Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Joys of Cover Design Now We Have Sites Like Unsplash


The Joys of Cover Design Now We Have Sites Like Unsplash


Making eBook covers used to be a lot harder than it is these days. Why I hear you ask?

Because there were a lot less resources available.

There have always been places like Getty images and some royalty free images sites, but the images on them cost not insignificant amounts of money, especially when combining several images to create new ones.

These days we have fantastic sites like:


where the most wonderful artists upload their work to be used totally for free. Technically we don't even have to give credit, but I think that's incredibly rude! For example, the image I am using in the background of my banner today is by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash.

Many of the photographers have donation options - a great way to pay back their hard work.

Now these images aren't always the highest quality and could be problematic for high def print work, but for web images like eBook covers, they are amazing.

Over the weekend I have been working on the covers for The Manor, the new series by Virginia Waytes, coming early next year to Wittegen Eros and the Sexy Stories podcast.

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Firstly, can I just say how sexist the photo industry tags seem to be! I typed in the word "sexy" and "erotic" on all 3 of the sites I mentioned above and all I got back were pictures of women. Now while I appreciate this because I needed some of those as well, I was looking for some sexy men too! To get suitable pictures of men the most productive search terms were "young man" "abs" and "muscles" and most of the images returned weren't close to what I was looking for.

Anyway, I did manage to eventually find all the images I was after.

You can check out the cover reveal for Episode 1 - Lamb in Wolf's Clothing over at Virginia's wordpress blog: Virginia Waytes - The Parlour - Sexy Stories. And yes, it's very different from the one that was on the Free Fiction Friday version of the book.  

BTW - for those wondering, yes, Virginia is my alter ego - a new pen name to focus specifically on the podcast and paranormal erotic romance eBooks and get away with being a little bit naughty 😘. Virginia has a shiny new newsletter for everything to do with the podcast and accompanying books, and we will be running a giveaway when we launch for all members.


Come join me as Virginia on: Twitter | Wordpress | Blogger | Podbean | Facebook

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The 3rd Eye (2017) - A Film that Does Not Know How to End


The 3d Eye (2017) aka Mata Batin

The 3rd Eye (2017) - A Film that Does Not Know How to End


So Rob and I watched a film last night, a ghostly horror film to be exact. In the middle Rob uttered the words: "We're going to have to watch something else after this before going to bed so I can sleep."

The film was very scary - I mean Ju-On - The Grudge level scary.

I was watching it through my fingers.

And then ... it totally lost all scariness, ending with a fizzle.

Turns out we didn't need to watch anything else because the film did it for us.

Now before I begin, I have to say, this is not a bad film - it is well worth a watch, just be aware it starts with a bang and finished with a sigh.

The film was The 3rd Eye (2017) aka Mata Batin - it's Indonesian and currently on Netflix.

Cast:

Jessica Mila ... Alia
Denny Sumargo ... Davin
Citra Prima ... Bu Windu
Bianca Hello ... Abel

Writers:

Riheam Junianti ... (screenplay)
Rocky Soraya ... (story)
Fajar Umbara ... (screenplay)

Beware - this post is going to have a few spoilers, although I'm not talking in detail about the whole plot.

It started strong with a scary opening set in 2005.

Then it had a totally throw away scene setting section (say that fast three times ;)) set in 2017, using a character that was literally only there to tell us all about how the lead characters' parents died and why they have to move back to their childhood home. I mean I've heard of throw away characters before, but he was literally just exposition.

It was all telling and no showing, but I can forgive that, because then it got scary again, and the plot moved on well.

The story is all about two sisters, the youngest of whom, Abel, is aware of the supernatural realm - her 3rd eye is open. She is attacked in their childhood home and wears headphones all the time so she can't hear the scary noises associated with spirits.
Abel and Alia in 2005 - The 3rd Eye (2017) aka Mata Batin

Alia, her older sister, seems to be a little sensitive, but not like Abel, and Alia goes off to Bangkok to spread her wings, only returning to Jakarta when their parents are killed in a tragic car accident. (This was not a subtle plot). Along with her comes her boyfriend Davin.

To help her sister, Alia asks the local psychic, Bu Windu, to open her 3rd eye so she can see what Abel sees.

Bu Windu, Abel and Alia - The 3rd Eye (2017) aka Mata Batin

The scenes where Alia finally realises that all the talk of dead people and ghosts is real is amazingly done. It takes us on the journey that Alia is having and does it brilliantly, because it allows us to suspect, before it throws us right in the deep end. The haunting scenes in the girls' childhood home are also fantastic. They could not have been done better.

It is brilliantly scary.

However, then it goes on too long.

The film finishes twice.

We find out more and more about the haunting during the film, and it only gets scarier with each part we discover. The ghosts are so well done and the eyes - OMG the eyes! However, eventually the plot starts to resolve and because of the way the film is structured we lose some of the fear. This would be perfectly valid if this was the end of the movie, but it's not - it has a whole 25 minutes left to go!

That's what I mean by it ending twice. It even technically changes antagonist. However, the second antagonist is never really a threat, so they aren't frightening.

It goes from tension-tension-tension to tension-even-though-it's-not-quite-as-scary to OMG-there's-how-long-left?!

Now I do love the twist at the end, but it is handled in such a clunky manner. It's like the writer couldn't figure out how to put it all together in one climax, so we had to have two, with a complete tension breaker in the middle.

I have to admit, I haven't watched many Indonesian films (we're getting to them on Netflix, but we've only seen 2), maybe this is how they like their horror movies - really scary and then with a chance to wind down at the end. However, it was a complete tension killer for me.

Also I think the lead characters would have benefited from the odd Valium. When the characters have been told to control their fear because their fear makes the spirits stronger, them running and screaming all the time gets old. It's like they're not even trying!

Anyway - to summarise - well worth a watch, but the ending is a bit of a let down for fans of really scary horror.

Have you seen The 3rd Eye? What did you think? Is it indicative of the Indonesian style of horror movie, or just this particular writer/director? Do you totally disagree with my assessment (and no, I won't mind)?

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Recipe: New Potato and Blue Cheese Tart with Broccoli Pastry #GlutenFree #Vegetarian

New Potato and Blue Cheese Tart with Broccoli Pasty

This is a new recipe I created based on the same premise as the Butternut and Goat's Cheese tart I posted the other week. It uses the same gluten free broccoli pastry, but I think this filling is even better. After all broccoli and blue cheese is a classic combination. πŸ’–

Be warned, this is a very rich tart - not much is needed for a good meal, especially if adding a small salad on the side.

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.
  • large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Filling

  • 800g/28oz new potatoes - sliced - this is just over 2 cans, but you can use fresh ones if you prefer
  • 2 tbsp oil - whichever is your fav, I used olive
  • salt and black pepper
  • large eggs 
  • 300g/ 1 1/5 cup ricotta (for me this is one packet and 1/5 - so you can always use another cream cheese for the last 1/5th cup if you happen to have some - I used Philadelphia to make up the weight)
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 150g/5.3oz blue cheese I used a softer creamy one, but Stilton would be good too and you can add more if you like your cheese flavour stronger, this just happens to be 1 packet for me.

Instructions

  1. Make sure the broccoli florets are not too large before blitzing them in a food processor until very fine. Place in a large bowlWe need to blitz in small batches or we'll get lumps - I did it in 4.
  2. Add the ground almondsparmesan substitute (or real Parmesan is you are not vegetarian) and 3 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 - the first 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, this time I used round pan liners which worked perfectly.
  5. Press half the broccoli dough into each pie tin, across the bottom and up the sides. Try to make sure it isn't too thick, but also be on the look out for holes! I used a firm spatula to do this and it worked really well.
  6. If your new potatoes are fresh, cook them until just tender. If they are canned, drain them. Then chop them into slices or cubes, whichever is your preference.
  7. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper and scatter the potatoes over it.
  8. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Put the tart shells and potatoes in the oven and cook until the tart shells are going golden brown and the potatoes have picked up a little colour. 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 9 eggs in a medium bowl with salt and pepper (and any other seasoning you fancy) and whisk until smooth. hand mixer is by far the easiest, but a balloon whisk will work with some elbow grease.
  11. Take the tart shells and potatoes from the oven and divide the potatoes between the two shells.
  12. Pour the ricotta and egg mixture into each tart.
  13. Grate over some fresh nutmeg.
  14. Break up the blue cheese and scatter over the top of each tart. 
  15. Put the tarts back in the oven and cook for 25-30 mins until the egg mixture is set and colouring at the edges.
  16. 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.
  17. If the very edges of the tart dough have gone too dark (it does catch quite easily) trim them off.
  18. Serve in generous slices, but not too generous unless people are very, very hungry.
We had this for dinner last night and it was delicious and we now have plenty in the fridge for a second meal too πŸ˜‹. 
New Potato and Blue Cheese Tart with Broccoli Pastry

Monday, 4 November 2019

Tips and Trick to Help the NaNoWriMo Process


Tips and Trick to Help the NaNoWriMo Process

So we're on day 4 of NaNoWriMo and we've already had a weekend to contend with. How's it going? Are the words flowing, or is it being a pain? I've won NaNo six times now and some years were so much harder than others!

For some, starting a novel is the hardest part. The idea is there in our heads, but trying to form it into something that makes sense on paper is difficult. And of course there is the really big question, where do we start in the first place.

There is a lot of theory on where a writer should start a novel, and I'm not going into all that, all I am here to say is:

Don't worry where you started, just keep going!

One of the key things to remember with NaNo is it doesn't matter how much terrible material we add to our novel, it's all about getting the words down. We can edit later, but we can't edit what doesn't exist. Sometimes the getting there is actually the important part, and it's definitely true with NaNo.
We are not aiming for a perfectly finished novel at the end of November, we are aiming for something that can be crafted into our perfect novel.

How to Get to the End and Win NaNo

Now I've mentioned some of these before, but I think they are worth reiterating, these are my tips for winning NaNoWriMo:


  • Write more when possible - If we have time to write a little extra one day, do it. Sometimes it can be a struggle just to get to the daily total, but if it's not and it's a great writing day, exploit it. Getting ahead will boost our confidence and helps our motivation.🌠
  • Be mindful of burn out - That being said, we should be careful not to burn ourselves out. If we write too hard and too fast we may find we run out of steam part way through the month.πŸ’¨
  • Try not to stress - On the other end of the spectrum, if we miss a day, we should try not to let it make us anxious and worried. That is usually counter productive. If you're like me, having a deadline is great motivation, but worrying about it constantly is a total creative wipeout. We need to find the balance where we can give ourselves a little slack.πŸ˜”
  • Make up any deficit quickly - A counter point to this is, try not to get too far behind. We all need the odd day or two off, but we should try and make up the word count we have missed as soon as possible. It may take a couple of days of adding on some more words to the daily tally, but we should try to do it asap. This is because, no matter how we tell ourselves not to worry, we probably will.⌨️
  • Be generous with ourselves - We should reward ourselves when we hit a target. A cup of tea, a snack, a bubble bath - depending on the achievement. Positive reinforcement is a great way to keep up the motivation.πŸͺ
  • Break it down - sometimes the daily word target can seem utterly huge even though we know we've done it before. It can really help if we break down the total number into smaller sections. 100 words is nothing, and 200 isn't much more, so if the words are being a royal pain, set each smaller target and break up the process. It's amazing how fast the target can be reached.⚒️
  • Get support - if we're feeling isolated and demotivated, talking to other people can really help. Find some buddies on the NaNo site, join in the NaNo groups, tell all your friends and get them to cheer you on. It can all be so useful.πŸ€—
And there you have it, my tips for not going bonkers when trying to hit the 50K target. And remember, we write because we enjoy it (really we do😜) - have fun! πŸ˜Š


Best of luck to all writers having a go this year, whether it is your first time or your tenth. I hope your words flow and your plot evolves.

Anyone else have words of wisdom to add?

Friday, 1 November 2019

NaNoWriMo - Who's taking up the challenge this year?


NaNoWriMo
Who's taking up the challenge this year?


November has come round again, which can mean only one thing: NaNoWriMo.

Who's doing it this year?

I have a project I want to finish, so I am completely in this year. It's not a novel, but a series of novellas that I want to get done and dusted, which I figure counts too as long as I get to the 50K. In my case I actually want to get to more like 70K, but we shall see - as long as I get to 50K I will be happy.

I have my spreadsheets ready and my keyboard primed. Spent this morning doing everything else I needed to get done so that this afternoon I can just get writing.

NaNoWriMo.org has had a nice looking revamp since I was there last. The only thing I found a little odd, was that updating the word count does not seem as prominent as it used to be. It seems to be only a little plus in the header bar. Took me a while to find it, but that could just be pure incompetence on my part πŸ˜‚.

However, I really like the profile and header image stuff we can now have. πŸ’–

Good luck to everyone who is leaping in - may your words flow and your count increase!

Forgot to add - this is me https://nanowrimo.org/participants/tashaddrake if you would like to be buddies.