Tuesday 29 December 2015

Crossword Puzzle - December 2015

Here's the last Crossword Puzzle for 2015. And I'm not sure there'll be another one. They just seem to have run their course, and I haven't had anyone actually entering for quite a while.

In case you don't know how this works, you print out this crossword puzzle and solve it (or solve it using an image annotation program, or whatever). When you're done, you e-mail me your answers. I'll post the solution to this puzzle in a month's time, and I'll also list the names of everyone who game me the correct answers before then.

Do you enjoy these puzzles, and want to see them continue? If so, please send me an e-mail, or leave a comment below, and let me know. I'll gladly keep them coming, if I know that people are interested!

Ready? Here we go:


1 To win a woman's heart (3)
3 Layer, as in toilet paper (3)
5 Unisex given name (3)
7 Defacation (3)
10 X (3)
11 Held captive (5)
12 Also (3)
14 pH < 7 (4)
17 Catholic church service (4)
18 Child (3)
20 Extraneous in men (6)
22 Mad (6)
26 Second person personal pronoun (3)
27 With an arrow (4)
29 Creepy (4)
32 Male human (3)
33 For flushing the colon (5)
34 Belonging to it (3)
36 Because (3)
37 Man's suit with bowtie (3)
38 Euphemism for genetalia (3)
39 For sitting in church (3)


1 Lamentation (3)
2 Sound of dubstep music (5)
4 Fallin' behind (6)
6 Small ornamental case (4)
7 Bacteria, found in rotting animal matter (8)
8 Environmentally friendly (3)
9 US First Lady McKinley (3)
13 Latin bones (4)
15 Police (3)
16 Locking lips, with tongue (4, 4)
19 Princess of Wales (2)
21 Spanish pineapple (4)
23 Formal address (3)
24 The Big Apple (2)
25 Second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era (6)
28 Temporarily postponed (2, 3)
30 Son of Isaac (4)
31 Although (3)
32 Catographic drawing (3)
35 Pull a trailer (3)

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Crossword Puzzle - November 2015 Answers

So here we are: the last Crossword Puzzle answers for 2015.

How do you feel about that? Are you reflecting on the year that's past, and how much you achieved? Was it everything that you've hoped for?

All sentimentality aside, how did you fare in November's Crossword Puzzle? I hope you had fun. Here are the answers:


1 Belonging to us (3) our
4 Throw (3) lob
8 Help (3) aid
10 Having many sides (12) multifaceted
12 Every sixty minutes (6) hourly
16 King (5) ruler
18 Closest relative to man (3) ape
19 First day of work week (3) Mon
21 Assembly of clergy (5) synod
22 Christian creed (6) Nicene
25 Able to determine quantity (12) quantifiable
28 Second sound of a clock (3) toc
29 Built by some spiders (3) web
30 Metal wind instrument (3) sax


2 Not pretty (4) ugly
3 Image format (3) gif
5 Lyric poem (3) ode
6 Last letter of the Latin alphabet (3) zed
7 Fifteenth letter of Greek alphabet (7) omicron
8 Hinged surface on aeroplane wing (7) aileron
9 Russian cottage (5) dacha
11 Black sticky stuff (3) tar
13 Influenced by opsonin (7) opsonic
14 U-turn (3) uey
15 Sung by rapidly altering between the normal voice and falsetto (7) yodeled
17 English suffix (3) eme
20 Nit (5) nepit
23 Tea (3) cha
24 Swedish pop group (4) ABBA
25 Iranian city (3) Qom
26 Bill, the Science Guy (3) Nye
27 Enemy (3) foe

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Tales from Virdura: Reading's for Everyone

The scroll made a satisfying crackling sound as Theo unfurled it on the table. She loved the musty smell of the parchment, as the dust escaped and found its way up her nostrils.

Theo placed her finger below the top line of text, and began to trace it slowly as she struggled to pronounce the words. She was teaching herself to read.

She was getting good, too; she knew what the words meant, and could just about follow the meaning of the writing, but without a tutor, she didn’t know how to pronounce most of them properly.

After some time, Theo became frustrated, like she always did. With a sigh, she rolled up the scroll she had been reading, got up from the table and carefully slotted it back in its place on the shelf.


As Theo left the castle library, the two guards at the door looked down on her and smiled.

“Enjoy yourself, did you, Theo?” asked one.

“Yes, thank you Timothy,” she replied. “It’s good of you to let me study in the library. I just wish I had someone to help me.”

“Well, don’t look at me,” said Timothy. “I can’t read either.” The two guards chuckled, before Timothy continued, “I don’t see why it’s so important to you, Theo. People in our stations, the ‘hired help’, reading’s not for us.”

“Reading’s for everyone,” said Theo. She was about to make a quip about illiterate guards, when an angry voice wafted over the courtyard.

It was Martha, the head of the scullery maids. “Theo! Theo! Dash it all, where is that girl? It’s almost time for the Queen’s dinner.”

“Well, I’d better go,” said Theo, and gave a mischievous grin. “You know how Martha can be.”
The guards smiled knowingly, while Theo waved at them and scurried away.


When Theo walked into the Queen’s dining hall, carrying a huge platter of roast pork, she tried to be as quiet as possible, just like Martha had always taught her.

The Queen and her royal wizard, Solon, were discussing something about a murder. It was difficult for Theo not to overhear. From the sounds of it, a young girl had been killed in Carrington, and the village had called for a magistrate.

When Theo put the platter down on the table, Solon looked up at her, nodded, and smiled.

He seems like such a nice man, thought Theo. I’ll wager he knows how to read. I wonder if he’d teach me?


After service was complete, Theo hurried to finish the washing up as quickly as possible, in the hopes of catching Solon.

As soon as she’d finished, the rushed down the hall and stood waiting outside the dining room. The voices inside told her that she wasn’t too late, and that Solon and the queen were just finishing.

When Solon appeared, Theo walked up to him nervously.

“M-master Solon?” she said.

Solon stopped and turned. Upon seeing Theo, he looked down at her and smiled.
“Yes, my child? How can I help you?”

“My name is Theo, sir. I’m very sorry to bother you, and I know you must be very busy. But I’m learning to read, and I was hoping you might tutor me.”


Martha came bursting out of the kitchen. “What on earth do you think you’re doing? Bothering this very important man with such a trivial thing. Reading? Really! Reading’s not meant for the likes of us.” Looking up at Solon, she said “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know what’s gotten into the girl.”

Solon waved her away. “Nonsense, my dear lady. Reading is for everyone, and I think it’s an admirable aspiration for a young lady such as this.”

Turning to Theo, he continued, “My dear, it would be a privilege and an honour. If you will meet me in the library tomorrow, I shall happily help you with your studies.”


The next morning, Solon sauntered past the guards outside the library doors.

“Sir!” they said, and stood at attention.

The wizard nodded to them, and made his way through the heavy wooden doors. Once inside, he wound through the maze of bookshelves, feeling rather proud of himself and the scullery maid, but also a little saddened by how empty it was.

When he got to the shelves where Theo said she had been studying from, he stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth dropped, and he raised his open hand up to it in horror.

There, on the floor, lay Theo. Atop her chest was lying a scroll, and blood was seeping through it. Written in blood (her blood, was all that Solon could surmise), and in very untidy hand, were the words:


Tuesday 8 December 2015

Book Review: The Revelation Room by Mark Tilbury

My rating: ★★★★☆

About the Book

The Revelation Room – The first in a new series of psychological mystery thrillers written with a touch of dark humour. 

Ben Whittle’s father is a private investigator. He’s been taken captive by a cult whilst investigating a missing girl. Close to death, he makes a desperate call to Ben for help. He tells Ben that he must not call the police because “everyone will die”. Ben retraces the last known steps of the missing girl with his friend Maddie. The only option left open to them is to join the cult and rescue Ben’s father from the inside. 

The leader of the cult, Edward Ebb, is a psychopathic egocentric who uses his position to control his small group of followers in The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. When he initiates Ben and Maddie into the group it soon becomes apparent how sick and twisted Ebb is. He tricks and coerces his followers into believing they have no choice other than to follow his barbaric regime. 

Ben and Maddie must find Ben’s father and the missing girl, but the odds are impossibly stacked against them and time is fast running out. And they will soon discover the gruesome secret concealed in the Revelation Room.

 My Review

This book is dark, very dark. It's much darker than I thought it would be... which is not a bad thing, because I love dark stories.

I found it to be hard hitting, gruesome, and at times a little sickening.

We open in a typical protestant church somewhere in the U.K. The scene is beautiful and familiar. It reminded me of the church I grew up in, and the pastor, of my own youth pastor back in the day.

But the story isn't about an idyllic church, because very soon, we find ourselves in the midst of a cult run by a raging lunatic who believes that Jesus Christ Himself is instructing him to brutally murder people. The juxtaposition is wonderful, and is a lesson to religious people everywhere about just how dangerous fanaticism can be.

The book mentions Waco a few times to compare the cult to, which I think is a fair comparison. When you start believing that God speaks to you in your head, and He's telling you to do things which are so incredibly out of character of the God who's introduced to us in the Bible, it can only ever end badly.

And it DOES end badly. 

The descriptions are exquisitely done, and the thoughts going through the mind of our cultist leader are wonderfully portrayed. This is a psychological thriller to rival the greats, and the author doesn't pull any punches with the horror either - gruesome depictions of depraved acts of brutality abound. This is definitely not a story for even the slightly faint of heart.

The Revelation Room is apparently the first book in a series, although at the time of this writing, the second instalment hasn't been released yet. I normally don't read series (so many books, so little time), but I think that I'm going to be taking a look at the second Ben Whittle. I hope it's half as good as this one!

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Eight Great South African Indie Fiction Authors (Plus One Bonus)

Recently, I found myself thinking about South African fiction authors, and quite a few names sprang to mind. On the contemporary side, we have Lauren Beukes, Charlie Human, and Wilbur Smith, but then there are the obvious greats like Herman Charles Bosman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Nadine Gordimer... the list is practically endless.

Now, let's think of independent or self-published South African fiction authors... Hmm, right? Well, I can think of two, right of the bat: Ryan Peter and Jo Robinson. But that's about it.

I decided that, being a South African indie author myself, this was never going to do. I did some research, and without further ado, here are my eight South African Independent Fiction Authors. Got any to add? Let me know in the comments below:

1. Ryan Peter

Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy and sci-fi and anything to do with the "weird" while he enjoys conversing (and writing, of course) on topics such as faith and theology. His books are widely available at Amazon and other major online retailers. He is the author of "When Twins War", a fantasy epic; "Your Single Happiness"; "The Butcher's Shadow", an upcoming ghost story thriller; "Holy Sin" (upcoming); and a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, Treasure Island.

Check out Ryan's books on Amazon or Smashwords, or visit his author website, http://ryanpeterwrites.com/.

2. Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson currently resides in her homeland, South Africa, after having lived in rural Zimbabwe for many years. Her obsessive affection for the African continent, most humans, and all creatures feathered and furred are what inspire her writing. Her stories are mostly about people, and the sometimes dark twists that life takes. She also writes science fiction/fantasy, humour, and horror, not being one to restrict herself.

Find Jo's books on Amazon, or visit her blog at https://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/.

3. Rachel Morgan

Rachel Morgan is a South African author who spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. After completing a degree in genetics, she decided science wasn't for her--after all, they didn't approve of made-up facts. These days she spends much of her time immersed in fantasy land once more, writing fiction for young adults and those young at heart.

She is the author of the bestselling Creepy Hollow series, and the lighthearted contemporary romance Trouble series.

Find Rachel on Amazon or Smashwords, or visit her author website at http://rachel-morgan.com/.

4. Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes lives in Tshwane, South Africa. He is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, and missiologist. He is also an Orthodox deacon, an Inklings fan, a church historian, and researcher on African Independent Churches and his own family history.

Find Stephen's latest book, Of Wheels and Witches, on Smashwords.

5. Bridgitte Lesley

Bridgitte Lesley is situated near Durban in South Africa.

Introducing a new character to a reader is something she loves doing. Literary fiction is exactly that! Where a story is woven around a character, or even a few. At the same time, romance is part of the deal. Bridgitte loves a happy ever after. But she does enjoy weaving the story of how characters get to meet. In all her novels you will find that thread of romance. From the beginning to the end. Romance is a passion.

You can find Bridgitte's books on Amazon or Smashwords.

6. Lynelle Clark

Lynelle Clark is a South African, loves her country people, and the rich history.

She is living in Gauteng, South Africa.

She started to write in the beginning of 2010 after she found herself isolated and without work.

Her love for reading prompted her to write her own stories drawing from life’s experiences and lessons learned.

You can find Lynelle's books on Amazon or Smashwords. Or, you can visit her author website at http://lynelleclarkaspiredwriter.blogspot.co.za/.

7. Carmen Botman

Carmen Botman is a South African multi-genre writer. She is a qualified Occupational Therapist, but has dreamt of being a writer ever since she was a little girl. She lives in Pretoria with her husband and Labrador named Daisy. She initially started writing for the teen and young adult, however she has discovered that she also enjoys writing contemporary dramas and stories of the dystopian genre. She currently has two self-published novelettes on Amazon, namely Dahlias and Daisies and the first part of a dystopian series called The Icarus Curse. Part two will be available shortly. She enjoys interacting and networking with other writers. She especially enjoys hearing from fans.

Visit Carmen on Amazon or Smashwords, or at her blog, http://carmenbotman1.blogspot.co.za/.

8. Evadeen Brickwood

Evadeen Brickwood lives with her family in Johannesburg.

Her works published to date in the "Remember the Future" youth series include: "Children of the Moon" (in the German version "Kinder des Mondes") and "The Speaking Stone of Caradoc". Her novel "Singing Lizards" is set in Botswana and was also translated into German ("Singende Eidechsen"). Her latest novel "Abenteuer Halbmond", which is about a teenager in the seventies, who is invited to a wedding in Pakistan, is currently published in German.

Evadeen can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, or her author website, http://evadeen.wix.com/novels.

Honourable Mention

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention myself, wouldn't I? So, for your bonus South African indie author, I hereby present...

Graham Downs

Graham Downs is a South African author. He was born in Alberton, in Gauteng, South Africa, and now lives in Germiston with his wife. Aside from being an independent author, he is a computer programmer in Rivonia.

Graham is the author of five books in four different genres: A Petition to Magic (fantasy), Heritage of Deceit (Thriller/Romance), Stingers (Young Adult Social Issues), and Billy's zombie and Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction (Both Horror/Paranormal Fantasy).

You can find me on Amazon, Smashwords, or my author website, http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/.

So, who did I leave out? Please comment below, and let me know!