Adaptations Unmasked


A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge #ThemeReveal

When I discovered that it was A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal day, I had been relaxing for my day oblivious to the work ahead.

I hadn’t even remembered to sign-up – well, in fact, my thoughts were still drifting around what I scribbled down after 2017’s challenge. I had a list of places in North Wales that were linked to my Welsh detective series.

Change of plan. I’m heavily into the rewrite of my first Welsh mystery. Do I need to get deeper into my world, or do I need a distraction? I have that: reading other books, watching movies, and gaming. Three more lists began to emerge – and a link.

The Lord of the Rings: a book – a re-visited trilogy, great movie adaptations and an immersive game. All firm favourites.

And LOTRO is not the only game with roots (or cuttings) – Conan, Star Wars, Tomb Raider, and the Welsh medieval masterpiece, The Mabinogion.

So, my theme might be ‘gaming’ in inspiration, but its roots are ancient. Do all games have such roots? What about other adaptations? Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling.

Where did Shakespeare borrow his tales from? Who is re-telling his?

And how about testing your wits against The Bard:

That’s all folks. I’m off to do my research – there are a few letters to find. X is okay but what about Q?


UPDATE: Tuesday, 20th March 2018.

Apologies, yesterday I forgot to link this post to the main Blogging from A to Z Challenge page so readers could find out more about this amazing annual event. So, today I am adding some links in the hope that helps explain more than I have.

I’m switching off for now as my brain is getting overloaded and confused = short-circuiting, stress time. (I hate MonSters and losing my Spoons.)


Death in Dulwich – a review

I must apologise for this belated review – my own detective work conspired against this getting written.


Death in Dulwich (London Murder Mystery #1)

by Alice Castle

Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work. To clear her name, Beth is plunged into a cozy mystery that’s a contemporary twist on Golden Age crime classics. But can she pull it off? She already has a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and lots of bills to pay, as she struggles to keep up with the yummy mummies of SE21. Join Beth in #1 of the London Murder Mystery series, as she discovers the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.


Review 4.7 stars

The descriptive opening with its Dulwich setting and the centuries-old school swept me into a change of reading direction. I tend to read more hard-boiled mysteries, but when a cozy grabs my attention like Death in Dulwich, I am hooked.

Single-mum Beth Haldane did more than that. She’s both a determined and an amusing protagonist whose priority is her son. But stumbling over a murder victim on her first day at a new job adds to her impressive daily juggling. She realises that she is a prime suspect so delving into the secrets hiding in leafy SE21 is logical.

Except to the police who have their way of dealing with crime. I sensed that the Inspector will be making a re-appearance in Beth’s life when she is faced with her next case. As a writer of police procedurals, I questioned the authenticity of his actions – but only for a moment, and I want to know more.

Beth holds to her priorities – Homework must come before murder investigations and getting your son to school on time is vital. Even harder when you are surrounded by ‘the yummy mummies’ with aspirations for their little darlings.

Alice Castle paints a humorous picture of the upwardly-mobile world, yet she makes the subtle competitiveness work alongside. The characters all feel realistic, from the staff at Wyatt’s – I remember some from my private school days – to the suspects driven by…well, that would be spoiling the fun.

Let’s just say that suspects can get desperate, and there are red herrings plus direct challenges for Beth that test her resolve. Never underestimate a determined sleuth or a devious writer. Some of the structural twists fooled me as well.

This mystery that kept me grinning and thinking. Recommended for those that want a neat cozy read. I may not join Beth immediately for her next case, but The Girl in The Gallery is a Must Read.

4.7 stars upgraded to 5.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


#IWSG Celebration

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The month seems to have flown by – but then February does that, even when it leaps around…like a March Hare perhaps. That brings us around to another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and my chance to knock my erratic thoughts into the round edges of the IWSG voluntary guidance or prompt:

March 7 question – How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Simple answer: sigh, fall asleep (again), eat a chocolate or eight, then escape into some online game.

(When I’m frustrated, the formula is similar, except the game must involve killing something – like hell-bugs, raptors or orcs.)

Convoluted answer: For this I wish that I had a time-travelling cat like Ellen, or a familiar with better writing skills. My dog, Quetzal just sits on my lap or in front of the desktop screen while my brain ties itself in knots- although she can inspire me.

Celebrations require real achievements and they are as rare as blue moons, especially when I keep going backwards. If my writing was like knitting, then it would be the scarf that I knitted decades ago for a girlfriend who a few years later recycled the wool.

So, where was I? Unravelling my insecurities.

My WIP is going backwards. My protagonist now has a deaf sister as well as her own struggles with being bisexual. This author wonders if he/I should choose a pen name – Roland Clarke is a prolific musician; maybe Rafael Clarke or Buxton. Revision is becoming a re-write.

I’ve fallen down a cliff, and my escape route seems to be a 1st person POV novella-exercise set before my WIP.

Is that a good idea or just another diversion? Can I celebrate even if the scribbles lead to a landslide?

What do you celebrate with?


The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham,Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG


A Hero’s Tale – a review

This is the third Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy and when I reviewed the second book, A Journey of the Heart, I had to read Book 3 at once. I wasn’t disappointed, although I must apologise for this belated review – life & health conspired against this getting written.


A Hero’s Tale (When Women Were Warriors #3)

by Catherine M. Wilson (Goodreads Author)

In Book II, Tamras moved from her home into the lands beyond its border. In Book three, the stage widens further: she deals with the struggles of whole peoples. Caught up in intrigues that would once have been far above her, the heroine risks everything unless she can not only learn to swim in treacherous waters, but to master them. The heroine ‘s inner journey continues to match her outer one. She must confront the meaning not only of personal love, but the love that extends beyond oneself and those we hold dear. Catherine Wilson ‘s skill at tackling the big issues of love, meaning, and humanity is so deft that it all seemed, to me at least, to flow naturally from her narrative in a way I found technically quite breathtaking. “–from a review by Charles Ferguson on the Goodreads website

“Being the third and last volume in a series I enjoyed immensely, I knew that I could expect this last book to deliver a happy and satisfying ending. What I didn’t t expect was the intricate and daring storyline of this last volume. It is bigger and broader than what has come before, and it is spectacular. this time the story unfolds on to a whole new level. More characters, more intrigue, greater losses, wonderful reunions. There ‘s no taking the easy road here the story opened up into unimagined dimensions to tell a tale that really is that of a hero.”

When Women Were Warriors manages to blend mythic storytelling with characters who feel so real you could imagine stepping into the pages and having a conversation with them. A Hero ‘s Tale skilfully weaves the questions of love, faith and fairness into a dramatic story; not only of a relationship between the main characters, but of a quest so much bigger it takes the breath away. There is everything you could wish for here power struggles, forces for good and evil, dramatic tests of faith, daring rescues, fatal rivalry, but it is managed with such a deft hand that in the end it is all one beautiful story. What else is there to say? This is not just lesbian fiction, but a story about being human. It ‘s not to be missed.–from a review by Kate Genet on the website, Kissed By Venus

In Book III of the trilogy, Tamras must make her own hero ‘s journey. She ventures into the unknown and encounters a more formidable enemy than any she has ever faced. Character is destiny, and the destiny of Tamras and all her people will depend upon choices that come less from the skills she has been taught than from the person she has become, from her own heart.


Review 5 stars

It has been a few weeks since I made the final stages of the heroic journey of Tamras but so much of this world ‘when women were warriors’ lives on. I am tempted to slip back into her vibrant world again as the characters and settings feel so rich, and the writing still weaves its spell over me.

This is the epic climax and the story grows in intensity as the events become more complex. Tamras faces new challenges that are a true test of everything that she has learned. The younger and less-experienced Tamras of Book 1 might well have failed, and even after progressing so much, she still stumbles. Yet, Tamras struggles on.

The character has grown to the point where she can stand alongside some formidable characters, sharing her brand of wisdom and still learning as unexpected events unfold. Some key motifs and threads come together in well-constructed echoes and actions that made me feel this tapestry was being woven together neatly. Wolves and mysteries were my thoughts, but I will say no more about that.

Yes, as with any epic saga, there are threads left to tease the reader, but no saga truly ends as life continues beyond ‘The End’. Without those, this reader would not be creating my own imaginings of where Tamras goes next. Do we want a ‘happily ever after’ ending?

The central element is again ‘Love’ in all its forms, true and perverted, uplifting and shattering, emotional and physical. We all need to learn who to embrace and when. The key is to follow your heart and the truth will be revealed.

All the evocative words and images are there again, all the rich and flawed characters, and some unexpected actions and decisions. All these make A Hero’s Tale another recommended read and the perfect end to the trilogy. Finally, I have the signed paperbacks to place in my bookshelf alongside my prized hardback copies of The Lord of the Rings.

When Women Were Warriors too will be regular re-reads over the years to come.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


Souper Blog Hop

souper blog hop

This Souper Blog Hop stirred all sorts of memories, some ‘souper’ delicious and some seriously sad.

‘Souper’ as in the soups of my childhood – mostly home-made vegetable, sometimes puréed with a hand-operated Moulinex – and then there are some favourites over the decades as I discovered more decadent tastes like Vichyssoise and Lobster Bisque, plus tasty treats like Butternut Squash soup. More on my favourite later in this post (although I am struggling with my health as I write this).

The sad refers to incidents in my childhood and early teens when I discovered the meaner side of human nature. When you’ve been bullied, you side with the victim and sympathize with them as characters in fiction – be that films or books. The problem of bullying is real and needs to be faced.

So, first, the book that made this possible: Pea Soup Disaster by Elaine Kaye. This children’s book is suitable for kids of all ages and adults as there is an excellent message about bullying behind an amusing and easy to follow story, illustrated by Danyelayers. It’s a quick four-star read and one I look forward to reading my great-grand-kids – and I look forward to more adventures of Gregory Green.

Pea Soup Disaster Cover

 BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:


Elaine Kaye

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher’s assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:

Website / Instagram / Litsy – @ElaineKaye

Goodreads / Amazon


Visit the other Souper Blog Hop participants:

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…


Broccoli soup1

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

And now to my all-time favourite, first-choice on the menu soup. In fact, for many years, Broccoli & Stilton Soup has headed my soupy list. I figure that might be because I enjoyed it so much in the early days of The New Covent Garden Soup Co.

Searching for that perfect recipe was a research challenge. I confess that I have never been much of a cook beyond throwing random ingredients together. Nowadays, MS and cooking don’t go together – that’s my excuse for dropping pans and messing up the kitchen floor.


Anyway, first stop was looking for the New Covent Garden Soup recipe. But the best that I could find was a recipe for Broccoli and Blue Cheese, which is close. But I wanted Stilton, and certainly not the mature cheddar version that seems to have become the American preference.

With a nod to Elaine Kaye’s Pea Soup Disaster, here’s an interesting soup – Broccoli, Pea and Pesto.


Undaunted, my quest continued, and I found and read various online recipes, but none quite took my fancy. Then I found a fellow traveller drawn by memories of New Covent Garden Soup Co.’s Broccoli & Stilton soup – Felicity Cloake in The Guardian.

Who? Well, Felicity Cloake is “a writer specialising in food and drink and winner of the 2011 Guild of Food Writers awards for Food Journalist of the Year and New Media of the Year. Her first recipe book, Perfect, is published by Fig Tree. She likes to think she’d try any food once – although an eyeball recently caused her to question this gung-ho gastronomic philosophy.”

Her more extensive exploration of Broccoli and Stilton soup entailed trying out various recipes, including some that I had found but not sampled. You can read her culinary journey here –


The perfect broccoli and stilton soup. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

But for those that want the recipe now, the one that works for me – when my wife  adds her touches – here is Felicity Cloake’s recipe:

Perfect broccoli and stilton soup

(Serves 4)

2 tbsp butter
2 shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
600ml milk
800g broccoli
200g stilton, crumbled
Nutmeg, to garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the shallots. Fry gently until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli stalks into smallish chunks, then add to the pan with the softened shallots, fry for a minute, then pour in the stock and milk. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the stalk is beginning to soften (how long will depend on the size). Meanwhile, cut the head into small individual florets.

Once the stalk is almost tender, add the florets to the pan along with most of the Stilton, keeping a little back for garnish. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover then cook for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the florets are soft.

Allow to cool slightly, then puree until smooth. Taste and season if necessary, then divide between bowls and top with the remaining cheese and a good grating of nutmeg.

Figuring out Fictionary



When I was approaching the final third of my fourth rewrite of Fates Maelstrom, I felt that I had ‘lost the plot’. I wasn’t sure what to do until I was introduced to the online editing tool Fictionary by their CEO and lead developer, mystery writer Kristina Stanley who said it might help.

Although my draft wasn’t finished, the rewrite in Scrivener had the final third of draft three as guide notes. Fictionary showed me how to create and upload a docx file from Scrivener.

From that file, Fictionary automatically generated the following overviews:

  • Story Arc
  • Word Count per Scene
  • Scenes per Chapter
  • Characters per Scene
  • Scenes Per Character
  • Point of View

Before I could start using the editing features, I was prompted to confirm my cast of thousands – well almost two hundred. Many of these were characters mentioned but who never appeared like ancestors and other relations.

WARNING: I made the error of deleting the ones that seemed minor – as well as names of mentioned authors like Agatha Christie, and I deleted names like Ford and Guinness. At this stage, variations/mis-spellings of a character’s name come up as different characters, so you can correct that – or note the errors.

Here’s a screenshot of part of my Cast List.


The Character function proved cleverer than me as in every scene you can select ‘Characters in the scene’ and ‘Characters mentioned’, but only the former is used for analysis in the above Overviews and the other ‘Visualize’ reports. Next time, I won’t be deleting those ‘unimportant’ names since they can help as well – I’ve had to add them back in.

This Cast list also shows where characters have similar names, so those clashes might be worth changing.

I like the way in Fictionary that as you evaluate each scene, the visualisation of your novel grows. I have only worked through some aspects of my scenes to tackle what I need to do, but that was enough to demonstrate the potential available.

In the words of Fictionary:

Fictionary helps you evaluate and edit your manuscript until you are satisfied your story works. The Visualize page lets you see your story like never before with automated reports such as the Story Arc.

The Evaluate page helps you consider key elements of fiction for Character, Plot, and Setting on a scene-by-scene basis. As you capture information for each element, Fictionary builds out your Story Map report.

You’ll alternate between Visualize and Evaluate until you’re happy with every scene in your manuscript. When your Fictionary edit is complete, you can Export your manuscript back to Word.

Hence, the following reports required me to consider and add information on my manuscript when I was evaluating my scenes:

  • Story Map
  • Scenes Opening / Closing Types
  • Purpose of Scene
  • Setting Elements Per Scene

As I said, I haven’t evaluated every element in many scenes but at a glance, the Visualize page began to show potential problems with my draft so I had to make some immediate amendments to lend some sense to my chaos.

Let’s go back to my first shock – the cast of thousands. There was one omission – my main protagonist called Sparkle. Computer programmes get fooled by ordinary nouns as proper names – I know of a writer called Rose who has that problem with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Once Sparkle was recognised, I got this POV chart:

2018-02-08 (2)

Visualize is showing the three main POVs, my progress in confirming their scenes, the number of scenes they are in,  the percentage for each POV and at the bottom the scenes in novel order with the POV character identified. Ignore the POVs with two or less scenes as they are news reports or similar. From overviews like this, I began to see how I could take one POV character, Brogan Keyes – the purple column – and without losing the character, I could envisage a better plotline unfolding.

On the left of this Fictionary screenshot, you can see a list of all the elements that you can show reports on – too many to assess individually here. Let’s look at one of the main ones – the Story Map. This is where all your evaluated details end up, generating an overview that has so many applications. Ultimately it will help you see where the manuscript can be improved as you edit.

2018-02-08 (3)

There is a choice between the Full Story Map or just a selection as I have here. If I want, I can identify all the missing elements that are easy to fill in – like Scene Name, Location, and Date. The more information that I ‘identify’, the better the visualisation and the better my edit.

Adding scene names in the messed up third of the novel has already help me visualise how the plot is unfolding. I had created an Excel breakdown of the first half of the novel and was about to create an Aeon Timeline file as well, but Fictionary is creating a better variation, especially as the programme encourages me to assess each scene.

When I did the first Fictionary pass, I identified all the POV goals and every scene’s purpose – on Kristina Stanley’s recommendation. This proved to be a valuable step in identifying scenes that could be tightened or removed.

My Story Map has many blanks still, so I will be using the other elements to assess my manuscript, but I am already making a lot of sense of the novel with the help of Fictionary.

Here’s my opening scene on the Evaluation page, showing the text in the middle where you do the edits, the manuscript scene list on the left, and the key element tabs that feed the Story Map on the right.

2018-02-08 (4)

Please note that my scenes weren’t in chapters in Scrivener, only headings, so Fictionary created a Chapter for each scene – except when I had two or more scenes under one heading so that correctly became one chapter.

At most stages, there are quick ways of checking elements in a scene like here with ‘characters involved’ or ‘mentioned’ via the View Characters button. If there isn’t a way in-scene then I go to Visualize and try there. When you move between Visualize and Evaluate, those ‘tabs’ remain on what you were last looking at – and they update if you press the Save button.

Even with this scene, I have yet to complete every element but now that I know where I am going, I can rewrite the novel with the help of all the Fictionary tools. I have the choice to edit the draft in Fictionary and then export my finished manuscript, or if there are major changes go back to Scrivener as I’m doing.

This has been a mere glance at what this software offers, but I will continue to use it and learn about it along the way. Sometime in the near future, I will write another post about my experiences Figuring out Fictionary.

Bugs? More like omissions that are likely to be fixed. Sometimes I found missing aspects, but that is where being involved in an ongoing piece of software is so good. The developers are open to suggestions on things to add. Like one cool feature: from some Visualize reports you can activate a pop-up of the scene concerned. There were some places where I wanted this feature, but it wasn’t available – well not yet. When I asked about or suggested something, the change was either coming or my suggestion would be taken on board.

Another feature that would help, is being able to move scenes around. I do this quite often in Scrivener and the process works well. In Fictionary, I must create a blank scene then cut & paste – slower but it works. Again, that’s a suggestion that was taken on-board.

Beyond the guides on site, there are regular articles posted or sent to subscribers – like this post on The Purpose of a Scene:

To get a taste of this online editing tool, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial as I did initially. Then you upload your 50,000+ word manuscript and start your Fictionary story edit.

And if you sign up by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered in The Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest hosted in partnership with FriesenPress.

Grand Prize – One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes: $200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details to enter the contest and check out this recommended online editing tool, Fictionary.

Four stars for this evolving software and five stars for the support team.