Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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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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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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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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Red Wine, Summer Storms and Createspace.

 

After a nightmare weekend of fighting with Word and Createspace over my lack of ability to format page numbers, I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my rural romance series (Red Dust Series).  The book itself has been a slow process, mostly because I’ve had problems with RSI, but I have to admit lack of motivation has also been a factor. Now at last I have my own office/study/den, whatever you want to call it. It’s a bedroom and still has a dressing table and a tallboy, but the dressing table mirror is no longer covered with my grandson’s assortment of stickers, and the tallboy—well, most of the drawers are still full of my youngest son’s indescribable stuff (e.g. two large chunks of pipe covered in plaster, paint and gold fabric, once part of his costume as the candle in Beauty and the Beast) but I have claimed a few drawers for writing and computer needs. Having my own space has made a huge difference to my motivation and I finished the book sooner than I thought I would.

The page number fiasco is something I go through every time I publish a book with Createspace and have to re-learn how to start the page numbers on the page where my first chapter is, not on the first page of the actual book. I don’t know why this is so complicated but maybe it’s not, it’s just that I’m only doing it once or twice a year and I always forget the process. I actually wrote some notes last time but of course they disappeared. I spent hours reading on-line lessons and watching videos and finally fluked it but I’m still not sure how exactly!

Then there was the cover. I bought a photo from istock which was close enough to what I wanted—storm clouds over a vineyard—and didn’t have much trouble building a cover for my ebook but I do like to have a POD available as well; getting the cover right for them—has to be the right

Sunset Vineyard

size, then you have to fit the text within a certain area—took me several attempts but I’m happy with it now.

So here’s a blurb and an excerpt from ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’. Those of you who read the last book in the series, ‘The Road to Karinya’ will remember Dan’s little sister Clare; this one’s about her, all grown up:

Book 3, Red Dust Series.  Australia, 1985

After a painful breakup with her long term boyfriend, lawyer Clare Sutton moves to Mildura to open her own practice not too far from Karinya Station, where her brother lives with his family. She’s thrilled to have her own office, even if she spends most of her days with paperwork, and is not looking for any romantic attachments.

On a visit to Karinya she meets Max Fraser, grape grower and budding wine maker. They become friends and he protects her on more than one occasion, because someone is stalking her, and although Clare’s work involves contact with criminals, at first she doesn’t take it seriously. It’s not long before her feelings for Max become more than friendship, but is it the kind of relationship that her brother has with his wife Prue? The kind that will last a lifetime?

In 1923, Fern is fresh from Sydney with her new husband, returned soldier George, to start a new life on a citrus orchard in Curlwaa. Their life is filled with hardships but their love for each other never dies and Fern has no regrets.

In 1985, now a widow, Fern lives in Mildura, next-door to Clare, and they become good friends. Estranged from her remaining family Fern looks on Clare almost as a daughter and becomes worried about her when she realises someone is watching her.

Readers of the other books in the Red Dust Series will know Clare and her family from ‘The Road to Karinya’, but each book can be read as a stand alone novel.

 

He had Prue in his arms by then and they were both grinning like Cheshire cats, clearly as happy in each other’s company as always. I was vaguely aware someone else was hovering in the doorway and I looked up to see who it was.

“Sorry Max!” Dan said and he gestured to the man to come in. “This is my beautiful baby sister, Clare.”

Max wasn’t my type, I thought immediately, which wasn’t a bad thing since I certainly wasn’t looking. He was gorgeous, but I preferred the leaner type, or, as friends at uni had said, I liked them lean and mean. Max, in his navy singlet and jeans, was all muscle. And very blue eyes. He was tall enough though and his hair was okay, sort of mousy blond—all in all he was a man who probably didn’t look as good in a suit as Pete did but then if Pete stood next to him in jeans and a singlet—well, that would just be hilarious. He’d look like a string bean. Max coughed and grinned and I realised I’d been staring at him—measuring him up like beefcake! 

 

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I admit I can be a teeny bit pedantic at times and am easily annoyed by misused apostrophes and so on, but where do these words come from? Did someone just wake up one day and decided the word ‘regardless’ just doesn’t work anymore, so let’s call it ‘irregardless’ instead? Sometimes what seems just plain wrong to my ears can be American English, while in Australia we speak UK English. Well, we did, but we’re becoming more and more Americanised, which doesn’t bother me too much; it’s inevitable so there’s no point losing sleep over it. When I started hearing people say they were ‘in agreeance’ my first thought was that it was plain wrong, then maybe that it was American. It’s not in any of my dictionaries and certainly doesn’t pass my computer spellcheck, but when I Googled it I found it may have actually been used once upon a time and has been replaced with ‘agreement’.

That opens up another argument about the evolution of language; we know English has changed and is continuing to change, whether we like it or not. I’ve heard the word ‘literally’ has been misused so much that it’s now accepted to mean–well, not literally at all, so nothing really. Nope–I’m not accepting that one.

If you want to say we’re in agreeance, please say we’re in agreement, or better still, simply say we agree! I suspect many people make mistakes with their language because they’re trying to sound better educated than they are; they use phrases like ‘at this point in time’ rather than ‘now’ and ‘back to back’, which always reminds me of a silly poem my father used to amuse us kids with:what did

One fine day in the middle of the night 
Two dead boys got up to fight 
Back to back they faced each other 
Drew their swords and shot each other 

It goes on for several verses, but anyway, I digress, as usual. While I’m griping about the misuse of words, my all time favourite is ‘myself’, which so many public speakers use when the correct word would be ‘I’ or ‘me’. For more on this and other easily fixed language problems, check out ‘What Did You Say?’ FREE all the time at Smashwords.  See my Amazon page for all my other books.

 

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