Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Crossword Puzzle - September 2014 Answers (Congratulations Denise Smith)

And we have a winner, ladies and gentleman! I'd like to congratulate Denise Smith, for being the first person to e-mail me with the correct answers. I posted the questions on 30 September 2014, and she came back to me with the answers one week later, on 6 October, 2014.

Denise is no stranger to my monthly crossword puzzles, but she missed the last few months. Welcome back, Denise! :-)

As promised, I asked Denise which one of my books she would like as a prize. She picked Heritage of Deceit, which I gifted to her on Smashwords. Denise, I hope you enjoyed the story, and I can't wait to hear what you thought.

So, without further ado, here are the answers for my September 2014 Crossword Puzzle:

Across
1 Second letter of Greek alphabet (4) beta
3 Father Christmas' wobbles when he laughs (5) belly
8 Beer without hops (3) ale
9 Chinese religion, often the butt of puns (12) Confucianism
11 The king of the jungle (4) lion
12 One million million (8) trillion
14 What's coming to you (3) due
15 VI (3) six
16 Great, everygreen tree (3) oak
18 Not cold (3) hot
19 Breed of dog (8) Alsatian
22 Hayworth, actress (4) Rita
24 Stuffed steak dish (12) carpetbagger
26 Place in Guild Wars (3) Orr
27 Full of soap (5) sudsy
28 Overrule (4) veto
Down
2 Boredom (5) ennui
3 Payments to help people out (8) bailouts
4 Author, Double Occupancy (6) Elaine
5 Ex-presenter of The Tonight Show (4) Leno
6 In agreement (3) yes
7 Eating feaces (4) scat
10 Places to stay in a fantasy world (4) inns
13 Worship of material things (8) idolatry
17 former American Idol contestant Brittany (4) Kerr
18 They're gonna hate (6) haters
20 Gold (5) ingots
21 Wears glasses, constantly picked on (4) nerd
23 Apple Music Player (4) iPod
25 Commercials (3) ads

Did you notice the #4 Down? Yup, the author of Double Occupancy is a self-published author called Elaine Raco Chase. She's part of a writers group I belong to on Facebook, and she's a really great lady. When I told her last month that I'd included her in my crossword puzzle for September, she was over the moon, and tweeted, telling all her followers about it:

That was such a good feeling, that I think I'm going to be including something about an independently published book or author in every month's crossword puzzle, from now on. What do you think of that idea?

Anyway, congratulations again to Denise Smith. See you next week, for my October puzzle.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Telepathic Link

Here's a free story for you, all about a game show designed specifically for telepaths. It also happens to be my one hundredth post on this blog. Congratulations to me!

I hope you enjoy it!

Lightning in Zdolbuniv

Sebastian sat in the crowd, his mouth hanging open. Dumbstruck, he looked around at the other audience members. Most were clapping enthusiastically, and a few were whistling. Some were even on their feet, screaming at what was going on, on stage.

He looked down at the small arena in the centre of the studio. The quiz master, Karl Snopes, was turning on a small rotating pedestal, with ten contestants standing in a circle, at podiums, around him. He faced each contestant in turn, they looked at each other for about three seconds, and then the cheering erupted as he moved on to the next contestant.

Sebastian looked to his left. His date, Lisa, had a big smile on her face. She, like the others, was applauding. Occasionally she let out a hilarious laugh. He nudged her, then when she looked at him, he asked in a low whisper “What’s going on here?”

Lisa just stared at him for a few seconds. He continued to look at her, expectantly. Finally, she spoke. “What do you mean, Baz? And why are you using your voice? Are you okay?”

“What do you mean, ‘why are you using your voice’? How else would I speak?”

“With your mind, silly! Come on, you love this show,” exclaimed Lisa, “you thought me all about it at dinner last week. I couldn’t believe how happy you were when I thought you that I’d gotten tickets!”

“What's wrong with you, Lisa? Communicating with our minds? There's no such thing. If this is some weird way of you breaking up with me, it's really sick. I'm going home!”

As Sebastian stood up to leave, Lisa grabbed his arm. “It's not. I'm really worried about you. But okay, let's just go.”

Sebastian looked at her, exasperated. He shrugged and walked off, towing Lisa along by her arm.

The two walked through the winding passageways that led to the entrance door of the studio, not saying a word. Sebastian was incredulous. He couldn't believe what Lisa was telling him. He didn't want to be around her, but they were here in his car, and he couldn't very well let her walk home.

Closer to the exit, they began to hear thunder, and then the deafening sound of rain on the building's metal roof. Lisa shivered when they approached the door, and a cold wind assaulted them down the passageway.

“Wait here,” said Sebastian when they got to the door. “I'll bring the car around. No sense in us both getting wet.”

***

Lisa squeezed his arm affectionately and smiled. “You do still care,” she thought. Then she sighed as Sebastian walked out into the rain, giving no indication that he had heard her.

She watched Sebastian get closer to the car. The rain showed no sign of abating. In fact, it became more violent, as the wind howled and the thunder boomed. She saw flashes of lightening in the sky, getting closer together.

Just as Sebastian was approaching the car, and had removed his keys from his pocket, Lisa witnessed a blinding flash. A split second later, she heard a deafening clap, so loud that it made her cup the sides of her head with her hands.

When the ringing in her ears had stopped, she looked over and saw Sebastian lying on the ground. She panicked and ran towards him, and as she got closer she began to smell a faint burning spell. Realising what had happened, she began to run faster.

She dropped to her haunches when she reached him and started shaking him. “Oh please, Sebastian, please be all right!” she thought.

After a few moments of fervent shaking, Sebastian opened his eyes. Staring straight into hers, he thought, “Lisa? Lisa, I can hear you!”

Lisa hugged Sebastian closer to her chest, and kissed his head over and over, tears streaming down her face.

Image: IBy Lyoha123 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

It's Official: Billy's Zombie is going ahead

Isn't that cover just the coolest thing you've ever seen? Well, folks, it's official, Billy's Zombie will be released into the big, wide world on 30 October 2014. If you've not heard of it yet, or maybe you just forgot, here's a brief synopsis:

Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.

One day, he decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!

Subscribed to my Newsletter?

If you were a subscriber to my free monthly newsletter on or before 30 September, you will have already received an invitation to get the special, "Newsletter Edition" of the book on 23 October 2014.

If that's you, then please check your e-mail (It was sent out on 30 September), and reply to me by no later than Friday, 17 October, to let me know in which format you'd like to receive it. You'll also be the only people to receive it with the cool cover above.

Not one of those lucky few? Well, you'll just have to wait until 30 October, when it releases to the general public, and you'll also only be able to get the regular cover.

All is not lost, however. You may have missed out on this particular special offer, but you can still subscribe at any time, to keep up to date with all the things I'm doing. Who knows? I may have more cool offers and surprises for you in an upcoming issue.

To sign up for my newsletter, just type your e-mail address into the box below:

On Goodreads?

Well then, I would love it if you would help me spread the word and create some buzz for the book, ahead of its release.

All you have to do is mark the book as "to-read". That way, all your friends will see that you've marked it, and they'll want to mark it, too!

If you're getting one of the "Newsletter Editions", then you can click here to go directly to that edition's Goodreads page.

Otherwise, just add the regular edition here.

Not on Goodreads, yet?

Well then, I have to ask you, why on earth not?

If you enjoy reading, and you enjoy social networking, then Goodreads is the perfect marriage of those two worlds.

You sign up, make friends, and tell Goodreads about all the books you've read and want to read. Not only do you see what all your friends are reading (and vice versa), but you get really cool recommendations from Goodreads itself about what to read next.

And their library of books is incredibly large—I personally have yet to not find a book that I've wanted to read, on Goodreads.

You'll get totally addicted to the platform. In fact, I know people who spend more time on Goodreads than Facebook!

So click here to visit the Goodreads homepage and sign-up. Once you've done that, click the links above to add Billy's Zombie to your "to-read" shelf (Just click the "Want to Read" button below the cover).

Also, don't forget to become a fan of me on the site. Click here to visit my Goodreads Author Page, and click "Become a Fan".

See you on Goodreads!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Crossword Puzzle - September 2014

So here's a simple challange for you, if you like crosswords. Do this one, before 21 October 2014, and send me your answers to graham@grahamdowns.co.za. The answers will be posted here on this blog, on that date. If you're the first person to send me the correct answers before then, then not only will your name be published in that post, but you can pick any one of my books, and I'll send it to you, absolutely free!

Worth playing for? Well, let's get started:

Clues

Across
1 Second letter of Greek alphabet (4)
3 Father Christmas' wobbles when he laughs (5)
8 Beer without hops (3)
9 Chinese religion, often the butt of puns (12)
11 The king of the jungle (4)
12 One million million (8)
14 What's coming to you (3)
15 VI (3)
16 Great, everygreen tree (3)
18 Not cold (3)
19 Breed of dog (8)
22 Hayworth, actress (4)
24 Stuffed steak dish (12)
26 Place in Guild Wars (3)
27 Full of soap (5)
28 Overrule (4)
Down
2 Boredom (5)
3 Payments to help people out (8)
4 Author, Double Occupancy (6)
5 Ex-presenter of The Tonight Show (4)
6 In agreement (3)
7 Eating feaces (4)
10 Places to stay in a fantasy world (4)
13 Worship of material things (8)
17 former American Idol contestant Brittany (4)
18 They're gonna hate (6)
20 Gold (5)
21 Wears glasses, constantly picked on (4)
23 Apple Music Player (4)
25 Commercials (3)

Good luck!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Crossword Puzzle - August 2014 Answers

Well, hello there,

And do I have some answers for you! ;-)

Herewith, the answers for the August 2014 Crossword Puzzle:

Across
1 Operator of a software package (4) user
3 The end of a cat's foot (3) paw
6 Yoko (3) Ono
9 Zann, Lovecraft character (5) Erich
11 Free of something (3) rid
12 IBM Compatible PC (8) Olivetti
13 No more after (3) end
14 Type of beer (3) ale
17 It's the limit (3) sky
19 Japanese warrior code (7) samurai
22 What 1 Across did (4) used
25 Sixty Minutes (4) hour
26 Sink a ship (7) scupper
27 In the bud (3) nip
29 It doesn't matter which (3) any
31 Small dogs do this (3) yap
33 Powerless (8) impotent
38 Singular (3) one
39 Pale brownish yellow colour (5) ochre
40 What 1 Across does (3) use
41 In the centre (3) mid
42 Highest point (4) apex
Down
1 Card game (3) UNO
2 Preacher in a Methodist church (3) Rev
3 Hole (3) pit
4 What a thespian does (3) act
5 Done to eggs (5) whisk
6 Found deep underground (3) ore
7 Last teen (8) nineteen
8 Strange (3) odd
10 Officiates sports (3) ref
14 Left after a fire (3) ash
15 People from Laos (8) Laotians
16 Flightless Australian bird (3) emu
17 Thus was it written (3) sic
18 Yes (3) yup
20 For holding ashes (3) urn
21 Egyptian viper (3) asp
23 Pamper yourself (3) spa
24 Of a white wine (3) dry
28 Just an expression (5) idiom
30 A rocky peak (3) tor
31 And I (3) you
32 urine (3) pee
34 1101 (3) MCI
35 Doctor of Philosophy (3) PhD
36 Leaves for boiling water (3) tea
37 Male evening-wear (3) tux

I hope you enjoyed the puzzle! Didn't get it right? Well, never fear - there'll be a new one next week. See you then!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

An Automatic Decision

This month's story came from a philosophical question that my brother asked me a few weeks ago, about self-driving cars.

Suppose a self-driving car is driving on a narrow mountain pass, and suddenly perceives a child running across the road. It has only two options:

  1. Plow down the child, and protect the occupant, or
  2. Careen down the barrier, saving the child, but killing the occupant
His two part question: what should the car do, and who should be allowed to make that decision?

This story is my attempt to answer that question. I hope you like it!

"'...Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.'"* Rev Kev read out loud. "What do you think, car? Is that too cheesy?"

The car gave its answer in a typical non-emotional voice, "I would not know, sir."

"Oh, for goodness sake! Call me Kevin. Better yet, call me Rev Kev; everyone else does."

"Very well, Rev Kev," returned the car, mechanically.

Kevin sighed. "On second thought, just call me Kevin."

The good Reverend was preparing to meet with a dear old lady from his congregation, Mrs Carlisle. The poor woman had been diagnosed with terminal, inoperable brain cancer the week before, and Kevin hoped to offer her some comfort.

Rev Kev continued to read his Bible and mutter out loud as the car wound up the narrow mountain pass leading up to Mrs Carlisle's house. At one point, he looked up and said a silent prayer that there would be no-one else on the road; over-taking, or moving over to allow another car to pass, would be impossible.

***

Ten year-old Jimmy Cox giggled as he ran from the mountain, over the narrow road, and excitedly grabbed hold of the railing that protected against the almost fifty-metre drop to the rocks below. Mommy had told him countless times not to play on the road, but the excitement and adrenaline rush was too much to resist. After almost vaulting himself over the railing for the tenth time in the last half-hour, he turned and began running back towards the mountain.

***

Rev Kev's car rounded a sharp bend, and he looked up from his Bible.

“Oh God, please no!” he screamed as he saw a young boy running across the road, directly in front of the car.

Time stopped.

Kevin watched as the child was frozen in mid-run, his left foot in the air behind him in an impossible standing position, his right planted on the ground with the toe on the road and the heel in the air. He looked at the speedometer of the car: sixty kilometres per hour, but they weren't moving.

“W-what's going on here?”

“What would you have me do, sir?” asked in the car in that mechanical, emotionless voice. At least, he thought it was the car; perhaps it was God, answering his prayer.

“What do you mean, car? Please, would you explain to me what exactly this is?”

“If I follow my programming, sir, I would protect my occupant above all else. That boy would die. Your God has given you a choice. To save the boy, I would have to turn and drive through the barrier, sending us onto the rocks below.”

“No,” muttered Kevin. His face was white as a sheet, and he was shaking; still trying to come to terms with what was happening. “There must be another way! What about turning towards the mountain instead? Or just applying brakes really hard?”

“The boy is less than twenty metres from us, sir, and we are driving at sixty kilometres per hour.” Kevin could have sworn he heard an exasperated tone in the car's robotic voice. “Either of those options would cause us to spin uncontrollably, and we would strike the child. If we hit the mountain, you would likely die, but the child would almost certainly die in either case.”

Kevin's mouth hung open. Was he really being forced to make such a choice? But perhaps, he reasoned, he should rather thank God for giving him a choice that precious few people would be given.

“Well,” he stammered. He hooked his finger under his collar (which had suddenly become very tight), and pulled it away from his neck. “I have lived a full life. I gave that life to God and His Son many years ago. I have no regrets, and I know where I am going when I die. I do not know where that boy's beliefs lie, or that of his family's.

“I'm ready, car. Take me to be with the Lord.”

“Very well, sir.”

The car's speedometer returned to life, and the needle bounced erratically. The boy turned in mid-step, saw the car speeding towards him, screamed and fell on his face. Rev Kev heard the screeching of the car's tyres as it jolted to the right and crashed through the barrier.

As the car fell to the jagged rocks below, Kevin heard a voice in his head, much kinder than the car's had been: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Tonight, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Image: "MUTCD R2-1". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MUTCD_R2-1.svg#mediaviewer/File:MUTCD_R2-1.svg

* Deuteronomy 31:6

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cover Reveal: Billy's Zombie, Coming Halloween 2014

Last month, I told you about my new story called Billy's Zombie. It's coming in Halloween 2014, and that it will be completely free!

I also promised a cover reveal soon. Well, wait no longer, loyal readers. Here it is, the beautifully stunning cover of my upcoming release, Billy's Zombie:

Ain't it pretty?

I also promised you another excerpt. Well, instead of making you click back and forth between the old one and this one, I'm going to repost the old excerpt, and then extend it slightly. What do you think of this?

That's my creation down there. Do you see?

Shambling along the empty suburban street, in the middle of the night. Past the parked car to its left. To its right, a dog lies on his back. He rolls over onto his feet, hackles raised, and barks as he sees the creature. The creature turns its grotesque countenance towards the animal and glares at him. The poor thing cowers as his brave bark becomes a pathetic whimper.

Look, now it's standing under a lonely street light. Through this crystal ball, you can truly appreciate its beauty, with its clothes tattered and muddy, and the grave worms still crawling in and out of its empty eye sockets. My creation.

When I went to the cemetery last night, with an old copy of Contemporary Necromancy under my arm, I could never have imagined that the ritual would be such a success. I stood at the grave of old Jacob Mallardy (1955 — 2012), thumbed open the book, and eagerly paged to the spell on Raising Zombies. I'm not sure how well I expected the spell to work (if at all), but as I read the incantation out loud, the hairs on my arms and the nape of my neck stood on end, and I felt power. As the power rose in me, the dirt covering the corpse's grave began to shift. Slowly it shifted, so slowly I thought it might just be the wind, or my imagination. Then the turf broke, and a hand slipped through. A glorious, wonderful hand, the skin on the long, slender fingers all wrinkled, ripped in places so that the bones shone through, almost glinting in the moonlight.

My creation.

My name is Billy MacIntyre, and that is no longer Jacob Mallardy, down there. I am a Necromancer, and they will all pay for calling me a freak.

So what do you think is going to happen? Well, you'll have to wait until 30 October to find out. Unless... and here's where I remind you of this awesome, never to be repeated deal.

Sign up for my newsletter between now and 30 September, and you will receive a special, limited edition, pre-launch copy of the story, a full week before release!

That's right, simply enter your e-mail address into the box below, wait for my e-mail, and let me know which format you would like to read the story in (e-book formats only, I'm afraid; no print).

Since last month, I've been asked by my existing newsletter subscribers what if they're going to be left out. Well, never fear! All my existing newsletter subscribers will receive an e-mail from me sometime during the first week of October, asking them to confirm in which format they would like to receive the book. Don't anybody ever tell me that I'm not fair!