Thursday, 31 October 2019

Free Book - Trick or Treat Blog Hop #trickortreatreads

Free Book - Trick or Treat Blog Hop

Free Book - Trick or Treat Blog Hop

Greetings and welcome to my blog on the spookiest of spooky days. It is a tradition of Sophie and I that we always produce a free eBook  at Halloween. Usually it is for AllHallowsRead, but they don't seem to have updated their website this year, so just think of this as a trick or treat that is better for your teeth.πŸŽƒ

This year I have signed up with some other lovely authors to bring you free books!

The Trick or Treat Book Blog Hop is alive!

Once you have sampled the macabre tales Soph and I have come up with, don't forget to scroll down and check out all the other wonderful authors in the hop.

Beyond Death - Tales of the Macabre

Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

Two tales that look past death into the terror beyond.

The Cup Runneth Over by Natasha Duncan-Drake
You have been tempted into places unknown and there are things lurking in the shadows.

The Promise by Sophie Duncan
When a person makes a commitment, they should stick to it. Carol is determined to stick to hers no matter how scary it may become.

The book will only be free until Thursday 7th Nov - so get in there quickly.

Trick or Treat Book Blog Hop

Other Free Books You Might Like

Mina's Children - The Legacy of Dracula
Natasha Duncan-Drake

~~5th place winner Final Round & 2nd place winner, Round 2 - Open Novella Contest 2018~~

Mina Harker (nΓ©e Murry) was changed by Dracula's attentions, and so were her descendants. Reggie comes from this line of vampire hunters, nature's definitive balance to the darkness. Her whole life has been building up to this one mission in Romania, to face the evil that started everything for her family. Unfortunately there are others with their eyes on Dracula too, and Reggie has run right into them. She must make them allies or remove them from the game before she can face the ultimate foe.

The Beginning - Blood and Curses
Vampires: The New Age Prequel 1
Natasha Duncan-Drake

Nate hunts vampires and he's good at it. However, when he comes across Lexie while stalking his latest quarry, he finds out life can be a whole lot more complicated than even he knew. Lexie is a white witch with a dark secret. When one of the vampires Nate is tracking turns out to be an initiate of the worst kind of blood magic, that secret might just save his life.

Chip Off the Old Block?
Dawn of the Anti-Christ ... Maybe
Natasha Duncan-Drake

The Anti-Christ is coming!

His name is Owen.

Well technically it's Beherit, but that's so last millennium. Aspiring to world domination is just around the corner and his simple life of school is coming to an end ... which is kind of the problem. His best friend David, the local vicar's son, will no longer be there and that makes Owen feel things he doesn't understand. What else is a boy to do, but ask his dad what it all means, even if that dad has horns and his eye on the corruption of humankind?

Get is for free from 
Smashwords or Amazon

And don't forget - if you would like a free short story every month from Sophie or me, join our Wittegen Press Newsletter for Free Fiction Friday.
And we'll give you 2 more Free eBooks just for joining us.
Assassin's Blood by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Curse of A Banshee by Sophie Duncan

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Butternut and Goat's Cheese Tart with Broccoli "Pastry" - #GlutenFree #Vegetarian

Butternut and Goat's Cheese Tart with Broccoli "Pastry"

#GlutenFree #Vegetarian

This is based off a Donna Hay recipe from the Saturday Times which I believe comes from her book Week Light, which I am definitely adding to my Christmas list :).

First thing I have to say is this pastry is amazing and would work with other tarts too and I fully intend to try it with others. I am dying to have a go at using it with a quiche Loraine.

This recipe makes 2 tarts - but it keeps well in the fridge and has nothing in it which means re-heating would be an issue. I suspect it will freeze well too, but haven't tried that.

One warning - this took me over an hour and a half to make. I am quite slow in the kitchen what with having to sit down all the time, so you might be faster, but I started at 4ish and finished at past 5:30. Totally worth it though, and 1 tart would easily feed 3-4 people giving a whole second meal as well.

For the Broccoli "Pastry"

  • 600g/21oz broccoli florets - this is about 2 large heads of broccoli
  • 90g/0.9 cup ground almonds (1 cup would be fine ;))
  • 25g/0.25 cup grated parmesan type cheese - I used the pre-grated Italian hard cheese from Morrisons because it tastes the same and is vegetarian. Proper Parmesan cheese uses animal rennet and it therefore not vegetarian.
  • 3 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Filling

  • 800g/28oz butternut squash - cubed - this is one largish squash
  • 2 tbsp oil - whichever is your fav, I used olive
  • salt and black pepper
  • 8 large eggs - this is 2 eggs more than the original recipe because my pie tins are bigger
  • 250g/ 1 cup ricotta
  • 16-20 sage leaves or other seasoning of choice - I liked the sage, but I think I will go with my Italian herb grinder as well next time for more zing.
  • 150g/5.3oz goats cheese (for me this was a whole packet which was about the size of 1.25 US sticks of butter) - I used a creamy Welsh goats cheese, which worked really well, but a more acidic one would probably work even better if you like the taste.


  1. Make sure the broccoli florets are not too large before blitzing them in a food processor until very fine. Place in a large bowl. We need to blitz in small batches or we'll get lumps - I did it in 4.
  2. Add the ground almonds, parmesan substitute (or real Parmesan is you are not vegetarian) and eggs and mix well - seasoning to personal preference with salt and black pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  4. Line 2 23cm/9in, 3 cm high pie tins with baking paper - I made the mistake of only lining the bottom - but make sure to line the sides too or it's really hard to get out.
  5. Press half the broccoli dough into each pie tin, across the bottom and up the sides. I used a firm spatula to do this and it worked really well.
  6. Peel, de-seed and cube the butternut squash (the original recipe called for pumpkin, which I imagine would work really well too - but butternut was easier for me to deal with and available all year round).
  7. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper and scatter the squash over it.
  8. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Put the tart shells and squash in the oven and cook until the tart shells are going golden brown and the squash is tender. This took me 35min, but the original recipe said 20min. If the edges of the tart start to go too dark before the bottom cooks - cover with foil.
  10. Put the ricotta and the 8 eggs in a medium bowl with salt and pepper (and any other seasoning you fancy - I am def going with some Italian herbs next time) and whisk until smooth. A hand mixer is by far the easiest, but a balloon whisk will work with some elbow grease.
  11. Take the tart shells and squash from the oven and divide the squash between the two shells.
  12. Put the sage leaves in a bowl and drizzle with the remaining oil, tossing to ensure coverage.
  13. Pour the ricotta and egg mixture into each tart.
  14. Break up the goats cheese and scatter over the top of each tart.
  15. Do the same with the oiled sage leaves.
  16. Put the tarts back in the oven and cook for 25-30 mins until the egg mixture is set and colouring at the edges.
  17. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for a few minutes, before using the baking paper lining to help pull the tarts free from their cases.
  18. If the very edges of the tart dough have gone too dark (it does catch quite easily) trim them off.
  19. Serve in generous slices - would probably work well with a French dressed salad to give a little acid contrast.
Let me know if you like the colour coding. I find my eye can skip steps and miss things sometimes in recipes, so I highlighted the equipment and ingredients as they are used.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Midnight Feast by Natasha Duncan-Drake #GhostStory #LuckOfTheDraw

Midnight Feast

Natasha Duncan-Drake

Luck of the Draw #1

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A man appeared behind her in the doorway.

"Mel?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

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

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

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

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

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

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

What is your favourite fiction genre to read?

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


What is your favourite genre to write?

Epic Fantasy
Contemporary Fantasy
Science Fiction

Friday, 4 October 2019

Happy Beginning of the Halloween Season - Free Fiction Friday!

Happy Beginning of the Halloween Season - Free Fiction Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

This Month's Free Story

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

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

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

How to Format an eBook - 2019 Edition

How to Format an eBook - 2019 Edition

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

Software required:

Steps to Create an eBook:

The Kindle Version:

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

Convert to ePub:

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


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

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

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


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

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

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