Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Crossword Puzzle - February 2016

I said in December that there would be no more monthly crossword puzzles. Nobody had asked me about them in quite some time, never mind actually entered. When I announced in my monthly newsletter (P.S. you can get a free book if you sign up) that I was saying goodbye to the monthly feature, nobody seemed to notice.

If you've been missing them, well then, you're in luck! Last week, I received an e-mail from a reader who'd just discovered me and my books, and said that they'd been browsing my blog, and couldn't wait for the next crossword puzzle.

Well, dear reader, your wish is my command! Simply complete the following crossword puzzle, and e-mail me your answers to graham@grahamdowns.co.za before Tuesday, 22 March 2016. That's the date on which I will be posting the answers. If you were the first person to send me the correct answers before that date, I'll mention you in that blog post.

Sound simple enough? Well, what are you waiting for? Go!


1 40% of a hectare (4)
5 Afrikaans boss (4)
7 French vineyard (3)
8 1910 Kentucky Derby winner (5)
9 A-sketch (4)
11 Type of grenade (4)
15 Viscous, sticky stuff (3)
16 On an angel's head (4)
17 Phase of water (3)
19 American naval legal drama (3)
20 Batti - Indian romantic film (5)
22 Melvins album (5)
25 What the cow says (3)
26 Quick drink (3)
27 Sealed in blood (4)
28 Of sunlight (3)
30 Young cow (4)
33 Knots (4)
36 South African music group (5)
37 Serious promise (3)
38 Made by spiders (4)
39 For seeing inside your body (4)


1 Plural of is (3)
2 With a knife (3)
3 MtG card, aka the Commander (3)
4 Get a room here (3)
5 Species of toad (4)
6 Exclamation of triumph (3)
10 Close companion (5)
12 Japanese garden (4)
13 Measurement of electrical resistance (3)
14 East African sarong (5)
15 Present got (3)
18 "The Chicago Association of Legal Personnel Administrators" (5)
21 Slightly drunk (5)
22 Ancient knowledge (4)
23 Afrikaans cut (3)
24 What you did with your dinner (3)
29 Small fish (4)
31 Belong to you, text speech (3)
32 Owing (3)
33 Male suit with bowtie (3)
34 Mendes, actress (3)
35 Milk subsitute (3)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: Future, Imperfect: Six Dystopian Short Stories by Ruth Nestvold

About the Book

"The Future, Imperfect" is a collection of near future, dystopian short stories by Ruth Nestvold. Environmental changes -- slow in some regions, catastrophic in others -- have had a major effect on our world, not for the better. While water wars and pandemics have devastated the Mediterrean region, and a major earthquake and the resulting destruction of nuclear power plants and sensitive research facilities have made much of California a wasteland, corporate-sponsored enclaves defend themselves from the have-nots. What can any one individual do to make a difference is such a world? These are the stories both of those who tried and those who failed.

Five of the short stories in this collection were previously published in such venues as Asimov's and Futurismic. "Exit Without Saving" also appeared in Rich Horton's "Science Fiction 2007: The Best of the Year." "Killfile" is an original publication.

My Review (4/5 Stars)

Six original stories, set in a dystopian, futuristic world. They're all complete stories, with different characters and plots, but the world remains the same.

It's a compelling world, too. The environment has gone to hell, and many of the big cities (Seattle being one that shows up in at least two stories) have been bought up (quite literally) by big corporations. The corporations use their technology to make life liveable for the citizens, even pleasurable... but only if they can see a way to make a profit.

Those who live outside the big cities, or in cities not yet owned by corporations (places called "the burbs") have a much tougher time of it, and they spend their lives trying to convince a corporation to move in, by selling the advantages of their natural resources, or other benefits that would make an acquisition viable to one of these big companies.

The stories are very well written and engaging. The descriptions are vivid, and more than once I found myself wondering what it might be like to actually live in one of these privatised utopias.

They're also quite literary in theme, and riddled with deeper, hidden meaning. Some of them, I must admit, went over my head, and/or I got bored and skimmed at times. But in a collection like this, it's practically impossible to expect to enjoy and identify with ALL of the stories.

Where to Buy

You can buy this book on Amazon.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Is it a Full Stop, or a Bloody Period?

Warning: This post may freak or gross you out a little. Don't read it if you're squeamish. You have been warned.

You know that little dot that marks the end of a sentence? What's it called?

From the moment I began to recognise symbols, and long before I could actually form them into pronounceable words in my brain, I was taught that it was called a "Full Stop" (Or, if you prefer, fullstop).

Of course, I now know that the Americans like to call it a period. I can't remember when exactly I learnt that, but I was quite old - it must have been around the time that I discovered that girls over a certain age bleed once a month. In fact, it was a little after that, come to think of it. This was most likely around age eleven or twelve.

I had also discovered that these girls had a name for the aforementioned time of the month: they called it their Period. Which, in hindsight, kind of makes sense - it's a particular period of time, when this magical thing happens.

The Literary Period

According to Wikipedia, a "Period" in the context of writing was originally different from the English "Fullstop", and the former was closer to the mark we use today to end sentences... although it was originally used more like a modern comma, whereas fullstops were marks in the vertical centre of a line (but these were used to delineate sentence endings).

It's all very confusing. Far more so, in fact, than I realised when I set out to write this article. I'm going to quote the relevent section from the Wikipedia article:

The name "period" is first attested (as the Latin loanword peridos) in Ælfric of Eynsham's Old English treatment on grammar. There, it is distinguished from the full stop (the distinctio) and continues the Greek "underdot"'s earlier function as a comma between phrases. It shifted its meaning to a dot marking a full stop in the works of the 16th-century grammarians. In 19th-century texts, both British English and American English were consistent in their usage of the terms "period" and "full stop". The word "period" was used as a name for what printers often called the "full point" or the punctuation mark that was a dot on the baseline and used in several situations. The phrase "full stop" was only used to refer to the punctuation mark when it was used to terminate a sentence. At some point during the 20th century, British usage diverged, adopting "full stop" as the more generic term, while American English continued to retain the traditional usage.

I have a headache.

Blood on a Page

Still, my initial association of a word "Period" with a female event was strong, and persists to this day. When my young mind had to come to terms with the new definition of the word, it gave me nightmares. 

I was also, at that age, familiar with the literary theme of people making pacts with the Devil, signing their souls away in exchange for some big favour in life, and being remorseful when it came time for the Devil to collect... but it was too late.

People in those stories always had to sign their names in blood - most often their own. That's what a period reminded me of.

As I grew older, and my mind began to associate everything with sex, the earlier remembrance of the world came screaming back. Not only did putting a period at the end of a sentence make me think of a contract with the Devil, it now also made me think of a woman (no longer a girl - I was now interested in women) standing over a page, and letting a drop of her blood....

Shudder. I'm not even going to finish that thought. It's pretty disgusting, isn't it?

Allow me to try and get that image out of your head, by sharing with you one of my favourite "Little Johnny" jokes:

The kindergarten class had a homework assignment to find out about something exciting and relate it to the class the next day. 
When the time came for the little kids to give their reports, the teacher was calling on them one at a time. 
She was reluctant to call upon little Johnny, knowing that he sometimes could be a bit crude. But eventually his turn came. 
Little Johnny walked up to the front of the class, and with a piece of chalk, made a small white dot on the blackboard, then sat back down. The teacher couldn't figure out what Johnny had in mind for his report on something exciting, so she asked him just what that was. 
"It's a period," reported Johnny. 
"Well I can see that," she said. "But what is so exciting about a period?" 
"Damned if I know," said Johnny, "but this morning my sister said she missed one. Then Daddy had a heart attack, Mummy fainted and the man next door shot himself."

Funny how these old associations with words are so strong.

Some time into my teenage years, I learnt that America had yet another meaning for the word....

The Sporting Period

I must admit, I'm not a sports fan, so I don't know much about this one. I think it's only applicable in Basketball, where games are split into quarters. Those quarters are called "Periods".

I don't hear that reference as often, and my association isn't as strong as it is with the literary type. I can't articulate what I think of when I hear references to a basketball "Period", except to say that it just sounds... wrong.

What's wrong with just calling it a quarter? 

Oh, that's something different, isn't it? Americans probably immediately think of money when they hear that word (I've blogged about that before).

Acceptable Periods

There are, of course, other kinds of "Periods" which are completely innocuous to me, and evoke no negative imagery in my mind. These are all periods in time: The Renaissance Period, the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, and so on. 

I guess it's because I was aware of these kinds of "Periods" long before I was aware of "that time of the month"... although the term "Period Drama" is still a bit iffy.

Also, school periods. Those are fine too.

As I said, it's pretty strange how early associations with particular concepts can stick with you for so long. Do you have any examples from your own personal experience, or is it just me? 

Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Oh, and P.S. if one of your thoughts while reading this article is "You never had sisters, did you?", then my answer is no. No, I did not. Is it that obvious? :-)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Heritage of Deceit is Free Until Valentine's Day

Whether you like it or not, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

Thinking about what I could do for you, my loyal blog readers, that's special, I came up with an idea. I have one book that's a little bit... Romancy, and that's Heritage of Deceit. And now that last month's giveaway is over, it's a good time to give that book away for free.

So here you go. From now until the 15th of February, 2016, you can get my Myster/Thriller/Romance mash-up, Heritage of Deceit, free from Smashwords with the following coupon code:


Click here to visit Smashwords, click Buy Now, and enter the above code when prompted.

If you need a quick synopsis of the book, here it is:

While surfing the Internet at work, Lloyd believes he's found a relic from an old genocide. If he's right, the artefact would be worth a ton of money, and it will give lots of people closure when they find out what really happened to their families.

But there's one problem. The artefact--if it really exists--is in the possession of Carla, a shy woman in the company's Accounts Department, and she never lets it out of her sight.

Lloyd seeks the help of his friend and fellow employee, Robert, whom Carla is desperately in love with. Will Robert agree to use Carla's feelings for him to get information about the mysterious object?

You're welcome, and I hope you have a fantastic Valentine's Day, whether you're married, single, dating, divorced, whatever.

Oh, and if you're not interested in reading the book yourself (or even if you are), I would still very much appreciate it if you'd share this deal with all your friends!

Use the sharing buttons at the right of this page (they'll be on the bottom of your screen, if you happen to be reading this post on your cellphone) to share this blog post to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and more.

The code is unlimited-use, so telling everyone you know about the deal won't diminish your chances to getting the book for free. Go on, share away!

One more time, click here to visit Heritage of Deceit on Smashwords.