Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
Top set of links above are external links, second set are pages local to the blog.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Always Seeking Creators of All Kinds for #WriterlyWednesdays


Welcome to Writerly Wednesdays this week. Today I have no indepth post since I wrote about writing yesterday as well (Trying - Sometimes the Only Way - #TipsTuesdays 33), but I am always looking for people to host for other Writerly Wednesdays - hence today's topic.

Always Seeking Creators of All Kinds for #WriterlyWednesdays


If you are a blogger, comic creator, cover artist, author or anything else to do with writerly things I would love to host you for Writerly Wednesdays. I have a few dates booked up, but there are many still available.

If you have a book, publication or event to publicise, that's awesome - all I ask is that there is some content to the post as well as the advertising. Blogger got a little funny about posts for a while and content is key to grabbing readers. For example, if you are publicising your book, either a guest post linked to the book (can be just a paragraph or two) or an author interview would be great.

I am happy to create a banner for the top of the post to make it FB and G+ friendly, if you don't already have one you would like me to use. See these posts to see what kind of thing I usually come up with.

The posts usually go live at midnight GMT on the Wednesday they are scheduled for and then in the morning I share them to my followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest and G+.

Information I usually post along with the main content of the post:

About the post Author section

  • Author photo (optional - can also be a logo)
  • Author Info
  • Author links (e.g. twitter, blog etc.)

Book/Event section

  • Cover photo/event logo
  • Book/Event info
  • Book/Event links

To take part, please fill in the form below and I will get back to you about a spot. Many thanks.
N.B. if the timing is important, i.e. the post will be part of a blog hop or the like, please let me know in the comments section at the end.

 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Trying - Sometimes the Only Way - #TipsTuesdays 33


Welcome to my blog, today I would like to talk about trying things, because sometimes it's the only way to know if you are going to like something. I hasten to add this does not apply to things that may endanger your health, more things that will open your mind in the intellectual sense :).

Trying - Sometimes the Only Way


This whole topic came about because of the film Pride and Prejudice with Zombies. I kid you not. I didn't think I was going to like it, then I watched it and it is awesome. I also though my mother might like it. Now what you have to realise is that my mother is a staunch Pride and Prejudice fan and would never in a million years have watched this film. However, because Soph and I recommended it, she actually tried it and she enjoyed it. The trick was pointing out that it's really Pride and Prejudice with a touch of historical war romance thrown in - the war just happens to be against zombies.

This illustrates to me completely that sometimes you cannot know if you will enjoy something without trying it first. This applies to books as well as films (you guessed where I was heading, didn't you ;)).

There are many ways to sample an author's work before we buy, because sometimes even the most fantastic cover and awesome description can't quite make us spend our hard earned cash.

1. Free Books


With the advent of the eBook era, there are many free books out there, especially from Indie authors. If a new author has caught our eye we can check out their Amazon (UKUS) or Smashwords profile and see if there are any free books on offer. Often there are.

Always check both because sometimes Amazon can be a little tricky on price matching.

For example, I have five free books out there, only four of which are price matched on Amazon (click images to visit book pages).

I have never been able to get them to price match Chip Off the Old Block? and I have no idea why - so it's free on Smashwords and everywhere they ship to, but not Amazon.

2. KDP Select Books

eBooks in the KDP Select program provide two ways for try before we buy:
  • book free days - authors can put their books for free for five days in every 90, but you have to look out for these.
  • Kindle Unlimited- the books are available free to read to  Kindle Unlimited members.
I have one book in KDP Select, because I object to the fact books have to be exclusive to Amazon, but it seems the only way to get Amazon algorithms to work for you.
Amazon : UK | US

3. The Look Inside Option


Most eBook sites have the equivilant the Amazon's look inside option. This allows us to see the first section of the book to see if it grabs us. I know I use it all the time, because, just occasionally, a perfect description and lovely cover hide terrible grammar or a writing style that does not grab me at all. We all have different tastes, so the look inside is a great option for dipping our toes in the water.

4. Author's Blogs


If we want to check out an author's writing style, their blog is often a good place to start. These are often links from their author profiles on Amazon and Smashwords - I know mine is.

Authors often post flash fiction to their blogs; just keep in mind that it might not be as polished as their published work :).

All of my posted fiction on this blog is here: Free Reads.

5. Mailing List/ Newsletters

If we look around, often we will find that authors give away a free book when we sign up for their mailing list or newsletter. Now this may sound like the wrong way round to be handling finding a new author, but it's very easy to unsubscribe if it turns out they are not the author for us.

Soph and I will give you two free eBooks for joining our newsletter :)

We'll send you details of book releases, competitions and other news from our authors, BUT we WON'T spam you, or pass your details on to anyone else.
Wittegen Press


* indicates required


So there you have it, four ways we can try before we buy. There is also the option of buying the book and then returning it only partially read, but I have to say, this really, really frustrates authors, because it is a technique used by pirates and it's impossible to tell who is who. Please use the look inside option instead.

Many thanks for visiting.

[Addition] - 6. Wattpad


Thanks to Patricia Lynne for mentioning one that I had totally forgotten. Wattpad is a place where writers of all kinds give away fiction for free, so check it out for new indie authors too.


Do you have any other suggestions for trying out new authors? Do you have any author recs?

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Conjuring 2 - Sometimes Seeing the Monsters is Terrifying Too #MonsterMondays 40


Welcome to a new week, let's hope it's better than the last one. Now the other week I talked about how the hidden monster can be much more frightening than the seen one, but The Conjuring 2 has a monster you definitely see and it's terrifying :).

The Conjuring 2 - Sometimes Seeing the Monsters is Terrifying Too



It's somewhat ironic that I am talking about monsters that are seen when The Conjuring 2 is actually based on The Enfield Poltergeist, a phenomenon which is inherently not seen.

The film is focused on Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, who are/were real people. They really were at the Enfield incident for a few days in the 1970s, although the ending to the real thing is nowhere near as exciting as the ending to the film.
Patrick Wilson as Ed and Vera Fermiga as Lorraine
The film starts at Amityville, where Lorraine has a vision of a demonic entity dressed as a nun. You can see her in the trailer above. Now revealing one of the monsters so soon into the film could have been something of a let down, but, in this case, it is done so well. The vision is somewhat prophetic in nature and the way the camera angles are done is shocking and scary enough that the demonic nun is in no way diminished.

In fact the nun is in what I thought was the best scene of the entire film. The scene involves a painting and the Warren's study at home and it is so brilliantly done. It's all shadows and tricks of the eye and really it's mostly a quiet scene that builds and builds to the thrilling climax. The writers (James Wan, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, David Leslie Johnson) and director (James Wan) of The Conjuring 2, really knew what they were doing.
Vera Fermiga as Lorraine Warren
Then we have the Enfield part of the plot. Again it is handled so well because it keeps us on the edge of our seats. It's done with lighting and shadows and the camera just catching something until, suddenly it's not, and it scares the bejezus out of everyone watching.

The Enfield Poltergeist was focused on Janet Hodgson, age 11, who is played by Madison Wolfe and she brings everything to life. We feel her terror through the screen and her reaction to things that are not always there it what has us believing.
Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson
Many believe that the real haunting may have started as a prank, and then become a fully fledged hoax once the press became involved. The film deals with this really well too, using it to build tension because we, the audience, know it's a real haunting even when the characters in the film are doubting.

The ghost in Enfield is Bill Wilkins, the man who supposedly lived in the house before the Hodgsons. He is just as well done as the demonic nun. I thought the scene where Ed Warren talks to Bill through Janet (something that he did actually do in reality) was another of the best in the film. It's done with forward focus, leaving the background blurred, only giving hints of what may or may not really be there. It is so effective in bringing the monster to life.

I'm not going to say any more about the monsters because I don't want to spoil the film. Suffice to say this is a film that builds tension and gives some really good scares all the way through. It's not a gory horror movie, just a spooky one. I think it's a superior film to The Conjuring, which I liked as well, and it kept me hooked right through the closing credits. If you like a good scare, this is the film for you.

Have you seen The Conjuring 2 or The Conjuring? What did you think? Have you heard of the Enfield Poltergeist? Do you think it was a hoax?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The EU Referendum - #ThinkyThursdays 16


There is only one topic on everyone's lips today in the UK and that is:

The EU Referendum

For those outside the EU, who haven't had this thrust at them through lots of news sources, today the UK is voting on whether to remain in the European Union or the leave it. The feelings are so strong in certain areas that we've had an MP murdered over it, or at least murdered over issues brought up by it.

Now I don't often talk about voting on my blog, because I believe you have to go where your conscience takes you. However, in this case I am very much for

#REMAIN

I have already voted because my husband and I went down for when the polls opened so he could almost catch his normal train.

I urge every UK citizen to get your bottom down to your polling centre and cast your vote. At least if we all turn out it will be a representation of the whole country, not just those who have been worked up into a frenzy.

If you watch nothing else about the EU Referendum then I suggest you watch the following video from John Oliver. It actually talks the most sense of any I have seen from either side! It captures my feelings perfectly.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Guest - Deb Atwood - Joint Review of A Tale of Two Sisters #WriterlyWednesdays 33


Welcome to Writerly Wednesdays 33 and please join me in welcoming the lovely Deb Atwood, author, to my blog. Today, thanks to Deb's wonderful suggestion, we are doing something a little different. We both share a love of ghost stories and we have done a joint review of one we both enjoyed. We very much hope you enjoy the result.

Please note the review has one small explicit spoiler in it, but discusses the rest of the film in very general terms.

A Tale of Two Sisters - A Review


Genre: horror, mystery, ghost
Year: 2003
Nationality: South Korean
Cast:
Im Soo-jung as Bae Su-mi
Moon Geun-young as Bae Su-yeon
Yum Jung-ah as Heo Eun-joo
Kim Kap-soo as Bae Moo-hyeon
Lee Seung-bi as Mi-hee (Eun-joo's sister in law)
Lee Dae-yeon as Su-mi's doctor
Park Mi-hyun as Mrs Bae (Moo-hyeon's first wife and Su-mi's and Su-yeon's mother)
Woo Ki-hong as Sun-kyu (Eun-joo's brother)
Summary (from Wikipedia):  Two sisters, after returning home from a psychiatric hospital, experience increasingly disturbing events involving both them and their stepmother.

D = Deb, T = Tasha

D Q1. Did this movie give you a kind of fairy tale feeling?

T: Yes it did. It very much seemed to have all the fairy tale tropes. There was the wicked stepmother, the ineffectual father and the abused children in need of vindication. All very much classic fairy tale fair. However, I think it's the addition of the ghostly aspect and what we learn about the mother lifts it out of simply the fantasy genre and nudges it into horror. It felt to me very much like a crossover film.

It wasn't a full on horror, like a title along the lines of The Evil Dead or The Thing, but it did have a couple of moments that gave me a nice scare.

D: True, I can’t really think of any fairytales with ghosts, so it’s cool how the director combines ghostly elements with traditional fairytale tropes. In addition to the wicked stepmother and the befuddled father, the bag and the bird were familiar fairytale objects even though treated differently here.

Interestingly, Tale of Two Sisters is based on an old Joseon dynasty fairytale called “Janghwa, Hongreon,” and I love how the director interpreted the old story into a psychological ghost tale. Janghwa, Hongreon refers to sisters Rose and Lotus, and that title made me think of the folk story “Snow White and Rose Red” - two sisters who were also named for trees.

T Q1. Continuing the idea of imagery, do you think they were going for a twist on the whole Red Riding Hood, coming of age metaphor with the girls?

D: So, thanks to your question, I had to do a little research on Red Riding Hood’s cloak. I'd always thought of the wolf as a sexual predator, but I'd never considered the blood/maturation symbolism of the red cloak. Wow! Definitely an eye-opener for me. And yes, I would say the coming of age element exists in Tale of Two Sisters as well (and even more so in the fairytale on which this film is based, which focuses on chastity and sexuality).

T: Funny how so many fairy tales have an obsession with female sexuality, isn't it? I've just been to read the fairy tale Tale of Two Sisters is based on and it's just as brutal as western fairy tales isn't it. Makes sense of some of the imagery I didn't quite get as well. It's always interesting how our viewing of a film can change when cultural or story references are made clear.

D Q2. What did you think of the ghostly images/effects in this film compared to other ghost movies?

T: They felt very traditionally Asian to me, shocking and unrelatable to living humans, which is what makes them so scary. Without them it would have simply been a psychological horror and I think their addition adds well to the film. There was the whole psychological aspect to the whole story, but bringing in the supernatural element gave it more substance, making the ending stand out more to me, than it would have otherwise.

The effects weren't as horrific as something like Teke Teke or Ju-on, but they still had that air of menace. They gave the film a creepy vibe that kept me watching.

D: Some viewers might find this film slow, but I felt the shadowy images, dark spaces, and slowmo effects worked well. Many shots of shuffling feet and the sound of creaking doors add to the eerie tone. Sometimes creatures in horror films are so grotesque or outlandish that I’m pulled out of the story, which I find annoying.Tale of Two Sisters doesn’t fall into that trap and is richer because of it.  

T Q2: Which actress do you think played the most outstanding role as one of the sisters, Su-jeong Lim as Soo-mi (the dominant sister) or Geun-young Moon as Soo-yeon (the quiet one)?

D: I loved Moon’s portrayal of Soo-yeon. I’m a sucker for innocent, vulnerable children, and I think she did a beautiful job in that role. However, Lim had the more difficult part to play with many emotional and psychological shifts, so I’d have to vote for her.

T: They were both so good weren't they? If either one of them had been weaker actresses it would have unbalanced the film, but they played off each other so well. I think I have to agree with you, Lim gets my vote too, even though Moon was brilliant.

T Q3. These days, thanks to M. Night Shyamalan, we are used to big twists in plots, but did you see the twist coming in this one?

D: Nope, not at all. Silly me! I didn’t anticipate the Tale of Two Sisters ending, and yet when it came, I thought it was perfect. Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, a favorite ghost film of mine, is one you have to see twice. Once you know the ending, you can go back and piece it together. Like my experience with The Sixth Sense, I found I needed to watch Tale of Two Sisters again. I noticed many details I had not seen the first time, which helped my understanding of the plot twists, especially some related to the stepmother.

Kim Jee-woon’s film is more complex than Shyamalan’s with its fragmented timeline and dream states underscored by the tension between madness and the supernatural. That ambiguity—what is ghost, what is hallucination, what is repressed memory?—messed with my head a bit (in a good way) and made me think of James’s The Turn of the Screw and Morrison’s Beloved.

T: I have to admit, I usually prefer my horror less literary, but I really did enjoy this one. I also have another confession - I knew part of the twist going in. I read a review of the US remake, The Uninvited, which didn't mention it had spoilers, so I knew some of what was going on from the beginning. However, in a way it made it that much more confusing and interesting and I totally didn't see the second part coming.

You're right, I think I must watch it again to gather all the details about what's going on, rather than half the picture I had the first time.

I love The Sixth Sense too - such a great movie. Unfortunately I have been rather disappointed with most of Shyamalan's other films.

T Q4: Did you find the part with the Uncle's wife a bit unnecessary and odd? THIS IS THE SPOILER

D: The whole dinner scene with Stepmom’s brother and his wife felt odd to me. What I didn’t like was the stepmother’s manic behavior. I appreciate the way the director developed her in the last section of the film as someone more layered than simply wicked, and I guess maybe he was trying to do that in the dinner scene, but her affect at dinner didn’t mesh with the other parts of her personality. A flaw, I’d say.

I didn’t have a problem, though, with Uncle’s wife’s seizure, partly because of conversations between Stepmom and Soo-mi in which they agreed the house possessed a strange presence. That made more sense to me when I thought about the house in Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, another one of those ambiguous stories that plays neurosis against paranormal.

T: I found the scene quite hard to watch; it made me uncomfortable, and not in a way that the rest of the film did. I agree, the stepmother's behaviour felt out of place at the time, but given what comes later I can see why the director made the choice. It kind of fits when you know everything, I think.

It was actually the whole part with the Uncle's wife's seizures that bothered me more. It just seemed so random and out of the blue. Over the top is how I felt about it.

I have only seen The Haunting - the modern remake of The Haunting of Hill House, so I will take your word for it. I keep seeing bits of the original film made from the book, but have not sat all the way through it yet. Another one that is good for the effect of houses on people, but it totally not ambiguous, is Rose Red by Stephen King.

Recommendations

D: I heartily recommend this movie to viewers who enjoy a more nuanced experience than the usual gasp-inducing ghost fare. The cinematography and soundtrack add depth to a compelling story. Though I was troubled by the dark family dynamics, I was touched by the sisters’ devotion to each other.

Thank you, Tasha, for hosting this discussion of Tale of Two Sisters. I had so much fun indulging myself in my ghost fiction fixation and hope you did, too!      

T: I did, thank you so much for suggesting such a wonderful film and reviewing it together.

~*~

About the Author

Deb Atwood holds an MFA and lives in California with her husband and rescue dog Nala. Her time-slip novel, Moonlight Dancer, was selected as a front page Featured Review by Book Ideas. Deb's interests include ghost fiction and films, Korean culture, dogs, quilting, and, of course, reading. She loves to wander around old cemeteries and peek in mausoleums. Deb blames this odd fascination on the television program Dark Shadows, which she watched as a child. 

Author Links:
Twitter: @deb_atwood | Facebook


~*~

Book Info

As readers of Deb Atwood’s blog Pen In Her Hand know, Atwood is passionate about ghost fiction. Since 2011, Atwood has read, re-read, and written about ghost literature. 31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die presents a selection of the best of these posts.

Among the books discussed are old favorites (The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson) as well as some indie gems few people will know about (The 20’s Girl, the Ghost, and All That Jazz by June Kearns). There are ghost novels for every reader, in genres ranging from historical to literary to romance.

Book Links:

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Spiralizers are Awesome (and Healthy) #TipsTuesdays 32


I have a new kitchen gadget and I have to share how wonderful it is. Welcome to Tips Tuesdays 32.

Spiralizers are Awesome (and Healthy)


So at the weekend I bought myself a spiralizer, thanks to a recommendation from a friend on Livejournal. For those in the UK - they have one in Range for £10 :). I have been coveting one for months, and when I found out how cheaply I could get one (they are in fashion so have come down in price greatly just recently), I had to have it :).

For those unfamiliar with what one is, it looks like this:

And it turns veggies and hard fruits into noodle shapes or long ribbons. This is far more useful than you might think.

I tested it out as soon as I got it home (two carrots were sacrificed :)), but didn't use it for actual food until Monday. I love mine already for many reasons, but here are some of them:
  • it's so easy to use - takes moments
  • it's easy to clean
  • there are some truly awesome healthy recipes out there.
As I may have mentioned on occasion, I have been trying to be better at cooking healthy food for my husband and I. Since the new year I try to make all our meals from scratch and have probably developed an obsessional love of chicken. We've also made a conscious effort to cut down on starchy foods like normal potatoes and pasta unless Rob is getting ready for running when he actually needs the carbs.

Unfortunately, I've never had an alternative to pasta for dishes like spaghetti bolognese (which I make with turkey mince these days, in case you were wondering :)). Now I do:

courgetti (aka zucchini noodles)



Courgetti is simply a courgette (zucchini) spiralized into noodles. When cooked for two or three minutes it makes a fantastic alternative to spaghetti. In fact, I have to admit I prefer it to pasta. It has a crunch and a succulence to it that pasta does not have, yet it does the same as pasta by taking on the flavour of whatever you put with it. It's also fantastically good for you as this article from Healthy Food explains in detail.

This is the really simple recipe I made yesterday, but think of it as an example of what can be achieved. Just look on the courgetti as pasta and you're away - we all know how to throw things together with pasta :).

Chicken, Lime and Garlic Courgetti with Mushroom and Feta


For the vegetarians among us - my husband said he would have been perfectly happy with just the mushroom and feta, so it is very easy to make this a vegetarian dish.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes (zucchini)
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (leave these out and add more mushrooms for veggie version)
  • 1 tblspn garlic oil (or normal oil with a little bit of garlic paste)
  • 1 large flat mushroom
  • 1 tspn garlic powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of  salt (or to taste)
  • a few cubes of feta (optional)

Instructions

  1. Chop the mushroom and the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  2. Add the garlic oil to a wide bottomed pan with a lid and fry the chicken and mushroom until cooked through. A little colour on the chicken add flavour.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, spiralize the courgette and drizzle with half the lime juice.
  4. When the chicken is nearly done, drizzle in the other half of the lime juice to the pan.
  5. Add the salt to taste. I use smoked salt because it give an extra depth.
  6. Add in the courgetti and the garlic powder and stir, then cover and cook for 3-3.5 mins, stirring occasionally. The courgetti should be just tender, with a little bit of bite left.
  7. Place in bowls and dot with a few cubes of feta. I actually preferred it without the feta, where as my husband thought the feta was really good, so try it to see which you think it tastiest.
This is a quick, simple, healthy recipe and so very, very tasty.

Do you have a spiralizer? Do you love it? Have any recipes to share? Or do you think you might get one?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

My Thoughts on Orlando and US Gun Control #ThinkyThursdays 15


My Thoughts on Orlando and US Gun Control


It's hard to think of anything this week without considering the terrible events that took place in Orlando. Too many lives were lost, too many people were hurt and too much hatred was vented.

We are supposed to be civilised human beings.

The Orlando atrocity was both a hate crime against LGBTA people and an act of terrorism. The loss of life is simply horrendous and my heart goes out to the families of the victims and to those who survived and now have to live with the mental and physical scars of the actions of one man.

Homophobia is wrong. Transphobia is wrong. It's time love really was the answer.

I don't care which religion you subscribe to or what you think your religious books say. Every single one of them has been interpreted by a human being and human beings get things wrong. Usually because they want something out of the interpretation, often to stop something they are frightened of. Well it's time to grow up and realise that we're all human beings.

That goes for bigoted governments, homophobic organisations and general arseholes too - they only want to give you someone to hate so you might not see everything they're doing.

LGBTA people deserve the same rights, privileges and love the rest of us do.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm a practising Christian and totally willing to call out my own faith for its homophobic views. I think the Church of England's bigotry when it comes to LGBTA issues is reprehensible. If God is Love we should damn well be standing up for everyone and telling the Anglican communion it can go jump with its homophobia.

~*~

Then of course there is the whole issue of gun control in the USA. I'm British, I look at US gun control, or lack there of, and think it's insane. Not just a little bit nuts, but totally and utterly barking!

There is only one reason I can think of for using an assault rifle and that is to kill people. It's not a hunting weapon, it's a killing weapon. They are designed for use on the battlefield to create maximum damage. Letting a civilian own one is sheer madness.

In the UK we had a school shooting incident involving a hand gun, the Dunblane Massacre - you know what we did? We banned them. Here's a whole article on Firearms policy in the UK. Our politicians might be full of sh*t about other things, but at least they have that one right.

Then there is Australia; a guiding light when it comes to the implementation of gun control.

I've lost count of the number of mass shootings in the US that I've seen in the news over the last few years. It's like they've become the norm not the exception. For heaven's sake - the US needs gun control and the NRA needs castrating. There's a line and it's been crossed way too many times.

~*~

My prayers are with the victims of the Orlando atrocity, their families, the LGBTA community, the US people and all other victims of such terrible crimes. I wish you peace and hope and love for the future.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Free Fiction Serialisation - The Dos and Don'ts #WriterlyWednesdays 32


Welcome to Writerly Wednesdays 32, this week I want to talk about serialisation and how it can grow an audience. I have not serialised any of my original work (yet), but I was reading a post on how to use Wattpad the other day and serialisation came up. What I have done is used serialisation to grow an audience in the fanfiction arena, and the same principles apply.

Free Fiction Serialisation - The Dos and Don'ts


Way back in 2003 when I had barely been on Livejournal a year and had just started a new account specifically for Harry Potter fanfiction, I had almost finished writing my Harry Potter epic Gold Tinted Spectacles. At the time I had no grand schemes of using serialisation to grow my readership, it was just I'd finished the beginning and not quite finished the end, so I started posting it in 5 chapter chunks, weekly.

This meant people subscribed to my LJ and my mailing list to get all the updates as soon as they came out.

I've done it several times with fanfic and it works every time, hence it should work with free original fiction too. However, there are definitely some dos and don'ts that I've experienced over the years. These are not about story structure, or details like that, these are just simply rules I've used to prevent grey hairs and too much stress :).

~ Dos ~

  • Prepare in advance

Do not leave the writing until the last minute. We want to impress our audience and keep them hooked, last minute, slapdash fiction isn't going to help us with that. Polish each part before publishing.

  • Have the Story Planned Before Starting to Post

Some people can get away with not knowing this, but it's very, very dangerous. If we don't know where we're going with a story, it is very easy for us to write ourselves into a dead end - I've seen it many times in fanfiction.

There is also the danger we will end up with inconsistencies because of lack of structure.

  • Post Regularly

Have a posting schedule that is regular and predictable. People like to know when the next part it coming and it builds the anticipation. Look at comic books - now there is a genre that exploits serialisation to the max :).

~ Don'ts ~

  • Don't miss the posting slots

We can lose an audience if we miss our regular posting slot. If the story is good, they'll forgive us once, maybe twice, but if it becomes a regular occurrence, they will start to give up. It smacks of unprofessionalism and that is not the lasting impression we wish to give.

  • Don't demand reviews in return for posting the next parts.

There is nothing wrong in asking nicely for reviews, but don't hold the next parts of the fiction to ransom. If we do, we will annoy our readers. We want them to be happy because we want them to keep reading and to buy our other books.

  • Don't flake out halfway through and just stop.

We might be giving the fiction away for free, but if we just give up and stop, our audience is going to lose faith in us. We want them to be thanking us, not cursing us :).

~*~

Serialisation is a really great way to hook people into our writing. It is a great tool, but it takes no less effort than publishing normally if we wish to look professional and competent.

Do you have any experience with publishing serially with original fiction? Any words of wisdom?

Do you follow any serialised fiction? Have you run into any problems?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Zombies! With a little Pride and a little Prejudice. #MonsterMondays 39


I have a film rec for you today, because I have finally seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and it is glorious :).

Zombies! With a little Pride and a little Prejudice.


Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Rating: 15
Cast:
Lily James ... Elizabeth Bennet
Sam Riley ... Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy
Bella Heathcote ... Jane Bennet
Ellie Bamber ... Lydia Bennet
Millie Brady ... Mary Bennet
Suki Waterhouse ... Kitty Bennet
Douglas Booth ... Mr. Bingley
Sally Phillips ... Mrs. Bennet
Charles Dance ... Mr. Bennet
Jack Huston ... Lt. George Wickham
Lena Headey ... Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Matt Smith ... Parson Collins
Summary:
Exploration of the New World brought with it, not just wonders, but also a plague that turns the dead into brain craving monsters. All British young people of a certain social standing, be they male or female, train in the arts of the East, the rich in Japan, the wise in China. Thus prepared to deal with the undead, all young ladies must also worry about the most important thing: finding a husband.

I must admit, I tried reading the book that this film is based on and could no get on with it. I was bored out of my skull by page 20. Hence I was not sure I was going to enjoy the film. However, I take back all my doubts - this is a brilliant movie.

First of all I am going to talk about the zombies, because this is, after all, Monster Monday. I really like the thought behind the zombies in this film. When infected the victims do not simply turn into slathering, brain eating beasts. In fact a newly infected individual cannot be easily identified. They remain completely human looking and acting, just with an almost insatiable need for brains.

This means, if they can control the hunger, they can hide in plain sight until they want to attack.

Only once they have fed does the degeneration set in, making the craving for brains stronger and stronger, and the decay worse and worse.

This gives a whole new level to the monsters in the movie, because they are not simply animals. They are like vampires or werewolves who maintain their minds, making them that much harder to deal with. This makes them far more interesting.

The cast also do a magnificent job with what must be an interesting dichotomy. They are English ladies and gentlemen, but they can also kick some serious arse. They maintain the air of a Jane Austin story with all the romance and the pride and the misjudging, while fighting zombies in such a way that brain eating monsters do not destroy the atmosphere.

The girls magnificently rescue the boys, who gallantly rescue the girls, who intelligently rescue the boys, who .... well you get the picture.

Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet
Lily James is brilliant as Lizzy Bennet. She is a force to be reckoned with in all the ways you would expect a Jane Austin heroine to be, as well as being able to layout zombies left, right and centre. What is nice though is she's not invincible. She's no Alice (Resident Evil), but she is just as capable.

Sam Riley as Darcy
Then we have Sam Riley as Darcy, who is cold and aloof and terribly dashing, plus being a dab hand with a katana. He spends almost the entire film looking very serious, and if you were worried he wouldn't fit his breeches as well as Colin Firth, worry no longer - he definitely does ;).

The scene where Darcy first proposes to Lizzy and she rejects him is a stroke of complete genius. I will not give away any spoilers, but it is utterly brilliant. While having the air of English gentry, it uses the setting of the film so incredibly well.

Likewise, the way Lizzy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh sort out their differences of opinion over Mr Darcy is equally superb.

Bella Heathcote as Jane and Douglas Booth as Bingley
Then we have Bella Heathcote as Jane and Douglas Booth as Bingley, who are both as adorable as they should be, but quite willing to do battle when they have to. In fact Jane seems more willing and capable than Bingley, which is a nice touch.

All the rest of the Bennets are awesome, especially Charles Dance as Mr Bennet, who is more interested in keeping his daughters alive, rather than marrying them off. Sally Philips is also perfect as Mrs Bennet, just annoying enough :).

Special mentions must also go to Matt Smith as Parson Colins and Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, because they take their parts and run with them beautifully.

Then of course we have the villainous Wickham. He is played incredibly well by Jack Huston. We all know he's the cad, but the way he is woven into this plot is simply brilliant. I so love what they have done with his character.

In fact the whole plot is a stroke of genius. As I mentioned, I didn't get on with the book, but I think that's because I don't really get on with Jane Austen and the style is deliberately similar. However, in the film, the creators have captured the atmosphere, but with the excitement of a zombie film. This is a clever film. I have no idea why is only has 5.9 on IMDB, it should be an 8 or 9 easily. I suspect there are people looking down their nose at it because it's not pure literary and at the other end of the scale, fans who don't like romance with their zombies.

They also set it up beautifully for a sequel.

This film has:
  • all the romance you can handle
  • awesome fight scenes
  • intelligent zombies
  • a great plot
  • a superb cast.
I have the urge to watch it again right now, but have instead pre-ordered the blu-ray, which comes out at the end of the month. If you can't wait it is available to rent on various services.

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Are you planing on seeing it at all?

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The 5 Stages of Writing #ThinkyThursdays 14


Hello, and welcome to my blog today. So I am just coming up to finishing the first draft of my new novel, so all I seem to be thinking about at the moment is writing. Hence my choice for Thinky Thursdays 14:

The 5 Stages of Writing


We all know there are five stages of grief, but there are five stages of writing too - I kid you not. Well, at least according to me there are ;). This is how I see them.

1) Oh hell, what am I going to write now?


This is what I mentally refer to as the "brain freeze" moment. It's when we writers sit down at a keyboard to begin to compose our new great work and every thought we have ever had flies out of out minds.

  • That epic space opera with the weird spindly aliens - GONE!
  • The perfect romance with the capable heroine and the dashing hero who needs rescuing - SKEDADDLED!
  • The YA with the feisty protagonist not in a hopeless love triangle - EATEN BY EDWARD CULLEN'S WORST NIGHTMARE!

It's like a bad dream as the tumble weeds bounce across our brains. Will it never end?


2) This is awesome!


Of course stage one doesn't last forever - we're writers! We're doing this because if we don't write things our brains overflow and we do strange things like wander around muttering random bits of dialogue. That can scare people - especially if it happens to be "I will kill you".

Stage 2 is often the most fun, at least I think so. It's when the creative juices are really flowing and we're churning out words like there is no tomorrow. JK Rowling and Stephen King have nothing on us!


3) OMG - how am I suppose write this?


Stage 3 is often the worst. This is where the story seems to have turned into a black hole. No matter what we throw into it, nothing comes back to us.

  • Scenes just laugh at us as we cannot figure out how to move the plot from A to B.
  • Chapters stare at us with words like "need more information in here - it doesn't make sense".
  • Housework suddenly looks incredibly inviting.

This is where procrastination can get us. Where a black hole not even Stephen Hawking can save us from, wants to eat us alive. Our only choice is to push on and endure.

4) Yay, the finish line is in sight!


Now stages 2 and 3 can repeat and mingle for some time, but eventually we get to stage 4. This is where the end is in sight. Just that last chapter for us to write or that final scene to go. We know that editing and rewriting come next, but who cares?! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

The feeling of accomplishment starts to set in and that big smile begins to take over our faces. We've done it and we're allowed our little dance of joy.

5) Oh, it's done, what do I do now?


Then finally we have stage 5. We have struggled, we have procrastinated, we have searched our souls ... and now it's done.

This thing that had eaten our life is finished. It is whole. We have birthed a new creation ... well at least until we pick it up again to read it after a few weeks and have to rip it to pieces before our editor does the same.

Our creative drive is spent and we must ask, what do we do now?

Of course there's always stage 1 waiting for us after we've had a nice cup of tea ;).

Do you have stages of writing? Which is your favourite and which the worst?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Flash Fiction: Mightier by Natasha Duncan-Drake #WriterlyWednesdays 31


Welcome to my blog for Writerly Wednesdays 31. This week I have a piece of flash fiction for you, which I hope you will enjoy. It's on the dark fantasy side. Many thanks for visiting.

Mightier

by Natasha Duncan-Drake


They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In my case I am absolutely sure of it.

I inherited this particular pen from my grandmother.

To look at it's nothing special. It is made of black ebonite with gold metal work, some of which is showing its age. This is a pen which has been used, not kept in a drawer and occasionally taken out and admired.

Not surprising really, when you understand what it can do.

This pen does not write in ink. It writes in blood, the owner's blood to be precise.

I am aware that blood should not be a medium much suited to the workings of a fountain pen, but then this is no ordinary example of its kind. Each time it is used it must be refilled, and each time it will keep writing until its purpose is finished, but no more. It never needs cleaning and it is one hundred percent reliable.

I know you are wondering what could entice anyone to fill a pen with their own blood, and I will tell you, but I think a little background is in order first.

My family is an ancient one. We can trace our ancestry back to well before the Roman period. This is mostly because we have kept it ourselves. There exist tomes full of our family tree, now housed in a very secure bank vault. We almost lost it all during the Second World War, it was a very close thing, so extra precautions have been taken since then.

The pen has been in my family since the first record was made.

You are going to say, but there was no such thing as a fountain pen back then. You would be right of course. It has only been a pen since approximately 1850, before that it was the most beautiful quill and inkwell. Well, at least that is what one of my ancestors who chose to paint it would have us believe. I have seen the painting once; it is most captivating.

It may even have been something else before it was a quill, but that information is lost.

I remember when my grandmother handed me the pen as she lay dying. She smiled in a way I had never seen her smile before. Her whole body relaxed and she closed her eyes, still smiling. For a moment I thought she might float away, or simply disappear; it was that striking a change. Of course she simply slipped away, her last breathe leaving her body as a small sigh.

The burden did not feel particularly heavy then. I knew it was an important one, but I did not understand the true weight of it at that moment. It has been ten years and now I comprehend the smile very clearly.

My family are guardians of the future. We make sure humankind continues. You would not believe how many times we, as a species, have come close to extinction. Modern humans are conceited in their belief that only current science has the power to wipe out humanity. There have been many near misses before.

The pen can change reality.

It cannot change the past, but it can order the future.

It can kill.

It can heal.

It can make a person say or do something they never would have done on their own.

It can topple governments.

It can raise up a messiah.

It can do just about anything.

All I have to do is fill the reservoir and write the new truth. It can be a few words, or pages of a story that the universe will then play out.

Now you want to know why then have my family allowed so much suffering, why do we allow injustice in the world?

It is simple and there are two reasons: we are not omnipotent, merely observant; with each action there is a price.

When the universe changes, people often die. It does not matter what it done, if something is different at a key moment, it has consequences. You know the saying about a butterfly flapping its wings over the Himalayas causing a hurricane thousands of miles away; my family understood this long before Edward Lorenz ever made it famous.

We have great power and a great burden. Every time I have picked up the pen, every time one of my ancestors picked up the pen, it has been very carefully thought out.

To make sure we take our responsibility seriously there are ghosts.

That is why my grandmother looked so at peace: she was finally free; she no longer had to look at what she had done.

I see them all. Every life I have caused to cease to be. They visit me.

The worst are the deliberate ones; the evil that was just too dangerous to allow to continue. They seem to know it was me that ended them, at least at first. They always try to take revenge. It is impossible for them to hurt me, but that does not stop them trying.

Eventually, when they run out of rage, they become grey reminders, like the others, but they can be troublesome for a while.

My world is full of translucent people wandering aimlessly. Most of them don't even see me, totally unaware of why they are drawn to where I am, totally unaware of anything but themselves.

Sometimes I wish I was totally unaware. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take up the pen and write of my own death.

My successor is only three, so death is merely a pipe dream. So young and yet already chosen, already marked, just as I was.

Why do we continue to shoulder this burden, you want to know.

Once, long ago, my family was granted a vision of the destructive nature of human kind. It is a vision passed down along with the pen. We know what will happen if we abandon our role, we have seen it. We have also seen the wonder that humanity will become if just given the chance.

For this we will stand as gate keepers. For this hope we will go on. For this we will pick up the pen.

The End


I am still seeking writers and book people of all kinds to feature on Writerly Wednesdays. If you are a blogger, comic creator, cover artist, author or anything else to do with writerly things I would love to host you.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

10 Free Software Packages I Cannot Live Without - #TipsTuesdays 31


There are some pieces of software that run on my computer on a daily basis that are not simply the obvious ones like Word and Photoshop and McAffe. I find them very useful, so I thought I would share.. What's even better is all of them are FREE :).

10 Free Software Packages I Cannot Live Without

Some of these I use solely for work, some solely for pleasure, but nearly all of them are all started up almost every day.

Calibre - eBook Management Software

Calibre not only manages all your ebooks for you, including your devices if you wish, but it also converts between formats that do not have DRM. If you wish to read your Kindle books on your PC in PDF format, Calibre can convert them for you in a flash. It will even do them in bulk, just leaving out the ones with DRM.

It has a very use friendly interface and it updated regularly. There are also plugins, for example, one that can help you keep your Goodreads profile up to date or another that can download fanfiction for you etc.

It is completely free to download and use, with a donate button for those who can afford to give a little back to the creator.

PSPad - Text Editor

PSDPad is a freeware editor that allows you to edit all sorts of text based files. For example it is very good at HTML editing and CSS editing as well as simple text file editing. It allows you to have as many files open as you wish at a time and it's search functions are very easy to use. This is my go to text editor.

As you can see it has a great coloured interface and you can have the text wrap or continue all on one line as I have in the above image.

As I said, the software is free and they also have a donate button for those who can afford to give a little for such a useful program.

Audacity - Recording Software

This is the software I use to make all the recordings for SoundCloud and Youtube. It has a very user friendly interface, everything is easy to adjust and understand. Best of all it has a really useful noise removing filter that comes in very handy when recording anything. All you have to do is remember to record some silence at the beginning of your recording and then it can remove the underlying hum from everything.

It's completely free, with the usual donate option and it has all sorts of plugins, including saving to mp3. This is a great piece of software for those new to recording and those who have been doing it for a while.

Malwarebytes - Anti-Malware

This piece of software is brilliant. It is the only one that is not 100% free, but the premium version is well worth it.

If you download it for free it will scan your computer and remove any malware from it. It is a good idea to do it twice or even three times the first time you use it, because malware can be tricky, but it is very good at disinfecting any machine.

If you pay for the premuim version it also runs realtime and prevents any new infections. It blocks malicious sites known for trying to add malware to your machine and it also scans once a day like a virus checker to make sure nothing slipped past. It even warns about software that isn't technically malware, but that you might not be aware of or want on your system.

yWriter - Novel Writing Assistant

Now if you've been here before I know you've heard me mention yWriter before. It is a great free novel writing package which is being updated all the time. I love it so much I wrote an entire post about it here, last year.

Once again it's free, but you can register it for $11.95 to help the developer spend more time making it even whizzier :)

FileZilla - FTP Software

With the cloud and Google drive and everything else out there these days, FTP seems a bit old and clunky, but I still use it regularly. Well, these days sFTP - so it's secure. I use it to update our Wittegen Press website and to upload files for use in posts on sites that do not offer large storage space etc.

I've been using FileZilla for years now and it's a very reliable FTP solution. It has a nice site manager functionality and it has clear and precise error messages if anything goes wrong. Best of all it's free. As ever there is a donate option to help the developers keel developing.

VLC Media Player

VLC is quite simply the best media player for just about everything and it's free. It will play everything; it plays most codecs without needing to fiddle around and download anything; it can repair files; it runs on literally everything.

I have never looked back since I first downloaded this player and I have never needed to look for anything else. It is distributed and maintained by a non-profit org which you can donate to if you wish.

Nitro Reader - PDF Reader

The simple reason I love this PDF reader is one function it has that is so very, very useful. You know when a friend of a colleague sends you a PDF and you need an image from it? Nitro lets you export all the images from any PDF document. It's brilliant.

There seems to be a pro version and a free version of this now. I have the free version and it's really good, does everything I wish it to.

KeePass - Password Safe

This program helps generate safe passwords and then keeps them for you so that you don't have to remember them all. It's really useful - just never, ever lose your master password :)

It's completely free and even open source, with the usual donate button if you feel so inclined.

DVD Profiler - DVD library

When I first used this software it was completely free, these days it's free up to 50 DVDs, but then you have to buy it. Since it's only $14.95, it doesn't exactly break the bank :).

I've been using this for a long time and it's very, very good and I couldn't keep track of my DVDs and Blu-rays without it. You can add you DVDs in several ways - the easiest being by EAN (barcode), but you can do it by title and inserted disc as well. The database online is huge and many users help to keep it up to date as well, so it's forever growing.

You can also upload your collection so that you can give the links to friends so they can see what you have. It even has borrowing facilities for you can keep track of who has what. I wouldn't be without it.

Do you have any little gems of free software you use all the time?