Sunday, 31 August 2014

Follow Me Tour: Bluster and Chop

Juvenile African fish eagle
Day 4 (29 August) started with a wind that promised two things: it was going to be cold on the water, and the animals were going to hide away from us. And it was windy! We didn't see many animals, although the birds were out in full force.

Who says an African fish eagle doesn't hover? The wind was so strong that this bird had to hover for several seconds before it could manoeuvre itself to land on the branch...where it started off in the first place!

There were not many animals out, but here are some more elephant photographs. The hovering eagle is also on display. Enjoy!

PS: All my Botswana photographs (the ones that were worth keeping) will find themselves onto a board on Pinterest. Some are pinned already if you would like to take a peek.

Adult and baby elephants drinking water

The struggle of the fish eagle!





Saturday, 30 August 2014

Follow Me Tour: Spectacular sunset

Sunset #1
Day 3 - 28 August - sunset

Like most people I love a beautiful sunset. The photographs you see here are not the result of any editing afterwards - they were just resized, otherwise it would take forever to upload. To be honest I cannot do much editing afterwards anyway, since I neither own a copy of Photoshop (or Lightroom) nor do I have any idea how to use these software programs.
So you might rightly ask how it is possible to take photographs that look black and white, and yet they are not. The easy answer is: camera settings.
Brendon, our intrepid photographic guide instructed us to set the ISO on the camera low and to under expose the image between 1 and 2 F-stops. And I listened :)
So here are two of those images of a spectacular sunset on the Chobe river, taken about two minutes apart as we drifted with the flow of the river.

Sunset #2

Follow Me Tour: And it gets better...

Blue heron
Day 3 - 28 August - the late afternoon

We went out the boat again. We expected the leopard to still be where we had seen her earlier in the day. She had a kill hidden under a tree that we could see and that told us that she could be around for a few more hours.
On the way to the site, we got distracted by other birds and animals, and were a little late to arrive. There were other boats already and they had spotted the leopard. While we didn't catch her drinking, we stuck around and got some more photographs of this gorgeous cat.
I also caught an African fish eagle in flight. Please forgive the lack of sharpness in the photographs as this was the first time that I have tracked a bird in flight and I didn't think it too bad for a first effort.
We also got some great shots, and really close up, of elephants on one of the islands in the river. The baby elephants were too cute as they swung their trunks around still trying to figure out what it was supposed to be used for. We saw one mimicking its mother as she picked the grass, shook off the dirt from the roots and then ate it. The baby got it right until the putting-in-my-mouth part, that didn't appear to be working so well :)

We hit some waves from the side of the boat and I was feeling a bit uncomfortable there for a few minutes, but it passed. If I had to choose between the boat trips and the trips on the vehicle over land, the boat would win hands down.
I didn't have to hold the Nikon camera with its heavy 200-400mm, f4 lens in my hand to shoot with, as the boat is fitted with a rotating tripod. On the vehicle that is not the case.
The roads are very uneven and it is not comfortable to hold on to keep your balance, hang on to a rental camera of high value and also keep an eye out for a good sighting to photograph.


Here are some more photographs to enjoy :)

Elephants
Leopard



Giant kingfisher
African fish eagle in flight





Friday, 29 August 2014

Follow Me Tour: I went on a boat!

The selfie is Francois, I am in the dark glasses :)
Day 3 (28 August) of our trip and I went on a boat today. For me that was a really big deal, since I suffer from motion sickness and it is the worst on water. So to say that I was apprehensive beforehand, would be the understatement of the year.
But I swallowed my pride/fear and climbed on board. And what an amazing experience!
Our cameras were attached to special rotatable tripods that moved with the chairs, and that was pretty cool. The best was the view we had of the animals and birds though.
Buffalo
We were so close to ground level on the river, that if felt like we were looking the crocodiles straight in the eye. Not quite literally, but very close.
Crocodile
The water birds were plentiful today, and so were the antelope and buffalo. I took almost 500 photographs today, because...we saw a leopard. It was a female that came right to the water's edge to drink. I kept pushing the button to get as many photographs as I could. Fortunately, the camera kept up with my enthusiastic finger :)

Animals we saw: leopard, buffalo, lechwe, puku, crocodiles, hippopotamus, water monitors, impala, kudu and waterbuck.
African fish eagle
Birds that spotted us: African fish eagles, marabou stork, Egyption geese, African spoonbill, yellow-billed stork, blue heron, goliath heron, large white egret, little egret, black egret, oxpeckers, squaco heron, giant kingfishers, pied kingfisher, spruce winged geese, glossy ibis, sacred ibis and jackana.
Leopard

Follow Me Tour: Nata Lodge

I apologise - this post was supposed to go live two days ago. Please blame my inability to deal with a slow internet connection :) There will be more coming up today, and I promise to make sure they are posted properly - Linzé

On our way to the overnight accommodation we drove behind a small truck with a bull, a cow and a small calf on the back. I don't know where the people went when they turned off, but I couldn't resist a few pictures as the animals moved around and upon occasion faced backwards, right at us.
When I opened my email, Google+ told me there was a Google+ Awesome picture. Curious, I opened the application and burst out laughing. I took several pics with my mobile phone today, but it picked one of the cattle on the back of the small truck! Awesome indeed :)
And boy are there animals to look out for when you driving this way. Goats, cattle and donkeys. Yep, thousands of them, with the number of donkeys only slightly less.
I had fun with Francois' GoPro camera on the road. He told me to put my mobile phone away and use the GoPro. I took about ten video clips starting from the border crossing to Nata Lodge.
We will charge the battery overnight and then I can play some more tomorrow.


Travel tip: Unless you are an experienced driver on bad roads (read bad potholes and uneven surfaces) avoid the George's Bridge/Martin's Drift border crossing if you are driving into Botswana from South Africa. Francois has a 4x4 and is a competent driver, and yet it was not easy to drive on this road. I would imagine that sedan type vehicle drivers had a nightmare driving this road today. It can be done, but you need to be extra careful not to cause damage to the tyres or the car when you drive too fast for the road conditions. The bad part is about 92 km from the border crossing to Palapye. Thereafter the road (the A1 main road) is much better, with only the animals and heavy trucks to look out for.

Follow Me Tour: The famous lady of Botswana

Red marker is at Nata, where we will stay overnight on the journey there and back
As I have recently mentioned I love amateur sleuth mysteries. I have to confess that I have not followed this series as one of those I had mentioned. However, the book I have read (and the two films I had watched) I really liked.
In keeping with Follow Me this week, I would like to introduce you to Mma Precious Ramotswe, a lady who has a passion for getting to the truth. She is the lead character of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, written by Alexander McCall Smith.
The story takes place in Botswana, where Mma Precious has her office in Gaborone, the capitol of the country. While she - and her always ready to help assistant, Grace - are going about their sleuthing, while personal matters always seem to pop up to make life a bit more challenging.
While I might not be travelling in the direction of Gaborone on this occasion, I will be seeing some of the country on my way to the Chobe Nature reserve where we will be staying.

Be on the lookout for more tales and pictures of my adventure in Botswana.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Follow Me Tour: Nata Lodge Overnight

Upon arrival at Nata, I was reminded that we were going to sleep in a tent. With everything going on, I had completely forgotten about that part.
It is a permanent fixture, more so than the usual tent for camping. The tent is erected on a wooden platform. There are two beds with mosquito nets (an essential for sleep) and a nice bathroom. But the best of all? The outdoor shower! Man, did I enjoy that after we had dinner.
Francois took a shower before we had dinner while I was sorting out my stuff and getting this post underway. A few minutes later he waltzed in completely out of sorts.
He was already dressed, and smelled nice and clean, so I wondered what had happened.
He replied with, “if you have a self-image problem don't take that shower outside.”
I went, “Huh?”
“Yes,” he deadpanned, “those birds you heard just now? They were laughing at me while I was stark naked out there.”
I was hysterical. The birds he was referring to are commonly called katlagters in Afrikaans. (Minas in English) They literally sound like cats laughing at you. He just shook his head, but eventually gave out.

Wild animals we saw along the road: springbuck, warthogs, blesbuck and kudu.

Birds we saw along the road: Yellow-billed hornbill, minas, armour falcon

Follow Me Tour: On the Road

Crossing the Limpopo river between SA and Botswana
On our way to our overnight stop we drove behind a small truck with a bull, a cow and a small calf on the back. I don't know where the people went when they turned off, but I couldn't resist a few pictures as the animals moved around and upon occasion faced backwards, right at us.
When I opened my email, Google+ told me there was a Google+ Awesome picture. Curious, I opened the application and burst out laughing. I took several pics with my mobile phone today, but it picked one of the cattle on the back of the small truck! Awesome indeed :)
And boy are there animals to look out for when you driving this way. Goats, cattle and donkeys. Yep, thousands of them, with the number of donkeys only slightly less.
I had fun with Francois' GoPro camera on the road. He told me to put my mobile phone away and use the GoPro. I took about ten video clips starting from the border crossing to Nata Lodge.
We will charge the battery overnight and then I can play some more tomorrow.


Travel tip #4: Unless you are an experienced driver on bad roads (read bad potholes and uneven surfaces) avoid the George's Bridge/Martin's Drift border crossing if you are driving into Botswana from South Africa. Francois has a 4x4 and is a competent driver, and yet it was not easy to drive on this road. I would imagine that sedan type vehicle drivers had a nightmare driving this road today. It can be done, but you need to be extra careful not to cause damage to the tyres or the car when you drive too fast for the road conditions. The bad part is about 92 km from the border crossing to Palapye. Thereafter the road (the A1 main road) is much better, with only the animals and heavy trucks to look out for.

Follow Me Tour: We are on our way!

Today, our first day of travel, was a really long one that started at 3.30am this morning when we woke up. We left home just after 4am and arrived about twelve hours later at our overnight destination, Nata Lodge.
While we were still in South Africa we came across a quaint little place, called Proe-i-Biekie outside Baltimore. I didn't know we had a town by that name!
We decided to stop and have a belated breakfast/brunch. The owner, Ina, was very friendly and the food and coffee very nice too. Imagine our surprise when we saw espresso on the tiny menu. This type of coffee is seldom available in the remote rural areas of the country. And I had a chocolate muffin with my espresso! Francois rolled his eyes at me, but you have to have chocolate for breakfast at least once in your life, right?

Ina also offers overnight accommodation, if you are travelling in the Northwest province. She offered advice on alternative roads to travel to avoid the frustrating road works we had to deal with that resulted in our trip taking an additional 45 minutes.

Travel tip #1: Coming from Johannesburg/Pretoria - if you want to avoid the roadworks on the N11, take the N4 route via Nylstroom, and Melkrivier over Marken to Baltimore. It is 15km longer (about 20 minutes driving time) , but there are no delays on route. Thank you, Ina!

Travel tip #2: Bring a spare roll of toilet paper with you. Yeah, I know you are laughing, but trust me. The restrooms on the way are clean, and there is running water to wash your hands, but alas, the necessary is a bit lacking at most place we stopped. Nad yes, we had spare :)

Travel tip #3: Hand sanitising wipes, or waterless hand cleaner will be helpful, in case there is no soap in the restrooms. Happened at two of the places.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Follow Me Tour: Botswana here we come!

Yep, it is time for one of those again! But this time I am not travelling for work, nor am I travelling in my own country. Nope, Francois and I are going on holiday in Botswana, one of our neighbouring countries.
When he came with the idea of going on a Photographic Safari, my first thought was, yeah, so?
You have to understand, he does this ALL the time. A weekend here. A week there. Drakensberg. The Rigtersveld. Clarens. You name it, he has been there, and got the photographs to show for it.
Arching my eyebrows, I had to ask...and?
The succinct reply came, "do you want to go along?"
That was unusual, since he knows how I feel about watching photographers in action. Boring!
But this time will be different - I get to choose and use my own gear too. Surprised? So was I.
To make the pulling teeth exercise short, we are going to Botswana.
He wanted to fly (having received a sizeable bonus from his employer last year) and I said...no. I want to drive.
Sorry, there was no argument, but I won it anyway ;) I have never been to Botswana, and while flying might have been fun, I won't get to see much of the country in the process.
So we are packing our gear: cameras, toothbrushes, fresh underpants, and if there is space left, some more stuff.

Here is your invitation to follow me, while I tour a country I have never been to before, and living the experience with me on this safari!

You can read more about Botswana here.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Impact of Words

“Make a list over several weeks of the words or thoughts that people have said that have really helped.”

The above quote came to my inbox via the website where my personal journals are hosted, Penzu. Since I have three journals at that site, I get these prompts daily. Most of the time I just ignore them, but upon occasion, something triggers inside of me that I have to share.
I belong to several online writers' groups, including a few on Facebook. Over time I have reduced these for the simple reason, time. I feel guilty for not taking part in a group and after a while I decided that it was better to leave the group than to stay around, and not contribute anything.
There is one group that has had a huge impact on my writing - and that of other people as well. It is called My 500 Words. It was started with the intention to inspire writers and/or bloggers to write just 500 words everyday. But everyday.
As a writer I try to write everyday. Some days are easier than others, and there are days (as has happened in recent weeks) where I write...nothing. In my defence (or lame excuse, depending on your point of view) being away from home for work, is exhausting and finding the time and energy to write anything more than a tired journal entry, is not easy.
In this group I have made new friends, and continued friendships that started outside the group. Not everyone in the group is a novelist, most are bloggers, but I have learned a lot and sometimes things I have not been ready to confront in myself as a writer.
Until a few weeks ago where my FB friend, James Prescott, posted a piece about why we write. It touched on something that new writers often struggle with, and those of us who have been penning books for a while need to be reminded of.

This is an excerpt of that post: "But they [online writing resources about the elements of writing] aren’t about the art of writing. And they forget the most important thing - that our security and identity needs to come from something far deeper than what we do, know or achieve. We must know and accept our value, worth and security is already taken care of. We already have value. We are already secure. We already have infinite worth. Right now."
Of course, I have learned a stack (still do everyday) about writing, publishing and marketing my books, but the most value I have ever had from any online site, was the friends I made and the lessons and support I have received from them.


Join groups that add value to you as a person and a writer, but leave when you do not contribute or do not spend the time. It is not the number of groups that matter, but the contribution you make in the group that will help you grow.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Blog Tour: Summer at Castle Stone by Lynn Marie Hulsman

Excerpt
Heading out of the wind, and down the icy steps to the supper club, I was grateful that Maggie had let me off the hook and allowed me to wear her wedge-heeled boots instead of the ones with the skinny heels. The place was all leather, and wood, and scarlet tapestry. I was glad the club was warm, and not one of those sterile chrome-and-glass affairs. 
I pulled off my hat, and tried to fluff my crushed, damp hair. Scanning the bar for Jordan, I panicked, realizing I didn’t know what he looked like. There was a blonde guy walking out of the restroom. I raised my eyebrows and smiled. He put his arm around a thin brunette in a leather jacket and gave me a stern look. This was a stupid idea. I pulled my hat back on, ready to leave.
I felt a pair of hands on my shoulders, and I spun around, ready to snap. I recognized the green-eyed man as Jordan. Wow. He was actually a man. I didn’t remember him as being so filled out.
“Hi, Shayla? Are you all right? You look, uh, upset.”
“No! Not at all. Hey…you!” Brimming with nervous energy, I went in to kiss his cheek, to seem like a smooth player. When I lunged in, I caught my toe on his heavy boot. I fell forward, and he grabbed me hard by both elbows. Whipping his head around to keep his balance, he cracked me in the bridge of the nose with his jawbone. 
“Motherfuh …  uh…uh…oh, man,” I stopped myself from swearing even though I saw stars. The pain was so sharp, I didn’t even worry that blood was dripping onto my (Maggie’s) silk turtleneck. At least it was black. 
“Hang on,” I heard Jordan say. I couldn’t see him with my eyes squenched shut. In a flash he was back, shoving a handful of bar naps into my hand. I pressed them to my bleeding nose, and managed to open my eyes. His eyes crinkled at the corners, and on his lips sat the threat of a smile. “Why don’t we sit down?”
“OK,” I said through my napkins, “but not at the bar.”
Taking my arm, Jordan led me to a cozy leather banquette. “Two Maker’s Mark Manhattans,” he said to a passing waitress. I wanted a vodka and soda with lemon, but I let it go. “Why not at the bar?”
“I swore off perching on bar stools on my 21st birthday. Friends took me out to celebrate, and I woke up so sore the next day I felt like I needed traction. I like to be comfortable.” 
“Are you comfortable now?” He asked, smiling. “Because I am. It’s nice to relax with a gorgeous woman.”
My hand flew to my nose to make sure it was clean. “Ha ha, yes, this place is great. Small warm rooms feel kind of like a hug.”
He cocked his head and smiled. “I just have a thing about… I don’t know… not being cold. I positively will not go into a cold Lucite and metal bar. At least not in winter. It’s one of my rules.”
“You have a lot of rules.”
“No I don’t,” I said automatically. “They’re not rules, per se. Just ways that make sense to live.”

Find the book on Amazon

LinzéI volunteered to review Summer at Castle Stone and you can find my impressions here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Infographic Thursday: Keeping Track of your Time

It has been a while since I posted any advice on time management. So here is today's infographic to help out on projects, big and small, to help you get the things done that you have planned.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why I love the amateur sleuths

My to-read amateur sleuths (horizontal books)
Any writer, aspiring, published or best-seller - everyone will tell you to read. And to read a lot. For me that advice was always, duh? You seriously need to keep up with me. I read a lot. Have always read a lot. And if I have a say in the matter, will always read...a lot!
The one genre that I love, and yet have no desire to write, are murder mysteries. Especially the amateur sleuth variety. I am completely addicted to those!
I found seven authors online at my favourite e-store and after reading their first books, I became a fan. Some have been writing since before I was born!
But why this specific sub-genre when there are so many murder mysteries and thrillers - and very good ones - available in the market?
The reason for that I ascribe to the fundamental reason that I read fiction: relaxation. 
I have an engineering background and the finer details of forensics and scientific information would not be too far over my head. I could always research any details that I don't grasp immediately. And there is the exact reason that I prefer the amateur sleuth series' - no scientific details, no intricate forensic explanations.
The series' written, and still going strong, by these authors have created characters whose lives I want to experience with them. Their friendships, love lives, traumas and achievements which are so much like the lives we live everyday. Sure, the main character in each series have a sleuthing trait, but that is part of the package, isn't it?

It is not everyday that someone will review a series, but that is what I am going to do. Giving the plot away? Never! But each of the series have something that appeals to me and I want to share that with you.

Maybe there is an author amongst them that you could add to your to-read list. You might end up with a wish list (to-read list?) as long as mine! :)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Decluttering my office...but that was the excuse

My to-read bookshelf, with my writing reference books top right :)
I have never been the most organised person on the planet. In fact my mother would probably roll her eyes if I claimed that I was. My home office had been organised, sort of, until the day I decided to reorganise the furniture.
For that habit I have to blame my mother since she habitually moved the furniture around when I was still living at home. It would seem that I inherited that vice (virtue?) from her. And yes, I do do that, even at my office at work, to the amusement, and dare I say entertainment, of my colleagues.
Since the move, a few months back, I have been feeling more than a touch claustrophobic in my office at home. Time to get it back to order, I told myself.
I have started, and still have a long way to go to truly claim a modicum of organisation, but I have done the one thing that I needed to do: organised my to-read books.
I confess to being a book addict - paperback and ebook. While I had all these books, I had them packed away in my stationary cabinet - again to get some order. This left me with a problem: finding something to read.
Stored right at the bottom, four stacks deep, it was simply impossible (read lazy) to find anything to read, unless I unpacked everything. So I made the time and did exactly that.
Now I can see all the paperbacks (and my collection of hardbacks) at one glance, and finding a book to read, became an exercise of reaching out, making a cup of coffee and putting my feet up.
Good thing my kindle is simply a question of a button push or two, otherwise I would have been in real trouble!

Look out for my posts on one of my favourite genres: the murder mystery, coming soon :)

Wishing you a happy reading week!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Infographic Thursday: Why Self-Publish

Source: www.visual.ly

There is a bit more to it than this, but the infographic does sum it up fairly well :)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Happily Ever After Romance Blog Tour


If romance is your game, book your spot to promote your book in September! Only 8 spots available. Drop me an email, SEPTEMBER ROMANCE in the subject line, at blog.tour.info(at)gmail.com and get more exposure - pun intended ;)

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How long does it take to choose a book title?

How long does it take to choose a book title?
You might rightly wonder why I asked this question. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I had already written book 4 in the Nations of Peace Series, when I got the idea to write Michael's Mystery.
This story's title has been the only one of all that I have written published or not, that baffled me. In fact, I was planning on asking beta readers to help me figure out a title, because for some reason I couldn't get it right.
It went from Exquisite Pleasure to the Future Master, to Adrian's story (dull, huh?) to being Untitled.
Then it struck me this morning at work, while I was thinking about my tasks for the day. An Aha! moment indeed.
When I wrote it down (otherwise I would surely have forgotten) it just made perfect sense. It encompasses the fundamental issue in the whole story.
No, it is not a new 50 Shades (shudders) of anything. It will simply be titled: Waiting for Adrian, the first book of the sub-series The Future Masters.
And the most baffling thing of all - it took me three years to get to this point. Funny how the mind works, but it is the only option so far that not only makes sense, but feels right for the story.
Now I am so excited that I can barely wait to finish Michael's Mystery, so that I can dig into Adrian's story.

I sincerely hope that you have not encountered this problem, but if you had, please me tell how you overcame it so that it doesn't take me another 3 years if it happens again.