Tuesday 30 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - December 2014

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

Shall I say that again?

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

How does it feel, hearing that?

Well, whether you've had a good year, or a bad year, sit back, relax, and give your brain a workout. The answers to this puzzle will be published on this blog, on 23 January 2015. If you solve it before then, drop me an e-mail at graham@grahamdowns.co.za with your answers, and if you're right, I'll mention your name in that blog post.

Oh yes, you may notice that most of these clues have something to do with Christmas or Christianity. Have fun!



1 Of Jesus Christ (6)
3 With me, says the hymn (5)
5 Citizens of the Bible's "chosen nation" (8)
6 Era (3)
7 Orthodox Christian symbol (4)
9 Made with egg (3)
11 Prophetess from Kings and Chronicles (5)
12 Where people are imprisoned (5)
13 Jesus Christ (3)
15 What the song was (4)
16 Fuel for candles (3)
17 People suffering loss are doing this (8)
18 A non-Muslim (5)
19 The Son is one of these (6)


1 They stole Christmas (8)
2 Mournful songs (8)
4 Remain motionless and quiet (5)
8 People given to finding faults (8)
10 Lamp heated with gas (8)
14 Third stomach (5)

Monday 22 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - November 2014 Answers

Right, then. Are we looking for answers to our November 2014 Crossword Puzzle?

I didn't get any entries last month; was that just because the puzzle was too hard? I hope that's all it was.

Well, here are the answers. If you were struggling with a particular clue that you couldn't get, I'd love it if you'd let me know which one it was, in the comments below:



1 An Unrequited Fall (6) Horner
3 Cheese (5) Swiss
4 For moving things (5) lever
5 Medieval custom (6) feudal
7 Faucet (3) tap
9 South African runner (4) Zola
13 Kevin in An Automatic Decision (3) Rev
14 Delicious (3) yum
15 Noddy cop (4) plod
16 2001 computer (3) Hal
19 Does with complaints (6) lodges
21 He killed children in Bethlehem (5) Herod
22 Belly button (5) navel
23 Sent before e-mail (6) letter


2 Jane (4) Eire
3 Seek damages in court (3) sue
4 Did with the match (3) lit
6 City in western Ukraine (4) Lvov
8 Hooker's boss (4) pimp
10 Wise bird (3) owl
11 Desmond Tutu (4) arch
12 II (3) two
14 Raise your voice (4) yell
17 Type of company (3) Ltd
18 Informal you (4) thee
20 Water snake (3) eel

See you next week, for a very special crossword puzzle, the last one of 2014!

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Win your choice of one of my e-books

If you're reading this on the 16th of December, it's the Day of Reconciliation here in South Africa.

Generally speaking, it's also the day when the last people go on leave for the Festive Season, and many South African companies (unless they're in the Retail sector) close down for the holidays.

I thought that, in honour of holidays officially starting for the vast majority of South Africans, and consequently more people having time to read, that I would do a giveaway. I haven't done one in a while, and the timing seemed right.

So yesterday (15 December), I tweeted:

Want to win one of my e-books?

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Have a look below, and find four different ways you can get into the draw to win one of the following books:
"Stingers Heritage of Deceit A Petition to Magic
You don't have to do them all (although you must at least do one), but each one you do will net you another entry into the draw.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The draw ends at midnight (South African Time) next week Tuesday, 23 December 2014, just in time for Christmas (Consider it my gift to you)! ;-)

After that, within 24 hours, the winner will receive an e-mail from me, requesting which of the three books above they would like. Once they've replied, they will receive an e-mail from Smashwords, containing a link to download the book that they have chosen, free of charge. If you don't have a Smashwords account, don't worry: the e-mail will contain all the instructions you need to create your account and download your free book.

So what are you waiting for? Get entering, and tell all your friends!

Tuesday 9 December 2014

The Christmas Bird

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

“Isn't it ridiculous?” said Sylvia.

“What?” asked Candice, who was standing beside her, staring into the window of the pet shop.

“Those stupid snow motifs painted on the window, and Father Christmas standing there, dressed in his red suit with white fur. If he were really here, he'd die of the heat. This is Joburg, you know, and it's the middle of summer. When have you ever known it to snow in Joburg in December?”

“You're probably right,” replied Candice, and chuckled, “It reminds me a little of that Ed Jordan song. Still, I think you might be over-thinking it. You should just enjoy the season. Hey,” she continued, pointing at a bright green parrot she spied inside the shop, “look at that parrot. Isn't he cute? Let's go inside, I want to take a closer look.”


Sylvia squealed with delight when the parrot squawked “Hello, pretty lady!”

“You're right,” she said to Candice, “he is adorable! I wonder how much he costs?”

But Candice wasn't listening. She was staring into the bird's eyes, mesmerised.

Hello, Candice.

“Did you hear that?” said Candice. “He just said, 'Hello, Candice'!”

“No he didn't,” replied Sylvia, “He said 'Hello, pretty lady'. Are you all right?” She pressed the back of her hand against Candice's forehead.

She can't hear me, Candice. Please don't tell her what I'm saying. She will think you're crazy. If you buy me, I'll make you rich. You'll never have to work again.

Candice shook her head and brushed Sylvia's hand away. She was hypnotised, under the parrot's spell, but she understood what he was saying.

“You're right,” she said, and chuckled nervously. “I just got carried away. I guess he just spoke to me, in a different way. Oh, Sylvia, I just have to have him!”

“I'd love to as well, but I don't think it would work at my place. I have cats. Find out how much he costs. If you buy him, and keep him in your flat, promise me I can come visit him whenever I want?”


Candice carried the cage with the parrot inside, and placed him on the mantel, next to the Christmas tree that she had set up the night before.

“Now, what should I name you?”

My name is Petronus.

“All right then, Petronus.” Candice was suddenly feeling very sure of herself, after the initial shock of Petronus speaking to her, back at the pet shop. “You made me a promise, of what you would do if I brought you home.”

Check your bank balance, online.

Candice walked over to the computer, opened her Internet browser, and logged into her banking website. She checked her balance, and saw an amount ending in more zeroes than she could count. She clapped her hands together, and was just about to thank the parrot, when there came a knock at the door.

Your dinner guest has arrived.


Candice opened the door to find Sylvia standing there, holding a bottle of wine. Before Candice could greet her, Sylvia pushed her way past into the flat.

“Oh, he's gorgeous!” she said, upon seeing the parrot. “What did you decide to call him?”

“Thank you,” said Candice. “His name is Petronus.”

“That's a funny name for a parrot!”

“It's weird, Syl. He just... spoke to me, and I knew that's what I had to call him. Anyway, put that wine on the table, and come look here. I want to show you something on my bank.”

Sylvia stared at the screen, showing Candice's bank balance. “How the hell-”

Before she could finish her question, Sylvia doubled over in pain, the palms of her hands pressing into her eyes. She screamed.

“Sylvia? What's wrong?” screamed Candice. She was able to pry Sylvia's hands away from her eyes, and, staring into them, she saw that they were balls of pure red.

“My eyes! They're burning, and I can't see!” sobbed Sylvia.

By this time, Sylvia was rolling around on the floor, and blood had begun to seep from her eyes and down her cheeks.

Candice was frantic. She fell onto the floor on top of Sylvia, trying to calm her, but unsure of what to do. After a few moments, Sylvia stopped sobbing. She stopped moving, too, and the blood stopped running down her face. Candice checked, and found that she had stopped breathing.

As Candice lay over Sylvia's lifeless form, sobbing, she began to feel cold.

Why did you do that, Candice?

“Do what?” she said, through her tears, and looked at the parrot. But something to the left of Petronus caught her eye. The Christmas tree, sitting next to him on the mantel, had a thin layer of white atop its branches. Snow?

The temperature was dropping fast. Candice hugged her arms and rubbed them with her hands to keep warm. She glanced at the window; it was frosting over. On the floor, the blood from Sylvia's eyes was frozen on her cheeks.

Candice started to weep. The tears froze on her face as soon as they left her eyes. She looked up at the parrot on the mantel, and mouthed the word “Why?”

I promised you. You'll never have to work again.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Billy's Zombie Hits Number 3 on Amazon

Amazon's categorisation and ranking system is indisputably the most advanced today, out of all the various online book sellers in the world. They have literally hundreds of different categories, each one with its own "Top 100", further split between free and paid books, and those rankings change every single hour of every single day.
This past Saturday (29 November 2014), Billy's Zombie found itself taking advantage of that complicated system. Take a look at this screenshot, taken on Saturday morning at 09:22 (GMT+2):

(Click the screenshot to enlarge it.)

In case you still can't make it out, it shows that Billy's Zombie was ranked by Amazon, as the third most popular free book in the category for Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children's eBooks > Science Fiction, Fantasy & Scary Stories > Scary Stories!
That's a pretty specific (and hence, a relatively small) category, but still, it's quite an amazing achievement. As mentioned, the rankings do change pretty quickly too, but it was able to hold onto the third spot for most of the day on Saturday, and only dropped to fourth place late on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, it had dropped to seventh position in that category, and continues to drop.
Still, it had its "15 minutes of fame", and for that, I am truly grateful, especially to all the people (some of whom may be reading this now) who downloaded it.

Will you help me out?

If you haven't downloaded Billy's Zombie yet, then please would you consider doing so? It's free, so the only thing you stand to lose is a bit of time—although, it's really short, so you'll probably read it in 15 minutes or less, anyway. Perhaps after this blog post, it will begin its climb up the charts all over again, as you, my loyal readers, download it in droves (one can dream, right?).
If you'd like to download it directly from Amazon, click this link.

Care to Review Billy's Zombie?

If you have read it, I would be extremely grateful if you would consider posting a short review, and letting everyone know what you thought. Aside from downloads, reviews from everyday readers like yourselves also play a huge part in Amazon's recommendation engine. They also help other customers decide if it's worth them sacrificing a bit of their time to read it themselves. Oh, and if you do review it, please post a link to your review in the comments below. I like to feature reviews of my books in my monthly newsletter, and I'd be happy to feature yours in the next issue! (Visit my Past Newsletters page, if you want to catch up on past issues, or sign-up to receive future ones.)

Is That Category Right?

By the way, there was a little bit of controversy in my family, about whether Billy's Zombie was categorised correctly. As you saw, it's listed under Amazon as a children's book, and as you'll see if you visit the Amazon book page, it has an "age restriction" of 10 to 18 years. My 22-year-old brother read it, and promptly said to me "This is not a children's book!" because it features a bit of gore, where at one point someone's eyeballs pop and the zombie's thumbs are driven through his skull into his brain.
On the other hand, my mother, a junior Primary School teacher, said that she can easily see her own students reading it.
I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter. If you've read it, do you think it's in the correct category? If so, is the age limit appropriate? If not, what category would you put it under?
Please let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Crossword Puzzle - November 2014

Are you in the mood for a crossword puzzle?

No prizes this month (Just a bit of fun), but if you correctly solve this puzzle, and are the first one to send me the answers at graham@grahamdowns.co.za, before 23 December 2014, you will be mentioned on this blog as a really smart person.

Does that sound like a fair trade?

Ready? Go!


1 An Unrequited Fall (6)
3 Cheese (5)
4 For moving things (5)
5 Medieval custom (6)
7 Faucet (3)
9 South African runner (4)
13 Kevin in An Automatic Decision (3)
14 Delicious (3)
15 Noddy cop (4)
16 2001 computer (3)
19 Does with complaints (6)
21 He killed children in Bethlehem (5)
22 Belly button (5)
23 Sent before e-mail (6)


2 Jane (4)
3 Seek damages in court (3)
4 Did with the match (3)
6 City in western Ukraine (4)
8 Hooker's boss (4)
10 Wise bird (3)
11 Desmond Tutu (4)
12 II (3)
14 Raise your voice (4)
17 Type of company (3)
18 Informal you (4)
20 Water snake (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Crossword Puzzle - October 2014 Answers

Well, well, well. It's that time of the month, ladies and gentlemen. It's the day you've been waiting for, the day on which you visit my blog for the answers to the October 2014 crossword puzzle. And it's the day where you kick yourself, because you either had all the correct answers, and you didn't enter, or you find the answer to that one clue you've been struggling with, and you can't believe you never got it.

So, without further ado, here are the answers to last month's crossword puzzle:

1 Southern African tribe (5) Xhosa
4 Google range of devices (5) Nexus
7 Car by Ford (4) Ikon
8 Before (3) ere
9 Fresh (3) new
10 Mike, US SF/F author (6) Cooley
13 Witch (3) hag
14 Edgar (3) Poe
17 Drawing (6) sketch
20 Leader of North Korea (d. 2011) (3) Kim
22 Chinese cooking vessel (3) wok
24 B&N e-reader (4) nook
25 Means something other than it says (5) idiom
26 Go Well (5) Shell
2 One who doesn't complain (5) stoic
3 For chopping wood (3) axe
4 Nothing (4) null
5 For boiling water (3) urn
6 He tells the future (4) seer
7 Old American Empire (4) Inca
11 Pig sound (4) oink
12 Senior manager (4) exec
15 Federal subject in Russia (4) Omsk
16 An Australian (4) kiwi
18 Test (4) exam
19 Alcoholic beverage (5) hooch
21 Change to behaviour (3) mod
23 Nap (3) kip

So, how did you do? Were there any clues that you particularly struggled with? If so, it'd be really cool if you could post those in the comments, and we'll discuss them together as a group.

Anyhow, see you next week, for the November 2014 Crossword Puzzle... and, can you believe that next Tuesday will be the last Tuesday in October? My word, but time flies, doesn't it?

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The Witch of Wellington

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

In the small town of Wellington, South Africa, there lives a witch. She looks to be in her early sixties, but she has lived in her small house for as long as anyone can remember. She’s a friendly witch, though: grown-ups come to her all the time for advice on their problems. But for reasons nobody can explain, children are scared of her.


“I am not scared!” exclaimed Sally, “I just don’t see any reason why I need to visit the witch right now. Mom says she’s just an old woman, who doesn’t deserve to be pestered by us.”

“Chicken!” chanted the other children, and they began dancing around her with their hands on their hips and their elbows bent, making clucking noises.

Sally sighed. She was the same age as her friends, but for some reason it always felt as though she were more mature than they were.

“You can call me chicken as much as you like,” she said. “I see no reason to bother the poor woman.”

Timmy picked up the soccer ball they were playing with, and drop-kicked it over the old woman’s fence, into her yard.

“Well, there’s a reason now!” he said. “Go knock on her door and ask if we can have our ball back.”

“Maybe,” said Sally. “But now you have to go and ask for it back!”

Ben, who’d been standing next to Timmy with an amused expression on his face, said, “She’s right, Timmy. You kicked it. You fetch it.”

Sally smirked as Timmy’s face went momentarily white. His voice broke, ever so slightly, as he spoke. “Well, I’m not scared either,” he said. “We’ll see how chicken you really are, when I come back with the ball.”

With that, Timmy marched up to the witch’s front door, and rang the bell. It seemed to take forever for the door to open, and Sally wondered if Timmy would go through with it, or lose his nerve and run.

Eventually, the door did open, and the old woman stood inside it. “Yes?” she said. “How can I help you?”

Her glasses were perched low on her nose, and she stared at Timmy over the top of the frame. Timmy took one look into those eyes, and he did run. He turned around, and bolted back to Ben and Sally as fast as his young feet could carry him. Smiling, the witch stepped back inside, and quietly shut the door.

When Timmy returned to his friends, they were unable to control their laughter.

“Who’s the chicken now?” said Sally. “If you can’t handle it, I’ll go talk to her. I’ll go get the ball back.”

Sally walked calmly and confidently up to the witch’s door. She had no fear—witch or no, the woman was a person, just like anybody else. What reason should anyone have to be afraid of her?

When she got to the door, Sally rang the bell. A few moments later, the door opened. The old woman smiled warmly at Sally and said, “Why, hello little girl! What can I do for you?”

Not losing her confidence, Sally replied. “Excuse me, Ma’am,” she said, “but one of my friends accidentally kicked our ball into your yard. May I get it back, please?”

“Yes, I know,” replied the witch, “but there was nothing accidental about it.” She sighed, and continued, “Very well, come inside.”

The woman led Sally through her house (which looked like any normal-looking house would be expected to look) and into the back yard. Sally found the ball, thanked the woman, and was about to leave, when the woman stopped her.

“Just a second, Sally,” she said.

“H-how do you know my name?” gasped Sally.

“Never mind that, Sally,” returned the witch, “but I heard the way that horrid Timmy spoke to you. When you get back, you be sure to give him a message for me, okay?”

“Umm, okay.”

“You tell Timmy for me, that if he wants to act like a pig, he should look like one, too.”

Sally smiled sheepishly, then nodded and scurried away.


“You were gone a long time,” said Ben, when Sally returned, with the ball under her arm. “How did it go?”

“It went fine,” said Sally. “She's just a nice old lady, like I said. Nothing to be afraid of.” Then, turning to Timmy, she added, “But she did give me a message for you, Timmy.”

Timmy stared at her. “If it's about me running away...”

“It's not about that. She said I should tell you, if you want to act like a pig, you should look like one, too.”

“Yeah,” said Timmy, “and what does that mean?”

Sally's eyes went wide, as she stared into Timmy's face. His nose began flattening before her eyes, and then growing a deep shade of pink. His nostrils grew larger. His ears elongated into diamond-shaped tips on the sides of his head.

Ben looked behind Timmy, and saw a short, curly tail sprout out through his pants.

Timmy watched the two staring at him. “What?” he said.

Image: © Copyright Peter Facey and licensed for reuse under the Create Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Free Audio Stories on YouTube? You're Welcome!

This may be old hat to you, but I have to say I was honestly surprised to find completely free, legal (I think), full length stories on YouTube.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling really depressed. It didn't look like I was going to meet my lofty Goodreads goal of forty books this year. And then it came - my daily HARO newsletter, containing a link to an article entitled 10 Scary Stories You Can Listen to Right Now. I was super excited! I decided that I could easily read a story while listening to another one, and very quickly got back on track. I started with the first story in the above list, and then found others. Now, I am pleased to report that I'm back on track.

So, after a week of listening to audio stories on YouTube, I would like to share with you what I've listened to, and what I thought:

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Alvin Schwartz

The book is narrated by actor George S. Irving, and he is AWESOME. He really breathes life into the stories with his own inflections. My favourites were One Sunday Morning and the Brown Suit.

Some of the stories are very good, and I got into them instantly. Some I couldn't get into at all. Some of them are told in about three or four minutes, and some are over in thirty seconds.

Clearly for children (obviously), I don't think I would've enjoyed it nearly as much had I read it. Hearing it read TO me? Priceless!

The Dunwich Horror

H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft is someone I've been meaning to read for quite some time now, having been fascinated by Cthulu and the mythos for many years, ever since I started roleplaying.

After listening to this story, I can attest to the fact that he was insane in his genius... or perhaps genius in his insanity.

In the town of Dunwich, a child called Wilbur Whately is born. We don't know who his father is, but his mother and grandfather are strange people indeed. Wilbur begins to grow and learn far faster than any normal human, and within a few years, he is dabbling in things and raising a demon from the dead.

The descriptions of the horrors are very vivid, and I felt myself shuddering more than once. I'm not sorry I decided to finally pick up this author, and I will most definitely be reading more in the series. If you enjoy horror, you should, too - he may well be the father of modern horror!

One for the Road

Stephen King

One for the Road is somewhat of a sequel to 'Salem's Lot. I don't think you'll miss much if you read this one without having read Salem's Lot, but don't read this one if you intend to read its predecessor, or it'll be spoilt for you.

A man shows up at a bar one day, in a town a short distance from Jerusalem's Lot, saying that his car ran out of fuel in the Lot, and he left his wife and daughter there while he came to look for help. The narrator and his friend finally agree to drive him back to fetch them, but they're not happy about it, because of the legendary creatures that inhabit the Lot.

The pacing is fantastic, and the tension builds perfectly. The ending is quite satisfying. I don't know who the audio-book narrator is, but he does a fantastic job in reading! I don't know if I would've given the book five stars if I'd have just read the book myself, but I strongly recommend you go listen to the YouTube video!


I don't listen to a lot of audio books. I often find that I struggle to concentrate, and I certainly can't focus on what I'm supposed to be listening to if I do anything else at the same time! I guess I'm just not built that way—multi-tasking's not my thing.

Despite that, I've realised once and for all that narration does matter. I've listened to some really badly narrated audio books before, and then I've listened to these. Granted, I still can't concentrate on the story while doing anything else at the same time, but other than that, I had no problem following any of these stories.

If you think audio books are only for old people, or only for children, or you haven't listened to one since you were a child yourself, I urge you to give it a go.

In fact, you might even see me reading some of my works on YouTube, before long (spoiler alert)!

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Crossword Puzzle - October 2014

The puzzle last month was first solved by Denise Smith. Can she do it again?

In case this is your first time stumbling across the monthly crossword puzzle, here's a quick explanation of how it works. Each month, you can come here to find a crossword puzzle. Sometimes they're themed, sometimes they're not. Sometimes there's a prize, sometimes there isn't.

Print it out and solve it. Once you have the answers, e-mail them to graham@grahamdowns.co.za. The following month, you come back to the blog to find the answers. If you were the first person to e-mail me the correct answers before they're posted here, you will get a mention on this blog.

Make sense?

Well, no prizes this month. Good luck!

1 Southern African tribe (5)
4 Google range of devices (5)
7 Car by Ford (4)
8 Before (3)
9 Fresh (3)
10 Mike, US SF/F author (6)
13 Witch (3)
14 Edgar (3)
17 Drawing (6)
20 Leader of North Korea (d. 2011) (3)
22 Chinese cooking vessel (3)
24 B&N e-reader (4)
25 Means something other than it says (5)
26 Go Well (5)
2 One who doesn't complain (5)
3 For chopping wood (3)
4 Nothing (4)
5 For boiling water (3)
6 He tells the future (4)
7 Old American Empire (4)
11 Pig sound (4)
12 Senior manager (4)
15 Federal subject in Russia (4)
16 An Australian (4)
18 Test (4)
19 Alcoholic beverage (5)
21 Change to behaviour (3)
23 Nap (3)

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Crossword Puzzle - September 2014 Answers (Congratulations Denise Smith)

And we have a winner, ladies and gentleman! I'd like to congratulate Denise Smith, for being the first person to e-mail me with the correct answers. I posted the questions on 30 September 2014, and she came back to me with the answers one week later, on 6 October, 2014.

Denise is no stranger to my monthly crossword puzzles, but she missed the last few months. Welcome back, Denise! :-)

As promised, I asked Denise which one of my books she would like as a prize. She picked Heritage of Deceit, which I gifted to her on Smashwords. Denise, I hope you enjoyed the story, and I can't wait to hear what you thought.

So, without further ado, here are the answers for my September 2014 Crossword Puzzle:

1 Second letter of Greek alphabet (4) beta
3 Father Christmas' wobbles when he laughs (5) belly
8 Beer without hops (3) ale
9 Chinese religion, often the butt of puns (12) Confucianism
11 The king of the jungle (4) lion
12 One million million (8) trillion
14 What's coming to you (3) due
15 VI (3) six
16 Great, everygreen tree (3) oak
18 Not cold (3) hot
19 Breed of dog (8) Alsatian
22 Hayworth, actress (4) Rita
24 Stuffed steak dish (12) carpetbagger
26 Place in Guild Wars (3) Orr
27 Full of soap (5) sudsy
28 Overrule (4) veto
2 Boredom (5) ennui
3 Payments to help people out (8) bailouts
4 Author, Double Occupancy (6) Elaine
5 Ex-presenter of The Tonight Show (4) Leno
6 In agreement (3) yes
7 Eating feaces (4) scat
10 Places to stay in a fantasy world (4) inns
13 Worship of material things (8) idolatry
17 former American Idol contestant Brittany (4) Kerr
18 They're gonna hate (6) haters
20 Gold (5) ingots
21 Wears glasses, constantly picked on (4) nerd
23 Apple Music Player (4) iPod
25 Commercials (3) ads

Did you notice the #4 Down? Yup, the author of Double Occupancy is a self-published author called Elaine Raco Chase. She's part of a writers group I belong to on Facebook, and she's a really great lady. When I told her last month that I'd included her in my crossword puzzle for September, she was over the moon, and tweeted, telling all her followers about it:

That was such a good feeling, that I think I'm going to be including something about an independently published book or author in every month's crossword puzzle, from now on. What do you think of that idea?

Anyway, congratulations again to Denise Smith. See you next week, for my October puzzle.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Telepathic Link

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

Here's a free story for you, all about a game show designed specifically for telepaths. It also happens to be my one hundredth post on this blog. Congratulations to me!

I hope you enjoy it!

Lightning in Zdolbuniv

Sebastian sat in the crowd, his mouth hanging open. Dumbstruck, he looked around at the other audience members. Most were clapping enthusiastically, and a few were whistling. Some were even on their feet, screaming at what was going on, on stage.

He looked down at the small arena in the centre of the studio. The quiz master, Karl Snopes, was turning on a small rotating pedestal, with ten contestants standing in a circle, at podiums, around him. He faced each contestant in turn, they looked at each other for about three seconds, and then the cheering erupted as he moved on to the next contestant.

Sebastian looked to his left. His date, Lisa, had a big smile on her face. She, like the others, was applauding. Occasionally she let out a hilarious laugh. He nudged her, then when she looked at him, he asked in a low whisper “What’s going on here?”

Lisa just stared at him for a few seconds. He continued to look at her, expectantly. Finally, she spoke. “What do you mean, Baz? And why are you using your voice? Are you okay?”

“What do you mean, ‘why are you using your voice’? How else would I speak?”

“With your mind, silly! Come on, you love this show,” exclaimed Lisa, “you thought me all about it at dinner last week. I couldn’t believe how happy you were when I thought you that I’d gotten tickets!”

“What's wrong with you, Lisa? Communicating with our minds? There's no such thing. If this is some weird way of you breaking up with me, it's really sick. I'm going home!”

As Sebastian stood up to leave, Lisa grabbed his arm. “It's not. I'm really worried about you. But okay, let's just go.”

Sebastian looked at her, exasperated. He shrugged and walked off, towing Lisa along by her arm.

The two walked through the winding passageways that led to the entrance door of the studio, not saying a word. Sebastian was incredulous. He couldn't believe what Lisa was telling him. He didn't want to be around her, but they were here in his car, and he couldn't very well let her walk home.

Closer to the exit, they began to hear thunder, and then the deafening sound of rain on the building's metal roof. Lisa shivered when they approached the door, and a cold wind assaulted them down the passageway.

“Wait here,” said Sebastian when they got to the door. “I'll bring the car around. No sense in us both getting wet.”


Lisa squeezed his arm affectionately and smiled. “You do still care,” she thought. Then she sighed as Sebastian walked out into the rain, giving no indication that he had heard her.

She watched Sebastian get closer to the car. The rain showed no sign of abating. In fact, it became more violent, as the wind howled and the thunder boomed. She saw flashes of lightening in the sky, getting closer together.

Just as Sebastian was approaching the car, and had removed his keys from his pocket, Lisa witnessed a blinding flash. A split second later, she heard a deafening clap, so loud that it made her cup the sides of her head with her hands.

When the ringing in her ears had stopped, she looked over and saw Sebastian lying on the ground. She panicked and ran towards him, and as she got closer she began to smell a faint burning spell. Realising what had happened, she began to run faster.

She dropped to her haunches when she reached him and started shaking him. “Oh please, Sebastian, please be all right!” she thought.

After a few moments of fervent shaking, Sebastian opened his eyes. Staring straight into hers, he thought, “Lisa? Lisa, I can hear you!”

Lisa hugged Sebastian closer to her chest, and kissed his head over and over, tears streaming down her face.

Image: IBy Lyoha123 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 7 October 2014

It's Official: Billy's Zombie is going ahead

Isn't that cover just the coolest thing you've ever seen? Well, folks, it's official, Billy's Zombie will be released into the big, wide world on 30 October 2014. If you've not heard of it yet, or maybe you just forgot, here's a brief synopsis:

Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.

One day, he decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!

Subscribed to my Newsletter?

If you were a subscriber to my free monthly newsletter on or before 30 September, you will have already received an invitation to get the special, "Newsletter Edition" of the book on 23 October 2014.

If that's you, then please check your e-mail (It was sent out on 30 September), and reply to me by no later than Friday, 17 October, to let me know in which format you'd like to receive it. You'll also be the only people to receive it with the cool cover above.

Not one of those lucky few? Well, you'll just have to wait until 30 October, when it releases to the general public, and you'll also only be able to get the regular cover.

All is not lost, however. You may have missed out on this particular special offer, but you can still subscribe at any time, to keep up to date with all the things I'm doing. Who knows? I may have more cool offers and surprises for you in an upcoming issue.

To sign up for my newsletter, just type your e-mail address into the box below:

On Goodreads?

Well then, I would love it if you would help me spread the word and create some buzz for the book, ahead of its release.

All you have to do is mark the book as "to-read". That way, all your friends will see that you've marked it, and they'll want to mark it, too!

If you're getting one of the "Newsletter Editions", then you can click here to go directly to that edition's Goodreads page.

Otherwise, just add the regular edition here.

Not on Goodreads, yet?

Well then, I have to ask you, why on earth not?

If you enjoy reading, and you enjoy social networking, then Goodreads is the perfect marriage of those two worlds.

You sign up, make friends, and tell Goodreads about all the books you've read and want to read. Not only do you see what all your friends are reading (and vice versa), but you get really cool recommendations from Goodreads itself about what to read next.

And their library of books is incredibly large—I personally have yet to not find a book that I've wanted to read, on Goodreads.

You'll get totally addicted to the platform. In fact, I know people who spend more time on Goodreads than Facebook!

So click here to visit the Goodreads homepage and sign-up. Once you've done that, click the links above to add Billy's Zombie to your "to-read" shelf (Just click the "Want to Read" button below the cover).

Also, don't forget to become a fan of me on the site. Click here to visit my Goodreads Author Page, and click "Become a Fan".

See you on Goodreads!

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Crossword Puzzle - September 2014

So here's a simple challange for you, if you like crosswords. Do this one, before 21 October 2014, and send me your answers to graham@grahamdowns.co.za. The answers will be posted here on this blog, on that date. If you're the first person to send me the correct answers before then, then not only will your name be published in that post, but you can pick any one of my books, and I'll send it to you, absolutely free!

Worth playing for? Well, let's get started:


1 Second letter of Greek alphabet (4)
3 Father Christmas' wobbles when he laughs (5)
8 Beer without hops (3)
9 Chinese religion, often the butt of puns (12)
11 The king of the jungle (4)
12 One million million (8)
14 What's coming to you (3)
15 VI (3)
16 Great, everygreen tree (3)
18 Not cold (3)
19 Breed of dog (8)
22 Hayworth, actress (4)
24 Stuffed steak dish (12)
26 Place in Guild Wars (3)
27 Full of soap (5)
28 Overrule (4)
2 Boredom (5)
3 Payments to help people out (8)
4 Author, Double Occupancy (6)
5 Ex-presenter of The Tonight Show (4)
6 In agreement (3)
7 Eating feaces (4)
10 Places to stay in a fantasy world (4)
13 Worship of material things (8)
17 former American Idol contestant Brittany (4)
18 They're gonna hate (6)
20 Gold (5)
21 Wears glasses, constantly picked on (4)
23 Apple Music Player (4)
25 Commercials (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Crossword Puzzle - August 2014 Answers

Well, hello there,

And do I have some answers for you! ;-)

Herewith, the answers for the August 2014 Crossword Puzzle:

1 Operator of a software package (4) user
3 The end of a cat's foot (3) paw
6 Yoko (3) Ono
9 Zann, Lovecraft character (5) Erich
11 Free of something (3) rid
12 IBM Compatible PC (8) Olivetti
13 No more after (3) end
14 Type of beer (3) ale
17 It's the limit (3) sky
19 Japanese warrior code (7) samurai
22 What 1 Across did (4) used
25 Sixty Minutes (4) hour
26 Sink a ship (7) scupper
27 In the bud (3) nip
29 It doesn't matter which (3) any
31 Small dogs do this (3) yap
33 Powerless (8) impotent
38 Singular (3) one
39 Pale brownish yellow colour (5) ochre
40 What 1 Across does (3) use
41 In the centre (3) mid
42 Highest point (4) apex
1 Card game (3) UNO
2 Preacher in a Methodist church (3) Rev
3 Hole (3) pit
4 What a thespian does (3) act
5 Done to eggs (5) whisk
6 Found deep underground (3) ore
7 Last teen (8) nineteen
8 Strange (3) odd
10 Officiates sports (3) ref
14 Left after a fire (3) ash
15 People from Laos (8) Laotians
16 Flightless Australian bird (3) emu
17 Thus was it written (3) sic
18 Yes (3) yup
20 For holding ashes (3) urn
21 Egyptian viper (3) asp
23 Pamper yourself (3) spa
24 Of a white wine (3) dry
28 Just an expression (5) idiom
30 A rocky peak (3) tor
31 And I (3) you
32 urine (3) pee
34 1101 (3) MCI
35 Doctor of Philosophy (3) PhD
36 Leaves for boiling water (3) tea
37 Male evening-wear (3) tux

I hope you enjoyed the puzzle! Didn't get it right? Well, never fear - there'll be a new one next week. See you then!

Tuesday 16 September 2014

An Automatic Decision

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

This month's story came from a philosophical question that my brother asked me a few weeks ago, about self-driving cars.

Suppose a self-driving car is driving on a narrow mountain pass, and suddenly perceives a child running across the road. It has only two options:

  1. Plow down the child, and protect the occupant, or
  2. Careen down the barrier, saving the child, but killing the occupant
His two part question: what should the car do, and who should be allowed to make that decision?

This story is my attempt to answer that question. I hope you like it!

"'...Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.'"* Rev Kev read out loud. "What do you think, car? Is that too cheesy?"

The car gave its answer in a typical non-emotional voice, "I would not know, sir."

"Oh, for goodness sake! Call me Kevin. Better yet, call me Rev Kev; everyone else does."

"Very well, Rev Kev," returned the car, mechanically.

Kevin sighed. "On second thought, just call me Kevin."

The good Reverend was preparing to meet with a dear old lady from his congregation, Mrs Carlisle. The poor woman had been diagnosed with terminal, inoperable brain cancer the week before, and Kevin hoped to offer her some comfort.

Rev Kev continued to read his Bible and mutter out loud as the car wound up the narrow mountain pass leading up to Mrs Carlisle's house. At one point, he looked up and said a silent prayer that there would be no-one else on the road; over-taking, or moving over to allow another car to pass, would be impossible.


Ten year-old Jimmy Cox giggled as he ran from the mountain, over the narrow road, and excitedly grabbed hold of the railing that protected against the almost fifty-metre drop to the rocks below. Mommy had told him countless times not to play on the road, but the excitement and adrenaline rush was too much to resist. After almost vaulting himself over the railing for the tenth time in the last half-hour, he turned and began running back towards the mountain.


Rev Kev's car rounded a sharp bend, and he looked up from his Bible.

“Oh God, please no!” he screamed as he saw a young boy running across the road, directly in front of the car.

Time stopped.

Kevin watched as the child was frozen in mid-run, his left foot in the air behind him in an impossible standing position, his right planted on the ground with the toe on the road and the heel in the air. He looked at the speedometer of the car: sixty kilometres per hour, but they weren't moving.

“W-what's going on here?”

“What would you have me do, sir?” asked in the car in that mechanical, emotionless voice. At least, he thought it was the car; perhaps it was God, answering his prayer.

“What do you mean, car? Please, would you explain to me what exactly this is?”

“If I follow my programming, sir, I would protect my occupant above all else. That boy would die. Your God has given you a choice. To save the boy, I would have to turn and drive through the barrier, sending us onto the rocks below.”

“No,” muttered Kevin. His face was white as a sheet, and he was shaking; still trying to come to terms with what was happening. “There must be another way! What about turning towards the mountain instead? Or just applying brakes really hard?”

“The boy is less than twenty metres from us, sir, and we are driving at sixty kilometres per hour.” Kevin could have sworn he heard an exasperated tone in the car's robotic voice. “Either of those options would cause us to spin uncontrollably, and we would strike the child. If we hit the mountain, you would likely die, but the child would almost certainly die in either case.”

Kevin's mouth hung open. Was he really being forced to make such a choice? But perhaps, he reasoned, he should rather thank God for giving him a choice that precious few people would be given.

“Well,” he stammered. He hooked his finger under his collar (which had suddenly become very tight), and pulled it away from his neck. “I have lived a full life. I gave that life to God and His Son many years ago. I have no regrets, and I know where I am going when I die. I do not know where that boy's beliefs lie, or that of his family's.

“I'm ready, car. Take me to be with the Lord.”

“Very well, sir.”

The car's speedometer returned to life, and the needle bounced erratically. The boy turned in mid-step, saw the car speeding towards him, screamed and fell on his face. Rev Kev heard the screeching of the car's tyres as it jolted to the right and crashed through the barrier.

As the car fell to the jagged rocks below, Kevin heard a voice in his head, much kinder than the car's had been: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Tonight, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Image: "MUTCD R2-1". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MUTCD_R2-1.svg#mediaviewer/File:MUTCD_R2-1.svg

* Deuteronomy 31:6

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Cover Reveal: Billy's Zombie, Coming Halloween 2014

Last month, I told you about my new story called Billy's Zombie. It's coming in Halloween 2014, and that it will be completely free!

I also promised a cover reveal soon. Well, wait no longer, loyal readers. Here it is, the beautifully stunning cover of my upcoming release, Billy's Zombie:

Ain't it pretty?

I also promised you another excerpt. Well, instead of making you click back and forth between the old one and this one, I'm going to repost the old excerpt, and then extend it slightly. What do you think of this?

That's my creation down there. Do you see?

Shambling along the empty suburban street, in the middle of the night. Past the parked car to its left. To its right, a dog lies on his back. He rolls over onto his feet, hackles raised, and barks as he sees the creature. The creature turns its grotesque countenance towards the animal and glares at him. The poor thing cowers as his brave bark becomes a pathetic whimper.

Look, now it's standing under a lonely street light. Through this crystal ball, you can truly appreciate its beauty, with its clothes tattered and muddy, and the grave worms still crawling in and out of its empty eye sockets. My creation.

When I went to the cemetery last night, with an old copy of Contemporary Necromancy under my arm, I could never have imagined that the ritual would be such a success. I stood at the grave of old Jacob Mallardy (1955 — 2012), thumbed open the book, and eagerly paged to the spell on Raising Zombies. I'm not sure how well I expected the spell to work (if at all), but as I read the incantation out loud, the hairs on my arms and the nape of my neck stood on end, and I felt power. As the power rose in me, the dirt covering the corpse's grave began to shift. Slowly it shifted, so slowly I thought it might just be the wind, or my imagination. Then the turf broke, and a hand slipped through. A glorious, wonderful hand, the skin on the long, slender fingers all wrinkled, ripped in places so that the bones shone through, almost glinting in the moonlight.

My creation.

My name is Billy MacIntyre, and that is no longer Jacob Mallardy, down there. I am a Necromancer, and they will all pay for calling me a freak.

So what do you think is going to happen? Well, you'll have to wait until 30 October to find out. Unless... and here's where I remind you of this awesome, never to be repeated deal.

Sign up for my newsletter between now and 30 September, and you will receive a special, limited edition, pre-launch copy of the story, a full week before release!

That's right, simply enter your e-mail address into the box below, wait for my e-mail, and let me know which format you would like to read the story in (e-book formats only, I'm afraid; no print).

Since last month, I've been asked by my existing newsletter subscribers what if they're going to be left out. Well, never fear! All my existing newsletter subscribers will receive an e-mail from me sometime during the first week of October, asking them to confirm in which format they would like to receive the book. Don't anybody ever tell me that I'm not fair!

Monday 1 September 2014

Buy a Book, Support Retina South Africa

The blog post comes a day early this week, because I believe that this message is rather important to get out:

I'm not sure how many of my readers know this, but I am a sufferer of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary eye condition that destroys peripheral vision and causes night blindness.

There is currently no cure, and that's where organisations like Retina South Africa (and others around the world) come in: not only do they provide moral support for sufferers, they contribute money towards raising awareness, and to research efforts to develop a cure.

This month (September) is World Retina Month, and this year, I've decided to do my little bit to help. So, if you buy either Heritage of Deceit or Stingers from Smashwords, between Monday 1 September, and Tuesday 30 September, I will donate R10 to Retina South Africa!

What's that, you say? You've already read both? Why, that's no problem at all! If you enjoyed them, why not buy them as gifts for a friend, and spread the love? Then, if your friend also enjoys the book, get them to keep the chain going and gift it to their friends, too!

Click on a cover below, to go directly to the book's page at Smashwords:

Heritage of Deceit Stingers
In summary: for the month of September 2014, I will donate R10 to Retina South Africa for every copy of either Heritage of Deceit or Stingers sold at Smashwords! Please help me support this worthy cause.

If you are a citizen of South Africa, you can also donate R10 to Retina South Africa, by sending an SMS containing the word DREAM to 38267.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Crossword Puzzle - August 2014

Complete this crossword puzzle, and e-mail me your answers before 23 September 2014, for a chance to get featured on this blog. Plus, the first correct answers I receive before that date will win a free electronic copy of one of my books (your choice).

Good luck!


1 Operator of a software package (4)
3 The end of a cat's foot (3)
6 Yoko (3)
9 Zann, Lovecraft character (5)
11 Free of something (3)
12 IBM Compatible PC (8)
13 No more after (3)
14 Type of beer (3)
17 It's the limit (3)
19 Japanese warrior code (7)
22 What 1 Across did (4)
25 Sixty Minutes (4)
26 Sink a ship (7)
27 In the bud (3)
29 It doesn't matter which (3)
31 Small dogs do this (3)
33 Powerless (8)
38 Singular (3)
39 Pale brownish yellow colour (5)
40 What 1 Across does (3)
41 In the centre (3)
42 Highest point (4)
1 Card game (3)
2 Preacher in a Methodist church (3)
3 Hole (3)
4 What a thespian does (3)
5 Done to eggs (5)
6 Found deep underground (3)
7 Last teen (8)
8 Strange (3)
10 Officiates sports (3)
14 Left after a fire (3)
15 People from Laos (8)
16 Flightless Australian bird (3)
17 Thus was it written (3)
18 Yes (3)
20 For holding ashes (3)
21 Egyptian viper (3)
23 Pamper yourself (3)
24 Of a white wine (3)
28 Just an expression (5)
30 A rocky peak (3)
31 And I (3)
32 urine (3)
34 1101 (3)
35 Doctor of Philosophy (3)
36 Leaves for boiling water (3)
37 Male evening-wear (3)

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Crossword Puzzle - July 2014 Answers

What's that, you say? You didn't get the answers to last month's crossword puzzle in time? Well, better luck next month.

That said, bet you're tearing your hair out by now, waiting to find the answer to that one clue that you missed, aren't you?

Well, wait no more! Without further ado, the answers to the July 2014 Crossword Puzzle!

1 A drama in classical music and singing (5)—opera
4 Don Diego de la Vega (5)—Zorro
6 Tibetan animal (3)—yak
8 Castle (4)—rook
9 Public House (3)—pub
11 Single (3)—one
12 People say it ain't nothing but a number (3)—age
13 Person of colour (derogatory) (5)—Negro
15 Start again (5)—reset
17 Rift (5)—chasm
21 Animals (5)—fauna
25 Small, lesser demon (3)—imp
26 Spit (3)—gob
27 A female deer (3)—doe
28 Thirteen to Nineteen (4)—teen
30 Gardening implement (3)—hoe
31 Eskimo house (5)—igloo
32 Not strong (5)—muted
2 It flies (5)—plane
3 Fourth month (3)—Apr
4 Founder of Paramount Pictures (5)—Zuker
5 Colour on the cheeks (5)—rouge
6 Over ___ hill (3)—yon
7 Barrel of beer (3)—keg
9 A dance step (3)—pas
10 Make a wager (3)—bet
14 Australian Rugby Team (4)—Reds
16 Afrikaans woman's name (4)—Elma
17 Criminal Investigations, dept. of British police (3)—CID
18 Chinese ethnic group (5)—Hmong
19 A primate (3)—ape
20 Marketing slogan (5)—motto
22 Expression of disgust (3)—ugh
23 Rope for hanging (5)—noose
24 Honest Mr Lincoln (3)—Abe
29 A war from the '50s to the '70s (3)—Nam

See you next week for the August 2014 puzzle!

Tuesday 12 August 2014

The Thing in the Window

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

Last month, I enjoyed writing about being in the wrong bathroom so much that I decided to try another prompt from the same website. This one's called The Open Window, and it goes like this:
You had that dream again. The one where the beast with the drooping hands and wicked fangs stares you down from your window. Except the windows open this time—and you’re awake! What happens next?
Once again, the prompt asked for a response in no more than 500 words. I've been writing a little bit of horror lately, first with Billy's Zombie, and then with a short story called Under the Sheets that I entered into a flash fiction contest (which my newsletter subscribers know all about). With that in mind, I thought, how hard could it be? Here goes:
Mary's mouth hung open. She wanted to scream, but no sound came out. She wanted to slam the window shut, but her arm wouldn't move. She wanted to turn and run, as far away from her room as possible. But she didn't know where to go. The thing would be in the room and upon her before she reached the door. Besides, her feet wouldn't have been able to move if she tried. She was frozen in fear.

“Hello, Mary.”

Mary swallowed hard. “H-how do you know my name?”

“Oh, we've met many times before. In your dreams, night after night. It's good to finally meet you in person.”

As she stared at the beast, with saliva dripping off its fangs, she suddenly knew who it was. “Marty? Is that you?”

The thing threw its head back and emitted a deep, slow laugh. “Marty is the name your subconscious gave me, child. My name is Ciz'que.”

Although still frightened, Mary was beginning to regain her senses somewhat. She knew this creature from her dreams, although she knew him as Marty. He was frightening then, but not overtly hostile, and she felt that if she could defeat him in her sleep, she could defeat him here, in the real world.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“My name, child—my true name—means 'Bringer of Souls'. I want your soul.”

Mary thought about this a moment, then snapped, “Well, you can't have it!”

Ciz'que seemed to take a step back, apparently shocked at the audacity of this child. After a moment, he brought his head through the open window, stopping centimetres from Mary's face. Mary's gaze met his, and she found herself unable to move or speak, transfixed by the creature's glowing yellow eyes.

The beast opened its gigantic maw and breathed hot, fetid breath into Mary's face. The stench was terrible, unlike anything Mary had ever experienced before. But as she was no longer entranced by Ciz'que's eyes, Mary was able to think quickly. She reached out her left hand and felt for the letter opener that she knew lay on her writing desk. Finding it just within arms reach, she grabbed it and plunged it into Ciz'que's open maw.

The creature screamed and stepped back. It swiped out at Mary's face with a heavy claw, running three deep gashes along her cheek, causing her to crash to the floor. Ciz'que reached into his mouth, removed the letter opener and examined it. Blood dripped off the blade. He tossed it away, and leapt all the way through into the room.

Ciz’que's massive frame covered Mary on the floor, and once again she found herself unable to move.

“And now,” he said, “your soul.”

Ciz’que’s yellow orb-eyes filled Mary’s consciousness. Nothing else existed for her. She opened her mouth to scream—a whooshing sound came out instead. And with it, out streamed a long, black trail. The last thing Mary was aware of was her soul being pulled from her body.

What did you think of this story? Loved it? Hated it? I'd love to know! Tell me in the comments below.

Oh, and if you'd like to visit my All Books page, and check out the rest of my writing, I'd be exceedingly grateful!

Image: "Lady Gaga withThe Fame Monster" by John Robert Charlton - [1]. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lady_Gaga_withThe_Fame_Monster.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lady_Gaga_withThe_Fame_Monster.jpg

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Billy's Zombie, Coming Halloween 2014

Who doesn't like a good zombie story?

Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.

One day, he decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!

On Thursday, 30 October 2014, just in time for Halloween, I will be releasing my newest story, all about Billy and his zombie. If you love a good zombie romp, and a quick read (it will be short), you'll want to read this. Best of all, it will be completely and forever free!

I'm really excited about this book, and I'll be giving more information about it as we get closer to launch date. To whet your appetite in the meantime, here's a short excerpt:

That's my creation down there. Do you see?

Shambling along the empty suburban street, in the middle of the night. Past the parked car to its left. To its right, a dog lies on his back. He rolls over onto his feet, hackles raised, and barks as he sees the creature. The creature turns its grotesque countenance towards the animal and glares at him. The poor thing cowers as his brave bark becomes a pathetic whimper.

Look, now it's standing under a lonely street light. Through this crystal ball, you can truly appreciate its beauty, with its clothes tattered and muddy, and the grave worms still crawling in and out of its empty eye sockets. My creation.

Excited yet?

Well, I have a special offer for you, my loyal blog readers. Sign up for my newsletter between now and 30 September, and you will receive a special, limited edition, pre-launch copy of the story, a full week before release!

That's right, simply enter your e-mail address into the box below, wait for my e-mail, and let me know which format you would like to read the story in (e-book formats only, I'm afraid; no print).

Oh, and keep glued to this blog, where I'll be revealing the cover soon!

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Crossword Puzzle - July 2014

Question for you: How would you like to win one of my e-books (Stingers, Heritage of Deceit, or A Petition to Magic)?

Yes? Well then, do you like crossword puzzles?

Yes? Well then, you've come to the right place!

Each month, I post a crossword puzzle on this blog. A few weeks later, I post the answers. So, if you can be the first person to successfully complete the following puzzle, and e-mail me the correct answers before 19 August 2014, your name will be published on this blog, and you will receive a gift from me to you, with the e-book of your choice (from the three mentioned above).

Ready? Set. Go!


1 A drama in classical music and singing (5)
4 Don Diego de la Vega (5)
6 Tibetan animal (3)
8 Castle (4)
9 Public House (3)
11 Single (3)
12 People say it ain't nothing but a number (3)
13 Person of colour (derogatory) (5)
15 Start again (5)
17 Rift (5)
21 Animals (5)
25 Small, lesser demon (3)
26 Spit (3)
27 A female deer (3)
28 Thirteen to Nineteen (4)
30 Gardening implement (3)
31 Eskimo house (5)
32 Not strong (5)
2 It flies (5)
3 Fourth month (3)
4 Founder of Paramount Pictures (5)
5 Colour on the cheeks (5)
6 Over ___ hill (3)
7 Barrel of beer (3)
9 A dance step (3)
10 Make a wager (3)
14 Australian Rugby Team (4)
16 Afrikaans woman's name (4)
17 Criminal Investigations, dept. of British police (3)
18 Chinese ethnic group (5)
19 A primate (3)
20 Marketing slogan (5)
22 Expression of disgust (3)
23 Rope for hanging (5)
24 Honest Mr Lincoln (3)
29 A war from the '50s to the '70s (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Crossword Puzzle - June 2014 Answers

Wow, so we're a little over two-thirds into 2014 already. This year has just flown by, wouldn't you say?

June's crossword puzzle must have been really difficult for you guys, because nobody even sent me any guesses! And since nobody got it right, nobody won a free copy of Stingers. Or, maybe you all just thought that since Stingers is such a crap story anyway, you're not even going to bother entering.

Oh well, I suppose many of you must be killing yourselves with frustration right now, wanting to know the answers. Well, guess what? I'm not going to give them to you!

Just kidding. Here you go:

1 The hero, Stingers (5) — James
4 Keep it on your shoulders (4) — head
8 This scrooge was a real bully before he saw his ghosts (4) — Eben
9 Bullied transgender star, Laverne (3) — Cox
10 Author, Stingers (First name) (6) — Graham
11 Protects your heart and lungs, easily broken (3) — rib
12 Unmarried woman (4) — miss
14 With a knife (4) — stab
18 Mistress, married woman (3) — mrs
22 The sun will come out on it (6) — morrow
23 Her story is A Teenager's Experience with Bullying (3) — Ava
24 Not all of this is physical (4) — pain
25 Unable to do something (4) — can't
26 James' physical education teacher, Stingers (5) — Evans
2 Bullying can sometimes be classified as this (7) — assault
3 It's often just about making people do this (6) — submit
4 A car's horn (4) — honk
5 A hero walks under it (4) arch
6 Anyone who hates another person for something they can't control (5) — bigot
7 Get out! (4) — exit
8 Let those who have these, hear (3) — ear
13 A knife (7) — sharpen
15 Representing a stoat (6) — ermine
16 Author, Stingers (Last name) (5) — Downs
17 Bullied victims often live in it (4) — fear
19 He came to save sinners (3) — Son
20 A baby needs his (4) — mama
21 A very rude thing to do (4) — spit

There'll be another puzzle out next week Tuesday (29 July 2014). I hope you'll check back here for it.

Until next time, keep reading!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Ever Been in the Wrong Bathroom?

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

While I was looking for a cool writing exercise to do this month, I came across this one, on WritersDigest.com:
You head into the bathroom at work, walk into a stall and close the door. Moments later, as you leave the stall, you notice two people standing there and there’s one major problem: They are of the opposite sex. On the spot, you make up an excuse as to why you are in their bathroom.
The prompt called for a response of 500 words or less. I thought it sounded like a really fun challenge, and my mind immediately started racing with cool ideas. Many of them were rather risqué though, so the challenge was going to be coming up with something safe for work! Here goes:
I pulled up my pants, turned, and pressed down on the toilet handle. The water rushed satisfyingly from the cistern into the bowl. As I placed my hand on the lock, I heard voices. While this would normally not be a problem, I noticed with horror that they were women's voices!

Oh crap, I thought (and excuse the pun), I must have turned right instead of left! At four in the afternoon, it had been a long day, and I must not have been thinking clearly.

I decided that maybe if I kept completely quiet, they wouldn't notice me.

“Sarah? Is that you?”

It was Lucy, one of the sales ladies. She was probably with Marie. They must have arrived back at the office late, after visiting a client.

“No, it-it's John,” I stammered, realising that the jig was up and I'd only make a bigger fool of myself if I kept quiet now.

This time, Marie answered. “John? My word, what are you doing in the ladies' bathroom? Get out here!”

Slowly, I turned the lock on the door, pulled it open, and stepped out. I could feel my face hot with embarrassment, certain that I was blushing. The women had their hands on their hips, staring at me expectantly with smirks on their faces, obviously trying hard not to burst out in fits of uncontrollable laughter.

“Well?” said Lucy.

Well, indeed. What was I to say? Should I tell the truth, that I'd just been on auto-pilot and entered the wrong door? No, I decided—that would just expose me to more ridicule. I had to think quick.

“I-I thought there was nobody left in the office,” I said. “There is no toilet paper in the men's, and I figured there'd be no harm in using some of yours. I'm really sorry!” I was slowly turning towards the exit, wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible (I could wash my hands next door, in the right bathroom), but also not wanting to appear rude by running away.

“Shoo-wee!” exclaimed Marie. “John, don't you spray when you finish? What on earth have you been eating?”

I'm sure my face turned an even deeper shade of red than it already had been. Mumbling an apology, I turned back toward the stall and reached in to grab the can of air-freshener. The women laughed as I lifted it in the air and pressed the nozzle down for three seconds.

After they had composed themselves, Lucy replied, “What do you mean there's no toilet paper? I saw Tabs going into both bathrooms at lunch time, with toilet rolls under her arms. She must've put paper in there, then. Why do you men use so much paper?”

I smiled nervously. “Yeah, I'm sorry,” I said. “I guess we do.” I walked closer to the exit, and turned expectantly towards the two, waiting for an indication that I could go.

“John?” said Lucy. “Aren't you even going to wash your hands?”

So, what would your reaction have been? Let me know in the comments below.

Oh, and if you liked this story, and want to read more of my writing, click here to find out about all the books that I've published, and maybe pick one or two of them up!

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Are you being Bullied?

The release of Stingers on 16 June 2014 brought to light a pretty sensitive issue: that of bullying, particularly in school.

While the story is fiction, I understand that this is a serious issue. I was a bullied at school myself, as I'm sure many, if not most people, were. In fact, Times Live reported in January 2013 on a (then) recent survey, which said that a whopping 57% of South African kids say that they've been victims of bullying in school. I have a feeling that that figure continues to grow, and I shudder to think what the figures would be, if they were to do that survey again!

Types of Bullying

Bullying has always come in different forms. Everyone knows about physical bullying, which includes poking, pushing, hair pulling, or kids being beat up for their lunch money. And nowadays, just about everyone understands that it can be psychological too, with name calling, snide remarks, and racial slurs. Then of course there's sexual bullying, comprising sexual harassment and even rape, which is sadly becoming ever more prevalent among school kids these days.

When you think of a bully like this, you probably think most often of a big tough muscular guy or girl, kind of thick in the head, with nothing better to do than prove how big and strong they are.

But a new type of bully has emerged for the new millenium: the cyber-bully. Cyber-bullies are different. In any other context, these kids may well be bullied themselves (and I think they probably often are, in the physical world). Cyber-bullies can use their technological know-how to stalk and troll people online, which is the least they could do. If they're feeling particularly malicious, there have even been recorded instances of people hacking into others' Facebook accounts and updating their statuses in embarrassing ways, or uploading photos, etc.

Effects of Bullying

This should go without saying, but kids who are victims of bullying very often suffer from deep psychological trauma as a result. They can become timid and passive, even after school. Or they could snap and wreak their vengeance in ways that could get them into real trouble!

What's more, these psychological problems never go away. Bullying in school leaves emotional scars and long-lasting effects, often beyond what you could imagine. Kids may never forget what they went through, and these experiences could very easily translate into them being ineffective adults, abusers and bullies themselves, and it could even affect their relationships with their future spouses or the way they raise their own children.

In fact, there was a case two years ago in South Africa, of a bullied kid who snapped, stole his mother's firearm and shot and killed the kid who was bullying him. You can read more about that story here. That instance is not isolated. It happens many times, to many kids around the world.

What to do if you're being bullied

So what exactly should you do if you're being bullied? Well, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that the bully knows, categorically, that what he or she is doing to you is not okay! Some bullies are pretty thick—or, to put it in more politically-correct language, self-absorbed—and may not even realise that there's anything wrong with what they're doing to you!

Bullies tend to seek out kids who are on their own, so the second thing you should do is try to find a group of friends you can hang out with. Be careful that these "friends" aren't only pretending to be your friends for what they can get out of you, though!

Lastly, even though it didn't turn out so well for poor young James in Stingers, you really need to tell someone! This can be really tough, because if you're a bullied kid, you may feel ashamed or embarrassed at not being able to stand up for yourself, and fight your own battles. Or you may feel like it's your own fault that you're being bullied. This is absolutely not true!

It is impossible to over-emphasise just how completely untrue those thoughts are. Trust me, it is not your fault, and if you've gotten to this point, there is absolutely nothing else that you can do to solve the problem on your own. So tell someone, and if that person doesn't do something, tell someone else, and keep telling people until somebody does something about it. You have a right to be treated with respect, and you have a right to be heard.

How to know if your child is being bullied

For some of the reasons stated above, kids may be disinclined to report bullying. They may be ashamed to tell you about it, or they may think they can deal with the problem on their own. Don't be complacent: your child needs you.

So, if you think that your child may be bullied, ask. But it doesn't stop there; if your child tells you something (either because you've asked, or out of their own volition), listen, and take them seriously. Do not brush off their fears or concerns with things like "Boys will be boys" or "You just need to toughen up a bit". The fact that your child has come to you with this problem means that it's something that really bothers them, and you'll only hurt them more by being dismissive.

Once you know the truth, don't keep it to yourself. Seek out other parents, whose children might also be suffering, or teachers at the school, who may be aware of what is happening with your kids and others. Come up with ideas, and discuss practical ways in which you might solve the problem.

Teach your kids how to be self-confident and assertive, without becoming bullies themselves. If your child has difficulty making friends, consider enrolling him or her in extra-mural activities at their school. This will not only help to boost their self-confidence, but will help them form a circle of friends that they can hang out with and fall back on.

So go on, read and enjoy Stingers, my short story about bullying. But understand that that story is fiction, and in truth, bullying is no laughing matter, and you should take it very, very seriously!

Do you have anything to add to this discussion? Perhaps you're a child who's currently the victim of bullying in some form. Or maybe you're a parent of such a child. You may even be a bully, or ex-bully yourself. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, nor have I had any training whatsoever in any of these matters, and I therefore cannot be held accountable if any of my suggestions are inaccurate, don't work, or worse.

Image: The image used for this blog post comes from Wikimedia Commons. It was uploaded by user Doktory. The original image can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bully_Free_Zone.jpg