Friday, 31 August 2012

It's Friday, and I'm talking football, and my new book...

It's been a slow writing week, but at least I know what I'm writing now; I have a plot, I have characters, I have a clear idea of where this book is going.  It's just that my concentration levels have been questionable lately.  But that's my own fault - I've had a lot on my mind, and I've let those things take over and distract me.  And seeing as it's Friday I can't imagine that my concentration is going to come cartwheeling back today, but stranger things have happened.

However, after months of faffing about with a book I just didn't feel comfortable writing, at least now I'm back on familiar territory, writing a book I feel more than comfortable writing.  And do you know how I knew that this was the right book to be working on now?  Because I can picture it in my head as a movie.  I think I've mentioned this in a previous post a while back, that I try to visualise scenes in my books as though they were movie scenes and if I can do that, if I can picture that in my head then I know I'm on the right track.  And as I lay in bed last night, relaxed for the first time in a long time (and, I have to say, ecstatically happy that Ian Beale has finally taken off that bloody hat he's been wearing on Eastenders for about a month now - I can't begin to tell you how irritating that hat was becoming) I began to imagine the opening scenes of my book as if they were playing out on a movie or TV screen.  And they worked!  I could visualise the characters, I even had a soundtrack in my head, and you have no idea how relieved that made me feel.

For months I'd been playing about with a Christmas romance, rewriting it over and over again but still it never felt right, whereas with this new book, I know I'm on the right track.  I tell you, I've never breathed such a huge sigh of relief.  I honestly thought my writing mojo had buggered off completely.  But no.  It appears that it was just testing me.

So, I'm now immersing myself in the world of football.  Because that's the world in which my new book is to be set.  Now, I know I might give out the idea that I really couldn't care less about a game that sees a group of grown men kicking a ball round a field for 90 minutes, and when it starts to interfere with Coronation Street, as it's doing tonight (I care not a jot about Chelsea's cup run, but I do care about what happens to Tyrone in Corrie!), I couldn't.  I really couldn't care less.  But, believe it or not, I'm actually a bit of a secret football fan.  Have been since I was quite young, actually.  I have very happy memories of Saturday nights sitting snuggled on the sofa with my dad when I was little, watching 'Match of the Day' while he tried to explain the offside rule to me - and I still don't fully understand it, but there you go.  I was a season ticket holder at Newcastle United (much to my Sunderland supporting husband's disgust!), I've met numerous famous players from Gary Lineker to Peter Reid (who's a lovely, lovely man, I have to say), visited a local news programme to see how they put together their sports bulletin and spent time at local radio station, Metro Radio, on a couple of Saturday afternoons back in the 1980s, sitting in with them as they did their afternoon football programme.  I've spent nights on the terraces watching Newcastle get beaten by Manchester United or Arsenal in re-arranged evening matches, and I've cried when England got knocked out of the World Cup in 1990 in a semi-final that, quite frankly, drained me.  Took me days to get over that tournament.

So, I don't really dislike the sport.  I dislike the way it's become more money-focused; I dislike the way players seem to be a lot more arrogant than they used to be purely because they think the ridiculously inflated wages they earn seem to give them some kind of "God" status.  I hate all that.  Back in the good old days of football few players were deemed "celebrities" and few earned the stupid money players earn today.  There was George Best, of course, but he was the exception.  Back then players went out and played football because they loved the game.  I'm not saying they don't now, but they're more money-driven these days.  Back then games used to be played in all kinds of weathers, even snow.  I remember watching many a 'Match of the Day' in the winter months where they'd just shove them out onto the snow-covered pitch with a bright orange ball and tell them to get on with it.  When you look back at old footage of matches from the 70s and 80s the state of the pitches was unbelievable!  They played in mud baths half the time, but nobody had a problem with that.  These days, pitches seem to have to be immaculate before any of these men can set foot on them.  Players are treat more like prima donnas than they used to be, or that's the way it seems to me.

But, I do still actually enjoy watching a good game of football, with the emphasis on the word "good".  I'm married to an ardent football supporter so I've got no choice but to engage in football-related conversation now and again, even if Sunderland's latest signing isn't top of my list of priorities at that particular time.  One day my husband will learn that, during 'Holby City', I have no interest whatsoever in Martin O'Neill's team choices.

So, is it that secret love of the "beautiful game" that made me want to write this new book of mine?  Subconsciously, maybe.  But, when all's said and done, the story just came to me when I was idly watching a match on TV one afternoon, and the idea just grew.

I'm currently reading 'I Am The Secret Footballer', a book written by a professional footballer whose identity is, as the title suggests, being kept tightly under wraps, because he's still playing.  This book started out as columns written for The Guardian newspaper, and it's a book which gives us an insight into the football world from someone who's been there, done that, and worn the football strip.  He tells us things that maybe we aren't supposed to know about, hence the secret bit.  He gives us his opinions on fellow players, managers, even that very recent phenomenon the WAG.
An interesting insight into the world of professional football

And what he's doing for me, in particular, is helping me with research I couldn't possibly have got from anywhere else, unless me dad was Terry Venables or something.  It's incredibly interesting.  Well, to me it is, anyway.  I'm enjoying it, and at a time when I need to have my football-loving head on, the timing of its release couldn't have been better.

Now, please don't be put off by the football theme in this new book of mine.  It isn't about the world of football as such, it's just set in and around the game.  The main male character is a professional player, and the main female character has been involved in the sport in some way or another all her life, but the story is first and foremost a romance.  A sexy romance, a dark romance.  It's going to be story of fame, self-destruction, hope, and, yes, lust.  Quite a bit of that.  But all set against the backdrop of top-flight football, because this game is giving me characters I am loving creating!  Larger-than-life and not that far from reality.  Believe me...

Monday, 27 August 2012

X Factor Monday, and a couple of bonus movie reviews.

OK.  Last Saturday's 'X Factor'.  Where do I start?  Alright.  We'll start at the beginning.  That first bloke from Essex, the one with the blond hair and fake tan; just one word - why???  Was I listening to a completely different programme or something?  I mean, I know I've got a slightly blocked left ear but I'm absolutely positive it hasn't turned me tone deaf.  He couldn't sing!  Oh, sorry, I almost forgot - he's the "entertainment value" contestant, isn't he?  Potential fodder to be cut before Boot Camp even begins, or maybe not... After all, there's usually a novelty contestant thrown into the mix somewhere along the way, isn't there?  Although, I have actually heard rumours that we won't be seeing many of those this year.  Hmm... we'll see...

Anyway, back to last Saturday's programme... What the hell was going on with those auditions in Newcastle????  Mind you, I shouldn't have been surprised that they'd decided to make the north east look as if it was a "talent free zone", as Nicole Scherzinger so nicely put it.  How dare she!  We gave the world Cheryl Cole... OK.  That's not  a great example of the talent the north east can turn out, but Ant and Dec are always good value!!

My mother was actually so disgusted at 'X Factor's' portrayal of us here in the north east that she's refusing to watch it anymore, whereas me and my hubby actually found it hilarious!  Because we know that we aren't all weirdo's and attention seekers with a worrying delusional streak that makes some people think they sound like Whitney Houston.  We just provided a large slice of the entertainment on Saturday night, that was all.  I'm sure some pretty decent singers turned up to Newcastle Arena for those auditions, but they don't make as good telly as some bloke with a carrier bag containing his packed lunch who absolutely murdered Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' (understatement of the year - I still think he only turned up for a bet, at least, that's what I'm hoping), and some girl who, really, should not have been allowed anywhere near those auditions.  Not only was her outfit questionable, but her voice... it was making me ears bleed!  What was her mother thinking?  Hadn't she heard her daughter sing before?  Did she honestly think that sound was a pleasant one?  She got four no's - unsurprisingly.  All I can say is, thank the Lord for the young lad at the end of the show who actually managed to make a Tulisa song listenable.  And proved that we north easterners do have talent! ;-)

Right, so, that was the early part of Saturday night sorted.  What did we do once 'X Factor' had finished then?  We watched 'The Inbetweeners Movie', that's what.  And what did I think of it?  Well, not much of a plot to speak of, but I wasn't exactly expecting anything brain-taxing.  However, after speed-watching all three series of 'The Inbetweeners' over the past couple of weeks I was really looking forward to seeing this movie - and it didn't disappoint.  It was very childish, very silly, extremely crude, and bloody hilarious!  Not sure what that says about my sense of humour but I loved it!  Got quite a soft spot for those four characters now.  I mean, in all honesty, the film is nothing but an extended version of the TV shows as Jay, Simon, Will and Neil take their first lads' holiday abroad, getting up to everything that I suspect goes on on a lads' holiday abroad (not having been on one meself, I'm only guessing, but I reckon this film just about summed it up!), but for fans of the show, I reckon they got it just right.  Definitely not for everyone, but I thought it was a great way to while away an hour and a half on a Saturday night.  And, I have to say, I'm really crossing my fingers that those four characters make a reappearance some time in the future.  I'm actually missing them...

And last night, due to there being absolutely nothing on TV, apart from the Hairy Bikers' Mississippi Adventure on the Good Food Channel but I've SKY +'d that, and that rather good drama on ITV, 'The Last Weekend' (wish they'd put all 3 episodes on one after the other though - dying to know what happens and haven't really got the patience to wait another week!) we decided to watch another film.  But we decided to go for a completely different genre this time - horror.  Well, a horror movie with a difference, to be honest.  Because 'The Cabin in the Woods' isn't really an ordinary horror film.  It starts off with scenes that, at first, make you wonder if you're actually watching the right movie, then when it finally gets going it looks as though it's going to follow the same formula that all these kinds of movies follows - five friends head off in their RV to a remote cabin by a creepy lake for a weekend of... well, let's put it this way, it wasn't the weekend they were expecting, and this certainly wasn't the kind of film I was expecting.  It was much better than that!  I'd read, while doing a little bit of research into this film, that the less you know about the movie the more you'll enjoy it, and that was certainly true in my opinion.  I'd decided not to read any reviews about it for fear of spoilers, because I'd heard there was more than a twist to this film, and I'm glad I made that decision.  Knowing too much about what's going to happen will ruin it, I promise you.  All I can say is that you may think you know where this movie is heading, but you don't.  Not unless you're my hubby who insists on trying to guess the ending of everything and, although he actually did almost sort-of predict the ending to this, it's the kind of movie that makes that kind of thing a whole lot harder to predict.  He didn't enjoy it half as much as I did - he actually said that he thought it was poor, considering the hype it received when it was first released - but I absolutely loved it!  Yes, it's a little bit overloaded with blood and gore at some points, and at times it's hard to believe what you're actually looking at, but at the same time you can't tear your eyes away as you frantically try to work out just where the hell this is all going.  And where it ended up was certainly a surprise to me.
If you like films such as the 'Final Destination' series (which I'm a huge fan of) then you might just like 'The Cabin in the Woods' - a movie which has seemingly turned that genre right on its head.

OK.  That's me done here for today I think.  Time to get back to the 'Only Fools and Horses' weekend on GOLD and maybe do a little bit of reading.  It's a typically rainy Bank Holiday Monday so a cup of tea wouldn't go amiss either... oh, and seeing as tonight's TV appears  to be just as dismal as the past couple of evenings, it looks as though we'll be watching another movie.  So, what do we fancy this time...?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Yes, I've changed my mind again! So, the next book from me is going to be about...?

OK.  So, I mentioned yesterday on Twitter and Facebook that plans have changed a little bit around here.  And they have.  As far as what I'm writing at the minute is concerned, anyway.  That's all.  Nothing major has happened, no huge exciting announcement or anything like that.  Just me making another one of those decisions that involves ditching the book I'm currently writing to move onto another one.  Yes, it's happened again.

Most of you will know that I have been writing a Christmas romance, set in Lapland, that I'd hoped to have out by late November.  However, you can scratch that now.  It won't be happening.  Not this year, anyway.  Why?  Well, a number of reasons, really.  But the main one being I just wasn't "feeling" the book.  It's hard to explain, to be honest, but I just wasn't enjoying writing the story, wasn't clicking with the characters and, even after several re-writes and plot changes, it still wasn't happening.  Although I persevered because I'd told everyone I was writing this Christmas romance so I had to finish it, didn't I?

Well, that's what I thought, at first.  That I should just get on with it and maybe one day everything would just fall into place.  But, it hasn't.  And I've lost enough sleep and stressed out for more hours than I care to think about with regard to this book so, after moaning for a good half hour to my very tolerant husband (who actually claimed he understood my reasons for putting this book to one side for now - although, he might have just been saying that to humour me, I don't know...) I made the decision to shelve the Christmas romance for now.  I'm not saying it won't ever get written - there is a good story there, and I had the bare bones of it, but I just couldn't get it to where it needed to be.  Not yet.  So, maybe coming back to it next year is a better idea, rather than just banging out a book because I promised everyone there'd be one.  I don't want to be that kind of writer.

So, instead of writing the book I felt I had to write, I'm now writing the book I want to write.  And I can't promise this new one will be out before Christmas - although I'd love to catch the lucrative Christmas market, of course I would - but it certainly won't be long after.  I've already got a cover, a title, great characters and a story I am loving writing.  This book feels like the one I should've been writing as soon as 'Illusions of Love' was finished.  The idea was already there, this little seed planted in my mind and, if I'm being completely honest with myself, part of the reason I couldn't concentrate on writing the Christmas book was because I was too busy thinking about this new one.  It was always on my mind; the characters, the story, this cover image I'd seen that I just knew I had to have.  That's when I realised I couldn't continue with the Christmas novel, because, if I did, it really wasn't going to be the book I wanted to release.

But, it will get written.  Just, not yet.  So, just what is this new book that's caused me to shelve that promised festive offering?  Well, and don't be put off by the subject matter here, it's going to be a romance very much in the style of my novels 'No Matter What', 'See You At The Show', and 'Illusions of Love' - a sexy, edgy, romance.  Very sexy.  Think Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper, but in my own style.  And it's going to be based around the world of professional football, or soccer, if you're from the USA.  And I'm really excited about writing it, because the plot came so easy to me, the characters almost wrote themselves, and I've gone from writing a book I just couldn't get into to having a book with a title, a cover, a great story (in my opinion - I'll have to wait and see what everyone else thinks about that!) and strong characters.  A book I really want to write. 

My next book is set in the world of professional football.
So, I apologise to everyone who was looking forward to that promised Christmas romance, but I'm sure you understand why, yet again, I've changed my plans to write a completely different book.  I just did not want to release something I myself wasn't happy with.  Something I hadn't really enjoyed writing.  As an author I think you do genuinely know when something feels right, when that story is clicking and those characters are working, and if they're not, you just don't write it.

So, get ready for a sexy ride through the world of professional football, because that's what you're going to be getting next from me.  I've gone back to what I love writing most - the sexy and edgy side of romance, and I just hope it's going to be a story that people will love.  For now, though, I've got a lot of writing to be getting on with, so, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and research some ball skills...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Ten things I couldn't live without...

I've been tagged by my lovely friend and fellow author Amanda Egan (@Mummy_Misfit) to name ten things I couldn't live without - my ten essentials.  You can read Amanda's here on her own blog, and you can also check out her three books over on Amazon.  And I highly recommend that you do. :)

Anyway, here they are - my ten essentials.  Ten things I just can't live without...

1.  My husband.  

An obvious one this one, I know, but I really couldn't live without him.  I love him to bits.  He's a wonderful, extremely tolerant, very patient man who puts up with me, supports me, and loves me.  And that's not an easy job sometimes!  He's also a genius when it comes to computers and anything technical, and if it wasn't for him, I would have no book covers, no idea how to format anything, and absolutely no books published!  He does all of that for me, and I am so, so grateful.  So grateful.

2.  My dog, Archie.

Archie, having a tough day at the office...
He's my best friend.  He's five years old now and every single day over these past five years he has made us smile, made us laugh, and brought so much joy to our lives.  I have no children, so I am probably guilty of sometimes treating him like my "baby", but I love him so much.  Even when he decides to play up right when I'm in the middle of trying to write an important chapter...

3.  My iPod.

Music is probably one of the most important things in my life. It calms me down, makes me smile, brings back memories - but most of all it inspires me.  I've written novels that have a specific soundtrack to them so music is an extremely important part of writing life too.  I can't write in silence - I have to have music there in the background to set the mood and create scenes.  And my iPod now means I can listen to the music I love anywhere I want, and if I ever lost it, and the thousands of songs stored on it, I'd be devastated!

4.  Television.

Sorry, but I love my TV.  I don't have a social life to speak of, so, television is my form of relaxation, my escapism.  I wouldn't say I sit there night after night glued to the thing not speaking to my husband because that's not true.  A lot of the time it's on in the background while we're chatting.  But there are exceptions - if 'Holby City', 'Waterloo Road' or 'Person of Interest' is on then I'm not all that big on conversation for the duration of those programmes.  So, I couldn't really live without my TV... Not for a long period of time, anyway...

5.  Books.

My Kindle.
I have been reading since I was old enough to hold a book.  I've always loved it, and I'll continue to have a love of reading for the rest of my life.  I have read so many fabulous books that have transported me to other worlds, given me hours of fantastic escapism, made me lose myself in them so much that dragging myself back to reality becomes one huge chore.  From Enid Blyton to JK Rowling, Jackie Collins to James Herbert, I'll read anything with a great story that grabs me, and now thanks to the Kindle I can have more books than I can shake a stick at right there at my fingertips!  Brilliant!  Can't live without mine now...

6.  The internet.

For a number of reasons, really.  Not only does it mean I can keep in touch with people that I may not see all that often anymore, it's also where I sell my books, how I manage to publish my books... it's an extremely important part of my life.  I've also met some amazing people through Facebook and Twitter, so take that away from me now and it would be a huge, huge miss.  It's also a very useful tool for settling arguments.  If me and hubby ever disagree over something now, we just Google it and see who's right within seconds... and it's usually me! ;)

7.  Chocolate.

I should be able to live without it, but I can't.  Or I won't, and it's probably the latter, but, come on.  A little bit of what you fancy does you good, doesn't it?

8.  A nice cup of tea.

Sounds boring, maybe, but take my tea away from me and you're left with one very unhappy woman.  I can't start the day without it, I drink a fair few cups of it throughout the course of the day, and I particularly like to relax in the evening with a big mug of it whilst watching the soaps.  Heaven!  I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but I do love my tea.  A lot!

9.  My slippers.

My slippers... with Archie in the background!

I'm beginning to sound more middle-aged by the second here, aren't I?  But I do love my slippers!  I've always, always had a lovely cosy pair of slippers, and nothing's going to change that.  Enough said, I think...

10.  Moisturiser.

I have very dry skin, so this is an absolute essential for me.  I'm also past 40 now so I'm slightly obsessed with trying to keep the wrinkles and lines at bay, although my budget doesn't exactly run to anything fancy.  Plain old Nivea or Dove for me, I'm afraid, but it does the job.  My skin would definitely be lost without it!

So, there you have it.  Probably not the most exciting ten things you've ever seen, but they're just some of the things I couldn't live without, although, if I sat here for long enough I could probably think of a dozen or so more.

Anyone else got anything they really can't live without?  Feel free to share, but I'm off to hang out some washing now before the rain starts again... don't you just love the good old British summer...

Monday, 20 August 2012

It's that time of year again - X Factor's back!

Now, I know I've said it time and time again - that I'm definitely not going to be watching the X Factor this year.  But, guess what?  Yep.  I'm watching it.  I can't help it, and I know I run the risk of being shot down in flames by people who think only those with a minimum amount of brain cells watch this kind of stuff but, do you know what?  They're wrong.  Yes, it's annoying; yes, it makes me angry at times because I'm actually a lover of real music, a fan of legends like Pink Floyd and Queen to name but a few, and I really do hate to see manufactured bands being put together in such a blatant way in front of our eyes (mentioning no bands in particular, One Direction...) or people being told they can sing when, actually, they sound just like a million others who've come before them, but X Factor is watched by a hell of a lot of people for probably a hundred different reasons.  So, don't judge anyone by what programmes they watch on TV, alright?  I'm not a TV snob, and I'm not keen on those who are.  I'm off me soap box now...

However,  in order for me to get even a modicum of enjoyment out of this programme, I have to come at it from a different angle - and treat it as an entertainment programme, nothing more, nothing less.  And Saturday night TV needs entertainment programmes.  So, yes, despite my moaning and whinging, I'll be watching this series along with the millions of others who'll be watching it.  However, I'm going to give myself a reason to watch it and use it as a vehicle to give me a specific Monday blog subject - from now until this series announces its winner, every Monday on my blog will be X Factor Monday!  I'll be talking about that Saturday's programme; who I liked, who I didn't think was all that, who annoyed me on the judging panel, etc., etc.  You get my drift?  Of course, this will get a lot more interesting once we're past the audition rounds, but, there was still one or two things to talk about from Saturday's show.

Mind you, it was an interesting start for me.  There I was, all settled on the sofa, resigned to the fact I'd just let myself get sucked in for another season, and yes, I'd done nothing but moan since the opening titles, so it was almost karma when a power cut hit half our town.  Yep, ten minutes into X Factor 2012 and our electricity goes off.  It was like someone up there was listening to me and saying "Okay, you're moaning about watching this again, so, tell you what, you don't have to watch it anymore!"  It wouldn't have bothered me usually - we're used to it where we live here in Crook, a small market town in South West Durham.  We've had loads of power cuts over the 5 years we've lived here.  I swear the cables are stuck together with gaffer tape, it's that erratic.  But Saturday night wasn't just X Factor night, it was also my birthday.  And 'Casualty' was back too after its enforced absence from our screens due to the Olympics.  So I wasn't all that happy, I can tell you, about the prospect of spending what was left of my birthday playing cards by candle light and listening to some debate on the battery-powered radio about the sugar content in cereal bars!  But, after just an hour, and me managing to beat my husband at a couple of games of cards, the power came back on, and thanks to the fact we have an ITV1+1 channel, we managed to resume our viewing of the X Factor.

And, to be completely honest, there wasn't a lot that grabbed me in this first round of auditions.  Although, an audition from a young lady who claimed to be a Pink impersonator threw up a few interesting points.  First song she sang was 'So What?' by Pink, after she'd spent a good 5 minutes telling the judges that she was trying to shake the whole Pink thing and find her own identity.  And I didn't think she was all that good, to be honest.  And she didn't get that much better with the second song they let her sing - which wasn't a Pink song.  But it was what happened afterwards that was interesting.  Her audition wasn't successful, and to cut a long story short she kicked off - big time.  The judges told her she shouldn't have come out and sang a Pink song and she should try and find her own identity, which is when this young lady said that they had asked her to sing a Pink song, she hadn't wanted to.  Tulisa (don't get me started...) claimed none of the judges had asked her to sing a Pink song, which they hadn't, but I don't think that's what this girl meant.  She meant the producers, or whoever decides these things, had asked her to sing a Pink song, probably because they knew there was a potential for a kick off and therefore some decent TV.  I've heard rumours of this before, of people being told to sing certain songs even if they don't really want to and whilst it's never been proved, of course, I think the intelligent ones amongst us know that these type of TV programmes need some kind of confrontation or controversy in order to hike up the entertainment value.  God forbid we should just get an hour and a bit of people who can actually sing trying to audition.  That would never do, would it?

Anyway, there actually was a little bit of talent in this first show of the new series - and they left her until the very end.  I can't remember the girl's name (but I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her) but she was only 16 years old and she sang a song she'd written herself - and she sang it beautifully.  It wasn't my cup of tea, to be honest, but there was no denying that this girl has a talent for songwriting, and a voice that can also sing those songs she writes.  But, as I watched her, I couldn't help but feel that this was the wrong show for her.  After all, that was probably the last time she'd ever be allowed to sing any of her own songs because, should she progress further, she'll more than likely be given covers of mindless pap to sing whilst they slowly try to turn her into a pop-music puppet, stripping any of her own identity away piece by piece in the process.  Yes, I'm still a touch cynical about this whole thing, and that's never going to go away.  It just makes me sad that a talented young lady has to turn to programmes like the X Factor in order to get herself noticed because there just aren't really any other avenues to take. 

Okay.  Before I leave this Monday morning moan to go and crack on with this new book of mine (it's coming along, slowly!) let's talk about the judges we saw in this first programme, beginning with Louis Walsh.  Not much to say about him really, he kind of blends into the background.  Just hope he starts speaking his mind like he did last year - I started to find him quite amusing!  Tulisa - like I said before, don't get me started.  Not sure how this incredibly busy businesswoman/pop star/author/TV star manges to fit everything in, but I'd love to know how she's getting on with the first of her 3 upcoming novels because I'm finding it hard enough to write one when I've got bugger all else to do, never mind judge a TV show, perform, shoot videos, party every night.  Then woman must be a multi-tasking superstar! (And I'm being incredibly sarcastic here, just incase you didn't know.)  Nicole Scherzinger - quite like her, and I wish to God I looked like her!  I think she's stunning!  Gary Barlow - really hate saying anything bad about the poor bloke at this point in time, but I still don't like him as a judge.  That's all.  Oh, and the guest judge this week - Mel B, or Scary Spice.  Couldn't bear the woman!  Irritating to the hilt, and didn't really give out any constructive criticism, apart from telling one auditionee that she shouldn't be singing.  Had to agree with her on that score.

So, once more I'm settling down for another few months of poor singing, choices I'm not going to agree with, and a hell of a lot of whinging about the state of the music industry, but, do you know what?  I'm kind of looking forward to it.  Just don't ask me why...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

My Top 5 favourite British comedy shows.

Thought I'd do a bit of a fun post today, seeing as I'm in that kind of mood - and I'd make the most of it.  Can't promise that good mood'll last! ;-)

Anyway, today I thought I'd concentrate on comedy shows - my top 5 favourite comedies, and I'm sticking with just British comedies for now, because if I start on US shows too I'll be here all day!  Might do those in a post all of their own...  

So, today I'm concentrating on those shows I can watch time and time again, those shows that still make me laugh out loud, even though I know exactly what's coming next.  Want to know what they are?  Okay then.  here goes - in no particular order...

1) Phoenix Nights.

I think this one will always be up there on my Top 5 list, because it never, ever fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I watch it.  And I've watched it quite a few times, believe me.  This comedy may not be to everyone's taste, but I'm a huge fan of Peter Kay, I love his style of comedy, and for me, Phoenix Nights is a classic comedy that I will never tire of watching.  If I ever need cheering up then it's one of these I dig out and watch.  Alway, always makes me smile.  Love it! 

2) Only Fools and Horses.

Classic, classic comedyThere's no other way to descibe this, really.  Again, it's another show that always makes me laugh out loud, even at episodes I've seen a hundred times before.  It's stood the test of time, and that's testament to both the writing of the late John Sullivan, and the terrific acting of Nicholas Lyndhurst and David Jason.  Truly brilliant comedy, and for me, the repeats on GOLD are worth the monthly subscription to SKY alone!

3) Benidorm.

Apart from the fact I love Derren Litten's writing, I think I find this one really funny because I can identify with half the bloody characters!  And by that I mean that, on the many package holidays we've taken over the years, we've met quite a few people like the characters in Benidorm!  Although, maybe not quite as exaggerated!  Ah, the memories...

4) Fawlty Towers.

You can't really describe this as anything but a British classic, really.  I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch this when I was little, and I've been a fan of the show ever since.  Again, thanks to that fabulous UK satellite channel, GOLD, we get regular repeats of this every now and again, and every time I watch those repeats, it's still as funny as it was all those years ago.  John Cleese is a legend...

5)  The Inbetweeners.

Bit of a surprise entry on my Top 5 list this one, and, despite it finishing in 2010, I've only just started watching it - finished series 1 last week, watched a couple of episodes of series 2 - but, despite it being very rude, and very, very childish, I find it bloody hilarious!  But don't watch if you're easily offended!  In fact, don't even go near it if that's the case.  Really.  I'm not kidding!!

The 4 lads in this remind me and my hubby of a few of the younger guys on our college course all those years ago, which is probably why we can identify with their behaviour.  But, despite it probably not being aimed at my particular age group (over 40's - Jesus, I feel old just typing that!) and despite the fact the humour can make you wince now and again, it cracks me up, and at the same time makes me incredibly glad I'm not that age again!!  Can't wait to see the movie, either, so I'd better get watching series 2 and 3 then...

So, there we have it.  And, quite honestly, I could have turned that into a Top 10 really easily because I haven't even mentioned the likes of Keeping Up Appearences, The Good Life, or the absolutely brilliant Mrs Brown's Boys.  I could go on for a while, believe me.  So the aforementioned 5 are just a selection of my favourite British comedy shows.  After all, what is life without a little bit of humour?

And, now you know what makes me laugh, what are your favourite comedy shows?  Anyone willing to share...?

Monday, 13 August 2012

London 2012 Closing Ceremony - Did it really celebrate 50 years of great British music? Here's my take on things...

London 2012 is over.  And, I have to admit, for someone who wasn't altogether that bothered about the games in the beginning, I actually felt a little sad last night as the Olympic torch was extinguished.  I ended up really getting into the spirit of things so, yes, I guess Olympic fever finally got me too!  But what a great Olympics it was - I think London did a cracking job of hosting the games, and Team GB did us proud. Well done those athletes!

So, onto last night's closing ceremony.  Did I enjoy it?  When it finally got going, yes, I did, actually.  Once George Michael hit the stage it started to feel like the party had really got started and, I have to say, considering what that bloke's been through lately I thought he looked pretty good!  Didn't sound too bad either, although, I have to admit, I was never too sure who was miming and who wasn't last night, because some of them certainly were, I'm almost positive of that!

Anyway, the closing ceremony was supposed to be a celebration of 50 years of British music (and fashion and culture, I know, but I'm kinda concentrating on the music) and in my opinion that's a pretty difficult thing to pull off when you think of the music and the artists Britain has produced in the past 50 years.  I mean, we're talking everything from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, Adam and the Ants to Cliff Richard, The Sex Pistols to Shirley Bassey.  So I was a bit perturbed to see One Direction pop up last night but what can you do?  This is what British music is right now, whether we like it or not, and I can't really sit here and whinge on about manufactured bands when I'm a Take That fan, but more about them later.

The Kaiser Chiefs
However, there were some great performances at that closing ceremony.  I thought The Kaiser Chiefs tackled 'Pinball Wizard' brilliantly, I love Annie Lennox so really enjoyed 'Little Bird' from her, and Ed Sheerin also pulled off Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' (one of my all-time favourite songs), which I was quite sceptical about him being able to do, to be honest, because I'm such a huge Pink Floyd fan.

Fatboy Slim spun those decks of his and got me dancing in my seat, and even The Spice Girls had me tapping my fingers on the arm of the sofa, although I was quite amused to see Posh Spice - the just-a-touch-too-skinny-in-my-opinion Mrs. Beckham - almost lose her balance on the top of that taxi when she dared to let go of the safetly rail for a second.  Not wise in those heels she was wearing, really.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Muse, considering they're a band I can either take or leave, but they rocked that stadium, despite the fact the whole thing was overrunning massively by that point.  And, of course, you really couldn't celebrate 50 years of British music without a nod to probably one of the greatest rock bands in British history - Queen.  Freddie Mercury was, in my opinion, a legendary front man and I'm not sure we'll ever see anyone like him again, so it was good to see that even a video of him played out on huge screens could get the crowd going as much as if he'd been there in person.  I mean, let's not forget this was the man who probably, single-handedly, breathed new life into Live Aid around tea time when everyone was starting to flag a bit.  And nobody can deny the guitar-playing genius of Brian May.  However, getting Jessie J to sing 'We Will Rock You'?  I question that decision meself, but I'm a bit of a rock purist I suppose.  And she shouldn't be anywhere near a classic rock song like that.  I know Queen have been doing some dates with former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert, and I would have loved to have seen him perform with them and yes, I know he's American, and this was a celebration of British music, but I could have forgiven that just to hear a Queen song sang how it should be sang.  Got nowt against Jessie J in general, she's just not my thing.  Oh, and while we're on the subject of Jessie J, I think it was the appearance of her, Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz that I least enjoyed.  In fact, once Tinie Tempah started - I think it was singing, I'm not altogether sure that's what we're supposed to call it - I could have sat down and cried at what British music has become.  That's just my opinion, of course, and I am middle aged now so I'm probably not really supposed to like all that stuff anyway (and I don't - I hate it!), but once you start messing about with a Bee Gees classic, that's when I really get upset!  The aforementioned threesome did a version of probably my favourite Bee Gees track, 'You Should Be Dancing', which was actually fine, up to a point, I mean, do we have to stick a bloody rap in the middle of everything now?  Is it compulsory?  Is there an unwritten law in the music industry that we're not aware of?  Because, y'know, there are some things that really don't need to be brought up-to-date, and that Bee Gees song was one of them.  Some things really can be left in the 70s and still sound good.  It's where they belong.  So leave them there.

Take That at the London 2012 closing ceremony
Anyway, I'm beginning to sound like a female Victor Meldrew now, so, moving on - and a performance that I didn't really think I'd see, to be quite honest.  And that was the appearance of Take That singing 'Rule The World'I know they'd been rumoured to appear, but what with everything that Gary Barlow's been through over the past week or so I just didn't think they'd be there, but they were, and they sang that song incredibly well, considering.  It brought a tear to my eye, and I have every respect for Gary, I really do.  That must have been hard, but you pulled it off, kid!  You did it!

And with Roger Daltrey and The Who closing the whole thing down, it was goodbye to London 2012.  So, did it really celebrate 50 years of great British music?  Sort of.  We had nods to some of the true greats such as David Bowie, John Lennon, The Beatles and Queen, but we also had a glimpse of how bland music has become over the years with the appearance of One Direction, amongst others - I mean, they churn out good pop music but that's all it is.  And I guess what that closing ceremony really made me think about was, are we ever going to have another Pink Floyd or Queen, or are those days now well and truly gone?  Because, if they are, then I'm quite happy to live very much in a musical past.

But I'd like to thank Kim Gavin and his team for putting on a show that reminded me of just how much music means to me.  A great job was done on that score.

And, on that note, I'm now off to dig out a playlist on my iPod that reflects some of that great music from our past, starting with a little bit of the aforementioned Pink Floyd, I think...

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Hairy Bikers, diets, the rediscovery of my writing mojo, and a little piece of eye candy...

Now, you may have been led to believe - from my last couple of blog posts - that I've been quite a miserable cow over the past few weeks.  And I can't deny that, actually.  I have been pretty down, but, do you know what?  I can't really change the situation all that much just now so, I've pulled myself together, sorted myself out, got a new hair colour, indulged in a little bit of retail therapy (just Primark - not quite reached the earning potential of JK Rowling or EL James yet), and realised that sometimes you've just got to play with the hand you've been dealt, and get on with things.  Probably something to do with that British stiff upper lip, but anyway, that's what I'm doing - I'm getting on with things.

And the good news is that I seem to have found my writing mojo once again, after a good few weeks of not knowing where the hell it had buggered off to!  You see, although I've been cracking on with this new book of mine, I've been struggling.  Really struggling - to find the flow, to get that story just right but, all of a sudden, sitting watching 24 Hours in A&E last night, something just clicked, and it's all systems go now!  I've been scribbling down notes like a person possessed all morning!  But I've kind of made the decision to go all out on the writing between now and December, just so's I can get this book just the way I want it.  Less distractions and more work!  Yes, it's probably going to make me feel even more lonely than I already feel right now, but I guess I'll have my lovely new characters to keep me company... and one of those is extremely hot, so I'm looking forward to interacting with him - a lot! ;-)

Anyway, I've not only made the decision to get me head down and write over these next few months, I've also decided to - finally - make the effort to shed those few pounds that I've really wanted to get rid of for God knows how long now.  So, a more healthy eating regime is on the way (although I was hardly shovelling back the junk food as it was) and more exercise is on the cards, which will give me a good excuse to get away from the desk now and again.  I can't say I'm doing cartwheels at the prospect of jogging and stretching and digging those old resistance bands out of the back of the cupboard, but needs must.  I had a look through me wedding photos the other day and I could've cried at the sight of me on a sunlounger in The Gambia (where I got married, incidently, for those of you who didn't know that) without an ounce of fat and a stomach flatter than Norfolk!  Mind you,  I don't think I ate properly for about a month before that wedding, but those days are certainly gone, I can tell you.  I'll never see size 8 (I think that's a size 4 in the USA) again because, I'm afraid, I like my food too much.  However, I would like to be able to stay around the size 12 mark if at all possible so, it's time to do something about that.  Less chocolate (unless I'm under undue amounts of stress - or it's me birthday, which it is on August 18th so sod it, I'm eating chocolate then!) and lots more fruit and veg, as well as a step up in the old exercise regime.  Yes, Archie better be ready to embark on a few more longer walks because I am determined to get this weight off before Christmas - only so's I can put it all back on again without feeling guilty, really, but nevertheless, I know I'll feel better about myself if I do this, and that can't be a bad thing, can it?  But I'm under no illusion that it's going to be easy.  I'm over 40, for heaven's sake.  My metabolism's been on a go-slow for over a decade now, so I'd better be ready for the long haul.

The Hairy Bikers - Simon King (left) and Dave Myers
But, on the positive side, my favourite TV cooks, (bar Raymond Blanc - I wish he was my dad!) The Hairy Bikers, are also on a mission to lose weight and today being Thursday, it means that tonight on BBC 2 we have another installment of The Hairy Dieters, which is charting their attempts to drop a hell of a lot more pounds than I need to lose, but I think they're showing us how to do a low fat low calorie Engligh Breakfast tonight so I'll be there on the sofa at 8pm with a sliced-up Cox's Pippin, making notes.  I love The Hairy Bikers.  I've got a bit of a crush on Simon King (the Geordie one) and I'm secretly hoping he doesn't fade away to nothing because I quite like the fact he's like a huge cuddly teddy bear.  I have no idea what it is that makes him quite attractive to me because he is no Bradley Cooper, believe me, but I think it's just the fact he's a good old-fashioned Geordie Boy from north of the Tyne, and I do like my northern men!  I also like a jam doughnut, but something's gotta give, so, can I manage to mix losing weight with finishing this Christmas novel?  Will I be able to concentrate on my writing on a diet of more fruit and less carbohydrates?  Will The Hairy Bikers give me some fresh inspiration to create some home cooked, interesting and tasty low fat low calorie food?  Well, I've heard a rumour they've come up with a way to make pies healthy so, being the northern lass that I am, I'm waiting with bated breath (and pen poised near paper) to see how they've managed that...

Oh, and before I go, I'd just like to say a big thank you to Channel 5 for taking the extremely sensible decision to finally show US series Person of Interest here in the UK.  I've actually had a sneaky peek at some episodes and it's a great show! I really hoped a UK channel would take it up, so I'm very happy that Channel 5 are now putting it on our UK TV screens.  But, with season 2 about to start in the US in September, I'm just hoping it proves popular enough for Britain to continue showing it.  So, give it a go!  It starts on Tuesday 14th August at 10pm.

Jim Caviezel as John Reese in CBS show 'Person of Interest'

Oh, and Jim Caviezel... yum!  After all, a bit of eye candy never hurts, does it? ;-) 


Thursday, 2 August 2012

The worst week ever? It's certainly been a contender...

This has not been the best week.  In fact, the past few weeks haven't been all that good, if I'm being completely honest.  But this week in particular I think I hit rock bottom, and it had nothing to do with the fact that watching Womens' Olympic Beach Volleyball has made me realise just how much I really do need to drop a few pounds.  Seriously, though. this has been a week when my confidence hit an all time low, when that thing call self-doubt came out to play with a vengeance; when I actually thought about giving it all up.  Seriously.  Because, this week, I just didn't think I was good enough.

Just feeling sorry for myself again?  Well, there's probably an element of that, yes.  But I'm not one of those lucky people who has that close group of friends I can call on to moan at or talk to.  Who wants to sit and listen to a whinging author going on about the things whinging authors go on about anyway?  People have got their own probems, they certainly don't need mine.  So, that means that I then usually end up bottling things up, letting them escalate into something far more important than they actually deserve to be.  And that really doesn't help, believe me.

I guess things have been building for a while now.  After four years of practically non-stop writing, four years of thinking about nothing else but making sure I follow my dream to the best of my ability; four years of writing books, contacting agents and publishers, receiving knock back after knock back before jumping on the old indie author band wagon - all of that without any real break away from it, well, I was bound to hit a wall at some point, wasn't I?  And I hit it this week.  Big time.  I've never felt quite so low as I've felt this week, and with nobody there to turn to it's made me realise just how lonely an occupation writing can be.  What I wouldn't have given for somebody to knock on my door, force me to leave my desk and come out for a coffee but instead, nobody was around to do that so I just continued on, pushing myself to the point where the pressure I'd put on myself just became too much.  I wanted to be as good a writer as all those other writers out there that I know.  I wanted to be as good as them, but I just didn't feel it.  My new book was going nowhere fast, I've now developed a real phobia of checking my reviews - I haven't checked them for weeks, and I won't be doing so again until I actually have to go to my books' Amazon pages, for whatever reason - just incase someone's left a bad one that will hammer my confidence even further into the ground.  I just don't need that.

It's been a lonely week.  I know Twitter and Facebook are out there, and part of their purpose is supposed to be to make those of us stuck on our own all day feel less lonely, but I just didn't have the motivation to visit either of them for more than a few seconds.  My heart has been in absolutely nothing this week.  Everything's been an effort, and nothing has been a joy.

But, after hitting what had to be rock bottom yesterday, after that, the only way is up really, isn't it?  So, I've pulled myself together, made decisions that are best for me, and now that new book of mine that just a day ago was halfway to being binned altogether has a title, a cover, and a story that I am so happy to be writing!

I don't know why, suddenly, I've had a week as bad as this where I've just wanted to shut myself off from everybody and be by myself because, in all honesty, I don't want to be by myself.  But there are times when I feel so alone on this wrtiing journey of mine.  And not having that someone there to buck you up and give you that kick up the backside you sometimes need to move forward and get out of that rut you've stuck yourself in, that can be hard.  I don't want to be moaning on to people - I want to be getting on with stuff, moving forward, writing the books I love to write so it's time to stop comparing myself to other writers, time to stop setting myself unrealistic goals and concentrate on the writer I can be.  I'm shy, I'm introverted, and that's probably why I've found it hard over the years to form any real close friendships but what does help me feel less alone is when I'm getting stuck into writing a book that makes me feel good.  And that's what I've started to do right now.  It's took some time to really get started on this new project because I've put so many hurdles in my own way, put so much pressure on myself and I didn't need to do any of that.

So, it's been a bad week.  But I'm hoping to end the week on a far more positive note, with a renewed sense of purpose.  I'm hoping that, from now on, I can get lost in this new project of mine, make it the best I can and finally enjoy writing again by taking the pressure off myself, and just letting those words flow.

Do I overthink things?  Oh, you bet I do!  And it's an awful habit, so I'm trying to kick it.  Like I said before, when you've had a week like I've had, little things become far bigger than they should ever be, but I'm learning how to cope with the things that have made this week one to forget.  I'm learning to put everything into perspective, and to play to the strengths I've got instead of letting the weaknesses take over.

On a positive note though, an eventful walk with Archie this afternoon really made me smile.  We were stopped by a man in a panic asking if we'd seen a little brown and white dog who'd run off after the kids had left the gate open.  We hadn't, but I said we'd keep an eye out for him.  Fifteen minutes later we spotted the dog out on the field at the back of our house, ran round to the house who'd lost the dog, and five minutes later Charlie - as the little runaway was called - was reunited with his family after his short bid for freedom!
Archie and I had done our good deed for the day, and that really did bring a smile to my face.  I'd never have been able to settle not knowing whether Charlie had made it home or not...

Oh, and here's a promise - next week, I'll be doing a couple of much more light-hearted posts, getting back to a bit of humour because you must be sick of me whinging on... I know I am!! ;-)

Right, I'm off to check out how Team GB are doing in the Olympics... rumour has it we've just won something else...