Tuesday 29 April 2014

Crossword Puzzle - April 2014 (Collaboration With Elmari Downs)

This month's puzzle is a special one. My wife, Elmari, offered to do a guest puzzle for me, to which I eagerly agreed.

The puzzle she came up with, though, was sadly too wide for this blog. So we sat together to come up with a smaller one (by dimensions, not by clues). The result was that 95% of the words in this puzzle are still her original words. Although we had to leave two of her words out because of the space constraints, we added a few extra.

Because the majority of this puzzle consists of Elmari's original words (and her original clues!), I still wanted to call this puzzle a guest puzzle from Elmari. But she refused, and instead insisted that I call it a collaboration instead.

So here it is, the April 2014 Crossword Puzzle, which is a collaboration with Elmari Downs. If you like it, why not head on over to her Twitter account, and tell her so?

And by the way, if you don't want to miss another one, then please consider visiting my Contact page, and entering your e-mail address into the box provided.

Here are your clues:

1 A drink that is very popular amongst computer guys (6)
3 This popular U.S. Reality Game show has been around for 28 Seasons (8)
5 The two Popes who were declared Saints on 27 April 2014 have this name in common (4)
6 In oil (5)
9 Steak Ranch (4)
11 A long time (3)
12 How were 16 Nepalese Guides recently killed on Mount Everest? RIP (9)
14 Nocturnal, catches mice (3)
15 Eastern Province (2)
16 This play was written by a well known female author and made #1 on the New York Times best seller list in April (5)
18 Manganese (2)
21 Egyptian symbol of eternal life (4)
23 Greek Goddess of Beauty (9)
24 Gloomy appearance (4)
25 Unisex same (3)
26 He's in charge (4)
28 Another name for The Devil's Triangle (7)
29 Babies need more of this than older people (5)
2 In South Africa it's called Soccer (8)
3 Which popular cellphone company produces the Galaxy range? (7)
4 Love, a song (5)
6 Name of the last South African Public Holiday in April (10)
7 Old hotel (3)
8 Austin powers lost it (4)
10 This animal has excellent vision (4)
13 A well known luxury car, or part of a book title by Stephen King (8)
17 He was released from prison in 1990 (7)
18 End Of The Middle Ages Day gets celebrated on the 29th of .......? (3)
19 Political party ruling South Africa before 1994 (2)
20 Flower, or a name for a National Cricket team (7)
22 2014 in the Chinese Zodiac (5)
25 Take a selfie (4)
26 It buzzes (3)
27 The colour of this star is actually white (3)

As always the answers will be published on 19 May 2014. Whomever is the first to supply the correct answers before then, via either Facebook, Google+, or e-mail, will receive a mention from me on this blog.

Good luck!

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Crossword Puzzle - March 2014 Answers (Congratulations Denise Smith!)

Hi, there!

When I posted the March Crossword Puzzle on the 25th, I said that I would be giving you all an entire month to solve it, since it occurred to me that maybe a week (which you'd been accustomed to up until now) was a bit short.

As it turned out, the winner didn't need a month, because I received the answers from her the very next day! And the winner is... Denise Smith!

Denise won my January 2014 puzzle, if you'll recall, and she explained to me that the only reason she didn't win the February one, is because she missed it. She's since punched her e-mail address into the newsletter sign-up form on this page, so she never misses another issue. You might want to do the same.

Anyway, this woman is on fire. If you'd like to try your hand at beating her, check back next week. Well done, Denise! Here are your answers:

1 A Latin-American (6) Latino
3 Merged with Exxon in 1999 (5) Mobil
5 Counts down to something (5) timer
8 Fencing sword (6) rapier
12 About nothing (3) ado
13 Shows authenticity (8) hallmark
16 American war (3) Nam
17 Female sheep (3) ewe
18 Unit of current (3) amp
19 British exclamation (3) wot
22 Type of poem (3) ode
24 Booyens, South African race walker (3) Ada
25 Someone who can't swim does this (8) flounder
27 Electrically charged atom (3) ion
28 Annoying (6) irking
29 The Blade Runner (5) Oscar
31 Concubine (5) harem
32 Body art (6) tattoo
2 Water you can't drink (3) ice
4 Waters, arsonist (6) Briana
6 One thousandth of an inch (3) mil
7 It wasn't built in a day (4) Rome
9 A question (3) ask
10 Dutch cheese (4) Edam
11 One who frolics (6) romper
13 Island state (6) Hawaii
14 Having run away (4) AWOL
15 Do over (4) redo
20 A smell (4) odor
21 Carries oil (6) tanker
23 Europeans not in the UK use it (4) euro
25 What I hope this puzzle is (3) fun
26 What's up? (Bugs) (3) doc
30 Military rank (3) Sgt

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Cartoon Survival Guide

This month's writing prompt comes from Reddit, and it goes like this:
A real human living in a cartoon world creates a How-To guide on staying alive
Seems like an interesting concept, right? I mean, I loved Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the story about Eddie Valiant, the private eye who investigates the murder of Roger Rabbit's wife, and subsequent framing of Roger for the deed. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I strongly recommend that you give it a watch.

Anyway, that's not what this story is about, but I thought it would be fun to imagine what advice someone would give, who's been stuck on an island full of cartoon characters for years. Well, that man has written a book, and here's an excerpt:


So, you've been marooned on Toon Island, have you? Things seem without hope? Well, don't despair, Freddy's here! Oh, make no mistake, son. I've been on this island since before you were born, just look at my beard! Stick with me, and you'll be fine.

But you didn't come here to learn all about me; you came here to learn how to survive in this zany unforgiving place. So let's get to it. Before we begi-WATCH OUT FOR THAT ANVIL!

Phew! That was a close one! Okay, so I guess we should talk about falling objects. Lots of things fall out of the sky in this place, all the time. It could be anything really, but anvils—like that one—and pianos seem to be the most common. Sometimes Toons throw them or drop them off cliffs, but other times they just appear out of thin air. And they're always falling on Toon's heads. Sometimes they knock teeth out, or their eyeballs pop out of their heads, but they just shake themselves off like wet dogs, and everything's right as rain again.

That's another important thing to remember, son: Toons can't die. And they think you can't, either, so they'll drop a great big piano on your head just for kicks or to play some kind of "innocent" practical joke. The idea that someone could actually die and never come back is completely beyond their reckoning.

It's this inability for Toons to die, that's the biggest problem on this whole damn island. You might get shot with a hunting rifle or have one of those ridiculous big black bombs thrown at you. Some particularly violent Toons (mostly cats and mice) will literally hack off each others' limbs with swords and knives. If you're a Toon, you'll end up with a big gaping hole in your chest, or covered in soot, or squirting blood from your shoulder, and one of those quick dog-shakes will put you right back together again. But if that happens to you or I, son, we're deader than a doornail, and we ain't never coming back!

Okay, okay, whoa. Yes, I've made my point. I'll stop scaring you now. Just don't forget, okay? This stuff is important!

So what's next? Oh, right, food. What can you eat? Well, first of all, Toons don't need to eat, near as I can tell. They're immortal, as I say, so that seems to make sense. I know of this rabbit, lives over the rise there, who likes to munch on carrots all day, but it doesn't seem to affect him much if he doesn't eat them. He's always chastising this other Toon, who walks around with a big old fashioned musket gun and claims to eat rabbits, but I've never seem him eat any.

Fruits and vegetables seem to be fine to eat. They look much the same as they do where we're from, just much more brightly coloured, with this same glossy sheen that everything has in this world. Don't eat anything with eyes, mouths, arms, or legs, though. And don't eat any Toon animals. They can't die, remember? They'll burst through your stomach, and you'll be a goner!

Sleep? Hah! What's sleep? Sleeping characters are the most favourite characters for Toons to play their practical jokes on, and don't forget, they don't know that you can die. I haven't slept in years. not properly. Which is one of the reasons I'm so glad you're here, kiddo; one of us can sleep while the other keeps watch.

Well, I can see that I've really got you shaking in your boots, now! He he he. No, really, it's not so bad, once you get used to it. Can be kind of fun, actually. Hey, we're not going anywhere, right? I mean, nobody knows how to get off this blasted island, after all. We may as well make the most of it. Just stick with me, remember everything I've told you, and let me know if you're ever unsure of anything!

Now, let's go find something to eat. I'm starving!

Did you like this little story? If you did, I'd appreciate it if you'd use the social sharing links below to share this post far and wide. You can also tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Oh, and if you want to read a bit more of my writing, click on the All Books link, to find out where you can buy one of my stories.

Until next month, happy reading!

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Pre-order Stingers, get Heritage of Deceit Free

Are you being bullied? Or, are you a parent who's afraid that your child is being, or might be bullied? Maybe you are or were a bully yourself?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then you, my friend, might enjoy the new novelette by Graham Downs, Stingers. Here's the synopsis:

James is always being picked on in school, and he particularly hates Stingers, a schoolyard game in which children throw tennis balls at each other in an attempt to cause as much pain as possible. His physical education teacher, Mr Evans, has no sympathy for the boy, believing he just needs to toughen up a bit.

When James returns home from school after a rough game of Stingers, his mother is mortified when she sees the bruises on his arm and chest. She phones the school to try and put a stop to the cruel bullying of her son.

But her phone call only makes things worse, as the bullying escalates to levels that nobody imagined possible.

Sound like your cup of tea? Graham Downs' new book, Stingers, officially releases on 16 June 2014, but you can reserve your copy today! Click here to find out how.

Now, do you also like office thrillers, with a little bit of romance on the side? How about stories about artefacts from old genocides? Well then, you might also enjoy the previous novelette by Graham Downs, entitled Heritage of Deceit. Check this out:
While surfing the Internet at work, Lloyd believes he's found a relic from an old genocide. If he's right, the artefact would be worth a ton of money, and it will give lots of people closure when they find out what really happened to their families.

But there's one problem. The artefact--if it really exists--is in the possession of Carla, a shy woman in the company's Accounts Department, and she never lets it out of her sight.

Lloyd seeks the help of his friend and fellow employee, Robert, whom Carla is desperately in love with. Will Robert agree to use Carla's feelings for him to get information about the mysterious object?

Here's the good news: until Stingers releases on 16 June, you can get both these books, for the price of one!

All you have to do is pre-order Stingers at one of the fine stores on this page, and forward your pre-order receipt to preorders@grahamdowns.co.za. You will receive an e-mail from Smashwords, with one free gift of Heritage of Deceit at Smashwords. The e-mail will contain instructions on how to create an account (if you don't already have one), and download your ebook in the format that you prefer.

Already read Heritage of Deceit? No problem! Just let me know in your e-mail, and I'll send you a gift from Smashwords, for A Petition to Magic at Smashwords, instead!

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Twitter Marketing Strategy: Follow Lots of People

This past weekend, I came across a post on the Awesome Gang blog, entitled How To Find Followers on Twitter That Want To Read My Book.

As I understood it, Vinny (the author) was saying that you as an author should scour Twitter, looking for people who read books in the genre you write (or are otherwise interested in that genre), and follow them indiscriminately, hoping they will follow you back.

I commented on that article, saying that I've never been a fan of that approach. I know that it works for some people, but in the end it just makes me feel "dirty". Personally, I try to be as authentic as possible on Twitter. I only follow people I'm interested in, and expect other people to do the same, by only following me if they're interested in what I have to say. I don't follow hundreds or thousands of people a day (which is what Vinny seemed to be suggesting).

Another reason that I disagreed with what he had to say in that article was because getting people to buy my book is not the reason why I'm on Twitter in the first place. Of course it would be nice if someone who finds me through Twitter ends up buying one of my books, but there are just so many other aspects to my personality. Aside from being an author, I'm a Christian, I'm a computer programmer, I like to play games occasionally, and I'm a husband to the most beautiful woman I've ever met. And I tweet about all these things, not just my books.

My comment caused a bit of a discussion with Vinny, who in the end agreed with me, saying that you need to reach out to people, looking to make genuine connections. That's kind of what I was getting at, but I'm still not a hundred percent satisfied.

I tweeted about the article yesterday morning, hoping to get some other peoples' perspectives on it:

So, as a reader, how do you feel when authors follow you? Are you inclined to follow them back or, as I suspect, does it depend entirely on whether you have a connection with what they have to say? Does it make you more (or perhaps less) inclined to buy their books?

As an author, how do you do Twitter marketing? Do you try to follow as many readers in your genre as you can? What about your tweets: do you keep them as specific to your writing as possible, or do you like to show off all the different layers of your personality? Somewhere in between?

I'd love to hear what everybody thinks. Pop your comment into the box below, and let's start a discussion!

* The image used in this article comes from Flickr. It's an image entitled marketing-strategy-plan, by a user called DigitalRalph. The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.