Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Hell is in Hello

That phrase is from a song called ‘Born under a Wandering Star’, from the movie ‘Paint your Wagon’ and sung by the late great Lee Marvin.

‘Do I know where hell is, hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go
I was born under a wandering star
A wandering, wandering star.’

I came across something the other day and it got me thinking–I often think about the origins of words, especially the ones we use every day. It was suggested the word ‘goodbye’ was a contraction of ‘God be wi’ ye’, which makes sense to me. Now I tend to say ‘See ya’ or ‘Bye’, being even lazier, or perhaps less formal, and I don’t think that’s just me.

Of course, as an Aussie, my overseas friends might think I say g’day all the time but the truth is I think we’re more likely now to say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. I noticed when I went for a morning walk a few days ago at a popular walking spot, everyone greeted me with something different. I tend to say ‘Morning’ in those situations and I had one or two reply the same, a couple of hellos, a hi or two and one g’day.

Anyway, back to the origins of words. I remember some of the books I read as a child, usednot guilty 2014 cover the spelling ‘hullo’ or ‘hallo’, whereas now ‘hello’ has become more commonplace. From my five minute internet research it seems the origin is either French or German, and was a word (hola) used to hail a ferryman. Something like ‘whoa there’ or maybe ‘hey!’ The invention of the telephone made it a common greeting which seems weird until you give it some thought; it would be weird not to have some kind of phone etiquette.

Another particularly interesting thing about the word is that is has, at various times, been spelt with every vowel in the English language, even ‘i’. I’m not aware of any other word with that claim to fame!

My true crime book, Not Guilty, is free until some time tomorrow, so if you have any interest in social history grab it now, and if you find it as riveting as I do a review on Amazon would be appreciated.  For more information on all my books on Amazon please visit my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK. All the best for Christmas and stay safe.


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Self-Publishing: Designing your own covers

inheritance-cs3rdBack to the trials and tribulations of self-publishing! One of the best things about self-publishing print on demand or ebooks is that you can always make changes. A tweak here and there, or fixing typos you’ve missed when someone else points them out to you after your book’s published! One of the worst things about self-publishing PODs or ebooks is that you can always make changes, which means, of course, nothing is ever quite good enough.

I’ve always had an interest in visual art and spent several years studying before swapping over to writing. That doesn’t mean I was good at it, just that I do have enough knowledge to make me frustrated at my limitations! So tweaking book covers is my weakness. Or is it my strength? I’m not sure on that one! I’ve been able to either use my own images or find free ones online until last year, when I paid a designer on fiverr.com for a cover for ‘Inheritance.’

Next I paid for an image for the cover of ‘Red Wine and sanctuary_cover_for_kindleSummer Storms’, and did the text myself; it was around $14, but I forget where I bought that. There’s a lot of online images available but often you have to buy a bulk number, rather than just one at a time. I have discovered one site I’ve used now for two new covers for old books, ‘Sanctuary’ and the POD image for ‘Inheritance’. They’re called CanStock Photo and both images I used were $7 USD each.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen of course you have to go through the whole uploading process again, which, after three or four years I still find very frustrating, but it’s worth it, if only because it makes me feel better. Until I get another idea. I’ve also built another new cover for the thesis I wrote when I was at university, 2005. It’s called ‘Demented Mothers’ and it is a thesis, not a light read, but definitely interesting. This cover has one of the mothers, Camellia McCluskey, in a ghostly effect using Pixlr, a free kind of photo shop, which is a lot of fun to mess around with.

‘Sanctuary’ is free on Amazon and Amazon.UK, from December 1 (USA time) to December 5.


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Writing Challenge–2nd person point of view

My writing is focused on novels these days but I do enjoy trying something different now and then. Think of it as a creative cleansing. The idea of writing a novel in the 2nd person is awful but I’m sure it’s been done. Try a paragraph or two and see where it takes you. As usual this is a challenge with no prize but feel free to add links to your paragraph in my comments section. Here’s my effort:

YOU NEVER KNEW

(c) Christine Gardner 2016

You probably think this story’s about you, don’t you?

You never knew what hit you. When you got up that morning you took your new suit off the hanger and carefully pulled it from the plastic covering. It looked schmick, you thought; the young bloke in the store had been right. It was nice to have a change from that funereal black you wore all the time. You weren’t so sure about the shirt—it was pale pink and you held it in front of you in the mirror and pulled a face. With your hair starting to grey at the sides and your beard definitely grey you wondered if you looked too much like a grey and pink galah.

You took one of your white shirts from the walk in robe you shared with nobody anymore and hung it on the doorknob. Old Dolly had done a good job of washing and ironing it, as she did all your clothes these days. She looked after you so much better than a wife would. And much cheaper. Also she knew when to keep her mouth shut, which was most of the time.

Your favourite tie, the grey one with the swirls of different shades of blue, would look perfect with the grey suit and the white shirt. You glanced over at the pink shirt again and shook your head. Definitely the white one; the pink one might do one day with one of your black suits, or jeans even. You hung it in the wardrobe and walked into the bathroom where you stood under the steaming hot shower and let your mind go to places usually banned. The shower was good for that, and bad. You didn’t really want to think about her but sometimes you needed to. Sometimes you just had to remember.

She was the prettiest thing you’d ever seen, natural blond with the most enchanting green eyes, like a fairy-tale witch, you teased her.  You’d simply had to have her; it wasn’t difficult. She was young and naïve and you were neither. You sent her flowers at first, then jewellery, and you took her to the best restaurants where you educated her palate with the best wines on the menu. You even bought her a brand new grey BMW; not the garish red one she wanted because you were trying to teach her what good taste was. You knew what was best for her and it wasn’t long before she did whatever you asked of her. Anything.

Then you got bored. She was, after all, very naïve. No matter what you tried to teach her she was just a pretty face with an empty head. In the bedroom she was magical; outside it she was as useless as a Christmas decoration at Easter time.

You looked in the bathroom mirror and smiled as you dried yourself. Not bad at all for an old bloke of fifty two, you thought. Not bad at all. You sprayed yourself with deodorant and splashed aftershave here and there, even though you weren’t shaving. The Armani one. Dropping the wet towel on the floor you went out to the bedroom and pulled on your Calvin Klein jocks and socks and then dressed in your white shirt and new grey suit.

The full length mirror showed all of you from your perfectly styled hair to your black Gucci loafers, which were your favourites. Easy to slip on and off, but still smart. You looked a million bucks, you thought. Almost too good for such an occasion.

You looked out the window and frowned as the rain started, then smiled. Perfect really, just the right weather for it. You grabbed your umbrella from the stand inside the front door and had one last look in the hall mirror before you left your apartment.

The doorman knew you well enough to guess you wanted a taxi; he also knew where you were going and why. He just nodded and waved a taxi down and you handed him a ten dollar note and got in.

The journey was only around thirty minutes, not bad considering the weather; it wasn’t raining heavily and it wasn’t cold, but dreary with intermittent showers, just like the redhead on the weather show earlier had promised. Perfect.

When you arrived there were a handful of people waiting, most of them no more than familiar faces that you couldn’t give a name to and didn’t care to. Her friends were of no interest to you and never had been, nor her family. You’d whisked her away from that and given her everything any woman could want and she hadn’t needed her family around her, or friends. You never really felt the need for friends yourself; it was all about business for you. You had associates, that was all.

The service was short, as you’d requested; you were paying for it after all. It was subdued and people were quiet for the most part. Everyone was staring at you of course, and whispering about you, but you didn’t care. The police had been satisfied she’d taken her own life and there was no way you could be blamed for that. Everything was tasteful and properly solemn—tranquil.  At least until some woman you didn’t recognise at all started bawling just as the casket was wheeled out of the chapel. You looked over at her and frowned, then stood up and walked, upright and with dignity, behind the casket, ignoring the obnoxious woman and her companions, who were comforting her and making her worse. You hoped she wouldn’t follow the ceremony right to the grave site.

You didn’t need to worry though. As you stepped out on to the road to get into the limousine, which was, of course, on the wrong side of the road, you looked up under your umbrella just in time to see a familiar grey BMW hurtling towards you. You would have jumped out of the way but the face behind the wheel made you freeze in mid-step. A face, unusually pale, but beautiful, with blond hair and stunning green eyes, bright with hate and, strangely, laughter. It can’t be, was all you had time to think, before it was all over for you. When the car stopped, after it hit you and then hit the hearse behind you, there was no driver and there was a lot of speculation in the press as to who had been driving the car that ended your life. Even the best forensics were not able to find any prints or DNA apart from yours and your late wife’s and they eventually decided it must have rolled when you parked it; that in your grief you’d neglected to put the handbrake on.

The pathologist who cut the new suit from your body noticed the label; he also noticed your shoes and even your Calvin Klein underwear, blood soaked as it all was. It was his job to notice such things of course and, were you looking down on the procedure, you’d have been happy you’d been so well dressed for the occasion.

For more information on my books please visit my author page at Amazon.com or Amazon. UK.

 


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Snakes and Spiders in the Land of Oz

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the video of a huntsman spider dragging a mouse up a fridge door.

I’m not surprised it’s gone viral; we all love to talk about our creepy crawlies here and to be perfectly honest I’d be pretty freaked out by that sight myself, but I’m easily freaked out by mice anyway. If we had a resident huntsman capable of killing mice I’d be okay with that, though I’d rather he did it in the dead of night. Fortunately we don’t have mice and any huntsmen I see are nowhere near that big.

I didn’t know whether to be amused or . . . what? when I heard some Americans had cancelled their planned holidays to Australia after seeing that video, but given that most of my readers are from USA I thought it worth explaining a few things about our creepy crawlies. Huntsmen, first of all, are common but perfectly harmless, unless you’re an insect. Or a mouse apparently! And they’re not usually that big.

I spent my very early years living in a house surrounded by orange trees, quite a few miles from the nearest town. The little school I went to was also surrounded by trees, or grape vines–I’m not sure now, but I do remember sitting on the ground with my friends eating lunch and drinking rain water from a red plastic mug. The rain water often had wrigglers (mosquito larvae) in it and no doubt a few things we couldn’t see but they didn’t do us any harm.

Most of my schooling was after we moved to a bigger country town–we used to swim in the river and I spent quite a lot of time at the farm when my older sister married a farmer. I’ve also lived in Queensland, both on the beach and inland. Would you like to know how many snakes I’ve seen? Not counting zoos, none!

I’m not suggesting visitors (or anyone)  should run around the  bush barefoot, or approach snakes or spiders to test if they’re venomous, but generally they prefer their own company. I’m hardly an expert of course, just an average Aussie with a healthy respect for our wildlife–I was once kind of attacked by a kangaroo at a park, so my mother tells me, but I don’t remember it. They can actually be quite dangerous, but like most of our wildlife they don’t actually like us much and stay away. So if you want to go Oz but you’re frightened of spiders and snakes just stay in the civilised areas, or go with a tour, and you can be pretty sure they’ll stay away from you.

For details on my books please see my Non-Fiction and Fiction page or visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 


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Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.

 


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Life Without Power

There’s been massive storms in the last day or two, especially in South Australia, where the whole state was left with no electricity and several thousand homes are still without power. Commiserations to all South Aussies! The storm was forecast to hit us in Victoria last night but nothing happened; now they’re saying some time today but it won’t be as severe as it was in SA. I quite like storms but not blackouts. No-one likes blackouts, except maybe burglars.

Most of us have had the experience of being without electricity for an hour or two; it’s inconvenient and, mostly, boring. If the weather’s okay you can go out, although driving can be a bit risky if the traffic lights are out of action. Have you ever considered how your life would change if the power never came back on?

A few years ago something happened to the gas supply–I forget what, but it was a big deal. Big enough that we had no gas for a couple of weeks. Our house runs mainly on electricity but we do have gas heating and hot water; I don’t think it was particularly cold and we were lucky we have an electric stove and were able to heat water for baths but it wasn’t much fun. There were a few public places with electric hot water systems that allowed people to use their showers and we went to the nearest one, the jockeys’ showers at the race track! It was clean I suppose, but pretty awful and once was enough for me.

I have no idea how I’d survive without electricity though; no stove, no fridge or freezer, no air-conditioner, no TV, no computer, no internet. My phone would work for a little while on 4G but how would I recharge it? When I was a child most of those things didn’t matter and when my mother, who’s now 96, was a child, most of those things didn’t exist and those that did weren’t in every home. People were a lot more self-sufficient. I’m not pining for that kind of lifestyle at all–I like my comforts–but it’s a little scary to think just how dependent we are on other people and machines.

I doubt I’d be writing at all if I had to use a manual typewriter, let alone selling books to be read on kindles on the other side of the world!

For details of my books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-Fiction Page‘ or my Author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.


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Creating with Createspace: The eStore

I’ve been publishing with Createspace, Amazon’s paperback branch, for four years and have ten books there now, but I’m still learning! I was always vaguely aware there must be a way to buy directly from Createspace rather than through Amazon, because I always buy my own print copies that way. I don’t tend to buy print copies of other writers because, obviously, ebooks are much cheaper, but I like to have some copies of my own books on my bookshelf. Almost all my sales are ebooks but there are still a few people who are happy to pay the postage costs because they don’t like ebooks. It’s also gratifying to see some of my books have been bought by a few libraries now in random areas of Australia; I have no idea if any overseas libraries have them.

I don’t remember where I first heard about the Createspace eStore and I didn’t bother looking into it at first but I’ve been having a bit of downtime (ie not writing) and I decided to have a proper look. It turns out that when you publish with Createspace your book automatically has its own page in the Createspace eStore but no-one knows about it unless you tell them. In case I’m not the only one who likes to waste time fiddling about with extra work relating to self-publishing I’m going to try to make it easy for other writers.

not guilty 2014 coverGo to your book title on your Createspace page and then to Channels. Click on the eStore setup, which is pretty self-explanatory. If you want to choose a background colour for your page you can, and you can also add a banner at the top which is the fun part. I had some problems with this at first but I’m somewhat of a frustrated artist and I like finding the right photos and I quite like fiddling around to make them fit. That’s the important thing–if they don’t fit they just won’t go through. You can put a link to your Amazon page and also some text if you like, which will be your link. It’s all easier than it sounds–the only problem I had was not understanding about the photo size for the banners. They really need to be 760 pixels wide and 100 pixels high. Then of course it’s up to you how and if you want to promote your eStore page. There’s even an option for having a private page if, for example, your book is a family history and not intended for the public you can make it password only.

I’m listing the eStore pages for my four most popular books–they’re all on my Books page if you want to check out the others. They’re also still available as paperback or ebooks at Amazon.com and Amazon UK.

If you’d like two or more of my paperbacks message me on facebook and I’ll send you a discount code for 20% off at Createspace.

Not Guilty: https://www.createspace.com/4115238

Stony Creek: https://www.createspace.com/4523872

The Road to Karinya: https://www.createspace.com/5152819

Red Wine and Summer Storms: https://www.createspace.com/5869812

Let me know what you think and if this is new to you or I’m the only one who didn’t know about it!

Stony Creek book2 karinya ebook