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Monthly January 2017
Beating The Back To Work Blues

It doesn’t matter whether you hate your job with a passion, or whether you have the best career in the world, that feeling of going back to work after a little time off still fills us with dread. It’s back to reality. It’s back to the daily routine. No more home time, no more holiday, no more freedom. The grindstone is waiting, and your nose has to be put right back on it.

keep your nose to the grindstone

Ouch.

No wonder we all get a little sad about the prospect of heading back to the office.

But guess what? There are ways to combat this terrible feeling and get straight back into the swing of things without too much distress…

Why Are You Feeling Like This?

That’s an important question. Ask yourself why you are feeling so down about going back to work, and you might get a surprising answer, but one that will help you make some decisions, and help you feel happier about things too.

It could just be that you’ve enjoyed your time off and the idea of having to go back to the office (or wherever) and get your brain in gear doesn’t appeal. And that’s perfectly normal. But a few hours – or even minutes – into your first day, and for the majority of people that’s all forgotten and you’ll wonder what you were worried about in the first place.

get me out of here

For some, however, it’s a deeper problem than simply enjoying a bit of freedom. Could there be something about your job (perhaps even the job itself) that you dislike enough to make you not want to go back at all? If this is more than just a form of the Sunday evening fear, it’s time to take stock. If you’re not enjoying your job, you might consider moving on. If not immediately, then at some point, once you’ve done all the sums and weighed up the pros and cons of it all. There is no point in going to work for eight (ish) hours a day if it’s not something you like. There are many forms of deathbed regrets, and working too hard in the wrong place ranks right up there at the top.

You might even consider starting your own business.

If it is one aspect of the job that is making you miserable, why not speak to your boss? They might be able to help, and it could turn out that it wasn’t such an issue after all once it’s out in the open.

Have You Made A Plan?

If the feeling of dread doesn’t dissipate after a little while, if it’s there every morning and you’re coming home more downhearted every day, you know what you need to do. Finding a new job isn’t something that can necessarily happen overnight, especially when you’ve got commitments and a family to provide for. So make a plan. Give yourself a timeframe to get it completed by (three months is a good one – just long enough to feel comfortable, but short enough that you have to get on straight away). Create targets to meet along the way such as applying for a certain number of jobs each week, or tidying up your CV by a specific date. You might even want to invest in some evening classes to top up your skills.

make a plan

Me, Me, Me

If your job isn’t the problem and you’re happy doing what you do, where you do it, and the people with whom you work, then it could be a problem within yourself. If you’re not feeling 100 percent, book an appointment with your GP and chat to them about what ails you. It could be a physical problem (lack of sleep, a weight issue, general aches and pains), or it could be a psychological one (anxiety, stress, depression, for example). Either way, it’s good to discuss these matters and hopefully do something about them once and for all. As soon as you fix your body and mind, everything else will fall into place.

And for those who are simply feeling a little run down, you need to schedule some me time. Book a fancy spa day, go for a long walk on your own, read a good book, watch a terrible movie, it doesn’t matter as long as you can relax and zone out for a while. When you come back down to the real world you’ll hopefully be feeling a whole lot better for it.

have some me time

Titles announced for City Reads and Young City Reads 2017 as part of Brighton Festival

The debut novel by Sharon Duggal The Handsworth Times has been chosen for City Reads while A.F. Harrold’s Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) has been picked for Young City Reads as part of Brighton Festival 2017.

City Reads and Young City Reads are city-wide ‘big reads’ delivered by award winning literary organisation Collected Works CIC, designed to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout Brighton & Hove. This year they launch on 2 March (World Book Day) and run until 14 May with a series of events themed around the books to encourage people across the city to get reading and start talking.

Brighton-based British Asian writer Sharon Duggal’s novel, published by Bluemoose Books, is set in 1981 where factories are closing, unemployment is high, the NF are marching and the neglected inner cities are ablaze as riots breakout across Thatcher’s fractured Britain. The Agarwal family are facing their own personal tragedy, but their pain is eased through humour, friendship and community.

The title chosen for Young City Reads, the ‘big read’ aimed at children, Fizzlebert Stump, is the story of a boy, a book, some very bad people, some very brave deeds, and the importance of rubber teeth for lions.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: ‘We are delighted that City Reads and Young City Reads are part of Brighton Festival again this year – building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. The importance of empathy and community is central to our Guest Director Kate Tempest’s vision for the Festival as a whole, making Sharon Duggal’s powerful debut particularly fitting as a choice for City Reads. And with this year’s Guest Director our youngest in the role to date we are particularly pleased to be providing an opportunity to encourage young booklovers to come together to discuss and share their love of reading – and hopefully nurturing a new generation of artists and art lovers for the future.’

Sharon Duggal (002)

Sharon Duggal, City Reads author says: ‘What an absolute honour to have my novel, The Handsworth Times chosen for City Reads 2017. It is quite a special thing to know that people from all walks of life across the city where I live and work will be coming together to read my book, just as I have done with many previous City Reads selections. The Handsworth Times is ultimately a book about the hope we find in other people and it will be such a pleasure to have the opportunity to get out there and share the story with so many different people across this city via the inspired City Reads programme of events. 

AF Harrold (002)

AF Harrold, Young City Reads author says, ‘Young City Reads is a fantastic initiative and it’s great to hear Fizzlebert’s been picked this year. Hopefully it’ll put a smile on some faces and an embarrassing snort of laughter in the back of the room every now and then when you’re supposed to be getting on with more serious things’. 

Highlights of City Reads include a Literary Salon at the Regency Townhouse (Wed 29 March), a riotous celebration of the music made during era of The Handsworth Times via a Stick It On Party at The Latest Music Bar (Fri 28 April), perennial favourite The City Reads Book Quiz returns on Wed 22 March, and Sharon Duggal is in conversation at Brighton Festival on 14 May. Young City Reads launches at Jubilee Library on 2 March, with a special Brighton Festival event on 23 May featuring the author and illustrator (Sarah Horne).

Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for free) at cityreads.co.uk and agree to read Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) together in class between 2 March – 23 May 2017. Throughout the project, participating classes will receive free weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Fizzlebert Stump quizzes, puzzles and fun activities to complete.

Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son was chosen for City Reads 2016 while Hamish and the WorldStoppers by Danny Wallace was the title for Young City Reads 2016.

For more information visit cityreads.co.uk.

Brighton Festival will take place from 6-28 May 2017.

Weird Writing Habits

Every writer is different. Every writer has their own style, their own way of doing things. And every writer has their own little quirks and habits. Some of them are about comfort. Some are about finding ‘the muse’. Some are just because they are fun or pleasurable.

What are some of the strangest?

 

Standing

Write standing up

Although the abiding image of a writer is of someone frantically tapping away at a keyboard (or typewriter), sitting at a cluttered desk on a squeaky old chair, some of the most famous and well-loved literary legends actually chose to do their writing standing up. Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens are just a few of the many who preferred and prefer to write in this way.

And it’s not a bad idea.

It may not help the mind particularly, but it certainly helps the body. Standing at a desk has been proven to reduce the risk of obesity, reduce the risk of type II diabetes (and other problems that relate to metabolism), reduce the chances of getting cancer, and generally offer a longer life. This could well be a writing habit to emulate.

 

Lying Down

Write lying down

It sounds like an uncomfortable prospect, but many writers have found that lying down focuses them and gives them an extra boost of creativity. Perfect for when writer’s block strikes. It may not be exactly possible to lie down and type (although technology moves in mysterious ways, so perhaps in years to come it will be the norm), but with a notepad and pencil, jotting down the bare bones of a story or article is something that perhaps should be given due consideration. Mark Twain was a proponent of writing whilst lying down, as were Edith Wharton and George Orwell. Woody Allen swears by the process to this day!

 

Hanging Around

Write upside down

If you thought writing lying down was a feat, what about writing whilst hanging upside down? It’s what best-selling author Dan Brown does (and no matter what you think of his writing, you have to admit, he’s done well). He says he does it because it allows him to completely relax, and in doing so his creativity is allowed to flow. The more he does it the more creative he feels, and the more he writes. Brown has a few little foibles that he can’t do without though. Another is that he always writes with an hourglass on his desk. When the hour is up, he gets up to do exercise. Which, when you think about it, is an entirely sensible thing to do.

 

Looking At A Wall

Write looking at a wall

A wall. A big, blank wall. No pictures, no photos, no notes. Nothing. Just plain and boring. It’s perfect. It may not be inspiring to look at, but when it comes to sparking creativity and keeping a writer in their seat (or on their feet, or in their bed, or whatever) for extended periods of time, having something that is entirely dull and blank straight ahead is a great idea. It means there are no distractions. Writing is a delicate balance, especially writing fiction, and any tiny distraction can stop the creative flow in its dainty tracks.

 

Being Naked

write naked

Yes indeed, some of the finest writers who have ever existed wrote in the nude. Why? Well, why not? But also they felt it was freeing and allowed for that all-important yet all too illusive creativity to strike. In the case of Victor Hugo, however, there was an entirely different reason for writing without clothes. Whenever he had a looming deadline, he told his valet to take all of his clothes away. The only way to get them back would be to hit his targets. It meant he had to write quicker because he was cold, and it also kept him in the house.

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.

scary-cherub

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.

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?

Fantastic Seven, Kick Start 2017 With these Super Gadgets!

1. Varidesk – Make 2017 the year of office health, helps prevent back pain, all whilst burning 50 calories per hour. You can really get paid to burn calories, so if you can’t make the gym, make the gym come to your office. It even has a cool app which tells you when to stand at work.

From £150 uk.Varidesk.com

2. Penclic B2 – Reduce wrist pain and work more efficiently, all with this eye-catching, super-stylish ergonomic mouse. Make your colleagues jealous as this feels like holding a pen, no more clunky mice. Work pain free and in style.

£79.99 from Penclic.se

3. Root7 Canteen – Home-made soup, low on calories and warms you up at lunch. This conception keeps hot fluids boiling for 12 hours.

From £20  Root7.com

4. Sensor Wake – Helps you wake up energised in these dark cold mornings by releasing our favourite smells from Coffee to Croissants, whatever you fancy.

£99.99 from The Fowndry

5. Memobottle – Keep up that water intake, stylish and fits in your laptop bag.

£15.40 from The Fowndry

6. Tumbler – Keep your home-made coffee warm and save money over the year from visiting your local coffee shop. Keeps your coffee hot for 3 hours, so even if there’s a strike, your coffee will keep you warm.

£22 from Root7.com

7. Swifty Scooter MK3 One  – Make you commute speedy and fun,  all whilst burning calories and kick-starting your day. This adult scooter folds up to store in hallways, under your desk or on the tube with ease

£599 from Swifty Scooter

The Perfect Cosy Night In

It’s that time of year when the weather is getting colder and you don’t always want to venture into the icy outdoors. Stay in by the fire and enjoy a hot chocolate or festive mulled wine by your side as you relax. Introducing the CouchCoaster, the perfect way to keep your favourite drink next to you, just where it belongs.

couchcoaster-1

The CouchCoaster is the ultimate drink holder for your sofa, so you can sip your coffee while watching your favourite movies. Eliminate the chance of damaging your sofa with stains from spilt coffee or wine, and relax knowing the CouchCoaster keeps your drink safely in place. This family friendly drinks holder fits on a variety of different sizes of sofa arm, whether its wider, thinner, rounded or square, trust your drink to this stylish gadget. 

No matter what beverage you fancy the CouchCoaster can hold it all! From mugs and tumblers to bottles and cans, it even has cut out section to allow the handle of your mug to fit snugly in place! With a flexible silicon body, weighted band for stability and being suitable for hot and cold beverages, what more could you ask for?

couchcoaster-2

This must have product is available in 5 colours, so you can match to your sofa, or pick a colour that truly stands out! The CouchCoaster is available in Jet Black, Steel Grey, Mocha Brown, Rosso Red and Cool Cream. This really is the ultimate drink holder for the whole family, suitable for ages 3 upwards. There is no need to leave your drink on the table across the room, or place on the floor with a risk of knocking it over, when you can have it sat right next to you.

couchcoaster-3

Whether its’ a cosy night in alone, or a movie night with the whole family, make sure you have a CouchCoaster beside you.

The CouchCoaster is available online from couchcoaster.com for £20.

Flash Fiction: Soft Snowflakes

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

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

Soft Snowflakes

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

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

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

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My pricing guidlines

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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

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

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

Ghost Writing

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

Articles

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

Web Content

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

Sales Letters

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

Emails

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

Product Descriptions

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

Copy Editing & Proofreading

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

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

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

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

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

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Andreas K

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

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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.

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Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

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Matthew E

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

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REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

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Guest Post by Gabriel Eziorobo: Writing Is An Art, Not A Tradition

I started writing when I read a love poem. It was the poem that inspired me to start writing. I was meant to understand that writing is an art that needs to be done in your own way. You don’t have to write like other writers before you can call yourself a writer, you don’t have to do the things writers have been doing before you can call yourself a writer or get a degree in English before you can call yourself a writer. This doesn’t make you a writer, but a copywriter. This is a funny thought but that is it. You just have to be yourself and not someone else.

Let me show you the three things that tells you writing is an art and not a tradition. These needs to be followed and then you can become the writer you want to be.

Uniqueness: Everyone is looking for something different. Just imagine how many writers we have in the world today and how many are yet to be born. Too many to count. Yet few are noticed. The ones that are noticed are people who have done it their own way. You can know them by the things they have done in the writing industry because they are unique. You can be among these writers by doing something unique for everyone to follow. People won’t say anything about your writing if you are doing the things they already know. You just have to make a change and not to be in the midst of writers, you just have to do it the way you can and not the way you will be stuck, you just have to say this is your style of writing and not the other way round for the world to know who you are and the things you are made of.

Creativity: Writing is an art in which you have to imagine wide. This means creating your own world through your imagination, taking it beyond the earth’s surface and making something extraordinary out of it. The secret behind creativity is imagination. You can go far as a writer if you can take your time to imagine vividly and come up with a new idea in the writing industry. There are no two ways about it, imagine it, take a step and it will work for you.

How you interact with your readers: Not every reader loves reading books that end with unhappy moments. They don’t all enjoy a scary book. You have to understand who your readers are, what are those topics they love to read and how you can get their attention to the end of your story.

These are the list of things you should consider before writing on any topic:I) Theme: Your theme should relate

i) Theme: Your theme should relate to your readers. You should tell them everything they need to know about the theme and how it can be of help to them.

ii) Suspense: This is a way you can get your readers to read your story to the end. Let there be a suspense in your writing for people to read because if there is no suspense readers may lose interest and may call that piece of writing boring.

iii) Rhetorical questions: You should involve your readers in your writing by asking questions that are meant for them to answer. This can also get their attention in answering those questions and keep reading to know the answers behind those questions you have asked them.

How Indie Authors Can Help One Another – And Why They Should

In many professions competition is the norm. It is a fight to the top, and sometimes people get trampled. But with writers it’s different. Or at least it should be. With writers, there is enough space out there for everyone.

I’m not talking about copywriters or freelance writers exactly – everyone of them (me included) fights for the jobs that pay well or seem interesting. Heck, we even fight for the ones that don’t pay well and have us writing about things we have no interest in at all; the bills need to be paid.

But indie (independent) authors are a particular breed of writer. And it is in this profession that there is room for everyone to do whatever it is they want to do. Especially now that there is the option for self publishing. These are the ones who have no need to compete with one another; there are so many different stories that can be written, and so many genres (and sub-genres… and sub-sub-genres, come to that!) that the variety really is infinite.

It is because of this infinite variety that indie authors really should – and generally do – help one another out. Working together is important; it enables everyone to move further forward, and to find different markets that they might otherwise never have come into contact with. It will take time, but it is always worth doing – networking, offering advice, working on a ‘give and take’ ideal… it all goes to the greater good, because when one indie author succeeds, it gives hope and opportunity to all the others.

There are a few different ways to collaborate with other authors. One is link swapping. That could be posting or sending out alerts when a new competition or writing opportunity presents itself, or it could simply be placing the links of other writers on your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your blog… If you link to theirs, they can link to yours, and both of your audiences will grow. It’s a fantastic way to find new readers for your work, and it’s immediate exposure too, meaning immediate income. It might not be much, but it’s something, and that’s how we all need to start.

Brainstorming is another great way to use the expertise of other writers, and to put forward some ideas of your own. Join in with (or create, if you can’t find one already) a monthly online meeting using Skype or Google Hangouts or Slack or Whatsapp. There are many different options. You could even set up a secret Facebook group and use that. As long as there is an online space where everyone – whoever you invite, really – can discuss their writing, how they’re marketing it, any plans for the future or questions they might have and so on. It’s a great way to swap ideas and discover new things.

Libraries are such useful commodities, and so indie authors may as well use them too. Note down the ISBN of the books written by authors in your network, and ask your local library to order the book in for you. If your entire network does the same for everyone, that will give all of your books a nice borrowing boost. It can be embarrassing to ask for your own book to be brought into a library, but asking for someone else’s is much easier, and more likely to get done and yield results.

Apart from actually writing, the thing that takes up most of an indie author’s time is the research. This is research into how to market the books when they are complete, who to use as an editor, where the best value cover designers are, as well as the content itself. It can take an age, when all you really want to do is get it done and have your book out there for all to see – and hopefully read. This is where the knowledge of others can really save you time. Ask your questions on a forum and get answers – indie authors love to share! And who knows, you may be able to pay it forward and answer someone else’s questions while you’re at it.

Basically, when indie authors pull together so much more can get done – and so many more will see you.

Flash Fiction: Card Reading

Julia stopped card reading on her thirty-fifth birthday. It used to be a favourite past time of hers, to leave the hectic stream of the high street and enter the bright, warm, orange infused glow of the greetings card shop, her glasses instantly misting and then clearing as she started to make her way to the ‘with sympathy’ section. She’d always start there; she felt it grounded her, reminded her that she was mortal, made her appreciate the life she was living. She tried to remember those cards when she was frustrated, or angry, or just generally having a bad day. It sometimes even worked.

After her sobering start, she moved to the anniversary cards. She had no one to buy one for, but it didn’t stop her looking. Pastel colours or bright, bright reds and pinks, hearts, flowers, teddy bears… Soppy and silly, but so beautiful in their charming, clichéd way.

Other sections received a brief glance, and special occasions, such as Valentine’s or Christmas, necessitated a much longer rest stop in the shop, since it was often busier inside than out. But no matter what, the birthday cards were never ignored. This was what she came for. This was what she adored, and this is what she wanted. She spent long minutes, if not hours, searching for just the right card. Sometimes she came away with nothing. Usually she came away with nothing. So far, from her hundreds of visits to the shop, she had bought just seventeen cards. She only wanted one more.

She never bought her eighteenth card.

It was twenty years before that she went to the psychic to ask her one, specific question; When will I have a baby?

Before you are thirty-five, was the answer. Certain. Definite.

It never occurred to Julia that finding a man should be her priority if she was to achieve this goal. She didn’t think of that at all; instead she planned everything else, bought everything, painted and decorated a nursery, bought a stock of nappies and clothing in different sizes, opened up a savings account for her child’s education. She had so many toys she had to store most of them in the loft, in cardboard boxes, labelled ‘Baby’.

On her thirty-fifth birthday, Julia stopped card reading. She sat, silent tears of a lost life dripping onto the seventeen birthday cards she had so carefully picked out for her child. The eighteenth would stay in the shop. Someone else could have it.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Writing Superstitions

Just as with many professions – musicians, sports players, even medical professionals and plenty more – writers have a variety of weird and wonderful writing superstitions that are as unique to each writer as their own writing style.

Writers, however, seem to have more than anyone else.

Whether that is because good luck and excellent timing can – by some – be seen to be the way to gain success in the fiction industry, or whether it is because the muse does not always deign to make an appearance when we want (or rather need) her to, who can say? The point is, writers have superstitions that offer them peace of mind. And a peaceful mind is often the first step in creating something beautiful.

 

The Weirdest Superstitions…

Edith Sitwell was a British poet, and she certainly enjoyed having a clear mind. However, the only way for her to clear that mind was to lie in an open coffin before beginning work.

Truman Capote would never, ever start or finish a piece of writing on a Friday. And neither would he write sitting down; he always had to lie down to get anything done.

John Steinbeck wrote all of his first drafts in pencil. Perhaps not so strange. But he did always make sure he had 12 sharpened pencils on his desk at all times.

Alexandre Dumas used colour in his superstitious ideas. Fiction had to be written on blue paper, articles on pink paper, and poetry on yellow paper.

Friedrich Schiller had to have the smell of rotten apples around him if he was to get anything worthwhile down on paper. Therefore, to ensure he could always write, he kept rotten apples in his desk drawer. Every now and then he would open the drawer and inhale the scent, boosting his creativity (so he said).

Isabel Allende writes about magical realism. She always starts a new novel on 8th January.

 

More Common Superstitions

Of course, there are some more common superstitions that many writers believe in – or rather, don’t want to not believe in, just in case. This includes the idea of not having 13 pages in a chapter, or not only including 13 chapters in a book. This might be why some books don’t end when it feels that they should! Other writers don’t like to end a book (or chapter) on an even page. More don’t like odd pages.

Some writers only ever think of the title of a book once it is complete (J.K. Rowling does this), but for others, there must be a title before any work can be done (this is how I work, as it happens).

Using a specific notebook, pen, typewriter or computer are also common superstitions. Or wearing a certain piece of clothing that brings luck (or at least words).

Whether or not these superstitions actually work is the matter of some debate. Those who cling to them will insist that they do, whilst others who don’t understand will say that they don’t.

But either way, what harm does it do? The writer enjoys their work, safe in the knowledge that they have carried out all the checks and balances that need to be done for inspiration to strike and the words to flow. And the sceptics… well, they can simply enjoy the finished product, can’t they?

New Release: Cold Calling

It’s been a while since I had a new short story collection out. Short stories, however, are my favourite thing to write. There is something fun, fast, and a little bit frantic about trying to get a million ideas (or perhaps just one big idea) into a condensed form. I try to keep my short stories in the 3,000 to 6,000 word realm, but sometimes the story takes over a little bit and ends up much longer.

Of course, the opposite is true too. Sometimes a story is over and done with in 1,000 words. Sometimes fewer. It all depends. I don’t really like to work to word counts when it comes to fiction – although when blogging and writing features and articles, it’s an essential skill to have. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing fiction so much; I get a chance to really let my imagination take flight, and I’m not restricted. It’s a good way of unwinding in the evenings after spending a whole day writing much more formal, much more corporate, much more SEO-based pieces.

Cold Calling

My latest collection, Cold Calling, consists of 19 chilling short stories that all have one thing in common; greed. Sometimes good, usually bad, greed is the essence of this collection and, some would say, of life.

The book is available on Amazon.co.uk (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-Calling-Lisamarie-Lamb-x/dp/0244311811/) and Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Calling-Lisamarie-Lamb-x/dp/0244311811/).

Let me know what you think!

What Do You Like To Drink? Iced Tea, Anyone?

Perfect for garden parties, long summer evenings and other staple events in the summer social calendar, Newby’s teas and tisanes preserve the fruits’ natural sugars and make a luxurious iced brew which can be drunk without added sweetener, making them the perfect iced-tea recipe.

From Newby’s popular Classic Tea Bag Collection comes a healthy, delicious and refreshing alternative for the discerning customer who wishes to avoid artificially-sugared summer drinks: Iced Summer Berries and Iced Green Lemon.

Summer Berries combines a rich berry taste with notes of hibiscus and vanilla. Green Lemon is light yellow-green, with a delicate citrus taste and a tangy finish.

Each luxury tea and tisane is presented in a Newby sachet, sealed the Newby way, a proprietary system which preserves the freshness and aroma of the tea, keeping it safe from adulterates.

Gwen Hustwit, General Manager Creative & Marketing at Newby Teas said:

“All you need to do to make our summer iced teas is brew, cool and add ice. Use one teabag per person, add boiling water, then brew for 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, for green tea, you can use our specially-developed recipe.”

“At Newby Teas, we are dedicated to reintroducing quality and uncompromising flavour to every one of our products. Our teas are fresh and full of flavour and character, and our tisanes retain the fruits’ natural sugars, offering the perfect sweet indulgence, which can be served sugar free without calories, making it the perfect summer refreshment.

“From weekend garden parties to warm summer nights, this year’s Newby iced teas are the ultimate luxury treat.”

Newby Teas Classic Tea Bag Collection was relaunched earlier this year with a series of unique designs created to celebrate craftsmanship. Newby Teas, is substantially owned by the N Sethia Foundation, which supports, among other good causes, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery at UCH, the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre in Cambridge.

Green Lemon and Summer Berries cost £5.50 per 25 bag packet and are available online at (www.newbyteas.co.uk)

Newby’s ‘Green Mojitea’ iced-tea recipe

Serves 4-6

4-6 Newby Green Lemon Tea Bags

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

600ml Sparkling Water

3 Unwaxed Lemons

 

In a large heat proof jug, brew 4-6 Newby Green Lemon tea bags using 400ml of water just below boiling (80°C). Steep for 3-5 minutes then remove tea bags. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste) and allow the tea to cool before adding the juice of 2 lemons and 600ml of sparkling water. Serve with ice, and fresh lemon (fresh mint optional).

 

Newby’s ‘Strawberry MarTEAni’ recipe

Serves 4-6

6 x Newby Strawberry & Mango Black Tea

Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)

Fresh mint

Fresh strawberries

Fresh mango (optional)

In a large pitcher, brew the sachets in 400ml of boiling water and infuse for 4-5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar (adjust to taste). Add 600 ml of cold water and the juice of 2 fresh lemons. Top up with plenty of ice, a handful of fresh mint and some fresh strawberries. Lovely served in martini glasses for a special occasion.

Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

There are many theories in this world that support the idea that what you think determines the outcome of your life. The mind is a marvellous, untapped resource that is potentially infinite in its influence over what you do and how things turn out. The Law of Attraction is just one of these theories, and it is a fascinating read.

Even if you don’t believe in how it works exactly, there is no doubt that having a positive outlook affects how you perceive things, and how you are perceived. So it is important to think positively whenever possible.

If things have been going badly with regards to your work or writing – or any other creative pursuit – then could it possibly be your thoughts and feeling about it all that is causing the problems? Could it be that you are sabotaging yourself? Let’s take a look at how you might be, without even realising that you are.

Making It A Competition

If you are constantly looking around you at what other people are doing, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you are doing – and that can spell disaster for your current creative project. That is one of the best ways of sabotaging yourself. Comparing yourself to others can sometimes work in terms of allowing you to set yourself a goal, but doing it all the time is distracting, and can push you off course from that goal very easily.

It is always better to be looking ahead, towards your next goal, and ignore what other people are doing. Creativity is not a race. It’s not a competition. It is a personal journey. That may sound a bit ‘new age-y’ but think about it; it’s completely true.

 

Getting Angry

Allowing yourself to get angry about things is another excellent way of halting the creative process and sabotaging yourself. If something has irritated you – it could be anything, from a Facebook post by a fellow writer, artist, poet etc, to hearing about someone’s success in the same genre that you work in – the important question to ask is ‘why?’. Why are you angry about this? And what is that anger doing to harm your creative process (hint: it’s another way of sabotaging yourself)?

Is your anger about being envious? Is it that you have a particularly deep competitive streak? Does the news make you feel less secure about your place in the creative world?

Whatever it is, remember that your own thoughts are taking you on a journey, and if you want that journey to be a fulfilling and successful one, then you need to dispense with all the superfluous feelings of anger and just get on with working your way towards happiness. Another artist’s success will not diminish your own. There is no need to be envious as your time will come as long as you work towards it and acknowledge that fact.

 

Complaining All The Time

Complaining to yourself is a waste of time. Complaining to other people… well, that all depends on the complaint. A valid complaint should often be aired – in a well-thought out and calm kind of way. That is how things can done, that is how problems get solved. A general gripe about the state of things, about a tweet that you didn’t appreciate, about someone else’s success or writing ability… that’s usually less productive. Plus this kind of pointless complaining has a knock-on effect. Firstly, it takes up a lot of time when, you guessed it, you could be writing or painting or doing whatever it is that makes you feel complete.

Secondly, empty complaining puts you in a negative frame of mind. One small niggle and suddenly everything is less rosy. Unsure about that? Think of it the other way around – when you see something that makes you happy, or you get some good news, doesn’t your day iimmediately seem better? Brighter? Altogether happier? It’s true, and the same goes for negative things. Your day (if you let it) will go downhill. Don’t let it. Keep positive, and things will improve. That’s just how it works.

Short Story: Arrivals

She had been there for hours, holding that ragged cardboard sign torn from the top of a box, a jagged edge where it used to belong. Just standing there, waiting, leaning hard against the metal barrier outside the arrivals gate as though without it she might fall and if that happened she might not get up again.

I watched her. It broke up the monotony of my new job, serving coffee to harried, hurried people who simply did not want to be where they were, had better things to do than come and collect a loved one from the airport, or the ones who were stuck because of delays and were depressed because the only thing they wanted was to take their loved ones home. Whatever their story, it all came down to the same thing; misery. And I learned during that first day they liked to take that misery out on me.

So I watched the old lady instead, smiling and nodding and agreeing with the sad, mad people around me ordering lattes and cappuccinos and thinking that made them sophisticated, but not really paying them any attention.

She barely moved, and I was sure I could see her ankles swelling, actually feel them in her ever-tightening sandals, and I wished to God she would take a break and have a sit down, order a coffee, have a muffin. But she didn’t. She just stood there, swaying ever so slightly. I wondered, every now and then, whether she might not have nodded off, whether she might not have died and no one had noticed. But every time I began to worry another plane landed and another load of dishevelled, tired, glad to be home passengers streamed out of the big open doorway and into the arrivals hall. The old lady’s head would snap up, she’d hold her sign a little higher, she’d stand a little taller and wait for someone to recognise her. No one did. Not one person all day acknowledged her presence. Except me, I guess. But I wasn’t the one she was waiting for, was I?

When my interminable shift was finally over I bought a coffee from myself. It wasn’t for me, I couldn’t even bear the thought of the stuff after serving it up all day. It was for her. But before I could make my way over to her, my boss stopped me. “Where are you going with that?” he asked, nodding in the direction of the cardboard cup in my hands.

“It’s okay,” I said, “I paid for it.”

“That’s not what I asked,” he said, tapping the top of my cup with his forefinger. He waited for my answer, what I thought was a smirk appearing on his face that made me want to throw the bloody coffee all over him. I didn’t. I counted to ten (quickly, since he was waiting) and told him, “I was taking it to that woman. She’s been there all day, not eaten or drunk anything. I thought she might want it.”

The boss nodded, the smirk definitely there now. “I thought so. I knew you were a little bleeding heart the moment I saw you.” He laughed, once, loudly and strangely and slapped me on the shoulder so that a drop of coffee flew from the opening in the lid and landed on the floor between us.

I had no response to what he’d said. I had no idea whether he meant it good or bad. I guessed bad so I stared at the drop of coffee and thought about wiping it away but didn’t. The boss turned around, went back to the counter to finish cashing up; “She won’t take it, you know. We’ve all tried.”

“How do you mean?” I asked knowing full well that no one else from the coffee shop had been anywhere near her that day.

With a clattering of coins and a frustrated grimace, an air of someone who’d said the said words many times before, he told me. “It’s not just today. It’s not just you. Every day she turns up, holds that sign, waits for Christ knows who. Every single day. And she won’t take anything off you, even when it’s free. Sad, but there you go.” He shrugged, went back to his counting.

I didn’t think he really though it was sad. I got the feeling that he thought it was a bit funny – ha ha, not strange, although perhaps that too. And I thought I would give her the coffee anyway, partly for my own peace of mind, but partly to prove him wrong. Only when I looked back to where she was she was gone.

The next morning I arrived in a dismal mood. I’d spent the evening distracted, worrying about the old lady and getting nowhere with it and now I had to stand behind the counter all day worrying about her at work too. I hoped she wasn’t there. You have no idea how much I hoped that the boss had been winding me up. But she was and he wasn’t and it pained me to see her.

That was the day that I properly looked at her sign, faded and dog-eared and obviously very old. RICHARD – WELCOME HOME! – THE ANSWER’S YES! it said. Oh God, my heart just shattered for her, right there, and I almost wept into some stranger’s latte. And I raged at this Richard who had never come home, my anger so fierce that it scared me and I had to take a break, go outside to cool down. How dare he? How dare he not return to her? Someone that loyal, that much in love… I couldn’t stand it.

I had to do something. Something to help her.

But I couldn’t. In the end I helped myself and quit so I wouldn’t have to see her again. And just like that it was over. For me. But I have no doubt that she’s still waiting.

For Coffee Lovers On The Go…

It’s a well-known fact that writers enjoy a boost of caffeine every now and then – and coffee fits the bill perfectly.

If you thought standard black Americano was the closest you would ever get to your beloved espresso when on the move, then think again. Let us introduce to you the Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker from The Fowndry.

Providing freshly pressed, frothy topped espresso shots at your fingertips, from the office, to the countryside, to mountain ranges. You won’t want to leave the house without this must have gadget!

Full of cutting edge technology to create barista style shots, the Minpresso brews full-bodied coffee at 116 psi – the same pressure as traditional espresso machines.  All you have to do is pop off the top and bottom caps, add your ground coffee or capsule for the Minipresso Nespresso, add hot water, and pump into the espresso cup included. Once finished, the semi-automatic piston can be locked up and all the pieces cleverly fit back together to give you a single, light and versatile coffee maker that can be taken anywhere.

With the Minipresso’s stylish, compact design, the espresso maker easily fits in bags and pockets, so great coffee doesn’t come at a cost of lugging heavy equipment. Furthermore, due to the hand-pump feature, no electricity is required, meaning no worrying about charging or batteries whether you’re out in the wilderness or camping out at festivals.

So, for your favorite, freshly brewed, steaming hot espresso on the go, with next to no fuss, no cables, no batteries or barista, Minipresso has your back.

The Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker is available online for £47.99 from The Fowndry.

Why Do We Say That? Language And Its Origins

The origin of phrases can be absolutely fascinating. We use them on a daily basis, but not many of us ever stop to wonder why – why the words we say are part of our language, and what they really mean. Here are a few great examples of that – and their origins.

Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

Back in Victorian times, the practice for bathing was for the ‘man of the house’ to bathe first, then the wife, then the children in order of birth. Therefore, the baby would be last in the queue. By this time, so it is said, the water would be so dirty (people only tended to wash once a month) that it was entirely possible (apparently) to lose someone in it. Hence, when emptying the bathtub, the baby might be thrown out too!

 

Raining Cats & Dogs

When the majority of houses had thatched roofs, they were made by literally piling straw up – there was no wooden structure underneath. Now, due to straw being nice and warm, a lot of animals used to climb up and live in there, or at least sleep in there when it was chilly. But, when it rained the straw became slippery, and the larger animals (such as cats and dogs) would be washed right out. It would therefore be ‘raining cats and dogs’.

Bringing Home The Bacon/Chewing The Fat

If you were doing well in your profession, you might have been able to afford some bacon to go with your diet of (mainly) vegetables. If you could literally bring home the bacon, you would most likely hang it up to show it off hen guests came round. And because it was pretty expensive and a rarity to have it, it would be used sparingly. When friends came over for a chat, the fat would be cut off first, chopped into small pieces and handed out. You would ‘chew the fat’ with friends.

 

A Wake

Holding a wake for someone who has passed away has become something of a tradition, but it has a very practical origin. Whiskey and ale was served in pewter cups which contained lead, and this could have the effect of knocking someone out for two or more days. They might even be thought to be dead. But before arranging the burial, mourners would hold a wake – sitting around the ‘body’ with food and drink to keep watch in case the deceased woke up.

Dead Ringer/Saved By The Bell/Graveyard Shift

People were just not that great at knowing whether someone had actually died or were just pretty unwell. Premature burials were a definite thing. So rather than the trauma of worrying about burying someone alive, a bell would be attached to a piece of string, which would be attached in turn to the body. The bell would remain above ground, and, if the person in the coffin awoke, the bell would ring. They were known as ‘dead ringers’ who had been ‘saved by the bell’. And who would hear the bell ringing? It would be the person whose job it was to sit in the graveyard, on the graveyard shift, to listen out for it.

 

So there you have it; language is a fascinating thing. I wonder what phrases the people of the future will use that relate to us right now?