Monday, 29 October 2012

Strictly X Factor Monday - A good weekend?

Well, I can tell you one thing for certain, I am loving Gary Barlow as an 'X Factor' judge this time around!  Couldn't take to him at all in the role last year, but this year he's coming out with stuff that I wholeheartedly agree with.  And telling Tulisa she had fag-ash breath practically made my night, so no, I don't agree with everyone else who said he was extremely rude.  Sorry.  

Okay, onto the acts themselves that did their very best (most of them, anyway) to entertain us last Saturday evening.  Here's what I thought...

Kye Sones 

Did I like his rendition of Robbie Williams' 'let Me Entertain You'?  Well, I didn't hate it, let's put it that way.  But I really like Kye, and I was glad to see him escape the sing-off last night.  I'm not ready to see him go yet, and it was good to see him moving about a bit more and really looking as though he was enjoying himself.  It's just that, sometimes, for me, the tone of his voice can get a tad annoying to listen to.  Still one of my favourites though.

Ella Henderson 

When I realised she was singing Evanescence's 'Bring Me To Life', I wasn't quite sure how that was going to go, because I love that song.  But she did alright.  Not sure what Ms. Scherzinger was banging on about when she said it was in the wrong key - surely that was just Ella making the song her own?  Okay, if I'm being honest, I maybe would have liked to hear Ella really belt out that chorus, but not a bad performance.  And I still like her.  A lot!

Rylan Clark 

I get that he's entertaining, right?  But he's still doing nothing for me.  He did some mash-up of Britney Spears' 'Toxic', Mousse T's 'Horny', and Nicole Scherzinger's 'Poison', but all it did was make me ears hurt...

James Arthur   

I'm liking this guy more and more, I really am.  I loved his performance last week, and I thought he did a cracking version of The Eurythmics 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)'.  As Tulisa said, he brought a classic song right up-to-date, and I also think, at the minute, that he deserves to go farther in this competition.  

Jahmene Douglas

He's fast becoming my favourite by far this guy.  He sang 'Killing Me Softly' just beautifully, and, quite frankly, I could listen to him sing all day...

District 3

Okay.  I loved this lot last week, but not so much now.  I do, however, prefer them over Union J, just because they don't always look as if they've fallen off the back of the boy band conveyor belt, but their mash-up of The Police's 'Every Breath You Take' and NeYo's 'Beautiful Monster' just left me cold.  It wasn't horrendous, it just didn't grab me.  At all.

Christopher Maloney 

Ah yes.  Mr. Cruise-ship entertainer, and let me tell you something, there is nothing wrong with that.  I've been on several cruises and I've seen some cracking entertainment on all of them, so why this bloke thought it wise to jack all that in in a bid to become a pop star is beyond me.  I can't see him ever being a pop star, but his version of The Cutting Crew's 80's classic '(I Just) Dies in Your Arms' was a good effort.  He can sing.  I just don't think 'X Factor' is the right platform for him.

And now onto the two acts who found themselves in the bottom two last night...

Union J 

Okay.  Well, what can I say?  They did alright, if you like that kind of thing.  Their version of Beyonce's 'Sweet Dreams' was nothing spectacular, nothing special, and I still don't get what the judges were raving about so I personally wasn't that surprised to see them in the bottom two in Sunday's results show.  Did they deserve to stay over Jade Ellis?  Going on the sing-off songs, no.  Jade sang them off the stage, but if you're thinking of it in terms of who can be marketed the best, and who's probably going to make the most money, you'd go for the boy band, wouldn't you?  Quite honestly, though, I've been fourteen, I've done the whole boy band thing, and I still stand firm that, back in the 80s, we were a lot more picky over we screamed over.  I mean, at least Duran Duran had talent, and looked good, and made music that was both different and innovative.  These days I reckon you could stick any good-looking pretty-boys up there and teenagers would be screaming like banshees before they'd even opened their gobs!  Just my opinion, like...

Jade Ellis  

I really, really love her voice, but I really, really didn't like her performance of 'Freak Like Me' on Saturday night.  Which was a shame, because I had an inkling it would send her into the bottom two, even though I really didn't want to see her there.  However, she did a beautiful job of Dido's 'White Flag' during the sing-off last night - she gave me goosebumps with that gorgeous voice of hers.  But I just knew that the judges would send her home.  She sang the best by a country mile but it was inevitable that they would keep Union J over her.  I didn't agree with the decision, but this programme has long-ceased to be about who can sing the best, and is fast turning into which act can make people the most money when all of this is over.
I only hope that somebody sees the potential in Jade, and gives her a chance.  I think she deserves it.

And before I move onto 'Strictly Come Dancing', I just want to quickly say a few things about Robbie Williams - shut the hell up about voting for Rylan, will you!?!  It's not big, it's not clever, in fact, it's becoming very irritating.  Pack it in!  Okay.  That's that off me chest.  Now, let's talk about what I thought about Saturday's 'Strictly Come Dancing' Halloween special...

Well, to begin with, can I just say how envious I am of Denise van Outen's legs!  They are amazing!  If I had legs like that I'd be wearing skirts that short every day!  Fabulous!  Loved her routine too, and she's still one of my favourites, as are Lisa Riley and her partner Robin Windsor.  Their Charleston was another fun and frothy display of fantastic entertainment and it's good to see the British public are still backing her.  Every week I look forward to seeing what she comes up with, so long may she stick around.

I also adored Dani Harmer's routine with Vincent Simone to the Scooby Doo theme tune!  Vincent's blond 'Shaggy' wig was a little unsettling though, but a great, fun routine from a couple I'm really beginning to like.

I also thought Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace's Tango was fab!  I wasn't keen on Louis in the beginning, but after last week's 'Dirty Dancing' tribute, and this Tango, I'm warming to him more and more.
And I was so happy to see cricketer Michael Vaughan pull a brilliant Quickstep out of the bag after a couple of weeks of lacklustre latin routines.  I like him, so it's good to see him still around to dance another day.

Those still leaving me a little cold are Fern Britton, Westlife's Nicky Byrne, and Victoria Pendleton.  Don't know why, but they're not setting my own personal dance-floor alight.  There's time to grow on me yet, though.

Felt a bit sorry for poor Sid Owen landing himself in the bottom two because I thought he tried really hard after a week of disrupted training due to his professional partner, Ola Jordan, having to rush back to Poland for family reasons last week.  He wasn't the worst dancer of the night, and neither was Colin Salmon, who also found himself in the bottom two.  But, I have to say, I'm glad Colin got through the dance-off.  Out of the two of them, I'd rather see Colin dance again.  There's something about him that makes me want to watch more, and I have no idea what it is...

Anyway, another amazing show, and kudos to the wardrobe and make-up departments over at 'Strictly...' because they created some fantastic outfits and some really quite creepy make-up effects.  Louis Smith's eyes being just one of them...

So, any other TV grab me over the weekend that's worth commenting on?  Well, I can't go without mentioning Friday night's 'Derren Brown: Apocalypse', can I?  I love watching what this guy comes up with, and ending the world for one young man just so's they can make him re-evaluate his life was something I wasn't going to miss.

And, I have to say, by the end of the first part of this two-part special, I was beginning to feel sorry for the poor lad who thought he really was caught up in a post-apocalyptic, infected, end-of-the-world scenario.  He looked genuinely terrified and confused at times.  Personally, I'd've been throwing a major fit before Derren Brown had even been able to get close enough to put me into that deep sleep he puts people under, but that's why I'd be no good for these experiments.  Can't wait to see part two this coming Friday, though, and see whether this whole elaborate set-up actually achieved its goal.

Right, well, I'm sure everyone's had enough of my ramblings for one day so, I'll get off and think about doing some work.  After all, this new book of mine won't write itself...

Friday, 26 October 2012

My Top 5 Favourite US comedies.

I've decided to do a fun Friday blog post today, to ease myself gently into the weekend.  And what could be more fun than comedy shows?

I've already done a post where I looked at my Top 5 favourite British comedies, but because there are so many great shows that have come from the US too, I thought it only right that I do a post dedicated to some of my favourite comedy shows from across the pond.

So, here we go.  In no order at all, here are 5 of my favourite American comedy shows...

1) Frasier

Now, although I loved 'Cheers', that isn't going to appear on my Top 5 list, whereas this spin-off is.  Why?  Well, probably because repeats of 'Frasier' are on constantly over here in the UK, either in the mornings over on Channel 4 or throughout most days if you have the Comedy Central channel.  And I never get tired of watching them.  Even though I know the episodes inside out and could probably act in half of them without a script, I still find them funny.  And this was a show that did farce brilliantly!  It also had some fabulous guest stars during its 11 year run - Michael Keaton, Derek Jacobi, and a particularly entertaining episode involving Patrick Stewart stand out the most for me.  If I had one gripe, it's that I did start to find the character of Daphne a little irritating during the last couple of seasons, and that Manchester accent never did sit right with me.  But I can forgive that, because this was just a comedy that I loved.

2)  King of Queens

I didn't actually discover this show until a couple of years ago, when we were flicking through the satellite channels and came across it on Comedy Central.  We watched a couple of episodes, and were hooked!  What really makes this show though is the character of Arthur - Jerry Stiller does a fantastic job, and some of the things he comes out with are not only bizarre, but hilarious!  Again, it's on an almost constant loop of repeats over here in the UK on Comedy Central but, just like 'Frasier', I can watch episodes over and over again, and still find them funny. 

3)  Will and Grace

I could watch this show for Sean Hayes' character of Jack alone.  The episode where Matt Damon guest stars as a totally straight man who joins New York's Gay Men's Chorus purely because he likes the idea of the group's all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe is one of my favourites.  Watching Jack try to "in" Damon's character is just so funny!  And which fan of this show didn't love "Just Jack"?  Definitely one of my favourite US comedies.

4)  Happy Days

Okay.  We're going way back to my childhood now with the fabulous 'Happy Days'!  This brings back so many memories of the 70s for me, when I had a crush on The Fonz (I had an 'I Love The Fonz' badge, I remember it well!) and all me and my sister wanted to do was go to Arnold's for a burger and fries.  I haven't watched an episode of this in decades, but I remember how much I loved it as a kid.  'Happy Days' indeed...

5)  Laverne and Shirley

I think this was actually a spin-off from 'Happy Days', if I remember rightly, and it's another one of those comedies that just brings back lots of happy memories from my childhood.  Particularly loved the character of Squiggy, although I think it was probably more to do with his voice than anything else - it always made me laugh, but I was just a kid when this was on TV, remember.  And who can forget the opening sequence to this show?  Probably one of the most memorable opening sequences ever for me.  So much so that when 'Wayne's World' did a skit of this I can still remember most of the adults in the cinema laughing out loud! 

So, there you go.  Just some of my favourite US comedy shows, none of which are currently running - I've just realised that!  Anyway, as I said before, there've been some great shows to come out of America over the years, and I could have done a much longer list in reality, so it seems only fair to mention a few shows that also deserve to be up there in my list of favourites...

The Cosby Show

The Golden Girls 

Married with Children

And, of course, Cheers! 
All great shows, and all worthy of a mention.  So, have you got any favourites of your own?  Please feel free to share. I'd love to know which comedy shows from the USA you'd put in your own Top 5.

And I just know for a fact that, as soon as I've posted this, I'm going to remember at least half-a-dozen more shows I could have mentioned...  I mean, there was 'Taxi', 'Mork and Mindy'... see, I told you...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

I've been nominated for a Reader Appreciation Award!

Me and my little blog of mine have been nominated by the fabulous Gemma Wilford over at Missuswolf's StoryLand (one of my favourite blogs!)  for a Reader Appreciation Award! So, thank you, Gemma!
What book have you read that affected you the most?

Ooh, a hard one this.  I've not really read anything that affected me in any profound way, but reading James Herbert's 'The Dark' when I was only about thirteen terrified the hell out of me and made sure I didn't sleep for about three nights because I was so scared - of the dark!  

What do you do  to relax?

I like to read, anything from a good James Herbert (yes, him again!) to a fabulous Jackie Collins slice of escapism.  That really helps me to relax.  I also like listening to music - especially the fantastic Joe Bonamassa - cooking, and watching TV.  If there's a decent drama on I love to get lost in that, but equally a good dose of 'Emmerdale' also helps!

Joe Bonamassa - music to relax to...
Do you listen to music whilst reading/writing – if so – what type of music?

Do you know, it all depends on the book I'm writing as to what kind of music I listen to.  For example, when I was writing my edgy rock-star romance See You At The Show, I listened to a lot of rock music - obviously!  Yet, when I was writing my cruise-themed romcom Bon Voyage I tended to listen to more dance/pop music - stuff that made me feel as though I was on holiday.

However, if I just need some background music to take away the silence - because I can't write in complete silence - then it's got to be the blues/rock legend that is Joe Bonamassa, every time.

Which person has inspired you the most in life and why?

This is quite a hard one, but I think I'd have to say my late Uncle George.  He was just such a lovely, lovely man.  He always made you believe in yourself, always made you believe that you could do anything, that you should just go for it and give it a try.  Which is exactly what I'm doing. 

What is your favourite season of the year?

Autumn, definitely.  I love all the colours of the leaves, all the reds and oranges and browns.  I just love the feel of this season.  And the darker nights have never bothered me because I love closing the curtains, lighting candles, and snuggling up on the sofa with the dog feeling all cosy and warm.

If you could spend a day in the life of someone else, who would it be and why?

Jackie Collins, definitely!  I would love to be her for just one day, living the life of a glamorous writer, being a part of her celebrity-filled world.  I just think it would be fun, not to mention an amazing source of inspiration!

What is your favourite holiday destination and why?

The beautiful island of Tenerife.
Tenerife. Why?  Because my husband and I had some fabulous holidays over there before we decided to up sticks and move to the island for a couple of years.  So it'll always be like a second home to me.  I've got some amazing memories of that wonderful island, from the best Chinese restaurant we've ever eaten in to the lovely walks we used to take from our home in Torviscas right the way along to Playa de Las Americas and beyond on those beautiful, relaxing Sundays we used to have. 

If a film was made of your life, what would it be called and why?

Blimey.  Some tough questions here...  I think it would probably be called 'The Not-So-Secret-Diary of a 40-something Geordie girl'.  Why?  I have absolutely no idea!  I just like the title, and I like the idea of a film being told in a kind-of diary-style format.  I can see it now, actually... ;)

I love thinking of names for character’s in my books. What are your favourite male and female names and why?

I think my favourite male and female character names are actually the ones I'm using for my current work in progress - Ryan and Amber.  Those names just came to me instantly when I was creating those characters, and for some reason they fitted them perfectly.  I needed a kind-of ordinary name for my footballer, because he's a North-East lad from a working-class background and I doubt he'd realistically have any kind of outlandish name, so Ryan suits him just fine.  For the main female protagonist, well, I wanted her to have a name that was slightly more unusual, but not too "out there", so Amber seemed perfect.  I just love those names because they suit the characters so well.

And finally …are you a coffee or tea drinker?

Tea, definitely!  And preferably with a biscuit to dunk in it...

Okay.  That's my ten questions answered, but what about the questions I'm going to ask the blogs I've nominated?  Well, here they are...

What is your favourite book/books of all time?

What time of day do you prefer to write?  Do you have a routine?

Who or what inspired you to pick up a pen and write?

How do you get the inspiration to create characters for your books?

Random one here - Favourite TV programme.  Have you got one?

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you'd buy?

Your six ideal dinner guests - dead or alive.  Who would they be?

What makes you nervous and why?

Have you ever bought anything from a home shopping channel, and if you have, what was it?

And finally... bath or shower?  Which do you prefer?

And, although I'm actually supposed to nominate 10-15 blogs that are favourites of mine, I have to be honest and say that I could only really come up with about 6/7 that I really enjoy reading - I just haven't had the time to browse any more lately!

So, here are the blogs/people that I nominate for a Reader Appreciation Award.  And it's very much deserved...

Diary of a Mummy Misfit and the fabulous Amanda Egan

Scribbles and the lovely Pauline Barclay

Mandy Baggot over at Romance to love

Nicky Wells at Romance That Rocks Your World


Janice Horton 

And, of course, the fabulous Gemma Wilford over at Missuswolf's StoryLand

Thanks again to Gemma for nominating me.  It's just nice to know that someone out there is reading my ramblings! ;)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Strictly X Factor Monday shocker! I actually liked District 3!

Yes.  Definitely a bit of a shocker that one, considering I wanted them out of the competition a week or so ago when they were in the sing-off alongside Melanie Masson. Anyway, more about the X factor later, because today I'm starting with Strictly Come Dancing, and it's official - I now have some clear favourites!  It always takes a couple of weeks for me to really decide who I love watching, who I like watching, and who I couldn't care less if they went home tomorrow, and this year is no exception.  So, favourites?  Well, to begin with, the couple I am loving watching right now is Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor.  Their jive last Saturday was so much fun!  I adore watching her, because she always looks like she's having such a fantastic time, and that's what Strictly... is all about for me.

I also love Denise van Outen and James Jordan, Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone, and, after their fabulous salsa that just made me want to go and watch 'Dirty Dancing' all over again for about the zillionth time, Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace.  I just loved watching that dance, and they did the lift!  They did that lift!  It was just gorgeous to watch, and Len Goodman was being a right grumpy old git only giving them a 6.  I'd have given it an 8 or a 9, easy!  I also really like watching Michael Vaughan, although, maybe that's just because I so want him to improve, I really do.  He seems like such a nice bloke, and I'm kind of glad he made it through the dance-off on Sunday, although, it's sad to see Jerry Hall go so early.

Anyway,  I really enjoyed Strictly's Hollywood night.  We had glamour (oh, I so want to wear some of those dresses!), some great dances, and a lot of fun.  This programme is my perfect idea of escapism and it still delivers that and more for me.  Is there anyone who leaves me cold, though?  Anyone I'm not all that keen on watching?  Well, I don't dislike anyone, as such, but Westlife's Nicky Byrne doesn't set my world alight, and both Fern Britton and Victoria Pendleton are just okay, as far as I'm concerned.  But as the weeks go on it's going to be sad to see anyone go, because they're all doing such a great job.  Lisa Riley is still my absolute favourite though.  By far!

Okay.  Onto the X Factor.  And can I just begin by saying, at last!  Sunday's results show actually went the way it should have done!  MK1 were, by far, the act that should have been sent home so it was good to see that, even though the judges copped out and went to deadlock yet again, the public saw sense and sent the duo home.  Kye was by no means the best performer over the weekend, but he certainly wasn't the worst and it wasn't his time to go home yet.  I'm also starting to feel a bit sorry for poor Gary Barlow.  Cut him some slack and leave his acts alone for a week or so, although, having said that, I'm really not taking to Christopher Maloney at all.  He's a cruise ship singer, not a pop star.  And that comes across on TV.  That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway, I have favourites in Strictly Come Dancing, so, have I got them in X Factor too?  Too right I have!  A couple of weeks into the live shows and Ella Henderson is still my top act.  She hasn't set a foot wrong in my opinion, and her rendition of 'You Got The Love' on Saturday's club classics-themed show was flawless.  Even though I think she was leaning more towards the Florence and the Machine version rather than the real club classics track from The Source featuring Candi Staton, which is one of my absolute favourite dance tracks of all time, ever! Oh, and Gary was talking twaddle when he said the dancing she did distracted from her voice.  It didn't.  Not for me, anyway.  I loved her performance.

Another real favourite of mine is Jahmene Douglas.  Every week I'm liking him more and more, and I don't know whether it's because he comes across as such an unassuming and quiet young man, and then stands up on that stage and belts out soul songs like he's been doing it all his life, all I know is that I love listening to him.  Those two acts stand out the most for me.  They're the two I look forward to seeing each week, and they're probably the two acts that are keeping me watching.

I'm also still really liking James Arthur.  His rendition of LMFAO's 'I'm Sexy and I Know It' was, to say the least, clever.  So clever, in fact, that it took me a good minute or so to actually realise which song he was covering!  He's different, that's why I like him.  So I hope he hangs around for a bit longer.

The worst of the weekend?  Well, I'm obviously going to say Rylan Clark because I still don't think he should be there, but he is, and I now accept that he probably will be for a while yet.  Especially as Robbie Williams has made it clear that he's a big fan of Rylan's, and Robbie's a guest on the X Factor next week.  Personally, if I were Gary Barlow, I'd tell him he's never coming back to Take That ever again.  Ever.  Get him told, Gary, go on.  Rylan may be fun (although, not in my eyes), but I'm just not getting him.  And as for Charlie from MK1 saying that the X Factor is more about fun than the voice, well, that kind of says everything about the show, doesn't it?

Anyway, the big shocker of the weekend for me was the fact that I absolutely loved District 3's performance last Saturday night.  In the battle of the boy bands they stood head and shoulders above Union J, whose performance was just conveyor-belt boy band as far as I was concerned.  Bland.  But District 3 nailed it.  They had me bouncing around on my sofa (I was actually desperate for the loo at the time but once they'd started singing I wanted to hang around and watch, and I'm glad I did!), and, as much as I hate to say it, I really, really liked them!  They came out fighting after being in the sing-off a couple of Sunday's ago, and they deserved to stick around for another week after a great performance of 'Begging'.

On the whole, though, club classics was another hit and miss X Factor night for me.  I'm getting bored to tears with Lucy Spraggan standing there doing the same thing week in week out, and I'm not saying she hasn't got talent, I just don't think she's right for the X Factor.  I also think Kye Sones really needs to ramp it up a bit if he wants to stay in the game.  The tone of his voice can sometimes be slightly irritating and that all depends on the song he's given to sing.  They don't always showcase his voice to the best of its ability and, for me, he hasn't yet matched his opening live show performance of Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror'.  Jade Ellis, again, has a good voice, but she's not setting that stage alight yet and I really want her to shine because I love the fact her voice is different.  Come on, Tulisa!  Give her a song she can really get her teeth into.  Or are you too busy working on those novels you're writing?  Oh, don't get me started...

So, a couple of weeks into both the Strictly... and X Factor live shows and, as usual, I'm loving one and tolerating the other but, having said that, my Saturday nights probably wouldn't be the same without either of them.  And, now that I've finally started to take the X Factor for what it is, I am actually starting to enjoy it.  Just a little bit...

Friday, 19 October 2012

'Hebburn' - Hit or Miss? My view on this brand new northern comedy.

No, I'm not talking about the Tyneside town, I'm talking about the new sitcom Hebburn, which started last night on BBC2.  And, as far as I was concerned, I liked it.  A lot.  But then, I'm not from Hebburn, although I was born and brought up not all that far away. 

I always look forward to North-East-based programmes, be they dramas like the underrated 55 Degrees North, or comedies like the ever-brilliant Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.  So when I heard about 'Hebburn' I was quite interested to see how it was going to play out, seeing as it was written by a Hebburn local, comedian Jason Cook.  Was it going to be full of stereotypical northern gags about Greggs pasties and spray tans?  Well, sort of.  But, come on, it had to happen really, didn't it?  The title itself lets you know this certainly isn't a cosy middle-class comedy, although I do think the word "cosy" can certainly apply to 'Hebburn' - right from the off I thought it had a nice feel about it, and it's a comedy about families, after all.  A close-knit northern family who, okay, may display the odd stereotype with the Nana who can't stop talking about "seepage" and the sister who comes across as a bit of a tart with a heart.  But the running joke about yoghurt was quite funny. Or maybe that's just my sense of humour...

The cast of 'Hebburn' (Picture: BBC)

Anyway, this Tyneside-based comedy has a lot of promise, in my opinion.  And a lot of the reviews I've read this morning are saying the same thing.  It's the kind of comedy I like to watch, you see.  Because I can identify with the characters?  Maybe.  I'm working-class and I'm proud of that, and I'm never going to pretend otherwise.  Do I think it's done the town of Hebburn any good?  Not sure.  I mean, maybe the character of Jack's assumption that "Hebburn is where dreams come to die" is slightly exaggerated, but what does it matter anyway?  Hebburn was never on the tourist map to begin with and we're not talking about an episode of 'Wish You Were Here'.  It's a comedy, about people from a small northern town, written by someone who grew up there.  And isn't all entertainment exaggerated in some way?  I mean, when Jack saw his mate Big Keith and asked him why he was walking round in his vest and Big Keith replied "Me shirt's in the wash", he doesn't, as Jack pointed out, say his "best shirt" - he says "me shirt", implying he only has the one.  And I'm sure that, as most sensible people will know, the vast majority of people in Hebburn own a lot more than one shirt.  I hope.

I've just read that a local Hebburn Councillor is far from happy about the way the town was portrayed in the show, and that the people he watched it with last night - also locals - only gave it an average of four out of ten, and I'm really sorry to hear that.  Because, remember, it is a TV show.  As I mentioned before, characters and situations are always exaggerated in these circumstances, and a lot of it is done with tongue very firmly in cheek.  If people outside of the North-East want to believe that we all live that way, then let them.  If their views and opinions of the North-East-of-England are that narrow-minded that they let themselves be swayed by a TV comedy then that's their problem.  As I said before, I'm not from Hebburn myself, but I am a Geordie, and I wasn't in the least bit offended by anything I saw in the show, nor did I feel let down by it in any way.  I thought it was a mostly warm-hearted and funny look at a local family, written by someone who's proud of who he is and where he comes from.  I don't think Jason Cook in any way set out to put the town of Hebburn down. 

Anyway, back to my review.  With top-class local actress Gina McKee playing Jack's mum and Jim Moir (a.k.a. Vic Reeves - in a decidedly grown-up role, which took a bit of getting used to at first) playing his dad, the cast is strong and they play well off each other.  I particularly liked seeing Gina McKee in a more comedic role than we're usually used to seeing her in, and she played the part brilliantly.  I loved the remark she gave after asking Jack's girlfriend what her parents do - when she replied that they owned a shoe shop in York Gina's character says, "Oh, down south then".  It was those little lines that were thrown in every now and again that I really liked.  Another one that made me smile was when Gina McKee's character threw a pan of bacon in the bin after finding out Jack's girlfriend is Jewish and Jim Moir's character said "That pig's died for nowt now".  Lines like that just worked.  And that had a lot to do with the actors that were delivering them.  Oh, and a mention must go to comedian Chris Ramsey, who plays Jack.  I thought he was great!

I even liked the addition of the somewhat sleazy pub singer down the local social club - another stereotype, maybe (and it did lead a few people on a forum my husband was on at the time to ask whether this was actually a comedy or a fly-on-the-wall documentary about North-East life!) but it worked. For me.  Look, I'm more pastie and peas than dinner parties and dancing, that's just the kind of girl I am, so this was a new comedy that I was instantly attracted to, and I wasn't disappointed.  You can keep your 'Miranda' (never found that funny) and 'My Family' (or that) and even that new one on BBC1 on a Friday night... 'Me and Mrs Jones', or something.  You can keep that too.  I'm a fan of comedies like Phoenix Nights and The Royle Family, and I like the fact that we in the North-East may just have a show on our hands that can create the same warmth and humour of northern life that those two comedies did.

I'm extremely proud to be a Geordie, and I always will be.  Even when Jeremy Kyle sometimes throws up the worst this region has to offer.  They're a minority, believe me.  And because I'm extremely proud to be a Geordie, it's led me to make a decision on the new book I'm about to begin writing early in the New Year.  I suppose you could call this a bit of an announcement, really.  If I was important enough to make announcements, that is, but you get me drift.  Anyway, yes, a new book in the New Year... it's going to be the first in a series of books that are going to concentrate on two families from the North-East of England, a saga stretching over many decades as we follow their lives, and the stories surrounding them.  So there you go.  Now you know what I'm going to be doing once I've finished writing my latest book.  I'm going back to my northern roots.  And no, I won't be turning into the next Catherine Cookson.  Far from it! 

Anyway, back to 'Hebburn'.  To sum it all up, I enjoyed it.  It wasn't perfect, but every new show needs time to bed itself in.  But I think it's got a lot of promise, and Jason Cook's writing was excellent.  you can certainly tell he's a northern boy!  No, this is right up my street, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series now - all of a sudden my Thursday evenings have just got that little bit brighter!  Some of the gags in 'Hebburn' may, at times, make you smile rather than laugh-out-loud, but it was fair to say I didn't stop smiling for most of the show.  And that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

An afternoon of valuable football-related research...

Yesterday I had the chance to do some up-close-and-personal research for this new book of mine by having a little look around a real-life football club, that club happened to be Sunderland A.F.C., and they couldn't have been more welcoming.  From the second me and my Sunderland-supporting husband walked into the impressive marbled interior of the main entrance people were smiling, chatty and incredibly friendly.  Sometimes you can be made to feel as though people are doing you a huge favour when you ask to do things such as have a look around somewhere - especially if you're some unknown indie author like myself who they don't know from Adam - but we weren't made to feel that way at all.

Sunderland's impressive Stadium of Light
A fantastic guy called Nik McDonald showed us around, and right from the off he asked me if there was anywhere in particular I would like to see and then he quite happily took us there - as the main characters in my book are a footballer, his manager, and a female reporter I was particularly interested in seeing places such as the press areas, dressing rooms, and Players' Lounge, which is where we started things off.  And that was the first surprise, because it was a lot smaller than I'd imagined a Players' Lounge to be! 

Nik was also amazing when it came to giving me little bits of incredibly helpful information that are really going to help me fine-tune this book of mine, because, although I have a rather vivid imagination at the best of times, having even a tiny bit of knowledge of how something really works can be a massive help.  Just being inside the club, peeking inside the dressing rooms, the press lounge, going out pitch-side, it all gave me a much better idea of what a football club actually feels like, which means that I, in turn, can now try and make my fictional football club feel that touch more realistic.  And, I have to say, one of my favourite bits of the afternoon was standing in the tunnel, looking out onto the stadium, as Sunderland's "run out" music - 'Dance of the Knights' - was played.  There's a scene in my book where Ryan Fisher (my fictional football player) is standing in the tunnel, waiting to run out onto the pitch for his first match with his new club, and standing there yesterday afternoon, imagining what it must be like for those players when the stadium is full, imagining the adrenalin kick they must feel... that was a great experience!  And I really think Ian, my husband, was like a kid in a toy shop!  It was the first time he's ever set foot inside the Stadium of Light, and he loved it!  We've promised ourselves we have to go back and watch a match there, and soon, because that's another piece of research that I think is essential - I've got to experience a match day if I'm writing about them, haven't I?  And I haven't experienced a match day in decades!  We're talking the late 1980s, actually, so I probably had terrible hair and even worse fashion sense, but I can guarantee one thing - I'd have been as clueless then about the offside rule as I still am today...

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was a great opportunity for me to see inside a real football club, and I just want to say a huge thank you to Nik for taking the time to show me around.  His help has been invaluable, and I'm so grateful.  Sunderland has the feel of a really warm and friendly club, and that visit yesterday has spurred me on to try and make this book of mine even better.  I'm loving creating my own fictional football club, and the characters that go with that, but just getting a tiny insight into things such as how the timings of a match day work, ie: when the players arrive, that kind of thing, that was stuff I had no idea about before.  So, I can now sit down, go back through what I've written so far, and fine tune it all before getting on with the rest of the story.  A story I'm now even more excited to write.  It might sound strange, but getting out and about yesterday, it's spurred me on, made me even more excited about this new novel.

I do have to stress, however, that although I've done some research at Sunderland A.F.C., in my new book the club, characters, and everything associated with that club and its players are fictional.  Nothing in my book is in any way based upon anything or anyone real.  Even the character of Ryan Fisher - my "bad boy" of football, isn't based on any real-life footballer out there right now.  He's purely borne out of my imagination - and I love him!  I only hope some of you will too, but we'll have to wait until early (ish!) 2013 to find out.

In the meantime, I'm now armed with a new flush of inspiration and that's all thanks to the wonderful Nik over there at Sunderland A.F.C. for allowing me to have that little visit yesterday.  It certainly did the job, and now all I've got to do is get my head down, get writing, and get this book finished!  Which would be a lot easier if I hadn't already started faffing about with the title...

Monday, 15 October 2012

Strictly X Factor Monday - which one's winning for me?

Easy answer there - Strictly Come Dancing, by miles!  I absolutely adore watching that show, whereas I always approach X Factor with varying amounts of trepidation.

Anyway, we'll begin with X Factor.  And my patience is wearing very thin with this show, I have to admit.  As my husband keeps telling me, I should stop treating it as a talent show, because it isn't that, and I should start seeing it as the entertainment show it is, but I'm finding that very hard to do.

So, did I agree with the result of last night's results show?  No.  Of course I didn't!  Melanie Masson was, by a long way, the better singer between herself and District 3 during that sing-off, but I knew it was obvious that District 3 were going to be saved, whether it be by the judges or the public vote - which is what it eventually went to, in the end.  Even if the world needs another boy band like I need a tray full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts!  So, disappointed is how I felt last night, rather than the anger I felt after last week's pathetic attempt at a vote off.  It's just sad to see yet another contestant who can actually sing having to go home.

I thought last Saturday's show was a bit hit and miss, to be honest.  There were some really good performances from the likes of Jahmene Douglas, Ella Henderson, James Arthur and Jade Ellis.  I thought James did a particularly cracking version of Mary J. Blige's 'No More Drama', and I'm liking Jahmene more and more each week.  Ella's still my favourite though, by far.  I mean, anyone who can even attempt that Minnie Riperton song ('Loving You') and hit that note like she did, well, enough said, really.  And Jade's voice is just gorgeous.  Still not totally getting Lucy Spraggan, but I can see why the public like her.  It's just not my cup of tea, that's all, although there's something in her voice that I do like, I just can't put my finger on what, exactly.  I was also a little disappointed with Kye Sones too.  I loved him on the first live show, when he did a great performance of Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror', but this week I really wasn't feeling it.  I thought his voice suffered, and it didn't really suit that Rihanna song ('Love the way You Lie').  I'm hoping he can come back this coming Saturday and win me round again.  Another contestant I'm just not "feeling" is Christopher Maloney.  I'm still trying to work out how he won the Wildcard vote, but, as far as I'm concerned, I'm just not sure X Factor is the right show for him.  I'm not saying he can't sing, because he can.  And, if I was sitting in the Entertainment Lounge of a cruise ship sipping a Tequila Sunrise, with him singing in the background, I'd be quite happy.  But up there on the X Factor stage?  Not sure.

I'm also really tired of the boy bands.  Really tired.  Take That really have got a lot to answer for.  Both District 3 and Union J are just - well, they're just there.  They're straight off that boy band conveyor belt.  I mean, in all honesty, I could go out there today, round up 4 or 5 good-looking young lads (hopefully without getting arrested!), call them a boy band and the girls would start screaming over them.  I know, because I've been there.  I was 14 once, believe it or not.  I've done the boy band hysteria thing so I know how it all works.  It's not rocket science.  But it is, unfortunately, these days, bland.  Nothing new.  So they're not exactly setting me alight.  Either of them.  As for MK1... I have nothing to say.  They just don't do it for me, but then "urban" really isn't a genre I like too much.  And Rylan Clark?  Well, I think we just have to accept that he's going to be around for a little while yet.

So, all in all I'm bitterly disappointed that Melanie Masson had to leave the competition, but maybe my hubby is right - treat it like an entertainment show and not a musical talent show, then I might just stress out less!

Okay.  Now onto Strictly Come Dancing.  I love this show so much!  It makes me smile, it makes me happy, and it makes me want to wear those amazing dresses and twirl round that dance floor like a princess!  But, as that's never going to happen, I'm quite happy to watch other people do it.  So, who stood out for me last Saturday?  Well, first and foremost, I thought Denise van Outen and James Jordan's jive was amazing!  Loved it!  I couldn't take my eyes off those two during that dance, but then, I also couldn't take my eyes off Michael Vaughan and Natalie Lowe's jive either, for completely different reasons!  It was hilarious!  Or rather, Michael was hilarious, Natalie was stunning, as usual!  I also loved watching Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor, Dani Harmer and Vincent Simone, and Kimberly Walsh and Pasha Kovalev.  Although, to be honest, there's nobody I dislike watching.  This show is just like a lovely dose of escapism that I can lose myself in every Saturday night.

I was a bit sad to see Johnny Ball be the first contestant to go home though.  However, if we're going to look at it in terms of the dancing, he probably wasn't one of the best.  I just think he genuinely tried really hard, and for a bloke of his age (74) I think he did incredibly well.  I'm 30 years younger than him and even I can't move like that on a dance floor!  Really sorry to see him go, but I guess the competition has really begun now, hasn't it?  It's a Hollywood theme this coming Saturday on the show, so I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with as far as the dances are concerned, and I also can't wait to see what the ladies are wearing!  I so want to wear one of those beautiful dresses...

So, that's my round-up of the weekend's reality TV, and it was a weekend tinged with disappointment as far as exiting contestants on both shows were concerned.  But so begins another week, and now that the Strictly Sunday results show has started too, it now means that there is never a day goes by when there is no Strictly Come Dancing-related programme on TV!  Heaven!

Right, I'd better get a shift on.  I'm off to Sunderland AFC's ground, The Stadium of Light, this afternoon for a little bit of book research and I've still got a load of things left to do before I head off there.

Going briefly back to Krispy Kreme doughnuts, though, I'd just like to say how incredibly excited I am to find out there are stores opening in both Sunderland and Durham before the end of this month, meaning that my doughnut fix is now closer to home than ever before!  Can't say that's good news for the waistline...

Friday, 12 October 2012

My new book, sex scenes, and Christmas shopping... It's time for another Friday catch-up!

So, as we reach the end of another week, how's this new book of mine coming along then?  Well, as it stands, I've written 56,056 words and the books is currently 142 pages long.  Are we at the halfway point yet?  We're getting there.  The story keeps developing as I write it, so there've been times when it's gone off in a completely different direction than I'd originally thought it was going to, but that's the way I like it.  Certain characters have developed into a bigger part of the book than I'd originally intended, and others have been cut altogether, but again, that's the way I like it.  When the characters take over and drive the story forward, that's when I know everything is going okay.

It has, however, been a slow week as far as actual writing is concerned.  Or should I say, another slow week.  Not a wasted week though.  Just because I haven't managed to write a shed-load of words, it doesn't mean to say that I haven't been working on the book in other ways.  I've been researching characters, managed to bag myself a bit of time over at Sunderland's ground, the Stadium of Light, next week for some research inside a real football club, and the cover is taking shape.  I'm planning a cover reveal before Christmas, so, for those of you who are interested, watch this space.

I'm still hoping to have the first draft done by Christmas, with an early (ish) 2013 release for the finished book scheduled.  But we'll see how things go.  I'm not rushing anything, and I don't want this book seeing the light of day until I'm happy with it.  I was going to say completely happy with it, but I'm never completely happy with anything.  I could edit and re-edit until the cows come home and I still wouldn't be completely happy.  But you know what I mean.

Am I enjoying writing this new book?  Yeah.  I am.  I haven't enjoyed writing a book so much since I wrote No Matter What, because that's the genre in which I feel most comfortable.  And it's taken me long enough to find that out, so, despite the fact I have dabbled with comedy in my rom coms Too Much Trouble in Paradise and Bon Voyage, it may be a while before I venture into that territory again.  They were fun to write, but I'm just way more comfortable with the more edgy side of romance.  I've got no idea why, I just am.  And, as far as I'm concerned, one of the main rules of writing is write what makes you feel comfortable, not what you think people want to read.  Because you can't possibly work that out.  All I know is, I can't do "sweet" romance.  I can't do it.  It just isn't in me.  Now, maybe that's because I'm quite a cynical person, I don't know, but most of my female characters do seem to have a bit of attitude, which doesn't always make them popular with readers, but that's the way I write them.  That's my style.  I also like to pepper these more edgy romances with the odd sex scene or three!  Just for the hell of it?  No, not really.  I have struggled with the question of how much is too much though, with regard to sex in books.  I know some people prefer not to know exactly what goes on once characters get to the bedroom (or wherever they happen to be doing the deed).  Some people prefer to have some things left to the imagination, and sometimes I'll do that.  But sometimes I won't.  It does make for quite a confusing time during the editing process though - what to leave in, what to take out, what's necessary and what isn't.  For instance, I cut out quite a few sex scenes in No Matter What because people who'd done an initial read-through for me had said they thought there were too many, only for others to read the finished book and say they would have liked more!  The same thing happened with my rock-star romance See You At The Show - a few people said it would have benefited from more sex.  After all, Mark Cassidy was a drop-dead-gorgeous rock star in that book, and he certainly made the most of it.  Seems he could have made a lot more of it though! ;)

Too much sex in this rock-star romance?  Or not enough...?
But I can't help thinking, how much is too much.  I mean, I'm not talking 'Fifty Shades of Grey' here, and I have no intention of straying into the Erotica genre, but I would like to strike some kind of happy medium.  So, for this new book of mine, I'm just writing what I feel at the time and hopefully, when I go through the editing process, it'll become clear just what needs to stay and what needs to be trimmed down, or cut altogether.  As I said before, the story is driving itself forward, and I'm just tagging along for the ride - so to speak!  I'm sure it'll all work itself out in the end, and I really need to lose this habit of second-guessing things and editing-as-I-go because that's what slowing me down, I'm sure of it.

I'm off to buy a few of these this weekend.
Anyway, it's almost the weekend, and I'm quite glad about that, although I have no idea where this week has gone.  It doesn't seem like five minutes since I was waking up on Monday morning thinking about the week ahead, and now it's over!  I'm planning a little bit of Christmas shopping on Sunday, actually.  I'm desperate to get a head start this year and not leave everything until the last minute, as usual.  Because I'm good at that.  Mind you, it's pretty difficult to forget about Christmas where I live, seeing as the shops have had their gift ideas, boxes of crackers and decorations out on display since the end of September!  We haven't even had Halloween yet and already The Factory Shop in town is trying to flog advent calenders and selection boxes.  Still, at least it keeps reminding us that things have to be done, and if I can get a few presents bought before the real Christmas rush starts, I'll be very pleased with myself!

Right, I'd better sign off and get back to this new book of mine then.  I've given myself a little (and very achievable) target of hitting the halfway point by the end of next week, so I'd better get a shift on...

Have a lovely weekend, whatever you've got planned! :)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Random musings of a distracted writer...

The writing fairy has deserted me.  She's juts upped and buggered off without a word of warning, which I think is extremely rude after spending most of yesterday sitting on my shoulder, steering me towards another good few thousand words.  Today?  Not even 100.  Shocking.  I'm ashamed of myself.  Is there any reason why I should have had such a terrible writing day?  Other than the fact that selfish writing fairy has decided to pop off and visit someone else today?  Well, to be honest, I have got a few things on my mind.  I'm trying desperately to think of new ways to market my existing books whilst I continue to write this new one - and it appears that that isn't quite as easy as I first thought it was going to be.  But at least I've stopped stressing over the 'X Factor' voting debacle.  Yes, that old marketing problem has reared its ugly head again, turning itself into a bigger distraction than I could do with right now, but when sales slow down I can't just sit back and not give them some kind of push.  I'm just a bit crap at marketing, that's all.  Could be a problem that, in the long run!

Another thing that's been on my mind lately is I can't decide whether I've turned a bit lazy or not.  And I don't mean the fact I haven't picked up a Wii remote since March.  I mean as far as social networking is concerned.  When I first started out on this writing journey of mine I was never off Twitter or Facebook.  I even wrote daily blogs at one point, if you remember, for those of you who are regular followers of mine.  But now, well, now I'm very rarely on Facebook or Twitter.  And blog posts are down to a couple a week.  Is that lazy?  I don't know.  I've started to write more, and that's not being lazy, is it?  Because I'd rather write than hang around on social networking sites, because I very rarely have anything interesting to say.  But that's where the problem lies, you see.  Being prevalent on social networking can be an excellent marketing tool.  I know of fellow authors who've not only made lots of new friends via social networking, but also gained a lot of new fans and books sales into the bargain.  But they are extremely hard-working as far as making the most of FB and Twitter is concerned.  They're also a lot more sociable than me.  I'm very much a loner, you see.  Have been for most of my life.  I've never had a huge circle of friends, and I've spent large chunks of my life in my own company, which is OK.  I'm kind of used to it by now.  But that's meant I'm a very shy and very reclusive person, who doesn't find it easy to mix or make friends - even on social networking sites.  So my presence on them is very low.  Is that really going to affect my book sales?  I don't know.  Sometimes I feel, whenever I post a Tweet to plug my books, that I'm preaching to the converted.  I almost feel as if I'm bothering everybody with stuff they already know and if they haven't bought any of my books by now then they're probably not going to.  However, what I could be missing out on is the fact that meeting new people, and making them aware of your work can, in turn, lead to word-of-mouth sales.  I could be losing out there, I don't know.  I have no idea, not really.  I'm just having a bit of a week where I think I need to re-think the whole marketing thing as we hurtle towards the end of 2012.  Nobody - least of all indie authors - can afford to sit back and wait for the sales to just happen.  We're very lucky if that's the case.  But I do know that I am the person I am, and I can't really change that.

Another problem I might have is that I do absolutely nothing book-related in the evenings.  I knock off at 5pm (ish) and spend my evenings chilling out and, for me, I need to do that.  It doesn't mean that I don't want my writing journey to succeed or that I don't take it seriously.  It's just that I spend almost all day every day here, in front of this computer screen, writing, or thinking about writing, or thinking about marketing... You get my drift?  If I don't step away from that at the end of the day it would kill any love I have for this craft.  It really would.  So, again, I ask - is that being lazy?

Everyone has different ways of working, different ways of doing things - I just need to mould my own way of working into something that will be both productive, but also give me the time I need to write. 

So, it's been a bad writing day - have I just been sitting here twiddling me thumbs until I decided to do something semi-constructive and knock out a random blog post?  No, I haven't, actually.  I've fired off a couple of emails that may or may not prove to be useful, but at least I've sent them and only time will tell.  I've also been making notes on my new Work in Progress, tried to calm the dog down during a visit from the window-cleaners, and spent a little bit of time wondering who else from my TV-watching childhood is going to be outed as a pervert.  But I can't help breathing a sigh of relief that I never did write that letter to 'Jim'll Fix It'...

However, what I shouldn't have done was go onto Goodreads and check out some reviews for my books.  I've got some decent star ratings, but also a nice dose of people who just didn't enjoy my work.  Unfortunately, I write a certain way and I can't change that, so, I guess it's just a style that not everyone enjoys.  Such is life.  I know there are authors out there who haven't ever received a review less than 4 stars, and they are so, so lucky.  Very lucky.  They must have cracked that almost impossible problem of finding a style of writing and subject matter that practically everyone enjoys!  Please, give me some tips! ;) Anyway, whereas in the past reading a review where someone slates my books would've sent me reeling into a corner to sulk like a petulant child, they are now like water off a duck's back.  Some of them are even quite useful, surprisingly.  Hey, I'll take advice anywhere I can get it.  I'll never profess to know everything. ;)  Feedback is always good, as long as it's constructive.

Anyway, this post is in serious danger of rambling on for far too long, and I need to find a new radio station to listen to - so far I've tolerated Olly Murs, Jessie J and some other bland dross that I don't even know the name of, but if One Direction end up coming on next I may just crack completely.  I'm off to fire off one more email before close of play today, then it's time to look forward to my weekly dose of backstabbing, betrayal and good looking young men in stetsons.  Yes, it's 'Dallas' night!  You see, it might have been a bad writing day but at least there's light at the end of the tunnel... ;)

Oh, and I've just heard that Gary Barlow hasn't, apparently, spoken to Louis Walsh since last Sunday's voting shambles.  Good for him.  Can't say I blame him.  I'm giving 'X Factor' one more week but if it looks like descending into pantomime territory again then that's it.  Stuff it!  As long as I've got 'Strictly Come Dancing' to entertain me on a Saturday evening I don't need anything else...

OK, before I go, I might as well do some shameless marketing so, just incase anyone out there feels like checking out any of my books, you can find them all here, on and  Just incase... ;)

Right, now, where did I put that chocolate... ?