Tuesday 29 March 2016

Book Review: Shadowland by C.M. Gray

About the Book

We grow up with the Legend of King Arthur... but where did he come from? Who was Merlin? What part did the Druids play in bringing Arthur to his round table? This is the story that came before, when Britain was just a Shadowland.

On the night of Midwinter's Eve, a storyteller takes his listeners back to the Dark Ages and a tale from his youth.

`I have lived more years than I can remember, probably more than the sum of all your years combined. Kings have called me friend and brigands have sworn to burn the flesh from my bones, even if they have to search all seven halls of the shadowland to find me.' 

Deserted by its Roman masters, Britain has been invaded by the Saxons at the invitation of Vortigern, traitorous leader of the Britons. Now, as the tribes unite to reclaim their land, one man must rise to lead them and become their only true king.

Shadowland is a young adult story of historical fantasy set in the Dark Ages of Britain; however, it is gathering fans of all ages.

My Review (4 Stars)

Shadowland is an interesting and unique take on the Arthurian legend. At least, it's not one that I've personally read before.

It's set in Britain, during the Dark Ages, as the Romans are starting to pack up and leave, and head back home to sort out their more pressing internal problems. Their departure leaves a vacuum among the tribes, and the Picts, Iceni, Gauls, Saxons, and others, are all vying for control.

With "culture" and "heritage", among other things, being hot-button topics in South Africa at the moment, I found this book to be quite refreshing. I remember saying to my wife, pretty early on, "Wow. This is MY heritage; this is MY culture!"

Shadowland is very well researched, with just the right amount of artistic licence. The writing is fairly good, and engaging, but I do feel that the plot occasionally drags on a bit.

Still, it's a fresh take on history, a fresh take on the fantasy genre, and one that fans of historical fiction are sure to enjoy.

Where to Buy

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Crossword Puzzle - February 2016 Answers

Well, here it is, everyone. It's what you've been waiting for: the answers to my February 2016 Crossword Puzzle.

How did you do? Which clue (or clues) had you stuck? Let me know in the comments below!


1 40% of a hectare (4) acre
5 Afrikaans boss (4) baas
7 French vineyard (3) cru
8 1910 Kentucky Derby winner (5) Donau
9 A-sketch (4) etch
11 Type of grenade (4) frag
15 Viscous, sticky stuff (3) goo
16 On an angel's head (4) halo
17 Phase of water (3) ice
19 American naval legal drama (3) JAG
20 Batti Indian romantic film (5) Katti
22 Melvins album (5) Lysol
25 What the cow says (3) moo
26 Quick drink (3) nip
27 Sealed in blood (4) pact
28 Of sunlight (3) ray
30 Young cow (4) quey
33 Knots (4) tyes
36 South African music group (5) Uhuru
37 Serious promise (3) vow
38 Made by spiders (4) webs
39 For seeing inside your body (4) x-ray


1 Plural of is (3) are
2 With a knife (3) cut
3 MtG card, aka the Commander (3) edh
4 Get a room here (3) inn
5 Species of toad (4) bifo
6 Exclamation of triumph (3) aha
10 Close companion (5) crony
12 Japanese garden (4) roji
13 Measurement of electrical resistance (3) ohm
14 East African sarong (5) kikoi
15 Present got (3) get
18 "The Chicago Association of Legal Personnel Administrators" (5) CALPA
21 Slightly drunk (5) tipsy
22 Ancient knowledge (4) lore
23 Afrikaans cut (3) sny
24 What you did with your dinner (3) ate
29 Small fish (4) ayus
31 Belong to you, text speech (3) ure
32 Owing (3) due
33 Male suit with bowtie (3) tux
34 Mendes, actress (3) Eva
35 Milk subsitute (3) soy

Tuesday 15 March 2016

E-books: Do you PDF?

It's commonly accepted that there are two main formats for e-books these days. We have mobi, specifically for Amazon Kindle devices/apps, and epub, for just about everything else.

But there's a third option, that a few self-publishing sites (most notably Smashwords) allow, and that's PDF.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

There was a discussion in one of the indie author groups on Facebook the other day, and a few of the authors told me that they immediately un-tick the option to export to PDF format in Smashwords, when publishing.

I understand that PDF isn't a very good format for an e-book, because there are page breaks, and the formatting is exact; epub and mobi are what they call "re-flowable", which basically means that the font isn't set in stone, and there are no page breaks. This makes for easier reading on a specialised device, or on your phone or tablet using a specialised app.

Having said that, many of my readers are first-time e-book buyers. They know and are comfortable with PDF, but they don't have an e-reader (either a physical device, or just an app). PDF is therefore the easiest way to ease them in.

Am I making a mistake doing this, though? Do you read e-books in PDF format? Why, or why not? Should I rather be taking the time to teach these new e-book buyers about the different formats, apps, and how to read epubs and mobis?

Tuesday 8 March 2016

25% Off My Books at Smashwords Read an Ebook Week

From 6 to 12 March, 2016, Smashwords will be holding their annual Read an Ebook week promotion, with massive discounts on e-books.

How it Works

Each book enrolled in the promotion has a coupon code associated with it:
  • RAE25 - For 25% off
  • RAE50 - For 50% off
  • RAE75 - For 75% off
  • RW100 - For 100% off
When you click on a book that's part of the promotion, Smashwords will tell you what coupon code you need to use, and what discount you can get. Click the Buy button, and follow the instructions. Don't forget to fill in the coupon codes when prompted.

My Books

As always, my books are all enrolled in the promotion, and all (except Billy's Zombie, which is permanently free anyway) are eligible for 25% off for the entire week. See below for a list of my books on Smashwords (click the cover or title to visit the book's Smashwords page):

Price $1.49 $1.12
25% off with code RAE25

Queen Celeste rose to the throne of Virdura a month ago, after the sudden death of her mother.

Desperate to prove herself, she agrees to hear the case of a simple farmer who claims a neighbour stole his cow.

To help her in this task, she orders her chief advisor, the royal wizard Solon, to cast a spell and divine the truth for her. Solon, however, is keeping a terrible secret.

Price: $1.39 $1.04
25% off with code RAE25

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.

Price: $1.79 $1.34
25% off with code RAE25

Thirteen year old James Clarke is always being picked on in school. He hates sports, and he particularly hates Stingers, a schoolyard game in which children throw tennis balls at each other. The other kids always seem to throw the ball harder, when it's at him. 

One day, James' mom phones the school to try and put a stop to the bullying, but it only gets worse.


Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.

One day, he decides that he's had enough of the relentless mocking and bullying at school and around town. 

He decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!

Price: $1.39 $1.04
25% off with code RAE25

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

Demons, witches, extra-sensory perception, possessed animals, and an ever-loving God. There is much that exists, or is claimed to exist, in the world today, that we are yet to understand.

This collection of flash fiction paranormal stories is the perfect introduction into the inner workings of the weird mind of Graham Downs.

Other Books on Sale

Besides my books above, there are literally thousands of other books in the catalogue, all with discounts ranging from 25% to 100% off. For the full list of books on promotion, click here.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Defining My Target Market

Image: Wikimedia Commons

There's been a lot of talk lately about how authors need to start thinking of themselves as businesses. Part of that, of course, is identifying our target market (and defining that market as clearly as possible), so we know who we're marketing and selling to.

When I wrote my first book (A Petition to Magic), I just wanted to tell a story - I really wasn't considering how I planned to make money off it. It was the same with my second book (Heritage of Deceit) and indeed, my third (Stingers). Billy's Zombie was much the same.

When I was putting together my fifth (Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction), I spared a token thought to the kind of person I would expect to read it, but still, not much more than that.

Now, with it being a bit of a "hot topic", I've been thinking seriously about who exactly my target market is.

Personally, I like to read in a wide range of genres. I've read everything from thrillers to mysteries, romance, drama, horror, and fantasy. I prefer my horror and fantasy, so that's what I read most often, but my tastes really run the gamut.

I write in a wide range of genres, too. Therefore, my target market, like me, are people who read all over the map.

I also tend not to really enjoy series - all of my current offerings are standalone. Coming soon, I have a collection of flash fiction stories set in the same world as A Petition to Magic. Technically, I suppose it's part of a series, but it's very episodic: some of the stories take place before the events in A Petition to Magic, some after, and some overlap.

Finally, I write shorter works - my longest work is a long novelette (at just over ten thousand words), and I don't see myself writing anything longer than a mid-length novella any time soon.

So, my target market are people to like to read a wide range of different genres, generally prefer standalones, and like their stories quick - get in, tell the story, get out, without too much fluff.

What do you think? Is that clearly defined enough for you?

Do you fit into that target market? And if so, do you feel that my marketing efforts speak to the things that you're interested in?