Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Thanks for all the suggestions on Hell and Fury.

Late last year I asked for title suggestions for a novel inspired by a child murder case in 1910 Australia. I lost count of the BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodnumber of replies I had, mostly through Linkedin, but I wanted to thank everyone for their suggestions. My original title was ‘No Hell Nor Fury’, which had about as many positive as negative responses. One kind person suggested I check Amazon to see how many similar titles were already there and that was the main reason I changed it. I called it ‘Her Flesh and Blood’ which is a little more ambiguous and I prefer that. There were no other books on Amazon with that title at the time–might be now! Anyway that’s available now and I feel at last, after a thesis, a non-fiction book, and now a fictionalized account, that I’ve exorcised that horrific crime from my brain. To some extent.

My latest publication is another kids’ book which is a welcome change from all that and is free on Amazon from 23 to 27 February, ‘No-one’s Good at Everything’. It consists of 2 stories–one’s an adventure about Billy, who loses his mother on a train and gets into all sorts of trouble trying to find her again and the other’s about Sophie, who’s the only one in her family not good at sport. All her friends are good at sport and so is her little sister, but Sophie dreads playing sport at school because she’s just not good at it. Positive reviews would be appreciated!

My last publication was a rural romance, Stony Creek, which is selling well, and I’m currently working on something which will probably be more suited to lovers of horror–I do like to mix it up–but I’m not even sure myself yet where it’s going. The characters will let me know–all I can say now is that they’re teenagers and they’re about to have a seance. I have an idea it won’t go well for some-one.

It’s been a lazy summer for me–too hot to get my brain going–but I think the worst is over now and I hope to get back to work this week. Summer’s officially over in four days and autumn is just around the corner. I love autumn and although all the trees in my garden are evergreens there are plenty around town that are just stunning in autumn. I think Bendigo’s at its best then.

I notice there’s been a lot of new interest in an old blog of mine about a writing challenge, ‘Write a paragraph beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night”.’ Do you think we should start another challenge?


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Free Books

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions but I am trying to get organised this year. I’ve decided to gradually move all my books over to Smashwords, not instead of Amazon, but as well as. Although I’m not entirely sure there’s any real advantage in doing so, because my sales on Amazon far outweigh those on Smashwords, since I don’t want to use Amazon’s KDP Select (which requires exclusivity) forever, my books may as well be on both.

One thing I like about Smashwords is that I’m able to make books free if and when I want to and I’ve made ‘What Did You Say?’ free there permanently. It’s not a great tome and certainly isn’t a comprehensive guide to all the vagaries of the English language. Rather it’s a little help for some of the most common errors people make in everyday life–like misuse of that pesky apostrophe, for example. I’ve included, where I can, ideas to help remember when and where to use an apostrophe, as well as why. Many people seem to have a problem with ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’ as well and I suggest ways to help you remember when to use which, as well as some other common mistakes. If you read ‘What Did You Say?’ and like it a review would be much appreciated.

I also have my children’s book, ‘Last Chance‘ free on Amazon right now, from the 3rd January to the 7th, for the last time. I’ll be moving it across to Smashwords later this month and it’ll be the same price there as Amazon, 99c. Children who are good readers from 9 or 10 should enjoy this; it’s a futuristic tale and starts off a bit grim but has a happy ending and won’t take long for you to read yourself if you have any doubts about its suitability for your child. I’d love a child’s opinion on it–my readers all seem to be adults, judging by the reviews.

Not Guilty‘ is on a 40 hour Countdown deal starting tomorrow, 4th January, at 99c. I’m not sure yet what my plan for this one is. It’s non-fiction–an horrific story about a mother who brutally murdered her own children and it’s also my most successful book on Amazon. I definitely won’t be putting it up free again but I’ll see how this promotion goes before I decide whether to add it to Smashwords.

Well that’s my plans for the first month of 2014–oh I’m also working on ‘Her Flesh and Blood’, which should be up this month, and am hoping to get back to another story I started last year. That’ll be after I finish a longish short story I’m co-authoring with another writer, So, busy times ahead.

I hope you all had a good new year (my New Year’s Eve consisted of watching fireworks on TV–ho hum) and all the best for 2014.


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CHILLI-THE GREAT HUNTER

We had a cat called Chill for 13 years; she was a lovely little girl–the only girl in the family besides me and she died last year. I still momentarily think it’s her scratching at the door sometimes or glance at a shadow–anyway, she was the world’s best cat and I wrote a story for kids largely based on an incident when we almost lose her. That might sound an odd subject for kids but I hope I’ve handled it so it doesn’t upset any. Kids do face tragedy and Chilli survived this one so it’s about hope if anything. And maybe about the results of being a naughty cat!

That wasn’t the only time we almost lost her–one day she just disappeared and we put a poster up at the local shop and looked around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and putting flyers in letterboxes. Someone rang the shop, and said they’d been told our cat had been in a trailer and ended up at the rubbish tip, which is about as far away as you can get from our house without leaving town. She did sometimes jump in our trailer for a snooze and I suppose the owner of that one put a tarp over his trailer and took off before she could get out. Once he stopped the car she’d have jumped out and found herself surrounded by huge noisy birds and horrible smells. And feral cats. She must have been terrified.

We looked out there of course and handed out flyers around that neighbourhood but I don’t think she’d have hung around long. To cut a long story short, seven weeks later we got a call from the RSPCA to see that they thought they had our cat. We didn’t dare hope–didn’t believe it possible she could survive that long on her own. I still remember the feeling when we realised we had our cat back. Now she’s gone and is irreplaceable but we have lots of memories.

To get back to my book–it’s called Chilli-The Great Hunter and it’s free on Amazon for 2 days, from the 7th to the 8th of October. The ‘Look Inside’ feature isn’t on yet and I’ll extend the free period when that starts. The book also includes a story about a teddy bear who runs away from a toy shop and another about a clay dragon who foils burglars in her family’s home.  UK readers can find it here.

Here are some short excerpts:

RUNNAWAY TEDDY

©Christine Gardner

Janet Wilson was standing outside the toyshop waiting for the bus home after a busy day shopping. It was pension day and she had bought some groceries, just enough for one, plus a chocolate bar as a special treat, as she usually did on pension day. She was looking forward to getting home and sitting in her comfortable old armchair, with her feet up, and sinking her teeth into that dark chocolate that she liked so much. She was startled when she suddenly felt a tap tap tap on her leg. She looked down and was amazed to see a small golden-brown teddy bear.

“Hey you up there!” yelled the bear in a little growly voice.

“Hello,” she said. “Aren’t you a cutie?”

“Never mind the cutesy-pie stuff, just pick me up!” he demanded.

CHILLI—THE GREAT HUNTER

©Christine Gardner

Chilli’s family loved her very much, and they fed her lots of goodies, including dry cat food, fresh minced beef, bits of steak and her very favourite, tuna from a can. When she heard the electric can opener she would come running from wherever she was. She had very good hearing. No matter what they fed her though, Chilli still loved to hunt. She hunted spiders, cockroaches and mice at first and Mum and Dad didn’t mind that at all. Then she started hunting birds. She always brought them home to share with her family but still they weren’t happy.

DIDIE WAKES UP

© Christine Gardner

Didie was a very contented dragon. So contented that she slept all the time. Well, nearly all the time. Sometimes she just pretended. She had no desire to move, and never had, in all her three years. Of course she was made of clay, which had quite a lot to do with it. She lived on top of the heater in the Johnson family’s lounge-room, where she was very snug and warm and comfortable. She thought she always would be. Until one very surprising night . . .

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Ever heard of Ignaz Semmelweis?

It’s over twenty years since I first read ‘The Cry and the Covenant’ , by Morton Thompson, and at least ten years since I re-read it. It’s historical fiction based on the life of a Hungarian doctor called Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) and what still strikes me the most is that no-one has ever heard of him. It may be different in Hungary and Austria, where I believe there’s a statue of him.

We’ve all heard of Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur–Lister is acknowledged as the first surgeon to use antiseptic during surgery, in 1865. Ignaz died in 1865 so probably didn’t know of Lister’s achievement.

This man most of us are unaware of was vilified by his fellow doctors for his preposterous theory that the thousands of women dying across Europe after childbirth could possibly be saved if doctors were to wash their hands! Everyone knew childbed fever was caused by a miasma, poison floating around in the air, and the method of wiping their bloody hands on their jackets allowed doctors some status–it showed how hard they worked.

When Ignaz was able to establish his regime the women themselves were offended when doctors began washing their hands, taking it as a personal insult! Every time he managed a step forward the medical profession dragged him back; even so he saved the lives of many women. I have no idea if Lister knew of his work and was inspired by it or if he came up with that idea on his own. The book is a novel and, as such, the reader can’t be sure  how much is fiction and how much is fact–the one thing that annoys me about historical novels. Why not a page or two at the end explaining some of the facts?

Anyway this book is amazing and, since it was written in 1949, may not be easy to get hold of. I’ve had three copies and lent them all out and now I don’t have any but that’s okay–I remember it! If you can get hold of it, it’s well worth a read.

It may be that I was especially taken with the book because I was mum to five young boys at that stage and it occurred to me that without visionaries like Ignaz I may not have survived the first one! My boys are all grown up now–and yes I still call them boys but then my 93 year old mother still calls her brothers ‘the boys’.

If you have any children in the 9-12 age bracket, my children’s novel, ‘Last Chance’ is free on Amazon till the 28th. Or you could read it yourself and write me a review if you like it! See my Amazon Author Page for info on all my books. Also UK Amazon. 

The Australian Amazon site is less friendly but you can find all of these books there if you use the search option. They’re also available as paperbacks.

 

 


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Writing Challenge–Write a paragraph beginning with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

I’ve just started writing short stories again and, in the pursuit of a topic, I was trying to think of a random first line. Years ago I was in a class for short story writing and the teacher used to give us a line, usually before our coffee break. It was great fun to see what different stories everyone came up with, starting with that same line. Trying to think of a line myself, that old favourite from the 19th century, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ kept popping into my head, so I thought okay, why not? I wrote what I think is not a bad story and I thought it would be fun to see how many of you would like to join in the challenge. Maybe just a paragraph but don’t be surprised if it turns into a story. Here’s mine. (Search my archived posts for more writing challenges.)

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

It was a dark and stormy night . . . Lorna pushed the delete button and chuckled out loud. I really am getting desperate, she thought. She pushed her chair back from the desk and stretched her arms above her head.  Definitely time for a coffee break. It wasn’t dark and neither was it stormy. It was late morning and the sun was shining brilliantly. That was a large part of the problem, she thought, as she topped up the kettle and rinsed her coffee cup. She needed dark and stormy. Who could write on such a glorious day? Her novel was meant to be full of horror, with evil and a good deal of gore thrown in for good measure. Trixie weaved himself around and through Lorna’s legs, looking for attention, and she bent down and picked him up. “I’m not finished though, Trix. Just because I’m not at the computer doesn’t mean I can sit down with you for the rest of the day.”

She did sit down with him, though, on their favourite armchair by the big window overlooking the lake. He curled up on her lap and she sipped her coffee, staring vacantly out the window and stroking the big tomcat with her spare hand. Trixie had turned up on her doorstep as a young cat—not a kitten exactly, but not full grown either. More like a teenager, Lorna told everyone. For some reason she’d thought he was female, perhaps because, once she’d cleaned him up and brushed his long, matted ginger fur, he was just so pretty. So she’d called him Trixie and when he’d turned out to be male, well, he wasn’t worried, so why would she be?

Lorna’s life had taken a sudden turn for the better a year ago when her partner had decided to fly the coop. Their relationship had become—not violent—but certainly fiery.  Lorna admitted she had a tendency to take things too far sometimes; she was hard to please, a perfectionist, and was better off living alone. She and Trixie got along well. On the spur of the moment she’d decided to quit her job as well as the flat they’d shared and look for a house in the country. She was only a couple of years short of pension age but she cashed in her super and some investments she had and bought a brand new computer and a nice little cottage; she had enough to live on for a couple of years if she was careful. She was going to be a professional writer, just as she’d always wanted.

Everything was set up, but her life now was too easy. She was too content. She wanted to write about murder and mayhem but the sun was shining, the birds were singing and she couldn’t, just couldn’t, think murder and mayhem on such a day. There was a knock on the door and she put down a reluctant cat. It was very unusual to get visitors out here in the summer. It was a cottage meant for the snow season and somewhat isolated in the summer, which was why Lorna chose it. She wanted to be alone while she waited for the inspiration she knew would come. Eventually. A young man stood at the door, car keys dangling in his hand. He smiled, showing sparkling white teeth; he was well dressed and nice-looking, with neatly trimmed hair. So Lorna ignored the little niggling warning bell in her brain and said of course he could come in and use the phone. His car had broken down a kilometre away and hers was the first house he’d come across.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am, Miss . . . Mrs?”

“Lorna will do fine.”

He held his hand out. “I’m Pete. Pete Woodross. I just came up for a look around. On holidays, you know, down in the village.”

She nodded. “Not much to do around here in the summer.” “

You’re telling me!” He looked around the bright and airy room. “Nice place you’ve got here though.”

She nodded again. “I like it.” She gestured to the phone on the wall beside the little entrance table. “The phone’s over there. You don’t have a mobile?”

He took it out of his pocket to show her. “Yes, for all the use it is. No reception up here at all.”

“Really? Maybe you should change providers. Mine seems to work all right.” She reached her hand out but he put the phone back in his pocket. “You go ahead and make your call.” She still held her half empty cup in her hand and felt obliged to ask, “Would you like a coffee . . . or tea?”

He grinned. “I’d kill for a cup of tea, thanks.”

She tipped her now lukewarm coffee out and made them both a cup of tea; she put them on the kitchen table and then got the tin of cookies out of the pantry and put a few on a plate. She could hear him talking on the phone in the foyer.

“Hello. Yes. I’m a member.” He said a rather long number and then gave the street name nearby where he said his car was. Then, “An hour? But . . . surely . . . It’s not that isolated! How busy can they be?”

Lorna sat at the table and at last he came out and joined her. “How did you go?” she asked.

“Oh, okay,” he answered, his mouth full of homemade choc chip cookie. “Be a while though. At least an hour.” He looked around the room again. “Mind if I hang out here? I won’t get in your way.”

She frowned, not knowing what to say.

“I could just sit there and watch TV, if that’s okay? Or read a book? Got any good books?”

She nodded slowly. “Probably. What sort of books do you like?”

He flashed his teeth again, now slightly less white, with the remains of the chocolate chips showing here and there between them. “Murder’s my thing. Probably not yours though, I’m guessing. You look more like the romance type.”

Lorna shook her head vigorously. “Definitely not. I’m far too level-headed for that; seen far too much of life.”

He nodded slowly, looking at her carefully. “That’s good,” he said quietly. “Excellent.”

For some reason disturbed, Lorna got up hastily and went to the bookshelf in the lounge area partitioned off from the kitchen only by a wall unit. The young man followed close behind her but she didn’t look back. Not even when she felt his breath on her neck did she turn around. Instead she closed her eyes, not wanting to see the bright airy room, not wanting to look at Trixie, who still sat on the armchair, watching his mistress and the visitor. As the young man’s hands went around her neck and squeezed the life from her it started raining outside and everything became black; there was thunder too, or was it just in her head? No matter. Her last thought before she lost consciousness was ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

Please visit my author page for more info on all my books on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk  

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Author Website

Also at other digital stores, including Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble: Books2Read 

More information on my Book Page.

Stony Creek is free–the first in a series but can be read as a standalone. Of course I’m hoping you’ll buy the other two, but because you like book 1 and want more, no cliffhangers!


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Reading and Writing 1st person point of view–yes or no?

I’ve written two novels based largely on journal entries. The first one, ‘Inheritance’, starts with the main character written from the third person point of view, but changes, when she finds a diary, to that character’s view point, obviously in the first person POV.

More recently I wrote another novel almost entirely as a journal, so almost entirely from the first person POV, ‘Her Flesh and Blood’, due out soon. I think this was the best way to tell that particular story because readers will have their own opinions about what she writes in her journal and will also have knowledge that she doesn’t. I particularly enjoy playing around with the idea of the ‘naive narrator’.

My question is, do you, as readers or as writers, like books written from the 1st person point of view? I’ve just finished the first draft of another novel, a rural romance, which I started as third person and fully intended to continue in that POV. Then, several thousand words in, I got bored with the whole thing and I realised I had trouble relating to the protagonist. I decided to change the POV to 1st person and found the words flowed much easier.

I have to confess though, as a reader, I’ve tended to avoid first person narratives unless they came with a very good recommendation. A writer friend has told me readers, and therefore publishers, don’t like them.

I have no intention of re-writing the book I’ve just finished but I’m wondering if I’ve fallen into something of a bad habit. Should I make more effort next time around to write from the 3rd person point of view or just go with what seems appropriate to tell the story?

My children’s book, ‘Beast of War’ (All third person POV!) is free on Amazon the 23rd and 24th July. It’s only around 30,000 words and if you have any spare time reviews would be appreciated.


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Free Sanctuary! Ebook on Amazon 15 to 19 July.

Sanctuary is a sci-fi book for young adults, set in the 25th century. It’s a post-apocalyptic story, a subject which always fascinates me; I love to read different writers’ ideas about the future of the world. My future world is not a pretty one but there is hope and the qualities which make us human are still there. Although I did write it for young adults I know plenty of adults enjoy YA fiction–it’s easy reading and, hopefully, enjoyable. If you do find the time to read it and enjoy it please take another few minutes to write a brief review, either on Amazon or Goodreads or both.

On a slightly different subject, but still about the future of our world–a certain 5 year old, who shall remain nameless, was visiting the other day and an ad came on the TV–one of those ubiquitous ads displaying the wonders of some exercise machine–and he told me he wanted to get one when he grew up. I asked him why and he said because he wanted to ‘get fit’! I should point out that this child never sits still-is constantly running everywhere, is tall for his age and has not an ounce of extra fat anywhere on his body. Yet already he’s getting the message that he needs the latest gadget to improve himself!

My children are adults now but I do remember talking to them about advertisements, especially those on TV, and pointing out the ridiculousness of some of the claims made. It’s sad, but parents, you really have to tell your children that sometimes people lie.

All good parents are careful about the programs their children are allowed to watch on TV, but do they notice the commercials? I think we’re so accustomed to them, especially those that seem to be on all the time, that we tend to tune them out. I know I do. Just be aware that your kids may not have the same filter and that they can’t read the disclaimer that tells us, for example, that the miracles we see in front of us are actually the result of a combination of diet and exercise, rather than ten minutes a day on a magic machine!

Morning television here in Australia is full of both exercise machines and life insurance ads, neither of which are suitable viewing for children. Is this is a time you put your feet up and watch TV while your child plays near by? Perhaps you could just push the mute button when the ads are on–you might think your child’s not taking any notice but he probably is! I know, from experience, how convenient it is to put your child in front of the TV, while you get on with whatever you have to do, and I’m not saying that’s a bad idea. Just be careful and don’t forget to read books to them. This is beginning to sound like a mummy blog!

Happy reading.