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Monthly March 2016
New Anthology: Sideshow

Sideshow has been a long time coming. It’s been a number of years now since the first idea was posted on Facebook inviting writers to contribute a horror story that was linked in some way to the old fashioned sideshow. And now look – we have a book. It’s a lovely looking thing, full of terror and fear and blood and tears.

Sideshow

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sideshow-How-Dark-Your-Shadow/dp/1523758848/ 

The Sideshow … … found on the boardwalk, set up on a grassy field, a Detroit rave, a darkened alley, or on the plains of a blasted future America, tantalizing, forbidden, electrifying beyond imagination. It is everywhere and every-when. And at some point, everyone gets a ticket. The Sideshow … … a mirror to the blackness inside the human soul. How dark is your shadow?

Authors include:

Rob M. Miller, C.B. Doyle, Jody Neil Ruth, Phil Hickes, Leigh M. Lane, Shawn Pfister, Carole Gill, E.A. Irwin, Tina Swain, S. MacLeod, and me! The illustrator is Melissa Stevens.

One reviewer said:

A good scary anthology! I love the illustrations which give this book a very vintage circus feel. There is a good variety of psychological horror, monsters and gore and supernatural mystery. My favorite stories so far at Punch and Judy, Tattoo and Karma Carnival. It just keeps getting better each story I read. Especially recommended for fans of American Horror Story Freakshow. It has a lot of the same throw back feel but even more horror!

Fiction: A Tangled Web by Lisamarie Lamb

jumping-spider-300444_640

I killed a spider tonight and now I sit alone and stare up at the empty space on the ceiling where it should be. Where it had been for the past three days and nights, disgusting me and fascinating me in equal measures.

And now it’s gone. Quickly. Cheaply. An ignoble death, knocked from its flawless, warm web and crushed beneath the sole of a dirty once white trainer, laces frayed and leather cracked. A weapon used in panic, in defence of my self in the end although I know – I know – that a spider, a tiny little spider sitting alone in its web and waiting with such patience for something to come along so that it could survive, could not hurt me. I know that. But I couldn’t bear it being there. I could not share my space any longer with that monster.

Shocked at myself, skin crawling with revulsion and stomach squally as though to suggest I had done wrong, I hurled the shoe away, my hand contaminated just by holding the thing that had touched the furry body of that spider. And as for that body… I left it there, crumpled, folded in on itself, legs in pieces on the carpet, hardly daring to walk past it for fear of… What? For fear of what? It was dead, very much so, I had seen to that. Yet the idea of being near it still sent shudders through me, my limbs dancing their own funeral jig, backing away from the broken thing that had, moments before, lived.

Just as I had watched it for the past three days and nights, making sure it didn’t move or, worse, disappear completely, building my cowardly courage to the point where I could finally get near enough to kill it, I watched it now. To make sure it was dead. Hoping it was because if it was not then surely even a thing such as a spider must feel pain and I hated that thought more than I hated the thought of leaving it where it was, to give it free reign and to let it, possibly, crawl over me as I slept.

Its body is much smaller now, trampled and beaten, lesser in defeat. And as I watch the empty, broken web wave in a breeze that I cannot feel, I wonder why I waged war on it.

I killed a spider tonight. And now I am alone.

I’m Afraid Of Pandas…

I’m afraid of pandas. Don’t laugh, it’s the truth. Oh, they may look cute and cuddly, they may seem soft and soppy, but they are, in actual fact, cruel and creepy. They are evil.

Who's afraid of pandas?
Who’s afraid of pandas?

I don’t say this lightly. I say this with a heavy heart and a troubled mind. But, you see, the thing is… I have had first hand experience with pandas. With a panda. And it was not pleasant.

I was four years old, and that is long enough ago that I really shouldn’t be able to remember it, but I do. The entire episode is as clear to me now as it was then.

I should probably explain…

One night when I was four, I had a nightmare, as children often do. I’m sure that I had many a nightmare at that age, many before and many since, come to that, but this one was so vivid, even though it made no sense in any way, that it’s never left me.

I awoke – in my dream – to find a giant panda sitting on my bed, watching me. There was nothing unusual about this panda (apart from the fact that it was there in the first place). It wasn’t some demon creature, it didn’t have bulging red eyes or scales or horns, it wasn’t holding a knife or even baring its teeth. But it was terrifying. It didn’t blink. It barely moved. It just watched me, and the part that worried me the most was that I didn’t know how long it had been there before I woke up.

Even at four that unnerved me.

To think that it had been waiting for me, silently, patiently.

I wanted to cry out for my mother, but I was too scared to make a sound. I wasn’t sure it knew I was awake.

So I lay there, paralysed with fear, my heart slapping against my ribs, my eyes mostly closed but just open enough to watch the panda watching me.

We stayed like that, the panda and I, for an eternity.

And then, out of nowhere and for no discernible reason, the panda plucked a cigarette out of the air, lit it with an unseen match, and smoked it, right there, in my bedroom. On my bed. It’s large, furry rump nudging up against my stiff, sweating legs.

I found my voice.

It was meek and weak, trembling and far too soft to attract any attention, but I called out anyway, desperate, needing to do something; “Mummy! Mummy! Help!”

Now the panda looked at me. It turned its head and stared into my eyes, smoke curling from its snout. It was angry. Its eyes narrowed and it hunched backwards. And then it was gone, I could feel its weight lifting from the mattress, and I saw it bolt.

The dream becomes hazy after that. My mother appeared in the doorway and I think I must have woken up by then because she was really there. She remembers it still, remembers me calling out so pitifully, so quietly, and yet waking her anyway. But what she doesn’t remember, and what I can’t explain, is that she passed the panda on its way out.

It ran out of the door as she ran in.

She never saw it, but it saw her. It growled at her.

She took its place on my bed and told me not to worry about it. It was just a dream, after all. Just a panda, and it was just smoking a cigarette. Nothing else.

I believed her then. But in the morning I cried out for her again because in the dawn light I could see something that we had both overlooked the night before.

There was a cigarette burn on my duvet cover.

We still talk about it. Every now and then it comes up in conversation. And neither of us can explain it.

I’ve been trying to exorcise that demon ever since.

I don’t think I’ve quite made it yet.

I'm afraid of pandas
I’m afraid of pandas
The Sinister Left – A Left Hander’s Thoughts

Trapezoid_bone_(left_hand)_01_palmar_view

Recently there was a news story about an Oklahoma teacher who ‘forced’ a 4 year old boy to write with his right hand rather than his left. Investigations are ongoing, but it seems as though the teacher was concerned about associations with left handedness and unlucky or wicked behaviour.

Whilst this may sound strange today, it wasn’t so very long ago that making left handers write with their non-dominant hands was usual in schools. But why was (and, as it now appears, is) being left handed such a problem?

Throughout history, the left side of the body was considered to be a negative influence. In fact, the Latin word ‘sinistra’ meant both ‘left’ and ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’, so the idea was well ingrained in society. Today, ‘sinistra’ has become ‘sinister’, so the wicked connotations remain. This, along with the idea that the word ‘right’ also means ‘correct’ and ‘proper’, reinforces the belief that anything on the left side had to be influenced by evil in some way.

Superstition has us throwing salt over our left shoulder when we spill it. Why? To blind the devil that sits there. A devil on the left shoulder is counterbalanced by an angel on the right, so turning to the left, using the left side of the body, working with the left in anyway is seen as working or using the devil. Bad stuff indeed. Whereas using the right side of the body is seen as working with the angels, which, of course, is seen as a much better option.

There are always studies going on to discover why some people are left handed and others (the majority of society) are right handed, but as yet there is no conclusive evidence for anything. Maybe one day we will understand, or maybe – as I believe is most likely the case – there is no reason. It just is.

I’m a left hander, and so is my daughter. So far so good for both of us – we’ve not yet met the devil. But I suppose I’ll keep throwing the salt just to make sure…

Hitting The Wall

Brick Wall

It happens to us all. That sinking, shrieking, sudden moment of realisation that we simply cannot go on. No matter what. No way. No how. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, what the reward is, why we have to do it, we just hit that figurative wall (not Pink Floyd’s fabulous album) and that’s it. Done. Finished.

We slink away, defeated, feeling terrible, wishing we had the energy or the will to carry on, but knowing that if we even attempted it, we’d fail miserably.

It’s horrible.

It’s humiliating.

It’s human.

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Bill Gates or David Beckham or J.K. Rowling (insert role model of your choice here) has done it. And the thing of it is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural and normal and it’s the ones who just keep going that we really ought to worry about… After all, they’re only going to hurt themselves, right? Right.

So rather than panicking when we hit the wall, we ought to embrace it. Or at least take the opportunity to step back and reassess. Perhaps there’s another way around that you hadn’t considered before. Instead of barrelling straight ahead, why not change direction, go sideways, under, over, even backwards. It’s a wall, not a mountain. Walls are scalable.

Walls are also a bit like bullies. There they stand, big and bold, basically laughing at you and your efforts to get through them and find whatever it was you wanted on the other side. Despite their nastiness of them, we do all know what it is we’re supposed to do with bullies, don’t we? Yes. Ignore them. Ignore them and they’ll go away. And it’s exactly the same with walls. Ignore the wall that you’ve suddenly come up against, and turn around. Leave it. Come back after a rest and a think, and you might find that it’s disappeared, crumbled away leaving your path perfectly open.

What if it hasn’t, you might ask? Not a problem. If it’s still there you have two options: either ignore it some more, or try the alternative route.

You’ll never have to hit a wall again. It’s a pain we can all do without.

What’s The Link Between Ian Fleming and Sting?

Could it be a specific talent? The same barber? A liking for peanut butter sandwiches? The link between Ian Fleming and Sting sounds like a truly unanswerable riddle, but there is actually a solution – and it is a rather surprising one.

philosophy-569355_1280

Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels in Jamaica, sitting at a certain desk. Decades later, that same desk was used by Sting to pen his famous song, Every Breath You Take.

Finding this out made me wonder whether creative talent can be passed on. Not necessarily through inanimate objects (although why not? Why shouldn’t a desk or pen or chair or anything else become infused with creativity? We don’t know what causes it in the first place, so we can’t dismiss anything when it comes to skill and talent, and I may just use this idea in my next short story… we’ll see if it has legs (pardon the pun)), but perhaps through being in proximity to someone.

According to some scientists, everyone has some kind of talent, even if it’s hidden in most people (that’s what it’s only a handful in the grand scheme of things who can sing, compose, write, paint, draw, and so on). But what if, simply by spending time with people whose talent is most definitely out there, we can soak up some of that creativity and be better at the things we want to do?

Talent by osmosis certainly has a ring to it; and could this be why some children follow in their parents’ footsteps, or some siblings go on to be just as talented as their brother and sisters, even though the law of averages would say it should really be possible?

It’s an experiment I’m willing to trial… Now, where would I find J. K. Rowling?

books-791923_1280

Complaining Is Essential – Isn’t It?

Maya

Don’t complain. 

It sounds like a simple philosophy for life, a mantra that can be repeated over and over until it sticks and no more ungrateful, complaining words come out of your mouth.

It sounds like bliss, and at first glance the above quote does seem to be a good one. Don’t like something? Change it. Don’t complain.

On second glance, thinking about it, changing a situation isn’t always possible without a bit of complaint.

But it’s okay, because of the second part of the quote – if you can’t change the situation that’s making you unhappy, change how you think about it.

Gotcha.

Only, actually, I don’t get it at all.

I can’t suddenly make myself like something that I didn’t before. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it. I have my reasons. It’s not just a matter of looking at whatever it is from a different angle and realising that my original thoughts were wrong all the time (oh look! Actually the fact that my car broke down and there are no buses and I have a broken leg so I can’t walk anyway is actually fine! It’s great! I was just looking at my situation from the wrong angle! Now that I’ve changed my attitude all is well!).

I think complaining is essential in life.

I don’t mean complaining for the sake of it, just for fun, but if something is really wrong, and no amount of attitude changing will right that wrong, then a complaint may well help you. And, although it may not feel like it at the time, if the complaint is aimed at you it can help you too. Don’t just assume that whoever is doing the complaining is wrong – they may have a point, and if you think about it, that point may help you grow and succeed.

So, yes, if something is bringing you down, change it. If you can’t change it – and sometimes you definitely cannot – then by all means complain. You never know, the situation might change after that. It could even get better than ever.

If you want some help writing a complaint letter, just ask. As a freelance writer I’ve often complained on other people’s behalf!

Award-Winning Journalist Gives Prize Money to Charity

Moira Kerr is something quite special, not only in terms of her writing, but in terms of her humanity as well. The freelance journalist who hails from Oban won both the feature writer of the year award (this was thanks to three articles written for the Daily Record) and journalist of the year award for her diverse portfolio of articles, news reports, and features at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.

Oban RNLI received a donation
Oban RNLI received a donation

Moira said that she appreciated the awards, and was excited to receive them – but that it was all down to her contacts, kept in her Smartphone, who kept her up to date with everything that was happening all across the Highlands and Islands. She called these contacts her ‘phone-a-friends’, which caused a laugh, but which is also absolutely true!In her spare time, Moira is a volunteer fundraising secretary for the Oban RNLI Lifeboat, and so she decided to donate the majority of her £500 prize money to that cause which is clearly so dear to her heart. She gave away £300, and it went towards buying the volunteers at the Lifeboat some Wellington boots which, they say, were much needed and very happily and gratefully received.

If you need any freelance articles, news stories, or blogging done, please contact me; I’m happy to help.

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£

Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
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Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
Newspaper (regional) Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
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Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

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Please contact me using the information below; I’d love to hear from you.

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

Andreas K
Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

Helena W
Helena W

Quick and brilliant, nailed the brief! Will work with her all the time 🙂

Roshni S
Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

Rob C
Rob C

It was a pleasure to work with Lisamarie, she adjusted to our workflow and process with ease and completed work quickly and effectively.

Geoff J
Geoff J

Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

Ola F
Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

Matthew E
Matthew E

Brilliant work from Lisamarie. I would definitely retain her again and recommend her to others.

Brad B
Brad B

REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

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Due To Overwhelming Demand Neil Oliver Brings His UK Tour To Bromley This November

Due to overwhelming demand, Neil Oliver, archaeologist, historian, author and presenter of the TV series Coast, brings his hugely successful theatre tour The Story Of The British Isles in 100 Places to the Churchill Theatre in Bromley on Tue 19 November.   Neil who will be sharing his love of Great Britain and Ireland with audiences on this leg of the tour – first took to the stage in 2018 with a 38-date tour which coincided with the publication of his book of the same name.

credit: Grant Reed

Neil was appointed as President of the National Trust in Scotland in 2017 and is also known for his television series A History of Scotland and Vikings.   Whilst filming Coast Neil “fell in love all over again with the British Isles.  From north to south, east to west it cradles astonishing beauty.   The human story here is a million years old and counting.” Oliver comments.

Born in Renfrewshire in Scotland Neil Oliver studied Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and freelanced as an archaeologist before training as a journalist.  In 2002 he made his television debut with BBC Two’s Two Men in a Trench which featured Oliver and his close friend Tony Pollard visiting historic British battlefields. Since that time he has been a regular on our screens.

Discussing the tour Neil commented “Everything makes more sense when you study history. The more history you read, the less judgemental you become. All the things that are happening now have happened before. Countries reach a high point, and then they go through low points. That’s all explained by history. Like everyone else, politicians can have a better understanding of what’s happening by appreciating that there are patterns in history”.

The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places will give audiences the opportunity to share Oliver’s enthusiasm and unique perspective of British and Irish history.  In his amusing and entertaining way Neil Oliver will explain what it all means to him and why we need to cherish and celebrate our wonderful countries.

Neil Oliver: The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places

Churchill Theatre Bromley

Tue 19 November 2019

BOOK NOW

Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA

churchilltheatre.co.uk

Box Office: 020 3285 6000

tickets@churchilltheatre.co.uk

Theatre Review: Murder, Margaret & Me at The Churchill, Bromley

Agatha Christie… who was she really? Famed for her murders (in print, of course) and in particular for two of the most famous literary creations in history – Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple – her name is known the world over. But who was she? It is this question that is at the heart of Murder, Margaret & Me, a fantastic, funny, dark, heart-breaking play by Philip Meeks.

credit Craig Sugden

Although the main story of the play revolves around two legends meeting, slowly becoming friends, and unravelling one another’s secrets, it begins with Agatha Christie. It has to. She, after all, made it all happen. Yet at this point in her career she has become ‘a brand’. She is losing her name (and herself) thanks to the demands of the tax man, and it scares her. It is forcing her agree to making her beloved Miss Marple into a motion picture, heaven forfend, and – worse still – rather than the birdlike, diminutive Miss Marple of her imagination, it is screen legend Margaret Rutherford, a large and loud lady known for her eccentricity and comedic turns, who is taking on the role (albeit reluctantly – murder is, after all, a sordid business). Why is she doing it? The tax man, of course.

So this is the set up of Murder, Margaret & Me. Two older women forced to become colleagues due to money, both doing something they never thought they would.

And then comes the murder. And the mystery. And, perhaps inevitably, Jane Marple is on the scene. Literally. She hovers over everything, never quite explained, a figment of both women’s imaginations perhaps, and it is in ‘The Spinster’ that they finally agree. They both know what Marple should be like, what she would say, how she would look, and it could indeed be this spectre at the feast (a gentile one who misses nothing and knows everything) that brings them together, pushes them apart, and then makes them friends once more.

Both women have a secret, you see, and neither wants the other to know about it. The difference between them is that Margaret Rutherford is quite happy to know nothing of what happened when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, whereas Christie is unable to let go of the mystery surrounding Rutherford’s family and its dark past.

credit Craig Sugden

I know a lot about Agatha Christie. I have read the books, seen the films, the plays, the television series… so a lot of what was revealed about her was no surprise (although very nicely done; Lin Blakley does the famous writer justice), but I had no clue about Margaret Rutherford other than she played Miss Marple and that Christie wasn’t overly impressed with the idea at the start. Now, thanks to the play and to Sarah Parks’ impeccable performance, I want to know more. Much more. How could this legend of stage and screen, this tragic heroine in real life, have passed me by? This is the power of Murder, Margaret & Me – it has opened up new worlds and I have to explore them now.

Special mention must also go to The Spinster (who needs no introduction) who manipulates and pushes and pulls our two ladies in the direction they are meant to go in. Played by Gilly Tompkins, she is the Miss Marple we all know and love.

See Murder, Margaret & Me at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, until 28th September: https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/tickets-murder-margaret-me-bromley-2019

Revealed: Brits’ most desired smart bathroom technology #ad

83% of Brits’ desire a self-cleaning toilet!

66% of Brits’ want mood lighting fitted in their bathtub.

69% of Brits’ dream of digital controls for precise temperature, spray and timing in their shower.

Sanitising bathroom accessories tops list of bathroom technologies homeowners are dying to try!

A good lather and soak in the bath is the perfect antidote to stress, which is why more and more of us are turning to our powder room as a place to relax and unwind.

Accordingly, homeowners are seeking technologies to heighten their bathroom experience, taking lavatories, restrooms and water closets from humble necessity to the highlight of the home.

Interested in learning more about the relationship between homeowners and the latest smart bathroom technologies available, bathroom and shower experts Showerstoyou.co.uk surveyed 1,424 British proprietors to identify the tech features that most appeal to them.

It may come as no surprise when it comes to the toilet, homeowners most desire a self-cleaning feature (83%), followed by a self-deodoriser function (55%) and the ability to generate a heated seat (31%.)

69% of Brits are vocal about digital controls for precise temperature, spray and timing as the tech trend they most desire in the shower, followed by mood lighting (55%) and built-in sound – ideal for those that enjoy a shower-sing-along – at 48%.

Similarly, mood lighting (66%) tops the list of features British homeowners would most like to see fitted in their bathtub, followed by a built-in scented mist dispenser (62%) and a built-in heated backrest (41%); perfect for those sumptuous soaks.

In terms of general bathroom tech, a vast majority of Brits’ surveyed by Showers to You selected temperature control/thermostat smart control as the “general” feature they would like to see in their bathroom – at 62%.

Water conservation technology came second (41%); highlighting homeowners are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious within their homes; a trend which will likely ascend.

Wall-mounted, touch-panel interface was voted the third most-desired general smart bathroom technology (34%.)

The 5-bathroom technologies homeowners dream of trying:

Elsewhere in the bathroom tech universe, emerging technologies are tempting homeowners everywhere with the promise of sanitising, warming (and cooling), health-conscious solutions! Fairly new to the market, oftentimes underpinned by a hefty price tag, these technologies aren’t commonplace essentials… Yet!

Showerstoyou.co.uk asked homeowners which of these emerging technologies they’d most like to try in the future. Here’s the top 5:

  1. Sanitising bathroom accessories – 59%

Gadgets that use UV light to disinfect items like damp towels – leaving them fresh, fluffy and clean!

  1. Warming drawers – 52%

Think heated towel rack but in drawer form! The perfect place to store towels, robes and slippers.

  1. Fitbit Wi-Fi scales – 48%

An advanced set of scales, which track weight, lean mass, body fat and more – and sync data wirelessly and automatically to your Fitbit account!

  1. Virtual reality showers – 45%

This feature enables homeowners to project serene scenes – such as the beach, jungle or somewhere peaceful – within the washroom.

  1. Cooled cabinetry – 28%

Essentially refrigerated bathroom cabinets, which allow you to keep medicines cool (should you wish to), as well as store drinks!

 Credit https://www.showerstoyou.co.uk/

The Deep, Dark Woods

I write all sorts of things; flash fiction, poetry, short stories, novels… And these pieces of writing are in various genres; horror, romance, children’s, literary fiction, mystery… With over one hundred different projects, either completed or in process, I like to think that I’ve managed not to repeat myself when it comes to plot and characters.

I try not to anyway.

But there is one thing that I do mention a lot, and I’m completely aware of it. It’s not always intentional (although at times it is integral to the plot), but whether I mean it to be there at the start of a story or not, ‘the woods’ often pops up.

What do I mean? I mean actual, literal woods. Deep, dark places full of trees and animals and scary things. Or peaceful places full of beauty and clearings of dappled sunlight and twinkling, tinkling streams that lead on to adventure.

woods

I love to read about them. When I was younger, The Faraway Tree was one of my all-time favourites, and the two poems that are stuck on the wall by my writing desk are “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare, and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

I love to write about them too. Sometimes my stories are set within the trees. My children’s horror entitled The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods, focuses the entire story in the magical world below a lush, green, leafy canopy. Another of my short stories is called “The Woods Today”, and is about a rather nasty teddy bears picnic. And another, “Miles To Go” details the shock and confusion of a man who awakes naked in a snowy wood.

Equally, some of my stories just touch on the woods. In “Fairy Lights” the protagonists camp by the edge of a wood, not daring to enter. “One Man and His Dog” has the eponymous man looking towards the woods, but eventually going in the other direction. “Careful of the Castle” involves a woman sitting on a hot, sandy beach; but she wishes she was wandering through the shaded woods of her home town.

There is something so fascinating, so elemental, so mysterious and exciting about woods, inside or out, that I find myself drawn to them. Of course, it helps that I’ve lived near one for almost all of my life. Or rather, near a few of them. The very first house I can remember backed onto woodland. I have a distinct memory of playing in the garden, sitting on a swing that my dad made and which hung from a big old apple tree, and staring, hard, hard, harder, over the back fence and into the woods. I wanted to see something move. I never did, unless wind-waving leaves counted.

woods

A few years later we moved, and this time the garden was bigger, and at the bottom of this one was a large meadow on which horses roamed. That was nice. That was fine. But it was what was beyond the meadow, just on the horizon, that delighted me – a patch of trees that I was happy to call a wood. I even climbed over the back fence on a few occasions and ran across the field, dodging manure, to reach the trees. But fear of what (or whom?) I would find forced me back home. I never did go in.

And then I found a reason to go into the woods. The geocaching adventures I go on now mean that I have to enter the trees and I have to search amongst them. Now I love the woods even more.

Flash Fiction: Soft Snowflakes

Soft Snowflakes

Soft snowflakes began to fall. “How funny,” she thought, “that winter should come on the very day my heart began to melt.”

“How funny,” she thought, “that winter should come at all.” She pondered this as she sipped her warming wine and tried to ignore the hunger pangs that accompanied every swallow. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. Not today. Not even yesterday. The day before? Possibly. If that was the day she had left the hospital then definitely. But that could have been a week, a month, a year ago. It seemed to her that she had been sitting in this window seat waiting for the snowflakes, drinking wine and tucked up against the world for decades. For centuries. For eternity.  Little wonder, then, that she was feeling light-headed.

There was a sound, but she couldn’t place it. It was familiar, like a well-used door opening or a creaky stair being stepped on. A comforting sound. A safe sound. A loved sound. And that sound, and her knowing that she would soon hear it no longer, made her suddenly weep. She lowered her head to her raised knees and sobbed for the sadness of it all, for the unfairness. Her wine glass dropped, the red liquid cooling and spreading along the cushion she had re-upholstered herself in happier days.

snowflakes

The sound came again and she knew it through her grief. It was her husband’s key in the lock. Her melting heart, dwindling and dripping away, bit by bit, made an effort to pound harder, but failed. His key in the lock. It wasn’t possible, of course she knew that. She had left him, all those eons ago, dead from a heart attack. She had left him in the hospital, alone, and she had returned home, alone. And she was still there, and he was still there. Nothing had changed. But that sound…

She didn’t, as many would, rush to the door, fling it open and find nothing. She didn’t move at all. She reached down, picked up the almost empty bottle and refilled her glass. She watched the snow fall and listened as her heart melted.

81 Castle Drive, Kemsing

£399,000 

http://thegoodestateagent.co.uk/property/castle-drive-sevenoaks-tn15/ 

Kemsing is one of the loveliest villages in the Sevenoaks district. Quiet and unassuming, it has everything that anyone could possibly want; a great primary school (OFSTED rated good in 2017), a post office, local shops, close to the main transport links and yet tucked away in the Kent countryside. Step out of your front door in Kemsing and you will be greeted with village life, the chance to go for a refreshing walk across the Downs, and the kind of community that helps one another out.

Kemsing

So now that 81 Castle Drive is on the market, this could be your chance to become part of a true Kentish village with all the amenities you could ask for. As for the house, you can move right in and not have to lift a finger when it comes to refurbishment or redecoration; the current owners have cared for this property well in the 14 years they have lived there.

Castle Drive is a sought after location in Kemsing. Just off Childsbridge Lane which will take you to Seal and on to the M20, or Sevenoaks and the M25 or A21, yet still within walking distance of those wonderful walks we mentioned earlier, as well as the local shops which include a convenience store and takeaways, you are well placed to enjoy everything Kemsing has to offer.

81 Castle Drive itself is a three bedroom (two double and one single) semi-detached house built in 1950. It has been sensitively re-decorated by the current owners to become a bright, light, modern home which includes a large garage in the back garden for storage (or perhaps for use as a studio if that is what you need) and a conservatory, currently used as a utility area, but which would be a beautiful suntrap in the summer months.

The kitchen is well-equipped and it leads to the dining room to make family meals an easy task. From there you can enter the living area, which in turn leads out to the hallway and back to the kitchen. Upstairs are the three bedrooms (the master has a built in wardrobe) and a good sized family bathroom with a bath and shower over.

The back garden is a delight. It is a great size and has not only a lovely patio area, but also plenty of lawn and a decked area too. It’s ideal for entertaining, enjoying family time together, and it is easy to maintain.

The house also benefits from off street parking on a driveway to the front with room for two cars, and plenty of street parking (with no restrictions) if more is required.

Plus, there is no onward chain.

The property is marketed through The Good Estate Agent (Sevenoaks Area) who can be contacted on 01732 617066, or via www.thegoodestateagent.co.uk.

Property ref: 7730

4 Ways To Stop Your Children Being Bored This Summer

It’s really not many weeks now until the long summer holidays are upon us – your children (and possibly you) will be counting down to that last day of term with a huge amount of excitement and endless possibilities of the fun they can get up to flashing through their brains.

But, whether you have six, seven, or eight whole weeks of time away from school, not every day is going to be a fun one. There will be homework to do, chores to complete, not to mention the fact that going out all the time is both exhausting and expensive. So yes, there will be times when boredom creeps in, no matter what other plans you might have. In order to prevent this from happening as much as possible, or at least diminish the impact, here are some great ways to stop your children being bored this summer.

Build A Fort

Building forts out of furniture and bed sheets may have fallen out of fashion due to the plethora of tech that children have to play with these days, but there is nothing quite like the fun and giggles that building one can give you, so why not give it a try? If it makes a mess, does it really matter? Everything can be put back when the kids are finished enjoying themselves, and no harm will have been done.

children

They might want to turn it into a den for watching a film – another good distraction for a little while, allowing you time to do the housework, catch up on emails, or simply sit with them and have a rest – or colouring, or playing with their toys. You don’t need to spend any money to create it, and it will amuse them for hours.

Go Outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden at home, spending some time in it will do the children good, and they’ll even get some exercise (without realising it!) when they’re running after a ball or playing chasing games.

children

A paddling pool and some shade for hot days, a good imagination for all days, a few garden toys, and they’re all set. They can even invite friends over and not disturb you if they’re playing in the garden all day. Give them a picnic lunch and keep them topped up with drinks and that’s it.

Rearrange The Bedrooms

We’ll admit, at first glance this idea does sound like more of a chore than a fun thing to do to stop children being bored, but this is not just tidying up – this is complete reorganisation, and that can be exciting.

children

Try working out different ways to have the furniture in the room to maximise space or make it more comfortable. It might be that the bed is where it is because that’s where the removal company put it when you moved in, for example, but is there a better spot for it? This is hard work and should be planned out before any furniture is moved, but it can be a worthy thing to do.

Do Some Baking

Baking is always a fun thing to do, and since you end up with a sweet treat at the end of it, it’s even better. This can be messy – the younger the children the messier it tends to be – so be prepared for a tidy up session at the end (get the kids involved in that, too). This can be a fantastic bonding experience, and it will all start with choosing exactly what you are going to bake, shopping for the ingredients, and then putting it all together.

children

Check out this website for some great baking ideas.

Exercise For Mental Health

The idea of exercise is always a positive one. The reality, of course, is often far different. By the time we get home from work we’re often exhausted or too busy to do any meaningful exercise. And it’s not just in the evenings that we have trouble getting it done – exercise is the thing that most often falls to the bottom of the to do list.

Yet knowing how important it is and how it can actively improve your mental health might be what makes the difference and gives you the impetus to do just half an hour or so of good exercise each day. Read on to find out just what it is about working out that keep your mental health positive.

mental health

Stress Relief for Better Mental Health

Studies have shown that exercising is good for reducing your stress levels. Stress can take a terrible toll on your mental health, and everyone is stressed to some degree. Some stresses might be small, easily dealt with, short term problems, and these are completely normal.

Others, however, might be much more dangerous. Long term – chronic – stress can cause many different health issues including:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Organ failure
  • Ulcers

But it’s not just physical problems that long term stress will cause. Your mental health will suffer too. You could develop depression or anxiety, for example. So ideally you will want to reduce your stress as much as possible, and if you can do it without taking medication then all the better.

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. When you are concentrating on working out, playing sports, taking a brisk walk, or however else you want to exercise, you aren’t thinking of the problems that are causing you stress. Even if it’s just for a little while, your work issues, relationships, money worries, even your health situation, can be forgotten, and if you can do that, your stress levels will reduce.

Better Social Life

Loneliness is a condition that is bad for your mental health if it goes on too long (although a little ‘me time’ every now and then can actually help you feel better). If you join a gym or go to a regular exercise class, or if you go running and get to see other people, for example, you can alleviate that loneliness for a little while.

Even for the most introverted of people, this brief moment of connectivity could be enough to make your loneliness disappear.

mental health

Anger Control

Some people have a problem controlling their anger, and this can make them become stressed which, as mentioned above, has a lot of problems associated with it. It can also cause problems with relationships, leading to loneliness, and it can make work difficult.

A good exercise regime will help to quell those feelings of anger, keeping them under control and allowing you an outlet for your emotions. When you get back to ‘real life’ you will feel happier, healthier, and find it easier to let things go rather than become angry over small issues.

If you find that your anger issues are more deep seated and exercise helps but only temporarily, then seeking expert advice is always the best course of action – your life is important and you need to be happy for as much of it as possible.

Conclusion

Exercise is something that we should all try to incorporate into our lives when we can. It might not be every day, it might not even be a regular occurrence to begin with, but getting started in the most important step. After that, as with anything, the more you practice the better you will get and the better it will feel.

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Work takes up a huge amount of every day, so it makes sense that it should be a good place to be – you should enjoy your work, and your workplace, otherwise every other aspect of your life is going to be affected. You might even develop mental illnesses such as depression and stress, or your unhappiness might manifest in physical ways; heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, ulcers, and much more can all come about from working somewhere unpleasant.

Not enjoying your job is one thing, but what if you are actually working in a toxic workplace? This is when the situation becomes desperate, and finding a new job should be a top priority. Here are some of the signs that your workplace is making you not just unhappy, but potentially unwell.

workplace
Is your team supportive?

You Dread Going To Work

On occasion (usually on a Monday morning after a lovely weekend at home), everyone is going to ‘dread’ going to work. But is it really a dread, or is it just a feeling of preferring not to? When you actively dread heading off to your workplace in the morning, and that dread is there every single day, then there is clearly a problem. Your workplace could be a toxic one.

You should never feel this way about your job. Life is too short, and there are many opportunities out there for you; you may have to retrain or think laterally about where your skills can take you, but being happy is the main thing and that is what you really need to consider.

You Don’t Feel Appreciated

Getting feedback at work is crucial for anyone to develop and become more successful. If you never hear a word from your boss about how you are doing, or you’re always the one doing the chasing when you want some kind of critique on a project or assignment you have been doing, then you are sure to feel under-appreciated.

When this happens, you might become less productive; what’s the point in bending over backwards if no one cares that you are working hard and going the extra mile? Something that you used to think matters will now how a much lower place in your heart and mind.

That’s not right.

You should be able to love what you do, feel appreciated, and feel good about the work you are carrying out. You should be able to work in a supportive workplace. Not even being acknowledged is a bad sign and one that you shouldn’t ignore.

workplace
Workplace stress is toxic

Your Workplace Worries You Even On Days Off

When you have a day off from work, what do you do? Do you enjoy it, not think about work at all (or if you do it’s only to determine the next step and what you will start with when you get back to it), and relax? Or do you constantly worry about your job, finding it frustrating and irritating? Does it make you angry? Are you unable to wind down?

If the latter is the case for you, it’s time to get out. It’s true that work is important, but it’s not everything – you need to make time for yourself and your family and anything else you want to do. If work is taking up all of your rest time as well as your work time, something’s wrong.

Conclusion

If something feels wrong about your place of work, whether it’s something tangible or just a gut feeling, and if that place of work is making you miserable or even ill, you need to leave. Yes, that can be easier said than done, and finding a new job isn’t always easy, but if you don’t start the search then you’ll never find your next – happier – position.

DODGY DÉCOR FAILS ARE COSTING HOME SELLERS CASH INVESTING JUST £300 CAN ADD UP TO £10K ON TO YOUR HOUSE VALUE
  • Aldi teamed up with interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to makeover a home in under two hours for just £300 adding an average of over £8k to the property’s value
  • One in five buyers say that hideous décor is one of the biggest turn-offs when looking for a house
  • Nearly half (44%) offered less for a property because the interior was not to their taste

New research released by Aldi has revealed that almost one in five (19%) Brits claim that dodgy décor can be one of the biggest turn-offs when house viewing. Aldi surveyed 2,000 UK home owners to celebrate their Kirkton House range, which features a choice of quality interior products at everyday amazing prices.

Following the research, Aldi challenged home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to add value to a property with a budget of only £300, and using just the Aldi Kirkton House interiors range. The three bedroom, semi-detached home in Dartford, Kent, was evaluated by three local estate agents, before and after the makeover, and the property’s value increased by up to £10,000 across each valuation* – simply thorough decluttering, furniture rearrangement and the addition of stylist interior accessories. Watch the video on https://www.aldi.co.uk/kirkton-house.

According to the survey, quick upgrades can make a big difference for 34% of home buyers who say that stylish furnishings make them more likely to buy. The kitchen came out on top, with almost three quarters (72%) stating it’s the most important room to look good during a viewing. Real estate turn-offs were dark rooms (50%), awkward layouts (36%) and overgrown gardens (32%).

After seven viewings sellers consider making changes to their home to help shift it, with desperate owners splashing out on average £900 to finally make a sale. When it comes to age, image-conscious 18-34 year olds are spending over five times more (£3,131) than the thrifty 55+’s, who on average part with just £543 to shift their property.

Home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, comments: “Together with Aldi, we’ve proven that you don’t need to break the bank to spruce up your interiors and help make that sale. We spent a third of what home buyers think they need to spend and increased the property’s value by an average of over £8k! It’s easy to invest a small amount and make a big difference. Here are some tips from the makeover to try at home:

  • Define the space in each room. A beautiful woven rug can indicate how a room should be used and brighten up a space in one easy step – try placing a colourful option in the centre of the living room to create a fun colour pop like the Aldi Kirkton House flatweave rug in navy blue
  • Make sure your rooms look spacious, appealing and homely. Consider the layout of the room and whether it feels welcoming to walk into – decluttering is a must and try shuffling the furniture around to experiment with different arrangements. Aldi’s Kirkton House Adjustable Desk Lamp will help to light up any room and add a warm feel
  • For house viewers, the kitchen is key – make sure your dirty plates aren’t still in the sink and set-up table places and crockery to show viewers what your home would look like to really live in it. Aldi’s wide range of quality Kirkton House cutlery and dinnerware can help to set the scene
  • Think about the overall interior design in your house – do you have personal items on display that perhaps don’t match the décor? Take down a few personal pictures here and there for a slicker look. Aldi’s Kirkton House storage baskets will come in handy here!
  • Make first impressions count and don’t forget your hallway! Place a nice welcome mat down and tidy-up shoes lying around in the space – Aldi’s Kirkton House Designer Lounge and Hallway range has hallway-specific show stoppers from a stencilled, geometric-design mat to a fun cactus hallway doorstop
  • Make the most of your outside space and opt for bright colours for the garden – colourful, patterned cushions and garden dining ware will come to life against the organic backdrop of green grass and bright flowers. Aldi’s Kirkton House Printed PVC Tablecloth in lemon print and decorative glass balloons will look fantastic in the sunshine and spruce up any garden”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “As the housing market is so uncertain, we’re happy that we can offer the security of consistently low prices in the Kirkton House home range. With a choice of quality and everyday products, the range can help you upgrade your home on a budget.”