Black Friday Tips And Tricks

It’s Black Friday this week and advertising is saturated with stores advertising their sales. But consumer group Which? has found that not all the Black Friday sales are much of a sale at all. So here’s some tips to a successful Black Friday.

1.Have A Budget

If you know how much you’re willing to spend before you spend it, it can prevent a later case of buyer’s remorse or a maxed out credit card.

2.Do Your Research

Know what you want to buy, where to buy it from and how much it usually costs before Black Friday. This means you’ll be able to tell if the item you want is really a good price and save you hunting around at the same time as everyone else. Having made your shopping list in advance will also reduce impulse buying.

3.Have Fun

It’s not all doom and gloom. Enjoy shopping and the excitement of your shiny new purchases.

Krystal xx

Are You Going Plastic Free This July

The zero-waste movement is gaining momentum bit by bit and Plastic Free July is a great way to kick start your life style change.

The great thing about Plastic Free July for those who can’t see themselves going 100% plastic free is that you don’t have to. The idea is about being more conscious of your purchasing and using decisions as oppose to being perfectly plastic free.

Plastic Free July was founded by The Plastic Free Foundation people can take a pledge to participate on their website. You can pledge to observe the challenge for just one day, one week, the entirety of July, or for July and beyond. You can also pledge to reduce your plastic in a few different ways: such as avoiding single-use packaging, avoiding the “big four” (bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups), or aiming to go completely plastic-free. You can also pledge to make these changes personally or for a local community group or workplace.

This pledge is easily manageable at any level as any change in environmental consciousness is still as a success.

Some Ideas To Kick Start Your New Zero Waste Lifestyle

Plastic isn’t the only think we throw in the trash, so here are some ideas to kick start your zero waste lifestyle.

  1. Use reusable bags instead of single use plastic bags
  2. Bring a reusable coffee cup with you to your local café
  3. Say no to a straw
  4. Carry a water bottle on you so you don’t have to buy a drink went out and about
  5. Keep and old set of plates and cutlery at places like work rather than using disposable plates and cutlery
  6. Use reusable sanitary items
  7. Use cloth diapers for babies
  8. Use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and paper towel
  9. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues
  10. Use flannels to remove make up instead of make up wipes

Krystal xx

Gucci: Daring to be Dentally Diverse

Gucci’s new lipstick campaign has got tongues wagging. The Italian fashion brand, which is known for it’s luxury clothing, accessories and cosmetics; has challenged the fashion and beauty industry by celebrating imperfection. Their new campaign, which focuses on women with imperfect teeth, is a sharp contrast to most lipstick campaigns that show the ‘perfect’ white straight-teethed smile.

The campaign has been met with mixed results since its release on Gucci’s Instagram. Some have applauded the brand for showing real women with real teeth. Others have been disappointed that this was the direction chosen by Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele, to reinvent the image of Gucci’s cosmetic line.

Gucci, in their press release describes the campaign as “a manifesto of beauty written by the house’s creative director.”with the intention of demonstrating that “makeup should not mask, but rather exalt, flaws and make them part of the language of beauty.”

The campaign features Dani Miller, the lead singer of punk band Surfbort, as well as models Mae Lapres, Achok Majak and Ellia Sophia Coggins. It is photogrpahed by Martain Parr and filmed by Chris Simmonds.

The collection is currently exclusively available at the Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York Flagship store. It will be launched nationally and internationally after May 29.

Your Next Mystery Read – Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection Box Set Books 1-3

I was recently sent Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3, and found it a joy to read. This book set includes the first three stories in the Jamie Quinn series. I also had a chat with the author to find out a little more about the inspiration and behind the scenes creation of the books.

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Death by Didgeridoo (Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award)

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

The Case of the Killer Divorce
Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park
There’s big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

A preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, Engaged in Danger, can be found at the end of the book. Engaged in Danger won first place in the Amateur Detective category of the Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition.

The Jamie Quinn series was in fact first inspired by a didgeridoo that Barbara Venkataraman had purchased to help with her sleep apnea (a condition also experienced by her character Jamie). She says “always one to embrace outlandish remedies, I had read that playing the didgeridoo improved the symptoms of sleep apnea, so I tried. And failed. It was so hard that one day I hyperventilated and dropped the didgeridoo, cracking a glass table. It occurred to me that a didgeridoo could be a lethal weapon, so I started asking questions–who would get killed? A music teacher. Who could have done it? Lots of people. Who will get falsely accused? A disabled student. Who will come to his rescue? His cousin, Jamie Quinn, a reluctant family lawyer. And off we went…”

Barbara Venkataraman herself is also an attorney and mediator, specializing in family law and debt collection, and she describes Jamie as her alter ego. She considers both herself and Jamie as “reluctant family lawyers, home-bodies who are loyal to our family and friends with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a snarky side”. However, she also adds that Jamie is “younger, more neurotic, and keeps finding herself embroiled in murder mysteries”.

Unlike Jamie, Barbara is also the author of an award-winning series and has always known she wanted to be a writer. She says, “ever since I wrote a poem about ducks in second grade and my teacher liked it so much she enlarged it and hung it on the wall, I was hooked.” She also talks about her love of words, both writing and read them, saying “I can spend a long time choosing one word, weighing my options and the feeling I want to convey”.

For all you aspiring authors out there, Barbara also describes what her process is like when writing a Jamie Quinn novel. “It’s a very loose process that looks like organized chaos from the outside. I come up with a synopsis and a very loose summary. I usually know the beginning and the end going in, but the middle is fluid and changes as I go. I research the topics I need for the story and paste it to the bottom of the document, so I can refer to it as I go. I write short chapters and send them to my reader girls as I finish them. None of my characters are ever shot so I have to come up with creative murder methods. I have researched so many ways to kill people that I think the FBI will come knocking soon!”

That the victims in the Jamie Quinn books do die more creatively is something I enjoyed about the books. It gave the mystery a little more fun and creativity and was a change from CSI’s common diagnosis of “gunshot wound to the head/chest”.

Jamie Quinn as a protagonist is also ideal for a cozy mystery with a point of difference because she differs from the usual cookie cutter cupcake baker as a family attorney. As an attorney, her involvement in a mystery also makes more sense than the ‘stick your nose in, smarter than the police, baker’ type character. In that vein, I also appreciate how Jamie involves people like private investigator Duke and doesn’t seem to feel the need to confront a killer alone in a dangerous situation.

I found these books to be a great light read and will definitely explore the rest of the series in the future.

You can check out the series on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bevan Stephen talks Death and the Detective

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Bevan Stephen is an aspiring new author, having recently released his first book Death and the Detective. The prequel to a series centering around Detective Jennifer Kane, this book gives readers a taster for the series to come.

When asked about his new book, this is what he had to say:

What inspired the character of Jennifer Kane?

“Her initial concept was always there, I think – a little voice in the back of my mind, that loved to giggle at inappropriate humor and respond with a resounding “Hell yeah!” when watching a particularly awesome movie action scene. But what really drew that voice out and developed it was my complete disdain for TV crime shows.

Back when I was in my late teens/very early twenties, I used to watch a lot of them. Numb3rs, The Mentalist, NCIS, CSI, all their different permutations and the other letters of the alphabet I missed. I remember watching all of these and getting bored of seeing the same characters time and time again. The nerd, the serious one with gang activity in their past, the smartass who talks too much, the firm team leader with a heart of gold on the inside. You know the ones. They’re in every TV crime drama you pick.

They were all the same character, but I could deal with that. There were two things that I got tired of – how same-ish they all were was one, but what I hated the most was how in control they all were. We’re human beings: 99% percent of the time, we aren’t cool and collected and in perfect control: we’re juggling work and family and responsibilities and friends and everything else you can imagine. I saw these personalities on screen, with perfectly combed hair, pearly white teeth and everything figured out in life – and I disliked them.

That’s a big part of what inspired Jennifer Kane – that idea that even the best of us barely have things in control. We can’t relate to the woman with a million dollars in her bank account and a new dress every Sunday – but you bet we can see the woman struggling to support a job, hobbies, friends and family, and feel something for them.

Other than that though, I just loved the basic character of Kane. She was fun in my head and she proved to be just as fun on paper.”

What made you choose to write from a female perspective as a male?

“It was something about the challenge of doing it right. I saw a lot of examples of female characters written by male authors who evidently didn’t know how to write girls, and I thought to myself “I can do better than these paid professionals” and so I set out to prove it.

The way I see it, the best female characters are written by ignoring the gender part. I’ve always believed that people are people – a bunch of individuals with goals, dreams, fears, aspirations, and that everything else (to a certain extent) can be switched out with minimal fuss. Yes, there are unique things between individual genders, ages, and other groupings that that collective can relate to. But those important, character defining concepts are things that should always stay the same, in my eyes.

For a somewhat crude, but succinct analogy: Men and women can both be brave in the face of absolute terror. Men and women can’t both relate to taking their bra off at the end of a long days work.”

Kane gives a lot of detective advice. How did you come up with that advice?

“I know I got some of the mechanical stuff from those TV crime shows I so lovingly mentioned in the first question. Kane’s method of checking the path the murder weapon took when it entered the body to see if the attacker was right handed, for instance, I remember seeing in an episode of NCIS. It was during an autopsy scene where I saw it, and I remember thinking “Huh. Neat.”

Other than that, it’s a lot of thinking things through and a lot of search engine use. I ended up visiting a few fan sites online and picking up general advice for investigating. But some of it – like Kane’s lesson to Matt about not excluding other options/theories – it was a perfect character arc for Matt and I twisted the story a little to help work with that. I think it turned out great.

Slightly related, the search engine use did get a little weird at points, full disclosure there. Yes, I’m searching for information on butterfly knives and which parts of the throat would be lethal if stabbed. No, I am not planning on putting this into practice in real life. Remember, parents – if little Timmy is suddenly fascinated with the medical effects of hydrochloric acid on the human body, don’t worry – he might just be doing book research. Hopefully.”

Death and the Detective is a prequel. Can you give us a hint what will be in the next book?

“I plan to make the actual series longer, better, and hopefully in a shorter time frame if I’m lucky. ‘Death and the Detective Book 0.5’ was a scant ~25k words, and it took me 3 years to make. That’s not great stats for the amount of time it took. However, a lot of that is chalked up to me giving up on it at one point.

Since then, I can confidently say that my work ethic and general dedication to writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better. I’ve learned a lot more, wrote some more stories that taught me a lot about story-craft, and changed my entire process. For instance – the first draft of Death and the Detective was 25k words and took over a year. To compare, I recently finished up a first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy series I’ve had my heart on for a while. This one was 74k words and it took me under four months. Three times the length for a third of the time. I was pretty pleased with that.

The proper Death and the Detective series are planned to be full size novels, and be of a much higher quality than its introduction. As for any juicy details about the first book in the series… I can reveal with absolute joy that we’re getting a look into the personal lives and dramas of Kane and Matt. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can tell you this – it’s going to be a fun ride, with some unfortunately familiar faces on the way.”

Have you ever had writers block? If so, how do you deal with it?

“Unfortunately, yes. There was a point in the drafting and editing slog of the book where I was doing my day job, coming home, and spending all my spare time on the book. I didn’t read, I didn’t listen to music, or watch movies – any time I had must be spent on the book. I was

incredibly productive, I thought I was doing just fine – until I hit the wall so hard that it left me paralyzed. The well of creativity was empty, and I hadn’t seen it coming. I shut down on writing for about a month. It was a dark time.

Over that month I was agonizing about my lack of progress – “I’m not writing or editing, I’m so unproductive, I’ll never make it as an author” spun around my head a lot. I’ll be honest – it was hell. I thought I’d gone too far and that the well would be empty forever.

I didn’t realize the well could refill, and it wasn’t until the end of that month that I realized it – after I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (it goes without saying that I’m talking about the show, not the live action movie). That show was emotional, powerful, and beautiful – and when it was over I just had to sit there and process the raw emotion it left in is wake. I felt inspired. And the next morning, I got out of bed and finished editing the fourth draft of the book. I was back.

Here’s my PSA to all artists out there, writers, drawers, musicians, what have you – we can’t create in a vacuum. You can’t just work on your art all day without break and expect it to be fine – you MUST consume art to refill your well. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two off to watch a good movie or read a book – it’s highly encouraged. You’re the creator of these worlds you make – but the creator can’t work if they’re starving. Feed the creator, and things will be just fine.”

Death and the Detective is available on Amazon.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

*Please note any links may be affiliates.

Get Your Hands On Free Lipstick This International Lipstick Day

Sunday 29th July is International Lipstick Day and across the world there is freebies to be had.

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Most famously, MAC offers a free lipstick. In some countries this is free no purchase required, but in others a purchase is required. Online, you must spend $25 to get your free lipstick.

Winky Lux is gifting customers a free matte velour plush lipstick with any purchase online.

Stila is offering a buy one get one free on all 35 shades of their Stay All Day Liquid Lipsticks online.

If you purchase one of Milani’s new eyeshadow palettes in Soft & Sultry or Pure Passion, you’ll receive a free Color Statement Matte Lipstick in the shade Matte Naked.

Palladio Beauty is offering 30% off online with the discount code Summer30, along with a free lip gloss on all orders on Sunday.

Anastasia Beverly Hills is offering a buy one get one free online for their liquid lipstick, lip gloss, and matte lipstick.

If you spend $60 or more at IT Cosmetics on Sunday, and use the code LIPDAY2018 at checkout, you’ll receive 2 free lipsticks.

Kat Von D is offering a free mini Studded Kiss Crème Lipstick in the shade Double Dare, with every online order when you use the code LIPSTICKDAY at checkout. You can also get two shades of their Everlasting Glimmer Veil Liquid Lipstick for $30 (usually $22 each). You can also check out my review of the Everlasting Glimmer Veil here.

Comment below to let us know your favorite lipstick and what deals you’ll be taking advantage of this National Lipstick Day.

Krystal xx

Is Amazon Smile Worth Smiling About?

Amazon has started a new initiative called Amazon Smile. When shoppers shop on smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com, 0.5% of the price of the item they are purchasing will be donated to their chosen charity.

There are several charities to choose from. Amazon spotlights a few major ones, but you can also search for others. There is no alphabetized list to look at, but searching a keyword of interest such as ‘cancer’ or ‘kids’ will likely bring up most charities that support your chosen area of interest.

The site uses a separate URL which Amazon makes a vague mention towards being because it is not advertising funded. However, murmurs on the internet suggest the separate URL makes shoppers less likely to remember to shop on it, thus saving Amazon money while projecting a socially conscious image. Others have also suggested it is a move to counteract how many people search Amazon through Google and instead require people to use Amazon’s search engine.

Predictions: Will Harry and Meghan last?

1516909803-meghan-and-harryMeghan Markle is set to join the royal family on May 19. But questions have been raised about how long this marriage will last. Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are children of divorce and controversy surrounds Markle’s relationship with her family.

Last year Markle spend Christmas with the royal family and her fiancée was quoted saying that they were the family Markle never had. Markle’s brother however has said Markle was close to her family until she became famous. Her brother Thomas Markle, has further penned a letter to Prince Harry, blaming Meghan Markle for her father’s bankruptcy and expressing disgust that her family weren’t invited to her wedding. Other sources have suggested that Markle’s parents will be in attendance.

This union will also partially make history with Markle being common and American. But many have said that this union is just what the royal family needs to show they are part of the twenty first century. And one would think, if it’s defying tradition, surely, they must be marrying for love. But only time will truly tell.

Book Of The Month – Southern Spirits (Angie Fox)

When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability to see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.

Ellis Wydell is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity put an end to the disturbances. But soon Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. 

There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn’t above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her?

For memory, I got this as a free book on my kindle. It was was good, I brought more in the series to read and wasn’t disappointed by these either.

Angie Fox offers an excellent protagonist with Verity Long, someone who has strength as well as humour. Her accidental ghostly sidekick Frankie, also offers a new way of seeing the spirit world I haven’t seen in any other book before, by showing a luminescent view of the world, which is based on what the dominant ghost sees. Frankie also creates a nice character contrast to Verity.

Ellis Wydell and his brother Beau then also add both a romantic and small town component that makes Verity’s life rather interesting.

And if her life wasn’t interesting enough she also has a pet skunk.

A great read and I look forward to the next in the series.

Krystal xx

Book Of The Month – Mind Your Own Beeswax (Hannah Reed)

This particular book of the month is not so much being featured because I loved it, but because I didn’t.

Hannah Reed has come up with a fantastic concept with this small time store owner and bee keeper solving mysteries. It has the potential to be comedic as well as unique and interesting. But it falls flat. In the first book Story Fischer is understandably focused on trying to save her bees and makes some stupid decisions in the pursuit of justice. Her penchant for stupid decisions and not speaking up when she should is not so understandable in the second one.

I grew very tired of hearing how she slipped and tripped because she wore flip flips everywhere (including while tending to bees) and how she reached into her lives without proper protective equipment.

I was also unimpressed with how the author handled phobia. In this novel Story’s cousin Carrie-Anne offers to look after a dog then dumps it on Story with no regard for Story’s fear of dogs. The author then makes it seem like Story looking after this dog cures her fear. Talk about unlikely. Story also behaves with similar disregard to her sister’s fear of bees.

The mother and the sister also need a swift kick for their behavior.

So what does this story have going for it? It has a quirky element, some interesting character dynamics and the potential to be a brilliant mystery series. But at this point in the series this is being stifled by characters not learning from their mistakes.

Krystal xx