Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Crossword Puzzle - January 2015

As always... solve this puzzle, and send your answers to graham@grahamdowns.co.za before 17 February 2015. If you're the first person to send me the correct answers by then, you'll be mentioned as the winner.

Up for it? Let's go!

Clues

Across

1 Go in a specific direction (4)
5 Cry feebly (4)
9 Never-ending (7)
11 Shaped like an egg (4)
12 Garment worn by Hindu women (4)
13 Single-celled animal (6)
14 Danish King (4)
15 American equivilant of Matric Fairwell (4)
16 Solutions of NaOH (4)
17 Roofed colonade (4)
18 By means of (3)
21 Leaves boiled in water (3)
23 Not stiff (4)
26 Horse-back game (4)
29 Frankenstein's assistant (4)
30 Rear-opening (4)
31 Lunatic (6)
32 Of abundant vegetation (4)
33 Plant used as herbal medicine (4)
34 Canadian province (7)
35 Make a hissing sound (4)
36 Old English for "ash" (4)

Down

1 Leprous (5)
2 Eared seal (5)
3 More very (6)
4 Fines paid to a victim's family (5)
5 Nibbles (5)
6 Turns inside-out (5)
7 Type of protea (6)
8 Animal, related to camel (5)
10 Between eggs and pupae (6)
19 Greek island (6)
20 Rwandan city (6)
22 South American parakeet (6)
23 Beans (5)
24 Monochrome pictures (5)
25 Inquires too inquisitively (5)
26 Upper bract of floret (5)
27 Has strong sexual desire for (5)
28 Gum plant, smells of ammonia (5)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Crossword Puzzle - December 2014 Answers

Greetings from sunny Wellington, in the Western Cape!

How's your January going? Are you back in the swing of things at work, yet, or did you do what I did, and take leave in January, when everyone else was back at work?

So how was December's crossword puzzle? Too easy? Too difficult? Dying for the answers?

Well, wait no more, as your wish is my command:

Clues

Across

1 Of Jesus Christ (6) gospel
3 With me, says the hymn (5) abide
5 Citizens of the Bible's "chosen nation" (8) Israelis
6 Era (3) age
7 Orthodox Christian symbol (4) ikon
9 Made with egg (3) nog
11 Prophetess from Kings and Chronicles (5) Hilda
12 Where people are imprisoned (5) goals
13 Jesus Christ (3) Son
15 What the song was (4) sung
16 Fuel for candles (3) wax
17 People suffering loss are doing this (8) grieving
18 A non-Muslim (5) Kafir
19 The Son is one of these (6) aspect

Down

1 They stole Christmas (8) grinches
2 Mournful songs (8) elegiacs
4 Remain motionless and quiet (5) doggo
8 People given to finding faults (8) nigglers
10 Lamp heated with gas (8) gaslight
14 Third stomach (5) omasa

See you next week (27 January 2015) for the first crossword puzzle of 2015!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tales from Virdura: Jarvis' Bounty

Campfire Pinecone Tobin crouched behind the rock and watched his quarry. Jarvis had crept up behind the local blacksmith a week before, and brutally slit his throat. The Virdua Castle city guard had caught up with him after a witness had come forward, but he had evaded them.

Now, it was Tobin's job to find him and bring him in. The local constabulary had promised one hundred gold pieces for his capture. Tobin, the Bounty Hunter was not about to let him slip away.

Tobin needed to get closer. He darted out from behind the rock, and quickly hid behind a tree, no more than twenty metres from his prey.

Hearing a rustle in the bushes, Jarvis' head darted towards the source of the disturbance. He got up from the log he was sitting on, drew his sword, and turned towards the tree.

“Who's there?” he asked. “Come out, come out, whereever you are!”

Tobin drew his own sword, and stepped out from behind the tree.

“I've come to take you in, Jarvis,” he said. “Best you come quietly, so no more blood needs to be shed.”

“Hello, Tobin,” said Jarvis, and a sneer formed on his face. “You'll never take me alive. Unlike you, I'm not afraid to shed blood.”

With that, Jarvis let out a mighty cry. Sword raised, he lunged towards Tobin, meaning to split his skull in two. Tobin ducked, and held his sword out above his head to parry the blow. Jarvis' sword struck his. The sound of steel upon steel rang in Tobin's ears, and he felt the force of the blow vibrate down his arm.

Tobin deflected Jarvis' blade, then lunged forward, striking for Jarvis' chest. Jarvis jumped back just in time, and the bounty hunter's sword sung through the air, centimetres from his prey's tunic.

But Tobin was the better fighter and, allowing the momentum to carry him forward, he swung again at Jarvis' sword-arm. The sword sliced a deep cut in Jarvis' bicep, and he dropped his weapon.

Jarvis clutched his arm and glared at Tobin. Tobin raised his sword and pressed the tip of the blade lightly against Jarvis' neck.

“See, Jarvis?” said Tobin, “I'm not afraid of shedding blood, either. And as I said, I'm here to take you in.” His chest was heaving from the exertion, but Jarvis did not appear to be phased.

Jarvis flicked his wrist, and a dagger which had been hidden in his sleeve appeared in his hand. He made to lunge it into Tobin's side, but the bounty hunter was too quick for him. The instant that Jarvis moved, Tobin pressed his sword straight through Jarvis' throat. Jarvis gurgled and sputtered blood, and dropped the dagger he was holding.

“No matter,” said Tobin. “Dead or alive, I'll still claim my bounty from you.”

***

“I'm sorry, Tobin,” said Jacob, constable of the queen's guard in Virdura castle, as he shook his head. “It's a new law, from Queen Celeste herself. The city no longer pays bounties for dead criminals. You were to bring him in alive, that was your mandate. You should feel lucky that I don't have you up on murder charges!”

Tobin sighed. Perhaps it was time for him to take a break. He had heard some travellers talking in the tavern the week before, about a village called Carrington. A nice calm place, by all accounts, on the banks of the Ten Mile Lake. It should be lovely this time of year.

Yes, thought Tobin, as he walked out of the constable's office empty handed. That's where I'll go. Carrington. I just need a Sabbatical, that's all.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

All Time Blog Stats (2014)

As I enter my second full year of blogging, I thought it might be a good time to look back and reflect on some of my most popular posts, and take a short trip down memory lane as well. 2014 was also the first year where I actually set up a proper website, so we'll be taking a look at some of my most popular "static" pages as well. Interested? Read on:

If you want to see last year's stats for comparison, click here.

Most Viewed Posts

As of the end of 2014, here are the most viewed posts on my blog:
  1. Crossword Puzzle - March 2013
  2. live sex cams: tkdot.com
  3. My First Book: A Petition to Magic
  4. 12 Things to do Without Power
  5. Spread the Word, Win Three Books
The top three spots are exactly the same as they were last year. I'm still not really sure what was so special about my crossword puzzle, back in March 2013, and I'm still amused that the second most popular blog post of all time was actually a click-bait article that I wrote for people searching for those keywords on Google!

The fourth most popular blog post of all time, was a writing exercise that I did back in June. Those writing exercises matured into a flash fiction story that I post every single month (see them all on my Free Writing page).

And finally, I ran a contest on my blog back in June, in the run-up to the stand-alone release of my third book, Stingers. Anybody who spread the word about the pre-order (at the time) of Stingers could win all of my books. It was successful, and I picked a winner, Beverley Smit.

Most Viewed Pages

As I said, 2014 was the first year where I made an effort to set up a proper website, with separate "static" pages. Here are the most viewed pages of all time, as at the end of 2014:
  1. Home
  2. A Petition to Magic
  3. Heritage of Deceit
  4. Stingers
  5. Books
Clearly, people are interested in my books!

Top Web Searches

  1. www.grahamdowns.blogspot.com
  2. grahamdowns.blogspot.com
  3. www.grahamdowns.co.za
  4. mike@moretechtips.net
  5. lave sex cams: tkdot.com
Not much changed there from last year. People are still searching for my site by its web address (and there's a new way for them to find it, since I also added my own domain name in 2014). I also still chuckle that people still want lave (sic) sex from tkdot.com!

I guess it also goes to show that not many people are finding my site through search, but rather through direct links posted elsewhere on the web.

Top Countries

  1. United States
  2. France
  3. South Africa
  4. Germany
  5. Brazil
Here's where I expected the most movement from last year. The US still occupies the top spot, which isn't really a surprise; the vast majority of the western world with access to the Internet come from there.

South Africa's been knocked down to third by France, who wasn't even on the top five last year! Germany's moved up one spot, and Brazil makes its d├ębut at number five. Latvia and Russia have been knocked off the list.

Top Browsers

  1. Chrome
  2. Firefox
  3. Internet Explorer
  4. Safari
  5. Opera
I expected more movement here, from last year, but it seems as though the environment has stabilised over the last twelve months. No new entries, just some shuffling around.

Chrome and Firefox have swapped places, with IE remaining in third place (mind you, it's a distant third). Opera and Safari continue to trail behind, in the same spots as last year.

Top Operating Systems

  1. Windows
  2. Macintosh
  3. Linux
  4. iPhone
  5. Android
No movement whatsoever since last year. It seems as though the most popular operating systems in the world today have been decided, and their positions are going to remain stable for a long time to come.


So, how was that for you? Did you find it as insightful as I did? If you did, or you were perhaps reminded of a great post, please let me know in the comments below.

Here's to a successful and prosperous 2015!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - December 2014

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

Shall I say that again?

Welcome to the very last monthly crossword puzzle of 2014.

How does it feel, hearing that?

Well, whether you've had a good year, or a bad year, sit back, relax, and give your brain a workout. The answers to this puzzle will be published on this blog, on 23 January 2015. If you solve it before then, drop me an e-mail at graham@grahamdowns.co.za with your answers, and if you're right, I'll mention your name in that blog post.

Oh yes, you may notice that most of these clues have something to do with Christmas or Christianity. Have fun!

Clues

Across

1 Of Jesus Christ (6)
3 With me, says the hymn (5)
5 Citizens of the Bible's "chosen nation" (8)
6 Era (3)
7 Orthodox Christian symbol (4)
9 Made with egg (3)
11 Prophetess from Kings and Chronicles (5)
12 Where people are imprisoned (5)
13 Jesus Christ (3)
15 What the song was (4)
16 Fuel for candles (3)
17 People suffering loss are doing this (8)
18 A non-Muslim (5)
19 The Son is one of these (6)

Down

1 They stole Christmas (8)
2 Mournful songs (8)
4 Remain motionless and quiet (5)
8 People given to finding faults (8)
10 Lamp heated with gas (8)
14 Third stomach (5)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Crossword Puzzle - November 2014 Answers

Right, then. Are we looking for answers to our November 2014 Crossword Puzzle?

I didn't get any entries last month; was that just because the puzzle was too hard? I hope that's all it was.

Well, here are the answers. If you were struggling with a particular clue that you couldn't get, I'd love it if you'd let me know which one it was, in the comments below:

Clues

Across

1 An Unrequited Fall (6) Horner
3 Cheese (5) Swiss
4 For moving things (5) lever
5 Medieval custom (6) feudal
7 Faucet (3) tap
9 South African runner (4) Zola
13 Kevin in An Automatic Decision (3) Rev
14 Delicious (3) yum
15 Noddy cop (4) plod
16 2001 computer (3) Hal
19 Does with complaints (6) lodges
21 He killed children in Bethlehem (5) Herod
22 Belly button (5) navel
23 Sent before e-mail (6) letter

Down

2 Jane (4) Eire
3 Seek damages in court (3) sue
4 Did with the match (3) lit
6 City in western Ukraine (4) Lvov
8 Hooker's boss (4) pimp
10 Wise bird (3) owl
11 Desmond Tutu (4) arch
12 II (3) two
14 Raise your voice (4) yell
17 Type of company (3) Ltd
18 Informal you (4) thee
20 Water snake (3) eel

See you next week, for a very special crossword puzzle, the last one of 2014!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Win your choice of one of my e-books

If you're reading this on the 16th of December, it's the Day of Reconciliation here in South Africa.

Generally speaking, it's also the day when the last people go on leave for the Festive Season, and many South African companies (unless they're in the Retail sector) close down for the holidays.

I thought that, in honour of holidays officially starting for the vast majority of South Africans, and consequently more people having time to read, that I would do a giveaway. I haven't done one in a while, and the timing seemed right.

So yesterday (15 December), I tweeted:

Want to win one of my e-books?

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Have a look below, and find four different ways you can get into the draw to win one of the following books:
"Stingers Heritage of Deceit A Petition to Magic
You don't have to do them all (although you must at least do one), but each one you do will net you another entry into the draw.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The draw ends at midnight (South African Time) next week Tuesday, 23 December 2014, just in time for Christmas (Consider it my gift to you)! ;-)

After that, within 24 hours, the winner will receive an e-mail from me, requesting which of the three books above they would like. Once they've replied, they will receive an e-mail from Smashwords, containing a link to download the book that they have chosen, free of charge. If you don't have a Smashwords account, don't worry: the e-mail will contain all the instructions you need to create your account and download your free book.

So what are you waiting for? Get entering, and tell all your friends!