Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Book Review)

I last read a book by Terry Pratchett some years ago. It was a Discworld novel, but I can't remember which one. As I read The Long Earth, though, I found myself smiling on many occasions as I thought, "Ah, Terry Pratchett, how I've missed you!"

Although it has its moments, this one's not nearly as funny as Discworld. But then, it's not meant to be. It's meant to be a somewhat serious look into the possibilities of Infinite Worlds. And it could happen.

I don't want to give too much away, but there are plenty of "What would I do?" moments as our intrepid adventures travel through The Long Earth to parallel dimensions, and discover things about themselves, the world, and the meaning of life.

And even though it's meant to be serious, Sir Terry just can't help put his humorous stamp on pretty much everything. I mean, the means to "Step" (which is what the book calls travelling between dimensions) is powered by a potato, for Pete's sake. I'm sure that wasn't Mr Baxter's idea!

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

About the Book

The UK's bestselling adult novelist and a giant of British science fiction combine forces to write the first novel in an astonishing, mind-bending new series...The Long Earth

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive - some said mad, others dangerous - scientist when she finds a curious gadget - a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever.

And that's an understatement if ever there was one...

The Long Earth is the first novel in an exciting new collaboration between the creator of Discworld Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter

Click here to find out where you can buy the book.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Do You Like South African E-Books?

I've started a new Facebook Page, everyone. It's called South African E-Book Daily:

Like it and see one e-book by a South African author, every day. The book could be in any genre, so it's really pot luck, but they'll often be on sale.

Please sign up, and help me support South African authors. :)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Inkanyamba (A Free Flash Fiction Story by Graham Downs)

It's been a while since I gave you a free story. Life's just been so hectic lately, and I've obviously been really busy with the launch of my new book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel.

Anyway, it was high time I rectified that, so without futher ado, I present you...


 “We’re almost at Howick,” said Sam as he rubbed his neck and rolled his head. They’d been driving for four hours. “Should we stop?”
“Why not?” said Eva from the passenger seat. “I’m sure Gary’d love to see the falls.” She turned to their five-year-old in the back. “How about it, Gary? How’d you like to see Howick Falls?”
Gary rubbed his eyes and groaned. His parents had picked him out of bed at three this morning and bundled him, covers and all, into the back seat of the car. He’d been looking forward to the Amanzimtoti trip for weeks; now, he wasn’t particularly excited about anything.
“Don’t care,” he mumbled. “Want to sleep.”
Eva rolled her eyes. “Well, you can stay in the car if you like, or you can come have a look at the falls. Dad’s been driving for hours, and he needs to stretch his legs. We all do. We’re stopping.”
Twenty minutes later, the old jalopy station wagon pulled up at the curb. Sam and Eva exited the car, stretched their arms and yawned. Eva stared across the small paved area between the street and the Falls. Apart from a few people, it was empty at this hour.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She pointed to the hundred-metre high waterfall across the paving and past the low wooden railing.
“Yes, it is,” replied Sam. He nodded towards a small café across the street. “I’m going to get some coffee. Want some?”
Eva nodded eagerly. After watching her husband walk off, she opened the back door of the car and lifted Gary out. “Come on, my boy. You’re not going to want to miss this.”
Gary let his mom carry him in her arms, grumbling all the way. When they got to the railing, his eyes shot wide open and he was silent. Then, after a few moments, a single “Wow!” escaped his lips. He wriggled out of his mother’s arms, and stood at the rail, staring.
“These falls are truly beautiful, young one.”
Eva turned to see an elderly gentleman standing next to them. Gary looked up at him, wide-eyed.
“Did you know,” he continued, “that the Zulu people call this place KwaNogqaza? It means ‘Place of the Tall One’ in English, and they also believe that at the bottom of these falls lives the Inkanyamba. Anyone but a sangoma who approaches the bottom of these falls is in for a nasty surprise.”
“That’s interesting sir,” said Eve politely, while keeping one eye on Gary in this stranger’s presence. “So what is this Inkanyamba supposed to look like?”
The stranger chuckled. “It’s supposed to be a serpent—“
“Mommy, what’s that?” Gary interrupted and pointed towards the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
The two followed Gary’s finger with their eyes. On the shore at the bottom of the Falls, halfway out of the water, was a man. Squinting, Eva could see what looked like blood on his head. He wasn’t moving.
The tranquillity of the place, the sound of the water, the birds tweeting in the trees, was suddenly drowned out by screaming. People were running everywhere–Eva hadn’t realised there were so many.
Gary was crying. Eva turned to see Sam walking up to her, two paper coffee cups in his hands.
“Eva, what’s-“
She grabbed him by the arm with one hand, and grabbed Gary with the other. “We need to get out here, now!”
Later that afternoon, the three were sitting in their Happy Days flat in Amanzimtoti. A salty breeze was blowing through the open windows, and Eva stood staring out at the ocean.
Sam was reading a newspaper, while Gary sat on the floor playing with his toy cars.
“Look here, Eva,” said Sam. “There’s an article about that body we saw this morning at Howick. Apparently it was a suicide.”
Eva grunted. She just wanted to forget the whole horrible incident.
There was a knock at the door. Eva went to open it, and standing there was the old man from the falls.
Eva was suddenly afraid. “What are you doing here?”
“I have bad news for you,” he said, ignoring her question. “The Inkanyamba is angry with you.” He turned to look at Gary. “Your son’s life is in danger.”
Gary looked up at his mother and started to say something. Before he could get the words out, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he passed out on the floor.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Email From A Vampire, by Nigel Cooper (Book Review)

This story's plot was very good. Original too, I thought. A vampire sends a journalist an e-mail out of the blue, promising to share his life story with her. It takes her a while to come around, but she eventually does, and starts publishing his story. Other things start happening, involving more vampires showing up. I enjoyed it.

I was going to mention that the writing needs some serious work. That, although good, the book was easily skimmable and could have been half the length without losing any substance. That there's plenty of redundancy, loads of tell and very little show, and a gross overuse of exclamation marks. Those things were going to drop my rating to three stars.

And then I read the final chapter. Wow. I don't want to give it away, but that final chapter was so unexpected, so mind-blowing, so (relatively) well-written that it's hard to believe it came from the same author as the rest of the book.

If you love vampires, but don't want them to sparkle, or if you're tired of the parnormal fantasy fodder of today, when vampire-meets-girl and they proceed to screw each other's brains out for the remainder of the story, you should pick up this book.

About the Book

Love, desire and a trail of cold-blooded murders ...

Tania de Pré is an ordinary journalist looking for her next big story. But when she receives an email from the mysterious, erudite and deeply sensual Tristan Syhier Burnel - a man alleging himself to be a thousand-year old vampire who wants her to publish his life story - she is plunged into a world of murder, intrigue and overwhelming sexual desire.

Teaming up with DI Maldini and his CSI team, Tania and Tristan find themselves on the trail of a malevolent bloodsucker, who will stop at nothing to ensure that the secrets of vampirism remain underground ...

Dark, stylish, romantic and sexy, Email From A Vampire will do for London what True Blood did for Louisiana.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

I Broke Kobo With Memoirs of a Guardian Angel!

The pre-order of Memoirs of a Guardian Angel went live on Friday afternoon. It was hectic for me, as I got together all my marketing material and blasted various Facebook groups with the announcement. I posted it on my Facebook Author Page and my Twitter account, and hurried to get my website updated.

I even posted a Facebook Ad, using the following image:

And then I tried to forget about it, went to go watch some TV, and went to bed.

That was the plan, anyway, but naturally, I couldn't stop checking my rankings.

Then, while I was on Saturday, the most amazing thing happened. I looked at Kobo, and Memoirs of a Guardian Angel was suddenly #1 in both its categories, and #2 overall!

What's more, when I looked at Kobo's homepage, and scrolled about halfway down the page, I saw "Coming Soon in eBook". And there was my beloved book, second on the list.

On Sunday morning, my wife was checking on her cellphone, and found the following:

Yip. Not only was Memoirs of a Guardian Angel now the top book on Kobo's "Coming Soon" list, it had suddenly become the #1 book in "Trending Now", with prime visibility on the homepage!

I still don't know how that happened, because I've never trended that high on any store, in the history of my self-publishing career. 

The rank has obviously slipped quite a bit by now, but by writing this blog post and sharing these screenshots, I have firmly established this moment as the first time in history that any of my books have ever cracked the number one spot, anywhere.

If you'd like to take a look at Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, and maybe buy a copy for yourself, click here to see it on Amazon, Google Play, or Kobo. I'll be putting the price up every week between now and launch on 6 April, so the sooner you decide, the cheaper it'll be.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel: It's Cover Reveal Time!

I got the cover design for Memoirs of a Guardian Angel back from my artist, and I've been dying to share it with you. Here it is:

What do you think?

The image has now been updated on the Goodreads page too, so please click through and share that link with as many people as possible. And, if you'd like to read it when it comes out, would you mind clicking "Want to Read" on Goodreads?

That will help Goodreads to start noticing the book and recommending it to other members.

I'll keep you updated. Pre-order coming soon! :-)

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Getting a South African ISBN for Memoirs of a Guardian Angel

I'm about to release my seventh fiction book, entitled Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, and up to now, I've been relying on the free ISBNs generated by Smashwords (for the e-book) and Lulu (for the print versions).

The problem with that is twofold. First, those ISBNs are American ISBN numbers, which means that, even though I'm South African, books with those ISBNs are listed as being published in the United States. The second problem is, because those ISBNs are actually owned by Smashwords/Lulu, those companies are listed as the "Publisher" when someone looks them up.

That second part isn't that big of a deal for e-books (readers seldom actually look up ISBNs in the global registry), but for the print versions, it can be a big problem because the "Publisher" is listed as "Lulu" at retailers it's distributed to.

Obviously, as self-publishers, we don't want that. We are the publishers of our books, by definition!

Although it's rare, I have seen other self-published authors talking about getting their own ISBNs, so I thought I'd research it. I found this post by Dave Henderson of MYeBook, entitled How to apply for an ISBN in South Africa - Everything a self-publishing author needs to know,

I thought this was going to be complicated, but it wasn't. I e-mailed Kholofelo Mojela on a Sunday evening, and by mid-morning on Monday, I had my ISBN! She was very helpful, and directed me to the National Library of South Africa, where I will need to e-mail a copy of my epub file once it's published. And it's completely free.

When I do the print version a couple of months later, I'll follow the same process, but this time there'll be a nominal cost involved, because I'll have to have a copy printed and posted.

So there you are. South Africans. If you've been scared of doing this, don't be. It's super-simple.

In case you're wondering, the ISBN of the epub edition of Memoirs of a Guardian Angel will be 978-0-620-78888-5.