Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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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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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Time for a New Start

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_Kindle

I finished a 3 book series a few weeks ago and have deliberately put off starting a new project because I didn’t want to be distracted by other things. I went to Mildura, my home town, for my brother’s birthday, worked on a new cover for my children’s fantasy, ‘Beast of War’, and then there was Christmas.

I have five sons and, adding in their partners, a couple of grand-kids and now several more step grand-kids, it’s become impossible to get everyone together for Christmas. We had three Christmases this year and managed to see everyone so that worked. New Year will be quiet, unless there’s something I don’t know about, and I plan to start work on my new book next week.

Of course I’ve been thinking about it and have an idea what it’s about but I’m not much of a planner. I don’t map out chapters or anything; hopefully once I get to know the characters they’ll do their own thing. That usually works for me; I present them with a scenario and they deal with it according to their personality. Having spent the last three years writing a series that’s now finished I feel both free and a little nervous about starting something different. My ‘Red Dust Series’ has, and still is doing very well and I hope my readers will like the new one. I’m not sure yet if it will be another series or just one book.

I do know this book will be mostly based in Bendigo, central Victoria, which is my home now and has been for 25 years or so. The history of not guilty 2014 coverBendigo is very interesting, built as it was on the gold fields, and I studied something of that at uni. I also had reason to research other aspects of Bendigo for my true crime book ‘Not Guilty’, about a woman who killed her three children. The jail she was in for a few months after her trial was converted last year to a theatre. Converted is probably the wrong word–what they did was keep the outside walls and build an amazing 1000 seat theatre within them.

So I’ve had a good break but I’m starting to get a bit toe-y now and it’s time to get back to work–next week. Happy New Year everyone!

Stony Creek on Amazon

The Road to Karinya

Red Wine and Summer Storms

 

 


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Something for a rainy day.

It’s mid winter here in Oz and the heads on TV keep telling me we’re suffering a particularly severe cold spell from the Antarctic–personally I have no intention of going outside to check it out. They have mentioned snow in unusual places and if it happens to snow in our garden I’ll go outside but otherwise I’ll stay right here with the heater thank you very much. I will have to leave the comfort of my lounge room tomorrow but it’s Sunday here today and I’m staying put.

I realize it’s Saturday and summer for most of you and I don’t envy you that either–autumn and spring are the best times of the year here. I will admit winter is good for sleeping, for those of us lucky enough to have a nice cosy bed.

In my last blog I wrote about how my experiences affect my writing and mentioned my time on a Queensland beach–as a young couple my husband BookCoverImageconnectionsand I slept in a tent until a cyclone wrecked it and then in our car for a while. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds now and I think it’s great to have life experiences that are perhaps a little removed from the mundane. I wrote a short story ‘Brown Dog’, in which I used some of my memories of beach-combing and being broke, away from home. Unlike Luke, the protagonist in my story, I was not friendless, nor suicidal! Fortunately we were able to find work and accommodation before too long; some of that work–like cutting sugar cane by hand (we lasted half a day)–is probably worthy of a place in one of my stories at some stage.

For now, enjoy ‘Brown Dog’, from my short story collection, ‘Connections‘.

Brown Dog

(c) Christine Gardner 

It was the ugliest dog Luke had ever seen. He was standing at the edge of the sea, not really contemplating suicide (but oh, what a seductive sea it was, just walk on in and don’t look back). The dog ambled over to him and just sat beside him, uninvited and unwanted. It was skin and bone, with long legs like a greyhound. All brown, with no relieving patches. Just an old brown dog. It whined and wagged its tail back and forwards across the sand.

‘Get lost, mutt,’ Luke said, with no real animosity. ‘I’m not in the market for a dog. I can barely feed myself.’

Delighted at being addressed, the dog sidled up closer to Luke and pressed itself against his bare legs. Luke felt himself being dragged unwillingly out of his black mood and somehow he was sitting down beside the dog, which was ecstatically licking his hand and jumping all over him. He laughed out loud, and was startled by the unfamiliar sound of it. He’d had precious little to laugh at lately.

Luke was living in his old EJ Holden, his tent having been wrecked by a severe hailstorm a month earlier. He was flat broke, existing day to day on whatever he could get from beach combing. This was meant to be a working holiday, but there was no work, and it sure didn’t feel like a holiday. A month earlier he’d put in half a day on a vineyard, picking grapes, after some loud mouths at the pub had been bragging about all the money they’d made. It was forty degrees by mid-morning and Luke had felt the sun burning his face to a crisp. By lunchtime he’d had it. His tally had earnt him the grand total of five dollars and he hadn’t even bothered to pick it up. Too embarrassed to face the blockie he’d just got in his oven-hot car and driven off.

Since then things had got steadily worse. In desperation he’d gone to the local social security office, only to be informed that he was not a local, and as this was an area of high unemployment he would have to wait for six weeks before being eligible for any financial assistance.

‘How am I supposed to live for six weeks with no money?’ he’d asked the pompous counter clerk. ‘Or is that the idea, I starve to death and then I won’t need any assistance?’

The clerk was not amused and suggested Luke go back home and apply at his own local office. Luke didn’t bother telling her he had no money to get home on. It would be at least $150 for petrol, and anyway there was no home really. He’d burned his bridges there.

The only hope came from a dirty looking young couple with matching dread-locks who were behind him in line and heard his conversation with the clerk. ‘Look man,’ the male said, ‘I know how you can make a few bucks if you’re hungry.’

Luke was dubious, but he was also hungry. ‘What’s that mate?’ he asked suspiciously.

‘Hey man, nothing heavy. It’s just beach combing, we do it all the time, hey babe?’ He looked at his female counterpart who nodded enthusiastically. ‘There’s a guy at the Island Bar pays ten bucks a bag for cuttlefish, y’know, for budgies? And sometimes there’s other stuff. Glass floaters are like gold; they’re off the big fishing nets, and the yuppies like to, y’know, hang ‘em on the front verandah to impress the neighbours.’

Luke thanked the young couple and headed straight over to the Island Bar to check the facts. He found the man he needed to see with no trouble at all; he managed the bar and also lived there. Big Al, as he was known to the locals, fitted in nicely between the beer barrels, being of a similar shape. His interior was probably similar as well, as he was almost never without a beer in his hand. No one had ever seen him drunk, but few had seen him sober. He was just the same any time of the day and in any state of inebriation—morose. Some bartenders are good listeners, and drinkers like to pour out their troubles while the bartenders pour out the beer. They soon learnt that Big Al, while he was prepared to listen, could top any sad story with one of his own much worse tales.

‘Look,’ he said to Luke, ‘I get bugger-all out of this cuttlefish business, but since I also get bugger-all for this job here, every little bit helps. What I really like to see is those glass balls; I can give you 40 bucks for one of them, and 20 for the plastic ones.’ He gave Luke a sugar bag and told him to bring it back when it was full of cuttle­fish. He also suggested a few likely beaches, and Luke went off straight away to try his luck.

That had been two weeks earlier, and he’d been able to survive, but only just. One day he’d managed to fill two bags with the dried-out cuttlefish bone lying on the beaches and he’d bought a small packet of cigarettes, which had made him feel almost human again. Usually he was lucky to fill one bag, and half the money had to go in the petrol tank. He tried to vary his diet; mostly it was either baked beans or sardines, as well as bread. A loaf of bread lasted a couple of days if he was careful. He was always hungry though, and always depressed. The only person he really spoke to was Big Al, which didn’t exactly ease his depression. He knew if he told Al his life wasn’t worth living, Al would not only agree, but list all the reasons why his own was so much worse.

The brown dog followed Luke down the beach, bounding here and there to check out interesting smells, and rushing to the water only to back off when the waves covered his feet.

‘Chicken!’ Luke laughed. ‘It’s only water; you could probably use a bath. Come to think of it, so could I.’ He stripped off and plunged into the waves, yelling as the impact of the cold water hit him. Then as he became used to it he relaxed and began to enjoy himself, body-surfing in with the waves. The dog barked excitedly from the shore, and then hesitantly crept in to the water. ‘Here boy!’ Luke called, and the dog swam eagerly out to him.

When they emerged, the dog shook himself vigorously and then ran around and rolled in the sand. Not having a towel handy Luke decided he had the right idea, and ran along the beach until he was warm and dry. When he’d dressed again, he felt better than he’d felt in months. Alive again. The dog was dashing back and forwards across the sand and had found a particularly fascinating pile of seaweed and driftwood. Luke strolled over to him and the dog scratched something out of the pile which rolled towards Luke. It was a glass ball.

Luke was convinced now. This dog had been sent to help him, an answer to his desperate pleas to whomever or whatever was listening. He felt on top of the world and immediately went to see Big Al, dog in tow. Then with his new-found wealth he bought a bag of dry dog food, as well as a huge bone from the butcher’s shop in the main street. He left the dog beside the car with his goodies and went shopping for his own needs. He bought a pouch of tobacco which he knew would last at least a week, a few cans of baked beans and Irish Stew for when he was broke again, and best of all, fresh meat and vegetables. There was a public barbecue nearby in the park and Luke and the dog feasted on steak, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Neither of them could remember when they’d had a better meal.

That night the dog slept on the front seat of the car, with Luke on the back seat. The car stank of cuttlefish, which was always carried in the boot, and Luke had sprinkled curry powder everywhere in an effort to improve the smell. It now smelt like curried cuttlefish, but that was a slight improvement. The dog sneezed several times, but then went to sleep happily enough. The following morning brought rain, but nothing could dampen their spirits. They ran down the beach in the rain and then ran back to the car, shivering. Luke changed his clothes in the car, and left the dog outside to shake himself dry under a tree. Having declared the day a holiday Luke drove around for a while, looking for somewhere that would provide free shelter for man and dog. Usually on rainy days he hung around the indoor shopping centres, but the dog wouldn’t be allowed there.

They were strolling along under the verandahs of the main street when the dog stopped in the doorway of a bakery, drinking in the wonderful aromas. Luke smiled. ‘Yes, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread, is there boy?’ Then he noticed the sign in the window: Help Wanted. Accommodation Provided. Leaving the dog outside, he entered the shop and approached the middle-aged woman at the counter.

‘Hi, I was wondering about your “help wanted” sign?’

‘Yes dear, have you ever worked in a shop? Do you know how to use a cash register?’

‘Oh sure,’ Luke lied, ‘I used to work in a supermarket.’ He had in fact spent a week once helping in his uncle’s fish-shop and was reasonably confident he could work the register.

Mrs Thomson showed him the room upstairs which was large and comfortably furnished. There was a ceiling fan above the bed, a big sliding window with a view of the beach, and a desk with a portable TV. There was also a little kitchenette area and a door leading to a tiny but scrupulously clean bathroom. Luke felt like he’d died and gone to Heaven. And it was all thanks to the brown dog. He was going to be one spoilt mutt. Mrs Thomson was still talking, and Luke tuned in again. ‘Of course health regulations mean you can’t have pets here, but I don’t suppose you have any, do you?’

‘Pardon? I’m sorry Mrs Thomson, what did you say?’

‘No pets dear. You can’t have pets here.’

‘Oh. I see … no, that won’t be a problem.’

‘That’s good, only I saw a dog out the front when you came in and I wondered ….’

‘No, it’s not my dog.’

‘Just sniffing around the bakery then, we get a lot of strays.’

Luke agreed to start work the next day and Mrs Thomson said he could get his things and move in right away.

Sitting on the beach where he had first met the brown dog Luke tried to explain the situation to him. ‘I’ll come and look for you every day after work. You can hang around here and sleep on the beach. It’s not that cold. I’ll bring you meat pies and cream cakes.’

The dog just looked at him, his brown eyes reproachful and all-knowing. ‘Oh dog, what can I do? They won’t let you stay there. I’m sorry.’ He walked away and left the dog sitting alone on the beach right where they’d found each other. He sat in the car and put his head on the steering wheel, a lump in his throat. Then he sat upright. ‘No, dammit! I won’t do it. It’s like selling my soul. I’ll find some other job.’ He ran back to the beach calling out to the dog. The beach was empty, except for a stray sea-gull foraging amongst the shells. He ran along, whistling and calling. For an hour he wandered the beach.

The brown dog was gone.

For information on my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 


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How much of you is in your writing?

Most of us have mercifully little experience of murder, espionage and so on, not to mention the lives of people who lived hundred of years ago, but the characters we write about in such stories can still be built from ourselves and people we know and it’s inevitable our life experiences will affect our writing.

BookCoverImageconnectionsWhat about using our own experiences deliberately? I taught creative writing at a community college a few years ago and the first exercise I set the students was to write about an episode in their own lives. The next step was to turn that into a story, which they could do by simply changing the point of view or they could choose to make it more fiction, retaining just some elements of the initial story, which is what they all did. It’s a good exercise for anyone who wants to write but doesn’t quite know how to get started. We all have a story to tell–even if you think your life is boring and nothing ever happens, to someone else with a very different life it might be riveting!

One of my short stories, ‘Brown Dog’, while not at all about me, includes lots of my life experiences. When we were very young newlyweds my husband and I went from our home town in Victoria to Queensland, two states away and around 2,000 kilometres. Our first destination was Munduberra, a tiny inland town where we already had work and accommodation lined up on a citrus orchard. We stuck it out for a few weeks but, to cut a long story short, it didn’t meet our expectations and we headed for the coast. We spent a couple of years living around the Sunshine Coast, including Marcoola Beach, which is not only the basis of ‘Brown Dog’. but also a large part of ‘The Road to Karinya’, the second bookdarkamazon of my Red Dust rural romance series, as is Mundubbera itself.

In ‘Brown Dog’ Luke is broke, living in his car and almost suicidal when he comes across a stray dog on the beach and his life is turned around. After a cyclone wiped out our tent we also slept in our car for a while, but I don’t recall being particularly depressed–we had friends and work wasn’t that hard to find. We did pick up a stray dog during that time though and we did have to let him go after a few days and we also spent some time beachcombing; I remember well the joy of finding a glass ball amongst the driftwood!

You can read ‘Brown Dog’ and my other short stories free from 23rd to 25th June and ‘Dark Innocence’ on 29th June to the 1st July. ‘Dark Innocence’ is another story where I used some of my own memories, growing up in a country town and hitchhiking down to the river at weekends. And having seances with Vegemite glasses and cut out scraps with letters and numbers written on them!


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Self-editing for self publishers

Okay–first of all, if there’s any way you can afford an editor, hire one! Secondly, if you do, make sure you do some research first. I’ve seen self-published books where the writer has acknowledged the help of an editor and the first page is riddled with errors. I spent a couple of years editing free-lance and I belonged to an organization called The Victorian Society of Editors, which may or may not still be around. There’s bound to be some kind of association, preferably in your own country, that can help you find a professional editor. However you find someone it’s a good idea to ask them for a sample edit of a few pages, and make sure you communicate exactly what you require. Don’t just rely on terms like ‘substantive edit’ or ‘copy edit’; make sure you tell them exactly what you are hoping for.

Let’s assume you are not going to hire anyone. You’re quite sure you can do it yourself. You probably can’t, so at least get as many people as possible to read your book. You might be surprised at how something that makes perfect sense to you makes little or no sense to a reader who doesn’t know what you’re thinking. Sometimes things are so obvious and we don’t want to treat our readers as dummies but we have to realize they can’t read our minds, only what makes it to the page!

If you can find a writer’s group in your local area, or online, who will read your work and give you an honest opinion, that’s a step up from your best friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Always remember opinions are subjective and not everyone will love your story–take criticisms with a grain of salt, but if several people are dubious about the same thing maybe you can rethink it.

All right, you have no friends, no writers’ groups, no family members whose opinions you value, or you just don’t want anyone to read your story (other than the whole world, after it’s published), at least read it aloud to yourself. If you can, record it and listen to it. You know how your voice sounds like someone else’s when it’s recorded? If you can distance yourself enough to hear what you’ve actually written, rather than what you thought you’d written, that’s a good start. Update on this–if you have Word, use Text to Speech to have a somewhat robotic voice read your book aloud to you. I found a couple of errors in my own book after many self-edits. One I recall was ‘whole’ instead of ‘while’. Very different when spoken but so similar in writing, especially when the i and the o are next to each other on the keyboard!

Now your story’s perfect and you’re up to the nitty gritty. So many self-published novels are riddled with errors. Please don’t think I consider myself perfect–I was reading through an old blog the other day and realized I’d written ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’! We all make mistakes and every book I take off the shelf at the library has at least one; we can only try to do the best we can. At least, as self-published writers, we can always go back and correct our mistakes; it’s never too late.what did

Obviously use your computer spell-check but don’t rely on it–if in doubt use a dictionary. The spell-check won’t pick up ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’. Again, reading aloud helps but we tend to see what we think we wrote, not necessarily what’s there. We also get caught up in the story and miss errors of spelling or grammar. If you print it out–yes the whole thing!–you may be able to spot errors better. Sit at the table with your manuscript and a dictionary in front of you and use a ruler to read one line at a time and prevent you from reading ahead. Then start again, this time from the back of the book, again one line at a time–this helps to get away from the story line and concentrate on each sentence. Another update! I’m now editing again, for Australian writers only. More details on my Editing page.

My ebook ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar and punctuation, is available at Smashwords and may be of some use–it’s free anyway, so why not?

My books are now available on most digital shopfronts, including Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo via Draft2Digital.

Paperbacks and ebooks are also available on Amazon.