Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Happy New Year?

It’s the first day of 2017 here in Oz; according to my world clock it’s still last year elsewhere, but Happy New Year wherever and whenever you are!

I sometimes think the millions of dollars spent on New Year celebrations, especially fireworks, is a complete waste of money and could be used more effectively elsewhere. I’ve not been to any of the city firework shows and they look amazing but the effort put in to getting a good spot is ridiculous. People come from all over the world to camp out overnight around Sydney Harbour; one young man from Taiwan, the first in line, had been there from 6 am the morning before New Years Eve. I hope it was worth it for him! I also think all that smoke would drive me nuts, not to mention the crowds. 500,000 people were there, in spite of, or maybe because of, terrorist threats!

I am, of course, a grumpy old woman, and if I was in my twenties and lived in Sydney or any major city, I’d probably be there, drink way too much and regret it the next morning. But I’d have a ball, of course. And to see so many people of all colours, children and adults, enjoying themselves together and loving the spectacle makes me think perhaps it is worth the money. Maybe we should have more such celebrations that everyone can agree on.

When I was a kid, in the country, we always celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks. Generally there was a vacant block of land somewhere in the neighbourhood and we’d get together with family and friends and write in the air with our sparklers while Dad and the other men lit rockets and wheels that were pinned on to poles and spun around, throwing sparks everywhere. It’s a fond childhood memory, but gatherings like that are now against the law and while a part of me thinks that’s a great pity, the fact that two men died last night using illegal fireworks makes me agree we probably can’t go back to that. I have no idea if anyone was killed back in the days of my childhood from firework accidents although I’m quite sure there were injuries. Now I doubt there could be such a family occasion without alcohol, which would be disastrous.

I enjoyed a celebratory can of bourbon and coke and managed to stay awake long enough to watch the Sydney fireworks on TV and I’m happy with that. I did consider driving into town and standing around watching the fireworks–I live in a regional city and they do put on quite a good show–but my recliner was more appealing. Now the new year is here and Christmas is over and I really must get back to work this week; I have a book half finished and the other half is swirling around in my head! I wish you all a great 2017.

I have a couple of books for the kids free on the 2nd and the 8th of January and I’ll post the links then to my Facebook page or you can check my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 

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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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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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What’s a good length for an ebook?

Is there one? I find I don’t have the same staying power reading ebooks as I do reading a paperback but maybe that’s just me. Not having read short stories in the past I now find myself actively searching for them on Amazon. I even published a collection myself but it hasn’t done as well as my novels have–‘Stony Creek’ at 60 something thousand words is still doing very well so maybe the length doesn’t matter as long as the story’s engaging. Of course that’s still quite short for a novel but I don’t think I’ll ever write a 100,000 word story–I’m more of a ‘let’s get to the point’ writer and reader.

My latest publication is around 11,500 words, which apparently qualifies it as a novelette–too long to be a short story but not long enough to be a novella. I think it’s a good length for an ebook, but certainly not long enough to be in print. I’d like to thank everyone who suggested titles for this one; I was tossing up between Innocents and Innocence but finally decided on Dark Innocence. It’s not the only book in the world with that title but I think it says more about what I’m getting at. Without giving away too much of the story it’s about teenagers in the sixties, in a country town in Australia; they’re all innocent, naïve really, but they cause things to happen and it’s their very innocence that prevents them foreseeing the possible results.

‘Dark Innocence’ will be free on Amazon from the 12th to the 14th May and I’d appreciate a quick review if you like it. I grew up in a country town in Australia in the sixties and it was kind of fun re-living some of that. Some of the language could be confusing to some people but I’m hoping most of you will understand that thongs worn on the feet have nothing to do with a g-string! In Oz we’ve been watching English and American movies and TV shows for many years and we understand the lingo–I hope you understand ours!

It was Mothers Day here yesterday and I realise it’s Sunday now for most of you, so Happy Mothers Day to all the mums. I have two sons who live locally and they both dropped in for a visit, which was lovely; I also have one currently honeymooning in Thailand who sent me a facebook photo/message and two others out of town who rang. And I rang my mum of course. So all good. Mothers Day for me is all about being in touch, in one way or another, not about new washing machines!

‘Dark Innocence’ link for UK

‘Stony Creek’ for UK

 

 

 


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Going Home. And coming back home again.

I’ve just been back to my home town, a trip I’ve been doing at least once a year for my mother’s birthday. She turned 94 and is well, but I’m always very conscious of the fact it could be the last time I see her. Of course I could die tomorrow myself but you know what I mean. Mum has already outlived her parents but her grandfather was 98 when he died, so we have good genes.

It always feels a little odd going home, because of course it’s not my home anymore. I’ve lived in Bendigo now for over 20 years and this is home but Mildura is where I spent most of my childhood and those teenage years I remember so well. It’s curious how places I’ve lived and people I knew pop up in my stories, almost of their own accord. Not that I would deliberately use any actual person in any of my fiction stories, but they are all influenced in some way by real people. At least the best ones are.

Place is something I’ve certainly made use of in stories and experiences of my own, like hitch-hiking to the river on a hot day and running across burning bitumen with bare feet, both of which I’m using in the story I’m working on now, ‘Dark Innocence‘. My last book, ‘Stony Creek’, is a rural romance and I used my own memories of living in Melbourne as well as attending a wool-shed dance in the outback as a child. I did grow up in a country town, but I had to research for that one, my knowledge of life in the outback being minimal. Quite a lot came from the recesses of my memory locker though! I suspect writing in 1st person makes it easier to access those memories and I chose to do that, as doubtful as I was at how that would be received. It’s actually doing very well on Amazon so there are clearly plenty of readers who are happy to read in 1st person.

So after driving around Mildura and visiting some of the old haunts with my sister, as well as a very nice new art gallery, and seeing my other siblings and a couple of nephews and nieces, I’m back home and happy to be here.

Details on all my books at Amazon.com and Amazon UK. Happy reading.

 

 

Innocents or Innocence?

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Innocents or Innocence?

Which title has the most appeal? My latest book, which is not quite complete, is about teenagers in a country town, which, although I don’t name it, is pretty much the town where I grew up. In my story, which will most likely be a novelette, a girl falls, or is pushed, off a station platform onto train tracks and the only suspects are a group of out-of town boys she’s been hanging out with.

The boys are in town for the grape harvesting season and that alone makes them immediately suspicious in small-town Victoria in the sixties, where seasonal workers, although essential, are viewed with distaste by many locals.

I think things are different now, although I haven’t lived in the area for over 20 years. I do visit though; most of my family still lives there and I’m going over next week for my mother’s 94th birthday.

Basing a story in my home town has been fun, especially since it’s set in the sixties and I’ve been able to use my own memories to set the scene. Memories of hot summer days, running across hot bitumen roads barefoot and hitch-hiking to the local sandbar. (Sorry Mum.) I’d be horrified if my kids hitch-hiked anywhere but we all did it in those days. And survived. I’m not sure if it’s just the rosy glasses of the past or if the world was really a much safer place then. Certainly bad things happened but we were not so aware of them unless they actually happened in our town. These days we hear of shocking incidents on a daily basis,  from all over the world, and I sometimes wonder if this is a good thing for our kids. The media generally seems to dwell on the bad and ignore the good. But I have to confess as a fiction writer I also tend towards the dark side, although I have written romance as well as murder and mayhem!

I’ve almost finished the first draft of Innocents (or Innocence), but it will certainly require a bit more work afterwards; I find if I get stuck on a scene sometimes it’s best to just go onto another one and I’ve done that a lot with this story. Now I have to go back and link them all together.

I have two books free on the 14th April, Last Chance and Sanctuary; both are science fiction and were intended for young adults, although Last Chance is for younger young adults and I’ve found it’s mostly adults who read Sanctuary.

Happy Easter to everyone and I hope you have the opportunity to catch up with family and friends and have a good break.

Innocents or Innocence?

Innocents

Innocents


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Who reads Young Adult novels?

What is a young adult, really? In my state 18 has taken over as the official age of adulthood, which used to be 21. That means you have to vote (yes, it’s compulsory, whether you know or care anything about politics or not) and you are allowed to apply for a driver’s licence. It also means you can legally drink alcohol, so on the same day you get your licence you can get drunk. That doesn’t seem such a great idea to me but of course most ‘young adults’ drink well before it’s legal.

Of course when you apply for insurance for your car you might, as an 18 year old, be shocked to find your premiums considerably higher than those of a 25 year old. Insurance companies, like parents, know adulthood doesn’t start at 18. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to discuss the differences between men and women as far as maturity goes but everyone’s different. I think somewhere in the twenties is probably a more realistic figure for adulthood; anyway I digress. I want to discuss Young Adult books and who actually reads them. Clearly the term ‘young adult’ doesn’t refer to any legal definition of adulthood.

I studied Writing for Young Adults and many of us in the class felt that most YA novels were read by either other writers or kids at school who had to read them as part of the curriculum! That was when Harry Potter had just been discovered and before the Twilight series. A lot of YA novels tended to be a bit on the ‘preachy’ side and not what anyone really wanted to read. J.K Rowling found a great way of bridging that gap between children’s books and books for teens, by having her characters grow up with her readers, and I don’t know of anyone else who managed that so well.

There does seem to be a gap there–I filled that gap with comics and then teen magazines before I found adult novels I enjoyed. My sons mostly leapt from children’s books to huge fantasy books such as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, apart from the youngest, who was just the right age to grow up with Harry Potter.

So somehow, someone tried to fill in this gap with YA novels and there’s no doubt some of them have been very successful, both as books and as movies, like the Twilight series and The Hunger Games.

But at what age are children reading YA novels? There seems to be a disparity of age suitability within the YA group–some of them are more for pre-teens and early teens while others, such as those I just mentioned, are more for the older teens.

Would you be happy for your eleven year old to read the Twilight series or is this more for 15 and up? I don’t have any teenagers and would be interested to hear what age groups are reading YA fiction. I’ve written books for all age groups and have, on Amazon, two that I consider suitable for pre-teens and one for teens, called Sanctuary. I have that free on Amazon for one day only and would love to know what age you think it suits; it’s a science fiction novel set in the 25th century and the inspiration for it was a group of young homeless people I saw on a documentary years ago, living in an underground subway system. One of the girls was carrying a baby and I started thinking about what life would be like for that child if he actually grew up there–what if a whole generation grew up underground? Going on the basis that kids generally prefer to read books about people who are a couple of years older than they are I think it’s suitable for 14 to 16, and adults of course, who aren’t so fussy about age!

Happy reading.