Monday, 29 June 2015

Monster Mondays - The Spy In The Ointment

If you want to share your own Monster Monday, pop on over here and put your post on the list.

Now, when you think of spies, I bet the first one who comes to mind is James Bond. I'm not talking about the action hero spy, the Harry Harts, or Jason Bournes of our fictional worlds, though. I'm talking about the mole, the man, or woman who, under the guise of innocuous civil servant, or loyal secretary then proceeds to betray everyone they come into contact with.

There is something uniquely distasteful about this type of monster. They live in the protection of their fellows, stand beside them, outwardly show support, but, when the time is right, they can turn on a dime. It is the bonds of friendship and professional respect that can be so blatantly broken that give us the creeps and make these characters the ones we love to loathe.

George Smiley's world in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of constant intrigue, full of bluffs and misdirection, and even the 'good guys' made my skin crawl when I watched this movie. Truth gets lost in the quest for 'the cause', in this case the constant worry in the 70's that we were heading towards a 3rd world war with those behind the iron curtain. What rankles with Le Carre's plot is that, when the mole is finally identified, there's not even any real conviction behind his betrayal. Even as he tries to justify himself, he sounds jaded and self-interested, there is no great cause he is fighting for, just disillusionment.

No, I'm not going to tell you who the spy is :)
These kinds of moles, wheedling their way into people's confidences and then turning on them appear in all genres, not just the spy thriller. The ultimate being, of course, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and I will say no more, just in case someone doesn't know).

These bad eggs hidden among the heroes are the lowest of the low, betrayers and backstabbers all. But then again, if they're working for our side, or in the case of the movies, 'the good guys', it all gets a lot more complicated. Every mole thinks his or her cause is just and their actions are for the greater good. But do we even trust the ones who are on our side? They have spent so long dissembling, they no longer know what is true and what is false. Snape from Harry Potter could be considered one of those. He is a cruel, vindictive man, bitterly disappointed in his life, damaged by his own choices. He has his own agenda as well as those of his task master, and he hates Harry. Even when we know which side he's on, he's never someone to be trusted, because his own rage drives him.

Spies, double agents, sleepers, moles - I call them monsters for their duplicity, they all come from a place of intrigue when we never know what is going to happen next! :)

So, do you have a favourite double agent?

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Friday, 26 June 2015

Recipe: Bagels

Anyone who has been following my blog knows that in the last few months I have taken up baking. I have progressed from plain white bread to caramelized onion and cheese swirled loaf, which I have subsequently turned into a tear and share style bread tray as well. Then I used the same basic white bread recipe, flipping the type of flour to a malted flour and adding raisins to make a malted loaf which was great toasted with jam, or just butter if you're my twin sister, who soaked a slice in more butter than I ever thought possible! ;P

I even managed English muffins last week  - no piccies though, I got too excited about the griddling and forgot :(.

Anyway, so today I decided to try something completely new to me (and I remembered to take some pictures). I made bagels!

They may not be the prettiest bagels ever, but they were fun to
make and they taste lovely :)

I started with a couple of different recipes, both from BBC Good Food, and then I tweaked, because I can never leave well enough alone. So I'm telling you what I did and if you want the original recipes, they are here, and here.

I made 12 bagels with this recipe because I upped the amount of ingredients from the original recipe.

500g     Strong White Bread Flour
3 tbsp   Sugar (I used caster)
2 tsp     Salt (note this is teaspoons, NOT tablespoons)
9g         Dried yeast (the original recipe said 7, but I used more flour)
1 tsp     Bicarbonate of Soda (for the water you boil the bagels in)
300ml  Tepid Water (approx - you may need a little more, or a little less)
1 egg for egg washing the bagels.
Sunflower oil for kneading and lining baking trays.

A kneading board, or sideboard
A large mixing bowl
2 baking trays
A large saucepan
A knife
A pastry brush
A vented fish slice or slotted spoon
2 cooling racks


  • I made the dough the same way I make any standard bread dough, I put the flour in a bowl, put the sugar and salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other (the salt will kill the yeast if you put them together when neat) and then mixed the dry ingredients through. Then I began to add the water bit by bit, mixing with my fingers, until all the ingredients came together into a dough that shouldn't be sticky, but should be well combined.
  • Knead the dough on an oiled surface for 10 mins, or until it is smooth and stretchy. Form it into a rough ball.
  • Oil the mixing bowl. Place the dough into it and cover with oiled clingfilm (and a tea towel if you want). Leave to prove for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. I turn on my oven to its lowest temperature, leave the door open and put the bowl in front of the open oven.
  • Once the dough has proved, knock it back (give it a little knead just to remove most of the air, four or five kneads should do it).
  • Divide the dough into 12 bits - for me, each was about 80g. Keep the divided dough covered by the clingfilm as you work on each bit to stop it drying out.
  • Roll each bit into a ball, make a hole through the centre and then, put through it the handle of a wooden spoon (or your finger if you're feeling brave). Swing the dough around your chosen pivot until the hole is about 3cm in size (yes I did lose one when I tried this, luckily it sailed across the table and landed on the oiled clingfilm, so I could rescue it). Then place the shaped bagel onto it's greased baking tray (I had six bagels per tray). Remember to leave enough room around each bagel for it to grow in size.
  • Cover the bagels with oiled clingfilm again and leave them to prove for a second time for 30-40 minutes.
  • While the bagels are proving, fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil.
  • Add the bicarbonate of soda - this apparently 'alkalises' the water *shrug*
  • Once the dough has proved for a second time, comes the part that made me blink when I read it in the recipe - boiling the bagels! This is what gives a bagel its unique texture.
  • If your pan is big enough, you can boil 2, or even 3 bagels at a time, I had to do one at a time, because my saucepan circumference to bagel ratio was not big enough and also, I had enough trouble keeping track of one boiling piece of dough ;P.
Yes, you really boil the dough!
  • Place the bagel into the water and boil for a minute, turning halfway through - you can boil for longer if you want a chewier bagel, but 1 minute was just dandy for my bagels. The bagel will swell a little bit and get a skin. Lift the bagel our with a slotted spoon, or a vented fish slice works too.
  • Drain on a rack and then place back onto the baking trays.
  • Brush with the beaten egg.
  • Place the bagels into an oven at 220C conventional oven, 200C fan oven for 20 to 25 minutes (until they are golden brown and give a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom).
  • Leave to cool on a rack (or if you're impatient like me, they taste really nice warm as well).
And that was it - pretty easy once I got over the whole dunking bread dough in water idea :)

Monday, 22 June 2015

Monster Mondays - The Monster in the Closet

If you want to share your own monster monday, pop on over here and put your post on the list.

I don't know about you, but when I was a child I always had to have the door of any wardrobe, or closet closed tight, or that slit of shadow would take control of my attention, drawing me back to it over and over again. Even with a nightlight, the thought of what was behind that door, hidden in the darkness, waiting to silently ease open its cage caught my imagination every time. And, even when it isn't dark, when there is just a closed door that I have to open, I still catch myself wondering what grim thing could be hiding in the small space behind.

Closet doors, attic hatches, crawl spaces, all of them give me the creeps, and not just because of the spiders. To be honest, I don't even like walking into a darkened room, I always reach round and fumble for the light switch before I'll look into the void. Maybe I've watched far too many horror movies! ;P A good one about the hidden monster in the closet is Boogeyman (2005), where a young man returns to his childhood home to deal with a trauma linked to a monster in the closet that has affected his whole life.

Still, it's that fear of the unknown, what the shadows can be hiding that is the key to the closet monster. From the childish fear of gruesome monsters to the adult one of a burglar, or worse, there is something innate about our fear of unknown spaces, even when our logical brain tells us that is where we hung up our clothes only minutes ago.

I know from American movies that a lot of larger US closets have lights in them. In the houses I've lived in in the UK, we had no such luxury. Those little spaces were dark and full of menace when the room light was shadowed out by my own body. I'd like to blame the fact that I tend to leave clothes lying on the backs of chairs at night on that small terror, but that could just be because I'm lazy!

And, in the middle of the night, what's worse than the closet monster? I'll tell you - the bathroom beast! When I was a child, in the rectory I lived in, the loo was at the diametrically opposite end of the top floor to the bedroom I shared with my twin, Tasha. On a chilly winter night, when there was a wind rustling the trees outside, that could be an awfully long walk, and opening the door at the other end - well - that's where I learned to turn on lights before going into the room.

It's a primeval fear of the dark, of enclosed spaces, of things we don't understand. All of them come together in our fear of the closet monster!

Were/are you scared of the closet monster?

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Monster Mondays - Doppelgangers

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Being a twin, I already have someone who looks like me, so it's not that that disturbs me about doppelgangers, which literally means double-goer. It's the fact that doppelgangers are usually associated with bad fortune, or evil intent that gives me the creeps.

As monsters go, doppelgangers are a versatile bunch. They can be ghostly apparitions, or solid entities. The first one I ever remember reading about was in the book of the children's TV series The Ghosts of Motley Hall, and, unusually, that one was a ghost of a ghost. I found it very sinister that there could be another version of a person in the world, who was out of their control and meant to do them harm.

Needless to say, the doppelganger in that story, being a children's book, did not do much harm, but it left a lasting impression on my young mind. I became very interested in true-life accounts of ghosts, and another form of doppelganger is the crisis ghost. This apparition has no evil intent, in fact, they usually appear to warn loved ones of the danger a person is in. They can also appear to loved ones due to a violent death. The account below comes from  Monstrous,com:
December 1943:  Mrs. Violet Almond was awakened by an apparition of her husband that floated above her for a few minutes.  She learned later that her husband, who was on a battlefield in North Africa, was being shelled heavily and was praying to God to save him so he could see his wife again at the exact time she was seeing his apparition in their bedroom.

Crisis ghosts are spooky, but they tend to be harmless. It's the evil end of the doppelganger spectrum that are monsters. In traditional folklore, doppelgangers would put evil thoughts into their counterpart's mind, and seeing your own doppelganger could mean you were about to die! In fiction Edgar Allan Poe used a doppelganger in his short story, William Wilson, where William is haunted his entire life by a look-a-like, who interferes in everything he does, and in the end, he stabs his double. He then discovers he has stabbed himself.

It is the similarity, the insidious interjection of wrongness, opposites into a person's life that make doppelgangers so monstrous. They are not drooling, monstrous looking things, they are cunning, deceptive and supernaturally bad!

What would you think if you saw your doppelganger?

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Monday, 8 June 2015

Monster Mondays: Possessed Objects

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There is something very strange and scary about an inanimate object that takes on evil anthropomorphic qualities: I don't know about you, but I'd be freaked out if I thought my wardrobe hated me. So that's my subject for Monster Monday this week - no not wardrobes, possessed objects. The reason I picked this is that I just saw Oculus this week, the movie starring Karen Gillan, in which a grand old mirror starts controlling the minds of a young family, pulling them into madness and death at each other's hands. It's a pretty creepy movie and the design of the mirror is just right for it, large, with a dark, carved wood frame, you can really believe that mirror hates everything and wants to twist it all up.

Of course, inanimate objects aren't limited to furniture. Anyone remember that clown doll in Poltergeist? I don't like clowns at the best of times, but in doll form, possessed by unseen forces, then you have my very creeped out attention!
Clown Before is Creepy Enough
Clown After Sealed My Opinion of Clowns for LIFE!
 Possessed dolls, the sign of innocence corrupted, is probably the creepiest form of possession for me. I find old-fashioned dolls a bit creepy anyway, so much so that when I wrote one of my first out and out horror stories, BFF for the Myriad Imaginings Anthology, that was my subject. Those fixed smiles, those unblinking eyes, and some of the antique dolls even have little pointed teeth that make them look devilish even before ghosts and demons are brought into the mix. They are the perfect target for a little possession ;P.

There are so many possibilities with turning objects into the epicentre of horror: Stephen King possessed a car in Christine; the puzzle box in Hellraiser can be considered a spooky thing in its own right; whole houses turned into monsters in Rose Red and Monster House. The terrifying list goes on.

What innocent little object would really freak you out if it turned out to be possessed?

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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Welcoming Some New Feline Members of Our Family

Ythran, you'll always be in my heart.
Some of you will have read my blog post last month when I lost my feline friend of 15 years, Ythran. I'm going to miss him for a very long time. I miss him coming in through the cat flap and meowing a greeting. I miss him coming to my chair and asking to be picked up and put on a cushion on my lap (he couldn't jump well in his later years due to only having one back leg). I even miss him going to the french doors and demanding to be let out right in the middle of a good movie! ;P He will be in my heart always.

It has been very quiet around the house without him and some people may think it is too soon, but we needed the presence of kitties again. So, three weeks ago, we went to The Happy Endings Rescue Centre, a wonderful place in the English countryside where I think they must take in any animal that comes to them (they have 27 barn owls from a private collection because they wouldn't say no :)).

Happy Endings Rescue are open from 2-4 everyday for people wanting to visit and see their animals for rehoming. We just turned up and they were so lovely. They took us over to see the cats, who were all looking very content. We were looking for a pair of cats, and I'd been to the Happy Endings website to look at their felines in need of homes.

Silver and Binx were the second pair of cats we met, and I have to say I instantly fell in love with Silver. A beautiful, petite silver tabby, she jumped up on a shelf to greet us and proved she loved a good head rub. Binx, her daughter, a little smaller still and completely black, was much more timid, hiding at the back of their pen, so we only got to nod to her that first meeting. That was it, though, we loved them and we arranged immediately for a home assessment.

Silver & Binx look around
Needless to say, everything went well with the assessment and exactly a week later we picked the girls up. They both fitted in the box that Ythran used to fill! And they were good as gold on the way home. Once in the kitchen, we opened the box and Silver was straight out, having a look around and very interested in the food we put down for her - in fact, she wolfed her own down and then started on Binx's food, since Binx stayed put in the box for a while, before making a dash behind one of our storage boxes (where she stayed all afternoon and evening). Silver, however, made herself at home, while going back and checking on her daughter from time to time and trying to call her out of her hideyhole.

So, it was a tentative start with Binxey, but she came out of her shell amazingly quickly. She made it upstairs that night with encouragement from Silver, and even came down for breakfast - it took twenty minutes of calling, but eventually she realised there was food at the end of the trip. And by Sunday evening, she even came into the lounge with all of us and explored the place. That's when the first picture above was taken. And she's been coming on leaps and bounds ever since. Until, a few days ago, we concluded both girls were feeling at home :).
Settling in!
It's going to take a while before we all get to know each other really well, but I think we're on to a good start.

Silver poses for a shot.
Silver, who is approximately 18 months old, is just a darling, such a sweet girl, and she has stopped gobbling her food, which she did for the first couple of days. On the first night, there was an incident with a quarter of a large steak and kidney pie we forgot about and left on the side, that wasn't there the next morning. How such a small cat ate so much, we will never know! She now seems sure she knows where the next meal is coming from, and she is eating normally, and the steak and kidney pie will not be mentioned again ;P.

Binxey feeling at home.
Binx is now running up to greet us, tail up in the air, but stopping short of accepting strokes, although sometimes she hangs on to her courage and her purr is like a traction engine when she realises she really likes a back rub :). She's only a kitten, about 7 months old, and she thinks the red dot cat toy is just the best thing ever! Given how affectionate she wants to be if she can only get over her nerves, I think she will eventually be a lap cat :D.

So these are our beautiful new girls, who are loved by all members of our family, including our dog, Nemo, who thinks they are wonderful. It's a new chapter in our household. Goodbye Ythran, my lovely, old fellow, you can never be replaced, but I hope you don't mind that I needed some new feline company.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Guest Post: Ghosts & Witches by Chrys Fey, author of Ghost of Death & Witch of Death

Hi, everyone! I’m Chrys Fey and I am here to tell you about my newest short stories Ghost of Death and Witch of Death.

A ghost is the soul of a dead person that lingers on earth after their death. The living can sometimes see ghosts in the form of apparitions. They are often described as translucent, misty, and floating. They are solitary essences that haunt specific locations, maybe where they died, their home, or their place of work. Often, they attach themselves to people, usually loved ones. There have even been accounts of animal (pet) ghosts.

The idea of ghosts has become so popular that there are countless ghost hunting shows. People also flock to haunted houses/hotels to spend the night and see what they’ll experience. Ghosts have been said to move objects, touch people, even push people, and appear at the foot of beds or in hallways, and also drain electrical appliances so they can do these things.

Ghosts, although many people are frightened of them because anything with death and the afterlife can be scary, they do not hurt people. Only dark entities cause harm.

Popular Ghost Movies:

Corpse Bride
Darkness Falls
Ghost Ship
Sleepy Hollow
The Eye
The Haunting
The Others
The Shining
Thirteen Ghosts
What Lies Beneath

QUESTION: What’s your favorite ghost movie?

Fictional witches have magnificent supernatural powers such as the ability to conjure fire, control the wind, and send lightning down from the sky. They vanquish demons and warlocks with spells and potions (Charmed). They cast spells with wands and fly on broomsticks (Harry Potter).

Witches outside of fiction don’t have supernatural powers. Wicca is a religion that honors the earth and nature. Wiccans use herbs and stones to cast spells for strength, love, courage, among other things.

Because of the stigma around witches, many people fear them and picture them cackling over a bubbling cauldron. In fiction, they most likely do just that. In real life, they laugh with friends over a stove while they make a soup or tea full of delicious ingredients that may heighten health and happiness.

Popular Witch Movies:

Bell Book and Candle
Harry Potter
Hocus Pocus
Practical Magic
Teen Witch
The Craft
The Crucible
The Good Witch
The Witches
The Witches of Eastwick
Wizard of Oz

QUESTION: What’s your favorite witch movie?

Title: Witch of Death
Author: Chrys Fey
Genre: Supernatural/Suspense
Format: eBook Only
Page Count: 45 (short story)
Release Date: May 20th, 2015
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press


Detective Reid Sanders doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but when he’s faced with a crime scene that defies the laws of nature, he has no other choice but to start believing. And solving a magical murder involves working with a witch.

Liberty Sawyer embodies the look of your classic evil witch, so, it’s no surprise when she uncovers the murderer is a witch that she becomes Reid’s number one suspect. If she can’t convince him otherwise, more people could lose their lives to dark magic, including her.




Jolie Montgomery, a twenty-one-year-old woman, wakes up in an alley next to her corpse. She has no memories of her murder or the night she died. She didn’t even see the killer’s face before he or she took her life. Wanting justice, Jolie seeks answers in the only way a ghost stalking the lead detective on the case.

Avrianna Heavenborn is determined to find the person responsible for a young woman’s death. She gets closer to the killer’s identity with every clue she uncovers, and Jolie is with her every step of the way.

But if they don’t solve her murder soon, Jolie will be an earth-bound spirit forever.

Book Links:


Chrys Fey is the author of Hurricane Crimes and 30 Seconds. She is currently working on the sequel to Hurricane Crimes that’ll serve as book two in the Disaster Crimes series.

When Fey was six years old, she realized her dream of being a writer by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started writing her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey lives in Florida where she is waiting for the next hurricane to come her way.

You can connect with her on Facebook and her blog, Write with Fey. She loves to get to know her readers! 

Author Links: 
Facebook / Blog / Website / Goodreads 

THE BATTLE IS ON: Which do you like more in fiction, ghosts or witches?

Thank you all for visiting and hopefully commenting. ;) 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Monster Mondays: Gremlins

If you want to share your own monster monday, pop on over here and put your post on the list.

As monsters go, I think Gremlins have a pretty implausible creation myth, but it is cool! For those who don't know: gremlins come from Mogwai. These are really cute little creatures with huge ears (a bit like an overweight house elf with fur and a snub nose).

If you get a mogwai wet, other little mogwais will bubble off of it. So far, so cute, eh? However, there is another very important thing to remember with mogwais - never, ever feed them after midnight. This is what happens in the movie, Gremlins, and, guess what a midnight-fed mogwai becomes - yup, a Gremlin.

Now, a Gremlin is an ugly scaly green menace who wants no more than to cause absolute chaos!

Thus ensues one of the best comedy horror movies of the 80's. It also has a pretty good sequel too!

Gremlins made me laugh, cringe and go ewww! And Gizmo, the mogwai, is a really great little character as well. The 80's produced some good monster movies, Ghoulies, House and Gremlins are probably the top, with Critters being on the second rung.

Do you have a favourite little monster movie?

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