Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Why You Should Shop Around for EBooks


I mentioned two weeks ago on one of my readers' groups on Facebook, that I was shopping around for the best price on the ebook of Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three.

After checking Amazon and Kobo (Barnes & Noble doesn't sell ebooks in South Africa), I settled on Google Play Books, because it was significantly cheaper than both.

Two people commented on that Facebook post. The first said that she'd pay extra at Amazon, simply for the convenience. The other person said she had a physical Kindle, and was always on the lookout for good ebook deals elsewhere, but she asked what format Google Play Books were in. Unfortunately, they're in epub format, which Kindle can't read, but at least she said it wasn't a massive train-smash; just a minor inconvenience.

Now, this is one of the reasons why I believe Amazon's has severely damaged the ebook industry. There are basically two ebook formats in the world today: mobi, which is readable only by Kindles, and epub, which is readable by every other ereader and ereading app on the planet. Amazon's effectively locked everyone who's ever bought a Kindle into their service, by making it (practically) impossible for them to buy ebooks from anyone else.

But I digress. Personally, I don't own a physical ereader. I made a conscious decision not to buy one because I didn't want to be tied to any one retailer. I buy books from whichever store gives me the best deal. Take A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance. I've bought one of them from Amazon, two from Kobo, two from Google Play Books, and read the best from my local elibrary.

And then, of course, there's Smashwords. With Smashwords, you pay for your book with either credit card or PayPal, and then you can download it to your PC in whatever format it's available. The vast majority of them are available in epub format, then most of them are also available in mobi (for your Kindle), and a few are available as PDFs as well.

There are other formats available too, for people with older Sony-type e-readers, or who prefer reading in plain text or whatever, but in general, epub, mobi, and sometimes pdf are the "Big Two/Three".

They don't have their own e-reading software, because their motto is "Your ebook, your way" - their big philosophy is to allow you to read the book you want, on the device you want, in the environment you want.

Oh, and also further to that philosophy, all their books are DRM free. They don't allow authors to apply DRM to their books.

Which is, incidentally, the only downside (if you can call it a downside). On Smashwords, 99%+ of all the books are self-published (and yes, all mine are there too!). You'd be hard pressed to find any traditionally published books on Smashwords, because Smashwords doesn't allow DRM, and most traditional publishers insist on DRM.

So how about you? Are you locked into, or married to, a particular retailer when it comes to your ebook purchases, or are you free to shop around? Particularly if you don't live in the United States, Amazon's often far from the cheapest.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Book Review)

Now this is much more like it!

About a month ago, I read and reviewed The Gunslinger, the first volume in this series. It left me disappointed because it was disjointed and confusing; it told me quite a bit about who The Gunslinger was, but almost nothing about his quest, the object of his quest, or why he was seeking it.

If it had been written by any other author, I wouldn't have bothered, but the fact that "this is The King we're talking about here", and the fact that many members of a readers' group I belong to on Facebook urged me to not give up, persuaded me to give it another go. Besides, even though the first book struck me as nothing more than a teaser, it was still a tempting one!

Well, I'm glad I didn't give up. In his Afterword of this book, Stephen King shares how he thinks that this book is a more "complete story" than the previous volume. I have to agree: it has a coherent beginning, middle, and end, and stuff actually happens to carry the story and characters forward.

Also, in his introduction, Mr King gives a short synopsis of what happens in the first book. And I'm glad of that, because that synopsis actually explained and clarified a few things I was confused about while reading said volume in the first place.

I have a few reasons, though, for not bumping this review up to five stars (although they're not severe enough to bring it down to three):

In the first place, there was a formatting/editing issue in the Google Play edition I read. The convention in this book is to put the characters' thoughts in italics. But in this book, I often found that the italics didn't go away when the thought was over. So, for example, you'd get something like "I'm hungry, he thought." where that entire sentence (including the words "he thought") are in italics. It's inconsistent, of course, so some of them are just fine.

The other two are plot related. The first of these comes in part three (The Pusher). At the beginning of that part, the story sets the stage by relating to some previous events, so you get the distinct impression that it's taking place somewhere in the early '60s. But later, the author remarks that one of the characters keeled over of a heart attack nine years later, while watching The Terminator in the cinema.

Maybe there's a perfectly logical explanation for that, which I either missed or didn't understand.

The second of the plot inconsistencies is also in that third part, but it's much simpler. A cop wakes up to find that his gun, holster, and gunbelt have been stolen. Later, he picks up another gun, and remarks how it won't fit in his holster, and so tucks it into the waistband of his pants. Umm... I thought he didn't HAVE his holster anymore?

Now, despite this formatting issue, and the above two plot inconsistencies, this is a fantastic story, definitely in line with what you've come to expect from the great Stephen King. And if you pick up an edition which contains that "Book 1 Synopsis", there's a good chance you'll be able to forego that embarrassment altogether and start the series from here!

Oh, there's one more thing I noticed. I remember when the Dark Tower movie came out, some racist commented on the YouTube trailer how it was a travesty that Idris Alba should play the lead because Stephen King never said The Gunslinger was black. This poor misguided soul promised to boycott every one of King's books from then on, because of it.

Having never read the books before at that time, my first thought was, "So? I doubt he ever said The Gunslinger WASN'T black."

Well, after reading this book, I have to say, "Hmm, okay, fair enough. He kinda does." The Gunslinger is white, and in fact, this volume makes a rather big deal of that fact, because a racist black woman who hates "honky mahfas" plays a significant part in this story.

I mentioned in my review of the first book that I couldn't help seeing Idris Alba. And so it was for the first 20-30% of the second book, too. Until the aforementioned became apparent. Now I have to re-imagine him all over again....

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

About the Book


Part II of an epic saga. Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into a different person living in New York. Through these doorways, Roland draws the companions who will assist him on his quest to save the Dark Tower. 

Click the cover above to find out where you can buy the ebook.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Hang Out With the Author - Questions & Answers

Remember that "Hang out with the author" event I spoke about last month? The one where you could win a R500 Loot voucher? Well, it happened on Sunday, and I thought it was a roaring success.

I got asked a bunch of questions. You might be interested in hearing about them:

I have a question! Any other books in the pipeline?

Yes there is, actually. But it's early days. I'm working on a sword-and-sorcery story, that I'm hoping to get to novel length (but it might end up being long novella instead, like Memoirs of a Guardian Angel).

It doesn't have a title yet, but the world it's set in actually the inside of a giant cylinder.

The question all authors hate...name your top three books of all time!

I have two, right off the top of my head:

The first is The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr Seuss. My mom read and re-read that book to me until it was falling apart, and when I got old enough to read myself, I must have read it ANOTHER couple of thousand times. ;)

The second is IT by Stephen King. It is LONG, but there's just so much depth to the world and characters, that it's one of the few books I've ever read, where I honestly got lost for hours at a time, and forgot I was reading a book.

I honestly can't think of another single book. I really enjoyed all The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton when I was in Primary School, and when I was in High School, I discovered Gamebooks, and my all-time favourites were the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever.

What made you start writing, and when did you?

I've always loved telling stories. In Primary School I was always the guy who remembered and re-told long-winded jokes (I often got them wrong, but that's beside the point). ;)

Towards the end of High School, I discovered tabletop roleplaying, and went from AmeriCHAOS 1994, to Werewolf, to Dungeons & Dragons (various editions), to GURPS, back to D&D. Although I enjoyed playing as a character, I soon found that, more often than not, I got lumped with the job of being the Game Master, telling the stories that the characters would participate in.

I think I wrote my first actual story down in Standard 7 (1994, if my maths is correct). It was a Gamebook about a spy. I can't remember much about it--and the manuscript has thankfully been lost to eternity--but I do remember one scene quite vividly, where you as the main character had to follow a trail of stompies (yes, I actually did call them that!) to track down your prey. :D

The next time I wrote anything creative was quite late, in 2012. I had recently discovered ebooks, and a friend of mine on Twitter had just self-published his first book on Smashwords. I read it and thought, "Hey, I can DO this!"

And so A Petition to Magic was born. I had a dream one night, clear as anything, about a wizard standing in his lab, surrounded by flasks and vials of various coloured liquids, and a giant spellbook spread out on the table in front of him. And that became the central scene in the story.

Does that answer your question? :P

And how are you enjoying the journey of being an author?

My favourite quote of all time is "I hate writing. I love having written."

That should tell you something. ;)

No, seriously, it can sometimes be stressful and frustrating, when the ideas just aren't coming. Other times, they flow out of me and it's the most amazing feeling in the world. Either way, there's no greater feeling than typing "The End" on a first draft.

And, unlike most authors, I think, I love re-reading and re-writing what I've written. As another quote famously put it, "You can't edit a blank page." ;)

I also really enjoy the business end. Tinkering with different marketing ideas, writing my monthly newsletter, talking with other people about what works and what doesn't... and I run my author business LIKE a business, with a set of books, and I report on my finances every month to my e-mail list. That kind of thing inspires me and keeps me going, and makes me feel like my fans are really a part of my journey... and I hope they feel like that, too. :)

When writing a book... do you have an overall idea of the whole story or do you start with an idea and see how it develops?

It's kind of a combination of the two. I don't do a formal outline, like many other authors, but I do tend to have an overarching idea of what's going to happen.

For A Petition to Magic, for example, the whole thing started with that ONE dream. When I woke up from that dream, I had no idea where that scene would fit. I didn't know the events leading up to it, or where the story would go from there. I didn't even know the wizard's NAME.

The more I thought about it, the more those things started falling into place in my mind. I don't think I started writing the book immediately; It was probably a couple of days before I felt comfortable enough to put the proverbial pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, heh). :)

All my other books have followed a similar process. Memoirs of a Guardian Angel didn't exactly come from a dream, but it DID come from a scene my wife told me, where she imagined a guardian angel sitting on top of a car careering down the highway. :D

Basically, I get an idea, and I pretty much just run with it. Even when I do have a basic idea of what's going to happen, that tends to change several times while I'm writing, so by the time I'm done, the ending is nothing like what I'd first imagined.

I guess that's one of the reasons why I take so long to write a book. I like to take my time, and I change my mind loads of times before I'm done.

So do you have some sort of a notebook to jot down ideas?

Honestly, no. I know everyone says writers should keep a journal, but I've never had the discipline for that.

I remember one time, reading something Stephen King said, and it kind of reminded me of my process. Paraphrased, it was something along the lines of how you shouldn't write down your ideas. The best books come from those ideas that just won't go away, and some of his bestselling books came to him that way: he would get an idea, but either dismiss it as stupid, or stick it in the back of his mind while he was busy with something else.

He'd end up forgetting most of them, but some of them would just keep asserting themselves. Sometimes for years and years, before he actually took the decision to WRITE those stories.

I have a couple of those, too. I've got plenty of ideas that I THOUGHT I probably should've written down, but didn't, and have since forgotten all the details. But there are others that I just keep remembering (the book I'm busy with now is an idea that first occurred to me at LEAST 15 years ago, but I didn't think I was mature enough to tell it back then).

It's weird how this process works. :)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated writing space?

I do. I'm really lucky to have a day-job where I work from home, so I have an office set up at home with a dedicated workspace. I also have a dedicated "work notebook", and my home machine is a desktop PC.

When work is done in the afternoon, I switch off my notebook and switch my keyboard, mouse, and monitor to my home PC. And that's when the writing begins! :D

Here's a photo of my writing space:


As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I can't remember wanting to be anything other than a computer programmer, and that, since probably Standard 1 (1988 if my maths serves me again ;) ).

Only back then, all I wanted to do was write games. I matured a little over the years, but never lost that overarching goal.

And guess what I am now? Yip, a computer programmer! :D

I love my job. But I love my writing career too. I'd never want to give either of them up.

What do you enjoy doing, aside from writing, reading and IT? Any hobbies?

We watch a lot of series on TV. In fact, we've just finished binging five seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I also still roleplay, and go to a monthly Dungeons & Dragons session.

I can see a new hobby maybe coming up in the near future; we're going on a cruise, and I want to play shuffleboard. I've ALWAYS wanted to play shuffleboard! :D


Got any questions that haven't been covered above? Pop them into the comments below, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

The 2019 Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Sale is now on

Every year around this time, e-book retailer Smashwords runs a massive sale, with thousands of e-books either free or deeply discounted.



This year, the event runs from 3 - 9 March 2019. Yip, that's right, it's on now, but you need to hurry, because it ends this Saturday.

Click the image above to view the sales page.

Also, as I do every year, my books will be enrolled. See below for prices, and click on the cover to visit the book's page at Smashwords:


$1.42

$0.99

$0.99

$0.00

$1.09

$0.99

$0.99

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

And Your Favourite Book of All Time is....

In December, I opened up nominations for your favourite book of all time. In January, the shortlist was out.

Well now, dear readers, the wait is finally over. I can officially announce that you have spoken, and your absolute favourite book of all time is....

That Hideous Strength

by C.S. Lewis


The third novel in the science-fiction trilogy by C.S. Lewis. This final story is set on Earth, and tells of a terrifying conspiracy against humanity.
The story surrounds Mark and Jane Studdock, a newly married couple. Mark is a Sociologist who is enticed to join an organisation called N.I.C.E. which aims to control all human life. His wife, meanwhile, has bizarre prophetic dreams about a decapitated scientist, Alcasan. As Mark is drawn inextricably into the sinister organisation, he discovers the truth of his wife’s dreams when he meets the literal head of Alcasan which is being kept alive by infusions of blood.
Jane seeks help concerning her dreams at a community called St Anne’s, where she meets their leader – Dr Ransom (the main character of the previous two titles in the trilogy). The story ends in a final spectacular scene at the N.I.C.E. headquarters where Merlin appears to confront the powers of Hell.
I must say, I've never heard of this book before, much less the series. But with a whopping 26 488 ratings on Goodreads, it can't be all bad. The series is officially going on my to-read shelf!

If you'd like to find out where you can get yourself a copy, click here.

Well, I think this initiative went well. How about you?

I'll see you in December for the next instalment.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Mind Games by B.B. Griffith (Book Review)

This is another great psychological mystery/thriller, featuring the guy who's fast becoming my favourite fictional psychologist, Dr Gordon Pope.

I enjoyed the story, and it's a fine continuation of the series, but in my opinion, it's just not as good as The Sleepwalkers. It just seemed very slow. It dragged along and I skimmed a lot, and stuff only really started happening around the 50% mark.

Like the first book, the editing was flawless, and I'll say again that what I like about this series is that the book can be read completely as a standalone. You need to know very little about what happened last time, and what little you do need to know is explained to you, when you need to know it.

What's more, I don't think you'd miss out on anything at all if you happened to read this book first, and then moved on to Book One afterwards.

I hope Mr Griffith writes more Gordon Pope, and just so I don't miss it, I even signed up for his New Release Mailing List. I never sign up for other authors' mailing lists!

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

About the Book



A deadly game of hide and seek with an imaginary friend. 
A wealthy family with secrets they'll do anything to protect. 
Another day on the job for Gordon Pope.

When Sophie West was a child she used to play hide and seek with her imaginary friend Mo. Now she's thirteen and Mo's games are getting more and more dangerous. She knows he's make-believe, but somehow he seems more real every day.

Sophie's mom, Dianne, doesn't know where to turn for help. Someone is starting fires in their exclusive Baltimore neighborhood, and she's terrified it might be Sophie. Desperate, she calls the only person she can think of that might be able to help.

Gordon Pope is still trying to get his fledgling child psychiatry practice off the ground. When he answers Dianne's call, he thinks he's simply taking on another troubled young patient. What he doesn't realize is that he's about to find out just how deadly Mo's games really are.

To find out where you can get your hands on a copy, click the cover image above.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Want to win a R500 Loot voucher?

I'm so excited! On Sunday, 10 March, I'll be hosting an online "Hang out with the author" session on The Secret Book Club Facebook group.

Not only that, but I've secured a sponsor.

That's right - I'll be giving away a R500 Loot voucher on the day, to use for whatever you want from their amazing range of books, electronics, games, and other goodies.


If you want to know how you can win, you'll just have to attend the event on the day. :-)

Just click the picture above to visit the group. If you're not already a member, click "Join Group" and answer their questions. Wait for your request to be approved.

Once approved, go back to the group, and click on Events. Scroll down to my "Hang out with the author" event, and click "Going".

Then, be on Facebook on the day!

Not in South Africa?

If you're not in South Africa, or you'd much rather buy e-books, fear not! I'll also be giving away a gift voucher for the e-book store of your choice, as well as digital copies of my books. I know you don't want to miss this.

But listen here: do it now, right? So it goes in your calendar, and you don't forget. Follow the instructions above and join the event.

Hope to see you there! And pop me a comment in the form below, to let me know if you're going. I'd love to hear from you!



Saturday, 16 February 2019

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (Book Review)

This is truly a Hallmark Channel drama. To be honest, it was a bit different than I expected too; I thought there'd be at least some paranormal stuff going on. But no, it's just a straight, run-of-the-mill mystery drama).

Not that that's a bad thing. I mean, I enjoyed it. It was a good story. There were only a couple of things that gave me pause.

In the first place, the title didn't really make sense to me (other than the fact that every time I picked up the book to read, the song started playing in my head). There's only one reference to the song in the whole book, and it's very much an aside. I thought it could've been emphasised a bit more.

Secondly, the ending. About two-thirds of the way in, I thought I had it figured out. I hoped I was wrong, though, because I thought if I was right, it would be pretty weak. Unfortunately, I was right, and it just didn't make sense. I just didn't buy the culprit being who they turned out to be, based on what I'd learnt about them and their character for the rest of the book. Unless they're schizophrenic or something. But the book gave no indication that they were.

There were other plot twists, though, which I didn't see coming, and which I really enjoyed.

If you like an old-fashioned mystery-drama, with a feel-good emphasis on the nuclear family, I still think this would be a good book for you.

About the Book



An addictive novel of psychological suspense from the award-winning author of Night Night, Sleep Tight, about three generations of women haunted by a little girl’s disappearance, and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to the truth . . .

Seven-year-old Lissie Woodham and her four-year-old sister Janey were playing with their porcelain dolls in the front yard when an adorable puppy scampered by. Eager to pet the pretty dog, Lissie chased after the pup as it ran down the street. When she returned to the yard, Janey’s precious doll was gone . . . and so was Janey.

Forty years after Janey went missing, Lis—now a mother with a college-age daughter of her own—still blames herself for what happened. Every year on the anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places a classified ad in the local paper with a picture of the toy Janey had with her that day—a one-of-a-kind porcelain doll—offering a generous cash reward for its return. For years, there’s been no response. But this year, the doll came home.

It is the first clue in a decades-old mystery that is about to turn into something far more sinister—endangering Lis and the lives of her mother and daughter as well. Someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and is desperate to keep it hidden.

Click the cover to find out where you can get a copy.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Want a Free Romance for Valentine's Week?



So, since it is the month of LUURVE, and Thursday is the day of LUURVE, how about a free copy of my (somewhat) romantic story, Heritage of Deceit?

Here's the deal: the first 10 people to follow the instructions below and use the coupon code get a free copy.

Ain't I nice? :-)

You'd better hurry, though. Those ten copies will probably go fast!



Oh, and ff you've already read it, why not use this offer to gift it to a friend, so they can enjoy it, too? :-)

Here's How to Get Your Copy


  1. Click the image above to visit the book's page at Smashwords.
  2. Click Buy Now or Give as a Gift, as appropriate.
  3. If you don't have an account, you'll be prompted to create one (it's free).
  4. When asked for the coupon code, enter AR89Y, and click Apply Coupon. The price will be reduced from $0.99 to $0.00.
  5. If this is a gift, enter the e-mail address and name of the person you're gifting it to.
  6. Click Checkout. You will not be asked for payment information unless you've also added other books to your basket.

You're welcome, and enjoy the book!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited





Many readers swear by Kindle Unlimited, and on the surface, it's a great deal, if you can get it.

For those who don't know, you pay Amazon a monthly fee (of $9.99, at the time of this writing), and you get to read as many books as you want from their selection.

But the service isn't without its pitfalls and disadvantages. Did you know, for example, that the service isn't available in many countries around the world? And the list of countries where it is available is quite limited: unless you happen to be in the United States, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, or Australia, you're out of luck. That's a significant portion of the planet left out in the cold.

Secondly, not all books available on Amazon are available to read on Kindle Unlimited. That's because, in order to make a book available to the program, Amazon requires authors to sign an agreement promising to not sell their books anywhere else. No Kobo, no Smashwords, no Google Play Books... not even their own website! As you can imagine, many authors simply aren't prepared to cut out all those non-Amazon shoppers. Not to mention libraries (which are also not allowed); if you live in a country where Amazon's not available, or you can't afford to buy your books, sorry. That's the price we pay, to make our books available in Kindle Unlimited.

And Kindle Unlimited isn't the cheapest service offering unlimited reading, either. 

See below for three other great subscription reading services, cheaper and with a wider selection. 

Remember, because of the exclusivity clause, you're not going to find any books on these platforms, which are also available on Kindle Unlimited. So if you'd very much like to not be a part of locking a significant portion of the world's population out of great books, you might want to consider going with one of these services instead.

Scribd

This is my favourite out of the three. They launched their unlimited reading service way back in October 2013, so their offering actually predates Kindle Unlimited by almost a year (the latter having only launched in July 2014).

The service costs $8.99, and they offer a 1-month free trial. But if you use this affiliate link to sign up, they'll give you two months free instead.

You also might be interested to note that all of my books are available there, so once you've signed up, search for Graham Downs and start reading! :-)

 


24Symbols

I've only recently been exposed to 24Symbols, and don't know that much about them, to be honest. They also cost $8.99 per month, but I'm unsure whether they offer a free trial. They claim to have over 1 million books in their catalogue, though, and you can browse and search their entire library without signing in.

At the time of this writing, the only one of my books available on 24Symbols is Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, but I'm working on getting my entire backlist up, so check back in a few weeks.

 


Playster

This is the most confusing offering I've found, and I know very little about them. They seem to be a bit of a "new kid" (although I stand to be corrected), and offer various plans for not just books, but movies and TV shows too. Their unlimited ebooks plan is only $1.50 per month, though, which is by far the cheapest of the four offerings!

They may be worth a look, though. Similar to 24Symbols, only Memoirs of a Guardian Angel's available right now, but the rest will be coming online soon.


 

So what about you? Do you already subscribe to one of these services, or maybe one I haven't mentioned here?

Or are you a Kindle Unlimited subscriber who's now considering switching? Or maybe, after reading this, you've decided to sign up for Kindle Unlimited?

I'd love to engage with you. Please pop me a comment in the box below, and let's get this conversation started.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Sabbath Wine by Barbara Krasnoff (Book Review)



This is a pretty good story. In the beginning, I remember thinking that it's decent, but nowhere near good enough to justify its position as a Nebula Award finalist. At one point, a character is reading a newspaper, and a bit further down, someone interrupts him, and the narrative says he doesn't take his eyes off his book. That's a simple error, easily caught by a proofread.

But like all good short stories, there's a twist at the end. And, while I think a lot of the book up to that point had been somewhat predictable, that twist made all the difference for me. Wow, what an ending!

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars


“My name’s Malka Hirsch,” the girl said. “I’m nine.”
“I’m David Richards,” the boy said. “I’m almost thirteen.... and I am dead.”

You can read this book online for free. Click the cover.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Do You Prefer Plain Text E-mail?



I used to really love Plain Text e-mail. I'm not just talking about e-mails without any formatting; I'm talking literally about e-mails which are sent in Plain Text format, without any HTML code in them.

In recent years, I've gotten over it, as HTML becomes the standard, and it actually becomes more and more difficult to read e-mails in Plain Text. My day-job, for example, forces me to use a signature at the bottom of every e-mail I send, and that signature contains images and hyperlinks behind buttons, etc. Many other companies do the same... sometimes without you, the employee, even knowing it, so even if you did send an e-mail in Plain Text, by the time your recipient receives it, it's been converted to HTML so that your corporate mail server can attach the signature.

Plus, many e-mail clients use HTML as the default way to display and send e-mails, and it can be very difficult, if not downright impossible, to configure it for Plain Text.

In recent weeks, though, it has occurred to me that I haven't given any thought to the Plain Text format of the e-mails I send to my mailing list. I did think about them years ago, when I first started, but back then I was using MailChimp; I had no idea what MailerLite did.

I went back to some of my old campaigns and tried to view the Plain Text version of the e-mail. The first thing I noticed was that there's no way to do that. None. MailerLite quite simply does not let you view the Plain Text version of a previously sent e-mail. So I created a new, dummy campaign, and then told MailerLite to show me the plain text e-mail that was about to be sent. This is what I saw:


Hello,

You have received a newsletter from Graham Downs.

However, your email software can't display HTML emails. You can view the newsletter by clicking here:

{$url}

You're receiving this newsletter because you have shown interest in Graham Downs.
Not interested anymore? Click here to unsubscribe:
{$unsubscribe}



Well, that's not ideal.

Still, it's probably not a big deal, because nobody's ever complained before, and I highly doubt any of my current subscribers are actually interested in the Plain Text versions of my newsletters. And at least MailerLite actually does provide you with a way to edit that version. I added it to my to-do list, and moved on.

Until the other day, when I saw someone subscribing to my list. I happen to know the guy, and I know that he definitely prefers to read all his e-mails in plain text.

I immediately went and carefully crafted Plain Text versions of all my automation mails, and from now on, will make sure all my campaigns have readable, usable Plain Text versions.

Even if I did it just for this guy, it's enough. But I'd like to hear from you - how do you feel about Plain Text e-mail? Do you still send and read e-mails in Plain Text? Is it your preferred format?

Hit me up in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Green Mile by Stephen King (Book Review)

A few friends have recommended that I read this book over the years. I'm glad I finally did.

It's a flawlessly told story of life inside the Death Row block of a penitentiary. There's ostensibly a mystery that's slowly revealed as the story progresses. But even though I've never read this book before, and never seen the movie in its entirety (just snippets here and there), the sheer weight of this story's success means you know who done what from the start.

There's still plenty of suspense, though, and loads of twists and turns. I absolutely loved it.

I was pretty sure I was going to give this book four stars, because of the formatting issues in my Kindle edition. I got the impression it was scanned in from a print version, and then someone was tasked with reading through it and fixing all the OCR software's mistakes. Only they missed quite a bit. It's the typical OCR stuff: mostly n, h, and b being confused, so you'd see the word "hoss" instead of "boss" for example.

Being tech-savvy, I immediately saw what probably happened... but sometimes, both possibilities are actually words, making the situation worse.

The last couple of chapters though... wow, those last few chapters are intense. Gut-wrenching. Incredibly emotional. With an ending like that, I'd be nothing more than a petty lugoon if I docked a star for some silly software issues!

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

The Green Mile: those who walk it do not return, because at the end of that walk is the room in which sits Cold Mountain Penitentiary's electric chair.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Is one of your resolutions to read more books in 2019?


It's the time of year again when people start thinking about sticking to their New Year's resolutions. And more than a few people have confided in me that they really need to read more books this year. But more than a few people have also told me that they struggle to find time to read.

I was inspired to write this post after reading an article on BookRiot, How to Read More in 6 Easy Tips. If you're serious about increasing your reading volume, you should definitely take a look.

Personally, I can't do Audiobooks (my mind wanders too damn much), but I want to emphasise and elaborate on one of their tips in particular.

E-books

I know that loads of you are die-hard print book fans, but hear me out here. E-books changed my life. 

When I was younger, I used to read voraciously. Every spare moment, my nose was buried in a book. As I got older, and particularly as I left school and started working, I just didn't have the time. Not only that, but I couldn't see myself as one of those people who carried books around wherever they went. No, I was far too self-conscious for that.

And then, about nine years ago now, something amazing happened: my boss at the time bought me an iPad. I'd heard about this Kindle thing before, but didn't think it was for me. Well, now I had an excuse to try. After playing around and getting comfortable with my new toy, I installed the iOS Kindle app.

I didn't think I'd buy anything, you understand. Just looking. The thing is, I didn't need to buy anything, what with the proliferation of free books at the time. It was fantastic.

Fast forward to present day, and while I'm not the fastest reader out there, and plenty of people get through plenty more books than I do in a month, I'm reading more now than I ever did before.

Now, every spare moment I get, be it waiting for things to happen, while sitting on the toilet, lying in bed, or whatever, I whip out my phone and read a couple of screens of my latest book. Then, when I have a good long stretch of time to play with, I switch to my tablet (no longer an iPad; I graduated to Android a long time ago now) and pick up where I left off.

It's incredibly liberating, and it feels... productive. Way more productive, anyway, than aimlessly surfing Facebook for those few minutes, which you might be doing now.

Amazon's not the only show in town, either. Nowadays, we have 
If you literally have zero budget, fear not. Libraries have moved on to e-books, too. Here's a blog post I wrote a couple months ago with a list of South African provincial and municipal libraries that allow you to borrow and read e-books, free of charge, all from the comfort of your own home!

I hope what I've said here has made some sense to you, and if you don't read nearly as much as you should, I hope it will spark the beginning of your journey. Right now, there's no reason anybody should deprive themselves of the joy of reading (yes, even if you have to read audiobooks. Just because they're not for me doesn't mean they won't be just perfect for you).

So what's holding you back from reading more this year? Feel free to hit me up in the comments, and let's start a conversation; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The shortlist is out: What's Your Favourite Book of All Time?

It's finally here. What you've all been waiting for with bated breath.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present to you... the shortlist for my first ever "Favourite Books of All Time" survey!


Please scroll through the form below, and select one book from the list. Oh, and even if you previously entered your e-mail address to be notified of the shortlist, please enter it again if you'd like to receive another e-mail when the winner is announced.

And we'll give it another month before we announce the winner, shall we? So let's say we meet back here on this blog on... 19 Feb. Does that work for you?

As always, please share this post with all your friends and reading groups, book clubs, etc.

One more thing, before I forget. A quick note about my books: the list contains two of them, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel, and A Petition to Magic. I give you my word, they were not nominated by me (although I'm truly grateful to the people who did), but if you'd like to vote for them, feel free! :-)

Attribution: The image above was created in part using the Book, mockup Vector image by @StarLine, on the site freepik.com. Click here to see the original image.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

How I set my book's price online

Happy New Year, everyone! I trust your January's treating you well. Have you gotten back to the office yet?

I missed the past two blog posts, what with the hectic festive season, and the fact that both Christmas and New Year's Day happened to fall on a Tuesday this time around. But I'm back with a bang.

One of the things I always like to do around this time of year is to revisit my books' categorisations, keywords, and prices at retailers. But I try to be super-scientific about it. For each book at each retailer, I have a look at the categories and keywords. Do they still accurately reflect the subject matter of the book, and what I think readers are looking for?

Then it's on to pricing, and here's where I get really nerdy. Take a look:



For each category the book is in, I go look at the top ten books in that category. I get each one's price, deduct VAT if the retailer charges VAT to South Africans (like Amazon does). Then I divide that by the number of pages the book has, which gives me a price per page.

When I'm all done, I multiply the overall average price per page by the number of pages in my book. Then I round to the nearest 0.09, and voila.

It's a lot of work, but I like this approach because it ensures I stay competitive, and instead of charging what I think my work is worth, I'm charging what I know people are willing to pay for books in that category.

What do you think? Does this pricing strategy make sense to you?

By the way, it's impossible for me to share the 2019 prices for each of my books, in each of their formats, here in this post. However, if you'd like to browse through all my books and see for yourself what they cost at the various retailers, click here.

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Sleepwalkers by B.B. Griffith (Book Review)

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a story this much.

Gordon Pope is a beautifully written, complex protagonist. Although he's an expert in his field, he carries with him some serious emotional baggage which makes him doubt himself and his abilities. When he's forced to confront that baggage head-on, he grows and becomes more confident. A growth which seems natural and logical, not forced to happen just because the plot requires it.

The story also seems to be fairly well researched. In my younger years, I had a passing obsession with the fields of sleep science, the limbic system, and lucid dreaming, and many of the concepts presented seemed familiar to me. It was actually quite nostalgic... although I'm sure a real-life expert in those fields would pick lots of holes in the story; it's always more complicated than fiction tries to present (something I know all too well as a software developer, who gets frustrated reading some descriptions of tech in fiction).

Although this book is the first in a series, and I don't often read series, it's still a complete story. Right at the very end, there's a scene that looks like it's going to lead into the next instalment, but there are no cliffhangers. It actually reminds me a bit of James Bond movies. This also means that I'm pretty sure if you read the second book in the series, without ever reading this one, you won't be missing anything. I hate cliffhangers, so that's something I really appreciate.

If you're into psychology or have an interest in how and why we sleep, I strongly recommend you read this story.

My rating: 5 / 5 stars

(To see where you can get your hands on a copy, click the cover below)

About the book


Is it still a crime if you commit it in your sleep?

Ethan Barret is on trial for violent assault at only twelve years old. The problem is, he doesn't remember doing it. His hands committed the crime, but he was asleep the whole time.

Gordon Pope is down on his luck. He was one of the best child-psychiatrists in the country before his divorce. Now he's broke, bored, and spiraling into depression. He agrees to be an expert witness in Ethan's case because he needs the extra cash for drinking money. What he doesn't know is that he's about to be thrown into a race against time to save the boy, and himself, before it's too late for both of them.

The Sleepwalkers is a dark thriller that will change the way you think about sleep--and dreams--forever.

Click here to find out where you can pick up a copy.