Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Something for a rainy day.

It’s mid winter here in Oz and the heads on TV keep telling me we’re suffering a particularly severe cold spell from the Antarctic–personally I have no intention of going outside to check it out. They have mentioned snow in unusual places and if it happens to snow in our garden I’ll go outside but otherwise I’ll stay right here with the heater thank you very much. I will have to leave the comfort of my lounge room tomorrow but it’s Sunday here today and I’m staying put.

I realize it’s Saturday and summer for most of you and I don’t envy you that either–autumn and spring are the best times of the year here. I will admit winter is good for sleeping, for those of us lucky enough to have a nice cosy bed.

In my last blog I wrote about how my experiences affect my writing and mentioned my time on a Queensland beach–as a young couple my husband BookCoverImageconnectionsand I slept in a tent until a cyclone wrecked it and then in our car for a while. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds now and I think it’s great to have life experiences that are perhaps a little removed from the mundane. I wrote a short story ‘Brown Dog’, in which I used some of my memories of beach-combing and being broke, away from home. Unlike Luke, the protagonist in my story, I was not friendless, nor suicidal! Fortunately we were able to find work and accommodation before too long; some of that work–like cutting sugar cane by hand (we lasted half a day)–is probably worthy of a place in one of my stories at some stage.

For now, enjoy ‘Brown Dog’, from my short story collection, ‘Connections‘.

Brown Dog

(c) Christine Gardner 

It was the ugliest dog Luke had ever seen. He was standing at the edge of the sea, not really contemplating suicide (but oh, what a seductive sea it was, just walk on in and don’t look back). The dog ambled over to him and just sat beside him, uninvited and unwanted. It was skin and bone, with long legs like a greyhound. All brown, with no relieving patches. Just an old brown dog. It whined and wagged its tail back and forwards across the sand.

‘Get lost, mutt,’ Luke said, with no real animosity. ‘I’m not in the market for a dog. I can barely feed myself.’

Delighted at being addressed, the dog sidled up closer to Luke and pressed itself against his bare legs. Luke felt himself being dragged unwillingly out of his black mood and somehow he was sitting down beside the dog, which was ecstatically licking his hand and jumping all over him. He laughed out loud, and was startled by the unfamiliar sound of it. He’d had precious little to laugh at lately.

Luke was living in his old EJ Holden, his tent having been wrecked by a severe hailstorm a month earlier. He was flat broke, existing day to day on whatever he could get from beach combing. This was meant to be a working holiday, but there was no work, and it sure didn’t feel like a holiday. A month earlier he’d put in half a day on a vineyard, picking grapes, after some loud mouths at the pub had been bragging about all the money they’d made. It was forty degrees by mid-morning and Luke had felt the sun burning his face to a crisp. By lunchtime he’d had it. His tally had earnt him the grand total of five dollars and he hadn’t even bothered to pick it up. Too embarrassed to face the blockie he’d just got in his oven-hot car and driven off.

Since then things had got steadily worse. In desperation he’d gone to the local social security office, only to be informed that he was not a local, and as this was an area of high unemployment he would have to wait for six weeks before being eligible for any financial assistance.

‘How am I supposed to live for six weeks with no money?’ he’d asked the pompous counter clerk. ‘Or is that the idea, I starve to death and then I won’t need any assistance?’

The clerk was not amused and suggested Luke go back home and apply at his own local office. Luke didn’t bother telling her he had no money to get home on. It would be at least $150 for petrol, and anyway there was no home really. He’d burned his bridges there.

The only hope came from a dirty looking young couple with matching dread-locks who were behind him in line and heard his conversation with the clerk. ‘Look man,’ the male said, ‘I know how you can make a few bucks if you’re hungry.’

Luke was dubious, but he was also hungry. ‘What’s that mate?’ he asked suspiciously.

‘Hey man, nothing heavy. It’s just beach combing, we do it all the time, hey babe?’ He looked at his female counterpart who nodded enthusiastically. ‘There’s a guy at the Island Bar pays ten bucks a bag for cuttlefish, y’know, for budgies? And sometimes there’s other stuff. Glass floaters are like gold; they’re off the big fishing nets, and the yuppies like to, y’know, hang ‘em on the front verandah to impress the neighbours.’

Luke thanked the young couple and headed straight over to the Island Bar to check the facts. He found the man he needed to see with no trouble at all; he managed the bar and also lived there. Big Al, as he was known to the locals, fitted in nicely between the beer barrels, being of a similar shape. His interior was probably similar as well, as he was almost never without a beer in his hand. No one had ever seen him drunk, but few had seen him sober. He was just the same any time of the day and in any state of inebriation—morose. Some bartenders are good listeners, and drinkers like to pour out their troubles while the bartenders pour out the beer. They soon learnt that Big Al, while he was prepared to listen, could top any sad story with one of his own much worse tales.

‘Look,’ he said to Luke, ‘I get bugger-all out of this cuttlefish business, but since I also get bugger-all for this job here, every little bit helps. What I really like to see is those glass balls; I can give you 40 bucks for one of them, and 20 for the plastic ones.’ He gave Luke a sugar bag and told him to bring it back when it was full of cuttle­fish. He also suggested a few likely beaches, and Luke went off straight away to try his luck.

That had been two weeks earlier, and he’d been able to survive, but only just. One day he’d managed to fill two bags with the dried-out cuttlefish bone lying on the beaches and he’d bought a small packet of cigarettes, which had made him feel almost human again. Usually he was lucky to fill one bag, and half the money had to go in the petrol tank. He tried to vary his diet; mostly it was either baked beans or sardines, as well as bread. A loaf of bread lasted a couple of days if he was careful. He was always hungry though, and always depressed. The only person he really spoke to was Big Al, which didn’t exactly ease his depression. He knew if he told Al his life wasn’t worth living, Al would not only agree, but list all the reasons why his own was so much worse.

The brown dog followed Luke down the beach, bounding here and there to check out interesting smells, and rushing to the water only to back off when the waves covered his feet.

‘Chicken!’ Luke laughed. ‘It’s only water; you could probably use a bath. Come to think of it, so could I.’ He stripped off and plunged into the waves, yelling as the impact of the cold water hit him. Then as he became used to it he relaxed and began to enjoy himself, body-surfing in with the waves. The dog barked excitedly from the shore, and then hesitantly crept in to the water. ‘Here boy!’ Luke called, and the dog swam eagerly out to him.

When they emerged, the dog shook himself vigorously and then ran around and rolled in the sand. Not having a towel handy Luke decided he had the right idea, and ran along the beach until he was warm and dry. When he’d dressed again, he felt better than he’d felt in months. Alive again. The dog was dashing back and forwards across the sand and had found a particularly fascinating pile of seaweed and driftwood. Luke strolled over to him and the dog scratched something out of the pile which rolled towards Luke. It was a glass ball.

Luke was convinced now. This dog had been sent to help him, an answer to his desperate pleas to whomever or whatever was listening. He felt on top of the world and immediately went to see Big Al, dog in tow. Then with his new-found wealth he bought a bag of dry dog food, as well as a huge bone from the butcher’s shop in the main street. He left the dog beside the car with his goodies and went shopping for his own needs. He bought a pouch of tobacco which he knew would last at least a week, a few cans of baked beans and Irish Stew for when he was broke again, and best of all, fresh meat and vegetables. There was a public barbecue nearby in the park and Luke and the dog feasted on steak, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Neither of them could remember when they’d had a better meal.

That night the dog slept on the front seat of the car, with Luke on the back seat. The car stank of cuttlefish, which was always carried in the boot, and Luke had sprinkled curry powder everywhere in an effort to improve the smell. It now smelt like curried cuttlefish, but that was a slight improvement. The dog sneezed several times, but then went to sleep happily enough. The following morning brought rain, but nothing could dampen their spirits. They ran down the beach in the rain and then ran back to the car, shivering. Luke changed his clothes in the car, and left the dog outside to shake himself dry under a tree. Having declared the day a holiday Luke drove around for a while, looking for somewhere that would provide free shelter for man and dog. Usually on rainy days he hung around the indoor shopping centres, but the dog wouldn’t be allowed there.

They were strolling along under the verandahs of the main street when the dog stopped in the doorway of a bakery, drinking in the wonderful aromas. Luke smiled. ‘Yes, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread, is there boy?’ Then he noticed the sign in the window: Help Wanted. Accommodation Provided. Leaving the dog outside, he entered the shop and approached the middle-aged woman at the counter.

‘Hi, I was wondering about your “help wanted” sign?’

‘Yes dear, have you ever worked in a shop? Do you know how to use a cash register?’

‘Oh sure,’ Luke lied, ‘I used to work in a supermarket.’ He had in fact spent a week once helping in his uncle’s fish-shop and was reasonably confident he could work the register.

Mrs Thomson showed him the room upstairs which was large and comfortably furnished. There was a ceiling fan above the bed, a big sliding window with a view of the beach, and a desk with a portable TV. There was also a little kitchenette area and a door leading to a tiny but scrupulously clean bathroom. Luke felt like he’d died and gone to Heaven. And it was all thanks to the brown dog. He was going to be one spoilt mutt. Mrs Thomson was still talking, and Luke tuned in again. ‘Of course health regulations mean you can’t have pets here, but I don’t suppose you have any, do you?’

‘Pardon? I’m sorry Mrs Thomson, what did you say?’

‘No pets dear. You can’t have pets here.’

‘Oh. I see … no, that won’t be a problem.’

‘That’s good, only I saw a dog out the front when you came in and I wondered ….’

‘No, it’s not my dog.’

‘Just sniffing around the bakery then, we get a lot of strays.’

Luke agreed to start work the next day and Mrs Thomson said he could get his things and move in right away.

Sitting on the beach where he had first met the brown dog Luke tried to explain the situation to him. ‘I’ll come and look for you every day after work. You can hang around here and sleep on the beach. It’s not that cold. I’ll bring you meat pies and cream cakes.’

The dog just looked at him, his brown eyes reproachful and all-knowing. ‘Oh dog, what can I do? They won’t let you stay there. I’m sorry.’ He walked away and left the dog sitting alone on the beach right where they’d found each other. He sat in the car and put his head on the steering wheel, a lump in his throat. Then he sat upright. ‘No, dammit! I won’t do it. It’s like selling my soul. I’ll find some other job.’ He ran back to the beach calling out to the dog. The beach was empty, except for a stray sea-gull foraging amongst the shells. He ran along, whistling and calling. For an hour he wandered the beach.

The brown dog was gone.

For information on my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 


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Blog Hopping!

Thanks to Sandy Curtis for tagging me for this blog hop.

Sandy Curtis lives on Queensland’s Central Coast, not far from the beach where she loves to walk and mull over the intricate plots in her novels. Her husband says he doesn’t know how she keeps it all in her head, and her friends think she must be far more devious than she appears.

Actually, after having dealt with the chaos involved in rearing three children, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a kookaburra (teaching it to fly was murder), creating complex characters, fast-paced action and edge-of-your-seat suspense is a breeze for Sandy.

Her first five novels were published by Pan Macmillan Australia, were nominees in the Ned Kelly Crime Awards, and two were finalists in the mainstream section of the Romantic Book of the Year Award. They were also published in Germany by Bastei Luebbe, and are now available as e-books from Clan Destine Press. Her sixth thriller, Fatal Flaw, and seventh, the recently released Grievous Harm, are published by Clan Destine Press in print and as ebooks.

Sandy was a magazine feature article writer for two years, a newspaper columnist, and has had short stories and serials published in leading Australian women’s magazines.

She was a member of the Management Committee of the Queensland Writers Centre for four years and has presented many writing workshops, including the 10-day USQ McGregor Summer School Creative Writing course. She has organised WriteFest, the Bundaberg writers festival, since its inception in 2005. In December 2012 she was presented with the Johnno Award by the Queensland Writers Centre for her “outstanding contribution to writing in Queensland”.

Interviewers often ask Sandy to describe her normal writing day. “Normal is when the chaos in my life subsides to frantic rather than frenzied. I once told a friend that I must have a chaos attractor glued on my forehead and she said that creativity hovers on the edge of chaos, to which I replied that I’d long ago fallen off the edge into the middle.”

Her various occupations, from private secretary to assistant to a Bore Licensing Inspector, as well as hitch-hiking around New Zealand and learning to parachute, have given Sandy lots of people and research skills. It’s the paperwork going feral in her office she has trouble with.

Now I’m going to answer some questions about my current novel, ‘The Road to Karinya’, which should be out before Christmas.

MEET THE CHARACTER

Answer these questions about your main character from a finished work or work in progress:

1.) What is the name of your character?

Prue King

2.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Fictional

3.) When and where is the story set?

Prue’s story is in the 1970s—her mother Ellie’s story is also told, set mostly in the 1940s. The story begins with Prue and her friend Sally leaving Sally’s home in Mildura, country Victoria—the girls head off on a road trip that takes them to Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Ellie’s story starts in Adelaide, South Australia, and finishes at Karinya Station in New South Wales.

4.) What should we know about him/her?

Prue is nineteen, young and innocent, having spent most of her life on the outback station with her parents and six sisters. She wants to experience life away from the station where she grew up and has worked briefly in Mildura and Melbourne but always missed her home. The road trip with her best friend is her way of forcing some distance from her family and growing up; she wants to be an independent woman.

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

A violent incident happens on Prue’s road trip around Australia and it has a devastating effect on her and on her budding romance with Dan.

6.) What is the personal goal of the character?

She wants independence and to do something different to the rest of her family. Other than that she really doesn’t know what she wants until the end of the story.

7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?  ‘THE ROAD TO KARINYA’

Readers of my rural romance ‘Stony Creek‘ might remember meeting Prue briefly as a fifteen year old—this is not a sequel but I decided Prue should have a story of her own. Although this is also rural in the true sense of the word, it’s not about station life in the way ‘Stony Creek’ was. Instead it’s about a station girl heading out to experience life away from home.karinya cover

Prue King is nineteen and lives on Karinya Station, one of seven girls. She and her friend Sally decide to go on the adventure of a live time—a road trip, right around Australia. Neither Prue nor Sally is in any hurry to settle down, unlike some girls their age. They want to see the country and be independent. When they meet brothers Dan and Steve on the Sunshine Coast Prue is stunned by her feelings for him, but her plans remain the same. She and Sally are determined to get to Perth where they will live for at least a few months and decide what their futures hold. When the girls leave the brothers behind though, a horrifying experience will change their plans and their lives, perhaps forever.

8.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I expect to have it finished within the next couple of weeks and published on Amazon before Christmas.

I’d like to introduce author Tony Riches, who I’m tagging to be next in line for this blog hop.

 About the Author

Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham, by Tony Riches

The year is 1441. Lady Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, wife of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, one of the richest men in the country and next in line to the throne, hopes to one day become Queen of England. Then her interest in astrology and the dark arts, combined with her husband’s ambition, leads their enemies to accuse her of a plot against the king.

The beautiful Duchess Eleanor is found guilty of sorcery and witchcraft. Rather than have her executed, King Henry VI orders Eleanor to be imprisoned for life. For ten years, she lives as the king’s prisoner in the finest palaces in the country, such as Leeds Castle in Kent, to some of the worst conditions, in Peel Castle on the windswept Isle of Man.

Finally she is taken to the Welsh fortress of Beaumaris Castle on the Island of Anglesey. More than a century after her death, carpenters restoring one of the towers of Beaumaris Castle discover a sealed box hidden under the wooden boards. Thinking they have found treasure, they break the ancient box open, disappointed to find it only contains a book, with hand-sewn pages of yellowed parchment.

Written in a code no one could understand, the mysterious book changed hands many times for more than five centuries, between antiquarian book collectors, until it came to me. After years of frustrating failure to break the code, I discover it is based on a long forgotten medieval dialect and am at last able to decipher the secret diary of Eleanor Cobham.

Henry VI. Part 2, Act 2, Scene 3:

King Henry:

Stand forth dame Eleanor Cobham, Glouster’s wife.

In sight of God and us, your guilt is great:

Receive the sentence of the law, for sins

Such as by God’s book are adjudged to death.

You, madam, for you are more nobly born,

Despoiled of your honour in your life,

Shall, after three days’ open penance done,

Live in your country here, in banishment.

The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham is available now in paperback and eBook on Amazon UK and Amazon US and in all popular formats on Smashwords

A short book trailer for The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham is available on YouTube


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Tropical Paradise

Something a little different this week–very different actually! Haven’t written anything lately and have barely even thought about writing. Instead I went to Vanuatu to see my son married on the beach at Erakor Island.

van 062Vanuatu’s not all that far from Australia and the flight, if you’re lucky enough to get one that goes direct, is about the same time as the trip across to Perth, around 4 hours. We went that route on the way over, arriving in Vanuatu at 2am, but on the way back we had a stopover in Sydney for around 3 hours.

Arriving at 2 am we were very glad we’d arranged an airport pickup and were met at the motel by the night watchman who showed us to our apartment. After a lot of research we opted to stay at the Coral Motel and had no regrets–it’s a budget priced motel, not a resort, and the whole experience of staying there, on the main road of Port Vila, was a very different one to that of staying at a resort. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle, sitting on our balcony watching the locals heading off to work and the mini buses going to and fro picking up passengers.van 122

We had a good look at a couple of resorts as well, visiting other family members. Erakor is spectacular but the one room I saw inside was very small compared to ours and more than twice the cost. It’s all about the beach of course and that, and especially the water, is just beautiful. The wedding went off without a hitch and the meal was delicious; the chef, coincidentally, is from our part of the world and the resort is owned by Australians. A lot of the businesses are owned by Chinese, we were told, and I’m not sure many of the locals actually own very much. They are employed though, in every area that we saw.

Possibly the most surprising thing about Port Vila was the abundance of mini buses–if you walk anywhere along the main road a bus will stop for you. They’re more like taxis than buses, in that they’ll take you anywhere, but there are taxis as well, and they charge a lot more. The mini buses charge 150 vatus (around $1.50 USD) to take you just about anywhere–we had only one driver who demanded more, saying it was 150 vatus only for black people and we had to pay 200! We didn’t argue–well, not much, but were careful after that to make sure the fee was sorted and paid up front. No-one wears seatbelts there and you often see small trucks with people loaded in the back and even perched on the sides.

All in all, it was a fascinating experience and one I can certainly recommend. If you plan a trip there make sure to go out on a glass-bottomed boat to the reef and go prepared for a swim!

Sanctuary is free on Amazon from 26th to 28th October (USA time). UK readers link here. It’s a futuristic novel I wrote for young adults but is suitable for all ages.

Not Guilty is free one day only, 28th October. UK readers here. This is non-fiction, based on a trial in Australia in 1910, of a mother accused of murdering her three children.


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Back to the joys of self-publishing.

I have digressed . . . and will again, but I’m going to discuss self-publishing and I’d love to hear of your experiences. It has taken me quite some time to get the formatting right–a nightmare, but so satisfying to finally have something up. The book covers were another experience, but kind of fun. CreateSpace allows you to use your own photos as part or all of the cover but also gives you options to just use theirs.

I now have seven books on Amazon, most also on CreateSpace, which is their paperback department. Two that are not are only small ebooks, one a short story, ‘Brown Dog’, which I am putting up free for four days, from tomorrow.

amazon.com/author/christinemgardner

‘Brown Dog’ was based in part on my own experiences living on the beach in Queensland in the early seventies, with my husband. We were very young and not long married, which probably explains why living in a tent, or, after we lost that to a cyclone, sleeping in the car, seemed more of an adventure than a hardship. I may be looking back through rose-coloured glasses but it seems we had a lot of fun in those days, walking along the beach collecting cuttlefish, living day to day on whatever we could find. 

The excitement of finding a glass ball, which fishing boats used on their nets, was rare and very real. They were worth considerably more than cuttlefish and didn’t smell anywhere near as bad! Our car, which we were sleeping in, stank constantly and we sprinkled curry powder, among other things, throughout to try to get rid of the stench. The car then stank of curried cuttlefish, which was only a very slight improvement!

We tried our hand one day cutting sugar cane, which was disastrous. I think it’s all done by machine these days but it was a horrible job to do by hand. We didn’t last long at all and I think, from memory, my husband did the cutting and I may have helped pile the canes up or something. Or possibly just stood around looking helpless. I do remember we were covered in black because they burnt the fields of cane before cutting. 

I also spent some time working at The Big Pineapple, a working farm developed as a tourist spot. That was a great place to work, mainly because we were allowed pretty much free access to all the goodies! Tropical sundaes for morning and afternoon tea every day! Probably just as well I didn’t stay there for long.

Here I am digressing again, but that’s what blogs are for isn’t it? Meandering along, taking detours? Have a look at ‘Brown Dog’. It’s only a few pages and I’d love some feedback. If you like it please post a review on Amazon.

Happy reading.

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