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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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An Old Typewriter With A New Twist

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Brad B

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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

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Writing A Story: How To Make Your Story Ideas Stronger

Let’s be honest now; writing a story and thinking up a story idea is not the difficult part of writing. Getting that idea down on the page and making it as strong as it can be… that’s the tricky part. Yet it’s something that you absolutely need to do if you want to make your story shine. Here are some tips on how to make your story idea stronger so that it can be the best version of itself possible.

What’s The Problem When Writing A Story?

Every good story has to have one central premise, and that’s conflict. No matter who is in conflict with whom or what, this element simply has to be there, otherwise you really have no story at all.

writing a story

So… what’s the problem in your story? What’s the big issue when writing a story that is causing your characters pain? What are they trying to get over, or achieve, or make better? Knowing this and making it a bigger part of the overall story so that not a single reader is going to miss it will strengthen your story no end.

Push The Character Further

Don’t be nice to your characters. At least, not all the time. We’re not telling you to go ahead and be George R. R. Martin or Stephen King them all (unless you want to), but they have to have difficulties in their lives otherwise no one is going to want to root for them. The story of a normal man or woman going about their daily business might be written well – it might even be beautiful – but unless there is conflict and unless your characters are pushed as far as you can push them, readers aren’t going to remember your writing once they’re done with it.

What you really need is a character who is just like them, just like the reader, and who has to go through pain and suffering in an effort to resolve (or not) the central conflict. This will be remembered and this will make your story much stronger.

What is the worst thing that could happen to your character? Take that idea and write about how they get over that problem, or how they let it take them down. You can go either way.

Combine Two Unrelated Ideas

Some of the strongest stories are those that are seemingly two completely different ideas thrown together. But what if you took those ideas and combined them into a story that no one had heard before? This is why this idea is so important. It’s why it needs to be considered.

writing a story

Open up a dictionary and find the first word your finger points to. Then do it again in a different part of the book. Take those two words and make a story out of them. Working out how to combine the two ideas will give your idea an added element of strength.

Write What Excites You

Every writer is told to write what they know. That’s fine, but if what you know doesn’t excite you, forget that particular piece of advice about writing a story. Instead, write what thrills you, what fascinates you, what you are truly interested in. You don’t have to ‘know’ it to do that because if you’re truly into whatever it is you’re writing about, you’ll learn what you need to learn.

If you write what excites you, your writing will be stronger and your readers will feel the passion you put into your words.

 

Your Memoir: How To Choose A Great Title

If you are writing a memoir, or hiring a ghostwriter to write one for you, it needs to be an accurate depiction of your life – it should include all the interesting twists and turns, all the mistakes, all the joy, the heartache, the triumph, and successes. It’s such an important book for your family – and potentially a wider audience – to have, that you really should spend a good amount of time coming up with the ideal title.

The title should sum up your life story, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to open the book and plunge into the narrative of your life. Maybe this is why people have trouble thinking of something that really works; it’s a lot of pressure to get it right. It’s a lot of responsibility for the future. Yet it doesn’t have to be. Here are some useful tips about coming up with the perfect title for your memoir so that future generations will want to read it.

Keep It Simple

Within any life, there are going to be plenty of memorable moments, and many of them could form the basis of a title. That’s not a bad way to start thinking about what you’re going to call your memoir, but you must remember to keep it simple. Anything that’s too complicated, too full of puns, too long, or just not understandable isn’t going to entice many people to choose your life story over someone else’s memoir. All things considered, you really want to attract readers, not make them think twice about picking up your book.

memoir

The book’s title should try to record a sense of what your story is about without giving away any surprises that you want the reader to discover for themselves. It should also be kept short and sweet – short titles are much more easily remembered.

Match The Tone

The title of your memoir should also match the tone of the rest of the book. This means that the reader is going to be able to understand just what kind of story you’re telling; is it going to be funny or serious, for example. If your memoir is meant to be inspiring, a funny title won’t convey the right message. If it’s full of amusing anecdotes, a more straight forward title might be confusing. Matching the tone and the title will help to narrow down your choices and will help people be much more aware of the type of book they might be about to read.

Will There Be More?

If you’re planning to write, or have someone write, a second part to your memoir (or even a third or fourth part, come to that) then your title should let readers know there is more. You could, depending on the tone as mentioned above, simply write ‘Part 1’ as a subtitle. Alternatively, you might think of a clever play on words that would lend itself to another book in the same vein.

memoir

Look For Memoir Inspiration

If you are finding it hard to come up with ideas for the title of your memoir, why not look around your local bookshop or online to see what other people have called theirs? Although it’s not a good idea to copy the title word for word, it might give you some inspiration and a push in the right direction.

Remember, when you choose to have a ghostwriter to help you create your memoir you aren’t going to have to work all this out for yourself; I can be with you every step of the way from title to ‘The End’. Get in touch today to find out more.

Creating The Perfect Stay At Home Festival

Missing the tasty street food festival season has to offer? Gousto’s Food stylist Jenny Brown reveals how to recreate a mini version right from your own garden!

With Glastonbury cancelled because of the pandemic, Gousto’s very own Food Stylist Jenny Brown has shared festival-themed food styling tips to help you recreate the summer party feeling at home.

Plus the team at recipe box Gousto have shared six festival-inspired dishes, from vegan burgers to boozy ice-lollies. So what are you waiting for? Grab your wellies, tent… and enjoy!

Here is a taster of the content: 

Festival summer with Gousto

Jenny’s Festival Food Styling Tip:

Forget slaving over a hot grill and create a ‘build-your-own-burger’ bar with just a few ingredients! Whatever you like on your own burger, you can’t go wrong with a burger bar, and they are seriously easy to set up right in your own garden. Grab a few bowls and fill with delicious burger toppings like cheese, onion, pickles and ketchup and let your guests create their own personalised burger.

Festival-inspired recipe: 

Ultimate Vegan Stack Burger

https://www.gousto.co.uk/cookbook/recipes/the-ultimate-vegan-stack-burger

Introducing the ULTIMATE vegan burger. Pile your plant-based brioche buns high with a vegan patty (try Gousto’s for their famous extra juicy vegan patty), melty vegan cheese, a smoky crispy potato rösti, and balsamic onions. Legendary!

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 magazine.

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 cows.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

3 Reasons To Have A Blog On Your Business Website

A blog is a massively useful way to bring traffic – and therefore potentially new customers – to your website. You can think of a blog as a tool, just as you would any piece of equipment that is absolutely necessary to your business. It’s something that might take time, effort,  and money if you outsource the writing, but it is also something that, when done right, can be looked at as an investment of those things, rather than a waste. Read on to discover exactly why you need to have a blog on your business website.

blog writer

More Traffic

The first thing that a blog means is more traffic to your website. If you are using the right keywords and information, your blog is likely to come up first when someone searches for whatever it is you do, or have written about. If the blog is informative and useful, those same people will not only click through, but they will stay (and the longer they stay, the better it is for your SEO and Google rankings).

Not only that, but once people are aware that you exist – thanks to your blog – they will return to read more. They will browse the rest of your website. They will, hopefully, buy from you. And of course, when you look at the numbers, the more people who come to your site, the more chances you have of making a sale.

Ideal For SEO

SEO – search engine optimisation – is something that you need to consider for your website. Again, this can be outsourced, and if you aren’t confident in doing it yourself this can often be the best way to do it. SEO is how you gain traction in search engine rankings. If you think about how you use a search engine, when the results are given to you it is likely you look at the top of the first page and possibly go no further. If you do keep looking, it is likely you – just like everyone else – will check out the second page and no more.

If you can have your website at the top of the Google rankings, you are more likely to be noticed, and with so much competition around that is a precious thing to be able to do. With a blog, SEO becomes much easier. You can include:

seo blog writer

Be The Expert

A blog will help to prove that you are an expert in your niche as you will be able to show the depth of your knowledge and understanding. If you can put this information into layman’s terms and make it interesting, you are sure to find plenty of new customers.

People will always be happy to buy from someone who clearly knows their product or service very well, and the more you can prove this in your blog the better your sales will be.

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…

Roblox Video: A Wolf Or Other

We’re all for trying out new things here are lisamarielamb.co.uk, and when my daughter said she wanted to be a YouTuber playing Roblox, we said okay, why not? Letting children explore new things and have fun hobbies they teach them important skills is crucial, and whether or not her videos do well, she will have gained plenty of knowledge.

So, for your enjoyment, here is Barbie Lamby plays Roblox!

Sleep Week: Lack of Sleep Can Increase Depression Tenfold – Tips to Sleep Better

For Sleep Awareness Week, mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS examine the dangers of sleeping less, and how to combat it

Gerard Barnes, CEO of Smart TMS, discusses the restorative benefits of quality sleep on mental wellbeing and shares tips on how to sleep better. 

sleep week

In today’s society, it is now harder than ever to get a good night of sleep. According to the Mental Health Foundation, we are now sleeping 90 minutes less on average than we did less than 100 years ago, with factors such as increased work responsibilities, over-stimulation from phones and laptops, and poor diets causing more and more people to suffer with sleep problems.

However, for those who find it difficult to sleep at night, tiredness and lethargy should be the least of their worries. People who suffer from insomnia are a staggering 10 times more likely to suffer clinical depression and 17 times more likely to suffer with severe anxiety, whilst a recent study carried out at the University of Oxford found that “sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, and other mental health problems in young adults with an average age of 25”.

Furthermore, not only can a lack of sleep exacerbate underlying mental health issues or even cause them, but it is also associated with greater mood variability, a reduced capacity to manage emotions, and increased levels of impulsive behaviour and inappropriate reactivity. In other words, a lack of sleep leads us to behave more erratically and make poor decisions.

How to sleep better, according to a mental health treatment expert

Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialist Smart TMS, is well acquainted with the issues brought about by a lack of quality sleep.

Since 2015, Smart TMS clinics have been using TMS therapy to effectively treat chronic anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD and a range of other mental health problems. Now, Gerard discusses the restorative benefits of quality sleep, and shares some tips on how to prepare for a better night’s sleep.

“There are a range of factors that contribute to any mental health problem, and we can never put something like depression or chronic anxiety down to one single issue, but regularly getting good quality sleep is one of the single most potent ways to influence one’s mental health in a positive manner.

Some people who experience a significant lack of sleep may suffer from a sleep disorder which likely requires specific treatment, but for the majority of us, our sleep quality could be dramatically improved by simply making some simple adjustments to our lifestyle and daily habits. With this in mind, here are four key tips that can be easily applied to start sleeping better”:

sleep week

Switching off

“Our reliance on smartphones, tablets and laptops in today’s society has never been greater, and while this technology has a range of advantages, it can also have a devastating effect on our ability to sleep. Blue light emitted by our screens disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle – switching off or leaving your electronic devices for half an hour or more before bed will help you to feel sleepy and allow you to drop off more effectively.”

 Avoid caffeine and alcohol

“Consuming caffeine before bed is of course not conducive to relaxing, but many may be surprised to find that alcohol actually disrupts your sleep. Whilst many people say they find it very easy to fall asleep following a few drinks, alcohol has been proven to reduce the amount of time spent in REM sleep – the stage of sleep responsible for the retention of memory, learning and mood regulation. Staying away from alcohol before bed will improve memory, prepare you to deal with your emotions and is essential for your overall development.”

sleep week

Establish a sleeping routine

“Building a realistic and achievable daytime routine is one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety, helping us to cope with change, form positive behaviours, and feel more in control of our lives. Our night time routines should be no different. 

The benefits of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day for our mental health cannot be overstated – reduction of anxiety, improved energy levels and ability to cope with responsibilities are just some of the positive effects.”

Get moving

“Doing regular exercise can be very difficult for people dealing with mental health problems, but it is one of the most beneficial and influential things we can do to help us sleep better. Not only does exercise release a natural antidepressant in the form of endorphins, but the increased demand placed on our body makes the prospect of sleep far more attractive to our mind. Even just 30 minutes of exercise a day will help in the quest to achieve a better night of sleep.”

Flash Fiction: 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.

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.

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.

Flash Fiction: Cherub

At the bottom of the garden lives a cherub made of cold, cold stone. It sits and watches and holds a cold, cold stone bird in its chubby, chipped hands. They are stuck together, trapped together. And yet it seems as though the cherub has the advantage even so. That bird is doomed. I pity it.

I don’t think the cherub likes that.

I think the cherub would prefer I fear it, not have sympathy for the pet – prey – it clasps.

What the cherub does not know is that I do fear it. I like awake at night thinking about it, thinking about its dull dead eyes and its flaking grey hair, too old to be the child it wants to be and wants to have. And when I do sleep I dream about it and in my dreams it has teeth. But I try not to think about that. It does no one any good my husband, my mother, my doctor, myself says.

Scary cherub

I don’t know where it came from. My dad, laughing when I mentioned it at Christmas, the room full of tinsel and warmth and a bit too much wine, suggested a garden centre. I doubt that. All I know is that it’s been here longer than I have, part of the grounds before we bought the house and left by the previous owners who ran as far as they could from it, and ended up crossing the world to live in another country, to get away from that thing in their garden.

Perhaps.

That’s what I think anyway.

But it hasn’t driven us away. Yet. Maybe it likes us. Maybe it enjoys me watching it, mistaking my fear for awe or love or not making a mistake at all and knowing, in the end, that I fear it. I wonder, maybe, in the very deepest corners of my scarred mind, whether I do love it a little bit though. I feel something for it at any rate. I thought it was hatred, but lately I’ve become less sure.

I dream about it. That’s how I know what it really is. What it really wants. The children. The last couple had none, preferring work to family (and there is the most likely reason the cherub made them leave) but we have three under ten, young and healthy. I’ve told them to stay far away from the cherub. At first they asked why and at first I told them but my dreams – nightmares – transferred to them and I had to backtrack, to tell them I was just playing and that it wasn’t going to get them. They still don’t play near it though, and I’m glad about that.

Their nightmares have stopped. Mine continue.

It wants my children. Wants me to be the one to sacrifice them to it and its lifeless bird. But I’m strong enough to resist. I won’t do it. But with so little sleep and so much fear, I wonder… I wonder if one day I will?

Writing: It’s Never Too Late

There is a feeling that steals over me sometimes that I’ve left it too late to be doing this. That I should have started writing earlier in life, a decade earlier, 15 years earlier… If I had, I wonder where I would be now?

And then I remember two things. The first is that I didn’t start writing earlier because I wasn’t ready to. If I had, my writing would not have been of the right standard, and I might have given up after a few rejections. Secondly, I’m not alone. Many writers had other careers first before moving on to new and exciting things.

That’s life.

So here are a few of them to illustrate my point. It’s quite an impressive list.

 

Frank McCourt

Author of the wonderful Angela’s Ashes, McCourt didn’t start writing until he was 65 years old. On top of that, he left school at 13 due to his family’s poverty; he had to start work.

 

EL James

No matter whether you love or hate the Fifty Shades series of books, no one can deny what a phenomenon they became, spawning movies and many copycat versions. EL James was 44 when she began to write these books which began simply as fan fiction.

 

Mario Puzo

Mario Puzo, the father of The Godfather was 33 when he began writing. Whilst that’s not ancient by any means, it is still a lot later than many famous authors – Stephen King was just 12, for example, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was 23.

 

Chuck Palahniuk

The Fight Club author was another of the 33 year old club, picking up the pen to write down his incredible stories in his fourth decade of life.

 

Charles Bukowski

writing

Although Bukowski wrote for most of his life, he didn’t get his big break until he was 49 when he submitted Post Office to a publisher. It was published two years later, and at 51 Bukowski’s life changed forever.

 

Donald Ray Pollock

writing

Donald Ray Pollock had a variety of different jobs in his life, but writer came relatively late. He published a collection of short stories when he was 55, and when he was 58 his debut novel, award-winning The Devil Of All Time, came out.

 

Helen DeWitt

Writing Helen de Witt

Helen DeWitt spent most of her life in academia until she almost had a breakdown and realised she just couldn’t face it anymore. With 100 different novels in fragments around her home, she took some time off just to write – with no interruptions. She would, she said, ‘write until the money ran out’. At the end of that time, she had her impressive novel, The Last Samurai written. She was 44 years old.

 

So there you have it. Many of the writers who are now household names didn’t start writing until they were 30, 40, 50, even 60. And even if they had been writing for longer, being published took the time. So I can relax and enjoy what I’m doing – just write and the rest will follow.