my blog my blog

Monthly December 2016
Writing Horror – Screaming In The Dark

It seems an odd thing to do, to write horror. When there are a wealth of genres out there, when I could be writing about perfect love or fantastic dragons or gun-toting cowboys, why choose to create the most terrifying, the most soul-shredding, the most unwelcome?

My answer is a simple one: because I like it. I like horror.

I like to read it, I like to watch it, I like to think about it, and I like to write it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t.

As to why I like it, that’s a more complicated question, with a different kind of answer.

human-1219543_640

As a child, I was scared. A lot. Most of the time. Not that I wasn’t a happy child, with a normal family and normal surroundings and normal friends. I was. Perfectly normal. But I was also perfectly scared. There was a seeping, creeping horror that hovered around me, enveloped me, and at night I would scrunch my eyes shut and hide beneath the covers in the hope that whatever it was wouldn’t see me because I couldn’t see it.

And there was, as far I can tell, as far as I can remember, no reason for it. Nothing that particularly stands out as being that one specific moment in which something happened – something ghostly and ghoulish and downright petrifying – that haunted me for the rest of my days.

I was a normal girl, but a strange one.

Being alone was bad. I hated it. These days I crave a bit of solitude, but then, when that fear stole over me, I only wanted to be around people. It’s just that sometimes, there were no people to be around. And so I created some. I reached the age of twelve and simply decided that I needed constant, immediate access to someone.

But who? And how?

I started to go to bed and instead of cowering under the covers I moulded myself heroes and heroines, safe houses and refuges. I began to make up stories. These stories became my talisman, protecting me from the real evil by pretending about it. It seemed to me that nothing in the real world could possibly be as frightening as the world I was creating in my head, and so my heroes were slain, horribly. My heroines were kidnapped and tortured. My safe houses and refuges were pillaged by monsters and demons and ghosts.

monster-1441275_1280

And because I’d made it all up, just me, by myself, it wasn’t so scary after all. I enjoyed it. And I began to write my stories down. I began to read other people’s stories. I began to watch the films. Because it was all safe. It was all made up.

I’ve been doing that ever since.

Just don’t ask me to read or watch any ‘true’ horror stories.

They keep me up at night.

If you would like me to write horror for you – or anything else – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Short Story: My Gingerbread House

I wanted a gingerbread house. They asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I told them, a gingerbread house please (making sure to say please as I knew they liked it when I did that). They ummed and ahed about it, but I was pretty sure it was going to come off. The kids at school would go crazy when they saw it. I’d have to invite everyone over to see it, it would make them like me. It would have to. I mean, who wouldn’t like someone with their very own gingerbread house? If it were me, and some kid came up to me at school and told me they had one, I’d be their BFF just to get to see it, maybe to eat a bit of it.

I was so excited about it that I told everyone in advance that I was getting one. And the excitement was kind of like a disease or something because in the end everyone had it. Even the teachers were a bit less strict, as though they thought I might ask them if they wanted to take a look. But I wouldn’t do that. That is not something a popular kid does, and all of a sudden I was popular.

gingerbread-house-1101452_1280

My birthday was a Saturday and I told everyone to get to my house for around lunch time, because there would be plenty to eat and I didn’t think my parents would mind. Turns out they did sort of mind because they had planned to take me out to lunch, which they did, and by the time we got back there were dozens of school children – and quite a few parents – milling around in our front garden, waiting to be let in.

This was it. This was the big unveiling, wasn’t it? This was when my parents were going to show off what they’d bought me and the others, my friends, I guess, would be impressed.

My parents were probably still in a bit of shock over the number of people who had turned up, especially when I hadn’t mentioned that anyone at all would be coming over. I never had people over, so that was a surprise right there. But they were gracious about it, invited everyone in and set about making teas and coffees, offering juices and squash, rummaging around in cupboards to find snacks and biscuits to offer around. Some of the parents – most, maybe all – guessed this was a bit of a shock for mine, and they suggested coming back later, or the next day, or the next week. Whatever. But I couldn’t have that, not when I was about to get my gingerbread house. “No, it’s all right,” I said before my mum and dad could open their mouths. “Really, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” I insisted.

Mum and Dad smiled, a little stiffly, but what else could they do? “Of course,” said Dad, nudging Mum. “Isn’t it?”

Mum nodded.

The room did not relax. If anything, the atmosphere got more strained. No one was really speaking, there was a lot of foot shuffling and throat clearing. “Nice coffee,” someone murmured. My mum thanked them, glanced out of the window at the garage, looked back into the room. “Well, we were going to do this later,” she declared, the silence shattering at the sound, “But since everyone’s here…” She gave a fleeting look at my dad, willing him to take over. Ten years of marriage and he knew what to do. “Yes, the big unveiling. Do you want your main present?”

I was tempted to shake my head, say no, do it later, forget it completely, it doesn’t matter because I was gripped with the terrible sureness that they had got me something else. Something that, although most probably amazing and brilliant, was not what I had promised the guests. Instead I grinned and jumped up and down and said, “Yes please!”

This cheered my parents up quite a lot. My being happy always put a smile on their faces, which is why I didn’t want to be a pain about things. My dad trotted off to the garage, and my mum ushered everyone into the garden. She looked pretty excited by this point. She was sort of glowing with the fun she was having, showing off what she’d bought me. Fair enough. If it made her happy…

And then there was a strange squeaky sound, and my dad was pulling a massive something covered in a sheet along the grass on a platform, the wheels making the high pitched yelping as they rolled. “Ta da!” Dad shouted tunelessly as he got near to us. He whipped off the sheet and there, golden brown and chocolaty sweet, there in front of me was a gingerbread house. Bet you thought it was going to be a cake or something. It wasn’t. It was huge, and it was mine. The crowd gasped, and there was a spattering of applause from the adults. The kids just stared.

“Is it all right?” asked Mum, a bit breathlessly. “Is this what you wanted?” asked Dad, a lot breathlessly.

I said nothing. I walked up to it, sensing my school mates behind me, itching to rush forward and start chewing. The pink and white candy canes, the massive chocolate buttons, the red and black liquorice laces, the sprinkles, the sparkles, the sherbet and the jellies… it was beautiful.

Before I could stop them, I had tears on my cheeks. That was unexpected. That was unwelcome. But it emptied my head of nonsense and it set my brain thinking. That feeling of tension was still behind me. It was palpable, a living thing raring to be set free. But I, I chose to keep it caged.

knusperhaus-442858_1280

“Thanks for coming,” I said, turning around to face them, their red faces and gleaming eyes looking through me at the gingerbread house. “You can go now.”

Faces dropped. Parents looked at one another. Kids laughed, then stopped because my expression told them I meant it. “Er, that’s not very polite,” my mum said, attempting to save me from exile. I shrugged. “I’m not trying to be polite,” I said. “I’m saying these bullies, these jokers, these snobs who think they’re better than me, the ones who pull my hair and steal my lunch money, the ones who copy my homework and kick me and laugh at my clothes, I’m saying this is mine. All mine. Goodbye.”

I turned back to the wonderful, amazing, magnificent gingerbread house and waited. Slowly, I could feel the crowd growing less until I was alone.

Just me and the gingerbread house.

As it should be.

What’s So Great About Book Tokens?

The humble (actually, not so humble) book token is something to be celebrated. It’s not only something that could (and is by many) be considered a national treasure, but it is also one of the most wonderful gifts anyone can give.

Why?

nbt-002

Books are intensely personal things. These magical worlds that can be escaped into are different for everyone. And just because one person found something to understand, something that spoke to them in one book, it doesn’t mean someone else will. So buying books is something that is fraught with danger. It’s too hard. It’s too difficult to get right.

And what if the recipient already has that novel, that biography, that cookbook?

A book token solves all of those problems. Giving a book lover a book token is like giving them the key to their own universe. They can go into a book shop full of confidence, knowing that they can buy one, two, three – maybe even more – books that they want. Not ones that others have chosen for them, not ones that others have presumed they will enjoy, but books that they have had on their wish lists for months, years, their whole lives.

personalised-nbts-002

It’s the choosing of the books that is the gift, and it’s a generous one.

It’s a magical moment. It’s a freeing feeling.

Now isn’t that the perfect gift to give a loved one? I think so.

What’s more, book tokens can be personalised, making them even more special. Whether it’s a card that can be coloured by the recipient as any extra treat, or one that has their happy face all over it, these book tokens are pure joy.

nbt1-002

National Book Tokens can be bought and spent in thousands of bookshops including independents, Waterstones, WHSmith, Blackwells and Easons. They can be spent on eBooks at The Indie eBook Shop (indieebook.co.uk) and online at Foyles and O’Mahony’s.

You can get yours here: http://www.nationalbooktokens.com/buy

 

Peacock Poetry Prize returns for Brighton Festival 2017 with theme of ‘everyday epic’

Brighton Festival is delighted to announce that this year’s Peacock Poetry Prize will have the theme of ‘everyday epic’, a subject chosen by Brighton Festival 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest.

From a pebbled beach to a stranger’s smile, from a sporting milestone to a quiet read, budding writers are invited to reflect on the small observations and achievements of our daily lives which we piece together to celebrate and share our common humanity.

image006

Kate Tempest says: “Music, literature, theatre, film – these things are so important, they bring us together into the same space, they give us ourselves, they bring us to life, they beam our humanity back to us in all its hideous beauty. And in these times, with the fear spreading everywhere and the divisions between us deepening daily, we desperately need to remember that we are all part of the same thing.”

The annual creative writing competition, produced by Brighton Festival and Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), encourages young writers to explore the written word from a creative point of view and aims to get young people writing right across Sussex. The competition asks local poets aged between 8 and 19 years to explore and respond to a specific subject in an imaginative and inventive way. Submissions are divided into four age groups: 8-11 years, 11-13 years 13-16 years and 16-19 years. In addition, this year the Brighton and Hove environmental education project (BHee) will also be giving a special prize to a school pupil whose poem celebrates our interaction with the natural world.

Pippa Smith, Head of Creative Learning at Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: “The Peacock Poetry Prize is a fantastic opportunity for young people to get involved with Brighton Festival. I’m always taken aback at the number and range of submissions we receive, and this year I hope Kate Tempest’s theme of ‘everyday epic’ will inspire our young writers’ imaginations to produce some wonderful poetryonce again.”

William Baldwin, Principal of Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College, said, “I am delighted that BHASVIC is once again able to promote the Peacock Poetry Competition with Brighton Festival across Sussex. I’m very much looking forward to reading this year’s entries on the theme of ‘Everyday Epic’ and to meeting the runners-up and winners in May!”

The competition is open to residents of Brighton & Hove, East and West Sussex. Each budding writer may submit up to three poems with a maximum length of 20 lines per poem. Entries must be emailed, together with full name, age and date of birth to peacock@brightonfestival.org or posted to Peacock Poetry Prize, Brighton Festival, 12a Pavilion Buildings, Castle Square, Brighton BN1 1EE.

The deadline for entries is 5pm on Monday 3 April 2017. Finalists and their friends and relatives will be invited to a reception in Brighton Dome Thursday 25th May 5 pm when the winners of each age category and the BHee prize will be announced.

Sweet Oblivion – Interview with Debut Novelist Rhiana Ramsey

Murder, intrigue, and sex combined with a shocking conclusive twist – Sweet Oblivion is the tense debut novel of Sussex writer and serving police detective, Rhiana Ramsey (pseudonym).

so_web_ready-002

What genre would you classify Sweet Oblivion as?

I’d describe it as a dark crime thriller thread with eroticism.

Tell us about your book – why this story and the focus on S&M?

The story follows DC Elizabeth Lane and her colleagues as they hunt down the killer of the chilling emasculating murders that keep happening around town.

With my history serving as a police detective I’ve always been fascinated by the psychological angle of a killer. I wanted my character to hold true power over men and a dominatrix character was the perfect way to convey this, while weaving in some elements of S&M. With the release of 50 Shades of Grey this area of eroticism has become more mainstream and a subject people are interested in reading about.

What was your reason for setting the novel in London?

I worked in London for many years and know the area very well. My knowledge and background of the city made it easy to visualise my settings and scenes.

This is your first completed novel. What gave you the courage to write the book and what inspires you to write?

When I first started writing my book I was a single woman, completing my psychology degree whilst working full time in the Criminal Investigation Department and yet I was felt something was missing. I needed an outlet. I find writing therapeutic and an opportunity to take a step back from the real world.

When I first put pen to paper so to speak to write Sweet Oblivion I had no idea where it was going, but I got the bug and began to create storyboards and backgrounds for all my characters.

Throughout my life I’ve suffered with depression. When I was younger I used to write music, I still do on occasion, but these days I prefer creative writing as, it provides me with the perfect opportunity to escape and have complete control of a story – the situation, characters and outcome etc.

I suppose I actually wrote my first book when I was 12. It was called ‘Ravenscroft’ and was based upon a satanic crow that encouraged a pack of wolves to kill for him – needless to say it wasn’t published but I’ve obviously always seemed to have a passion for the macabre from a young age. My policing experience in my adult life has helped to re-ignite my imagination and it’s this that has ultimately led to the creation of Sweet Oblivion.

How long did the book take to write?

The book actually took nearly three years to complete from conception to publication however the bulk of the writing was completed in two months when I decided to take time off work.

What made you finally sit down and complete your book?

Work was tough, I’d been in court as a victim after dealing with a bad relationship and I lost my father all in a matter of months. Everything happened at once and I needed time out. I took two months off from the CID and that gave me the time to complete my manuscript.

At what point did you know you were ready to publish?

As soon as I’d finished writing the first draft I knew I was completely happy with the story. However, I spent about six months editing and tweaking little snippets before I finally submitted the manuscript to the printers.

What made you decide to self-publish and do you think this was a positive or negative experience?

It was a very positive experience! I decided to self-publish after speaking with a couple of agents who only seemed to show interest in you if you could prove you had a following already and were ultimately going to make them money. Being a self-published author means you have more control over what happens and if you have the time to promote it properly, it can be a very successful and enjoyable experience.

What would your advice be to anyone hoping to self-publish?

Unfortunately, as with most ventures, you need to have a little bit of money behind you to get started. Most people these days don’t actually print, they self-publish online. Whilst printing can often be expensive (and you should pay a little more for a good quality printer), it’s the most amazing feeling when your book turns up in the post.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently in the middle of reading Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer who’s one of my all-time favourite authors. Once I’ve finished that I’ll dive straight into the seventh Clifton Chronicles novel – This Was a Man – I’ve been waiting with baited breath for it to come out.

In this day and age, do you prefer e-readers or a hard copy book?

An e-reader will never outsell a classic hard copy in my opinion. I love the feeling of actually reading a printed story and holding the book in my hands.

With the release of your first novel, what are your ambitions for your writing career?

I know it’s very clichéd but I would love to become a full time successful author. I dream of being able to live off my completed novels and write books from anywhere in the world.

If Sweet Oblivion was made into a film, which celebrities would you love to cast as your characters?

That’s a tricky one. For my main character, Louise, the actor would need to be intelligent, attractive and have an athletic build, perhaps someone like Mila Kunis who often plays relatable characters. I would love for Sandra Bullock to play Elizabeth as she is seen as a strong, attractive and savvy woman just like my character.

Now you’ve written your first novel, could there perhaps be a second in the pipeline?

I am in the early stages of writing another novel, which will also involve Elizabeth, but that is all I can say for now!

 

What Does Every Writer Need?

Since it’s (almost) Christmas time, I thought it would be a good idea to mention a few things that the writer in your life might appreciate during the festive period. So why not take a look at these gift ideas? Remember, what a writer really wants is a bit of time to write… In the meantime, these will also do nicely:

An Old Typewriter

every writer dreams of an old typewriter

It has always been a dream of mine to come across an old, dusty typewriter in a junk shop and bring it home with me where I set it up on a proper heavy oak desk and use it to create masterpieces. It may not be practical, and it may be making more work for myself (no copy and paste, no find and replace, no saving here), but the idea of those click-clacking keys and my hands dancing across them just like Jessica Fletcher still resonates.

giphy

An Old Typewriter With A New Twist

kit3
credit: USBtypewriter.com

No, not an electric version of the good old machine mentioned above, but a totally modern concept in typewriters. I’m talking about a USB typewriter. The fantastic kits from USBTypewriter.com allow you to transform your old typewriter into a gorgeously quirky new one. Simply plug in your tablet so that you can save things and amend your prose with ease, and you still get that authentic typewriter feel and sound. The best of both worlds? Maybe so.

Waterproof Notepad

aqu_27

Now this one is super useful. Why is it that writers often have their best ideas in situations when it’s impossible to write them down? By the time we get to a notepad and pen, the ideas has been diluted down and the initial rush of excitement has withered. In the worst cases the idea is lost forever. For many, the shower is the place where ideas come flowing freely, and a waterproof notepad from AquaNotes would work wonders. No idea ever need to be lost again.

Intensely Strong Coffee

death-with

My working schedule involves me getting up early (5am) and working for a few hours until the school run starts. Then it’s back to it for as long as possible. But sometimes as long as possible isn’t very long, despite looming deadlines, which is why coffee is an essential part of my writing toolkit. A crazily strong brand of coffee (Death Wish Coffee springs to mind – the name is enough to wake me up, and this is, indeed, the strongest coffee in the world after all) is just about the most wonderful gift a writer can be given.

A Nice Tipple

made-in-kent-anno-distillers

By the time evening rolls around, it’s time to pack up my day time writing and bring out the night time stuff. So the blogs and the non-fiction are all saved and closed down, and the fiction finally gets to come out to play for a bit. Now, as Ernest Hemingway so eloquently said, it’s best to ‘write drunk and edit sober’. Not that I’m advocating having a huge amount of alcohol to drink, but a little sip of something is a nice treat at the end of the day. A good slug of dry gin from Anno Distillers in Kent (with some tonic, of course) is the perfect end to a writing day.

author-pic

No matter what kind of writing you need, I can help you. Please get in touch – and have a lovely Christmas.

Why Do You Get Your Ideas From?

Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s that question. The one that writers detest and interviewers love.

But why do we dislike answering that one so much? Or do we? Perhaps, now, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; we’re told that we should hate it, that’s it’s anathema to our creativity. And therefore, when we hear it, we do hate it, it does feel like giving away too much. Even if we have an interesting response. Even if we’re quite sure that our readers would like to know the answer.

where-do-you-get-your-ideas-from

I don’t mind it. If I’m honest, I quite like it. As a question it’s much better than being asked why I started writing (umm… I just did… I just gave it a go and quite liked it… er… something about school and an English project…) or why I write horror (I enjoy reading it, I enjoy writing it) because I never have proper answers for those ones. I always feel a bit of a fraud, a bit like I’m grasping for something – anything – to say just to sound interesting and intellectual.

At least with that question I can answer with either a piece of pure fabrication, or complete honesty. It simply depends on whether I can remember where the idea came from, and if I can whether it was an interesting occasion. Although, admittedly, even when telling the absolute truth my answer will vary from day to day, story to story to novel to flash fiction to poetry… Because that’s the beauty of it. Ideas come from everywhere and nowhere. They are incredible, intangible things that appear in a dream or a cloud or are gleaned from an overheard word or a misunderstood laugh. They are magical, existing in nothing, invisible and incomplete until they are written down and given form and meaning.

If I were asked where I got my idea for my current novel, I might say it was the main character, Jude, who came first. Just popped into my head. Or was it a dream? Did I see him on a train, or walking down the street? Perhaps I based him on someone I know, or someone I’d like to know, or someone I’d never want to know. Or I could say that it was the thought of murders that looked like accidents, and that that idea came from a newspaper, or I looked at a bus and wondered what it would be like… well, you know. It could even have been a song I heard on the radio. Maybe I didn’t quite catch the lyrics and made up my own, and maybe they led me to my first line, which then set the tone for the rest of the book.

A head full of ideas
A head full of ideas…

Say anything. When asked that question, say what you like. Because who is to say what is right and what is wrong when answering, when telling the person who put the question what they want to know?

Equally, who can describe an idea? Not me. They aren’t there, are they? They aren’t real. Except that they are, utterly and incontrovertibly real. Without them we’d be nothing. And not just writers, but scientists, artists, doctors, teachers, lawyers, children, adults, anyone and everyone. Think about it… There, you’ve just had an idea. Just like that.

Now what are you going to do with it?

If you need help, advice, or writing services, please contact me.

Short Story: Origami Army

Arthur sat, barely moving, hunched over, crunched into the wooden desk in front of him. His desk. The desk at which he was supposed to be performing some sort of miracle so that his boss wouldn’t call him into his office, tell him the figures were not good enough, and send him home. And remind him not to come back. So he supposed it wouldn’t be his desk for long.

Despite knowing this, despite having been told that this event was definitely going to take place on or around today if he didn’t get his act together, and sharpish, Arthur couldn’t bring himself to even turn on his computer. He knew what would happen if he did; it would whir into being and whirl into his day without a second thought, this hateful, dead and living thing that couldn’t help him now. In fact, knowing the true state of everything, the numbers glowing hotly out from the skinny monitor, laughing at him because they knew what they meant even if he didn’t, would most likely make things worse.

So he sat at his desk and did no work. He stayed hunched over, his hands moving and nothing else, creating. Origami. Every time Arthur was stressed or angry he took a deep breath, took a piece of paper, and took the time to fold it into the approximate shape of a crane. It was the only shape he could do, and even then not very well. But it was better than letting that stress and anger do what it really wanted with him, and take him over so that he became a beast that even he didn’t recognise. That’s what had happened with his wife. With his children. With his friends who were friends no more. He told himself that he couldn’t afford to lose anything else but the reality was that he had nothing left to lose.

origami-crane

After a lifetime of seconds which fizzed with such an urgency that it made Arthur think of a bowling ball bomb from a kids’ cartoon, he heard the door behind him open. It startled him momentarily before he ducked his head back down and continued his paper folding. It was only the boss. He was only going to be fired. It was fine. Fine. He folded faster, cutting himself on the lip of a wing, the paper slippery in his sweating hands, the edges secretly sharp.

“Arthur.” The voice was smooth, deep, filtered through years of management speak and the more than occasional brandy. “Arthur, do you remember what we spoke about the other day?”

Arthur nodded, irritated by the interruption but determined not to let it show. Instead he carefully positioned the lopsided crane, fashioned from one of his many important reports that sat – until now – in the in-tray, so that it joined the ranks of the others. He then reached towards the diminishing pile of paper (scrap, he called it, although it wasn’t entirely that and the boss was sure to mention it sooner or later) and started to make a new crane, hoping it would be better than the last poor effort.

“…poor effort.” The boss had been speaking, but Arthur had not been listening. He had been busy, and why could the boss not see that?

Arthur nodded with no idea what he was nodding about. He sat up suddenly, breathing deeply, blinking in the fluorescence of the office and noticed something surprising. His desk was covered, literally covered with no spaces and no gaps, with origami cranes. Hundreds of them. A thousand? It could be. It certainly could be. He smiled. He had no memory of making them but what the hell, what did it matter when they were there?

He stared at them. Willed them to move. And they did. Slowly. Juddering along the desk and then, as one, taking off in jerky, beautiful flight. Arthur spun in his spinning chair to watch them go, to watch them as they flew at the boss, pecking and biting and flapping at him. Drawing blood. Scratching and snarling and screaming as they went so that their screams matched Arthur’s, his delight and pure pleasure manifesting itself in a primal childlike cry.

And then they fell. Hundreds – or a thousand, or a million for all Arthur knew – roughly hewn origami cranes lay broken and dead on the floor.

origami-army

The boss stepped backwards away from Arthur’s desk, his hands held up in defeat, his eyes wide and fearful, his tongue tied with wonder at the strange and dangerous man who was now laughing at the balls of paper he had swiped from his desk and onto the floor.

“One more chance, eh, Arthur?” he whispered as he left the room. “I’ll speak to you next week.” And then he was gone.

Arthur sat alone at his desk, shoulders shaking where his laughter had grabbed them. He reached towards the pile of reports that still sat in his in-tray, pulling one towards him, and began to fold it into the approximate shape of a crane.

New Novel To Be Released: Trip Trap

I have had many novels and short stories published since 2010 when I began writing. Each one has been exciting, and I’m proud of each of my publications.

But Trip Trap, my latest novel, is very important to me. I have taken the decision to self-publish all of my work from now on, and Trip Trap is the first.

trip-trap-cover-ll-2016

Over the next few months, I will be re-releasing all of my older published works, as well as publishing a new children’s novel, a murder mystery, and a family saga. In the meantime I am also writing a new horror novel for adults, and I am putting ideas together for a collection of children’s stories.

2017 is going to be exciting – I will be writing and publishing more fiction throughout the year. It’s something that I have let fall by the wayside a little as I’ve concentrated on my freelancing services, but I am going to be making more time to keep my fiction writing dreams alive.

I hope you like what I come up with. Here is the beginning of the book…

A quick kiss on the cheek for his wife, and William Spender stepped out of his house and into the early evening warmth. His front garden, bursting with late spring flowers, colourful, new and fresh, gave off the scent of lavender and life. He loved it. He could feel his heart swell because of it.

This was his favourite time of year, April turning to May, with its blossoms and lightening evenings. He took in the smell of cut grass from the meadow just below the horizon, and watched the farmer as he toiled back and forth on his tractor in the field beyond. William could hear the buzz of the engine as it worked.

Perfect.

Except for the heat. Too hot for spring, this was summer warmth, summer sun. It was getting too much, which is why William used the early evening time, before it was dark but after it was sweltering, to take Cliff for a walk.

“I won’t be too long,” said William, turning back, speaking as an afterthought when he realised the door hadn’t closed behind him. He tugged at the lead he held loosely in his hand, enticing the weary old dog attached to it to start creaking his way down the little path to the wooden gate that led out onto the quiet country lane. “An hour at the most.”

Martha smiled indulgently. She knew her husband. An hour would become two in a moment, would become three if the dog would allow it, although at fifteen the poor thing didn’t allow for much at all. “Take your time,” she said, raising her voice so that the man would hear her. He was already unlatching the little gate. It creak-squeaked as it always did, a comforting, familiar sound, two little pips. “Dinner won’t be ready for a while yet, and if you’re not back it’ll keep. Anyway, that dog needs some exercise.” She winked, saying no more. Not needing to. Not wanting to nag too much. Not now.

William shook his head, his cheeks firing red. “He’s not the only one, I know, I know,” he said, trying to sound good-natured, almost making it. He patted his belly where it folded over his belt and hung down over the top of his trousers. Nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all. And anyway, he was retired, enjoying life. Why not gain a little weight, a little warmth? He was fairly fond of his belly.

Martha tutted and shut the door, not keen to let any little creatures make their way inside. She had been bitten enough the night before with the window left open, and she was damned if that was going to happen again. Her ankle was swollen from whatever had had a go at her. She wished she’d never scratched it, sure she had made it worse. A nice soak in the bath would soothe it, and there would be time before William returned. A cool bath. Cold. The idea itself immediately relaxed her. She smiled and meant it, and then almost ran up the stairs, the call of the chill water becoming far too great to resist.

It was too hot to do anything else.

RatesRates

My pricing guidlines

Type of Publication

Type of Work

£

Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
Magazine Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (regional) Writing & research per 1000 220
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
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
Online/digital media Writing & research per 1000 180
Online/digital media Sub-editing per 1000 95
Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

MY RATES

Contact MeContact Me

Get in touch

GET IN TOUCH

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

Phone

07710 611592

My ServicesMy Services

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

MY STORY

my blogmy blog

my diary
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.”

THE UK TOUR OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Lucy O’Byrne and Mark Moraghan are to join the cast of the quirky off-Broadway hit musical Little Miss Sunshine for its UK tour which begins at Churchill Theatre, Bromley on 16 May 2019.

Irish actress and singer Lucy O’Byrne will star as Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric Hoover family. Lucy shot to fame on The Voice (BBC) in 2015 and was the runner-up that year. Her theatre credits include Eva Peron in the Evita UK tour which ran at the Churchill Theatre in July 2018, Fantine in Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre – West End), Maria in The Sound of Music (UK and Ireland Tour), River Woman in Therese Raquin (Park Theatre) and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Gaiety Theatre-Dublin).

Mark Moraghan will be Grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin an Academy award).  Mark recently appeared as Tim Richards in Emmerdale and is perhaps best known for his roles as Adrian Mortimer in Coronation Street, Owen Davis in Holby City, Ray Wyatt in Dream Team, Greg Shadwick in Brookside and Eddie Quinn in London’s Burning.

Busy Times…

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, but I do have a good reason (excuse?) for that… I have a new job.

Although freelance writing is what I love to do, it just doesn’t pay the bills, plus it has meant that I haven’t written any fiction – my favourite thing – for a year or more. So I had to find something else to do; something that would suit my lifestyle, allow me to continue to write, and (hopefully) bring in some more money. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might like to, we can’t live without it.

I joined The Good Estate Agent, and I’m now covering the Sevenoaks area. Here’s a little video of what I do:

 

How To Ensure Your Employees Feel Valued

If you have a job that you don’t feel appreciated in and you feel that no matter what you do your efforts are just not noticed, you will begin to feel as though you shouldn’t bother working so hard anymore. You will feel as though you should even look elsewhere for a job where you can work with people who will appreciate you more. If you are an employer, this is not something that you want to happen; you want your employees to stay with you and help your company grow. To do this, they need to feel valued, so here are some ways to ensure that they do.

Talk To Them

One way to ensure that your employees feel appreciated and valued is to talk to them. This can include work details, of course, but that would happen anyway – to go the extra mile you need to talk to them about themselves. Find out about their family and their hobbies away from work, where they live and what they enjoy doing. When you speak to them again, remember what they said and bring it up in conversation where possible. This will show that you listened and that you took in what was said – and, of course, that you remembered it all.

It can also be beneficial to organize days away from work where you can get to know your employees better. These team building days are great for discovering exactly what your team is really like, and what they can do, plus they’re fun and can be seen as a reward.

Praise Them

It’s all too easy to just accept that someone has done a good job and then give them something else to do without saying much (if anything) about it. However, that won’t leave them feeling very valued, and can even make them think that you are taking them for granted. Therefore, when someone does something good, praise them. This could be simply saying well done, and acknowledging that they have achieved something, or you could go further and include the good work in a newsletter, or award employee of the month or similar.

You can also share good client feedback about a member of the team. Although it’s great to get praise from a manager, for example, it can feel even better to get it from someone from outside of the company.

Give Them Challenges

Another way to show someone that you value their input into the business is to challenge them. Giving them easy work to do all the time can get rather boring after a while, and if they don’t feel happy doing their work because they are bored, they may still want to look elsewhere. If you can give them a challenge out of their usual remit such as cold calling customers, or even designing a page on the website, they will feel as though you value them because you believe in them enough to ask them to do something they wouldn’t normally do. On top of that, they will learn something new too – and that is never boring.

5 Ways To Offer Your Customers Added Value

Running your own business isn’t always all about what you want to do; sometimes (most of the time) it’s about what your customers want, which means that you need to work out how to give them everything they need in such a way that they will return time and again. Offering something of added value, whether online or in a physical store, is one way to do that.

Giving your customers added value will be hard work initially, but once you have done it (and you have systems in place to allow you to continue to do it) you will make more money, have better profits, and your business will thrive because of it. Not only that, but you will be ahead of your competition, which is always a good thing. Take a look at the following ways of adding value to your business and see which ones you can implement.

Quick And Efficient

It used to be the case that people were happy to wait for whatever it was they had ordered. It could take weeks, perhaps even months, for their purchase to be ready and for it to be dispatched. Today, no one wants to wait that long – no one really wants to wait at all. Therefore, when someone orders something from you, whether it’s a product or a service, they expect it as soon as possible. Some even require it on the same day, and most would prefer next day delivery where they can get it. If you can promise that you will deliver on the next working day, your business will stand out and you will find that more people choose to use your services.

What will really add value for your customers is getting this speedy service without having to pay for it. Whereas some companies will charge for next day delivery, you could take on those costs yourself. Although it would be a higher initial cost, over time you will find more customers so it would be canceled out. It’s important to do this because you are equating your business with efficient, inexpensive service.

The Best Quality

It’s not always possible to beat your competitors when it comes to pricing; if you start to price your goods too low, you will stop making a profit (and you might even make a loss). So if you can’t stand out due to your pricing, you will need to look at other ways to do it and the best way is to provide items or services that are of exceptional quality. If you do this, the higher price won’t matter because people will be willing to pay for something that is above average.

Remember that determining something’s quality is all down to the customer; if something is of high quality it is because the customer believes it to be do. Therefore, you will need to carry out market research to work out what it is that your customers want (and need).

Give Them A Gift

Everyone loves a free gift and if that gift happens to be able to do some advertising for you at the same time, then it is doubly useful. You don’t have to give something away to every customer who buys something from you, but if you choose to give, for example, iPhone cases to the customers who spend the most with you, or who refer their friends, or even who write a glowing testimonial, then they are going to receive even more value for money. This will go a long way and although you will need to spend at first, the return you get on this kind of investment should be excellent, and well worth the initial cost.

Choose something that has your name and logo on it, and the more the gift is used, the more your name will be noticed. This adds value to the process for you too, which will help you with lowering your marketing costs.

Be There

If you can be available as much of the time as possible, you are automatically offering your customers even more added value. You will need to be as responsive to emails as possible, and reply to comments on social media as quickly as you can. Answer the telephone within two or three rings and this will all ensure that your business appears to put the customer first. These may only be small acts when you look at the big picture, but these are the ones that can make the biggest difference.

Of course, you can’t possibly be around 24 hours a day to answer emails and comments quickly, and this is where you can utilize new technology to your advantage. You could include a chat bot on your website so that questions can be answered at all times of the day and night, or you could make an app that is intuitive and allows customers to work through the process without having to get in touch in the first place (another bonus for them).

Fix Problems

Added value comes in many forms, and one of those forms is being able to fix problems when they occur. No one is perfect, and issues will arise through no one’s fault (or sometimes a genuine mistake has occurred). What the problem is is far less important than how it is solved and what happens afterwards.

Every company is going to work hard towards fixing any problems that occur, but will every company offer something to any customer who has been inconvenienced by the problem? The answer is probably not, but you can and that will make you stand out and give your customers added value. You could give them a discount on their next purchase, or coupons that they can use or give away to their friends, for example. You might go even further and ask them to come in to take a look around your workspace to see how things are done, if that is something that would interest them.

How To Have A Debt Free Retirement

If you truly want to retire, you will need to pay off all of your debts before you stop working – if not, you may have to delay your retirement plans and continue to work just to service those debts. When you reach retirement age, you will want to enjoy life and see and do as many things as possible – the things you couldn’t necessarily see and do when you were working. So being debt free is something you should work towards. Here are some ways to do it.

Save

The simplest way to pay off your debts is to save money. Open up a separate savings account and put all your ‘spare’ money into it. When you have enough to pay off a loan or credit card entirely, you can take the money out and do so. At the same time, you will need to stop borrowing, so lock the credit card away (for emergency use only) and don’t take on any more finance or loans, otherwise as quickly as you pay one thing off, you’ll have something else to save up for. It’s far better to buy things outright, even if you have to dip into your savings to do so, than it is to borrow because when borrowing you will have to factor in interest, and that can make things very expensive.

Once everything is paid off, continue to save and use that money to fund your retirement plans. If you start early, you will have plenty of money to enjoy some exciting trips and start some wonderful new hobbies.

Start Investing

Investment is another good way of paying off debts and funding your retirement at the same time. If you do your research first and learn as much as possible about what you are doing when it comes to investment, you can make a good return on your initial payment, and pay off your debts much more quickly. You can invest in almost anything including stocks and shares, property, and other businesses. Once you have decided where you want to put the money, finding a broker is a good idea so that you can make the most of your investment.

Downsize

If you own a property and you’re paying a mortgage on it, will that mortgage be paid off by the time you come to retire? This can be the biggest debt you owe, but you may not consider it a debt and it may not figure in your plans. However, if you’re not working, are you going to be able to continue to pay your mortgage? If not, downsizing is a good option. When you downsize, you sell your current home and buy something cheaper (and usually smaller). That way, if you choose wisely at the right time, you may not have a mortgage left at all – and you might even have money left over, which can be used to pay off any remaining debts.