Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book Review)

I really enjoyed this.

As science fiction goes, the world is truly compelling. On the one hand, it's post-apocalyptic, but on the other, it's a bit of a utopia.

World War IV happened a long time ago, and almost destroyed the world. That's the apocalypse part. What came out of that war was a treaty that saw all the countries of the world consolidated into less than ten, mostly based around continents, so you have the African Union, Europe, the Americas, and something called The Commonwealth.

This story is set in New Beijing, a massive city-state that's part of The Commonwealth. Technology has progressed to the point where humans can be cybernetically enhanced, everyone flies around in hovers, and intelligent androids, able to show emotion, are commonplace.

Now for the bad news. There's this worldwide plague, you see, with no cure, and a 100% mortality rate. If you contract it, you die. Within days. Scientists all over the world are racing against time to find a cure, while every day thousands of people are dying. It's a losing battle.

Enter Cinder, a teenage cyborg who runs a small mechanic's shop, repairing androids, portscreens (pretty much tablet PCs), and other miscellaneous electronics. She has an evil stepmother and stepsister, and a prince invites her to a ball.

This story is VERY loosely based on the Cinderella fairy-tale, but if you didn't know that, and I hadn't pointed it out to you, you might miss it. The fairy tale served as inspiration for the author, but that's where it ends. It ends up going in an entirely different direction.

There's some romance here, but not very much (less than I expected, anyway), and you're sure to enjoy it even if you're not a fan of love stories.

The one thing that bugs me is that this book is billed as Young Adult. I think the only thing that technically makes it YA is the age of the protagonist. But it doesn't take place in a high school or anything, nor do any of the characters face typical teenager-type problems, nor do they behave like teenagers would be expected to behave.

No, this is quite clearly an adult book, and it deals with some pretty adult themes. Having said that, I should point out that it's a WHOLESOME adult book. There's not a single swear word to be found, nor even any blasphemy. Which is refreshing, because blasphemy is often what stops me from giving a book 5-stars.

Editing-wise, there's the odd typo here and there, but it's very well polished, and none of them detracted in any way from the story.

If you like science fiction, and you like a good family-friendly read, I don't doubt for one minute that you'll enjoy this book!

(My rating: 5 / 5 Stars)

Click here to see all the places where the book is available.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

How I (More Than) Doubled My Newsletter Subscribers on Instafreebie

I'd been hearing lots of things over the years about Instafreebie, as a tool for authors to use to boost their mailing list, but all I knew about it was that it came with a monthly fee. I didn't think I'd be able to afford it, and didn't really have the time.

In June 2017, however, I embarked on a drive to get more e-mail subscribers, so I thought "What the hell?" and signed up for Instafreebie's free plan.

Their free plan doesn't allow you to collect e-mail addresses, so I just put up my perma-free book (Billy's Zombie), to see what happens.

Within a week, with zero marketing on my part, that book had garnered 40 free downloads. What a shame I didn't have access to any of those e-mail addresses.

I signed up for the 30-day trial of their paid service (which normally costs $20 a month), set up Mailchimp integration, and offered a free copy of my first short story, A Petition to Magic. The rest is history.

Okay, so how many subscribers are we talking here?

A lot of the time, when authors talk about growing their mailing lists, these are authors who already had thousands (or tens of thousands) of subscribers, and their advice has limited application to the rest of us.

Well, I'm not one of those authors, so in the interest of full disclosure, I'm going to share my exact figures with you.

At the end of May 2017, before I started any of this, I sent out my monthly e-mail newsletter to 50 subscribers. Early in June, I signed up for Instafreebie, and didn't do any marketing of my giveaways for the whole month. I sent out my June newsletter to 67 subscribers. 17 subscribers from Instafreebie in just less than a month. With zero marketing.

When it all blew up

I started looking around for ways to promote my giveaway, and everybody said that to really start seeing benefit, I needed to participate in group giveaways with other authors.

Instafreebie has a "Forum" section, where authors post giveaways, and invite other authors to participate by sharing links to blog posts. In return, the host author includes the other authors' books.

That sounded like a good plan, but I couldn't find any group giveaways that were suitable for my target audience (readers of multi-genre short stories). So, like any enterprising author would do, I started my own.

On 7 June 2017, I posted on the Instafreebie Forum, asking if anyone was interested in doing short story giveaways, in any genre. The giveaway would "officially" run from 27 June 2017 (the day my June newsletter was scheduled to go out), and end on 7 July - the day my 30-day trial with Instafreebie was set to expire.

The deal was, that I would write a blog post, where I'd share the giveaway links to all the participating books. I'd e-mail a link to that post to all my subscribers, and share it on my social media channels. All the other participating authors would do the same.

The results

I got ten authors to participate in my giveaway, wrote the blog post (you can see it here), and sent it out. Then I posted the link to that post to the forum, and asked everyone to share it wherever they could.

Two days later, my list had swelled to 77 subscribers. But of course, I wanted more.

I e-mailed Instafreebie to ask if they'd be willing to promote my giveaway to their mailing list of several thousand subscribers. They said yes!

Instafreebie's e-mail went out on Friday, 30 June 2017, and during the course of that weekend, I got so many subscribers that I was actually afraid I'd exceed the 2 000 subscriber limit of my Mailchimp Forever Free plan!

As at 11 July 2017, I now have 141 subscribers on my e-mail list. That's more than double the number I had when I sent out my June newsletter, and almost three times the number I had at the end of May.

What's more, that blog post has now been viewed over 2 500 times, and I've earned around R25 (~$1.87) in Google Adsense income from people viewing and clicking on the third-party ads. That's nothing to sneeze at, for a little author like me.

Don't some people unsubscribe as soon as you mail them?

Well, I was warned that that might happen. I have a long automation process set up in Mailchimp, and I must admit I've seen a few Instafreebie subscribers unsubscribe as soon as they get their first mail. Not many, though: maybe 15% of them.

Instafreebie tells me that A Petition to Magic has been claimed 89 times, and my list has grown by 74 since starting the group giveaway. So I lost 15 subscribers. You do the maths.

I obviously still need to find out how many subscribers I lose when I send out my July newsletter at the end of the month, but it looks promising!

In conclusion, Instafreebie works. And works well. Even for those of us with tiny lists. But in order to take full advantage of it, you need a Mailchimp account, and you need things to send to your subscribers. If you're an author with a mailing list, and you're looking to grow it, give Instafreebie a try. You also need to participate in the community, though. Take part in group giveaways, like I did, and don't forget to pop Instafreebie a mail to ask them to help promote for you.

Get $30 in Mailchimp Credit

If you don't yet have a Mailchimp account, click here to sign-up. If you subsequently become a paying customer, you'll get $30 in credit, but only if you use that link.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is On

It may be the middle of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere (and freezing cold, I might add), but it's the opposite in the North. Just last week, I saw some of my British friends complaining on Facebook about a heatwave.

Each year, Smashwords celebrates these polar opposites by making thousands of books available in their Summer/Winter sale, which is now in its ninth year.

Please support them by checking out the catalogue of all books on sale, which is open from 1 July and runs right up until the end of the month.

They have loads of books on sale, from 25% all the way to 100% off. Click here, or the banner above, to see the catalogue.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Short Story MEGA Giveaway

Who wants free short stories? Well, you've come to the right place. Welcome to the short story MEGA giveaway!

Simply click on one of these book covers, follow the instructions, and claim your free book. It's that simple.

These giveaways run from now until 7 July. Some of them may still be active after that date, but that's when this promotion "officially" ends. Also, some of them might require that you sign up for the authors' mailing lists, and others may not. It's a mixed bag. Take your chances. :-)

In case you can't make out the covers, these are the books that we're giving away:

  • A Petition to Magic, by Graham Downs
  • An African Soccer Story, by Evadeen Brickwood
  • Environmentally Friendly, by Elias Zanbaka
  • One Mississippi... Two Mississippi, by Duane Lindsay
  • Lassiter, by J.T. Dusky
  • Nefarious: Volume One, by Lucille Moncrief
  • Honor the Suffering, by Lucille Moncrief
  • Changeling Fog, by Nicola McDonagh
  • From Beyond Comics: Primer
  • The Seven O'Clock Man, by Kate Heartfield
  • No Option to Fail, by N. R. Hairston

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Buddy Ads - Support Your Local Communities

I discovered something over the weekend. Well, actually, I've known for some time, but I only bothered to take the time to investigate this weekend.

My church distributes a monthly "classifieds" pamphlet at all its services. The pamphlet is put together by an organisation called Buddy Adverts, and my church isn't the only church it gets distributed to.

I decided to go take a look at what it costs to advertise, because as a local author in the community, I thought it'd be a good fit.

It costs R50 ($3.91) a month for a text-only classified ad. The ad runs for the whole month, gets distributed to the congregants of all the participating churches, and is visible on the Buddy Adverts website. Plus, you never pay more than R400 (~$31), so if you book for a whole year, you basically get four months free.

I think that's a fantastic deal, plus, it makes me feel good to support the church and my community.

I took out an ad for July 2017. If it goes well, I'll be renewing it. Here's my ad:

Heading: Local Independent Author
Body Text: Independent author from Alberton. Colouring books and fiction in various genres. E-books and paperbacks available.
Contact Info: Visit www.grahamdowns.co.za or e-mail graham@grahamdowns.co.za

The churches they distribute to are:

  • Brackenhurst Methodist
  • Alberton Methodist
  • Brackendowns Baptist
  • St Paul's United
  • The Bush Church
Obviously, Buddy Adverts won't be suitable for everyone because you may not fall inside that community. But the point is that, as small business owners desperately looking to advertise, you shouldn't discount these local community-driven opportunities.

What about you? Do you have a small business, and if so, have you ever considered advertising in a community-driven publication?

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Instafreebie, anyone?

You may have gathered from last week's post that I'm on a mission to grow my mailing list subscriber base.

To that end, I've just discovered Instafreebie. It's pretty cool - as an author, I load my books, set up a giveaway, and share it with readers (Instafreebie does some of their own promotion, too).

Readers then enter their first name, last name, and e-mail address, and select their preferred book format - the site offers a choice between epub, mobi, or PDF. Instafreebie then sends them the book in the format they chose.

It seems really slick. I downloaded my own book, and now I'm on their mailing list, so every day they send me links to other giveaways I might be interested in.

When you set up your giveaway, you can choose whether or not readers are required to opt-in to your mailing list in order to get their free book. Then, they give you a list of the e-mail addresses of everyone who opted in, and you can also optionally integrate with Mailchimp.

But there's a catch... Isn't there always? You see, there free plan doesn't let you allow readers to opt-in, and therefore doesn't give you access to the e-mail addresses. For that, you have to pay at least $20 a month.

I signed up for a 30-day trial anyway, and added two of my books: Billy's Zombie and A Petition to Magic. Billy's Zombie doesn't require people to opt-in to my mailing list, but A Petition to Magic does.

I signed up on Friday, and I have to admit, I've been very impressed. Having done almost zero marketing of those giveaways so far, I've already picked up a few subscribers! What's more, some of those subscribers even came from Billy's Zombie, where you'll remember, readers don't even have to give me their e-mail addresses if they don't want to.

If it continues like this, with me getting a couple of sign-ups a day, I might even be tempted to continue with $20 a month after my trial expires.

Authors, Wanna Try?

If you're an author interested in growing your mailing list, are you on Instafreebie yet? If not, and you'd like to give it a try, click here.

That's an affiliate link, by the way. If you click through and sign up, and end up taking a paid plan, I get credit that I can use towards my own plans. So if you're considering it, please use that link instead of any other.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Shadows And Teeth: Ten Terrifying Tales Of Horror And Suspense (Book Review)

My Review

This is a wonderful collection of strange stories, with a variety of different themes, by a variety of different authors. While none of them scared me per se, some of them really freaked me out.

I particularly enjoyed the Pied Piper story, about a championship eater (of all things) with a chip on his shoulder. Spawn stuck with me as well, but only because it was just plain weird.

Other stories were less memorable, as is often the case with collections like this. I had to look back at the table of contents to remember what some of them were, so here's a really quick synopsis of each:

Water, Ice, And Vice by Antonio Simon Jr.: A geeky guy moves in with a jock, and discovers a magic wish-granting refrigerator in their new apartment. I never really got into this one.

The Dinner Party by Trevor Boelter: Interesting concept. It starts out with a woman preparing food in the kitchen while dinner guests get slowly sloshed in the lounge. There's a pretty cool twist that made me sit bolt upright and pay attention, but until the twist happened, I was pretty bored.

Routine by Mia Bravo: I actually really enjoyed this one, but forgot all about it by the time I reached the end. It's very weird, about a guy plagued by weird nightmarish creatures.

The Final Spell by Mark Meier: This story grabbed my attention early on, because of its uniqueness. The entire story is written in the second person, which is very rare, and very difficult to pull off. It's about a wizard relating the story of how he taught the reader magic. I liked the moral at the end.

Back Through The Mist by J.S. Watts: It was... okay, but battled to hold my attention. It's basically a British murder mystery with a paranormal twist and links to ancient Roman mythology. If you enjoy that type of thing, you'll probably like it, but it wasn't my cup of tea.

Spawn by Paige Reiring: Some people have emotions so strong that they're able to create magical creatures known as "Spawn". One such person is an assassin who uses her Spawn to help her ply her trade.

The Pied Piper's Appetite by Rich Phelan: This is the one I mentioned earlier. I can't say too much about it without spoiling it, but you'll love it. The price of the book might even be worth it for this story alone!

Riana In the Gray Dusk by Viktoria Faust: The memoir of a photographer who had a weird encounter with a woman years ago. It's the shortest of the bunch, and while I thought it had potential, it didn't really go anywhere for me.

The Autobiography of An Unsuccessful Author by Brittany Gonzalez: Am I the only author who gets drawn to stories about authors? This one's not bad; it's about a has-been author who tries his hand at a completely different genre. In his case, horror. Weird things ensue.

Crying by Darren Worrow: Oddly enough, I'd just read this story a few weeks before, as a standalone. It's about a guy reminiscing about his childhood, specifically about an old painting that he and his gran used to look at. He discovers some weird things about the painting's history. Generally speaking, Worrow's a comedy writer, not a horror one, so there are elements of comedy in here. It's still pretty deep, though, and makes you think.

So that's it. Some good, some bad... but more good than bad. If you're into weird things, I think these stories are definitely worth a read.

My rating: 4 / 5 stars

About the Book

Prepare for extreme horror. You have in your hands the first volume in our award-winning series. This unique collection of ten stories features a range of international talent: award-winning authors, masters of horror, rising stars, and fresh new voices in the genre. Take care as you reach into these dark places, for the things here bite, and you may withdraw a hand short of a few fingers.

Water, Ice, And Vice, by Antonio Simon, Jr.
– Jeremy's new apartment harbors a demonic wish-granting fridge, which he uses to exact bloody vengeance on his obnoxious roommate.

The Dinner Party, by Trevor Boelter
– A dinner party devolves into a massacre when the blood flows as freely as the wine.

Routine, by Mia Bravo
– Edward's life is neat and orderly, just the way he likes it. It doesn't stay that way for long once bizarre apparitions threaten to end his life, and worse – break his daily routine.

The Final Spell, by Mark Meier
– Ken, a modern-day wizard, risks life and liberty in pursuit of the ultimate magick. How far will he go to obtain limitless power?

Back Through The Mist, by J.S. Watts
– Police Sergeant Comberton's investigation of a baffling murder strains her resolve to its breaking point. When the enquiry takes an otherworldly turn, she questions whether the past holds the key to her future.

Spawn, by Paige Reiring
– Assassin-for-hire Alice's personality is so keen, it can kill. She'll need every edge she can get when the hunter becomes the hunted.

The Pied Piper's Appetite, by Rich Phelan
– A competitive eater leads a ghastly double life in pursuit of a gruesome personal crusade.

Riana In The Gray Dusk, by Viktoria Faust
– A hastily taken photograph leads to a shocking revelation and a rare glimpse at a singular individual.

The Autobiography Of An Unsuccessful Author, by Brittany Gonzalez
– A one-hit-wonder's search for inspiration blurs the line between reality and insanity, with horrifying results.

Crying, by Darren Worrow
– Vinny's research into an urban legend about a haunted painting reveals more about himself than he ever dared to ask.

Buy the Book

The e-book is available at a variety of online retailers. Click here to see them all.

If you're in South Africa and prefer paperbacks, you can get it from Loot for (at the time of this writing) R310.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

MailChimp Automation, Facebook Lead Ads, and Zapier


I use MailChimp for my e-mail marketing, but I have a confession to make: my subscriber numbers are nowhere near 2000, so I'm still on their free plan.

I love MailChimp, but the one thing I've always been missing is access to their incredibly powerful automation features. So, when they announced a couple of weeks ago that all subscribers would have access to their Automation function, I was ecstatic. Previously, it was only available for paid accounts, and with my abysmally low numbers, there was just no way I could justify paying for it.

The whole of last weekend, I spent building my automation workflows, and to be honest, I think I may just have gone overboard a little bit. Here's what happens when you sign up for my mailing list (after you get your final "Welcome" e-mail confirmation):

  1. Four days after signing up, I send you an e-mail, thanking you for signing up and asking if you've had a chance to download your free book yet. If you need any help downloading it, you can reply to that e-mail and I'll do my best to help you out. Then I ask if, once you're done with it, you would mind writing me a short review.
  2. Eight days after signing up, and depending on the free book you chose to receive when you signed up, I recommend that you might enjoy a different one:
    1. If you picked A Petition to Magic, then you might enjoy Tales From Virdura.
    2. If you picked Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash fiction, you might enjoy Billy's Zombie.
    3. If you picked Stingers, you might enjoy the anthology that Stingers originally appeared in, I am not Frazzle!
  3. When you sign up for my mailing list, one of the things you're offered is an invitation to our private Facebook Group, so twelve days after signing up, if you haven't yet joined the Facebook Group, I send you a reminder with the link to that group.
  4. Finally, sixteen days after signing up, I'll send you an e-mail letting you know that you can Like me on Facebook, or Follow me on Twitter.
This sounds a little convoluted and over-the-top, but I don't want a situation where you sign up in the beginning of a month, and then don't hear from me again for three weeks until my next monthly newsletter. This way, you'll get used to seeing my name in your inbox, so by the time you receive my regular newsletter, you won't have forgotten who I am. Besides, if you can make it through all those e-mails without unsubscribing, there's a good chance you'll stick around!

Facebook Lead Ads

Right, so now I had this beautiful workflow in place, it was time for some subscribers to test it. I've run Facebook Lead Ads before, and had moderate success.

I set up an ad, offering A Petition to Magic for free if people on Facebook clicked my ad and gave me their e-mail address. The ad targeted people between the ages of 21 and 35, living in South Africa, who like both e-books and short stories, and I spent R50 (around $3.90) on it.

The results were pretty... meh (resulting in fewer than five leads), but it was enough to test my MailChimp automatons. Plus, I learnt something....


Normally, when you run a Facebook Leads Ad, you get a CSV file at the end, with a list of people who took up your offer and their e-mail addresses, and you have to import them manually into your e-mail software.

But this time, as part of the Leads Ads wizard, I was offered the chance to sign up to Zapier, which automatically pushes new leads into MailChimp and sends them the link to download their free book.

I'd never heard of Zapier before, but what a pleasure! I woke up the morning after running my ad, logged into MailChimp, checked my List, and all the subscribers from my ad were sitting there waiting. They'd been sent the link to their free book, and were sitting in my workflow's automation queue. No importing required.

The only problem with all this is that I subsequently discovered that I'd signed up for a 14-day free trial at Zapier, and if I wanted to continue using that feature after my fourteen days were up, it would cost me $20 (about R250) a month. Yoh, but that's expensive! There's just... no way I can justify that cost.

They have a free plan as well, and Facebook Lead Ads aren't the only thing they integrate with. There are over 750 apps that Zapier can help automate, from sending tweets to Slack, to e-mailing you when people fill out Google Forms, and more.

Many of these apps can be used on the free plan, which gives you a hundred automations a month at no cost. Unfortunately, Facebook Lead Ads is a "Premium App", and premium apps are explicitly excluded from Zapier's free plan.

Oh well, that was good while it lasted. I guess it's back to importing CSV files and manually sending Welcome e-mails for me from now on... unless you nice people buy lots of books. :-)

So what do you think? If you run an online business, have you used the above combination of tools to automate your marketing? How did it go?

I'm also interested to hear from readers - have you ever given your e-mail address to an author from a Facebook Ad? Did you stick around, or unsubscribe as soon as you got your freebie?

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Authors' Newsletters: Private Facebook Groups

This post is a revisit of one I wrote a few months ago, Authors' Newsletters: What Makes You Sign Up?

In that article, I spoke about how difficult it was to persuade potential readers to sign up to my e-mail list, and how even the offer of a free book doesn't seem to be enough.

The topic came up a few weeks ago in an author's group, and someone said they'd had success with offering people the chance to be part of a private Facebook group.

I thought, "hey, that's not a bad idea!" and immediately set about creating one. So now, dear reader, I'd like to offer you the chance to get exclusive access to our private Facebook group, when you sign up for my newsletter.

I hope to turn it into a community where we discuss books, books, and more books. Let us know what your favourite genres are to read, ask for book recommendations, share reviews of books you've read, and just generally have a wonderful time.

If it does well, I may even consider contacting some indie authors I know to come and do Q&A sessions for us.

Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?

To join, all you have to do is head on over to https://www.grahamdowns.co.za/get-free-stuff.html, and fill out the form.

To close off, I'm going to ask the same question I asked in my original post: Do you, as a reader, subscribe to the e-mail lists of any authors? If so, what was it that made you sign up? Did you give them your e-mail address freely, or did they have to woo you with something?

Please let me know in the comments below.

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?