Tuesday 28 January 2014

Crossword Puzzle - January 2014

Wow! Can you believe it's the end of January already? I hope you've had a not-too-stressful first month back at work. For those of you not yet at work, lucky you!

So here's the January 2014 crossword. Print it out, or save it as an image, and try and complete it. If you get it right, send it to me via either my Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ accounts. I'll be publishing the answers next Tuesday (4 February 2014). If I receive your correct answers before then, I'll immortalise you on this blog.

Oh, and if you don't want to miss another of my crossword puzzles, click here, and punch your e-mail address into the box provided, to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. It's full of news about me and my books (and the occasional special offer), and as a bonus you'll receive this crossword puzzle straight to your Inbox as soon as it's published.

Good luck!

And here are your clues:

1 Lots of skill in something (e.g. Business) (6)
6 Popular brand of yellow pens, razors and lighters (3)
8 Kay Carter, country music singer (5)
9 A dome atop a roof (6)
11 Adam's wife (3)
13 Jewish Meyer (4)
16 Archangel (7)
19 Of an item, only interesting because it's different (7)
22 The Nanny (4)
24 A shade of colour (3)
26 A Popular History of France (6)
29 Bar of metal (5)
30 Dirt (3)
31 The Tour de France finishes here (6)
2 Romanized form of Chinese Zhou (4)
3 Brand of energy drinks, bars, and cereals (4)
4 Capital of Chad (8)
5 Young buck made famous by Disney (5)
6 Something causing death (4)
7 Famous brand of cola (4)
9 A wheel having projections to transfer motion (3)
10 Bar (3)
12 Unit of electromotive force (4)
14 Become longer (8)
15 Type of bread (3)
17 Language of the Ainu people (4)
18 Sports umpire (3)
20 Elizabeth (3)
21 Up to now (3)
23 Beatles drummer (5)
24 Christian Anderson (4)
25 Blyton (4)
27 Not quite certain (4)
28 Long woodwind instrument (4)

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Writing Prompts: Q's

I've decided that this year, I'm going to start a new monthly feature on my blog: Writing Prompts! Each month, I'm going to take a writing prompt, and try to do it on this blog, for all to see. I'm hoping that it will give you, my dear readers, an idea of my writing style (so that you might buy my stories <hint> <nudge>), ;) but also that it will help me to improve my writing skills, and also give me inspiration and new ideas for stories.

This month's prompt was one that I randomly stumbled across on the Internet a few weeks back, but I can't remember where. It went something like this:

Pick ten random words that begin with the letter Q, and write a paragraph beginning with each.
So I found a list of Words that start with Q from ScrabbleFinder. I pasted all the words into one long list, and used random.org to randomise the list. Then I picked the top ten.

Here goes:

  1. Queer how language use has changed, isn't it? Just look at the word "queer". Originally meant as something strange or weird, it's now a word commonly used by gay people to describe themselves. Kind of makes sense, I guess. Unlike faggot. What a bundle of wood has to do with a gay man, I'll never know!
  2. Qwertys is a valid word in Scrabble, according to the ScrabbleFinder website. Strange game, Scrabble. I've of course heard of "qwerty", the first six letters of the most commonly used keyboard in the English-speaking western world today, but I've never heard it in plural. Have you ever used a non-qwerty keyboard? Dvorjak, maybe? It's weird how a keyboard layout, designed to slow typists down, is still so popular today!
  3. Quotes are really popular today. "Words of Wisdom" quotes, funny quotes, and religious quotes; people love to post them all over social networks, and make quirky little memes out of them with cartoons and photographs. But have you ever stopped to wonder how many of them were really spoken by the person they're attributed to? "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." was never spoken by Edmund Burke, and Einstein never uttered the famous "definition of insanity"! How many others do we continually share, blissfully unaware that they're complete and utter hogwash?
  4. "...Quickens his pulse, as she runs her fingers seductively down his-" Oh, sorry. Are you still here? I was just reading... oh, it doesn't matter. What were you saying? Yes, yes, I'll get to it in a minute, I promise. No, I won't let it get into the state that it was in last week. The books will be in order before I leave today! Although who put Downs before Brookes yesterday is a mystery to me. Does nobody know the order of letters in the alphabet any more? Good grief! It almost makes me want to give up the library, sometimes.
  5. "Quite, yes," muttered Charles as James was finished his rant. But Charles wasn't particularly paying attention. James was a good friend, but he could really drone on sometimes. Just at this minute, it was about the state of the education system. James was saying that all teachers should be fired, and parents should begin teaching their children at home, from now on. Something about allowing all children to be educated in their own culture, according to their own pace. Charles could see his friend's point, but the topic was simply not one that interested him. He was far more concerned about his new device, which he said would revolutionise reading by eliminating the need for paper. His contemporaries thought he was crazy, and James wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise, to tell him about it. Well, they would soon see, he thought.
  6. Qurshes? No, man! This is South Africa; what would I do with a Qursh? What? Saudi Arabia, you say? Well how on earth did I get here, then? Bah, no matter. Do you take Rands? I really could use that water, you know. Thirsty, so thirsty! No Rands. Hmm.... Hey, you there, can I buy some Qurshes off you? How many Rands? Two Hundred Rand for one? Oh very well. Here you go. Ah, a Qursh. I've never seen one of those before. Now then, my good man, how many Qurshes for a water? Twenty? But I only have one, and no more Rands to buy any more. Oh, well....
  7. Qindars? What now? But I was just in Saudi Arabia, and the gentleman wanted twenty Qurshes for a water. And now I'm in... ALBANIA?! Oh boy, here we go again! What's that humming sound to my left? It looks a little like a telephone booth, shimmering with blue electricity. Perhaps if I stepped in there, I would get back to my beloved South Africa. Oh dear, I am so lost!
  8. Quakers! Four of them, just over that rise. Be quiet, they have guns. In their fanatical beliefs, we are nothing but heretics. Never mind that we want to preserve the old ways. They believe that we are all priests. We believe that only the ordained can be priests. We must get past them, into their compound. We must get the Ark out of their possession, before they destroy it!
  9. Quays. On one of these quays is the boat we're looking for. And inside it, a million Rand's worth of cocaine. Enough to set someone up for life. But we need to be careful. The Cool Kids are also looking for it. This is war, my friend. Drug wars like these can get ugly. Here is no-man's-land, but not for long. Whomever gets their hands on this haul claims these quays for their gang, and we'll earn a hefty reward from the boss if we come through. Come on, let's go!
  10. Quashed, that's the word he used to describe what had happened to the charge. John knew that he should be relieved. He knew that he should be grateful, but still he couldn't fight off the intense guilt that now pounded in his chest. He hadn't meant to kill the man, but he had done so anyway. And now that the charge had been quashed, nobody would ever know. But he still would, he and his God would know. As he hung up the phone after hearing the news that the charge had gone away, he realised that he had changed his mind. Still seeing the face of the poor man as the last inch of life had left him, he set off towards the nearest police station, to confess to everything.
Wow, that was harder than I thought it would be, but also strangely freeing! What do you think? Did you enjoy this small insight into how my mind works? Would you like me to do it again?

Are there any of these ideas that you'd like me to explore further, maybe feature such a scene or concept in a story, or base an entire story around them? Please let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Oh, and I should point out that numbers six and seven were not put there deliberately, nor were they put in that order deliberately. Strange how randomness works, sometimes!

Tuesday 14 January 2014

My Interview with Books, Blogs, and Bits

On the back of the charity anthology that I took part in, I am not Frazzle!, I and all my fellow authors were recently invited to be interviewed by the literary website, Books, Blogs, and Bits.

I immediately responded, because naturally, I love the opportunity to talk about myself and my writing! Each of us who responded were e-mailed a list of personalised questions to answer, which I thought was a really nice touch; most of the time, these sites have a generic list of interview questions that they give to authors.

My interview was published on 6 January 2014, and I'm really impressed with how it turned out. You can read the original interview here, but for your convenience, I've copied the questions and answers below:

BB & B: You are a very busy gentleman—author, reviewer and librarian for Goodreads, blogger, and a computer programmer! How do you maintain a healthy balance between all these great things that you do? Any tips for other authors who find themselves maintaining a full time day-job while trying to pursue their creative passion?

Graham: Well, it’s not easy, I’ll admit. My day job keeps me busy for long hours, but I always find time to read. Reading is incredibly important, and I find that Goodreads keeps me focused and disciplined in my reading.

Since discovering that site a year and a half ago, I don’t read anything (except what I have to read for work) that I don’t review anymore. I really enjoy thinking of all the things that I’m going to say when I review books, as I’m reading them.

As for my writing, well, I’ve always been the kind of person who really struggles with discipline. I always have at least three unfinished projects (writing projects, programming projects, household projects) on the go at any given point in time, most of which I’m sorry to admit will never see the light of day! The reading helps with my writing as well (you’ll hear a lot of authors say that); it keeps my imagination ticking, and when I’m struggling to write a difficult scene, or an ending for a story, I turn to a good book to clear my head and motivate me to press on.

I also have an amazingly supportive wife, who has promised to support and back me in anything that I want to achieve. Having that kind of love and support is invaluable!

BB & B: You are a fiction author. Your collection of stories range from fantasy to thriller. This is quite a range. Tell us what you love best about writing in these genres.

Graham: To be honest, I don’t really think about what genre I want to write in; I come up with the story, and the genre comes naturally. My first book was a short story called A Petition to Magic, and I don’t think I could’ve told that story any other way. Next came Heritage of Deceit, which is a modern day thriller set in an office environment. The idea for Stingers just hit me, and I knew exactly how the story would play out before my fingers hit the keyboard. As for what’s next, who knows?

BB & B: What inspires your stories and your characters? What fuels your creativity?

Graham: I think the best way for me to be creative is to just “switch off” froma petition to magic technology and the world. Again, I think you’ll hear a lot of authors say that–it really works!

I’ve always had a really vivid imagination, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to tell stories. Growing up, I played a lot of table-top RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, and I was always ended up being the “Game Master”, the one in charge of telling the story.

As to my inspiration, that’s a really difficult question to answer. Stories just come to me at the weirdest times. For A Petition to Magic, it was one particular scene where Solon was standing in his study preparing to cast his fateful spell. I dreamt about that one, one night, and it was really vivid.

Heritage of Deceit, not surprisingly, hit me one day at work when I was struggling with a particularly difficult programming problem and decided to step away from my computer for a few minutes. And as I’ve mentioned, Stingers came to me as more or less a complete story, all at once.

BB & B: To what extent do your characters remind you of yourself or someone you know?

Graham: Well, it’s not intentional, but I think there’s a little bit of me in all of my protagonists. Solon the Wizard is a mirror of my fears of trying new things, or “getting back on the horse” when I’ve made a horrible mistake (although thankfully, none of my mistakes have ever killed anyone!).

James Clarke is reminiscent of my Primary School days, when I was a bullied kid –although the bullying never escalated to the point that it did in Stingers.

I guess that Lloyd from Heritage of Deceit is a lot like one or two people I’ve met in my career, whereas I fancy myself as being a bit like Robert.

There’s probably a little bit of us in all of our characters, for better or worse, and there’s a certain amount of “confession” that goes on in all our stories. Writing is a writer’s special kind of therapy, of getting things off his chest.

BB & B: You recently collaborated in a great children’s charity project—I am not Frazzle. What inspired you to be so giving of your time? Would you do it again?

Graham: I just love to write. I saw a blog post by Darren Worrow (our editor on the project), looking for people to participate. His brief was very broad: A story, geared at adults, with at least one main character who’s a child. As I’ve already mentioned, when I read that brief, Stingers just came to me. I don’t know from whence it came, or why, but it just did. Before responding to Darren (and certainly before I knew whether he still had space, or whether I’d be accepted), I bashed out the first scene of the story, popped it off to him, and he loved it!

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was a huge honour to be part of such a big project, and to work with all the amazing authors. Words cannot describe how I felt when Darren told us all that the project was going on sale. Even though I’m not making any money off of it, and I’d never heard of the charity before I embarked on the project, I have humbled and grateful to be supporting that worthy cause, in my own small way.

BB & B: Like many authors, you must have a ton of ideas for stories. How do you decide which of your stories to bring to life and devote to paper?

Graham: I know what you’re thinking: you’re probably thinking that, as a computer programmer, I must have this carefully organised folder of story ideas, maybe I’ve even written a computer program to help me keep track of them all, and that I carefully choose what my next story will be from that list, based on market trends, genre, and so forth.

None of that is true, though. Most of my ideas aren’t even stored anywhere outside of my own head. The ones that get written are the ones that choose to be written when I sit down at my keyboard, stare at a blank screen, and start typing. You see, I don’t decide; the story does!

BB & B: Do you have any current projects and what can fans expect from you in the near future?

Graham: You know, every time someone asks me what I’m working on currently, they get a different answer!

I’m busy with a really short horror story, which I’m hoping is going to be accepted into a well known Independent Author Magazine. But I might not finish that, we’ll see how it goes. Then I have two ideas which might actually turn into novella length books, but I don’t think I’ll be any more specific than that, because by the time someone interviews me again, I may have forgotten all about them and be working on something completely different!

BB & B: Do you have any closing words you’d like to share?

Graham: Ooh, an open-ended question; those are difficult!

Readers, keep reading. If you’d include my stories in your reading, even better! Even better than that, though, is if you’d leave a review of each when you’re done. Reader reviews are independent authors’ bread and butter, and not just because we don’t have access to the insane marketing resources that big businesses do: we all tend to be an insecure bunch, and we’re never truly sure if anybody out there is actually reading what we’ve put out into the world. So, good or bad, please leave your thoughts on our stories. Every word of encouragement or criticism means that somebody has read our work and taken the time to say what they thought. You, dear reader, are the reason we keep writing!

Writers, keep writing! It’s a labour of love, and most of us will never get rich off it, nor even ever make enough to quit our day jobs. But it’s as necessary to us as breathing.

I hope you enjoyed reading my interview as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you have any questions, pop them in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

And please do check out all my stories, including Stingers, which you can find in the wonderful anthology, I am nt Frazzle!

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Crossword Puzzle - December 2013 Answers

Hi, there

No winners this month. It's a pity, because I was really hoping someone would get this one, being such a special edition!

So we're well into the first month of 2014. If you're back at work already, then I'm sorry to hear that, but I hope you had a good holiday!

Without much further ado, the answers to my final crossword puzzle of 2013:

So how did you do? Well, I hope!

And if you missed the questions, let it be the last time! If you sign up for my free monthly newsletter, you'll get the questions delivered to your inbox every month, and soon as they're posted. Simply visit the Contact page, and punch your e-mail address into the box provided. You'll never miss another one of my monthly crossword puzzles!

Until next week, have a good one, and may 2014 be everything that you wish for it to be!