Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Crossword Puzzle - December 2015

Here's the last Crossword Puzzle for 2015. And I'm not sure there'll be another one. They just seem to have run their course, and I haven't had anyone actually entering for quite a while.

In case you don't know how this works, you print out this crossword puzzle and solve it (or solve it using an image annotation program, or whatever). When you're done, you e-mail me your answers. I'll post the solution to this puzzle in a month's time, and I'll also list the names of everyone who game me the correct answers before then.

Do you enjoy these puzzles, and want to see them continue? If so, please send me an e-mail, or leave a comment below, and let me know. I'll gladly keep them coming, if I know that people are interested!

Ready? Here we go:


Across

1 To win a woman's heart (3)
3 Layer, as in toilet paper (3)
5 Unisex given name (3)
7 Defacation (3)
10 X (3)
11 Held captive (5)
12 Also (3)
14 pH < 7 (4)
17 Catholic church service (4)
18 Child (3)
20 Extraneous in men (6)
22 Mad (6)
26 Second person personal pronoun (3)
27 With an arrow (4)
29 Creepy (4)
32 Male human (3)
33 For flushing the colon (5)
34 Belonging to it (3)
36 Because (3)
37 Man's suit with bowtie (3)
38 Euphemism for genetalia (3)
39 For sitting in church (3)

Down

1 Lamentation (3)
2 Sound of dubstep music (5)
4 Fallin' behind (6)
6 Small ornamental case (4)
7 Bacteria, found in rotting animal matter (8)
8 Environmentally friendly (3)
9 US First Lady McKinley (3)
13 Latin bones (4)
15 Police (3)
16 Locking lips, with tongue (4, 4)
19 Princess of Wales (2)
21 Spanish pineapple (4)
23 Formal address (3)
24 The Big Apple (2)
25 Second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era (6)
28 Temporarily postponed (2, 3)
30 Son of Isaac (4)
31 Although (3)
32 Catographic drawing (3)
35 Pull a trailer (3)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Crossword Puzzle - November 2015 Answers

So here we are: the last Crossword Puzzle answers for 2015.

How do you feel about that? Are you reflecting on the year that's past, and how much you achieved? Was it everything that you've hoped for?

All sentimentality aside, how did you fare in November's Crossword Puzzle? I hope you had fun. Here are the answers:


Across

1 Belonging to us (3) our
4 Throw (3) lob
8 Help (3) aid
10 Having many sides (12) multifaceted
12 Every sixty minutes (6) hourly
16 King (5) ruler
18 Closest relative to man (3) ape
19 First day of work week (3) Mon
21 Assembly of clergy (5) synod
22 Christian creed (6) Nicene
25 Able to determine quantity (12) quantifiable
28 Second sound of a clock (3) toc
29 Built by some spiders (3) web
30 Metal wind instrument (3) sax

Down

2 Not pretty (4) ugly
3 Image format (3) gif
5 Lyric poem (3) ode
6 Last letter of the Latin alphabet (3) zed
7 Fifteenth letter of Greek alphabet (7) omicron
8 Hinged surface on aeroplane wing (7) aileron
9 Russian cottage (5) dacha
11 Black sticky stuff (3) tar
13 Influenced by opsonin (7) opsonic
14 U-turn (3) uey
15 Sung by rapidly altering between the normal voice and falsetto (7) yodeled
17 English suffix (3) eme
20 Nit (5) nepit
23 Tea (3) cha
24 Swedish pop group (4) ABBA
25 Iranian city (3) Qom
26 Bill, the Science Guy (3) Nye
27 Enemy (3) foe

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Tales from Virdura: Reading's for Everyone

The scroll made a satisfying crackling sound as Theo unfurled it on the table. She loved the musty smell of the parchment, as the dust escaped and found its way up her nostrils.

Theo placed her finger below the top line of text, and began to trace it slowly as she struggled to pronounce the words. She was teaching herself to read.

She was getting good, too; she knew what the words meant, and could just about follow the meaning of the writing, but without a tutor, she didn’t know how to pronounce most of them properly.

After some time, Theo became frustrated, like she always did. With a sigh, she rolled up the scroll she had been reading, got up from the table and carefully slotted it back in its place on the shelf.

***

As Theo left the castle library, the two guards at the door looked down on her and smiled.

“Enjoy yourself, did you, Theo?” asked one.

“Yes, thank you Timothy,” she replied. “It’s good of you to let me study in the library. I just wish I had someone to help me.”

“Well, don’t look at me,” said Timothy. “I can’t read either.” The two guards chuckled, before Timothy continued, “I don’t see why it’s so important to you, Theo. People in our stations, the ‘hired help’, reading’s not for us.”

“Reading’s for everyone,” said Theo. She was about to make a quip about illiterate guards, when an angry voice wafted over the courtyard.

It was Martha, the head of the scullery maids. “Theo! Theo! Dash it all, where is that girl? It’s almost time for the Queen’s dinner.”

“Well, I’d better go,” said Theo, and gave a mischievous grin. “You know how Martha can be.”
The guards smiled knowingly, while Theo waved at them and scurried away.

***

When Theo walked into the Queen’s dining hall, carrying a huge platter of roast pork, she tried to be as quiet as possible, just like Martha had always taught her.

The Queen and her royal wizard, Solon, were discussing something about a murder. It was difficult for Theo not to overhear. From the sounds of it, a young girl had been killed in Carrington, and the village had called for a magistrate.

When Theo put the platter down on the table, Solon looked up at her, nodded, and smiled.

He seems like such a nice man, thought Theo. I’ll wager he knows how to read. I wonder if he’d teach me?

***

After service was complete, Theo hurried to finish the washing up as quickly as possible, in the hopes of catching Solon.

As soon as she’d finished, the rushed down the hall and stood waiting outside the dining room. The voices inside told her that she wasn’t too late, and that Solon and the queen were just finishing.

When Solon appeared, Theo walked up to him nervously.

“M-master Solon?” she said.

Solon stopped and turned. Upon seeing Theo, he looked down at her and smiled.
“Yes, my child? How can I help you?”

“My name is Theo, sir. I’m very sorry to bother you, and I know you must be very busy. But I’m learning to read, and I was hoping you might tutor me.”

“Theo!” 

Martha came bursting out of the kitchen. “What on earth do you think you’re doing? Bothering this very important man with such a trivial thing. Reading? Really! Reading’s not meant for the likes of us.” Looking up at Solon, she said “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know what’s gotten into the girl.”

Solon waved her away. “Nonsense, my dear lady. Reading is for everyone, and I think it’s an admirable aspiration for a young lady such as this.”

Turning to Theo, he continued, “My dear, it would be a privilege and an honour. If you will meet me in the library tomorrow, I shall happily help you with your studies.”

***

The next morning, Solon sauntered past the guards outside the library doors.

“Sir!” they said, and stood at attention.

The wizard nodded to them, and made his way through the heavy wooden doors. Once inside, he wound through the maze of bookshelves, feeling rather proud of himself and the scullery maid, but also a little saddened by how empty it was.

When he got to the shelves where Theo said she had been studying from, he stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth dropped, and he raised his open hand up to it in horror.

There, on the floor, lay Theo. Atop her chest was lying a scroll, and blood was seeping through it. Written in blood (her blood, was all that Solon could surmise), and in very untidy hand, were the words:

REDDINGS KNOT FIR EVRYWUN

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Book Review: The Revelation Room by Mark Tilbury

My rating: ★★★★☆


About the Book

The Revelation Room – The first in a new series of psychological mystery thrillers written with a touch of dark humour. 

Ben Whittle’s father is a private investigator. He’s been taken captive by a cult whilst investigating a missing girl. Close to death, he makes a desperate call to Ben for help. He tells Ben that he must not call the police because “everyone will die”. Ben retraces the last known steps of the missing girl with his friend Maddie. The only option left open to them is to join the cult and rescue Ben’s father from the inside. 

The leader of the cult, Edward Ebb, is a psychopathic egocentric who uses his position to control his small group of followers in The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. When he initiates Ben and Maddie into the group it soon becomes apparent how sick and twisted Ebb is. He tricks and coerces his followers into believing they have no choice other than to follow his barbaric regime. 

Ben and Maddie must find Ben’s father and the missing girl, but the odds are impossibly stacked against them and time is fast running out. And they will soon discover the gruesome secret concealed in the Revelation Room.


 My Review

This book is dark, very dark. It's much darker than I thought it would be... which is not a bad thing, because I love dark stories.

I found it to be hard hitting, gruesome, and at times a little sickening.

We open in a typical protestant church somewhere in the U.K. The scene is beautiful and familiar. It reminded me of the church I grew up in, and the pastor, of my own youth pastor back in the day.

But the story isn't about an idyllic church, because very soon, we find ourselves in the midst of a cult run by a raging lunatic who believes that Jesus Christ Himself is instructing him to brutally murder people. The juxtaposition is wonderful, and is a lesson to religious people everywhere about just how dangerous fanaticism can be.

The book mentions Waco a few times to compare the cult to, which I think is a fair comparison. When you start believing that God speaks to you in your head, and He's telling you to do things which are so incredibly out of character of the God who's introduced to us in the Bible, it can only ever end badly.

And it DOES end badly. 

The descriptions are exquisitely done, and the thoughts going through the mind of our cultist leader are wonderfully portrayed. This is a psychological thriller to rival the greats, and the author doesn't pull any punches with the horror either - gruesome depictions of depraved acts of brutality abound. This is definitely not a story for even the slightly faint of heart.

The Revelation Room is apparently the first book in a series, although at the time of this writing, the second instalment hasn't been released yet. I normally don't read series (so many books, so little time), but I think that I'm going to be taking a look at the second Ben Whittle. I hope it's half as good as this one!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Eight Great South African Indie Fiction Authors (Plus One Bonus)

Recently, I found myself thinking about South African fiction authors, and quite a few names sprang to mind. On the contemporary side, we have Lauren Beukes, Charlie Human, and Wilbur Smith, but then there are the obvious greats like Herman Charles Bosman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Nadine Gordimer... the list is practically endless.

Now, let's think of independent or self-published South African fiction authors... Hmm, right? Well, I can think of two, right of the bat: Ryan Peter and Jo Robinson. But that's about it.

I decided that, being a South African indie author myself, this was never going to do. I did some research, and without further ado, here are my eight South African Independent Fiction Authors. Got any to add? Let me know in the comments below:

1. Ryan Peter

Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy and sci-fi and anything to do with the "weird" while he enjoys conversing (and writing, of course) on topics such as faith and theology. His books are widely available at Amazon and other major online retailers. He is the author of "When Twins War", a fantasy epic; "Your Single Happiness"; "The Butcher's Shadow", an upcoming ghost story thriller; "Holy Sin" (upcoming); and a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, Treasure Island.

Check out Ryan's books on Amazon or Smashwords, or visit his author website, http://ryanpeterwrites.com/.

2. Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson currently resides in her homeland, South Africa, after having lived in rural Zimbabwe for many years. Her obsessive affection for the African continent, most humans, and all creatures feathered and furred are what inspire her writing. Her stories are mostly about people, and the sometimes dark twists that life takes. She also writes science fiction/fantasy, humour, and horror, not being one to restrict herself.

Find Jo's books on Amazon, or visit her blog at https://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/.

3. Rachel Morgan

Rachel Morgan is a South African author who spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. After completing a degree in genetics, she decided science wasn't for her--after all, they didn't approve of made-up facts. These days she spends much of her time immersed in fantasy land once more, writing fiction for young adults and those young at heart.

She is the author of the bestselling Creepy Hollow series, and the lighthearted contemporary romance Trouble series.

Find Rachel on Amazon or Smashwords, or visit her author website at http://rachel-morgan.com/.

4. Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes lives in Tshwane, South Africa. He is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, and missiologist. He is also an Orthodox deacon, an Inklings fan, a church historian, and researcher on African Independent Churches and his own family history.

Find Stephen's latest book, Of Wheels and Witches, on Smashwords.





5. Bridgitte Lesley

Bridgitte Lesley is situated near Durban in South Africa.

Introducing a new character to a reader is something she loves doing. Literary fiction is exactly that! Where a story is woven around a character, or even a few. At the same time, romance is part of the deal. Bridgitte loves a happy ever after. But she does enjoy weaving the story of how characters get to meet. In all her novels you will find that thread of romance. From the beginning to the end. Romance is a passion.

You can find Bridgitte's books on Amazon or Smashwords.

6. Lynelle Clark

Lynelle Clark is a South African, loves her country people, and the rich history.

She is living in Gauteng, South Africa.

She started to write in the beginning of 2010 after she found herself isolated and without work.

Her love for reading prompted her to write her own stories drawing from life’s experiences and lessons learned.

You can find Lynelle's books on Amazon or Smashwords. Or, you can visit her author website at http://lynelleclarkaspiredwriter.blogspot.co.za/.

7. Carmen Botman

Carmen Botman is a South African multi-genre writer. She is a qualified Occupational Therapist, but has dreamt of being a writer ever since she was a little girl. She lives in Pretoria with her husband and Labrador named Daisy. She initially started writing for the teen and young adult, however she has discovered that she also enjoys writing contemporary dramas and stories of the dystopian genre. She currently has two self-published novelettes on Amazon, namely Dahlias and Daisies and the first part of a dystopian series called The Icarus Curse. Part two will be available shortly. She enjoys interacting and networking with other writers. She especially enjoys hearing from fans.

Visit Carmen on Amazon or Smashwords, or at her blog, http://carmenbotman1.blogspot.co.za/.

8. Evadeen Brickwood

Evadeen Brickwood lives with her family in Johannesburg.

Her works published to date in the "Remember the Future" youth series include: "Children of the Moon" (in the German version "Kinder des Mondes") and "The Speaking Stone of Caradoc". Her novel "Singing Lizards" is set in Botswana and was also translated into German ("Singende Eidechsen"). Her latest novel "Abenteuer Halbmond", which is about a teenager in the seventies, who is invited to a wedding in Pakistan, is currently published in German.

Evadeen can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, or her author website, http://evadeen.wix.com/novels.

Honourable Mention

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention myself, wouldn't I? So, for your bonus South African indie author, I hereby present...

Graham Downs

Graham Downs is a South African author. He was born in Alberton, in Gauteng, South Africa, and now lives in Germiston with his wife. Aside from being an independent author, he is a computer programmer in Rivonia.

Graham is the author of five books in four different genres: A Petition to Magic (fantasy), Heritage of Deceit (Thriller/Romance), Stingers (Young Adult Social Issues), and Billy's zombie and Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction (Both Horror/Paranormal Fantasy).

You can find me on Amazon, Smashwords, or my author website, http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/.

So, who did I leave out? Please comment below, and let me know!



Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Crossword Puzzle - November 2015

Guess what time of the month it is, everyone.

That's right, it's crossword time!

Here's the puzzle for November 2015. Now, if you don't know how this works, it's very simple. Solve this puzzle, and e-mail me the answers, before I publish them on this blog in a month's time. If you're the first to send me the correct answers before then, I'll put your name in that post, and declare you the winner.

Sound simple enough? Let's get started....



Across

1 Belonging to us (3)
4 Throw (3)
8 Help (3)
10 Having many sides (12)
12 Every sixty minutes (6)
16 King (5)
18 Closest relative to man (3)
19 First day of work week (3)
21 Assembly of clergy (5)
22 Christian creed (6)
25 Able to determine quantity (12)
28 Second sound of a clock (3)
29 Built by some spiders (3)
30 Metal wind instrument (3)

Down

2 Not pretty (4)
3 Image format (3)
5 Lyric poem (3)
6 Last letter of the Latin alphabet (3)
7 Fifteenth letter of Greek alphabet (7)
8 Hinged surface on aeroplane wing (7)
9 Russian cottage (5)
11 Black sticky stuff (3)
13 Influenced by opsonin (7)
14 U-turn (3)
15 Sung by rapidly altering between the normal voice and falsetto. (7)
17 English suffix (3)
20 Nit (5)
23 Tea (3)
24 Swedish pop group (4)
25 Iranian city (3)
26 Bill, the Science Guy (3)
27 Enemy (3)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Crossword Puzzle - October 2015 Answers

Can you believe that it's time again, for the answers to the monthly crossword puzzle?

No winners to announce this month. Maybe they were just shy. How did you do?


Across

1 Carson, author (3) Rae
4 Afrikaans "doos" (3) box
8 Computer animated talking parrot (3) Rio
10 Allow (3) let
11 Promise to pay debt (3) IOU
12 Little plastic building blocks (4) Lego
13 Tolstoy (3) Leo
14 Three times (6) triple
16 Ask nicely (6) please
19 Jik (6) bleach
23 Christian rapper (6) Carman
25 It's what we breathe (3) air
26 TV psychologist (4) Phil
27 Ilness causing aching muscles (3) flu
29 Thus was it written (3) sic
30 Female sibling (3) sis
31 Vehicle with internal combustion engine (3) car
32 Can be high or low in poker (3) Ace

Down

2 British PM from 1945 to 1951 (6) Attlee
3 Story of a person (3) bio
5 Strigine (7) owllike
6 Alcohol (5) booze
7 Helium powered flying machine (5) blimp
8 Mobs getting out of control (5) riots
9 Get rid of (4) oust
15 Laceration (abbr.) (3) lac
17 (slang) A flirtatious woman (3) lea
18 Armband awarded to Roman soldiers (7) armilla
20 Hawaiian party (5) luaus
21 Extension of a bird's lung (6) air-sac
22 A place for keeping rabbits (5) hutch
23 Comedic heist (5) caper
24 Elaborate table decorations in the shapes of ships (4) nefs
28 Actress with many husbands (3) Liz

See you next week, for the November 2015 puzzle.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tales from Virdura: Runt Wizard

Young Solon stared stoically ahead as two of his tormentors held him down, and a third ripped off his shirt from behind.

He gritted his teeth as the thin reed stung his naked back. And a second time. And a third.
Solon vowed that he would not cry out. He was the son of the Royal Wizard, and he would carry himself as such.

Three other children danced around him, snorting like pigs and calling him names.

“Foolborn runt!” they chanted. “Where is your all-powerful magic now?”

The mocking continued, and the lashings went on. Seven now, and Solon could feel blood trickling down his back. He focused on the smell of the boys’ sweat, mixed in with the dust of the dry, arid field they were in. Despite himself, a single tear ran down his left cheek.

“Oh, he’s a cry-baby now too, eh?” said one of the boys. “Pathetic bastard son of a useless mage.”

Something inside Solon snapped. His eyes shot open, and under his breath, he began reciting an old incantation.

Another thwack of the reed.

“What’s he doing now, do you think?”

“Speaking gibberish. I think we may have beaten him a little too hard, boys.”

While his tormentors laughed, nobody noticed the storm clouds gathering overhead. Nobody paid any attention to the flash of lightning, and clap of thunder indicating how close it was.

Above a boy’s head (the one who had insulted Solon’s father), the sky crackled, and a blue bolt began to take shape, high up in the clouds.

“Stop!”

The lightning bolt dissipated, and the clouds began to clear. Only then did the boys look up, noticing the sudden sunlight pouring down on them.

The boy who had been holding the switch turned.

“It’s the Royal Wizard. Run everyone!”

Within the space of a few heartbeats, everyone was gone. Everyone, that is, except Solon, who was lying face-down in the dust.

His father walked up to him, knelt down and gently grabbed his upper arm.

“Come, my son. It is all right now. They have gone.”

Solon allowed this father to help him to his feet, wincing at the pain in his back. The old man produced a handkerchief out of a pocket in his robe and gently dabbed his son’s cheek, drying up his tears.

“My son,” said the old man, as he looked down at his boy’s eyes and smiled sweetly. “I am sorry that you had to go through that. We wizards have always had a difficult time fitting in with our peers.”

“But father, why? I just want to be a normal child.”

“Because we are different, my son. And people are afraid of people who are different.”

“They didn’t look very afraid to me!” said Solon. His voice broke a little in anger as he said it, and his hands balled into fists.

“Solon, calm down.” Said his father, curtly.

Solon took a step back, shocked at the sudden change in his father’s tone.

The old man sighed, deliberately softened his tone, and continued: “You showed great resilience today, and for that I am proud of you. But you almost did something unthinkable. Something that you would’ve regretted for the rest of your life."

Solon snapped at his father, his voice now a high pitch. “And what would’ve been wrong with that? I just wanted to teach them all a lesson. I wasn’t going to kill anyone. What was the harm in a little lightning storm?”

“But you could have killed people, boy. Perhaps even yourself! I have told you how dangerous and unpredictable magic can be. You are still young, and don’t know how to use it properly. But even I, with all my years of training and practice, would balk at attempting what you were trying to do. It is simply too dangerous. Magic should…”

“Magic should only be performed in a calm, private environment, surrounded by the proper tomes and the proper focus,” finished Solon, reciting the mantra that had been drummed into his head since before he could talk.

Solon’s father smiled. He looked at his son, put both hands on his shoulders, and said, “My son, you are going to make a great wizard, one day. Greater perhaps than even I. But I fear you still have a lot to learn.”

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Book Review: Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes

I thought I'd do something a little different for you this month.

I recently read Bloodstone, by Helen C. Johannes. Having been drawn to the book because of the author's surname (I thought she might've been South African), I will admit to being a little disappointed to find that the book was categorised as Romance. Once I read the description, though, it seemed more Fantasy than Romance to me and, since Fantasy's my preferred genre to read, I picked it up.

Here's the product description:
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones--petrified dragon's blood--for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can't hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams...

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father's rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man--not a fiend--hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads (I very seldom give five star ratings. Very seldom indeed). Here's what I had to say about it:
Don't be mad: I'm going to make a sweeping generalisation here. Girls love romance, and boys love fantasy.

If this is true, then Helen C. Johannes has come up with the perfect formula in Bloodstone. There is just enough romance to keep all those "girly-girls" happy, but not too much to detract from the awesomely epic fantasy that is this story.

Like most men, I'm not generally a romance fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's epic fantasy at its most beautiful. The story is deep and complex, the descriptions are vivid, and the characters well constructed.

The writing is very good - nary a typo to be found, and the language is appropriate to the period (which is something that tends to really bother me about most modern fantasy).

I also thought the introduction was just genius. Many TV shows nowadays start with some shocking revelation. A character gets shot, a secret is revealed, and then the next scene starts with "x days/hours earlier". Some of those work well, but I think that particular trope can be overused. Well, this book starts like that. But, far from being frustrating, it worked extremely well. Many of these TV shows could learn a thing or two!

My only gripe with this book is something that I think many fantasy fans will actually see as a good thing: It's long. Or at least, it feels that way. It's the chapters, you see. If, like me, your busy life doesn't allow for much more than twenty minutes a day spent reading, and you're the kind of person who at least likes to finish a chapter in a sitting, you'll be a bit disappointed. Most of these chapters will take you more than a single reading session to finish, and some of them will take you more than two.

But hey, if that's my only complaint, then the author has done a good job. A great one, in fact.
If you're intrigued by my review, and would like to download a free sample or buy it, click here for the book's page on Amazon.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Crossword Puzzle - October 2015

So, it's that time of the month again. It's time for a crossword puzzle!

If this is your first time here, then here's the deal:

Print out this crossword puzzle, solve it, and e-mail me your answers before Tuesday, 17 November 2015.

I'll be posting the answers to this blog on that date, and if you're the first person to send me the correct answers before then, I'll mention you as the winner.

Make sense? Well, let's get cracking....


Across

1 Carson, author (3)
4 Afrikaans "doos" (3)
8 Computer animated talking parrot (3)
10 Allow (3)
11 Promise to pay debt (3)
12 Little plastic building blocks (4)
13 Tolstoy (3)
14 Three times (6)
16 Ask nicely (6)
19 Jik (6)
23 Christian rapper (6)
25 It's what we breathe (3)
26 TV psychologist (4)
27 Ilness causing aching muscles (3)
29 Thus was it written (3)
30 Female sibling (3)
31 Vehicle with internal combustion engine (3)
32 Can be high or low in poker (3)

Down

2 British PM from 1945 to 1951 (6)
3 Story of a person (3)
5 Strigine (7)
6 Alcohol (5)
7 Helium powered flying machine (5)
8 Mobs getting out of control (5)
9 Get rid of (4)
15 Laceration (abbr.) (3)
17 (slang) A flirtatious woman (3)
18 Armband awarded to Roman soldiers (7)
20 Hawaiian party (5)
21 Extension of a bird's lung (6)
22 A place for keeping rabbits (5)
23 Comedic heist (5)
24 Elaborate table decorations in the shapes of ships (4)
28 Actress with many husbands (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Crossword Puzzle - September 2015 Answers

Anyone looking for answers to the September 2015 Crossword puzzle? You're welcome!

Across

1 Using animals to treat medical conditions (10) zootherapy
3 On which a gun is mounted (6) turret
6 Jones (4) Nora
8 To get married (3) wed
9 Yoko (3) Ono
10 Independent (4) indy
12 Left-handed (6) leftie
13 Sun City (10) Heliopolis

Down

1 Nothing (4) Zero
2 Tethered (5) yoked
4 Author of When Twins War (4) Ryan
5 One of the two longest rivers flowing entirely within Wales (4) Towy
6 Christmas Carol (4) Noel
7 Cluster or sequence of notes or chords used in a song (4) riff
9 That special quality (5) oomph
11 What a pity! (4) alas

See you next week, for a new puzzle.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Tales from Virdua: Mary's Papa


Mary squeezed her father’s hand. It was hot and clammy, despite the cold cloth that had been placed over his head.


He was unconscious, lost to the fever that had held him captive through the night. Mary looked down at his pale face, and tears welled in her eyes for the umpteenth time. She looked to her mother, who was standing next to her.

“Mama,” she spoke softly. “Do you think he’ll make it?”

Her mother didn’t respond. She just looked into Mary’s eyes, and a single tear rolled down her cheek.

On her other side, her love Richard took her free hand and held it tightly.

“Don’t worry, Mary,” he said. “Your da’ will be all right. I know it.”

“Thank you, my love.”

Richard was a little slow, sometimes. But his heart was in the right place, and Mary loved him dearly.
***
The previous day, during their afternoon meal, Mary’s father had inexplicably got up from the table and announced that he wasn’t feeling well.

He turned, and was about to go and lie down, when he suddenly clutched his chest. His eyes went wide, and he keeled over.

Mary’s mother screamed and rushed to his side. She crouched down next to him and began to shake him. 

“Wake up! Wake up!” she yelled. 

Mary had the presence of mind to rush up to him and hold her hand above his mouth and nose. Feeling for breath. It was there, but it was faint. She then pressed her palm against his forehead; he was burning up.

“Mama, we need to get the healer…”

“Go!”
***
“Jonatan, please, come quickly!” said Mary, as she banged furiously on the door to the healer’s.
In a few moments, the door opened.

“What’s wrong, child?”

Mary quickly explained to Jonatan everything that had happened, but it was difficult for him to follow was she was saying, so hysterical she was. He had to keep telling her to calm down and repeat herself.

When she had finally finished, Jonatan grabbed his pack.

“Let’s go.”

“Please go ahead,” said Mary, who by this time was gasping for air. “I need to fetch Richard. I need him near me right now. I’m sorry. I’ll meet you there.”
***
When Mary returned with Richard, her father was in bed. He lay on his back, with his arms beside him, outside the covers, and he had a cloth on his head.

Jonatan approached Mary.

“I’m not sure what’s wrong,” he said. “From what you and your mother describe, something has gone awry with his heart. But he has a terrible fever. I have instructed your mother to put a cold cloth over his head, to try and break it, and I’ve given him a herb tea as well. That’s all I can do for now. We’ll just have to see if he makes it through the night.”

With that, Jonatan packed up his things and walked out the door.
***
Mary’s eyes burned with tears as she remembered the callousness of that conversation. She heaved and sobbed inconsolably.

Richard wrapped his arm around her, and pulled her close.

The three stared down at her father’s pale face, and watched his chest slowly rise and fall, rise and fall.

Suddenly, the man on the bed heaved. His eyes shot open, and he exhaled a long sharp breath, as though waking from the nightmare.

“Papa!”

The man finished his breath, and looked up at the panic-stricken faces. He smiled.

Mary and her mother were upon him at once, hugging him and kissing him, and saying how glad they were that he was all right.

Richard looked down at him and smiled. “I told you,” he said to Mary. “I told you he’d be okay.”

Once all the excitement was over, Mary’s father cleared his throat.

“My daughter,” he said. “There is something that I need to say to you.”

“Of course, papa. Anything.”

Her father nodded towards Richard and his wife.

“Alone.”

Mary’s mother put her arms around Richard. “Come, Richard,” she said. “I know what he needs to discuss with her, and we shouldn’t be here for it.”

Richard looked at Mary quizzically. She smiled and squeezed his hand.

“It’ll be all right, my love.”

Richard shrugged, and reluctantly followed Mary’s mother out of the room.
***
“What is it, father?” asked Mary when they were alone. “It sounds serious.”

Her father sighed. “It is.”

He gave a cough, before continuing, “What happened to me yesterday reminded me of how short life is. Of how little time we are given with the ones we love.

“I fear that I have little time left on this earth, and what I have to tell you can no longer wait.

“Buried in fields, under our grain crops, is a chest. When I am gone, I want you to go and dig it up.”

Mary interrupted with tears in her eyes. “No! Don’t talk like this papa. Please. You’re…”

Her father held out a hand.

“Please, my daughter, this is important. In the chest, you will find five thousand gold pieces. It should be enough for you to see to your mother, and to build a life for yourself.”

By this time, tears were streaming down Mary’s face. She could hardly believe what she was hearing.

“But papa,” she whispered. “I don’t want any money. I just want you.”

Her father smiled, and started to say something. But before he could speak a word, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell silent.

Mary screamed. She leaned forward and pressed her ear to her father’s mouth. She felt no breath.
By the time her mother came rushing in, with Richard in tow, Mary was lying on her father’s chest, weeping inconsolably.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Heritage of Deceit Paperback (Second Edition) - Coming Soon

For a while now, I've been a bit concerned about what the paperback edition of Heritage of Deceit looks like. It's U.S. Trade Paperback size (6" x 9"), but it's only 46 pages. It just looks too thin.

When I did the paperback of my latest book, Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction, I made it the slightly smaller 5.8" x 8.3". Really not much smaller, when you think about it, but it ended up being slightly more pages. It just feels a bit heftier, and fits more comfortably in your hand.

Because I was quite new to publishing print books, I didn't take into account the "bleed" of the cover, so the end of my surname exactly touches the right end of the book. Finally, there's a typo in it, that's been fixed in the e-book version for almost a year already. It's been bugging me about the paperback edition, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to fix it.

I've already mocked up a cover for the new edition - you can see it on the right. Please comment on this post and let me know what you think!

I'll be working on the new print edition over the next week or so, and it should filter through to all retailers within the next few months. So, you might actually want to hurry up and buy a first edition paperback while you still can. It'll be unpublished once the second edition filters through, and you'll have a collector's edition on your hands....

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Crossword Puzzle - September 2015

This month, I have a really quick and easy crossword puzzle for you.

If you can solve it, e-mail me the answers before Tuesday, 20 October 2015. That's day on which I will post the answers to this blog. If you're the first person to send me the correct answers before then, I'll mention your name in that post.

Sound simple enough? Go!

Clues

Across

1 Using animals to treat medical conditions (10)
3 On which a gun is mounted (6)
6 Jones (4)
8 To get married (3)
9 Yoko (3)
10 Independent (4)
12 Left-handed (6)
13 Sun City (10)

Down

1 Nothing (4)
2 Tethered (5)
4 Author of When Twins War (4)
5 One of the two longest rivers flowing entirely within Wales (4)
6 Christmas Carol (4)
7 Cluster or sequence of notes or chords used in a song (4)
9 That special quality (5)
11 What a pity! (4)

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Crossword Puzzle - August 2015 Answers

Okay, so I just know you've all been tearing your hair out trying to solve the August 2015 crossword puzzle, haven't you?

Well, tear no more: the answers are in!

Clues

Across

1 Era (5) epoch
2 Ballroom dance (5) waltz
6 Wife of a nobleman between a count and a duke (8) marquise
10 Discount South African retail chain (3) pep
11 Edible kernel inside a hard shell (3) nut
12 Kiss kiss (4) mwah
14 Omega (3) end
16 Female sibling (3) sis
19 Fey, actress (4) Tina
22 Tac toe (3) Tic
24 Apple computer (3) Mac
25 WWII fighter plane (8) Spitfire
26 Drop him (fly my balloon) (5) pilot
27 Exert downward force (5) press

Down

1 Active hostility (6) enmity
2 Sadness (3) woe
3 Patch of grass in front of a house (4) lawn
4 Lively (5) zesty
5 Seen from your balcony (4) view
7 Turkish brandy (5) rakis
8 At the very top (6) upmost
9 Get a massage here (3) spa
13 Having six rays (6) hexact
15 Capital of India (5) Delhi
17 Shorts worn as underwear (6) boxers
18 Remove all your clothes (5) strip
20 Demon (3) imp
21 Hit it with a hammer (4) nail
23 Medieval hood (4) cowl
25 Take a load off (3) sit

New puzzle coming next week. See you then!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Tales from Virdura: A New Queen

Jacob, constable of the Queen’s Guard at Virdura Castle, whistled softly to himself, as his feet pounded the cobblestones. It was a nice night in the city: the sky was clear, and the moon as high, full, and bright.

Over the past few months, the city had been very quiet. After the way that Queen Celeste had dealt with the fraud, Marcus, the people respected her. Everybody knew the new status quo. There were laws, and they were going to be upheld. The queen was going to see to it personally.

A woman’s scream penetrated the pleasant silence of the evening. Such sounds used to be quite commonplace here, but Jacob had not heard one for so long that he had almost forgotten what it sounded like, when a woman screamed in distress.

Jacob ran in the direction of the scream. It wasn’t long before he came across the source. A burly man, hovering over a woman, lying prone on the ground. He spied something in the man’s hand, glinting in the moonlight. A dagger, by the looks of it.

“You there, stop, by order of the Queen of Virdura!” yelled Jacob, as he unsheathed his sword and ran towards the man. The man stood up straight, turned around, and laughed.

“Fancy running into you here, you old dog,” he said.

Jacob recognised the man, Joseph, as one who grew up in Virdura. As young boys, Joseph was rather fond of chastising and humiliating Jacob in front of his friends.

Joseph had been getting himself into trouble ever since. In fact, the constable had run him out of the city almost a year before, for a crime he could not even remember.

“Joseph,” said the constable. “I don’t know what you’re doing back in Virdura, but I suggest you lower your dagger and back away.”

Joseph twisted his face into an expression of mock confusion. “Oh, come on, copper,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. Since when is having your way with a local peasant girl against the law?“ He spat on the ground as he said this, and his spittle landed a short distance from the woman’s face. She was shaking and sobbing, obviously too afraid to move.

“You’ve been gone a while,” answered Jacob, “but you should know: there’s a new queen in Virdura, and she will not stand for such things.”

“Not like Queen Tricia, you mean? Pity. Now there was a beauty – I’d have loved to have gotten under her skirt, I can tell you. Well, no matter, Jacob. I suggest you back away. This wench is mine.”

Joshua lunged at the constable with his dagger. Jacob, sword in hand, easily parried it away. More than parried: the sword hit the blade so hard that it flew out of Joshua’s hand. The constable quickly retaliated, and ended with the point of his sword pressed up against Joshua’s neck. The scoundrel took a step back, let loose a terrible, inhuman growl, and charged at Jacob. But Jacob, sidestepping the charge, stuck out his foot and tripped Joshua, who landed face first on the cobblestones.

Jacob walked forward, and pressed the tip of his sword into the back of the man’s neck this time. “I told you Joshua,” he said, “there’s a new queen in Virdura.” Then he turned his head, and started to ask if the woman was all right. By the time he had finished his sentence, though, she had gotten up and scurried away.

Jacon scratched his chin with his free hand. Not even so much as a thank you. He smiled. Yes, there was a new queen in Virdura.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Are you on QuarterReads? Do you know what a Quarter is?


Do you know what the coins on the right are? I didn't.

It turns out that those are called "quarters", a denomination of American currency denoting twenty-five US cents. I've heard of quarters before, obviously, from American movies, television, and books, but I'd never actually seen one, except in pictures - and in fact, today's the first day I've ever even seen that. If, like me, you were born and raise outside of the United States, chances are you can say the same.

According to Wikipedia, the coin was first struck in 1796, and continues to be in common circulation today.

I find that extremely interesting, because I'm not sure how many other currencies have a denomination equating to a quarter of their base unit. In South Africa, at least, our coin deonimations are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, and R5. We used to have 1c and 2c pieces as well, and they're still legal tender, but no more have been struck for at least five years.

All About QuarterReads

So why is the existence of the US quarter important? Well, because there is a new readers' site out there, devoted to short stories and flash fiction. It's called QuarterReads, and although the name may only really be significant to people living in the United States, I think the concept is really cool.

Here's how it works: When you first visit the site, you are greeted with a homepage listing the top stories there, which you can filter by category. You can also search for authors, story titles, or tags (extra words that the authors chose to further categorise their stories), or you can browse their growing list of authors and tags.

When you've found a story that you think is interesting, you click on the title, and the site gives you the first couple of lines to whet your appetite. If you decide that you'd like to read the story, you need to spend something called a "Read", which is worth one US quarter.

To get started, you need to spend a minimum of $5, which gives you twenty "Reads". You can purchase these using either PayPal, or a debit or credit card. After which, you'll be given the opportunity after reading the free sample of any story, to spend a Read and read the rest of it.

See? I told you it was a really cool concept!

I have a profile there, and for now, I've split up the individual stories in my latest release, Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction, and put them up on QuarterReads. There's also one other story at the moment, but I plan to add others soon.

Sound like a good deal? Well, click here to visit my QuarterReads writer profile, sign up, charge up, and start reading!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

I Am a South African Author

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month!

I've been doing some thinking lately. I am a South African author. I was born in South Africa, and I was raised in South Africa. The furthest I've ever been out of the country was to Swaziland with my wife, for our honeymoon. Other than looking at the exchange rate (a poor indicator, to be sure), I have no real concept of what a US Dollar is worth, or what a Pound Sterling is worth, or what any other country's currency is worth to the average citizen of that country. I only know what a Rand is worth.

And yet, thus far, the vast majority of my books have been sold in the US or UK, in Dollars and Pounds. That's a bit ironic, and also a little unfair.

So I decided today, to showcase some of the places where my books are available in South Africa, starting with the paperbacks:

Paperback

Loot


Exclusive Books

My books are also available at Exclusive Books, which is a large bookstore in South Africa, with both physical sites, and online stores:

Exclusive Books

Alibris

And finally we have Alibris. It's not strictly a South African store, but they do have the ability to quote prices in South African Rand:

Alibris

E-books

On the e-book side, there aren't any actual South African companies selling my books. I guess this is because e-books have yet to really take off in South Africa, and as yet there aren't any stores here selling indie e-books. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll do my best to try and get my books available there.

In the meantime, there are two sites which are quoting prices in Rands, similar to Alibris above. They are Kobo and Inktera:

Kobo

Kobo

Inktera

A Petition to Magic at Inktera Heritage of Deceit at Inktera Stingers at Inktera Bily's Zombie at Inktera Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction at Inktera

Conclusion

If you've been looking for all the links to where you can buy my books in South African Rands... you're welcome!

If you know of any other places where you can buy my books online, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. Oh, and do also let me know if you're aware of any South African sites that sell independently published e-books, and I'll do my very best to get them available there.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Crossword Puzzle - August 2015

Hey everybody. Guess what time it is. It's crossword solving time!


Clues


Across

1 Era (5)
2 Ballroom dance (5)
6 Wife of a nobleman between a count and a duke (8)
10 Discount South African retail chain (3)
11 Edible kernel inside a hard shell (3)
12 Kiss kiss (4)
14 Omega (3)
16 Female sibling (3)
19 Fey, actress (4)
22 Tac toe (3)
24 Apple computer (3)
25 WWII fighter plane (8)
26 Drop him (fly my balloon) (5)
27 Exert downward force (5)


Down

1 Active hostility (6)
2 Sadness (3)
3 Patch of grass in front of a house (4)
4 Lively (5)
5 Seen from your balcony (4)
7 Turkish brandy (5)
8 At the very topic (6)
9 Get a massage here (3)
13 Having six rays (6)
15 Capital of India (5)
17 Shorts worn as underwear (6)
18 Remove all your clothes (5)
20 Demon (3)
21 Hit it with a hammer (4)
23 Medieval hood (4)
25 Take a load off (3)


How it Works

In case you're not familiar with how this works, or perhaps you just need a refresher, here's the skinny:
  1. Solve this crossword puzzle before Tuesday, 22 September 2015
  2. E-mail me your answers
  3. If you're the first person to send me your correct answers before the cut-off date, I will publish your name on this blog (if you want me to - if you don't, just say so)
Sound simple enough? Go!


Never Miss Another Issue

Oh, and if you want to make sure you don't miss another issue of this crossword puzzle, sign up for my monthly e-mail newsletter. You'll get a free book, if you do. Click below:




Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Crossword Puzzle - July 2015 Answers

So, it's that time again. The time when I announce the answers to last month's crossword puzzle.

Did you take part? Did you get all the answers? If you did, why didn't you e-mail me? I could be featuring your name in this post!

Well, without further ado, here they are:


Across

1 Unleashed (6) loosed
3 Sol (3) sun
7 Remove the skin off a fruit (4) peel
9 Egg of a louse (3) nit
11 Ball (3) orb
12 Biblical Mount (5) Sinai
14 Respectful address to a woman (4) ma'am
16 Of the navy (5) naval
17 Of a monarch (5) royal
18 On demand (2, 3) ad hoc
21 Have fun (5) enjoy
23 Worn on the foot (4) shoe
24 Describing words (5) nouns
26 Made his acquaintance (3) met
28 Of a smile, dry (3) wry
29 TV psychologist (4) Phil
30 For writing (3) pen
31 Disconnect from a network (3, 3) log off (or log out)

Down

2 Bring about destruction of (2, 2) do in
4 Alien ship (3) ufo
5 Animal tracks (5) spoor
6 Cain's brother (4) Abel
8 TV award (4) Emmy
9 Maths game involving picking things up (3) nim
10 Get a dark skin (3) tan
12 North Indian tree (3) sal
13 Japanese martial art involving swords (5) Iai-do
15 Moses' brother (5) Aaron
18 Exclamations of enlightenment (3) ahs
19 Scottish expression of surprise (4) hech
20 For writing on a blackboard (5) chalk
21 Red muppet (4) Elmo
22 Alternative spelling for "you" (3) yow
23 Afrikaans, "cut" (3) sny
25 Russian mountain range (4) Ural
27 For resting a golf ball on (3) tee

See you next week, for the August 2015 puzzle!


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Tales from Virdura: Wolves

William walked into the kitchen just as Kathryn was serving breakfast. He kissed his wife Kathryn on the cheek and sat down, hanging his head in shame.

“What's wrong, papa?” Jeremy, the eldest son.

This made William feel even worse. He was not the children's father. Their real father, Marcus, had been an evil, abusive man who had tried to frame him for killing the children's favourite cow. That had been a year ago. He couldn't believe it had been that long since he had stood in the queen's court, facing allegations that he had had no idea about.

He sighed. “Wolves, my boy,” he said. “I have been up for many hours before dawn protecting our stock, trying to ward them away. They have taken three of our cattle this week, and I fear it may be a losing battle.”

Kathryn bent down and placed a plate of bacon and eggs on the table in front of William. “Have you considered going to Jacob with this? I really think we ought.”

“Jacob's the constable of Virdura Castle, my love. And there's been no crime. I wouldn't want to waste his time; besides, what does he know about wolves?”

Kathryn sat down at the table, and began eating her own breakfast, when there was a knock on the door.

William rose to his feet and opened it. In the doorway stood Jacob, holding his hat in his hands against his chest, looking very concerned.

“Constable, what seems to be the problem?”

“There's been an accident, sir,” said Jacob. “Young Master Thomas, from the farm opposite yours. He has been mauled by a wolf, on your property. He has been rushed to the healer.”

“Oh dear,” said William. “That's terrible! Is he going to be all right?”

“It seems so, sir,” replied the constable. “But it could have been worse. Those wolves on your property are becoming a real nuisance. You should really consider doing something about them.”


***

"Be vigilant, boy," said William to Jeremy. "These wolves could attack at any moment."

The moon was high in the night sky, and the two could hear night-larks in the distance. Jeremy brandished his pitchfork.

"Don't worry, papa. We'll get them. No wolf is going to take any more of our cows. As I live and breathe, I promise you that.

William smiled and ruffled Jeremy's hair. Brave young boy, he thought. First his cow is murdered by his own father, and now the wolves. He's had a hard life.

“It is strange though,” continued Jeremy. “I've never heard of wolves stealing cows before. Sheep, yes. But never cows.”

As William was about to respond, he heard a snarling sound from behind him. He turned, just in time for a snow-white wolf to leap into him, knocking him to the ground.

Jeremy screamed as William tried to fight off the wolf with his arms. The animal's jaws locked around William's forearm, and the blood flowed. The boy took courage, and charged at the wolf, pitchfork in hand. He ran the beast through.

The wolf yelped and then fell silent; Jeremy followed through with the pitchfork, pushing the beast off of William. The man sat up and cradled his arm. The blood seeped through his fingers and onto the ground.

“Papa, are you all right?” said Jeremy. “We need to get you to a healer!”

“I'll be fine, son,” said William. “Wolves always hunt in packs. The others must be close.”


***

Fully two hours later, there was still no sign of any other wolves, which William found strange. What was also strange was the fact that he was beginning to feel very sleepy.

“You're very pale, papa,” said Jeremy. “I think we should go to the healer.”

“I'll be fine,” said William. “I just need to... lie down... for...”

“Papa!” Jeremy screamed. But no response came from William. The boy got up, and ran as fast as he could for the healer.”

***

William opened his eyes, slowly. He looked down at his arm, and saw a clean white bandage on it. Looking up, he saw Kathryn and Jeremy, smiling down at him.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“You're at the healer's,” replied Kathryn. “You gave us quite a scare. Jeremy said you passed out.”

The memory started rushing back. “It's thanks to Jeremy that I'm still alive,” he said. “The boy killed a wolf, all by himself!”

Jeremy blushed. “It was nothing,” he said.

“We searched every inch of the farm,” said Jacob, stepping forward. “We found no other wolves. It seemed as though that one was hunting alone.”

“Strange,” said William. “They always hunt in packs.”

“Indeed,” said Jacob. “Perhaps the one that you saw was a loner, but you'd best keep an eye open anyway.”

“Yes,” said William. “Or perhaps it wasn't a wolf at all.”

* Image from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmuth/8176793116/










Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Did You Go to the Exclusive Books Warehouse Sale?

Look at that queue!
If you live in or around Johannesburg, you may have known that Exclusive Books had a pretty massive Warehouse Sale this weekend. All books (hardcover, paperback, new releases, old releases) were only R20, and all proceeds went to various literary charities throughout South Africa.

The event was supposed to run from 29 July to 2 August 2015, but it was such a resounding success, that it was completely sold out of several hundred thousand books, by the end of Saturday, 1 August 2015!

The photo on the right was shared on Exclusive Books' Facebook page on the morning of day one (29 July). Take a look at that queue! I wonder what that guy is doing on his cellphone: perhaps he's telling a friend or loved one that they'd better hurry if they want to get anything at the sale....

You may also know that I donated four paperback copies of my romantic crime novelette, Heritage of Deceit, to the sale. Like all books, it also cost only R20, and all proceeds went to charity.

I really wanted to attend, and take a photo of my book on sale, but due to circumstances out of my control, I couldn't make it.

Did you go? How was it? Did you find any literary gems out there? I'd love to hear your feedback - please post them in the comments below.

Also, if you happen to have picked up a copy of Heritage of Deceit while you were there, I would absolutely adore a photo! If you take one of you holding the book, or just of the book lying on your coffee or bedside table, and e-mail it to me, I'll send you one of my e-books (your choice), free of charge.

How's that?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Crossword Puzzle - July 2015

Well, you all know the drill by now. Here's a crossword puzzle for you to solve.

Get all the answers correct, and e-mail them to me before Tuesday 18 August. That's the day when I post the answers on this blog.

If you're the first person with the correct answers before then, not only will I mention your name in that post, but I'll also send you an electronic copy of one of my books, free of charge!

Ready? Good luck!


Clues

Across

1 Unleashed (6)
3 Sol (3)
7 Remove the skin off a fruit (4)
9 Egg of a louse (3)
11 Ball (3)
12 Biblical Mount (5)
14 Respectful address to a woman (4)
16 Of the navy (5)
17 Of a monarch (5)
18 On demand (2, 3)
21 Have fun (5)
23 Worn on the foot (4)
24 Describing words (5)
26 Made his acquaintance (3)
28 Of a smile, dry (3)
29 TV psychologist (4)
30 For writing (3)
31 Disconnect from a network (3, 3)

Down

2 Bring about destruction of (2, 2)
4 Alien ship (3)
5 Animal tracks (5)
6 Cain's brother (4)
8 TV award (4)
9 Maths game involving picking things up (3)
10 Get a dark skin (3)
12 North Indian tree (3)
13 Japanese martial art involving swords (5)
15 Moses' brother(5)
18 Exclamations of enlightenment (3)
19 Scottish expression of surprise (4)
20 For writing on a blackboard (5)
21 Red muppet (4)
22 Alternative spelling for "you" (3)
23 Afrikaans, "cut" (3)
25 Russian mountain range (4)
27 For resting a golf ball on (3)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Crossword Puzzle - June 2015 Answers

How many of you have been struggling to find the answers to the June 2015 crossword puzzle?

If this is you, you're welcome! :)


Clues

Across

1 A young goat (3) kid
3 With a needle (3) jab
5 Nothing (3) nil
8 Anger (3) ire
9 Thailand (4) Siam
11 Brand of beauty soap (3) Lux
13 Do with a canoe (3) row
14 Open area of land for temporary pasture (3) ley
15 Witch (3) hag
18 Motor-cross bicycle (3) BMX
20 Estimated time of arrival (3) ETA
21 A tree's blood (3) sap
24 Used to see (3) eye
26 A young wolf (3) pup
28 Currency of Japan (3) yen
30 Make a mistake (3) err
31 The alphabet (3) ABC
33 Afrikaans uncle (3) oom
35 First month (3) Jan
36 Fancy (4) posh
37 Submachine gun (3) Uzi
38 Dude, or guy (3) oke
39 Rodent with a long tail (3) rat
40 Catholic, wears a habit (3) nun

Down

2 Not bright (3) dim
3 Work well together (4) jell
4 Reminiscent of a box (4) boxy
6 Member of a people of S.E. Nigeria (3) Ibo
7 For extinguishing cigarettes (7) ash-tray
10 Persistent pain (4) ache
12 U-turns (4) ueys
13 Steal (3) rob
16 Did with food (3) ate
17 Happy (3) gay
19 Height of the lowercase x (7) x-height
22 Large primate (3) ape
23 Prefix in pursue (3) pur
25 Island in Tuscany (4) Elba
27 Command for a horse to stop (4) proo
29 Vietnam (3) nam
31 Slightly open (4) ajar
32 Also Canute (4) Cnut
34 Large evergreen tree (3) oak
36 Small metal rod (used in needlework) (3) pin

See you next Tuesday, where I'll have a brand new puzzle for you!



Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Tales from Virdura: A Murder in Carrington

At Virdura Castle, Queen Celeste and her chief advisor, the Wizard Solon, were sitting down for their evening meal, and discussing the events of the day.

“We had a messenger today, from Carrington. A young man named Jonah,” said Solon, before tearing off a piece of chicken with his teeth.

“Carrington?” answered the queen, “We haven't heard from the village of Carrington in... how long has it been?”

“Too long, your highness. Your mother visited there once, when you were but a child. You should really pay them a visit one of these days.”

“That's a good idea,” said Celeste, “Perhaps in a month or two's time, when things have quietened down at the castle. Anyway, what did this Jonah want?”

“A young girl was murdered yesterday, on a fishing vessel from Carrington. It's the first time that's happened in over fifty years,” answered Solon.

Celeste gasped, and she brought her open palm up to her mouth, before Solon continued, “They apparently have a young man in custody, a boy by the name of Richard. The local Sherrif is requesting a magistrate to travel to the village, to preside over his trial and make a pronouncement.”

“You should go!” said Celeste immediately. “Murder is serious business. You should go, and divine the truth for them.”

Solon gave a half-chuckle, half-sigh, before responding. “I'm sure Virdura's magistrates are quite capable, Celeste,” he said, slipping into a familiar demeanour towards his friend and queen. “Besides, you said yourself how busy we all are here. I'm afraid that I can't spare the time to go to Carrington, any more than you can.

“I have asked Jessa to travel with an entourage to assist them. She will leave at first light tomorrow morning, and should arrive in Carrington in no more than two days.”

Author's Note: This is an extract from one of my works in progress, about a murder in the small fishing village of Carrington, in the kingdom of Virdura. What do you think? Should I pursue this story, and would you be interested in reading it?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

E-Book Prices in South Africa

The de facto standard minimum for independently published e-books is $2.99.

That's thanks to Amazon, because $2.99 is the lowest an author can price his work to qualify for 70% royalties from Kindle Direct Publishing. Below that level, authors can only expect to earn 35%. Books on sale are generally priced at $0.99, or free.

Some people think $2.99 is too low, and price their books at $4.99 or even $5.99, but for most self-published books on Amazon, $2.99 appears to be the norm.

Now, if you live somewhere other than the United States (and particularly in a country where Amazon doesn't have a native store), like me, then you really have no idea what $2.99 equates to. Sure, you can ask Google, and it will tell you that, at the time of this writing, it's worth ZAR36.93, or whatever, in your native currency. But is R36.93 a fair price for a South African to pay for an e-book? Does $2.99 really mean as much to an American as R36.93 to a South African.

Clearly not. There's a reason why iTunes in South Africa charges R7.99 (or did, up until a couple of months ago) for stuff that Americans pay $0.99 for, even though $0.99 actually works out to R12.20!

Maybe the Bic Mac index will help shed some light on it, but it's clear to me that $2.99 means less to an American than R36.93 does to a South African, and that R36.93 means more to a South African than $2.99 means to an American. In real terms, does R36.93 translate to... $6 to an American? More?

Add to that the fact that South Africa is in the middle of Amazon's infamous "surcharge zone", which means that you're extremely unlikely to actually pay $2.99 for a book with a list price of $2.99; you'd be lucky to pay under $5 (R61.60) in South Africa!

So what do you think? Do you live in South Africa, and buy e-books from Amazon? Do you think the prices are fair?

If you live in another country, have you had any similar thoughts?

I'd love it if you'd post your experiences and thoughts in the comments below, and let me know what you have to say!