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, 30 January 2013

Recipe: Pulled pork sliders


This is a recipe that came in the Times over the week or so they were doing recipe pullouts. I've changed one thing, and hand-wavied a couple of others, but other than that it's the same.

Ingredients
Feeds 4 (I used twice as much to feed six and had heaps left over)
  • 8 mini bread rolls
  • crunchy salady stuff (gherkins, lettuce, tomato, cucumber ... anything you like) sliced or chopped.
  • mayonaise
  • 600g boneless pork shoulder
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp chili flakes (I used a squirt of chili paste)
  • 2tsp mild smoked paprika
  • 2tsp oil for frying
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • juice and grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar (I didn't have any and used white vinegar and cider in equal measure)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tbspn Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 inch (2cm) ginger, sliced (I used lazy ginger from a pot and guessed :))
  • 2 tbspns Tomato ketchup

Instructions

  1. My pork shoulder came with skin on for crackling, so the first thing I did was take this off with a knife and set it aside. Make sure to leave some fat behind to render into the meat.
  2. Take the cumin, chili and paprika and rub it in to the surface of the meat so it is fully covered.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and then brown the meat on all sides.
  4. Mix up the stock, brown sugar, juice, zest, vinegar or (vinegar and cider), garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and ketchup.
  5. Now this is where I and the recipe differ - it said cook it all in a sauce pan on a low heat for 1.5hrs, but it was not rendered enough for my taste. So what I did the second time was pop it in the slow cooker at nine in the morning and left it all day (I would say five hrs min). If you don't have a slow cooker, a lidded casserole dish in a low oven or a backing dish sealed with foil in a low oven will do the same job (as long as there is something to make sure the juices all stay inside).
  6. About an hour before you're ready to serve, salt the pork skin, put it on a baking tray and pop in a high oven. Keep an eye on it, but mine took the whole hour to render into lovely crackling which I chopped and served as a side.
  7. Once cooked, take the meat out of the juices and shred it with a couple of forks.
  8. Put the sauce in a saucepan through a sieve and reduce it until it is much thicker and just enough to cover the pork.
  9. Throw the pork back in and mix.
  10. Cut the rolls and then coat each side in mayonnaise.
  11. Pop the pork on one half of each roll and top with whatever crunchy stuff you like. Each person should have two.

I served them with chips (french fries) and onion rings, but several people never got to those :).

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New Title: Out of the Frying Pan by Tasha D-Drake

I have another new title out today. I actually wrote this one last year as a commission at PennyDreadfuls21.com and it came out of it's 60 exclusivity period on 24th Dec, but, truth be told, I totally forgot about it until now :). My commissioner asked for modern setting, male/male, a vampire and a human in a situation bringing them together with conflict from one or both that meant they really didn't want an entanglement. This short story is what I came up with.

Please be aware it has mature content.

Title: Out of the Frying Pan
Author: Tasha D-Drake
Price: US $0.99, UK £0.77, EUR0.89

Dan works his magic with food as a new up and coming chef, what he does not need is his restaurant being destroyed by an explosion and ending up trapped with the UK's hottest food critic in what's left of his kitchen. When vampirism enters the equation it makes things a whole lot worse.

Our main site's running a little slow this morning (I assume Dreamhost are up to something) so here are some direct links in case it fails to load.
Amazon US | Amazon UK |Smashwords

Saturday, 26 January 2013

New title: The Beginning by Natasha Duncan-Drake

I have a new title out today. It has been previously published in the Wittegen Press Giveaway Games Anthologies, but because it is part of an existing published book series (Vampires: The New Age), it is also now available stand alone.

It's a novelette (~12k wds), so a nice quick read full of excitement and action.

Title: The Beginning (Prequel to Advent)
Series: Vampires: The New Age #0.1
Author: Natasha Duncan-Drake
Price: US $0.99, UK £0.77, EUR 0.86

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

This title is a prequel to the previously published novel Advent.

It is also available in the following anthologies:
Myriad Imaginings: All The Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
Half of Everything: Stories by Natasha Duncan-Drake From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
Bright Young Things: Young Adult Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games

Friday, 25 January 2013

Publishing is exhausting...

Y'know what I think I might really loathe publishing books.

I'm not talking about the overall publishing experience, of course :), I'm talking about the whole loading of books into Amazon and Smashwords. It's rather exhausting.

Today I managed to upload totally the wrong book file on Smashwords and then had to rush around like a mad thing to make sure no one had a chance to download it. Thank heavens it wasn't Amazon or I'd have been shafted. Once you hit submit on Amazon there is nothing you can do until it's been reviewed and published, not even delete or unpublish it, which is really moronic.

Smashwords is better than Amazon. It's faster, easier, less intimidating and you can edit if you've ballsed it up. However, it does have a few hiccups.

  • Today it told me the book had finished converting on one page and that it was still converting on my dashboard so I couldn't do anything with it. 
  • When that sorted itself out I unpublished it to fix it, then archived it just in case (yes I was being paranoid). 
  • Then when I wanted to put it back on my dashboard, I clicked the link, it vanished from archived books and failed to reappear on my dashboard.
  • Luckily I had the email so I could go directly to the book page, at which point I did and downloaded the ePub to check it.
  • Then I edited the book details.
  • Then I clicked publish, which (thank heavens) made it appear on the dashboard again, however, apparently not yet published.
  • So I clicked publish again and all seemed to be well, except it wouldn't let me assign an ISBN.
  • That turned out to be a time delay I think and it eventually let me, after which I ran away from the site before I threw something through the screen.

Amazon was pretty straight forward after all that, but of course now the book is stuck in limbo until they deign to put it live. The images also seem to upload in a different time frame to the book now, which is just bizarre. Last time my books popped up without cover images for twenty four hours, which was annoying.

Of course Amazon also only let you do any posh formatting in the product description (by posh I mean bold or italic) from Author Central. If you've ever wondered why some book descriptions have extra formatting and some don't, that's why. Once an author has claimed their book in author central (US) they can edit the description and it will override what was put in in KDP bookshelf. I find this totally ridiculous, but, there you go. Why not allow bold and italic tags in the KDP form as well or give the authors the same little edit options as in author central? It would save so much time.

Smashwords also let you change the cover really quickly, which is great since I had a new cover for the other book in the series now that it has a friend :).

In case you're wondering, I will be doing a separate post for the new book once Amazon had loaded it properly.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Independent Authors and How to Give Them A Hand

Indies seem to be everywhere these days, which is a wonderful thing because we are seeing so much good fiction popping up that, in the old days, we may never have had a chance to read.

However, we all know that some of the fiction are shining diamonds and others are on the side of coal. This is where readers are a gift from on high.

Did you know that a very large percentage of independent book sales are on word of mouth recommendations? By that I don't just mean happening to mention a book to the person sitting next to you on the bus (although that works too :)), what I mean is recommendations via Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

If someone sees someone else saying how good a book is, especially from a friend, they are much more likely to try it out.

Retweeting, reviewing on the main sites, liking book pages, rating books, tagging books, all of these are amazingly helpful. As are personal reviews, whether you Tweet e.g.
I love Indie Book No1 http://link.to.indie.book.no1 
or
Just finished Indie Book No2, couldn't put it down http://link.to.indie.book.no2
or post a recommendation on your LJ, Blog, Facebook or Tumblr.

It really can make a huge difference.

Think of it like a snowball rolling down a hill, each mention is more snow added to the ball, it gets bigger and bigger, but if it runs into a patch where there is no snow it starts to melt.

So next time you read a book from an independent publisher or an independent author, if you enjoy it, please consider recommending it somewhere you hang out online. It doesn't have to be an in depth review, a one liner will do, just try and remember to throw in a link if possible so that everyone will be able to find it.

Personally I have a collection on my Kindle labelled "to Review/mention" so that I don't forget which ones I want to mention. In that spirit here are a couple I've really enjoyed:

The Spear of Destiny by ME Brines (Admittedly some of the other books under that author are rather odd, but this one I can say is most enjoyable.) It's a secret agent goes into Nazi Germany with a supernatural twist. It's the first part in a series of books and no sign of part 2 yet, but still entertaining.

Black Moon by C.L.Bevill This one is part of a trilogy, but stands fine. Paranormal with werejaguars and werewolves. It's a romp with sex and shape changing and it pushed my buttons. Be aware its het.

The Dead Man's Detective Agency by Keith Nichols This is a set of short stories described as Gothic crime. Very much paranormal detective stories and it's not Shakespeare, but it is entertaining.

Competwition to Win Myriad Imaginings

We have a new competwition up to win 3 copies of Myriad Imaginings our new 28 story anthology.

Competwition is a competition run via Twitter using the Competwition service. You log in to Competwition via your twitter account and when you hit the enter button it automatically follows @wittegenpress (this is required so we can talk to you when the comp ends), enters you into the completely free draw and tweets about the competwition via your account.

Basically its a follow and RT competition where you only have to press one button :).


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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Rating: 12A

Cast:
Ian McKellen ... Gandalf
Martin Freeman ... Bilbo
Richard Armitage ... Thorin
Ken Stott ... Balin
Graham McTavish ... Dwalin
William Kircher ... Bifur / Tom Troll
James Nesbitt ... Bofur
Stephen Hunter ... Bombur
Dean O'Gorman ... Fili
Aidan Turner ... Kili
John Callen ... Oin
Peter Hambleton ... Gloin / William Troll
Jed Brophy ... Nori
Mark Hadlow ... Dori / Bert Troll
Adam Brown ... Ori

Okay, so this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I have to say I was thoroughly underwhelmed by The Hobbit. That's not to say it's a really bad film, it just isn't great and is nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LotR). Where as I can watch the extended versions of LotR again and again, I was bored in The Hobbit in places.

I think there is a very simple reason for this. LotR is a complex story with many subplots and many complex characters, the Hobbit isn't. In making it into three films the first simply doesn't have enough substance to keep me interested for 166 minutes and the 3D was pointless (this may be different if you've seen it in IMAX, but in our cinema it was lost).

Okay, lets back up a bit. There are good things about the film. The beginning for a start is superb. When the dwarves descend on a perplexed Bilbo it is brilliantly done, funny, fast paced and touching in places. Martin Freeman is also brilliant through the whole movie. He plays Bilbo with a humility and doubt that is wonderful, but with an inner strength that shines through, which is exactly what Bilbo should be.

However, he's really the only character I connected with all the way through. The dwarves were entertaining in their own way and occasionally pretty to look at, but I still don't know what any of their names are without looking and I didn't really feel for any of them. It took me half the movie to remember that the head dwarf was called Thorin, which is a very bad sign. When watching LotR I had all their names straight immediately and I hadn't read the book since I was a teenager, so it wasn't just remembering.

The makeup people did well to make them all look different, but they didn't do anything significant or individually so I didn't register their names and remember who they were. They were simply the party.

That's another good thing about the film, the makeup and special effects are superb ... well mostly. Gandalf did seem to change ratio to the dwarves quite a lot. However, the orcs, goblins and trolls were beautifully done and the part with the phantom/necromancer was actually pretty scary.

Oh, which reminds me, there was one other character I connected with, Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown was brilliant. There was a part with him and a hedgehog (Sebastian) and it was just marvellous.

Also, Gollum was brilliant, in fact I think even more brilliant than he was in LotR. Andy Serkis surpassed himself again. I wish there had been a lot more of him in the film because he brought feeling and heart into it far more than I felt from any of the dwarves. SPOILER (highlight to read) When Thorin was struck down by Azog (I think that was his name) I didn't feel any of the danger and excitement I should have. I didn't overly care.

There was a lot of fillin in this film. A lot of long shots of horses or running that almost made me fall asleep. The bits of action were good, but they weren't glued together well. It was very disappointing. It felt forced and as if it needed a good editor, which, frankly, if they hadn't tried to make more money off it by stretching it, it wouldn't have needed. It's a very long time since I read The Hobbit, probably 30 years, so I don't know what the extra bits were, but it just didn't feel right.

I went into the movie wanting to like it. I love LotR, but if I see The Hobbit again I will want a forward wind option in my hand.

Oh and another thing, the film did make me think like this through a lot of it:

I was left with two questions by the end of the film. Spoilers (Highlight to read)
1) Why didn't the eagles drop them a little closer to the damn mountain?
2) If the only thing that saved them from the goblins was daylight and they were running down a mountain, why, once it got dark, didn't the goblins all come pouring out of the mountain after them?

Monday, 14 January 2013

New Titles: Giveaway Games Anthologies

Wittegen Press is pleased to announce the arrival of eight new anthologies.
In July 2012, Wittegen Press gave away a short story, or story part every day to their readers. Each story was only available for one day, but now the 28 stories from The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games have been gathered here into 8 different volumes.
If you would like to purchase all the stories in one volume at $3.99/£2.55 there is:
Myriad Imaginings by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Myriad Imaginings : All The Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

2 writers, 31 days of writing madness, the result: 28 fabulously diverse stories for your reading pleasure, including horror, fantasy and science fiction, paranormal adventure, young adult and erotica.
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/myriadimaginings)
If you are a particular fan of Natasha Duncan-Drake or Sophie Duncan and would like to purchase just their stories we have two options for you at $2.99/£1:92:
Half of Everything by Natasha Duncan-Drake Half of Everything: Stories by Natasha Duncan-Drake From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Natasha Duncan-Drake

Many genres, 14 exciting stories in this anthology of shorts and novellettes by Natasha Duncan-Drake. Whether you're looking for horror, Sci-Fi or something else, you'll find what you're looking for in this collection.
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/halfofeverything)
The Other Half of Everything by Sophie Duncan The Other Half of Everything: Stories by Sophie Duncan From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan

Many genres, 14 exciting stories in this anthology of shorts and novellettes by Sophie Duncan. Whether you're looking for horror, Sci-Fi or something else, you'll find what you're looking for in this collection.
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/theotherhalfofeverything)
If you would like to collect only certain genres of stories we have five volumes available at $1.99/£1:28:
Book of Darkness by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Book Of Darkness: The Horror Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

Ghosts, zombies and haunted dolls are just a few of the disturbing creatures you will meet in this volume of short stories and novelettes.
Sleep Of The Damned by Natasha Duncan-Drake
BFF by Sophie Duncan
Just One Day by Sophie Duncan
The Crosses We Bear by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Queen Of My World by Sophie Duncan
Dead Not Dying by Natasha Duncan-Drake
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/bookofdarkness)
Beyond Our Horizon by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Beyond Our Horizon: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

A thief discovering an affinity with dragons and a university professor being forced to confront his past are just two of the short stories and novelettes in this volume.
Queen of Heaven by Natasha Duncan-Drake (Sci-Fi)
To Life Reborn by Natasha Duncan-Drake (Fantasy)
The Gift by Sophie Duncan (Fantasy)
The Machine by Natasha Duncan-Drake (Contemporary Fantasy, M/M Romance)
Song For A Soverign By Sophie Duncan (Fantasy)
All In The Mind by Sophie Duncan (SciFi)
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/beyondourhorizon)
Supernature by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Supernature: Paranormal Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

Discover the touch of the supernatural in this volume of short stories and novelettes.
The Name Is The Game by Sophie Duncan
Cleave To Until Forever by Natasha Duncan-Drake
The Vampire Who Loved Me by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Girl In The Mirror by Sophie Duncan
Timothy by Natasha Duncan-Drake
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/supernature)
Romantica by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Romantics: Erotic Romance Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

From a police officer working undercover to a commadore on a back end of nowhere space station, these protagonists all have sexy times ahead, with a heavy side of romance in this volume of short stories and novelettes.
Incubus Shadows by Sophie Duncan (M/M/M, Fantasy)
Undercover by Sophie Duncan (M/M, Crime Drama)
God of Love by Natasha Duncan-Drake (M/M, Fantasy)
All That Glitters by Natasha Duncan-Drake (M/M, Romance)
Connections by Natasha Duncan-Drake (F/M/M, Sci-Fi)
A Special Catch by Sophie Duncan(M/F, Sci-Fi)
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/romantica)
Bright Young Things by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan Bright Young Things: Young Adult Speculative Fiction Stories From The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games
by
Sophie Duncan & Natasha Duncan-Drake

Meet a university rock band with a lupine secret and an alien with cat ears and a tail, among other young protagonists in this volume of short stories and novelettes.
Samling Born by Sophie Duncan (Paranormal)
Lost Kitty by Natasha Duncan-Drake (Sci-Fi)
The End Of The Journey (The Hidden War #1) by Sophie Duncan (Contemporary Fantasy)
The Beginning by Natasha Duncan-Drake (Urban Horror)
A New Path (The Hidden War #2) by Sophie Duncan (Contemporary Fantasy)
(http://www.wittegenpress.com/brightyoungthings)