Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
Top set of links above are external links, second set are pages local to the blog.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Soul Reader - Cover Reveal


Soul Reader - Cover Reveal

So I am currently working on combining the Soul Reader series into a single book so I can publish it as a paperback. The stories are too short to work as cost effective individual books, so I'm putting them all together in one volume.

I'm on the proof with a red pen stage at the moment. That's what I shall be getting back to as soon as I hit publish on this :D.

I'm also working on finishing the 4th part to the series as well, but that's going to take a little longer.

So, new book means a new cover.

I spent most of the weekend on it. The original image is from pexels.com (best site for free images ever!) and is by a chap called Lalesh Aldarwish. He has some other fantastic images on there for free download too, so check him out.

From there I had some fun with the rule of thirds and the golden ratio and fire. I've just started using Illustrator as well as Photoshop and it's really good for text. Still learning, so it took me ages to get the title right, but there are many wonderful tutorials on Youtube, thank heavens.

Cover Reveal



Are you ready? I know you're on the edges of your seats, aren't you ;)

Two male figures in silhouette against a window, one with hand stretched out, fingers on fire. Title says Soul Reader Books 1-3
Soul Reader Books 1-3 All Rights Reserved
And here's how it will look in paperback:


Thank you for dropping by.

Do you have any favourite covers, either on your own books or on ones you have seen on the internet?


~*~
P.S. I was lucky enough to be asked to guest post on the blog of the lovely  Ronel Janse van Vuuren this last weekend. I wrote all about eBooks.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Let's All Go to the Movies - Another Blanket Box

Popcorn in paper boxes with Let'all go to the movies over the top.

Let's All Go to the Movies


Since last week's blanket box went down so well and no everyone can see Pillowfort yet, here is another one. This is all about films. I love movies, so this was the next one I picked.

Your favorite movie of all time

Start with an easy one why don't you! :) Oh heavens, how am I supposed to choose?

Given that this is from a horror loving, sci-fi watching, fantasy obsessed, vampire nut, this is going to seem odd, but:

A Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn. I just love it, I always have and I can watch it over and over again. It is totally not what I usually choose, but it is simply a great film.

A movie you watch to pick you up when you feel sad

RED or RED 2 - they are both full of explosions and laughs and Helen Mirren being badass!

A movie that makes you feel invincible

Wonder Woman - it's an awesome film make with the female gaze showing a woman who can be anything she wants to be. It is simply brilliant.

Which genre of film is your favorite?

Vampires! What? you expected a different answer. I don't count them as horror movies because they just aren't scary and I love them. I have over 400.

A movie that scares you

Ju-on The Grudge - the Asian horror market is simply superb and the Japanese really know how to do movies that will scare the pants of anyone. And take no substitute - the originals are nearly always much better than the remakes. The only one I think that came close was The Eye.

A movie that makes you cry

E.T. - every damn time! With a special mention to Steel Magnolias, which also makes me cry every single time I watch it.

What movie is guaranteed to make you laugh?

Grosse Pointe Blank - I love it. John Cusack is brilliant at Martin Blank the hired killer, but my fav of all is Joan Cusak are Marcella, his secretary. The way she goes from chewing someone out for not getting her the right ammunition at exactly the right time to talking to someone else about soup is so perfect it's difficult to describe.

Your first R-rated movie

I think it must be Evil Dead II - I didn't see it in the cinema, so I have no idea what it was rated in the UK, but I saw it on VHS at a friends and it was the first real horror I ever saw. Scared me silly at the time - I'd only really seen Hammer Horror before that.

The first movie you remember seeing in theaters

Pinocchio, I think, on one of it's re-releases. I seem to remember it was on with A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court - which is apparently also called Unidentified Flying Oddball (because in those days there were b-movies before the feature) and I enjoyed the b-movie much more than the main film :)

The most boring movie you've ever seen

Now this is hard because I tend to erase such things from my mind. Don't think I can answer this.

What movie have you seen that you will never watch again?

Recently - Tom Cruise's The Mummy - OMG, it was so bad. It didn't even pass the Bechdel Test. I thought maybe Tom Cruise was getting over his I-have-to-be-the-only-thing-in-this-movie-that-matters stage, after the MI films started changing, but nope, apparently not. The film should be called Guy With a God Complexnot The Mummy. The plot doesn't even makes sense as far as character motivation goes, let alone a whole.

Also any of the Lethal Weapon movies, which used to be some of my favs, but I can no longer watch anything with Mel Gibson in it.

And Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil thanks to Kevin Spacey.

Your favorite documentary film

Diving Into The Unknown - on a dive in a cave in Norway, a Finnish dive team lost two of their number. The international recovery team deemed it too dangerous to retrieve the bodies and the authorities closed the cave to divers. The remaining members of the Finnish team, plus more of their friends, went back illegally to get their friends' bodies out. They filmed it all.

What movie did you love the most when you were a kid?

Jason and the Argonauts - they used to show it every year either at Christmas or Easter and I never got to see the end because we were dragged off to church, but I loved it nevertheless. Have never lost my love or Ray Harryhausen films.

One story you want desperately to see as a movie (can be a book, videogame, comic, etc.)

Wolf's Hour by Robert R McCammon - werwolves, the Russian Revolution and World War II - brilliant book and it was supposed to have been optioned for a movie, but I've heard nothing about it lately. I want this movie - lots!

What movie do you always recommend to friends?

Fright Night (1985) - it is a brilliant vampire movie that is often overlooked. I knew I would love it because when Barry Norman mentioned it on his film review program he hated it and I always really liked movies he hated ;) Sexy vampire, horror and comedy and Roddy McDowall - how could it not be amazing?

A movie series you love to marathon

Fright Night (1985), Fright Night part II (1998) and Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013) - and yes, I did deliberately leave out the Fright Night remake because it is a travesty!

Also the Evil Dead movies make a good marathon :)

Favourite superhero movie

I'm going to hell because I am a Marvel fan, but I have to say Wonder Woman, with The Avengers and Black Panther coming in at joint second.

Favorited movie based on a book

The Fellowship of the Ring - love that movie.

Favorited animated movie

Zootopia - now that is how to go 'racial profiling is a bad thing' and get the message across.

Free space: Mention any movie you love that you haven't talked about already!

*cracks knuckles*

The Mummy (1999) - there is nothing not to love about this movie.

Star Wars - all of them except Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Dracula (1979) - Frank Langela is so sexy!

Dracula Untold (2014) - best Dracula origin story I have seen.

The Lost Boys (1987) - it's a classic, everyone should see it.

The Breakfast Club - another classic everyone should see!

Um ... I had better stop - there are far too many more ;)

Do the Blanket Box Yourself

And also like last week, if you would like to do the Blanket box on your blog, here are the questions in easy copy and paste format. Drop me a link if you do so I can come take a look.
  • Your favorite movie of all time
  • A movie you watch to pick you up when you feel sad
  • A movie that makes you feel invincible
  • Which genre of film is your favorite?
  • A movie that scares you
  • A movie that makes you cry
  • What movie is guaranteed to make you laugh?
  • Your first R-rated movie
  • The first movie you remember seeing in theaters
  • The most boring movie you've ever seen
  • What movie have you seen that you will never watch again?
  • Your favorite documentary film
  • What movie did you love the most when you were a kid?
  • One story you want desperately to see as a movie (can be a book, videogame, comic, etc.)
  • What movie do you always recommend to friends?
  • A movie series you love to marathon
  • Favorite superhero movie
  • Favorite movie based on a book
  • Favorite animated movie
  • Free space: Mention any movie you love that you haven't talked about already!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Music or Ambient Noise - the Key to Focusing #TipTuesdays


Music or Ambient Noise - the Key to Focusing


You know how sometimes, when we sit down to write, our minds just don't seem to want to focus on the task in hand? Sometimes our thoughts flick all over the place and refuse to settle, causing all sorts of difficulties.

When this happens to me I use background music or ambient noise.

Now, I'm not saying this is a cure all, but if focusing is a problem this might be worth a try.

The way I see it, the music or background noise entertains the part of my brain that is trying to flit from thing to thing, so the creative part can get on with the work.

I suspect there are more scientific explanations, but this is the one I like :D.

Of course there are a few provisos.

For music:

  • We need to make sure we're not listening to our favourite songs - singing along does not help!
  • Anything with intrusive or catchy words can be a problem - again, singing along does not help.
  • Depending on what we are writing, different music may be appropriate:
    • if I am writing a battle I like something fast, with a heavy rock rhythm, something exciting
    • if I am writing a love scene or something more thoughtful, I prefer mellow music

For Ambient Noise

  • The noise can't be too mellow or it will send us to sleep - seriously, I have found myself dropping off ;).
  • Likewise, if the balance of strong sound is incorrect, noises that are too loud may break us out of our concentration.
There are occasions where neither of these work and, frankly, I think the only solution then is to go and have a nice cup of tea and stare at something else for a while.

Assuming everyone has their own stash of music or Spotify or Deezer, here as a couple of ambient noise sites I found, just by googling 'Ambient Noise Generator':
As I said, this might not work for everybody or in every situation, but sometimes I find it bordering on miraculous to help me focus. We're all different, so it might take time to find what is right for each of us, but it's worth a try.

Q: Do you use music or ambient noise to focus? Does it work in all situations for you? Does it not work at all?

Friday, 20 July 2018

Vampires - Be Still My Heart!


Vampires - Be Still My Heart!


So I'm on a new blogging site called Pillowfort, which is still in beta so unfortunately everyone can't just come along and sign up, even though it's great. On there we have things called Blanket Boxes, which are a set of questions for certain subjects to get people talking. I created one for vampires and since I know you're dying to know all about my vampire obsession, I thought I'd post it over here too :)

1. Why do you love vampires?

I love that vampire media can go from the darkest of the dark (Salem's Lot, John Carpenter's Vampires) through action (Underworld, Moon Child) to romance and comedy (Fright Night, Sundown the Vampire in Retreat) and combine any of these and still seem as believable as vampires are in the first place. Vampires can slot into just about any fandom if you try hard enough (I know, I made it my mission to write them into as many fandoms as possible ;)). Historical, Contemporary, Futuristic - they can be found anywhere, and they give that spicy edge to anything.

2. Which vampire(s) brought you to the dark side?

The Lost Boys - I never really though about vampires before that film. I saw it when it first came out in the cinema and never looked back. It's only looking back that its possible to see how the film changed vampire movies and how ground breaking it was, but, at the time it was definitely ground breaking for me. I never identified with Dracula or Mina or Lucy, but Sam and Michael and the very good looking Lost Boys - now them I could totally feel.

3. TV, Movie or Books - have a favourite vampire medium?

I love vampire movies. While I enjoy TV and books and occasionally comics, it is definitely movies that have me. I collect them, so I have some really, really bad ones, as well as the ones I really love. I think I have over 400 of them - not that I have seen them all yet - some are yet to be watched :). There is such a range in vampire movies and every time they have a resurgence I cheer.

4. All time favourite vampire?

Um ... this is hard ... I think I have to go for Regine (Julie Carmen) from Fright Night part II - she is bold, she is beautiful, she is ruthless and I love her style.

Beutiful dark haired woman with yellow eyes and long vampire fangs, in a red dress, opening her mouth wide and looking at the camera.

5. Current favourite vampire?

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) from Only Lovers Left Alive - he's so melancholy, but so focused and sexy. It's also a great film with a moody arty feel - not the usual kind of vampire movie I enjoy, but totally captivating. Okay, yes it also might have something to do with who plays him ... I'm not obsessed, I'm focused! :P



6. All time least favourite vampire?

Mama Dracula! Got the VHS out of a previous viewed bin at Blockbuster many years ago and hated her and it. There are many things I will forgive in a vampire film, but being deadly boring is not one of them.

7. Favourite vampire book?

It's a toss up between Salem's Lot by Stephen King and Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice (read the 1st 3 vampire chronicles books, but can't get into the rest). On balance, given how many times I have read each and seen the film/mini series adaptations, I think I have to go with Salem's Lot. I either love Stephen King books or I loathe them, this one I adore and my copy is so battered I probably need to get a new one soon.

8. Favourite vampire movie?

Fright Night (1985) with Fright Night part II a close second. The original Fright Night is a classic (don't get me on to the remake, I will rant ;)) and has everything I love about vampire movies. It has dark moments, it has comedy, it has wonderful special effects, it has plot, it makes me laugh, it makes me cry and I love everything about it. It comes out at least once a year, if not more often and I never get tired of it (except the cafeteria scene which makes me cringe). Fright Night is about Charley Brewster, an average teenager with an obsession for horror movies. He gets new neighbours and notices something very strange about them, becoming convinced one is a vampire. Things get tricky from there.

9. Favourite vampire TV show?

I have several :) it could either be Moonlight with Alex O'Loughlin and Sophie Miles or Blood Ties with Kyle Schmid and Christina Cox. They are both private investigators and vampires, only in Moonlight the PI is the vampire and in the other the PI knows about the vampire. Or Kindred: The Embraced with Mark Frankel, C Thomas Howell and Stacy Haiduk from way back in the 90s - that is a re-imagining of Vampire the Masquerade. Or Forever Knight with Geraint Wyn Davies and Catherine Disher - cops and vampires ... I should stop.









If I have to choose one out of all of them, I think I have to go for Kindred: The Embraced - after all I have written fanfic for it :).

10. What trait does a vampire have to have for them to be a "real" vampire for you? (e.g. fangs, speed, strength, hopping, nocturnal etc)

For me they have to have fangs. There are a couple of exceptions, but the fangs have it usually, I am afraid. It doesn't matter what kind of fangs, but I do like my vamps to be able to snarl ;).

11. Any vampire fanfiction recs?

Um - I will have to think about this and come back to fill in this space later.

12. Do you create vampire content - what is your favourite of your own creations?

Oh, lord, which to pick. I think I am most proud of my Harry Potter/Anita Blake crossover. It took the most work and I think I did a good job of melding the two universe. It's called Black Magic By Moonlight, it's 35 chapters and 169.6K long and it can be found on: AO3 or Wattpad

Harry gets himself almost sacrificed on a trip to St Louis, which ends up involving Anita Blake, most of the preternatural community and Draco, who was the one who sent Harry away to get some rest in the first place.

So when I originally wrote this I was totally in fandom mode, but decided to cheat and mention original fic too :). I have a vampire book out I am very fond of called Dead Before Dawn: The Vampire Curse - it's in eBook & paperback from Amazon, just eBook from Smashwords. Gay characters, bi characters, poly relationship, angst, humour - I tried to get it all in there.



Max Statton's life will never be the same again. While in Moscow for the premier of his new movie he is attacked by one of the city's resident vampires. Bitten and infected, only a team of local vampire hunters prevent him being dragged into the violent underworld of the undead. Fighting for his very existence, Max must resist the vampire curse with everything he has.

13. Any unusual vampire law you would like to share with us?

Vampires don't have to just be staked with wood in folklore - sometimes they were staked with iron or other metals. The original idea was that if you impale the corpse into the ground or into its coffin, it can't rise as a vampire.

Have a go at the Blanket Box

If you would like to have a go at the Blanket Box, here are the questions in a neat little list for copying and pasting. You don't have to answer all of them, just have fun :) Drop a link in the comments if you do it so I can come look at your answers!
  1. Why do you love vampires?
  2. Which vampire(s) brought you to the dark side?
  3. TV, Movie or Books - have a favourite vampire medium?
  4. All time favourite vampire?
  5. Current favourite vampire?
  6. All time least favourite vampire?
  7. Favourite vampire book?
  8. Favourite vampire movie?
  9. Favourite vampire TV show?
  10. What trait does a vampire have to have for them to be a "real" vampire for you? (e.g. fangs, speed, strength, hopping, nocturnal etc)
  11. Any vampire fanfiction recs?
  12. Do you create vampire content - what is your favourite of your own creations?
  13. Any unusual vampire law you would like to share with us?

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Review - Moon Child (2003) [vampire, gangster]

Title: Moon Child

Summary: After Japan suffers a major economic crash, many Japanese move to mainland china, one of whom is the vampire Kei. On the verge of death he is found by an orphaned boy, Sho, and saves him from gangsters out to take revenge for Sho, his brother Shinji and friend Toshi, stealing to survive. Sho and Kei form a bond that endures through the ups and downs of Sho's mortal life.

Cast:
Hyde ... Kei
Gackt ... Sho
Leehom Wang ... Son
TarĂ´ Yamamoto ... Toshi
Susumu Terajima ... Shinji
Zeny Kwok ... Yi-Che

So this film is part vampire movie, part gangster film with all the craziness of a live action manga. It was written by Gackt, Kishu Izuchi and Takahisa Zeze and it's engaging and has surprising depth.

Now I know what you're thinking, a movie part written by a musician (Gackt) and staring said musician and another musician (Hyde) who happens to be a good friend of his - it's going to be terrible, right? Wrong. This film is brilliant. It makes me cry every single time I watch it ... and it makes my husband cry too.

Let me give you the low down.

This is Kei (Hyde) and he's a vampire.

When Sho first meets him he's not doing so well and he looks like this:

At this point Sho is not Gackt because he's a wee thing and is played by Kanata Hongo (isn't he adorable):
Sho saves Kei's life and in return Kei deals with some bad guys who are after Sho and his little gang. Sho then grows up into Gackt, learning from Kei and pulling off daring heists against gangster types and generally being a little shit.

There's a whole love story going on (unfortunately not Kei and Sho) while Kei angsts about being a vampire and Sho grows up to be a big shot gangster himself.

There is angst (oh boy, is there angst), there is love (familial, romantic, it's all in there), there are amazing gun battles (don't worry about the physics ;)), there are themes of deep racial divide (Sho and Kei are immigrants in a country that doesn't really want them), there is hopelessness (the story has an inevitability in its journey), there is heartache (if you have a soul you will cry ;)), there is comedy (Gackt can be very silly when he wants to be), there are vampires (they just fit)—there is everything we could ever want from a movie. This is a film that has it all.

This movie takes us through Sho's lifetime and it feels as if we are there every step of the way. It makes us laugh with him, love with him, bleed with him, and then it gives us Kei too, who has just as much depth, as well as a plethora of supporting characters who become real to us.

This is a great film that doesn't get enough respect and I thoroughly recommend it.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Why Distance Can Be Our Greatest Ally When Drafting Fiction #TipsTuesday


Why Distance Can Be Our Greatest Ally When Drafting Fiction


We all know we can be a bad judge of something when we are too close to it. Bad decisions can come from having too much invested in a situation or having far too much information to know which way to look next.

The same goes for writing fiction.

Distance can be the answer for different aspects of the process.

Image from Pixabay via Pexels

Writer's Block


We've all had those times when we just run out of steam as we're writing, we burn out.
  • All the creativity dries up. 
  • We start to hate our plot or our characters.
  • We can't seem to think of a way out of the blind alley we seem to have written up.
  • Everything we write is clearly terrible (to us at least).
  • We get caught up in an editing cycle that is going nowhere because new words and ideas are so hard.
These problems can often be solved by a little distance. Step back, walk away, work on something else for a little while. 
  • Sometimes it takes hours - sleep on it, 
  • Sometimes days - focus on another project for the rest of the week
  • Sometimes weeks - put the manuscript away, bring out other projects, be they creative or managerial.
It all depends on the work, but putting it aside and coming back to it can give perspective and insight and reignite the creative fires.

Editing the All Important First Draft


Whether we use a professional editor or not, we need a decent first draft. It's exciting when we type the final word and sit back and know we have come to the end of the story - BUT - we should never be tempted to bundle it up and send it to everybody.

If we have alpha readers, we can send it to them, but, unless we are some sort of literary genius, we should all realise our first draft it not yet ready for other eyes.

However, we should also not be tempted to jump straight in with the self-editing.

At this point we have all the facts buzzing around in our heads, we know exactly what everything it supposed to mean, how it is supposed to go. If we re-read now, we are likely to miss things. The secret is to:
  • close the file
  • sit back
  • pat ourselves on the back - we've done a great thing
  • move on to something else for a couple of weeks at least.

THIS IS HARD!
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels
Yes, I know, I totally understand, the manuscript is our baby, we have worked very hard on it and we want it to be perfect right now! However, what we need to understand is this is unlikely to happen if we just dive right back in.

What we need is distance.

Taking that step back will allow us to see many things:
  • Spelling mistakes - there will be many we have just not noticed and coming back to text fresh helps them pop out.
  • Grammar - we often read on the page what we expect to see, or what is in our head, taking a step back gives us fresh eyes to see what is really there.
  • Pacing issues - we loved a scene so much we put in way too much information and slowed it down, or we were so excited writing something it is over way too fast.
  • Plot holes - we totally forget that Leopold needed a way to find out that Maxine was flying to Budapest before he chased after her.
  • Missing information - the fact Leopold is addicted to chocolate but is vaguely allergic to it was in our head, but we forgot to mention it, so him having a horrible headache after binge eating a whole fudge cake makes no sense.
All of these things can be helped by alpha and beta readers and editors, but if we want our first draft to be palatable and to spark excitement, we can fix a lot of this ourselves before we send it out.

In Conclusion


Our writing comes from our hearts and minds. It is part of us. Sometimes the creative process is wonderful and everything flows onto the page, sometimes we have to force every word. However, no matter how we got there, our manuscript is close to us. 

This is amazing, but it causes issues.

If we're having trouble, or we just want our work to be as good as possible for the next person to see it, what we often need is distance. Take that step back and look away for a while, it can really help.

Have you found it really hard to step away from a project either at the end or during it? Did it help in the end?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Fanfic, Fanfic Everywhere ... But Nothing A Spreadsheet Can't Handle!


Fanfic, Fanfic Everywhere ... But Nothing A Spreadsheet Can't Handle!

So as I mentioned last week, I'm really into Wattpad these days and, while I am using it to publish original fiction, I am also using it to publish my fanfiction. Then there is also a new blogging platform called Pillowfort, which is in beta at the moment, but seems to be just the place fandom and social media needs.

Wattpad


There is a thriving fanfiction community on Wattpad and it is still growing. When I first dipped my toe in a few years ago it all seemed to be One Direction fic, but digging deeper there is much more and expanding these days. Now while none of us can make money off of fanfic, as is proper, it is a very useful tool for expanding our audience.

Because of this I am working on adding many of my fanfiction works to my Wattpad library so my audience over there can enjoy them as well.

Pillowfort


It's a site that is still growing, but it allows the kind of discourse Livejournal was always good at, as well as offering the reblogging functionality and media flexibility of Tumblr. Adding my fanfiction over there is a no-brainer for me :)

Fanfiction vs Original Fiction


Fanfiction is looked down on by some, but most people who read it are avid book worms. They love to read and read lots. It is only logical that there will be those who read fanfic and original ficiton at the same time. One kind of fiction may be set in another creator's universe while the other is in our own fictional universe, but they still have many things in common.

For example:
  • I love vampires and have made it my business to write them into every fandom I can manage when writing fanfic.
  • I write lots of original vampire fiction too.
or
  • Most of my fanfiction is slash = male/male pairings.
  • I write lots of lgbtqia original fiction.
Hence I have a crossover in my audience reading tastes. Not everyone will want to jump from one to the other, but the cross-pollination is there.

The Issue


Only one problem - I have fanfiction all over the place and I'm not sure where all of it is. Hence, this week, I have set myself the task of finding all the major places I have posted it and creating Google Sheets so I can keep track of it.

I have 338 works on AO3, but I've already found several small fics that seem to have been overlooked when going through my tags on Livejournal.

My reasoning is thus - if I have a place where everything is recorded I will know where to find it should anything happen for reasons not yet known. And I also like organising things, so my inner librarian is very happy. As long as my inner child and my inner librarian never meet, everything should be fine ;).

Over the last few years I have been writing fanfiction less and less, but I have to say, Wattpad and Pillowfort are beginning to reignite my fire, which, in turn, is helping with my original fiction mojo as well. It seems when I light one creative fire they all burn brighter :).

Do you write or read fanfiction? What are your fandoms? If not, do you have a reason for not doing so?

Friday, 6 July 2018

Fire Within by Natasha Duncan-Drake #FreeFictionFriday


Fire Within by Natasha Duncan-Drake #FreeFictionFriday

It's July, which means strawberry and cream, with champers at the tennis and this year there's footie on the telly for those who like that too. I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine. Can you believe it's been a whole year since we started Free Fiction Friday? Nope, neither could I, but my spreadsheet does not lie. The first Free Fiction Friday was on 7th July last year.

This Month's Free Story

Title: Fire Within
Author: Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: paranormal romance, lesbian
Length: ~4.5K
Description:
Maya's life is complicated because of her unusual condition and she'd got something of an emergency. A friendly and intriguing new neighbour brings complications and the hint of romance.

Now before you click - the story is completely free, but you do need a password to access it.


Soph and I do Free Fiction Friday for the subscribers to our newsletter to say thank you for being members.

We never spam our newsletter. 

In fact it mostly gets used to tell everyone about the free story each month, with the odd other update in between with special offers and new releases and such :).

The password for the current month's story is always in the final welcome email for those who sign up to the newsletter, so no-one misses out even if they sign up after the announcement email for the month goes out.

Please, please, please don't forget to tick the little email box at the bottom of the sign-up form, otherwise we can't send you emails and we will never be able to tell you about more free short stories (yes, I know, you'd think signing up to a newsletter would automatically mean you agreed to emails - but GDPR is a royal pain).

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Delights of Wattpad - Come Join the Fun


The Delights of Wattpad - Come Join the Fun

Okay so I meant to post this yesterday, but got hung up on other things :) hence the Writerly "Almost" Wednesday.

I am really into Wattpad these days and post over there a lot, and I wanted to share the joy (My Profile on Wattpad).

About the Wattpad Community


Wattpad isn't like Amazon or Smashwords. It is not a site where you put your books for sale and run. Fiction on Wattpad is free, but it has some amazing opportunities for writers, as well as a phenomenal amount of content for readers.

There are some ads, but that's how the site supports itself, so it's only fair, and they are non-intrusive (unlike some sites I could mention). If you want a completely ad-free experience and to support Wattpad more, there is the new Premium service that is explained here.

Wattpad is also not just a site for fanfiction (that would be the wonderful AO3) - although some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that this is what Wattpad is for. We do have a thriving fanfiction community - I know, I post to it, but there is a huge amount of original based content too - I post to that too.

And for those worried about plagiarism (which I have seen bandied around when I've mentioned Wattpad on here before) - there is a strict code of conduct and systems in place to stop this from happening, or remove offending content if it does occur. Wattpad takes such things very seriously (Copyright FAQ).

To experience Wattpad to its fullest takes engagement - it's a community and to appreciate it best we have to become part of the community. But for a little effort, the rewards are countless. Not least of all, making friends!

click image to visit my profile
Wattpad is all about engagement. It has an Ambassadors program of users who volunteer to help Wattpad support the community. Ambassadors do things like help run certain profiles (Directory of Ambassador run profiles), and they are also there to help users.

There is a very comprehensive explanation of what the Ambassadors do on the Wattpad support site for those who are interested: Wattpad Ambassadors. And a great piece on them on the Wattpad Writers' Portal (more on this later). There is also the @Ambassadors profile which has lots of useful information too.

First things first, Wattpad is a Canadian company and we all know what a reputation Canadians have for being nice. Well Wattpad is the epitome of that - they want to do everything they can to make sure their users have the best time on their site.

That being the case, there are Ambassador teams for other languages - so the site is not just all about stories in English. Wattpad has users from all across the globe and they work hard to support everyone they can.

Wattpad is for readers and writers. It has aps as well as a website, so just about anything you can do on the website, you can also do on your phone or your tablet, and vice versa.

Writing on Wattpad


Now, I will be the first to admit, when we start with Wattpad it seems a little daunting. One little account among millions with no followers and it can be like shouting into a void when we post our stories. However, Wattpad want you to find readers, they want you to succeed, hence there is:


The Writer's Portal is there to give us advice on:
  • how to become a better writer, 
  • how to grow our audience
  • how to be inspired
  • as well as tell us all about programs and opportunities for writers on Wattpad.
It is a one stop shop for all the info we need to get started and to grow.

Wattpad is also not just for fiction, there is a non-fiction and a random category. Want to share your recipes with the world? Create a recipe book. Have an inner Wordsworth trying to get out? Publish your poetry. (There are comprehensive Content Guidelines here if you are worried what you want to post is not allowed).

Reading on Wattpad


Want to just read amazing stories? That's okay too, you don't have to be a writer to be on Wattpad, and writers will adore you even more if you vote and/or leave comments on the stories and story parts that you enjoy.
  • Wattpad has recommended reading lists and features stories to help us find the best of the best.
  • Ambassador run profiles have reading lists for their genres/subjects and some have anthologies full of contest winners
  • The tagging system makes it easy to find what we're looking for (Searching with Tags).
  • Prominent covers and easy to see descriptions help us to find stories worth a look.
With every account we have the ability to create our own reading lists so we can always find the stories we really liked again, and to keep up with updates on serialised fiction. Some accounts become a hub of reading lists to recommend stories to other users too.

There are also the Wattpad Clubs to find like minded people, talk about particular genres, tell the world about our current story (we just have to make sure we do that in the right thread ), and everything like that.

In Summary


So basically, what I'm trying to say is Wattpad is a great place for writers and readers alike. It has a community behind the stories and profiles, that is rich and diverse.

If you're stuck, ask an Ambassador for help (look for this symbol beside the profile name) and they will point you to where you can find the solution. Or there is Wattpad Support who have a comprehensive help FAQ and are very good at sorting out user issues that aren't covered in the documentation.

Wattpad is a rich community with some amazing quality fiction, as well as enthusiastic new writers with some brilliant new ideas. It is a platform for newbies and experienced creators alike. It is a platform for anyone who loves stories. Come and join the fun.

Any questions? 

~*~

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Recipe: Chilli Chicken/Tofu with Spicy Beans & Tomato Sauce


Chilli Chicken/Tofu with Spicy Beans & Tomato Sauce

My apologies for not updating in a while - I have been busy with a project, but I am back today with a lovely recipe to share. It is actually a cross between two recipes that I am very fond of, Chicken Marsala (I haven't posted this one yet), which gave me the technique for doing the chicken and Turkey/Soya/Quorn Chilli with Tortilla Crust and Avocado Salsa for the beans and sauce.

Updated - I forgot to mention this works extremely well with smoked tofu, rather than chicken for the vegetarians among us - the flavour goes beautifully, and coating it in flour and frying it would give the little crunch too.

Serves 4 Cooking Time 45 min

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts or 1 packet of smoked Tofu (Tofoo is fantastic)
  • 3 tbsp regular flour (for gluten free, you could use another flour of your choice - it is only to help the browning)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ½ tsp mild chili powder
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 skinned red pepper 
  • 500g box of passata
  • 1 tbsp chipotle (if you don't like it as spicy, reduce the amount)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • ¼ cup sherry (optional)
  • 2 tbsp oil for frying
Rice or tortillas for serving, with soured cream and avocado salsa (optional).

Instructions

  1. Put flour, pepper, salt and mild chili powder in a bag and shake to mix. 
  2. Pound the chicken breast until they are about ¼ inch thick or Cut the tofu into four equal, flat pieces.
  3. Put the chicken or tofu in the bag and shake to coat with flour.
  4. In a large frying pan (30cm/12in) or flameproof casserole heat the oil and add the chicken/tofu. Cook until golden on both sides and just cooked - about 5-6 mins for chicken, less for tofu.
  5. Remove and set aside to rest in a warm place.
  6. Chop the onion finely.
  7. Sweat down in the same pan as the chicken was cooked in, over a low heat, until translucent.
  8. Chop the red pepper into bite sized pieces and add to the pan.
  9. Add the ground cumin and stir through - cook for 1 min.
  10. Stir in the passata and chipotle - rinse out the passata box/can with a little water and add that too.
  11. Add the beans and the sherry and bring to the boil.
  12. Cook until the sauce has thickened and is viscous - can take up to 10 mins, but use your judgement.
  13. Turn the heat down, add the chicken/tofu to the pan, including any juices that came out, pop on the lid and cook for 2-3 mins until the chicken/tofu is warmed through.
  14. Serve with rice or tortillas.
This is a very hearty meal with lots of things that are really good for us. It is also very tasty and the way the chicken comes out so juicy inside and slightly crunchy on the outside it just about perfect.