Friday, 29 July 2011

Blog on the Tyne...

Ok, ok, I know that's such an obvious and over-used title for a blog written from and about the North East of England, especially as I'm not even anywhere near the banks of The Tyne at the moment, I'm in County Durham, but Blog on The Wear doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it?

Anyway, today I thought I'd talk a little bit about my beloved North East of England, because I'm proud to be a Geordie.  Very proud.  Mind you, I have to say, there are some instances when I sometimes wish I wasn't - I've cringed my way through an episode of 'Geordie Shore', and 'Geordie Finishing School For Girls' currently showing on BBC Three isn't faring much better - but I know, deep down inside, that those programmes only serve to highlight stereotypes and that the sensible and intelligent ones amongst us know that there's always another side to every situation.

Because the North East isn't just poverty, deprivation and coal fires, oh no, in fact, if you care to head up to my old stomping ground, the coastal town of Whitley Bay, there are some areas round there that might make you think you've wandered into an episode of 'Keeping Up Appearances'!  Take a trip round the local Sainsbury's and there are enough Hyacinth Buckets to fill a working men's club twice over!  I believe the expression is "all fur coat and no knickers" ... you get my drift.

Seriously though, we have some beautiful areas here in the North East of England, from the stunning Northumberland countryside to the vibrant and exciting cities of Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.  The stereotype of the cloth-cap-wearing ferret-breeding Northerner has long gone - although we used to live next door to a bloke who wore a cloth cap and bred ferrets but that was the 70's, a lot's changed since then.  We've got indoor toilets and plumbed-in baths now, and even - get this - the internet!

I'm sorry if I sound a tad defensive but, watching 'Geordie Finishing School' the other night, some of the ultra-posh and extremely wealthy southern girls they'd sent up here seemed slightly surprised that we had electricity!  And I'm really not sure that that programme is doing anything other than widening the North/South divide even further!

But just why do I love the North East so much?  Well, lots of reasons really.  The people for starters, the majority of which are the most friendly, down-to-earth people you could meet.  When I moved to where I'm living now it was a completely new area to me, never been there before, but on a short walk to the Co-Op about 5 people had smiled at me, said hello, and I'd had three decent conversations at the check-out with complete strangers!  I remember Peter Kay once saying that he loved coming to Newcastle because it was the only place where you could stop and ask for directions and end up having a full-scale conversation!  He's not wrong!

And that brings me onto another reason I love being a Geordie - the Northern sense of humour.  And let's face it, we've got to have one!  But, in my opinion, you just can't beat it.  I was brought up in a working class family that didn't have a great deal of money but boy, did we laugh!  My late Uncle George used to have me in stitches, he was so funny, but it just came naturally.  We see humour in quite a lot of things (like I said before, you have to when you live up North - Cameron will never batter us down!), and the late, great Bobby Thompson proves that.  His 'Little Waster' 1982 performance at Percy Main Working Men's Club is one of the funniest examples of brilliant Northern humour and I cry laughing every time I watch it.  Just his opeing line, as he stands there scanning the room with a cigarette in his hand ... "I've had a look aroond here the night ... I bet there's some debt in here ..." starts me off!  Mainly because it was probably true.  Catalogues were very big around here in the 70's and 80's! 
And then you've got 'The Likely Lads', and 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' - who can forget Jimmy Nail's portrayal of Oz!

There's just something about the North East that makes me feel safe, protected even.  It's a warm place (in terms of the people that is, not the weather!) and, even when we lived in Tenerife, we still gravitated towards a British bar ran by Geordies at leat once a week because it stopped me missing home so much!
It's an often mis-understood part of the country because it can get quite a lot of negative attention thanks to ridiculous shows such as 'Geordie Shore' that concentrate on a stereotype that is rife in any city in any part of the country.  But it's a part of the country that I suppose I will always gravitate back to should I ever leave it again, I know that now.  It's not perfect, but show me somewhere that is?  But I know that we have people here who will do anything for you, people who will make you laugh; people who will make you feel welcome.
The Tyne Bridge in Newcastle-upon-Tyne
That's why I love it.  That's why I always get that feeling of "I'm home" whenever I've been away and see the Tyne Bridge looming on the horizon (forget the Angel of the North - that's just turned into an accident blackspot now, and I never saw the appeal anyway), I like that feeling.  I like being a Northerner, and I love being a Geordie.

And I could probably write a thesis on just why I love this part of the world so much, but instead let's just say that it's not only a great place to live, it's also giving me a chance to use that brilliant Northern humour, and everything I love about the people and the places around this region that I adore, in my writing. My second book 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' may be set in Tenerife but the majority of characters are Geordies and I just hope that I've managed to get across the humour and the warmth of the North East of England into those characters, because that's what I really want to do.  I want to create fantastic Northern characters, and I've got the best research in the world all around me now.

Yep.  There's so much more to us than Newcastle United and Cheryl Cole.  We have culture; we have amazing scenery and beautiful places to visit.  We have stunning coastlines (although North Tyneside council should be hauled over the coals for letting Whitley Bay go so far downhill) and as many upmarket hotels and restaurants as any other part of the country.  We don't all live on fish and chips and takeaways.  Although, you haven't lived until you've had a hot pork sandwich with pease pudding, believe me!

So, if you're ever up this neck of the woods take a look around and see what the North East really has to offer.  Ignore 'Geordie Shore' and see the real North East because, I guarantee, you won't be disappointed.

If you'd like to read about my Geordie characters in my new book 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' it's available to buy from Amazon now!

And you can read a sample chapter from the book HERE.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The eternal dilemma of the indie author...

I've got a signed photo of Jackie Collins on my desk that says "To Michelle, Stay Lucky! Jackie Collins" and I look at that photo every day and try to be inspired by it.  Usually it works, but I've not had a particularly good week this week. I've had people argue the toss with me over whether self-publishing is the right route to go down, low books sales, and a week of banging my head against the proverbial brick wall trying to get people who have bought my books to leave reviews!  I need more followers for both my blog and Twitter but neither seems to be forthcoming, and I spend every evening wondering if I shoud still be sat at my desk rather than trying to chill out and forget all that for a few hours!  All in all I'm feeling a little despondent as we head towards another weekend. 

In reality, ever since I started out as an Indie author (and that was only a couple of months ago) I spend practically every hour of every day thinking about how I can market my book, sell myself, become more interesting so that people may actually become intrigued enough to take a look at my writing - and it's bloody exhausting!  And do you know the one thing I haven't done that much of at all in those couple of months since I self-published?  I haven't written anything of any significance, and I hate the fact that I haven't been able to just sit down, put everything else to the back of my mind and write.

My husband said to me at the beginning of this week that maybe it was time to just take a step back from the marketing for a few days and sit down and concentrate on my next book and I really wanted to do that.  When he left for work on Monday morning after giving me that piece of advice I was all ready to concentrate solely on writing this week but have I been able to do that? Have I hell! I wanted to, I really did, but I seem to have an ability to forget about the fact I'm an indie author and indie authors are completely in control of selling their own books, therefore if I'm not out there trying to get people to buy them or follow my blog or whatever else is needed in order to try and get my name known, I feel guilty!

But, and let's think about this rationally, would it really make such a difference if I just stepped back for a few days and did the one thing I actually came into this business to do?  And that's write. Would it really make a difference if I missed a couple of days blogging or didn't mention my books or the fact I'm a writer for a day or two?  Probably not, but as an indie author I feel as though it might. I start to get despondent at the lack of followers on my blog, or the fact I haven't got a huge Twitter following, and they are totally irrational feelings but again, as an indie author, it's up to you to create your own popularity and if I don't seem to be popular, is that my fault?  Am I so uninteresting that nobody wants to follow me, read my blog or buy my books?  Who knows.  It's not easy being an indie author, and as someone who doesn't have a huge set of friends or a family that is totally supporting her, I do feel a little more alone than maybe other writers do and therefore feel as though I need to be working twice as hard as I already am.  But deep down inside, all I want to do is write.

Before I became an indie author, I spent every day writing.  I'd get up, sit myself down at my desk and completely lose myself in the world I'd created and I was the happiest I'd ever been.  I absolutely loved writing about characters that became so real to me I dreamt about them, for months at a time I lived their lives because I was writing their stories and I couldn't have thought of anything else I'd rather have been doing.  My first book especially, 'No Matter What', was the kind of book I truly lived, because the characters in there had been created almost 20 years ago, it was a story that had been in my head since the early 90's and when I finally got it down on paper and saw it as a completed novel I was so happy, so proud that I had managed to do that.  And with a follow up to that story already 86 pages in I so want to go back to that time when I just sit down and write and involve myself in that other world, but being an indie author now means that I also have a dilemma as to what I should be writing.

I write in two genres - romance and chick lit.  Which one do I feel more comfortable in?  Well, both, to be honest.  But even that gives me concerns - is it possible to write in more than one genre and manage to be good at both?  Both my books are completely different novels, written in different styles and probably aimed at different audiences, so have I made things more difficult for myself by doing that?  By writing two completely different books that may have to be marketed differently?  Again, who knows.  All I know is that I write what I love to write, whatever genre that may be in.  At the minute I have 3 more books already started (all planned - storylines and characters sorted, everything) one romance, two chick lit, and that sit-com I've always wanted to write (the one that will NEVER be commissioned but who cares? I want to write it so I'm going to!) is still on my mind, and the biggest problem I seem to have now is focusing on one thing and sticking with it.

I want to write - and I know the book I want to concentrate on writing - but once again that dilemma of the indie author is still hanging over me.  Do I step away from marketing for a little while and just throw myself into writing for a change, get back to why I'm doing this in the first place - because I love to write - or do I continue to battle on with the constant need to think of new marketing strategies, drum up more followers, etc. etc.  I know I'll never be as successful as Jackie Collins, but I do want to try and be as successful as I possibly can.  Now I just have to try and work out how I can do that, and still do the one thing I love - write.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.

Dreams - We all have them, but just how much do we read into them?
I once had a dream about Ralph Fiennes, a cucumber and a feather duster (it wasn't half as exciting as it may sound) that, for some reason, has never left me.  I can still remember it as clear as day, and I'm still bitterly disappointed that it concerned housework - I was dusting a large dining table in a very old house that wasn't mine (don't think it was his either but I wouldn't know, I've never been round his house, more's the pity...), and he was chopping cucumber in the kitchen.  So come on all you dream analysts out there, analyse that one!
It was a pleasant dream, but I'd much rather have dreamt about his brother Joseph in a fireman's uniform...and that's a whole other story so we'll leave it there, suffice to say that that last episode of 'FlashForward' is still on the SKy+ box and will remain so until I've finished my "research".  Let's move on.

So, I thought I'd talk about dreams today.  We all have them - some we remember quite vividly, some we hardly remember at all.  Some are quite weird, and if we're lucky they can even be fairly pleasant but one thing I have learned is that even if you go to bed watching a Keanu Reeves film, thinking about Keanu Reeves, almost begging Keanu Reeves to enter your dreams and show you that his acting may be wooden but...well, again, we'll move on, but even if you do this you can still almost be guaranteed to dream about a packing disaster at the scan-your-own section at Sainsburys.

We can't order dreams on tap (unfortunately), because they are, apparently, a result of our subconcious telling us something.  So, was that dream I had about Ralph Fiennes, a feather duster and a cucumber my subconcious's way of telling me I need to do more housework and eat salads?  And what about my mum's frequent dreams about The Bee Gees?  I know she's always had a thing for Barry Gibb but I'm not sure she's ever harboured a real desire to sing 'Guilty' with him on the 307 bus to Newcastle!  See?  I told you some dreams could be weird, although my mother never actually complained about that one...

Where was I?  I've lost me train of thought again.  That's what thinking about Joseph Fiennes in a fireman's uniform does for me, I'm too easily distracted...oh yeah, dreams and their meanings.  There are some very common dreams that a lot of people have such as being chased - which apparently means you're running away from something - or your teeth falling out - which is supposed to signify that you have anxiety issues about your appearence rather than the fact your dental check-up is overdue, but do we really believe these dream interpretations?  Do we really pay any attention to our dreams at all?

I'm asking that because I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I really can't shake, and I've been analysing it over and over in my head for a day or so now, because it  may actually be trying to tell me something, I don't know.  The subject matter concerned has been on my mind for a while now anyway and this dream may just be the culmination of all that over-thinking I've been doing, but in this particular dream we were looking after the most beautiful little boy.  I don't know whose he was, or where he'd come from, all I know is that me and my husband had been entrusted to look after him.  It was the morning when we had to give him back and in this dream I remember running from the room after saying goodbye, crying hysterically, really sobbing hard - and I actually woke up crying too!  It was an incredibly upsetting dream and knocked me sideways for the rest of the day - but what could it's hidden meaning be for me?  Well - and I may be reading too much into this here - I'm now in my early 40's, still child-less, and have never really wanted a baby.  But now I'm at the age that I am, with the menopause looming, that biological clock is ticking very, very loudly and I can't stop thinking about babies!  Are they on my mind so much that I'm starting to dream about them?  Are my subconcious feelings about motherhood now invading my dreams and trying to tell me something?  I don't know.  But I'm actually starting to believe that there may just be a little bit of truth in all of this, somewhere.

But whether we believe in dream analysis or not, we're all going to continue to have these little subconcious adventures, and we can read into them whatever we like, but they'll never go away.  We'll never have total control over them, and we'll never have a choice over what we dream about because if we did, I can guarantee that I'd be having far more interesting dreams than dusting skirting boards while Ralph Fiennes chopped cucumbers...but there may be a book in there somewhere...

And talking of books, why not give one of my novels a go! If you like glamourous romance from the movie-star-filled world of Hollywood try 'No Matter What', the story of how one girl's rise from the North East of England to Hollywood actress isn't always what it may seem, or if you'd prefer some lighthearted fun from the shores of Tenerife try my romantic comedy, 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'. You can find info on both books here
The blog also contains taster chapters of both books if you'd like to try before you buy. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The colour pink, closet rock chicks and a nice cold pint!

I'm a bit of a contradiction. I realised this long ago but became more aware of it when I once mentioned to a friend how much I love the colour pink.  Nothing wrong in that you might think, but I'm just not your typical girly-girl you see.  Never have been, and seeing as I'm hurtling towards middle-age (although I refuse to acknowledge that) at a rate of knots I doubt anything is going to change any time soon.  But I just love the colour pink.  And when I mentioned this to my friend she said "really?", as though I'd just expressed an interest in quantum physics or something.  But to look at me, to know my tastes in music, the fact I have a tattoo (of which I'm very proud, I love that tattoo!) and would quite happily ride off into the sunset with Dave Grohl on the back of a Harley (in my dreams, ofcourse!) well, you just wouldn't think that pink was a colour I'd go for.  But I would.  If I lived alone, with no men to consider, I'd probably have pink walls in my bedroom, pink appliances in the kitchen, and I'd definitely have a pink laptop!  I'm even jealous of Tanya's pink front door in 'Eastenders'!
I want one of these!
So there you have it.  I'm a closet rock chick who loves the colour pink!  A contradiction in terms, or just someone who doesn't really want to conform anymore?  Well, if you read one of my posts from last week you'd know that after a lifetime of conforming I'm finally starting to break free from all of that and become my own person (finally!) so if I want to listen to Nickelback while wearing pink slippers (which I do own, I'm wearing them now!) then I'll bloody well do it!

When I was little I had all the typical 'girly' toys - the dolls, the pushchairs, the Girls' World - and both my sister and I loved playing with those toys, loved doing the things little girls are, I suppose, expected to do.  But whilst my sister grew up to become very much the girly-girl, with the false nails and the fake tan and the desperate need to follow fashion, I veered off left-field and became completely the opposite of my sister, something which I'm sure my mother still despairs of to this day!  I could never be bothered with keeping up with fashion once the 80's was over - infact, I wholeheartedly embraced grunge during the early 90's - I've never been fussed about false nails, hair extensions or fake tan because I'm quite happy in my jeans, t-shirts and biker boots, even now, at almost 43.  I couldn't care less if I haven't got the latest maxi dress or gladiator sandals because the item of clothing I really want is an AC/DC t-shirt!  I'm easily pleased.  But I'm still a contradiction.  Because I say I'm not 'girly' but, as well as loving the colour pink, I also like to watch shows such as 'America's Next Top Model', and I love reading and writing about glamourous people and beautiful women who are absolutely nothing like me, but maybe that's just something to do with me being a writer.  I don't know.  And if we sit here long enough and start to analyse everything we'll probably come up with some deep and hidden meaning behind my contradictory personality but I'd rather not start down that path.  I'm quite happy being this strange mix of likes and dislikes.  I'm going to call it quirky!  What is so wrong about a woman having a nice cold pint of beer when on holiday (when it's only a euro, absolutely nothing!) or desperately wanting another tattoo (because I do, I really do) despite the fact she may also express an opinion on how much Cheryl Cole suits that new hairdo and fawn over a pink sofa.

I may not own more than a couple of dresses (worn only when I visit Tenerife) or be able to walk in heels (remember Randy Mandy? That Dick Emery character from the 70's?  That's who my husband says I remind him of when I walk in heels) but I'm past the age of caring what's in and out of fashion.  Couldn't afford to keep up with it anyway, even if I did!  And I know my husband sometimes looks at other women in their floaty dresses and sandals and probably wishes his wife was like that but tough.  She's not.  I've also seen him looking at Liz McDonald in 'Coronation Street' and thinking the same thing but he can definitely forget that one!  The word "mutton" springs to mind and that's not a good look on anyone.  Anyway, he knew what he was getting into when he met me back in college.  I turned up there wearing torn jeans (it was the mid-90's and I was still clinging onto my grunge look!) big heavy boots and a Take That t-shirt, (you see? Contradictory), and my hair in a very-much unbrushed and un-kempt style and it didn't stop him from fancying me back then!  I do take more care of the hair now though, I have to admit.  Well, hubby does it for me now actually so at least he has control over some element of how I look!

But I'm happy being the kind of person I am - the kind of person who loves The Foo Fighters but is also quite happy to listen to a bit of George Benson or Luther Vandross; the kind of person who desperately wants that other tattoo but also likes to make sure I moisturise after every bath or shower; the kind of rock music-loving, darts adoring woman who never leaves the house without mascara and loves to drink sparkling wine.  Because I'm finally beginning to know who I am, after all these years of wondering - I'm just a woman who wants a pink front door!

My first two novels 'No Matter What'   and 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'
are both available to download now as eBooks from Amazon.

Monday, 25 July 2011

To self-publish, or not to self-publish? Is there any other option for the brand new author?

Self-publishing.  Almost everyone who writes has an opinion on the subject - sometimes too much of an opinion, and that's what's spurred me on to write this blog post really, because of a comment someone left on my personal Facebook page last week.

You see, when I first started out on this journey to becoming an author just under two years ago I wasn't even willing to consider self-publishing of any description (and especially not the option that involved forking out money!), oh no, I wanted an agent and I wasn't going to settle for anything less.  So naiive of me, and I know that now, but I knew so little back then.  So, three completed novels and a shed-load of rejections later (their loss!), and with reality knocking very loudly at my door, the world of eBook self-publishing had suddenly become my new best friend!  And I think that most regular readers of my blog will know how the rest of that story is panning out - my books (well, two of them anyway) are now out there, I'm trying everything I can to promte them, etc., etc.  And it's hard.  It's very hard.  But, in a funny kind of way, I am enjoying it!

However, when I updated my personal Facebook page (not my author page) last week mentioning how hard it was to sell your own books and make people aware they exist, I was met with a comment from somebody (who regularly makes the same comment time and time again whenever I mention anything about the difficulties of self-publishing) claiming that they, personally, would concentrate on improving the writing rather than trying to sell the books!  Now, I don't know if this is just me being paranoid, but I'm kind of reading into that comment that this person is assuming my books aren't selling in vast quantities because the writing is rubbish!  I'm not entirely sure what they think I actually do once I've finished a book - do they think I just complete the book and then stick it straight on Amazon?  No!  Couldn't be farther from the truth!  Every single one of my three completed novels has undergone so many edits I could recite each one almost word for word!  I have gone through every one of those books many times and done as much as I can to make them the best I think they can be but there comes a point when you can only do so much before you actually start to do damage to the book, rather than improve it.  And yes, three completed novels in less than two years does seem rather a lot but let's not forget that for most of those two years all I did was write, every day.  I wasn't promoting, blogging, tweeting - none of that, because I hadn't begun that stage of the journey at that point.  But now I have, and I'm proud of what I've written and happy with the finished books, even though I know that if I read through them again now I'd still find things to change but you can become obsessive if you edit too much!  And as a writer I'll probably never be 100% happy with any finished book but that's just the perfectionist coming out in me. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we, as indie authors, can only do so much because until the people who buy our books come back with feedback and tell us what they thought, we really have no idea whether or not our writing is actually any good.  How do we know if people don't tell us their thoughts and opinions?

But back to the comment this person made on my Facebook page.  I know that they really don't go for the idea of self-publishing fiction of any kind, it's not for them, and that's fine.  I felt the same way - unitl I actually began that hunt for an agent, and it was the most soul-destroying and frustrating thing I have ever done, believe me.  And yes, at some point I did begin to think I was getting nowhere because my writing wasn't up-to-scratch, but I'm more than certain that that wasn't the case now.  There are so many reasons why brand new authors can't get representation at the minute.  So, I could have sat on my backside and spent the next God knows how many years "improving" my writing and pushing on and on with the search for a literary agent, ofcourse I could have done that.  Or I could have taken a risk and gone it alone and tried to live my dream - and I'm so glad I took that latter option.  I don't want to be sitting here in tweny/thirty years time thinking "if only I'd had a go", that would kill me!  A vast amount of success may never happen with the route I've taken, but who knows?  Being an indie author means a lot of your success is down to you so it's up to me to push on and make my own destiny, but whatever happens, at least I'll be able to sit back and say I tried.  And that's good enough for me.

Oh, and one final thing.  I'd just like to say to that person - should they ever read this, although I'm not sure they've read anything of mine actually, so until they do I'm taking any comments with a pinch of salt - that when they've finished their own novel and started the job of finding that agent for themselves, I would love them to come back and let me know their own experiences.  I'll be extrememly happy if they succeed, and extremely supportive if they don't, because it might just make them think twice about self-publishing, just as I did.  I personally believe we're on the threshold of a new era in book publishing - especially with the advent of eBooks/Kindles, etc., - and I truly believe that what's happening now is just the beginnning.  It's exciting and daunting but I'm so glad I'm taking a chance because I'm finally doing what I've always wanted to do, and that's write - and have my stories read.  And if that continues to happen, then I'll be one very happy indie author indeed. 
eBook self-publishing is giving people the chance to do something they may never have had the chance to do before and for that I'm, and I'm sure many others, are extremely grateful.  To be able to not only publish my own books, but also also discover new talented writers who are also out there just trying to make a success of their dream, how can that ever be a bad thing?

If you'd like to find out more information about either of my two self-published eBooks then visit my other blog for more details of how to buy, taster chapters, and info. on how to download the FREE Kindle app for PC's/iPhones etc. if you don't own a Kindle.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The real me? Not sure I've met her yet...

Ok, I've put the Top 5's to one side for the time being because I'm in a bit of a ... reflective mood, I suppose you could call it.  I've just been doing a lot of thinking, something I do quite frequently due to spending so much time on my own.  And as I was vacuuming the hallway this morning and debating whether the downstairs loo could go another day without being cleaned, I began thinking about me.  Not because I'm some egotistical narcissist, but because I'm about to turn 43, and hitting my 40's has been a particularly reflective time all round for me, a time when I've really begun to think about where I'm going, what I'm doing - and who I am.  Am I the person I always wanted to be?  Am I happy with myself?  The answer to both those questions is probably, on the whole, no.  And to be honest that makes me quite sad because I'm at a time in my life when I really should have found the real me.  Faffing about is usually something you do in your 20's (or possibly even your 30's nowadays) but by the time you hit your 40's most people are usually quite comfortable with who they are.  Aren't they?  Or am I just being paranoid again, thinking I'm the only one who could still do with some faffing-about time?

You see, my problem has always been that I've conformed to being the kind of person other people have always wanted me to be.  Call it a low self-esteem problem, crippling shyness, I don't know.  It could also just be because I've always just wanted to please people - be it my family, my husband; I've always wanted to make other people happy so I've kind of always done what they've wanted me to do, played it safe, gone with the flow and all the while putting myself second.  The real Michelle has never actually come out to play, well, not since the early 90's anyway.  For some reason - and I think a lot of that had to do with the Performing Arts course I was on - I had bucket loads of confidence back then and for a few years I honestly thought I could do anything.  That course taught me a lot about being my own person, coming out from behind the shadows of others and stepping into the limelight myself.  But once those happy days of dress rehearsals, running orders and stage management meetings were over, I (quite annoyingly) let that confidence slip and the old, quiet me came back with a vengeance.  And she's still here really.

I mean, I'm not complaining.  It's my own fault, I should have put my foot down a lot earlier and said to those around me look, this is me, if you don't like it then bugger off and deal with it because this is who I want to be.  But then, if I'd been left to my own devices I'd probably have a sleeve tattoo on my left arm and be found hanging around with bikers at Foo Fighters gigs so maybe I needed a little reigning in.  But I know, I absolutely know that the real me isn't who I am now.  I'm shy, but I don't want to be.  I find it really hard to talk to people, to strike up new relationships and that sometimes comes across as arrogance but it really isn't that.  It's just plain and simple shyness.  And I want rid of it, because I want to be confident again, I want to be able to talk to people, make connections, make friends because, as an independent author I need to be able to do that - to network, get talking to people, but I find it so, so hard.  It's the most difficult thing I've ever had to do because my confidence levels are so low it's crazy!  If that "wild" side of me had been allowed to come out now and again, if I'd let that person inside me loose for a little while, would I be happier in myself therefore allowing me to be a more confident and self-assured person?  Who knows.  Maybe I'm just over-thinking things again because of the way I'm feeling right now.

But it hasn't actually (in my opinion) been a bad thing as far as the writing of my actual books is concerned, because I've taken that hidden "inner me" and channelled that person I really wanted to be into my characters - all the female characters in my books have quite a bit of the "real" me in there; call it sad, but they allow me to live as that person for as long as I'm writing about them and I guess that's why writing makes me happy.  Selling the bloody books is another matter though and that's when I realise I've got to step up, stop living life through characters in a book and start being the stronger, more confident person I know I can be because, if I don't, I'm not going to make any kind of success of this at all.

So, I need to take a long, hard look at myself as I hurtle towards my mid-40's and start to make that journey towards being the kind of person I actually like - because I don't always like myself at the minute.  I don't like that I'm, well, weak I suppose.  And I'm laying myself open here, telling people this, but in a way it's making me realise how important it is to finally - finally - find the real me.  Before she never gets a chance to appear.

Anyway, self-analysis overwith, I'm becoming slightly paranoid that that downstairs loo really could do with a clean ... you see? I want to be one of those people who doesn't worry about that ... right, sod it! It can wait!  Yeah, I'm getting the hang of this ... give me a week and I'll be dancing on tables in a tiara swigging Moet out of the bottle ...

If you'd like to see the kind of person I really wanted to be (give or take a little bit of artistic license!) then pop over to my other blog 
to read excerpts from my books, see reviews, and buy copies for youself!  All books available on Amazon for the Kindle - and all for only £2.29!  Bargain!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

You've got to laugh, it's the 70's!

Day 3 of my week of Top 5's continues, and today I thought I'd do Top 5 British Comedy films from the '70's.  And we're talking about classics here, from the days before political correctness ruled over everything, sexism was rife, and Jim Davidson was popular.  The days when Britain turned out sitcoms that were actually funny and we all used to watch wrestling on 'World of Sport' on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for the pop man to come round.  Those were the days...

Anyway, before I disappear into a cloud of nostalgia, here are what I consider to be some of the best comedy films from the 1970's.

1) Carry on Abroad. 

 To be honest, I love the majority of the 'Carry On...' films, but this one is a particualr favourite, if only because the name of Sid James's character in it (Vic Flange!) makes me laugh for the most childish of reasons!  There's just something so British about these movies, and they never fail to make me laugh, no matter how many times I've seen them, and I've seen most of them a lot of times!  They're sexist, sometimes very rude, but the double-entendres can be hilarious and remind us of a time when we weren't afraid to laugh at things that these days can probably have you done for breaching some kind of PC ruling or another!  I grew up with these movies, and I haven't turned out too bad (I hope!).  One thing I've realised though, is that back then we just seemed to accept that Sid James was apparently attractive to women.  If you re-made these movies now you'd never get away with it!  But long live the 'Carry On...' experience, the resort of Els Bels (love it!) and the legends that were Hattie Jacques, Sid James, Kenneth Williams...the list goes on...

2) Holiday On The Buses.        

Again, I love all three of the 'On The Buses' films, watched them all God knows how many times whenever ITV decides to repeat them (most Bank Holidays, usually, although they were on a couple of weeks ago for no apparent reason!) could act them backwards but still adore the nostalgia they conjure up.  And you've got to love Blakey (played by Stephen Lewis). He's a classic character if ever there is one.  We used to have a science teacher at school that we nicknamed Blakey because he was the absolute double of him right down to height, mannerisms and moustache!  We used to do everything in our power to make him to say "I'll get you Butler!", even when nobody in our class had that surname.  I think he twigged eventually, but you'd have thought he'd at least have shaved off the moustache when he did. Happy days...
'Holiday on The Buses' is another film full of sexism, double entendres and classic scenes - who can forget the exploding toilet? - and it also seems to suffer from the old 'Sid James' syndrome of having not-very-attractive-at-all men (Reg Varney and Bob Grant's Stan and Jack characters) portrayed as lotharios as they chase extremely pretty young girls in very short skirts.  But it was the 70's.  We just didn't seem to question things that much back then; it worked, it was successful, who cares whether they looked like Brad Pitt or not?  Brilliant comedy, but doubt very much that that Pontins holiday park they filmed in looks that new now...

3) The Likely Lads.

This film was another in what seemed to be a trend in the 70's of turning sitcoms into feature-length films, but I'm not complaining.  I think you've probably gathered that I'd be quite happy to spend a rainy afternoon on the sofa with a bucket-load of these movies and endless cups of tea.  Heaven!
But I love 'The Likely Lads' more than others because it's set in my native, and beloved, North East of England, which means that every time we watch this film (which was, funnily enough, just a couple of weeks ago) we can't help but point out places of interest (we do have some up here), comment on how much the buses have changed and marvel at how North Tyneside Council have let Whitley Bay sea front go since 1974!  We know all the locations, even the ones that don't exist anymore, like the flats where Terry lived that have now been demolished, and it's quite strange to watch it as the years go by and see just how things have changed since the 70's.  I know a lot of people who haven't been to the North East probably think it all still looks exactly like it does in this film (actually, some parts do, I can't lie!) but progress has actually caught up with us Northerners now!  We're quite advanced you know, got indoor toilets and everything! But this film is another slice of nostalgia for me - local nostalgia, and I'll never tire of watching it for that reason alone.  But I do love the relationships in this film too - Bob and Terry, Bob and Thelma - love Thelma! - they just work!  Again, could act it backwards but could watch it forever.  A slice of Northern humour at it's very best!
And I'll leave you with probably the best quote of the whole film for me from Terry when questioned by Bob about his less-than-romantic tendencies: "If Omar Sharif lived in Gateshead I doubt he'd be Omar Sharif either".  Never a truer word was spoken from the lips of a Northern man...

4) Are You Being Served?

There's a slight pattern concerning holiday themes in this Top 5, and this is yet another popular sitcom that was turned into a film, brandishing probably every stereotype it could think of - but it was still amusing.  Although, let's face it, would you really go on holiday with the people you work with?  Especially a whole department?  Not terribly realistic, but necessary for the entire plot of the film.  Watched these days if only to see how beautiful the late Wendy Richards was back then and, ofcourse, to see how many times Mrs. Slowcombe's pussy is mentioned...'nuff said!

5) Man About The House.

Was a toss up between this and 'Steptoe & Son' but this won over because I hadn't seen this one in a long time, watched it when it was on over Easter (God bless satellite TV) and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it.  'Man About The House' was the story of a male catering student sharing a flat (owned by George and Mildred Roper) with two females, and at the time it was out it was (I suspect) every bloke's dream (my hubby says it was definitely his!) to be in Richard O'Sullivan's postion, sharing a flat with two pretty girls, but it's probably not a strange occurence these days is it?  Back then it was probably considered to tbe terribly daring but mention that to the kids of today and they'd more than likely just roll their eyes.
But I just love these films because the fashions kill me!  I can remember my mother dressing like that in the flares and the tank tops with the curly shoulder-length hair, and my dad having long hair and wearing bomber jackets, and my husband likes these films just to look at the state of cars back then!  We laugh, then remember we actually lived through that - and why did all kids in 70's films look like they'd come straight out of a jumble sale?
Anyway, this movie also turned out another classic pairing in 'George & Mildred', who got their own spin-off sitcom off the back of this film, (not to mention their own movie too) and so we gained another comedy classic. The 70's was full of them, and for that I'm eternally grateful!

And there we have it.  Just a few of the classic conedy films from the 1970's, a reminder of what seems like a million years ago now, a different age, but I'm glad I grew up in a time when we could laugh without feeling guilty.  Now you've got to consult a rule book to see if it's ok, but that's just the way life's changed over the decades.  We've moved on, times are different, but thankfully these films will always be around to remind us of times long gone, but never forgotten. (Blimey! I make it sound like the dark ages!)  Long live the double-entendres, Sid James's cackle, and the sexist banter of Stan Butler.  All harmless fun - and bloody good Bank Holiday entertainment! 

Don't forget to pop over to my other blog
to find out more info on my eBooks 'No Matter What' and 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'.  Read excerpts, see some reviews, and find out how to buy copies for yourself!  Both are available now on Amazon for the Kindle!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Music was my first love...well, one of them anyway.

Ok, my week of Top 5's continues. Yesterday was Celebrity Crushes, today I bring you my Top 5 bands/artists and one of my favourite songs of theirs, because music is very important to me.  It relaxes me or allows me to vent frustration; it cheers me up when I'm feeling down but, most important of all, it inspires me.  I can't tell you how many instances of writer's block have been cured just by suddenly hearing a certain song! 

So, this particular subject could really do with a Top 50 but I've tried to whittle it down to those I always seem to come back to when I'm scrolling through the old iPod.  Once again, in no particular order...

1) Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac - 'Gold Dust Woman'

I'm in love with this song.  I adore it!  And I adore Stevie Nicks.  Her voice, her look, the fact she's still going strong today, I love it all.  But this song in particular means a lot because, not only is it just a beautiful song that shows Stevie's voice off wonderfully, it also inspired a whole storyline for one of my yet-to-be-written (romance) books.  So for that, I'm eternally grateful!
This song came from the fantastic Fleetwood Mac 'Rumours' album and has been one of my favourites for as long as I can remember, a song that has the ability to make me break out in goosebumps.  Just beautiful.

2) Joe Bonamassa - Sloe Gin

I cannot begin to describe how much I love this guy! And this was the song that made me aware he existed because before that I had no idea!  And I can't believe he passed me by for so long, because he is just an incredible artist.  I had the absolute privelege of seeing him perform live in Newcastle last year, and hearing this track and watching him play was an experience I'll never forget.  Anybody who can stand there for 2 hours without any fancy lighting or effects and just sing and play like he did, completely mesmerising an audience in the way he did, that's a talent.  To say he was amazing live would be under-selling him.  He is a true guitar legend, and he deserves that accolade.  If you like blues/rock then give this guy a listen.  You won't be disappointed.

3) AC/DC - Back in Black

Now, if we're talking classic rock then this lot have got to be up there with the best of them!  It's just an amazing rock song, and one of those tracks that I play very loud when I've got something I want to get off my chest!  It's what I call my "bad mood music"; when I'm frustrated or angry or just a little bit on edge I blast this track (amongst others) out as loud as I can without the neighbours calling the council and suddenly everything seems so much better!

4) Nickelback - Do This Anymore

One of my favourite, favourite bands ever!  Their first mega-selling single 'How You Remind Me' made me sit up and take notice, and I've been a huge fan ever since!  Their albums are always a mixture of heavy rock and slower more laid back songs, and a lot of my favourite tracks of theirs are actually album tracks, not singles.  Like this one.  I just love this song, mainly because it will always remind me of writing my very first novel - and the one that still means the most to me - 'No Matter What'.  This song - and a fair few other Nickelback ones actually - was almost the soundtrack to the writing of that novel, their music - and this track in partiuclar - inspired me so much, and when I write the follow-up to that novel (which is in the pipeline already) I daresay Nickelback will be playing as I write it.  Love the band, love their music, adore this song!

5) Thunder - Does It Feel Like Love?

A band that have now sadly split up, Thunder were one of the best British rock bands of the past couple of decades in my opinion.  I first discovered them in the early 90's and loved them from the second I heard this song, a song which brings back some happy memories because I always used to listen to it when I got ready to go out on a Friday and Saturday night back in the 90's.  You see, I wasn't one to blast out disco or a bit of Kylie as I got ready for a night on the town, oh no, it was rock all the way for me!  Always got me right in the mood to fend off all the idiots that hung out down the bars and clubs of Whitley Bay!
Seriously though, Thunder are one of my all-time favourite bands and their 'Laughing on Judgement Day' album, which this track is taken from, is one of my all-time favourite albums.  There's not a bad song on there, so this lot are definitely worthy of my Top 5 bands/artists.  A great, great song!

So, there we have it.  My Top 5 bands/artists, but they only really scratch the surface as far as my musical tastes are concerned.  My iPod has to have one of the most eclectic selection of music I know of, I even surprise myself sometimes when I put the thing on shuffle!  I can be listening to The Foo Fighters one minute and the next Michael Buble's warbling on about 'Hollywood'!  I love everything from Queen to Kylie, Abba to Aerosmith, J.Lo to The Eagles.  It just depends what mood I'm in, how I'm feeling - even what book I'm writing!  I've got music to suit it all, and if I lost that iPod I swear it'd be like losing me right arm!  Take away my music and I'd be bereft!  It's just very important to me because, like a good book, it can take you away from everything, let you escape to another world; it can inspire and excite, or just be there because you need it.  And that's worth a hell of a lot to me!

If you enjoyed this blog, and if maybe it's heightened your interest in seeing just what kind of novel can be turned out whilst listening to Nickelback, then pop over to my other blog  where you can read excerpts from my books - including 'No Matter What' - see reviews (it's got four 5-star reviews you know!) and find information on how to buy copies for yourself as well as how to download the FREE Kindle app for PC's/iPhones etc. if you're not lucky enough to own a Kindle! So you can read my eBooks anywhere!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Celebrity Crushes - Infatuation or Inspiration?

It's a new week so, despite a slight hangover (sparkling wine does that to me, I should know better), I thought I'd do something a little different with the blog this week, and do a week of Top 5's.  No idea why, I just thought it might be fun.  So, to kick off the week we have celebrity crushes.  We've all had them, (come on, admit it, we have!), and I thought I'd share my Top 5 with you.  Here we go, in no particular order...

1) Keanu Reeves  
Actually, when I said in no particular order I meant apart from this one. Because Keanu Reeves is probably my ultimate celebrity crush, and certainly one of my longest-standing.  He came to my attention first in 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' when I thought he was cute, but I didn't fancy him.  Until I saw 'Point Break'. Five times in one week actually but I think I've already mentioned that somewhere. That was the start of it all for me.  He's not the best actor in the world - some people may even describe his acting as more wooden than the New Forest - but as far as I'm concerned I care not a jot.  He looked sexy as hell in 'Speed', was gorgeous in 'My Own Private Idaho', lovely in 'The Lake House' - but we don't talk about The Matrix.  Went to see the first one purely because of all the hype, but left feeling as though I'd just sat a maths exam! No film should ever make you have to work that hard! So, even the lure of Keanu couldn't make me want to sit through any more of those, although, we did watch the last one on a cruise one year but only 'cos the weather was dodgy and the cinema was free and I spent the entire time just looking at Keanu and not caring what the hell was going on with the plot. Not that I'd have understood it anyway, and neither did anyone else in that cinema by all accounts. On the way out I heard one bloke ask "What the hell was all that about?" to which someone replied "Don't ask me, I was asleep!" Enough said.
But Keanu will always be my no.1 celebrity crush, for the shallowest of reasons, but we all need a bit of escapismn, don't we?

2) Michael Keaton

A pretty much under-rated actor in my opinion.  But the best Batman!  Another long-standing celebrity crush of mine, he might be knocking on a bit now in terms of age but he's still got a wicked sense of humour and a cute smile, and he's made some films that I can watch time and time again without ever getting bored.  He was hilarious in 'The Dream Team', quite unnerving in 'Pacific Heights' and 'My Life' was a definite tear-jerker.  I've just always liked the guy, for reasons I can never quite put my finger on (unlike Keanu - I can put my finger on a lot of reasons there!), and he did a cracking performance in that episode of 'Fraiser' back in the '90's! He's also got the kind of voice I could listen to for hours.  Yep, a real favourite of mine is Mr. Keaton.

3)  Dave Grohl

I've got a thing about men with tattoos. Especially rock stars with tattoos. And especially Dave Grohl, he of Foo Fighters fame.  I'm a bit of a closet rock-chick you see; I've even got a tattoo of my own (acquired in Tenerife by a Spanish version of Axl Rose! And it didn't hurt.  Much...) and to say I love all things rock 'n' roll would be an understatement.  My third completed but as yet unpublished novel (still needs a title change) features a rock band and a rock chick - and a politician, but you'll have to wait until I decide to publish the book to read all about that love triangle!  Anyway, Dave Grohl, yes.  The only non-actor to appear in my top 5 (although he does some hilarious performances in some of The Foo Fighter's videos! Look up 'Learn To Fly', it's really, really funny!) but he deserves to be there because, in my opinion, he's the perfect rock star!  With a great voice!  Not much else to say about him really.

4)  Pierce Brosnan

As long as he isn't singing. His is the only part of 'Mamma Mia' that I have to watch from behind a cushion because he murdered 'SOS', one of my all-time favourite Abba songs!  Sacrilege!  I may find the strength to forgive him one day.  But ever since 'Remington Steele' (anyone else remember that?  Or is just me who watched far too much rubbish TV in the 80's?) I've had a little crush on Mr. Brosnan.  Fell in love with him completely for a few months after seeing 'The Lawnmower Man', and he's another actor with one of those voices I could listen to all day.  Enough said.

5) Ralph & Joseph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes

Joseph Fiennes
Ok, so I've cheated slightly here but they are brothers so I'm counting them as one choice!  My rules!! Ralph is the third person in this list with a voice I never get tired of listening to (except in 'Maid in Manhattan', I could have done without the American accent in that) and Joseph is just pure eye candy!  Was glued to 'Flashforward' every week just to watch him (and for some reason his American accent in that didn't bother me! How fickle am I?!) because he was really just a little bit sexy as Agent Mark Benford...still gutted they've axed that.  I've still got the final episode on the Sky+ Box because I can't bear to delete it!  Anyway, they're quite a pair are the Fiennes brothers, and deserved members of my Top 5 celebrity crushes.

But the title of this post was Infatuation or Inspiration?  And I'd say the latter for me, because I do believe that, especially when writing romance (as I do, as well as chick lit) you need quite a bit of inspiration when creating your leading men, as real life doesn't always provide you with it, unfortunately.  And have any of these aforementioned men helped me create characters in any of my books?  Yes.  They have.  All of them have. And they - as well as plenty of others, because I didn't even get round to mentioning George Clooney, Vince Vaughn or Bradley Cooper! - will continue to do so for as long as I continue to write which, God willing, will be for quite a while yet!  So, maybe this has made you think about your own celebrity crushes, and maybe it's made you want to check out my books and see if you can spot who inspired who character-wise?  You know where to look if the latter is the case. ;-)

Friday, 15 July 2011

Darts eye-candy - it does exist. Believe me.

And he's called Paul Nicholson. But I'm really not that shallow as to only watch darts because there now happens to be an attractive player on the circuit.  No, honestly, I'm not.  I'm not saying I'm not shallow at all, I'd have a nose as long as Pinocchio if I started lying like that.  After all, I'm the first person to admit that Keanu Reeves has limited acting talent but, quite honestly, I'd watch him dust skirting boards for an hour and a half just because (I think) he's lovely to look at!  But I do not (and I'm adamant about this) watch darts purely because the sport now has what I would consider to be a good-looking player.  Was Paul Nicholson throwing arrows in the days of Eric Bristow and John Lowe?  No, he wasn't, but I was still watching darts back then so he isn't the sole reason I watch the sport now.  But it's certainly a bonus to have something nice to look at.
Paul Nicholson - Darts eye-candy? You bet your life he is!

So, it's almost time for The World Matchplay to get underway from Blackpool's Winter Gardens and a week of distractions lies ahead for me because, if I don't manage to catch all the action in the evenings on Sky Sports I'll be watching the repeat the next morning, which probably means I'll get bugger all done until the tournament's over.  I'd like to think I've got more discipline than that but I'm not sure I have.  I love a good darts tournament you see, I somehow or other seem to get incredibly involved, although I've promised myself that I will not go off in a stroppy huff if Paul Nicholson gets knocked out early, as he did during The Darts World Championship last December.  He was out in the second round (something I'm sure he loves being reminded of but as he'll probably never read this thing I reckon I'm safe to mention it!) and I can still remember shouting at the TV as he continued to miss doubles then crash out of the tournament altogether, thus leaving me with absolutely no eye-candy for the rest of the competition.  For the first hour after his defeat I considered him to be extremely selfish, leaving me with nothing nice to look at, but after a cup of strong tea and a lie down on the sofa I finally grew up, realised he was probably a lot more upset than I could ever be and got back into the tournament, backing Adrian Lewis to win, which he eventually did!  Although, on the night of that final against Gary Anderson, Archie (our dog) had decided to become very ill after eating a pork chop and started throwing up in the hallway every 10 minutes, causing us to almost miss a cracking  nine dart finish from Lewis. 

Beating Phil Taylor in The 2010 Players Championship Final.
So, when did I first notice the arrival of Paul Nicholson, official darts eye-candy, as I now call him.  Although that name is subject to change should he start to gain weight and fill out his darts shirts.  See?  Shallow, but sometimes there's a need.  What was I talking about anyway?  I appear to have lost me chain of thought.  Oh yeah.  When did I first notice the lovely Mr. Nicholson.  I remember the night well.  It was the night he beat Phil Taylor in The Players Championship Final and it was one of those matches that you just couldn't take your eyes off!  It was incredibly exciting because this player I'd never really seen before (Mr. Nicholson) was in the process of beating the mighty Phil Taylor, but he was also catching my eye because he wasn't bad to look at, something I do take a lot of notice of.  I'm a writer you know, I need to get inspiration from somewhere for my good-looking male characters. (That's such a good excuse, and I use it a lot!)  When he won I think I jumped up off the sofa shouting "yes!", and knew right there and then that darts had just become more interesting.  And, although he plays under the Australian banner (he used to live there) he is actually a Geordie, like me, so another bonus!  A good-looking, Geordie darts player!  Who'd have thought?  Certainly not me.  The words "good-looking" and "darts player" aren't words I would ever have put together anyway to be honest, but stick "Geordie" in there too and I'd probably have laughed!  Until I saw it with my own eyes!  So, he gained a fan in me did Mr. Nicholson, or The Asset, as he likes to be known.  Most darts players have nicknames, take on these personas as they do the now almost expected "walk on" to the oche (the spot infront of the dart board, for the non-darts fans).  Mr. Nicholson tends to wear dark glasses and scowl a lot, which can be incredibly sexy sometimes...but it's an image created for the theatre that can be a darts tournament, and if you want to find out more about how much fun a darts tournament can be, check out my book 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'.  I'm sure I'll leave details below!  And talking of my book...

I mentioned inspiration before didn't I?  And Mr. Nicholson may well be a pretty face in a world that hasn't always been blessed with the sexy sportsman, but he was also my muse, if you like, for the main male character in my novel 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise'.  I'd wanted that character to be a darts player, but he also needed to be handsome, a great player, and a Geordie.  Can't think who I modelled him on...
Seriously, though, the character of Paul Parker was created because Mr. Nicholson had proved to me that darts eye-candy does exist, that a darts player can be sexy, funny, and a fantastic player (Mr. Nicholson is all of those, by the way, I'd just like to point that out), and he gave me everything I needed to make a fabulous character out of Paul Parker - the Geordie villain of the darts world!  So, I'd like to thank him again for that. 

And, as we hurtle towards the World Matchplay, I'll be getting myself ready for Sunday when Paul Nicholson has his opening match, and I'll be backing him all the way.  Because he's a great player, with a long future ahead in the sport and he's exciting to watch, something very important in darts in my opinion.  A boring match can sometimes make you want to turn over and see if there's anything interesting on BBC Three!

So, if you like darts, and you haven't discovered Paul Nicholson yet, check him out.  You won't be disappointed.  And if you're a female darts fan, well, he's a bonus.  He's darts eye-candy.  And we should never complain about that!

And if you'd like to download a copy of 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise' for yourself, you can find it here on 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Who am I? Really? Part six - the final chapter...for now...

Ok.  So, we came back from Tenerife for a number of reasons but we continue to visit the island for long weekends at least a couple of times a year, because I miss the place every day, no word of a lie.  I miss the sun and the relaxed way of life, I miss the evening walks along the sea front and people watching, and I miss the fact we used to actually go on the odd night out when we lived there - something which rarely happens now we're back in the UK.  The way things are at the minute you need a second mortgage just to get an Indian take-away!

But, coming back to Britain was just the beginning of another chapter in our lives - and especially in my case  because, now I was working from home, I finally had the time to concentrate on writing.  I finally had the opportunity to follow my dream.  And being at home all day also gave me the chance to fulfill another dream of mine - to get a dog!  We'd had a dog when we were kids, but it had been my mum who'd looked after him really.  And now I wanted one of my own.  I'm actually one of those women who doesn't have kids so I think I just wanted something to care for really, and if  it couldn't be a baby, why not a dog?  After looking after my sister's West Highland Terrier while she was on honeymoon and then crying when I had to send him back home because I  missed him so much, we decided that maybe the time was right to get one of our own.  I was a bit concerned about the cream carpets in our relatively new house but I'd decided to try and not get too anal about that - if I wanted this dog then I was going to have to learn to deal with the fact my cream carpets probably wouldn't stay cream for all that long.  But it did give me the odd sleepless night and cause us to invest in a steam cleaner for those all-too-common "little accidents" that were bound to happen.
My dog Archie - Not a big fan of that raincoat...

So, scanning the local papers one Friday morning we found a kennel that was selling a litter of Westie puppies and rang them up to enquire about the dogs only to find that they'd sold fast and they only had one male puppy left!  And I wanted that dog!  We'd ideally wanted to go on a Saturday to pick up a puppy (I make that sound like a trip to Asda - it's so far from that!) but the man on the other end of the 'phone said he couldn't guarantee that the dog would still be there on Saturday.  And he couldn't "reserve" him for us.  So hubby hurriedly re-arranged that morning's appointments and we drove like Lewis Hamilton to the kennels, half an hour away.  And when we arrived there, and I saw another couple heading towards the building where the dogs were (I could hear them!) I suddenly morphed into Linford Christie and overtook them, skidding into the building like Speedy Gonzalez without brakes!  No way was anyone getting that dog, except me!  And the second I laid eyes on him I knew he was coming home with me.  Mind you, in hindsight, I should have realised why he'd been left 'til last, the mouthy little bugger!  But cute as anything, I was in love right from the off!

So, handing over £300 (we're going to the rescue centre next time!) we took him home.  And the first thing he did was pee in the hall, and that's pretty much all he did for the rest of the day - pee!  And we'd brought him home totally unprepared, ofcourse, because we had been planning to go out and buy all the stuff he was going to need before we actually brought the puppy home.  But best laid plans and all that...
Hubby had had to go back out to work, we had nothing in dog-related at all, not even any food!  And I was left - literally - holding the puppy, mainly because if I put him down he'd just pee again!  So, I spent the rest of the afternoon putting newspaper down in the hall, runnning outside every 5 minutes to let him do his stuff, and frantically try to find out on the internet what I could feed a puppy when I had no dog food in the house!
By the time hubby got back home later that evening with a car full of everything a puppy could want I was beyond shattered!  I could have slept on a washing line!
Best when he's asleep!

It also took 3 days to find a name for the dog.  The poor thing mustn't have known where he was that first weekend with us calling him one thing, then deciding that didn't sound right so calling him something else.  We decided on Archie, finally, sometime on the Sunday afternoon.  And from that day onwards Archie became part of our family.  We all settled into a routine, I (eventually) stopped being so paranoid about the slightest bit of dirt on my cream carpets (a colour I would not have picked had I known we'd be getting a puppy!) and I soon realised that puppy training pads were the most amazing invention since Sky+!  But I love my little dog to bits,  even if he does have a mouth on him, hates the postman, and has a strange fascination with the cupboard I keep the pans in.  He's spoilt rotten (because I don't have kids - I've got to spoil something!), and I can't think of a life without him now.  He's my little companion on the days when I'm locked away in my office writing, (office! Ha! It's the back bedroom, and it's getting re-decorated in the colours I want before Christmas!) he's always there for a cuddle, and he doesn't care if I look crap because I can't be bothered to put mascara on.  He also can't answer back, and that's always a plus point.

So, that's me.  I've followed Take That round the country in my (not very) mis-spent youth, trained in the Performing Arts, worked as a Media Technician (so I should be more technically minded really, shouldn't I?  It was a long time ago...), got married in The Gambia, lived in Tenerife, and came back to the UK to follow my dream of becoming a writer.  And I've got the dog I've always wanted.  Blimey!  When you put your life in a couple of sentences like that it's quite startling!  But it isn't over yet, is it?  No, in my opinion I''m just getting started, there are loads more chapters of my life to come and I'm quite intrigued to see how they turn out.  Because, even though I'm an author, this is one story I can't write the ending for.  I'll quite happily leave that up to fate...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Who am I? Really? Part five - the Tenerife adventure.

"Shall we move to Tenerife?"
"Just like that?"
"Yeah, why not?"
"Oh...ok then!"

Alright, maybe the conversation didn't go quite like that, but it was close!  When we made the decision to throw all caution  - and two good jobs - to the wind and up sticks to move to a foreign country we already had an apartment on the island, it was a place we'd visited many times before so it wasn't exactly alien to us, and we had a few friends there, contacts we'd made when we'd been over there buying the apartment.  So it wasn't quite as daunting as it could have been.  Having said that, the second we got into our Tenerife apartment knowing it was now our home and not just a base for a week's holiday, I slumped down on the sofa and cried!  It was still a scary prospect; a new home, a new country, a new way of life.  So we went out for a walk along the sea front, parked ourselves in the beach bar and drank gin and tonics until it didn't feel quite so scary anymore. 
The beautiful island of Tenerife.

To be honest, it didn't take all that long to settle in, especially once we found Iceland because, believe me, I am a great advocator of getting into the culture of the country you're visiting/living in but sometimes you'd just kill for a decent sausage!  And for all Spanish sausages are... interesting, I mean, I love a good chorizo, but it's never going to cut it in a white breakfast bap with HP sauce!  Iceland was like a little bit of British heaven, always there with a taste of "back home" whenever you felt like it, and when you live in a country that isn't your own, sometimes a little bit of "back home" is most welcome on the days when you miss it quite badly.  Because you do.  Sometimes.  But a bowl of Shredded Wheat or a slice of Hovis (usually wrapped round an Irish recipe sausage) make you realise it's never far away! Which is why The Sun Inn, a great little English bar and restaurant just off the sea front in the resort of Torviscas, near where we lived, was a lifesaver on a Friday night.  It served the best British home-cooked food (think pies, curries, and Sunday roasts) and it was a mecca for ex-pats like us who just wanted that taste of home once in a while.  You'd see the same faces there time and time again because the food was amazing! And it was owned by Geordies so that was a bonus!

It's a great lifestyle over there by the way, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You eat out more, you go out  more; it's nearly always sunny (but when it rains, it rains!) and most people are nearly always smiling, mainly because we lived very close to a main resort therefore everyone was usually on holiday!
But the language barrier can be a stumbling block.  When we got our 'phone connected it was like something out of a Carry On... film, so farcical did it become.  The two guys who turned up didn't speak English, my Spanish was practically non-existent (although I was almost an expert on anything food-related.  Still am!!) and every time they wanted to ask something it ended up like an episode of "Give Us A Clue"!  So I had no idea why they kept disappearing off in their van only to return 2 days later, fanny about in the box down the corner of the street and then come back to my apartment and ask (and this wasn't a quick process) for washing-up liquid!  I'm still non-the-wiser to this day.  All I knew at the time was that the 'phone was  connected, the internet had been switched on, and I needed to learn more Spanish!

The view from my Tenerife apartment.
They were a great couple of years though.  Tenerife is a beautiful island of so many contrasts and getting out and exploring beyond the holiday resorts was something I am so glad we did.  We discovered lovely little villages, fantastic local restaurants with the most incredible (and cheap!) food; we also discovered Ikea but that's a whole different story!  I wasn't working but hubby was, in a good job too although we weren't earning half as much as we had been in the UK.  But you didn't need to back then.  The exchange rate was better so everything was cheaper.  It was just way more relaxing, and to be able to stand in my kitchen and chop carrotts whilst looking out over the Atlantic Ocean was a privelege I'll never take for granted.

It's difficult to actually cover everything that happened in our time over there, suffice to say we enjoyed it all.  It was an experience, and it taught me a lot.  Like, Heinz beans actually aren't the best in the world, and it is possible to live without BBC1 for a while.  Although, we did end up with a dish the size of a small country on our apartment roof because I could only go so long without 'Holby City'!

Would I go back to live there again?  Like a shot!  It's made me not afraid to try new things, have new experiences.  And it gave me some great inspiration for my book, 'Too Much Trouble in Paradise', where I've drawn upon a lot of my own experiences of living in Tenerife and let the main character in the book experience them too!  Writing that book brought back a lot of happy memories and it'll always be special because it will always remind me of a wonderful place that I will always call my second home.

You can buy your own copy of Too Much Trouble in Paradise here from for less than a couple of quid! ;-)