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, 30 April 2013

Recipe: Lo-lo meatballs with cavolo nero (from the Times)

I had to share this recipe, because I tried it last night and my husband liked it so much he literally licked out his bowl. As I have mentioned we're both doing the 5:2 diet and this is a fabulous meal for a fasting day - tasty, filling and yet only 264 cal per person.

First thing I have to say, I have no idea what Cavolo Nero actually is, in the picture with the recipe it seems to be some form of cabbage, I used some steamed green veg instead, which were 25 cal per serving. The recipe comes from the Eat! pullout from the Times this weekend.

Lo-Lo Meatballs with Cavolo Nero
Serves 2
264 cal per person
Picture from the Times website

Ingredients

For the meatballs
  • 200g lean pork mince or turkey mince (I used turkey mince)
  • half a med red onion (chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed) (I used a little bit of pre-minced garlic for speed)
  • 1 small carrot (grated)
  • pinch of oregano
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for spraying (you can make up your own spray bottle of oil, or buy one of the spray cans)
For the tomato sauce
  • oil for spraying
  • half a med red onion (chopped)
  • half a garlic clove (peeled and chopped) (I used minced again)
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 50g fresh tomatoes (skinned, de-seeded and chopped) (I left these out because I was going for a puree rather than a chunky sauce)
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • pinch of sugar
  • 200ml water
  • chili flakes or powder to taste
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
For the cavolo nero
  • 200g cavolo nero (steamed)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • sea salt

Instructions
  1. Put the mince, onion, garlic, carrot, oregano, salt, pepper and egg in a bowl and mix. 
  2. Form into 12 small meatballs. The mixture was very wet, but held together very well.
  3. Spray a large pan with oil and fry the meatballs until lightly browned (approx 4 mins).
  4. Put meatballs aside.
  5. Spray the same pan again and add the onion for the sauce, sweat it down until it is softened. Boy is it hard to sweat onions without a decent amount of oil - keep the heat really, really low.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 mins.
  7. Add the tomatoes, the tom purée, sugar, water, chili flakes and Worcestershire sauce to taste.
  8. Simmer for a few minutes until reduced somewhat and glossy.
  9. At this point I grabbed the hand blender and turned the sauce into a purée because I don't like chunky tomatoes and onion in my sauces, but that's not in the original recipe.
  10. Add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 20 mins.
  11. Serve with the steamed cavolo nero, adding a twist of lemon and sea salt to the cavolo nero (if you have any clue what it is :)). I had steamed brocoli, peas and green beans instead.

Z is for Zeus - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Greetings and welcome to my last post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Today I come bearing fiction.

Z is for Zeus, king of the gods, but he's really just an excuse for the short story. He is in it, so I feel I fulfilled the brief, but he is only one of several gods and goddesses in the story. (Okay, I cheated, but the story didn't want to be about Zeus :)).

This story is suitable for most ages, although there is a little swearing and some innuendo  It is contemporary fantasy humour. I do hope you enjoy it.



Place of the Gods
by Natasha Duncan-Drake

"He is very small."

"Hey!" Joel said before he even thought about it.

He was five foot eight, thank you very much and he worked out. He wasn't a muscle-bound behemoth, but that didn't mean he was small.

"He is also awake," another voice observed in a very dry tone.

Mentally cursing for giving himself away, Joel opened his eyes, wondering what trouble he had managed to find this time. The last thing he remembered was walking into the new Neolithic exhibit. Someone had dug up a stone circle and this inscribed stone tablet that someone a couple of centuries before them had transplanted to their back garden and now it was touring the country.

"What the hell?" he asked as he laid eyes on a huge man with a big grey beard and long wavy hair.

Several things immediately struck Joel as being wrong with what he was seeing. The first was the fact the man was wearing a toga that left most of his very well muscled chest bare. The second was even odder and that was the way the man gently glowed. The third, however, took the cake, the man was holding what looked like it might be a lightning bolt; not a lightning bolt shaped something, no, an actual, honest to god, looked like it might leap out of his hand at any second, lightning bolt.

Joel glanced around and realised he was surrounded by a group of people who all appeared as if they had escaped from a live action role playing game. Two of the others looked as if they might have raided their mum's linen cupboard just like toga guy, although the man had a slightly different style to the woman; another two appeared suspiciously like Vikings; one woman had bright red hair and was painted partially blue, so Joel guessed Celtic; although the freakiest award went to the woman with the head of a cat and the man with the head of a jackal.

Joel had seen enough programs on the Discovery channel and Xena repeats in his time to guess he was looking at several members of the pantheons of various ancient religions. He began to wonder if he'd played one too many games of World of Warcraft and had finally lost the plot.

They were all standing in what seemed to be a crazy mixture of Viking feasting hall, Greek or Roman temple and Egyptian palace; there were even some standing stones around the edge that Joel assumed was the Celtic influence. It was totally freaky.

"Child, we require your help," toga man, or Zeus as the back of Joel's brain kept insisting, said.

"What could you possibly need me for?" he asked.

"We are trapped," one of the Viking types said, looking at Joel with a very piercing expression, "we need you to facilitate our freedom."

"Trapped where?"

"Here of course," the Viking replied, apparently amused by the question.

The man, or god if Joel let himself believe it, had dark hair and a superior appearance with a smirk that spoke volumes. His companion was blond and had a big hammer in one hand, so Joel was guessing he was looking at Thor and one of Thor's friends or relatives.

"But I'm here too," Joel pointed out.

"Only in spirit, child," toga man said.

"My name's Joel," he said; he was fed up of being called 'child'.

He also decided to stand up, because it was really weird being the only one not looming.

"When you touched the eye on the stone tablet you were transported here," toga woman said, giving him a friendly smile.

This was karma, it had to be. The artefact had been right there and he knew he shouldn't have gone too near it, but his curiosity had got the better of him. Now he was paying the price. Maybe some ancient tribal person had poisoned it and he was writhing on the floor in the British Museum foaming at the mouth. Not what he was hoping for, for his fifteen minutes of fame.

"I am Athena, my companions are Zeus, king of the gods..."

"Only your set," the dark haired Viking muttered with a laugh, but Athena took no notice.

"Neptune, one of our Roman cousins, Thor and Loki of the Norse, Ceridwen our sister from the Welsh and Bast and Anubis from the lands of the Nile," the goddess continued to explain. "We had come together to discuss a problem which is no longer relevant when something or someone trapped us within this pocket realm. We have been awaiting for one of the gifted so that we may be freed."

"Gifted?" Joel wasn't sure he understood.

"You are psychic," Loki said.

"No I'm not," he objected.

That earned him another smirk from the Norse deity.

"Such gifts are most often dormant in modern humans," Bast told him, her voice soft and warm, "but they are still there."

"What do you need me to do?" he asked, pretty sure he did not believe any of what was going on.

The only crazier thing that had ever happened to him was the time he had had a temperature of one hundred and four and been absolutely sure his room was full of dancing gnomes. He still couldn't pass a garden centre without shivering.

"As you have travelled here in spirit, one of us may travel back with you," Zeus told him.

"There's a but, I can hear a but in your voice," Joel immediately replied. "What aren't you telling me?"

He could spot bullshit at fifty paces.

"What the Greek is failing to tell you is that at the other end you will then be possessed," Loki said quite plainly.

Zeus glared at the other god. For the god of lies, Loki seemed to be far more up front than Zeus.

"For how long?" Joel asked.

"Until we are free," Zeus told him.

"And until the god or goddess possessing you decides to return to their own body," Loki added, only to be glared at again.

"You are scaring him, Loki," Thor said in an unimpressed tone.

"I am simply telling the truth," Loki replied. "This must be a bargain freely entered or it will likely as not fail."

"That is not true," Athena said and went down in Joel's estimation.

Loki just rolled his eyes at her. Clearly there was no love lost between those two. For a few moments Joel wondered if it might be fun to try and goad them into a real argument, but then remembered where he was and what was going on.

"Right," he said, before anyone else could chime in with pearls of wisdom, "possession. What happens while I'm possessed?"

"You touch the eye again and we are all freed," Bast said.

Joel found himself looking at Loki for confirmation.

"It is as simple as that," Loki said with a nod.

"Then why do I have to take one of you back?"

"Because it requires divine energy to release the lock," Zeus explained.

"You must chose one of us," Ceridwen said, opening her arms and indicating the gathered company.

"The one chosen will then merge with you and together your spirits will return to your body," Neptune added.

"Will it hurt?"

"No," Zeus said.

"Maybe," Loki said at exactly the same time.

"Loki," Thor admonished.

"Okay, I pick him," Joel said and pointed at Loki, since if he was crazy it didn't matter and if this was really happening at least Loki was being honest.

"Done," Loki said and Joel's whole world instantly did a loop the loop.

He almost lost his lunch, but then remembered he was supposed to just be spirit, so he didn't have any lunch to lose. The room and the other gods were gone and all around him was blackness.

[What is going on?] he asked, or tried to ask and realised he couldn't say anything aloud; his body seemed frozen.

[We are travelling back to your reality,] Loki's voice spoke in his mind and a sense of smug satisfaction came with it.

Freaking out seemed like a valid option, but Joel was a little beyond that stage; he was in to blank acceptance by now.

[How long will that take?] he asked.

[Not long,] Loki replied, [but we have to go the long way, because we are merged.]

There really was a very strong feeling of accomplishment coming from Loki that Joel could not ignore.

[Oh my god,] Joel said as realisation hit him, [you manipulated me into picking you. You bastard.]

Loki laughed in his mind.

[Of course I did,] the deity told him; [it has been ages since I have been allowed to possess a human. Odin is so pernickety about such things and it's so much fun to see through human eyes.]

[What are you going to do?]

[Free the others, unfortunately,] Loki replied in a put upon tone, [or I would never hear the end of it. I have had enough of listening to Thor whine about the lack of mead for two hundred years I do not need him whining about this as well.]

[You've been in there two hundred years?]

[Give or take.]

[Why would anyone do that?]

[A joke I expect.]

There was something off about the reply and it made Joel begin to suspect something.

[Funny kind of joke.]

[You have to understand how the pantheons do not get on to understand how funny it might be.]

That clinched it.

[You did it, didn't you,] he said, [and got stuck in your own trap.]

The silence that greeted that was enough to tell him everything he needed to know and he couldn't help it, he laughed.

[What a remarkable child,] was what Loki eventually said. [You must be one of mine; there is no other explanation possible.]

[What went wrong?] Joel asked, curious despite any warning voices in the back of his mind.

[Thor,] Loki replied, [what always goes wrong with my plans. He bungled into the trap before he was supposed to, but since he was drunk off his arse it wasn't overly surprising.]

[But why did you do it?]

[As I said, a joke. Gods and goddesses become far too full of themselves over time, that's why every pantheon has a trickster of some kind; we exist to bring them back down. I was going to leave them in there for a few months, tease them a bit and then let them out. It was fun even being trapped with them for a while, but you have heard nothing so boring until you have listened to Thor and Zeus discussing storms for two hundred years. It is enough to drive even stoic Athena to madness.]

Joel blinked and realised he was standing in front of the stone tablet again. Their journey was over.

[Ah, humanity,] Loki said in his mind. [How would you feel about a few weeks just running around having fun?]

[No,] Joel said very firmly.

[But I haven't been human in centuries.]

[No.]

[But you like having fun.]

[Release them or I'm telling them who set the trap in the first place.]

There was a moment of silence and then, much to Joel's shock, a huge chuckling laugh.

[Oh, you are definitely one of mine, have you considered worshipping a new deity?]

[I don't worship any deities.]

[Really?] Loki sounded honestly shocked.

[I'm not into religion.]

[Oh, but we could have such fun,] Loki said, sounding eager. [I have so few worshippers anymore. I'd make you my high priest.]

The image that flashed through his mind at that offer was anything but innocent and Joel was sure he had to be blushing madly. Not that he wasn't interested; he had hormones after all and Loki could form very vivid mental images.

[Loki, focus,] he replied.

[Spoil sport.]

However, Joel saw his finger move without his conscious consent and then he was touching the eye again. It felt as if electricity passed from his feet to his finger and there was a loud clicking sound followed by an enormous crack. It almost sounded like a thunder clap and suddenly Joel was surrounded by people.

"Thank you, my boy," Zeus said and slapped him on the back, before disappearing in a flash of light.

The others quickly followed, leaving just Loki and Thor. Since he could move, Joel assumed Loki had actually kept his side of the bargain and unpossessed him.

"Hey you," someone called from behind him.

He looked round to see a security guard coming towards him. It was then he realised where the loud sound had come from, because right where his finger had been, the stone tablet was split in two. The exhibit was completely broken.

"Are you going to explain?" he asked, looking at Loki.

"Oh, didn't I mention," Loki said, grinning at him, "no one can see us but you."

"Oh you utter bastard," Joel said, took one more glance at the furious looking security guard and decided his best bet was to leg it.

He had never run so hard in his life and Loki's laughter and the security guard chased him for a good mile. When he finally lost the man, he dove into the nearest tube station and headed home, dreading what the headlines on the local news might be that evening. There was bound to be CCTV. They were going to be knocking on his door. Defacing a national treasure was probably worse than murder in some people's book. His mother would disown him when she found out. Never would his name be spoken again in his parent's house.

"By Asgard you're dramatic," a voice said from directly behind him as he closed his front door and leant on it.

He almost leapt out of his skin.

"What the actual every loving fuck?" he said as his heart tried to beat through his chest.

"I believe you just made my point," Loki said, still smirking at him. "Do you have any alcohol, I'm thirsty?"

Joel found himself replying before his brain could catch up; another win for British hospitality.

"Wait, what, how the hell did you get here and how do you know I'm being dramatic?" he demanded, following Loki into the living room.

"Oh, did I forget to mention, we're going to be a little bit connected for a while," Loki told him, fishing in the cupboard and then standing back up with Joel's lone bottle of whiskey.

"I'm going to die," Joel said.

"Oh, I like you," Loki said before swigging some of the whiskey straight from the bottle. "You seemed quite taken with the high priest idea, I thought I'd offer again, just in case you'd decided to say yes."

"And spend the rest of my life dumped in the middle of shit to amuse you?" Joel accused. "Oh I don't think so."

"I always look after my own," Loki replied, stepping a little closer to him. "If you were my high priest the authorities would find all of their video footage strangely damaged."

Joel stood there with his mouth open.

"You're seriously trying to blackmail me into being your high priest?" he finally said, not quite believing his ears.

"Yes," Loki replied, "is it working?"

The idea of his picture being flashed all across London ran through Joel's head, followed quickly by the disappointed expression that would be on his mother's face.

"What would I have to do?"

Loki beamed at him.

"I did not say yes."

"Oh but you will," Loki told him. "Mischief is fun, I promise and the last Ragnarok was phenomenal."

"The last Ragnarok?" Joel couldn't help himself.

"I told you, tricksters are there to bring down the gods," Loki explained. "It's kind of a game."

"But doesn't everyone die?"

"Well yes, but they all get up again afterwards. If I'm going to top last time it's going to take a lot of planning; using frost giants and fire giants in their elemental form to come together and annihilate each other in the middle of Asgard in an explosion the like of which had never been seen, was a stroke of genius, even if I do say so myself."

"Won't Odin and Thor try and stop you?"

For that he earned an expression that told him just how stupid a question that was.

"It's a game," was all Loki said, as if that explained everything. "By the way, you're bisexual, correct?"

Joel whimpered, just a little.

The End

If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, 29 April 2013

Y is for Yellow - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

I have to be honest, I picked this topic because when I was trying to think something up the only word that would come into my head was yellow.

I don't even really like yellow, but there you go. I'm not sure why either. I have nothing against most colours, but yellow is one that has always niggled at me since I was very small. I blame daffodils - I've never liked daffodils :).

That being said I do like lots of other things that are yellow:

  • ducklings
  • lemons
  • primroses
  • yellow roses
  • rubber duckies
  • sweet corn
  • the sun
  • bananas (as long as they are pulverised)
  • pikachu
   

Well you get the idea.

Yellow is also a very useful colour in painting. With a little red it warms things up. With blue it cools them down. It can bring light to painting and highlights to a dark scene.

When it's luminous it makes a very good colour to be warn to be seen at night.

It's usually a cheerful colour.

Yet I'm still not overly fond of it by itself. I'm not sure I own any yellow clothing. Oh, hang on, I lie, I think I have a pale yellow nightshirt. It's the daffodils' fault I tell you, it has to be.

Are you a fan of yellow? Please, tell me what yellow things you love.

If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X is for Xenomorph - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Okay, hands up who doesn't love xenomorphs.

Hmm, perhaps that wasn't the best way of putting it :).

For those who don't know, xenomorph is the name used by fans of the franchise for the aliens in Alien and the following movies. It's not actually their official designation, but it'll do. Now here is a triumph of cinematic brilliance. These things are creepy and scary even when you know they're coming.

It really doesn't matter that I've seen most of the films multiple times, these beasties can still scare the hell out of me.

It actually took me a long time to see any of the Alien movies. I wasn't old enough when the original came out, or the second one for that matter because it's an 18 and in 1986 I was too young to see it. Hence I have seen all but Alien Resurrection on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray.

I think I saw Aliens first, but don't quote me on that. I've always had a bit of a thing for Michael Biehn and I do love him as Hicks in this film.

However, there are two stars of the Alien movies, Ripley and the xenomorphs, especially the queen. Now Ripley is superb and I thought what Sigrourney Weaver did with her in Alien Resurrection was simply genius, but we're not here to talk about humans.

The xenomorphs were designed for the original movie by H.R.Giger, deriving from his artwork entitled Necronom IV (see right) and then refined in several ways for the film.

The fact that in the original film the xenomorph is a man in a suit is quite remarkable, given quite how creepy the alien is. So many special effects with men in suits are cheesy and terrible, but in this, Bolaji Badejo, who was discovered in a local pub, did an amazing job.

There is something inherently horrifying about a creature that preys on human beings, especially in the way they trap, implant and leave them to a horrible death. For example you have another Giger like alien in Species, but I don't find her anywhere near as frightening. Yes, she is badass, yes she kills easily, but she is looking to impregnate herself. The fact that the xenomorphs are looking to catch and impregnate humans is far more terrifying.

The way the victims beg to be killed says it all really.

What makes them even scarier is that they are eusocial, like ants and bees, which means they don't care about themselves, only the hive and the queen. This makes them an unstoppable force, because the only way to stop them is to kill them all. The Predator is just as alien as a xenomorph, but I've never found them particularly scary because their motives are more understandable. They're hunters; it's a very human motivation, but xenomorphs have no human motivation. Their entire existence is for the hive and the queen.

To tell you the truth, I find the face huggers; the second stage of the alien life cycle, much more frightening than the xenomorphs, but there is something much more majestic about the xenomorph. The fact they look humanoid in shape just makes what they do to humans so much worse. They are the perfect warrior and you have to respect anything that can kill in so many ways. The fact they can still kill you with their acid blood if you splatter them and are not far enough away ups the danger level considerably.

Aliens are a cinematic monster classic, which I suspect will be remembered for a very long time. The fact they were made slimy by K-Y Jelly is a fact that will never cease to be amusing, but I digress :). Xenomorphs are the badest alien species out there and their creators deserve all the respect they get.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the Geiger piccie and some of the facts.

If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 26 April 2013

W is for Werewolf - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Werewolves are a great topic in literature and film. I'm not as fond of them as vampires, but I will admit they have their own section in my DVD collection :).

Lycanthropy, aka the ability to turn into a wolf, or a wolf-like creature had been a part of folklore for a very long time. According to wikipedia the Roman author Petronius and the 13th century English canon lawyer are both sources for the early belief in this affliction.

I am more interested in the use of lycanthropy in fiction. When it is brought to the screen or the page it is very often a curse brought on by the full moon. The victim becomes a slathering beast ready to kill any and all, friend or foe as the moon has her way. It is the ultimate loss of control, the reduction of a thinking, feeling human being to the form of a blood-crazed beast. Many stories use them as a metaphor for sexuality; the beast that especially protestant Christians were so afraid of.

For this post, however, I don't intend to delve too deeply. I'm going to share a few of my favourite werewolves with you.

Now in modern fandom when you talk about werewolves then you really have to talk about Teen Wolf. I am not part of the fandom, in fact I have only seen ten minutes of the show, total, but I have read some of the fic. I have to admit that when someone says Teen Wolf I still think this:

But I would be the first to admit that this is way hotter :).

Teen Wolf the movie is Michael J. Fox coming to terms with the fact the men in his family are werewolves. Teen Wolf the TV show claims to be based on the same premise, but there are hunters and bad guys and lots more angst in the TV show. Where the movie is mostly light-hearted, there is some darkness in the TV show.

Now if you want darkness and humour, there is one of the greats of werewolf cinema: An American Werewolf in London. I still vividly remember the first time I saw this film. The horror, the pain, the very dark humour. It never left me, especially the iconic scene where David first turns into the werewolf.

It is possibly the most harrowing werewolf transformation I have ever seen and the fact there is the jaunty music in the background just makes it so much worse somehow.

I know a lot of people don't like the sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, and I do have to admit it is an entirely different type of film. However, I do rather enjoy it. It's much lighter than the original and no where near as deep, but it's a fun horror movie.

One of the first werewolf books I remember reading was The Howling, but I've never seen the film based on the book. I have seen The Howling VI : The Freaks, however, and it has a vampire in it, so you know I'm going to have enjoyed it. Since it also stars Bruce Payne, who always plays an excellent bad guy, this is one of the ones I have in my DVD collection even though it's somewhat cheesy.

There are many others I could mention, but then the post would be far too long, so I will round off with my favourite ever werewolf film: Dog Soldiers. This is a film about a squad of UK soldiers on an exercise in Scotland who end up barricaded inside a remote farmhouse, besieged by werewolves.

The film is a UK production, so not as big a budget as a big US film, but it is very slickly done. It was written and directed by Neil Marshall and stars Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham. It is brilliant.

It's funny, horrifying in all the right ways, has great effects and was written by a fan boy, so there are so many in jokes it's even more hilarious if you're a geek. The plot has twists and turns and never lets up. This is a full on, old fashioned horror movie, so don't expect most of the cast to survive, but everyone who kicks the bucket does so in the most brilliant of ways. It also has the funniest commentary I have ever listened to on the DVD.

I shall leave you with my favourite quote. Spoon is one of the soldiers and Cooper and Wells, two other members of his squad, have just run into a room looking for him, a room that is now empty and covered in blood.


Cooper: Where's Spoon?
Sergeant Harry Wells: There is no Spoon.

Go on, tell me which film that's referencing :).

We have a couple of books out with werewolves/shape shifters in them if you are interested (mostly paranormal rather than horror):


If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review: Starcrossed (1985)

Title: Starcrossed (1985)
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cast:
James Spader ... Joey Callaghan
Belinda Bauer ... Mary
Peter Kowanko ... Stewy
Clark Johnson ... Ralph

Summary: Joey bumps into a strange woman on the street one night as she is being chased by two goons. He offers her a ride, which turns out to be the start of something that will change his life. At first he thinks Mary is a defector from the Soviet Union, but Mary is from a lot further away than that; she's from a different planet.

This is yet another made for TV movie from the 80s which isn't available on DVD, but I wish it was, because I love it to bits. It's one of those films that pushes all my buttons.

Given how well James Spader is known I would have thought his back catalogue would be worth investing in, but, as yet, no one has brought this to DVD. This is one of those movies for which I wrote fanfic before I knew about the internet or anyone else doing the same thing. I have a little reporters notebook full of the sequel to this movie :).

Having just rewatched the film and dug out the fanfic I now realise I spent the whole thing calling Ralph, Huey, which is actually the name of one of Joey's pet fish, but never mind :).

Now, back to the film. It's not a complicated plot. Mary's an alien with alien powers (telepathy and telekinesis) and she's on the run from nasty aliens who have taken over her planet. Joey, being the upstanding guy he is, helps her and ends up on the wrong side of the bad aliens and the Feds. There is romance, there is mystical bonding and I just love it all.

I am a big James Spader fan and have been for many, many years. He has played a lot of bad guys in his time, but I first saw him as a good guy and I've always thought he was very easy on the eyes. Turns out his intense stare is because he has incredibly bad eye sight and can't wear contacts.

He is great as Joey. Basically he's an all American guy willing to help the girl on the run in the name of freedom, or possibly because he fancies her, or both. He's not complicated and drops his whole back story in one conversation, but the way Spader plays him just makes him so likeable. He's the hero through and through and the way he reacts to Mary's revelations is perfect.

Then we have Belinda Bauer as Mary. She's vulnerable, but strong and does rather bewildered alien very well. There is subtlety to the way she plays the character and depth that make Mary a very sympathetic role that draws the viewer into the film.

I'm not going to lie, some of the dialogue in the film is ... how shall I put this ... terrible, and some of the delivery from the side characters is worse, but I don't care. There is a charm to this movie that no amount of bad acting from the bit parts is going to take away. As I mentioned this film hits my buttons. I suspect if you don't have the same buttons you might not like it as much as I do :).

This is a film that gives you exactly what you expect. The plot has only one layer. The good guys have to eventually win. Joey and Mary are bound to fall in love. However it delivers all of what it has to the best of its ability and I am never not going to be able to sit down and watch it over and over again. I spent years trying to find this on tape after I first saw it on TV; that's how much I enjoyed it.

If you are a fan of James Spader or Belinda Bauer then I am pretty sure you'll enjoy this if you ever get the chance to see it.

V is for Vampire - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Greetings and welcome to my blog for the letter V. I have no doubt that from the picture to the left you have figured out that my topic for today is vampires.

I love vampire fiction in most of its forms and hence today I decided to write you all a short story. I very much hope you enjoy it. It is a male/male relationship, but has no adult content.

Less Than Alive

by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Waking up was, well, unexpected if Karl was honest with himself. His last thought came back to him and it had been along the lines of 'well it's been a good life'. The next thing that occurred to him was that it was dark.

He opened his eyes ... it was still dark.

He was lying on something soft, but not very thick and when he moved his right arm he hit a wall. This encouraged him to try with his left and he hit another one. Lifting his leg and whacking his knee on something not very far above it, led him to conclude he was in a not very big box of some kind.

The fact that his brain was not quite online meant that it took him a few seconds to put together his first thought and the current evidence.

"I'm in a coffin," he said and, as if to prove his point, his voice bounced straight back at him from a few inches above his nose with the dead sound of being in a very confined space that did not resonate.

In all truth Karl knew he should have panicked about then, but he lay there feeling strangely calm. It was almost as if part of him had been expecting the whole situation. Just lying there, he searched through his memory to see if he could figure out why.

It had been snowing and he had been driving home. The motorway was shut thanks to a jack-knifed lorry, so he had taken the back roads; lucky for him he drove a 4x4. He had seen a guy shivering on the side of the road with a thumb out and for once his good citizen conscience had kicked in and he had stopped.

Then he remembered driving on, a sharp pain and then the whole near death thoughts before nothing.

He was sure he was missing something.

Had he been stabbed?

Feeling around was difficult, but he couldn't find anything.

Thinking a little harder, he tried to remember where the pain had been. It hadn't been in his chest, so he was pretty sure it hadn't been anything to do with his heart. It hadn't been in his head, so he didn't think it was a stroke, which left the young man he had picked up.

It took him a while, but his brain was slowly getting back up to speed. Finally he tracked down part of the elusive memory; the pain had been in his neck.

Had he really just sat there with that much pain in his neck? He didn't think he could have, but his mind seemed to be shying away from something.

It had to be to do with his passenger, but what? Lying there, staring into the darkness Karl pushed at the memory. It did not want to come back to him, but he pushed hard and after several minutes it was as if something snapped. Then it hit him like a flash: snarling lips, glistening fang like teeth and red eyes that glowed like hot coals.

"Oh," he said and blinked in the darkness.

Suddenly waking up in a coffin made a lot of sense.

Karl was not a horror film aficionado, but he couldn't help thinking it would have been much easier if he had woken up before he was buried. Actually he wasn't even sure why he had been buried; his family were the cremate them and scatter them types. Not that he was complaining, because he would have had a very short time as a vampire if that had been the case.

Of course he was assuming a lot, so he did a quick mental check. He did feel different, for a start he should really have been screaming his lungs out, but he didn't have that urge at all. The fact that he had no idea what he was doing didn't stop him just trying some mental exercises. He tried thinking of blood, of violence, of bats, but nothing seemed to make any difference. In the end he did what, on reflection, he realised he should have done in the first place, he thought about being a vampire.

Almost like turning on a switch, his environment entirely changed. It was no longer dark, or rather it was dark, but everything seemed to be edged in red detail, so it didn't matter that it was dark. He could also hear someone humming under their breath. This person was above him. The sensation of his teeth actually moving in his jaw was unpleasant, but by then he was far more interested in the fact that he felt suddenly famished. The owner of the voice became instantly much more important to him, although not as someone that might facilitate rescue, but rather as a possible food source.

This thought did strike him as odd, but it didn't stop him trying to sit up. It really only occurred to him after he was beginning to stand that he shouldn't have been able to do either. It was then he realised he wasn't actually standing at all, he was in fact an incorporeal mist that was working upwards through the dirt above his coffin and when he hit fresh air he had to concentrate very hard to stay in one place.

"Oh, it's you," he said as he coalesced back into a solid form, standing in what appeared to be the graveyard of his local church.

There, sitting on a nearby gravestone, was the man who had attacked him.

"Of course it's me," the other vampire said in a very chirpy manner, "I've been waiting for hours."

"I'm hungry," Karl complained even though he probably should have been angry or something.

His companion had the audacity to grin at him.

"Come here, Precious," his creator said and stood up, reaching out and pulling him forward by the lapel of his jacket. "Have a nibble and you'll feel much better."

"I am nobody's precious," Karl tried to complain, but the other vampire exposed a long line of pale neck and his whole attention was grabbed.

His mouth began to water and he leant in without even considering not doing it. The flesh under his mouth gave no resistance to his fangs and his mouth filled with sweet, fragrant blood.

"Oh yeah," his maker said, voice tight with pleasure, "come to papa."

Karl had never had an experience like it; he felt alive as if for the first time in his whole existence. The taste was better than any food he had ever eaten and it intoxicated him far more than the weed he'd tried at university. He wanted more, he wanted it all ... and then his legs gave out.

He knelt on the ground blinking, trying to work out what had happened and his companion had the gall to laugh at him.

"Oh Precious, I'm going to enjoy having you around."

"What was that?"

"I made you so you can't harm me," his maker said, "I can't harm you either, for that matter. Call it an evolutionary trick to ensure the propagation of the species. Don't let the other buggers catch you unawares though; they'll eat your newborn arse. It's you and me, Babe, against the night."

"Why me?"

"I was starving, you stopped and I felt the spark in you when you shuffled off the mortal coil, now we'll be fabulous together."

"I'm a fifty three year old banker with a paunch and a receding hairline, there is nothing fabulous about me," Karl pointed out.

His maker laughed again.

"Not any more, Precious," the other vampire said; "you left most of that down there. Now you're a twenty-something stud, admittedly in bad clothes, but we can fix that."

Then Karl found himself being kissed and it was hot and messy and he forgot about most things for a while. Only when his new friend drew back did he remember a significant fact.

"I'm straight," he said, although his body was reacting in rather specific ways for that to actually be true.

His statement got him laughed at again.

"We all pick up things from our parents, Precious," his maker said and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, we need to get to London where I have a place to stay and lots of lovely twinks willing to let us bite them."

"So you didn't have to kill me?"

"Starving remember, Precious?"

Karl tried to be annoyed about that, but decided he couldn't be bothered.

"It better be a nice area," he said, feeling a little petulant; "I'm not living in a slum."

His companion laughed as if this was the funniest thing he'd ever heard and Karl followed the vampire towards the lych gate. It was only as they were stealing one of the very nice Mercedes from a neighbour Karl had always disliked from where it was parked outside the local pub that he realised he didn't even know his new friend's name. Being undead was far more exciting than being alive.



If you are interested in reading more of my fiction, these are the books I have out that have vampire content:
The Soul Reader Series (two of this series are free from some retailers).
   
Vampires: The New Age
 
Other
       

If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Unicorn - Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Who doesn't love unicorns?

I have loved unicorns since I was a little girl and I make no excuses for it at all. They are noble and pure creatures and I don't think I've ever seen them in anything where I didn't love them. Admittedly the bit in Blade Runner is pretty odd, but. well, it's still a great film.

The fact that they are supposedly drawn to virgins makes them an utterly fabulous plot device.

In the film Legend, they are used as a metaphor for Lili's journey from girl to womanhood as well as the very real part of the plot to encourage along the whole story. I'm rather fond of Legend. Yes it's a little corny in places and slapping half the characters seems like a really good idea at times, but it's still a brilliant film. If nothing else you have to give it points for Tom Curry as the Lord of Darkness.


Another great use of a unicorn was in Merlin. I still think the first season of Merlin was the best and I loved the way they used the unicorn. We all know Arthur is supposed to become a good and pure king, but in this episode he had to prove it.

The fact that the unicorn was attracted to Merlin also gave the fanfic writers hours of fun :).

Of course unicorns aren't the only mythical creatures I adore. I've always loved dragons as well. In a lot of films and books of my childhood  dragons were the bad guys, but I could never help liking them. Dragons are just a regal as unicorns, only they tend to be a bit bloodier. Unicorns win with magic and purity of heart, dragons win with magic and really sharp teeth.

In most fiction unicorns tend to be shy, retiring creatures who give their trust only grudgingly. They are also often the innocent victims as magicians and sorcerers attempt to steal their horn. I do enjoy it when the unicorn turns out to be a little more kick-ass though, either because of their innate magic, or because of what the protagonists help them to do.

In the fantasy genre you often find the unicorn used as a symbol of peace, similar to the dove in Christian theology, and peace is a worthy goal. I won't say the unicorn is my favourite mythical creature, but it is definitely up near the top.

Do you like unicorns? What is your favourite mythical creature?

If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review: Nightlife (1989)

Title: Nightlife (TV 1989)

Cast:
Ben Cross ... Vlad
Maryam d'Abo ... Angelique
Keith Szarabajka ... Dr. David Zuckerman
Camille Saviola ... Rosa Mercedes
Jesse Corti ... Jose

Summary: A museum in Mexico is digging up bodies to add mummies to their display when one of them turns out to be more alive than dead: she's a vampire. Angelique finds a champion in this new century in Dr David Zuckerman who is a blood specialist and wants to help cure her disease. The problem is, Vlad, the evil vampire boyfriend she buried herself to get away from is still on her trail.

(P.S. I have just read the summary on IMDB, and I don't know who wrote it, but it's totally wrong).

Now I know the summary sounds cheesy, but it's supposed to be, this is a comedy and I love it. The biggest problem is it's not available on DVD. I wish it were. I found my old VHS tape and converted it to avi so I could watch it again and the story is as great now as it was when VHS tapes were all the rage :).

This is a made for TV movie, so don't expect huge budgets, but do expect a great plot, some highly entertaining characters and a lot of laughs.

Maryam d'Arbo plays Angelique, a whimsical, mostly bemused with the new century, vampire. She fled to Mexico to get away from Vlad, the vampire who turned her and then, had herself buried alive to make sure he couldn't find her. Unfortunately, Vlad takes scary stalker type to a whole new level. Maryam is great, especially when she is over taken by her vampire instincts (check right).
Then we have Keith Szarabajka as David Zuckerman, Angelique's knight in shining armour, or rather, blue denim and a lab coat. Sorry about the quality of the picture, it was the only one I could find.

You might have seen Keith in The Equaliser or Angel. He was one of my fav actors of the 80s when I used to be very disappointed if he wasn't in this week's ep of The Equaliser.

He plays the man rooted in science and trying to figure out all this vampire stuff so well. Of course it all over takes him in the end, but what I love about this film is science still offers a half decent solution.

Vlad is played by Ben Cross,  a very distinguished British actor and he over does it beautifully. This is a comedy, so several of the characters are exaggerated and he plays Vlad so well. The look on his face when Angelique tries to explain they aren't some amazing supernatural creatures they are 'simply diseased' is magnificent.

This is a vampire following his lost love across the centuries done as creepy and psychotic and just about right. No pretending this is the perfect romance :).

However, my favourite character of all is Rosa, Angelique's new maid. She is kick ass and takes Angelique's unusual nature in her stride.

The way she deals with Vlad when he utters the immortal line: 'Let me in or I will rip out your throat and use your windpipe as a straw.' is pure genius.

You may have seen Camille Saviola as Kai Opaka in DS9, and a more different character you could not find :). She's magnificent.

The other side characters of Jose and Vlad's two very unlikely henchmen are also superb.

The plot is also well thought out and put together. It makes sense in a 'what if vampires were real' kind of way. I love the science and the mysticism. David can't explain everything, even though he tries, but he can explain some of what is going on. When he finally catches on to the fact Angelique thinks she's a vampire it's hilarious  as is the moment he sees her bed.

This movie is funny and entertaining and a great example of the comedy horror genre that was so well done in the late 80s and early 90s. I only wish it would come out in a decent format so I can watch it without it bouncing up and down every now and then (my tape is a bit knackered - it was an ex-rental when I acquired it).