Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Time for a New Start

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_Kindle

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

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

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

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

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

Stony Creek on Amazon

The Road to Karinya

Red Wine and Summer Storms

 

 


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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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Opening a Can of Worms–Daylight Saving

I know a lot of people love daylight saving and if you happen to live in a cool climate where you absolutely relish that extra hour of sunlight, then lucky you! Daylight saving absolutely makes sense for you. If, on the other hand, you live in a country where temperatures can get to the mid 40s (Celsius–100 plus Fahrenheit) and beyond in some areas, what on earth is the point? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to take an hour of the coolest part of the day, when they could be sleeping, and add it on to the hottest part of the day?

Now, to be honest, it doesn’t affect me a great deal these days; I’m lucky enough to have air-conditioning; I rarely have to get up  to an alarm clock and my kids are all grown and flown. The coop. But I remember what a nightmare it was getting little boys to bed when the sun was still shining in their bedroom windows. I don’t know if parents still do that or if they’ve given up and let the kids stay up until the sun goes down and then have to drag them out of bed in the morning for school.

Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland have all had the good sense to abandon daylight saving–I think they all tried it and it proved unpopular. I suspect the reason it succeeded in the south east states is more to do with our large city population than the fact that our climate is a bit milder than up north. City workers seem to like it because, I suppose, they have a chance to get home or even go to the beach before dark. Since more Victorian voters live in cities than the country I know it’s a lost cause but I still feel for those parents trying to get their kids to bed.

Daylight saving starts here tomorrow morning and I don’t even have to put the clocks forward any more–it’s automatic. I’d be interested to hear from other readers why they love or hate daylight saving, or wish they had it if they don’t.

It’s also footy finals today and ‘my’ team is playing. And winning. Sometimes I wish I cared, but it’s just a group of Aussie blokes playing another group of Aussie blokes and either way, we win, right? Now if we were playing New Zealand, or the UK, or USA, I might be more interested!

I’m getting on with Book 3 of my Red Dust rural romance series and will almost certainly have it finished by Christmas; I’m moving into a new office shortly which will make it easier, I hope. I’m currently working in the lounge-room and, with three empty bedrooms, I decided to bite the bullet and clean one out. I’ll be able to work with no interruptions and will get heaps done–at least that’s the theory! ‘Dark Innocence’ is FREE on the 4th and 5th of October–it’s quite a small book and will definitely keep you interested!

Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle          karinya cover           darkamazon


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Oranges and Wine–Title of my new book?

This is one of the hardest parts of writing a book–coming up with a title. It needs to grab attention and somehow indicate something about the content. I’m a long way from finishing this one but I’d appreciate suggestions if you have any.

This is the third and final book of my rural romance series (Red Dust Series); the first one is Stony Creek and the second, The Road to Karinya. Both of those titles use the names of rural properties involved in the story but that’s not an option for the current novel.

Like the first two books I have one heroine in the late 20th century and another much earlier and I need to find a title that suits both stories. Both women move to Sunraysia, an area on the Murray River which includes a small part of both New South Wales and Victoria. Clare, originally from a citrus property in Queensland, leaves her home in Sydney in 1985 to live in Mildura (Victoria), nearer Karinya Station, where her brother and his family live. She lives in a flat in a converted house, the other half of which is occupied by Fern, an elderly woman with her own story.

Fern left her home in Sydney in 1920 to marry George, who was one of the original soldier settlers in Curlwaa, New South Wales, and spent most of her life there on their citrus property. She sold the property and moved to Mildura as an elderly widow. Fern and Clare become good friends and Fern worries when she suspects someone is watching Clare.

Without giving away too much of the story, wine is an important part of Clare’s story which is why I’m currently using the working title of ‘Wine and Oranges’, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll end up keeping it. Is it catchy or boring? Opinions please.

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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.

 

this one book2 karinya ebook  new the inheritance cover darkamazon not guilty 2014 coverblog BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

 


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Self-editing for self publishers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paperbacks and ebooks are also available on Amazon.


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Writing Challenge–Write a paragraph beginning with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

I’ve just started writing short stories again and, in the pursuit of a topic, I was trying to think of a random first line. Years ago I was in a class for short story writing and the teacher used to give us a line, usually before our coffee break. It was great fun to see what different stories everyone came up with, starting with that same line. Trying to think of a line myself, that old favourite from the 19th century, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ kept popping into my head, so I thought okay, why not? I wrote what I think is not a bad story and I thought it would be fun to see how many of you would like to join in the challenge. Maybe just a paragraph but don’t be surprised if it turns into a story. Here’s mine. (Search my archived posts for more writing challenges.)

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

It was a dark and stormy night . . . Lorna pushed the delete button and chuckled out loud. I really am getting desperate, she thought. She pushed her chair back from the desk and stretched her arms above her head.  Definitely time for a coffee break. It wasn’t dark and neither was it stormy. It was late morning and the sun was shining brilliantly. That was a large part of the problem, she thought, as she topped up the kettle and rinsed her coffee cup. She needed dark and stormy. Who could write on such a glorious day? Her novel was meant to be full of horror, with evil and a good deal of gore thrown in for good measure. Trixie weaved himself around and through Lorna’s legs, looking for attention, and she bent down and picked him up. “I’m not finished though, Trix. Just because I’m not at the computer doesn’t mean I can sit down with you for the rest of the day.”

She did sit down with him, though, on their favourite armchair by the big window overlooking the lake. He curled up on her lap and she sipped her coffee, staring vacantly out the window and stroking the big tomcat with her spare hand. Trixie had turned up on her doorstep as a young cat—not a kitten exactly, but not full grown either. More like a teenager, Lorna told everyone. For some reason she’d thought he was female, perhaps because, once she’d cleaned him up and brushed his long, matted ginger fur, he was just so pretty. So she’d called him Trixie and when he’d turned out to be male, well, he wasn’t worried, so why would she be?

Lorna’s life had taken a sudden turn for the better a year ago when her partner had decided to fly the coop. Their relationship had become—not violent—but certainly fiery.  Lorna admitted she had a tendency to take things too far sometimes; she was hard to please, a perfectionist, and was better off living alone. She and Trixie got along well. On the spur of the moment she’d decided to quit her job as well as the flat they’d shared and look for a house in the country. She was only a couple of years short of pension age but she cashed in her super and some investments she had and bought a brand new computer and a nice little cottage; she had enough to live on for a couple of years if she was careful. She was going to be a professional writer, just as she’d always wanted.

Everything was set up, but her life now was too easy. She was too content. She wanted to write about murder and mayhem but the sun was shining, the birds were singing and she couldn’t, just couldn’t, think murder and mayhem on such a day. There was a knock on the door and she put down a reluctant cat. It was very unusual to get visitors out here in the summer. It was a cottage meant for the snow season and somewhat isolated in the summer, which was why Lorna chose it. She wanted to be alone while she waited for the inspiration she knew would come. Eventually. A young man stood at the door, car keys dangling in his hand. He smiled, showing sparkling white teeth; he was well dressed and nice-looking, with neatly trimmed hair. So Lorna ignored the little niggling warning bell in her brain and said of course he could come in and use the phone. His car had broken down a kilometre away and hers was the first house he’d come across.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am, Miss . . . Mrs?”

“Lorna will do fine.”

He held his hand out. “I’m Pete. Pete Woodross. I just came up for a look around. On holidays, you know, down in the village.”

She nodded. “Not much to do around here in the summer.” “

You’re telling me!” He looked around the bright and airy room. “Nice place you’ve got here though.”

She nodded again. “I like it.” She gestured to the phone on the wall beside the little entrance table. “The phone’s over there. You don’t have a mobile?”

He took it out of his pocket to show her. “Yes, for all the use it is. No reception up here at all.”

“Really? Maybe you should change providers. Mine seems to work all right.” She reached her hand out but he put the phone back in his pocket. “You go ahead and make your call.” She still held her half empty cup in her hand and felt obliged to ask, “Would you like a coffee . . . or tea?”

He grinned. “I’d kill for a cup of tea, thanks.”

She tipped her now lukewarm coffee out and made them both a cup of tea; she put them on the kitchen table and then got the tin of cookies out of the pantry and put a few on a plate. She could hear him talking on the phone in the foyer.

“Hello. Yes. I’m a member.” He said a rather long number and then gave the street name nearby where he said his car was. Then, “An hour? But . . . surely . . . It’s not that isolated! How busy can they be?”

Lorna sat at the table and at last he came out and joined her. “How did you go?” she asked.

“Oh, okay,” he answered, his mouth full of homemade choc chip cookie. “Be a while though. At least an hour.” He looked around the room again. “Mind if I hang out here? I won’t get in your way.”

She frowned, not knowing what to say.

“I could just sit there and watch TV, if that’s okay? Or read a book? Got any good books?”

She nodded slowly. “Probably. What sort of books do you like?”

He flashed his teeth again, now slightly less white, with the remains of the chocolate chips showing here and there between them. “Murder’s my thing. Probably not yours though, I’m guessing. You look more like the romance type.”

Lorna shook her head vigorously. “Definitely not. I’m far too level-headed for that; seen far too much of life.”

He nodded slowly, looking at her carefully. “That’s good,” he said quietly. “Excellent.”

For some reason disturbed, Lorna got up hastily and went to the bookshelf in the lounge area partitioned off from the kitchen only by a wall unit. The young man followed close behind her but she didn’t look back. Not even when she felt his breath on her neck did she turn around. Instead she closed her eyes, not wanting to see the bright airy room, not wanting to look at Trixie, who still sat on the armchair, watching his mistress and the visitor. As the young man’s hands went around her neck and squeezed the life from her it started raining outside and everything became black; there was thunder too, or was it just in her head? No matter. Her last thought before she lost consciousness was ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

Please visit my author page for more info on all my books on Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk  

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Also at other digital stores, including Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble: Books2Read 

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Stony Creek is free–the first in a series but can be read as a standalone. Of course I’m hoping you’ll buy the other two, but because you like book 1 and want more, no cliffhangers!