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

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Recipe: Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

This is based of the "Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake" recipe I posted last week. It's my own creation and was consumed with great speed by Rob's work colleagues who were very happy to test it for me. This makes a soft, light, sticky chocolate cake, but you do have like treacle too because that is a prevelant flavour along with the chocolate.

The only changes are:

  • substituting some of the flour with cocoa, 
  • adding vanilla instead of cinamon, 
  • 2 tblsps of golden syrup rather than one to up the liquid content slightly because cocoa is drier than flour, 
  • and an extra 1/4 tspn of bicarb to account for the cocoa being more acidic than flour.

Equipment

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 small (milk) saucepan
  • 1 bowl
  • scales
  • spatula
  • 2 2lb loaf tins (approx 21x11x7cm | 8x4x3inches)
  • loaf tin liners or grease proof paper or baking parchment
  • small hand whisk or fork
This recipe uses the hob to heat ingredients, you could probably use a microwave if you are more familiar with that - just use microwave proof bowls instead of saucepans.

Ingredients

  • 8oz | 230g | 2/3 cup Black Treacle (Molasses)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 cup Soft Spread (you can use butter, but a baking spread makes a lighter cake)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Golden Syrup (US peeps, if it's not in the baking section, try the international section - at a push you could use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 pt (UK) | 285ml | 1 1/3 cup milk (I used semi skimmed, but the recipe probably originally used whole milk - so just use what you have)
  • 3/4 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 9.4oz | 265g | 1 4/5 cup self raising (rising) flour
  • 2.6oz | 75g |  3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C | 300F | Gas Mark 2.
  2. Put the loaf tin liners in the loaf tins or line the tins with you lining of choice. (You really don't want to try and get this cake out of an unlined tin - it is very soft and moist ;)).
  3. Put the treacle, soft spread, brown sugar and syrup into the large saucepan.
  4. Heat gently until these all melt together, stiring at times to make sure it all mixes.
  5. Measure out the flour and cocoa into a bowl and put aside for later.
  6. Put the milk and egg into the small saucepan and beat the egg into the milk using a small hand whisk or a fork.
  7. Add the flour and cocoa to the treacle mixture in the saucepan and stir together.
  8. Add the vanilla to the treacle mixture and stir.
  9. Heat the milk/egg mixture gently to blood temperature (easiest way to measure is to stick your little finger in every now and then and when it feels like it isn't cold it's at the right temperature :)).
  10. Add the bicarb to the milk mixture and stir.
  11. Add the milk mixture to the treacle mixture and stir together.
  12. Pour the cake batter into the two loaf tins.
  13. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 1hr (stick a skewer into the middle of the cake to check it is done, if not let it cook a little longer).
  14. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tins until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling.
The cake keeps very well, easily up to a week and even up to 2 weeks - just pop into an air tight tin. This is a moist cake, so it actually improves with age.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss


Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss


A quick history of Livejournal for those who were not part of the community. Livejournal.com is a blogging platform which used to be the hub for just about everything from 2000 through to about 2009, expecially fandom.

  • 1999 Livejournal was created by Brad Fitzpatrick
  • 2000 Livejournal starts to grow and users have to have an invite code to start an account. Fandom takes to Livejournal in a big way, as do other bloggers. This is the golden age of Livejournal.
  • 2005 Brad sells Livejournal to Six Apart all is well for a while. 
  • 2006 There is some controversy and counts are suspended and deleted without warning (I won't go into the details). Fandom starts to bail.
  • 2007 Six Apart sell Livejournal to SUP Services, a Russian company, but the servers remain in the US. Fandom starts looking elsewhere. The rise of Tumblr and several incidents cause fandom on LJ to decline in a big way.
  • 2017 Livejournal is transfered to Russia completely and has a new ToS that says all accounts have to obey Russian law - for fandom LJ is effectively dead.

The thing about Livejournal that makes it so different from all the other social media flying around today is that it was so flexible and it was built for communication. No matter how you look at Twitter and Tumblr, they are not built for happy community, they are geared towards shouting into the void and controversy. And Facebook has algorythmns that show you only what they want you to see.

Livejournal always showed you your timeline in chronicological order and did not deem to tell you what you were allowed to see and what you were not. If you were friends with a thousand people/commuities it showed you every post from those thousand in date and time order so you could read them all. You could make your own custom groups so if you didn't have time that day you could read your own chosen subset of posts. It was all the users choice.

Livejournal was concieved with the idea of community - literally. It has personal accounts and community accounts, with different functionality to allow communities to be overseen by groups of people.

Personal accounts have levels of security:

  • private - posters eyes only
  • public - everyone can see
  • friends only - only those people you have friended can see the post
  • friends group - users can create custom groups of friends and then allow only them to see a post (awesome for organising get togethers, or secret gift projects for other friends).
Communities can be open to everyone or on moderated membership or completely closed so you can only join if you are invited. This meant groups could set up safe spaces to talk. Sometimes it was as trivial as risky fanfiction, sometimes support or survivor groups.

Posts exist as an entitiy with comments on the post - no need to reshare something just to comment on it. There is also a memory option to save a post so you can go back to it and re-read later.

Comments have streams so converstaions are easy to follow. Many users and communities made use of this for comment fic or long meta discussions. Comments even had titles for a very long time - when SUP removed them it caused a riot (another reason fandom left).


Posts can have parts hidden away that can only be seen when clicked upon and there can be more than one of these in a post. You can have an itro paragraph, then something behind a cut, then another paragraph and then another cut.

It was considered impolite to have an image larger than about 300px across above a cut on LJ in the early days, because it cluttered the timeline and caused slow loading when most of us did not have broadband. Anything not safe for work was usually placed under a cut so people could click or not as suitable to their environment. When posting fiction there was an almost standard form of header that everyone used so that the fic could be posted under a cut and other users could see what it was about at a glance when scrolling through their timeline.

Users can get at the html of a post and turn off all the automatic formatting to make posts look exactly as they want. This might not seem useful to many modern users who prefer the simple point and click, but to me it's perfect. I can point and click when I want to, but I can also take a post from here and pop it straight into LJ wholesale.

Livejournal let you know when someone commented (y'know like FB and Twitter are supposed to, but sometimes don't bother) and you could put watches on comms or particulars posts.

Livejournal was all about communication and community. (We had our fandom wars and our moments, but the communication was still there).

I had forgotten how much it meant to me until I was sorting through my fanfiction directory this weekend. I always put my LJ headers in my fanfic files and I was looking at some of the author's notes. So many of the fics are dedicated to people or have little notes to friends or were written in fic exchanges or prompt grabs for other users. I see their names and they bring back such fond memories.

Most of the time we didn't even know each other's real names, but we were friends. We organised virtual birthday parties on communities we had set up for that specific purpose (those custom friends groups came in really handy to organise those). We had huge fic exchanges where tens of writers (in some cases hundreds) came together and wrote fic for other people, all handled by the moderators who matched up writers to prompts (I've run several in my time and I miss them).

The biggest is undoubtedly Yuletide which is for rare fandoms and is still running, but the fic posting is now based on AO3.

A lot of us fandom peeps were hoping Imzy would become the new Livejournal, but they just didn't make it. Dreamwidth is out there, which is a Livejournal clone specifically for fandom, but it has never enticed all the people over. The move of LJ to Russia finally caused even more of a migration, but I think the LJ model is missing the ease of posting the pretty that Tumblr and Facebook have.

Tumblr is showing all the signs of discontent that LJ did when it was sold and TPTB decided they knew what was best for fandom. What would be really awesome is if Dreamwidth had an upgrade to make pictures and vids as easy as places like Tumblr. It's already much easier than it was, but nowhere near as easy as point, upload and click.

The decline of Livejournal has been a great loss. It did not evolve to counter the threat of something like Tumblr, which is all about the visual, and allowing the Russians control with their homophobic laws and draconian media laws killed it for fandom and freedom of speech bloggers alike.

I miss being able to talk to my friends in more than 140 characters. I miss the long indepth discussions about fanfic and meta where everyone's comments are there to go back and read in chains that make them easily understood. I miss the community.

If you would like to see what I am talking about I am here on LJ: beren_writes and here on Dreamwidth beren_writes. I suggest you pick a year like 2006 to see what I mean - if you click the view subjects button for a month you can see all the titles of my posts.

Were you on Livejournal? Do you miss it?

Friday, 4 August 2017

Free Fiction Friday - The Beast in Me by Natasha Duncan-Drake


Free Fiction Friday


It's the 1st Friday of August and that means it is Free Fiction Friday over at Wittegen Press. A new short story is now up for all the subscribers to our newsletter.

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

The Beast In Me
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: paranormal, contemporary fantasy
Length: ~8K wds

Description:
There are worrying reports about the Misomene Corporation's business dealings. Teiji Inoue was sent in to investigate, but he cover was blown. Now Teiji must survive Misomene's attentions as he discovers that the rumours of illegal practices pale in comparison to the reality.

Misomene are engaged in occult research and Teiji has become one of their experiments. Even if he comes out alive he may not come out sane.

Newsletter Subscription Form

We'll send you details of book releases, competitions and other news from our authors, BUT we WON'T spam you, or pass your details on to anyone else.
Wittegen Press

We will also give you 2 FREE ebooks just for signing up.

* indicates required

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake


Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake


This is my mother's ginger cake recipe and I have loved it most of my life. I always find other people's ginger cake not gingery enough and I figured out why when I finally nabbed the recipe off her There is a lot of ginger in this. If you don't like it quite so gingery, alter the amount to your own taste.

This recipe is also one of the easiest cake recipes there is - no folding, no need for electric whisks, just a couple of sauce pans and a flick of the wrist. It turns out perfectly every time.

The recipe is enough to make one huge cake, but my mother recommends making two smaller cakes in loaf tins because otherwise the cake sinks in the middle and it's harder to make sure the middle is done and the outside is not over done :).

I finally remembered to take a picture of the finished product, but, as you can see, not before I had given my hubby a slice :).

Equipment

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 small (milk) saucepan
  • 1 bowl
  • scales
  • spatula
  • 2 2lb loaf tins (approx 21x11x7cm | 8x4x3inches)
  • loaf tin liners or grease proof paper or baking parchment
  • small hand whisk or fork
This recipe uses the hob to heat ingredients, you could probably use a microwave if you are more familiar with that - just use microwave proof bowls instead of saucepans.

Ingredients

  • 8oz | 230g | 2/3 cup Black Treacle (Molasses)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 cup Soft Spread (you can use butter, but a baking spread makes a lighter cake)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup (US peeps, if it's not in the baking section, try the international section - at a push you could use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 pt (UK) | 285ml | 1 1/3 cup milk (I used semi skimmed, but the recipe probably originally used whole milk - so just use what you have)
  • 1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 12oz | 340g | 2 3/4 cup self raising (rising) flour
  • 25g | 4 tbsp ginger (yes that really is table spoons not teaspoons)
  • 2 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C | 300F | Gas Mark 2.
  2. Put the loaf tin liners in the loaf tins or line the tins with you lining of choice. (You really don't want to try and get this cake out of an unlined tin - it is very soft and moist ;)).
  3. Put the treacle, soft spread, brown sugar and syrup into the large saucepan.
  4. Heat gently until these all melt together, stiring at times to make sure it all mixes.
    Don't stop stiring yet!This is what you're after
  5. Measure out the flour, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl and put aside for later.
  6. Put the milk and egg into the small saucepan and beat the egg into the milk using a small hand whisk or a fork.
  7. Add the flour, ginger and cinnamon to the treacle mixture in the saucepan and stir together.
    Stir gently in circles to mix in flour them beat
    vigorously until all the lumps are gone.
    This is what you are after
  8. Heat the milk/egg mixture gently to blood temperature (easiest way to measure is to stick your little finger in every now and then and when it feels like it isn't cold it's at the right temperature :)).
  9. Add the bicarb to the milk mixture and stir.
  10. Add the milk mixture to the treacle mixture and stir together.
    Stir as quickly as you can, but take it easy.There will be bubbles showing as the bicard activates
  11. Pour the cake batter into the two loaf tins.
  12. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 1hr (stick a skewer into the middle of the cake to check it is done, if not let it cook a little longer).
  13. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tins until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling.
The cake keeps very well, easily up to a week and even up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long :D) - just pop into an air tight tin. This is a moist cake, so it actually improves with age.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

5 Reasons Taking Part in Challenges on Wattpad is a Great Idea #TipsTuesdays


5 Reasons Taking Part in Challenges on Wattpad is a Great Idea

So with everything that's been going on at home lately I really have gotten much writing done. It also hasn't just been a matter of time, but of motivation. My spark dried up because my brain was too busy focusing on other things. It's back, but I decided to feed the flames and make it burn brighter. One of the way I decided to do this is by joining in Wattpad challenges.

Wattpad has lots of communities (even though it actually has no structure to cope, communities have found a way :)). These communities often run challenges where writers submit their writing and there are usually prizes for the best. At the moment @WattVampires is running their Summer Challenge - Vampires Everywhere. Each week they choose a genre and writers are asked to submit a flash fic of between 50 and 200 words with vampires in that genre.

The first week was sci-fi
my submission Sunlight is here
and this week it is the classics
my submission Traitor's Fate is here.

Taking part in these challenges is great idea for many reasons and here are five:

1. They're Fun

It's fun to just grab an idea and run with it without having to worry if it will fit with anything else, or lead on to more. The challenge is the challenge and does not have to have any consequences except making sure we read the rules and tag it correctly.

2. They Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Sometimes it's good to write something we hadn't considered before. Taking a challenge from somewhere else is good for our creativity. No matter how good a writer we are, it is all too easy to get stuck in a rut, especially if we are concentrating on a big project of some kind. Taking a momentary step back and writing something completely different can spark new ideas and new thinking, which can only be good for us.

Taking part in the @WattVampires challenge has me raring to go on my other projects as well.

3. Exposure

Wattpad does have some official clubs, which are basically like bulletin boards, which help get exposure for your fiction, but the communities actually work way better. I've found that a lot of people in the clubs just post and run, the engagement is better in the commnuities.

Taking part in challenges exposes our writing to lots of like minded people and the rules often state that the entries have to be short, so people are more likely to take the plunge to give our fiction a go.

Also there is often a prize for the best (usually a banner for the cover and maybe a interview or a spotlight on the community) and honourable mentions. This can give us even more exposure to like minded readers.

4. Good Way to Find New Fic to Read

There are always excellent fics submitted to the challenges. I haven't tried one yet that does not have some gems well worth reading. Communities offer an easy way to find the kind of fiction we really want to read. It's a win, win situation and I am sure many people see them the same way.

The creativity in the challenges is usually amazing. From the same challenge completely different stories appear. For this week's classics challenge at WattVampires there are already fairy tales, a historical insert and Shakespeare, and the prompt only went up yesterday.

5. Excellent Way of Making New Friends

As I have already mentioned the communities are full of people who like the same thing we do, or we wouldn't all be hanging about in the same place. Wattpad can sometimes feel like shouting into a void because it's so big and so diverse. Catching the eyes of readers can be hard.

Taking part in challenges waves at all those like minded people and goes 'look, I write about vampires or werewolves or romance or whatever the niche of the community is'. We write our fic, they write theirs and it is a great way to get talking to people by swapping comments.

For example WattVampires has 6.5K followers but only a handful of those enter the current challenge. It's an easy way to see who is active at the moment and who might like to chat about similar things.

If we're open and friendly and drop comments we are much more likely to make friends.

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 ;).

Equipment:

  • 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

Ingredients:

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
Icing:
  • 440g icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 300g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 tsps of vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles to decorate

Instructions

  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
Cast:
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.
Ingredients

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
~OR~

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

Equipment

  • 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

Instuctions

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

Description:
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.


Catch-Up

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 

Zenobia

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.

Zygon

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 

Yesenia

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.

Click here and here to find other AtoZ posts.

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

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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