South Africa

Whacky Books

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I haven’t at all gotten to answer any comments in the past couple of weeks, and I’m SORRY, and I will get there – promise. It’s taken me a whole lot longer than I expected to get back to blogland, and I’m only starting in properly now. It’s been a bit surreal around here lately. I had TWO nasty surprises in the past six weeks, with members of the local bands of rotten criminals trying to open windows at three in the morning, and me seeing them through the windows BOTH times. That brings the number of attempts by them to get in to four altogether, so I must admit that the last one on Good Friday morning knocked me off my perch a bit. There’s something horribly personally, and somehow violently, invasive seeing an actual person right there on the other side of the glass, even if they do run away. Needless to say I haven’t been sleeping the sleep of the just that I so richly deserve, so I’ve been rather bleary. I’m a whole lot better now though, and waiting with eager anticipation for the riot control self defence kit that I ordered, the very presence of which will guarantee me some good snooze time I think.

Other than that I’ve had some lovely work coming my way with many, many thanks to my wonderful supportive friends here, especially Sally Cronin and Chris Graham. I want to give an extra BIG thank you to Chris – The Story Reading Ape for designing my fabulous new logo for my Indie Support Services.

Jo Logo 01
Don’t forget that there are all sorts of things other than covers that he can do for you Indies. From video trailers to banners, maps, and logos like the perfect one he designed for me. Zoom on over and follow him if you aren’t already – he is a wonderful font of help and support for all authors.

It’s so good to be able to finally start getting back to the books I love in all their forms. I found a particularly interesting one called The Voynich Manuscript that I’m sure a lot of you will find fascinating too. It’s been carbon dated to the early fourteen hundreds (1404 to 1438) and is named after the man who bought it in 1912. It’s written in an unknown alphabet – one that to this day has yet to be deciphered even though the most talented code-breakers and linguists have tried since its discovery. It’s filled with drawings of the craziest alien looking plants you could imagine, as well as pictures of women zooming through what appear to be tubes. Then there are astronomical drawings, and finally a couple that look like a combination of plants, the tube zooming females and the astrological designs.




The mind boggles. My mind does anyway. A lot of very staid and well educated personages have found all sorts of realistic explanations for this book, but I’m a writer so not apt to head straight for the boring. I reckon the writer of this most peculiar tome was either from the fourth planet from the central star in the Zerg galaxy, trying to draw a map home because her peers had found a fabulous way to use whacky plant tubes as interstellar transport (I deduce that said writer was female and the reason for the book was that said peers had decided to search for more plant-worthy men on another planet and forgot her behind) or that it was written by an aspiring adult comic book creator born before his time.


Either way—interesting stuff. If you want to download the PDF for a bit of nutty inspiration you can get it at Holy Books. The download is quite big though—over 50MB.

Weather Induced Memory Trip Waffling

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Sunrise – something past five this morning.  Felt a bit like Dante’s inferno.


Is the weather normal anywhere out there? It seems to be extreme all over the place. South Africa’s in the middle of a countrywide heatwave. Botswana and Zimbabwe too apparently. 40°C No problem with 45°C forecast in some places for the coming few days. It’s so hot it’s physically nauseating. Cape Town has actually just had its hottest day in a century and they’ve been battling fires on the mountains at the same time, so those poor fire fighting guys are having a rough time of it this year. People are being advised not to be out and about between eleven and one when it’s particularly roasty, and most certainly not leave children, pets, or any other living creature in parked cars – you’d think people wouldn’t do that even in the cold, but they still do. Those in the know say it will probably get worse through to Thursday next week, although I see rain predicted then, and after heat like this there could be some doozie storms or maybe some hail.
I can’t remember ever experiencing anything like this before – certainly not any sort of officially announced heatwave. In fact, if I remember correctly, the weather of my childhood was pretty nice. Each season held something special. Winter was for curling up by the fire with steaming bowls of slow cooked soup, or hot chocolate and a good book. Summer was for zooming around in water, and summer rains weren’t terrifying things. Sploshing around in puddles with a brolly was cool. These days I wouldn’t take a steel tipped brolly anywhere near a rainstorm. I only remember one really bad sudden hail storm when I was much younger, which completely turned my car into a ugly polka dotted thing, and killed not only chickens with direct hits to the head, but a couple of my mother’s prize merino sheep too. Bad or extreme weather certainly wasn’t the norm that it’s become these days. Not nice for the future if these crazy things are going to be just that.
When we lived on the Mozambican border up in Zimbabwe, we used to get the edges of their annual cyclones. Those things could be properly terrifying. The house we lived in was on terraces, with the front lawn ending at the dam’s edge, and totally surrounded by tall gum and pine trees among many others. Here’s the front bit.


There was a jetty down there (that big hole in it was made by yours truly’s delicate foot – really ladylike and attractive having yourself half disappear into a dodgy jetty while tossing a full glass of champers into the unsuspecting face coming up behind you) that a Leguan used to frequent. He also used to frequent the garden. Quite a big and nasty fellow he was, and I always bravely ran like hell whenever coming face to face with him. Never mind the sprint from the baboon one day – that was a whole new level of terror.  This is the clearest pic I have of him. Never had zoom lenses then, and that was more than close enough for comfort.


Anyway, it was a truly beautiful setting to live in, although I’m pretty sure that living so close to water attracted extra lightning. Most years up there I often used to wonder if the lightning could possibly be mostly attracted to ME rather than the trees. Not fond of lightning at all, and clearly the feeling’s mutual. One tree in particular got blasted by lightning so many times one season that it clocked right out, although the dead stump attracted the gorgeous Eagle Owl who used to come and nest there every year. This is she.

Eagle Owl

It was lovely to see when her duo of surviving babies started popping (always two every year) out and sitting where you could see them. One year I spotted one of them sitting on the lawn. Thinking that I should give the little fellow a leg up to his house, I tried to pick him up, and was very quickly klouted around the head by his mother – her talons gave me a nice laceration on the top of the noggin too. Word to the wise – never pick up a fluffly wobbly baby owl. Apart from herself, a whole lot of other owls suddenly appeared in the trees right then to back her up. True story, and creepy too seeing all those owls looking right at me with murder in their eyes.
After that she trusted me not at all, so wandering around in the evening when she was active was a bit nerve-wracking. One night my friend had been around for a visit, and when it was time for her to head on home, I had to pop into my trusty old Landy and drive to the gate to lock it, because that lady owl was prepared for battle the minute we stepped out the door. Just as well we’d had a couple of glasses of wine, because just running to the cars was a bit of a gauntlet. It did make for lots of laughter though, and very fond memories. That was the coolest little car, now that I mention it, and the one thing I’m really sorry to have parted with. Old as she was – forty odd years, I never got stuck once in the mudpiles that the roads became with the rains, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact I once tootled past a tractor stuck in the mud quite nicely. You had to watch going round corners at any sort of speed though. That old girl would take them on two wheels.


Around Here

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I’ve been having a couple of jump up and down tantrums because wild creatures refuse to sit still and have their photos taken – they apparently don’t at all care that I’m still new at this. I do have lots of photos of tips of bird tails and feathery backsides, so I’m guessing that at some point I might just get the whole thing – I might have to venture forth too rather than waiting for them to come to me. There are the most amazing birds zooming around now all busy with their nests and babies. I love watching the weaver birds doing their wild thing best of all. They’re the cleverest little guys, even though I could be a bit biased.


Jelly and Button have never shown the slightest inclination to go outside, and on the couple of occasions that a door has been accidentally left open they’ve run away from it not towards it. Outside is a bit of a scary place for my guys.


In the wild they construct the most amazing nests in huge noisy communities. These are in a thorn tree, so good luck with that any snake who fancies a snack.

Wild Weavers

My two little guys zoom around busy all day making their own constructions, and singing their little hearts out. They have their own kind of tunes that I’ve never heard from a wild weaver. Anyway, a couple of people have wondered what it’s like around here. Weather wise, I think it’s sub-tropical. Louis Trichardt (here) is a little town situated at the foot of the Soutpansberg Mountain range, and only a couple of hours drive away from the Kruger National Park (I’ll get there yet). It’s a mellow place right up at the top of South Africa very close to the Zimbabwe border, and the people are lovely, both the townies and the farming community. The national highway runs through the town, and if you blink twice you’ll very probably miss it. Wherever you look there are gorgeous mountains. I hope sometime not in the too distant future to head out a little ways and get some pics of just how gorgeous this place is to share, but for now – a couple of shots around and about where I live.

Louis Trichardt 3

Louis Trichardt 5

Louis Trichardt 6

Baby Steps

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Things have been a bit hectic for me for a couple of days, so no writing, editing, or indeed anything computer related has been done so far this week. Also it’s raining so my internet sucks. Life’s funny sometimes when you have to run as fast as you can and you still don’t keep up. Never mind. I’ve got thousands of emails and notifications again, so if there’s anything important that I should be doing that I could take a while getting to, please yell at me. Loud as you like. I don’t mind at all.

I have figured out that I’m a bit of a coward. I decided that seeing as how I would be forced out into the big wide world and have to stand in queues and do horribly tedious things for days, that I would take along my camera just in case I spotted anything interesting. Well. Just holding a camera in public gets you stared at, and also glared at if you look like you’re going to aim it in anyone’s general direction. Much respect to all you street photographers out there. I gave up on that pretty quickly after getting a couple of pretty boring and bad shots, and lots of resentful and possibly threatening stares. I’ll have another go though – when I’m not feeling pressurised to do other things, because I’m collecting elements for my future cover art project. I could maybe get into the whole glaring thing when I’m my normal self – it’s actually a little funny now that I’m happily back where I belong right here at my desk.

I’m quite excited with my cover design thing, and really hope that I get it right. I was telling a friend the other day that when I was a teenager I was obsessed with sketching pictures that told a story. They ended up looking quite “different”, and I was strongly encouraged to draw normal things instead. I remember doing one of Elvis entwined with tablets, a syringe, a pink Cadillac, and a peanut butter sandwich, so I can see where that was good advice at the time. But thinking back now I also see a frustrated cover designer – hopefully. I also remember writing a terrible song about a robot, but I’ll say no more about that. For the rest of this week I’m just going to be catching up with blogs and comments, and doing mini edits on my published books, correcting gremlins still lurking in them, and then changing their paper book formats and sizes, so WIP’s will only be got back into next week.

Diving into catch up mode now, and anyone contemplating prying me away from my desk for the foreseen future can anticipate worlds of pain. Worlds. Now – a couple of my furtive and wobbly shots on my first ever camera outing. I only had the zoom lens with me, and I’m pretty sure I had it on the wrong setting – so…

This huge cross lives on a hill overlooking our little town, and is lit up at night. Whether you’re religious or not, it is strangely comforting.


Taxi Rank

Smiley Face




Broken Head Bone

Birdies – of course.


The Best Medicine

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Image Credit: Zapiro

The loadshedding wasn’t as bad around here as it was in other places in South Africa this festive season. In Zimbabwe they switch you off every day for the whole day or the whole night without fail.


At least here they let you know when so you can get backup lights ready. I walked into many a wall strolling around at night in Zimbabwe.

Festive South African Light Bulb

I’m already so used to the comfort here I don’t often think of the discomfort up there much more. I still remember it though, and nothing will change my disgust at the suffering pure greed and the abuse of power is still causing.

Image Credit: Zapiro

That’s not my point though. I was thinking about the ability of both of these nations to always find something to laugh at no matter how bad things get, and especially the ability to laugh at themselves.



National Braai Day in South Africa – and Another Little Freebie

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National Braai Day

It’s a public holiday here today. National Heritage Day/National Braai Day. I’ve been away for so long I haven’t got a clue why it’s got two names. I’ll be off to chop and dice stuff for salads and sides in a minute, before the manly process of cooking piles of meat and other bits on fire begins. Not wimmin’s work braaing, and our input or advice is most certainly not appreciated in this instance, in fact it’s generally most rudely discouraged. Not that I’m complaining. This means that I get to sit on my bum sipping bubbles, and generally waft around eyeballing things. Already the air all around is a haze of smoke. South Africans take their braais very seriously, and seeing as how this is a day all about that, I’m guessing the combined countrywide haze of millions of cooking fires will be spotted from space. So I’m off to join the fun.

Chisa Nyama

Before I go I’ll pop the links up for The Visitation. It will be free on Amazon from tomorrow 25-27 September in case anyone fancies a short read. I actually thought I had it up for free from today, so sorry for the misunderstanding, but when I popped over to see why it hadn’t changed over yet there was nothing there. I must have pushed the wrong button. I’ll post the links again tomorrow. Apologies for that!

Hello’s and Goodbye’s

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It’s been a bit of an up and down week for me, reader wise. A while ago, I was looking at Free Book Dude. I love his daily lists of freebies on Amazon because they are all author submitted, and sometimes a little out of the box. I like out of the box. He really is a cool dude too, by the way, for those indie friends who would like another cool place to announce their freebies. Contact him a couple of days in advance, and he’ll add you with pleasure – a really lovely man all in all. Anyway.

I spotted a competition for a book giveaway. I’ve never entered any before – if I want a book, I generally just buy it. I haven’t been all that keen on standing in the queue at the bank lately to top up my pay as you go Visa card though, and I’m too much of a coward to see if there’s still anything in it after my latest epic Amazon shops. But I read the author’s bio Taona Dumisani Chiveneko’s Author Page on Amazon – read it – seriously – I bet you you’ll really want to buy the book afterwards. I had to have it, so I entered the competition, knowing that I wouldn’t get the book. Competitions never work for me. And then!

This week I got an email from the author telling me that I’d won! Starstruck – a bit! And there was another lovely guy. Not only do I now have the e-book nestled on my Kindle, he’s sending me the paperback all the way from Canada. It’s as brilliant as it looks, by the way, expect my review soon.

And now I see that my beloved Tom Sharpe has died. This is indeed a huge blow. He was the first really, tears down your face and have to try and cross your legs as you run down the passage to pee author that I’ve read. (Interesting sentence – I know). Thing is – I was pretty serious and radical when I was young. I hated apartheid and the terrible things I saw every day, growing up in South Africa. And being who I was, I had quite a lot to say about it. It really is a miracle that I wasn’t ever arrested by the regime. Then I read Indecent Exposure. It’s rude, offensive, hilarious, and brilliant. But at a deeper level, it helped me to see both sides of what was going on around me. It taught me to shut up, and just quietly do what I could. It’s a grand view of the loony that somehow takes you to the real. I know it’s a bit pricey, but still, if you like irreverent, funny, and yet still somehow real – buy it. Cheers Tom Sharpe – I’ll miss you.

Till next time friends. Xxx