Ignore This Promotion

Why not get yourself a free book?

Hey, it’s been a couple of days since my last blog and I thought since you’ve waited so patiently, why don’t I give you a free book?

Sounds altruistic, I know, but don’t let that fool you. I’m only doing it so I can harvest first your emails then later your organs.

Uh, actually, ignore that last sentence.

For those of you unfamiliar with my novel, Poor Choices, why not dive right into the first chapter below.

Alternatively, if you’re a brave adventurer, why not skip straight to the getting here.

After all, it is free.

Poor choices: Blurb + Chapter One

The man in the white T-shirt appeared in Alan’s line of vision without warning, then vanished. Alan hadn’t meant to notice him. In fact, he tried never to notice other people. It only made him upset.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t always avoidable. Alan’s focus had been on the task at hand – choosing lunch. Then came White T, swooping in and plucking up a sandwich as a superhero might pluck a damsel from a tumbling skyscraper.

The whole action took five seconds and left Alan feeling irritable. Not because White T nudged Alan, although this did show poor manners, but because of the reckless abandon with which he went about his business.

He had taken no time to consider his options. Not even a cursory glance to see what was available. Yet, there had to be thirty different varieties of sandwich here. How could anyone make such an instant decision, without fear of regret?

Jenny would say – while rolling her eyes – that this man decided what he wanted before arriving. In which case why waste any more time upon reaching the sandwiches? Alan found this an unacceptable hypothesis. Yes, it was important to narrow your options beforehand, to avoid unnecessary browsing. For example, Alan liked to decide if he wanted meat, salad or fish before he walked through the door. But there were a myriad of other factors one could not assess until presented with the selection. Sell by date, availability, freshness of bread, plumpness of filling to name a few. These needed considering before you could make your final choice.

Alan closed his eyes. He was getting himself worked up over something that didn’t matter. It was of no consequence what this man did regarding his own lunch. Besides, Alan was sure the man had taken a triple sandwich, so he was clearly a maniac. Alan would put the incident from his mind. Picking his own lunch and leaving. As if White T never existed.

Alan followed the man, although he was aware this was not something civilised members of society did. He knew White T did not understand the implications of his actions. Were Alan to explain he might have the wrong sandwich, he would say it was only lunch.

Except it wasn’t only lunch. Every decision had ramifications, and people so rarely understood this. Alan knew that it was more than a sandwich. It may be mistaken for only a sandwich when taken in isolation. But what happened if said sandwich was so awful you had to throw it away? Wasteful, for a start, but then you’re hungry. You spend the rest of the day hungry and so productivity dips. You fall behind, and you’re catching up the next day, and the next, until your blasé approach to decision making brings you another duff sandwich. So you fall further and further behind until one day you get laid off. Now, you’re jobless. Then you lose the house. Then your wife and kids. So you turn to alcohol and spend your time wandering the streets drunk until finally, you walk into the road and –

Alan stopped. His heart raced as though he had barely escaped death at the hands of an axe wielding murderer. It occurred to him, not for the first time, that there was something wrong with him. The thought of not having an excel spreadsheet for every decision he made was enticing, but the possibility of making the wrong choice made him shaky and weak as if a rough case of flu had gripped him. He was sure it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

He followed as White T weaved around the aisles at random like a dog let loose in the woods. He imagined shopping this way. To not spend four hours drafting and revising your shopping list. To take the aisles as they took your fancy, rather than in a religious order. To stay calm and collected when choosing between Heinz and Branston because there was no difference. Alan knew there was no difference.

Alan wanted to be more like White T. An admittedly odd thought to have of someone he knew nothing about. But what would happen if he talked to Mr. White T? Could they be friends? Like one of those comedies where two opposites collide and teach each other valuable and relevant life lessons. Alan wasn’t sure what he had to offer unless this man needed help with his taxes or alphabetising his herbs and spices. Somehow, Alan doubted it.

They stopped in the kitchen aisle. Alan pretended to look at rubber gloves while White T picked up various scented candles, sniffing each one and returning it. They weren’t for him. They were for a lady friend. Or several lady friends. This man enjoyed sex. Alan heard stories about what that was like from men more able to relax than himself. He had overheard his son talk about it on many occasions, although he tried to block that out. This man was a skilful lover. A real Casanova. A –

The pair of gloves he’d been fingering slithered through his fingers. He dipped to pick them up and replaced them on the shelf, his heart quickening again as if he’d smashed something valuable. With a sigh, he looked to his right.

White T had departed, leaving Alan holding a strange sense of loss. He’d been looking at a window into another world, a better world, and now someone had closed the curtains. Or worse, removed the window entirely.

He moved down the aisle and stopped by the candles, lifting one to eye level, as though it were a snow globe freshly shaken. ‘Freedom’. He sniffed it, unsure how freedom should smell. It turned out to be not unpleasant. He squeezed, staring at it as if it might reveal the answers of the universe, if only he were patient. It didn’t.

A buzz in his pocket and he reached for his phone. Bugger. His lunch break was about to end.

He quick-stepped out of the store, the faux flu draining his strength. It was too late to get lunch. Better to go hungry than be late back and face the wrath of Derek. Slumping into the car, he grabbed the wheel with both hands, as though the open door might produce a vacuum and suck him into space.

Something dropped to the floor, and his blood ran cold. He froze as if the item might attack, were it to realise he could move.

Sweat poured as if he were sitting fully clothed in a sauna as he forced himself to stoop and lift it. Turning over the item, he read the front, already knowing what it was.

A little candle called ‘Freedom.’

How ironic.

What a great first chapter, gimmie the book, and don’t charge me a penny!

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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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