Is There Such a Thing as Awesome Free Stuff?

Can you really get awesome stuff for free?

Course not, silly! As a smarty-pants friend always reminds me, the preposition ‘for’ is redundant here, and ‘for free’ is incorrect.  But I just threw it in for, like, free.

I’ll keep this short because you may need time to hunt for free stuff (see how ‘for free’ is correct here, Ms Smarty Pants?).  Here’s what I bagged this week.

1 The best thing was this bike, courtesy of a lovely friend of mine.

Universal Ladies' Bicycle

I hadn’t cycled since my teens, but, with a bit of encouragement, off I wobbled.  As well as the bike, I got three bonus bruises and a grazed elbow. Yep, this could be the gift that goes on giving.

2 Advice from a hairdresser.

Thanks to a cut-and-blow-dry on Wednesday, I’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge. Did you know acupuncture could cure hair loss? I got so much free info that I may have to start a new blog. Maybe haircourse.wordpress.com or headteacherblogspot.co.uk.  

3 Two free pillows from a bedding shop.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there was a snag. You had to be in Geneva to get them.

Geneva, Switzerland

4  The Indie Author Fair at Foyles.

It’s a free event at the iconic Foyles bookshop in central London, with loads of indie books, authors, and refreshments. Who wouldn’t want to be there? It’s on Friday April 17 from 16:30 to 19:30, so it’s still up for grabs. It’s unticketed, and did I mention it’s free?

Indie Author Fair 2015 at Foyles

Whether you go or not, you can also enter a free draw for a huge number of prizes, including an awesome digital swag bag from the OUTSIDE THE BOX team. It includes a novel, music, a printable “Reading is Bliss” poster, inspiring wallpapers for your desktop, phone or Facebook, and all manner of playful surprises. You can enter the draw right here.

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)See? There are awesome things to enjoy for free.

 

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9 Reasons Why You Should Not Read These Books

In case you’ve somehow missed my bragging, seven of us indie authors have got together to create an ebook compilation called OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women. Some literati types like Dan Holloway and JJ Marsh love it already, but what do they know? I think it’s only fair to slap on a great big warning and tell you it’s not for everyone. 

Warning about Outside the Box

Here are nine reasons why you might want to steer well clear of OUTSIDE THE BOX:

1 You don’t like reading.

Maybe, like Kanye West, you are not a fan of books.  Kanye adds, ‘I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.’  If this applies to you too, you’ve read too much already. Stop right now and go rinse your brain with the finest hip-hop until you’re out of danger.

Kathleen Jones

2 You only read books written by men.

Well, that’s your prerogative. As far as I know, there’s no book police yet, though there are traps like the works of George Eliot, George Sand, Ellis Bell, AM Barnard, JD Robb, Isak Dinesen and JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith

Jessica Bell

3 You like one-dimensional characters.

In that case you will probably hate the woman who’s accused of killing her father, the young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother, the prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son, or any of the other unforgettable people featured in OUTSIDE THE BOX. This, it should be noted, is fiction about independent-minded, unconventional women. (Though you will also find quite a lot about the lives of men, children and animals.)

Carol Cooper

4 Strong language offends you.

Or maybe you think ‘sex’ is what goes on a form when you’re asked whether you’re male or female. As there isn’t the equivalent of a British Board of Film Classification, there should be an alert here. These books include swearing and even scenes of an intimate nature. The authors did not write these books to please their parents or Mother Superior.

5 You only ever read books in one genre.

Oh, dear. Authors like Joanne Harris and Jane Davis have seriously over-estimated you because they believe readers like a diversity of writing.

Jane Davis

6 You avoid books by independent authors.

Maybe that’s because you haven’t read any yet? More and more books are self-published. Literary agent Andrew Lownie believes that in five to ten years, 75% of books will be self-published. The revolution in publishing has brought a brand new crop of indie writers willing to take risks. We’re no more alike than are authors published by the Big Five. But, as Roz Morris says, we seven have all proved our worth already with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success.  Now’s your chance to get a toe wet.

Roz Morris

7 You fight shy of weighty issues, even when they’re lightly treated. 

Caution: this box set covers the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory. Maybe best stick to books where the biggest crisis is a broken fingernail or a scuffed Manolo. 

Joni Rodgers

8 You have way too much to do as it is.

Perhaps you’re busy creosoting the fence, bathing the kids, or honing your Oscar acceptance speech. I hear you. Luckily a book is like a true friend, one who knows you sometimes need to be elsewhere, who doesn’t make demands but is there for you whenever you find the time.  By the way, Eddie, your copy is on its way, and we’re rooting for you on Sunday.

9 You prefer comic books.

POW! Nuff said.

For those who haven’t been put off, Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is an e-book box set of seven full-length novels for £7.99 (or about $9.99). It’s available from February 20 for just 90 days.

Orna Ross

 

Related posts:

Self-Published Authors, eh? What are they LIKE?

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

The Magnificent Seven

How to Be Single AND Happy on Valentine’s Day

Even if the whole world is loved up and you’re not, you don’t have to be a sad singleton on Valentine’s Day, according to my friend and colleague Christine Webber. She’s a psychotherapist who’s just updated her book Get the Happiness Habit, so you can expect her to know what she’s talking about. Here’s what she has to say…

1431222_63266866

When you’re single, February 14 can feel like a nightmare – being one of those dates that loom large and trip you up emotionally. It’s nearly as bad as having to go to your sister’s wedding when you’re heartbroken after a relationship break up, or being forced into a family Christmas where relatives invariably – and loudly – ask if you’ve got a boyfriend.

On Valentine’s Day, everyone seems to be flaunting their flowers, their cards, and their plans for the perfect evening. Not surprisingly, you can easily allow yourself to feel a romantic failure in comparison.

But here’s the thing. How insecure, or unfeeling, must your boss be about her relationship if she has to have a Valentine’s bouquet delivered to reception rather to her own home? Maybe she sent it herself? And how many of your friends are going to be seriously out of pocket after a poorly-cooked dinner in an overrated and crowded restaurant? People’s expectations of Valentine’s Day are stratospheric; so much so that they’re nearly always disappointed. Well, you have no expectations. And no need to spend a fortune. So your situation’s not all bad!

paint the kitchen

Why not stay home on Valentine’s Day and paint the kitchen or something? But then go out with a bunch of happy, single friends on the 15th when everything is saner, cheaper and roomier.

Here’s something else to ponder. Most of us – in our fast-changing world – are going to be single from time to time. And it’s important that we view these periods of our lives as viable and productive – and not just as some sort of limbo till we fall for someone new. Individuals who place too much importance on the value of relationships are often guilty of believing that their single life can never be anything than a dilute version of the joys of coupledom.

heart in the sand

This is dangerous thinking – particularly when people believe that they must have a partner in order to be happy. When they have those thoughts and beliefs they’re anxious about relationships even when they’re in one – because they’re constantly terrified that it might end. That anxiety generally manifests itself as neediness, which is hugely demanding on any spouse and damaging to the relationship.

Christine WebberSo, this February, have a think about what being happy means to you.  And make sure that there is plenty about your single life that is contented and joyous even though – at present – you have no romantic liaison.

When people take responsibility for their own happiness, rather than expect someone else to provide it for them – they become more mentally healthy, resilient and optimistic.

Of course, having a warm, loving partner is going to augment your levels of happiness, but he or she should not be responsible for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Get the Happiness Habit front (2)Thank you very much, Christine.

For more insights and advice on being happy, see Christine’s book Get the Happiness Habit.

You may also like to read her guest post on How to Mend a Broken Heart.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’ve never seen Christine look glum.  

Back to School, and Not a Moment Too Soon

The summer holidays begin full of promise, as ever. Karen has loads of ideas. It’s only when she begins to take her four kids on outings that she remembers everywhere is (a) crowded (b) expensive (c) leads to whining from at least three of them. Nothing ever changes.

Karen is a newly single mum from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda. She has one daughter and three sons.

At nearly 11, Charlotte is the eldest so she whines loudest and longest. Damon is 9 and his speciality this summer is sulking.

They go to Wales for a few days to a friend’s cottage, the cheapest family holiday Karen can think of. It’s a long drive in the ancient Toyota, with plenty of time for daydreaming. What might it be like to go off to the Gower for a mini-break with a nice man?  

Wales beach at dusk

Her reverie is broken by the youngest who wants to be sick, so they stop by the side of the road. Edward aims most of it into the plastic bag she holds out for him, but inevitably a few blobs fall onto Charlotte’s new pink T-shirt.

“Eeuw!” shrieks Charlotte, even though there are several spare pink sequinned T-shirts in the boot.  At the moment everything she owns, whether it’s clothing, a pencil case, or her duvet cover, has to be pink and have sequins.

Karen is concerned for the next mile or two in case there’s more vomiting but she needn’t worry. In less than five minutes, Edward pipes up “I want salt and vinegar crisps!”

When they get there, they find acres of soft white sand, perfect for jogging off excess fat, building sandcastles, and losing young children. There’s a moment or two on every holiday when Edward can’t be found. For a four-year old, he can go a long way in just seconds. Ashley, being a year older, is infinitely wiser and spends his time searching the sands for buried treasure. He’s sure there are shipwrecks around here, and he’s determined to find gold coins for his mum.  “Cos we need more money, don’t we?”   

shipwreck

Treasure hasn’t been found in Rhossili Bay since about 1834, but that doesn’t stop people looking. Karen is pleased to see her children so happy, even if Charlotte is channelling Lolita in her pink sparkly swimsuit. Only Damon, sitting hunched in the depths of his hoodie, hasn’t got into the beach thing yet.

They stay in Wales four days in all, during which Edward behaves and doesn’t try to run off again. Karen feels a mite guilty for threatening that big red dragons would get him, but at least he’s stopped having nightmares about them.

They return to London with a carful of sand, a carrier bag loaded with shells, and couple of pieces of driftwood. Now the children are playing nicely in the garden. Correction: the younger boys are playing while Charlotte is on the phone to her new best friend Belinda, and Damon sulks under a tree.

Karen is about to ask Damon what’s wrong when she sees he isn’t sulking. He’s reading! An actual book! With pages and words and everything! This has never happened before, so it’s quite a turn-up for the books. Literally.

book

Now Ashley is crying because Edward has peed into his toy wheelbarrow. When Karen tells Edward off, he says he thought it was a toilet.

“Rubbish” says Karen, even though it does look a bit like a loo.

It’s now the last week of the holidays and it can’t be put off any longer.  Buying school uniform and such is a hassle. They have to contend with umpteen other families looking for shoes that fit, while shop assistants try to fob people off with insoles. Karen steels herself for Charlotte’s inevitable hissy fit when she realises she can’t have pink heels with rhinestones.

But maybe some things do change, thinks Karen, because this year Charlotte falls in love with shoes that come straight from the pages of an orthopaedic footwear catalogue. Apparently they’re just like the ones her best friend Belinda has.

Back in the car with the shopping (and the sand, shells, and driftwood), Ashley says “You know what, Mummy? When it’s school-time I want it to be the holidays, but when it’s holidays I want it to be school-time.”

She smiles and knows exactly what he means. 

sea shell

Seven Days as a Novelist

Thanksgiving Day 2013 and my novel comes out after spending years getting ready. 

front cover reduced

First cover of my novel

Day One is great:  congratulations arrive on Facebook, in cards and by email.   I don’t have a launch party but I go to Women in Journalism’s Christmas bash.   Everyone can see that I’m floating about 6″ off the ground.  That’s because I’m wearing red suede heels like these.

By Day Two, I’m seeing stars in the form of my first review.  Five stars to be exact, and from an author I respect hugely.  I tell all my friends, which means I post the news on Twitter.  Writers lose their real friends because they spend all their time writing. 

On Day Three I see a neighbour who wants to know all about my book. When I explain how she can buy a copy, for instance here, I get a blank look.  She asks “What do you mean, buy?”

It’s the Primrose Hill Christmas Festival on Day Four   The place is crawling with models, writers, actors, whatever (MWA, darling).  I don’t see any celebs out and about with their noses in my novel, but I spot these supermodels in their new winter coats.

Ruff & Tumble

Monday night is Day Five.   I attend the British Lung Foundation’s Christmas Carols by Candlight at St Pancras Church.  It’s a big occasion so I’m wearing THE shoes off the cover, not a stand-in pair.   Along with Linda Robson, Tommy Walsh and David Oakes, I read a poem. By now my book and I are feeling proper festive.  

jacaranda tree

But that day my elderly mother has another fall and can’t stand up.  I catch a flight out as soon as I can.

She’s in a geriatric hospital.  Her lipstick tells me she’s still fighting but the rest of her tells a different story.  She has severe osteoporosis and has broken several more bones.  They give her morphine which barely helps her pain.  You have to work up gradually to the right dose and we’re not there yet.  

The red heels have come off.  I sit by her bed and help her drink from a drinker, the kind my children had as toddlers.

This, now, is reality.  Fiction?  That’s just escapism.  But what a welcome escape it can be.