Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Instafreebie

I’ve recently started putting stories on Instafreebie, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a site where, obviously enough, you can find free reads! It seems well organised and, from an author point of view, is another way of reaching new readers. Apart from the short stories I’ll continue to list as free on a permanent basis, I’m also putting books up for around a week at a time. If anyone knows anything I don’t know about Instafreebie I’d love to hear from you! At this stage I’m only using the free service; I know you can pay for different services.

These are my perma free stories at the moment and I intend to add another one very soon:

you never knew  You probably think this story’s about you, don’t you?

Brown Dog  Luke is flat broke and living in his car at the beach when an old mutt sidles up to him–the last thing he needs, or is it?

What Did You Say?  Not a short story but a small ebook to help with grammar and punctuation. Do you know the real purpose of the humble apostrophe?

I always tweet the temporary giveaways and you can find details on the right side of my blog posts or on twitter.

I’ve just been on my annual trek to my home town for my mother’s birthday. I do try to get there more often but never miss Mum’s birthday. She’s 97 now and still living at home (alone) and cooking her own meals. She does have some help with the housework as well as the garden but she still likes to potter around out there as well. There are lots of other family members who live much closer than I do, fortunately, including more grandchildren and great grandchildren than I can keep track of! It’s always nice to visit my old home town but it’s good to come back to the place that’s been my home for over 30 years.

Most of my books are available in print and ebook on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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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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Good bye and good riddance, Daylight Saving

This morning saw the end of daylight saving for now; it will unfortunately be back some time in spring. I’ve never been a fan and I’m always pleased to see the end of it. Given that we live in a hot country and most of us whinge about the heat in the summer I don’t know why we choose to extend the hot days and have less of the cool nights.

Yes, I am aware we don’t actually change the length of the days, just our clocks, but summer itself does that already. I don’t have to rush off to a job in the mornings and I no longer have little kids to force in to bed when the sun’s still shining, so it doesn’t affect me as much as it does some. I had a particular hate for it when my kids were little.

As far I can fathom, longer summer evenings are nice for those who live in the cities and have to commute some distance for work, but they’re going to be going home in the dark in winter anyway, so may as well get used to it, hey? Mid summer sunset without daylight saving is closer to  8 than 7, I think, so plenty of time for most workers to get home. Wouldn’t that extra hour in bed in the morning, when you’re finally cool and comfortable, be more appreciated than in the heat of a summer evening?

Queensland and Western Australia, I believe, both had trial runs of daylight saving and decided they didn’t want it–interesting that they’re both very large areas of land with smaller cities than the southern states. I do think it’s the city folk that make the decisions for the rest of us here in Victoria, because more people live in the capital city, Melbourne, than the rest of the state. In Queensland it’s the country population that’s bigger than that in their capital city, Brisbane, so city folk there don’t have as much influence.

Well, that’s my whinge out of the way for now and yes, we do have bigger concerns, I agree. On the subject of my home country, I’m delighted to see Australian readers have found me on Amazon! I’ve been published there since 2012 but almost all sales have been in the US and UK, with just a few at home. Since I published the last book of my Red Dust series, set in Outback Australia, my sales here have grown tenfold! Thanks everyone!

For sales and all details on my books please visit my Amazon Author Page, or here for UK readers. 

 

 


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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!

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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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State to State

I’ve just been back to my home town for a few days to visit family and especially my mother, who just turned 95. I was born in Wentworth and lived on a property in Curlwaa, New South Wales, for my first few years and then moved interstate to Mildura, the other side of the  Murray River. Most of my mildurawentworthcuz 058memories are of life in Mildura but I do have some memories of Curlwaa. The old school has gone and so has our old house but my sister and I drove around the area where they used to be. We also went to the Wentworth Hospital, where I was born and hadn’t seen since, so that was interesting. It’s popped up in my book Stony Creek so I wanted to have a look. I was delighted to find an old Ferguson tractor there, also in my book. The Fergies were used extensively in the severe floods that hit the area in 1956.

I didn’t particularly appreciate it when I lived there but I’m always blown away by the Murray River when I go home–it’s quite spectacular and is of course the whole reason Mildura and Wentworth, as well as surrounding areas, grew into what they are today. Both the Murray and the Darling were used as highways in the early days and there mildurawentworthcuz 053are still paddle-steamers operating, now for tourists. The area also relies on the river to irrigate the many different kinds of fruit and vegetables grown there. Known as Sunraysia the area is well known for its citrus and grapes–especially dried grapes but it also produces wine–as well as other fruit and vegetables. It was the first place in Australia to be irrigated, thanks to Canada’s Chaffey Brothers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Chaffey

Rain tends to be scarce and it’s usually the warmest place in the state, so it’s a popular tourist destination. Only problem is it’s a long trip from anywhere, including where I live now, with nothing much to look at along the way! I’ve put a few other photos on my Pictures of Oz page.

darkamazonMy novelette ‘Dark Innocence’ is free on April 29 and is set in Mildura, so have a look at  the pictures and a free read as well. Happy Reading!