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Category: Fiction
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.

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!

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.

New Book Out: The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods

My latest book, The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods, is out now. It’s the story of a little girl, Georgia, who discovers that she is the one who has been chosen to save the world. No pressure!

When Georgia runs away from her dinner with her mother’s new boyfriend, she never expects to become the leader of an army needed to fight an evil waldgeist in Wanderal Woods! A waldgeist is the basis of the ‘green man’ myth, and is usually presented as a woodland protector, a good and kind being. But this waldgeist – Aiken – has grown mad with power, and must be stopped before he destroys everything he is meant to protect. He killed his brother, Linden (Georgia’s father), and is now intent on murdering Georgia herself, after he has used her magic for his own evil plans.

Georgia must use her magic ability to talk to animals, and her blood family ties, to rescue her dead father’s spirit, trapped in a tree in child’s form by his brother Aiken, and lead an army of woodland creatures into battle against Aiken’s ghost army. But these ghosts have been driven insane through years of imprisonment in the wood’s trees, and they are vicious and seemingly unstoppable; one touch will kill. Only the rats, the lowest and most mistrusted creatures in Wanderal Woods, are brave enough to fight. Can they, a little girl, and a once dead man-boy, really save the woods and everything in it? Or will Aiken bury them all in the mossy ground?

The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Waldgeist-Wanderal-Woods-Lisamarie-Lamb/dp/1326950908/

 

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.

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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?

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.

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.

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!

 

Short Story: Origami Army

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

New Novel To Be Released: Trip Trap

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

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

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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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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.

Andreas K
Andreas K

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

Helena W
Helena W

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

Roshni S
Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

Rob C
Rob C

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

Geoff J
Geoff J

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

Ola F
Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

Matthew E
Matthew E

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

Brad B
Brad B

REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

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How To Choose The Right Accounting Firm For Your Business

If you run a small business then it’s important to hire an accountant to help you. Even if you have a good head for figures, the time that doing the accounts will take up is valuable time that you could be spending on other elements of the business. Therefore, you should look into hiring an accountant as soon as you can, so that you’re not suddenly having to look for one without being able to do all the important groundwork first. There are certain things that need to be considered before you start paying an accountant, and we will go through them here.

Location

In the past, it was essential that a company accountant was located near to the company’s office. They had to be able to visit when they needed to, to go through files and papers. Today, however, location isn’t necessarily a factor that will make a difference. There is cloud accounting and online discussions that can be used instead of physically having to be in close proximity. This can make your search for the best accountant for your business much easier, as you are not limited by location, although you will need to ensure that they understand the specific tax laws that relate to your business and your geographical area. If, however, you like the idea of someone coming to your place of work and being able to ask you questions face to face, then you will need to look more locally; you will also need to ensure that the accountant works in this manner, as it is becoming more and more unusual. Before choosing an accountant, you will need to have this decision firm in your mind.

Certified Accountant

Accountants are regulated by professional bodies. These bodies also provide qualifications and maintain professional standards, so finding an accountant who adheres to these standards, and who has these qualifications is important. If something does go wrong, you as a business owner will have some recourse to complain, and potentially take things even further, to court if necessary. If you have narrowed down your search to a small number of accountants then you should look into what specific qualifications they have. They should have a degree, plenty of experience, and of course the certification as well. When it comes to accountants, it is worth hiring the best you can afford right at the start, as it will serve you well and potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

Expertise

However you go about searching for an accountant, you should engage someone with the relevant expertise to work in your business. Not only should they have experience working in a business of a similar size and with a similar turnover to yours, but you’ll also ideally want someone who has worked in a business in a similar sector too. There are many different quirks and changes in tax laws that can affect specific businesses, so hiring an accountant who will already know about any changes, or be able to access the information, can save you time and money. An accountant who understands the unique needs of your business is all-important. You might also want to consider whether the accountant has worked with businesses that are bigger than yours. That way, if and when you do grow, you will be able to keep your trusted accountant with you.

Word Of Mouth

As with anything, word of mouth and a personal recommendation can be the best way to engage any kind of professional services. Ask around your friends and family, ask your business connections and your suppliers, find out who they use and how happy they are with them. Discuss the pros and cons of working with that specific accountant, and talk about how much they are charging. Although discussions like these many not be the most interesting in the world, or the easiest since you will need to talk about money, they are essential. You may find the ideal accountant this way, but remember that engaging an accountant does need to be a personal decision, and shouldn’t be done just because a friend suggests a name. It’s better to take those names and carry out the relevant research before committing to anything.

Software

Most accountants will have their preferred professional tax software to work with. There could be many different reasons for this, and it is entirely their decision. Where it could potentially be an issue is when you are using different software in the day to day running of the accounts. There might be problems when it comes to sharing information, and although there are some programs that allow for exporting and importing data from other systems, it can be a time consuming thing to do. Therefore, find an accountant who uses the same software as you do. If there aren’t very many of them, and it limits your choices, it might be time to ask yourself whether the program you are using is outdated, or simply not good enough. If this is the case, you should upgrade or change entirely. Again, this is time consuming, but once it’s done it makes organizing your finances and paying your taxes much easier.

Look For Money Savers

Some accountants really don’t do much more than complete your tax return and check through your accounts to make sure everything is as it should be. That’s fine – it’s what you are paying for – but there are other accountants to spend a little more time going through those accounts, and who can find ways to save you money. It might only be a little, but it could be a lot, and so it is something that you will definitely want your accountant to do for you. The accountant should also warn you of any pitfalls when it comes to these offsetting ideas as well. For example, there is a chance that a tax will be levied on your home when you come to sell if it you declare that you are using it as a business premises. There is a lot to consider, which is why hiring an accountant who looks at all aspects from every side is important.

The Best Use Of Time And Money

Unless you secure a fixed price deal, most accountants prefer to work and charge by the hour. Therefore, you may not want to have them do the day to day data entry tasks that need to be completed; these don’t have to be done by someone with accounting qualifications, so if you have an administration assistant, secretary, or office manager, they could do the job and save you money. You could even do it yourself if you set aside a specific amount of time per week to get it done. Make sure you do get it done though, otherwise it’s the kind of job that will just get bigger and more complicated over time, and if that happens you will probably hire an accountant to do it anyway. Having great accounting software can make a difference here; if it is intuitive to use then you will be more likely to do the work. If it is a huge effort, you’ll keep putting it off.

Interview Your Accountant

When you start to reach out for accounting assistant, you’ll receive a number of different offers. Don’t just accept the first one you see, or the one with the best price. It’s important to read through each proposal carefully, taking the time to note all the important parts that will make your life easier, and save you money on your taxes where possible. Once you have done that, you should interview each prospective candidate. This may not be possible to do face to face, but over the phone, or through a video chat, is just as useful. It’s essential that you feel you can work with the person you are hiring. Although you may only be in contact a few times a year, that contact should be polite and not something that either party dreads doing. Better – and more – work will be done if everyone gets on well.

Negotiation

There is no single method that accountants use to work out their fees. You might pay by the hour, on a ‘per job’ basis, or perhaps a monthly retainer. You might even be charged a percentage of your turnover. No matter which way it is done, you should always try to negotiate a better deal. Get written quotations from any accountants you are considering and then compare them carefully. One fee structure might make perfect sense now, but will it still work in your favor when your company grows? Or will you be spending more money than you are happy with? When you have determined what you want to pay, and to whom you want to pay it, you can begin your negotiations. It might be best to use a combined method of paying, or something on a sliding scale. The accountant may not agree to your proposals, so ensure that you have a backup plan should that happen.

4 Ways To Ensure Your Customers Don’t Stop Thinking About You

When you run a business, the last thing you want is for your customers to forget about you. You need to be the first company they think of when they need to buy whatever it is you are selling. How can you keep yourself at the front of their minds, and ensure they never stop thinking about you?

Social Media

Thanks to the leaps and bounds made in today’s technology, social media is now something that everyone has access to. For businesses, having a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram account that is regularly updated with interesting and useful information is a great way to keep in your customers’ minds. Your customers will be checking their social media accounts on a regular basis (studies show that the average person looks at their accounts 46 times a day), so you need to be there, telling them about your great offers or why they should buy your goods and services as much as you can. However, just being on social media is not enough – you need to make sure you’re using the right platform (if your goods appeal to the older generation, Snapchat might not be the best account to open, for example). You also need to be consistent, and update your account every day if you can. Plus you need to interact with your followers.

Emails

Email is an efficient and relatively easy way to send out marketing information to your customers, and ensure that they remember who you are and what you do. Just having information, however, no matter how interesting it may be, is the surest way to get people to unsubscribe from your mailing list. As well as the information, make sure there are discount codes, and giveaways. Make sure that the reader knows they will only get these treats because they are signed up to your emails – they will be more likely to stick with you for more.

Blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to keep your audience engaged on their terms, which can be the difference between success and otherwise. You get to show off what you know about your industry, or let people know about special offers and so on, but you can also use the blogs as part of your social media strategy. These can be the basis of your posts, making them shareable. Blog regularly and consistently well, and people will come to you when they need advice because they will know you know what you’re talking about.

Be Synonymous

Being synonymous with something is a huge advantage. If you want to see a ballet at Christmas, you immediately look at ticket sales for The Nutcracker. If you need ketchup for your burger, Heinz is the name that comes to mind. Think of the phrase ‘Just do it’ and Nike will be the result. If you can create a brand that becomes synonymous with whatever it is you are selling, then you won’t have to work so hard to obtain new customers. Of course, it’s still important to make an effort, but the hard work will already have been done. This will take time and money, of course, but if you do everything else on this list, you could well get there in the end.

4 Reasons Why Exeter Is Perfect Weekend Getaway

Now that Christmas is over and the new year has started, you may be thinking of a long weekend away somewhere, to brush away the cobwebs and begin 2018 in the right frame of mind. Where better than Exeter for this fantastic getaway? Here are my reasons why Exeter is the perfect weekend getaway.

Walking
If one of your new year’s resolutions was to get fitter and healthier, why not start with a mini-break in Exeter? The area contains 368 square metres of forest and moorland, and is sprinkled with gorgeous villages that are ideal for exploring and discovering. You can get to Dartmoor National Park very easily too, or the Jurassic Coast where you can walk along the cliff paths. Or maybe you’d like a guided walk of the city itself – just book yourself onto one. What’s great about walking in Exeter and its surroundings is that you can take your beloved dog away with you on your break too.

Beaches
Exeter is close to dozens of wonderful beaches. Sidmouth, for example, is known for its clean air, and the lovely pebble beach there leads out to calm water – great for kids. If you prefer sand, then you might want to try Exmouth. It can get busy there, as it’s such a great spot, but if you don’t mind the crowds and want to try your hand at some adventurous water sports, this is the beach for you. If fishing is your thing, Beer Head at Lyme Bay will be perfect for you, as you can watch the fishing boats draw right up onto the sands (there is no harbour). Whatever you’re looking for in a beach, Exeter can offer it to you.

History
Exeter is an amazing place for history buffs. The city has a Norman cathedral which features outstanding Gothic architecture – it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The historic quayside is an awe-inspiring mix of historic buildings and contemporary design, filled with boutique shops and independent cafes. You can even visit a museum to find out more about the area; the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter and will give you many hours of enjoyment.

Outdoor Pursuits
As well as walking, there are many other outdoor pursuits for you to follow in Exeter. Why not hire a bike and ride out along the gorgeous riversides or along the cliff paths? Prefer something a little more alive? Horse riding is a great way to explore the area around Exeter, and there are plenty of places to book an hour or so, with a guide if you prefer. Or you could try your hand at kitesurfing, sailing, diving (there are many wrecks in Lyme Bay, for example, and with expert help you can dive down to them to explore), or windsurfing.

How To Keep Your eCommerce Site Secure

If you had a physical, brick and mortar store in a shopping centre, for example, you would make sure it was secure. You would have CCTV and high-tech locks. You would have shutters and alarm systems. You would never leave it unattended or accessible to thieves or vandals. A website, however, is often left wide open, allowing those will less than savoury ideas to go in and destroy it, stealing customers’ payment details while they are at it. Your business is ruined, and your customers are put in severe difficulties. How, then, can you keep your website as secure as a store in a shopping centre?

eCommerce Hosting

Spending money on the right kind of hosting for your website is a great start. You will have paid a professional to create your website, make it look wonderful, make it look like somewhere that people want to buy from. Placing that fantastic website on a cheap, unsecure hosting platform is where things can go badly wrong. You wouldn’t buy a top of the range mountain bike or sports car and fit it with cheap tyres, so don’t buy cheap when it comes to secure eCommerce hosting. Look around at the best websites, where people buy high-quality items such as theatre tickets or jewellery, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of hosting company to look into.

HTTPS

Every website URL begins with the letter HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). If you want your entire site to be secure, change to having HTTPS instead. This used to be reserved for just the payment part of a site, but now you can use it on all your web pages, and that makes it even more secure and safe. In fact, having HTTPS in your URL will even help to boost your search engine rankings, as the more secure your site is, the higher it will appear in searches.

Secure Your Admin Area

Having a secure site that your customers are happy to use is essential, so you need to secure every aspect of your site, including your admin area. Most eCommerce platforms will have a default admin area, which can make hacking your site easy – hackers will be able to guess what your admin details are. Changing the username and ensuring that you have a password that’s difficult to guess will make hackers think twice. Why would they waste their time and effort trying to get into your site when they can easily get into another that hasn’t had the admin details upgraded?

Make Regular Backups

Should the worst happen and you wake up to find that your site has been hacked, what are you going to do? Well, if you have a backup of your site you can at least restore it, and start working again. This will limit any downtime you might have. You will still need to deal with the rest of the problems that a hacker has caused for you, but at least your site will be up and running and you won’t be losing too much revenue.

How To Dress For A Court Appearance

There are many reasons why someone might need to go to court. They might be a witness. They might be a juror. They might be the plaintiff or the defendant. Whoever they are, they need to dress appropriately. Here are some ways to work out your wardrobe for this kind of occasion.

Inspiration

You may not know someone who has been to court – after all, it’s an unusual thing that not many of us will get to experience – but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek inspiration when it comes to the clothing you should wear. Courtroom dramas have been around for decades, and if you pick something modern to take a look at, you’ll see the kinds of things that are suitable for wearing in this kind of situation.

Plain And Simple

Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that is distracting. The jury, the judge, and the lawyers all need to be able to listen to the experts, and everyone needs to concentrate. Any kind of clothing that looks out of place, is too bright, is too garish or ‘avant-garde’ will take their attention away from the person they should be listening to. If that person is you, then you definitely want them to listen to what you’re saying, not looking at what you’re wearing. Although fashion is made to be enjoyed, in a courtroom setting, that is not its function – it needs to be smart and tidy and show authority and responsibility.

Colour Splashes

Although you don’t want to distract anyone with your choice of clothing, wearing dark colours such as black, blue, or grey and then adding just a small hint of colour (perhaps a coloured tie or blouse or a pocket square) will lift the outfit and make it look even more professional and tidy. Just the right amount of colour that isn’t a crazy pattern or too bright will work perfectly, giving you the right air of restraint and reliability.

You Don’t Have To Buy New

It’s always nice to buy new when you can, but when you can’t there are ways to make an older outfit look current and smart. A suit never really goes too much out of style (unless it’s decades old, of course!) and this is a safe bet for a court appearance. Pair it with a smart shirt or blouse and shine up your shoes and you will already be looking great. If possible, make sure that your clothes are dry cleaned, or at least laundered before the big day, and please do iron everything that needs ironing. It’s these little things that really can make the difference.

Shop Carefully

If you are planning to buy a new outfit, then shop carefully. Yes, you’ll need to hunt for something appropriate for court, but if you can also make sure that it’s ideal for other occasions such as work, or job interviews, or going out for the evening as well, then it will save you money and it can be work more than once.

5 Ways To Calm Your Anxiety Naturally

Sometimes, life makes us anxious. It can be anything – big or small – that pushes our buttons and makes us feel nervous, unwell, as though we want to hide from the world. These great ways to naturally calm your anxiety will definitely help you out.

The Great Outdoors

If you are inside and the crowds or the situation is making you feel anxious, then remove yourself from that situation, and step outside. You don’t have to have a reason to go, you don’t have to have a purpose to take a walk, or simply take five and breathe the fresh air. Find a quiet location where you can sit (a park bench is great, a fence, a wall, a patch of grass) and breathe deeply. Completely fill your lungs with that crisp, fresh air. Look around you and ground yourself. You will feel serene and much calmer almost immediately.

Ask A Question

It’s important to work out what it is that’s making you anxious so that you can really work on ways of either avoiding it, or learning how to manage it. Even if those things seem small to others, they feel big to you, so you need to acknowledge them, ask yourself why it is causing such a problem, and go from there.

Take Me Time

We have all heard of ‘me time’ – the chance to literally get away from it all and be by yourself, whether that is being pampered in a spa or just having a little lie down in peace and quiet – but how many of us actually take the opportunity to do it? More of us should, as this is a wonderful way to de-stress completely naturally. Forget the chores that still need doing, don’t worry about what others will think, and just enjoy that time alone, doing something you wouldn’t normally do that relaxes you. A bubble bath, an episode of reality TV, the next chapter of your book… you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

Eat Well

Did you know that a poor diet could be making you feel more anxious than you would if you ate a little better? A good diet affects our bodies positively, and it does the same for our minds too. Foods that are bad for you may well be enjoyable at the time of eating, but afterwards you’ll feel heavy and sluggish, your mood may change, and you’ll feel irritable. Good food, however, will have the opposite effect, and you’ll feel energized and ready to take on the day, no matter what challenges it throws at you.

Smile More

Although you may not feel like smiling when you are stressed and anxious, that simple act can help you immensely. Just by smiling you’ll release endorphins into your body which relax you and calm you. Then you’ll want to smile even more.

How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Profitable Business

Hobbies are there to bring us joy, to help us to relax, and to generally make life a little better (and easier). Work, on the other hand, can often feel like the complete opposite – it’s hard, and it’s boring, and it’s just something we do to pay the bills and get through. If only there was a way to make our hobby into something that pays, and pays enough to give us a good living. Perhaps even start our own business. Well, there isn’t just one way that that can happen; there are many.

Goals

Having a goal – or goals – is essential when you start thinking about turning your hobby into a business. With no solid plan in place, and no end result in sight, you may find that you start well but fall at the first hurdle. To start with, what kind of scale are you looking at for your business? Will it be a full-time job so that you no longer have to work in your current day job? Or will it be a ‘side hustle’ so you can make money doing what you would have been doing in your spare time anyway? The more income you want to make, the more work you will need to do, so knowing in advance is important as you can then set aside the right amount of time to make your business successful, and the right amount of money too.

It’s Not Just The Obvious…

If your hobby isn’t something you think you could make a business out of, think again. Literally. Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper (do this the ‘old fashioned’ way for the best, most organic results) and start brainstorming your hobby. What are the ways it can bring you an income? Start with the most obvious, and let your mind really be free to make associations from there. Don’t be afraid to use the internet to see what other people are doing in the same or similar field. Once you start, you will soon discover that there are many different ways to make your hobby make you money. As a start, if you make something, you could sell it. Could you also, however, teach others how to make it? Could you create designs for others to follow? Could you sell accessories that go with whatever it is you’re doing?

Hobby Is Fun, Work Is…

You enjoy your hobby because it’s fun. You enjoy it because you’re good at it. You enjoy it because it gets your mind away from work and the office and all those business type things that seem to take up so much time. So, the big question is, will you still enjoy your hobby as much if you’re making money from it? Answer this question truly honestly, otherwise you might find that you have spent time and money creating a business only to be in the same position as you were when you were working elsewhere, except this time it’s you having to pay all the business costs and ensure salaries are dealt with. You could test the waters by starting off part-time.

Practice, Practice

Just because you enjoy something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it. Hopefully it does mean you have a little skill, but it’s not always the case. So before you quit your day job and plunge yourself headlong into your new enterprise, make sure you really are the best that you can be. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Take extra classes, go the extra mile. Learn all there is to learn about whatever it is you’re doing so that you can be an expert, and people will trust you with their purchases. This is also the time to really learn about business, and ensure you’ve got all the skills and knowledge in place to get it right from day one. You will need accounting software and office equipment, and you’ll need a way of publishing reports so you know where you’re going and how far you still have to go.

Business Plan

No business can really make a successful start without a business plan. Not only is it useful for your bank, lender, or investors (whether you need them at the beginning or you think you might want to utilise them in the future), but it’s also important for you. An honest business plan will help you to see where the strengths and weaknesses of your idea lie, and will show you whether your hobby really can be a viable business. It will also show you how much money you might need to get your idea off the ground, and how much you’ll make in the first year (and the subsequent three to five years, all being well). If your business plan shows that you’re not ready to begin your new adventure, don’t worry – you know what you need to get to that point, and you can work towards it.

Marketing

Starting up a business is a wonderful thing. It’s exciting. It is – in some ways – freeing. However, if you don’t know about marketing, you may find that you don’t get as far as your business plan predicts. You don’t have to be an expert, but having the fundamentals of marketing in your mind will be a good start. Read some marketing books, search online for hints and tips, and generally get marketing ready before you launch. Once you are making enough money, you can bring an expert on board who can push your business even further (and give you more time to concentrate on the running of it), but until then, you will be responsible for everything. Your marketing needs to be good at the start, or finding those first customers will be tougher than it needs to be. A good way to get going in marketing is to network and make connections. You will be able to learn from these people, and you may even get referrals.

 

The Essentials To Pack On A Family Day Out

Having a family day out is one of the highlights of any weekend or holiday. Whether it is something that has been planned for months, or it’s a spur of the moment decision to go out to a museum, a theme park, a playground, or any other kind of attraction that everyone will love, there are some things that you will definitely need to take with you – here are our suggestions for the essentials to pack on a family day out.

Extra Clothing

The weather can often be unpredictable, and so can kids. By taking a spare change of clothes with you, you can be prepared should anything happen. It might rain and everyone gets wet, or it could be muddy and a change of outfit is required before getting back in the car to go home again. Or it might be something to do with dropping ketchup or ice cream all over themselves! Whatever the reason, having clothes for them to change into is a good way to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

Custom Clothing

Custom clothing is a great way to keep an eye on everyone. Whether it’s just you and a couple of little ones, or there is a big group of you, having everyone wear clothing that matches is a handy way to spot everyone quickly – ideal for when you are going to a busy place and there are going to be lots of crowds. If anyone does get lost, it’s also easy to describe what they’re wearing – and those looking will know when they have found them.

First Aid Kit

Accidents do happen, so having a first aid kit that has plenty of sticking plasters and antiseptic wipes is always useful. Patch up any cuts and scrapes immediately, and you can continue on with your fun day out.

Journey Distractions

Sometimes, the best days out will take a while to get there. If the kids tend to get bored on long journeys, it’s best to have a few distractions up your sleeve so that they arrive happy and contented (and so do you!). A fully loaded tablet, for example, with plenty of games and movies is great. If you don’t like the idea of screen time, why not get some exercise books that have puzzles in them, or colouring or sticker books to pass the time? Another idea is to look up some games to play before you leave home – spotting certain items as you drive along is a good one, as is counting the number of yellow cars, for example.

Snacks

Even if the place you’re going to has stores or stalls to buy food from, having extra snacks (and drinks) with you is never a bad idea. The kids might get hungry before you were planning to sit down and eat, and giving them something to keep them going will save any change of plans. Snacks are especially important, however, if you’re going somewhere that might not have anywhere to get food, they’re even more important. If everyone is fed and watered, you can enjoy your day even more!

How Can Water Help You Lose Weight?

One of the quickest and easiest ways to lose weight (when you combine it with a healthy diet and an exercise regime) is to drink lots of water instead of sugary carbonated soft drinks. It is said that women should drink about 90oz (11 cups) of water a day, and men need 125oz (15 cups) a day to stay fit and healthy. Our bodies need water, and here are some great ideas on how to get enough.

Set A Timer

Drinking a lot of water isn’t always easy. Sitting down to drink 11 or 15 cups at once is all but impossible – and it will put people off drinking water in general if they get overwhelmed by having to have that much, even if it is going to keep them healthy or help them to lose weight. Instead of trying to consume as much water as possible as quickly as possible, spread your water intake out throughout the day. Set a time on your smartphone or watch for every two hours, and make sure that you take a drink of water when the alarm sounds. This will help you get enough water without having to drink it all at once.

Add Flavor

Water is refreshing, and it’s the best thing you can drink for your body to stay healthy, but it’s also pretty dull, which is why soft drinks and juices are often chosen instead – at least they taste great, even if they are bad for you. You’re supposed to be drinking water, though, so why not add flavour to it? Steer clear of fake sugars and sweeteners, and use natural flavourings instead.

Sparkling

For some people, it’s the fizz of a soft drink that they crave rather than the sugar or the taste, so if that’s the case for you, choose sparkling water instead. Carbonated water is the ideal alternative, but if you are on a low sodium diet check the sodium content of the sparkling water before you start to drink lots of it – some have high levels. If you’re unsure, you can buy a Soda Stream and make your own at home using tap water.

Fruit

If you are really not keen on the idea of drinking lots of water, you might want to consider eating fruit to make up for what you’re missing. Some fruit contains a lot of water (watermelon is 92 percent water, for example, and strawberries, cantaloupes, and grapefruits all have a high percentage too) so do some research first so you can choose the fruit that will do something good for you, and have a snack and a glass of water at the same time, effectively doubling up on your intake.

Green Tea

If you want a hot drink but also want to keep up with your water intake, try green tea. It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, and these can boost your metabolism. You can even drink iced green tea (and the ice is another way to have more water) if it’s a hot day.

How To Have A Greener Business

There are many reasons to ‘green’ your business and become more environmentally friendly. One is that it’s good for the planet. Another is that it will make you stand out in a highly competitive commerce space (either on or offline). Thirdly, going green really can help your bottom line and save you money. With so many good reasons to have a greener business, here are some ways to get started.

Post-Consumer Waste

Post-consumer waste (PCW) is about using recycled goods as much as possible in your business. Not just paper (although paper is a huge part of PCW), but other items as well including cardboard, ink cartridges, plastic items, furniture and anything else that you can buy recycled, upcycled, or otherwise previously used. PCW is a regulated way of buying recycled goods. Unlike a container that simply has the recycled symbol on it, which may not have been recycled to proper guidelines, if you buy PCW items then you can be sure that you are buying the right thing.

Biodegradable Cleaning Products

Exchange your office’s harsh, toxic chemical cleaning products for green, biodegradable ones. There is no need to rush out right now and buy more products if you haven’t finished using your current ones, but once they are done, you can buy much kinder new ones. You can even buy in bulk, which will save you money.

Do It Yourself

Unless you are in an absolute emergency, try to do as much around your office by yourself as you can. This could be anything from fixing a printer to decorating to planting a small garden in an outside space. You can even create your own logo online with DIY Logo. The point is, if you can do it yourself, you won’t have to call anyone out to help you, thus reducing vehicles on the road. It’s a small gesture, yes, but if everyone did it as much as possible, the world would start to be a cleaner place.

Use LED Lights

LED lighting does cost more than standard lighting – but that’s only to begin with. They last significantly longer than normal bulbs, and they use a lot less energy. So by the end of its working life, your LED light will have saved you money, and will have helped the environment too. In fact, studies show that LED bulbs (or compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting) can save you as much as $200 over the life of the bulb.

Buy Energy Efficient Equipment

When you need a new computer monitor, printer, shredder, even a microwave or refrigerator for your break room, make sure you look for its green credentials before making a purchase. The better the energy rating, the better the appliance is for the environment, and your bank balance. Remember also to dispose of your old appliances safely and responsibly, and don’t just take them to the landfill or – even worse – dump them somewhere. If you are unsure how to dispose of these items properly, take a look online or contact your local area representative.