Wednesday, 13 November 2019

I Was Interviewed on Caxton Radio

If you follow me on social media, or you subscribe to my email newsletter, you'll probably know that they interviewed me on radio this past Monday (11 November). Sorry about this post being a day late - I wanted to wait until after my interview to write it, but then I ended up being too busy yesterday.

It was for a local streaming-only station called Caxton Radio, based in Emperor's Palace, and it was my first... Well, there was an "almost interview" for a radio station in Cape Town a few years ago, but that fell through. Besides, that one would've been a phone interview only, and this one was in studio, so even if that one had happened, this would've still been my real one!

The DJ was Paul Rotherham, whom I've known for many years; we've been interacting on social media since the very early 2000s, and I first met him in person easily ten years ago; when he worked at another radio station based out of Montecasino, my wife and I used to sit and chat with him in his studio sometimes, while he was off air.

This is the first time we've ever spoken on air, though, and I have to tell you, the man is just as much the consummate professional I've always known him to be.

He didn't brief me beforehand about the questions he was going to ask. On the one hand, I thought that a little strange, based on what I've heard from friends who've been interviewed (not by Paul) before. On the other hand, I think it's much better that way. I was super nervous going into the interview, and the fact that he just asked his questions casually made me almost forget about all those nameless, faceless people out there in radioland who could be listening.

We discussed my Retinitis Pigmentosa, because he didn't know I had it, and then he just asked a bunch of questions about me and my books. Questions which, as I said, put me completely at ease and made me feel like I was just chatting to a friend.

I brought in a copy of one of my books, Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction, and we chatted about that a bit, and he even (scree!) read the back blurb of it on air. Now that was a surreal experience, let me tell you!

I gave away a copy of that one on Twitter, with people having to listen in, and follow both me and Paul:
After the interview, the two of us had a quick meeting. I'm not prepared to divulge the details of said meeting yet, but suffice it to say, if you listened to the interview, you can probably guess.

It was really nice to just chat, and to once again be reminded that these so-called "celebrities" are real people, just like you and me. Just regular joes (and janes) who happen to be doing what they love.

By the way, for higher resolution pics (and more pics), feel free to check out my Facebook album. Click here.

So thank you, Paul, for a wonderful interview and a productive discussion. Here's to many more!

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Featured South African Indie Authors

If you're a member of my monthly email newsletter, you'll know that each month, I select one South African independent (indie) author to feature. But it occurred to me that I didn't have anywhere to store a complete, exhaustive list of all the authors I've featured.

Until now.

I'll be updating this blog post every month, as I feature new authors, so check back here often, and hopefully find your next favourite.

These people are all South African born, but I can't promise they are living in South Africa as you're reading this (they were at the time I featured them, however). Similarly, most were IndieWide authors at the time I featured them, but I can't promise they still are.

Without further ado, here's the list, in alphabetical order by surname. Click on a name to visit the author's Goodreads page. Happy reading:
Note: I've included pen names where I'm aware of them, but also only where the pen name in question has its own distinct Goodreads page. If you know of any pen names which I'm not aware of, please let me know in the comments, and I'll update this post.

I hope you find your next favourite author!

(This post was first created on Tuesday, 5 November 2019. See below for last updated date.)

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Authors Re-Reading Their Old Work

I’ve been re-reading some of my old fiction lately, and like many authors, I’ve been cringing. Because the writing is terrible.

The stories are still good, but the grammar sucks, there are way too many commas, I re-use the same words over and over again, there’s too much passive voice....

Basically, it reads like an amateur wrote it. And considering I wrote some of it seven years ago, that’s exactly what I was.

So what sparked this sudden interest in my old work, you ask? Well, (you heard it here first) I’m planning to give one of them away for Halloween on Thursday.

If you know my work, you can probably guess which one I’m talking about, but the thing is, I’m expecting the vast majority of people who pick it up to have never heard of me before. And since the purpose of the giveaway will be to convince people to a) review it, and b) buy my other stuff, it needs to be the best it can be.

So I’m thinking of re-editing it. I’ll be keeping the story intact, but I’ll be changing some grammar, language, and style.

As a reader, do you think that’s a good idea?

Do you appreciate it when other authors do this, and do you even notice?

The problem is that, if I did it, it would be for the ebook only. At least at first, because re-issuing print books is expensive....

But that shouldn’t be a problem, right? I mean, should it?

Oh, and that cover image? That's me, cringing as I read those old stories. I can't believe anybody actually paid money to read them back in the day. And didn't even ask for a refund!

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Reading Multiple Books at Once

As you'll remember, a friend challenged me last week to read a chick-lit book. Which I did, but I already had some books lined up to read and I didn't want to set them aside. So I decided to further challenge myself to read my challenge book at the same time as the others.

This isn't something I normally do, but I know some people in the group I told you about who do it all the time, so I asked them for some advice. How do you do it? How do you keep track? How do you decide which book you will read at any point in time?

I got a few different answers:

Some people like to consume their books in different formats. They'll have one paper book, one ebook, and one audiobook on the go, and then it's just a question of which one they want to open at any point.

Or perhaps they won't take their paper book with them when they go out, so while waiting in a queue at the bank, the ebook's the way to go. Sitting in traffic, it'll be the audiobook. And when they're home, they'll read the paper one.

I understand the attraction to that, but it wouldn't work for me, for two reasons. First, on account of my eyesight, I seldom read paper books, so those are out. And I dislike audiobooks because I struggle to pay attention to something while I'm busy with something else.

My second problem with the above is I'm seldom anywhere but at home. I don't get out much, largely because of the aforementioned visual disability. And when I do, I'm always with other people and engaging with them, so there wouldn't be time to read.

Some people read different books depending on their activity. This is like the above, except it is irrelevant of format; they'll read one book while they're eating lunch, another while sitting on the toilet, another while waiting to pick their daughter up from netball practice, for example.

This also sounds reasonable, but I just don't get that many opportunities to read. This may be too much information, but I read on the toilet, and I read for a while after work, while waiting for my wife to get home. And that's mostly it.

I could read one book on one day, and another on the next, but I'm obsessed with updating my reading progress on Goodreads every day (although I don't always manage), and I think I'd feel bad if I updated my progress for only one book at a time.

What I ended up doing was reading my regular book on the toilet, and, because I wanted to get the challenge book out of the way as quickly as possible, reading that one in the afternoons. Still, every time I picked up one book, I felt guilty because I wasn't reading the other one.

I think reading speed also has a part to play. I read a mid-length novel (say 350-400 pages) in around a week. Which I used to think was fast, but I also know that some people on the group I mentioned read a lot faster than that. It's not out of the question for them to read a book of that length in a day! And that's not because their lives are less busy or they have more time to read; they just read that fast.

I suppose if I was reading a 350-400 page novel every day, it'd be way less of an issue for me. As it stands, I found it difficult.

How about you? Do you read multiple books at the same time? Do you have any of the same hang-ups as me, and if so, how do you manage them?

Cover image: Vintage photo created by freepik -

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone (Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson)

Have you ever challenged yourself to read something that you would never normally read?

Let me tell you a story: in my day job as a Software Developer, we (like many development companies) work to two-weekly "sprints", and when planning each sprint, we allocate a certain number of work items that we believe we can achieve. We call these work items "stories", because they describe a particular requirement that a particular kind of user has. To each of these stories, we assign an arbitrary "point value" to, as an indication of how easy or difficult we think it's going to be to complete, and we have a total cap on the number of points we can commit to in a sprint.

That's a very abridged description of the Scrum process, which is used by thousands of software development companies today. If you want to know more about how it works, just Google—there are zillions of articles about it.

Anyway, last sprint, as a bit of team-building fun, we decided that each of us would assign a non-work-related story to one other member of the team. This would be something fun that we believed the person could achieve. One of my colleagues, who knows I'm an avid reader, challenged me to ask for recommendations in a Facebook group for readers (which we both belong to), for a book either in the "Chick Lit" category, or one about South African politics. I accepted her challenge.

As she requested, I asked on the group, and I got a ton of recommendations back. The book I decided on was Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson.

I was a bit trepidacious, but also really exited, to start. I've been reading it ever since (in between my other reading commitments), and I have to say, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. More than I thought I would, in fact. It's super eye-opening to get a glimpse into the kind of book that many, many women read all the time.

This post isn't a place to post all my thoughts about this book specifically (I'll write a review of that when I'm done, and put it on Goodreads), but rather to encourage you, dear reader, to try something new. Do something you've never done before, and never thought you'd do. Do something that scares you.

How about you? Do you stick to one single genre, or do you like to mix it up every once in a while? For me, I think I'm going to be mixing it up more often in future, because this is a really freeing experience!

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Journaling for Authors

First off, apologies for not blogging last week. My Internet connection was down because another fibre company was digging in the street outside my house, and they ended up damaging my cable.

A common piece of advice given to writers is to keep a journal or diary. And to be honest, it's something I've tried a few times in my life. It never lasts more than a few days, but I think that's because:

  1. I've always tried to force myself to write in it every day, and I get very despondent when I miss a day, or
  2. When I do miss a couple of days and want to get back in it, I try to make myself record everything that's happened since my last entry, but there's no way I can fit it all in.
Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that journaling's not for me.

But lately, I've been struggling with my writing. I've got loads of different story ideas floating around in my head, but none of them is any more than a glimmer. Little glimpes of story strands, but as soon as I try to grab onto one and plan out where it's likely to go, I got nothing.

A couple of weeks ago, I figured I'd start writing down some things in a journal. Just basic stuff, like my dreams (when I remember them), random thoughts and snippets of writing, and stuff that's happened to me and how I feel about it.

It's slow going; as of the time of this writing, I think I have maybe three entries. But I think it's already starting to bear fruit, because my thoughts are becoming a bit more coherent, and I think there might just be one complete story in there, waiting to be told.

And you know what, if I miss a couple of days between entries, I give myself permission to leave huge gaps in the "narrative"—after all, it's only ever going to be read by me. Whether it's been a day, a week, or a month since I last wrote in it, I'm going to write what I feel is important and nothing else. That's harder than you might think, for the completionist in me. But wish me luck!

Oh, and of course this isn't a physical paper book! No way, nuh-uh! I'm way too private a person for that. No, it's a Scrivener doc on my computer called "Journal"; do you really think I'm going to leave a physical book lying around where some random person might pick it up and read it? These are some of my deepest, darkest, most private thoughts, here. Sheesh.

What do you think? Whether you're a writer or not, do you keep a journal or diary? Do you think it's a good idea for a writer to do it?

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

I'm Abandoning Plain Text Emails

I've spoken about this a few times, and I think it's probably something I've been putting off for a while, but it's finally happening: from my September 2019 email newsletter, I'm abandoning Plain Text as an option.

For personal emails I send, I will still prefer Plain Text unless it's really necessary to include images or custom formatting (the emails are smaller, take less bandwidth to send, less disk space to store, and are less distracting and easier to read), but I don't think it's practical for marketing emails from a brand to specifically support plain text.

Therefore, from now on, readers who have their email clients set to display emails in Plain Text by default will receive the following text when they open my newsletter:

The text of the email is as follows:

Hi {$name|default:"there"},

This is an email sent by me (Graham Downs) to my subscribers.
My service provider doesn't do any automatic conversion from HTML to plain text, so up until now, I've been manually putting together a version specifically for plain-text readers.

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly impractical for me to do so, both in terms of time constraints, but also because images and embedded links are becoming more integral to my emails (as they are to most authors, I believe), and it's harder to make sure that plain text readers can still get the full "feel" I'd like to create.

Therefore, please set your email client to display this email in HTML format.
I apologise for the inconvenience. If you are unable to view it in HTML format, or it is otherwise very important for you to continue receiving plain text emails from me, please reply and let me know, and I'll try to make a plan for you.

If enough people respond, it might convince me that it is, in fact, still worth the time and effort to craft specific plain text versions of my emails in future.

Yours in Reading,

What about you? Do you prefer to read emails in Plain Text? If you subscribe to my newsletters, do you think you'll ever see the above message?

This makes my heart sore, but I feel it has to be done. And now's the right time to do it.