What I watched in November ’22

Birthday flowers received in October; they lasted well into November with some judicious culling.

Umbrella Academy. Season 1 ***** Hooked. Amazing adaptation of a comic by one of the My Chemical Romance band. I’ll be watching the other seasons, too.

Heartstopper Season 1***** Delightful story line. I liked this a lot better than Everyone’s Talking About Jamie even though the latter was based on fact and this was fiction. The Jamie film was slightly pretentious, with a lot of unnecessary glamour and ideas of being a musical despite the very pedestrian song offerings. Heartstopper had music, but simply chosen to reflect the events. I’m looking forward to Season 2.

The Tape***** A film set in Cornwall, made by and acted in by people my husband knows. I’m supposed to be writing a separate post about it but meanwhile, find it on YouTube and watch!

I started watching The Rings of Power. It’s very pretty eye candy. Pity about the plot and script. I may watch another episode if bored…

However, I seem to have a watch list that’s getting as unwieldy as my tbr list (again) so I think The Rings of Power will have to wait quite a while!

Out of Time : a free story

Here’s a free story for the Rainbow Advent Calendar!

Here’s the link: https://jaymountney.files.wordpress.com/2022/12/out-of-time.docx?force_download=true

It’s a 25k novella about a fae/human mm romance, very loosely inspired by the story of Rip Van Winkle but with a HEA ending celebrated at New Year. It’s a stand-alone and not related to any of my other fantasy books. Kit accidentally passes through a portal and almost as accidentally falls in love with Rianthe. Can they stay together? And can they overcome multiple problems including illness, time constraints, and adjusting to new cultures?

It’s currently in docx format but I’m working on a mobi version and hopefully a pdf, so if docx is a problem for you, message me! (It’s hosted on my WordPress blog here and you’re welcome to visit that at https://jaymountney.com/ and explore the rest of my free stuff. )

Please do follow the daily posts on The Rainbow Advent Calendar at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1673039336093815/ and read all the stories we’ve assembled for you! There’s a Masterlist at http://alexjane.info/rainbow-advent-calendar-2022/?fbclid=IwAR1ye60xBaGoenmgSJHvTYPwIt1k-UaP2rf9tZu_YuXzOCpyyKoJ6Kl-9yg

Finally, have the cover pic which is currently in the document.

Moroccan Lasagne – a recipe for cold days.

I forgot to photograph the one I made so have some lasagne sheets…

Just squeezing this in at the end of November before all the Christmas cooking starts, though if you like Christmas cakes and puddings I imagine you’re already elbow deep! (I don’t, so I’m not.)

I’m not sure where I found this – I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to recipes. Anyway, I tried it with a couple of tweaks, and it was yummy so here you are! I suppose you could sprinkle cheese on it at table, to conform with the original Italian dish, but we didn’t think it needed it.

Start with your usual basic mince recipe – whatever you’d do for e.g. spaghetti bolognese. Use lamb mince if you can, and add tomatoes and onion. The original recipe suggested carrots but I’d run out. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs to taste. I’m not giving quantities because you know your family size and appetites. I used about 250 grammes of mince, a tine of tomatoes, and an onion.

Try not to get too much liquid because this is for lasagne. When it’s ready, add some kind of thinly sliced veg – the original recipe suggested kale but I hadn’t any so I used cabbage. Then add chopped dates and a big handful of sultanas. Let the veg and fruit soften in the hot sauce. Season with harissa paste, or with chili flakes. I use those jars of harissa (easier than making my own and I’m lazy) and have found they keep better if you put oil over the contents once opened and store in the coldest part of the fridge.

Make white sauce. You can play around with bechamel from scratch, use a jar of lasagne sauce, or do what I did and make some fairly thick white sauce from a jar of granules. I made about 250 ml and might make slightly more another time.

You can get all this lot ready and each bit will be quite happy till the other ingredients are prepared. If the mince or the sauce cool, it won’t matter as they’ll reheat in the oven. So you don’t have to juggle to have everything ready at once.

Layer your ingredients: sauce then lasagne sheets, then mince, until you have a final sauce layer. The dish I like using is one sheet long and one and a half wide so I have to split sheets to make it work.

Cover this with breadcrumbs. The best for the job are the sort you make yourself from stale bread. If I’m making e.g. bread sauce or summer pudding and remove the crusts I chop these and freeze them. Then when I need breadcrumbs I thaw them, let them sit in the open to go nicely stale for a day, and blitz them in a food processor. They work much better than the very fine ones you can buy. If you have any left over, store in an airtight jar in a cupboard and use on e.g. fish.

Put the dish, uncovered, in the oven (180C) for about 35 minutes, then serve with salad.

The combination of added fruit and hot harissa, plus the novelty of crumbs instead of cheese makes this a totally new way to experience lasagne. I can recommend it!

Enjoy!

Prickly situations

At least my little cactus is happy!

In other news…

Who knew it could get so complicated? I accidentally created two Spotify accounts. Don’t even ask (mostly because I have no idea). Anyway, the one that shares the email I use for Amazon is not the one that has the carefully curated playlists. Of course it isn’t. Apparently I can’t merge them (even though one has no playlists whatsoever) because I don’t have Premium on either… And I can’t chsnge the email on either profile because the site recognises me enough to stop me… ‘That email is already taken,’ it tells me, as if I didn’t know. However, I can sign into Spotify on the Smart TV via the Amazon Firestick and then sign into Spotify using the Amazon email (Amazon won’t let me use the other with a similar nannyish response) but use the Spotify password, not the Amazon one. At that point I should be able to ‘follow’ myself (!) and see (and hopefully play) all my playlists. Both emails feed into the same inbox so goodness knows why all the secrecy, privacy, etc. is considered necessary. I also had to change the password for the Spotify account that shares the Amazon email because Chrome creates and saves my passwords so I had no clue what it was and of course it wouldn’t helpfully fill it in for me on the television. I’m sure there must be easier ways to organise life, the universe and everything. I have to say the Spotify help desk person was actually helpful and gave rapid replies to my rather garbled requests.

At least they didn’t want two factor authentication. Since this usually needs the ability to receive a texted code in a timely manner I am seriously discriminated against. As are others who live in mobile black spots. There was talk of sending codes to the landline but ours has Call Guardian to prevent constant hoax/scam/ad calls and Call Guardian rejects all automated calls. Guess how they send text codes…

I saved up things of this kind that needed addressing till I went to the Lake District in September. Most were fine except registering online for my GP’s surgery which became an insoluble mystery and remains so. If I am ill I will have to get up and try phoning on the landline before 8.a.m. (Mobile black spot means I can’t phone from bed.) It will be luck of the draw whether I get an appointment or advice, even by landline.

Since my success with at least two sites in September, Amazon have asked for an update on my tax exemption, with, of course, two factor authentication. I’ve been trying to make either head or tail of information about authentication apps for my laptop and will have to try one though there are dire warnings that they can be ‘glitchy’. Otherwise, I suppose I can visit my daughter, complete with laptop and mobile and do it all there. Also two pairs of glasses, one for computer and the other for whatever text they send me… And a lot of patience.

Google keep telling me to strengthen my passwords and that weak passwords are what makes this two factor stuff essential. Since Google choose and store my passwords and I haven’t a clue what they are, this seems to be venturing into uncharted realms of magic and imagination. And since quite a few sites don’t recognise the Google saved passwords life gets even more complicated.

I have just given my printer to my husband, whose own printer died. Mine refused to print more than about ten pages although the ink cartridge was supposed to be good for 400. It also agreed to copy or scan provided it could email me the copy or scan. But it refused to accept any of my email addresses. So it was a waste of space and husband is welcome to it. I have warned him.

Our Firestick keeps being what I suppose they might call ‘glitchy’. This is our second stick because the first simply died (and no, it wasn’t the battery). So we try for various TV shows and get strange messages or weird streaming problems.

It makes me half wish I was back in the days when I had just a landline phone, a TV and maybe a video recorder. Oh, and a photocopier at work. In case you were wondering, my smartphone is wonderful – invaluable when out of our road, and fine at home when connected to wi-fi. So I communicate with people mostly via email, whatsapp, Google chat, Messenger, etc. I am not at all isolated. Until it comes to identifying myself!!

October 2022 – unfamiliar authors reviewed

October colour

Highly Recommended

The Rule of Three by Kristian Parker****Enjoyable story about a threesome in a country village. I didn’t quite believe the ‘villain’ (one protagonist’s sister) but I liked the portrayal of village life. I will certainly read the rest of the trilogy. There are no truly dramatic events but the book works well as comfort reading.

Stone Wings by Jenn Burke**** Shifters, including gargoyle shifters, turf wars and a curse that must be broken. An exciting first story in this mm paranormal romance series and I will definitely read the next which is due out in January.

Ghosted by Jess Whitecroft**** I chose this for a Halloween read and thoroughly enjoyed it. Desanges is a mixed race wannabe spiritual medium from New Orleans with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Jason is a reluctant exorcist from Wisconsin with a difficult past, living a ‘prepper’ lifestyle in the countryside. They meet when called in to use their professional skills in a haunted house. There are genuinely scary moments and almost as many hilarious ones. The plot twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat till the very end. Actually, I finished it on November 1st over breakfast but thought it was more appropriate to review it with the rest of October’s offerings. Try it next Halloween – or any time really!

Readable

Tricks with Cats and Dogs by Mere Rain*** Quite a nice story, suitably creepy for Halloween season, but it was very short and could well have been expanded with more character development. The concept was good but it almost read like a very long blurb. Further information would inevitably be spoilers but it does involve shifters and mm romance.

Abandoned.

The Beatrix Stubbs Boxset 1 by JJ Marsh.  After lengthy flashbacks the reader knew who committed the murders (and that they  were murders, not suicides), how, where, when and probably why. The international team set up as a task force to investigate was not very interesting and the lead detective (Beatrice Stubbs) was, after a few chapters, unappealing to me.

Where the Silent Screams are Loudest by John Pye. Poorly written crime story by an ex-police officer. Sadly, I had actually bought this. Only £1.99 but still… somehow I don’t mind so much when a new author borrowed on KU doesn’t appeal. It read like a policeman’s court reporting, and there was quite a bit of less than stellar vocabulary usage. An ex detective ought to know how to use a dictionary or thesaurus. And no, they weren’t typos.

Nothing dire, though I was disappointed in the last book. I love well written crime stories by authors such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, even when they haven’t any romance or paranormal elements. But there’s a lot of very uninspiring work in the genre, often highly praised by people in the relevant social media groups. And of course I have to at least give it a try!

Ficlet on a political theme

Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London.

In our current climate of increasing poverty, abuse in care homes, and problems accessing medical help, I was reminded of a story I wrote for a prompt in a writers’ group some years ago. So I dusted it off and edited it. I thought about submitting it to a zine I contribute to but it’s very sad and dark so I don’t think they’d like it. I don’t suppose you’ll ‘like‘ it, but I think it sums up some of the issues faced by today’s youth. Consider it my political rant of the week…

In the interests of readability the punctuation and spelling are not perfect for the narrator’s speech patterns, but should give a ‘flavour’. Non-Brit readers might have problems though. In order to present the dialect in some kind of sensible fashion I had to replace smart quotes with straight ones and that was quite a learning curve… If I’ve missed anything, let me know!

Johnny and Me, or Money can’t buy me love.

Warning. This is on a very dark theme with no HEA. 900 words

Us ‘angin’ round Piccadilly ain’t never bin much fun. Not when what yer really there for ain’t the company so much as the possible company if yer take me meanin’. Sometimes I pretend I’m on one of them slave blocks in the olden days – Romans or somefin’ – couldn’ a bin much worse, could it? An’ the buyers. Jeez! Talk about the dirty mac brigade. Still, they pay well, and if yer lucky it’s down the nearest alley, a quick suck or fuck, an’ money in yer pocket. Course, if yer ain’t lucky, it could be a knife, but us lot try not to fink about that, cos we’re trying to make a livin’ ‘ere, see? An’ it doesn’ do to get too scared or depressed about it, like. Puts the punters off if yer ain’t mostly smilin’.

Johnny an’ me run off togevver from the ‘ome, didn’ we? Bin ‘ere ever since. Not much fun, like I said, but plenty of punters. Good at avoidin’ the Social – can smell ’em a mile off. An’ arter wot ol’ ‘ammond did, well, we wasn’ going back not nohow. If I gotta get fucked by a creepy old man I’d sooner be paid for it, wouldn’ I? Offerin’ special privileges don’ really cut it, know what I mean? Johnny thought the same. We usually thought the same – ever since we was nippers an’ new to the ‘ome at the same time. Course, since I turned sixteen they probly couldn’ take me back anyroad, but no sense courtin’ trouble; it finds yer soon enough as they say. An’ Johnny was a year younger than me anyway so still at risk.

We did start to make a livin’, I supppose. Enough to doss down in this squat one of the uvvers found, an’ get enough to eat to get by. Though Johnny got awful thin lately and kept ever’body awake with ‘is coughin’, nights. Wanted to ‘old ‘im and make it better, didn’ I? Or mebbe keep ‘im warm. Okay, just warm, right? Though I’d’ve liked … But when I tried ‘e said ‘e couldn’ breave and ‘e didn’ like bein’ ‘eld – reminded ‘im of the guys in the alleyways, some’ow. So I just listened an’ wished.

Last Saturday I tried to kiss ‘im; just ‘cos I really, really care, yer know? An’ even too thin, well, ‘e were always sort of gorgeous an’ I always got well ‘ard when we touched, even by accident. But ‘e turned ‘is ‘ead away and wiped ‘is mouth.

One day …. Dreams… Always did get in trouble for daydreamin’, specially at school.

But I wished I could make enough to take ‘im on ‘oliday somewhere, fer a real rest. Somewhere nice, wiv clean sheets an coffee any time wivout ‘avin’ to count ‘ow much change yer got. Only there was never enough to be worth savin’, an if there ‘ad of bin it’d all ‘ave ‘ad to go on drugs an’ such. I don’ mean drugs like drugs. That ain’t never bin me scene, nor Johnny’s neiver. I mean cough medicine an’ maybe tissues or them sweets wiv runny stuff in the middle. Only I ‘ated it that ‘e ‘ad to wipe ‘is nose an’ mouth on ‘is sleeve. An’ I wished I could buy ‘im somefin’ nice to wear, nothin’ fancy, just… nice. Maybe one of them warm sweaters off the market.

Then one night there was this feller an’ ‘e goes can ‘e take me back to ‘is hotel for the whole night. The whole night! If ‘e’d said ‘is place, I might’ve thought twice. But a hotel. Seemed safe. An’ it was; ‘e only ‘urt me a little bit, just by bein’ impatient an’ wantin’ it often an’ kind of twistin’ me arms, like. I didn’ care much; I knew ‘e’d pay well ‘an if I was good ‘e might be back fer more.

So I walked out wiv me ‘ead in the clouds an’ me pockets full of money. Not just money, eiver; I ‘ad them little packets of coffee an’ sugar yer get in hotel rooms. Johnny were going to be so freakin’ pleased! We could go away fer a couple of days. For real! I looked in an ‘oliday shop where they book coaches and that; there were trips advertised to the south coast, travel an’ accommodation all in. Brighton. I could afford it. It would ‘elp. Sea air ‘ad to ‘elp, didn’ it? An’ it’d be better than savin’ it; a kind of investment, really.

I was singin’ a tune when I got to the squat, somefin’ I’d ‘eard on somebody’s phone on the steps round the statue. Catchy, even though it annoyed me at times. But then I saw ‘im and ‘e were quite still. There were a smear of blood on ‘is face; ‘is beautiful face. I went to wipe it away fer ‘im, then it dawned.

I phoned the Social. At least that way ‘e’d get a proper burial. Then I scarpered, like. No sense gettin’ caught;  knew ‘e wouldn’ ‘ave wanted that. An’ now I can’t go back there, cos they’ll look fer me an’ make some sort of trouble, make no mistake. An’ there’s an ‘undred quid burning a ruddy great ‘ole in me pocket. No idea what to spend it on, not now, but I know it can’t buy me love.

October reading 2022: familiar authors

The autumn colours have been late this year though I believe they got their act together further south.

Obviously there are no dire books in this selection. Familiar authors are trusted authors! There were no abandoned ones, either, as I am being a little more careful about reading the blurb than hitherto, and avoid themes that don’t appeal to me. Some of these books appealed more than others but that’s just my taste. They’re all worth buying or borrowing.

Excellent

Keepers of the Past by Jackson Marsh***** Excellent sequel to the first of the Larkspur Mysteries. Intriguing detail about Cornish myths and stone circles etc. albeit somewhat fictionalised for plot purposes. Fascinating look at sign language for the deaf. Dalston and Joe are safe (for now) and their romance is still slightly rocky but delightful all the same. One of those books you can’t wait to finish but at the same time wish would last forever.

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin***** The usual brilliant writing and satisfyingly complex plot with Edinburgh as an extra character. I love the Rebus series. However, I suspect my reading has got slightly out of order…

Guilt by Association by Gregory Ashe*****Another complex and satisfying mystery (book 4) with a HFN ending for the detective pair. Gorgeous writing. I was beginning to wonder how long Ashe could keep up the UST then realised I had no room to talk as my Skilled Investigator series keeps it up for six volumes and he only takes four…

Highly recommended

Subtle Bodies by Jordan Castillo Price**** I love the whole psycops series. Victor, with his ability to see and talk to ghosts is a superb ‘hero’. Victor and Jacob have now been together through 13 novels and numerous short stories, yet their relationship continues to grow and develop. The cases they need to solve are intriguing and this was no exception. I always pre-order these books now, and will continue to do so.

Gabriel’s Storm by Sue Brown**** Exciting tale of storms, rescues and amnesia on the south coast. I also read Hairy Harry’s car seat by Sue Brown*** Pleasant and well written story about Harry’s owner grieving for his dog and gradually finding out more about his own sexuality.

Getting Married at Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen**** I enjoyed this volume in the series about modern Crofton Hall even though it lacked the drama of most of the stories. I don’t recall planning a wedding being so fraught but that perhaps just shows my age. I had read the book where Ben and Ashley first get together so was not confused by the main relationships but must admit I have been reading these books out of order, and also getting ‘spoilers’ from blurbs… I must make a real effort to read in sequence.

Point of No Return by NR Walker**** Exciting cop drama with a satisfying romance. I shall be getting the sequel. I also read Imago Series Collection by NR Walker.*** I liked Lawson and Jack, and I was fascinated to learn more about Australian wildlife in general and butterflies in particular. However, the collection, which comprised three short novels and a short story, seemed to alternate between almost sugary romance and too much sex which furthered neither plot nor character development. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the set straight through. Ms Walker is a good writer but this is not one of my favourites in her works. The author’s notes sent me in search of a trilogy by Julie Bozza (another trusted author) which I have bought and will review in due course.

Lucky by Garrett Leigh**** I loved the way the relationship was held back by the secrets the protagonists kept. A beautifully written modern romance set in London.

Spell Cat by Tara Lain**** I shall definitely be reading more of the Aloysius Tales. Loved the characters (most of them witches) and the situations, and particularly loved the cat.

Readable

A Reason to Stay by RJ Scott*** I found the thoughts and emotions of the two protagonists in this rather repetitive. Although the thriller element was exciting I felt the story would have been better as a novella than as a full length novel. I like this author’s style but have favourites among her work and this wasn’t one of them.

The Altered 2 by Annabelle Jacobs*** I like the concept of the series (military experiments result in ‘altered’ teens who have shifter abilities) but there is quite a lot of head hopping which at times makes it hard to follow. Like the first volume, this was a nice story but doesn’t lead me to rush off to find the next.

Ruby Fire by Adam J Ridley*** Well written story in the series about the cursed brothers. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two. I found the constant switching between worlds/realities somewhat distancing; I have to admit I prefer paranormal fantasy to take place firmly within one world, ours or an imagined one. I also thought it was too convenient that the main protagonists fell neatly in love with virtually no UST and very little to explain their mutual attraction. The ending was satisfactory though there were hints that there’s another story to come. I shall read it, but for the community at large and the concept rather than the romance.

Fanfic

When Shall We Three Meet Again by Small_Hobbit. **** I laughed out loud at this modern take on the three witches. Suitably light hearted reading (and only 326 words) for Halloween. https://archiveofourown.org/works/41905317 Also Tigger Holmes and the case of the Midnight slipper **** by the same author which is part of the Tigger Holmes series, a light hearted fusion of Winnie the Pooh and Sherlock Holmes. Only 714 words. Give it a try!! https://archiveofourown.org/works/42573489

Viewing in October 2022

Hoping against hope that crumbs will fall from a birthday feast.

Karen Pirie**** (ITV Hub or Amazon Prime) I knew I would probably like this thriller set in Scotland with a female lead detective. It’s based on a series by Val McDermid whose writing I love, and whose screen adaptations are usually good. I’m not sure whether she’s involved in them.

Red Light**** (All4 – Walter Presents) Belgian crime drama with three female leads. A detective, an opera singer and a prostitute all have dysfunctional families and their lives are increasingly intertwined. Well made, well acted, and an intriguing plot. Set in Antwerp.

Politics live***** (Various channels.) The rest of the month was basically the ongoing soap opera of the Tory party trying to sell itself in various types of packaging to a disbelieving public. Naturally, it was still bought by its tiny core membership. Things began to settle with the advent of Rishi, but only because he’s such a relief after Boris and Liz. I watch a lot of political programmes. I’m really sad that BBC have axed Dateline London, but ITV still offer Peston and of course there’s always the news… My favourite is Channel 4 at 7.00pm. I always tune in to PMQs and quite often I have BBC Parliament on as background TV, and then get hooked by interesting debates. Actually, I’m more frequently hooked by the proceedings of various select committees.

Halloween 2022

‘Spooky’ tree in the park at Virginia Water.

Grandchild is fourteen and tall. Not really the age or size for trick or treating. However, they are autistic and they ‘missed out’ during the pandemic, so were desperate to enjoy this year. Daughter decided that with her participation they could go ahead but in our area, which is comparatively ‘safe’ rather than their own which tends to have more than its fair share of older feral youth. I bring you the results. The costumes were great (and some people thought daughter as dragon was another teen), the dog got a walk (despite the rain) and much candy was obtained. Daughter bought pumpkins at Aldi and chose interesting ones with ‘bumps’ but then found they’d only be able to carve them with a chainsaw so went for black paint instead.

We all then had an optimistic November supper with ‘bangers’, baked potatoes, and parkin. Unfortunately, the rain got heavier and we didn’t have fireworks in the garden as planned. Nobody came to our house – we think the local kids have been told it’s haunted…

I failed to write a Halloween story this year though I did put some effort into the Monsterfest ficlets so don’t feel too guilty. I’m enjoying a suitably creepy book and will review it later.

Advice desperately needed.

I am having a panic over my latest book.

It’s written, beta’ed, edited, proof read, and formatted to within an inch of its life. The cover is done and approved by my editor. It’s all ready to self publish. Actually, it’s been ready for about a month. And I still love the characters.

So what, you ask, is the problem?

The problem is both simple and insoluble: the right tags for Amazon and Smashwords.

Here’s the planned blurb:

The Seekers follows a group of people on a quest in a fantasy world. It’s a quest to escape rather than to seek. Twin fairy princes and their sister are fleeing their abusive and manipulative father. A dark elf is tired of the humdrum nature of his job as manager of the family mines. A young goblin on his travelling year needs to sell the contents of his pack before returning home. They meet almost by accident and have no idea where they are going. There is one unexpected m/f marriage in the desert and another in the hall of the mountain king. There’s an ACE character who falls in love with travelling and journeys on alone. There’s a slow burn m/m romance that ends in a HEA by the last chapter. So the novel asks what people really want, and gives them their sometimes surprising hearts’ desires.

OK. With me so far?

I get to fiction/fantasy and then get stuck. I want to stress the mm romance but can’t play down the mf ones. None of the romances are particularly explicit and are more interesting in terms of character development and family/friendship group reactions than in terms of sex. And yet – there’s at least one sex scene. It’s a quest rather than a romance and there are no thriller elements though there are moments of extreme danger. But it isn’t by any means a high fantasy quest of the usual kind.

The tag trees on the publishing sites simply don’t allow for much of this.

Any advice welcome!!