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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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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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

 


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FREE SHORT STORY

Winter, or at least autumn, is here at last; we’ve had quite a bit of rain and very little sunlight this week. Lovely after a long, hot and dry summer. Whether you’re curled up in front of the fire or soaking up the sun on your outdoor lounge here’s a gift for you: The Runt of the Litter, from my short story collection. My short stories, like my novels, are over a large range of genres–that’s the way I like to read as well!

THE RUNT OF THE LITTER

© Christine Gardner

The boy stood at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves smashing onto the rocks far below him. His coat, handed down from his father, flapped around his ankles in the roaring wind. Hugh was small for twelve and an onlooker would think he was in grave danger of losing his footing and slipping over the edge at any moment, but he was accustomed to the wind and had stood in this same spot far too many times since the death of his father four years earlier.

Before his father’s death, Hugh and his sister and brothers would never go anywhere near the cliff top; their father built a wall of rocks to keep his children and his sheep safe from the dangerBookCoverImageconnectionsous precipice. Since his death the wall had crumbled somewhat from the harsh and icy winds raging across the Atlantic Ocean and the cliff top had become a sanctuary of sorts for Hugh; a place of quiet isolation. Away from his stepfather.

His mother, Bridget, had married her childhood sweetheart, John McIntyre, when she was pregnant with Hugh and his birth was followed quickly by that of his twin brothers, Andrew and David. However they managed it, there were no more children for four years, until the arrival of Eliza, the apple of her father’s eye.

John and Bridget were content enough; at least Bridget thought they were. It was true, as all the villagers said, that  they didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but they always managed to feed the children; Bridget was very good at making a hearty soup from potatoes and mutton bones with the addition of a few herbs from her garden.

John, she found out one day, was not so content; he was worried about the future of their family. Eliza would marry a decent man, someone who could take care of her properly; John would make damn sure of that, but the boys could never make a living for all three of them on the little farm. They would want to marry and have families of their own—it simply was not possible. If he, John, though, were to go to Dublin for a few months? Just during the winter, when there was not much to be done here; the boys could take care of it, with a little help from their mother, then he could buy that plot of land Old O’Neill wanted to get rid of.  They could have a proper farm; even if he had to spend every winter at the Dublin mills for ten years, it would be worth it.

Bridget was horrified; she begged him not to go. She’d heard stories about the mills and about Dublin; it was not safe. And she couldn’t manage without him here. The boys were not old enough; she would be frightened without him. Eliza was just a baby. All her pleading did no good. Once John McIntyre made up his mind to do a thing it was as good as done.

She packed him a bag with a change of clothes and some mutton and bread and he filled his belly with her wholesome soup before he left. The children all woke to see him off on the trusty old chestnut, Sal.

He was found later that day by a farmer on the way home from market, by the side of the muddy road. Sal was nowhere to be seen and in fact was never seen again, at least not by the McIntyres. Someone, no doubt, had found a use for the animal. It seemed something must have frightened her and she’d thrown her beloved master into a nearby ditch, where he’d lain for several hours before the farmer came upon him.

“Are you all right?” the farmer had asked. The fellow had just looked at him, he told everyone later at the Old Cock Inn. He was trying to talk, but couldn’t manage it and then, that was it. “He just gasped for air, but couldn’t get none, like. He were a goner. Knew that soon as I saw him, of course.”

They’d buried him the next day and it was six months later when Bridget had succumbed to Jamie’s O’Donnell’s efforts at seduction. Or at least his persuasion—he could provide for her and all her children and, as he kept telling her, she clearly could not. She had no family left and John’s parents, who lived many miles south, were dirt poor and could never take them in. Since Jamie’d bought Old O’Neill’s bit of land next door the farm was now a reasonable size and he worked the boys hard to make sure it was in good shape.

Not that he was a shirker himself—everyone said Jamie O’Donnell would never ask anyone to do anything he’d not do himself. Of course Jamie was thirty-eight and he expected Hugh, at nine years old, to work as hard as he did. He was only slightly easier on the twins, who were eight, but taller than Hugh, who he always called the runt of the litter. And laughed every time he said it. That was the thing that annoyed Hugh the most—the laugh.

The beatings he could put up with—the continual bullying, both verbal and physical. The verbal was even a source of amusement at times, since he was well aware of his stepfather’s shortcomings in the areas of communication. Bridget’s grandfather had been the village parson and both John and Bridget saw value in reading, value in broadening the mind beyond the cottage, beyond the small village. They’d insisted all their children learn to read and write and Hugh had a stash of his father’s books hidden away. Jamie was not able to read and therefore did not want anyone else to read, especially in his house. Occasionally, just to taunt his stepfather, Hugh would use words he knew the man would not understand, to speak to his brothers, and they would look slyly at each other and grin when they thought he wasn’t looking.

He would become furious, of course, and Bridget would chastise them, but she couldn’t hide the smile, and the pride, in her eyes. Unfortunately Jamie saw it as well and would as likely hit her as the boys. None of them were safe from his jealous anger.

It was his little sister Hugh was most worried about. His mother, he figured, had made her bed and she must lie on it. He and the boys, well, they could put up with it for a few years; they’d talked about leaving, but knew they’d have to be older before they’d get a living wage anywhere. And they were reluctant to leave Eliza until she was a bit older.

She was eight years old when she first felt the back of her stepfather’s hand. It was also the last time. Eliza barely remembered her father; her brothers had told her about him and he was like a mythical creature in her mind—somewhere between a prince on a white horse and a unicorn—so Jamie O’Neill was her father, to all intents and purposes.

Bridget and Eliza were cooking and the little girl was excited to be able to use her mother’s knife for the first time, to peel the potatoes. Her stepfather came in just as she dropped a roughly peeled and chopped potato into the soup pot and he grabbed it out and looked at it.

“What do you call that?”

“A potato?” Her bottom lip quivered.

He threw it at her. “That’s a disgrace!” He looked at Bridget, already cowering in anticipation. “D’you expect me to eat that? It’s half peel and half dirt! Are you trying to kill me?”

“She’s just learning,” she said softly. “She has to start somewhere, Jamie.” She smiled at her daughter and handed her another potato. “Just let me check it before you put it in the pot this time.”

Jamie was not about to let it go though. “She’s bloody useless, that’s what she is. Just like her mother.” He looked the little girl up and down. “And what’s she wearing? That dress is too short for her. She looks like a little whore. Is that what you’re training her for?”

Eliza sat as still as she could, given her frail little body was shaking. She knew her dress was too short but Ma always said there was no money for fabric to make another. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she made no sound; she knew better than to make a fuss. Nonetheless his rough and enormous hand swiped across her face and Bridget stood up, shocked into action.

“Jamie!” She held her sobbing daughter to her chest and the tiny kitchen was suddenly filled with boys and noise and chaos and they were all yelling and they were not boys any more.

Jamie was hitting out randomly at whoever was close enough and he was massive in that room. He roared like a giant and Eliza’s sobs were drowned out and lost in the racket.

David picked up the poker from its place beside the fire and hit out wildly with it. Jamie laughed as it missed him and connected with the table. He was in his element; he loved a good fight and it was about time these little shits grew up and had a go.

When he saw Hugh take the poker from his younger brother he laughed even louder. “Oh ho, the runt’s going to have a go, is he?” He pulled his fist back to hit out at the boy but Hugh was quicker.

He took a deep breath and gripped that poker with an iron grip; he swung out at everything that was wrong with his life, at everything he hated. He brought the poker down on that hated head and silenced the laughter forever. Silenced the torment, silenced the bullying, silenced everything.

Bridget screamed when Jamie hit the floor; his face was a bloody mess and she knelt down beside him and put her head to his chest. Suddenly she was a widow again; she felt helpless. But when she looked up at her sons, at Hugh standing somehow taller, towering over her, backed by his brothers, and her daughter also staring at her brother with something like adoration, she realized she was not alone. Hugh was in charge.

“What will we do?” she asked him.

“Just take Eliza to your room, Ma,” he said quietly. “We’ll set things to right.”

The twins followed Hugh’s instructions and dragged the heavy body through the kitchen door to the cold and welcoming wind outside. They left him there while they cleaned up the blood on the kitchen floor so Ma and Eliza didn’t have to look at it.

It took some time to drag him all the way to the cliff and all the strength they had to hoist him over the crumbling rock wall. When they finally got to the cliff edge Hugh told them to leave the rest to him and to go back to help Ma and Eliza.

They were disappointed and relieved, in just about equal measure, and obediently returned to the cottage.

Hugh wanted to spend some time thinking, on his own. He wanted this moment to be a ritual; he knew he would remember every moment always and he wanted to remember it with pride.

So he stood there for several minutes—fifteen or more, with the wind whipping around him. He felt strong—invincible—and he knew he could do anything now.

He wasn’t shocked when he heard a groan from the heap beside him, only mildly surprised the man was still alive. And rather pleased. He now had the satisfaction of knowing that Jamie O’Neill would know his fate as he tumbled down to the rocks. And would know he’d been dispensed with, easily enough, by the runt of the litter. The last sound, apart from that of the waves crashing below, that Jamie heard before he met his maker was the sound of laughter—not his own this time.

NOT GUILTY, a true story of a mother who murdered her three children, is free on Amazon from May 10 to May 14. FOR MORE INFO ON ALL MY BOOKS CHECK OUT MY BOOK PAGE OR MY AUTHOR PAGES ON AMAZON.COM OR AMAZON UK

 


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SELF-PUBLISHING WITH A BUDGET OF ZERO

This is an old blog I wrote for ‘The Self Publisher’ that still seems relevant. Not much has changed apart from the series I mentioned–it’s now complete, with three books, all of which are selling well on Amazon. The link to ‘Inheritance’ in the blog has been replaced by the cover image on this page. new the inheritance cover

by Christine Gardner (visit Christine’s blog here).

My first attempt at self-publishing was with lulu and I could never in a million years have done it on my own. My son did all the formatting and put the cover together from a background photo of a landscape (we spent an afternoon driving around looking for the perfect shot) and a painting I did of a cottage covered in roses, for my first novel, Inheritance. I was very happy with it at the time but it was horribly complicated and it was probably a year or so before I got my first (and last) cheque from lulu, for around $20. I’ve since re-published Inheritance on Amazon, with a new cover, a photo of a rose from my garden. Easy peasy. I do have a little background in Art and Design but my skills in drawing and painting are not really…

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If Smart Phones were Smarter . . .

I bought a new smart phone a couple of days ago and I’m not going to go into the make and so on–not advertising or reviewing phones. Even if I wanted to I clearly don’t know enough about them to attempt that. I thought all I wanted from a phone was to talk to people and text. Then with my last phone I discovered how convenient it was to check emails and facebook without getting out of my lounge chair. I had that phone for 2 years and since we were due to renew the phone contract we decided to get me a flash phone with a bigger screen. One thing I knew I wanted was a decent camera which also allowed me to use Skype. The old one had no front camera and although it took reasonable photos outside the indoor ones were rubbish.

So the phone arrived, very promptly, the morning after we ordered it online. It’s not guilty 2014 coverbeautiful–all the bells and whistles, big screen but not too heavy–very thin and it does take nice photos. All good, smarter than me no doubt. What I want to know is if it’s so smart why couldn’t it just connect with the old phone and automatically upload all the settings and info that’s there? Why do I have to start all over again learning how it works and how to get what I need on it?

I confess I did virtually nothing; passed it over to hubby who spent all day mucking around and talking to a call centre (I suspect in India). Fortunately he quite likes playing with new technology. I just want it do what my old one did, but better. Is that too much to ask? I now have all my contacts on it and facebook etc. set up so it’s all good but, to be perfectly honest, if it had been up to me to set it up I’d have repackaged it and returned it to the sender long before the day was out. Hopefully I’ll be right now for another 2 years.

‘Not Guilty’, a true story about the brutal murder of three children by their mother in Australia, 1910, is free on Amazon from 11th to 13th of February.

RED DUST SERIES: Stony Creek, The Road to Karinya, Red Wine and Summer Storms.


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Edgar Allan Poe

What poem or story have you read that stays with you for years? I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry and have made very few attempts to write it. I went to a public reading once, where all the poets told us about the agony of their lives, and all I can remember from that now is that there was a lot to do with their toilet habits in one way or another. Weird.

‘The Raven’ is one of the very few poems that has always impressed me–I don’t know enough about poetry to analyse it and I have no wish to anyway. I just like it. Obviously it’s about grief–he’s lost his partner, Lenore, and the raven’s one and only word ‘Nevermore’, emphasises the permanence of that loss.

It’s a little bit spooky, which is good, and a little bit sad, but I particularly love the language and the rhythm of it. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it lately, do yourself a favour and read it aloud. Shut yourself away somewhere, or shoo the kids outside and just read it as if you were singing in the shower!  Here’s a link if you don’t know where to look: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178713

My favourite book of all time, which I’ve mentioned before, is ‘The Cry and the Covenant’, just a bit more modern than ‘The Raven’, although written about the 19th century, by Morton Thompson. My love of this book has little to do with the writing style though and everything to do with the subject matter; it’s a fictionalized biography of Ignaz Semmelwiess, a Hungarian doctor who tried to prove that the lives of mothers and babies could be saved if only doctors would wash their hands! He had limited success, with both doctors and mothers offended by his inference they were unclean, but he did manage to lower the deaths in his own hospital ward. He died in an asylum at the age of 47. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis If you’ve never heard of him, do look him up at least.

I have several freebies this week–it’s Spring here and Autumn for most of you and doesn’t that make you want to curl up somewhere with a book? If you like what you read, I’d appreciate a review on Amazon. If you don’t, feel free to keep it a secret!

‘Last Chance’ is for the kids who are able to read chapter books; it’s about life after a war, in a future world, and I think is suitable for children around 11 and up. It may be best if you read it yourself first so you can determine if it’s suitable for your child. It’s really about hope, and not as depressing as it sounds! I’d love some feedback on this one, especially from kids. Free 18/19 October

For the adults ‘The Inheritance’ is about a woman, Jo, who, after a bad breakup, starts a new life in a country cottage left to her by her great uncle. Things don’t go the way she planned though and when she finds a diary hidden by someone long ago, she unravels the history of the cottage but pays the price. Free 21/22 October

‘No-one’s Good at Everything’ is another one for the kids, slightly younger–suitable for any age as long as they can read reasonably well. There’s two stories in this book–the other story ‘I’m Starving, Mum’, is aimed at boys and is an adventure. Again, I’d love some feedback from kids. Free 24/25 October

doglastkinblog    new the inheritance cover   no-one cover