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.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

T.W.Fendley - Audiobooks: Catch the wave - #WriterlyWednesdays 1


I am very pleased to welcome T.W. Fendley to my blog for the very first Writerly Wednesday. Every Wednesday from now on I hope to have a guest author or talk about all thing writerly. I very much hope you enjoy this new blog feature and today's wonderful guest author.

Audiobooks: Catch the wave
by T.W. Fendley

For many authors, nothing compares to the moment you first hold the book you wrote. While print books are wonderful, audiobooks offer a thrill of another kind—hearing your work come to life through another person’s interpretation.

Since my novelette, Jaguar Hope, was released as an audiobook in February 2014, I’ve enjoyed working with various narrators. Actors I found on ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange)—Shelby Lewis, Laurel Schroeder, Tiffany Williams, and Brenda Villaneuva—narrated my young adult fantasy novel, The Labyrinth of Time, and three of my shorter works. A friend, Matt McGraw, narrated my satirical short story, The Mentor.

But making audiobooks is more than just fun—they make good business sense.

In 2012, the Audio Publishers Association reported the number of titles in audio format had doubled in recent years. Audiobooks are the wave of the future, with sales expected to continue to rise for the next five years. As a writer, that’s a market I want to reach.

With the popularity of mp3 players, smartphones and eReaders, downloadable audiobooks are now accessible to most people. Digital downloads accounted for more than 60 percent of audio sales in 2012, with the percentage expected to continue to rise. In other words, you don’t need to produce CDs to reach most readers.

Even so, for many writers, the skills, time, and equipment you’d need to produce a quality audiobook on your own are too daunting. But ACX makes it easy to create a digital audiobook.

Here's how the process works: 

  • Sign up at www.acx.com using your Amazon.com account  (available in United States and United Kingdom).
  • Post audition pages.
  • Offer a royalty share or direct payment to the producer/narrator. Royalty share means ACX keeps 60% of the proceeds, and the producer and author split the remaining 40% of royalties. 
  • Wait for a narrator/producer to contact you, or search the listing for a voice you like and contact them via ACX.
  • Sign the contract, which includes deadlines, and send the complete manuscript to the narrator.
  • Work with your illustrator to convert the book’s cover to meet ACX specifications (and to add the narrator’s name).
  • Review the finished product.
  • After ACX does a quality check, they will distribute it within 20 days to Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes. If you want to keep more distribution options open (e.g. so you can distribute to libraries), you can choose the nonexclusive distribution option and receive the standard ACX royalty rate of 25% instead of 40%.

Some marketing tricks

ACX works with authors and producers to promote the audiobooks by offering them codes for free copies to send to reviewers or for giveaway promotions. They also pay a $50 "bounty" split by the author and producer if your book is the buyer's first Audible purchase (not available in some states).

While the list price for audiobooks is often as high as hardcover books, Amazon/Audible offer readers some special incentives:

  • Audiobooks are available for as low as $4.99 if you purchase the Kindle version.
  • Whispersync for Voice allows readers to "switch between reading the Kindle book and listening to the professional narration from Audible." 
  • The "Great Listen Guarantee" enables the consumer to "exchange any book you don't like." 

Monthly subscriptions via Audible and KindleUnlimited make audiobooks more affordable for readers, too.

A couple of ways authors can reach out to audio fans include:

  • Library Thing member giveaways: Few audiobooks are listed, so yours will stand out. 
  • AudaVoxx: For as little as $4, your audiobook can be featured in a genre-targeted weekly e-newsletter. It must have a 4-star or better rating.
About the Book


The Labyrinth of Time
by T.W.Fendley

Spending spring break in Peru with her grandmother isn't sixteen-year-old Jade's idea of fun. She'd much rather be with her friends at Lake of the Ozarks. Then she meets Felix, a museum director's son. Jade discovers only she and Felix can telepathically access messages left on engraved stones in the age of dinosaurs.  

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

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

Buy Links


About the Author

T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults. She began writing fiction full-time in 2007 after working twenty-five years in journalism and corporate communications.

In October 2011, L&L Dreamspell LLC published her debut historical fantasy novel for adults, Zero Time. Her young adult contemporary fantasy novel, The Labyrinth of Time, was released in November 2014.

T.W. fell in love with ancient American cultures while researching story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. Since then, she's trekked to archeological sites in the Yucatan, Peru and American Southwest. She currently lives near St. Louis area with her artist husband and his pet fish. 

Learn more at www.twfendley.com.




If you would like to take part in my Writerly Wednesdays slot, please fill in this form and I will get back to you: Writerly Wednesdays Form

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Recipe: Stilton, Pear and Walnut Bread and Book Rec - #TipsTuesdays 1


Welcome to Tips Tuesdays, a weekly blog feature where I impart tips on anything that crosses my mind :). There will be recipes, book/film/TV recs (not full reviews, those are for another day), things I discovered by accident, links to websites, basically anything and everything that might be useful.

Today I have a recipe for you that I invented a few years ago, but I have never gotten around to posting here and a book recommendation. I hope you enjoy both.

~*~

Stilton, Pear and Walnut Bread

I never had much luck with making bread until I watched a Paul Hollywood vid and he explained about letting it rise twice. It is his general techniques I have detailed below.

Ingredients 

  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 200g Pear purée (my Morrisons didn't sell pear purée in a can so I bought a can of pear halves in juice and blitzed the halves with a hand blender)
  • 7g (1 sachet) Allinson's easy bake yeast
  • approx 100 ml warm water (1 part boiling to 2 parts cold - I used the pear juice from the can as the two parts cold)
  • 1.5 tspn salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 50g Blue Stilton cheese (or any other strong blue cheese with the same soft wax type texture)
  • 50g chopped walnuts

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • large baking tray
  • measuring equipment
  • eating knife
  • Sharp knife

Instructions

  1. If you do not have another warm place to prove the dough, put the oven on to about 160C/320F and place a baking tray in the bottom with just a little bit of water in it
  2. In the bowl mix the flour and the salt
  3. Add the easy bake yeast and sugar and stir in (if using yeast you have to mix with warm water and sugar, do that now, but leave the adding until step 5 - only use about 60ml or the water with the yeast and keep the rest in case you do not need it all)
  4. Crumble in the Stilton cheese and then rub through the flour until it has almost disappeared
  5. Make a well in the flour and add the pear purée, mixing through with a knife
  6. Add some of the water (or water and juice mix) and begin to bring the dough together, keep adding water until you have a slightly sticky, but firmish dough (you may not need all the water)
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least ten mins (until the dough is elastic) - you can use a dough hook and a mixer if you like and this reduces the time from somewhere between 4 and 5 mins. If you are going to prove the dough in the oven turn it off with about 5 mins to go on the kneading and leave the door open. For the last couple of mins of kneading, knead in the walnuts.
  8. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, then put in your warm place to prove for about an hour
  9. Reflour your surface lightly and empty the proved dough onto it, then punch it for all you are worth to knock it back. (This bit's fun)
  10. Divide your dough into two parts (using the sharp knife is easiest) if you want two med loaves and shape into mounds (tuck the edges under and pat until circular), or make one big loaf if you wish.
  11. Lightly oil and flour your baking tray and place the loaves on it as far apart as possible, but equidistant from the edge of the tray.
  12. Brush the loaves with a little salt water and flour them lightly.
  13. Put them back in the warm place to prove for between 30 mins and an hour, until they have risen to twice their original size.
  14. If using the oven to prove, when they are almost there take them out of the oven and place them in another warm place (I used the grill, I put it on for a min or two to warm up, then turned it off and popped them in). Pre-heat the oven on to 240C/460F
  15. When the oven is hot cut an X in the top of the loaves and bake them for 8 mins
  16. Open the door of the oven and bake them for another 2 mins
  17. Turn the oven down to 180C/360F (fan/convection) or 190C/375F (normal) and bake for between 20 and 30 mins until the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
  18. Leave to cool on a wire rack (or dive in and eat while hot ;))
~*~
Book Recommendation
This was a recommendation from my sister Sophie and she was right on the money. I would have read this book all in one sitting if my tablet hadn't run out of charge. It is a lot of fun and it is free on Amazon. I have already bought the other books in the series. Well worth a read.

A Gift of Ghosts (Tassamara Book 1)

Akira Malone believes in the scientific method, evolution, and Einstein’s theory of relativity. And ghosts. 

All the logic and reason in the world can’t protect her from the truth—she can see and communicate with spirits. But Akira is sure that her ability is just a genetic quirk and the ghosts she encounters simply leftover electromagnetic energy. Dangerous electromagnetic energy. 

Zane Latimer believes in telepathy, precognition, auras, and that playing Halo with your employees is an excellent management technique. He also thinks that maybe, just maybe, Akira can help his family get in touch with their lost loved ones. 

But will Akira ever be able to face her fears and accept her gift? Or will Zane’s relatives be trapped between life and death forever?
Book Links


Do you bake bread? What is your favourite recipe?
Do you have any ghostly book recs to share?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Graboids - Tentacles FTW - #MonsterMondays 12


Sorry for missing last week - as I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling very poorly last Monday. So this week I am back in the saddle and I have picked a favourite monster from the big and little screen.
Monster Mondays posts may be fiction, film reviews, book reviews or me waxing lyrical about a particular monster. Monsters can be paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy or even simply human. So basically, anything monster goes. I also invite anyone who would like to, to join in with their own post. (See end for details).
Graboids - Tentacles FTW


So, for those of you who have no idea what a GRABOID is, it is a very nasty critter that lives underground in desert environments and eats anything that sounds like it might be tasty. They are the monsters from The Tremors franchise.

If you're playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon this is a great movie to know about because he plays Val in the first movie to Fred Ward's Earl.

The first movie in the series is my favourite because it's the discovery film. No one knows about graboids and you have two losers, Val and Earl, running around trying to figure out how people died of thirst up power pylons and disappeared into holes in the ground.

Your basic graboid is the shape of a giant grub and it can move, very, very fast through dirt, so fast in fact that it can smash through cellar walls and building foundations if it so pleases. It is very, very strong and if you or your vehicle or your mobile home is on dirt, it can pull you under. Only sold rock is it's nemesis. The whole grab part of the name comes from the fact that inside it's gaping maw of a mouth it has three long tentacles that each look like little snakes in their own right. Once these have grabbed you your number is up.

The graboid is the perfect monster in that a lot of the time it is hidden. It is like the shark in Jaws; you can see what it's done, note signs it's around, but you can't tell exactly where it is or when it will strike. Graboids also have incredible patience. They can be ambush predators and locate prey through vibrations, sitting for hours just waiting for the prey to give themselves away and step off whatever is keeping them safe. They are not a stupid enemy.

This creature is also not easy to kill. Their hide is very thick and protective and they can take a lot of damage so high explosives and heavy rounds are the only thing that might stop them. Their sensitivity to sounds can be used to drive them away, but they have very few weaknesses.

In the other Tremors films and the series, we learn that the graboid is only the first stage of development of the creature. Next come Shriekers, which is the second stage and they resemble heavy set dinosaurs followed three days later by AssBlasters as the Shriekers moult. The AssBlaster is the form which lays eggs to produce new graboids. If you would like to know more about the lifecycle there is a very good article at wikipedia.

Graboids are great monsters because they are terrifying and yet slightly absurd at the same time. Tremors is undoubtedly part comedy, part horror and it is a great combination. A few of us are even crazy enough to write fanfic about it: Tentacle are Wuv :). (The Tremors tag at AO3)

Have you seen Tremors? Which parts, the movies, the series, all of it? What would you do if you were stuck up a pylon with a graboid waiting for you, would you wait and possibly die of thirst or would you risk running for it and being eaten by the monster?


Monster Mondays #12 Links 

If you would like to join in, please feel free to make your Monster Monday post and add it to the list.


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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sorry to have been AFK

To everyone waiting for me to get in touch, or to post I am very sorry. I've been laid up since Saturday with a nasty stomach virus.

On Saturday morning I thought it was just something I ate that really disagreed with me, so much so that I still had my session with Steve my personal trainer - we had to take it a bit easy, but I floundered my way through. I realised I might have underestimated the problem when after my shower, while wearing a thick fluffy bathrobe, in a room that had to be about 22 degrees C, I was cold.

I ended up in a cardigan, clutching a hot water bottle while everyone else was wearing t-shirts and shorts. I don't remember having cold clammy hands before, but now I know what the description means. Everything I ate and drank was also on express, if you know what I mean.

Sunday was the opposite of cold, I felt like I was sitting in a sauna, but thanks to some nice pills I at least managed to hydrate a little. Not a lot, but a little.

Then yesterday I was laid out on the sofa with stomach cramps if I so much as twitched from my prone position, even though the fever part seemed to be over. Funny, my stomach didn't complain much the other two days, just refused to keep anything I gave it, but yesterday it was kind of yelling at me. I did discover that tomato soup with just some tinned potatoes in it seems to be very kind to a rebelling digestive system.

I was reduced to watching bad movies on Amazon Prime since I was lying down in the front room and for some reason the PC wouldn't let me at our media server. I really worry about the person who classifies there movies - there were at least two filed under comedy that we in fact horror, and not comedy horror, but serious horror. There was also a children's film and a murder mystery filed under horror ... but enough of my rant about Amazon :).

Today I feel much better - my tummy is still delicate, but seems to be settling and I have dared have a little butter on my toast, so we'll see how that goes :). I can also sit at my desk, so yay :)

I am dashing around playing catch up today, so my apologies if my replies are late.

Hope you are all well, lots of love,
Tasha

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Soul Reader Series - #GiveUsYourBestExcerpt - Paranormal Romance Blog Hop


Greetings and welcome to my blog for this fun Blog Hop, thank you to Jolie Du Pre for organising the whole thing. Do you love vampires and ghosts and all things paranormal? Then this is the blog hop for you. Don't forget to check out the other blogs in the hop, the list can be found over here at Precious Monsters.

Thank you for dropping by, I hope you enjoy the post and please, do enter the competition at the bottom to win copies of Forbidden Soul and the other 2 books in the Soul Reader series.

The Soul Reader Series
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
I have chosen an except today from my series Soul Reader because it is my absolute favourite. It is a series of short stories and novellas, three so far, and it full of vampires and mystical powers. The short stories are permanently FREE, the first novella is 99c. The fourth book is currently being written.

The story is something of a redemption arc for both lead characters, John, my human protagonist and Michael, the vampire. Both are in a dark place and find that each other are the way back.


John knows that at best he can be described as a male escort and at worst as a whore, but it’s what he does and he’s good at it. He sells his body and his clients come with fangs so it’s more about blood than sex. Hiding behind a false smile and his acting skills is the only way he survives, but when he meets one of his latest clients, Michael, his professional detachment is severely threatened, leading him into very dangerous territory.


Book Links

Forgotten Soul (Soul Reader #1) FREE: 
Forgotten Soul (Soul Reader #1) 99c: 
Forgotten Soul (Soul Reader #1) FREE: 

The except I have chosen is from the second book, Forbidden Soul, and I have chosen it because I think it shows the evolution of John's character and the very deep connection between him and Michael. In this section Michael has managed to convince John to contact and visit the family he hasn't seen in nearly six years, this is their first meeting since John disappeared.
~*~
Forbidden Soul - Soul Reader #2 - Excerpt

John was doing his best to keep his emotions under control and wipe the current tear stains off his face with a tissue Michael had handed him.

His mum, his sister, his grandfather and his aunt and uncle were all gathered in the small sitting room. Everyone lived in the area, being a tight knit family, so it wasn't really a surprise they were all there, but it was a bit daunting.

"So," his granddad said before an awkward silence could settle on the room, "you're looking well, how are you keeping?"

It was almost as awkward as the silence, but it was better than nothing.

"Good," he replied, doing his best to smile, "just lately really good."

He didn't have to be all that observant to see everyone's eyes flick to Michael and then back to him. His family were not in the least bit stupid.

"Good guess," he said without trying to hide the fact he had noticed.

That earned him a smile from his sister and some embarrassed shuffling from the other members of the family. It probably wasn't really a great idea to introduce them to the idea that he was bisexual, what with everything else, but he was done with hiding.

"Michael isn't it?" his mum asked, looking at his lover.

Michael nodded.

"What is it you do?"

"I'm a writer," Michael replied, smiling that disarming smile of his. "I'm in the early stages of putting on a play in London. Been living in Dublin for the last few years before that."

"Is that how you met, because of the play?" Of course his sister had to ask the pertinent question so early on.

"No," John said, but didn't elaborate, because he really wasn't sure what to say.

'He thought I was hired to donate blood and he fucked me senseless first,' wasn't exactly what he could described as a good opening line.

"John helped me out of a rather difficult situation," Michael said, "and so I offered to help him out in return. Things have gone from there."

John's Nan chose then to return with the tray of mugs and began handing them round. It was a welcome respite and John took the time to gather his thoughts while placing his mug on the nearest table. How was he supposed to explain vampires? He had no idea.

"What happened, Love?" his Nan asked him quite straightforwardly after his uncle had moved to let her sit down. "Your place was a complete mess when they found it."

His grandmother was the most sensible member of the family, so he really should have expected her to go straight for the heart of the matter. He looked at Michael, took a steadying breath and dived in.

"I was kidnapped," he said and watched the colour drain out of most of the faces in the room.

The signs had been there, but it was clear that since he had shown up in one piece most of his family had assumed the police's conclusions were wrong.

"Oh, Johnny," his mum said and reached out her hand, "why?"

He took it without thinking and gave her a tight smile to let her know he was okay.

There were many ways he could have replied, many ways to begin explaining, but he didn't want them to think he was crazy. Instead of any long drawn out words he pulled his hand back and held it out.

"Because I can do this," he said and called on the power that seemed to hover just below the surface whenever he was near Michael.

A flame danced on his palm and every eye in the room stared at it.

"Fuck," his sister said.

His uncle's mug bounced across the carpet and his mum put hers down very quickly before it went the same way. Pulling the power back inside, he let the flame go and then waited for someone to say something.

"What the hell was that?" his sister broke first.

He shrugged.

"Energy," he said, because he didn't really know how to explain it, "it lives inside me, it judges."

"Judges what, Love?" his grandmother asked gently.

"Souls," he replied and prayed that she would understand. "They called me a Soul Reader, a tool of destiny, and they showed me my power, trained me to use it and sent me out to kill vampires."

He knew it was too much too soon, but what else was he supposed to say?

"Vampires?" His grandfather didn't sound as if he believed that at all.

"Vampires," Michael backed him up and when he saw his grandfather blanch even more he glanced at Michael.

His lover was looking over the top of his aviators and his eyes were glowing gently.

"Bloody hell," was his granddad's succinct opinion on the matter.

Michael pushed the aviators back up his nose and sat back, but everyone in the room was looking at him in total shock and a little fear.

"I judged him," John decided he couldn't leave it like that, "that's how we met. I was sent to judge Michael and two others and he survived. He's not bad."

Everyone was still staring at Michael with outright suspicion and John couldn't take it.

"This was a really stupid idea," he said, standing up.

There was no way his family could understand a world they had no concept of, it wasn't fair to make them try. They knew he was alive, he should have just lied to them. He had to leave.

When he tried to step away he remembered Michael still had his hand, because Michael was like a rock. He half turned and then found himself being dragged back onto the sofa. Then and only then did Michael release his hand, however, he wasn't free for long as his lover placed a hand on each of his shoulders.

"Calm down," Michael told him in a very gentle tone, "everything will be okay."

Nothing would be okay, nothing was ever going to be okay again, John was absolutely sure of it.

"Breathe, Lover," Michael said, "you're safe, everyone is safe, it's going to be fine."

The cold calm bastard he had managed to be for so many years seemed to have run off and hidden just when he needed him the most, but John listened to Michael's words. It wasn't really what his lover said, but how Michael said it that was important and he concentrated on that. Michael seemed so sure and that was exactly what he needed.

"Johnny," his Nan said, touching his arm lightly.

In his anxiety he had missed when she had crossed the room to stand beside him. He looked at her, but refused to bring his eyes up to her face, instead, staring at one of the buttons on her cardigan.

"Sorry, Love," were his Nan's next surprising words, "it's just a bit of a shock."

He did not like the guilt in his grandmother's voice; he was not supposed to be making his family feel like that. This was all his fault, not theirs and he made himself look up.

"I'm sorry," he said, throat tight with all his mixed up emotions.

The smile he received in return was a little strained, but it eased his fears nevertheless.

"Budge up," his Nan said.

It was only a small two seater sofa and John was not sure they could get three people onto it, but his Nan seemed determined. He squawked in indignation as Michael decided to make things easier and just dragged him into his lap. Given that his Nan smiled and sat in the vacated space, he assumed she approved, but he twisted and gave his lover a glare.

"What?" Michael asked in an innocent tone. "It's not as if you're heavy, you need to eat more."

That earned a snort of amusement from his sister.

"I will get you back for this," he promised and Michael just grinned at him.

~*~
Competition

Thank you for visiting today, I am giving away Forbidden Soul to 2 lucky winners and I will also send both of them the other two books in the series as well so the have all of them in the same place. I can send the books in any of the major formats or via a Smashwords code, whichever is easier for the winner in question.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Ju-on: The Grudge - Scares Forever - #MonsterMondays 11


Welcome to a new week, I hope you are all well. Today I have chosen ghosts, but specifically, vengeful ghosts.
Monster Mondays posts may be fiction, film reviews, book reviews or me waxing lyrical about a particular monster. Monsters can be paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy or even simply human. So basically, anything monster goes. I also invite anyone who would like to, to join in with their own post. (See end for details).
Ju-on: The Grudge - Scare Forever

Now the concept of a ghost, no matter how innocent they were in life, coming back as a vengeful spirit is something of a universal concept. However, ghosts that come back not simply to seek revenge on the one who caused their pain, or their families, but all of the living is done particularly well in Asian cinema. My favourite of all Asian horror is Ju-on: The Grudge.

In recent years Western horror seems to have been taking tips from Asian horror, but when I first saw The Grudge, most of our horror movies were still entrenched in lots of gore and up front shock value. I think that's why me and my husband found The Grudge so damn terrifying.

This starts off as a film of fleeting glimpses and long build ups with the horrifying sound. It's really the sound that makes it. I can't hear that death rattle without goosepimples raising on my arms and looking to the nearest stairs :).

Of course what makes the ghosts so terrifying is that once they have you in their sights there is nothing you can do. Hiding in your room and blocking out all light might work for a while, but they will find you. These ghosts are tied to where they died, but they can travel. The idea that stepping into a house curse you simply by being there is terrifying and that leaving doesn't save you is even more terrifying still. These are the ultimate monsters.

I love The Grudge because it breaks the rules. You're safe under the covers, right? Not in The Grudge.

Heeding the warnings of the ghosts and getting the hell out of Dodge saves you doesn't it? Not in the Grudge.

Finding out the truth and bringing all the evil into the light saves you, it has too, surely? Nope.

Being an official and not believing in any of this nonsense keeps you safe, of course? Hell no!

There is only one rule in The Grudge: the monsters win. It's awesome and it scares the hell out of me every time I watch it :).

Have you seen The Grudge? Are you a fan of Asian horror? Do you like horror at all?


Monster Mondays #11 Links 

If you would like to join in, please feel free to make your Monster Monday post and add it to the list.


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Saturday, 11 July 2015

Second PT session - Steve is now known (in my head) as The Punisher!


So I had my second session with my personal trainer Steve today and it was great, even though I am now mentally referring to Steve as The Punisher :). We're still in the try new things to see how I do stage and it's so much fun. This post is for my reference as much as it is to share the joys of exercising, so it's quite detailed.

I cannot stress how different it is working out with someone there to push you on. I had no idea until I tried and it is an entirely different experience from exercising alone. If I could afford it I would have Steve there every day, but I'll only be able to do that when I finally have a number one best seller on my hands ;).

First of all a little tip for the ladies - a sports bra is awesome. I've been doing most of my workouts with just a normal bra until today, since I only just purchased a sports bra this week and it came on Thursday. It is perfectly possible to exercise with a normal bra, but it was so much easier with the sports bra as it keeps everything tucked in. Mine is a New Shock Absorber Multi Support Sports Bra S4490 (eBay) and it is brilliant - for reference I am a 40GG and they go up to HH. Very comfy and great support, but you might need help getting into it :).

We did glutes first with some floor exercises, which is nice since they are on hands and knees I can do these just like your average person. First of all there was the straight leg toe tap. You settle on your hands and knees, stretch out one leg so you toe is just touching the floor, then lift that leg up without twisting your upper body. Next was the kick, same position then you bring your knee up to your chest and kick it back to straight and as far up as you can, again without twisting your body. The third Steve elegantly described as a dog cocking its leg :) - you take up the same initial position again and this time lift your leg out sideways until level with your body keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees and your lower leg level with your upper leg. Finally is the hard one, you stretch your leg out backwards again, then bring it in so it comes to the same position as the dog cocking leg, out the side.

Steve said normally you'd do 10 each of the first three and 5 of the last, but I was only doing 5 of each for speed. Once you have done one side you then do the other.

Then we moved on to hip thrusts on the small workout ball - which involved some hilarity because you put your feet on the ball, roll it so your feet are flat on it, then lift up your hips off the floor, trying to make sure the ball does not tip you sideways. I think I acquitted myself okay ;).

Yes my glutes are now letting me know they are there.

Steve has been really good about adapting exercises for me that I can't do because of the my disability (talipes - club foot, both feet). For example today we were looking at straight leg dead lifts, which of course you're supposed to do standing up. If I tried lifting weights standing up, at best I would end up on my rear, at worst there would be a rep bar through the window and I'd be sprawled across the weights machine :). My balance it not great because I walk on my tippy toes and my ankles don't move. Straight leg dead lifts exercise your hamstrings and Steve figured out how I can do them sitting down, using our cable weights machine (the poor thing is getting more of a workout these days than it has in all the years we've owned it ;)).

We purchased a rep bar and weights recently and it arrived last week, so it was the first chance I had to use them. Steve adapted the clean and press (good for everything :)) that is also done standing up, so that I can do it sitting down. I don't get the full benefit of the exercise that someone would normally get, but I do get a lot of it, so yay!

Next we did some bench pressing: flat, ascending and descending - we have a Reebok Deck which is so useful (a little while ago Amazon had them on sale and Rob snapped one up :)). I've never done bench pressing before and Steve is very good at explaining proper technique and why it is important. If you hold it wrongly you can put terrible strain on your wrists.

Then we moved on to triceps (since we did biceps last time). OMG, ow! I had no idea they are called biceps and triceps because the bicep has two heads (the end of a muscle at the site of its attachment (origin) to a bone or other fixed structure) and the tricep has three. The second head in the tricep is the strongest and so you have to wear that out before you can really exercise either of the others properly - so you do exercises that work the second most to begin with and then do others. I never knew any of this.

So we started with dumbbell overhead extensions - you hold a dumbbell above your head then lower your hands behind your head keeping the upper arm vertical. This one I have done before with a 7.5kg dumbbell and had to be rescued from it because my arms gave out. This time I did it with 5kg and it worked really well. Elbows in is important or you start brining in muscles that are not just your triceps.

Then we did the kneeling dumbbell kickback which really, really hurts. It's very hard to explain this one, so just go look at the video :).

Then we moved on to the delightfully titled skull crusher :). You lie down like you're going to do a bench press, but you hold the bar at shoulder width, keep the upper arms at right angles to the body and then bring the bar down towards your forehead. The trick is not to hit yourself in the face :P.

Finally there was the worst one of all! This one is the 45-degree lying tricep extension and boy does it hurt! You cannot do this without two people! You hold the bar shoulder width apart again and while lying down on the bench, put it behind your head, then push out at 45 degrees and repeat. I could do five!

We finished off with boxing and stretches. I love boxing - it works the heart and all my upper body and don't let anyone tell you it can't be done sitting down, because it can. Steve has been brilliant adapting his usual sets so I can do then from a chair, rather than standing up. Maybe one day I will have enough core strength to counteract my lack of balance, but until then, I have my bum firmly parked on something solid.

So there you have it, my Punisher session for this week. I really enjoyed it and I look forward to my next one. My only problem now is deciding what to do each day during the week since after my first session I just did all the exercises he had shown  me - now I know too many :).

Do you exercise regularly or play a sport? What is your favourite?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My Awesome New Crutches and Personal Trainer

So I have some new crutches and they are fabulous. This is them:


They are called smartCRUTCH and they use the whole of the forearm rather than relying on the wrist or underarm to take all the pressure. Like so (BTW, this is my husband's arm, not mine, since he was taking the piccies for me :)):


The knob you can see there allows them to be angled anywhere from straight down like a normal elbow height crutch to 90 degrees so you can pick whatever is the most comfortable. They are also padded all across the inside and for those with long arms, the handle moves in and out too. The height adjusts like a normal crutch. They are very comfy and come in snazzy colours as you can see :).

I've only had a chance to use them a couple of times, but they really stop the ache in my wrists (and they also look like they should be able to shoot lasers or somthing ;)).

The websites for most countries have the crutches, but the UK site doesn't seem to have any in stock, I bought mine from CareCo, who have them in stock and the £79.99 is for a pair even though there is only one in the image :).

Official websites: UK | US | South Africa | Germany | Australia

I have also had my first session with my new personal trainer and he is brilliant. I know I mentioned another one previously, but his car blew up and he had no transport so he couldn't come out to our house any more so I only ever had the one session. The new chap, Steve (InterS.E.P.T. Training) is great so far. Rob and I are alternating weeks to have sessions on Saturdays now - so much easier than random times, and he emails - yay!

We found him though a friend, Ben, who has been using him since October.

He seems very good about dealing with my disability and the first thing he did was ask us both a whole load of questions about what we were trying to achieve and if there was anything he needed to avoid and things like that. He also explains what each exercise is for and what is good form and what I should be feeling when I do it so I can be sure of getting it right. It means I can put my own circuits together if I want to :). Definitely knows his stuff.

I've only been doing the new exercises for a week and the bit I want to shrink are already doing so :D. He also does boxing and he puts together little sets, which are so much fun. It's a bit harder with me because I have to do it sitting down (not stable enough standing up), but he seems very good as changing his usual sets so I can do them too.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Guest Interview - Glenn Benest author of INK

Today I am very pleased to welcome fellow author Glenn Benest to my blog to talk a little about himself and his new book INK.


Interview - Glenn Benest

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I always wanted to be a writer, from poetry to playwriting to screenwriting and now to fiction. I had a very influential teacher in college, William Alfred (now deceased) who was the playwright of Hogan’s Goat and other well-known stage plays. He inspired me tremendously. I wanted to be a playwright as well but realized I couldn't make a living at that, as only a very few playwrights actually support themselves writing plays – Neal Simon being the one who instantly came to mind at the time. So I was in L.A. and decided to write screenplays.  But it was always the theatre that I really had a great passion for – at least when I was starting out.

Tell us about your book(s) 

This is our first novel and is intended as a series of books. I wrote it with Dale Pitman, my writing partner. It actually started out as a screenplay and then evolved from there. We were tremendously encouraged by our manager, Mary Louise Gemmill from Writers Ascending who insisted the project would really work better as a novel.  I had never written a book before so I was incredibly intimidated by writing one. But it didn't take long for me to realize you could do so much more with fiction than you could with screenwriting – in terms of going much deeper into the psyche of your characters. Then it became a pure joy. We worked on this book for a good four years, getting lots of notes from Beta readers and doing multiple rewrites. I saw that it was getting better and better and that really kept us going during all this time. Now I have no desire to go back to screenwriting. I want to continue with fiction, writing more books about these characters.

Writing horror – why?

I've always loved horror, beginning as a child being frightened by scary movies (including Carrie of course, Poltergeist, Jaws and many more). There’s something about horror that really relates to childhood experiences where there are forces beyond your control, and the wild imaginations that children have - the monsters under the bed and all things that go bump in the night. My first two screenplays were scary films, both directed by Wes Craven, the great master of horror. He taught me a lot about horror and how you get scares. But after those two films I didn’t want to be typecast as a horror writer so I branched out – doing thrillers and drama and biographies and every other genre you can think of. Now I’m returning to the thing that first inspired me to be a writer and it feels really good.

Do you have a favourite character from your book(s)? Why?

I guess my favorite character is the supernatural entity that is the creation of our protagonist: The Highwayman. He’s been around for thousands, millions, maybe trillions of years, trapped by a timeless curse. He’s summoned by the cries of those who have been wantonly murdered and he gives them the chance for justice, either through vengeance or mercy. The Highwayman can’t see through the veil of how this happened, who cursed him or why – but he knows without his help those murder victims will be trapped on earth as ghosts, unable to transition to the afterlife, so his intervention is all important for their salvation. This character fascinates me as he’s terrifying to behold and yet sympathetic - as he’s unable to figure out his own background or identity. And in the course of our novel, he falls in love with a mortal being which makes his plight even more poignant.

What is the hardest part of a book to write, beginning, middle or end?

I think I’d have to say the beginning.  That’s the hardest part of a screenplay for me as well.  Once I start and have pages done I can go over them and build some confidence. The beginning is really intimidating for me as I have all kinds of doubts about whether I really can pull this off, if I have talent and all the other fears that a creative person faces. But once I get going, I lose a lot of those fears and just knock out pages, knowing they aren’t perfect, I can always rewrite but at least they’re coming out one lonely page at a time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have lots of advice for other writers but most of it comes out like this: Never give up. It’s not about how talented you are. That’s what I had to learn. I figured I had enough talent to get started, but it’s really about determination. What are you willing to sacrifice to make your dreams come true?  That’s the crucial thing you need. You need to be willing to pursue this profession no matter what the cost. I studied the great writers in high school and college (I was an English major). And I saw right away I couldn’t really compare myself with true geniuses like William Faulkner or F. Scott Fitzgerald or Tolstoy, etc, etc. But maybe I had just enough talent to do something that would be appreciated. So I learned how to tell a good story and I labored and labored to become better in the craft I had chosen. One thing I did have was determination and I was willing to go the distance no matter what sacrifices were required. And there was no Plan B. I had to make it happen no matter what.

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

The only genre I have never attempted is science fiction. As I mentioned before I’ve written comedy and thrillers and westerns and, of course, horror. But I never really enjoyed science fiction as a child and haven’t really read much since. I know there’s great science fiction out there but it’s just not my thing. So I never tried to write in that genre because it’s just not in my D.N.A.  It’s the same thing with super hero movies. I don’t really go see them or if I do, they don’t really reach me emotionally. It’s a little strange to admit that because the anti-hero of our novel – The Highwayman – is something of a super hero, a dark super hero at that.  But INK is definitely not science fiction. It’s horror with a paranormal romance lurking at its heart.

Do you have any odd (writing) habits?

There was a great screenwriter in the golden age of movies who used to write in his tub with a legal pad and pen and write his scripts. I thought that would be great but I didn’t like wrinkly skin. So now I sit on my couch with a pillow behind my back and write long hand on a legal pad as well. For some reason I can’t compose new pages straight into a computer. I need it to be long hand.  Then at the end of the day I input it into the computer.  The next day I’ll print out what I wrote and then go over those pages, polishing it as I go along and that gets me back into the world of my story. Once I’ve read over what I did the day before my mind is in the right place to continue on. It’s not easy to transition back to the world you’ve created, so that’s what helps me get into the groove for each day’s work. I always work from around 9:30 a.m. to around 1:00 or 2:00 pm. That would be a great work day for me. After that I get tired and a bit foggy headed.  One thing I learned about Ernest Hemingway has helped me tremendously. He advised writers to stop writing when it was going good. That would help you when started the next day – stop when it’s flowing, not when you’re confused or blocked in any way. That will just carry over to the next day and help you immediately get back into the groove.

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Seriously determined, unable to do anything else (from cook to fix appliances or pound a nail), a lover of great literature.

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

I’m a crazy dog lover and one of my favorite characters in the book is the protagonist’s white German shepherd, who has extra sensory perceptions. He can sense when something is wrong but he’s handicapped of course because he can’t speak. One of my most sorrowful moments is when we had to cut a chapter about Deke (our dog) regarding his backstory. It just got in the way of the forward momentum of the story. But I will definitely get that chapter in for the next book. William Goldman, the great screenwriter, said you had to kill your babies sometimes in telling a good tale. Well this was surely having to kill one of our babies when we had to cut that chapter.  And going back to the original question about inviting one of our characters to dinner – I have lots of good dog food as I have a new puppy at home. They’d definitely get along just fine and I’m sure my puppy wouldn’t mind sharing.
~*~
About the Book

His studio has become his refuge and his prison—a place of boundless imagination and isolation. Brian Archer, creator of a series of successful graphic novels about a vengeful supernatural being called “The Highwayman,” has become a recluse after the adoration of a female fan turned to rage and violence.

But all that changes when he meets a renowned and beautiful illustrator, A.J. Hart, who carries emotional scars of her own. Their work together is fueled by the unrequited passion they share and a mysterious bottle of black ink that arrives one day at Brian’s doorstep.

The impossibly dark liquid has mystical properties, making their characters appear so real they eventually come to life, reigning terror on those who mean them harm and if not stopped—threatens to unleash an apocalypse on all mankind. Brian must break free of his self-imposed exile and solve the mystery that allowed these terrible creatures into the world.

INK a thrilling and spine-chilling novel guaranteed to give you goosebumps. (when’s the last time a book did that to you?) INK hits the streets on July 15th.

Early reviews for INK have been off the charts.
Pre-Order before July 15th and publisher will pay for the shipping!
The Larry Czerwonka Company and Writers Ascending!
Thanks William Cole for the fabulous cover photo!

Pre-order your copy TODAY: www.inkthenovel.com
Goodreads
~*~
About the Authors
Glenn Benest
Glenn Benest lives in Glendale, California, along with his adorable puppy, Milton, so named after the renowned English poet. He’s an award-winning screenwriter and producer with seven produced feature and television movie credits. He has been a professional writer his entire career.

“Like the protagonist in our novel, I was a late bloomer when it came to reading, but when I got the hang of it, I spent many hours in the library, devouring everything I could get my hands on: Batman, westerns, sports books even pulp magazines. I also started writing poetry when I was in high school, then transitioned to the theatre at Harvard, where I realized I had to go for my dream. I quickly moved to Los Angeles where I got my master of fine arts degree at U.C.L.A., but soon realized I couldn’t make a living writing stage plays.”

Glenn began to write screenplays and by the age of thirty wrote two films for acclaimed horror director Wes Craven.

“I think I’ve written in every genre imaginable, including romance, thrillers, mystery, comedy, and drama. Writing fiction has been my latest endeavor, although INK combines two genres that have always fascinated me – paranormal romance and horror.”

Glenn and his writing partner Dale Pitman met in one of Mr. Benest’s screenwriting workshops and quickly discovered they shared a passion for comic books and the supernatural.

This is their first novel.
Twitter : @GlennBenest | Website | Blog

Dale Pitman

Dale Pitman was born in the shadows of the Burbank Studios, which is where his love of movies began.  As a kid, Dale got to play hookey and sit in with his father, renowned “Wrecking Crew” guitarist, Bill Pitman, on studio sessions for record, T.V. and most memorably, movie calls like the James Bond flick Dr. No, where Dale fell for the art of cinema (and Ursula Andress, though not necessarily in that order).

Dale began writing short stories, school plays and sketch comedy at an early age, and quickly became the “bard” of his East San Fernando Valley schools.  He received an A.A. degree in Journalism at L.A. Pierce College, then thereafter moved to Lake Tahoe, where he graduated from “the school of hard knocks,” working as a bartender at a local casino.

Upon returning to Southern California, Dale studied film at L.A. Valley College and apprenticed briefly in editing at Stephen J. Cannell studios.  In need of a “steady gig,” Dale quit tending bar and obtained a real estate license.
In 2008, Dale returned to his first true love… (film, not Ursula).  He immersed himself in studying the craft of screenwriting with teachers David Freeman, Hal Croasman, Robert McKee, the late Blake Synder, and most notably, his mentor and writing partner, award-winning screenwriter Glenn M. Benest, where they discovered their mutual affinity for the works of Poe and Lovecraft.

Dale lives in Newport Beach, CA with the lovely Kelly O’Reilly and their feline accomplice, Casey, and will continue writing, most likely, until someone pries the keyboard out from under his cold, dead fingers… and beyond!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Monster Monday #10 - Tim Curry, The Master of Monsters


Today, rather than a specific monster or a specific film/book/series, I have chosen to highlight a man who has played some of my favourite monsters. I do hope you enjoy my post.
Monster Mondays posts may be fiction, film reviews, book reviews or me waxing lyrical about a particular monster. Monsters can be paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy or even simply human. So basically, anything monster goes. I also invite anyone who would like to, to join in with their own post. (See end for details).
Tim Curry, The Master of Monsters

Mr Tim Curry is one of my favourite actors and it is so, so sad he had been so unwell. He has the most amazing voice, he can be play anything from a horrible, oily little man to sex on legs and he does monsters so very, very well. I have chosen a few of my favourite below.

Dr. Frank-N-Furter - The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Now if you want sexy, this has to be the most sexually provocative of Mr Curry's roles. As a transvestite, Transylvanian scientist in a corset, fishnets and high heels he is a very beautiful monster.

Frank is a monster simply because he thinks of no one but himself. Of course it's very easy to overlook his faults given that he's sassy, charismatic and his voice alone can cause orgasms :)

Darkness - Legend


Another sexy one here - Darkness from Legend. This was probably one of the first big films I saw Tim Curry in and he is simply stunning as the Lord of Darkness. In Legend a young girl, Lili (Mia Sara) uses her innocence to approach a unicorn, one of the guardians of light and in doing so allows it to be killed by Darkness' minions. He then captures her and the last unicorn, wanting the girl as his wife and her to kill the unicorn and banish light from the world forever. (Meanwhile, Tom Cruise runs around as Jack, trying to fix everything, because he was the one who showed Lili the unicorns in the first place).

This is a story of a girl losing her innocence and becoming a woman and Tim Curry plays the lord of Darkness as a sympathetic beast, but with a heart of blackness on the inside. He is sexy and imposing and simply magnificent.

Pennywise - IT

Okay, here's one for every one who hates clowns :). Stephen King's IT is a dark, dark story and I love the mini-series adaptation from 1990. Pennywise is the manifestation of the darkness that lives in Derry and appears to kill children every few years.

To begin with Pennywise looks like a harmless clown, and then he does things like in the picture above and grows a maw of dagger like teeth. What's amazing about Tim Curry's portrayal is that he can stand then in a full clown's outfit, with the funny hair, the nose, the pompoms and even a balloon, and still ooze menace. If I hadn't already have been right off clowns I definitely would have been after watching this.

Hexxus - Fern Gully

I may have mentioned Tim Curry's voice a couple of times before, and in the role of Hexxus it really comes into play since Fern Gully is an animated film. For those who have not heard of it, Fern Gully 1990s attempt to mix fantasy with saving the planet and among others includes the voice of Robin Williams as well. Hexxus is the bad guy - trapped in a tree many years ago by the other magical inhabitants of the rain-forest he is freed when loggers come to Fern Gully.

Tim Curry's rich, amazing voice brings Hexxus to life in all his polluted glory. We also get to hear Tim singing and he is brilliant. It's ages since I have watched Fern Gully and just thinking about that rich, melodic voice makes me want to go and do so right now.

Farley Claymore - The Shadow

Finally I present to you a very human monster: Farley Claymore from The Shadow. The Shadow (Alec Baldwin) is a sort of superhero with mental powers in New York in the 30s who saves people from the Mob as penance for his past misdeeds by channelling his inner darkness. In the film he is confronted by Shiwan Khan, last descendent of Genghis Khan who is blackmailing New York using an atom bomb.

Farley Claymore is one of the men who came up with the device and he is an odious little man who joins Khan of his own free will rather than having to be mind-whammied like everyone else. He is all that is wrong with humankind and covets everything that isn't his. He joins Khan for money and power and is willing the screw over the rest of New York to get it.

The scene where Farley and The Shadow finally come face to face properly, towards the end of the film, is sheer genius. Tim Curry's acting ability just shines through.

Are you a Tim Curry fan? Which is your favourite role of his?


Monster Mondays #10 Links 

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