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.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Those Mad Ideas #WriterlyWednesdays

Those Mad Ideas

You know sometimes we writers have mad ideas - oh boy did my darling sister (Sophie's Blog) have one :). She decided, in her wisdom, that it was time to create a database of all her fiction, from ideas through to finished novels, including fanfiction. So she jumped into Airtable with both feet.

Of course the next thing she did is drag me along for the ride ;).

It's actually a really good idea, because I had no clue how many drabbles I had scattered around this blog alone, let alone elsewhere. It's going to take work, but it will be so useful in the end.

So far I have learned one valuable thing - I use the name Jack for characters far too often. I don't think I have any major novel characters called Jack, but I have so many in drabbles and flash fiction. Clearly I like to abuse Jacks ;).

Do you have any names for characters that always pop into your head?

There's also part of me that loves cataloguing. I suppose it's my inner librarian - not that I have the skills and training that my friends who are actually librarians have :). My skills lie in databases since that was my speciality before this whole writing thing.

Do you have skills from your "proper job" that help with writing, be it for profit or for fun?

I like Airtable - it makes some things much easier than your average, from the ground up, databse. However, it does freak me out a little that it kind of pretends to be a relational database, but hides things like many to many relationships and indexes :). The fact that it pretends its primary key field is a name also rubs me the wrong way, but since it does not in fact have to be unique I know it has proper one hiding in the shadows.

Now all I have to do is convince my brain not to vanish into this database for days at a time. I shall have to be firm with myself and only do a little bit every day until it is done :).

What things do you have to ration so you actually do some writing/work?

My father has had his final round of chemo now, which means his treatment is finished and its all about recovery now. His consultant is incredibly pleased with his progress, which is a great weight off all our minds. I'm hoping to get back into the flow of proper writing and marketing and, y'know, all this author stuff again now. :D

To all whose families/friends are going through similar things, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you love and hope and patience, as well as a healthy dose of good luck.

Best wishes to all. To the writers: may your words flow and the feedback be joyous. To the readers: may you find stories that fill your heart with wonder and enjoyment.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing #TipsTuesdays

Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing

This is another fabulous recipe that is one of my favourites, even though I now realise I haven't made it in ages :) *Makes note to buy some bananas* I have mentioned it before on this blog, but never posted the whole thing. This would undoubtedly be really nice if you added a tablespoon of rum to the bananas and took out a tablespoon of the butter milk too ;).


  • Large mixing bowl
  • medium missing bowl
  • Fork or mouli for blitzing 
  • Sieve
  • Two to three bun trays
  • Measuring equipment (baking is a science rather than an art so you'll need to measure)
  • Bun cases
  • Electric hand mixer
  • 2 teaspoons
  • spatula (not vital, but makes life much easier)
  • wire rack
  • Piping bag


Cup Cakes
  • 255g (2 1/4 cups) of plain flour (sifted)
  • 110g (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas (the riper they are the better the cupcakes taste)
  • 55ml (1/4 cup) of buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 115g (1 cup) of sugar (caster)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 440g icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 300g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 tsps of vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles to decorate


  1. Preheat the over to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5
  2. Place bun cases in the bun tins
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda, along with the salt into a middle sized bowl and combine thoroughly
  4. Place the butter and vanilla into the big mixing bowl and use the electric mixer to whip together until creamy and light in colour (you can do it by hand, but it will take longer)
  5. Add the sugar bit by bit, beating so that the mixture becomes light and fluffy
  6. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating each in before adding the next
  7. Mash the banana (either with a fork or an electric hand blender)
  8. Add a little of the butter milk and beat in, then add in some of the dry mixture and beat in, then add some of the banana and beat in.
  9. Repeat step 8 until all the ingredients are combined.
  10. Using the two teaspoons, spoon the mixture into the bun cases (to just over half full – about two teaspoons full)
  11. Bake in the oven for between 18 and 20 mins until golden on top - they will rise into quite sharp mounds
  12. Take out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack
  13. For the topping put all the ingredients into a large bowl (I did it in two lots to make it easier) and combine using the electric whisk until they go light and fluffy
  14. Put the icing into a piping bag and pipe over the cooled cup cakes (you can spoon it on if you don't have a piping bag) - this is where the spatula comes into it's own to get the last of the icing from the bowl.
  15. Sprinkle randomly with petty edible things :)

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Mummy (2017) - Did they have to? (Review with spoilers)

Title: The Mummy
Tom Cruise ... Nick Morton
Russell Crowe ... Henry
Annabelle Wallis ... Jenny Halsey
Sofia Boutella ... Ahmanet
Jake Johnson ... Chris Vail
Summary (from IMDB):
An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

I will start by saying only one cinema near us is still showing this and now I know why!

Firstly, the good things. The effects are superb and the stunts are really well done. There are exciting sequences in the movie and parts will get your heart pumping. I love the look of Ahmanet and the double eyes are fantastic. If only the plot had held up to the effects.

My favourite character in the whole film is Vail (Jake Johnson). He's basically the reimaginining of Jonathan from the original 1999 masterpiece and he's a lot of fun to watch. His timeline actually makes sense and his story conclusion is the only really good thing about the whole sequence of the film.

Sofia Boutella does wonders with what she is given as Ahmanet, but her character is so badly written that it just doesn't make sense. She a pretty good baddy, but since this movie should have been called Cruise, not The Mummy, she doesn't have a who lot to work with. Her physical acting is superb, if only the film had actually been about her.

There ends the good.

This film is basically an attempt to start a new franchise about monster hunters, only in doing that it fails to do the Mummy any justice whatsoever. The rest of this review is going to have spoilers gallor, so be warned.

The first thing that really annoys me is the lack of any indepth Egyptology. The 1999 movie might have been a little dodgy, but they tried to stay true to the genre. Frankly in this version she wasn't really a Mummy, didn't need to be Egyptian and they just used whatever bits of Egyptian history they felt like, most of which made no sense.

Let's start with Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) herself. She is the sole heir to the Pharoh and is being brought up to rule, but Daddy falls for a new wife who gives him a son. Was she just the eldest of a whole host of girls? Was is just because she was the daughter of the Great Royal Wife? How come it took him so long to have another wife? How is she the sole heir? I need more explanation. Women could rule in Egypt, but Pharohs took having heirs very seriously, so where are the others?

Then their is her whole plot. She sees the new wife and new son as her downfall because the baby will inheret. She wants the ultimate power so she makes a deal with Set to become a monster. She kills her father and her brother and her brother's mother. Yay, ultimate power. Oh, but wait, part of the deal was to bring Set into the human world and give him a body ... Hang on, so she's going to give away ultimate power to a man. Didn't she just kill everyone for that?

Makes no sense!

Then they mummify her alive for her crimes before she can bring Set to this world and erase her from history - only they helpfully still put her name and her whole story on her sarcophagus? Seriously?!!!

Oh, and if you didn't want anyone to bring up the sarcophagus, Ancient Egyptians, why did you leave all the machinary in place to make it easy? Oh, and why no boobytraps? Could it be possibly because the writers don't give two stuffs about the Egyptian tomb part and it's all a quick way to get the Mummy out of Iraq?

I also have a question to anyone who may know - did the ancient Egyptians really believe mercury would contain monsters? All I can find when searching is that they used it in cosmetics. The whole power over evil thing is not something I had heard before, but not being an expert I don't know if one of the writers actually did some research, or just made that shit up :).

So, on to our hero.

You know how in the original 1999 movie Rick is a bit of a rogue, but a loveable one? Well Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is just an asshole. I disliked him from the moment he first appeared and nothing in the film ever redeemed him to the point where I actually liked him. He made me want to throw things at the screen. I was really hoping for something good because I've enjoyed some Cruise movies recently (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, the last 3 MI movies), but this is right up there with all those I have really disliked (first MI movie, War of the Worlds).

His story arc is so predicatable it's painful and when he actually becomes Set and end up possibly "the best hope" of the monster hunters, but of course only if he hangs on to his inherent goodness and does not give in to the evil, I was so not shocked. This film was not about Ahmanet or anyone else, it was all about making Nick a god so he can be the ultimate hero in the rest of the franchise. It's an ego trip.

We do have another female character in Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). Her first conversation in the film revolves around having had sex with Nick. I'll just let you guess what her character's all about for the rest of the movie.

The two female characters in the movie have one conversation together - just one. It starts off hopefully with Jenny speaking Egyptian to Ahmanet and asking about the old gods, of course it ends up about Ahmanet's chosen (Nick). So, yes, this movie fails the lowest bar possible for female agency in a movie the Bechdel Test.

They also Fridge Jenny to further Nick's plot - specifically to make him a god.

Then there is the whole Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crow) part. I believe my reaction was something along the lines of 'you have to be f***ing kidding'. They seemed to be trying to create a film that was of a cross between The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Mummy 1999 and it fell short of both. Given that I have never been overly impressed with tLoEG, that's not a high bar to try and improve on and they failed. I doubt they ever could have managed to match The Mummy 1999 though.

This film:
  • is full of cliches, 
  • has a plot that makes no sense, 
  • has no characters that we, the adience, can really root for,
  • fails its female characters spectacularly,
  • and is a reboot of a franchise that seriously DID NOT need rebooting in the first place.
I sincerely hope they never, ever make a second one.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Double Chocolate Fudge Cakes - Gluten Free

Now I've mentioned this recipe before, but it was linked to a Livejournal post of mine and I really don't trust LJ anymore, so I'm reposting it here. This recipe uses corn flour (corn starch) and ground almonds instead of flour so it is gluten free.

Double Chocolate Fudge Cakes - Gluten Free

I'm going to put two lots of ingredients up here - to make 12 small cakes or to make one large 3 decker cake. I've done my best to put in US cup/stick measures as well as the UK ones.
How the individual cakes come out.

12 individual cakes

For the cake
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or above) (1 1/4 cups of dark choc chips)
  • 100g unsalted butter, cubed (just under 1 stick butter)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50g arrowroot or corn flour (corn starch), sifted (2/5 cup)
  • 175g icing sugar, sifted (1 2/5 cup)
  • 25ml rum or milk (1.5 tbsp)
  • 100g ground almonds (4/5 cup)
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar
For the icing
  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) (2/3 cup dark choc chips)
  • 50g creme fraiche (1/5 cup)
  • 75g icing sugar (just under 2/3 cup)
  • something to decorate like sugared violets or silver balls or anything like that

3 tier large cake

  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or above) (1 4/5 cups of dark choc chips)
  • 150g unsalted butter, cubed (1 1/3 sticks)
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 75g arrowroot or corn flour (corn starch), sifted (2/3 cup)
  • 260g icing sugar, sifted (2 cup)
  • 37ml rum or milk (2 tbsp)
  • 150g ground almonds (1.25 cups)
  • 3/8 tspn cream of tartar
For the icing
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) (1 1/3 cup dark choc chips)
  • 100g creme fraiche (2/5 cup)
  • 150g icing sugar (1 1/5 cup)
  • something to decorate like sugared violets or silver balls or anything like that


  • a large mixing bowl
  • a med heat proof bowl
  • small saucepan
  • metal spoon
  • electric whisk (or you can use a hand whisk if you are feeling up to it :))
  • rubber spatula
  • 4cm deep, 20x30cm baking tray (or 3 8inch/20cm sponge tins)
  • non-stick lining paper (greaseproof)
  • 5cm diameter round cutter


For the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (160C/320F fan/convection )
  2. Line the baking tray with the non-stick baking paper
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in the heat proof bowl over the saucepan of simmering water or pop in the microwave on high for 30 secs, then check and keep going in 10sec intervals until chocolate is melting.
  4. Turn melted chocolate into big mixing bowl and allow to cool
  5. Beat in 2 whole egg (3 for large cake) and 2 of the yolks (3 for large cake), reserving the whites for later
  6. Beat in the arrowroot/cornflour, icing sugar, almonds and rum until smooth.
  7. Whisk the two egg whites with the cream of tartar until they reach the soft peaks stage.
  8. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture using a metal spoon or spatula.
  9. Spoon mixture into the lined baking tray (a spatula is very useful for getting it all) or equal amounts into the 3 lines sponge tins for the large cake.
  10. Bake for 15 mins until barely set
  11. Leave to cool in the tray(s).
  12. If doing the individual cakes turn the cold cake out onto a board and cut into 24 rounds with the 5cm cutter, for the large version just turn out the cakes from the sponge tins and remove the lining paper.

For the icing

  1. Melt the chocolate in the heat proof bowl over the saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave at first for 30secs then in 10sec intervals until chocolate is melted.
  2. Beat in the creme fraiche and the icing sugar until smooth (it may split slightly).
  3. Beat in a few teaspoons of boiling water until the consistency turns satiny.
  4. Working qucikly spoon a little of the icing onto each cake round, then stack two together to form 12 little cakes or Sandwich the three cakes together with icing and then use the rest to cover the outside of the cake (if I'm feeling lazy I just do the top, but there is usually enough icing to do the sides as well).
  5. Put on your decoration.
This cake is squidgy and delicious along the lines of a brownie. I only know one person who can eat more than a small bit at a time :).

Friday, 7 July 2017

Free Fiction Friday - Dance of the Dead by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Free Fiction Friday

From now on the 1st Friday of every month will be Free Fiction Friday over at Wittegen Press. This means we will be posting a new short story every month for our readers to enjoy.

These stories are exclusively for subscribers of our newsletter, but it is really easy to join.

It is completely free to become a member and all you need is a valid email address. Fill in the form at the bottom of this page and you’re done. Don't worry if you join after the 1st Friday, the password for the month will be included in the welcome email after you subscribe.

What we WILL DO for our subscribers:

  • Send you an email on the 1st Friday of the month to remind you about the short story and give you the password for the month as soon as the story goes live.
  • Send you information about new books, competitions and events, so you don’t miss anything.
  • Give you two Free eBooks just for joining.

What we WON’T DO to our subscribers:

  • Spam you with loads of random advertising.
  • Reveal your email adress to anyone else.

This Month's Short Story

Dance of the Dead
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: sci-fi, paranormal
Length: ~2K wds

A planet torn by war and a lost courier bring Jagati and her squad to a recent battlefield. The dead call to her, but she and her people have a job to do first.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

new FREE Paranormal short story and Catch-Up Post

Survival of the Fittest

by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Lil is the Sheriff of a small rural town and its chief witch - she keeps the balance between the supernaturals and the humans. When Dan Winters, alpha male of the local werewolf pack, shows up dead, she must prevent a supernatural showdown.


I know it's been a while since I have posted anything and I wanted to let everyone know that it's not because I have abandonned this blog. I will be coming back properly late July/early August and hopefully I will also get a few posts in before then.

My Dad is having chemo for prostate cancer at the moment and he has just had his penultimate dose of six. This sometimes leaves him unable to get out of bed, let alone drive and my Mum doesn't have a licence, which, during the week, leaves me as the only person who can drive her shopping etc. I also have to take my Dad to all his appointments. This has been eating into my time.

I've also finally admitted that it has been stressing me out as well. The whole family is affected by it and it has eaten a lot of my get up and go. Especially when my Dad collapsed a few weeks back and had to be admitted to hospital. He's much better now and they have him on all the good drugs to see him through, but the side effect of one of those drugs is that it makes him even more tired, so he's not really up to doing much except in the last week before his next treatment (they are every three weeks). Hence even more of the rest of the family having to pitch in.

All his results are good, except for the fatigue, and his consultant is very possitive and is pretty sure the cancer is beaten. So we're all breathing a sigh of relief and looking to the finishing gate.

To any who are going through similar things, my heart goes out to you. This is something that is very hard to understand until it is your family that is going through it. I never really understood how it puts a toll on those around the person having treatment as well as the one who is ill. When my Mum had breast cancer nearly 15 years ago my Dad was always there as the pillar of strength to take the strain.

Best wishes to all and see you soon on the blog.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

5 Reasons Why You Should Publish An Ebook Box Set by Tiffany Shand

5 Reasons Why You Should Publish An Ebook Box Set

by Tiffany Shand

Traditional publishers have been giving way print box sets of books for years, but have you ever thought of bundling your e-books together and publishing them as a box set? Who doesn’t love getting a series all in one go?

What are e-book box sets? E-book box sets are a file made up of three or more books or stories by one or more authors.

Why you should consider publishing a box set:

1. Great opportunity

Box sets are a great opportunity for authors to publish their books together in one set because to increase their sales by selling a completed series for a discounted price. They are also a great way of collaborating with other authors by promoting each other’s work. Plus you’re inviting new readers to read other books that you may have written.

2. Increased visibility 

Publishing your books together in one place is a great way of getting more people to notice your books by publishing them in different categories or on different e-book platforms such as or iBooks, rather than just publishing on Amazon.

3. Value

Box sets are considered much more valuable than single titles because readers are getting more for their money by buying your books for a discounted price.

4. Easier to market

Box sets are much easier to market than single titles because you don’t have to put all of your efforts into each book, you can do all of your marketing and promoting on one product. It’s also easier to get into places such as Bookbub.

5. It’s another stream of income

As an indie author, it’s important to have multiple streams of income when it comes to your writing business. Bundling your books together as an e-book boxer is another valuable stream of income as box sets often sell better than single titles.

Book Info

Shifter Clan Series
by Tiffany Shand

The Alpha’s Daughter

After being kidnapped as a child, Christy Daine was sent away from her shifter clan to live among humans. For over a decade she has lived in fear of the people who tried to kill her. Living with her bodyguard, Ronan, the two embark on a secret relationship that could get them both killed.

When her father, the alpha of all the clans demands she return home to marry a man he’s chosen for her, Christy will finally have to face her past and her true nature. Danger lurks around every corner and even Ronan might not be the man she thought he was.

As the alpha’s daughter, can she really choose between the man she loves and the man she is supposed to be with? And who can she really trust?

Alpha Ascending

After watching her family be slaughtered by the man chosen to be the next alpha, Christy has to turn to the only people left on the island for help. The outsiders are considered outcasts by the shifter clans and were blamed for her mother’s death years earlier.

With Ronan imprisoned, no allies and nowhere else to turn, Christy must learn to trust the people she once viewed as enemies and discover who is really friend or foe. To do that Christy must learn to accept who and what she and discover secrets long buried among the clans if she’s to save Ronan and their future.

Only she can become the true alpha and bring the clans together before it’s too late.

The Alpha’s Curse

Christy should be happy now she’s finally with the man she loves, but enemies still cover the island sanctuary that the shifter clans call home. After discovering her brother may still be alive, Christy must go back to the man responsible for killing her family and into the heart of danger.

Now the alpha, she must find a way to stop the people who seeks to destroy all shifters, bring together the clans and the outsiders and stop the centuries old Alpha’s Curse before it can destroy every shifter in existence.

About the Author
Tiffany Shand started writing short stories when she was a child. She has always done writing in one form or another and started writing novels in her early teens.

Tiffany loves to read books and discovered her love for fantasy and paranormal romance.  She writes both non-fiction and fiction, and love helping writers to build their author platforms.

After doing a creative writing course in her early 20s, she is now a freelance writer and professional editor.

Tiffany lives in Essex with her two spoiled cats and one very nutty hamster.

Find Tiffany on:

Sunday, 30 April 2017

AtoZ2017 - Z is for Zenobia, Zygon & Richard Zeeman #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to Day 26 of the AtoZChallenge and the letter Z. Every day in April (except Sundays) I will be making a post about shapeshifters of all kinds. Check back to see my choices and, from time to time some flash fiction too.

Z is for 


Z is usually a harder letter to fill, but with my theme it was so easy I have two shapechangers for you today. My first is Zenobia, played by Margaret Whiting, from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

She is a sorceress and the evil stepmother of Prince Kassim of Charak and wishes her own son Rafi to take the thrown instead of Kassim. To do this she transforms Kassim into a baboon. Luckily for him Sinbad is docked so he can ask for permission to marry Kassim's sister, Princess Farah, and so he comes to the rescue.

It is not just Prince Kassim's shape Zenobia can change, but her own as well. She uses a potion which allows her to shift into any form she wishes. At one point she changes into a bird to get to their ship and then makes herself small, but is captured. She is later left with a bird foot after she uses the bird form a second time, but most of her potion is spilled.

The film is one of Ray Harryhausen's and has many of his wonderful special effects.


Zygons are aliens from the wonderful Doctor Who. They use technology as part of their shape changing.

A Zygon can use what they call a body-print of an individual to mimic voice and appearance. They create this print by placing the captive in a special receptical, keeping the person alive but unconscious. In this version of the technology, a new print was required every two hours.

Over time this ability became more advanced, leading to not necessarily needing the specemin in the special receptical and then also being able to maintain the shape of a deceased person, with the proviso of not needing anymore information from the individual.

This makes them a formidable enemy for the Doctor and his friends.

Werewolf of the Day

Richard Zeeman (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter)

Richard is the Ulfric (leader) of the Thronnos Rokke Clan from St Louis. He was originally the Geri (second in command) to Marcus, but killed him to take the position after having spared him once.

He was engaged to Anita for a while, but broke it off after she slept with Jean-Claude. He is the third member of their triumvirate, which gives them all a great deal of power.

Anita calls him a "boy scout", in that he is polite and kind, but his wolf has a thing for violence and pain, which keeps him from accepting his other nature fully. He is a very powerful werewolf, able to control members of his pack and to protect them.

He is a junior high school teacher and, as such, keeps his status as a werewolf a secret. He did not choose to become one, but was turned by a bad batch of anti-lycanthrope vaccine. He is honey coloured, heading towards red as a wolf.

Richard is basically a bit of a bad ass when it comes to werewolf business and likes to think the best of people in all other situations.

And we're there - thank you so much for sticking with me over the AtoZ. See you for the reflections post.
  • So would you rather be up against Zenobia or a Zygon?
  • If you were a werewolf and found that your wolf form had urges completely at odds with your normal self, how do you think you would deal with it?

Click here and here to find other AtoZ posts.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

AtoZ2017 - Y is for Yesenia & Yani #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to Day 25 of the AtoZChallenge and the letter Y. Every day in April (except Sundays) I will be making a post about shapeshifters of all kinds. Check back to see my choices and, from time to time some flash fiction too.

Y is for 


So I have to admit, my shapeshifter today is blowing my own trumpet again. Yesenia is a character from my The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman. She is one of the other six Questors and she is the Questor of the Spider Spirit. This means she had the power to change into the shape of a giant spider.

Charlie takes a while to get used to her in her animal form because he has an unfortunate case of arachnaphobia.

Yesenia is from the planet Hanean, which is a world covered mostly by rain forest and similar habitats. Her people live in harmony with their planet, going so far as to grow their homes and such things as furniture etc. The only place not covered in plan life is the space port.

She is althetic, with a Hispanic apearance. Her nature is to be very direct, which can come off as argumentative. At first she was not very impressed with Charlie, but he has slowly won her over.

Werewolf of the Day

I could not find a werewolf for Y, so I have written some flashfic for you instead.

Y is for Yani
part 4 of Curses
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
(each part can be read seperately, but if you read them in order they build on each other - there will be 4 part [Nicky, Paul, Xerxes & Yani])

Yani Blaid, werewolf, mate to Paul.

The note was short and it looked like Paul's handwriting, but Yani knew it wasn't real. Paul never would have left, not when they could both feel the mate bond humming at the back of their minds.

Mate bonds were something the elders of the pack told stories about to the children and what adolescents dreamed about, but the adults scoffed at as being silly legend. That hadn't stopped it from surging through Yani when he had accepted Paul's proposal to become Alpha-elect mate, but it was the reason they hadn't told anyone about it.

Now Paul had disappeared and everyone thought he had run away from his responsibilities, but Yani knew better. He also knew his father had to be behind it. He had seen the remains of the burned mistletoe in the kitchen bin. Attacking Paul outright would have damaged his father's pack bond, given Paul's position, but using magic could circumvent that.

His father had forbidden him from even mentioning Paul's name, but he was not paying any attention to what his father wanted. The ridiculous notion of a proper alpha his father had was utterly stupid and archaic. Which was why Yani had taken his father's car and was speeding down the M1.

He really didn't know what he was doing, but the mate bond was calling to him and he was following it.

"Sorry," he said, even though the Peugeot he cut up to make it to the Nottingham junction at the last second couldn't hear him.

It wasn't exactly like Sat nav, so he was having to be quick.

The feeling that was lancing from the base of his brain all through his body led him to the outskirts of the city and into a car park outside a wide low building. He was so focused on where he was going that it wasn't until he was out of the car he realised he was at a vet's.

"This can't be good," he muttered to himself.

The first thing that hit him as he walked in was the smell. Sickness and disinfectant and other even less pleasant scents assaulted his nose, but luckily he wasn't using it to find Paul. There was no one in reception when he walked in and he followed his instincts with no one to get in his way. The solitary woman and her dog in the waiting area both looked at him, but said nothing.

"Oh my god, Paul," he said as he barged into one of the rooms off the main corridor and saw his mate lying on the examination table with a strange woman standing over him.

Paul immediately sat up and the woman stepped back. Yani was so focused that it was only as he all but ran past her that he realised the woman wasn't a human at all.

"Hi," she said as he stared at her and the clippers and phone she was holding in her hands, "you must be Yani. Paul has just been telling me about you. I'm Nicky."

He looked to Paul then back at the newly introduced Nicky and he was totally confused. There was something about her that felt familiar, but he had no idea why. Then he saw what Nicky had been doing. A patch of fur the size of a postcard was missing from Paul's side and where it had been was a black sigil. Without knowing much about magic, Yani still recognised a curse mark when he saw it.

"Not right," he whispered, because it was the only thing the mate bond would let him think.

His mate was not in pain, but this was wrong, so very wrong and he had to do something about it. He reached out without thinking, placing his hand over the sigil, and just pushed. Heat rushed from his heart across his chest and down his arm like rivulets of fire. Paul yelped, but did not pull away as magic shifted in the room.

When Yani pulled his hand back the sigil was gone, not even a trace of it remained under the black palm print he had left behind. He felt faint and elated at the same time.

"Well I suppose that fixes that," Nicky commented, even as she steadied him.

Paul shuddered from head to toe and let out a low growl as the first sound of popping muscle and shifting bone erupted from his body. Hair retreated into skin, muscles rearranged themselves, his skeleton melted and reformed as Paul returned from wolf to man. Finally, as Yani watched, the leg that was missing boiled back into being, like wax being poured into a mould, until Paul was whole. There were small pink patches on his pale skin where wounds had healed and the leg had reformed, but that would fade in a few hours.

He couldn't help himself, he leapt forward and dragged Paul into his arms.

"I knew you hadn't abandoned me."

"Never," Paul promised.

Then the guilt hit Yani, because this was his fault.

"My father," he said pulling back.

"Nothing to do with you," Paul assured him. "Are you okay, that was a lot of magic?"

It was only then that his brain caught up with what he had just done.

"But I don't know magic," he said.

Paul was the one with the magical talent, that was why Paul was Alpha-elect.

"But magic knows you," Paul told him still looking him over carefully.

He would have complained at the fussing, but he was doing exactly the same thing to Paul.

"Okay ... wow, you're a big boy," Nicky said as she handed Paul what looked like a lab coat, "I think now would be a good time to take this elsewhere, before the rest of my staff get here and start asking awkward questions."

Yani might have taken offense at someone ogling his mate, especially an alpha potential female, but he was only getting friendly vibes from her. He'd met werewolves from other packs before and it had never felt so easy. Something was going on he didn't understand.

"Here are the keys to my Land Rover," Nicky said, handing a bunch to Paul. "It's out back so no one will see you. I just have to go and arrange cover and make up a fictitious emergency."

Paul nodded so Yani went along with it. Only once they had dashed down the hallway to a back door Nicky had pointed at and were safely in the back of her Discovery 3 did he ask his question: "What's going on?"

"They dumped me in the forest," Paul explained, "and the curse and the mate bond were fighting each other, it kept me a little bit sane, but not much. I wasn't thinking straight and I ran in front of a lorry. Someone brought me here and Nicky patched me up, but I bit her while she was doing it. She became a werewolf last night."

"She's yours?"

Yani couldn't believe it.

"But ... but you're not supposed to be able to do that."

"I know."

"Wow, I think the elders really knew what they were doing when they picked you as Alpha-elect," was all he could think to say.

"Says the man who just channelled magic without ever having being taught," Paul replied with a smile.

He couldn't really argue with that. He had never shown any magical potential before, so he had never been one of the rare few who were taught the craft.

"You'll have to give me lessons," he said.

"It would be my pleasure," Paul said and kissed him ever so gently before pulling back. "But first we have to deal with Nicky and then your father. I'm going to have to call him out."

"Will you kill him?"

Xerxes was an archaic idiot, but he was still his father and it caused a pang as he thought of losing him.

"Not unless I have to," Paul told him, stroking the side of his face. "I won't be able to do anything about what Kurt decides though. He might have named me his successor, but he's still the Alpha."

Yani nodded, he knew that. Werewolves rarely killed each other these days, their society had evolved in the same way human society had, but Xerxes had committed a terrible crime. As head beta it was usually Xerxes job to see to pack law, that he had violated that trust so completely would go against him badly. It would be up to Kurt to decide his fate.

"Kurt is fair," he said, "my father will deserve whatever he gets."

Family was very important to werewolves, but it was not just the trust of the pack Xerxes has broken. Yani could only side with his mate in this.

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Friday, 28 April 2017

AtoZ2017 - X is for Xavin & Xerxes #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to Day 24 of the AtoZChallenge and the letter X. Every day in April (except Sundays) I will be making a post about shapeshifters of all kinds. Check back to see my choices and, from time to time some flash fiction too.

X is for 


Xavin is from the Marvel comic Runaways. They are a Super-Skrull in training and hence are a shapeshifter. They are also genderfluid and are seen as both male and female at different times.

Xavin is the child of the Skrull Prince De'zean and found it very hard to fit in with the Runaways when they first came to Earth because they were unfamiliar with Earth norms and the gender switching confused people. They are somewhat obtuse and have a warlike personality thanks to their Skrull nature. However, they often overcome this to help their team.

Xavin, when talking about their race, once state: "for us, just changing our gender is no different than changing our hair color". So it is believed that all Skrulls are genderfluid.

Werewolf of the Day

I could not find a werewolf for X, so I have written some flashfic for you instead.

X is for Xerxes
part 3 of Curses
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
(each part can be read seperately, but if you read them in order they build on each other - there will be 4 part [Nicky, Paul, Xerxes & Yani])

Xerxes Blaid - beta werewolf, father to Yani.

Xerces followed the alpha-elect from the farce of a gathering. He has stood there and smiled, pretending like he was supposed to all through it. Kurt knew he did not approve of the alpha's choice of successor, but, being a beta enforcer, it was not this place to disagree with the alpha in public. Before he had been willing to bide his time and convince Kurt slowly that Paul Ulvis was the wrong person, but now this involved his child.

Yani had stood there all through the announcements next to Ulvis, hand in hand, smiling brightly. Just the thought of it made Xerxes blood boil. How dare that pitiful excuse for an alpha-elect court his child as a mate.

When he was young, an alpha was always the strongest, the one who fought off all his rivals to prove himself worthy. Kurt said that that was no method to choose a successor, that their society had evolved since those harder days, but Xerxes thought it was time for a resurgence of the old ways. Ulvis was a powerful magic user Kurt insisted, he would make a strong and wise alpha when the time came. Xerxes was sure the man should have been bound as a child to be used as the tool he was. A sorcerer was useful to an alpha, they should not be one.

The time for talking was over. Xerxes had to protect the pack from Kurt's lack of judgement. He had to protect Yani.

The small bundle in his hand from the witch felt hot, even through the leather glove he had put on before he had touched it. He had had to look far from the pack for a witch willing to cast the spell he had asked for. All the locals would have gone straight to Kurt. Casting such magic in a territory with a powerful wolf pack would have been asking for trouble.

The witch he had found had been willing to do anything for money. The man had clearly been addicted to something. Xerxes had no qualms about using such wastes of oxygen. When this was all settled and Ulvis was dead in a ditch somewhere, he would go back and put the human out of his misery, just to be sure.

"Ulvis," he called, once he was sure they were far enough away from the party still going on.

The man turned, clearly unaware he had been being followed. Just another sign he was not worthy to be alpha-elect.

"Oh, Xerxes," Ulvis said, "I'm sorry, I was in a world of my own."

Xerxes walked forward, hand by his side.

"Actually, this is perfect. I know you probably think I did this to spite you, but I promise, that's not it and there's something I need to tell you..."

Xerxes did not want to know what the pathetic excuse for a wolf wanted to say and he lashed out. With one hand he grabbed Ulvis by the throat, pushing him back into the wall behind him, and with the other ripped open Ulvis' shirt and jammed the curse bundle into the alpha-elect's side. He felt the vial in the bundle break on impact and he pushed hard, speaking the one word to activate the spell as the liquid hit his victim's skin.

Then he released his hold and stepped back, just watching.

Ulvis' features were twisted in confusion and pain. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a tiny gurgle. Every reaction just cemented Xerxes opinion of him. Staring down at the bare skin, Xerxes watched the horror grow on Ulvis' face as the curse mark began to appear.

The look that came Xerxes' way clearly begged why.

"Your weakling strain will no longer infect this pack," he said as the transformation from man to wolf began in his victim, "and you will no longer claim my son."

Ranar, his most trusted lieutenant was waiting outside in the van. Once Ulvis was fully transformed the alpha-elect would be helpless for hours, barely able to move as the forced transformation weakened him. Xerxes had planned very carefully where Ranar would release the cursed wolf, just as Ulvis' strength started to return, but while their alpha-elect was still confused and vulnerable.

Ulvis would die in traffic, an unregistered pet, apparently set free in Nottingham Forest, only to wind up on the motorway in a tragic accident.

The letter he had forged would convince the pack that Ulvis just couldn't take the pressure of being alpha-elect and had run away. They would never know where he had gone or what had happened to him and it would be an end to the matter.

Next time Xerxes was going to make sure Kurt made a better decision.

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