Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The AtoZ Challenge - Are you signing up this year?

So who's ready for the AtoZChallenge 2015? Sign ups start soon :).

For those who don't know, the AtoZChallenge is a huge blog hop that runs all the way through April. Every day in April except for Sundays, those signed up make a post inspired by a letter of the alphabet. For example, this year A will be on a Wednesday because April 1st falls on that day.

Soph and I are entering with 4 blogs this year.

Tasha's Thinkings (this blog) - which I will be doing on my own
Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles - which Soph will be doing on her own
Fantasy Boys 3X - which we will be doing together
Wittegen Press Blog - which we will also be doing together

We've been working on the themes, but they even have a mini-hop to do a theme reveal nearer the time, so I won't tell you what we're going to do this year :).

Never fear, however, there will be plenty of free fiction and interesting titbits to read about.

It really helps to be prepared for the AtoZ rather than winging it day by day, hence the preparation. We like to use themes as well, although it's not compulsory, but we think it makes it more interesting.

This is a great way to find friends and fellow bloggers - I fully recommend it to anyone out there who blogs.

Are you doing the AtoZ this year? Have you chosen a theme yet?

Monday, 19 January 2015

A heads up about BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines open submissions.

So BBC Radio 4 is accepting submissions for their Opening Lines, Short Story program.

I posted about this on my Livejournal, but I totally forgot to mention this here. Some kind soul posted about this somewhere that I can no longer remember, it might have been Blogger or Tumblr or G+ or even Twitter. It's open to writers from everywhere so it's worth looking at. I sent my entry off today, which is why I realised I should have said something on this blog too. You still have just over 3 weeks :).

The full submission details for Opening Lines are here, just click the link.

This is the key information they list:
  • Writers who have previously had a story/stories broadcast on network radio or have substantial writing credits in other areas of radio (e.g. comedy and drama) are not eligible for this series.
  • We only accept one story per writer.
  • Please don’t re-submit stories that have previously been considered for Opening Lines
  • Stories must be between 1,900 and 2,000 words in length.
Submission period is 5th Jan - 13th Feb 2015

Sunday, 18 January 2015

My Awesome Twin

I have come to the conclusion I don't gush enough about my wonderful twin sister, Sophie. She's a writer too as well as having a day job and she's incredibly talented.

Not only can she write, but she crochet's too. Look what she made me to keep my wrists warm while I'm writing:

Aren't they utterly gorgeous?! No more icy fingers for me.

Y'see both of us have long arms (inherited from our father) and jumpers and cardigans never reach all the way down our wrists - I have a total of two knit wear things that do and one is because it's too large and the other because it's a man's jumper. So these will keep me nice and toasty.

Soph just made them up as she went along, using bits of patterns and it only took her two days. I can't crochet to save my life, so I am in awe.

She is also a grammar goddess. You would not like to see my work without her editing skills. The way I butcher commas has to be seen to be believed. In return I read hers stuff and tell her that she has to break up sentences that are a paragraph long ;) (sometimes she gets over excited and forgets that fullstops exist ;)).

Soph has a blog over here: Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles where she talks intelligently about many things.

You can check out all of her books here.

If you like ghost stories you definitely want to check out her latest novel: The Burning Web. It's one of those really spooky novels that have you seeing shadows out of the corner of your eye :).

If you sign up to The Wittegen Press Newsletter you get to try her writing for free too; Curse of A Banshee is an awesome contemporary fantasy novella and you'll get that as well as one of mine called Assassin's Blood (paranormal intrigue) as soon as you confirm your membership.

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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Cats - changeable creatures!

So this morning our cats had a real barny (chased each other all over the house etc). This is them now:

Never let it be said that cats are consistent creatures - they just like to mess around with our heads! :)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Recipe - Galette - a Mary Berry special


Now I wish mine had turned out quite as nicely as the image above, but I will admit it didn't look quite so polished :). However, this is an incredibly easy recipe and is so, so tasty. It is basically a French almond tart.

It is a Mary Berry recipe and if you want to see the orginal it is over here. I'm typing my own version because I wanted to put in US measurements as well as the UK ones and add some pointers of my own.


  • 750g/1lb 10oz ready-made all-butter puff pastry, chilled (I used Morrison's own = 2 packets of 500g)
  • plain flour (to stop is sticking to the work top)
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten (to glaze and make it look pretty)

For the filling

  • 100g/3½oz (just under 1 US stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g/3½oz (~1/2cup) caster sugar
  • 1 large free-range egg, plus 1 yolk, at room temperature (if you don't have the extra yolk don't worry, it is not as rich, but still works with just 1 egg)
  • 100g/3½oz (~1/2cup) ground almonds (I don't like the texture of flaked almonds in things so I actually used 150g ground almonds and left out the flaked)
  • 50g/1¾oz (~1/4cup) flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp almond extract (I used 2tsp because I didn't think the flavour was strong enough, but it is a matter of taste)
  1. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper/ a silicon baking sheet.
  2. Roll out one square of puff pastry on a floured surface until you can fit a normal sized plate on it and cut round the plate. Put the circle of pastry on the baking tray.
  3. Do the same again and place the second circle of pastry on the first with a sheet of grease proof between them. Then place in the fridge to chill. (at this point I had pastry over, so re-rolled it and made some little circles as well then I upped the filling ingredients by 1/4 so I could make some individual galettes at the same time).
  4. Whip the butter with a hand held mixer until it is light and fluffy.
  5. Add the sugar and combine until the mixture is light in colour.
  6. Beat the egg and yolk in a bowl and then add to the mixture bit by bit, beating in before adding more.
  7. Stir in the almonds and almond extract until mixture is fully combined.
  8. Cover with cling film/plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 20mins.
  9. Once chilled take everything out of the fridge and put the top pastry circle to one side.
  10. Fill the centre of the bottom pastry circle with the almond filling, leaving a 1inch/2cm ring around the edge.
  11. Paint this ring with beaten egg.
  12. Place the other pastry circle on top and push down on the egged ring at the edges to seal - do not squash the edges of the puff pastry beyond recognition.
  13. Use a knife to knock up the edges of the puff pastry (hold a knife horizontally and come in at a tangent to the edge of the puff pastry, making small indentations all around the edge like you were spreading the edges of a ruff).
  14. Using the back of a knife, create a nice scalloped edged by making indentations at 2cm/1in intervals.
  15. Glaze all over the top with beaten egg and return to the fridge to chill again for 20 mins (I left this step out with the small ones and just went straight for the glaze and pattern and they worked just fine).
  16. Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/Gas7
  17. Take out of the fridge and use the rest of the beaten egg to glaze the tart again.
  18. Take a sharp knife and cut a criss cross or swirl patten (like the picture) in the top of the pastry. (Do not do this before you glaze or the egg will fill the cuts and ruin the pattern).
  19. Bake for 25-30mins until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up nice and crisply. (The small ones took about 15mins in the oven).

To Serve

This is really good with pears in some form of alcohol. Now if you want to you can poach your own pears, but this is a really easy cheat:
  • 1 tin Delmonte Pear Halves in light syrup (or any other make of pears in syrup)
  • a splosh of port (if you don't like port you could use anything vaguely sweet as an alternative)
  • pinch of cinamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  1. Put the pears into a liquid safe, sealable bag
  2. Add the port (I really did just add it until it was a nice dark colour, probably around 100ml, but just add to your taste)
  3. Add the spices
  4. Seal the bag and slosh around gently.
  5. Leave for at least a day to infuse
I like the galette hot (30s in a microwave is good), but you can serve it hot or cold with a slice of pear on the side. It's good with cream too.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Film Review: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

Title: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
Rating: 15
Phoebe Fox ... Eve Parkins
Helen McCrory ... Jean Hogg
Amelia Pidgeon ... Joyce
Jude Wright ... Tom
Oaklee Pendergast ... Edward
Jeremy Irvine ... Harry Burnstow
Adrian Rawlins ... Dr. Rhodes
Leanne Best ... The Woman In Black
40 years after the first haunting at Eel Marsh House, a group of children evacuated from WWII London arrive, awakening the house's darkest inhabitant.

So, saw this last night and I have to say it's a good film, but unfortunately, unlike the original, it's not a great film. To be honest I was somewhat disappointed, I was really, really hoping for great.

This, however, has nothing to do with the cast, who are superb. For a small cast, the majority of whom are children, they did a fantastic job. Phoebe Fox is great as Eve, who is the main protagonist, and you do feel her pain and her fear. I won't put in spoilers, but there is a part where she is alone towards the end and she really shines. The fact that the three main leads are all female (I'm including TWIB in that) is also awesome.

The sets are good too and there are plenty of dark corners and locked doors and cobwebs for any horror fan to appreciate. It is all very creepy and well done; the perfect setting.

The plot moves forward at a decent pace most of the way through and it holds together okay. There are plenty of scary moments and some genuinely jumpy parts that had the cinema I was in making noises of fright. The way they explain why giving The Woman in Black back Nathaniel at the end of the first movie didn't work is superb and there are lots of great touches like that.

It is a well thought out and well written film, but (you knew there was a but coming didn't you), I was somewhat unsatisfied in parts. I did not leave the cinema thinking 'I must buy this on pre-order immediately', like I did with the first one. I shall, no doubt, add it to my collection at some point, but I'm not running to do so.

The fact the Crythin Gifford is now a deserted village, when in the original it was a small market town bothered me. I wanted to know more about exactly what had happened. I could have bought into it, but we weren't given enough information.

The fact that they mentioned the tides and the causeway once, but it didn't seem to affect when they could come and go from the island bothered me. I think the tides could have been used to build up the tension much better, the same way they were in the original.

Why anyone would evacuate a load of children close to an airfield that was a target for German bombers that was close enough so that it wasn't far from the village when they were being evacuated to get away from German bombers, bothered me.

The fact that The Woman in Black seemed to be able to read minds, bothered me. I always thought in the original that she watched and that was how she knew everything and she could control the children, but she didn't seem to have any effect on the adults.

The fact that there was a sacrificial lamb that was so obvious it might as well have been written in neon bothered me.

Other things that are spoilers bothered me and the ending was the obvious one. I would have preferred there to be more subtlety. Eve has a personal back story, which is great, I loved that, but I thought it was all used in a very straightforward manner. I wanted some less straight lines in the tale.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good film, I think I just had very high expectations. If you liked the first one and you enjoy some suspense horror definitely go see it. I've seen some reviews that think it's better than the first one, however, I have to say, in my opinion, it is not quite there. Where I would have given the first one six stars on a five star rating system :), this one is a four.

Have you seen it? What did you think? If not, have you seen the first one? What do you look for in a good ghost story?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Book Review: The Labyrinth of Time by T.W.Fendley

In the interests of full disclosure I have to say I received a free copy of this book so I could review it. However, that should not detract from the fact that it is a great book.

I sat up until 1:35 am reading this because I simply could not put it down. When I opened the ePub I thought I would just read a chapter or two, but it had me turning page after page until I finally finished it. My eyes were complaining and I could barely see by the time I put it down, but I just couldn't stop.

I couldn't help thinking of The Pentagram Chronicles by Anthony Horowitz which, when I read them in the 80s, I'm sure were called The Power of Five in this neck of the woods, but that seems to be what the rewritten versions are called now. This book gives me the same vibe and I really loved those books when I was a teen.

There is a depth of story telling in this book that really appeals to me. It has enough pre-Columbian information to make it contemporary and real, but with a background of fantasy that had me totally enrapt. The author's words brought everything to life in a very skilful and engaging way.

Then there are the characters which I loved. I have to admit that in some cases I have had my fill of the plucky female lead, but Jade is written so well I really liked her. However, it wasn't just her, there were so many characters to cheer for and others to shout for their downfall and they were all well thought out and interesting. I have to admit, One Reed, the shaman was my favourite.

The book is detailed and yet fast paced and is complex and yet easy to follow. I would recommend it to all YA fantasy fans.

Title: The Labyrinth of Time
Author: T.W.Fendley (link to Amazon Author Page)
Blurb (From Amazon):
Spending spring break in Peru with her grandmother isn't sixteen-year-old Jade's idea of fun. She'd much rather be with her friends at Lake of the Ozarks. Then she meets Felix, a museum director's son. Jade discovers only she and Felix can telepathically access messages left on engraved stones in the age of dinosaurs.

Following the ancient stones' guidance, they enter the Labyrinth of Time and--with a shapeshifting dog's help--seek a red crystal called the Firestone. But time is running out before the First Men return on the night of the second blue moon.

 Can Jade restore the Firestone's powers before the First Men return to judge humanity?

 Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Smashwords

This has nothing to do with the review, just some self promo - if you would like 2 FREE eBooks, one from me and one from my sister and fellow author Sophie Duncan, just sign up to our Wittegen Press Newsletter. When you confirm you membership we'll give you the following two books.
Curse of a Banshee by Sophie DuncanAssassin's Blood by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Book Release: Moon Called (Human-Skinned Wolves #1) by Julia Matthews

Moon Called (Human-Skinned Wolves #1)
by Julia Matthews

Randy Chance, an orphan werewolf Scout never knew one trip to a bar would turn his life upside down in so many ways. Tiffany knew her adoptive parents loved her, but she couldn’t destroy the feeling of being inadequate. She never thought working on a Monday Night Football night would give her to opportunity to rectify six years of emotional turmoil.

Will release, Jan. 5, 2015, exclusively on Amazon and be listed in Kindle Unlimited.

Book Trailer

Ways to contact Author:

Amazon Author Page:

Other Books (All books are now exclusively on Amazon and listed with Kindle Unlimited)
Journey To A Mate (co-authored with Vickie Matthews)
Anything For A Mate
Claiming My Mate
Journey Revealed Conclusion to Journey Series
Witch & Wolf (co-authored with Vickie Matthews)

Background on Creative Spark for Moon Called

The main spark of creativity for Moon Called came on a late summer night, while I was sitting outside watching the star lit sky. The moon was lighting the night, like it did so many times back in my childhood home. As a teenage living on the outskirts of a small town I spent a lot of time watching the night sky. (I have to admit it’s the one aspect of country, small town living I miss. There aren't many clear sky nights in the city I live in now.) The teenager me was drawn into the backyard many of nights, just to bath in the bright moon. I often wondered what was truly lurking among those stars. Guess that’s why it doesn't surprise me that I've written a book that combines my love of the night sky, with my love of werewolves, magic, and nature.