Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Happy New Year?

It’s the first day of 2017 here in Oz; according to my world clock it’s still last year elsewhere, but Happy New Year wherever and whenever you are!

I sometimes think the millions of dollars spent on New Year celebrations, especially fireworks, is a complete waste of money and could be used more effectively elsewhere. I’ve not been to any of the city firework shows and they look amazing but the effort put in to getting a good spot is ridiculous. People come from all over the world to camp out overnight around Sydney Harbour; one young man from Taiwan, the first in line, had been there from 6 am the morning before New Years Eve. I hope it was worth it for him! I also think all that smoke would drive me nuts, not to mention the crowds. 500,000 people were there, in spite of, or maybe because of, terrorist threats!

I am, of course, a grumpy old woman, and if I was in my twenties and lived in Sydney or any major city, I’d probably be there, drink way too much and regret it the next morning. But I’d have a ball, of course. And to see so many people of all colours, children and adults, enjoying themselves together and loving the spectacle makes me think perhaps it is worth the money. Maybe we should have more such celebrations that everyone can agree on.

When I was a kid, in the country, we always celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks. Generally there was a vacant block of land somewhere in the neighbourhood and we’d get together with family and friends and write in the air with our sparklers while Dad and the other men lit rockets and wheels that were pinned on to poles and spun around, throwing sparks everywhere. It’s a fond childhood memory, but gatherings like that are now against the law and while a part of me thinks that’s a great pity, the fact that two men died last night using illegal fireworks makes me agree we probably can’t go back to that. I have no idea if anyone was killed back in the days of my childhood from firework accidents although I’m quite sure there were injuries. Now I doubt there could be such a family occasion without alcohol, which would be disastrous.

I enjoyed a celebratory can of bourbon and coke and managed to stay awake long enough to watch the Sydney fireworks on TV and I’m happy with that. I did consider driving into town and standing around watching the fireworks–I live in a regional city and they do put on quite a good show–but my recliner was more appealing. Now the new year is here and Christmas is over and I really must get back to work this week; I have a book half finished and the other half is swirling around in my head! I wish you all a great 2017.

I have a couple of books for the kids free on the 2nd and the 8th of January and I’ll post the links then to my Facebook page or you can check my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 

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Self-Publishing: Designing your own covers

inheritance-cs3rdBack to the trials and tribulations of self-publishing! One of the best things about self-publishing print on demand or ebooks is that you can always make changes. A tweak here and there, or fixing typos you’ve missed when someone else points them out to you after your book’s published! One of the worst things about self-publishing PODs or ebooks is that you can always make changes, which means, of course, nothing is ever quite good enough.

I’ve always had an interest in visual art and spent several years studying before swapping over to writing. That doesn’t mean I was good at it, just that I do have enough knowledge to make me frustrated at my limitations! So tweaking book covers is my weakness. Or is it my strength? I’m not sure on that one! I’ve been able to either use my own images or find free ones online until last year, when I paid a designer on fiverr.com for a cover for ‘Inheritance.’

Next I paid for an image for the cover of ‘Red Wine and sanctuary_cover_for_kindleSummer Storms’, and did the text myself; it was around $14, but I forget where I bought that. There’s a lot of online images available but often you have to buy a bulk number, rather than just one at a time. I have discovered one site I’ve used now for two new covers for old books, ‘Sanctuary’ and the POD image for ‘Inheritance’. They’re called CanStock Photo and both images I used were $7 USD each.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen of course you have to go through the whole uploading process again, which, after three or four years I still find very frustrating, but it’s worth it, if only because it makes me feel better. Until I get another idea. I’ve also built another new cover for the thesis I wrote when I was at university, 2005. It’s called ‘Demented Mothers’ and it is a thesis, not a light read, but definitely interesting. This cover has one of the mothers, Camellia McCluskey, in a ghostly effect using Pixlr, a free kind of photo shop, which is a lot of fun to mess around with.

‘Sanctuary’ is free on Amazon and Amazon.UK, from December 1 (USA time) to December 5.


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Snakes and Spiders in the Land of Oz

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the video of a huntsman spider dragging a mouse up a fridge door.

I’m not surprised it’s gone viral; we all love to talk about our creepy crawlies here and to be perfectly honest I’d be pretty freaked out by that sight myself, but I’m easily freaked out by mice anyway. If we had a resident huntsman capable of killing mice I’d be okay with that, though I’d rather he did it in the dead of night. Fortunately we don’t have mice and any huntsmen I see are nowhere near that big.

I didn’t know whether to be amused or . . . what? when I heard some Americans had cancelled their planned holidays to Australia after seeing that video, but given that most of my readers are from USA I thought it worth explaining a few things about our creepy crawlies. Huntsmen, first of all, are common but perfectly harmless, unless you’re an insect. Or a mouse apparently! And they’re not usually that big.

I spent my very early years living in a house surrounded by orange trees, quite a few miles from the nearest town. The little school I went to was also surrounded by trees, or grape vines–I’m not sure now, but I do remember sitting on the ground with my friends eating lunch and drinking rain water from a red plastic mug. The rain water often had wrigglers (mosquito larvae) in it and no doubt a few things we couldn’t see but they didn’t do us any harm.

Most of my schooling was after we moved to a bigger country town–we used to swim in the river and I spent quite a lot of time at the farm when my older sister married a farmer. I’ve also lived in Queensland, both on the beach and inland. Would you like to know how many snakes I’ve seen? Not counting zoos, none!

I’m not suggesting visitors (or anyone)  should run around the  bush barefoot, or approach snakes or spiders to test if they’re venomous, but generally they prefer their own company. I’m hardly an expert of course, just an average Aussie with a healthy respect for our wildlife–I was once kind of attacked by a kangaroo at a park, so my mother tells me, but I don’t remember it. They can actually be quite dangerous, but like most of our wildlife they don’t actually like us much and stay away. So if you want to go Oz but you’re frightened of spiders and snakes just stay in the civilised areas, or go with a tour, and you can be pretty sure they’ll stay away from you.

For details on my books please see my Non-Fiction and Fiction page or visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 


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Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.

 


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Life Without Power

There’s been massive storms in the last day or two, especially in South Australia, where the whole state was left with no electricity and several thousand homes are still without power. Commiserations to all South Aussies! The storm was forecast to hit us in Victoria last night but nothing happened; now they’re saying some time today but it won’t be as severe as it was in SA. I quite like storms but not blackouts. No-one likes blackouts, except maybe burglars.

Most of us have had the experience of being without electricity for an hour or two; it’s inconvenient and, mostly, boring. If the weather’s okay you can go out, although driving can be a bit risky if the traffic lights are out of action. Have you ever considered how your life would change if the power never came back on?

A few years ago something happened to the gas supply–I forget what, but it was a big deal. Big enough that we had no gas for a couple of weeks. Our house runs mainly on electricity but we do have gas heating and hot water; I don’t think it was particularly cold and we were lucky we have an electric stove and were able to heat water for baths but it wasn’t much fun. There were a few public places with electric hot water systems that allowed people to use their showers and we went to the nearest one, the jockeys’ showers at the race track! It was clean I suppose, but pretty awful and once was enough for me.

I have no idea how I’d survive without electricity though; no stove, no fridge or freezer, no air-conditioner, no TV, no computer, no internet. My phone would work for a little while on 4G but how would I recharge it? When I was a child most of those things didn’t matter and when my mother, who’s now 96, was a child, most of those things didn’t exist and those that did weren’t in every home. People were a lot more self-sufficient. I’m not pining for that kind of lifestyle at all–I like my comforts–but it’s a little scary to think just how dependent we are on other people and machines.

I doubt I’d be writing at all if I had to use a manual typewriter, let alone selling books to be read on kindles on the other side of the world!

For details of my books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-Fiction Page‘ or my Author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.


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Writing Challenge–Future tense

Hubby and I went to Melbourne on the train the other day for a show and on the way back, in the dark, with nothing to look at, I started thinking about story ideas. I tend to write in both first person and third person in my novels but I do like to mess around a bit with the occasional short story. I’ve done one in the present tense and I decided to try the future for a change. If you’d like to join in the challenge there’s no prize but you’re welcome to put a link in my comments section so everyone can have a read. Here’s my effort:

Tomorrow

© Christine Gardner

 In the morning I’ll get up at six o’clock. Steve won’t even notice; I’ve been getting up during the night lately and he’s a heavy sleeper anyway. If he does wake up he’ll presume I’ve gone to the toilet and go straight back to sleep. He will never imagine I could leave.

I have my bag packed and hidden in the linen cupboard, with just some essentials that will do for a couple of days until I get sorted. He never looks in there. I always make sure there’s clean towels in the bathroom and clean sheets on the bed, so why would he? I won’t stop for breakfast, just in case. I’ll just grab my bag and head out to the car. My little Pulsar. I won’t take Steve’s BMW because, after all, he’ll still need it for work. And I don’t need it, not really. Mine’s a little dented from when Steve backed into the fence but it runs okay; he’s very good at stuff like that. Everything in our house is well oiled and runs perfectly. Everything except me.

Will he be sad or relieved? Of course I know the answer to that; he’ll be furious. He’ll try to ring me first and then he’ll start driving around looking for me.

I’ll go to Maccas for breakfast, but not the one near us; I’ll drive over a suburb or two, maybe Richmond. I don’t know. I’ll find a Maccas somewhere, or a Hungry Jacks. Somewhere I’ll be ignored and I can just eat whatever junk food I want with no-one looking over my shoulder. Steve doesn’t like me eating junk food, especially now, but he’s always been a stickler for healthy eating while I just like to have a breakout occasionally. Mostly I eat healthy food but just now and then I like a change. Not Steve. He might be more horrified at my eating junk for breakfast than at me actually leaving him!

He’ll think I’m just doing it to annoy him; he thinks I deliberately push his buttons but I don’t. I try so hard to do what he wants—to be what he wants me to be. I’m just not that person—not Mrs Perfect—and I’ll never understand why, or how, he thought he could make me into something I’m not. Maybe he’ll find her once I’m out of the way.

After breakfast I’ll head over to Mum’s house and she’ll be surprised to see me so early, but glad Steve’s not with me. When I tell her I’ve left him she’ll be flabbergasted; she’s been nagging me for months to do just that and she doesn’t even know anything really. I never let her see me with black eyes and it’s easy enough to come up with a story about broken bones; she says I was always terribly clumsy as a child.

Then she’ll insist I call the police and I’ll say no, so she’ll call them. I’ll cry, I know, and she’ll probably shed a few tears as well, more for herself and her own memories than for me though.

The police will come—no doubt there’ll be a sympathetic female cop and a male who looks as if he can handle any irate husband. They’ll take my statement and suggest I move to a shelter for women like me—somewhere safer than my mother’s home. She, who protected me throughout all my childhood, can’t protect me anymore. I’ll agree of course, because I don’t want to put my mother at risk, but she’ll be at risk anyway. Steve will look for me there and won’t believe she doesn’t know where I am. He and Mum never really see eye to eye about anything, even though they both love me. It’s my fault. Steve’s right about that, I know. I have said bad things to Mum about him and of course she doesn’t like him. She thinks he’s a monster like my father but if I was better, a better wife, he would be perfect. And he’ll be a wonderful father.

The police will probably take me somewhere and then go to arrest Steve. There’ll be bail though and if he gets out he’ll go after my mother. If he doesn’t get out then he’ll go to gaol for a while and then be released and look for me again. And my mother.  And my child. My child will be born while her father is in gaol. How long will he be there for? Will she understand why her father’s not with us or will she grow up thinking he deserted her? Will I take her to see him in prison and have her know her father’s in gaol? That he hit her mother? That he had no regard for her safety, tucked away in her mother’s womb?

I sigh and pull the quilt further up around my neck. My child moves inside me and my husband, sound asleep, throws one arm over me, as if to prove ownership. My woman; my child. In the morning I won’t be leaving. I can’t condemn my child to a future with a father who’s in gaol; I’ll be a better wife. I’ll try harder to make my marriage work. Life wasn’t meant to be perfect; I can do better, I know I can.

***

For information on all my books please visit my author pages  Amazon.com, Amazon UK and Amazon.au

 


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Inheriting

Some people inherit millions of dollars and some just their dad’s blue eyes or their mum’s bandy legs (Yep–that’s me!). My mum is 96 and still lives at home, on her own, although she does have some help now. She’s constantly trying to pass all her worldly goods to her family and when I saw her recently (I don’t live nearby) she was very insistent that I sort through her odds and ends and take anything I or my kids might like.

It might seem odd inheriting stuff while the benefactor is still alive and well but actually I can see my mother’s side of it now. She knows how much I love old stuff and she has so much that belonged to her parents. Her father was a ships’ engineer and travelled the world, often bringing back gifts for his family. I’m not talking about things of material value–just interesting bits and pieces. We had a lovely afternoon going through everything and she was really pleased, knowing some of her things had a new home, because I think she was afraid they’d be trashed. I’m not sure how much value my children will place on the family heirlooms but hopefully some of the stuff will survive. It is, after all, just stuff, and we either remember our grandparents or we don’t. My paternal grandparents died before I was born so I have no memories of them but my family research on them has been interesting just the same.new the inheritance cover

I have a free ebook this week–a rather different look at inheritances! ‘The Inheritance’ is free on Amazon until the 21st of August. It tells the story of a young woman, dumped by her long term boyfriend, and unhappy in her career, who inherits a charming country cottage when her great uncle dies. She loves the picturesque Rose Cottage and decides to make a complete life change–she’ll quit her job and start her own business from home. There’s something not quite right about Rose Cottage though and Jo’s life will never be the same again.

For information on all my books please visit my author page at Amazon.com or Amazon UK


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100 not out!

No, I’m not 100 years old and neither am I a cricket fan, but this is my 100th blog! Maybe not as big a deal as turning 100 but at least as good as 100 runs on the cricket field. Well, I did say I’m not a fan, right?

It’s been a little over 3 years–I just looked up my first blog and it was March, 2013. Since then I’ve written three books which have been more successful than I ever imagined (Red Dust series) and my family has grown considerably. I had two grandchildren in 2013, now I have four plus six step-grandkids!

At times I’ve struggled to find things to write about and my blogs became less regular as time went by–now I’m no longer trying to blog weekly or monthly. I only write when I have something I want to say. For some reason I’ve recently joined Instagram as well but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. I might just spend my time writing books instead. The one I’m working on at the moment is based in the area I’m living in, which should make some aspects easier at least. The story starts in 2015 and then changes to the 1860s, much of which will be based on the goldfields here. Unless my characters decide to go elsewhere–you never know really!

The sun’s shining here and I can see a bird on next-door’s TV antenna–I think it’s a pigeon–but it’s freezing cold and apparently we’re in for a winter blast in the next few days. I’m sick of winter already but it’s nice to see the sunshine from the window in my cosy home office.

darkamazonNothing better than curling up by the heater on a cold day with a good book is there? I have a free ebook coming up on the 27th June (USA time), Dark Innocence. It’s quite short, novelette size, and inspired by some of my experiences growing up in the sixties in a country town. Check it out and feel free to leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy it!

For details on my other books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK.

 

 


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The plural of ‘you’.

It used to be Australians used the term ‘youse’ and some still do. I don’t think I do and it’s generally considered one of those ‘bogan’ words the rest of us avoid. Well-known Texan, Dr Phil, uses y’all, which has a nice ring to it if you have the right accent, but I suspect that’s the American version of youse and is not universally acceptable now in the US if it ever was.

So what is the plural of ‘you’? In the news today our Australian of the Year, David Morrison, has chastised people for using the term ‘guys’ to refer to people of both genders. I must admit I’ve never been offended by this. If you were to call me a guy, as an individual, I might be, but if, for example, I get a text saying “Are you guys home?” it’s clear that refers to both my husband and me. If the text said “Are you home?” then it refers to me only. I’d probably be offended, or puzzled at least, if I got a text saying “Are you men home?” but the term ‘guys’ has somehow become gender neutral, hasn’t it?

I have five adult sons and I tend to still call them ‘the boys’ but since they now all have wives or girlfriends I might use the term ‘guys’ if I’m talking about the guys and the gals together. I’d be interested to see some feedback from our friends in the USA, since we obviously took over ‘guys’ from you. Has the usage changed there? Is it more or less non-gender specific or are we just lazy? Maybe we should speak correctly and say “Are you and your husband at home?” Generally language issues do annoy me but in everyday speech and texts I think we should all just take a chill pill. The language is evolving and BookCoverImageconnectionsit will continue to. She’ll be right mate.

sanctuary cover 2014

‘Sanctuary’, my Sci-fi novel for young adults, is free right now (June 1-5) on Amazon and my collection of short stories, ‘Connections’, will be free from the 3rd to the 7th. For details on all my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

 

 

 


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Lost Words

Are we all becoming vanilla flavoured with our speech? I’m not talking about texting, using acronyms or shortening words to speed up the process of sending a text or an email. That’s a whole other subject and I’m not getting into that, other than to say sometimes it’s fine but if your phone has a reasonable predictive text it’s just as easy to use complete words. new the inheritance coverWhat I’m talking about here is language, the spoken word; how many words have we simply stopped using? I may live a sheltered life but as far as I can see, or rather hear, everything these days is either awesome or amazing. Nothing is ever marvellous or splendid or even terrific. Fantastic? Maybe, but what about delightful or even extraordinary?

As a writer I know I’m guilty of using mostly everyday language, because I want my books to be accessible and enjoyable to read, not a chore. Perhaps I can sneak in the odd ‘marvellous’ in the dialogue of someone in the 1860s? My current book is about the Bendigo goldfields around that era so, yes, I believe I will do that. At least one ‘marvellous’!

I am well aware language is constantly evolving but it does seem somewhat of a shame to lose words such as ‘delightful’ just to re-interpret words like ‘sick’, or even ‘cool’, but that’s one that been around for long enough to have earned its place. I haven’t heard ‘sick’ for a while; hopefully it’s already gone. Does it seem more like devolution of the language rather than evolution?

‘Her Flesh and Blood’ is FREE on Amazon from the 24th to 28th May (USA dates). For more information on my books please check out my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK