Free. Gratis.

Own a Kindle? Then this one’s a no-brainer. I’m running a promotion for my novel Return To Lemuria over the next 5 days. It’s FREE to download from 27-31 October. So if you like adventure, magic and ancient civilisations, then visit this link now.

  

Neolithic Monuments in Britain

A fascinating story about ancient man-made monuments, some over 5,000 years old scattered all over Britain. http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2015/10/pathways-for-sun-britains-neolithic.html

These constructions all appear to have one thing in common: they were built with great accuracy and align perfectly with either the winter or summer solstice. Of course many unanswered questions arise: Why were they built? Did they aid the people living at the time to understand the universe? Agriculture? Seasons? Were they religious sites? How could people living so long ago have the means and intellect to build such complex structures?

Some structures are estimated to have taken 300 men 3 years to build. That’s a lot of manpower and effort to build a mound with a tunnel through it! 

  

  

On Writing

On Writing is one of Stephen King’s only works of non-fiction published in 2000, that captures the essence of what is required in order to follow the art of writing a novel. The tips and tricks shared by the author are preceded by a brief autobiography that is necessary, as explained by King, to show the reader what influenced him in his writing from an early childhood and into his twenties where he worked as an English teacher. 

My lovely wife kindly researched the best gift to give an aspiring writer and came up with this book, which she gave me for Father’s Day. I read it last week and learned some valuable tips which I will work into my writing and writing habits. A few pearls of wisdom include to (as much as possible) not include flashbacks into your writing. King says he’s an A-Z kinda guy and believes that a story must work chronologically. Flashbacks disrupt the flow and are unecessary. Other well known tips that he reiterates include to not use too many adverbs, and to cut out verbosity where possible. It’s best not to over describe scenes to the point of explaining every single detail to the reader who needs to use his or her imagination at times. 

The book ends with King’s painful account of his accident and recovery where he broke his leg in nine places, fractured ribs and  suffered from a collapsed lung. He almost died. It was then that I realised what inspired him to write the novel. Amazing what coming close to death will make you do differently. 

A highly recommended book for aspiring writers or anyone who enjoys writing.   

 

Sneak-Peak

So, it’s taken me some time to write another blog post, because I have been hard at work planning my next novel, and wasn’t sure if I should share the theme of the story as yet. I am juxtaposed between keeping it a secret until I’m almost ready to publish and leaking some clues as to where I’m going. 

What I can tell you for sure, is that the genre is still speculative fiction. SP is the kind of fiction that had its foundations in some kind of plausible story that might have happened or could very well happen. It is fiction based on supernatural or fantastical elements set in the past or future. 

My new story takes place during the time of the Indus River Valley Civilisation that actually existed around 5,000 years ago, in what is today, Pakistan. It follows the adventures of a young boy, Halim, who must embark on an exciting quest, to find a distant land, save his father, and seek enlightenment in the process. It draws on a combination of fact and fiction that results in a tale of adventure, magic and suspense.

More to follow soon…

  

Life’s Gift

My eyes stung in the bright, reflective glare from the surreal landscape as I gazed wistfully out of the cabin window. White, fluffy, misshapen shapes floated eerily in the air between the metallic craft and the ground below. Suspended moisture made visible through the laws of Mother Nature. The pressurised environment belied the stark reality of the world just beyond a few centimetres of flexi-proof glass – minus fifty degrees and hardly any oxygen. Man’s truly amazing progress reminded me that almost anything is achievable on this amazing planet of ours.

I sat back into my seat on board another business trip from Cape Town to Joburg. The City of Gold. I closed my eyes to contemplate the balance of all things. The gift called Life and it’s many facets. Humankind’s consistent drive to succeed, to compete, to do better but most importantly of all, to be remembered. Most of us believe that there’s a higher power out there and that we were made “in his image”. My belief is that G-d created the world as we know it to share his goodness with us, which makes sense when we all seem to have this innate desire to ultimately do something good. But the question remains – why is there a desire to be remembered? The difference between man and G-d, is that man is finite. Man has a window within which to live his life, to do good with a desire to succeed. I guess this is part of the ego, the self. The self that has an expiry date, an ultimate end, that must accomplish things and then leave behind some kind of legacy. A self-centered urge to be remembered…

Aaaaah. Such is life…

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Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

I’m a self-confessed sun-worshipper. I love the sun and its radioactive, ultra-violate rays baking down from above on a hot summer’s day. There’s nothing better than a healthy dose of vitamin D that’s been proven to prevent colds and flu, depression and even MS. It gets even better when you’re spending time on a great beach catching sick waves with your kids all day.

So this is where I’ve been this past week and will continue to do so for a few more days. What a great way to start 2015! Buffel’s (Buffalo) Bay is South Africa’s best kept secret. It’s along the Garden Route from Cape Town, directly between Sedgefield and Knysna and is the best seaside location in my books by a long shot. We’ve spent 3 out of 4 days on the beach and we still can’t get enough. I’m talking five to six hours on the beach each and every day and easily two-thirds of that time in the water.

There are probably less than one-hundred houses in Buffels, so it’s not easy to find accommodation around this time. We only managed to find a place just after the highway turnoff. The drive down to the beach is still another four or five K’s. The road follows a river, brown from the tanins in the soil, (quite common to this area) that flows down to a pretty rough looking ocean, crashing onto a barren shoreline. The road continues into Buffels Bay itself and then into a parking area that I later learnt was full all day long. As soon as one car left, there was always another waiting to take its place. At ten Rand a vehicle, it suddenly made sense how the parking attendant was able to afford the R1800 pair of Salomon’s she was proudly sporting.

So how this beach experience tops all others, in my opinion, is as follows:

1. The parking lot is twenty meters from the beach. You simply have to walk over a piece of lawn and onto the sand.
2. There is a shop, a restaurant and fully licensed bar literally on the beach.
3. There’s a vendor renting out deck chairs and umbrellas. This is a win when you aren’t into sprawling across the sand on your towel.
4. The showers are fantastic. Three powerful jets with proper taps. None of that automatic shut-off nonsense. There’s even a tap on the grass (positioned quite low) for washing the sand off your feet before climbing into your car.
5. Lifeguards are on duty and pretty active at that. I heard a whistle being blown a couple of times in order to keep bathers within the demarcated safe zone.
6. Great weather. So far not a bad day in Buffels. It’s weird cos it may be cloudy where we’re staying but just four K’s down to the beach and the bay is clear and sunny! (28-30 degrees on avg).
7. The water temperature is around 26 degrees. It’s super warm yet still refreshing. After over an hour in my baggies, I’m not even shivering one iota.
8. The surf is epic. A bunch of surfers paddle out to a break further down the beach while dozens of swimmers body-surf a seriously consistent set of solid waves with smooth and steady breaks. Once you’re in, you’re hooked. Time passes…one hour, maybe two and the waves just keep getting better as the tide rises to produce more powerful waves time and again.
9. The most rewarding experience is watching my boys in the water, catching wave after wave, diving through the surf, burning up their energy and simply enjoying life in the most natural way possible. I’m grateful to my wife for discovering this incredible gem of a place and highly recommend the experience!

Namaste x

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Time for a new invention.

My t-shirt was clammy. I was still perspiring from an hour of hot yoga. In another reality, I would be agitated and short-tempered but after a combination of body contortions and deep-belly breathing, I was quite calm and relaxed.

The clerk at the Post Office looked at me and simply said, “sorry sir, the system is down.”
“Can’t I go onto your online post office and pay you there?”
“No. I’m sorry, we only accept credit cards or cash.”
“But the bank is closed now and this amount exceeds my withdrawal limit.”
“Let’s wait a few minutes and then we can try again.”

I sat down on a round, green stool-cushion. It was one of those stools with a single pole cemented into the ground. And that was when I thought that it was time to invent a molecular teleportation device for getting objects from A to B. Scientists have developed the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. At a cost of over three million Euros, the LHC recreates the conditions at the time of the Big Bang. Scientists have also successfully transported Atoms across distances, so they must be close close to cracking the concept of molecular teleportation?

The rapid development of technology over the past twenty to thirty years means that as a generation, we are more connected than ever before. The cassette tape became the CD-ROM and then the flash drive. Now it’s even easier to just stream live music off the web. The telephone became the cellphone and now the smartphone means that information is instantly accessible. An example is this blog that you’re reading. I’m writing it on my phone, sourcing and inserting links and pics.

And then there’s the (SA) post office. It’s as if it’s frozen in time. An antiquated and almost ancient service, that simply has not changed in hundreds of years. It’s very much in use today but unfortunately makes you as a consumer feel that it’s just not safe, efficient or reliable. I had no choice but to use this service (as opposed to a courier service at about ten times the price!) to send off signed books to 20 individual winners (all overseas) of a competition that I ran recently on Goodreads.com.

After about ten minutes, I stood up, went back to the clerk and tried my card again. It worked! Yay! I was so close to having to take all the books back again. I mean how ridiculous? No online payment option? Like I said. Left behind. If this was a virtual problem, it would have been fixed and improved upon tenfold!

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Twenty Xmas Presents

Winner

Congratulations to the following 20 winners of the Goodreads competition. They have each won a signed paperback copy of Return To Lemuria:

Tammy Pooser
Susan Jackson
Pamela Muldowney
Kris Cram
Marcie Sasso
Sabrina Wilson
Nicky Harvatt
Laura Fry
Sarah Sarg
Louis Richards
Kai Wong
Bernie Cinkoske
Tara Bittler
Christina Kelly
Ralph Pelaez
Candice Lemus
Rick Gillispie
Sandra Smothers
Jeffrey Malis
Tavo Bazante

* Copies will be posted on Saturday (Post Office closed for Christmas.) Please allow 6-8 weeks for international delivery outside of South Africa.

 

China

My author-idol, China Mieville and his words of wisdom….

“When people dis fantasy—mainstream readers and SF readers alike—they are almost always talking about one sub-genre of fantastic literature. They are talking about Tolkien, and Tolkien’s innumerable heirs. Call it ‘epic’, or ‘high’, or ‘genre’ fantasy, this is what fantasy has come to mean. Which is misleading as well as unfortunate.

Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious—you can’t ignore it, so don’t even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there’s a lot to dislike—his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien’s clichés—elves ‘n’ dwarfs ‘n’ magic rings—have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was ‘consolation’, thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

That is a revolting idea, and one, thankfully, that plenty of fantasists have ignored. From the Surrealists through the pulps—via Mervyn Peake and Mikhael Bulgakov and Stefan Grabiński and Bruno Schulz and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison and I could go on—the best writers have used the fantastic aesthetic precisely to challenge, to alienate, to subvert and undermine expectations.

Of course I’m not saying that any fan of Tolkien is no friend of mine—that would cut my social circle considerably. Nor would I claim that it’s impossible to write a good fantasy book with elves and dwarfs in it—Michael Swanwick’s superb Iron Dragon’s Daughter gives the lie to that. But given that the pleasure of fantasy is supposed to be in its limitless creativity, why not try to come up with some different themes, as well as unconventional monsters? Why not use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies?

Thankfully, the alternative tradition of fantasy has never died. And it’s getting stronger. Chris Wooding, Michael Swanwick, Mary Gentle, Paul di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, are all producing works based on fantasy’s radicalism. Where traditional fantasy has been rural and bucolic, this is often urban, and frequently brutal. Characters are more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not defined by race or sex. Things are gritty and tricky, just as in real life. This is fantasy not as comfort-food, but as challenge.

The critic Gabe Chouinard has said that we’re entering a new period, a renaissance in the creative radicalism of fantasy that hasn’t been seen since the New Wave of the sixties and seventies, and in echo of which he has christened the Next Wave. I don’t know if he’s right, but I’m excited. This is a radical literature. It’s the literature we most deserve.”

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Set The Mood

Technology continues to amaze me. In a few simple steps, I was able to upload a sample of my novel to a website called #booktrack and then record personalised background music over paragraph text to create an immersive reading experience. As a reader, you can adjust the speed at which you read, while a cursor bobs down the right and side of the page. Just click the big arrow on the right had side to turn the page and the sound fades out and then fades in again with a new track in between scenes. Genius! Just click this link (and turn up your sound) to check it out.

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