Wednesday 24 February 2016

From Fanfiction to Published Book (If 50 Shades Can Why Can't I?) #WriterlyWednesdays 25

From Fanfiction to Published Book 
(If 50 Shades Can Why Can't I?)

Wittegen Press
$2.99 99c
until 2Mar ONLY
Everyone knows that 50 Shades of Grey started out life as a Twilight fanfiction, well nearly everyone anyway :). So of course the question comes up, if 50 Shades can become a huge hit, why can't I turn my little fanfiction epic into a book too. The answer is, of course, that you can. You just have to make sure on one thing:
Take out everything that does not belong to you before you publish.
There is nothing inherently wrong with turning a fanfiction into a published book, no matter what people say. Every fanfiction has a lot of original work in it. What you have to be able to do is separate what is yours from what belongs to the original creator(s) and then fill in what you have left so that it makes a rich story that readers will enjoy.

50 Shades started out as an AR, which means Alternative Reality, hence there were no vampires or werewolves and it was basically a romance with some inaccurately portrayed BDSM in it. Changing the names and editing it would have been quite easy.

However if you start off with a 100K word Harry Potter epic set in the canon universe, you're going to have a lot more trouble turning it into something you can publish.

For example, I have a Harry Potter story called Gold Tinted Spectacles (those waiting for the sequel - it's coming, promise, the new book launch just took priority :)). It is as follows:
  • a Harry/Draco pairing
  • an AU (Alternative Universe - i.e. does not follow the canon story) after 5th Year 
  • brings in an entirely new type of magical person called a Hecatemus
  • mostly canon Harry Potter information with an original plot
Hence I could take the bare bones of the plot and the major concept, but by the time I ripped out all the canon there wouldn't be a huge amount left. Frankly, at that point, it's easier to start all over again and write a new story with the one concept from the fanfiction that is usable.

That being said, my latest book The Machine: Rise of the Gifted (99c until next Wed) started off as fanfiction.

I've mentioned this before in other places, but not here so I shall elaborate.

Ted Rami as
Tim O'Neill (DSV)
Once upon a time, The Machine: RotG was an unfinished Seaquest DSV fanfiction languishing in a note pad in a forgotten drawer. The lead in the story was Timothy O'Neill (Ted Raimi) a more minor character in the show, but my favourite because I always go for the geeks.

It stayed mostly forgotten for many years until I was going through things and happened to find it. By then (2010ish) I was in Ice Skating fandom and thought to myself, ooh, that's not a bad plot and I began re-writing it.

As you can guess it once again ended up on a back shelf - this time virtually, in a directory on my hard drive.

Stephane Lambiel
It wasn't until 2012 it saw the light of say again, when I needed ideas for the Giveaway Games. I did a compete hatchet job on it to remove any actual events and people and it became one of the stories we gave away that summer.

Then, last year, I was leafing through Myriad Imaginings (the anthology we eventually published of all the stories) to re-edit it into a better format and thought the story needed some more love. So I pulled it out, let the ideas percolate in the back of my mind for a while, and then re-edited it and added an extra third to the book to create something to be proud of.

Then my editor got hold of it and tore out two scenes and told me to rewrite them, as well as pointing out where I had left things out, and it got even better :).

The end product bears very little resemblance to that little fanfiction scribbled in a notepad, but that's where the original inspiration came from.

If something inspires you, let it. Just make sure, if you come to publish it, that you haven't stolen anyone else's copyright :).

What inspires you? Do you ever write fanfictions in your head, even if you don't put them on paper?

Book Info

The Machine: Rise of the Gifted
by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Rafe Derouet used to be a world class, British figure skater competing against his arch rival, flamboyant American Louis Hayes. A catastrophic knee injury ended his career and now all he can do is look on from the sidelines, commentating where he used to be a star. He hates Louis and wants nothing more than to see his nemesis go down in a blaze of failure.

Then mysterious men in black with guns take over a press meet, trying to arrest Louis, awakening something dangerous in their target, and setting in motion events they cannot control. Most shocking of all, Rafe finds out Louis can literally read his mind.

Dragged into a murky world of government agents and x-files by one of those x-files, Rafe finds his world view completely changing. And, along the way, his hatred for Louis proves to be something else entirely.

Now Rafe just needs to survive so he can decide what to do about it.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Facebook Group Tools - Did you Know They Exist? #TipsTuesdays 24

So I am in the middle of a book launch (The Machine: Rise of the Gifted - still free LAST DAY), and one of the ways to promote our books is Facebook Groups, some of which have hundreds of thousands of members. Hence my choice of topic today.

Facebook Group Tools
Did You Know They Exist?

Wittegen Press
$4.99 FREE
23 Feb
So I downloaded a spreadsheet a couple of months ago which listed Facebook groups for promoting books, but there didn't seem to be very many on it, so I went searching as well. I visited many, many, many groups and eventually found 70 or so (I'll post a list at a later date) that:
  • a) let me in
  • b) were suitable for my book launch
I admit, I was a bit perturbed by how many there were. Hence I went looking for a solution and I came across ToolsStar. This is a tool which allows you to post to multiple Facebooks groups in the same way you would send an email to a whole selection at a time, and it spaces out the posts.

Like with email you need to be careful of spamming. The Facebook police will come and ban you if you break their rules, so using a tool has to be handled sensibly.

What I like about ToolsStar:

  • there is a FREE option (less functionality, but still usable)
  • it has an import groups function which makes it very easy to add all your FB groups
  • it allows FB Groups to be put into lists so they can be categorised and it's easy to send to only a few at a time
  • when you have added a group to a list it removes it from the pool so groups may only be in one list at a time - this prevents accidental spam
  • it is possible to create multiple campaigns (posts) in advance
  • it makes it very straightforward to create the campaigns (posts)
  • it spaces out the posts so not to spam Facebook (in the free version it uses a 15 min interval, in the paid version you can schedule it yourself)

What is a bit frustrating about ToolsStar:

  • it keeps logging me out and there is no option to stay logged in
  • some of the actions are a little less than intuitive

Things to be watch out for:

If you use your account to spam it can be banned from groups and even deleted by FB, so make sure you are careful with the way you use a tool like this.
  • Don't ever post to multiple groups too quickly - if you have the free option, you can't, but if you are scheduling yourself, make sure the FB algorithms aren't going to think you are spamming. 5 mins or more space between posting at least, is a good idea.
  • Don't continuously post all day - you don't have to run your campaigns continuously, in fact breaking them up is a good idea.
  • Don't use the same campaign over and over again - change the link and/or the image and/or the text so people don't see the same thing everywhere. They might ignore it in one form, but click your link in another. Also FB is less likely to think you are spamming.
  • Don't manually post to the closed groups at the same time as your auto-poster is posting to the public ones - FB is likely to think someone is trying to hack your account and make you jump though many hoops to prove you are a person.
  • Don't post in random groups - make sure the groups you pick allow the type of post you want to make. Some book groups allow promotion of free books but nothing else, others allow free and 99c etc.
People don't like spam, so if you spam them, even if FB doesn't jump on you from a great height, they are less likely to buy your book anyway. The golden rule is: be considerate.

For my launch, what I did was break up the groups into lists of 10, then I set off a different campaign to a list every now and then over 2 days. In between campaigns I posted to the odd closed group.

Most groups specify not to post to the same group more than once in 24 hrs, some say once a week, and others have different time frames, so make sure to read the rules of the groups you want to post to. Basically, just be sensible.

Do you have any tools you can't live without during a book launch?

Men in black aren't usually associated with figure skating, but when MiBs try to arrest men's champion Louis Hayes, his ex-rival Rafe Derouet finds out to his cost that telepathic x-files really do exist.

Monday 22 February 2016

10 Mad Scientists Who are Much More Interesting Than Dr Frankenstein #MonsterMondays 34

My new book The Machine (Rise of the Gifted) which came out yesterday and is free until tomorrow (yes this is a shameless plug :)) is contemporary science fiction with a side of male/male romance and has it's very own mad scientist in it. Hence I decided to do this week's Monster Mondays on that very subject. I do hope you enjoy it.

10 Mad Scientists Who are Much More Interesting Than Dr Frankenstein

No underground lair or isolated castle base would be complete without its very own mad scientist. They lurk in labs full of mysterious equipment and occasionally soliloquise about how they are going to take over the world. Without them no nefarious scheme is quite interesting enough. I already did a post about Victor Frankenstein back in Oct for week 22 and he's a classic, but I think these ladies and gentlemen are much more fun.

The Rani (Doctor Who)

Wittegen Press
$4.99 FREE
21-23 Feb ONLY
Now the Rani, played by the wonderful Kate O'Mara, is a true mad scientist. She is a renegade from the Time Lords just like the Doctor, but where as he usually has good intentions, hers are anything but.

The Rani is the epitome of a mad scientist in that all she cares about is her work. She really doesn't give a stuff about silly morality and will enslave whole planets for her experiments. She likes to play with lifeforms and chance aspects of their DNA to see what happens.

She may or may not have been involved with the Doctor at some point, the debate goes on. I personally really liked her as an adversary to the Doctor even if she did only have 3 outings in the series.

Dr Evil (Austin Powers)

No list of mad scientists would be complete without the great Dr Evil (Mike Myers). He hatches evil schemes to scupper Austin Powers at every turn ... and usually fails. More of an ideas man to his team of experts, he still seems to be the brightest of the lot.

With his cat Dr Bigglesworth and his very evil sidekick Mini-Me he totally plans to take over the world or at least ransom it for 1 million dollars - not realising about inflation. Of course he has to deal with the incompetence of his underlings, including Number-two and the whining of his son, Scott Evil, so he has much to cope with.

Dr Janice Lester (Star Trek TOS)

Now we have a lady who started off with the simple want to command a starship, just like her male counterparts. Thanks to the misogyny in Starfleet she became embittered and then, frankly, went a little bonkers.

She was once romantically involved with James T. Kirk, but the relationship ended when Kirk felt she was punishing him for the rules being against her. Rather than riling against the system, Janice decided to usurp it.

While on an expedition on the planet Camus II Dr Lester found herself an ancient machine capable of transferring the life energy of one person into another. The safety net for this process was that if both individuals remained alive the life energies would eventually transfer back into the original bodies.

Dr Lester lured Kirk to Camus II by killing nearly all the rest of her expedition party and then transferred into his body, taking over the Enterprise. Unfortunately for her, her madness began to show through and Spock found out the truth.

Dr Armin Zola (Captain America)

Zola is one of the masterminds of Hydra from the Captain America comics and films. Here I will be talking about his MCU incarnation.

Under the guidance of The Red Skull, Zola uses his genius to harness the power of the Tesseract to produce weapons for Hydra soldiers well ahead of their time. He is a true mad scientist, revelling in his work and enjoying the power.

By the end of CA: The First Avenger he has been captured by SHIELD and appears to cooperate. However, in CA: The Winter Soldier we find out the true extents of his genius and depths of his obsession with Hydra's greatness. He orchestrated the re-rise of Hydra and had his mind transferred into a computer so he could live on and see his schemes come to fruition.

Professor Maggie Walsh (Buffy)

Professor Maggie Walsh was a very powerful woman in charge of the Initiative, a government sponsored group who captured and studied supernatural life forms, trying to alter their behaviour. They were the ones to put a chip in Spike's head to stop him killing.

At first she thought Buffy would be a useful asset to her schemes. However, she soon learned what everyone who had ever met the Slayer always found out, Buffy was her own person and would be controlled by no-one. That was when Professor Walsh decided to dispose of her.

When this failed she tried to use her own creation, Adam, a cyborg, with lots of demon parts, to destroy Buffy and those like Riley, who defected. However, in the end, as with many mad scientist, her creation was her own downfall and she ended up a zombie controlled by him.

Dr Julius No (James Bond)

I couldn't really have a list of mad scientists without a true Bond villain now could I, and I have always liked Dr No.

Dr No is a mad scientist who specialises in radiation and set up his empire using gold stolen from the Tongs. His work cost him his hands, which have been replaced by bionic substitutes. When he genius was rejected by the Americans and the Soviets he joined SPECTRE instead and began to indulge his Napoleon complex to the max.

He uses his reactors on his private island base to try to disrupt American missile launches and cause war. However, he is, of course defeated by Mr James Bond.

Dr Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy - DC)

Dr Pamela Isley's tale is a tragic one of betrayal by a man, leading to her eventual descent into mental instability.

A brilliant mind, she was seduced by her professor Doctor Jason Woodrue, who convinced her to become part of his experiments. These experiments left her hospitalised with a changed physiology, making her touch deadly as well as giving her immunity from all poisons, viruses, bacteria and fungi, and making her barren.

Her decent into instability started with violent mood swings and when she finally settled in Gotham she became the infamous Poison Ivy. Her first move was the threaten to choke the city with spores. Of course she was caught by Batman and put in Arkham, but no one ever stays there for long.

Dr Horrible (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog)

Dr Horrible is an evil scientist played by the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris. He runs a blog where he details his exploits for his followers and he has one weakness, Penny (Felicia Day), whom he loves.

His arch nemesis is Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), who is the very definition of a tool.

Like all good mad scientists, Dr Horrible plans to do bad things and really, really wants to join the Evil League of Evil. They have agreed to evaluate him and so are watching his next terrible crime.

Unfortunately his love for Penny is holding him back ... but there are ways around that.

Dr Faustina (Wild Wild West)

If you have never seen the original series of the Wild Wild West, then you are missing out and don't tar it with the same brush as the 1999 remake film. It is James Bond on horseback in the wild west.

Dr Faustina is a true genius, able to create clones of people out of corpses, which she then uses to assassinate targets. In the episode "Night of the Big Blast", she makes a clone of West (Robert Conrad) and sends him off to kill four key officials.

This leaves the world thinking West is a traitor and dead, so it is up to Gordon (Ross Martin) to prove everyone wrong and to find his best friend.

Of course a brilliant woman like Dr Faustina isn't going to let that happen and she captures Gordon. She plans to use him to kill the President as payback for the government's short-sightedness in not recognising her genius and funding her experiments.

Brain (Pinky and the Brain - Animaniacs)

Last, but very much in no way least, the maddest, most evil genius scientist of them all: Brain.

Brain is the result of genetic experiments in mice. He is a genius with no equal and his only drawback is the fact he is three inches high and lives in a cage in the Acme labs. That, however, cannot stop him.

Every single night Brain comes up with a new way to take over the world. With his cohort, Pinky, he sets out to become the new world leader. Usually to have his plan foiled by something ridiculous, that even an evil genius cannot be expected to plan for.

However, there is one thing to be said about Brain: he never gives up.
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but...

Do you have a favourite mad scientist?

Sunday 21 February 2016

NEW RELEASE- The Machine: Rise of the Gifted #SciFi #Gay #Romance

The Machine: Rise of the Gifted

The Machine

Rise of the Gifted

by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Men in black aren't usually associated with figure skating, but when MiBs try to arrest men's champion Louis Hayes, his ex-rival Rafe Derouet finds out to his cost that telepathic x-files really do exist.

FREE 21st - 23rd Feb ONLY
(Starts 8am GMT- Midnight PST)
Smart Link to The Machine on Amazon

Rafe Derouet used to be a world class, British figure skater competing against his arch rival, flamboyant American Louis Hayes. A catastrophic knee injury ended his career and now all he can do is look on from the sidelines, commentating where he used to be a star. He hates Louis and wants nothing more than to see his nemesis go down in a blaze of failure.

Then mysterious men in black with guns take over a press meet, trying to arrest Louis, awakening something dangerous in their target, and setting in motion events they cannot control. Most shocking of all, Rafe finds out Louis can literally read his mind.

Dragged into a murky world of government agents and x-files by one of those x-files, Rafe finds his world view completely changing. And, along the way, his hatred for Louis proves to be something else entirely.

Now Rafe just needs to survive so he can decide what to do about it.

If you are kind enough to leave a review at Amazon I would like to give you a free short story sequel to say thank you. Please see the back of the book for details.

Excerpt (Listen or Read)

Rafe was in a hurry.

Whoever had had the idea to produce a US/Russian/Chinese special sporting event in celebration of the new economic treaty that was going through had to have been insane. There was figure skating and speed skating, long and short track, in the dual arena and athletics on the field and gymnastics in another arena down the road. It was as if someone had stuck pins in all the sports they thought the various countries were good at and then invited all the top athletes from the three countries to compete.

It was completely crazy and the whole world was watching, which was why Rafe was there reporting on it.

Given the current political climate, everyone was hoping sport could settle some of the latest rumblings. Rafe was waiting for it to all blow up in the organisers’ faces.

He had too many things to do and not enough time to do them, which was why he wasn’t really paying attention to his surroundings. The messages from his producer and his agent were far more important at the moment. If he had been giving thought to anything but texts he would have picked a different route.

“Well look who it isn’t,” said an all too familiar voice with an annoying American twang.

Not that Rafe found all American’s annoying, just this one in particular. He looked up from his phone to see Louis ‘pronounced the French way, darling’ Hayes less than three feet away.

Before he had fallen in the previous year’s world championships and shattered his knee, Rafe had been Louis’ arch rival on the ice. Competing for the UK in men’s figure skating, Rafe had spent the last few years swapping the number one spots in various competitions with Louis, but that was all over now. After eighteen months he could skate again, but he would never be able to compete at top level. These days he was doing TV shows and reporting for European sports channels and Louis was still glittering up the ice.

It made him want to knock Louis’ perfect teeth in with one of his skates all the more.

“Hayes,” he said and then realised that Louis was not alone.

Joy of joys, possibly his other least favourite person was standing next to Louis.

“And Voronov,” he added, wondering which deity he had pissed off to end up with both of them in the same place.

Voronov was a long distance speed skater for the Russians. Tall, blond and very much not sparkly, Voronov was an unlikely friend for a flamboyant American figure skater, but the pair had met at their first Olympics, hit it off and been firm friends ever since. Louis was something of a Russophile and had even been to Voronov’s wedding two years ago, which, given that Voronov was something of a state hero, had been quite a big deal. Louis was also one of the few allowed to call Voronov by a ridiculous nickname like they were in a club or something.

Rafe had met Voronov at the same time Louis had, only their relationship had started off more as instant dislike.

“You’re looking a little harassed there, Rafe,” Louis said, smiling sweetly.

The urge to deck the other man was strong. Rafe employed all of his skating will power not to do it.

“Places to be, important people to see,” he said, doing his best to get in a dig.

Of course he was all too aware Louis was much better at this game; Louis with his perfect hair and designer clothes and sycophantic fan base. It made Rafe grind his teeth.

“The competitors?” Voronov said, tone innocent, but Rafe couldn’t help it, he glared.

That stung.

There was nothing more in the world that he loved than the ice and it had been taken away from him. He honestly had no comeback.

Surprisingly he saw Louis dig his elbow into Voronov’s side. Maybe their antagonistic relationship did have lines. Once upon a time he and Louis had been friends and practice mates under the same coach, but then they had somehow become rivals. Rafe still wasn’t sure what had happened, but he had become the British poster boy for the international ice skating federation and Louis had become the American rebel with amazing talent.

“So, who are you commentating for this time?” Louis asked, clearly trying to be nice after Voronov’s below the belt shot.

That just rubbed Rafe completely up the wrong way.

“The BBC,” he said, digging his fingers into his palm to keep himself calm. “Now I’m late for a meeting, so I have to run.”

“Aren’t you co-commentating with the lovely Maria Hessle?” Louis said before Rafe could get away.

“Yes,” Rafe replied, doing his best not to grind his teeth and damning the polite genes his family had handed down.

“I’m sure I read somewhere that you and she were an item,” Louis said, “how’s that going for you?”

Louis’ expression was completely innocent, but Rafe wasn’t fooled, it was yet another dig. When they had been friends there may have been some adolescent fumbling between them and Louis was well aware Rafe’s tastes ran more to the male than the female: yet another bone of contention between them, what with Louis being out and proud and Rafe being firmly in the closet.

“You of all people should know not to believe everything you read,” Rafe said, as sweetly as he could manage.

The one thing he had to be utterly thankful for was that Louis was not the kind to out anyone, not even an ex-rival. Louis had had to defend his own sexuality so much, even before being officially out, technically, that Louis had the integrity not to do that to someone else. Didn’t stop all the digs though.

“Maria is happily attached to a Polish plumber from Chiswick,” he added, because he couldn’t help trying to rub Louis’ nose in the ridiculousness of tabloid reporting.

Of course it didn’t work, Louis just smiled.

“I find it always pays to check,” Louis said.

Every time they met it was the same with the subtle poking at his weakest points. And it galled Rafe to realise that he only understood his own sexuality so well because of Louis Hayes. He had done quite a bit of self examination over the years.

“Well, I really must go,” he said.

Louis clearly wanted to continue the conversation, but Rafe wasn’t sticking around to find out what for. The last thing his career needed was a headline about him trying to kill an American citizen on American soil.
Rafe was hovering, waiting for the next skater to come along for the press meet. It was currently Louis’ turn. He was supposed to have been interviewing everyone, but even his producer realised that asking him to interview Louis Hayes was a bad idea, hence his co-host, Maria, was doing it. He was in line to talk to the next skater in.

If Louis won things Rafe would have to bite the bullet, since he was the lead interviewer this time round. At least he could be thankful that it had turned out he was good as a celebrity commentator. However, these were just preliminary chats for sound bites, so he could get away with leaving it to Maria.

“Sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen,” a member of the event security team walked up to the gathering, “I’m going to have to ask you to move to a new area. This one is needed for warm up.”

That sounded odd to Rafe, because he was pretty sure no one was due on the ice yet today and he hung back. Louis looked equally put out, which was actually kind of funny. Rafe guessed Louis was bitching to his agent, who patted him on the shoulder, and followed the gaggle of press out as Louis went to make for the locker rooms. Rafe couldn’t resist stepping towards his ex-rival, just to see if he could get an annoyed sound bite. Those he was actually quite good at when it came to Louis.

Louis was trying to find something in his huge, oversized bag, by the looks of things, so Rafe waited for his chance. However, it never came. As soon as the press were out of sight men in black Kevlar appeared from several different places with guns. The truly bizarre thing was that they all seemed to be pointed at Louis.

“Nobody move,” was the shouted order and Rafe froze.

It was difficult for Rafe to believe what he was seeing and, if his face was anything to go by, Louis was just as shocked. Louis raised his hands, staring at the men in black with guns, clearly terrified. Frankly if there was anyone less likely to need a gun pointed at them Rafe had never met them.

“What’s going on?” Louis asked, sounding as confused and petrified as he looked.

“Don’t move,” was the only response and then a woman appeared.

The way Louis’ eyes opened slightly and a frown of confusion appeared on his face, replacing the complete shock, Rafe guessed Louis knew her…
FREE 21st - 23rd Feb ONLY
Smart Link to The Machine on Amazon

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Author Interview: Roland Clarke - #WriterlyWednesdays 23

Please join me today in welcoming the lovely Roland Clarke to my blog. He has been kind enough to give me an interview.

Roland Clarke - Interview

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

As a kid, I wanted to be a farmer so writing was a side road that came along – once I started scribbling fantasy and SF shorts in my teens. Well, there was an essay competition that I won when I was younger, but that wasn’t career moulding. Anyway, one failed sci-fi fanzine later I became a journalist, and then a photographer. But I got distracted and for some years sold organic fruit and vegetables. Eventually, I returned to journalism, until I retired in 2005 due to ill-health – multiple sclerosis.

Tell us about your book(s). 

To date, I have had one novel published – “Spiral of Hooves” – a murder mystery set against the equestrian world that I covered as a journalist. Although I wrote a sequel, the novel wasn’t promoted very well and is out of print – for now. I’m unsure whether to self-publish or search for a new publisher, as I’ve left the original one.

Since then, I have written a post-apocalyptic saga set after a mega-solar storm. “Storms Compass” is, I hope, in the final stages of polishing, but will need a publisher – unless I find the resources to self-publish.

There are other draft novels in the pipeline, both mysteries and speculative. But the pipeline has many sink-holes and dead-ends.

What started you writing?

As a teenager, reading great SF and fantasy. In later life, having experiences and ideas that seemed to be the basis for novels. Dreams also play a part, as some of my best/craziest ideas come at night. (I’m not referring to the journalism as that was a different motivation.)

Is there any genre you won't write and why?

Writing speculative fiction and mysteries, and having tried my hand at writing children’s stories – with mixed results – I feel that the two areas where I would struggle are erotica and humour. I don’t have the knack. But I hope that there are some humorous snippets in my writing, and I don’t avoid writing naked and intimate scenes. However, I prefer ‘devious’ and ‘mysterious’ so lean towards that.

What is your favourite genre to read and why?

I’m a bit of a magpie with my reading, choosing books by their blurb rather than by genre. However, I tend to read more speculative and mystery, with the latter edging ahead on my ‘Goodreads counter’. That’s probably because I get swept along by clever plot devices and twists, and good characters. But change the setting to steampunk with a mystery, or a historical crime and you’ve got me hooked.

What new projects do you have in the pipeline?

Beyond “Storms Compass”, there is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel, “Fates Maelstrom”. It’s the first part of a detective mystery series set where I live in Wales, and features a female Goth detective. However, I also have the first draft of the “Spiral of Hooves” sequel, stories in various stages that develop the “Storms Compass” world, a half-written draft sequel featuring my Goth detective, as well as an idea for an alternative history set in a 21st century Viking World.

I just have to learn to focus on one project at a time, although that depends on what gets the kind of reception from beta readers that inspires me to continue.

If you could invite one character from your books to dinner, who would it be?

Possibly Jarilo, the shaman protagonist from “Storms Compass” as he has a different perspective on life from most of the others. Strangely, I have two writer friends that are practising shaman, but as yet neither have come to dinner. And I have an affinity with pagan religions and practises.

If you could invite one character from someone else's books to dinner, who would it be?

Has to be Gandalf from my favourite book, “Lord of the Rings”. He has seen so much and is content to mix with all kinds of people from hobbits to kings. Plus, he’d get on with Jarilo, if I ensured it was the same dinner party. Between them they might save my writing career.

Do you ever cast your characters with actors in your head?

Most of my characters get cast with an actor, but only those get interviews and detailed profiles. I find it helps with the visualisation, even when I re-cast a role. For instance, the NCIS character Abby (Pauley Perrette) was my original Goth detective – until I saw a picture of Noomi Rapace, although not in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

Do your characters every run away with the plot when you're not looking?

When I get bogged down, or hit a road block, they can take over – even help. During NaNoWriMo, my characters wanted another murder to take the plot in new directions. Or was that me thinking about my readers?

Star Trek or Star Wars?

Toughest question last.

I grew up with the original Star Trek – and with Doctor Who – so they were central to my growing passion for science fiction. I’ve followed them both through their various incarnations, but… well, Stars Wars hooked me when it came out and then with the sequels. I even survived the prequels – by accepting that they were backstory, of a sort. I have yet to see the new film, but only because wheelchairs and cinemas don’t mix. But the Blu-ray will be a must.

Currently, I’m obsessed with Star Wars… so I’ll choose that for now. Anyway, I’m off to play the MMORPG “Star Wars: The Old Republic” set 4,000 years before the movies, but still involving the struggle between light/Jedi/Republic and dark/Empire/Sith.

About the Author

I am a retired equestrian journalist and photographer, who used to be a regular contributor of articles and photos to Eventing Magazine and other equestrian media. Sadly, Multiple Sclerosis clipped my wings and I was unable to meet deadlines so easily and found it increasingly hard to get to equestrian events.

Once retired I was unable to abandon the scribbling and so I found time to complete my first novel, “Spiral of Hooves”, which was of course set against the world of eventing.  Published on December 9th 2013, the novel is currently out of print.

My current Work In Progress is Book 1 of my post-apocalyptic Gossamer Flames saga - Storms Compass. I am also writing “Fates Maelstrom”, a psychological mystery set in Snowdonia, which is the first of another series.

My wife Juanita and I live in Harlech, Wales with our two cats Willow & Kefira, plus two dogs, Quetzal & Treeky. Our beloved cat Whisper’s ashes are on the mantle alongside Juanita’s daughter Carrie’s ashes and those of my old cat Oliver.  Our office has an inspiring view of Snowdon and the surrounding mountains, and across the estuary between Harlech and Porthmadog.

And I usually call myself The Silver Scribbler….

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Sick And Tired Of Doing Social Media The Old Way? Read This #TipsTuesdays 23

Sick And Tired Of Doing Social Media The Old Way?

So thanks to the lovely Sara C. Snider my Twitter and Facebook have a new lease of life. In a post last week she introduced me to Buffer and I cannot stress how easy this makes certain aspects of social media.

Good things about Buffer:

  • It is FREE to a certain level, which is perfectly usable for those of us just wanting to get one account going.
  • It has a tool to work out your accounts optimum posting times.
  • It allows you to schedule tweets days and days ahead.
  • It has are plugins and mobile aps  which means if you find any interesting page/tweet you can simply add it to your buffer.
  • Editing the tweet and Facebook posts is really easy even after you've queued them.
  • It even has an image ap that helps you to create images to go with your buffered posts if you need to.

Bad things about Buffer:

  • You can only have two accounts connected on the free plan (10 on paid).
  • You can only buffer 10 items on the free plan (100 on paid).
  • Some of the really cool stuff is only available in the "Awesome Plan"
What I love is that I can simply click and add things and then forget about them as Buffer deals with all the logistics and sends my tweets out at the best times for them to be seen. I can still tweet and retweet in between if the urge takes me, but my queue is still sitting there.

As Sara mentioned in her post too, it's kind of fun trying to keep the buffer topped up :).

Monday 15 February 2016

5 Dragons You Definitely Don't Want To Mess With - #MonsterMondays 33

Good morning and welcome to my blog for Monster Mondays 33 - today I am talking about the ultimate in monsters: dragons!

5 Dragons You Definitely Don't Want To Mess With

I have always loved dragons, be they the good guys or the bad guys - they are simply awesome creatures. Today I present five that made an impression on me. These big guns you definitely don't want to tangle with "for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup" :). These are in no particular order because I would never dare take it upon myself to rank dragons.


Smaug from The Desolation of Smaug 2013

Of course I could not have a list of evil dragons without mentioning the great Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. He drove the Dwarves out of Erebor (The Lonely Mountain), taking possession of their kingdom and all the treasure within it.

He earned both the names Smaug the Golden and Smaug the Magnificent in that, thanks to sleeping on his hoard of gold and jewels some of it became embedded in his underside, already covered in impenetrable scales. He is all but invulnerable, but like Achilles, not quite. In Smaug's case, when Bilbo watches him, the hobbit notices a small bare patch, which becomes Smaug's ultimate downfall when he is killed by Bard the Bowman.


Tiamat from Dungeons and Dragons 1983
Now Tiamat is actually a draconic goddess from ancient Mesopotamian mythology usurped for the D&D role-playing game. In the game she is the mother of all evil dragons, however, the version I am going to talk about today is from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon of the 80s.

 Now this is the version of  Dungeons and Dragons I knew best, since I didn't really encounter role-playing games until I hit university. In the cartoon Tiamat is a fierce five headed dragon and each of her heads is as deadly as the next:
  • white head - breathes ice
  • green head - breaths toxic gas
  • red head (main) - breathes fire
  • blue head - breathes lightning
  • black head - breathes acid
She is very, very dangerous. However, she is also useful to the heroes because she is the arch enemy of Venger, who is the big bad always trying to defeat them. Involving Tiamat is always risky to the intrepid group of youngsters, but occasionally they have to do so to beat Venger.

The Golden Dragon

This dragon comes from Beowulf, the 2007 cgi film staring Ray Winstone as Beowulf and Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother.

In Beowulf the main protagonist is Grendel, a monster who kills those in the feasting hall of King Hrothgar whenever they use it because the noise drives him crazy. When Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel, he returns to his mother who swears revenge and kills all of Beowulf's men. However, when Beowulf and Wiglaf travel to kill her, Beowulf instead makes a deal with her; he sires a son with her to replace Grendel and lets her keep the gold drinking horn that was a prize possession of King Hrothgar in return for her making him a great king.

The son is the golden dragon.

Many years later the agreement is broken and Grendel's mother sends her son, the great dragon, to destroy Beowulf's kingdom.

Vermithrax Pejorative

From Dragonslayer (1981)
Now here we have a traditional dragon who terrorises a whole land and demands virgin sacrifices. Vermithrax is from the 1981 Disney film Dragonslayer and this dragon is a fearsome creature indeed. Vermithrax is 400 years old and has the kingdom of Urland firmly under control. Twice a year a young female virgin is chosen by lottery to be sacrificed and eaten.

In the end only the sacrifice of a wizard can destroy Vermithrax - a life for a life.


By Arthur Rackham - ; Rackham, Arthur (illus) (1924-August) [1911] Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods (New Impression ed.), London: William Heinemann, p. p. 22 Retrieved on 22 June 2011., Public Domain,
Fafnir is a dragon from Norse Mythology who started off as a great dwarf, son of king Hreidmar. Overcome by greed, Fafnir stole cursed gold by killing his father, after which he travelled into the wilderness so he could guard his hoard against all comers. His greed turned him into a great dragon able to breathe poison into the land around himself so that others could not approach.

He was eventually killed by his brother Regin's foster son Sigurd, who almost lost his own head to his foster-father's insane greed.


So there you have it, five of the nastiest dragons none of us want to meet.

Who is your favourite evil dragon?

The Machine - Rise of the Gifted is a contemporary scifi novella of telepathy and telekinesis set against the frenetic world of figure skating. It will be free for 3 days only from it's official launch on Sunday 21st Feb 2016 - get it while it's hot.

Friday 12 February 2016

Ladyhawke - A Love Stronger than All Evil - #FanFridays 17

So in honour of Valentine's Day on Sunday, for Fan Fridays 17 I have chosen to geek out about one of my all time favourite fantasy movies, because it is also a gorgeous love story.

Ladyhawke - A Love Stronger than All Evil

Now if you haven't seen Ladyhawke then you are missing out. This is a film from 1985, but it's a fantasy film, so it hasn't dated. It is a wonderful story of a curse, an epic romance and bravery.

First of all this film has a magnificent cast:

Ladyhawke is medieval fantasy where the only magic is a dreadful curse cast by a man who is supposed to be holy.
  • Navarre is a brave knight on a black steed who carries his family sword, travels in the company of a hawk, and is seeking revenge.
  • Isabeau is a beautiful young woman who is only seen at night, and can calm the huge black wolf which is always close by.
  • Gaston is a very clever thief, known as "the Mouse" who escapes the dungeons of Aquila.
  • The Bishop of Aquila is a man fallen from grace, but with incredible power, which he abuses, killing all those who oppose him.
At it's heart Ladyhawke is a love story between Navarre and Isabeau. Their love created their predicament and their love is all that sustains them. When Navarre was Captain of the guard at Aquila, Isabeau came to live there and they fell in love. But the Bishop was obsessed with her and would let no man have her. In his rage at their love, the Bishop cursed them cruelly: Isabeau to be a hawk by day and a woman by night and Navarre to be a man by day and a wolf by night, only giving them the briefest of glimpses of each other every dawn and sunset.

When Navarre meets Philippe he is on his way back to Aquila to take his revenge on the Bishop, finally having decided it is time to end it. After he meets Philippe he asks him to help him get in to the fortress at Aquila to fulfil his plan. Philippe refuses, but through a mixture of circumstances he comes to find out Navarre and Isabeau's secret and from the monk Imperius, that there may be a chance to break the curse.

The theme throughout the whole film is love against evil, and the Bishop is a very evil man. He was going to hang Philippe before he escaped, along with the tens of others in the dungeons. He is a man without mercy.

The whole cast are superb. Matthew Broderick is brilliant as Mouse, sometimes funny, sometimes a little bit tragic and always loveable. Rutger Hauer is superb as Navarre, focused on his revenge and yet willing to do anything for Isabeau, even though he cannot touch her and believes he never will again. And Michelle Pfeiffer is gentle and sweet as Isabeau and yet also strong as she copes with their curse all but alone until Philippe comes along.

I cannot stress how good this film is and if you are looking for something romantic, but also with action and a great plot for Valentine's Day, you can't go wrong with this one.

What films would you recommend for Valentine's Day?

Thursday 11 February 2016

Why Writing Is the Secret Ingredient - #ThinkyThursdays 10

Why Writing Is the Secret Ingredient

So I was lying in bed this morning just pondering the whole idea of writing and why on earth some of us choose to do it. Let's face it when you look at the downsides you'd think we were crazy:
  • Those niggly little plot points keep us awake at night.
  • Characters talk to us at the most inopportune moments.
  • It's hard to turn mental images into words.
  • Sometimes vocabulary just seems to vanish for no apparent reason and we turn into Forest Gump as far as expression goes.
  • Fight/sex scenes are so complicated.
  • Research will eat our brains if we let it.
  • Sometimes just picking up a pen/ opening the document is so hard because we just can't find the energy to write.
And I could go on. All of us who are writers know we're a bit mad to have chosen to do this.

However, there is something about writing that is so wonderful we just have to keep going. We may emerge from a weekend writing binge looking like a wild person, but we feel amazing. Writing is the secret (and oft times not so secret) ingredient that makes us happy. Writing gives back.
  • Creating intricate plots makes us excited.
  • Our characters chat away so we are never bored.
  • The challenge of translating thoughts into words helps us to grow as people and writers.
  • When we're searching for that words that won't come, sometimes we find even better ones that we hadn't thought of before.
  • Coming up with an exciting/beautifully erotic scene fills us with pride as we pen the last intricate move.
  • We learn so many new and interesting things as we research, and we're never short of an odd fact to fill that awkward silence in a conversation.
  • When we kick writer's block/writer's burnout in the bottom and turn out a thousand words we are kings and queens of our world.

I honestly have no idea what I would do if I couldn't write any more. It's a horrible thought. My imagination and putting it on paper is part of what defines me, and sharing it with others. It is a fundamental part of my nature and I have been doing it since I can remember.

Thank you to everyone who has ever read what I write and thank you to everyone who had ever written what I read.

Is writing your secret ingredient?

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Guest Post: Paul DeBlassie III - How Writing and Reading Horror Make You Happy - #WriterlyWednesdays 22

Please join me today to welcome Paul DeBlassie III to my blog to talk about horror writing and how it can have beneficial properties.

How Writing and Reading Horror Make You Happy
Paul DeBlassie III

There's nothing like waking up, first thing in the morning, to horror. All night long dreams turning to nightmares have spun through hallowed recesses of consciousness. Your pulse is wild, mouth dry and hands clammy.

Well, okay maybe this isn't anything we go through on a nightly basis. But, mind-blowing horrific images and narratives swept through my sleep during the writing of The Unholy. By morning time, sun rising majestically over the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico I was both exhausted and refreshed.

I finished with weekly psychotherapy treating survivors of the dark side of religion. People suffer horror under many guises. Religion is one of the mightiest of horror machines. Suffering cripples the human psyche when guilt and fear, propagated in the name of a god in the sweet bye and bye, rule life and limb, love and relationships. At the end of a week of confronting the horrors of minds nearly swallowed whole by the dark side of religion, I’m ready to write and write horror.

From the night's twisting and turning, sheets in knots and damp, I remembered the face of the evil archbishop in The Unholy. He's a misogynist, smooth, compelling and seductive. In the nightmares of the night his nature curls through dark images that lend themselves to the momentum of the fright that laces through narrative and dialogue in The Unholy. I've met this man personally in one version or another in patients I've treated and in nightmare visions that expose his cunning and ruthlessness.

The young medicine woman and seer in The Unholy, Claire Sanchez, battles the evil archbishop. Nightmare scenes prepare her for the dangers ahead. Horror readies her for action that will either forge her womanly resolve and might or shatter her mind into tiny crumbly bits. She reads the dream symbols and psychically moves through roadblocks to growth and consciousness.

Horror sweeps the mind clean and makes us ready to live out what we need to live out. It makes me ready to write. Patients in psychotherapy and readers of horror know that terror brings to light what’s lurking in the shadows. Unconscious skeletons in the basement of the mind start rattling. Dreams in therapy and images in the reading of horror blow out the psychic tubes so we can confront unseen and unknown demons.

Writing and reading horror ushers us face to face with hidden fears. We think it's the heroine's problem or conflict or monster, but it's our masked and denied anxieties that stare up at us from page after page of riveting action. Without taking the plunge into darkness and coming out on the other side of the story, we’re left with anxieties and terrors locked up that will one day unexpectedly grab hold of us and reek havoc. What we don't face haunts us and, one day grabs us and takes us down.

So, what’s locked up inside doesn’t stay in the mind’s basement. It finds a way of escape. And, when it does, it isn’t pretty. Unnecessary problems and conflicts and traumas besiege us. So, as Claire, young medicine woman in The Unholy, discovers, running from what scares you makes it bigger.

Writing horror, reading horror, sets in play riveting unconscious forces of anxiety and bold-faced fear. They make us cringe and scream, at least on the inside. Ultimately, if we finish the story, and we're still in one piece, we sigh, glad for the ending and long-awaited emotional release. We're grateful that the weird and evil happenings are spun out and spent, the mind quieter, cleared out, happier.

Book Information

The Unholy
by Paul DeBlassie III

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, "The Unholy" is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

About the Author

As a psychologist I've been writing about life, love, and spirituality for over thirty years. There's nothing like being a husband, father, and grandfather to keep a serious writer grounded! Thrillers set in the mystic land of Aztlan are my forte. The Unholy is an award-winning novel exploring the dark side of religion and the human potential for spiritual freedom, love, and transformation.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

The Most Useful Piece of Software - Adblock Plus #TipsTuesdays 22

The Most Useful Piece of Software
Adblock Plus

So today's Tips Tuesday is very simple it is a piece of advice for every user of the internet. I am sure most of you already know, but I didn't realise how useful something like this was until a friend mentioned it. Since I installed it, so many things have become easier.

The piece of software I am talking about is Adblock Plus.

It is a FREE plugin for many browsers including Safari that blocks ads on websites for you. Thus making your browsing easier. Often it is the ads that try to put Malware etc on your computer or tie up you browser with pop-up windows that won't go away etc.

It is also configurable, so if you do want to support a site because you know it has unobtrusive ads and the site deserves the revenue you can add it to the whitelist.

This plugin makes browsing:
  • faster
  • safer
  • much less annoying.
If you don't have it yet, I thoroughly recommend it.

For those with Smartphones and Tablets, there is also AdBlock Browser for an ad free internet experience. Since I don't have a smart phone and my tablet is Win10, I haven't tried this one, but if it is as good as the browser plugin, it's awesome.

Monday 8 February 2016

I am seeking pre-release reviewers for my new book to post during the launch week which starts on 21st Feb 2016. When you boil it down the new book is gay romance with telepathic figure skaters, so if you like that sort of thing, this is the book for you :).

I can provide an ARC of the book in PDF, Kindle (mobi) or ePub.

There was an earlier version of the story published as part of the giveaway games anthologies, but this one has been re-polished and it has grown by a third, so it is a lot different to the original. If you think you've already read it, you haven't :).

This will be an Amazon only launch (have finally caved and am trying out a new system) so the reviews would need to go there, thank you.

You can drop a comment with an email where I can contact you or drop me a line via the contact form in the left side margin and I will get back to you.

Many thanks to anyone who is interested.

The Machine - Rise of the Gifted by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Title: The Machine (Rise of the Gifted)
Author: Natasha Duncan-Drake
Rating: PG13
Genre: Contemporary SciFi, Romance, Gay
Length: novella (22.5K)

Rafe Derouet used to be a world class, British figure skater competing against his arch rival, flamboyant American Louis Hayes. A catastrophic knee injury ended his career and now all he can do is look on from the sidelines, commentating where he used to be a star. He hates Louis and wants nothing more than to see his nemesis go down in a blaze of failure.

Then mysterious men in black with guns take over a press meet, trying to arrest Louis, awakening something dangerous in their target, and setting in motion events they cannot control. Most shocking of all, Rafe finds out Louis can literally read his mind.

Dragged into a murky world of government agents and x-files by one of those x-files, Rafe finds his world view completely changing. And, along the way, his hatred for Louis proves to be something else entirely.

Now Rafe just needs to survive so he can decide what to do about it.

If you are interested in being a pre-release reviewer for other Wittegen Press books as well, we have a reviewer pool mailing list. Simply fill in this form at the link below to apply and we will add you to the list.