Friday, 30 May 2014

Did Harry Cunningham Inspire Doctor Who?

I was never big on hospital dramas or what I perceived to be Sunday night telly so I had never watched Silent Witness. I know it’s not a hospital drama as such, it’s a murder mystery show but there’s just so much medical stuff in it and medical stuff makes me a bit queasy.

But I sort of got over that when Greys Anatomy hit our screens, mainly because McDreamy and McSteamy were both worth putting up with the occasional sharp blade slicing into flesh.


Anyway. A couple of years ago my other half and I stumbled into unchartered territory for us: we started a regular weekly thing. We started watching murder mysteries on a Sunday night. We became obsessed with stories that were told in 2 parts that we could watch in the one night.

We started with Prime Suspect and then watched Messiah. But then we decided we were ready for the big leagues: Silent Witness with its 15 series under its belt seemed like a mammoth task to under take but within a year we had caught up to real time.

Over the course of that year I noticed something quite interesting. I’d already formed something of a crush on Dr. Harry Cunningham, naturally, but it was sometime around series 10 when I noticed the spikey forward hair, sideburns and the big dress coat that I thought to myself he looks a bit like David Tennant.


Correction: he looks a lot like David Tennant.


Now at this point in my viewing we were well into the Eleventh Doctor’s reign but obviously, being a nerd, I’d been long term crushing on the Tenth Doctor – although as previously discussed not generally David Tennant because it turns out I have a thing for sideburns.


So suddenly what had started as a minor attraction to Harry Cunningham turned into a full on replacement for Doctor Who. My new poster pin up of choice, fast tracked to the top of my freebie five list.*

So imagine dismay when we started watching series 12 and he looked like this:

I mean come on!

What is that jumper? Gone is the smart coat and the nice shirts, to be replaced by a jumper from a carboot sale that looks like it’s been slept on by cats for the last five years.

Add to that the hair cut that makes him look like he’s about to audition for Oasis. Oh dear lord, no!

Now looking back, I think when they were filming series 12 it was the year after David Tennant hit our screens as the Doctor.

He went from a young policeman:

To Casanova…

To The Doctor…

Sporting a sharp suit and an overcoat that looked not dissimilar to the fashion choice of Doctor Harry Cunningham.

Did the BBC, in their wisdom, decide there could only be one attractive spikey haired, sharply dressed, doctor on TV? And given the high profile of Doctor Who compared to Silent Witness, poor Harry Cumningham was made to look as though, sometime during the break, he’d lost his home and all his belongings in a fire and was reliant on handouts from the charity shop?

Thankfully, it only lasted for one series. Perhaps there was a public outcry, or someone had a quiet word with hair and make up and insisted they restore Dr Cunningham to his former glory.

They returned his smart suit and improved his hair to this:


And by the end of Series 15 when Tom Ward quit the show, he was back to normal – making his exit all the more distressing.


It’s taken me a long time to admit this, because it goes without saying that The Doctor, in several of his guises, hits my list of celebrity crushes. The Doctor, that is, not the actor playing him. But Tom Ward has played a long line of sideburns before and after Harry Cunningham. Last seen playing Colonel Fitzwilliam in Death Comes to Pemberley, he was looking mighty fine.


Yep, that decides it. Tom Ward is officially, my current celebrity crush, poster pin-up guy!

Anyone else see a similarity between Doctor Cunningham and Doctor Who?

* I don’t actually have a freebie five list, but if I did…

Did Harry Cunningham Inspire Doctor Who?

Friday, 23 May 2014

Everything is Awesome... When you're playing Lego games.

Who didn’t play with Lego as a kid? I used to love building things. The suspension of reality that we have as children is wonderful. Running out of red bricks and giving a car one random blue door or building a house with a brown roof and a green chimney pot.

If you haven’t seen the Lego Movie yet, I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a sentiment there about grown ups following the instructions to create perfect lego models while kids just build whatever they want and create fun exciting worlds in which to play.

Lego has never been so popular. I hadn’t given much thought to Lego after I left primary school, until Travellers Tales started making video games, which sparked a whole new love affair with Lego.

Throughout Inspired By Night, Olivia Jones is playing the first Lego Batman game. I have to confess that even though the Lego games have developed considerably over the years, Lego Batman remains my favourite because it was the first one I played and actually really got me into video games in a big way. So it felt right to have her play it in the novel.

I don’t really feel like going out tonight can we just stay in and play Lego? – Steven Teller

I believe authors tend to write about what they know. Certainly I’d be lying if I said there was absolutely no similarities between myself and Olivia Jones. Though I stress that is only in personality and taste and not in action. My disclaimer is that I exhausted all my creativity inventing the more intimate scenes so everything else had to be borrowed from real life.

In our house we have a policy about completing all the Lego games. We’ve been known to come up against a bug/glitch in a game that would prevent us from achieving 100% so we’ve started the game again from the beginning. Oh yes. 100 percenting Lego is a big deal in our house. It always amuses me when people say “you do know these games are aimed at kids?” Because frankly, I don’t believe that for a second. Sure it looks like a kids game but the jokes and references are aimed at grown ups. Lego City Undercover was littered with film and TV references that no child of the 2000s would ever understand, unless they have particularly cool parents that have brought them up to love the classics – and by classics I mean Star Wars, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, oh you know what I mean!

But what really persuades me that Lego games are not really aimed at kids is that my boyfriend always says that nothing turns the air more blue than me playing a Lego game. I get so frustrated by some of the challenges, that I have to invent swear words. Only because the commonly used ones are just not enough to really vocalise my frustration, at a little lego guy trying to jump onto a rope. Or whatever it is that I inevitably fail to do in a short space of time. Oh yes. Time trials and jumping are not a good mix for my sense of calm.

On the flip side, playing Lego games is great for relieving some anger and frustration, mainly because you have to destroy all the objects and scenery that are made from bricks. Controlling a Lego Batman and having him punch and kick Lego trees and flowers and walls and cars and everything else on the screen is surprisingly cathartic.

I destroyed every Lego building I could see and when there was nothing left to break I punched Robin. Part of me liked making my character punch his assistant, it was as close as I was going to get to doing it in real life. – Olivia Jones

Lego games have progressed so much over the years, what we still lovingly refer to as the bat cave – the base camp of the game from where you select the levels or change characters or view your progress – has grown into a whole open world game. Completing the levels in story mode accounts for such a tiny percentage of the game and really it’s the open world side that gets us excited. Lego Batman 2 was a triumph, wandering around Gotham City, flying through the air as Superman, performing acrobatics as Robin and unlocking characters like The Joker.

But still, the original Batman game holds a special place in my heart.

I mentioned recently that we’d started playing Lego The Hobbit. We finished it last week and it was brilliant. I’m hoping for a short break before the next Lego game, otherwise I’ll never get my sequel written. The air did turn blue though, but it also inspired a scene in the next novel, which I’m looking forward to writing.

What games do you enjoy playing? Which is your favourite Lego game?

Everything is Awesome... When you're playing Lego games.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

If I had to choose one food to eat everyday it would be pizza.

Oh, I am such a foody! I love eating. It’s one of the most pleasurable activities that I know of. As soon as I’ve finished eating one meal, I’m planning the next one. I often have meals planned three or four days in advance.

On the flip side, my other half couldn’t care less about food. He views it as a necessity for staying alive. On the one hand this means I can place pretty much anything in front of him and he’ll eat it, but it also means that when I ask him what he fancies eating, he just laughs at me. He eats one meal a day while I like my full three meals a day and three snacks… and if any of those meals can be three courses, then so much the better!

Our food habits are completely incompatible. Despite not really caring about food, he does have a preference for very strong flavours, he covers his food in black pepper and chilli sauce, while I like to think of myself as having a delicate palate, (also occasionally referred to as bland, but I don’t agree with that insult, not at all).  In Nandos, for example, he goes with the hottest flavouring and uses the hot sauce from the scary little black bottle with the evil red X, while I opt for the no flavour option and find the garlic bread a little spicy. But we do have some compromises such as chip shop curry sauce.  He loves smelly mouldy cheese and I like soft brie and mild cheddar, but we both love Feta. He puts fresh chilli on pizza while I favour his much loathed mushrooms… but we both love pepperoni.

Our food differences mean that we eat an awful lot of takeaway, and we tend to prefer going to restaurants that present us with a buffet, so we can eat as much or as little of whatever we want. It’s not that I can’t cook, or that I don’t like cooking, it’s just that most of my adventurous dishes are time consuming and make a lot of mess, and require ingredients like mushrooms, tomatoes  or pretty much any kind of vegetable, that he won’t eat. I have little motivation to spend hours slaving over a cooker to present him with a dish that he’ll eat with the same amount of appreciation as he would tuck into something I took out the freezer and slammed into the oven 20 minutes earlier.

Pizza is like the food of the Gods! – Olivia Jones

If it was up to me, I’d probably just order pizza every night. It has the perfect blend of carbohydrate, protein and vegetables. Okay it might exceed a person’s fat intake, but it tastes so good. When I was at university we had this coupon card for a pizza delivery place that gave us a huge discount on everything we ordered. So we pretty much lived off pizza for 12 months. That’s probably why I still eat so much of it now. Like most human bodies are 60% water, I’m pretty sure that as a result of that year at university, my body weight is at least 30% pizza, so I need to keep topping it up, on at least a weekly basis, to ensure I function. The other 70% of my body weight is almost certainly tea.

Pizzaland – the home of the perfect pizza.

It’s funny how your first memory of something sets it in stone as the ultimate version of that thing. I remember the first time I ate pizza. It was in a Pizzaland in Liverpool with my sister. I remember going to Pizza Hut and complaining about the thick base and garlic bread slices, because they were the complete opposite of the way Pizzaland served them and Pizzaland was the best.

I was so disappointed when it closed down. The closest I’ve found to Pizzaland is probably Pizza Express. Perhaps it’s just the thin base that I like, but I’m not convinced I’ve tasted anything as good as Pizzaland pizza and sadly now, I will never be able to compare it and find out. Pizzaland lives on in my memory as the ultimate pizza. But I’m a big fan of Pizza Express. I love that it feels like a posh restaurant, rather than a big chain fast food place like Pizza Hut or even my beloved Pizzaland did. And the pizzas are beautiful.

American Pizza Slice in Liverpool City Centre and Waterloo, is a pretty good contender for the best pizza though, with a base so thin it almost falls apart under the sheer weight of its toppings. It’s definitely a gourmet pizza that must have a secret ingredient somewhere along the way, because I’ve never tasted anything like it anywhere else. If you live in Liverpool, you’ll know what I mean.

The Waterfront in Streatham (London) also does a really good fresh pizza. I’ve not tasted anything like that either, interesting toppings and they serve cocktails too, so that makes for a pretty awesome night out, there’s also The Duck in Clapham that does a Peking duck pizza which is a thing of beauty.

Okay so this post seems to be descending into an unintended review of pizza takeaways. Like my novel writing, I started with an idea and found myself accidentally on a different path. I like it though, I’m going to keep going and see where it takes me.

If i had to choose one food to eat forever it would be pizza

So, Just-Eat is a pretty big deal in our house. Unfortunately we don’t live in the delivery zone for American Pizza Slice (and our favourite Chinese restaurant doesn’t deliver  but it’s okay, it’s in walking distance). Our favourite delivery takeaway is Sizzlas on County Road. Anyone that regularly goes to the football will know Sizzlas. They’re a mixed bag of pizza, Indian food, kebabs and burgers. They do the best garlic bread and cheese ever made (although that may be because it comes free with orders over £12. There’s something about free food – it just tastes better). We do have a bad habit of over ordering just to hit the £12 total. I once ordered and paid for a GB&C because I was on my own and couldn’t possibly justify ordering £12 worth of food for myself, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the free one. Weird.

Sizzlas solves a lot of our food problems – he can get his Chicken Madras and I can eat my pizza. Annoyingly the garlic bread and cheese is also something we agree on. Which I’m sometimes a little gutted about!

So what’s your favourite takeaway? Any pizza recommendations for me? Share them below.

If I had to choose one food to eat everyday it would be pizza.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Prologue launch day minus three

On Friday I will be posting a prologue to Inspired By Night.

You’ll get a little taster of some of the characters and a sense of the general tone throughout the book.

I hope you like it.

Please make sure you let me know what you think.

Prologue launch day minus three

Monday, 12 May 2014

Could this be your perfect man?

Here’s the first promo quote graphic for the book.
Steven teller Inspired By Night Quote

I love this quote. She sounds like she’s being sarcastic, when she actually means what she says.

I’d certainly take him home, if he wasn’t quite so young! Do you think he sounds like a catch?

Could this be your perfect man?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

While There is Tea There is Hope*

There is a lot of tea drinking throughout Inspired By Night. While many female lead characters will crack open a bottle of Pinot or Merlot, Olivia Jones just sticks the kettle on.

Someone asked me once: “What’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to you?” I replied: “Would you like a cup of tea?

I come from a long line of tea drinkers, I don’t recall trying tea for the first time, it is just something I’ve always done for as long as I can remember. It is, in fact, a principle of mine that I never say no to a cup of tea.

Afternoon tea

However, I hate making tea! At work I was always pretty good at holding out in the office tea round stand off. Hence never saying no to a brew!

Since I started working for myself my own tea intake has reduced, although I’m pretty good at making a brew for my guests and visitors. In fact, it’s the first thing I ask. It’s a great ice breaker when a new client walks through the door. You will never be stuck for something to say to a stranger when there’s the option of offering a cuppa!

“I made him four cups of tea today. If I were any nicer it would be borderline sexual harassment.” – Olivia Jones

A long time ago I lived and worked in London. While travelling home one night I had missed the last train and was stressing about getting home. My companion turned to me and said “you know, whatever happens, however long it takes, at some point we will be at home drinking a nice cup of tea.” I nodded and said “There is no problem that can’t be fixed with a cup of tea.”

Ah tea, the nation’s healer! – Olivia Jones


I just ordered this pendant from Scribbelicious, a fabulous jewellery maker that recycles old books and creates beautiful custom ordered items using quotes from your favourite books.

Tea pendant

*Title quote taken from the play Sweet Lavendar by Arthur Wing Pinero, 1888.

While There is Tea There is Hope*

Monday, 5 May 2014

Jack's back, set up a perimeter.

After a 3 year break series 9 of 24 hits our screens tonight and I, for one, cannot wait.

Last week I drove past a billboard with a huge picture of Jack Bauer in London and I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Advert poster for 24

In anticipation of the new series, last month we started watching 24 from the beginning. We’re currently half way through series 3, David Palmer is still president and Jack Bauer is as badass as ever.

On the radio this weekend I heard a news presenter refer to a perimeter fence and giggled at how exciting that sounded. For months after first watching 24 I was constantly telling people to set up a perimeter or open a socket.

And like everyone who ever watched 24 my default affirmative response is copy that.

When Olivia and Steven attend Friday night drinks after work, at the end of Steven’s first week at Inspired Design, they sneak off to avoid Steven’s ex girlfriend and Olivia takes great pleasure in pretending she’s a secret agent. Naturally all of her comments were entirely inspired by 24.

I cannot wait to see Jack Bauer back on our screens again. I’m taking sweep stakes in how soon he says “dammit!”

We’ve decided to carry on watching the old series before we watch 24: Live Another Day, so by the time we reach it, it should be finished and we can watch it all in once go, rather than waiting week by week.

So if you’re watching it in real time…no spoilers, please!

Jack's back, set up a perimeter.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

"I've got a thing for sideburns."

One of the things the Editor in Chief at Xcite Books commented on, was that she’d never come across a thing for sideburns in anything she’d read before.

Olivia Jones has a thing for sideburns, and I guess she gets that from me.

Although I don’t consciously have a strong feeling either way about sideburns, but it was pointed out to me by my own boyfriend when I realised that, as much as I had a thing for David Tennant, I only liked him as The Doctor.

The tenth Doctor, David Tennant

“I just don’t seem to fancy him in anything else” I declared, “maybe it’s because he seems to play kinda creepy characters in everything else.” Secret Smile as a case in point.

“He just seems to look different, maybe it’s his hair or something.” I continued. In all honesty I felt kinda sad that I couldn’t commit to a poster pin-up.

David Tennant

“Sideburns” my boyfriend said, “he has sideburns in Doctor Who.”

And it was like fireworks went off in my head. That’s it. Something about sideburns changes the shape of his face and that’s where, in my opinion at least, his beauty lies.

I tested the theory further – Colin Firth… In Pride and Prejudice? Hell yes, in Bridget Jones? Hell yes,

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

(And frankly Bridget was totally wrong when she said “you should rethink the length of your sideburns”).

In Fever Pitch? Not so much.
Colin Firth in Fever Pitch

Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton in Series 1 of True Blood

Stephen Moyer – whispering “Sookeh” as the old fashioned southern vampire Bill Compton in series 1 of True Blood? Absolutely!

But in later series, when he’s all clean shaven and business like… Nah it’s Eric Northman all day long. Bill Compton lost his appeal when he pulled out his razor blade.

Bill Compton without sideburns

So. Sideburns then. I got a thing for them apparently. But my fella doesn’t have sideburns and I like him just fine. So I guess there’s more to this attraction thing than facial hair. But still, when you’re looking from afar, sideburns are pretty darn sexy

"I've got a thing for sideburns."

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Inspired by... The Crazy Frog

Who remembers Crazy Frog? How many times in the early 90s did you look at someone and then say “A ding ding ding ding…” before they threw something at you?

I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw it. I don’t remember who emailed it to me, but I remember watching it, sat at my desk in work and roaring laughing. I don’t know how many people I forwarded it on to but I couldn’t get enough of it. I must have watched it at least ten times over before I sent it on.

I was amused when the Axel F song came out, but after that Crazy Frog really did become The Annoying Thing, as it was originally called.

When I was writing Inspired by Night, I wanted Olivia to be already well established in her career. I didn’t want her to be another plain, uninspiring girl, who gets swept off her feet by the rich successful older man. So I made her the older successful one of the relationship, (while still being a young woman with her own set of insecurities). So I gave her career an early boost with the creation of a character that was inspired by Crazy Frog. Olivia’s character is called Jerk Chicken, described as a slack jawed chicken singing “Chick chick chick chick chicken, lay a little egg for me.”

I actually wish I was capable of 3d animation so I could create Jerk Chicken. I secretly hope someone will make one… “inspired by’ inspired by night.’” I own the intellectual proprty to that idea though, right??

What was your most viewed/forwarded email from back then? I was also quite partial to the guy auditioning for Pop Idol, singing Eye of the Tiger, but I always felt really guilty for laughing.

Takes a lot of guts to get up and sing, I kind of hate all those shows now that I know how it works, shame on the pre judges for putting people through if they were either brillaint or so bad they’re funny. To be ridiculed by Simon Cowell and his mates for believing they’ve got any talent is particularly horrible, especially when they’re only stood in front of the celebrity judges after getting through pre-judging – who wouldn’t start believing in themselves if they’ve made it through?

Still, I’m only human, so this still makes me laugh*.

*Please don’t judge me, I’m not a bad person.

Inspired by... The Crazy Frog