Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


Leave a comment

FREE SHORT STORY

Winter, or at least autumn, is here at last; we’ve had quite a bit of rain and very little sunlight this week. Lovely after a long, hot and dry summer. Whether you’re curled up in front of the fire or soaking up the sun on your outdoor lounge here’s a gift for you: The Runt of the Litter, from my short story collection. My short stories, like my novels, are over a large range of genres–that’s the way I like to read as well!

THE RUNT OF THE LITTER

© Christine Gardner

The boy stood at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves smashing onto the rocks far below him. His coat, handed down from his father, flapped around his ankles in the roaring wind. Hugh was small for twelve and an onlooker would think he was in grave danger of losing his footing and slipping over the edge at any moment, but he was accustomed to the wind and had stood in this same spot far too many times since the death of his father four years earlier.

Before his father’s death, Hugh and his sister and brothers would never go anywhere near the cliff top; their father built a wall of rocks to keep his children and his sheep safe from the dangerBookCoverImageconnectionsous precipice. Since his death the wall had crumbled somewhat from the harsh and icy winds raging across the Atlantic Ocean and the cliff top had become a sanctuary of sorts for Hugh; a place of quiet isolation. Away from his stepfather.

His mother, Bridget, had married her childhood sweetheart, John McIntyre, when she was pregnant with Hugh and his birth was followed quickly by that of his twin brothers, Andrew and David. However they managed it, there were no more children for four years, until the arrival of Eliza, the apple of her father’s eye.

John and Bridget were content enough; at least Bridget thought they were. It was true, as all the villagers said, that  they didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but they always managed to feed the children; Bridget was very good at making a hearty soup from potatoes and mutton bones with the addition of a few herbs from her garden.

John, she found out one day, was not so content; he was worried about the future of their family. Eliza would marry a decent man, someone who could take care of her properly; John would make damn sure of that, but the boys could never make a living for all three of them on the little farm. They would want to marry and have families of their own—it simply was not possible. If he, John, though, were to go to Dublin for a few months? Just during the winter, when there was not much to be done here; the boys could take care of it, with a little help from their mother, then he could buy that plot of land Old O’Neill wanted to get rid of.  They could have a proper farm; even if he had to spend every winter at the Dublin mills for ten years, it would be worth it.

Bridget was horrified; she begged him not to go. She’d heard stories about the mills and about Dublin; it was not safe. And she couldn’t manage without him here. The boys were not old enough; she would be frightened without him. Eliza was just a baby. All her pleading did no good. Once John McIntyre made up his mind to do a thing it was as good as done.

She packed him a bag with a change of clothes and some mutton and bread and he filled his belly with her wholesome soup before he left. The children all woke to see him off on the trusty old chestnut, Sal.

He was found later that day by a farmer on the way home from market, by the side of the muddy road. Sal was nowhere to be seen and in fact was never seen again, at least not by the McIntyres. Someone, no doubt, had found a use for the animal. It seemed something must have frightened her and she’d thrown her beloved master into a nearby ditch, where he’d lain for several hours before the farmer came upon him.

“Are you all right?” the farmer had asked. The fellow had just looked at him, he told everyone later at the Old Cock Inn. He was trying to talk, but couldn’t manage it and then, that was it. “He just gasped for air, but couldn’t get none, like. He were a goner. Knew that soon as I saw him, of course.”

They’d buried him the next day and it was six months later when Bridget had succumbed to Jamie’s O’Donnell’s efforts at seduction. Or at least his persuasion—he could provide for her and all her children and, as he kept telling her, she clearly could not. She had no family left and John’s parents, who lived many miles south, were dirt poor and could never take them in. Since Jamie’d bought Old O’Neill’s bit of land next door the farm was now a reasonable size and he worked the boys hard to make sure it was in good shape.

Not that he was a shirker himself—everyone said Jamie O’Donnell would never ask anyone to do anything he’d not do himself. Of course Jamie was thirty-eight and he expected Hugh, at nine years old, to work as hard as he did. He was only slightly easier on the twins, who were eight, but taller than Hugh, who he always called the runt of the litter. And laughed every time he said it. That was the thing that annoyed Hugh the most—the laugh.

The beatings he could put up with—the continual bullying, both verbal and physical. The verbal was even a source of amusement at times, since he was well aware of his stepfather’s shortcomings in the areas of communication. Bridget’s grandfather had been the village parson and both John and Bridget saw value in reading, value in broadening the mind beyond the cottage, beyond the small village. They’d insisted all their children learn to read and write and Hugh had a stash of his father’s books hidden away. Jamie was not able to read and therefore did not want anyone else to read, especially in his house. Occasionally, just to taunt his stepfather, Hugh would use words he knew the man would not understand, to speak to his brothers, and they would look slyly at each other and grin when they thought he wasn’t looking.

He would become furious, of course, and Bridget would chastise them, but she couldn’t hide the smile, and the pride, in her eyes. Unfortunately Jamie saw it as well and would as likely hit her as the boys. None of them were safe from his jealous anger.

It was his little sister Hugh was most worried about. His mother, he figured, had made her bed and she must lie on it. He and the boys, well, they could put up with it for a few years; they’d talked about leaving, but knew they’d have to be older before they’d get a living wage anywhere. And they were reluctant to leave Eliza until she was a bit older.

She was eight years old when she first felt the back of her stepfather’s hand. It was also the last time. Eliza barely remembered her father; her brothers had told her about him and he was like a mythical creature in her mind—somewhere between a prince on a white horse and a unicorn—so Jamie O’Neill was her father, to all intents and purposes.

Bridget and Eliza were cooking and the little girl was excited to be able to use her mother’s knife for the first time, to peel the potatoes. Her stepfather came in just as she dropped a roughly peeled and chopped potato into the soup pot and he grabbed it out and looked at it.

“What do you call that?”

“A potato?” Her bottom lip quivered.

He threw it at her. “That’s a disgrace!” He looked at Bridget, already cowering in anticipation. “D’you expect me to eat that? It’s half peel and half dirt! Are you trying to kill me?”

“She’s just learning,” she said softly. “She has to start somewhere, Jamie.” She smiled at her daughter and handed her another potato. “Just let me check it before you put it in the pot this time.”

Jamie was not about to let it go though. “She’s bloody useless, that’s what she is. Just like her mother.” He looked the little girl up and down. “And what’s she wearing? That dress is too short for her. She looks like a little whore. Is that what you’re training her for?”

Eliza sat as still as she could, given her frail little body was shaking. She knew her dress was too short but Ma always said there was no money for fabric to make another. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she made no sound; she knew better than to make a fuss. Nonetheless his rough and enormous hand swiped across her face and Bridget stood up, shocked into action.

“Jamie!” She held her sobbing daughter to her chest and the tiny kitchen was suddenly filled with boys and noise and chaos and they were all yelling and they were not boys any more.

Jamie was hitting out randomly at whoever was close enough and he was massive in that room. He roared like a giant and Eliza’s sobs were drowned out and lost in the racket.

David picked up the poker from its place beside the fire and hit out wildly with it. Jamie laughed as it missed him and connected with the table. He was in his element; he loved a good fight and it was about time these little shits grew up and had a go.

When he saw Hugh take the poker from his younger brother he laughed even louder. “Oh ho, the runt’s going to have a go, is he?” He pulled his fist back to hit out at the boy but Hugh was quicker.

He took a deep breath and gripped that poker with an iron grip; he swung out at everything that was wrong with his life, at everything he hated. He brought the poker down on that hated head and silenced the laughter forever. Silenced the torment, silenced the bullying, silenced everything.

Bridget screamed when Jamie hit the floor; his face was a bloody mess and she knelt down beside him and put her head to his chest. Suddenly she was a widow again; she felt helpless. But when she looked up at her sons, at Hugh standing somehow taller, towering over her, backed by his brothers, and her daughter also staring at her brother with something like adoration, she realized she was not alone. Hugh was in charge.

“What will we do?” she asked him.

“Just take Eliza to your room, Ma,” he said quietly. “We’ll set things to right.”

The twins followed Hugh’s instructions and dragged the heavy body through the kitchen door to the cold and welcoming wind outside. They left him there while they cleaned up the blood on the kitchen floor so Ma and Eliza didn’t have to look at it.

It took some time to drag him all the way to the cliff and all the strength they had to hoist him over the crumbling rock wall. When they finally got to the cliff edge Hugh told them to leave the rest to him and to go back to help Ma and Eliza.

They were disappointed and relieved, in just about equal measure, and obediently returned to the cottage.

Hugh wanted to spend some time thinking, on his own. He wanted this moment to be a ritual; he knew he would remember every moment always and he wanted to remember it with pride.

So he stood there for several minutes—fifteen or more, with the wind whipping around him. He felt strong—invincible—and he knew he could do anything now.

He wasn’t shocked when he heard a groan from the heap beside him, only mildly surprised the man was still alive. And rather pleased. He now had the satisfaction of knowing that Jamie O’Neill would know his fate as he tumbled down to the rocks. And would know he’d been dispensed with, easily enough, by the runt of the litter. The last sound, apart from that of the waves crashing below, that Jamie heard before he met his maker was the sound of laughter—not his own this time.

NOT GUILTY, a true story of a mother who murdered her three children, is free on Amazon from May 10 to May 14. FOR MORE INFO ON ALL MY BOOKS CHECK OUT MY BOOK PAGE OR MY AUTHOR PAGES ON AMAZON.COM OR AMAZON UK

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

If Smart Phones were Smarter . . .

I bought a new smart phone a couple of days ago and I’m not going to go into the make and so on–not advertising or reviewing phones. Even if I wanted to I clearly don’t know enough about them to attempt that. I thought all I wanted from a phone was to talk to people and text. Then with my last phone I discovered how convenient it was to check emails and facebook without getting out of my lounge chair. I had that phone for 2 years and since we were due to renew the phone contract we decided to get me a flash phone with a bigger screen. One thing I knew I wanted was a decent camera which also allowed me to use Skype. The old one had no front camera and although it took reasonable photos outside the indoor ones were rubbish.

So the phone arrived, very promptly, the morning after we ordered it online. It’s not guilty 2014 coverbeautiful–all the bells and whistles, big screen but not too heavy–very thin and it does take nice photos. All good, smarter than me no doubt. What I want to know is if it’s so smart why couldn’t it just connect with the old phone and automatically upload all the settings and info that’s there? Why do I have to start all over again learning how it works and how to get what I need on it?

I confess I did virtually nothing; passed it over to hubby who spent all day mucking around and talking to a call centre (I suspect in India). Fortunately he quite likes playing with new technology. I just want it do what my old one did, but better. Is that too much to ask? I now have all my contacts on it and facebook etc. set up so it’s all good but, to be perfectly honest, if it had been up to me to set it up I’d have repackaged it and returned it to the sender long before the day was out. Hopefully I’ll be right now for another 2 years.

‘Not Guilty’, a true story about the brutal murder of three children by their mother in Australia, 1910, is free on Amazon from 11th to 13th of February.

RED DUST SERIES: Stony Creek, The Road to Karinya, Red Wine and Summer Storms.


Leave a comment

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


6 Comments

The Future of English

 

 

 

I came across this article in my great, great, great grandfather’s scrapbook and thought it worth sharing. It’s interesting to see there were those in the 18th century who realised that migrating to other countries would change the way people spoke English there, as of course it did. The librarian’s solution–to set a standard pronunciation in English schools–was never going to take off in the colonies of course! Unfortunately I don’t have a date of publication or even the name of the paper but it was clearly English and was certainly published before 1885, when my ggg–grandfather died.

future of englishHe also notes that phonetic spelling is both rational and inevitable and I tend to agree with him there–USA spelling is quite common here now and even though I prefer the English spelling I grew up with it’s not a major issue for me. As far as pronunciation goes I tend to have trouble understanding some of the British accents and I wonder if they understand each other. I’m very thankful for the text option on my TV when I watch British shows.I’d love to hear from any Brits on this subject. There seems such a range of accents; even if we leave out the Scots and the Welsh, the different accents within that tiny little country of England are amazing!

The ggg-grandfather who compiled this scrapbook came out from Manchester, in 1841, and I have no idea how he spoke, or if I’d have had any problem understanding him. His scrapbook, which was originally started by my ggg-grandmother, who ‘neglected’ it, is a window to the 19th century, most of it not relating particularly to the family, and it’s also a little peek at his personality I think; the articles he considered worth cutting out and preserving for his 3 sons and 22 grandchildren ranged from local news to world news and random jokes, along with the odd recipe. He called it his odds and ends.

 

 

 

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodkarinya cover

 

 


5 Comments

Sorting Fact from Fiction

Does anyone else get a bit annoyed when they’re reading a book which purports to be non-fiction but is clearly riddled with fiction elements–the way people are feeling, for example, or what they were thinking about? It’s possible, if the writer is using diary entries, to stick to the facts and still include such details, but generally they must be invented. I don’t object to that style of writing at all–it makes the characters seem more real and makes the book more interesting, but I do like to know what is fact and what is fiction.

One of my all-time favourite genres is historical fiction–I’ve always been fascinated with history but even more so when it’s interpreted by a great writer. Some writers do let the reader know at the end of the story just what’s real and what isn’t and that’s what I did in my historical fiction, “Her Flesh and Blood”. BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

I attended university a few years ago as a mature age student, majoring in history. I loved it, especially the research, which I expected to find horribly boring. I admit some of the books were, but the primary research was absolutely fascinating. Reading newspapers over 100 years old and handling original letters written by a murderess before she committed her crimes, in 1910, I felt incredibly privileged! I wrote my Honours thesis on Infanticide and Child Murder; as I said, the research was amazing, but writing within the boundaries of a university thesis was a hard slog.

After I graduated I felt I had to use the material I hadn’t been able to use for my thesis, that the story needed to be told, and I wrote “Not Guilty“, the story of the worst of the cases I studied, which, coincidentally, took place in the town where I live. This is a true account and the newspaper accounts are very creative but, as a writer with a fiction background, I was frustrated by what, in spite of all my research, I could not find out about my protagonist, Camellia McCluskey, so I not guilty 2014 coverblogdecided to give her a life of her own and wrote a fictionalized account. Having been somewhat obsessed with this horrific crime for several years it was a bit like an exorcism when I wrote “Her Flesh and Blood“. I was able to say what I wanted to, without the restrictions and I made sure I noted at the end of the book what was factual and what wasn’t! I also published my original thesis, “Demented Mothers“, on Amazon, for those who like all the facts and the sources and especially for anyone who might be studying the topic.

It’s the last day of 2014 here in Oz–Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s hope it’s peaceful.

My grammar guide, “What Did You Say?” and my children’s book, “No-one’s Good at Everything“, are free from December 31 to January 2.


43 Comments

Can you help me choose a name for my outback station?

The novel I’m working on at the moment, which will hopefully be finished by mid-October, is about a girl from an outback station in New South Wales, and a road trip. I’ve had no trouble finding names for my characters but the perfect name for the station hasn’t yet revealed itself. I like Indigenous names; lots of places in Australia have them and it’s one of the things that makes our country unique. I also, though, want a name that’s simple and memorable; it might form part of the title and I don’t want it to be too hard for people to pronounce. I have a few contenders listed below, as well as their meanings, and I’d appreciate input from as many of you as possible–which is your preference?

 Allawah (home)

Jillong (land)

Tanderra (resting place)

Tandara (camp)

Warill (lonely track)

Wadarie (where)

Wahroonga (our home)

Kunari (flat country)

Carinyah (happy home)

Cooindah (happy place)

Gooyong (camp)

Gunyah (shelter)

Lambruk (homestead)

Lara (hut on stony ground)

Lumeah (here I rest)

Mirang (camp)

Quamby (camp)

Nurragi (south country)

Neerea (rest)

I have a few freebies this weekend; Demented Mothers, which is a thesis on the subject of Infanticide and Child Murder, is free on August 24th, (USA time) one day only. Her Flesh and Blood, fiction inspired by a murder case in 1910, is free at Amazon on the 23rd and 24th August and Dark Innocence, fiction with an element of the supernatural, is free from August 23 to 27. Why not grab all three and read them at your leisure? Reviews would be appreciated.

For UK readers: Demented MothersHer Flesh and BloodDark Innocence.

 

 

 

 

 

 


4 Comments

Freebies on Amazon and Smashwords

Has anyone had any luck making their ebooks permanently free on Amazon? I have a couple of small ones free on Smashwords, one a short story, an excerpt from my short story collection, and the other a book on grammar and punctuation. The short story, obviously, is a promotional effort, leading to the collection, while the other one, at only 19 pages, I’d simply like to give away to help anyone who needs to improve their written English. It’s not, by any means, a comprehensive guide to the English language but I have a few little tricks to help remember where apostrophes go and indeed what they are actually for, among other things.

I read somewhere to go to the book’s page on Amazon and scroll down to Product Details and then below that to ‘tell us about a lower price’, then type in Smashwords URL and the price. I did do that and I also emailed Amazon, who said they can’t offer any books for free, apart from the 5 days through KDP Select. They do though and I suspect if I can get enough people to inform them of the lower price available on Amazon they will eventually match the zero price.what did

It might seem an odd request, to help me get my book prices lowered to zero, but I’d appreciate it if you take a minute to do that for me and I’ll let you know if it works.

The books in question are ‘Brown Dog’, at Amazon and at Smashwords, and ‘What Did You Say?’ at Amazon and at Smashwords.

My YA book, Sanctuary, is free on Amazon for two days, July 1st and 2nd, and I have a Countdown offer on Not Guilty, starting at 99c on June 30th and then 1.99 on July 1st. Not Guilty is a true story about a mother who killed her three children, in 1910, in a country town in Australia.

It’s freezing here, and wet. Winter is well and truly with us and I’ve had enough of it and am ready for some sunshine. Still it’s nice and cosy inside and I’ve been getting stuck into some writing–hit the 10,000 word mark in my latest novel today so pretty pleased with myself. Trying to discipline myself with a deadline of sorts and commit to 1000 words per day, except when I really have to go shopping or babysit, or anything else that comes along . . .