Friday, 28 June 2013

Meet the Author - Kimberly Menozzi


With the Tour de France about to start, it's almost perfect timing that the author you'll be meeting on my blog today - Kimberly Menozzi - is here to talk about her latest novel, 27 Stages, which is set in the world of professional cycling.  

Want to find out more? I'll let Kimberly herself take it from here...


Can you tell us a little bit about '27 Stages'?

I'd be happy to! 27 Stages is a somewhat 'epic' novel, a love story of sorts set against the backdrop of a professional road cycling race (à la the Tour de France), known as the Tour d'Europa.

Federico Renard has been racing a bike for practically his entire life; his team – from the sport director to the riders and on down to the soigneurs and the rest of the staff are, essentially, his family and closest friends. He even met his fiancée when she was a podium girl. All at once, it seems everything in his life goes topsy-turvy: his former team leader – retired after a serious injury – returns to replace Federico in the team ranks, his fiancée is ignoring his phone calls and texts, and he finds himself the subject of ridicule as the result of an article in a popular cycling magazine. It's a lot of stress to take on before the biggest race on the cycling calendar, and he's doing his best to hold it together.

Abigail White is sort of on the other end of the spectrum. She's married and settled, but she's trying to shake things up a bit. Her husband is, too – but not in any way Abigail would like. She's following the Tour to photograph it for a small sports magazine in the UK, and she's determined to do it well in spite of her decidedly amateur status. The harder she works at shooting the race, the more difficult maintaining her marriage seems to become. He doesn't understand her devotion to her work, or to the sport she's photographing, and she is at a loss to explain it to him. When her husband decides to go home early, she opts to stay and follow through with her work.

Abigail and Federico meet by chance in the midst of all this and find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. While the race rages on, they each have their own personal battles to fight, which could bring them together for good, or ultimately force them apart.

What in particular inspired you to write this book? Do you yourself have a keen interest in cycling?

Well, it's fair to say that the initial inspiration was the result of watching the 2009 Tour de France. It was the first time in years I'd committed to watching the ENTIRE race, from start to finish, and it was fascinating. Much of the interplay between Federico and Brunn was inspired by the relationship between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong when they raced on the same team that year. The team politics were on display for anyone with an eye/ear for them, and I was absolutely captivated by the dynamic between them as they battled for control.

The character of Federico was also 'informed' – shall we say – by my newfound fascination with Fabian Cancellara. I'd seen him ride the Tour the year before but he hadn't really caught my attention because I wasn't properly focused on the race. He rode a stunning time trial in 2009 (at least, it was stunning for me) and his charm in the interviews afterward quickly made him my favorite rider. He still is. In my opinion, on many levels he is a true champion of the sport in every meaning of the word.

Yes, I certainly do have a keen interest in cycling. It's the only sport I really follow. I first fell in love with cycling when I was a teenager in 1987. I attended a few criteriums in the US (small, short course races held in town) which were ridden by amateur riders because my cousin, who got me into racing in the first place, competed in them. We dreamed of him becoming a professional, and of me working for him and/or his team. (Riding as a professional myself never occurred to me, as female cyclists were rarely mentioned at all in those days.) That dream eventually fell to the wayside, as teenage dreams often do, but I tried again and again to get back into riding bikes. I've rarely gone more than a year or two without a bike in my possession, even though I don't ride 'road' bikes (like pro riders do).

And then I moved to Italy. There, I rekindled my interest in cycling in a big way. In 2006 I photographed the Giro d'Italia as it passed through my new home city of Reggio nell'Emilia. I had never seen a real professional race until that year. The Giro made quite an impression on me, and I fell in love all over again.

In Italy, it's common to see fairly high-level contests pretty much all year 'round. I love seeing the riders, all decked out in their lycra kits on beautiful bikes. My husband rides, too. He used to ride with a cycling club with his father, and competed in small local races as well. In fact, one of the first questions I asked him when we met online was if he rode a bike. When he answered 'Yes' I was delighted! So, yeah, you could call me an 'enthusiast'.

Where did the inspiration come from for the characters of Federico and Abigail in '27 Stages'?

As I mentioned before, Federico was inspired by the team politics/dynamics on display in the 2009 Tour de France. His appearance was influenced by Fabian Cancellara (and a few other riders), but his personality is all his own. I did a considerable amount of research to find out what riders are like off the bikes and out of the spotlight, too. The more I read and watched, the more I found them engaging and funny and, of course, genuinely human and relatable. I really wanted to get that down on paper, and I believe, with 27 Stages, I've managed to do so.

Abigail, however, was inspired by my own dreams and ambitions from my teenage years, and heavily influenced by past events in my own life. She's not a kid anymore, and she's deeply concerned with what she feels is a surprising immaturity in herself as she forms a crush on a rider who is nearly ten years younger than she is. In matters of appearances, she's just a normal, approaching-middle-age woman. She has become accustomed to being taken for granted, but she starts to blossom as she finds her way to her dreams and goals. Generally speaking, I don't write 'perfect' women in my stories, but women you see every day on the street. (Although, to be fair, Federico thinks she has amazing legs. LOL)

Finally, I wanted to write an older woman/younger man story. I didn't want to go the 'cougar' angle (I'm beginning to feel it's getting over-done), and I thought it would lend an interesting twist, particularly with the younger man being a well-known athlete. There's a delicate balance to be struck in any relationship, but when the male partner is somewhat younger than the female, it becomes even more volatile, especially in the eyes of the public. For some reason, we (meaning society) still have some difficulty accepting that kind of relationship, and I still don't understand why that is.


When you're not writing, what kind of books do you enjoy reading? Are you a fan of Sports Romance yourself?


I read a little bit of everything. I know most writers say that, but I really do – from Stephen King to Tim Parks to Adriana Trigiani to Jennifer Weiner and just about everyone/everything in-between. I read voraciously, to the point that my family understand I don't read books – I eat them.

And yet, I have to confess that, in spite of writing love stories, category romances aren't something I seek out. Which is to say: I don't browse the Romance section of the book store or library. While I read books written by my friends – especially by my critique partner, the lovely and talented Nell Dixon – I don't go out of my way to find romance novels. When they find me, however, I will read them.

I do seek out a lot of fiction (particularly Literary Fiction and Women's Fiction) as well as non-fiction, and I used to read a LOT of Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Piers Anthony, Mercedes Lackey, etc) when I was younger. I made a point of reading a number of cycling biographies before starting 27 Stages, but have saved the cycling fiction for when I finished the book (I didn't want to be unduly influenced, after all).

What do you like to do when you're not working? How do you like to spend your free time?

Aside from reading, I enjoy surfing the internet and watching television. I try to ride my exercise bike for at least half an hour, Monday through Friday, unless it's cooler weather and I can ride my real bike outside. I love photography, and I'm lucky enough to live most of the year in an incredibly photogenic place. I also like playing with book cover designs. I do my own book covers, now (for better or worse), so I keep practicing to keep my so-called digital art skills sharp, and to learn new things for future use.



What's next in the pipeline for you, writing wise? What are you working on at the minute?

I have a few different projects lined up at the moment, which I need to focus on and find some follow-through to complete. There are two novellas in the works; one, None So Blind, is a prequel to my first novel, Ask Me if I'm Happy. The other, Milan, NC, is a love story inspired by my own experiences when I met my husband, Alessandro.

In addition to that are two spin-offs/sequels to 27 Stages, which include The Off Season, which picks up a short time after 27 Stages leaves off, and an untitled novel focusing on a female cyclist who will feature in The Off Season.

Of course, there will also be a follow-up to Ask Me if I'm Happy, which is shaping up to be a full-length novel. I hope to get to work on that very soon.

And these are only the projects I've gotten outlines/scenes jotted down for! LOL! I've got more percolating in my head, if I could just get them out fast enough. Needless to say, I'm pretty optimistic – and hopeful that readers will enjoy all of the above!

AUTHOR BIO:

An aspiring writer from the age of eight, Kimberly Menozzi began writing her first stories instead of paying attention in school. While her grades might have suffered, her imagination seldom did. She managed to keep most of her stories together for years, then lost them after a move when she left a trunk full of papers behind. (She meant to go back and get them, but circumstances prevented her from doing so.)

So, she started over again. And she lost those, too.

After a trip to England in 2002, she began work on A Marginal Life (Well-Lived), inspired by the music of Jarvis Cocker and Pulp. The novel was completed in 2003, and is undergoing rewrites with hopes of publication in the near future.

Also in 2003, she met and fell in love with an Italian accountant named Alessandro. She married him in 2004. This necessitated her arrival in Italy and she has lived there ever since. After several months of working for language schools and writing blog entries for her family in the US to read, new story ideas began to develop.

Finally, in 2007, she began work on a new project, inspired by her love/hate relationship with her new home. The novel Ask Me if I'm Happy was completed in 2009.

Ask Me if I'm Happy was first released November 15th, 2010 in the UK, and was re-released in the US on May 31st, 2011. Also in May of 2011, Kimberly published the novella "Alternate Rialto", a prequel to Ask Me if I'm Happy.

Kimberly released her latest novel, 27 Stages, in April of 2013.

EXCERPT: 27 STAGES

"Abigail," he said, a smile spreading across his face and lighting his eyes. "You're here."

He looked at me with such sincere surprise, I almost laughed. Of course, he couldn't have been much more surprised than I was to find him there.

Maybe if he hadn't seemed so happy to see me, things would have gone differently. I would have excused myself and he likely would have done the same. Or maybe we'd have exchanged pleasantries and small talk, and then gone our separate ways. I certainly wouldn't have permitted myself to believe, even for a second, he'd come there to find me. My ego wasn't big enough to believe that.

But faced with such a genuine smile, what else could I think? I knew I wasn't imagining the relief in his expression once the surprise had faded away.

There was something else I couldn't pin down, something in his face which made me think this meeting was no coincidence.

Not this time.

"Yes, we are." I was careful to use the plural, if only to remind myself of the fact that Charles was on the phone upstairs. "It's wonderful to see you. I didn't think your team was staying here."

"No, no – we're across the street." Federico gestured toward the front doors, and I nodded, recalling the team bus parked on a side street earlier that evening. "I thought I saw you come in here a while ago, so I…" He trailed off, his tanned face reddening slightly.

My breath caught in my throat and I did my damnedest not to show it. I waited for my heart to start again while a single foolish thought flitted through my mind in the interim: I could die happy, knowing this.

He'd come looking for me. God, how ridiculously romantic was that?

Ever the realist, I decided to press my luck. I didn't want to drift off into some ridiculous daydream about his intentions.

"You didn't come here to look for me," I said, opting not to phrase it as a question.

"Yes, I did."

I swallowed hard, not caring if he heard it, though it wasn't likely he would in the noise of the arriving guests.

English isn't his first language, right? Surely he misunderstood what I said, or meant, or –

"I'm glad I found you, Abigail."

"Abby," I said, my lips forming my own name in spite of the fact I couldn't feel them, any more. "My friends call me Abby."

That smile again – innocent, not sly or seductive – and I couldn't pull my gaze away. I was aware of heat rising to my cheeks. And a few other places, as well.

*****
Kimberly, thank you so much for a really fabulous interview, and for giving us such an interesting insight into you and your work. 

I wish you loads of success with 27 Stages - I'm certainly looking forward to reading it - and lots of luck for all your future writing projects.

27 Stages is available HERE from Amazon, in both Kindle format and paperback.

And you can check out all of Kimberly's books over on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.





 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

My weekend reality TV round-up - Big Brother and The Voice UK.

Last night saw the final of The Voice UK 2013, and even though the song choices for all the finalists didn't exactly fill me with excitement (bar Jessie J and her finalist Matt Henry singing my favourite Luther Vandross song 'Never Too Much', and The Script with Danny O'Donoghue's finalist Andrea singing 'Hall of Fame') I still enjoyed the show. I really like The Voice. But what I wasn't too keen on last night was the way certain judges seemed to try and guide the voting public - and not in a subtle way, either. Leah McFall was the obvious favourite going into the final last night, and she sang incredibly well, I have to admit. Yes, she really does have an individuality and a unique voice that makes her stand out from the crowd, and I thought her performance with Will.i.am last night was fantastic. The most entertaining of the night, probably. But Tom Jones spoke a lot of sense when he said that one man's meat is another man's poison - what one person likes, another won't. And he felt that the public should vote for who they want to vote for, not for who Will or Jessie tells them to.

And, in a way, I can't help thinking that their blatant canvassing for Leah might have backfired slightly, and maybe even cost her the title. When Andrea Begley was announced as the winner, well, not everyone's faces were alight with excitement. Because I think everyone really thought Leah had it in the bag. The thing is, though, that sitting there almost telling people who to vote for can really have the opposite effect with the public. And we don't always want to see an obvious winner, either. I always had a feeling that Andrea could throw a curve-ball in the final, and, if you think about it, this show is called The Voice. And that's exactly what Andrea has - a beautiful, beautiful voice. No gimmicks, no image, just an incredible voice. She isn't exactly my cup of tea, and I can't say I'll be rushing out to buy her album, but then, the same goes for Leah. She isn't really my cup of tea either. I'm still with Team Tom. Out of all the finalists on that show last night Mike Ward is still the one whose records I'd listen to, being a big country fan, followed by Matt. I loved Matt's voice. But Andrea is, in my eyes, a worthy winner. Whether people like it or not she was the one the public voted for. And, let's face it, Leah is guaranteed a career in the music industry, winner or not. In fact, I'm surprised Simon Cowell isn't banging on her door as we speak...


Winner of The Voice UK 2013 Andrea Begley with host Holly Willoughby and coach Danny O'Donoghue
So, for all of those people banging on about how unfair it is that Leah didn't win, shut up! She's probably going to be the biggest winner out of this series anyway. The one who gets the biggest career, the most exposure and, in reality, if that's what she's looking for, then it's probably best for her that she didn't win. I mean, let's look at a case in point in here when it comes to talent shows - when Joe McElderry won 'X Factor' there was a huge hoo-ha that year because everyone thought Olly Murs should have been the winner. Fast forward a few years, and let's look at their careers now - Joe McElderry is appearing at two-bit music "festivals" in a park opposite the beach in South Shields, whereas Olly Murs is supporting Robbie Williams on his stadium tour. Who's the winner now, huh? Sometimes, if you want better control of your own musical future, it's best not to win these shows. And I think even Leah, and hopefully Mike, know that. They know that they've built that platform now, had that exposure, and they can work on that. We'll be seeing a lot more of quite a few of the contestants from this year's show in my opinion. But congratulations to Andrea Begley - in the true spirit of the show, she really did have The Voice!

And just before I leave the subject of The Voice, I'm aware that a lot is being said - especially on Twitter - about Andrea winning only because she received the sympathy vote. For those of you who don't know, and I didn't mention it because I didn't think it was relevant - Andrea is visually impaired with only, 10% I think it is, vision. Should that have any bearing on her quite obvious natural talent? No. It shouldn't. And anyone who's said she won only because she's disabled should be ashamed of themselves. She has a true, God-given talent and that is the reason she won. Enough said.

OK. Onto Big Brother! And what a first eviction night we had last Friday! It almost reminded me of the BB early years back in the day, when I'd actually get excited about eviction nights, and care about who went and who stayed. Did I agree with this year's first eviction of Sallie Axl? Oh God, yes! Now, I'm not usually one for advocating the eviction of the more entertaining housemates so early on in a series, but in my opinion she wasn't really entertaining - she was just downright bloody annoying! She got on my nerves, anyway. I just think she took over the house too much. It was always her mouth you could hear, above everyone else's, and I think that's why we haven't really had a chance to see much of a lot of the other housemates yet. Now she's gone a few more may start to come out of their shells and make more of an impact than they have done so far.


First BB evictee Sallie Axl. Can't say I'll be sorry to see the back of those shorts...
Anyway, back to that first eviction night - as far as entertaining TV went (if you like that kind of thing - which I do) it was brilliant! Sallie did a first class job of showing herself up big time during her eviction interview with a very beautiful, I have to say, Emma Willis. She was quite obviously gutted to be the first one out but then, when you've had most of the other housemates telling you for most of the week that you're going to be safe and you aren't going anywhere, no wonder she was a bit miffed to be booted out first. But I really don't think she handled that interview well at all. Yes, the crowd probably are a bit "pantomime" with the all the booing - it's what they do on eviction nights now - but she didn't deal with it in the best way. Shouting "Shut the f**k up!" at them is only guaranteed to aggravate them even more, and anyone with an ounce of intelligence who was familiar with Big Brother would work that out. She should have played to it, not fought against it. That tactic worked wonders for Nasty Nick...

But her shining moment came when Michael, "the People's Puppet", was finally unmasked, and forced, poor bugger, to share a stage with Sallie whilst Emma interviewed him, too. And that was almost car-crash TV. Despite the fact Sallie had been made aware of the fact Michael really was an actor, she still didn't seem to get it. She kept calling him fake - of course he was fake! It was his job to be fake! That was what he was being paid for! I think, by the time she appeared on Big Brother's Bit on the Side later on, it might have finally sunk in, but all she did during Michael's interview was show herself up. Kudos to Emma Willis, though, for doing a brilliant job. Not sure I'd have had the patience meself...

Personally, I didn't really take to Sallie as a housemate, and I'm not sorry to see the back of her. In fact, I was sick of seeing the back of her to be honest. Quite happy those shorts of hers aren't going to be inflicted on us any longer.


"People's Puppet" Michael with BB host Emma Willis
Still, the first week in the Big Brother house has certainly been a good one. Michael "the Mole" did a good job; there've been arguments, fights, and possible breakdowns, just the kind of thing we like to see on Big Brother. The only fear now is that things are going to settle down just a little too much. What doesn't make good viewing is too much "nicey-nicey" behaviour. Everyone being the best of friends can be a bit boring to watch, and whilst I'm not advocating all-out war (although, that did liven up Big Brother 5... just saying...), a little bit of friction can really help to liven up a highlights show. Take note, Channel 5. Don't let this good start wane into a series that becomes dull and lacklustre, because I think we have quite a good mix of housemates this year. It has all the ingredients of a really good series, so I just hope it turns out to be one. I don't want to have to switch off halfway through because the boredom's setting in, so I really hope there are a few ideas being worked on to mix things up again. And if you don't have any, please feel free to get in touch - I've got plenty! ;)



Friday, 21 June 2013

Meet the Author - Amanda Egan launches 'Lottie's Luck'!

Today I am so happy to have the fabulous Amanda Egan on my blog, talking about her latest book 'Lottie's Luck'. Released this week, 'Lottie's Luck' is Amanda's sixth novel (so go and check out the rest!), but I'm going to let the lady herself tell you a bit more about it...

Take it away, Amanda! 

Can you tell us a little bit about 'Lottie's Luck'?

‘Lottie’s Luck’ tells the story of Lottie Truman who has sailed through life blessed by good fortune. But what happens when her dotty neighbour predicts that things might not continue to run quite so smoothly? Is it bad luck or is it simply fate pushing her in the right direction?

Where did the idea for the book come from? Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this story?
This will sound mad - but, as you well know Michelle, ideas come from the strangest of places - I saw an ad for a Bingo website called ‘Lucky Pants’ and it got me thinking a whole new plot!

So - and this is a question I ask a lot of people about their books - if you were to cast the movie/TV series for 'Lottie's Luck', who would you cast as the main characters?
Well Lottie is a bit of a tomboy. She’s naturally good-looking but, as she walks dogs for a living, she can’t be bothered with heels and make up. So I’d have Keira Knightley.

Keira Knightley
Her mad neighbour Venetia would have to be Alison Steadman as she looked when she played Madame Arcati.

Alison Steadman

Her fiancé, Nat, is Little Mr Perfect from his immaculate hair to his handmade shoes.  Presenting … Brad Pitt!

Do I really need to tell you who this is...?
Dan, the landscape gardener.  Oh yum!  It’s the Diet Coke man!

Diet Coke man...

Okay... Excuse me while I just open a window, it's suddenly got a bit hot in here... Anyway, onto the random questions now - it's summer (allegedly) so, do your reading habits change with the seasons? And what are you reading right now?

I think summer was last week here in Putney!  No, my reading habits don’t really change, although I do like a nice Christmas book from about November.  At the moment I’m reading a fellow Indie’s work, Anne Ullah’s ‘Trouble at Toff Towers’ which is written in diary format and is delivering quite a few giggles.

Do your writing habits change with the seasons? Do you find it harder to write when the weather's warmer, or do you get more work done once winter arrives?

If I’m mid-book and on a roll, I force myself to write no matter what the weather’s doing.  If it’s a glorious day, I take the laptop into the garden, squint at the screen (swear) and tan at the same time - gotta make the most of the sun when it’s here!

Do you have a favourite genre of book you prefer reading?
I really am a chicklit girl through and through.  I think it dates back to my Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield days - cosy stories for girls about girls.  As a teen I devoured every Jilly Cooper novel - but not the bonkbusters!  I loved Imogen, Harriet, Octavia - all of those.  For me a book has to be easy to pick up but hard to put down and I do like a laugh and a cry.

Favourite authors - do you have any?

Well of course I’ve loved all of your books, Michelle (and I wasn't paid to say that!) but I also love Lisa Jewell, Sophie Kinsella, Maeve Binchy, Carole Matthews, Jane Fallon - all the standard chicklit writers.

And finally, seeing as your new book is titled 'Lottie's Luck', let's have a luck-related question - if you won a ridiculous amount of money on the Euromillions, what would you spend it on?

Oh boy!  Don’t get me started.  First I’d faint and then I’d pay off all my debts, treat my family and friends, shop til I dropped and laugh.  A lot!

*****

Amanda, thank you so much for a fabulous interview! I'll certainly be reading 'Lottie's Luck' (I'm quite keen to meet Dan...), and I wish you every success with this new book. 

Lottie's Luck is available to download HERE from Amazon! 

And in paperback HERE from Lulu!

Keep up to date with what Amanda's up to by checking out her BLOG.

And you can also follow her on TWITTER.



Monday, 17 June 2013

The Voice UK, Big Brother, and a little bit of Bradley Cooper...

The Voice UK gets a lot of stick, and I really don't know why, because I actually enjoy it. It - obviously - gets compared to our other reality "talent" show, The X Factor, but in my eyes The Voice wins hands down. There are no ad breaks every five minutes for starters. And Gary Barlow isn't on the judging panel, which is another HUGE bonus for me. (Yes, I am still very much a Take That fan, but I just can't bear the bloke when he's on X Factor...) I also think the talent is actually that little bit better on The Voice, too. No Rylans or Jedwards in sight, and also, we seem to get a much broader range of singers and musical genres on The Voice, which makes it way more interesting than just a conveyor belt of manufactured bands and plastic pop stars.


Take a look at the line-up for this coming Saturday's final of The Voice UK - all four singers are completely different, in my opinion. We have Leah, who's on the more edgy side of the pop spectrum (although I, personally, don't rate her, but that's just me), then there's Andrea, who really does have the voice of an angel, Matt, who's a soul man with attitude, and my favourite, Mike - the country boy from Salford! Who'd have thought? The UK is finally embracing country music! Of course, he wouldn't have got past Boot Camp stage if he was on X Factor because that programme just can't seem to handle any genre that doesn't involve mindless pap, so we should really be grateful to The Voice for allowing artists to be more flexible, and be who they really want to be. Although, I would just like it to be known, that although we have a very varied final ahead of us on Saturday, I'm not completely happy with the line-up. I'd rather Cleo had gone through on Will's team because I, personally, thought she absolutely smashed that En Vogue song last week. 'Don't Let Go' is one of my all-time favourite songs and I thought she sang it brilliantly! She was amazing! Forget what the press have been spouting off about her, that girl can sing! So sad to see her go home, and not happy with Will.i.am for showing quite obvious bias towards Leah. Yes, she's different, but she ain't that different. Cleo is a classic singer - ageless, timeless. She'll still be able to knock out hits years from now. Will Leah? Or will her "edgy" voice be edgy no more in ten years time? When the kids have got bored and moved onto something else... Just my opinion, but I hate it when we go into a final they're calling a one-horse-race. Mind you, when you look at the history of these competitions, sometimes it's better to wish for second place...

Anyway, one final note about The Voice UK - the judges. As I mentioned before, the judging panel on The X Factor does my head in, it really does. Gary Barlow annoys me, can't be doing with that Nicole Scherzinger, and if I hear Louis Walsh say "you really made that song your own" one more time I may not be responsible for my actions. The only saving grace this year is the return of Sharon Osbourne. I liked her when she was a judge a few years ago, so we'll see how it goes now she's back. If she can wipe that smug look off Barlow's face at least a few times during the series that'll do for me. But, back to The Voice UK judges. They've grown on me in this second series. I mean, I've always loved (Sir) Tom Jones, and that was never gonna change. And this year, as I was last year, I'm Team Tom all the way! And there's always been something about Danny O'Donoghue that I've liked. His music, for a start. I do like The Script. But it's taken until series 2 for me to really have a soft spot for Will.i.am (although that took a slight nosedive when he showed obvious favouritism towards Leah), and as for Jessie J, I actually really like her. She speaks a lot of sense sometimes. And I've never seen anyone suit hair that short in a long time. She looks stunning!

So, as far as this coming Saturday's final is concerned, I'm rooting for Mike Ward and Team Tom! Let's go country!!!

Yep... it's back...
Right, onto something slightly more controversial now - the new series of Big Brother! And, God forgive me, I've started watching it. And, more worryingly, I'm enjoying it! Now, people who know me, or who've read my previous posts regarding Big Brother, will know that I was a huge fan of the first three series'. They were good, they were what the show was initially all about - throwing a group of random people into a house and letting them get on with it. However, after series three (with the possible exception of BB5, because that was actually a pretty good series... the infamous "fight night" was a particular highlight...) the manipulation took over and the show began to die on its arse. Me and my husband still watched it, because we'd been such fans of the original concept. But watching it slowly became a chore rather than an enjoyable experience. So when Channel 4 binned it, it was no surprise. And it wasn't really a surprise when Channel 5 bought it. And we watched about 2 weeks of the "new" Big Brother once Channel 5 began showing it again, but then we gave up. The show had turned into nothing but an excuse to chuck a group of teenagers together, give them lots of alcohol, an assortment of pathetic, pointless tasks and watch them implode. Not really fun to watch. 

So, for the past couple of years we haven't bothered. I did watch the Celebrity version at the beginning of this year, and it was okay. But this year is the first year in a while we've decided to give the "normal" version of BB a shot. Why? Well, I heard a rumour last week that they were "going back to basics" - that they were going to have to bake their own bread, grow their own veg, wash their own clothes, etc... Everything they had to do back in the early days. Although, the claim that they were putting "ordinary" people in rather than fame-hungry wannabes was pushing it slightly. A lot of them in that house are far from "ordinary", but, and I'll give Channel 5 one thing - at least they've attempted to put in a wide range of people of varying ages from 18 to 59. A good age range always gives way to a better show, in my opinion. Too many young people is just a recipe for boredom. They might think they're having fun boozing and bed-swapping, but it makes for really crap viewing.


New BB Presenter Emma Willis. You're doing a good job so far, pet...
And making Emma Willis presenter of the main show was a good decision in my opinion, too. As much as I loved Brian Dowling (he has to be one of my favourite BB contestants ever!) she is a much better host. 


The Big Brother garden... I give that vegetable patch a fortnight...
So, I'm back on the Big Brother Bandwagon, and I'm not sorry. I'll give it a go, see how it progresses, and see just how much some of them in there can annoy me before I crack! Because some of them really are annoying me. They really are! Mentioning no names in particular because, of course, thanks to the beauty of editing, opinions as to exactly who is getting on me nerves can change by the day... 

But, what the viewers need to remember about a show like Big Brother, is that the housemates who annoy you may not be the ones you should be getting rid of. No matter how much you want to. We aren't living with them, but we are watching them - get rid of the ones who stir things, cause trouble, actually get off their backsides and do something and you run the risk of being left with nothing but a house full of radar flyers. Not good.

At the minute, then, it's keeping my attention, but, we're not even a week in yet. There's still time for it to go tits-up and fall flat on its face. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, for now, although, Michael "the mole" really needs to be careful and not overact too much, and let's see how long that vegetable garden lasts, eh? We're giving it a fortnight before they just say "sod it", and go without veg for the next three months...


Oh, and I did say there was going to be a little bit of Bradley Cooper in this post, didn't I? A very little bit, actually. The Place Beyond the Pines - great film, brilliantly acted by Ryan Gosling (I know! Him and Bradley Cooper in the same movie!), Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper, and well worth seeing if you like movies that are a little bit different. Kept me engrossed for the two-and-a-bit hours it was on. Brilliant stuff...

Right, I'm off to get some more writing done. This sequel to Striker won't write itself, and this first draft really should be finished by now. But sometimes I just get so distracted... ;)



Thursday, 13 June 2013

'Extra Time' - Book 2 in the Striker Trilogy. Want a sneaky peek...?

As I finally head towards the end of the first draft of Extra Time, the second book in the Striker Trilogy, I thought it about time I started to make everyone aware that this next installment is on its way, because I know at least a few of you out there are waiting to find out what happens next in the lives of hot, bad boy footballer Ryan Fisher, handsome and brooding Newcastle Red Star manager Jim Allen, feisty female sports reporter Amber Sullivan, and ex-footballer-turned-TV football pundit Ronnie White.




So, for those that are waiting, I've decided to give you all a little sneaky peek at a small excerpt from the book - I've tried to find a piece that doesn't really contain any plot giveaways, and I think I've managed that, but if you haven't already read Striker - the first book in the trilogy - then there may just be an inkling of a *spoiler* in there from that first book.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here you go. A little peek at Extra Time... But please remember, this is very much a first draft, unedited excerpt. There's still a lot of work to do, so please excuse any mistakes/errors/etc. It's not the finished article just yet. ;)




Amber quickly ended the call but wasn’t fast enough to make her escape before Ryan and Gary pushed their way through the double doors she’d been standing beside. She couldn’t really run away now, could she?

‘Hey, Amber,’ Gary smiled.

She returned the smile. ‘I’ve just been talking to your wife.’

‘She okay?’ Gary asked. ‘Behaving herself, I hope.’

‘She’s at Tanya’s, with the rest of the girls. They went there to watch the match.’

‘Yeah, sure,’ Gary laughed. ‘Since when were any of that lot interested in what we do? They’re just interested in the money we make.’

‘You need to give some of those girls a little bit more credit, Gary,’ Amber said, tucking her phone into the back pocket of her jeans. ‘They’re not quite as superficial as you all seem to think they are.’

Gary just let out a derisive snort, said something to Ryan that Amber didn’t catch, and walked away, throwing Amber a wink over his shoulder. She stuck her tongue out at him and grinned.

‘You avoiding me?’ Ryan asked. An afternoon spent sampling the delights of the gorgeous Ellen still hadn’t managed to stop him from hoping he’d bump into Amber after the match. Okay, so he’d spoken to her in a professional capacity over the past few days, in a couple of interviews for TV, but he’d wanted to catch her alone. And right now, as he looked at her, all crazy red hair and piercing pale-blue eyes, every memory those hours with Ellen had managed to erase came flooding back ten-fold.

Amber swung round, her eyes instantly meeting his. ‘No. No, of course I’m not avoiding you.’

‘It feels like you are.’

‘What do you want me to do, Ryan? Actively seek you out for regular get-togethers?’

He stuck his hands in his pockets, turning away from her for a second. ‘It just feels...’ He looked at her again. ‘I don’t know… It just feels as though, what we had… it feels like it never happened sometimes, that’s all.’

‘Yeah, well, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then,’ Amber said quietly. It was hard to forget what she’d once felt for this man, and maybe she didn’t really want to. ‘So much has happened.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Ryan sighed, pushing a hand through his dark hair. He really didn’t want to still be feeling this way, but he couldn’t help it, couldn’t push those feelings down, no matter how hard he tried.

‘Are you… is everything okay, Ryan?’ Despite everything, she’d never stopped caring about him. She couldn’t do that, couldn’t just switch those feelings off, even after all these months.

‘Everything’s fine,’ he replied, his eyes meeting hers again. ‘It would just be nice to talk to you sometimes without it having to be under the guise of a TV interview.’

‘That’s my job, Ryan.’

He just looked at her, and she stared back at him. He was so handsome, so young. So dangerous. She only hoped he’d learned enough lessons to allow him not to let history repeat itself. Again.

‘I’m married now, Ryan. You do understand that, don’t you?’

‘Don’t treat me like a kid, Amber. Yeah, I know you’re married. It’s bloody hard to ignore that fact when all you do is wrap yourself around the boss twenty-four-seven…’ Now he was thinking aloud. Not the best idea.

‘Do you realise how childish you sound?’ She turned to walk away but he grabbed her wrist, swinging her back round.

‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry, okay?’

‘Yeah. You should be.’ She pulled her arm free of his grip, rubbing her wrist. ‘Look, I know things are still a bit weird…’

‘I just want us to be friends, Amber. That’s all. I want us to be able to talk to each other and forget the past, put it behind us.’

She looked into his eyes. Kind eyes. Yeah, he really had changed over these past few months. ‘And you think we can do that, do you?’ she said quietly, suddenly realising that this was the first time she’d really spoken to him – properly spoken to him – in weeks. All that time and the only talking she’d ever done with him had been because she’d had to – because she’d had to interview him. Professional purposes only. Had that been deliberate on her part? All those months and this was the first real conversation she’d had with him. And that thought flooded her with guilt. Because he hadn’t really deserved that.

‘I think we can try,’ he replied, his eyes still fixed firmly on hers.

‘Ryan… I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. I just…’ She sighed, leaning back against the wall, pushing a hand through her hair. ‘Maybe I just didn’t know how to handle it all. How to handle still being around you. I mean, it’s still so complicated…’

‘It doesn’t have to be.’

‘Doesn’t it?’

He smiled, and Amber felt her stomach give a small but noticeable jolt. ‘I just want us to be friends. Nothing more, no ulterior motive. I promise.’

‘Yeah, well, you know how I feel about promises.’ She was aware of Jim’s voice somewhere nearby and, despite what Ryan had just told her, she still didn’t want Jim to think Ryan might be playing some kind of game. She wasn’t altogether sure how much Jim trusted Ryan. They’d never really talked about him – about what he and Amber had shared. And maybe that had been a mistake, too. Maybe they should have been more open, about everything. ‘Look, I’ve got to go, Ryan. I’ll see you later, okay?’

He nodded. ‘Yeah. Okay. Oh, and Amber?’

She turned round to look at him.

‘I’m happy for you. Really.’

If he said that out loud enough times then he might actually start to believe he meant it because, right now, he wasn’t altogether sure that he did. Of course he wanted her to be happy – after what he’d put her through it was the least she deserved. But it still hurt to think that, had it not been for his sheer stupidity, they could have been happy together. They’d come so close, so fucking close.

‘Why did you do it?’ Ryan whispered to himself as he watched her walk down the corridor, over to her husband. He watched as his boss smiled at her, kissing her quickly, sliding an arm around her waist as they talked, both of them totally unashamed of showing how much in love they were. ‘Why?’

But Ryan knew the answer to that. And as much as he would have liked to turn the clock back and rewrite history, he couldn’t. He just had to get on with his life, the way she was getting on with hers, and he would. He’d start doing just that.

Making his way down the corridor to join the rest of the team as they celebrated their win over CD Adeje, one of Spain’s biggest clubs, he recalled a short and totally unexpected conversation he’d had just before the game. A conversation he’d thought nothing of, in fact, he’d just laughed it off as something flattering but highly unlikely to ever happen. However, seeing Amber just now, it was making him think again. Maybe it wasn’t such a stupid idea after all. Maybe it was exactly what he needed. Maybe he shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand altogether.

 Decision made. He just hoped it was the right one.

© Michelle Betham 2013 



Striker - the first book in this "Fifty Shades of Football" trilogy (oh yes - it's got quite a few steamy moments, and I'm not just talking heat from the post-match showers...) is available to download HERE from Amazon, and HERE from Kobo.

*UPDATE* Extra Time is now available to download HERE from Amazon. 

Final Score - the last book in the Striker Trilogy - will follow in 2014.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Got a Kobo? Then you too can check out some of my books!

Just a quick one today to let you all know that both Striker and Bon Voyage are now available to download from Kobo, as well as Amazon. Christmas Without Icing will also be available within the next day or so, and by the middle of July all my books will be available from Kobo, and their partner sites, once they're all out of the KDP Select programme, thus ending the exclusivity they had with Amazon, although, as I mentioned before, they will all still be available on Amazon. I just thought it was about time to test the water and put the books out on more platforms. 

So, if you have a Kobo, and you feel like trying any of these books, now you can!

Check out Striker and Bon Voyage HERE at Kobo. And keep your eye out for my Christmas-themed novella, Christmas Without Icing, because that should also be available to download very soon! But, don't forget, all 7 of my books are still available to download HERE from Amazon.



Have a great day, whatever you're reading. :)