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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Dark Moonlighting by Scott Haworth (Book Review)

About the Book


Nick Whittier, having been alive for six centuries, has had plenty of time to master three professions. In a typical week he works as a police officer, lawyer and doctor and still finds time to murder someone and drink their blood. He used to feel guilty about the killings, but now he restricts himself to only eating the worst members of society. Few people in Starside, Illinois seem to care about the untimely deaths of spam e-mailers, pushy Jehovah Witnesses and politicians. However, the barriers between Nick's three secret lives start to crumble when a mysterious man from his past arrives in town seeking revenge. Nick must move quickly to prevent the three women in his life, and the authorities who are hunting him, from discovering his terrible secret.

Dark Moonlighting is the first book in the humorous series. It explores four of the biggest clichés in popular culture, and it pokes fun at a number of popular television shows including Law & Order, Bones and House. It also takes a more realistic and amusing approach to the vampire cliché. For example, the average human has the equivalent of five Big Gulps worth of blood in their body. Nick takes twenty minutes to kill someone and, like the vampire bat, must immediately urinate afterwards.


My Review (4 / 5 Stars)


What if vampirism was caused by a good old fashioned virus? In that case, they wouldn't be demons, or demon possessed, and crosses and holy water wouldn't work on them. They'd be able to see their reflections just fine, but they wouldn't be able to shape-shift.

That's exactly the scenario postulated by Dark Moonlighting, a humorous story of a 600-year-old vampire trying to make it in the modern world. He only needs two hours sleep a night, so to pass the time, he works three different jobs.

I really enjoyed this book. It's funny, almost in the style of the Fat Vampire series by Johnny B. Truant, but it's not nearly as silly.

The writing is polished and the plot is fast-paced, but never too much. And there's lots of humour... although it took me a while to "get" the names of Nick's nemesis' henchwomen, once I did I couldn't stop laughing!

The ending's not really a cliffhanger, but it does pave the way nicely for the sequel. Which is definitely going on my to-read shelf.

If you like vampires, but hate Twilight, and you don't feel the need to take yourself too seriously, this is the book for you.

Click here to find out where you can pick up a copy.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Card

In honour of the fourth anniversary of my e-mail newsletter, I thought it might be nice to do a giveaway. So if you buy books on Amazon and would like the chance of winning a $10 voucher, read on.



I love these: as you may know, my last book, published in 2016, is called Tales From Virdura. It's kind of like the spiritual successor to my first book, A Petition to Magic.

All you have to do is answer one simple question. In the seventh story of that collection, what is the second word in the second paragraph?

To enter, email me with your answer at graham@grahamdowns.co.za.

All correct answers will go into a draw to win the $10 Amazon voucher. The draw will take place on Tuesday, 26 September 2017, and I'll announce the winner in my September 2017 newsletter as well as on this blog.

Sound simple enough?

Oh, and if you need a copy of the book, click the image above to find out where you can get your hands on it.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Night Magic by Thomas Tryon (Book Review)

My Review (4 / 5 Stars)

Wow. Just... wow. There isn't much more to say than that (but I'm going to try and say it anyway).

This book was amazing. A little unexpected, to be sure, but amazing nonetheless.

There's this young street magician and mime (Michael) in New York. He's got some skills, and he makes a decent living, but he wants more.

Enter a very old, and very experienced, magician (Max). Planning his retirement, he doesn't want to leave a void, so he needs a protégé. He comes across Michael, and decides the kid's got potential.

The story blurs the lines between magic and illusion. Does "real" magic exist, or is it all just illusion, when it comes right down to it?

The author clearly thinks it does, but Max isn't so sure. A lot of weird, creepy, and even freaky stuff happens, but even by the end of the book, the reader isn't so sure either... but they're certainly left with lots of think about.

If you enjoy magic, and you're even remotely interested in the occult, I can recommend this book.

It lost its fifth star because I spotted some minor editing issues, but that doesn't mean I don't still believe this is an amazing book. And to think I'd never heard of Thomas Tryon before. Now that I have, his books are going on my to-read shelf right now.

About the Book

A young magician will risk his soul to learn the secrets of the universe

Though he bills himself as the Greatest Magician in the World, Michael Hawke is painfully aware that he’s nothing more than a sidewalk. He plies his trade outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entrancing passing crowds with feats of conjuring and sleight of hand. One afternoon, he plays a trick on a shabbily dressed man whose beard is twisted and whose glass eye gives him a sinister leer. Offended, the man responds with magic of his own, casting a spell that causes Michael to hop like a frog, maniacally splashing in the fountain until the police have to haul him out.

When he recovers from this trance, Michael knows that he has encountered a true magician, one whose secrets he will give anything to understand. But this is black magic, mysterious and deadly, and pursuing it will mean a confrontation with an evil older than civilization itself.

Click here to find out where you can get your copy.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Smashwords Special Deals: $0.99 Each for A Petition to Magic, Stingers, or Tales From Virdura



One of my e-book retailers, Smashwords, has just launched a section on their website called "Special Deals".

On that page, they list all the books that have limited-time coupon codes that you can use to get the books at discounted prices.

According to the site admins, that's pretty revolutionary. And I think I agree: no longer do you have to go hunting down sale prices at your favourite retailer. They're all there, in one place. What's more, those coupon codes are listed everywhere you see the book - in category or search results, even on the book's detail page itself.

To mark the occasion, I've put three of my books on sale at Smashwords, all for $0.99 each. The deals expire on 20 September, so if you want them, click on the book cover below before then:

A Petition to Magic Stingers Tales From Virdura

Of course, my books aren't the only ones on sale. Click here to view the full list of Special Deals at Smashwords.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Writers' Resources: YouWriteOn



I found a really cool website this week, for writers wanting to get their work critiqued.

It's called YouWriteOn.com, and it works like this:

  1. You upload a short story, or sample chapters of your book
  2. You request a "Reading Assignment", which is a random work by another writer, which you're expected to read and review
  3. You get points for completing those assignments, which you "allocate" to your work
  4. Other people get assigned your work to read and review (which depletes your points)
The more reading assignments you complete, the more honest and valuable critique you get for your own work. This really encourages writers helping writers, which is what this whole process is about.

What's more, the highest rated stories are routinely read by agents for Random House and Orion, and if they like your work, they may pick it up for publication!

I added a story I wrote some time ago onto the site, which I haven't been able to find a home for (and which is too short to self-publish as a stand-alone). I've already been getting some great reviews for it, so wish me luck.

If you're a writer who's got something just lying around, you might want to give it a go.

You're welcome. :-)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Helens-of-Troy by Janine McCaw (Book Review)

About the Book


“The Gilmore Girls meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Fifteen year old Goth-chic Ellie has a lot of explaining to do. She’s just moved to the small town of Troy, fought with her uptight mother Helen, met the boy of her dreams and found a dead body on her sexy “new-age” grandmother Helena’s porch. All on the first night!

But Ellie’s not alone. Helen is hiding something. Helen knows all about the kind of eerie dreams her daughter is having — the dreams that show the whereabouts of the missing children of Troy — because she’s had them herself. But she’ll never admit it. Not while Ellie’s sex-crazed friend Ryan is safely behind bars for the murders. Helen knows what it’s like to be attracted to dangerous men.

Then there’s the little matter between Helena and Gaspar Bonvillaine, the teenaged vampire who is learning to feed on young prey. Now that he’s caught Ellie, he doesn’t know whether he wants to kill her or turn her to the dark side and keep her forever. Helena should have finished him off when she had the chance.

To survive the vampire feeding frenzy surrounding them, mom Helen needs to come to terms with her own insecurities and deal with the gifts she has. Helena must learn to ground herself for the good of mankind and more importantly her own family. And Ellie has the toughest choice of all. Ellie must decide whether its time to let her own childhood go and become the woman she is destined to be, one of the ageless and timeless “Helens of Troy”.

Author Janine McCaw (Olivia’s Mine, Feb. 2006,) has written this 100,000 word novel, the first in a fantasy series about “the Helens”. The three generations of gatekeepers will take the reader on a trip to a realm mere mortals fear to visit alone, and they’ll make her want to stay a while.

My Review (2 / 5 Stars)


You know, I really wanted to love this book. It was billed as "The Gilmore Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer", so I had high hopes.

I started noticing minor editing issues, missing quotation marks, apostrophes used to pluralise words, that sort of thing. This was still early, though (maybe 10% in), and they weren't too bad. The story was compelling enough for me to ignore them. "Maybe it's worth three stars, at least," I thought. Plus, I was really feeling The Gilmore Girls vibe at that point, and I LOVE The Gilmore girls.

But the editing got worse. Not only the punctuation problems, I saw lots of redundancy, people "Thinking to themselves" or "Shrugging their shoulders". No. Unless you're writing about telepaths, thinking to yourself is redundant. Okay, so there are some instances of telepathy in this book, but none of them had anything to do with it - it's not like anybody was thinking to themselves as opposed to thinking to others or anything.

There's lots of head-hopping too. In the same scene, sometimes in the same paragraph. To the point where at the top of the screen on my e-reader, I'm seeing the thoughts and feelings of one character, and by the time I get to the end of the screen, I'm in a completely different one's head. It actually got confusing at times.

The thing is, the story got worse as well... or maybe it was just my enjoyment of it being affected by all those others issues. Either way, by the time I finished the book, it was all seeming just a little silly.

Great potential, but poor editing grossly let this book down.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Ways to Support Me: Patreon



So you want to support indie authors?

Obviously, the best way to support me, really, is to buy my books and recommend them to your friends. But what if you've already read all my books, and all your friends are sick of seeing your face because you won't stop blathering on about this "Graham Downs" character? Well then, my friend, words cannot express how grateful I am to you!

If you've reached that point, and you still want to support me, then that's where Patreon comes in. Please consider pledging a little money to me each month, to help me realise my goals. Right now, my goal is a very modest one: the monthly hosting costs on my e-mail account and domain name average around $2 a month. If I could reach that, then I'd know that those were sorted, and I could focus on spending money to market and really grow my author business.

So what do you say? Help a fella out? Visit my Patreon Page and click the "Become a Patron" button. Besides the great feeling that comes from knowing you've done a good dead, you'll get access to my Patron-only feed. And who knows what you'll find in there? Maybe a free book every once in a while, or exclusive snippets of what I'm working on, or advanced review copies... Right now, I really have no idea.

P.S. If you've never heard of me before and want to check out my work, visit my website at https://www.grahamdowns.co.za/.

Fellow Artist? Want to Earn up to $500?


If you're an indie author yourself (or any kind of content creator), and you're looking for ways to earn a regular income, why not join Patreon?

Here's how it works: If you use the link I'm about to give you and sign up, you have 30 days to get as many patrons as possible. Depending on how many people you can convince to sign up, Patreon will give you a bonus, over and above the money you earn from those patrons:

For 30 patrons or more, Patreon will give you $50
For 75 patrons or more, Patreon will give you $100
For 150 patrons or more, Patreon will give you $250
For 250 patrons or more, Patreon will give you $500

How cool is that? Click here to sign up and start attracting patrons.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Painting Bruce (A Free Flash Fiction Story by Graham Downs)

It's been a while since I did this. How about a free flash fiction story? This one's called "Painting Bruce". Enjoy!


When I was ten years old, I had an imaginary friend called Bruce. Bruce was a small child with blue eyes and short brown hair. He was a wonderful friend, who never got me in trouble with my parents, and we played together often.

That’s not such a strange thing in a child, particularly a child who struggled to make “real” friends, so when I would speak about him to my parents, they would just shrug and laugh it off. The fantasies of youth.

When I was sixteen and still talking about Bruce, they got worried. They told me I was too old for an imaginary friend, and that I should grow up and make some friends. Maybe meet a nice girl, they said. Surely there were some girls at my High School that I was interested in?

There weren’t. There was only Bruce. Bruce had grown up with me – his was now a broad shouldered young man with dishevelled hair who helped me with my homework. But I overheard my mother talking to my father one night. She said that she was worried about me, and if I didn’t stop talking about Bruce, she’d have to send me to the psychologist.

Bruce said that if they did that, they’d put me in an asylum, and pump me so full of drugs that I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore. I didn’t want that, so that was the last time I mentioned Bruce.

Now I’m thirty-seven and live alone. Well, “alone” as far as everyone else is concerned, at least. Bruce is still with me, a haggard man with a scraggly beard, long hair, and a paunch. I keep telling him he needs to exercise, but all he does is sit on the couch all day and vegetate while I’m at work.

Last week, I’d finally convinced him to come with me for some fresh air, so we were taking a walk through the park. At one stage, he stopped and pointed.

“That’s da’!”

I followed his finger and saw an old man, perhaps sixty. He was standing under a tree, painting something on an easel.

“Who? The old man?”

“Shh!” said Bruce, as a passing jogger slowed down to gawk. “They can’t see me, remember? You want to go the asylum?”

I shrugged, as he went on. “No, the painting. Look.”

I couldn’t quite make out what the old man was painting, so we walked a bit closer. As we approached, his painting came into focus. It was that of an equally old man, one who looked quite a bit like Bruce.

My friend jumped up and down excitedly. “I told you. It’s him!”

I tried my best to ignore him, and approached the painter.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but I could help but notice your beautiful artwork. What are you painting?”

The man started, and I gave him an apologetic look, feeling a bit guilty for scaring him.

“Why thank you, young man. It’s so lovely out here. So peaceful. I keep telling him to come to the park with me, but he won’t.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

The man motioned towards his subject. “Him. That’s Stephen. He’s been with me since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.”

Beside me, Bruce was getting more and more excited. “That’s da’!” he kept saying, pointing frantically at the painting.

I started to feel it too. The excitement. Maybe I wasn’t alone. Bruce had mentioned his father once before; all he’d said at the time was that he’d left him shortly before Bruce and I found each other. He never mentioned him again, and I knew nothing about his mother either.

“Has… can anyone else see Stephen?” I asked tentatively.

The old man sighed. “No. No they can’t. You probably think I’m crazy. Most people do. I’m pretty far past caring, to tell you the truth.” With that, he returned to his painting.

I pressed on. “No, sir, please. I don’t think you’re crazy at all. Please tell me, does Stephen have a son?”

The man looked at me, and I saw a glimpse of recognition in his eyes. Of belonging. Of someone who finally discovered that he wasn’t alone.

“Why, yes,” he said. “As a matter of fact, he does. Or at least, he did. He told me about him, once. I think his name was… Bryce. No, Bruce. He disappeared about thirty years ago, maybe a bit less. Stephen says he never saw him again.”