’!”
            I poked my tongue out at her again, making a mental note not to tell her anymore of my bedroom secrets.  “And for your information, they’re called ‘DWAGS’.”
            Connie choked on her donated gin.  “Sorry…what?”
            “Darts Wives and Girlfriends.  DWAGS.”                    
I threw them all a smug smile of my own and carried the now over-filled tray of glasses back to the bar, handing them over to Luiz, our favourite and most tolerant barman in the whole of Tenerife.  He smiled as he took them from me and mouthed “same again”?  I nodded, turning round and leaning back against the bar as I watched my three best friends continue to discuss the man that had once been my husband – Paul Parker, professional darts player.  Ranked number twelve in the world as far as his sport was concerned, but ranked number one in terms of philandering bastards because his ability to score hadn’t been entirely confined to the dart board. 
I’d met Paul at a darts tournament in our hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne eight years ago after being dragged there by Fran’s now ex-husband Kev.  Paul and Kev had known each other from school and Paul had got him some VIP tickets, which was the only reason Fran and I had turned up to be honest.  Any excuse to flash a backstage pass and we were there.
Both Paul and I had been in our twenty’s at the time, him a couple of years younger than me, and he’d been really-quite-handsome-in-a-cute-and-shy-kind-of-way with short, dark hair, the most beautiful green eyes, and the kind of mouth I could have kissed for hours, which I did - a lot - back then.  He’d been the new kid on the block, still on the amateur darts circuit so he’d had a day job as a heating engineer,  but he’d already been well on the way to becoming a Geordie hero, a talent to be watched and they’d got that right!  Watched like a bloody hawk once he’d turned professional!  That was when the fame had started going to his head and the women began falling at his feet because Paul was not only a great darts player, he was also one of best looking guys on the circuit.  And he knew that.
But before all of that, before his obvious arrow-throwing talents had propelled him to the dizzy heights of professionalism, he’d been this wonderful, quiet, caring man from North Shields who’d adored me and got incredibly upset if I couldn’t make it to one of his matches.  But three big tournament wins later and a fan base to rival that of a boy band’s and he’d suddenly turned into Paul “Bad Lad” Parker, the pantomime villain of the darts world who used AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ as his walk on music accompanied by a couple of backcombed bimbo’s firmly attached to each arm, and firmly attached to something else that hadn’t belonged to them by the end of the night.  I wasn’t standing for that.  I couldn’t be arsed to compete so I’d told him to shove his precious arrows where a dart board didn’t fit and got rid of him before his ego had got too big for our lovely little semi-detached house by the sea.  I could still kill the cheating son-of-a-bitch sometimes.  I’d loved that house.  I’d just painted every room after months of picking up tips from ‘60 Minute Makeover’ and bought some fabulous co-ordinating cushions from John Lewis and what does he do?  He goes and makes me leave him!  Bastard!  And I’m still paying for those cushions.
So, one divorce and a house sale later and here I was, starting a whole new life on this beautiful island they call Tenerife, although I’ve been reliably informed that it isn’t actually an island at all but an active volcano but I try not to think about that.  It’s just a bit too weird for me. 
I’d needed to get away you see, I’d needed to make a new start because, despite everything Paul had put me through, I’d loved the dart-throwing, two-timing sod.  Too bloody much.  And the worst thing was he’d made me almost hate the sport I’d grown to love but how could I watch any of the major tournaments now when he was always there?   Making me remember.  No, I’d needed to move far away from the memories and whilst Scarborough may have been far enough for some people I’m not some people and I’d needed distance.  A lot of it.  So why Tenerife?  No idea really.  Me and Fran had been here on holiday a few years ago and had liked the fact you could get paella for one and a bottle of wine for less than ten euros and go out without a coat in November so it seemed as good a place as any.  And it was about as far away from “Bad Lad” Parker as I could get without needing a visa so that was good enough for me.
“Molly!  You crushing those grapes yourself or what?” Fran shouted over, fanning herself with a coaster.  It might have been just a few weeks until Christmas but the temperature was still around 29 degrees, even now at ten thirty in the evening.  The heat was something I never got tired of although it still took some getting used to, especially in the summer months when temperatures could exceed 40 degrees.  Both Fran and I had had to buy totally new wardrobes once we’d arrived here and realised the weather was more than a bit different to the North East of England.  Any excuse.
I passed a less-than-polite hand gesture over to my circle of friends, who returned the gesture with one any self-respecting builder would have been proud of and I couldn’t help laughing.
Let me give you a little introduction to my three best friends because without them I’m not sure I’d have settled here quite as easily as I seem to have done.  I’ve only been on this island a year but I already feel like it’s home and that’s all thanks to those ladies, although I use the term “ladies” extremely loosely!
I’ve known Fran for over twenty years.  We’ve been best friends since high school, ever since we were sat next to each other in Biology and found out we both had a love of boy bands (‘Take That & Party’ is still on my iPod and will be forever!) which kind of sealed our friendship from that moment on.  She’s the same age as me – thirty-five – we’re both blonde, both average height and average weight, and we both have a pretty childish sense of humour that’s got us through some very tough times.  Neither of us has kids and we’ve never really wanted them, which is probably just as well when you look at what we married.  We’d both lived round the corner from each other and worked at the same University back in the U.K. – her in the administration block for I.T. support, me in the Media and Communications Department.  We’re both loud and upfront; we both like a good time, we both like a laugh, and we have the same taste in music – classic rock and a strange love of the 1970’s, although neither of us can shake the habit of being a Take That fan but we all have our crosses to bear.  Infact, the only very slight difference between us is that she’s a touch more girly than me with a fondness for anything pink but she’s the best friend I could ever have asked for.  She was there for me when I fell in love with Paul and needed someone to bore endlessly with tales of how brilliant he was (oh yeah, a man of many talents was my ex-husband), and she was there for me when it all fell apart, even though she was going through a divorce of her own from Kev, who seemed to have picked up a whole array of philandering tips from “Bad Lad” Parker, who he’d hung around with far too much in my opinion.  It wasn’t particularly pretty either, the way Fran had found out about Kev’s “indiscretions”.  We’d both caught him in a compromising position in the back seat of his Honda hatchback with Irene Wilson, the town bike - we could never think of any other way of describing her - when he’d come to pick us up after Fran and I had been to watch Paul in a darts tournament in Gateshead.  Kev obviously hadn’t banked on it finishing early thanks to Paul’s exceptional run of twelve dart finishes so he was caught with his pants down – literally!  Actually, Paul has a lot to answer for if I think about it, which I try not to.  He was a bastard, no doubt about that, but a good looking, sexy bastard and…I should have made him pay for those cushions.
Anyway, with both husbands kicked very firmly to the kerb Fran and I had done a lot of thinking, usually over a bottle of anything white and chilled, we weren’t fussy – something else proved by looking at what we’d married – and she’d wanted a new start just as much as I did.  So, with the divorce settlements in the bank and a sudden urge to throw caution to the wind she came with me, here, to this wonderful, relaxed island where the alcohol is cheap (always a perk!) and the pace of life is just that little bit more laid back.
We’d both been lucky enough to find work in the administration department at Sunset Heights, a little independent Timeshare complex not far from where we both lived in Costa Adeje, and that’s where we’d met Jo.  She’s lived and worked on the island for almost five years now and she’s the P.A. to Alan Marsden, the complex owner and a thoroughly nice guy.  A forty-two year old Brummie and with a fiery temperament to match her red hair, nobody messes with Jo.  She’s quite scary when she gets going but she can give Gordon Ramsay a run for his money in the cooking department – and the swearing department actually, come to think of it.  We’re often round her place for dinner because she’s the only one of us who can recreate proper Spanish paella without it looking like something you’d use to cover the cracks in your bathroom wall.  She’s never been married, (she’s the sensible one if you ask me) but she’s in a – her words, not mine – not-all-that-serious relationship with Ben, one of the entertainers at Sunset Heights.  He used to be part of a Take That tribute act back in the 90’s but suffered a bit of a breakdown after getting the sack when Robbie Williams left the band.  It didn’t go well, apparently.  It had happened just after a particularly dodgy rendition of ‘Never Forget’ (and, by all accounts, quite a few are still wishing they could – forget, that is) at a boy band tribute weekend at Butlins in Skegness that caused a rift between him and ‘Howard’ that he still can’t talk about now, according to Jo.  Anyway, it led him to take a break from showbiz to work in the soft furnishings department at Debenhams before re-inventing himself and going solo as a Robbie Williams impersonator.  I believe that Mr. Williams re-joining Take That has not made Ben yearn for the days back with the boys in his old band.  He’s happier working alone, although I have heard rumblings round the complex that Alan is seriously thinking about organising a “reunion” gig on New Years Eve but Jo says to keep quiet about that.  Ben still has flashbacks regarding his “sacking” and it can set him back months, apparently.
The last of our little “gang of four” is Connie.  Originally from Manchester she’s thirty-seven, dark haired, brown eyed and has the most perfect tan out of the lot of us, but then she’s had a seven year head start.  She’s married to Phil - quite happily it would seem too.  I’d like to know her secret, but I fear it may just be because her Phil has never met my Paul…my Paul?  I must stop calling him that.  He’s not been mine for over a year now.
Anyway, Phil owns a garage in the town of Las Galletas (which translates, literally, as The Biscuits, and has therefore gained itself the little nickname of ‘biscuit town’!)  where Connie works on reception, does the books, makes the tea…she runs the place basically and that’s where I’d met her, when I’d taken my trusty little Renault Twingo in for it’s ITV, the Spanish equivalent of an MOT.  It’d passed with flying colours and I’d made a new friend, and when she joined Fran, Jo and I for drinks one evening it turned out she lived just a few doors away from Jo on the Atlantic View complex in Torviscas Alto (loosely translated ‘Alto’ means top of the hill, or something close to that, and they couldn’t be more right there!  Atlantic View is so far up the top of the hill you need crampons to get there if a taxi’s unavailable!)  
And so our little group was complete.  I love the lot of them, I love my new life here in this new country and I love it here at Paco’s, our favourite bar in the beautiful and upmarket little resort of Costa Adeje.  With its idyllic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the imported white sand beach, and its warm and friendly atmosphere, Paco’s is just the most perfect place to hang out as far as I’m concerned, but I guess I’m slightly biased.  I’m engaged to the owner you see.  Yes, after all my banging on about how being married was crap here I am about to do it all over again when I’ve only been free for a matter of months.  But it’s not actually marriage in general that’s crap, not really.  Just marriage to Paul Parker.  And even that only turned crap once he became a legend in his own bloody head.  Antonio’s different.  Well, he’s a different nationality for a start so we’re ahead on points already.  He’s thirty-two years old, (I seem to have a thing for younger men) very good-looking in that tall, dark and handsome way with his olive-toned skin and deep, dark eyes and a Spanish accent that I swear could melt chocolate.  It makes me go weak at the knees, I know that much.  I make him speak Spanish to me just to listen to that voice of his even though I can only understand about one word in ten.  He’s trying to teach me the language but, to be honest, once he starts speaking I lose all concentration and we always seem to end up doing something that won’t help me speak Spanish at all – but it’s doing wonders to help tone my thighs!
He’s Canarian through and through, born in the north of the island in Puerto de la Cruz he came down to the south to work in the tourist resorts, have fun and play the field, until his father decided he needed some stability and bought him Paco’s, which he’s run for around three years now.  We met just a few months ago, when Fran and I discovered this place on one of our evening walks and had ducked in to investigate over a jug of champagne sangria.  Antonio had served us himself, we’d flirted shamelessly, a month later he’d proposed and the rest is history.  The archetypal whirlwind romance, he’d swept me completely off my feet, which is more than Paul had ever done, although, to be fair, he had tried, once or twice.  He’d just never been much good at romantic gestures, unless it involved a dart board and a pint.  Mind you, there had been that one time during the Darts World Championship a couple of years ago when he’d got extremely excited over a nine dart finish in the second round and we’d celebrated quite happily into the early hours with a bottle of supermarket cava and a bar of Dairy Milk back at the Premier Inn.
            Sorry, where was I?  Oh yeah, Antonio.  We’re due to be married just after Christmas and I’m nervous, ofcourse I am.  It’s all been very quick and a few people are saying I’m still somewhat on the rebound from Paul but I’m not, I’m really not.  I’m over him, I am.  I’m over him.  Antonio’s the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in my beautiful new life, and once we’re married I can really begin to settle down here on this wonderful island/volcano/whatever it is.  It’s an incredible place that’s helping me put the past behind me and I need to be here, with Antonio.  Paul Parker is fast becoming a distant memory and that’s the way I’d quite like it to stay.



2
           

Sunset Heights is a great place to work.  It’s a small, friendly little complex with a fabulous boss and a lovely team of people and I thank my lucky stars every day that I work here.  It’s situated just a two minute walk away from the sea front at Fanabe and it means that lunch breaks can be spent down on the beach or sat in a café or bar people-watching and enjoying the view of palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean.  You never got that in Sunderland.
            Timeshare still has a bit of a reputation though, especially as those touts with scratch cards still hang around this island tricking unsuspecting tourists into believing they’ve won some incredible prize when the only free thing they’re going to get is a taxi ride to a four hour hard-sell sales presentation.  We don’t do that.  We operate a bit differently.  We use a call centre back in the U.K. to cold call people, asking them if they’d like a free week’s stay here at Sunset Heights - and you’d be surprised at the amount of people who say yes.  We call theses potential owners ‘Fly By’s’.  All they have to pay for are their flights to Tenerife and there’s absolutely no obligation to buy anything at all once you get here.  All we ask is that everyone takes part in a sales presentation at the complex (which is nowhere near four hours long!) and a tour of the island although, technically, they don’t actually have to take part in either.  But those that don’t will usually receive more than the average amount of visits from our sales reps over the course of the week.  Mind you, if one of those reps happens to be Aidan, the rather lovely American member of the sales team, that might not be such a bad thing! 
It’s a couple of days out of the week, that’s all, and for the rest of the time everyone is left more or less alone to enjoy everything Tenerife has to offer.  The reps (we don’t like to call them salespeople because they’re not, not really, their jobs are quite easy because this place sells itself.) will check back with potential clients as the week goes on but they never push or force anyone into buying.  It isn’t how we operate.  But if anybody decides they do want to buy a week or two here at Sunset Heights – and quite a few do - then all of the necessary paperwork will be done on a Thursday before they fly back to the U.K. on the Friday, and that’s where I come in.  Along with Marie, a lovely Italian woman from Naples, and Fran, I help with the “button ups”, sealing the deal, if you like.  We sort out the contracts for our new owners.  It can get quite manic at times in our office on a Thursday, with reps running in and out and pieces of paper flying everywhere but once it’s all done – and we have been known to still be there at 10 0’clock at night making sure everything is finished - we can usually be found in the bar celebrating another successful and busy week with happy existing owners and a handful of excited new ones.  It’s a good feeling.  But we’re usually knackered by the end of it.
We’re a completely British complex, as far as the Timeshare owners are concerned anyway, which is great news for the Entertainment team as it means they don’t have to do Bingo in five different languages, but as far as staff are concerned it’s a bit like the United Nations.  Our little admin team alone consists of five different nationalities.  There’s me, Fran and Jo – the English representatives; Italian Marie, Cara - who’s originally from Barcelona, Emily who moved over from Marseilles five months ago and Dasha, who originates from Siberia.  She said she’d had to move away because she couldn’t stand the cold over there anymore after she dropped a loaf of bread whilst looking for her keys outside her house and it froze on the way down concussing the cat as he waited to get indoors.  She wants to try living in North Shields.  It never gets much warmer than that over there, even in June!  Anyway, she married a lovely Spanish man called Manuel and she’s never looked back.  She also says she’s never going back, to Siberia that is.  I kind of feel the same way about North Shields.
“You ready for lunch then?”  Fran asked, perching herself down on the edge of my desk and examining her nails.  She’d just had them done at Rochelle’s Tanning Salon and Beauty Parlour down in Puerto Colon (no, I don’t understand the need for a tanning salon in Tenerife either) although God knows why.  It wasn’t like we were going anywhere special and she’s done nothing but moan non-stop this morning about how much more difficult it is to use the keyboard now.  I need to hide all those “special offer” flyers you find shoved behind your windscreen wipers from her in future.
I finished texting Antonio – we needed sardines and bread from the supermarket and he was nearer the Mercadona than I was – and slipped the ‘phone into my bag.
“Where we going?” I asked as we walked out of the administration block and outside to the pool area and the blistering heat of another beautiful, sunny Tenerife day.
“How about Mario’s on the sea front?  They’re still doing that any salad and a drink for five euros lunchtime offer.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“I don’t know about sounding good, but you two ladies certainly look good.”
We both groaned outwardly as Tony Townsend – the closest thing Bolton has to a Las Vegas showman, at least, that’s how he sells himself – approached us wearing his usual daytime attire of far-too-tight jeans and far-too-open-necked shirt that showed off his far-too-hairy chest.  And a medallion.  I kid you not.  You should see his evening wear.  Think of an extremely cheap version of Tom Jones combined with a really-out-of-shape poor man’s Elvis and you’ve just about got Tony Townsend, or ‘Tinseltown Tony’ as he likes to bill himself on the entertainment posters.  Tony Townsend is the complex’s most senior entertainer and compere and by all accounts the holiday makers love him.  That might be because he never usually comes on until at least 10pm by which time everyone’s well on the way to being half cut on sangria and cheap wine so we’re not sure anyone’s actually seen him when they’ve been sober, I have no idea.  But I’ve seen his act and I don’t think Michael Buble has a lot to worry about.
“We’re on our way to lunch Tony,” I said, trying not to get too close.  He has a slight deodorant issue in that he never usually goes near any.  It can be quite an experience and not one to be encountered before eating.
“Not going to grab some sun while you’ve got the time?” he grinned, that sleazy grin that meant he was undressing you with his eyes.  He does it all the time, to the female staff anyway.  Even when he’s talking to Ella, the Head of Housekeeping, a formidable Spanish woman who makes Hattie Jacques look anorexic.  He’s harmless really but he still has a habit of making you feel slightly uncomfortable, which is why a lot of us have stopped grabbing an hours sunbathing during our lunch break.  He’d started walking round the pool and sitting down on our sun loungers, pretending to talk about The X Factor or something whilst getting an eyeful of everyone in their bikinis.  Not good. 
“Nope.  Not today,” Fran smiled, squeezing Tony’s upper arm.  “Oooh, I say Tony.  Have you been working out?”
He grinned again and I stared at Fran.  What was she doing?  I knew she was desperate for a bloke, but not that desperate surely.
“You know, if you want to keep that buff body of yours you really need to keep up the work.”  She winked at him, linking her arm through mine.  “Maybe I’ll see you in the gym later.”
We left him smiling proudly to himself as he ran one hand over his protruding beer belly, flexing his other arm as a couple of young, blonde holidaymakers walked past.  Don’t think he saw them laughing.
I looked at Fran.  “The gym?  I’ve seen you go the long way round the complex to get to Jo’s office just to avoid walking past the place.  And you shouldn’t encourage him.”
“It’s harmless flirting.  Anyway, I’m trying to make Dave jealous.”
“By touching up Tinseltown Tony?  How’s that work then?”
Dave was the reps manager at the complex, just turned forty and one of the best around.  He’s been here years, he’s practically part of the furniture.  He’s also quite attractive, very much single and Fran’s been after him ever since she started working here.  Neither of us can work out if he’s just playing hard to get or if Fran’s attempts at flirting are just incredibly useless but either way he’s not taken the bait yet.  She’s not giving up without a fight though.
“Anything’s better than nothing isn’t it?”
I didn’t answer.  She must really be hitting desperation levels if she’s taken to flirting with Tony.  I looked at her.  “Buff body?”
We both burst out laughing as we crossed the road and headed down onto the sea front, waving at the waiter from The Mandarin Garden, our favourite Chinese restaurant, as he laid the tables outside ready for lunchtime opening.
“You and Antonio ok then?” Fran asked, pushing her sunglass down over her eyes as the sun bounced off the blue sea infront of us, making me squint slightly.
“Ofcourse we’re ok.  What makes you ask that?”
“I’m always asking that Molly because I still think you’re rushing into this marriage far too early.  You’ve only been divorced five minutes.”
“Exaggeration.”
“You know what I mean.”
We sat down at a just-vacated frontline table in Mario’s and I picked up the menu, scanning it unnecessarily because we both knew exactly what we were ordering but I just wanted a diversion from a conversation that Fran was obviously intent on starting.
“Paul.”
“What about him?”  I didn’t look up from the menu.
“Over there!”
“Jesus Christ, where?”  I almost fell off my chair, dropping the menu and knocking over my bag.  Was she kidding me?
“Over there, on the telly.  Blimey, talk about on edge.  Your face!”
“Not funny Fran.”
I looked over towards the TV in the corner of the bar which was showing a darts tournament on Sky, obviously for the benefit of a group of holidaymakers who were glued to it as another round of 1 euro pints was delivered to their table.  Mario usually just had MTV or some other music channel playing but if there was enough demand he had been known to take requests.  Especially if it looked like they were going to be there for the duration, and this lot certainly looked like they were.
I watched Mario’s new, very large flat-screen Plasma TV as my ex-husband concentrated on the dartboard infront of him - there’d once been a time when he’d concentrated on me with that much intensity – throwing a perfect 180, punching the air as the crowd round the table jumped up and cheered.  He must be close to winning something.  I’d almost lost all track of the professional darts circuit since we’d split up, and that still made me quite sad because I’d loved that sport.  I still did.  I just didn’t love watching him anymore.  So why couldn’t I take my eyes off the screen?
“Do you want to go somewhere else?” Fran asked, and I swung back around, shaking my head.  “You ok?”
“I’m fine.”  My ‘phone rang and I almost breathed a sigh of relief.  A diversion was just what I needed right now.  “It’s Antonio.  Order me the usual and I’ll be back in a second.”
I got up and walked over to the wall opposite the bar, sitting down facing the sea.
Hola mi bella dama.”
I smiled at the sound of my Spanish fiancé’s voice.  He was so romantic that sometimes I wondered if he was too good to be true.  Paul had never answered the ‘phone and called me beautiful, not when he was sober anyway.  Antonio did it frequently and it was nice.  Most of the time.
“Hola yourself.  Everything ok?”
“Are you coming to the bar after work?”
“Well, I was going to go home and grab a bath first…are you at Paco’s already?  I thought you weren’t going in until tonight?”
“Luiz needed help with a delivery.”
I closed my eyes and let that gorgeous Spanish accent wash over me, trying to block out the shouts of “double top Parker, come on you slackarse!” coming from Mario’s.  Geordie’s too.  Just what I needed. 
“Can’t you come home for a bit?”  I asked.  “You know, maybe help me wash my back?”  I really needed to see him now.  I needed to be reminded of the wonderful man he was and the fabulous new life I had here because being reminded of the man I’d left behind and the life we’d once had back home in Britain had knocked me slightly, I couldn’t deny that.  I just didn’t want anyone else to see it, least of all Fran.  She was on my back enough as it was.
Antonio laughed that deep, throaty laugh of his and I felt my stomach turn a hundred somersaults, smiling to myself again.  “If you want me to come home who am I to argue?  What time do you finish tonight?”
“5.30.  I’ll be home by 6.”
“I’ll run your bath.  Te quiero.”
“I love you too.”  I really must start saying that in Spanish.  It’s not exactly difficult.  Antonio says it enough, and I should be making more of an effort.
“Everything ok?”  Fran asked as I sat back down, ignoring the urge to look back at the TV.
“Everything’s fine.”
“He won.”
“Who did?”
“Paul.”  She indicated towards the TV without looking up from the magazine she was flicking through.  “He won.  While you were out there.  He won his match.”
“I’m very happy for him.”  I picked up my drink, wishing it was alcoholic.
Fran closed the magazine and looked at me.  “You shouldn’t be rushing into this wedding Molly, you really shouldn’t.  It isn’t fair on you and it certainly isn’t fair on Antonio.  Not when you’re…”
“What, Fran?  Not when I’m what?”
She sat back and stared out ahead of her, watching a catamaran sail past on its way back into the harbour at Puerto Colon.  “Nothing.”
“No, come on.  You started to say something so finish whatever it was you were going to say.  Not when I’m what?  Come on, just say it.  I want to know what’s on your mind Fran.  Not when I’m what?”
She looked at me, pushing her sunglasses back up onto the top of her head.  “Not when you’re still in love with Paul.”

******************************************************************
So, if you liked what you saw and you fancy reading the rest of 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise', you can find it here on Amazon.co.uk  and  Amazon.com 

It's ready and available to download now - for just 99p/$0.99 until January 2012!

If you like your romance with a touch of humour (and you don't have to like darts to like this book, honest!!) and you fancy a nice, light hearted read that will make you smile, then give it a go.  And if you like it, please let me know.  Feedback is all important, especially to new writers.  Only by knowing what readers like and don't like can we, as authors, continue to write the best books we can.  After all, without the reader, there's not much point to us really...