Tuesday 25 February 2014

Crossword Puzzle - February 2014

Last month, this crossword was solved in two days by Denise Smith. Can you beat her? Denise, can you do it again?

So, in case you don't know how this works, here's the low-down:

  1. You visit this blog some time on the last Tuesday of every month, to find the monthly crossword puzzle.
    1. If you'd rather be sure that you never miss it, you visit the Contact page and type your e-mail address into the box provided. You'll receive my newsletter as soon as the puzzle is published. In it, you'll find all sorts of information about me and my books, including a link to each month's puzzle.
  2. You print out the puzzle, and solve it.
  3. You send your answers to me through one of the following ways:
    1. Facebook
    2. Twitter
    3. Google Plus
  4. You come back to this blog, some time on the first Tuesday of every month, to find the answers to the monthly crossword puzzle.
  5. If you answered correctly, and you were the first to do so, you will see your name published. How exciting!
So, without further ado, here's the puzzle for February, 2014:
And here are your clues:

1 Substitute (9)
7 What you sow (4)
8 Hangbag brand (5)
9 Mongrel (3)
10 Heritage of (6)
12 Spirit board (5)
13 Stuart (3)
14 Sex (4)
17 Get your attention (4)
20 For water or ashes (3)
21 Zuck's sister (5)
22 Dainty (6)
24 Affirmative (3)
25 OS before 7 (5)
26 Zn (4)
27 Of Deceits (9)
1 Take it to the moon (9)
2 reassemble (7)
3 Colourful flowers (7)
4 German sportswear company (6)
5 2004 Miss America (6)
6 Three Kings (4)
11 Chops off (9)
15 More than just a phone (7)
16 Capital of Guizhou province (7)
18 Stabbing pain after excersise (6)
19 Manuel (6)
23 It loses in the end (4)

What are you waiting for? Get solving, and get those answers to me. I can't wait to hear from you!

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Reasons You Should Read Fiction

Be honest: when was the last time you read something purely for your own enjoyment? Where you weren't required to read it for work, and where you weren't trying to learn something specific? I'm not talking about social media updates, either. I'm talking about fiction.

I'll bet that, even though it wasn't your intention, you did learn something. I'll bet that you learnt how much fun it can be to immerse yourself in a fantasy world, to forget about all your worries and troubles and, like a child, imagine, again. I'll also bet that you found out that a book is infinitely better than a movie, because you're not being told by someone else what the characters and their surroundings are supposed to look like.

If my wager would be a winning one, then I'm happy to tell you that you are not alone; millions of people across the world are rediscovering reading for pleasure every day. But there are also some more practical reasons that you should read fiction, according to a recent study. Reading:

Improves Emotional Intelligence

The bottom line of the study is that you should read fiction, because reading fiction (granted, it talks about Literary Fiction) will improve your emotional intelligence levels. EQ is quite a buzzword these days, and with good reason: who doesn't want to understand other people better?

Increases Empathy

Similar to increasing your emotional intelligence, you should read fiction, because it helps to understand the motivations of others. This kind of makes sense, because reading fiction is naturally all about placing ourselves into the minds and lives of other people. What's more, this possibly obvious fact is scientifically confirmed by the study I mentioned above, as well as an earlier study.

What is surprising, though, is that the study found that reading non-fiction had the opposite effect!

Helps you deal with ambiguity

This is also somewhat related to the above, because fiction is full of characters with ambiguous personalities and motivations, dealing with ambiguous situations.

Still, it bears mentioning as a separate benefit, because one of the things that we struggle with most as human beings, is not knowing. And "not knowing" something is often a fact of life!

If you're the kind of person who has to have all the answers, all the time, and you can't handle situations where you're not sure, do yourself a favour and pick up a story with loads of conflict. See how those characters handle it, and you might learn a thing or two!

... And Finally

Well, I alluded to it in the opening paragraph of this post, but the number one reason I think you should read fiction, is because it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And, if you're reading alone, or in an environment where such things are acceptable, you don't even have to have your clothes on!

So whether you're a confirmed, avid reader, and you're looking for something new, or I've convinced you to re-kindle your love of stories, why not take a look at My Books? Grab one of them in either paperback, or your favourite ebook format, and get reading!

Are you a confirmed bibliophile? Did you used to love reading, but can't remember when last you read anything that you weren't required to read? Or, has the desire to read never entered your conscious mind? I'd love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below!

[*] The image used in this blog post, of a woman reading a book, was taken off openclipart (Original image here).

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Writing Prompts: He hadn’t seen her since the day they left High School

This month's writing prompt comes from Writing Prompts 101. It's the second writing prompt example on that page.

I thought it sounded like a really cool concept, and as soon as I read it, my imagination started running wild. So, I just started typing, and didn't stop!

Here goes:

John was running a grimy cloth over the empty bar. It was 12:30, and the afternoon was starting out pretty slow. The bar should be filling up pretty good by now, but other than a young couple sitting at a table in the corner, it wasn't happening. He wondered where everyone was.

It was so quiet in the place that you could hear a pin drop. Or the door opening. John looked up at the entrance excitedly, pleased at the prospect of a customer. Nothing could've prepared him for who he saw. At first, he didn't recognise her, but after a few seconds, it dawned on him. It was Cathy. She'd changed quite a bit in the ten years since he'd last seen her. She was a lot heavier now, and her eyes had a depressed look to them, but there was no mistaking that face. He wondered if she would know who he was.

Cathy shuffled up to the bar, and plonked herself on a stool. As John approached, she barked her order at him without looking up.

"Whiskey. Neat."

"Cathy?" asked John, "Don't you remember me?"

Cathy looked up from the bar with bleary eyes. She lazily inspected John's face, then responded, "Look, mate. I don't know who you are, and I don't care. Just give me my drink, okay? I'm not in the mood."

John signed and poured her a shot of whiskey. Maybe she honestly didn't remember him, but maybe she didn't want to admit that she did. She seemed to be in a bad way, after all, and maybe she was embarrassed or something.

Cathy downed her whiskey in one gulp, slapped the glass down on the bar, and barked, "Another."

John calmly re-filled her glass, and asked. "You sure you should be drinking so much? Don't you have a job to get to when lunch-hour ends?"

"Not any more," replied Cathy before slamming back her second shot. "My stupid boss just fired me. So who did you say you were again? How do you know my name?"

"We were in Matric together," replied John. "Do you really not remember? I was one of the kids always making trouble in the back of maths class. We used to tease you for being such a nerd." Then he added, "I'm... sorry about that."

Cathy studied John's face for a moment, the recognition finally appeared in her eyes. "Yeah well," she said, "I didn't much like you in school, and I haven't spoken to you in ten years. I'm not much in the mood for talking, so just give me another whiskey, will you?"

What do you think? Is this a concept that you'd like me to explore further, and maybe build a complete story around it? I'd love to hear from you if it is!

In the meantime, if you enjoy my writing, you can check out my other books, and maybe buy one, at my My Books page.

By the way, the image came from Ewan Munro's Flickr page. You can find the original here.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Crossword Puzzle - January 2014 Answers (Congratulations Denise Smith)


Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Congratulations to Denise Smith (click on her name to find out all about her on Facebook).

Her answers reached me on Wednesday, 29 January 2014, and were the first correct answers I received. She sent me a message via my Facebook Page, and as promised, she gets a mention on this blog. Congratulations, Denise!

And now, without further ado, compliments of Denise, here are the answers to the January 2014 crossword puzzle:

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

Hope you all had fun playing, and that you'll join me again for February's puzzle.

See you in a few weeks!