Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Writing Reviews

How much attention do you give to reviews when you’re buying a book? Do you review books when you read them? Indie authors appreciate reviews and we all know that we’ll get negative ones as well as positive. Not everyone likes the same books or the same movies or even the same colours; we’re not robots, not yet.

Just please, when you write your review, whether it’s two words (Great book!) or a small essay, please don’t give away the surprises! You may think they’re easily predicted or amazing but there’s no need to tell other readers you saw it coming or even that you didn’t. Just say you loved the book or that it’s just not your thing. As authors we can’t edit reviews, or remove them when they give away the ending to our story, and I don’t understand why any reader would want to spoil it for another reader. That’s my rant for the day–keep reading and thanks for the reviews!

My books are available on Amazon as ebooks and print and ebooks also at most digital shopfronts via Draft2Digital.


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Buying Reviews

I’ve recently come across this phenomenon via Facebook and personally I find it sickening: people offering to review books for self-published authors for money, guaranteeing 5 star reviews. I saw one a couple of days ago stating they could put several reviews on the one book on Amazon, using different names and addresses! I have no idea how long this has been going on nor how many authors actually buy such ‘reviews’, but it makes me think differently now about those books on Amazon with lots of 5 star reviews. I know Amazon pulls reviews they’re dubious about and, like most self-published authors, I complain about that, but I sincerely hope they can put a stop to this practice, which makes those of us who only have honest reviews at a disadvantage. As a reader I’ll disregard reviews now.

I’m not so adamantly against the common practice of authors providing free copies to readers in the expectation they’ll write a positive review but it still seems a little off to me. There’s also quite a lot of trading going on–review for review–and I confess I did that once, trading a review for an app with one for a book of mine. Never again! The ‘reviewer’ clearly read only the outline and while the review was certainly positive it was totally out of whack and I have asked Amazon to remove it. Like all self-published authors I very much appreciate hearing from readers, and 5 star reviews certainly help sell books, but I’ll stick to the honest reviews from those who actually read and enjoyed my books! For info on any of my books please visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.

 

 


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In the Top 100

All three books in my Red Dust Series are in Amazon’s Top 100! For their category, that is, but I’m pretty happy with that. The category is ‘Historical Australian & Oceanian Fiction’ and I’m in good company there. Stephanie Laurens has several on the same page as my ‘Road to Karinya‘, while ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms‘ share a page with Peter Carey and Catherine Gaskin, among others. Red Wine is the last book in the series and it’s been selling well from the start but it was good to see the first review on Amazon last week:

      By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

THIS IS A MUST READ STORY. IT HAS SUSPENSE, DRAMA, ROMANCE AND SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS AND LOTS OF CARING FOR OTHERS FEELINGS. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED EVERY PAGE

 

Amazon reviews are much appreciated by writers, at least good ones are! We take particular risks when we put books up free for promotions. The first time I did that was years ago; 6000 people grabbed a copy of ‘Inheritance’, and around 20 or 30 reviewed it.
Most were positive but not all–not everyone likes an unexpected ending! It was interesting that negative reviews often came from readers whose grasp of spelling and punctuation were sadly lacking and I tend not to take them too seriously.
        I went to a play last week, an independent production in Melbourne, in a small venue. The actors were fantastic and the play was hilarious and I was surprised to read a review online criticising the director. Even had I read it before I went I’d have taken no notice though because the spelling and punctuation were absolutely awful! When I see that I disregard the source as being some loner who thinks he knows something about theatre but actually doesn’t.
       Am I what didwrong to assume anyone who actually reads ought to be able to spell? And there’s Spellcheck. Typos I understand; we all do that, but if you’re not a good speller, do use your computer’s help. I have a small ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’, permanently free at Smashwords,which might be of use as well, especially for grammar and punctuation.
      Summer’s nearly over here and autumn will be very welcome. We have a very hot day forecast for tomorrow but it’s quite cool today and I’m hoping they’re wrong. Anyway one stinking hot day isn’t so bad. It’s when it goes on several days in a row and stays hot throughout the night it’s hard to take. Bring on winter!

 


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Breaking in a new computer

Our old computer is, at best, comatose. Hopefully number 1 son, who works in IT, will be able to resurrect it at least sufficiently to get all my email contacts and photos, etc., but we were probably due for a new one anyway. So now I have a shiny new one on my desk and no excuses for not getting on with it. But . . . it’s not that I don’t like new things but I’m not one of those women who adores buying new shoes–I like my comfy old ones. And it took me weeks to break in my new recliner when the old one collapsed. My computer chair is at least ten years old and I bought a new one last year that seemed comfy in the store but when I got it home I only sat on it for half an hour and my back was killing me. So I took it back and had the old one repaired. I decided I’ll just keep getting new bits for it and eventually it’ll all be new bits anyway, but comfortable.

So the new computer is fine but I hated the keyboard. And the mouse, so I’m using my old ones. We installed my old version of Office, having been assured it would be compatible with Windows 8.1 or whatever number we’re on now. Everything seemed fine until I tried to write dialogue. Even then it was fine–a little odd that the quotation marks didn’t come up straight away, but they appeared miraculously when I typed in the next letter. But then I attempted to start dialogue with ‘I’ and things got really weird. After a few experiments I found that while all consonants allowed the quotation mark, whenever I wanted to start dialogue with a vowel, instead of the quotation mark, the letter appeared with two dots above it! I don’t know what these are called or what use they have but I’m pretty sure I don’t need them!sanctuary cover 2014

No-one I asked had any idea what was going on and I thought perhaps my old version of Office wasn’t compatible with the new Windows after all. I had searched online forums with no result and then one last google gave me an immediate solution–apparently my new computer was tuned in to the USA version for keyboards and when I changed it to UK, there being no AUS version, it was fine. I’m still perplexed though–can any US citizens out there tell me why you would want a vowel with two dots above it?

My Sci-fi book, Sanctuary, is free 8th and 9th of May.

Sanctuary is a sci-fi novel for young adults, telling the story of two very different civilizations in the year 2493 AD. The Thrallians are descended from mainstream society; they have blended all racial differences and are bred in laboratories in order to guarantee all citizens will uphold peace and harmony in Thrallia.

The Centrals are descended from the street kids of the 20th century, who lived in the underground subways. They live on whatever they can forage and their society is primitive in comparison with that of Thrallia.

Patric lives in Thrallia, a modern city protected from the scorching sun and unbearable conditions of the outside world. An historian, he has heard of a people called the Moles, who once lived in an underground city nearby, but doesn’t believe they actually existed. Then his friend Derek discovers a strange girl imprisoned in the quarter where the Supers, rulers of Thrallia, live.

Happy Reading and please leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy Sanctuary.


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Surprise endings

For the first time in months I’ve read not one, but two books that I actually enjoyed. One was ‘The Brave’, by Nicholas Evans, the writer of ‘The Horse Whisperer’, which was what caught my attention. The other was ‘Fractured’, by Dani Atkins, who I hadn’t heard of before. ‘Fractured’ is really a love story, but, without giving too much away, it’s more than that. It’s a mystery, set in two different time zones, about Rachel, who appears to be living in two different dimensions. Apologies to Dani Atkins if that’s not a good way to describe it; it’s hard to describe without giving too much away. The main thing is that I loved the ending and it was unexpected.

‘The Brave’ is about Tom, who we meet as a child, early on in the story, when he visits his mother on death row. That’s quite a hook and it’s not until we near the end of the  book that we start to get an inkling of the truth about her. Like ‘Fractured’, ‘The Brave’ is also set in two different time zones, apart from that the two books have little in common, but I do love a book that keeps me reading because I don’t know how it will end.

Horror was my favourite genre for many years and Stephen King my favourite author. When I wrote my first book for adults,new the inheritance cover ‘The Inheritance’, I wanted to write like him, although I very quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. I was happy with the book though and still am–the ending is not entirely unpredictable but, judging by some of the reviews, shocked some readers. Most reviews were positive though and two who didn’t like it compared it to a Stephen King novel, so, as you can imagine, I was pretty happy about that.

My current writing is rural romance–I’m working on Book 3 of a series, the first two being ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘The Road to Karinya‘, and if there’s one rule of romance it’s that there must be a happy ending. Still, there’s no reason there can’t be a few surprises along the way.BookCoverImageconnections

Surprise endings work especially well in short stories and my short story collection, ”Connections‘, is free right now on Amazon, as is my YA sci-fi novel ‘Sanctuary‘.

sanctuary cover 2014


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Aussie Slang–Do I need a Glossary?

The novel I’m currently working on, ‘The Road to Karinya’, is written primarily from 1st person point of view, and, as the story is about two girls travelling around Australia, I am using slang occasionally. I don’t think I’m overdoing it and the truth is we’ve become so Americanized now that I’m not even sure which is ours any more! What I’m wondering is should I put in a glossary of slang terms?karinya cover

On the one hand I don’t want to treat readers as idiots–clearly if there’s a word or a term they don’t understand they can google it–and I’m not keen on the whole glossary thing. I don’t think I’d even fill one page with the slang I’ve used and it just seems silly. On the other hand I don’t want to alienate anyone who might have a problem with the lingo.

As I said I don’t think I’ve used that much slang–I’ve just read through the first ten pages and found eight examples that may or may not be Aussie slang. I don’t think the first pages are indicative of the novel over all and there’s probably less slang as the story progresses. I’d appreciate all opinions as to whether these terms need explanation:

barbie; (not my) cup of tea; in good nick; cuppa; goodies; big smoke; write-off; town bike.

They’d all be easier to understand in the right context of course and I think it’s pretty clear that ‘barbie’ isn’t referring here to a doll:

‘We were up bright and early, all ready to head off by eight o’clock. I’d said my goodbyes the day before to all my family; we had a barbie and my four older sisters all managed to turn up, with various husbands, boyfriends and my three nieces.’

Tell me what you think–are readers willing to look up terms they don’t understand?

My collection of short stories ‘Connections‘ is free on Amazon 1st and 2nd November–UK readers here.

Ditto my novel, a story based on a murder trial in 1910 Australia, ‘Her Flesh and Blood‘–UK readers here.

Reviews would be much appreciated, providing they’re positive ones of course!


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Much ado about nothing

I had no idea what to write about today–didn’t really have anything to say so I decided to have a look at my first post. I started this blog last autumn (March here in Oz) and wrote about the weather and about writing. I had no idea what I wanted the blog to be about and I still don’t really. It’s about my adventures with self-publishing certainly and I still have to mention the weather sometimes, but we do, don’t we? In our everyday conversation, which is, after all, how I write, we always talk about the weather. It’s one thing we all have an opinion on. Is it cold enough for you? Nah, like it cold. Hot enough for you? Too bloody hot! I hate it. I love it. No politics, no religion–a safe subject.

It’s frosty here this morning, which makes a change from the rain at least–nice to see the sun shining through the window. It’s the first day in a while I’ve been able to see the keyboard without the light on. My typing speed is actually not too bad but I tend to look at the keyboard and just glance at the screen now and then rather than vice versa–this is where good old spell-check comes in handy. I did attend a couple of typing classes many years ago and at least one shorthand class–does anyone use shorthand these days? Do you type without looking at the keyboard?

At school, because I was fairly good academically I suppose, I was in what they called ‘Professional’ classes, which I suppose meant I could have gone on to university (which I did, 30 odd years later!) while my sister was in the more practical ‘Commercial’ stream, which taught useful things for girls, like typing. Ironically, she ended up in a profession, as a dental nurse, while I spent most of my working life working in various office jobs. I quite liked it too and didn’t particularly miss those skills but now the ability to touch type would be handy. Still, as I said, I manage pretty well.

I have no idea if they teach touch typing at schools now or if most kids just pick it up naturally, since they’d be typing now as soon as they can read–actually before they can read. My six year old grandson likes to type and I often write out words for him to type in. Like most children his age he has a natural ability and has already told me how to use my smart phone properly. I’m not exactly frightened of such things these days but when I first learnt how to use a computer I was always terrified I’d somehow manage to delete everything if I accidentally pushed the wrong button. I have actually deleted a day’s writing on at least one occasion but that was long ago. Last year! Fortunately I have lots of clever sons and now two grandsons so I’ll be okay!

‘Demented Mothers‘ is free from the 14th to the 18th July (USA) and ‘Her Flesh and Blood‘ is free one day only, the 14th. BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodThe first is my university Honours thesis, out of which evolved ‘Not Guilty’, the true story of the McCluskey murders, as well as “Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalized account of the same story. As a creative writer, although I was enthralled with the research about the case, I was frustrated by the story that was lacking, so eventually I decided to create one myself. I gave Camellia McCluskey a life prior to the murders and afterwards and blended fiction and non-fiction. I think it’s a good read and it’s free if you’re quick; if you like it, reviews would be much appreciated.

UK links: Demented Mothers

 Her Flesh and Blood


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Book Review–Miss Debenham’s Secret by Sara Bennett

I’m not about to start writing regular book reviews. I’m a reader and a writer, so I have an opinion, like you and every other reader. If I don’t like a book I usually won’t finish it and, even if I do finish it, I won’t review it. Professional reviewers who are obliged to review a book whether they like it or not might have to write some less positive than others. I don’t, so I simply won’t review a book I don’t like.

Miss Debenham’s Secret‘ is a novella which is a sort of addition to the Husband Hunters Club series. The club is a group of girls at a finishing school in the early 19th century and each book tells the story of one of the girls. Miss Debenham is their teacher and it’s a nice little touch to tell her story as well but this is a stand alone story and it’s absolutely not necessary to have read any of the series.

Clarissa Debenham lives in a seaside village in Britain and, in the late 18th century, as an 18 year old teacher, she meets a sailor, Alistair Mackay, who’s staying temporarily while his ship undergoes repairs. A romance develops but Clarissa’s father is against the match and will do whatever he can to put a stop to it. He’s a bitter old man, whose wife died in childbirth, and who seems to think that was Clarissa’s fault; he’s also disappointed his only child is a girl and the only hope he can see for her is to marry the headmaster of the school where she teaches. Marly is a man not unlike Debenham himself, humorless and generally unpleasant, but Debenham has a great deal of respect for him. Alistair Mackay is as different from Marly as is possible–a Scot and a sailor, and a man who would clearly not see eye to eye with Debenham. Without giving away too much of the story Alistair goes back to sea, to fight against Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy.

Twenty years later, Clarissa has her own school, and is contented enough with her life as a single woman, when suddenly Alistair Mackay turns up again and her life is turned upside down.

‘Miss Debenham’s Secret’ is a sweet romance, well written and the characters are well-developed; Sara has managed to pack a lot of story into a small ebook. Thoroughly recommended for lovers of historical romance. Sara, I should point out, is a friend of mine and I’ve read a lot of her books; she’s been publishing romance with traditional publishers for many years but this time has decided to try self-publishing.


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Something wicked this way comes.

This is my favourite line in literature and I don’t care that it’s Shakespeare. I’m not even terribly concerned that it’s spoken by a witch in Macbeth and that she’s speaking of Macbeth himself. Nor am I particularly concerned that the first part, which I often forget, is ‘By the pricking of my thumbs’. That’s good too, but there’s just something delicious about the phrase ‘something wicked this way comes.’ It brings to my mind something hidden, something mysterious but certainly evil. Supernatural evil, not just human badness–something hard to define, beyond our understanding. And it’s coming. Look out–it’s behind you! Did I mention I’m a fan of horror?

Do you have a favourite line, something that stays with you, or is that a peculiarity of mine? I do realise not everyone cares for horror and I’m sure I’ve read other lines that impressed me greatly at the time but none have stayed with me quite like that one. I’m not especially a fan of Shakespeare but he did have a way with words. I don’t think his work is meant to be read though or studied at school. I’ve seen a few of his plays, some better than others. Most recently I saw a production of Twelfth Night by a young group of actors in Melbourne, not in a theatre, but a bookshop. It wasn’t a play I knew anything about and I attempted to watch a movie version once, which was awful. I also read a bit but was not impressed.

When I saw the play performed live it was absolutely fantastic–funny and obviously well-written. I couldn’t help thinking Will himself would approve, that this was the way his work should be seen and enjoyed by the audience, not suffered through! I should mention my son was in the show–I don’t generally make the trip to Melbourne to see a show unless one of mine is involved, but they were all excellent.

It’s autumn here now and the weather is generally lovely, if a bit confused. I’m still working on my story which may be a novella or a longish short story, which is no doubt why I keep going back to that line of Shakespeare’s. There’s definitely something wicked coming. Sales have been going well for ‘Stony Creek’ and I’ve put a review on the ‘Books‘ page here. I wasn’t planning to write more romance but now I’m considering a kind of sequel. We’ll see. First I need to finish with my wicked story.


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Ever heard of Ignaz Semmelweis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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