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October is National Home Security Awareness Month

With October seeing the return of National Home Security Month, Don Shulsinger from Blinkforhome,  the video home security and monitoring system, gives tips and advice for keeping your family, home, and possessions safe.

Leave exterior lights on all night and when you’re out

When there are bright lights around a home’s exterior, burglars are less likely to target it. Schedule lights to come on at set times if you are away or on holiday. 

Lock doors when you’re home alone

It’s not unusual for a burglary to occur while there’s someone in the house. It’s just as important to keep your doors locked when you’re at home so no one can break in. The most common time to be burgled is between 10:00am and 3:00 pm when thieves think people will most likely be out at work.

Don’t open the door to a stranger

Even if they say they’re from the council, the water board or the police you should be cautious about opening the door. A good idea is a peephole in the front door so you can screen visitors before opening the door.

Be smart about social media

Resist the urge to tweet or post that you’re on holiday or out at a concert or party and that your home is empty. Don’t give people insight into your goings-on.  It’s best to update afterwards. 

Get a dog or gravel

A dog can help you feel more secure and scare off intruders. A “beware of the dog” sign may help too. If you have a front garden or a car parking space, it’s worth thinking of putting gravel down as the noise can deter an intruder, or alert your dog if you have one.

Securely hide spare keys

Doormats, flowerpots and fake rocks are not fooling anyone who’s determined enough to break in. Hide them securely or keep them with a friend, neighbour or family member.

Install smart home technology

A good idea is to install a home security camera. There are many devices available that are motion activated and will record people entering your home, such as Blink. Ideal for alerting you to a break-in, and recording an incident if all other measures fail! Blink lets you keep a watchful eye on your home via your smartphone. It’s stylish, easy to install, wireless, and uses innovative HD video technology to let you know what’s going on when you are not there. www.blinkforhome.co.uk

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.

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.

The Year of Literary Heroes

VisitEngland has declared 2017 as the “Year of Literary Heroes” – recognising the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, 20 years since the first Harry Potter book, and other publishing phenomena that have helped put England on the map.

With Britain’s extensive network of navigable inland waterways transporting canal boat holiday-makers through rural idylls, with wooded glades, sweeping farmland and sleepy villages – to exciting waterside towns and cities with connections to some of our greatest Literary Heroes, Drifters Waterway Holidays (www.drifters.co.uk) has put together its Top 5 Literary destinations for 2017:

  1. Explore Ted Hughes’ Calderdale by canal – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden and back, exploring the beautiful Calder Valley and passing through Mytholmroyd, where Ted Hughes played as a child, and Hebden Bridge, where Sylvia Path is buried. The journey there and back travels 20 miles of waterway, passing through 34 locks, and takes around 16 hours. ***2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £415 for a boat for two people.  Prices include damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
  1. Find out about Jane Austen in Georgian Bath – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, it’s a delightful six-hour journey along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath Top Lock and back. Here canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and walk 15 minutes to Bath City centre, where they can visit the Jane Austen Centre to find out about the writer and the City that inspired ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’, and enjoy a truly elegant afternoon tea at the Regency Tea Rooms.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Bradford on Avon start at £580 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £835. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Mark the 150th anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s birth with cruise through the Potteries – from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes around 10 hours, travelling through 18 locks to reach Stoke-on-Trent, where events and exhibitions are being staged throughout the year to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Enoch Arnold Bennett. A prolific writer with close ties to the Potteries, Bennett’s novels include ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, which told the social and industrial history of the local people.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue on from Stoke to complete the Four Counties Ring, which passes through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, travelling a further 90 miles, through 76 more locks, and cruising for another 45 hours. ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Great Haywood start at £470 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £670. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkien country – Published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures. Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch.  From Drifters’ base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s masterpiece.  On a short break, travel along beautiful tree-lined waters to the village of Lapworth and back, perfect for canal boat holiday beginners.  On a week’s holiday, more experienced boaters can tackle the Stourport Ring, travelling 74 miles through 118 locks in around 45 hours.  To celebrate 80 years since the book’s publication, Drifters will gift a copy of The Hobbit to customers quoting “Tolkien” when booking a boat departing from Alvechurch in 2017.  Please note this offer won’t be applied retrospectively.   ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Alvechurch starts at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.
  1. Unearth infamous pirate lairs in Bristol – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton near Trowbridge, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is a two-day cruise away, travelling 30 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and the Bristol Avon, passing through Bradford on Avon and the City of Bath. Once there, canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and take time to discover Bristol’s exciting maritime history with a guided Pirate Walk, encountering Long John Silver’s treasure chest in the smuggler’s cave, Treasure Ireland’s Spy Glass Inn and Pirate Captain Blackbeard’s lair.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Hilperton start at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.

Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 580 narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2017 hire prices start at £395 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £575 for a week and many boats currently have early booking discounts.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk.

For more literary inspiration go to www.visitengland.com/literature For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

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.

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!

 

Woman Jailed for Writing Short Story

That’s a terrifying headline. And when we delve deeper into the story, we discover that not only is it true – the woman really was jailed for six years for writing a short story – but that the story was, in fact, unpublished.

The term ‘thought police’ springs immediately to mind.

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This has happened in Iran, and the story concerns the practice of stoning, a form of Iranian execution, most usually used on those who commit adultery. The writer is called Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, and she is, amongst other things, a human rights activist. The story is about a young Iranian woman who sees a film entitled The Stoning of Soraya M (made in 2008, this film is based on a true story). The story’s character becomes enraged about what she has seen; so much so that she burns a copy of the Quran.

book

When the story was found, the charges levelled against Iraee included ‘insulting Islamic sanctities’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system’. It sounds more and more like Orwell’s 1984 than ever – Big Brother was, indeed, watching. Not only this, but her husband, Arash Sadeghi, has been sentenced to 15 years on the same propaganda charge as well as ‘gathering and colluding against national security’. He has, reports say, been tortured in prison.

Although the full facts are, perhaps, not known to us, the idea that someone could be imprisoned – and, ironically, potentially executed – for using their imagination is a worrying one. The story was not even published, and was found during a raid of Iraee’s home.

Words are indeed powerful.

The Sinister Left – A Left Hander’s Thoughts

Trapezoid_bone_(left_hand)_01_palmar_view

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

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

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

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

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

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

Award-Winning Journalist Gives Prize Money to Charity

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

Oban RNLI received a donation
Oban RNLI received a donation

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

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

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

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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.

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Why Do Writers Write?

Why do writers write?

It may seem like this particular question had a fairly obvious answer. Why do writers write? Because they want to. But I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

Firstly, let me clarify what I mean by ‘writer’. I’m not talking about full-time freelancers (like me); that’s a job and, despite it being enjoyable and flexible, is – when you get right down to it – about having an income. I’m talking about those who write for pleasure (not necessarily authors; authors are those who make a career out of writing their own thoughts, whereas writers could be tapping away at a keyboard without any need or want to be published – they just want to write). It could be fiction, it could be non-fiction, it might even be poetry. Short stories, novels, biographies, you name it. These are the writers I’m asking my question about.

Why do these writers write?

A writer... writing

Passion

Most writers don’t make too much money from their creative projects. Unless you’re Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or the like, it’s a little bit of change every now and then. But if you have a passion for writing, then you do it. Runner’s have what is known as a ‘runner’s high’ when they are competing or even just practicing. Writers get the same kind of high from their creative endeavours. Endorphins are released, and endorphins make you feel great. So you keep doing whatever it is that makes you feel so good. And if that’s writing, then you write.

Influence

A whopping 30 percent of the author market is written to help others in positive ways. Having a book out there that offers insights into living a better, more fulfilling life is something that excites a large number of writers, and this is the fuel behind their writing.

Retro writing tools

Entertainment

If a large number of writers like to write in order to help others, an even larger number like to write just to entertain them. I say ‘just’, but being entertained is actually a big thing; think of all the times during the day when you would have been bored had their not been something (book, internet, TV, theatre) to entertain you. What would life be like without something to keep your mind busy? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Release

For some, writing is the ultimate release. They can write anything they want, anything that comes to mind, and even if no one ever reads it (sometimes especially if no one ever reads it), the act of writing itself is what keep them writing. It’s a great form of therapy, and for those with too much going on inside their heads it’s the ideal way of letting some of it out in a controlled, even enjoyable way.

Why do writers write? The writers high.

Fun

Writing is fun. Not for everyone, of course, but for those with the creative brain to do it, it’s hugely enjoyable. Everyone needs a hobby, don’t they, and if writing is the one someone chooses, that’s great. Others may not understand it, but then if you enjoy football or fishing or running or rock climbing not everyone will understand that either. Each to their own.

October is National Home Security Awareness Month

With October seeing the return of National Home Security Month, Don Shulsinger from Blinkforhome,  the video home security and monitoring system, gives tips and advice for keeping your family, home, and possessions safe.

Leave exterior lights on all night and when you’re out

When there are bright lights around a home’s exterior, burglars are less likely to target it. Schedule lights to come on at set times if you are away or on holiday. 

Lock doors when you’re home alone

It’s not unusual for a burglary to occur while there’s someone in the house. It’s just as important to keep your doors locked when you’re at home so no one can break in. The most common time to be burgled is between 10:00am and 3:00 pm when thieves think people will most likely be out at work.

Don’t open the door to a stranger

Even if they say they’re from the council, the water board or the police you should be cautious about opening the door. A good idea is a peephole in the front door so you can screen visitors before opening the door.

Be smart about social media

Resist the urge to tweet or post that you’re on holiday or out at a concert or party and that your home is empty. Don’t give people insight into your goings-on.  It’s best to update afterwards. 

Get a dog or gravel

A dog can help you feel more secure and scare off intruders. A “beware of the dog” sign may help too. If you have a front garden or a car parking space, it’s worth thinking of putting gravel down as the noise can deter an intruder, or alert your dog if you have one.

Securely hide spare keys

Doormats, flowerpots and fake rocks are not fooling anyone who’s determined enough to break in. Hide them securely or keep them with a friend, neighbour or family member.

Install smart home technology

A good idea is to install a home security camera. There are many devices available that are motion activated and will record people entering your home, such as Blink. Ideal for alerting you to a break-in, and recording an incident if all other measures fail! Blink lets you keep a watchful eye on your home via your smartphone. It’s stylish, easy to install, wireless, and uses innovative HD video technology to let you know what’s going on when you are not there. www.blinkforhome.co.uk

Guest Post by Gabriel Eziorobo: 5 BASIC PRINCIPLES TO USE BEFORE YOU WRITE

In the second of Gabriel Eziorobo’s guest blogs, he talks about what he needs to do before writing – perhaps these ideas might be useful for you too.

  1. Read before you write: This is it! Reading has a vital role to play in the life of a writer. Every writer has to read books, articles or any readable thing in order to write a good piece. You can tell the difference between Tony who loves reading and Sandra who is not keen on reading. Tony has gathered wider knowledge to write while Sandra will be limited to her imagination when writing.  Reading widens the minds of writers, it improves their writing skills to write on every angle and make them outstanding among other writers.
  1. Be in the mood: You have to get in the mood of writing. When you are the mood to write, writers’ block will not be your problem. It is only when we are ready we can be able to rest our minds, imagine well and the pen will do the talking with no blockage.

  1. Write on topics in which you have an interest: You have to be in love with the things you write about. Be it fiction, non-fiction, comedy, tragedy, music, or poetry. Your interest has to be there whenever you pick a topic to write, so you can be able to free yourself and you can be able to talk more on it. I love to talk about illusion and the type of leaders we have in my country in every one of my poems because I have the interest for both topics. You can’t impress your readers if you don’t have interest for the theme you have chosen. It is your interest and the love you have for any niche that will broaden your brain to think and to write.
  1. Eat before you write: This is funny, but I have to feed my stomach before I can jot something down. I feel tired and sleepy whenever I am hungry. It only when I have eaten I can be able to read, to meditate and to write.
  1. Imagine before you write: This is a mental picture in your mind before writing. It allows you to create your own world and the way you will transform it into reality is what make you a creative thinker and a writer. People want to read something different so you have to imagine in order to give them what they want. Because they are the benefactors of your written work.
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.