Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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The Future of English

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodkarinya cover

 

 


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Old Book, New Look.

new the inheritance cover This is the brand new cover for my book, ‘The Inheritance‘, the 2nd edition, or an update, on ‘Inheritance’, which I decided needed a make-over. For the first time I actually spent a little money (very little) on getting someone else to do the cover for me. I actually quite enjoy the process of cover design but it doesn’t always work as well as I hope and it’s difficult at times to find the right image. When my son suggested this site, www.fiverr.com, I decided it was worth $5 for a trial run and I am very pleased with the result. With the Aussie dollar so low at the moment it cost me a little over 7 AUD but I’m not complaining.

I know I’m not the only indie writer who doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on book covers but does want a great, professional looking cover and I think this is an excellent service. There’s quite a few designers to chose from, as well as other services, and different prices, but each one has to provide a basic service for $5. My designer says it can take up to 6 days but mine was back in 3–I also had the option to request changes but I’m happy with it just the way it is.

‘The Inheritance’ is about revenge first and foremost. Jo, a successful advertising executive, is suddenly dumped by her long term partner for a younger woman. When her uncle dies and leaves her his home she decides to start a new life in the country, with her own business. Rose Cottage seems ideal, in a beautiful setting just above Hope Valley and not too far from the city, but secluded and peaceful. Something happens to Jo though, as soon as she moves into the old stone cottage. She becomes obsessed with the cottage and nothing else, not even her career, matters anymore. When she finds a diary hidden within the walls she learns more than she ever wanted to know about the original inhabitants of Rose Cottage and her obsession will lead her to unimaginable horror.sanctuary cover 2014

I have a young adult sci-fi free on Amazon at the moment, ‘Sanctuary’. It’s set well into the future, when the sun has made it impossible for anyone to survive outdoors. While one high-tech civilization, Thrallia, lives in an enclosed environment above ground, they are mostly unaware of another more primitive society, the Centrals, who live underground in an old rail system. The Supers, who are the rulers of Thrallia, not only know of the existence of the Centrals, but have plans that will wipe out the other civilization altogether. Two young Thrallians find out the truth and realise they are the only hope the underground society has to survive.

You don’t have to be a young adult to read Sanctuary–I think it’s a good read if you like sci-fi that’s not too technical!

Sanctuary for UK readers.

Happy Reading.


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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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Stuck in a time warp?

Do you tend to read or write in one particular era? I have an aversion to the 1920s, possibly because I’ve seen too many bad movies about that era. Other than that my first love was historical fiction, simply because I find history fascinating, and my second love was science fiction because I’m equally fascinated with the future. I’m always interested in the way different writers imagine our world in the future, or indeed other worlds.

When I started writing, my first novel was set in the 26th century and my second novel was set in both contemporary times and the 19th century, so no favoritism there! My latest two (Stony Creek and Dark Innocence) are set mainly in the 1960s and 1970s and I do find I rather enjoy writing about a time I have some personal memories of. I’ve just started another set in the 70s, which has some of my own experiences of living in Queensland and camping on the beach but most of it is pure fiction. I don’t have a name for it yet and I’ll probably be asking for help when I’ve finished, but that won’t be for a while yet. I’m not a very well-disciplined writer, unfortunately–life gets in the way sometimes. Often.

It’s looking like winter has arrived here and it is in fact the first day of winter so I can’t complain. It’s wet but not that cold yet–at least not inside! The trees are beautiful but they’ll soon be bare and we’ll be looking forward to spring. Not summer though. I don’t like summer much at all.

I have a couple of freebies for you this week–one from the future and one from the past! ‘Demented Mothers‘ is about infanticide in the early 20th century in Australia. This is not written as a true crime; it is a university thesis, so won’t be for everyone, but if you have an interest in the subject check it out. Free one day only, June 1st (USA time). Link for UK readers.doglastkinblog

The other one is ‘Last Chance’, which I wrote for pre-teen kids, but I’d be interested in others’ opinions as to what age it’s best suited to. It’s about a town destroyed by war and the aftermath, which sounds pretty grim, but ultimately it’s about hope. Anyway it’s free, so you may as well grab it, right? Free for 2 days, June 1st and 2nd. UK readers.

Cheers and happy first day of summer or winter, depending on where you are.


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Book Review–Miss Debenham’s Secret by Sara Bennett

I’m not about to start writing regular book reviews. I’m a reader and a writer, so I have an opinion, like you and every other reader. If I don’t like a book I usually won’t finish it and, even if I do finish it, I won’t review it. Professional reviewers who are obliged to review a book whether they like it or not might have to write some less positive than others. I don’t, so I simply won’t review a book I don’t like.

Miss Debenham’s Secret‘ is a novella which is a sort of addition to the Husband Hunters Club series. The club is a group of girls at a finishing school in the early 19th century and each book tells the story of one of the girls. Miss Debenham is their teacher and it’s a nice little touch to tell her story as well but this is a stand alone story and it’s absolutely not necessary to have read any of the series.

Clarissa Debenham lives in a seaside village in Britain and, in the late 18th century, as an 18 year old teacher, she meets a sailor, Alistair Mackay, who’s staying temporarily while his ship undergoes repairs. A romance develops but Clarissa’s father is against the match and will do whatever he can to put a stop to it. He’s a bitter old man, whose wife died in childbirth, and who seems to think that was Clarissa’s fault; he’s also disappointed his only child is a girl and the only hope he can see for her is to marry the headmaster of the school where she teaches. Marly is a man not unlike Debenham himself, humorless and generally unpleasant, but Debenham has a great deal of respect for him. Alistair Mackay is as different from Marly as is possible–a Scot and a sailor, and a man who would clearly not see eye to eye with Debenham. Without giving away too much of the story Alistair goes back to sea, to fight against Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy.

Twenty years later, Clarissa has her own school, and is contented enough with her life as a single woman, when suddenly Alistair Mackay turns up again and her life is turned upside down.

‘Miss Debenham’s Secret’ is a sweet romance, well written and the characters are well-developed; Sara has managed to pack a lot of story into a small ebook. Thoroughly recommended for lovers of historical romance. Sara, I should point out, is a friend of mine and I’ve read a lot of her books; she’s been publishing romance with traditional publishers for many years but this time has decided to try 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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Happy Australia Day! Have a free book.

It’s the day after Australia Day here, but we have the holiday today so technically it’s Happy Australia Day Holiday! And for a large part of the world it’s the 26th now, so that’s Australia Day. Wherever you live, do you usually have an extra day off if a holiday falls on the weekend? It’s standard here and I’m curious if that’s the case worldwide.

Australia Day is pretty much just a day off for most people but I’m getting a sense it’s becoming more. Free sausage sizzles for breakfast have become the norm but I can’t say I’ve ever been to one. Maybe when the kids were young I might have considered it but now the thought of lining up for an hour for a burnt sausage in a piece of bread just doesn’t really appeal to me.

It’s also a day that can cause problems politically in that it celebrates the anniversary of Europeans taking over the country and some Aborigines in fact call it Invasion Day, which is understandable. One of the official happenings is the announcement of Australian of the Year and this year we have an Aboriginal footballer, Adam Goodes, who has been fighting racism, particularly within his sport, and I think he’s a good choice.

17,000 new Australians yesterday took the oath and became citizens and I did watch a little of one ceremony at Canberra on TV–quite moving. Maybe that’s the focus we need for Australia Day.

I’ve finally published my book, ‘Her Flesh and Blood‘, which some of you might remember I was asking for title suggestions for months ago. It was going to be ‘Hell Hath no Fury’ and a lot of people liked that, but some pointed out that it wasn’t exactly original, and in fact there were other books on Amazon with that title. There weren’t any when I checked with my current title–don’t know about now.

I wasn’t going to use the free promotion for this one but I’ve decided to put it up free just for 3 days, from the 27th to the 29th Jan, so grab it while you can. If you like it a review would be much appreciated. I’m pretty happy with it myself–it’s fiction with a lot of true history, based on a murder trial in 1910 and I should warn you the case was very shocking and some of the non-fiction is very graphic.

Enjoy our holiday. Read a book!

Her Flesh and Blood‘ for UK readers.


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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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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.