Tuesday 24 June 2014

Crossword Puzzle - June 2014 (Stingers Edition)

In celebration of the release of Stingers on 16 June 2014, I decided to do something a little different for this puzzle. Since Stingers is a story about a young boy who's constantly being bullied in school, many of the questions in this crossword will be about Stingers, or bullying in general.

Don't worry if you haven't read Stingers yet (although you really should): you should be able to find the answers to the Stingers related questions by just reading either the synopsis, or the free sample that's available on most retailers' sites.

As always, I will be publishing the answers to this blog in a month's time (in this case, on 22 July 2014). And as always, if you are the first person to contact me with your correct answers before then, I will publish your name on this blog. But this month, as a special incentive, the first person to send me their correct answers before 22 July 2014 will win a free copy of Stingers in ebook format! If you've already read Stingers, just let me know, and I'll send you one of my other books (A Petition to Magic or Heritage of Deceit) instead.

So without further ado, here is this month's puzzle. Good luck!

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

Oh, one more thing. My newsletter subscribers already have a head start on this puzzle, as they received it via e-mail a few days before it was shared on my other social media platforms. If you don't want to miss out next time, simply visit my Contact page and sign up. You'll get lots of other cool info from me as well!

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Crossword Puzzle - May 2014 Answers

Wow! Can you believe a month has gone by already? My third book, Stingers, was released yesterday. It's a story about a boy in high school who is the victim of bullying, and what happens when his mother gets involved and the bullying goes too far. Check it out!

I heard that May's crossword puzzle proved to be a little difficult. Well, I guess it shows, because nobody won it this time. If you've been banging your head against a wall trying to solve it, here are the answers:

1 Stardust (5) (Ziggy)
4 We call it a "Serviette" (6) (napkin)
7 Suffix of feminine name (3) (ina)
8 Bacon (5) (swine)
9 He has pointy ears (6) (Vulcan)
10 A smear of something (7) (splodge)
12 Turn around (6) (rotate)
15 A humorous imitation (6) (parody)
18 It sucks blood (7) (vampire)
21 The Fuzz (6) (police)
22 A loose Roman garment (5) (tunic)
23 Off (Golf) (3) (tee)
24 Quiet and rather dull (6) (sedate)
25 A sad song (5) (dirge)
1 Scrapes a lemon (5) (zests)
2 Interrogate (5) (grill)
3 Gave forth (7) (yielded)
4 Showing even less wisdom (6) (naiver)
5 Straw mattress (6) (pallet)
6 Annie's pet name (6) (Nannie)
11 In a pod (3) (pea)
13 Architect's County in Minnesota (7) (Olmsted)
14 Publishing company (3) (Tor)
15 Songbirds with brown streaky plumage (6) (pipits)
16 Newton-John (6) (Olivia)
17 'Allo 'Allo! waitress (6) (Yvette)
19 Situated inside (5) (inner)
20 Master of Ceremonies (5) (emcee)

That's it for the May 2014 crossword, folks! There'll be a new one next Tuesday (24 June 2014). If you don't want to miss it, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter, and you'll get a reminder straight to your Inbox on the day (along with other cool stuff from me).

Tuesday 10 June 2014

12 Things to do Without Power

Welcome to the writing prompt for June 2014. You know, I enjoyed last month's prompt so much, that I thought I'd go back to the same site as last month to get this one.

So, once again, this month's prompt comes from creative writing prompts . com (It's prompt #7 on their homepage), and it goes like this:

Electricity is a recent discovery. Think of 12 things to do when there's no power.
This prompt actually turned out to be very appropriate, because we've had quite a few power failures lately. On Thursday night, our power went off at home, and didn't come back on until early Saturday morning. On Sunday, the power was out for about 10 minutes, and even today at work, it went out at around 15:30 and stayed off for 20 minutes. Eskom is really struggling to keep up with the winter demand, it seems.

Anyway, on to the prompt. It's actually not as easy as it sounds, but let me think....

  1. If it's daylight, you could always read a book, so long as you read a print copy, because a tablet or e-reader would require power, and thereby break the rules. If you need a bit of inspiration for what to read, check out My Books!
  2. If the weather is warm, how about lounging around outside?
  3. Take a swim, if you have a pool, or visit a public pool, or a friend who has one.
  4. Take a nice relaxing stroll through nature.
  5. How about riding a bike? When last did you do that?
  6. It's fun to make a fire (outside, please!) sometimes. Just sit around it and chat, or cook your dinner on it. Either way.
  7. Instead of phoning, texting, or hopping on social media, go visit a friend in person. Talk.
  8. Go fishing.
  9. While you're at the water, skim stones.
  10. Speaking of throwing things into the water, if you're near a bridge over a stream, stand in the middle of the bridge and drop leaves or twigs into the water. Run to the other side of the bridge, and see if you can spot them.
  11. Write. "But how?" you ask, "There's no computer!" Ah, young grasshopper, what do you think people used before computers were invented? No, I'm not talking about a typewriter. Stop over-complicating, you probably don't have one of those. What I'm sure you do have is a pen or pencil, and some paper. It's an amazingly freeing experience.
  12. Finally, when the sun sets, the obvious suggestion springs to mind. If you have a partner, or perhaps even if you don't....
I have to tell you, the first four came easy. As did the last one, but I wanted to keep it until last. But the others? I really had to rack my brains! And I'm sure some of these can be construed as duplicates of each other, and you could of course do two or more of them at the same time.

So what are your suggestions for things to do when there's no power? I'd love to know; comment and tell me!

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Books - Print or Electronic (or Both)?

Just under a month ago, I tweeted a link to an article entitled Data Point: People Still Like to Read a Good (Printed) Book, and asked my followers whether they preferred print books to ebooks. That tweet caused a little bit of consternation, with two people responding emphatically that, for them, print books are the way to go: In fact, it caused so much consternation that my friend Steve wrote a post on his blog, entitled Are printed books an endangered species? In it, he explains his own preference for printed books over electronic ones. This post, in itself, sparked a little bit of debate.

I know that this topic in particular is one that just keeps cropping up, with plenty of arguments for and against. It obviously boils down to personal preference, but in my personal opinion, people will be debating it for the next hundred years!

Before I ask you, my dear readers, where you stand on the issue, I thought I'd summarise my personal opinion:

Personally, I prefer ebooks for convenience, although I appreciate the feel and smell of a printed book. I don’t think I’ve actually read a printed book in about three years!

My eyesight is rather bad, so with an ebook, I can adjust the font size, background colour, and brightness of my tablet to my optimal reading style. For example, on my tablet, I read white text on a black background, with the backlight set very low so that the text feels more light grey than white. I find that that’s easiest on my eyes. My wife, on the other hand, prefers black text on a white background, with very loose margins and line spacing, but uses a slightly smaller font (my margins and line spacing are very tight, but the font I use is pretty large).

Then there’s the advantage of me being able to keep pretty much my entire library of books on one little tablet. They’re all backed up to the cloud, so should I ever lose my tablet, I can still get all my books back (contrast with someone breaking into your house and stealing all the books off your bookshelf). Of course, there’s also something really amazing to me about the fact that I can be reading a thousand page book, but it only weights a couple of grams, and is just over 10mm thick! I’ve almost always got my tablet (or at least my smartphone) with me, so I can whip it out and read a couple pages whenever I have a spare moment.

Having said that, if you’ve ever tried to read an ebook on a computer screen, then I can understand why you didn’t like it! I’ve tried that before as well. It just feels weird, is tiring to the eyes, and puts a strain on your back and arms. If you have a tablet or dedicated ebook reader, it feels much more natural, and you get used to it really quickly. Even a smartphone, as I said above, works better than a desktop or laptop screen; it's not ideal, but it works in a pinch.

The cost aspect is also a huge plus for me. Just by way of example, Heritage of Deceit costs just over R10 on Kobo (at the time of this writing) as an ebook. This is around $0.99 for my American readers, and approximately £0.77 for my British ones. In paperback, it costs no less than R60/$5.60/£3.65 (plus shipping) as a paperback. And you’ll have to wait for it to arrive! Plus you can read the ebook free if you're a Scribd subscriber. There’s just no comparison. Of course, you do have to get over the initial outlay of a device on which to read the books, and that can be expensive, but you only ever need pay it once.

Compare all this to the disadvantages, the only ones I can think of, anyway:

  • Can’t read in the bath: Well, for me, I never did like reading in the bath. I can’t see well enough without my glasses, and with my glasses, they get all foggy. Plus, generally when I’m in the bath, I’m pretty rushed. But if you want to, I hear you get nice water-tight bags for your Kindle, and probably other tablets as well, although I haven’t tried them.
  • Your battery could run flat: Well, yes, that is a concern. But if you have a tablet, and all you use it for is reading, then these days you’ll probably get about a week on a charge. If you have a dedicated e-reader (like an actual Kindle), your battery could last you up to a month!
  • Like the smell/feel of books: This is a biggy for me, I must admit. But you get used to it. My tablet is a little smaller than an A4 book, and when I read, I hold it like a book, so it’s very similar. The only difference really, is that I tap to turn pages, instead of actually turning them! I also have a nice leather cover for my tablet, which gives me a nice leather smell while I’m reading. Not exactly like paper, but it makes me feel good anyway.
  • You can’t sign an ebook and give it to someone: Okay, I have no answer for that one. When I wanted to sell signed copies of my latest book, I had to get paperbacks printed (But see below for a comment about just that).
I watched a video a while ago, where they asked Stephen King to weigh in on the paperback vs ebook issue. His comment was that paperbacks will continue to fall out of fashion, but not to worry because, in his opinion, books are not paper – paper is the delivery mechanism, and it’s similar to music being delivered on vinyl, vs Compact Discs, vs MP3 files.

To which someone else replied that, in his opinion, printed books will become very much like music on vinyl is today: serious collectors will still collect them, and if you want to give special, signed editions, etc, to someone, you might get them a vinyl. I tend to agree with that.

But this whole argument might be moot anyway, because guess what else is coming back? Audiobooks! They might just over-take both other methods of delivering books!

So, where do you personally stand on the whole "Print books vs Electronic books" debate? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Whatever your opinion, rest assured that I will continue to accomodate you - you will always be able to get my books in paperback, eBook, and sometimes even hardcover!

*Image used in this post