Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


Writing Challenge–Write a paragraph beginning with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

I’ve just started writing short stories again and, in the pursuit of a topic, I was trying to think of a random first line. Years ago I was in a class for short story writing and the teacher used to give us a line, usually before our coffee break. It was great fun to see what different stories everyone came up with, starting with that same line. Trying to think of a line myself, that old favourite from the 19th century, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ kept popping into my head, so I thought okay, why not? I wrote what I think is not a bad story and I thought it would be fun to see how many of you would like to join in the challenge. Maybe just a paragraph but don’t be surprised if it turns into a story. Here’s mine. (Search my archived posts for more writing challenges.)


It was a dark and stormy night . . . Lorna pushed the delete button and chuckled out loud. I really am getting desperate, she thought. She pushed her chair back from the desk and stretched her arms above her head.  Definitely time for a coffee break. It wasn’t dark and neither was it stormy. It was late morning and the sun was shining brilliantly. That was a large part of the problem, she thought, as she topped up the kettle and rinsed her coffee cup. She needed dark and stormy. Who could write on such a glorious day? Her novel was meant to be full of horror, with evil and a good deal of gore thrown in for good measure. Trixie weaved himself around and through Lorna’s legs, looking for attention, and she bent down and picked him up. “I’m not finished though, Trix. Just because I’m not at the computer doesn’t mean I can sit down with you for the rest of the day.”

She did sit down with him, though, on their favourite armchair by the big window overlooking the lake. He curled up on her lap and she sipped her coffee, staring vacantly out the window and stroking the big tomcat with her spare hand. Trixie had turned up on her doorstep as a young cat—not a kitten exactly, but not full grown either. More like a teenager, Lorna told everyone. For some reason she’d thought he was female, perhaps because, once she’d cleaned him up and brushed his long, matted ginger fur, he was just so pretty. So she’d called him Trixie and when he’d turned out to be male, well, he wasn’t worried, so why would she be?

Lorna’s life had taken a sudden turn for the better a year ago when her partner had decided to fly the coop. Their relationship had become—not violent—but certainly fiery.  Lorna admitted she had a tendency to take things too far sometimes; she was hard to please, a perfectionist, and was better off living alone. She and Trixie got along well. On the spur of the moment she’d decided to quit her job as well as the flat they’d shared and look for a house in the country. She was only a couple of years short of pension age but she cashed in her super and some investments she had and bought a brand new computer and a nice little cottage; she had enough to live on for a couple of years if she was careful. She was going to be a professional writer, just as she’d always wanted.

Everything was set up, but her life now was too easy. She was too content. She wanted to write about murder and mayhem but the sun was shining, the birds were singing and she couldn’t, just couldn’t, think murder and mayhem on such a day. There was a knock on the door and she put down a reluctant cat. It was very unusual to get visitors out here in the summer. It was a cottage meant for the snow season and somewhat isolated in the summer, which was why Lorna chose it. She wanted to be alone while she waited for the inspiration she knew would come. Eventually. A young man stood at the door, car keys dangling in his hand. He smiled, showing sparkling white teeth; he was well dressed and nice-looking, with neatly trimmed hair. So Lorna ignored the little niggling warning bell in her brain and said of course he could come in and use the phone. His car had broken down a kilometre away and hers was the first house he’d come across.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am, Miss . . . Mrs?”

“Lorna will do fine.”

He held his hand out. “I’m Pete. Pete Woodross. I just came up for a look around. On holidays, you know, down in the village.”

She nodded. “Not much to do around here in the summer.” “

You’re telling me!” He looked around the bright and airy room. “Nice place you’ve got here though.”

She nodded again. “I like it.” She gestured to the phone on the wall beside the little entrance table. “The phone’s over there. You don’t have a mobile?”

He took it out of his pocket to show her. “Yes, for all the use it is. No reception up here at all.”

“Really? Maybe you should change providers. Mine seems to work all right.” She reached her hand out but he put the phone back in his pocket. “You go ahead and make your call.” She still held her half empty cup in her hand and felt obliged to ask, “Would you like a coffee . . . or tea?”

He grinned. “I’d kill for a cup of tea, thanks.”

She tipped her now lukewarm coffee out and made them both a cup of tea; she put them on the kitchen table and then got the tin of cookies out of the pantry and put a few on a plate. She could hear him talking on the phone in the foyer.

“Hello. Yes. I’m a member.” He said a rather long number and then gave the street name nearby where he said his car was. Then, “An hour? But . . . surely . . . It’s not that isolated! How busy can they be?”

Lorna sat at the table and at last he came out and joined her. “How did you go?” she asked.

“Oh, okay,” he answered, his mouth full of homemade choc chip cookie. “Be a while though. At least an hour.” He looked around the room again. “Mind if I hang out here? I won’t get in your way.”

She frowned, not knowing what to say.

“I could just sit there and watch TV, if that’s okay? Or read a book? Got any good books?”

She nodded slowly. “Probably. What sort of books do you like?”

He flashed his teeth again, now slightly less white, with the remains of the chocolate chips showing here and there between them. “Murder’s my thing. Probably not yours though, I’m guessing. You look more like the romance type.”

Lorna shook her head vigorously. “Definitely not. I’m far too level-headed for that; seen far too much of life.”

He nodded slowly, looking at her carefully. “That’s good,” he said quietly. “Excellent.”

For some reason disturbed, Lorna got up hastily and went to the bookshelf in the lounge area partitioned off from the kitchen only by a wall unit. The young man followed close behind her but she didn’t look back. Not even when she felt his breath on her neck did she turn around. Instead she closed her eyes, not wanting to see the bright airy room, not wanting to look at Trixie, who still sat on the armchair, watching his mistress and the visitor. As the young man’s hands went around her neck and squeezed the life from her it started raining outside and everything became black; there was thunder too, or was it just in her head? No matter. Her last thought before she lost consciousness was ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

Please visit my author page for more info on all my books on and  

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Stony Creek is free–the first in a series but can be read as a standalone. Of course I’m hoping you’ll buy the other two, but because you like book 1 and want more, no cliffhangers!


Which of these titles makes you want to know more about the book?

‘Journal of a Loving Mother’, ‘Milly’, and ‘Hell Hath no Fury’ are all possible titles for my latest novel, which I’m planning to not guilty 2014 coverblogpublish on Amazon next month. I keep changing from one to another and would really like some input on this. The story is part fiction and part fact, loosely based on the life of Camellia McCluskey, who murdered her three children in 1910. The reason she gave was purely one of revenge for her partner’s behaviour and I’ve already written the factual story and published it on Amazon. (Not Guilty) It may seem strange that I felt the need to then write a fiction version of the same story but I am first and foremost a creative writer.

I first wrote about Camellia as part of a university thesis on Infanticide and Child Murder and found the restrictions placed on academic writing extremely frustrating! I then wrote the non-fiction book but, although I found a lot of information, there were of course lots of holes in the story and I decided to fill them up myself. I dislike those so-called true stories where the writer embellishes the facts so my embellishments must be fiction. I wanted to flesh out the person who was Camellia–maybe even try to get a glimpse of what drove her to such an horrific act as to kill her two year old twins and her four year old daughter with an axe.BookCoverImageher fleshandblood Of course the girl I wrote about was not really Camellia, just a fictional character, but in fictionalizing the story I like to think I can give the reader a deeper understanding than the non-fiction version can.

To make the characters, especially Camellia herself, real people with real feelings. I also had the title ‘Camellia’ as a possibility but I didn’t want any possible confusion with Camilla, Prince Charles’s wife! She later called herself Mildred and I’ve chosen to call her Milly. The story is told mostly from her journal entries and one thing that stood out to me amongst the newspaper reports was a statement by one witness who called her a loving mother. When I do publish it I’ll have the ebook version free on Amazon for a few days and I’ll mention it here, so stay tuned.

Update–The fictionalized account, now available on Amazon, is called ‘Her Flesh and Blood’.


Not Guilty–Images from 1910

The images here will be of particular interest to those who have already read my non-fiction crime history, Not Guilty, or intend to. Central Victoria (Australia) has a strong history of mining and Bendigo is called the City of Gold and Dragons, due to the influx of Chinese miners in the 19th century. As a mining town it was pretty rough in the early days of course, but by the turn of the century it had become quite civilized, with theatre, cinema, shops and public transport. There are some spectacular buildings built by those who prospered from the gold and lots of quaint little miners’ cottages still standing.

You know how it is when you live in a place you tend not to do the tourist things? I have made a bit of an effort but I’d not heard of the Oak Forest until my four year old grandson went there a few weeks ago with some friends. Yesterday being a nice sunny autumn day my husband and I went for a drive. I wanted to make sure we got there before all the trees were bare, and it was well worth the drive. I’ve put one photo up on my Pictures page, as well as one of the view from Mt Alexander near by. Back to history–in 1910 Camellia McCluskey moved to Bendigo with her de facto, who I’m calling George. He has a large family and I’m keeping his identity under wraps for their sake. Camellia has no descendants and I am using her name.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They had three children at that stage and Camellia was very unhappy when she found out George was having an affair. He was already a married man with a family but separated from his wife before he met Camellia. It’s a tragic story and, I should warn you, I have used newspaper reports and public records including the report from the coroner. I don’t think any newspaper today would print the detail they did then. I did have some reservations about including some of it but I wanted to tell the story as it was told then and I have.

The following letters and the photograph of Camellia are from the trial briefs held by the Public Records Office Victoria: McCluskey, 1910, VPRS 30/P/0000, Unit 1556, Case 426, PROV.

McCluskey, 1910, VPRS 264/P0000, Unit 27, PROV. Copyright State of Victoria. Reproduced by permission.


Photograph of Camellia McCluskey, probably around 1900.






The memorial plaque was placed at the children’s gravesite just a few years ago by a member of the father’s family.



Not Guilty and my other books are available at Amazon as ebooks or paperbacks and for UK readers here. 

Australian readers will find my books on They’re all over the place because we don’t have author pages as such in Australia. Not Guilty is available here.

Ebooks are also on most other digital shopfronts via Draft2Digital.






Free ebook–Inheritance.

I’ve put Inheritance up free on Amazon for the next four days, starting tomorrow, so have a look and let me know what you think. I hate writing blurbs; I find it very difficult to describe a story without giving too much away, but here goes. It’s set mostly in country Victoria, Australia, and begins, with Jo, in a contemporary setting. An efficient executive who has worked for the same company for years, she suddenly finds her comfortable life turned upside down when her long-term boyfriend dumps her for a younger woman. As she is wondering what to do next her uncle dies and leaves her his quaint old country cottage. Throwing her usual caution to the wind she decides to move in to the charming little Rose Cottage, but life in the country is not at all what she expected and as she learns the history of the cottage  . . . well, that’s enough said. I think it’s a good read and I’m pretty sure you won’t be bored. I happen to live in country Victoria myself but the imaginary Hope Valley is nothing like where I live.

We’ve been here over 20 years and it is home but I still find it a slightly odd feeling when I visit my family back in Mildura, where I grew up. I went to see my mother last week for her 93rd birthday and it’s good to see the town seems to be thriving. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere-like a rather large oasis in the desert. It’s set on the beautiful Murray River, which is the border between Victoria and New South Wales; I was actually born on the New South Wales side and lived in a settlement called Curlwaa, on a citrus orchard. On this visit my sister took me for a drive and we found the property where we lived; the house has gone and so has the school we attended but there are still some vaguely familiar areas. I was only six when we left there and grew up in Mildura but I do have some memories of the old place. I vividly remember sitting at the big old dining table watching my mother pull all the gizzards from chickens and spotting the occasional soft egg amongst the mess. Very exciting! I also remember picking the middle out of the fresh bread when we walked up the long driveway to pick it up from the gate where the baker left it. Bread has never tasted better than that!

Let me know which of my books you’d like to read for free next. I’ve just had Sanctuary up and all of the others will be free at some time in the next few weeks.

Happy reading.


Here are some of the reviews for Inheritance from the Amazon UK page, which don’t show up on my Author Page.


5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 28 Feb 2013

By s johnson – See all my reviews

This review is from: Inheritance (Kindle Edition)

Absolutely brilliant book. Looked forward to reading it every evening. Expected the book to be quite predictable but that was not the case. Really recommended.


5.0 out of 5 stars GRIPPING, 31 Jan 2013

By P. Scholtz – See all my reviews


Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)

This review is from: Inheritance (Kindle Edition)



4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, 2 Mar 2013

By jill wood – See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)

This review is from: Inheritance (Kindle Edition)

Expected easy going book but was pleasantly surprised although sad in places very enjoyable read not the usual predictable end.


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Easter Weekend

Next weekend is Easter–a big weekend here for tourists and locals, especially if they have children. We have lots of activities revolving around egg hunts as well as rides for all ages. This used to be in the main street, where traffic was blocked off for 3 days and made the whole centre of town a carnival but it’s been moved to a sporting oval not far away. I think it’s a pity because the street carnival was a point of difference and with two separate processions in the street as well, it was quite an event. I must admit though I haven’t been to the main procession for years; once my boys grew out of it I was happy to give it a miss. I did attend the torchlight procession a couple of years ago for the first time with my grandson and enjoyed seeing it through his eyes.

The Chinese lions and dragons are the most exciting part of both processions, especially for the children of course. Bendigo has a predominantly Caucasian population now but there were many Chinese miners here in the 19th century and their presence lives on with the dragons and an excellent Chinese museum.

I don’t expect to be going to the carnival this year but you never know. We’re going to an outdoor wedding on the Saturday and I’m just hoping the weather holds up for that, never mind the carnival! Autumn weather is tricky at the best of times with beautiful sunshine one day and rain the next.

I’ve been reading through some of the reviews on my Amazon site; isn’t it odd how people can read the same book and interpret it in totally different ways? When you put your work out there you have to be prepared for all sorts of opinions. Fortunately most are positive. I suppose it’s like food–our taste-buds are all different somehow. I’ve recently bought a kindle and have availed myself of quite a few stories on the free list at Amazon. Before I download anything I read one or two reviews and then the sample as well as the blurb. If I don’t like the writing style or the story doesn’t grab me straight away I don’t bother. If I do read a story I like I will be sure to post a good review but if I don’t like it I’ll keep it to myself. Self-published writers need all the help they can get and if you like a story it only takes a few minutes to write a review.

Happy Easter and happy reading.


And here’s winter . . . What happened to autumn?

I warned you I’d soon be complaining about the cold instead of the heat but this is ridiculous! It’s 13 Celsius at the moment (55 Fahrenheit) and I’m barely resisting the urge to turn the heater on. This time last week we had the air-conditioner on every day and night with temperatures consistently in the 30s (80s to high 90s Fahrenheit). Glad to be rid of that but hopefully we’ll have a few nice autumn days before the worst of winter hits. Anyway enough complaining about the weather.

St Patrick’s Day yesterday. My son plays in an Irish band so we went and watched them for a while; part of the road outside one of the local Irish pubs was blocked off and they had a stage set up outside. Quite a few people there, most wearing silly green hats or something green at least. Good to see families and old people as well as younger ones all enjoying the music.

My ancestry is 25% Irish, although I only found that out recently. I was pretty sure I was a mix of British bits and pieces but when I started tracing my family history, using a couple  of online resources, I had no luck finding anything on my father’s mother. She died the year before I was born and Dad’s father died long before her, so they were somewhat of a mystery to me.

One day I received an email from a distant relative who’d come across my details on and knew quite a bit about my grandmother–I was thrilled to get that kind of information and now know I have that 25% Irish blood! I also have 25% Welsh and the rest is a mix of Scottish and English so a good mixture.

I’ve been amazed at the emails that arrive out of the blue. Not just my family history but also history relating to families that have some connection to my book, Not Guilty. I put an ad in a Melbourne paper years ago to try to find out if Camellia, the mother in the story, had any family out there. Since the story is set in 1910 I was pretty sure I could publish whatever I liked but as it’s not a pleasant story I wanted to speak to her descendants if she had any.

It was years later an email arrived from a man who married the niece of Camellia’s second partner. Quite a surprise! Since then I’ve had emails from her first partner’s grand-daughter and the niece of the woman he was having an affair with . . . it goes on and on. Fascinating to me and they were able to give me information and photographs I hadn’t seen before, most of which I agreed not to publish. They were also able to tell me that she has no descendants herself. I was also able to give them a lot of information they didn’t have of course, having spent years researching the murders. I’m hoping to put some other photos on my Amazon Author page, am currently waiting for permission.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Not Guilty is available on Amazon, both as an ebook and a paperback,  I’m hoping to put it up for a free day in April and I’ll announce it here.

See you later.


Goodbye Summer . . . and good riddance.

It’s been autumn for a couple of weeks now, but only in theory. With nights over twenty degrees Celsius and days ranging from 32 to 36 it’s hard to believe. Now however it looks as if summer is finally over, with temperatures  forecast under 30 for the next week or so. I live in Central Victoria in Australia and autumn is my favourite time of year–partly because I’m always glad to see the end of summer but also because the trees changing colour are just so beautiful and the weather is perfect until winter. (Then I’ll complain about that too.)

I have no right to complain, I know. So many areas of our country have been destroyed this summer with bush-fires and floods and we’re very lucky where we live to have had no such problems this year. The climate is relatively mild and I live in a large regional town which has just about everything we need, although a beach would be nice. As would a river. And perhaps if we could just move it all a hundred kilometres closer to Melbourne. Not that I’m particularly fond of Melbourne–I’m a country girl and have no desire to live in the city but three of my sons live there and it would be nice to be a bit closer to them.

Like many towns in Central Victoria Bendigo began with a gold mining boom, back in the mid 19th century, and much of the history written about the area relates to mining and the benefits and problems that came with that. There are still many miners’ cottages and much grander dwellings of those who did very well from Bendigo gold, as well as some beautiful public buildings.

By the arrival of the 20th century the town became less a collection of diggings and more a civilized township, with a shopping centre and theatre, as well as public transport in the form of trams, which still operate today.

In 1910, Camellia McCluskey and her de facto, George, settled on the outskirts of town, in an area known as Ironbark. The story of Camellia is not such a well-known part of Bendigo’s history. The house where they lived still stands and the grave where their children are buried is marked with a small plaque. Their story is both tragic and fascinating and I have written it using both public records and the newspapers of the day, which make compelling reading. Not Guilty is available at Amazon, both as an ebook and as a paperback, at

Not Guilty.

Not Guilty.