Free Today: Leger’s Eyes by Lacey Dearie

Next in this round of freebies is Leger’s Eyes, which was the first Halloween cat sleuth story I wrote, the second being Leger’s Ghost which was released earlier this year. Leger’s Eyes is going to be free from today, Wednesday 22nd November 2017 through to Sunday 26th November 2017, after which time it will go back to its original price of $1 or the equivalent in your local currency. It’s also available in paperback, but unfortunately that price won’t be discounted.

leger's eyes lacey dearie halloween cat sleuth cozy mystery

You can download it on Amazon now by clicking on this link.

Free Today: Leger Cat Sleuth by Lacey Dearie

For the next three months, at least one of my books will be free every day. Today I am starting this round of promotional freebies with the first of the Leger series, Leger: Cat Sleuth.

Originally released in June 2013, this is without a doubt, my most popular book to date and from now until Tuesday 21st November 2017, this will be free all over the world. Grab it while you can!

You can download this ebook on Amazon.com or your local Amazon store. It’s also available as a paperback and in audiobook format, narrated by Chris Bland.

leger cat sleuth lacey dearie

Why I Took A Blogging Class After Blogging For 12 Years

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last eighteen months is that there are so many different types of writer. It’s fine to say to people, “I’m a writer,” but it’s such a blanket term that covers many different styles. It’s difficult to give people an accurate idea of what it is I do just with that statement. That’s one of the reasons why I looked into taking a course in blogging for business, even though I’ve been writing a blog for twelve years.

office job

So, to clarify, I am a creative writer by trade. That’s my job. If you want to niche down even further, I write mystery novellas about cat detectives. I earn money doing this and I use that money to pay bills and buy food, so I am definitely a writer. That’s why I thought I would have no problems writing essays or blogs. So, why wasn’t I getting top marks in my university course or engaging readers online? I already knew I could do journalistic writing because that’s where I started back in the early noughties, but academic writing was a completely different ball game. I had to learn a new style and adhere to rules – something I don’t have to do as a creative writer (much). A chat with my tutor about the differences in styles led to my light bulb moment.

Blogging is not creative writing.

After a few months thinking this over, I started working with Sami, the editor of OxGadgets, and he has been like a mentor over the last few months. I learned more about blogging from him in the first few weeks of freelancing for the site than I had in the whole eleven years when I had been self-taught. I knew then that I had to go back to basics and learn how to blog.

I sought help from my local Business Gateway, who pointed me in the direction of some of their courses. There are so many to choose from and because they’re free, there really is no reason not to sign up for one – although, the hermit in me was ready to stay home and write about cats this morning. It would have been so easy to do that but I’ve decided to commit to at least half a day of training per month in 2018 and it’s not too early to start that habit.

The course was run by Thea Newcomb of Thea’s Things and So You’ve Been Dumped. She managed to cover a lot of information over the morning. It was highly interactive and really relaxed. Although there was no pressure to contribute our thoughts, she did encourage us to all participate and get chatting and by doing so, all those who attended were able to get an idea of each other’s business and goals. I even saw a couple of ladies swapping cards at the end of the course and I think they’re planning to collaborate.

It started with a short video clip explaining some of the basics of blog layouts and as the morning progressed, it covered ascertaining your blogging goals, brainstorming post ideas and how to use tools like Yoast and Google Trends. Thea discussed some of the reasons why certain posts are popular and how to target our demographic.

As with any course, there were parts that were relevant to me and parts that weren’t but I was able to walk away feeling positive and pensive. As a habitual planner and list-maker, there are plenty of ways I can put my compulsive organisational skills to use in my blogging. And having listened to some of the discussions at the course this morning, it certainly confirmed to me that it’s not enough to be a creative, imaginative writer when you embark on a blogging career. You also have to anticipate what others want and monitor trends so you can stay relevant. That’s why I’m going to continue learning about blogging and attending these courses. If you’re like me and have sold plenty of books but struggled to make a splash in the blogosphere, perhaps it’s something you should try too!

 

autumn schedule mug diary

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about blogging?

NaNoWriMo 2017 Is Almost Here!

Yes, it’s that time again. It’s time to torture myself by trying to write a 50K word novel in 30 days. I’ve participated 7 times, won 3 and lost 4. I haven’t achieved this goal since 2014. Surely this has to be my year?

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place each November when hundreds of thousands of writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. If that sounds like a tall order, it can be – if you don’t stick to the word count of 1,666 per day. The whole idea is just to get the words down, without editing or overthinking. Just write!

Given that I have more on my plate than ever before, this could be a real challenge for me, but think of how sweet that challenge will be to conquer. It’s going to be awesome. I work well under pressure anyway. So, here is my official NaNoWriMo 2017 announcement:

This year, I am writing a novel called Silent Disco. It’s a magical realism novel and I have literally no plan. I’m “pantsing it” in 2017. All I have is the title, an idea and the following blurb…

“Somewhere in the backstreets of Aberdeen, there is a shoe shop full of patient Cinderellas, waiting for their fairy godmother to turn up and magically transform their everyday lives into their dreams come true. Unbeknown to them, the fairy godmother is an unemployed gambling addict whose infatuation with the shop’s cleaner causes him to place a bet that changes everything.”

I’ll keep you all updated here on RockPaperSpirit and on Twitter. Good luck to all those entering and please, add me as a friend on the NaNoWriMo site by clicking this link.

Review: Prestige Flowers

I was having a really challenging day last Wednesday. I mean, it was the stuff of nightmares and then the postman knocked on the door. I cursed under my breath. What could he have been delivering that couldn’t fit through the letterbox? When I opened the door, I saw him standing there in the rain with a large box marked, “Prestige Flowers.” He gave me a huge smile, as if he was giving the flowers to me himself and said, “Somebody’s thinking about you.” Of course, nobody was thinking about me really. I’m a blogger and these were a sample for me to try so that I had first-hand knowledge of the product and could write the review honestly, but still, having flowers in the house provided instant cheer and it even affected the postman in a positive way. I’ll bet it made a change from delivering bills.

So, here is my honest opinion of my experience with Prestige Flowers. I did receive this sample for free but as always, all opinions are my own because nobody tells me what to write.

My first impression was that the flowers were really well-packaged. They came in a black paper and cellophane wrapper inside a pretty standard looking cardboard box. Inside the main box were the flowers and a smaller box with a clear glass vase to use with them.

If there’s one thing that’s important to me, it’s how easy or difficult it is to open the packaging and unwrap the flowers. In this case it was very easy, although scissors were required to remove the flowers from their cellophane and paper. For those wondering, the stems are held in a polystyrene type of pouch which holds moisture. It feels dry on the outside but moist on the inside and it keeps the flowers fresh while they are in transit.

Below, you’ll see a picture of the flowers when they first arrived. As you can see, most of the flowers were in bloom and the lilies hadn’t opened fully. They were fragrant and fresh with no visible dryness or spoilage. I was delighted with them and took to Instagram and my personal Facebook page to proudly show them off.

You also get a pouch of flower food with your flowers, which could probably be added right away or kept for a day or two down the line. I chose not to use the flower food and keep it for when they needed a bit of perking up, which wasn’t until day four. Below, you’ll see them as they are today, five days after I received them. The lilies have bloomed now and the purple flowers in the bouquet have started to wilt a little bit. For five days down the line, this is pretty good and I would expect any bouquet to need trimmed back at this point. It’s possible the little purple flowers would have remained fresh if I had given them the flower food right away. It’s probably six days since they left the Prestige Flowers HQ to be delivered to me. They still smell gorgeous and most of the bouquet looks beautiful.

This is a company I will be using for future floral gifts. I’ve used a long-established competitor before and I’ve always been disappointed. Firstly, the competitor uses a specific florist in my area whose driver has poor geographical knowledge. Prestige Flowers have the edge here because they’re being delivered by your postman. Secondly, Prestige Flowers have a lot of offers on their website for a free box of chocolates along with your flowers. That’s a huge number of bonus points to me. Third and finally, these flowers actually smell amazing and have done since they arrived. I’m not sure why but any time I’ve received flowers in recent years, whether from a florist or from a less specialised retailer (read supermarket or petrol station into that if you like), they haven’t smelled of anything. They just have no perfume at all.

The drawback with these is that if you’re not at home, your postman might deliver them to the post office and then you’ll have to go out and get them. I’m not sure what florists do in that instance – I think they come back and try again – but that is a minor drawback when you weigh it up against all the plus points.

Just to finish off, here are a few other things that caught my attention when I was looking at the Prestige Flowers website. Firstly, all orders are backed by a 100% satisfaction, money back guarantee. They offer flowers for all occasions and have an autumn seasonal bouquet which I liked. They’re very reasonably priced and right now there’s 50% off a lot of bouquets so you can get a bunch of gorgeous flowers, with next day delivery and free chocolates for £19.99. They can provide personalised wreaths for funerals and cater for almost any occasion. There’s a hampers and gifts section on their website too for those who don’t like flowers or have allergic reactions. They do alcohol, silk flowers, fruits, bath bombs, soft toys and there’s a Galaxy chocolate bouquet that caught my eye. I’m just putting that out there in case my husband reads this. They are also going to have loads of Christmas bouquets on offer. These would make a really great gift for relatives you can’t see over the festive season and I’m considering buying one for my elderly neighbour who is really difficult to buy for. I think she would love a Christmas bouquet. You can check out their selection here: https://www.prestigeflowers.co.uk/christmas-flowers

You can check out the products they offer on their official website. To sum up, I would give them a strong 9.5 / 10 and will definitely bookmark their site for future use.

Review: Secret Scent Box

With so many subscription boxes on the market, those who have a keen interest in trying new products but are short on time to go and browse the beauty counters are spoilt for choice. That’s not to mention the fact that trying a new product is often expensive and if you have a reaction to it or simply don’t like it, it’s money down the drain. That’s why I love subscription boxes. I’ve discovered new products that I would never have otherwise found. It’s good for brands and good for consumers. I was lucky enough to be given a sample of Secret Scent Box, a perfume subscription service that sends you three sample sized bottles of a new designer fragrance each month. As always, all opinions are my own because nobody tells me what to write.

secret scent box review

Secret Scent Box are based in the UK, so they are best for British and European consumers are if you live in the UK or Europe, you get free postage. Since it’s perfume, sending it internationally can be problematic and they don’t currently ship worldwide, so it’s best to find a subscription service in your own country and international readers might not find this review useful right now, but if you’re in the UK or Europe, read on!

Then first great thing about this is that there are three scents to sample every month. They are designer branded fragrances, so it’s not going to be obscure perfumes you’ve never heard of before. The idea is that each small 3 ml bottle will last you ten days so you have a thirty-day supply in the box. It obviously depends on how much you put on, but this is estimated using averages of four sprays per day – one for each wrist and each side of the neck perhaps?

 

secret scent box review

The box it comes in is compact and classy. It fits easily through the letterbox and isn’t going to end up sitting in the post office waiting for you to collect it, so right away that’s a thumbs up for this service. Inside the box you’ll find three small bottles with the scents included clearly labelled. Unlike the samples you can receive at department store beauty counters, they are not official branded labels and the bottles have been put together by Secret Scent Box staff. However, they are neat and don’t leak and are small enough to fit in your handbag or make-up bag.

secret scent box review

You’ll also get a little card for each fragrance which lists the fragrance name and designer, although not the nose behind it, which is something I would have loved to know. The card then lists some of the major notes involved in the fragrance, but obviously not all of them because designer fragrances are so complex and can contain literally hundreds of ingredients in small concentrations. If this could be improved at all, I’d add the nose of the fragrance and the release date. Maybe some information about silage and strength would be helpful. Fragrance enthusiasts would love this kind of information and it’s a shame it isn’t provided.

secret scent box review

Some of the brands you could receive are Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Prada and Givenchy and that’s just a small selection of the designers. If you can find it at a department store fragrance counter, there’s a good chance it could end up being one of the perfumes you receive here. That’s great news for those of us who like designer scents and want to easily find the perfumes again afterwards. The drawback is that it’s not packaged in official bottles. That could put off some potential subscribers but the scents are authentic. They are the real deal. The small print on their website declares this so they are being totally transparent about it.

“All fragrances are 100% authentic which are sourced from authorised vendors and then repackaged into smaller spray bottles by Secret Scent Box, London, UK. Secret Scent Box is totally independent from any designers, brands or manufacturers.”

Another great thing about this is that you don’t get any hints beforehand about which scents you’re receiving that month so it’s like getting a little present from yourself! It’s a minor thing which some people would probably find silly but if you’re like me and you like surprises, the secrecy of it could give you a little thrill! Each month will feature three new scents but if one has been particularly popular, they might include it again. There would be at least six months between appearances though, to give other fragrances a chance to be featured.

secret scent box review

It’s available for both males and females and costs £15 a month. You can get 10% off the first box if you sign up for their mailing list. You can send it as a gift to someone if you like. A subscription to this would make an excellent Christmas present for the perfume lover in your life. You can find out more and sign up on their website.

My Week In Freelancing 25/09/17 – 30/09/17

I’ve been doing these freelancing updates for a couple of months now and while I’ve been writing a lot of posts for OxGadgets, it’s been a good way to keep regular readers informed of what I’ve been working on. However, it does feel like it’s been ALL OxGadgets for a few weeks and I can’t seem to sell any of the other articles I’ve written. Now that uni has started again, it’s going to be more difficult to undertake regular work and it will be more of an as-and-when situation. I’ll be going back to music reviews because then I can go on whenever I like, see what’s available and choose what to write. Similarly, I’ll be taking a few mystery shopping jobs here and there, when they become available. As for the OxGadgets work, I’ll do a monthly roundup of all my freelance work and list the links there once per month instead as I can’t justify one post a week any more.

This week I’ve been pitching for jobs. One in particular really interested me as it was about sex toys and all the different ways they can be used. Those who have been following me for a while know about how I campaigned to make more people aware of vaginismus (WordPress just added a red line under vaginismus like it’s not a real word – point made!) and I’ve written in the past about how sex toys aren’t just for fun. They are also a useful way of working on the health of the muscles of the vagina and on confidence issues. So, I’m keen to get that job, although if I don’t, I may take up campaigning again. It’s something I feel is really important and needs to be discussed more.

Other than that, I have one review to share. Here’s the link. It’s for a really awesome set of headphones by a brand called Ailihen.

Review: Ailihen M10 Earbuds

So, I will write another freelancing update at the end of October, hopefully with gossip about Halloween themed mystery shops!

My Week In Freelancing 18/09/17 – 24/09/17

I’m late to write this post again because for some reason, my foot keeps going dead every time I sit at the computer. It’s really off-putting and it scares me a lot so I’ve been spending more time away from the laptop which is fun but not exactly productive. During the week I’m documenting I wrote five reviews for OxGadgets and did my first freelance mystery shop for quite some time. It was worth it though because I got a decent amount of money for very little effort. I also pitched for a few jobs that I didn’t get, but one I did and that was a blog for a bespoke jewellery company that will be featured on RockPaperSpirit very soon.

This particular mystery shop involved a new take-away feature of a local store. All I had to do was answer questions about my experience of them. It didn’t take a lot of time and it was more like market research than mystery shopping as I didn’t have to leave the house to do it. This is the kind of job I like! I was paid right away which makes it all the sweeter.

Here are the links to the OxGadgets jobs.

Review: Romoss Power Bank

Review: Hive Smart Sensors

Review: C3PO Bluetooth Speakers

Review: Smore Magazine

Review: Pure Siesta S6

Meet The Author: Brindy Wilcox

It’s time for another Meet The Author post and today we’re meeting Brindy Wilcox. Brindy and I met on Twitter and have become firm friends and I’m really excited to be featuring her today.

brindy wilcox

Brindy was born in Settle, North Yorkshire and has loved books from an early age. Her childhood favourites were Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, The Swish Of The Curtain by Pamela Brown, as well as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. Her first stories were told to her Red Setter, Rusty, so when she began writing her first novel, it was obviously going to be about adventurous dogs. You could say he was her first muse!

brindy wilcox

Her debut novel is Through Time To London, which is an all-ages novel that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike. It follows the adventures of Brandy and Brinkley, two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as they travel back in time to meet King Charles II. On their arrival in London in 1665, they find the world very different to the one they’ve come from.

The second book is currently in the pipeline and should be released later this year and it sees Brandy and Brinkley travelling back to prehistoric times in Cheddar Gorge on a rescue mission.

brindy wilcox

Brindy said, “I had an ambition for over 25 years to hold I book I had written, and it was one of my proudest moments when I achieved this in September 2016. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed talking about my book and my journey into publishing in schools, at book signings, on train journeys… anywhere and everywhere.”

brindy wilcox

If you would like to hear more about Brindy’s books, you can check out her author website or her blog.

Review: Willow Layne Lingerie ‘The Simone’ Bralette

There’s nothing I love more than discovering a new lingerie brand and one of the best places to find them these days is on Instagram. That’s where I stumbled across Willow Layne Lingerie. I instantly fell in love with their bralettes and the brand as a whole. Their products are ethical, 100% vegan and best of all, the designs are beautiful. I’ve included a few photos I took myself with my smartphone of the garment I’m reviewing as well as professional pictures. This is because I want to show the garment as it really is without any special photography skills and I feel that’s just as important as seeing it on a mannequin!

willow layne lingerie the simone bralette review

 

Willow Layne Lingerie is a business founded by Abigail Slone in August 2017, so they’re practically brand new. Abigail is a former professional dancer and freelance poet who wanted to have an ethically conscious lingerie boutique. When we shop in mainstream stores, you’re bombarded with unrealistic images. You know what I mean. It’s all intimidating images of what you should be wearing, how you should look and, my personal pet-hate, young, smiling, aesthetically beautiful women telling you they support body confidence and you should feel good about yourself. Easy for them to say. Willow Layne Lingerie is run by a woman, for women. It’s not about buying the underwear to please your partner or to look good for anyone else. Abigail says on their website, “I believe that you should be able to buy lingerie that is designed and marketed with your pleasure and comfort in mind as the top priority.”

willow layne lingerie the simone bralette review

 

The mission statement on their website says, “By Women, For Women.” Since this is a great fit for RockPaperSpirit and pretty much how I feel about lingerie, I reached out to Abigail and asked if I could review one of their bralettes. Almost every real-world physical shop I’ve been in recently is pushing bralettes as an underwear trend for AW 17/18. I received a sample of The Simone and I was excited when this dropped through my letterbox. They do ship internationally and it only took just over a week to reach me in the UK.

willow layne lingerie the simone bralette review

 

I counted 16 different styles currently on the website. They range from pretty items like The Simone, to sporty like The Tatum to boho-inspired pieces like The Elyse. Whatever your style, there will be a bralette to suit you.

willow layne lingerie bralette review

 

Back to The Simone though, and my first impression of the garment was that it was luxurious and elegant. I chose the smallest size which fits 32B, 34A and 34B, which is close to my own size. It runs up to 3XL which fits size 40DD up through size 44D. So, whether you’re large breasted, or a petite woman like me, you’ll find a size that suits you. This really appealed to me because I know from friends who have bigger chests that they are often put off buying pretty lingerie because the nicer items don’t run through to bigger sizes. So, right away Willow Layne Lingerie gets some bonus points for their range of sizes.

willow layne lingerie bralette review

 

I had the nude colour which is gorgeous because in daylight it looks kind of rose-gold, which is really stylish and on trend right now, and in the artificial light of my bedroom the colour is like a dusky pink/brown. It’s all really well stitched together and the lacy detail is just gorgeous. It has a kind of halter-neck, racer back style and the cups were a comfortable fit. Best of all, I found it to be true to size. There’s nothing worse than buying a garment and finding the sizing is different or runs too small or large.

willow layne lingerie bralette review

This garment only offers light support. It gives your breasts a really natural shape and will be great for wearing under jumpers and shirts during the winter. But since there really isn’t a lot of support, it’s obviously not recommended for exercising! It’s perfect for making you feel glamorous while you’re relaxing.

willow layne lingerie bralette review

 

It’s an ideal lingerie buy because wearing it did make me feel like I was kind of dressed up, even though I was just throwing on a baggy jumper over it. It gave me a little psychological boost because it was feminine and gorgeous but it wasn’t about seduction. It wasn’t put on simply to be taken off. This is lingerie that will be worn a lot. It’s for me and I like that.

willow layne lingerie bralette review

 

It’s 92% nylon with 8% spandex so it’s pretty stretchy. It was easy enough to get in and out of the garment but you have to be really careful as the material is super thin and could be easily damaged. So, it’s worth keeping that in mind. Treat it well! That means hand-washing, exercising care when putting it on and removing it and storing it in a drawer away from other bras that may have metal clips and fastenings.

willow layne lingerie the simone bralette review

Overall, I’d give this lingerie a solid 9.5/10. I really loved it and I’ve got a little wish list building already. It’s priced at $37.99 and if you use the code LAUNCHPARTY at the checkout, you can receive a 40% discount. If you’d like to know more about the different bralettes and the brand, you can view the Willow Layne Lingerie online store. I’d also recommend following them on Instagram.