Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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100 not out!

No, I’m not 100 years old and neither am I a cricket fan, but this is my 100th blog! Maybe not as big a deal as turning 100 but at least as good as 100 runs on the cricket field. Well, I did say I’m not a fan, right?

It’s been a little over 3 years–I just looked up my first blog and it was March, 2013. Since then I’ve written three books which have been more successful than I ever imagined (Red Dust series) and my family has grown considerably. I had two grandchildren in 2013, now I have four plus six step-grandkids!

At times I’ve struggled to find things to write about and my blogs became less regular as time went by–now I’m no longer trying to blog weekly or monthly. I only write when I have something I want to say. For some reason I’ve recently joined Instagram as well but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. I might just spend my time writing books instead. The one I’m working on at the moment is based in the area I’m living in, which should make some aspects easier at least. The story starts in 2015 and then changes to the 1860s, much of which will be based on the goldfields here. Unless my characters decide to go elsewhere–you never know really!

The sun’s shining here and I can see a bird on next-door’s TV antenna–I think it’s a pigeon–but it’s freezing cold and apparently we’re in for a winter blast in the next few days. I’m sick of winter already but it’s nice to see the sunshine from the window in my cosy home office.

darkamazonNothing better than curling up by the heater on a cold day with a good book is there? I have a free ebook coming up on the 27th June (USA time), Dark Innocence. It’s quite short, novelette size, and inspired by some of my experiences growing up in the sixties in a country town. Check it out and feel free to leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy it!

For details on my other books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK.

 

 


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Lost Words

Are we all becoming vanilla flavoured with our speech? I’m not talking about texting, using acronyms or shortening words to speed up the process of sending a text or an email. That’s a whole other subject and I’m not getting into that, other than to say sometimes it’s fine but if your phone has a reasonable predictive text it’s just as easy to use complete words. new the inheritance coverWhat I’m talking about here is language, the spoken word; how many words have we simply stopped using? I may live a sheltered life but as far as I can see, or rather hear, everything these days is either awesome or amazing. Nothing is ever marvellous or splendid or even terrific. Fantastic? Maybe, but what about delightful or even extraordinary?

As a writer I know I’m guilty of using mostly everyday language, because I want my books to be accessible and enjoyable to read, not a chore. Perhaps I can sneak in the odd ‘marvellous’ in the dialogue of someone in the 1860s? My current book is about the Bendigo goldfields around that era so, yes, I believe I will do that. At least one ‘marvellous’!

I am well aware language is constantly evolving but it does seem somewhat of a shame to lose words such as ‘delightful’ just to re-interpret words like ‘sick’, or even ‘cool’, but that’s one that been around for long enough to have earned its place. I haven’t heard ‘sick’ for a while; hopefully it’s already gone. Does it seem more like devolution of the language rather than evolution?

‘Her Flesh and Blood’ is FREE on Amazon from the 24th to 28th May (USA dates). For more information on my books please check out my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


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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.


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How much of you is in your writing?

Most of us have mercifully little experience of murder, espionage and so on, not to mention the lives of people who lived hundred of years ago, but the characters we write about in such stories can still be built from ourselves and people we know and it’s inevitable our life experiences will affect our writing.

BookCoverImageconnectionsWhat about using our own experiences deliberately? I taught creative writing at a community college a few years ago and the first exercise I set the students was to write about an episode in their own lives. The next step was to turn that into a story, which they could do by simply changing the point of view or they could choose to make it more fiction, retaining just some elements of the initial story, which is what they all did. It’s a good exercise for anyone who wants to write but doesn’t quite know how to get started. We all have a story to tell–even if you think your life is boring and nothing ever happens, to someone else with a very different life it might be riveting!

One of my short stories, ‘Brown Dog’, while not at all about me, includes lots of my life experiences. When we were very young newlyweds my husband and I went from our home town in Victoria to Queensland, two states away and around 2,000 kilometres. Our first destination was Munduberra, a tiny inland town where we already had work and accommodation lined up on a citrus orchard. We stuck it out for a few weeks but, to cut a long story short, it didn’t meet our expectations and we headed for the coast. We spent a couple of years living around the Sunshine Coast, including Marcoola Beach, which is not only the basis of ‘Brown Dog’. but also a large part of ‘The Road to Karinya’, the second bookdarkamazon of my Red Dust rural romance series, as is Mundubbera itself.

In ‘Brown Dog’ Luke is broke, living in his car and almost suicidal when he comes across a stray dog on the beach and his life is turned around. After a cyclone wiped out our tent we also slept in our car for a while, but I don’t recall being particularly depressed–we had friends and work wasn’t that hard to find. We did pick up a stray dog during that time though and we did have to let him go after a few days and we also spent some time beachcombing; I remember well the joy of finding a glass ball amongst the driftwood!

You can read ‘Brown Dog’ and my other short stories free from 23rd to 25th June and ‘Dark Innocence’ on 29th June to the 1st July. ‘Dark Innocence’ is another story where I used some of my own memories, growing up in a country town and hitchhiking down to the river at weekends. And having seances with Vegemite glasses and cut out scraps with letters and numbers written on them!


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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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An open letter to Smashwords.

I’ve given you a good chance, Smashwords. I’ve published my best selling book with you; you know the one, Stony Creek; sales on Amazon have far exceeded my expectations and it’s still selling well, ten months after publication. So why can’t you sell it? Not even one copy?

I’ve tried several books with you, Smashwords (May I call you Smashy?) and I’ll leave a couple for the time being, but I don’t intend to put any more up. The only ones that appear to be moving much are the freebies and even then, I thought that might be worthwhile as a promotional tool. Unfortunately you won’t allow me to promote my books at Amazon in the freebies. Understandable of course but I’m sure you can see it kind of makes the whole thing pretty pointless for me.Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

I know you do sell some books, Smashy; you have sold a couple for me, some time ago now, but, for whatever reason, your buyers don’t want to buy my books. I don’t take that personally because there are many buyers at Amazon who do buy my books, especially Stony Creek, which you’ve had for a couple of months now, I think. I’ll leave it with you for now, simply because it is selling very well at Amazon and I have no intention of using it as a free promotion there, so there’s no need for it to be exclusive. And of course I’ve already gone through all that tedious business of formatting for you. (Whew!)

I think, however, I’ll end up removing all the others so I can offer them free occasionally with Amazon’s KDP Select–I don’t mean this to be an ad for Amazon but, honestly, Smashy, I just don’t see the point.

Farewell, and no hard feelings.

Stony Creek at Amazon.com

And at Amazon UK

Free ebooks 14th and 16th September: Beast of War (Fantasy for kids, big and little) and Connections (short stories)

UK readers: Beast of War and Connections

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the 14th actually starts here some time in the early evening on our 14th, so you should be able to get freebies at Amazon.com tonight.


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Writing Challenge–Present Tense.

I would never read or write a novel in the present tense; I’ve often thought a short story could work quite well but hadn’t got around to trying it. Having just finished my novelette, Dark Innocence, I decided to set myself a challenge to write a short story in the present tense. It’s a very short story so I’m posting it here intact.

I’m hoping some of you will take up the challenge as well, either a short story or just a paragraph. There’s no prizes but if you’d like to post your first paragraph in the comments section of my blog you’re welcome to link it to the rest of the story on your own site.

Here’s my effort:

The Here and Now

© Christine Gardner 2014

 

She stands at the open window watching the traffic. She feels like some kind of goddess watching from the heavens as the mass of humanity swirls below her, frantically going about its day to day business; people leading their boring ordinary lives, thinking themselves so important. She can see them for what they truly are, ants—no—less than ants. Ants rush about with some purpose; they collect food for the whole colony. Not like people, who only collect for themselves.

And what pointless things people collect, she muses. Money, mostly. She doesn’t need to look in the direction of the bank opposite; she knows it all too well, inside and out. Every evening she crosses the busy road, at the traffic lights on the corner, and walks briskly back along the dark street to the forty storey building, where she shows her ID to the security guard; the same guard almost every night for ten years or more. Every evening he stares at the tiny photo and then stares at her face. Every evening he makes some inane remark, such as, ‘Don’t look much like you’, or if he’s in a particularly jovial mood, ‘Don’t really flatter you, if I do say so myself’. On these occasions he winks and looks her up and down. She’s used to it but it makes her uncomfortable still, not least because she feels as if he thinks he’s doing her a favour; that she should appreciate the undeserved attention. She knows very well how drab she looks in her work clothes—she wears grey track pants and a faded blue top or sometimes a faded black one which almost matches the grey pants. Not that she cares.

Every night she picks up her equipment from the supply room and spends the next six hours looking at the leftovers of others’ lives; the lives of people she will never meet. The lives of people who live on, almost, a different planet to her; she picks up framed photographs from untidy desks and studies the smiling families. Are they real, she wonders sometimes, or did the pictures just come with the frames. She can’t remember her family ever being like that—the perfect white smiles, the matching outfits.

What did any of it matter? You live and you die. Or, as some eloquent person has put it, on a tee shirt somewhere, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. Too true, she thinks, and sighs deeply.

Her black cat, Shirley, interrupts her, winding itself round and round her legs, making its presence felt, and she leans over and picks it up. ‘At least you’re honest, aren’t you?’ she says, holding the soft black fur against her face. ‘You’re here for the food and shelter and don’t need to pretend anything else, do you?’ She puts it down gently.

It starts to sprinkle with rain and the cat looks anxiously at her and retreats to the doorway.

‘It’s okay, Shirl, it’s just water.’  The rain settles into a steady beat and she sighs and steps over the worried cat into the kitchen/dining/living room of her apartment. Shirley follows her and leaps onto the bench as her mistress opens the cupboard and takes out a can of cat food, then jumps back to the floor and starts the manoeuvre in and around the legs again. The cat keeps begging until the food is in the bowl and then is pushed away while her mistress puts some drops of something into the food.

Sniffing suspiciously at first, the cat eventually finds the smell and the flavour of the tuna strong enough and tasty enough, to overcome any misgivings about that mystery substance. The bowl is clean in the time it takes for her mistress to pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch, where Shirley joins her. Settled onto a familiar and comfortable lap, the cat is soon fast asleep; it twitches once or twice and is still.

The woman finishes her wine and walks over to her computer; she wonders what she will say and to whom she will address her note. She almost laughs out loud; if there was anyone, then perhaps there’d be no need for such a note. Perhaps she’d feel differently about her life if there was someone, anyone, to share it with her. It’s not the job she hates or the dismal apartment; it’s being alone in this city of millions. Always alone.

There is no-one to write to and nothing to say. No-one to miss her—would anyone even notice?

She washes and dries her glass and the cat’s bowl and tidies the kitchen bench, then walks through the apartment, just to make sure everything’s tidy. Then she walks back out to the balcony, climbs over the metal railing and, with no hesitation, she jumps.

 

 

 

 

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