Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - December 2014

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

Shall I say that again?

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

How does it feel, hearing that?

Well, whether you've had a good year, or a bad year, sit back, relax, and give your brain a workout. The answers to this puzzle will be published on this blog, on 23 January 2015. If you solve it before then, drop me an e-mail at graham@grahamdowns.co.za with your answers, and if you're right, I'll mention your name in that blog post.

Oh yes, you may notice that most of these clues have something to do with Christmas or Christianity. Have fun!



1 Of Jesus Christ (6)
3 With me, says the hymn (5)
5 Citizens of the Bible's "chosen nation" (8)
6 Era (3)
7 Orthodox Christian symbol (4)
9 Made with egg (3)
11 Prophetess from Kings and Chronicles (5)
12 Where people are imprisoned (5)
13 Jesus Christ (3)
15 What the song was (4)
16 Fuel for candles (3)
17 People suffering loss are doing this (8)
18 A non-Muslim (5)
19 The Son is one of these (6)


1 They stole Christmas (8)
2 Mournful songs (8)
4 Remain motionless and quiet (5)
8 People given to finding faults (8)
10 Lamp heated with gas (8)
14 Third stomach (5)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - November 2014 Answers

Right, then. Are we looking for answers to our November 2014 Crossword Puzzle?

I didn't get any entries last month; was that just because the puzzle was too hard? I hope that's all it was.

Well, here are the answers. If you were struggling with a particular clue that you couldn't get, I'd love it if you'd let me know which one it was, in the comments below:



1 An Unrequited Fall (6) Horner
3 Cheese (5) Swiss
4 For moving things (5) lever
5 Medieval custom (6) feudal
7 Faucet (3) tap
9 South African runner (4) Zola
13 Kevin in An Automatic Decision (3) Rev
14 Delicious (3) yum
15 Noddy cop (4) plod
16 2001 computer (3) Hal
19 Does with complaints (6) lodges
21 He killed children in Bethlehem (5) Herod
22 Belly button (5) navel
23 Sent before e-mail (6) letter


2 Jane (4) Eire
3 Seek damages in court (3) sue
4 Did with the match (3) lit
6 City in western Ukraine (4) Lvov
8 Hooker's boss (4) pimp
10 Wise bird (3) owl
11 Desmond Tutu (4) arch
12 II (3) two
14 Raise your voice (4) yell
17 Type of company (3) Ltd
18 Informal you (4) thee
20 Water snake (3) eel

See you next week, for a very special crossword puzzle, the last one of 2014!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Win your choice of one of my e-books

If you're reading this on the 16th of December, it's the Day of Reconciliation here in South Africa.

Generally speaking, it's also the day when the last people go on leave for the Festive Season, and many South African companies (unless they're in the Retail sector) close down for the holidays.

I thought that, in honour of holidays officially starting for the vast majority of South Africans, and consequently more people having time to read, that I would do a giveaway. I haven't done one in a while, and the timing seemed right.

So yesterday (15 December), I tweeted:

Want to win one of my e-books?

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Have a look below, and find four different ways you can get into the draw to win one of the following books:
"Stingers Heritage of Deceit A Petition to Magic
You don't have to do them all (although you must at least do one), but each one you do will net you another entry into the draw.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The draw ends at midnight (South African Time) next week Tuesday, 23 December 2014, just in time for Christmas (Consider it my gift to you)! ;-)

After that, within 24 hours, the winner will receive an e-mail from me, requesting which of the three books above they would like. Once they've replied, they will receive an e-mail from Smashwords, containing a link to download the book that they have chosen, free of charge. If you don't have a Smashwords account, don't worry: the e-mail will contain all the instructions you need to create your account and download your free book.

So what are you waiting for? Get entering, and tell all your friends!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Christmas Bird

To listen to this story on YouTube, click here

“Isn't it ridiculous?” said Sylvia.

“What?” asked Candice, who was standing beside her, staring into the window of the pet shop.

“Those stupid snow motifs painted on the window, and Father Christmas standing there, dressed in his red suit with white fur. If he were really here, he'd die of the heat. This is Joburg, you know, and it's the middle of summer. When have you ever known it to snow in Joburg in December?”

“You're probably right,” replied Candice, and chuckled, “It reminds me a little of that Ed Jordan song. Still, I think you might be over-thinking it. You should just enjoy the season. Hey,” she continued, pointing at a bright green parrot she spied inside the shop, “look at that parrot. Isn't he cute? Let's go inside, I want to take a closer look.”


Sylvia squealed with delight when the parrot squawked “Hello, pretty lady!”

“You're right,” she said to Candice, “he is adorable! I wonder how much he costs?”

But Candice wasn't listening. She was staring into the bird's eyes, mesmerised.

Hello, Candice.

“Did you hear that?” said Candice. “He just said, 'Hello, Candice'!”

“No he didn't,” replied Sylvia, “He said 'Hello, pretty lady'. Are you all right?” She pressed the back of her hand against Candice's forehead.

She can't hear me, Candice. Please don't tell her what I'm saying. She will think you're crazy. If you buy me, I'll make you rich. You'll never have to work again.

Candice shook her head and brushed Sylvia's hand away. She was hypnotised, under the parrot's spell, but she understood what he was saying.

“You're right,” she said, and chuckled nervously. “I just got carried away. I guess he just spoke to me, in a different way. Oh, Sylvia, I just have to have him!”

“I'd love to as well, but I don't think it would work at my place. I have cats. Find out how much he costs. If you buy him, and keep him in your flat, promise me I can come visit him whenever I want?”


Candice carried the cage with the parrot inside, and placed him on the mantel, next to the Christmas tree that she had set up the night before.

“Now, what should I name you?”

My name is Petronus.

“All right then, Petronus.” Candice was suddenly feeling very sure of herself, after the initial shock of Petronus speaking to her, back at the pet shop. “You made me a promise, of what you would do if I brought you home.”

Check your bank balance, online.

Candice walked over to the computer, opened her Internet browser, and logged into her banking website. She checked her balance, and saw an amount ending in more zeroes than she could count. She clapped her hands together, and was just about to thank the parrot, when there came a knock at the door.

Your dinner guest has arrived.


Candice opened the door to find Sylvia standing there, holding a bottle of wine. Before Candice could greet her, Sylvia pushed her way past into the flat.

“Oh, he's gorgeous!” she said, upon seeing the parrot. “What did you decide to call him?”

“Thank you,” said Candice. “His name is Petronus.”

“That's a funny name for a parrot!”

“It's weird, Syl. He just... spoke to me, and I knew that's what I had to call him. Anyway, put that wine on the table, and come look here. I want to show you something on my bank.”

Sylvia stared at the screen, showing Candice's bank balance. “How the hell-”

Before she could finish her question, Sylvia doubled over in pain, the palms of her hands pressing into her eyes. She screamed.

“Sylvia? What's wrong?” screamed Candice. She was able to pry Sylvia's hands away from her eyes, and, staring into them, she saw that they were balls of pure red.

“My eyes! They're burning, and I can't see!” sobbed Sylvia.

By this time, Sylvia was rolling around on the floor, and blood had begun to seep from her eyes and down her cheeks.

Candice was frantic. She fell onto the floor on top of Sylvia, trying to calm her, but unsure of what to do. After a few moments, Sylvia stopped sobbing. She stopped moving, too, and the blood stopped running down her face. Candice checked, and found that she had stopped breathing.

As Candice lay over Sylvia's lifeless form, sobbing, she began to feel cold.

Why did you do that, Candice?

“Do what?” she said, through her tears, and looked at the parrot. But something to the left of Petronus caught her eye. The Christmas tree, sitting next to him on the mantel, had a thin layer of white atop its branches. Snow?

The temperature was dropping fast. Candice hugged her arms and rubbed them with her hands to keep warm. She glanced at the window; it was frosting over. On the floor, the blood from Sylvia's eyes was frozen on her cheeks.

Candice started to weep. The tears froze on her face as soon as they left her eyes. She looked up at the parrot on the mantel, and mouthed the word “Why?”

I promised you. You'll never have to work again.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Billy's Zombie Hits Number 3 on Amazon

Amazon's categorisation and ranking system is indisputably the most advanced today, out of all the various online book sellers in the world. They have literally hundreds of different categories, each one with its own "Top 100", further split between free and paid books, and those rankings change every single hour of every single day.
This past Saturday (29 November 2014), Billy's Zombie found itself taking advantage of that complicated system. Take a look at this screenshot, taken on Saturday morning at 09:22 (GMT+2):

(Click the screenshot to enlarge it.)

In case you still can't make it out, it shows that Billy's Zombie was ranked by Amazon, as the third most popular free book in the category for Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children's eBooks > Science Fiction, Fantasy & Scary Stories > Scary Stories!
That's a pretty specific (and hence, a relatively small) category, but still, it's quite an amazing achievement. As mentioned, the rankings do change pretty quickly too, but it was able to hold onto the third spot for most of the day on Saturday, and only dropped to fourth place late on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, it had dropped to seventh position in that category, and continues to drop.
Still, it had its "15 minutes of fame", and for that, I am truly grateful, especially to all the people (some of whom may be reading this now) who downloaded it.

Will you help me out?

If you haven't downloaded Billy's Zombie yet, then please would you consider doing so? It's free, so the only thing you stand to lose is a bit of time—although, it's really short, so you'll probably read it in 15 minutes or less, anyway. Perhaps after this blog post, it will begin its climb up the charts all over again, as you, my loyal readers, download it in droves (one can dream, right?).
If you'd like to download it directly from Amazon, click this link.

Care to Review Billy's Zombie?

If you have read it, I would be extremely grateful if you would consider posting a short review, and letting everyone know what you thought. Aside from downloads, reviews from everyday readers like yourselves also play a huge part in Amazon's recommendation engine. They also help other customers decide if it's worth them sacrificing a bit of their time to read it themselves. Oh, and if you do review it, please post a link to your review in the comments below. I like to feature reviews of my books in my monthly newsletter, and I'd be happy to feature yours in the next issue! (Visit my Past Newsletters page, if you want to catch up on past issues, or sign-up to receive future ones.)

Is That Category Right?

By the way, there was a little bit of controversy in my family, about whether Billy's Zombie was categorised correctly. As you saw, it's listed under Amazon as a children's book, and as you'll see if you visit the Amazon book page, it has an "age restriction" of 10 to 18 years. My 22-year-old brother read it, and promptly said to me "This is not a children's book!" because it features a bit of gore, where at one point someone's eyeballs pop and the zombie's thumbs are driven through his skull into his brain.
On the other hand, my mother, a junior Primary School teacher, said that she can easily see her own students reading it.
I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter. If you've read it, do you think it's in the correct category? If so, is the age limit appropriate? If not, what category would you put it under?
Please let me know in the comments below.