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.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Midnight Feast by Natasha Duncan-Drake #GhostStory #LuckOfTheDraw

Midnight Feast

Natasha Duncan-Drake

Luck of the Draw #1

A/N: This is the first in my new Luck of the Draw series. It's called that because it is inspired by a set of storytelling dice a friend gave me for Christmas a little while back. Six dice, six different elements to include in a story. Great for moments of writer's block to get the creative juices flowing. Since it's October, a ghost story came to mind for this one. Enjoy!
If you're a writer and need a little nudge to get the creative juices flowing or just fancy having a go, feel free play along with the prompts. Drop me a comment to let me know what you came up with 😊.
Word count: 676


Prompts: Hat | Clock | Meal | Moon and Stars | Rain cloud | Phone


Bea glanced at the clock and groaned. It was past midnight. 

Throwing her wet hat onto the table she plodded towards the fridge. She knew she would regret it as soon as she went to bed, but she was starving. She needed food. No doubt she would have the weirdest dreams.

Everything had gone wrong from the moment she'd crawled out of bed that morning. No hot water for her shower thanks to her dick of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Keith. She'd been late for work because of a broken-down bus on the railway crossing. Lunch had turned out to be a five-minute affair where she had almost choked on her sandwich. Then she'd had to stay after hours to be in on a phone call with the US which had turned out to be completely pointless and nothing to do with her. And her train home had been cancelled twice due to staff shortages thanks to all the disruption from the morning.

The universe hadn't been done with her then either. When she'd climbed onto the train there hadn't been a cloud in the sky with twinkling stars and a bright moon. When she'd climbed off it had been throwing it down like Noah's flood.

She was soaked, she was fed up, and she was downright hangry.

No doubt Keith was already tucked up in bed snoring, the arsehole. They were stuck with the lease for another month and, until then, she had to live in the same house as the cheating bastard. She wouldn't have minded if he'd just told her. It had been more than obvious that their relationship was headed in the wrong direction for a couple of months, but no, he had had to go and cheat with her ex-best friend.

Well, she could be petty too and banged her way around the kitchen as she prepared to make a croque monsieur.

She had bread, cheese, ham and a jar of bechamel all ready to go. It was just the comfort food she needed. With the frying pan in one hand she headed for the stove to get everything started, mouth watering at just the thought. There was a noise behind her.

"Don't think I'm making you one, dickhead," she said, turning.

But it wasn't Keith in the doorway, it was a strange woman whose eyes were completely fixed on the frying pan.

"Who the ..?" Bea started to ask, stepping towards the stranger.

The woman let out the most blood curdling scream and the frying pan slipped from Bea's suddenly clumsy fingers. The crash resounded around the kitchen.

"Mel, what is it?" came a man's voice from the other room, equally as unfamiliar as the woman.

Bea had a sudden moment of wondering if she could had walked into the wrong house. But, of course, that was ridiculous, her key had fitted in the lock, everything about the kitchen was familiar. The strange woman was clearly hysterical.

A man appeared behind her in the doorway.

"Mel?" he asked.

The woman gestured around the room, eyes never once looking directly at Bea.

"It happened again," the woman said. "The frying pan … it … it was floating."

"I don't know who the hell you are," Bea said, picking up the knife from the kitchen table, "but you're clearly nuts. Now get out of my house."

The woman screamed again, and the man dragged her out of the room.

"That's it," Bea heard him say, "we're leaving. The agent never said anything about a ghost."

Bea's mind flashed with the memory of trying desperately to get air and there being none. Of people trying to help her, banging her on the back, looping their arms around her middle and pulling, but she shook it away. It was just a silly nightmare. The front door slammed, and she bent down to pick up the frying pan. She'd figure out who the hell the couple had been later, but right then she was hungrier than she'd ever been. It felt like she hadn't eaten in years.

The End

Thank you for reading, I very much hope you enjoyed the story. Comments are love πŸ˜ŠπŸ’–

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

What are your favourite genres? Enquiring minds ... #WriterlyWednesday

What are your favourite genres? 
Enquiring minds want to know.

So I was thinking, as you do, and it started me wondering about genres. I am a very picky reader, and even within my favourite genres I sometimes find it hard to find books I really love, but there are definitely those I gravitate towards. Although it's really hard to pick my favourite genre.

So, of course, I decided to ask you all the really hard question :D. πŸ˜‚
If your answer isn't there, let me know in comments and if you have a particular sub-genre, let me know that too.
For me, I think I'd have to say, paranormal is my favourite genre to read and write, although with one of my favourite books being Salem's Lot by Stephen King it's possible to argue that it could be horror or vampire too. πŸ˜œ

What is your favourite fiction genre to read?

Epic Fantasy
Contemporary Fantasy
Science Fiction
Vampire (yes they get their own!)
Created with PollMaker


What is your favourite genre to write?

Epic Fantasy
Contemporary Fantasy
Science Fiction

Friday, 4 October 2019

Happy Beginning of the Halloween Season - Free Fiction Friday!

Happy Beginning of the Halloween Season - Free Fiction Friday!

πŸŽƒIt's October and that means ghosts and goblins and long legged beasties!πŸŽƒ

Okay, so we may be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, but it's Free Fiction Friday and we wanted to get everyone in the mood for the end of the month. This month's free short story is a ghostly one. Scroll down to check out the details.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, Free Fiction Friday happens once a month, every month where Soph and I give our Wittegen Press Newsletter subscribers a free short story on the first Friday. These stories range from ghost to vampires with fantasy and even the odd bit of science fiction thrown in.

Our Newsletter is usually very low traffic with one or two messages a month. We only ever send something out when we have something important to tell our subscribers, like new releases, competitions, freebies and, of course, Free Fiction Friday. No spam, and we're with Mailchimp, so your details are securely stored and won't be shared with anyone else.

For new members the link to this month's short story are included in the final welcome email when you sign up.

This Month's Free Story

The Storm by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: ghost story
A lonely figure stands on the battlements of a castle watching an approaching storm, remembering loss. Can love reach beyond death?

If you have any questions about Free Fiction Friday, the Newsletter or the story, do drop me a comment. I love to chat.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

How to Format an eBook - 2019 Edition

How to Format an eBook - 2019 Edition

Technology is always changing and things have progressed since I last wrote a blog post on how to format eBooks. I have just written myself a new checklist for creating eBooks in what I consider to be the most efficient way, so I thought I'd share. Now don't take this as me saying, this is the only way to do it, but this is how I do it, and it works for me. No doubt by the time I hit publish the tech will have changed again!

Software required:

Steps to Create an eBook:

The Kindle Version:

I start with this one because the Kindle Create Add-in makes life so much easier.
  1. Make sure the manuscript is ready for publishing and has been thoroughly edited.
  2. Install the Kindle Create Add-in.
  3. Go to the Kindle tab in Word and click the Get Started button.
  4. Choose the theme for the book.
  5. Save the book file (I usually put -KINDLE on the end of my file names so I can always tell them apart). N.B. Make sure to save regularly through the formatting process to avoid losing anything.
  6. Click Insert Template Page from the ribbon and choose Book Title Page - from now on when inserting a page type, they all come from the Insert Template Page
  7. Insert Copyright Page
  8. Search and replace Book Title with the book's title.
  9. Search and replace Author Name with the author's name.
  10. Edit or delete the Book Subtitle as required.
  11. On the copyright page edit the Cover Designer, website, ISBN and edition information.
  12. Insert Dedication page if required and edit.
  13. Insert Table of Contents page.
  14. Insert Other Page (font/back matter) if you wish to have an acknowledgements section or any other front matter.
  15. If you book has parts insert Part Title Page.
  16. Insert Chapter Title Page
  17. Copy the chapters from your manuscript and paste them into a text only editor like Notepad or PSPad to get rid of any formatting.
  18. Paste chapters into Kindle Create doc and make sure everything is formatted as the "Normal" style.
  19. At the beginning of each chapter insert a Chapter Title Page.
  20. For each chapter do the following:
    1. Copy the chapter title and paste it into the Chapter Title position on the Chapter Title Page
    2. If you have no chapter subtitle and no chapter quote, delete the quote and reformat the subtitle placeholder to be 8pt. Then delete the text, but leave the paragraph marker. This is to prevent the eBook preview from crashing because there is a bug. There has to be something between the chapter title and the first paragraph.
    3. Copy the chapter subtitle and paste into the correct place, or delete the chapter subtitle placeholder.
    4. Copy the chapter quote and paste into the correct place or delete the chapter quote.
    5. Change the drop cap letter to be the first letter of your first paragraph for the chapter.
    6. Copy the first paragraph, apart from the first letter (not including the paragraph marker) and paste into the first paragraph of the chapter.
    7. Delete everything between the first paragraph and the second paragraph.
  21. Optional - change some of the first line of the first paragraph to be all caps. If you are only doing a Kindle book the "all caps" formatting option will work, if you want to convert to ePub later, typing it in in capital letters is more compatible.
  22. Insert back matter using Other Page (font/back matter) for each that you wish to appear in the table of contents.
  23. If you wish to have back matter that is not in the table of contents, add in a section break to create a new page, add in your content and then create your own header style based on other back matter pages, so it will look the same, but not be gathered for the table of contents.
  24. Save!
  25. Check the book using the Kindle Preview from the ribbon.
This docx file should now be ready to upload to KDP. Always check in the previewer once the file is uploaded, but I have never had a problem with the conversion.

Convert to ePub:

For those who need ePub files, it is very easy to convert from the KINDLE to something that looks good in an ePub viewer and passes ePub checks. You will need your cover file ready to create this version, even though it is best to upload it separately on Google Play.
  1. Re-save the file with a new name. I just add -EPUB to the end.
  2. Change the ISBN and any of the rest of the copyright page that is not correct for the edition.
  3. Delete all the drop cap letters from the beginnings of chapters by clicking on their containing box and deleting the whole thing. (They often screw up so it's not worth the risk).
  4. Replace the missing letters with normal ones at the beginning of the paragraph.
  5. Load the docx into Calibre.
  6. Edit the meta data to have the correct title, author, cover and description.
  7. Click convert to ePub - make sure to check the "maintain aspect ratio of cover" on the ePub OUT tab.
  8. Save the ePub to disk.
  9. Check the ePub in an ePub reader and with an ePub checker.


I always create a Smashwords version from plain text because I like their "meatgrinder" conversions, but you can upload the ePub straight to their site with some limitations. You also need to make sure you follow their conventions and have Smashwords Edition on the copyright page as well as an ISBN just for them, if you are using your own. I only create the ePub for Google Play or if I need to put it up for download like in Free Fiction Friday.

For Smashwords, their Smashwords Style Guide has everything you need to know - and yes "The Nuclear Method" does work best.

I have a MS Word template that I've set up with all the front matter, back matter and styles I use for Smashwords and then copy and paste the content in from text only.


And there you have it, all the steps I take to create my eBooks for upload. I find it the most efficient to start with the Kindle book because of Kindle Create and I work from there. Smashwords is a matter of starting from text again, but with a Word template, it's much quicker than doing it from scratch. If you've used the captials on the first line and typed the capitals rather than using the font format in the Kindle version, that also comes across for the Smashwords version.

The next step after this is, of course, the paperback, but that's a post for another day.

I very much hope this is helpful to some people. Let me know if you have other tips and tricks.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

All the new covers!

First of all the Eros covers:

Romantics by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Chip Off the Old Block? Dawn of the Anti-Christ ... Maybe by Natasha Duncan-Drake Out of the Frying Pan by Natasha Duncan-Drake Three Bullets by Natasha Duncan-Drake The Trade by Natasha Duncan-Drake Mouse Trap by Sophie Duncan The Need in Me by Sophie Duncan

And now the other covers I have updated for Wittegen Press:

Stockings by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Myriad Imaginings by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Half of Everything Natasha Duncan-Drake The Other Half of Everything by Sophie Duncan Book of Darkness by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Beyond Our Horizon by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Supernature by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Bright Young Things by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Face of the Dead by Natasha Duncan-Drake When Darkness Beckons by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake In the Event of Death by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake Rite Name by Sophie Duncan The Diablo Ouija by Sophie Duncan Christmas Poems by Sophie Duncan Cursed by Sophie Duncan and Natasha Duncan-Drake

With some of them I've just rearranged a few things and changed fonts, and with others I have completely redesigned them. It was mostly fun, but a couple of them really gave me the run-around!

Wittegen Press' New Look

Wittegen Press' New Look

I've finally done it - I gave the Wittegen Press website a new look. Now technically this should have just involved picking a new theme for WordPress, but things are never that simple, are they? πŸ˜

Do you like the new header? I think it speaks about the site much more than the old one which was just the logo.
New Wittegen Press Home Page

It loads much faster now too! I think the newer themes are much better than the 2014 theme we were using.

One thing that did surprise me, however, is how many of the currently offered themes are not responsive. I had to search carefully to make sure the one I picked was.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, responsive means that the site can be viewed equally well on PC, tablet and phone and it uses CSS div layouts to do it. There is also fluid layout which uses percentages to do it, but, as you can imagine, on a phone percentages are not going to work too well.

Had to sort out all the menus as well because, while the new theme tried to sort them out, if only has once widget area (the old one had 3) so it duplicated a whole load of the menus.

There were some other formatting issues that I had to sort out, but it was actually easier than I expected, which was nice for once πŸ˜‚

Other things I did while I was at it:

  • Added a page for Wittegen Eros
  • Updated all the books so they are now tagged Wittegen Press or Wittegen Eros so they can be found by publisher.
  • Updated all books with their new covers.
  • Implemented the featured stories scroller for the blog page.
New Wittegen Press Blog page
There is only one thing I can't fix and it's driving me batty. Our books used to have a G+ link on them, which is part of one of the plugins we use, and it's no longer formatting correctly, but it won't go away! I've turned off the social media setting for the plugin and turned it back on again, but it is still not working. Most frustrating.

Anyway, I hope you like the new look for Wittegen Press.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Recipe Recommendation - Lentils and Goat's Cheese from BBC Food

Recipe Recommendation

Lentils and Goat's Cheese from BBC Food

So I made this recipe of Lentils and Goat's Cheese last night for our dinner. Really simple, only 6 main ingredients + seasoning, most of which require little to no preparation.

It was delicious!

The flavour of the garlic, basil, lemon and olive oil against the earthly lentils and creamy goat's cheese are wonderful, and the perfect balance. Only 2 provisos edit - 3 provisos:

  1. It has to be a creamy goats cheese, not an acidic one - I think this is crucial, or the balance will be off.
  2. It is improved by something crunchy, otherwise it's quite one note on the texture scale.
    I did Rob a crispy Quorn fillet to go with his, and he said it set it off perfectly. I tried cashew nuts with mine (didn't think I could eat a whole Quorn fillet), but they weren't the right match. Might work really well with croutons, if you're not going for a gluten free meal.
  3. UPDATE 16-Sept-19 - a friend on Pillowfort recommended soaking the lentils before using them (I had mine soaking from first thing in the morning to when I made the dish the second time) and it really does improve it. The lentils are much easier to eat and sit better on the stomach for those not used to them. Soak, drain, cook in fresh water for 15-20 mins rather than 25.
This is the perfect midweek meal, especially for those looking for meatless alternatives that are filling, tasty and full of vitamins and minerals.

The only part that takes time is the cooking of the lentils and that's only 25 mins (at least mine were, according to the packet directions, but canned would probably be quicker). And it's more about leaving them on the stove and letting them bubble than anything more complicated. Everything else is shredded or squeezed by hand.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

New Imprint, New Podcast and Free Fiction Friday

New Imprint, New Podcast and Free Fiction Friday

Firstly, apologies - this should have been out yesterday, but our power flipped out several times and meant I was racing to get the eBook for Free Fiction Friday formatted properly because I kept losing work. Everything else had to go on a back burner. Rob is going to connect my PC to the UPS we have for the server, in case it happens again.

So, on to the exciting news!

Soph and I are setting up a new imprint of Wittegen Press called Wittegen Eros:

For a while we've been looking at our titles and thinking that some just don't fit with the others and we want to make it easier for our readers. We also decided that we have enough titles to do it now. So Wittegen Eros was born - an imprint for all our exclusively adult titles.

This will not affect any of our existing readers - eBooks will be getting a makeover for the new branding, but if you have updates enabled, you'll get the new version automatically.

However, new and exciting things are also coming.

We're launching a podcast - Sexy Stories with Virginia Waytes - who will be narrating the naughty bits from a new paranormal series called The Manor. The Manor being a supernatural hot-bed and  adult-only, exclusive members club in the middle of the English countryside.

The Manor will be episodic, with the first season being 12 episodes long and each episode consisting of:
  •  the podcast with introductions and narration of the naughty scenes by Virginia
  • an eBook to enrich the story and universe as well as including the sexy parts from the podcast.
More details on this will be coming soon!

However, if you would like a taster of the world of The Manor this month's Free Fiction Friday is the first chapter of episode 1. No naughty bits in this one, you'll have to wait for those 😎, but we get to meet Lucy, the proprietress of The Manor and several of her friends and colleagues.

Lamb in Wolf's Clothing - Free Fiction Friday version

The Manor is a sanctuary for many supernaturals and a new face means new mysteries to solve and new danger to come.
This story has adult concepts, but no explicit content.

To acquire your copy of Lamb in Wolf's Clothing, subscribe to The Wittegen Press Newsletter. News, updates and a free short story every month. Links for this month's free short story are in the final welcome email when you sign up for those who miss the Newsletter mail shot.

We're with Mailchimp, so your data is safe and we promise we will only use it to send you the newsletter.

You can follow Virginia for updates at any of these places:

Header Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Sex Sells - The Old Adage #WriterlyWednesdays

Sex Sells - The Old Adage

There has long been the adage that sex sells. This has been used in the advertising industry a great deal and usually ends up sexist in some way or other, which is very frustrating. It is also used in fiction, be it written or other media and, in some cases, seems to have been crow-bared in just because.

We only have to look at 70s and 80s horror films for examples of this. How often does a young woman suddenly have her boobs on show for no apparent reason? Even Fright Night II did it and it wasn't even the vampires! Don't even get me started on the random 'let's have sex' scenes that strike out of nowhere - the forward button was invented for a reason.

And HBO have made a winning line-up by adding sex into their shows - sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

In written fiction it is the same. Some books seem to think they have to have some sex, just because it's the in thing, and it can be the most hideous addition in the world 😩. There is The Bad Sex in Fiction Award to point out just how bad it can get.

Here's something that some writers don't seem to get:

Good sex is hard to write.

I know, this is shocking news to some, including some really big names. πŸ˜Ž

It's just like every other kind of scene - it takes practice to write well, and some are good at it and others aren't.

Here's another bit of news - we don't all have to be good at sex scenes, and fade to black can work just as well in some cases.

Personally, I like writing sex. Not gonna lie. It can be fun, but it's still hard to get right. I spent a very long time writing fanfiction (and still do), which is a fabulous arena in which to learn such arts because it's a very open and helpful place. Sex is also a mainstay. That is not to say all fanfiction is about sex or even has sex, but it is definitely not taboo and is usually very well received. Fandoms are also usually full of wonderful people ready to give advice on those first awkward scenes that every writer comes up with when it comes to sexy times.

And while mainstream porn is almost always geared to the male gaze, fandom spaces are very often geared towards the female gaze and those of a like mind. This tends to lead to very different output.

Now I'm not going to kink shame here or point fingers, but, from my point of view, sex should be sensual. When a scene is written along the lines of slot A and peg B (if you get my drift 😎), it could be Ikea instructions for all the interest it holds for me.

And I've written scenes like that. Some of my first drafts come out like that and it's only the second and third edits that make them anything readable for me. Like I mentioned above, crafting a good sex scene is the same as crafting any other good scene - it takes times.

Also - research is our friend. We wouldn't write a scene about brain surgery without at least having a little idea what we were on about, and sex deserves the same consideration. Especially if we're stepping into an area that needs understanding, like BDSM *side-eyes Fifty Shades*.

I'll also admit that I have to be in the right mood to write a sex scene. 

There are two types of scene I have to be in the right mood for: 
  • sex scenes
  • fight scenes. 

Looking at it I suppose they are quite similar - usually two people interacting physically in close quarters πŸ˜‚. If I'm not in the right mood my fight scenes turn our boring and my sex scenes aren't sexy. This, of course, can be rectified by editing, but usually I leave my sex scenes and fight scenes until the right mood strikes. If I'm lucky, reading similar scenes I have written before will actually help the mood to strike πŸ˜‰.

Another big turn off for me in mainstream sex scenes are the wild euphemisms some writers come up with. Read it aloud people - if it makes us or anyone who hears it laugh, we've chosen the wrong word! Purple prose is not our friend at the best of times, and in sex scenes this is doubly so! If our rugged Highlander is suddenly thinking of his penis as a love-piston, yep, we're more than likely doing it wrong πŸ˜‚.

So IMHO enjoyable sex scenes need the following things:
  • sensuality (not just slot A and peg B)
  • feelings (and no this doesn't have to be lovely-dovey stuff, but there has to be a connection between the characters even if it's just mutual pleasure or working off some stream)
  • consent (note I said enjoyable above, and for it to be enjoyable, it has to be consensual)
  • not purple (if anyone calls it a molten core, I will laugh)
  • safe sex where appropriate (in some cases it isn't needed/appropriate, but when you have a modern setting with human beings, especially at the beginning of a relationship, safe sex is a great way to go)
  • physically possible (check the details - sometimes what we see in our head is not what ends up on the page)
Oh and, just a tip, make sure your characters have taken their clothes off, or at least exposed the areas required. I did once write a sex scene and only my beta pointed out one of the guys had yet to take his trousers off. πŸ˜‚

So, are you a fan of sex scenes, or do you prefer fade to black? Does a sex scene have to have certain broad elements to interest you? Did I miss anything off my list above?

If you're wondering why the sudden opinions about sex scenes, watch this space, some news coming soon.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

What Do You See in Your Head? #ThinkyThursdays

What Do You See in Your Head?

It has come to my attention recently that not everyone visualises things in their head in the same way. I actually read an article about a woman who does not see images in her head at all, which got me thinking. So I talked to my husband about it.

Turns out we both have very different visualisations when we see things in our heads.

I have always been utterly crap at drawing from memory or drawing from something I have dreamed up, even though I would have no problem describing the thing I had dreamed up if I wanted it in a book. Turns out I can intellectualise what I want, but I don't think I'm actually seeing it in my head clearly.

It's like I recognise faces - I'm quite good at it when I see someone on TV or on the street (I can spot an actor under prosthetics easily just by the eyes), but if you ask me to describe them - nope, not got a clear image in my head at all. (At least not most of the time - occasionally things stick πŸ˜‚).

And, for example, say I want a dragon. In my head I see a vague dragon. I know it's a dragon, it has four legs, wings and a head, it's reptilian, but I don't see any details until they become important to what I want to do with the dragon.

It's the same for people and places. If I'm planning a scene I vaguely see a person or people doing things, but I don't see faces or eye colour or hair colour or even what their wearing unless it is important to the moment. There's no clear visualisation in my head.

In fact, it's really hard for me to bring the mental image into sharp focus at all.

Turns out my husband is very good at visualising things. He can plan circuit boards or 3D models in his head before he puts them on paper. An idea which blows my mind, frankly.

So this got me to wondering - is one of us an outlier, or is the world just divided into different types of visualisers? Considering I see so many people drawing or sculpting from memory on Youtube, it makes me think. Hence to my question:

What do you see in your head when your visualise something. Do you see details, or vague shapes? Can you bring something into sharp focus in your mind and see it all?

I am dying to know. πŸ˜‚πŸ’–