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.
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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Yay! Mina's Children is through to the shortlist for the Open Novella Contest


Mina's Children is in the Shortlist


Please excuse me while I crow just a little bit :) I found out this morning that Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula is a finalist in Wattpad's Open Novella Contest.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with the platform, Wattpad is a free fiction site where anyone can post stories, and it is a great place to spot new talent and find new readers. It has a dedicated reading ap for most devices, as well as a website, and has millions of users.

After coming second in round 2 of the Open Novella Contest I worked really hard to come up with an ending for the novella that would entertain my readers and those judging the contest. It seems to have worked so far :).

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, Wattpad started the Open Novella Contest back in November last year. It is a multi genre contest run over many of the Wattpad Ambassador profiles with three rounds.
  • Round 1: pick a prompt, write 2K in the first 4 weeks of the contest
  • Round 2: write another 6K to bring the total up to 8K before 19th Dec
  • Round 3: write another 12K to bring the total up to 20K or there abouts before 31st Jan (writing more was an option, but only the first 20K counted in the contest)
I have no idea how many people entered Round 1, but 550 progressed to Round 2, and 217 progressed to Round 3.

That has now been narrowed down to 36 finalists, which you can see here:

I am thrilled that Mina's Children has made it through to the last 36. I have everything crossed for the final judging.


Mina Harker (née 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.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Recipe - Easy Butter Chicken without the butter :)


Easy Butter Chicken without the Butter


This is based on this BBC recipe, but I altered the ingredients because when I made it as is, I found it way too astringent. Altering the spices and adding coconut cream balanced it for me, although I have only eaten butter chicken not out of a packet once or twice, so I have no idea how it measures up to normal butter chicken.

As ever with recipes I post that are based on chicken, if you are vegetarian anything similar like Quorn or tofu would probably take the sauce well too. Having checked Google, Quorn and tofu both take marinade well :).

START THIS RECIPE THE DAY BEFORE or MORNING OF for best results - I would recommend marinating the chicken for at least half a day, overnight is even better.

With all the extras will server 3-4, with only the rice will serve 2-3
up the amount of chicken for more if necessary - there is plenty of sauce

Ingredients

3 skinless chicken breasts (~450g)

Marinade
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp mild chilli powder
200g (~7/8 cup) natural yogurt

The rest
2 tbsp oil (I live olive oil, but use whichever you prefer)
1 large red onion
3 cloves garlic
inch fresh ginger
1/2tsp garam masala
1 tsp fenugreek
3 tbsp tomato puree
300ml (1 1/4 cups) chicken or veg stock
250ml (~1 cup) carton of coconut cream

To serve (pick n mix)
120-150g jasmine/basmati rice (check the packet for typical serving size and cooking time)
naan bread
mango chutney or lime pickle
fresh coriander

Instructions

  1. In a bowl or bag mix the marinade.
  2. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the marinade. Seal and place in the fridge overnight, or for a good few hours. This will allow the lemon to get into the meat and the yogurt to mellow the acidity.
  3. Chop the onion finely.
  4. Mince the ginger and the garlic.
  5. Heat the oil gently in a pan and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on low until the onions are translucent and soft - at least 10 mins.
  6. Add the spices and the tomato puree and cook for 2-3 mins until the mixture is fragrant.
  7. Add the stock, the chicken with the marinade and the coconut milk and allow to bubble gently and reduce to thicken the sauce.
  8. While the chicken is bubbling away, cook the rice and prepare any of the other extras.
  9. Once the sauce is reduced by about half, serve immediately with the chosen extras.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Happy Valentine's - Motivation by Natasha Duncan-Drake #paranormal #humor


Happy Valentine's day to one and all. In honour of all the hearts and lovey-dovey stuff, today I have a little humorous tale of paranormal romance.

And don't forget to click the link at the bottom because Soph has created a much longer tale of ghostly romance in honour of the day. It's so long it wouldn't fit in a post, so it's a free download from Smashwords :).

Motivation

by Natasha Duncan-Drake

"Don't tell me you're torturing him again."

Dee looked over at the wolf sitting with his head on the table, balefully watching her with his big blue eyes.

"I am not torturing him," she said, turning to Tobi and accepting a quick kiss from her girlfriend, "the puppy eyes are not trying to wheedle something out of me, he's stuck and he did this to himself. I told him not to come in, that I was practicing complicated magic, but did he listen to me?"

She didn't bother keeping the exasperation out of her voice.

"Oh, Will, what have you done now?" Tobi said, walking over and giving the wolf a rub on the head.

He whined in response.

"So why haven't you turned him back?" Tobi asked.

"I can't," Dee replied. "I don't actually know what changed him into a wolf. He's part fae, the magic will wear off eventually and it's too dangerous to mess around."

"How long is eventually?"

"A day, maybe two, a week at most."

"Deadre, you cannot leave our third as a wolf for a week," Tobi said in a tone that Dee found entirely unnecessary. "We're supposed to be going to my parent's this weekend and, like that, Will will shed everywhere."

"This was not my fault," Dee defended herself. "I told him three times not to open the door, and yes, it was locked, but you know nothing can keep him out if he wants in. It's his major talent."

The wolf made what could almost be taken as a scoffing noise at that.

"Not the point," Tobi said and put her hands on her hips.

Her hair had also started turning dark brown at the ends which, when it came to dryads, was not a good thing at all.

"Okay," Dee did her best to placate her volatile girlfriend, "if he doesn't change back by tomorrow we'll take him to Shallaka. If anyone can figure out how to turn him back it will be her."

The ends of Tobi's hair began fading back to green.

"You really don't know how?"

"Sorry, no," Dee admitted. "I was practicing a spell for a new piece."

Dee specialised in using magic to create art, and she was becoming quite well known in the field. Some people thought having a degree in magecraft and using it to make sculptures and paintings was a waste of power. Her parents for one. They had been horrified, but she couldn't help what she loved doing most. She could have gone out and gone into industry, the military or police work, like most of her classmates, but she'd met a Bolshie dryad and a mischievous half-fae who liked to encourage her to follow her dream.

"I was focusing on a subconscious image, trying to get it to manifest, and Will walked in and interrupted my concentration. Unfortunately I was right on the point of casting. I don't know if the subconscious image was a wolf, so that's why he ended up that way, or if the magic found the wilder part of his nature and just went with that form."

It wasn't that Dee couldn't turn people into animals, it was just she hadn't done this deliberately. Will was a natural shapeshifter, so it was quite possible the spell had activated that, but she couldn't be positive. Magic was nothing to mess around with unless you were sure.

"Damn, and I was hoping for a good hard shag tonight," Tobi said, which made Will sit up and wag his tail. "I suppose you and I could improvise, Dee darling."

Dee couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. Will looked crest fallen at the idea he might be left out.

"Do you think about anything else?" she asked with a wry shake of her head.

"It's spring," Tobi replied, "all dryads are horny in the spring."

"And what about the summer, autumn and winter as well?"

"My tree is very fertile," Tobi said, doing a very good impression of affronted, "it's just nature."

Will yipped hopefully.

"Sorry, Sweetie," Tobi said, "but I draw the line at bestiality."

"Is it technically bestiality if he's not a real animal?" Dee asked, laughing at Will's dejected expression.

"As far as I'm concerned, yes," was the very sure answer. "Shame, what I was after was a big hard ..."

Will sparkled round the edges, there was a small explosion, a large puff of smoke and wolf became man. Admittedly a man coughing as he inhaled magical residue, but he was definitely no longer canine shaped.

"Works every time," Tobi said with a big grin.

"Told you it would," Dee said, she'd been texting her girlfriend for the last half an hour.

"You ganged up on me," Will accused.

"Only because I knew the best chance of getting you back quickly was your own magic," Dee told him and held out her hand. "You just needed the right motivation to activate it."

Will was incredibly powerful when it came to magic, the only problem was, he had little to no control over it. Dee had been positive since the day she had met him that it was a mental block brought on by years of abuse from his fae relatives (they were not fond of half-breeds). She and Tobi were working on helping him with it. Sometimes they used less than orthodox methods.

"So, I am still a horny dryad," Tobi said with such an innocent smile it should have been illegal, "shall we take the afternoon off?"

"One of the reasons I love you is you have great ideas," Dee said and let Tobi pull her out of her chair. "Come on wolf-boy," she added and grabbed Will's hand on the way past, "you still need to apologise for interrupting my creative moment."

"I'll do my best," Will promised.

A triad was not a common occurrence, a triad from three different species was even rarer, but Dee loved how theirs worked.

The End

~*~ 


Phantom Love

by Sophie Duncan

When Ben promises to show his cousin, Ellen, a ghost, the pair set in motion a series of events that lead them into a terrifying encounter. Yet, within her fear, Ellen finds a purpose, and it is to find out what Millicent Van Curren, shot by her lover, wants from them.

Phantom Love is book 1 in the Inspired By... Series, where each story is prompted by a memory.

~*~

If you love paranormal fiction and would like to read another freebie, I have a new novella up on Wattpad. Wattpad is a completely free to read platform, that you can read on your phone/tablet with the ap, or on the web. In case you can't guess by the title, it's a vampire novella ;).

If you enjoy it, I would be so very grateful if you click the little vote button on each chapter - they help the story go up the rankings on Wattpad and  be seen by more readers.

Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula



Thursday, 8 February 2018

Best Mates by Natasha Duncan-Drake #werewolves #magic

Wolf howling with Best Mates written over the top.

It's my 21st wedding anniversary today and I am in a romantic, fluffy mood, so I decided to share it. This is some flash fiction I threw together today. It has magic and werewolves and romance, and I hope you enjoy it.

It has not been beta'd by anyone but me, so I apologise if I missed any mistakes.

Best Mates

by Natasha Duncan-Drake


Pytar slammed the door behind him and turned the key in the lock for good measure. Only then did he look at Lunis. Not unexpectedly, his best friend was raising both eyebrows at his behaviour.

"I think I did something stupid," he said, even as he heard distant howls in his head.

"Not really anything new," Lunis pointed out, "but you don't usually barge into my rooms and immediately bar the door."

Pytar would have protested, but his friend had a point.

"It's worse than usual," he admitted.

"How is that possible?"

Again, a fair point. It wasn't Pytar's fault he was a mage with too much power and not a lot of control. He was doing his best. When he'd been hit by a mage storm at the age of seventeen, ten years after most children with any ability had started training, and suddenly found himself with powers, he'd become a headache for everyone, including himself.

"I found a statue," he said. "It was a wolf and I knew you'd love it, so I bought it."

"But?"

Lunis sounded resigned. Not that Pytar could blame his best friend, well only friend really. Everyone else seemed frightened he'd do something spectacularly dangerous and stayed well away from him.

"When I got it home it felt weird," Pytar explained. "I didn't want to give you something cursed, so I used a little magic to examine it."

He paused, embarrassed.

"And?" Lunis prompted.

"And I think I activated the spell on it rather than just looking."

When he stopped again Lunis made an agitated hand gesture.

"I heard howls," Pytar said. "In fact I can still hear howls. I think," he was so embarrassed, "I think the statue is quite old and it might be an ancient mating talisman."

"By all that is holy," Lunis said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You're telling me you just declared open season on yourself to every unmated werewolf in range?"

Pytar grimaced.

"I think so," he admitted in a very small voice.

He'd studied these things, but mating talismans were history, there weren't supposed to be any left. Once upon a time werewolves had held a yearly festival for those among them not lucky enough to have found a mate, and willing humans had used talismans to declare their interest. These days werewolves tended to use the internet like everyone else.

"Can you stop it?" he asked rather desperately and fumbled in his backpack for the damn statue.

He almost dropped it as he finally pulled it out, it was glowing. Instead he held it out to Lunis in perfect faith. Lunis knew everything there was to know about wolves, were- and natural. He'd come to the academy a year and a half after Pytar, an independent researcher with his own funding, and the only person who seemed able to drag Pytar out of all the trouble he found on an almost daily basis.

Surprisingly, Lunis did not immediately reach out to take the statue. In fact, he stepped backward.

"Oh god," Pytar said, "I'm sorry, could it affect you too."

He hadn't thought of that. Two of them attracting werewolves would be even worse.

Howls sounded in his head again, louder.

"What do I do?"

He didn't know how to turn this off.

"How many howls do you hear?"

"Um," the question caught him off guard, but helpfully the howls came again. "Six," he said.

"Dammit!"

Lunis sounded even more exasperated than usual.

"You've activated it at full strength," Lunis said, pinching the bridge of his nose again.

Pytar made him do that a lot.

"Can I turn it off?" He could hope.

"It's too late," Lunis said. "The magic in such things was designed to override the natural proclivities of the werewolves taking part in the festival. Once caught by the enchantment the only thing that can stop it is for the spell to be completed by the initiator mating with a werewolf."

"That doesn't sound very safe."

"It wasn't supposed to be safe," Lunis told him in a very pointed tone, "it was supposed to work, and werewolf mating is complicated. But I don't understand, everything I've read suggested that the charm could only be activated by someone who really wanted it. That was the safeguard."

Pytar swallowed. He was beginning to get a clue as to how this might have happened. This was going to be even worse than he thought.

"Tell me," Lunis said even though he hadn't said anything. "You know something," his friend added, "I recognise the guilty expression."

Taking in a breath Pytar went to speak, but nothing came out. He couldn't just tell his best friend he'd been harbouring a crush for almost as long as they'd known each other. Lunis had never shown any interest in relationships, ever, and Pytar had come to the conclusion his friend was either asexual or just completely focused on his work. They didn't really talk about things like that. It wasn't as if anyone was interested in Pytar, he was too dangerous in most people's books.

"Pytar," Lunis said with a very stern look.

"I may have been thinking about someone when I was examining the statue," he said as the damn thing glowed even brighter.

It was definitely mocking him.

"And your magic acted," Lunis concluded.

Pytar nodded. That was why his magic was such a problem, because he had not been trained to use it from a young age, sometimes it did what he wanted at an unconscious level without him consciously trying to do anything.

"Who are you in love with?"

"What?" The question caught him completely off guard.

"This is mating magic," Lunis told him, "your feelings must have been profound to have affected it. We may be able to salvage this situation if we get you to the object of your affections before any of the werewolves find you."

"Um."

Love? It blew his mind. He'd never admitted that to himself. It had to be just a crush.

"This is no time for bashfulness, Pytar," Lunis said. "If you are close to the person you love when the werewolves arrive it should throw off the enchantment, even if that person does not return your feelings. You cannot form a mating bond with a werewolf if you are in love with someone else."

Pytar's mouth moved, but his larynx seemed to be frozen.

"Pytar," Lunis said sharply.

"You," he blurted out. "It's you."

Lunis froze, mouth just slightly open and eyes wider than they should have been. Pytar didn't think he'd ever seen his friend stunned before. Exasperated, bemused, resigned, but never stunned.

"Me?"

Pytar nodded, biting his lip.

He totally didn't expect Linus to sit down heavily on the nearest chair.

"I'm sorry."

His heart twisted, he'd never seen Linus like this. Linus was one of the most controlled, careful people Pytar had ever met.

"I don't expect anything, it's why I didn't tell you. And I thought it was just a crush. I know you don't like me like that and I would never think ..."

"I'm such a fool."

Those words made Pytar shut up. His stomach clenched as he saw the only friendship he had crumbling before his eyes.

"I'll go."

He wanted to run and hide.

"No," Lunis said, coming back to his feet before Pytar could so much as twitch towards the door.

Power rippled up Pytar's nerves as a spell flared somewhere close. It took him a moment to realise it came from Lunis.

"You're a mage," he said, as he looked in Lunis eyes and saw a spark of mage fire.

In the year they had known each other he have never remotely guessed. Lunis had never given the remotest hint at being anything more than sensitive.

"How?" He had never felt anything, he didn't understand.

"Magic," Lunis said. "I blocked my own power."

"Why? Lunis, why would you..?"

"My name isn't Lunis," the man he clearly didn't know at all said, "it's Fenrir."

It was Pytar's turn to want to sit down.

"Only one person is given that name," he said.

"High mage of the werewolf council," Lunis, or rather Fenrir confirmed for him.

"But you're not..."

Fenrir pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a very ornate silver armband with a large symbol in a circle on one side. Pytar had only seen much planer versions on TV. It was a werewolf suppression band, usually only employed on werewolves who were criminals to contain their abilities.

"Who did that to you?" Pytar demanded as his protective instincts fired.

"I did," were the words that froze him again.

"Why?" It seemed the only valid question.

"The mage storm that changed you," Fenrir said, "I created it. At the time I thought I'd had a magical accident. It took me months to figure out what I'd actually done. Then I heard about you and realised it wasn't an accident at all. Part of me did it deliberately, the wolf part."

"I don't understand," Pytar admitted. "What? Why me?"

That storm had come out of nowhere. It had taken him from his safe little life as a regular human and thrown him into the middle of the magical part of society.

"You're my mate."

Now Pytar did sit down, directly on the floor.

"You know how your magic does things you want without asking for your conscious consent?" Fenrir went on. "Well occasionally it happens to the rest of us too. I didn't understand until I found you. I knew I had to help you, it was my fault, but I wanted you too much. I did the only thing I could, I suppressed my magic and my wolf and I came here."

"Were you ever going to tell me?"

Fenrir sat down again, running his hand through is hair.

"I don't know. I didn't want to force you into anything, I'd already done that."

Pytar didn't know how to react, so he sat there and let the ideas run around inside his head.

"Do you believe in destiny?" he finally asked.

"No," Fenrir said.

"I didn't either," Pytar said, "but then a mage storm appeared in my bedroom, it put me in a coma for a month and gave me all these powers that I can't control properly. Ever since I've felt like there's something out there waiting for me. It's what's kept me sane."

He hadn't even admitted that to the councillor helping him through the transition.

"You think you became a mage for a reason?" Fenrir said. "But that reason was me."

Pytar looked at the statue in his hand.

"Part of that reason was you," he said, "but I think this is bigger than both of us. I do think the universe wants us together though," he added. "How likely is it that one of these would surface now? Wasn't the last one found dug up twenty years ago and put in a museum?"

Before Fenrir could reply the howling ripped through Pytar's head again, this time very loud.

"What happens if you take that off?" he asked, pointing at the band on Fenrir's arm.

"All the urges I've been suppressing come out," Fenrir said, voice completely devoid of emotion, "and I become prey to that as well."

He pointed at the statue.

"And what would you say to that happening?" Pytar asked.

"Me, what about you? Mate bonds are for life, Pytar. There's no going back. It's why we don't use magic like the statue anymore. Why they are so rare."

"You just pointed out I'm in love with you," he said.

"I could have been wrong," Fenrir said.

Of course Fenrir would have doubts now.

"Bollocks to this," Pytar decided and knelt up. "Can I kiss you?"

Fenrir blinked at him.

"We might as well find out," Pytar said.

He waited as Fenrir thought about it, and finally nodded, just a little. The wooden floor was hard under his knees, but he didn't bother standing up, crossing it quickly. Leaning forward he closed his eyes, putting his lips against Fenrir's. He should have known it wouldn't be that simple though, with him it never was.

Just the simple action was like lighting a touch paper. His magic jumped for joy, his hormones weren't far behind, and he had no choice but to lean into the kiss. Fenrir responded in kind, mouth opening almost immediately, and tongue darting out to skip over Pytar's lips. By mutual consent they deepened the kiss and Pytar hummed in delight as strong arms wound round him to pull him closer.

There was a fizz, a bang and sparks erupted from Fenrir's right arm. With a clunk the heavy silver band split in two and fell towards the floor.

Pytar had just enough time to watch it hit the floorboards and look back at Fenrir, before he was flattened with the werewolf right on top of him. However, that was where Fenrir froze, eyes squeezed tight shut.

"If ... if you don't want ... this ... do ... something and ... run."

It seemed to take every ounce of will Fenrir had to force the words out. He was shaking and Pytar could feel the werewolf's magic swirling. To see such control was breathtaking.

"I broke the band," Pytar said and eyes that were no longer blue, but deep orange opened to stare at him.

With all the magic swirling around he couldn't actually be one hundred percent sure it had been all him, but he was pretty certain. At least it made his point.

The statue had fallen from his hand as he was pushed back. It glowed so brightly he could see it without turning to look at it, and when he did, it flashed and dissolved into a pile of ash on the floor.

"So that's why there are so few of them left," he said.

Teeth biting into the side of his neck brought him back to what was going on with a bump. It wasn't hard enough to break the skin, but it did hurt. Surprisingly he found he didn't mind and he moaned as his nerves lit up. He'd read about werewolf love bites, but he'd had no idea how much he would love them.

"Oh hell yes," he said as Fenrir licked where he had just bitten. "We should have been doing this ages ago."

Fenrir's only reply was a growl and bite off Pytar's top button. The howls sounded in Pytar's head again and this time Fenrir put his head back and sent one of his own.

It made Pytar shiver as something magical clicked into place. He was pinned down by a full grown werewolf who also happened to be a high mage, and he wasn't the least bit afraid. For the first time since magic had invaded his life, he knew where he was supposed to be. He grinned as Fenrir looked down at him hungrily.

"Just so you know," Pytar said, "you're buying me a new shirt."

"I'll buy you some new pants too," Fenrir said, voice deep with an underlying growl that spoke of barely controlled power.

"Wh..?"

He never got to finish the question as Fenrir sat back, took hold of the top of his trousers and casually ripped them down the middle. Pytar couldn't help being impressed with the impressive strength that must have taken and, throwing caution to the wind, he grabbed Fenrir's belt to reciprocate in a much less showy fashion. The future would undoubtedly be messy, but he was going to enjoy this.

The End

~*~

BTW - if you like paranormal fiction and would like to read another freebie, I have a new novella up on Wattpad. Wattpad is a completely free to read platform, that you can read on your phone/tablet with the ap, or on the web. In case you can't guess by the title, it's a vampire novella ;).

If you enjoy it, I would be so very grateful if you click the little vote button on each chapter - they help the story go up the rankings on Wattpad and  be seen by more readers.

Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Recipe - Chicken, Chilli & Peanut Butter, Potato Topped Pie #GlutenFree


Chicken, Chilli & Peanut Butter, Potato Topped Pie

This recipe serves 3 hungry people, or 4 normally, but the great thing about it is, reheating it the next day, it tastes even better, so it's fine for 2 people as well. If you don't like eating the same thing twice in a row for dinner, it would make a good lunch if you have a microwave at work.

It takes a little time to prepare, but is well worth it. Because it has a potato top not pastry, it is gluten free—an added bonus.

This recipe is based off of this one from BBC Good Food, but I changed a lot of it, so here is my version.

Ingredients

Chicken Filling
  • 1 tbsp oil (which ever you prefer for frying)
  • 2 tbsp minced or finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 red peppers (roasted from a jar are easiest)
  • 2-3 skinless chicken breasts (~450g)
  • 250g (~1 cup) passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (make sure it is gluten free)
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 250ml water
  • 300g can cannellini beans
Mash
  • 500g potatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh coriander finely chopped (if you love coriander add more, but my husband is not fond of it and this amount gives a nice undercurrent without being in your face).
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • knob of butter
  • splash of milk

Instructions


  1. Peel and chop the potatoes and put on the stove in a saucepan of water to boil until tender. At least 15mins, but could take longer - check them with a fork before draining.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/gas 6/400F/350F Fan
  3. Finely chop the onion (I like the onion to disappear, but keep it chunkier if you prefer) and roughly chop the pepper.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan on low, add the onion, ginger, chilli, cumin and coriander. (If your peppers are fresh and not from a jar like mine, also add now). Cook gently until the onion and ginger are completely softened and the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the peppers and cook for a minute or two (if you didn't add them in the previous step).
  6. While the onions are softening, chop the chicken into small chunks.
  7. Add the chicken to the pan and fry unto it begins to colour slightly.
  8. Add the passata (you can use canned toms if you prefer, I just hate the bits :)) and tomato puree and stir through.
  9. Dissolve the bouillon cube in 150ml (2/3 cup) boiling water and add to the pan.
  10. Mix the peanut butter with 100ml (~1/2cup) water and add to the pan. 
  11. Add the drained cannellini beans and cook for at least five minutes.
  12. Mash the potatoes with the butter until smooth.
  13. Add the milk (if you add it before you will get lumpy mash), the coriander and the chilli powder and mix together.
  14. Put the chicken mixture into the bottom of a medium baking dish (mine is 26x16x6cm) and carefully spread the potato over the top.
  15. Pop in the over for approx 35min.
  16. Serve with the green vegetable of your choice - peas or beans or broccoli would all be good.

The pie will also keep well in the fridge for up to three days, and will freeze well - just stop after step 14. If cooking after freezing, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted before heating. It will need approx 50mins in the oven from chilled. If it starts to colour too much on top, cover with foil.

If reheating some of the fully cooked pie the next day, always make sure it is piping hot before eating - you do not want to poison yourself. Also, if reheating in the oven, leave uncovered for the first 10 mins, then cover with foil for the rest of the cooking time or it will burn.

If you enjoy a crunch on top of your pie, some crushed peanuts scattered over the top would give it some nice texture.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Love Speaks by Natasha Duncan-Drake #vampire #freefictionfriday


Free Fiction Friday

Love Speaks by Natasha Duncan-Drake


This year is already flying by, isn't it? We come to February, the month of love. As ever, on the first Friday of the month is it time for a free short story for all the subscribers to our Wittegen Press newsletter.
  • If you are already subscribed, look out for this month's email which has the password in it.
  • If you're not a subscriber, don't worry, you haven't missed it. The story is up all month and the password to access the post is in the welcome email when you subscribe to the newsletter.
Fill in the form at the bottom of this post and you're away. We only send out information about Wittegen Press books, competitions, freebies and things like that.

We promise - no spam!

And we'll never give anyone else your email address.

We'll also give you 2 free eBooks just for signing up, as well as the free short story the 1st Friday of every month.

February's Free Short Story

by Natasha Duncan-Drake

genre: vampire, romance

Mal loves Paul with all his undead heart, but can he protect him from the monster that lurks under his human facade?

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Thursday, 1 February 2018

Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula #FreeRead


Good morning all, sorry for being AFK - I've had an awful cold and it took me out for a few days, then I had to scramble to finish and edit Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula before the deadline, which was yesterday.

For those who didn't see my last post, Mina's Children is a free read, and an entry into Wattpad's Open Novella Contest, which ended yesterday (31st Jan). Wattpad put out lots of prompts, one of which we had to use to inspire a novella. There were three rounds:
  • Round 1 - write 2K words
  • Round 2 - write another 6K to make it up to 8K words
  • Round 3 - write another 12K to take it up to 20K words
There are winners for Round 1 and Round 2, and at each stage the number of competitors was reduced. There will be overall winners once Round 3 has been judged, which is what is going on at the moment.

Mina's Children won 2nd place in Round 2 - yay!

As you can tell by the title, Mina's Children is technically Dracula fanfiction, but it's relatively removed from the original tale of Dracula. It's set modern day for a start, and the main character is Reggie, Mina Harker's great great granddaughter.

Mina Harker (née 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.




It is based of this prompt:
In the mythic lands of Transylvania, there lies a legend. The legend of he who does not live. The legend of he who will not die. The legend of he who roams the Borgo atop a carriage driven by steeds of rotten mass.
He has terrorised the region for centuries and now he has the free world in sight.
But there is only one person in the world who can stop this legend, this monster.
This person is the last remaining member of Mina's lineage.
I'm seriously considering expanding the novella once the contest is over, because I had so many ideas for extra scenes that I had to cut out because of the word limit (we could write a longer book, but they were only ever going to read the first 20K so it seemed sensible to use that as the limit). There are background characters I want to flesh out and the plot I want to continue.

Dracula is one of those fantastic cases where the original book is out of copyright, so derivative work is publishable too.

This is totally feeding my love of vampires and getting the creative juices flowing. Reggie is a character I was working on before the contest, but she didn't have any direction or proper roots. The prompt gave me a basis to work from that kick started a whole plot. Other characters have been popping up as I wrote.

I have to admit, for the last four or five months of 2017, creativity was in short supply. Without going into why, I am very glad to see the back of 2017 and the less said about it the better. Having a new project, as well as the ongoing one to move all Wittegen's eBooks into paperback feels brilliant.

Do you have any new projects for 2018 you are excited about, be they writing related or something else?

P.S. if you read Mina's Children and enjoy it, I would really appreciate you clicking the vote button on the story parts. It's one of the ways stories go up the rankings on Wattpad, so they are seen by lots of people. Many thanks in advance.

~*~
Book Pimp!

The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman 
are now available in Paperback as well as eBook.


Cat's Call

Cat's Creation

Cat's Confidence

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Which eBook Shall We Convert to Paperback Next? #WriterlyWednesday


Which eBook Shall We Convert to Paperback Next?

At Wittegen Press, we are in the process of converting all eBooks that are suitable so they are available in paperback format as well. We've already done The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman, and Dead Before Dawn: The Vampire Curse, and The Burning Web, but we haven't yet decided which order to convert the rest of our titles.


Cat's Call

Cat's Creation

Cat's Confidence

The Burning Web

Dead Before Dawn

We would greatly appreciate it if you would help us decide which book to concentrate on next. In the Google form below are all the options we currently have in mind. We know some of our titles aren't listed yet, for various reasons, and if there is one you would really, really like to see in paperback that isn't there, please tell us in the last question in the form as well.

If there is anything else you'd like to tell us, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Many thanks for your input, we are really interested to see the results.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Recipe: Honey Sesame Chicken with Sesame Broccoli and Rice


Honey Sesame Chicken with Sesame Broccoli and Rice

It's the new year, so it's time to try new recipes. I started last night with this one. The base recipe comes from Two Peas and Their Pod, but it's done with a pressure cooker, so this is how I made it without one. I've also added UK measurements as well as US and reduced the original recipe which was to feed six.

N.B. This recipe can be gluten free if you use Tamari (Japanese soy sauce) rather than regular soy sauce, which usually contains gluten.

Given that chicken is basically a meat that takes on any flavour it is put with, I would guess this would be nice done with tofu or Quorn, for those of a vegetarian persuasion.

If you don't like broccoli, you could substitute snow peas, or something similar - but if you haven't tried sesame broccoli, give it a go - it was that which turned me onto the green menace after years of having hated it.

Feeds 2 (just scale up for more)


Ingredients


For the chicken
  • 2 large skinless chicken breasts, bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 tblspn oil (use whichever you like best)
  • 1/2 small (lemon sized) onion, finely chopped (I used red, the original recipe says white, so go with what you prefer)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup/60ml soy sauce (low salt)
  • 2 tbsp/30ml ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4cup/60ml honey
  • 1 tbsp corn flour (cornstarch)
  • 1.5 tbsp cold water
For the broccoli
  • 1/2 head of broccoli in florets
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
Sesame seeds to garnish, optional - (I toasted mine in a dry pan to bring out the flavour)
Rice to serve - I like Jasmine rice, but just use your favourite.

Instructions

  1. Put the oil in a frying pan or casserole (suitable for direct heat) that has a lid, heat gently on the hob and add the onion. Pop on the lid and allow to soften and go translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min to allow the flavour to start coming out.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the diced chicken, sealing it all over.
  4. Lower the heat again, add the soy sauce, ketchup and chilli, put the lid on and cook gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. (Depending on your definition of bite sized, this can take between 10 & 15 mins usually - check by splitting a chunk in two). If you are waiting for someone to come home, this is the point where you can leave it until you know they are almost back - just keep the lid on and the heat really low once the chicken is done.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, get the rice going - follow the instructions on the packet.
  6. Blanch the broccoli by bring a pan of water to the boil, dropping in the florets and cooking for 3-4 mins (if you have small florets, go for 3, bigger, go for 4). Drain and leave to the side.
  7. Add the sesame oil and honey to the chicken and stir well to mix.
  8. Mix the corn flour and water in a small bowl, then add to the frying pan - stir in quickly and cook gently until the sauce thickens.
  9. Heat the oils for the broccoli in a small frying pan or wok and add the garlic (you could use a saucepan if you are using your only frying pan for the chicken :)).
  10. Add the blanched broccoli to the garlicy oil and stir fry for a minute.
  11. Serve in warmed bowls with sesame seeds sprinkled on the chicken and the broccoli (you can sprinkle them on the rice too if it makes you happy ;)).

Rob all but licked the bowl when he was finished, which I count as a success :).

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Problem of Endings #WriterlyWednesdays


The Problem of Endings


So we've slogged through creating the characters, the world, the plot and only one thing is left: the ending. I can hear the dramatic music in my head.

Now, I don't know about you, but the ending can make or break a story for me. A bad ending can strip away all the pleasure I've felt during the book/film/tv show and destroy it for me. This makes writing them somewhat stressful.

Endings are hard!

Hands up who has had something ruined by a terrible ending (and I don't mean just tragedies, which I understand some people love). I'm more talking about endings that don't make sense, or are simply flat.

This topic came to me today, because, yes, I am struggling with an ending. I have a novella entered into the Open Novella Contest over at Wattpad (Mina's Children: The Legacy of Dracula). There are three rounds to the contest:

  • Round 1 - write 2K words
  • Round 2 - add another 6K words to take the novella to 8K
  • Round 3 - complete the novella to 20K
At each round authors are eliminated, and yay, I'm into round three. Of course this means coming up with the ending.

We've all done it, writers, haven't we, plotted and schemed and come up with things we love and then ... the big question comes of how to finish it.

Last week I didn't have an ending at all, now I have two, possibly three, and I'm not sure which way to go.

I've heard it said by some that a surprising ending is the best, but I have to disagree. Too many times a show, book or film has come up with surprising ending that's just terrible. There are many things to take into account for a good ending, and these are some of the things I think about.
  • An ending needs a payoff - we've dragged our readers through trials and tribulations, through twists and turns and the ending is where they get their reward. It does not have to be the conclusion of everything, but we can't skimp on what we have promised. This is most important in series because there is a balance. We have to make sure there is enough for our readers to want to continue to the next part, but if we don't give them enough of a payoff in the current one they're going to be upset with us anyway.
  • An ending needs to be true to our characters - this is where the surprise ending sometimes fall flat. It's all well and good giving our audience a shock, but if that shock betrays the characterisation of our protagonists, they're unlikely to enjoy it. For example, having character A be the level headed and sensible one all the way through, with no hint of anything bubbling under the surface, and then having them doing something completely nuts right at the very end might be fun for the writer, but the observer will want to brain us. (The operative words above being 'no hint', because it's an entirely different matter if all the ground work is laid - a big finish like that where the audience goes - oh, wow, of course, should have seen that coming, can be the best).
  • Deus ex Machina is usually a really bad idea. Bringing in something or someone completely new to fix everything is likely to really annoy our audience. This is a classical term, so they have their place or they wouldn't have been around so long, but usually this is bandied about as detrimental these days. Of course it can be done, but there better be a really, really good reason for it.
  • An ending can't be too easy - I'm all for the happy ending, in fact I all but insist on it, but if getting to that happy ending is too easy, there is not satisfaction when it arrives. This probably boils down to us making sure our protagonist doesn't waltz to the finish line without taking some serious knocks over the last hurdle (be they physical or mental or abstract).
There are many different ways of writing a story, and many different tropes, setups and approaches, but the above ideas seem to apply in some form to most of them.

Personally, my perfect ending is good for the characters (Boromir dying and Han getting frozen in carbonite had big effects on me as a child, okay, I need happy endings - there is a reason Game of Thrones is so not my thing ;)), leaves some questions hanging, but not the big ones the particular story asked, and has a little bit of a twist as well.

What is your perfect ending like? Does it have to have certain elements?

So I am off to wrestle with the ending for Mina's Children now - wish me luck, and good luck to all those in a similar position. May your story have the ending it deserves.

~*~

Here are a set of stories I hope have satisfying endings :)
The Chronicles of Charlie Waterman are now available in Paperback.


Cat's Call

Cat's Creation

Cat's Confidence