Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Stingers is being taught in High School

It's been quite a while since I last spoke about how Stingers is going to be taught at Bracken High School.

Well, the time has come. This week and next, the Grade 9 English pupils will be reading it.

On Saturday, I happened to meet with the teacher spearheading this. She showed me her lesson plan for the term, and gave me permission to share it all with you (Sorry if it's a bit blurry; my photography skills aren't the best):

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Winter Reading

Winter's really snuck up on us here in South Africa. Just last week, we were saying that we couldn't believe it was supposed to be autumn; daytime temperatures were still peaking at thirty degrees. Then, Good Friday comes along, and boom! We're lucky to hit twenty.

I don't mind, though. Winter's snuggling weather. And what better way to snuggle, than with a good book. Just at this moment, I'm reading A Dance With Dragons, the fifth instalment of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. And it's winter, so it's very appropriate.

What's your favourite book to read in winter?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Meet Hilda, of the Alberton Public Library

A few weeks ago, I donated some of my books to the Alberton Public Library, and I'm very proud to announce those books have now been included in their catalogue.

I took a trip to the library on Saturday to meet up with Hilda, the wonderful lady who made this possible. She's in charge of taking on new stock for the library, and this woman is passionate about South African authors!

She agreed to pose for the photo you see above, holding up two of my books: Heritage of Deceit and A Petition to Magic. I'm holding Stingers.

We're standing in front of the South African authors' display at the library. The brainchild of Hilda, it's going to be a central place where works by contemporary SA authors are showcased... and mine will of course be on those shelves.

I also snapped a pic of the inside of Stingers, now that it's been catalogued, stamped, and is ready for borrowing. How cool is that?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Do you have a book-buying budget?

Over the past few months, I've come across a few readers who have a dedicated budget each month for buying books, and when that budget is done, it's done.

On the one hand, I think that's a great thing - as are all budgets - because I also know quite a few readers who happily spend their "bread and milk" money on books, and are completely broke by the end of the month.

I run Hotjar on my website (if you run a website, you need Hotjar!), where on each of my book pages, I ask users one simple question: "If you didn't buy this book today, what stopped you?"

Last month, I got a surprising response to that question. It was from a user in New Zealand, who said "I will be buying this book, as I really want to read it, but my budget for this month is up. I'll buy it next month."

Whether she's bought it or not, I cannot say, but I thought that was a really interesting answer.

Do you think she's going to go back and buy my book, if she hasn't already? And more importantly, do you have a monthly budget (and do you stick to it) for buying new books?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Who's Got Time to Read?

Many people want to read more books, but complain that they just can't find the time, or that there aren't enough hours in a day.

I get that. I really do. I read a lot, but even for myself, my life of late has become so hectic that it's difficult to find the time. Especially since moving into a house, and adopting a dog (neither of which I would trade for the world), my evenings and weekends tend to be full of all the chores that come with having those things.

For what it's worth, allow me to share how I try to find time to read.

First off, I love e-books. The ability to set the font size, brightness, and contrast, are absolute Godsends for someone like me, who has terrible vision and finds it hard to read off paper. Then there's the convenience of having my books with me wherever I go.

I have a genetic eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, and because of my poor vision, I can't drive, so my wife drops me off at work in the mornings and then drives to her job about half-an-hour away. In the afternoons, she finishes work at 17:00, and then comes to fetch me. She generally arrives to pick me up at about 17:30, and it's that extra half-hour where I get the bulk of my reading done.

Although it's not very politically correct to admit it these days, I'm also a smoker, and I take smoke breaks during the workday, when I can find the time. During those breaks, along with every other spare minute I have (on the toilet, waiting for meeting participants to arrive, etc.), I read a page or two of my book on my cellphone. Then, come 17:00, I switch to my tablet and pick up where I left off.

And that's it. I actually seldom read at home in the evenings, or over the weekends, because life is just too busy.

Now, of course, sometimes I'm really busy at work, and I don't get as many breaks... or those breaks are spent talking about work. Other times, I'm working towards huge deadlines, so I end up coding right up until 17:30. Also, your situation's probably really different to mine, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's always possible to find time to catch a page or two if reading's something you're serious about.

And e-books help - I'm not sure I'd be able to read nearly as much if I relied on print books, even were it not for my poor eyesight.

So, how do you find time to read?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

In Johannesburg, there's a big author market day planned for May, and I'm going to be there.

In preparation, I've been stocking up on books, so last month, I ordered a whole bunch of mine. They arrived last week, and they are beautiful, even if I do say so myself.

Watch this space for more news on when it's happening, but I'll definitely be there, peddling my wares. If you're in the area, I really hope to see you there. Buy a book and I'll sign it for you.

If you already own one or more of my books, bring it along, and I'll sign it for you anyway!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Martian by Andy Weir (5 Star Book Review)

From the book description on Goodreads: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Review (5 / 5 Stars)

I watched the movie about a year ago, more or less around the same time everyone else did, I think, when it won the Oscar. At the time, I thought it was really good, and I'd probably have given it five stars too, if I were in the habit of reviewing movies.

Personally, I'd never heard of it until all the hype around the movie started, but once I'd watched it, the book went straight onto my to-read list. A friend once told me that, in her opinion, if you're going to watch a movie and read the book, you should always start with the movie. That way, when you read the book, you're pleasantly surprised at all the extra bits that they invariably leave out of movie adaptations (as opposed to being frustrated, disappointed, and angry, when you watch the movie and realise all the things they left out).

The book is amazing! The movie was good, but the book is better. Don't get me wrong: the movie is pretty true to the book, in my opinion. The book just brings you so much more, is all. There are more problems for our intrepid astronaut to solve, and the science is more detailed as we're taken through his thought process in solving those problems.

There's a lot of maths, too, but it's really easy to understand - and if you really don't like maths, you can safely skip it. I'm not a fan of maths, but I didn't skip it. I kept thinking that if Andy Weir had been my maths teacher in High School, I would have aced it on Higher Grade in Matric, instead of just barely scraping through on Standard Grade.

Generally, I don't much care for "hard" science fiction, because I find the maths and science tedious, but because this book is just so accessible, I cannot in all good conscience give it fewer than five stars.

And that's no small thing. If you follow my reviews, you'll know that it's incredibly rare for me to read a book and find absolutely no fault with it. Editing often lets a book down for me, so if I find a single typo, the author can kiss their five stars goodbye. This book, though, is polished to a sparkling sheen.

Did you know, by the way, that The Martian was originally self-published back in 2011? It's not like I've never given such a high rating to an indie book, but it's been a long time, and it really renews one's faith in independent publishing.

What makes it even more special, is that The Martian is officially the first e-book I've ever borrowed from a library (find out more about that here), and I can't think of a better way to start that journey.

Anyway, enough gushing. If you're even remotely into science fiction, or books about the human condition, drop everything and pick up a copy of this book. But if you do intend to watch the movie, I agree with my friend - watch it first, then read the book. You'll be really glad you did.

Click here to find out where you can buy the e-book. If you prefer to read your books in print, and you're in South Africa, the paperback is available on Loot, for (at the time of this writing) R147. Click here.