Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Beta Readers–yes or no?

I’ve just finished my latest novel, House of Dreams, which has taken me around two years, for various reasons. I had an operation this time last year but I was also in a bit of a writer’s block phase for quite a while. I had an ephinany, watching something on TV, when I realised I had to kill one of my tradies!

What that all meant was that I knew my final draft would need a lot of work. I’d forgotten names and had to keep checking back–Did I actually write that or did I just think about it?–Did I forget I killed that guy and mention him again?—Did I mention this before?–Lots of things that I knew I could easily miss myself.

My two elder sisters read all my books, usually in paperback form, so of course after they’re published, and invariably find at least a typo or two. Neither of them are really computer savvy; one does have a laptop but really bad internet. I sent her a USB with my story on it when she agreed to read it for me, and she was my first Beta reader! I also found two more in a Facebook group and all three were helpful in different ways, so I would say yes, find beta readers if you can. No matter how many times you read through your book you will miss things. And of course get an editor, but you’ll make things much easier for them and perhaps cheaper for you, if you get everything as clean and tidy as you can first.

Again because it had been two years since I published my last book, The Letter, I was unaware of the changes that had been made to the software I’d used before to build a cover. If I had no sons to help out I would not have been able to make a paperback cover at all. I refuse to buy Photoshop, since I don’t make covers often enough to spend that much and also it looks way too complicated. I do use GIMP, which is free, but have been using Pixlr as well. To cut this story a little shorter–Pixlr has ‘upgraded’ to a service that doesn’t do what I need but fortunately I was able to do everything on GIMP, which is fantastic!

This was also the first time I published a paperback without Createspace–going straight on to Amazon. I actually found it pretty good, possibly easier than CS was. I was a bit concerned though when I noticed the page count on their site for my ebook was 70 pages less than my paperback! I’d already sold some by then and I emailed Amazon first, then went through it all again myself. I’m still not exactly sure but I think they changed the spacing between lines. They’ve fixed it now so I’m happy with it all, at last. Whew!

All my books are available on Amazon, most as paperbacks as well as ebooks.

https://author-christine-gardner.site123.me/

 


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Finding Lost Books and other friends

Do you have a book that you’ll never forget but you can’t remember the name of it, or the author? I like to try new (to me) authors and different types of books and those that have stuck in my mind tend to be by authors I haven’t read before. One that I only remember a little of was about people travelling to another planet by hot air balloon–I know, right? Sounds ridiculous but I enjoyed the weirdness, the fresh ideas of that book. I had no idea until yesterday even who the author was, since it was at least 2 decades ago that I read it.

I love Google and look up all sorts of things so I tried a pretty random search for a book ‘about people travelling to a different planet on a balloon’, without much hope, and found it! https://biginjapangrayman.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/the-ragged-astronauts-1986-by-bob-shaw/  Apparently I have quite good taste as it won an award and he was quite a prolific author. It’s probably one of those books that people either love or hate and I wouldn’t read it again because I might hate it now. I just really appreciate writers who can come up with bizarre ideas and somehow make them work.

Another book I loved years ago, for the same reason, and wouldn’t read again, for the same reason, is The Watcher. The name, strangely enough, popped back into my head a few years ago and that made it easier to find, although it’s not the only book by that title. It’s too weird to describe but well worth a read if you like horror/fantasy/psychological thrillers. https://www.amazon.com.au/Watcher-Charles-MacLean-ebook/dp/B006C3Q13O

There’s another book stuck in my head, something about people living on the edge of a chasm, but I can’t find it. There’s a number of books with Chasm in the title but I don’t remember enough about it–it may not even have that in its title.

I’ve also found, not on Google, but on Facebook, two people, one a cousin and one a friend, I haven’t seen in over 40 years, so the internet’s working well for me!

When I’m not on Facebook or Google, or learning French on Duolingo, or writing, I like making new covers for my books. Here’s the latest. You can find all my books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08herfleshandblood

 


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Smart Phones–Agony or Ecstasy?

I’ve had my smart phone for something over a year–it’s a Samsung, which means an android, apparently, even though I still think of an android as being a kind of human-like robot. Which makes an android phone kind of sci-fi and cool, I guess, so that’s one good thing about it.

My husband talked me into getting a smart phone because I spend a fair bit of time on my computer, which is in my office, and he knew a smart phone would be handy to check many things while I’m not in my office. And it is of course–oh so handy. Especially in the lounge-room beside my recliner. I can Google the identity of which actor we’re arguing over in the movie we’re watching, for example, without leaving my chair. I can check Facebook in the ad breaks, again without leaving my chair. Since I have 5000 friends there’s always something to look at. Every ad break.

My last phone was one of those little flip ones–cute and easy to carry around, but one thing I did want from a new phone was a good camera and I have to say I’m very happy with that. It’s at least as good as my actual camera which I no longer use at all.

My little flip phone, though, never caused me any pain. Mind you, I used it only for phone calls and an occasional photo. My smart phone has become something of an addiction and I don’t think I’m alone there. My hands, and especially my thumbs, have been hurting quite a bit and I’ve realised it’s the way I hold the phone when I’m texting etc., so now I’m trying to wean myself away from it. Instead of leaving it next to my armchair I’m leaving it on the other side of the room, so when I do want to check it I have to actually walk over there and I can look at it without picking it up! Does anyone else have phone addict pain?

My Red Dust Series and most of my other books are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK as both ebooks and print.


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Self-Publishing: Designing your own covers

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

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

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

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

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


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What’s your favourite thing about the Internet?

I love Google–don’t we all? All the information you can imagine at your fingertips, from–where have we seen that actor before?–to what will we have for dinner tonight? I have a bookshelf full of encyclopaedias because–well, they look nice and besides I always wanted them. When I was growing up our encyclopaedias were a window to a world we knew very little about and a constant source of entertainment. (Yes, I was a bit of a nerd.) Now we have Google. It’s not quite as accurate of course and we do need to be a bit cautious about, for example, taking as gospel that those symptoms that kept us up all night can be cured with a visit to the Google doctor rather than the local GP. We also need to be careful about what our kids are reading and believing, but, all in all, I think Google’s brilliant.

I also love email and don’t know how I ever managed without it. If our Internet connection ever spits the dummy I feel quite isolated, as if no-one can get in touch with me and anything could be happening out there and I wouldn’t know! (As if no-one knows my phone number.) I love that I can send messages to my friends and family and that I can submit a story in minutes, anywhere in the world, without lining up at the post office and working out the cost of return post and so on. I can receive a short story to edit, again from anywhere in the world, and probably have it back on the same day. I do love email.

Since starting this blog though, what has really struck me and I absolutely love is the range of it all. WordPress allows me to see what countries my readers are in and, while the majority are in USA, (and, unfortunately, there’s no more information than country) some are from places I know nothing about and occasionally one pops up that I’d never heard of before–like Saint Kitts and Nevis! Heard of that one? Hi to my reader in St Kitts! So when that happens, of course, I have to get on to Google and find out a bit about the location. I’ve never been any good at geography at all but now I know that St Kitts is in the West Indies. I also know Jersey is closer to France than England and that it’s self-governed. All I knew about it before was some vague idea it was one of those islands near England.

So I’m learning my way around the world, in bits and pieces, about places I’ll never see, and I’d love to hear from you about your place–something a bit more than just Russia or just USA–whereabouts? What’s it like?

Inheritance is free on Amazon for the last time today and is already on the top twenty free list.  I’m going to be taking my books from the KDP Select program next month.