Friday, 26 April 2013

Normality has been resumed...

Yes, after weeks of experiencing something very close to what I've now dubbed "Writer's Drought" (writer's block didn't even come close) my mojo has returned from a break I'm quite sure I didn't give it permission to take, and 'Extra Time', the second book in the Striker Trilogy, is now back on a roll! Which I'm actually quite relieved about because I honestly thought I'd lost it for a while there. I wasn't enjoying the fact that I would rather be looking for handbags on than writing, but in hindsight I think it was just my subconscious telling me it was time to take a couple of steps back, think about everything, and let my brain tell me when it was time to get back to it. But I'm grateful that my brain didn't take too long to think about things because I was starting to panic for a bit there.

So, to cut a long story short, there was a blip, I got over it, and now 'Extra Time' is really moving along at quite a fast pace. In fact, I think it's fair to say it's all "kicking-off" in this follow-up to Striker. Although, I think we'll leave the football-related puns until nearer publication time...

Jim Caviezel... just for the hell of it, really...
The thing was, though, when my brain decided to go away and think about things, it didn't just come back with more ideas and ways in which to make 'Extra Time' just that little bit better, it also came back full of ideas for other books! So, to say my head is spinning right now would be an understatement, and not just because I've been ogling staring at a lot of Jim Caviezel photos lately - that's purely for research purposes, you understand. Purely for research... *cough*

Anyway, moving on... so, as far as ideas for future books are concerned, I've got plenty to be getting on with. And I mean, plenty! I've got the Striker Trilogy to finish, then I've got the next installment of the India/Kenny/Charley etc. (No Matter What/Illusions of Love) story to write (although that's actually already been started - I can multi-task...) and then, after that, I think I'll be embarking on another rock-star romance. Not literally - although I wouldn't mind a bit of "research" involving Dave Grohl but we won't go there right now - but I do have an idea for a series of books involving hot rock stars, beautiful women, and lots of... well, you'll just have to wait and see. ;) I guess I'm remembering how much I loved writing See You At The Show, and maybe now it's time to think about returning to the world of rock music, get some new characters out there... I'm also thinking of getting another tattoo... I'll keep you posted.... ;)

Will I be writing another rock-star romance? Hell, yes!!
So there we have it. A little bit of a catch-up as far as my writing's concerned. As for what's been going on away from the desk, well, here's a brief summary - I've had a lovely couple of days in Durham meeting up with a good friend, my new £10 glasses arrived from making me realise that the days of spending a ridiculous amount of money on glasses are now over, I guessed the killer on Broadchurch (brilliant, brilliant TV!), and the back lawn is in desperate need of mowing. Yep, it's pretty much business-as-usual around here now. And for that I'm eternally grateful...

Friday, 19 April 2013

My Contribution to the Contemporary Novelists' Book Fair

Between April 19th - April 22nd it 's The Contemporary Novelists' Book Fair - a chance for authors to showcase their latest novel/work in progress on their very own "blog stall", and a chance for readers to browse those blog stalls, and check out just what these authors have to offer.

And a huge thank you has to go to the wonderful Francine Howarth for organising this event, and giving us authors a chance to showcase our work.

For my contribution, I'm showcasing my latest contemporary romance, Striker...

Book Blurb

Ryan Fisher is young, talented, and very sexy; a professional soccer player with the world at his feet he's returning to his native North East England after more than a decade away in a multi-million-pound transfer deal to Newcastle Red Star, a big-name local club. He's got it all - looks, fame, money; women falling at his feet, and a lifestyle he's in no hurry to give up. But is his return to the north of England as clear-cut as it seems? Or is there something deeper involved...?

Amber Sullivan is a beautiful, feisty TV Sports Editor for a local North East news programme. With an ex-professional footballer for a father she's grown up around the sport, but the one thing she's sworn off is relationships with men who play the game. For a reason. As far as Amber's concerned work comes first, and she's determined that nothing and nobody will get in the way of that. But then Ryan Fisher walks into her life, and a figure from her past returns, turning her safe, steady, well-ordered world upside down...

Jim Allen is a handsome, charismatic, extremely successful American-born football manager. He's been poached from a top London club to join Newcastle Red Star in a bid to give them the success that's eluded them for so long, but is the league title the only thing Jim's out to win? And what are his real motives for coming to the North East? Motives that have nothing to do with football...

Ryan, Amber and Jim all have secrets - secrets that could ruin careers, and alter lives, forever. But, as their lives suddenly become intertwined, how will those secrets affect them? And who will ultimately win the game?

The first in a trilogy of books, 'Striker' is a a sexy, steamy romance set in - but not about - the world of professional football. Concentrating on the lives of those who live and work within the so-called Beautiful Game, it's a story about finding love, keeping secrets, wielding power, and the true cost of fame.

So, get ready for 'Fifty Shades of Football', but remember, The Beautiful Game isn't always so pretty...


            ‘You’re smiling,’ Ryan pointed out. Was he making progress here? Was he actually beginning to melt the ice-queen’s frosty exterior?
            ‘Am I?’ Amber asked, knowing that she was, and not really caring. She was having a great time tonight, even if she had somehow found herself in the middle of some sort of conversation with Ryan Fisher, arrogant bastard and self-styled northern playboy. And now she couldn’t even remember the question he’d asked her not two minutes ago. ‘Sorry, did you just ask me something?’

            ‘Are you here with Ronnie White? I mean, I know you said you’re just friends, but, someone told me you two used to go out once-upon-a-time.’

            ‘Did they now,’ Amber said. It wasn’t a question.

            ‘You never told me that.’

            ‘Because it’s got nothing to do with you.’

‘So, did you? Go out with Ronnie White, I mean. Only, I hear you’ve got a bit of a strict “no footballers” rule going on.’

            ‘You’ve been hearing a lot tonight, haven’t you?’

            ‘Makes a change to hear stuff about other people, rather than me.’

            ‘Must be such a pain in the arse, not being the centre of attention.’

            Ryan shrugged. ‘It’s good to get a night off.’

            She couldn’t help smiling again, despite herself. 

            ‘Anyway, you haven’t answered my question. You and Ronnie White…’

            Amber looked over towards the corner table where Ronnie was talking into his mobile phone, laughing at whatever was being said down the line. ‘This really has got absolutely nothing to do with you and I don’t know why I’m even telling you but, yes. We used to go out. For all of five minutes, really.’

            ‘Nothing mind-blowingly serious then?’

            She looked at him, right into those deep blue eyes. ‘No. Nothing serious.’

            Nobody said anything for a few seconds, and then Ryan took his chance, gently grabbing her arm and steering her out into the quieter corridor that housed the toilets and an entrance that led to the bar’s outdoor terrace area.

            ‘What are you doing?’ Amber asked, taking a few seconds to register just what it was that was happening. That’d teach her to down champagne too quickly. She’d only had two glasses but it was enough to make her reflexes slower and her judgement that little bit clouded.

            ‘Look, when I first met you yesterday I really didn’t like you. I mean, you’re this great-looking woman but your attitude was crap…’

            ‘Excuse me? My attitude was crap? And which charm school did you graduate from? I’ve got to get back to Ronnie…’

            ‘No, hang on, Amber…’ He reached out to grab her arm again, swinging her back round to face him.

            ‘What? What do you want from me?’

            He looked at her, not exactly sure how to answer that. He wanted to sleep with her, yeah. Of course he did. But, despite the fact he was Ryan Fisher – and if he wanted to sleep with someone then it usually happened – this was a whole different ball game. She wasn’t going to just fall at his feet like the girls he usually went for. He was going to have to work hard to get this one anywhere near his bed, and hard work outside of the football pitch wasn’t something Ryan was keen on. Would she be worth the effort? ‘I just want to get to know you,’ he said, his eyes not leaving hers.

            ‘Oh. Really.’ Again, it wasn’t a question.

            ‘Yeah. Really.’

            ‘You do know I’m a good few years older than you, don’t you?’

            Ryan shrugged. ‘So? What’s that got to do with anything?’

            Amber narrowed her eyes as she continued to stare at him. ‘So, you’re telling me you’re bored with all the young and pretty football groupies all vying for your attention and thought you’d try your hand with an older woman instead? Is that it? You’re tired of the wannabe WAGS, huh?’

            ‘I’m not tired of anything, Amber. I’m not bored of anything and I’m not even thinking too hard about any of this. I just like what I see and I want to find out more. Where’s the harm in that?’

            Amber just looked at him for a few more seconds before turning on her red high heels and walking away.

            ‘Amber! Jesus, come on… Shit!’ Ryan leaned back against the wall and ran a hand through his short dark hair, closing his eyes for a second. Under normal circumstances he’d give this up as a bad job and move onto the next one, but two things were different here: one – he’d never had to give anything up as a “bad job” before because nobody had ever walked away from him like she’d just done. And two – he didn’t want to move onto the next one. He wanted Amber Sullivan.

Striker is available to download HERE from Amazon.

And don't forget, you can check out all the other fabulous blog stalls by clicking this link, or the picture link in the top right hand corner of this blog. All the authors taking part are listed at the bottom of the page - just click on their names to take you to their blog stalls! You never know, you might just find something new to read this weekend. :)  

P.S. A HUGE thank you to one of my fabulous readers, and friend, Nikki Hardie, for creating the main character/book image used in this blog post. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

A short break is needed...

I came to a decision last night. As I watched Gok Wan's epic fail on the celebrity edition of Davina McCall's new game show 'Five Minutes to a Fortune' (never mind, Gok, I still think you're fabulous) I realised that what my husband had pointed out a week or so ago was true. And it's not often he's right when it comes to anything concerning my writing, but this time he is, which proves he's obviously far more observant where my writing is concerned than I give him credit for.

I'm having one of those "up and down" months this month. I always knew this was going to be one roller-coaster of a journey but sometimes you're just not prepared for how utterly draining and confidence-denting the lows can be, and I honestly thought I was managing to hide how down I was feeling. But I obviously wasn't, because my husband pointed out the other day that he can see how I've let things affect me over the past few weeks. He's noticed how I've actually deliberately been looking for ways in which to distract myself from writing, from doing anything other than sitting down at my desk, and whilst this now means we have a squeaky-clean bathroom and spotless skirting boards, there's not been much in the way of any creative writing going on. And what he said to me has taken a couple of weeks to sink in - he said I was losing sight of why I started writing in the first place - but he's absolutely right. I have lost sight of why I started writing in the first place. And I know why that is, too.

I've let myself get too bogged down with promotion, sales figures, worrying about not being good enough or not putting myself out there enough. I've worried about whether I'm writing the kind of books people actually want to read and I've let myself become obsessed, almost, with trying to be like other independent authors who seem to be constantly on the go at events and book signings - and here am I just sitting in my little office, writing books, but is that enough? Shouldn't I be out there, too, getting my face known, plugging my books, looking for a publisher? Well, that's easier said than done, in reality. And deep down I know that. 

I can't be like other authors, and it's a bad idea to even try and emulate others anyway. I was quite happy being myself before, and that's what I need to concentrate on. Being myself, knowing my limits, knowing what I'm capable of in terms of promoting my books and myself as an author, and being happy with that. It's pointless setting the bar any higher than it can realistically go, but in trying to do just that I've lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for writing. I've let everything else get in the way, so much so that I lost sight of the reasons why I love doing this - because I do love writing. More than I can ever explain to anyone, really. It's in my blood, it's all I've ever wanted to do, but just because I can't be out and about at book fairs and conferences, just because I'm not featuring on local radio or in the local newspapers (mainly because none of them will give you the time of day unless you're attached to a publisher) does that mean I can't call myself an author? No, of course it doesn't. It's just a hang-up I need to get over.
I've never been someone who can put themselves in the limelight comfortably, but there are times when I regret not doing so when I actually had something to brag about. This time last year my books were selling well - very well. There were even a couple of months when I sold over a thousand books. But I didn't really mention that fact. I didn't shout loud enough when Bon Voyage got to number 53 in the Paid Kindle Top 100, or when No Matter What became a Bestseller in Contemporary Romance. In fact, every one of my books has been a Bestseller in one category or another at one time or another, but I stayed quiet about it because I still find it very hard to shout about myself, or my books, even though I'm proud of every single one of them. Do I regret that? Yes. I regret it. I regret staying quiet about my achievements, letting people know that I'd actually made a success of something. 

This book hit the Kindle Top 100 charts at #53 last May
I regret that more than anything, but at the time I was too nervous of blowing my own trumpet, of annoying people on Facebook or Twitter with too many mentions of myself and my books - my skin wasn't as thick back then as it is now. I've learnt a lot over the past year, but I think I'm letting that regret of keeping myself in the shadows get to me way too much now. What I need to do is forget everything I didn't do, and concentrate on what I can do. And I think I can write a decent story. Things may not be quite as fast and frantic as they were this time last year, and sales may not be anywhere the heady heights of last spring/summer, but I have to stop obsessing about that, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and whether I should be doing something different - thinking like that is actually stopping me from doing what I want to do, the way I want to do it.

A one-time bestseller in contemporary romance and sagas...

I'm never going to be an "out-there" author - it isn't in me, and I don't think it ever was. I've always been a bit of a loner, always spent a lot of time on my own, which is why I love writing so much - so maybe I should make the most of that, celebrate who I am, and just get back to doing what I love to do. And I love to write.

So, in order for me to get right back on track, I'm making some rules for myself this week. And those rules consist of me switching off the internet, keeping away from Facebook/Twitter or any other form of social networking so that I can concentrate fully on getting back to where I need to be. I need to find me, I suppose - I need to find that author inside me again. And for me to be able to do that I need to really force myself to have at least a few days of doing nothing but writing

It might work, it might not. And this isn't a post designed to be full of self-pity, that's not how I want this to come across at all. I want it to serve as the kick up the backside I badly need. Call it cathartic, if you like. Getting it all down in a blog post makes me realise just what it is I need to do. And I know now that in terms of getting the word out about my books, well, I've got an uphill struggle as I compete with some incredibly talented, hard-working indie authors that are currently out there. But I can only do what I know I can do, and it's ridiculous to try and aim higher than I can realistically go. But that doesn't mean to say that I'm not aiming high, of course I want to be the best I can be, and I will continue to work as hard as I possibly can. I just need to concentrate on myself for a few days. I need to concentrate on my writing, because my husband really was right - I had lost sight of my reasons for doing this, and it never was about making money or becoming some kind of celebrity, although those perks would be great, of course they would. I write because I love to create stories that people want to read - simple as that. And I know there are people out there who love what I do, and that means the world to me. That in itself means I've achieved my dream. Anything else is one hell of a bonus. 

And another thing I also want to be able to concentrate on is helping other indie authors like myself - help to give them a little more exposure, because we all need as much of that as we can get. Trying to do it all on your own on a permanent basis is possible, but it really is very, very hard. I've learnt so much on my writing journey so far, and I'm still learning every day, so I'd love to be able to help those that are just starting out with help and advice. But I can't get my head around any of that until I've sorted myself out.

So, I shall be keeping away from social networking for the next few days, at least. It'll be hard, in fact, I don't know how I'm going to manage it, but sometimes I'll use the likes of Facebook as a way to distract myself from writing, and in doing that I know I've spent days just wasting time when I could have been working on my latest book, days I've now lost, and I need to get them back. So, just one week of doing nothing but writing, and I know it won't be easy, but I think it's necessary. I'm extremely lucky in that I can get up every day, do the short commute to my little office in the back bedroom and spend hours doing what I love, so I'm not going to waste those hours by worrying or obsessing about things I can't control, when I have the ability and the time to work on what I can.

Does any of this make sense? I hope so. And I hope other authors out there can understand where I'm coming from, that sometimes we do just need to lock ourselves away and concentrate on that thing we love doing - writing. And I know I may not be the next JK Rowling or Jackie Collins, but I can be the first Michelle Betham. ;-)


Friday, 5 April 2013

'Striker' - a football romance, not a book about football...

When I first started writing my latest novel Striker, there was always that nagging voice at the back of my mind telling me it was a strong possibility that a book set in the world of professional football/soccer was something that may alienate a fair few people. I write women's' fiction, my books are primarily aimed at women, and I'm sure I'm not wrong when I say that, as far as football goes, women do not make up the majority of people who love that sport.

So, for me to write a book about a famous footballer, well, I knew I had my work cut out to try and draw readers in. And yes, it's proving to be just as hard as I thought it would be. I think the fact that the blurb even mentions football means that a lot of people won't even give it a try, because they have no interest in the sport or the people who play it. And that's fair enough. But this book isn't about the sport. And the people who play it, in the world I've created, are slightly more tolerable than some of those that exist in real life.

But a lot of readers may still assume that Striker is going to be all about football, but it isn't. It really isn't.

Striker is, first and foremost, a romance. A steamy, sexy romance that just happens to be set in and around the world of professional football, but it could, in fact, have been set in and around, say, the world of medicine, the world of TV, the world of fashion... I could have set it anywhere, and maybe picking something like the fashion world might have been a better idea; doing that could mean more people would look past the cover because the book would have been set in a world more familiar or more interesting to them. But I picked the world of football because I know enough about the sport, and what goes on behind the scenes, to write a better book. Simple as that.

But I need people to see past the word "football" (or soccer, depending on where you come from). I need people to see past that and realise that this book has very, very little to do with the sport, and everything to do with the relationships between people who just happen to work in or be involved with the sport, and I'm glad to see that a couple of reviews have mentioned that fact. If you're looking for on-the-pitch action then you're going to be extremely disappointed. But, if you're looking for some racy off-pitch action, then there's more than enough within the pages of Striker to keep you happy!

So, have I picked a subject matter that could, potentially, lose me readers purely because it concerns a sport they really have no interest in? Yes. I think it could. And, like I said before, I could have played it safe and turned it into a more familiar romance that set its scenes in more target-audience-friendly territory. But I didn't. A mistake? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe setting the Striker Trilogy in the world of football means that I'm writing these books with a view to minimum exposure, I don't know. I can't really know, so I'm just speculating, assuming

But I do think that the world in which you set a book is extremely important when trying to attract readers. They look at the cover, they, hopefully, read the blurb, and if they're still unsure then they might download the free sample you can obtain from Amazon - the "try before you buy" angle. And I guess I'm relying on that happening with Striker - for people to see beyond the cover, past the mention of football, and to realise that this is most definitely not a book about the sport. Mentions of the game itself are very limited (very limited!), because I concentrate more on the lives of the characters in the story, not the jobs they do.

I've read many a Jilly Cooper book that has been set against worlds I have no interest in - take Polo, for example. I have got zero interest in the sport, or the people who play it, but I loved that book. And it was authors like Jilly Cooper who inspired me to write the kind of books I write. The kind of books I myself love to read.

So, I guess I just have to rely on those people who see past the subject matter, read enough of the free sample to realise that this is not a football book, and hope that those who are looking for something sexy and steamy will give my "Fifty Shades of Football" a chance. 

Remember, Striker is a book set in and around the world of football, it is most definitely not a book about football. And I just wanted to make that clear. To sum it up... well, let's put it this way, it's more Footballers' Wives than Football Focus!

So, after all that, if you're still even mildly interested in checking out a little bit of this book for yourself, you can read the whole of Chapter 1 - which is long enough to give you some kind of idea of what this book is really about -  HERE. And make your own mind up. :)

Striker is available to download HERE from Amazon. Just incase you feel like something sexy and steamy to get you through the weekend... including dressing-room action you really don't get to see on Match of the Day... ;) 

Right, I'm off to do some more work on 'Extra Time', the second book in the Striker Trilogy...  Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Post-Bank Holiday catch-up - Painted hallways, country music and changing moods...

So, the Easter weekend is over, and I hope everyone had a good one. How did I spend the long Bank Holiday? Well, we've been decorating our hallway, and finally got that finished, so that's what we've been doing. And thanks to the weather not exactly being kind to us here in the north east, I didn't really mind being stuck indoors with the smell of paint pervading the air while I tried to keep the dog off the wet skirting boards. It was nice to get some work done on the house.

Our newly-decorated hallway.
I also picked up my new glasses over the weekend and, thanks to age creeping up on me, I now have to have two pairs - one for distance, one for reading. And this is proving a tad frustrating at the minute as I keep forgetting to change them over and end up squinting when I don't need to; I just need to get used to swapping them over when need be. It's not exactly rocket science, but I'm beginning to realise why my hubby opted for varifocals. You live and learn...

But it wasn't all paintbrushes and dust sheets these past few days. I also took a bit of time to sit down and catch up on what I think is one of the best shows on TV right now - Nashville. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for country music, and this show is hitting all the right spots for me - great stories, great characters, and some great music! Loving it! So a very pleasant afternoon was spent yesterday watching a few episodes back-to-back. 

But, despite the decorating and the urge to dig out my cowboy boots again, my writer's brain hasn't exactly been dormant these past few days. In fact, it's been quite the opposite!

Now, I don't know about any other writers out there, but just because you happen to be in the middle of writing one book, it doesn't mean to say that ideas for other books stop coming. And for me, these past few days have seen a flood of ideas rushing forward. So much so that, today, I've had to sit and write down notes, scribble down new character ideas, and make sure none of what's come to me gets forgotten. But it also makes things quite confusing, for me, anyway. Because I'm a firm believer that you can only write if you're feeling the mood, if the inspiration is there - and what if that inspiration isn't for the book you're currently in the middle of writing? Do I push it aside, do a little bit of work on something else, while the mood is there? While these new characters who are trying to rudely push themselves forward are invading my head? Well, I'd be stupid to ignore them, really, wouldn't I? 

There are no hard and fast rules to writing, despite some saying otherwise. I mean, how can there be? Every writer is different, every author has their own methods of working, and mine certainly aren't what you'd call traditional. I don't follow rules, I can't. I listen to my mood, listen to the characters that are trying to shout the loudest, and give them the attention they need. It's the only way I can do things. Trying to write one story while another one is there in the forefront of your mind is nigh on impossible. 

So, at the minute, I'm sitting surrounded by notes, working on the seeds of new ideas, and structuring a couple of surprise books that people may not be expecting. But, fear not, if you're waiting for the next installment of the Striker Trilogy, that is still very much on the front-burner. I've just pushed it aside slightly today in order to get these new ideas down, to get them into some kind of story structure, get some basic character ideas written down and defined. 

I do think that it is possible to work on more than one project at a time. I have days where my mind wants to be with one set of characters, and others when it feels like spending some time with another bunch - it all depends on my mood, what inspiration I've been bombarded with, and who I feel like writing about. That's the way I work, and some may call that unconventional, some may say it's a terrible habit and can't possibly work. I disagree.

Right now I have a whole different bunch of make-believe worlds I can escape into, and I like that feeling. And it doesn't matter which one I happen to be in at the time, for the duration of my visit that story and those characters get my undivided attention, whether it's for one day or a lot longer. 

So, before I ramble on too much, which world will I be spending time in today? Ah, well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Suffice to say, there's no let up yet in story ideas as far as I'm concerned. They just keep on coming, and I'm getting inspiration from places you just wouldn't believe. And for that I'm eternally grateful...