Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Word-Loss Diet, by Rayne Hall (Book Review)

Rayne Hall's writing books are always right on point. This one's no exception. It's filled with no-nonsense things you can do, right now, to make your writing really sizzle and pop.

Throughout this book, there's this analogy of obesity, as if the very inclusion of certain words bloats your book. From "filler words" to advice on adjectives and adverbs, to dialogue attribution tags, there are things you can cut, often without any change to the surrounding sentence, which will make your prose leaner and meaner. Too much fat, Ms Hall says, and your readers lose interest. Stop saying "very", shorten your dialogues, cut introspection and descriptions of travel. Hall claims that, depending on how much of this stuff you're doing wrong, you could cut your manuscript length by as much as 20%.

And for the most part, it's good advice. I happen to have the opposite problem at this moment, with my work-in-progress: I'm trying to bulk it up. But at least, armed with this book, I know what NOT to do to try and make it longer. I'm definitely keeping all this in mind, now.

At the end of the book, Rayne Hall includes two sample stories, in the hopes that you'll see just how much better this new style of writing is. I more-or-less see her point, but I did find that there were a bit TOO few attribution tags in her dialogue sometimes. See, I read for five-minute stretches, and I sometimes have to stop in the middle of a dialogue. When I pick it up again an hour later, I've forgotten who's involved in the conversation, and when I have to go through two pages or more without an attribution tag, I tend to lose interest.

But hey, that's my particular reading style. Everyone's different, and besides, one of the over-arching themes of Rayne Hall's books is that you should find your own unique voice. I still think this book is useful, and I'd recommend any writer read it. There's no doubt it'll make you better at your craft.

(My Review: 4 / 5 stars)

About the Book

Tighten and tone your writing style, and use simple revision tricks to slim down your manuscript. Shed thousands of words without changing the plot.

Strip away the word fat and reveal the muscle of your unique author voice.

This book is short, but potent.

It is perfect for

- self-editing before you submit your book to agents and publishers, or before self-publishing

- understanding why your stories get rejected, or why so few readers buy your book after downloading the sample chapters

- taking your writing craft skills to the next level

- polishing your writing style for the move from amateur to professional

The book is based on Rayne Hall's popular class of the same title which has helped many writers shed word weight and develop a leaner, stronger writing style. Some authors say the class was the best investment they ever made. Now you can study the techniques in book form at your own pace.

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Stingers: Questions for High School Pupils

For some time now, I've been raving about how Stingers is set to be taught to Grade 9 English pupils at Bracken High School in South Africa. Just recently, I blogged that it is happening.

And boy, is it happening fast! The teacher just sent me a list of questions that she's set for the class. She's even set up a presentation that will be used to introduce the kids to the story (view it on Slideshare here).

Reading through the questions, I wasn't quite sure how to feel. On the one hand, I'm really humbled and awe-inspired. On the other, I'm amazed that anyone can get so much out of my simple story. There's stuff about the themes of friendship, courage, parenting, and fear, which I never consciously intended when I wrote it (although, of course, bullying is there, which is something I did intend).

With her permission, I'm sharing the questions for you below. What do you think?

Chapter One

1. What game did they start to play?

2. What was the Phys. Ed. teachers’ name?

3. Why did James prefer to have his head buried in a book?

4. Who was the English teacher?

5. How did James react when he was hit with the ball? Please refer to both times.

6. Who was the school bully?

Chapter Two

7. Explain why Emily Evans thinks her husband is mean. Provide evidence for your answer.

8. Do you agree or disagree with the statement below? Provide a reason and evidence for your


“A little humiliation is good for anyone…”

9. Name the job Emily Evans had when she first met Jack Evans.

Chapter Three

10. Describe how James’ mother saw his bruises?

11. Why do you think James started to cry?

12. Explain why Mr Evans is irresponsible.

13. How did James’ mom try to fix the situation?

Chapter Four

14. Give two reasons why James was having a difficult year.

Chapter Five

15. Summarise chapter 5. You must focus on the plot, setting and the characters (description

and behaviour).

16. Discuss the reader’s first impression of James’ mother and Harry Taylor’s father.

17. Why did Harry give his father money?

18. What advice did Bill Taylor give Harry?

Chapter Six

19. Why was James angry with his mother?

20. Is his anger justified? Substantiate your answer.

21. Explain why James was proud of his dad.

22. Who gave James a lift home?

Chapter Seven

23. Where does this chapter start?

24. Why was James in the hall studying?

25. Do you think Mrs Cox made the right decision by excluding James from Phys. Ed.?

Chapter Eight

26. Why did James not leave the hall during break?

27. What forced James to eventually leave the hall?

28. Why was Harry angry with James?

29. Explain how Harry “taught James a lesson”?

Chapter Nine

30. What reason did Harry give Bill for stabbing James?

31. Describe Bill Taylor’s response to what his son had done?

32. Why did this make Bill angry?

Chapter Ten

33. Who was waiting for James to come out of his operation?

34. Explain how Olivia found James.

35. How many times was James stabbed?

36. Who wants to talk to Olivia?

Chapter Eleven

37. What were the two reasons for the emergency staff meeting?

38. Who loses their temper in the meeting? Why?

39. Who attacks Jack Evans?

Chapter Twelve

40. Summarise chapter 12.

Chapter Thirteen

41. Who was the first person James saw?

42. Describe James’ emotions when he first woke up.

43. Who came to see James?

44. How long will James be off school?

Chapter Fourteen

45. Why was Mrs Evans not at home?

46. Who came to visit him?

47. What did Ted Wilson’s dad do to him when he was a child?

48. What will Ted never allow?

49. What did Ted Wilson do to Mr Evans?

Chapter Fifteen

50. What was Bill Taylor worried about?

51. What was Bill Taylor drinking and how does this affect his driving?

52. Explain how Bill crashed his car.

53. How does Bill Taylor die?

Chapter Sixteen

54. Summarise this chapter.

Chapter Seventeen

55. Why did James decline sitting on a chair?

56. Have they found Harry Taylor?

To see where you can buy the book, click the image below:

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

How Do Authors Pay the Bills?

Somebody posted recently in a writers group I belong to on Facebook. She wanted to know what everyone in the group did for a living, besides writing. Now, I've always known that for an author to write full-time is an incredibly rare thing, and that even some of the most famous authors in history supported themselves with full-time careers right up until they died - some of which had nothing whatsoever to do with writing.

Still, the responses to that post surprised me. We've got some pretty big names on our group, people whom I felt sure would be writing full-time by now. Alas, not even them.

I was also amazed at the sheer diversity of jobs that authors are doing. We've got software developers (like me), psychologists, farmers, watchmakers, social media managers... even a bull semen salesman!

Of course, most authors hate their day jobs and would love to write full-time one day. But there are more than a few (also like me) who actually love our day jobs. We love writing too, of course, but we couldn't really see ourselves giving our jobs up to write all day. It's very conflicting - for me, I guess my ultimate goal would be to cut the hours spent at my job by half, and spend the rest of the time writing.

Who's your favourite author, and what do (or did) they do to pay the bills?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Sally Cronin is a Wonderful Lady. You Should Check Her Out.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a wonderful woman. Her name is Sally Cronin, she's from the UK, and she loves independent authors.

On her website, which she appropriately dubs The Smorgasbord, she features books from authors all over the world, which she deems worthy of promotion. And on Thursday, she promoted my book, Heritage of Deceit.

Please go take a look at her feature, and while you're there, click around. If you love reading, you're sure to find something that interests you.

And she's an author in her own right, too, so if you like what she's doing, consider buying her books too, and supporting her as much as you can.

In particular, I really like the look of "Sam: A Shaggy Dog Story". As a dog-lover, it looks like a great read.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Stingers is being taught in High School

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

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

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

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Winter Reading

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

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

What's your favourite book to read in winter?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Meet Hilda, of the Alberton Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Do you have a book-buying budget?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Who's Got Time to Read?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how do you find time to read?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Martian by Andy Weir (5 Star Book Review)

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

My Review (5 / 5 Stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

What is Read an E-Book Week?

Well, it's Read an E-Book Week again. In case you didn't know, this is an annual week-long event, spearheaded by Smashwords. It aims to encourage people who mostly read print books to embrace e-books, and to encourage people who don't read at all to read books in general.

The event has a long history, having been started twelve years ago (yip, way back in 2005; bet you didn't know e-books existed back then!), although Smashwords' own participation only started in 2010.

During this week, Smashwords invites their authors and publishers to offer their books at promotional prices ranging from 100% off (i.e. free) to 75% off.

Most authors (including myself) participate every year, and this year is no exception. It's a great opportunity for readers to discover new books really cheaply, and a great way for authors to get noticed.

You can view their full catalogue of books on promotion at https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1.

This year, two of my books are on promotion. Click these links to get either A Petition to Magic or Stingers at 25% off.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Borrowing Books from the Gauteng E-Library

On the fourth of February, I set foot in the Alberton public library, the first time I'd been in a library since I was in Primary School.

"But Graham," I hear you say, "I thought you only read e-books these days."

True, but I needed a library card. You see, I'd heard of this new initiative by the Gauteng Public Libraries department. In partnership with OverDrive, they allow members to borrow e-books and audiobooks from their collection.

Since I hadn't had a library card since I was a kid, I thought it was high time I applied for one.

The process was very smooth, with no waiting period. I walked out of there on the same day, with a shiny new library card.

Although I got my card immediately, it took a good three weeks for it to become active on the e-library website, but eventually it worked. I only signed in for the first time last Thursday, but it's super cool!

If you'd like to give it a try (it's free), follow these steps:
  1. Visit the Gauteng E-Library website at https://gauteng.overdrive.com/
  2. If you see a red bar at the bottom, asking if you want to try the new OverDrive library, click it. You'll see something similar to the screenshot above.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and under "My Account", click "Sign in"
  4. Enter your library card number, and click "Sign In"

A couple of caveats:
  • If you have an old library card (obtained more than about a year ago), it may not work. You'll have to go into your library, and apply for a new one.
  • Also, if you've only recently acquired your card, be patient. Mine was active on the site after about three weeks, but they say it can take up to a month.

If you're not in Gauteng, or even in South Africa, it's still worth doing some research to find out if your local library has a similar offering. Chances are, it does.

Please Help by Recommending My Books

When you search the site for books, you get two sets of search results. The first set are books that are in the library's collection. If they're available to borrow, click "Borrow" to check them out. If they're already out, you can place a "Hold" on them, and the library will let you know when they're back.

The second set of results are books that aren't in your library's collection, but are available for the library to order from OverDrive. At the time of this writing, my books fall into that category, so if you search for "Graham Downs", you'll see the following:

Click the "See All" link on the right, above my covers.

You'll be taken to the full list of my books available on OverDrive. Hover over each one in turn and click "Recommend". Then enter your e-mail address and click "Recommend this Title", and the library will send you an e-mail when that book is available.

I'd really like to persuade the library to buy copies of my e-books, and I have a feeling the more people who recommend it, the better the chances are of that happening. So please help.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Happy Readers

About a month ago, I posted on my Facebook page about a Free International Shipping deal on my print books.

One of my fans took me up on that offer and bought a couple of my books. As it happens, she bought two of each of my colouring books, and two of my fiction books. She also promised to send me pictures when she received them.

Well, yesterday was the day, and these pics arrived in my e-mail Inbox:

She said her girls loved their colouring books... and aren't they the cutest little girls you've ever seen? (Mom's not bad looking either, but dad might have a thing or two to say if he knows I said that.)

I must admit, I was having a bit of a bad day at work, but receiving these pics put a smile on my face that nothing's been able to wipe off.

If you've read any of my books, please let me know - pics are appreciated, but not necessary. Make an author's day; you have no idea how much seeing feedback from readers means to me!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Igloos in the Summer by Kieran Jamie Lee (Book Review)

About the Book

The blurb, the blurb is not to be mistaken in the lack of informative souls. What was the once famous saying? ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ what are you doing right now? Why did you divert your eyes to the swannings of the River Tyne, was it something different, something unique, or something more powerful than ever with a touch of home?

My Review (3 / 5 Stars)

First impression? The author is very brave. This story just has that deeply authentic feel to it: I'm sure there's more than an element of truth in here!

It's billed as a romance, but it's properly a modern day tragedy, in the vein of some of Shakespeare's greatest works.

The story follows our hero, Rupert. Nothing ever seems to go right for poor Rupert. He loses his best friend, everybody around him keeps dying, and he struggles with self-harm. Okay, I made that sound quite comedic... although there's some humour in this book, it's not really meant to be a funny story at all. It's meant to be a gut-wrenching, depressing journey, and it certainly succeeds in that. Even me, a big strong man, felt tears welling up in my eyes more than once.

It's written in a very (very) contemporary British style, and there's lots of slang that I had to read a few times to figure out. That in itself is not a problem - it's actually quite charming, but overall the writing's in serious need of some copy-editing. There are lots of incorrectly used words, missing words, duplicate words, and punctuation problems.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this book, as such, because it is so depressing and out of the ordinary for modern readers, but it will definitely touch you deeply. If you've been looking for something different, and love Shakespeare's tragedies, give it a go.

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

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What Does the Big Mac Index Have to do with E-Books?

If you don't know, the Big Mac Index is an attempt by some pretty smart economists to come up with a realistic estimate of purchasing parity, that you can't get by looking at official currency exchange rates.

In a nutshell, it compares the average price of a McDonald's Big Mac burger (which is available in pretty much every country in the world) in different countries, and uses that to try and figure out how much each currency is worth. If you know how many Big Macs you can buy with $1 in the United States, and how many Big Macs you can buy with R1 in South Africa, you in theory know how much your Rand is really worth in America.

According to official currency exchange rates, the dollar is worth just less than R14 in South Africa, but I recently read an article, saying that according the Big Mac Index, it should be worth more like R5.

That got me thinking: because of the nature of indie publishing, the base price of all my books tends to be in US Dollars, but when you convert that to Rands, it makes those books very expensive. And since I am, in fact, a South African author, that's not fair. So I decided to do something about that.

Out of all the stores where my books are available, only two of them allow me to directly set the price in South African Rands. I went and worked out what the Dollar price would be in Rands, if I used the Big Mac Index, and of course it's significantly lower than it would be if you used the official exchange rate.

Take a look for yourself, if you're in South Africa. Click each link below, then scroll down and click "See Stores" to see the list of stores where each book is available. Then click either Kobo or Google Play (the only two stores which allow me to directly set the price in Rands). Pretty cheap, huh?

I didn't just do it for South Africa, of course, so if you're in any other country besides the United States, you should notice the lower prices too. You just need to click on a store that has an official presence in your country.

So what this means in practice is that, on Kobo or Google Play, all books except Stingers cost only R9.99 (Stingers costs R10.59).

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Stingers Will Be a High School Set Work

I have some news that I've been bursting to share. I've been holding back for a few months now, because it hasn't been confirmed yet.

Now, I can finally talk about it.

I am ecstatic to announce that my book, Stingers, is going to be a set work for the Grade 9 English class at Bracken High School in Alberton, South Africa, next term!

To have something I wrote studied, interpreted, and picked apart by students is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to my writing career. It's scary too, to be honest, and I hope I get to hear what the kids thought.

Let me explain briefly how this came about. My brother's girlfriend is a teacher at the school, and she read Stingers as an e-book around the end of 2015. She absolutely loved it, and immediately ordered a print copy for their school library.

Since then, she's strong-armed most of the faculty at the school into reading it, and they've all been very impressed. So last year, when it came time for them to choose set works for 2017, one of their choices was Stingers.

Apparently, the education department has a requirement that all South African schools focus more on books by South African authors and, well, I'm a South African author, and I was top of mind.

Besides, Stingers is about what happens when High School bullying goes too far, and what could be more relevant? In fact, it fits well with the subjects of both English and Life Orientation (both of which are required subjects in Grade 9).

I'll definitely post more when they start next term, and I hopefully get to find out how it's going.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Book Review: What Fears Become (An Anthology from The Horror Zine)

About the Book

From classic horror and pure suspense to Twilight-Zone-style dark fantasy, WHAT FEARS BECOME relentlessly explores our basic fears and leaves you with twisted endings that will make your skin crawl…

This spine-tingling, international anthology contains contributions from the critically acclaimed online horror magazine, The Horror Zine, and features bestselling authors such as Bentley Little, Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie, Ronald Malfi, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Melanie Tem, Scott Nicholson, Piers Anthony, Conrad Williams, and many more.

Edited by Jeani Rector of The Horror Zine and featuring a foreword by award-winning, bestselling author Simon Clark, it also contains deliciously dark delights from morbidly creative writers, poets and artists who have not yet made it big―but will very soon.

Come and discover…


My Review (3 / 5 stars)

Like most anthologies, this one's a bit of a mixed bag.

Some of the stories were scary as hell (I especially remember the one about the Ouija board). Others, I didn't find particularly scary, but I thought the stories were excellent, just the same. I think they weren't scary for me because I'm so desensitised to horror; I'm sure many of them would give other readers nightmares.

Still other stories - there are LOTS to choose from in this collection - were kind of... "meh". I remember commenting to my wife that, strangely, most of the stories I didn't quite like were from highly prolific, multi-award winning authors. That made me think that the big dinosaurs have had their day, and it's time for young blood in horror fiction.

The artwork is both scattered throughout the stories themselves, and contained in an entire section all of their own. And some of it is spectacular!

On to the poetry. Hmm.... Well, let me say, that I just don't "get" poetry. I read a few of them, but I only really enjoyed the ones that rhymed. And not all of those, either. After that, I skipped to the end of that section. I DID try, but I don't think I'm equipped to appreciate all the nuances, and I don't understand the rules. So my impression of the poems in this anthology hasn't factored into my rating; it just wouldn't be fair. Still, if you love the art form, you'll probably appreciate at least some of them.

The stories, though, are all well edited, and lovingly collected. If you like horror, and you like short stories, I'd say pick it up. The stories you do enjoy will probably outweigh the ones you don't.

Click here for a list of places you can buy the book.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Things you were taught at school that are wrong

I recently came across this article on the interwebs, talking about the things you learned about writing and the English language, which are actually just plain wrong.

These things included:

  1. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction
  2. You can’t end a sentence with a preposition
  3. Put a comma when you need to take a breath
  4. To make your writing more descriptive, use more adjectives

Forgive me if you weren't taught these things. Maybe it's a South African thing, but I remember learning every one of them. And they are, in fact, just plain wrong.

The reason why I say they're wrong is this: There are no "rules" in the English language. There are what you might call "guidelines", yes, but no rules. This is because English is and has always been constantly evolving, and (unlike, say, French) there is no official body governing its usage.

You should probably start sentences with conjunctions, end them with prepositions, and use adverbs sparingly, because of the images they conjure up in a reader's mind. But in my books, I've done all of those things and more.

Remember, writing (particularly fiction, but to a lesser extent, any kind of writing) is all about making the reader feel something, so if there were any "rules" in English, I would say those rules are all about thinking carefully about the reader's expectations of what is "correct", and the emotion you want to create in the reader's mind.

"No rules in English, you say? Tell that to thesis moderators!"

Well, let me elaborate a bit on that "rule":

When you're writing for an audience, it's important to think carefully about that audience's expectations. If you give them something blatantly contrary to their expectations of what is "correct", your actual message will be lost on them - which in the case of a thesis or other academic paper, may result in a fail, and in the case of a work of fiction, may result in a negative review or even a refund.

Unless you're deliberately trying to be ironic. But if that's the case, you need to make sure it's clear that's what you're doing (without actually saying so, of course - it's an art). And bear in mind, humour is difficult to convey and many people just don't "get" irony under any circumstances.

What do you think? Did you get taught any of these "rules" when you were in school? What other ones can you think of?

"Don't split infinitives" comes to mind, too. I remember hearing that one, years ago, and it used to be quite popular. I haven't heard it in a while, though - Stars Trek broke it, to spectacular effect; I think that's many of its proponents up!

I'm sure similar things will happen to all the other rules on this list, given a few years/decades....

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Day Job Beckons

As you may or may not know, the vast majority of authors also work day jobs, sometimes completely unrelated to the world of writing and literature. In my case, I'm a computer programmer.

That doesn't mean our books aren't just as good as the likes of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or James Patterson; it just means we haven't yet reached the level of critical acclaim that those literary rock stars have.

Anyway, since I didn't win the Lotto in December, and didn't make enough in book sales to cover a year's salary (if you'd like to help with the latter, by the way, feel free to buy a book), it was back to the grind for me on Monday.

I must say, I'm kind of looking forward to it. I've been gone for three weeks, and although I've received a couple of e-mails and phone calls from clients in that time, I'm keen to go see if the place is still standing. There are also plenty of new challenges and lots of new code to write.

What about you? Are you back at work yet after the December break? Or did you even have a December break (my wife didn't - she worked right through, only taking weekends and public holidays off).

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

What Did You Get for Christmas?

First off, a very happy New Year to you! I truly hope 2017 brings you everything you hope it will, and that for you, it will be a good year.

Wow, an author's life, hey?

I got quite a few Christmas presents from friends and family last week, and what's the one I'm most excited about?

Business cards and branded glasses/screen cleaning cloths from my wife. Now I feel like a professional business man!

You better believe I'm going to be handing out these cards now, in spades. And the cloths too, any time I see someone wearing glasses or carrying a tablet.

What did you get for Christmas?