Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Thanks for all the suggestions on Hell and Fury.

Late last year I asked for title suggestions for a novel inspired by a child murder case in 1910 Australia. I lost count of the BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodnumber of replies I had, mostly through Linkedin, but I wanted to thank everyone for their suggestions. My original title was ‘No Hell Nor Fury’, which had about as many positive as negative responses. One kind person suggested I check Amazon to see how many similar titles were already there and that was the main reason I changed it. I called it ‘Her Flesh and Blood’ which is a little more ambiguous and I prefer that. There were no other books on Amazon with that title at the time–might be now! Anyway that’s available now and I feel at last, after a thesis, a non-fiction book, and now a fictionalized account, that I’ve exorcised that horrific crime from my brain. To some extent.

My latest publication is another kids’ book which is a welcome change from all that and is free on Amazon from 23 to 27 February, ‘No-one’s Good at Everything’. It consists of 2 stories–one’s an adventure about Billy, who loses his mother on a train and gets into all sorts of trouble trying to find her again and the other’s about Sophie, who’s the only one in her family not good at sport. All her friends are good at sport and so is her little sister, but Sophie dreads playing sport at school because she’s just not good at it. Positive reviews would be appreciated!

My last publication was a rural romance, Stony Creek, which is selling well, and I’m currently working on something which will probably be more suited to lovers of horror–I do like to mix it up–but I’m not even sure myself yet where it’s going. The characters will let me know–all I can say now is that they’re teenagers and they’re about to have a seance. I have an idea it won’t go well for some-one.

It’s been a lazy summer for me–too hot to get my brain going–but I think the worst is over now and I hope to get back to work this week. Summer’s officially over in four days and autumn is just around the corner. I love autumn and although all the trees in my garden are evergreens there are plenty around town that are just stunning in autumn. I think Bendigo’s at its best then.

I notice there’s been a lot of new interest in an old blog of mine about a writing challenge, ‘Write a paragraph beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night”.’ Do you think we should start another challenge?

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Free Books

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions but I am trying to get organised this year. I’ve decided to gradually move all my books over to Smashwords, not instead of Amazon, but as well as. Although I’m not entirely sure there’s any real advantage in doing so, because my sales on Amazon far outweigh those on Smashwords, since I don’t want to use Amazon’s KDP Select (which requires exclusivity) forever, my books may as well be on both.

One thing I like about Smashwords is that I’m able to make books free if and when I want to and I’ve made ‘What Did You Say?’ free there permanently. It’s not a great tome and certainly isn’t a comprehensive guide to all the vagaries of the English language. Rather it’s a little help for some of the most common errors people make in everyday life–like misuse of that pesky apostrophe, for example. I’ve included, where I can, ideas to help remember when and where to use an apostrophe, as well as why. Many people seem to have a problem with ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’ as well and I suggest ways to help you remember when to use which, as well as some other common mistakes. If you read ‘What Did You Say?’ and like it a review would be much appreciated.

I also have my children’s book, ‘Last Chance‘ free on Amazon right now, from the 3rd January to the 7th, for the last time. I’ll be moving it across to Smashwords later this month and it’ll be the same price there as Amazon, 99c. Children who are good readers from 9 or 10 should enjoy this; it’s a futuristic tale and starts off a bit grim but has a happy ending and won’t take long for you to read yourself if you have any doubts about its suitability for your child. I’d love a child’s opinion on it–my readers all seem to be adults, judging by the reviews.

Not Guilty‘ is on a 40 hour Countdown deal starting tomorrow, 4th January, at 99c. I’m not sure yet what my plan for this one is. It’s non-fiction–an horrific story about a mother who brutally murdered her own children and it’s also my most successful book on Amazon. I definitely won’t be putting it up free again but I’ll see how this promotion goes before I decide whether to add it to Smashwords.

Well that’s my plans for the first month of 2014–oh I’m also working on ‘Her Flesh and Blood’, which should be up this month, and am hoping to get back to another story I started last year. That’ll be after I finish a longish short story I’m co-authoring with another writer, So, busy times ahead.

I hope you all had a good new year (my New Year’s Eve consisted of watching fireworks on TV–ho hum) and all the best for 2014.


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CHILLI-THE GREAT HUNTER

We had a cat called Chill for 13 years; she was a lovely little girl–the only girl in the family besides me and she died last year. I still momentarily think it’s her scratching at the door sometimes or glance at a shadow–anyway, she was the world’s best cat and I wrote a story for kids largely based on an incident when we almost lose her. That might sound an odd subject for kids but I hope I’ve handled it so it doesn’t upset any. Kids do face tragedy and Chilli survived this one so it’s about hope if anything. And maybe about the results of being a naughty cat!

That wasn’t the only time we almost lost her–one day she just disappeared and we put a poster up at the local shop and looked around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and putting flyers in letterboxes. Someone rang the shop, and said they’d been told our cat had been in a trailer and ended up at the rubbish tip, which is about as far away as you can get from our house without leaving town. She did sometimes jump in our trailer for a snooze and I suppose the owner of that one put a tarp over his trailer and took off before she could get out. Once he stopped the car she’d have jumped out and found herself surrounded by huge noisy birds and horrible smells. And feral cats. She must have been terrified.

We looked out there of course and handed out flyers around that neighbourhood but I don’t think she’d have hung around long. To cut a long story short, seven weeks later we got a call from the RSPCA to see that they thought they had our cat. We didn’t dare hope–didn’t believe it possible she could survive that long on her own. I still remember the feeling when we realised we had our cat back. Now she’s gone and is irreplaceable but we have lots of memories.

To get back to my book–it’s called Chilli-The Great Hunter and it’s free on Amazon for 2 days, from the 7th to the 8th of October. The ‘Look Inside’ feature isn’t on yet and I’ll extend the free period when that starts. The book also includes a story about a teddy bear who runs away from a toy shop and another about a clay dragon who foils burglars in her family’s home.  UK readers can find it here.

Here are some short excerpts:

RUNNAWAY TEDDY

©Christine Gardner

Janet Wilson was standing outside the toyshop waiting for the bus home after a busy day shopping. It was pension day and she had bought some groceries, just enough for one, plus a chocolate bar as a special treat, as she usually did on pension day. She was looking forward to getting home and sitting in her comfortable old armchair, with her feet up, and sinking her teeth into that dark chocolate that she liked so much. She was startled when she suddenly felt a tap tap tap on her leg. She looked down and was amazed to see a small golden-brown teddy bear.

“Hey you up there!” yelled the bear in a little growly voice.

“Hello,” she said. “Aren’t you a cutie?”

“Never mind the cutesy-pie stuff, just pick me up!” he demanded.

CHILLI—THE GREAT HUNTER

©Christine Gardner

Chilli’s family loved her very much, and they fed her lots of goodies, including dry cat food, fresh minced beef, bits of steak and her very favourite, tuna from a can. When she heard the electric can opener she would come running from wherever she was. She had very good hearing. No matter what they fed her though, Chilli still loved to hunt. She hunted spiders, cockroaches and mice at first and Mum and Dad didn’t mind that at all. Then she started hunting birds. She always brought them home to share with her family but still they weren’t happy.

DIDIE WAKES UP

© Christine Gardner

Didie was a very contented dragon. So contented that she slept all the time. Well, nearly all the time. Sometimes she just pretended. She had no desire to move, and never had, in all her three years. Of course she was made of clay, which had quite a lot to do with it. She lived on top of the heater in the Johnson family’s lounge-room, where she was very snug and warm and comfortable. She thought she always would be. Until one very surprising night . . .

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Ever heard of Ignaz Semmelweis?

It’s over twenty years since I first read ‘The Cry and the Covenant’ , by Morton Thompson, and at least ten years since I re-read it. It’s historical fiction based on the life of a Hungarian doctor called Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) and what still strikes me the most is that no-one has ever heard of him. It may be different in Hungary and Austria, where I believe there’s a statue of him.

We’ve all heard of Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur–Lister is acknowledged as the first surgeon to use antiseptic during surgery, in 1865. Ignaz died in 1865 so probably didn’t know of Lister’s achievement.

This man most of us are unaware of was vilified by his fellow doctors for his preposterous theory that the thousands of women dying across Europe after childbirth could possibly be saved if doctors were to wash their hands! Everyone knew childbed fever was caused by a miasma, poison floating around in the air, and the method of wiping their bloody hands on their jackets allowed doctors some status–it showed how hard they worked.

When Ignaz was able to establish his regime the women themselves were offended when doctors began washing their hands, taking it as a personal insult! Every time he managed a step forward the medical profession dragged him back; even so he saved the lives of many women. I have no idea if Lister knew of his work and was inspired by it or if he came up with that idea on his own. The book is a novel and, as such, the reader can’t be sure  how much is fiction and how much is fact–the one thing that annoys me about historical novels. Why not a page or two at the end explaining some of the facts?

Anyway this book is amazing and, since it was written in 1949, may not be easy to get hold of. I’ve had three copies and lent them all out and now I don’t have any but that’s okay–I remember it! If you can get hold of it, it’s well worth a read.

It may be that I was especially taken with the book because I was mum to five young boys at that stage and it occurred to me that without visionaries like Ignaz I may not have survived the first one! My boys are all grown up now–and yes I still call them boys but then my 93 year old mother still calls her brothers ‘the boys’.

If you have any children in the 9-12 age bracket, my children’s novel, ‘Last Chance’ is free on Amazon till the 28th. Or you could read it yourself and write me a review if you like it! See my Amazon Author Page for info on all my books. Also UK Amazon. 

The Australian Amazon site is less friendly but you can find all of these books there if you use the search option. They’re also available as paperbacks.

 

 


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Free Sanctuary! Ebook on Amazon 15 to 19 July.

Sanctuary is a sci-fi book for young adults, set in the 25th century. It’s a post-apocalyptic story, a subject which always fascinates me; I love to read different writers’ ideas about the future of the world. My future world is not a pretty one but there is hope and the qualities which make us human are still there. Although I did write it for young adults I know plenty of adults enjoy YA fiction–it’s easy reading and, hopefully, enjoyable. If you do find the time to read it and enjoy it please take another few minutes to write a brief review, either on Amazon or Goodreads or both.

On a slightly different subject, but still about the future of our world–a certain 5 year old, who shall remain nameless, was visiting the other day and an ad came on the TV–one of those ubiquitous ads displaying the wonders of some exercise machine–and he told me he wanted to get one when he grew up. I asked him why and he said because he wanted to ‘get fit’! I should point out that this child never sits still-is constantly running everywhere, is tall for his age and has not an ounce of extra fat anywhere on his body. Yet already he’s getting the message that he needs the latest gadget to improve himself!

My children are adults now but I do remember talking to them about advertisements, especially those on TV, and pointing out the ridiculousness of some of the claims made. It’s sad, but parents, you really have to tell your children that sometimes people lie.

All good parents are careful about the programs their children are allowed to watch on TV, but do they notice the commercials? I think we’re so accustomed to them, especially those that seem to be on all the time, that we tend to tune them out. I know I do. Just be aware that your kids may not have the same filter and that they can’t read the disclaimer that tells us, for example, that the miracles we see in front of us are actually the result of a combination of diet and exercise, rather than ten minutes a day on a magic machine!

Morning television here in Australia is full of both exercise machines and life insurance ads, neither of which are suitable viewing for children. Is this is a time you put your feet up and watch TV while your child plays near by? Perhaps you could just push the mute button when the ads are on–you might think your child’s not taking any notice but he probably is! I know, from experience, how convenient it is to put your child in front of the TV, while you get on with whatever you have to do, and I’m not saying that’s a bad idea. Just be careful and don’t forget to read books to them. This is beginning to sound like a mummy blog!

Happy reading.


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Who reads Young Adult novels?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading.


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Mapping Fantasy–and a free book, ‘Beast of War’.

My reading tastes change frequently–sometimes I like horror–I used to love Stephen King; sometimes I prefer historical fiction. I’m always looking for something different and it’s hard to find. Jodi Picoult’s always interesting; she clearly does lots of research on her subjects. I enjoyed fantasy for a while and love Game of Thrones but I must confess I haven’t read the books.The only trilogy I ever read was The Axis Trilogy, by Sara Douglass, a very successful Australian fantasy writer, who died in 2011. I knew I had to read three (huge) books but I expected each to have some kind of an ending; I didn’t expect that I would have to drive around to my son’s house one night as soon as I’d finished book one so I could borrow the next one in the series. I did at least have the foresight to grab the third one at the same time but I vowed never to read another trilogy! Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I spent that week or so basically living in that fantasy world, scarcely functioning in the real world. That sounds a bit extreme but if you’re a keen reader you’ll know what I mean. Some books are very hard to put down and when you really have to you’re still thinking about that other world. Sara’s world was so fascinating I was totally caught up in it.

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop of hers, in which she told us the basics of writing a fantasy. She always started with a map. When she said that I groaned inwardly; not a good start for me. Geography was never my strong point, and maps? I could barely read one, let alone draw one. (And yet I love travel and have just started adding some photos on a new page here.)

The other point I recall from that workshop was that all fantasy is about a quest and as I was, at that time, studying writing for children, I began with that map and found it worked beautifully. As soon as I had the (very rudimentary) map drawn I could see what kind of creatures would live there and what kind of quest they would have to go on. Beast of War was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book and it’s free from the 20th May to the 22nd. Let me know what you think. It is for kids but my intention was to reach the Harry Potter audience, which seems to range from around 8 to 80.

http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08

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Happy reading.