Tuesday 31 December 2013

Crossword Puzzle - December 2013 (Happy New Year!)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you all had an amazing 2013, and that 2014 turns out to be everything that you want it to be. If you're going to be partying tonight, please be responsible. Don't drink and drive, and don't get up in anybody's faces. Be considerate, and remember that everybody else has just as much right to enjoy themselves as you do.

Last week Sunday, I tweeted an article, celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the crossword puzzle:

As you can see, I also promised that my monthly crossword puzzles would continue into 2014.

For my last crossword of 2013, I thought it might be appropriate to create one that was inspired by that very first, one hundred years ago. Well, loosely inspired anyway. As you'll see, the shape is quite similar (except that mine is a smaller board), but that's where the similarity ends: the clues and answers are completely different.

In case you've never played with me before, here's how it works:

  1. First, you print out the crossword puzzle
  2. Next, you complete it
  3. Once you've completed it, you send your answers to me, in one of the following ways:
    1. Scan in your completed grid, and Tweet it to me
    2. Copy your answers and send me a Facebook message
It's probably not a good idea to paste your answers into the comments below; you don't want to ruin it for anyone else!

I'll be posting the answers next Tuesday (7 January 2014). If I've received the correct answers before then, the first person who gave me the correct answers will get a shoutout on this blog! If you send me the answers via Twitter, I'll mention you there as well.

Simple enough? Well, here's the puzzle. Good luck!

And here are your clues:

1 Character from the Orient, in this famous Christmas Carol (4)
5 Sound of an explosion (6)
7 A story expressing great sorrow (8)
9 A woman's body part (4)
10 Third word of KKK (4)
12 Flemmish painter Jan van, born 1395 (4)
13 Popular American auction site (4)
15 2001 film about a famous boxer (3)
16 British Thermal Unit (3)
17 Afrikaans acronym for South African national carrier (3)
18 "Take on Me" band (3)
19 A vase-shaped pitcher (4)
21 An Overzealous maniacal fan for any celebrity or athlete (4)
22 Blackthorn (4)
24 German-Baltic-Russian noble family von (4)
25 People who yodel (8)
28 Champagne and Orange Juice cocktail (6)
29 Boats for towing larger boats (4)
1 Arabic word for dog (4)
2 International Boxing Organisation (3)
3 Neither (3)
4 Korean (offensive) (4)
5 An eccentric person (4)
6 A sterile donkey (4)
7 Submissively (8)
8 Seventh Days (8)
9 Common laws of a local authority (6)
11 Court prophet in the time of King David (6)
12 Without difficulty (4)
14 Currency of China (4)
20 An enclosed space (4)
21 Sumerian minor God of War (4)
23 Make changes to (4)
24 English pianist (1890-1965) (4)
26 Australian bird resembling the ostrich (3)
27 It burns in a fireplace (3)

Tuesday 24 December 2013

All Time Blog Stats (And Merry Christmas!)

This blog has been running for a year now, and I thought it might be a good time to share with you how it's gone. I've had lots of fun this year, and it's interesting to see which of my blog posts have stood the test of time, and where the traffic comes from.

Most Viewed Posts

The top viewed posts on this blog this year are (drumroll, please!):
  1. Crossword Puzzle - March 2013
  2. live sex cams: tkdot.com
  3. My First Book: A Petition to Magic
  4. World Retina Week Promotion
  5. Crossword Puzzle - July 2013 Answers
The third most viewed blog post of all time was also my second ever post on this blog, back on 26 December 2012! (My first ever blog post was on Christmas Day, 2012, entitled Merry Christmas!). I'm glad to see that post is still being viewed today!

The number one post is a bit perplexing. I'm not sure what was so special about my March 2013 Crossword Puzzle. Even more perplexing is that people appear to be more interested in the answers to my July puzzle.

Number two made me chuckle a bit. I wrote it back in April, in response to an observation at the time that I was getting a disproportionate number of views from the Google search lave sex cams: tkdot.com. I had no idea where those searches were coming from, or why they pointed to my blog, but I thought I should give them a place to land on. Of course, if you use that search term in Google now, you'll find that that post is the number one result!

The World Retina Week post also brings back some good memories. I ran a promotion back in September (during World Retina Week), promising to donate R10 to Retina South Africa during the week. I didn't make any sales that week, but hopefully I got people to SMS and donate to Retina South Africa (The SMS number is still active, by the way).

Top Web Searches

  1. www.grahamdowns.blogspot.com
  2. grahamdowns.blogspot.com
  3. mike@moretechtips.net
  4. lave sex cams: tkdot.com
  5. tkdot.com
Looking at the first two, it's interesting to note that many of these "Top Searches" type statistics seem to include searches for web addresses, quite high up in the stats. I'm grateful, at least, that people clearly want to come to my blog. Why they're searching Google for the address, instead of just typing the URL directly into their address bar is a mystery, though.

The last two most searched for terms that led to my blog are evidence of what I observed back in April, but I still have no idea how people got my blog using those terms.

Number 3? No idea. I don't know who mike@moretechtips.net is, or why he'd be linking here. I'm grateful if he is, though!

Hopefully next year we'll see some more "logical" searches bringing people to my blog.

Top Countries

  1. United States
  2. South Africa
  3. Latvia
  4. Russia
  5. Germany
This one's a bit disappointing, but at the same time, flattering. This is a South African blog, after all, but I guess this is the nature of the Internet. Of course the United States would be on top. They're the powerhouse of the Internet, and most Twitter and Facebook traffic comes from there.

I don't really know what interest my blog would be to Latvians, Russians or Germans, though. But hey, I'm not complaining! If you are in Latvia, Russia, or Germany, drop me a comment and let me know what keeps you coming back. I'd love you hear from you!

Top Browsers

  1. Firefox
  2. Chrome
  3. Internet Explorer
  4. Opera
  5. Safari
Well, obviously, the top three powerhouses are there!

I'm a bit sad that Firefox beat out Chrome, since Chrome is my favourite browser, but the margin was pretty small, with Internet Explorer trailing behind at a distant third.

Opera's pretty cool too, and I guess Safari's on the list because Macintosh is too (see below).

Top Operating Systems

  1. Windows
  2. Macintosh
  3. Linux
  4. iPhone
  5. Android
So Windows continues to be the Operating System of choice on the PC, with Macintosh trailing quite far behind. I'm quite pleased, though, to see that Linux and Macintosh are actually neck and neck, since I'm personally a huge Linux fan!

On this blog in particular, mobile traffic is still lagging behind, but the proportion of mobile versus desktop traffic does seem to be increasing. And as we know, iPhone and Android are the top mobile phone operating systems in the world today.But

Last Words

Thank you for reading to the end of this rather long post. I hope you find these stats as interesting as I do. If you have any observations to make, I'd love to hear from you! Just pop them into the comments below.

There will be a Crossword Puzzle next Tuesday, for New Year's Eve, but until then, have a wonderful Christmas.

May God bless you and your family on one of the most important days of the Christian calendar, and as you're sitting around the tree tomorrow morning opening presents, may you not forget the true significance of the day!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

I am not Frazzle! Available Now!

A couple of weeks ago on this blog, I mentioned that I had written a short story called Stingers, for an anthology entitled I am not Frazzle! And other stories for grown-ups. I said that all proceeds from the sale of this book would go to a local children's charity in the UK, the Devizes Opportunity Centre. I also said that I believed that the book would be out by Christmas.

Well, guess what? I didn't lie. You can now buy I am not Frazzle! in paperback, from Lulu! Here's the book description from that site:

Here is the deal, we take 10 great authors, give them the freedom to write a story in their own style and genre as long as the general theme has children involved. Next we put them in a big pot (the stories not the authors) and mix them up a bit to see what comes out at the end. And here it is, a marvellous mixture of inspiring, entertaining, funny and thought provoking fables that will delight every grown up from here to the Land of Lorff ... Huh? What do you mean you’ve never heard of the land of Loff? Well my friend, read on.....

Authors include: Darren Worrow, Maria Miller, James Cruickshank and James Penhaligon, Richelle E. Goodrich, Cecily Magnon, Holly M. Kothe, Nancy Brooks, Paul Howard, Graham Downs and David Darby.

All proceeds of this book will go to the children’s charity; The Devizes and District Opportunity Centre.

For now, it's only available as a paperback, and you can buy it by clicking on the following button:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Be sure, though, to check out the book's website and Facebook Page, for more information about when and where it will be available as an ebook... although you have to admit, paperbacks are much cooler than ebooks, anyway!

Happy reading!

Tuesday 10 December 2013

My Interview with IndieAuthorLand

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when the following tweet showed up in my mentions column on TweetDeck:

They'd told me that my interview there would only be published today. Anyway, I'm really happy with how it turned out!

Here's the text of the interview:

Heritage of Deceitis about a guy in an office who, while surfing the Internet one day, comes across something he thinks is a relic from an old genocide. Even more exciting, he firmly believes that it exists, and it’s right under his nose!

If true, the artefact could bring lots of families the closure they desperately need, not to mention lots of money, but it won’t be easy to find out.

It’s a thrilling novelette, with a love interest, and lots of twists and turns.

What arena are we in here?

I always struggle to define what genre my writing is in, but I guess I would put this one firmly in the thriller genre.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?

People who like thrillers, but not long, complicated conspiracy theories. This is a quick story with a plot that’s easy to understand (but definitely not boring!).

Tell us a bit more about your main characters.

Well, there’s Lloyd. He’s the one who discovers the artefact on the Internet. He’s very much your typical ADD kind of guy. Nothing keeps him interested for very long. At the start of the book, he’s bored and looking for an outlet for his talents.

Lloyd’s friend Robert is much more pragmatic. He hears Lloyd’s theory, but wants to check it out. He takes his time finding proof that Lloyd is right, and then he carefully ponders what to do next.

Carla is young and naive. She’s in love with Robert and constantly pines for him, but he doesn’t seem to know she’s alive. As the story opens, she’s your typical drama queen.

Have you written any other books that we should read next?

My last book is called A Petition to Magic. It’s a short fantasy story about a new queen. Desperate to prove herself, she agrees to hear the case of a farmer who claims his neighbour stole his cow. Hearing such a case is unheard of for the ruler of a kingdom, but you’ll just have to read the story to find out how it turns out!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Alberton (South Africa) in 1980. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and a passion for telling stories. I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs when I was younger, and still like to play them whenever I get time (which isn’t very often).

For a day job, I’m a computer programmer, but I still love to write. My stories simply have to be told.

Do you have a website where we can keep up with your work?

You can check out my blog at http://grahamdowns.blogspot.com/ From there you will find links to Heritage of Deceit and A Petition to Magic, and I’ll be updating it with more books as they release.

You can follow me on Twitter at @GrahamDowns, where I tweet about all sorts of things from writing and publishing, to programming and IT, to business, to Christianity.

My Facebook page is much more focused to my writing, so if you’re not interested in any of the other stuff, you can Like me at http://www.facebook.com/writergraham/

What’s next?

I’m currently working on a short story called Stingers, which I’m submitting to a short story anthology that will hopefully be out by Christmas. All the proceeds from sale of that anthology will go to a children’s charity in the UK. I can’t divulge more at this stage, but it’s really exciting stuff!

If you're a reader looking for new authors to read, then IndieAuthorLand is a great resource! If you're an up and coming author, looking for exposure, it's just as good! Go check them out at http://www.indieauthorland.com/.

To watch the interview on YouTube, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Crossword Puzzle - November 2013 Answers

Well, well, well, so nobody got it in time to get a free copy of Heritage of Deceit. Never mind, you can still buy the book from a variety of different places (in print, or as an e-book).

I hope you had fun trying to get the answers, though! If you don't want to know yet, close this tab now. Otherwise, see below:

Next one coming Christmas Eve! (Wow, I can't believe Christmas is almost here already!)

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Crossword Puzzle - November 2013 (Win a copy of Heritage of Deceit)

You know, I've been doing these crossword puzzles for a long time now, and I really hope you're enjoying them... Oh, who am I kidding? I love putting them together, and I would do them whether people tried to answer them or not!

Well, here's the November 2013 one:

1 Anteater (8)
7 Deadly virus, originating in Africa (5)
8 Twice a year (8)
9 Picasso (5)
12 Opposite of glossy (5)
16 Breed of freshwater fish (4)
17 Having two of something (4)
18 Bundle of sticks used for fuel (5)
21 An unpowered flight (5)
24 Existing within (8)
25 Of the moon (5)
26 Settle in a safe place (8)
1 Collection of songs (5)
2 Event to hurl insults at someone (5)
3 The place of an event (5)
4 Type of seaweed (4)
5 Where babies gestate (4)
6 A Mexican dish (4)
10 Before bravo (5)
11 Spanish for Lucius (5)
13 Declare invalid (5)
14 Drifted with the tide (5)
15 Young woman (3)
16 Taxi (3)
18 Pre-Euro currency of France (5)
19 Yellow and Blue (5)
20 Ten Percent (5)
21 A sea with a narrow mouth (4)
22 Is not (4)
23 Ireland (4)

Is this your first time here? Welcome!

How do you play, you ask? Well, you give this crossword puzzle a go, and when you think you've got it right, you send me your answers on Facebook or Twitter. You can send me a photo or scan of the completed puzzle, or you can just send me a list of your answers. However you get it to me, get it to me!

I'll be posting the answers to this blog on Tuesday, 3 December 2013 (and if you get them first before then, I'll mention you as the winner), so you have until then to get them to me.

Oh, and just to make things interesting, let's have a little wager. As many people now know (although you may not, if this is your first visit), my latest story, Heritage of Deceit will officially be released on Sunday, 1 December 2013. If you're the first to tweet or Facebook me the answers to this crossword puzzle before then, you'll get a free copy. How about that?

So what are you waiting for? Good luck, and get solving!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Coming Soon: I am not Frazzle! And other stories for grown-ups

I mentioned in my newsletter last month, that I was busy writing a short story for an anthology which would be out by the end of the year. At that time, I wasn't able to divulge any more information than that. However, that situation has now changed!

The anthology is called "I am not Frazzle! And other stories for grown-ups". As the title implies, these stories are for adults (but they're absolutely not erotica, so get that out of your dirty little minds), but they all feature children and children's issues as important themes. It should be out by Christmas, and I'm pleased to announce that all proceeds from sale of this book will go to a local charity in the UK, called Devizes Opportunity Centre. Go check them out; I'm told that they do awesome work with kids with disabilities and other difficulties.

For this project, I'm really pleased to be in the company of some very talented authors, not to mention great people. The volume will contain the following stories:

  • "A Wish for Lucie" by Maria Miller
  • "I Am Not Frazzle!" By Darren Worrow
  • "Simon" by Dave Derby
  • "The Storekeeper" by Cecily Magnon
  • "Stingers" by Graham Downs (That's me!)
  • "The Beauty of Ugh" by Richelle E. Goodrich
  • "The Candy Vendor's Story" by Nancy Brooks
  • "Mirror Image" by Holly M. Kothe
At this moment, I must confess that I have no idea how much the final product is going to cost, but with such a fantastic line-up, I am very sure that you will not be feeling like you over-paid, should you buy this book!

Please consider supporting this worthy cause, by Liking the book's Facebook Page to stay up to date with new developments, interviews with the authors, and information about when and where it will be available as we get closer to release.

Oh, and while you're about it, don't forget to Like my Facebook Page as well. (That is, unless you already Like it, in which case, well done!)

One more thing: Don't forget that Heritage of Deceit releases on 1 December 2013. It's currently on pre-order, so reserve your copy today!

Update: To listen to me talking about this book (including mentioning one additional story that's been accepted since writing), click the Play button below:

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales

I read about this book in The Creative Penn's newsletter the other week. It's a free book published by Lulu.com, and it's all about how to market your book, just in time for the Christmas season. You can get it free at http://success.lulu.com/.

Personally, it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. Some of these marketing tips I'm not yet doing, and some of them I am, but for the most part, it was a case of "same old, same old".

There is one exception, though. One of the things the book advises you to do is to include a link or page on your website, to make it easy for potential reviewers to request review copies of your book. I think this is a wonderful idea, and although I haven't had time to do it yet, it's definitely something I'll be considering.

Speaking of which, Heritage of Deceit is coming out on 1 December, and I'm looking for early reviewers. If you consider yourself an influentil reviewer of books, like thrillers, and are interested, pop me a mail to reviews@grahamdowns.co.za!

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Crossword Puzzle - October 2013 Answers

Hi, everyone! Welcome to November 2013. We're in the home stretch baby!

I assume that, by now, everybody knows of the pending release of my next book, Heritage of Deceit. In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, though, you should know that it's available for pre-order right now. See my Heritage of Deceit page, here on this blog.

Anyway, on to the answers for last month's crossword. Hope you had as much fun solving it as I did making it!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Crossword Puzzle - October 2013

So, to tide everyone over until the announcement of my next story (It's that close!), how about a crossword puzzle?

You all know the drill by now. The first person to Tweet or Facebook me with the correct answers before next Tuesday, 5 November 2013, with get a mention on this blog, and bragging rights.

Good luck!

1 A secret language (4)
5 Title used for a Lady (4)
9 Form of address to a superior (3)
10 contract between licensor and purchaser of software (4)
12 became accustomed (12)
16 what person (3)
17 involving violence (4)
18 before the present time (3)
19 low in fat or sugar (4)
21 six-stringed musical instrument, played with a bow (4)
22 romantic interlude (4)
24 great delight (4)
25 highest adult male voice (4)
28 boiled flour pudding (4)
32 Polynesian garland (3)
33 violent seizure of power (4)
36 travelled through, en route to (3)
37 site of a battle (12)
40 sixty minutes (4)
41 tool used for piercing holes (3)
42 church sale (4)
43 alcohol made with milk and honey (4)
2 broad silk tie (5)
3 nothing (3)
4 the study of triangles (4)
5 legal obligation (4)
6 American boxer, surname (3)
7 pastoral people from Kenya (5)
8 two-masted sailing craft (4)
10 what you listen with (3)
11 something worshipped (4)
13 22nd letter of Greek alphabet (3)
14 watched in a cinema (5)
15 sense of self-importance (3)
20 therefore (4)
21 the Impaler (4)
23 remove errors (5)
25 Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland (4)
26 open, grassy area (3)
27 ten percent (5)
29 fleshy extension hanging above the throat (5)
30 on a fish's back (3)
31 become dim (4)
33 what this is (4)
34 over (3)
35 push a baby in it (4)
38 a toddler (3)
39 obliged to give (3)

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Win a Copy of A Petition to Magic

Between now and the end of the month, I will be running a lucky draw. On or after the first of November 2013, one lucky winner will receive a coupon code. Head on over to the A Petition to Magic book page on Smashwords, and buy the book. When prompted, enter the coupon code that you receive to get the book free. You won't even be asked for your credit card details!

To enter, all you need to do is follow the instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Finishing a Book

I just got the cover image for my latest book, back from my cover artist. I won't talk about the details yet on my blog, but my newsletter subscribers will know what it is and when it's releasing. To subscribe to my newsletter, visit this page, and punch your e-mail address into the text box provided (it's free).

I'm also working on another, which you can also hear about through my newsletter, and yet a third, which I'm keeping very close to my chest.

I've actually done a lot of writing, since the release of A Petition to Magic.

The point is, when I finish a book, and it's out there, I don't feel any major sense of achievement. I don't even really feel much fear. Of course, the fear is there, "What will people think?" "Will I get sales?" "Will I get reviews?" etc. etc. But for me, the overriding emotion is sadness, because that story is done, the characters have said what they needed to say, and done what they needed to do, and there's nothing more to write about it. Sure, I could write another book featuring the same characters and setting, but that would be labouring the point, because the story is, in fact, over.

Come to think of it, I feel the same way as a reader, when I'm finished reading a really good book. I just wish it would go on and on...

So what do you think? As a writer, how do you feel after you've put your baby out into the world? As a reader, how do you feel after reading the last page of a book you really enjoyed? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

To listen to me talking about this, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 8 October 2013

So You Want to Sell a Million Copies?

To be perfectly honest, I picked this book up because I was looking for something to blog about. But then, a lot of people find a lot of real gems that way.

Reading this book won't make you sell a million copies of your book... but then I didn't expect it to, and I doubt anyone else would expect it to either.

It's a wonderful motivational and instructional piece, in which the author gives candid, honest advice about what it's like to be a writer, as well as a marketer and networker. Using examples from her own life, and the process of submitting her own book to agents and publishers, she opens her life to her readers, letting them know that they're not alone.

There's lots of advice on how to get published the traditional way. I'll admit, I only skimmed those bits, since traditional publishing isn't really something I'm interested in. Still, those sections offer valuable insights into how the publishing world works, and helps you to see things from different perspectives.

I really enjoyed her section on joining or starting a writers group, though. Every writer needs other writers to bounce ideas off of, and who will rip your manuscripts to shreds and expect you to do the same as well. Joining such a group is definitely something I'm going to be strongly considering!

The book ends with some simple writing exercises you can try if you're ever short of ideas or inspiration. I'm definitely going to try some of those!

It's a wonderful book, in which the author poors her heart out on her sleeve; definitely just the inspiration I needed!

For the video review, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Crossword Puzzle - September 2013 Answers

Welcome to October, 2013!

Can you believe that it's the fourth quarter of 2013 already? Wow, how time flies!

So how many of you tried your hand at the crossword puzzle for September? If you haven't yet, and still want to, don't read any further.

If you have, and you've been waiting to be put out of your misery, here are the answers:

Hope you got everything right. If not, better luck next month.

Have a fabulous week!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Crossword Puzzle - September 2013

This will be the second crossword puzzle since I started my newsletter. As per usual, everybody who had signed up for my newsletter before today will receive a link to this crossword puzzle in their Inbox, before my followers on Twitter or Facebook. To subscribe, punch your e-mail address into the box on this page.

It's also early this month, in honour of Heritage Day in South Africa; like most people, I'm not at work today.

I had a lot of fun creating this one, and I hope you'll have a lot of fun solving it! So, without further ado (and there's a clue), here is the September 2013 crossword!

1 Speak nasally or through the nose (South African spelling) (8)
9 Extend beyond the main body of something (3)
10 Bit of wood with a phosphor tip (5)
12 Six sided shapes (8)
14 A low, steady, continuous sound (3)
15 The side away from the wind (3)
17 A collection of wild animals (3)
19 A piece of old cloth (3)
21 River valley in Missouri, name given to a tribe of Native Americans (5)
22 Give a smooth, shiny surface to something (5)
23 Supernatural creature (3)
25 Distinctive practice, system, or philosophy (3)
26 A long, wooden bench (3)
29 Fuss (3)
31 Citizen of this North African country (8)
34 Sacred song or hymn (5)
35 A billion years (3)
36 Outshines (8)
2 Singer, Rolling in the Deep (5)
3 PSL team in Cape Town (4)
4 Box used for carrying fruit (3)
5 In terms of (3)
6 Emergency Medical Services (3)
7 The last in an unspecified series (3)
8 Unit of electrical resistance (3)
11 A country in the western West Indies (4)
13 Used to hang people (6)
15 As happily (4)
16 Having an intense or sharp quality (4)
18 Slowly seeping out (6)
19 What you do with what you sow (4)
20 Nibble persistently (4)
24 Brings to a finish (4)
27 Make someone ecstatic (5)
28 An inactive volcano in Sicily (4)
29 Large primate lacking a tale (3)
30 A tree bearing acorns (3)
31 Flightless bird from Australia (3)
32 In the affirmative (3)
33 It called the kettle black (3)

Also as per usual, I will be publishing the answers to this puzzle next week Tuesday, 1 October 2013. If you're the first to send me the answers before then, I will publish your name on this blog.

You can print out the board, fill it in, and send me the scanned answers. Or you can simply send me the clue numbers and the answers. Or you can fill it in using an image editing program and send me the completed image.

When you're done, Tweet me, or send me a message on my Facebook Page. Don't post your answers in the Comments box below, though - you'll ruin it for everyone!

Happy hunting!

Sunday 22 September 2013

World Retina Week Promotion

It's World Retina Week this week, and as a sufferer of retinitis pigmentosa, it's a cause that's really close to my heart. For this reason, I've decided to do something this year, towards helping to raise money for research, into a cure for all retinal and macular diseases. So, from Sunday 22 September 2013, until Saturday 28 September 2013, I will donate R10 to Retina South Africa for every copy of "A Petition to Magic" sold at Smashwords.com. If you haven't read it, buy it for yourself; if you have, buy it as a gift for a friend! This is a really worthy cause, and I hope you'll support it!
  • For more information about Retina SA and what they're trying to do, click here.
  • To purchase "A Petition to Magic" at Smashwords, click here.
If you live in South Africa, you may also donate your own R10 to this wonderful organisation. Simply SMS the keyword "DREAM" to 38267. The SMS will cost you R10, which your service provider will add to your account, or deduct from your prepaid airtime.

Even if you don't want to buy my book, and if you're unable to donate directly to Retina SA, I'd still very much appreciate it if you would share this blog post through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and any other social networks you belong to. Every little bit helps!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

My First Smashwords Interview

Last month, Smashwords announced a new feature on their site, called Author Interviews. They would ask a bunch of questions for authors to answer. I completed my first one, and it went live. Instantly, the views on "A Petition to Magic" sky-rocketed at Smashwords, and I'm very happy with the results!

I decided to post my first interview here. I'll be updating it as I publish more books, so this will serve as a place to keep each interview I do. I hope you enjoy it!

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in Alberton, Guateng, in South Africa, in the 1980s and 1990s. The year I turned six, I went to Alberton Primary School, where my mom was a teacher, and I ended up in her Grade 1 class. From a very early age, she instilled in me a love of reading and speaking, and so by the end of my first year of schooling, I was reading a year ahead of other kids my age. Throughout Primary School I participated in various reading competitions, and graduated to public speaking and debating in High School. I believe that this helped to foster a strong and vivid imagination, and I've always yearned to tell the stories that were in my head because of it.

When did you first start writing?

When I was eleven, I think, I was very into game books, and my favourites were the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever. I wrote a short game book on the family's first ever computer, about a secret agent. All I remember from it is a scene where the main character had to follow a trail of cigarette butts ("stompies", I called them in the story) to find someone. I would love to read it again, but unfortunately we never knew about backups back then, and the only place it now exists is in my hazy memory.

I was also a romantic at heart, and throughout High School I wrote letters. They were really bad, really soppy letters, to girls I liked, people I didn't like, my parents, and myself. I also used to blog on my little Bulletin Board System, before it was called blogging, and even wrote a couple of articles for a friend of mine's electronic Christian magazine, back in the day.

What's the story behind your latest book?

My latest book has yet to be published, so I can't give away too much. It's a novelette about a guy in an office who comes across what he believes to be a relic of a genocide that happened years ago. If he's right, the artefact is worth a ton of money and will give lots of people closure as they will finally know what happened to their families.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

Writing has always been my passion, and I've always wanted to tell stories. But I was always too scared of submitting my books to any of the big publishing houses - they were too short, anyway. I got the idea to write "A Petition to Magic" at the beginning of 2012. I always knew it would be a short story, and so Indie Publishing was really the only option that I ever saw.

Now, I think self- and independant publishing is truly the way of the future, and I can't see myself ever being interested in publishing anything the traditional way.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

Smashwords is great! I really love the idea of being able to upload it once and seeing it distributed everywhere. I also really like the reports they give. It is extremely motivating to log into my stats every day and see views and sample downloads from the day before. That helps me to see that people are actually interested in what I write, and drives me forward to write more and more.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

For me, it's sitting down and reading and re-reading a particular scene, and banging at it until I feel it describes exactly what I had in my head when I wrote it.

It's both joyous and a bit painful though, because I have to be extremely disciplined in cutting out scenes, sentences, words and paragraphs that don't add to the image I'm trying to create in the reader's mind.

What do your fans mean to you?

My fans mean everything to me. To see how someone purchased and downloaded my book, and to read what they thought is the most exhilarating feeling on the planet! Good reviews are great, bad reviews are sometimes even better if they offer me some constructive criticism.

When writing, as with anything in life, I guess, you're not always in the mood to do it, and sometimes wonder whether it's worth carrying on. When I see a new review of my work, or a new Twitter follower interested in my writing, I know it is!

What are you working on next?

Well, there's the story about the relic from the genocide, which I already mentioned. I will be working on marketing that for a long time to come.

After that one goes live, I'll be working on another short, a bit of a mashup between fantasy and science fiction, but I can't give any more details just yet.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favourite author of all time has got to be Terry Pratchett, but lately I've been enjoying Terry Goodkind and Stephen King.

Spot the odd one out, I know, but Stephen King writes the most evocative, descriptive words, and it's really something I think I can truly aspire to, one day.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

The thrill of a new day with new experiences, which I can draw upon and write about later. I store everything that I see, feel, hear and touch away. Maybe it will be a basis of a story I write one day!

Also, checking my reports on the various book retailers' sites, to see if I got any new downloads or reviews.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

I'm a computer programmer by trade, and I do still love it. When I'm not writing, and not coding, I spend my time trawling the Internet looking for interesting things to share and write about. I also watch a lot of TV series' with my wife - any genres, really.

Oh and, naturally, I read. A lot. I don't think you can be a writer if you don't read. I read at least two books a month, in all genres and from all time periods. Just recently I've been revisiting the classics, like Treasure Island, A Tale of Two Cities, and Dracula.

The most up-to-date version of my Smashwords Interview can be found here.

Update: To listen to my interview, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Review: Write It! by Adam Jackson

I picked this book up on one of its KDP Free Days on Amazon. I see it's now $5.99. Had I paid $5.99 for it, it would not have gotten more than two stars out of five from me. At it stands, though, I gave it four.

This book aims to be a simple formula to write loads of books, very quickly. It's a guide on how to make money writing, and is loosely part of a series on writing, publishing and marketing your book.

Adam Jackson is very sure of himself. He maintains emphatically that if you follow his guidelines to the letter, you will have a complete book (fiction or non-fiction) written, edited, cover-designed and published within 30 hours.

Some of the advice here seems sound. There's a chapter on outlining, so that when you finally sit down and write, you have the outline of exactly what you want to write, when. There's a section on research, so that when you sit down to write your outline, you have all the facts needed to write your book. There's even a section on finding ideas, so that you will never be short of an idea for a book.

It all seems a little too easy, though, and I don't know many writers who write that way. I'm taking it with a pinch of salt, but I'm giving it a try and starting with his advice for writing an outline for my next book.

I do like his section on how to motivate yourself when you don't feel like writing, and on vocalising your dreams, because I'm sure many writers go through stages where they wonder why they're doing this in the first place. I think the section on motivation would be good to go back to and re-read whenever I feel this way.

"Write it! - How to write your book in 30 hours or less" is not a bad book, although I get a bit frustrated when people write as though Amazon Kindle is the only ebook platform available for publishing. I just think that Adam Jackson is setting himself up for a lot of backlash when a person doesn't get their book published in 30 hours, or doesn't make a fortune selling it no matter how good it is (getting your book published is one thing, but no matter how good it is, marketing is a huge part, and even then, there's far more luck involved than I think the author would like to admit).

Update: To listen to me speaking about the book, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Crossword Puzzle - August 2013 Answers

Short blog post this week.

Who's looking for answers to the August crossword puzzle?

Hope you had fun trying to get all the answers. Well done if you managed; better luck next time if you didn't!

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Crossword Puzzle - August 2013

Welcome to the crossword puzzle for August 2013! Can you believe that it's been a month already?

As per usual (or if you're new here), the answers to the puzzle below will be posted next week Tuesday, 3 September 2013. If you'd like to be mentioned in that post, then play the game! Print the crossword out, or scribble on it electronically, and submit your answers (either the completed image, or just a list of question numbers and answers) to me via either Twitter mention or a message on my Facebook Page. Do not enter your answers in the comments below, or punch them onto my Facebook wall: you'll spoil the fun for everybody else!

I will post the name of the first person to give me the answers correctly before next Tuesday. Good luck!

Oh and P.S., if you'd like to receive the crossword puzzle each month, as soon as it's posted, then enter your e-mail address in the box on the Contact page, to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter.

So without further ado, here's this month's puzzle:

1 Kind of clay used as a building material, typically in the form of sun-dried bricks (5)
4 Praise and honor received for an achievement (5)
7 Irritate or annoy (3)
8 Lover of Queen Guinevere (8)
9 Person who leads prayers in a mosque (4)
11 Professional fool at medieval court (6)
13 Book of financial accounts (6)
14 Holiday celebrating the birth of Christ (4)
18 Defensive walls (8)
19 Shout of welcome or farewell (3)
20 Person who tunes pianos (5)
21 Board used to spell out supernatural messages (5)
1 Offer an excuse or defense (5)
2 Industrial city in California (7)
3 Software license agreement (4)
4 More exciting or fashionable (7)
5 Stupid person (4)
6 Large, long-haired breed of dog (6)
10 Creature with torso of man and legs of horse (7)
12 Kettle Drums (7)
13 Comitted to memory (6)
15 Biblical name of Saba (5)
16 Event regarded as a portent of good or evil (4)
17 Capital of Norway (4)

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Bubbling Books?

This past weekend, somebody suggested in a writers group that I belong to, that I upload my book to a new site, called Bublish. I clicked, and had a look.

It seems like a pretty good idea, although creating my bubble wasn't as straightforward as I'd have liked. The service is still in Beta though, so I'm sure it'll get better and better.

The site allows readers to browse through book "bubbles", containing cover art, excerpts, insights from the authors, and buy links to take them directly to the book's page at the top-rated retailers.

Here's my bubble on the site:

The site also does a lot of work marketing their bubbles. I was featured twice yesterday in their tweet timeline, and again today in their "floating bookshelf".

I'm yet to see if it'll help me to sell more copies, but it's a novel concept, and I hope it takes off!

Update: To listen to me speaking about Bublish, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Review: Author 2.0 Blueprint

So I finally got around to reading the Author 2.0 Blueprint by Joanna Penn. You can get it for free just by subscribing to her blog at http://www.thecreativepenn.com/.

I'm afraid that I gushed. A lot.

I can't think of anything more to say, than what I already said in my review over on Goodreads, so I'm just going to copy that:

Wow! There's a lot of information in here to digest!

Joanna Penn talks candidly about what it takes to be an author in this brave new world of the Internet, in which we find ourselves. She calls the author of this Web 2.0 world the "Author 2.0", quite aptly, I'd say.

This short book explains everything you need to do to make a successful career out of writing, from writing (duh) to marketing, to business management. There are tons of links throughout, to useful articles, blog posts, podcasts and videos, most of them free. She also advertises her paid courses, for more indepth coverage of certain topics, but I'll forgive those plugs because the manual that she has written stands on its own perfectly well without them.

I'll definitely be going back to it time and time again as I progress on my journey as an author, and I'll be clicking on all those links that I simply didn't have time to click!

I really think that this free volume should be required reading for anyone serious about their writing journey!

Honestly, you wanna be a writer? Read this book!

Update: To listen to me speaking about the Author 2.0 Blueprint, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Crossword Puzzle - July 2013 Answers

Herewith, the answers for the July 2013 crossword puzzle.

I was told that this month's clues were a bit "esoteric". Who else feels that way? how did you all do? Hope at least a few people got close! Please add your comments below; I'd love to hear how you enjoyed this month's puzzle!

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Crossword Puzzle - July 2013

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and she was complaining that she always seems to miss my crossword puzzles. She's obviously not checking Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn at the time I post them. I should probably post them more often during the week, but I would also like to point out the newsletter sign-up box on the top-right of this page. If you sign up for my free monthly newsletter, you will be notified via e-mail whenever new puzzles are added. :)

Anyway, on to this month's crossword puzzle. I believe it's quite a difficult one this month, so kudos to you if you get the answers. If you'd like me to mention you in next week's post, then be the first to submit your answers to me by either my Twitter account or Facebook fan page.

Without further ado, here's this month's puzzle:

1 Owner of indieBerries blog, first name (3)
3 Mineral used in jewellery (6)
6 Sikly sediment (3)
7 Quaint hotel (3)
9 Address for woman of authority (4)
12 Excrement (4)
15 Award craved by actors (5)
17 Unfasten (5)
18 Comprehend (5)
20 17, 3-5-7-5 (5)
23 Centres to edges of circles (5)
24 Deer in love (5)
26 Habitual repetition (4)
29 Russian emperor (4)
32 Nintendo games console (3)
33 Israeli submachine gun (3)
34 Summary of information (6)
35 Land where sleepers go (3)
1 A man (4)
2 Kellog's waffles (4)
3 City in central Iran (3)
4 American actress Gardner, died 1990 (3)
5 Commonly found in batteries (4)
8 Grammatical conjunction, neither (3)
10 Tool like an axe (4)
11 Use these to clean floors (4)
13 Capital of Canada (6)
14 Alter-ego of Bruce Banner (4)
16 Christmas season (6)
19 An Arab ruler (4)
21 Acid obtained from urine (4)
22 A thought (4)
24 Stringed weapon (3)
25 Unmarried young woman (4)
27 Norse creator god (4)
28 Made a living (4)
30 British actress Lister (3)
31 Track made by a cart (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

3 Stars: Do you Like it or Not?

When rating a book on any given retailer's site, what do the number of stars actually mean to you?

I've been thinking about this for a while lately, and I got into a discussion with someone about it the other day.

My favourite book review site at the moment is Goodreads. Goodreads is a community of book lovers. It's completely free to join and participate in, and it doesn't try to (directly) sell you anything. You can't buy books there (although you can find links where to buy them); you just rate and review them. Every other member of the community can see your ratings and reviews, and they affect the average ratings of the various books. Based on your ratings, the site also recommends books that you might be interested in.

In order to rate a book, you need to give it a number of stars, from one to five. They offer guidelines to help you decide, and their suggested scale is as follows:

  • 1 Star = did not like it
  • 2 Stars = it was ok
  • 3 Stars = liked it
  • 4 Stars = really liked it, and
  • 5 Stars = it was amazing

Now, Amazon, who are arguably the biggest book retailer in the world right now, also asks you to rate books that you find there. Their suggested scale, though, is slightly different:

  • 1 Star = I hate it
  • 2 Stars = I don't like it
  • 3 Stars = It's OK
  • 4 Stars = I like it
  • 5 Stars = I love it

So, in my opinion, Amazon's scale assumes that more people who review books aren't going to particularly like them (a negative view), whereas Goodreads' one assumes that people are generally likely to pick books to read that they're going to like in the first place (a positive view).

Be that as it may, my short story, A Petition to Magic currently has an average rating on Goodreads of 3.00 exactly, which I would consider good, and that on average, people like it. On Amazon, however, the average is 3.20. That's slightly higher than on Goodreads, so on the face of it, that would be a good thing. Based on Amazon's suggested scale, though, it's worse, and indicates that the average reader thinks my story is "just okay."

Then again, I would think that most seasoned reviewers develop their own scale, and use it everywhere. So a 3-star rating to one person might mean something completely different to a different person.

What about you? Do you have your own opinion of what the various star-ratings mean to you, and use them everywhere? Or would you rate (for example) the same book 3-stars on Goodreads, but 4-stars on Amazon?

Please add your comments below.

Update: To listen to this blog post as a video, click the Play button below:

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Secrets to a Great Author Biography

I happened to be on Smashwords last week, and I came across this book. It was free, so I grabbed it thinking perhaps it had some gems in it that I hadn't thought of, yet.

I was rather disappointed.

Secrets to a Great Author Biography certainly jumps straight into it! There's no introduction to what you're about to learn, or why it's important. It's an information dump: "this is what you need to do." Period. There are very few non-obvious things to think about, but mostly it's a wall of text that culminates in an advertisement for Fireblade Publishing, and that advertisement is as long as the content leading up to it!

It's a real pity, because I honestly think that lots of authors could benefit from a better biography. I'm not even sure I'm doing it right yet, and I'll love to learn more.

What are your tips and tricks for writing your biography, if you're an author? If you're a reader, what author bio's have you read that really stood out, and made you want to buy their books?

Update: To listen to this post as a podcast, click the Play button below!

Tuesday 9 July 2013

My First Foray into Print on Demand with Lulu

Ever since I published A Petition to Magic last December, I've dreamed about seeing it available in print. I'd always assumed that it was far too short, though, and that no Print on Demand service would agree to publish it.

When I was first reading up about self-publishing, I found a lot of people talking about Lulu, but I'd pretty much put the idea out of my mind because, as I said, I felt A Petition to Magic was too short, and I didn't think Lulu'd be interested in short stories.

Over the past few weeks, some friends of mine (also self-published authors) started posting links to their books on Lulu, and so I started thinking about it again. I had some free time this past Saturday morning, so I decided to give it a try.

What a pleasure!

I fired up my browser, typed in http://www.lulu.com/, and registered for an account. Then I clicked Start Project, and I was away!

Their extremely easy to use wizard guided me every step of the way. What I found most interesting was the Binding Options. If you'd like an ISBN number, and for Lulu to distribute your book to other platforms, you need to use what they call "Perfect Binding". The problem with Perfect Binding is that it requires that your book be a minimum number of pages, and my story (being a short story) wasn't long enough. I was initially disappointed, however (and this is the cool part) you don't have to let Lulu distribute your book in order to sell it!

I picked Saddle Stitch binding, and because of it I was not given the option of specifying an ISBN number of distributing my book. But my book is still live on Kobo:

I then went and had a look at CreateSpace, which as far as I can tell is Amazon's print version of KDP. I found a similar limitation on book length there, but the difference is that they don't have any option for publishing your book in print if it doesn't meet their minimum length. So until I write a book that's long enough, expect to find print versions of all my stories on Lulu, and none on CreateSpace!

The bottom line? If you've written a book, no matter how short, you can publish it in print! It's a brave new world out there, ladies and gentlemen! A brave new world, indeed....

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Crossword Puzzle - June 2013 Answers

Good day again, crossword fans!

The answers to this month's puzzle are a day late, because I got some feedback from some of you saying that you were struggling to get the answers on time. In the end, nobody got it right, and I felt it was time to put all of you out of your misery.

So without further ado, it's time to kick yourself!

Hope you had fun. And if you didn't get it right, better luck next time!