Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


1 Comment

Building Your Own Book Covers

If you’re an indie author you’ll know how important covers are and how expensive they can be. I’m a stingy indie author and a control freak so I like to do as much as possible myself. I also quite enjoy working with pretty pictures and I do have some background in art and design.

The most annoying thing about POD covers with Createspace has been the difficulty I’ve had in fitting the text into their requirements in the cover creator.  It always seems a bit squashed into the middle to me and when I had someone from fiverr do the text for my last book, The Letter, I was amazed at how close to the edges they were able to get away with. Passed through the system no problems and it’s beautiful! My artist daughter-in-law did the rest of the cover and I couldn’t be more pleased.

But–I wanted to go back and re-do some of the covers I was never completely happy with–they look fine as ebooks but the text on the PODs was a bit meh. Every now and then I’d have a look at different types of software that would enable me to use the Createspace template and I eventually downloaded GIMP. It sat on my computer and I stared at it for months. Well, not all the time. Every now and then I’d open it and try to make sense of it. I looked at youtube instructions and although I refused to admit it, I pretty much gave up. I’m one of those people who needs someone right beside me to take me through it one step at a time and if I’d known of a local class I’d have gone.

Fortunately I have five sons and one of them happens to know how GIMP works–unfortunately he doesn’t live nearby, but he spent 15 minutes with me and GIMP on his last visit and I’ve been working through it for a few weeks now. It’s not easy and I’ve made mistakes but learnt from them and refused to give up, so now I’d like to show off my new covers for my Red Dust Series. Stony Creek, by the way, is still free for Kindle, new cover and all! Check them out on my Amazon page. 

 

 


Leave a comment

Snakes and Spiders in the Land of Oz

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the video of a huntsman spider dragging a mouse up a fridge door.

I’m not surprised it’s gone viral; we all love to talk about our creepy crawlies here and to be perfectly honest I’d be pretty freaked out by that sight myself, but I’m easily freaked out by mice anyway. If we had a resident huntsman capable of killing mice I’d be okay with that, though I’d rather he did it in the dead of night. Fortunately we don’t have mice and any huntsmen I see are nowhere near that big.

I didn’t know whether to be amused or . . . what? when I heard some Americans had cancelled their planned holidays to Australia after seeing that video, but given that most of my readers are from USA I thought it worth explaining a few things about our creepy crawlies. Huntsmen, first of all, are common but perfectly harmless, unless you’re an insect. Or a mouse apparently! And they’re not usually that big.

I spent my very early years living in a house surrounded by orange trees, quite a few miles from the nearest town. The little school I went to was also surrounded by trees, or grape vines–I’m not sure now, but I do remember sitting on the ground with my friends eating lunch and drinking rain water from a red plastic mug. The rain water often had wrigglers (mosquito larvae) in it and no doubt a few things we couldn’t see but they didn’t do us any harm.

Most of my schooling was after we moved to a bigger country town–we used to swim in the river and I spent quite a lot of time at the farm when my older sister married a farmer. I’ve also lived in Queensland, both on the beach and inland. Would you like to know how many snakes I’ve seen? Not counting zoos, none!

I’m not suggesting visitors (or anyone)  should run around the  bush barefoot, or approach snakes or spiders to test if they’re venomous, but generally they prefer their own company. I’m hardly an expert of course, just an average Aussie with a healthy respect for our wildlife–I was once kind of attacked by a kangaroo at a park, so my mother tells me, but I don’t remember it. They can actually be quite dangerous, but like most of our wildlife they don’t actually like us much and stay away. So if you want to go Oz but you’re frightened of spiders and snakes just stay in the civilised areas, or go with a tour, and you can be pretty sure they’ll stay away from you.

For details on my books please see my Non-Fiction and Fiction page or visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 


2 Comments

Lost Words

Are we all becoming vanilla flavoured with our speech? I’m not talking about texting, using acronyms or shortening words to speed up the process of sending a text or an email. That’s a whole other subject and I’m not getting into that, other than to say sometimes it’s fine but if your phone has a reasonable predictive text it’s just as easy to use complete words. new the inheritance coverWhat I’m talking about here is language, the spoken word; how many words have we simply stopped using? I may live a sheltered life but as far as I can see, or rather hear, everything these days is either awesome or amazing. Nothing is ever marvellous or splendid or even terrific. Fantastic? Maybe, but what about delightful or even extraordinary?

As a writer I know I’m guilty of using mostly everyday language, because I want my books to be accessible and enjoyable to read, not a chore. Perhaps I can sneak in the odd ‘marvellous’ in the dialogue of someone in the 1860s? My current book is about the Bendigo goldfields around that era so, yes, I believe I will do that. At least one ‘marvellous’!

I am well aware language is constantly evolving but it does seem somewhat of a shame to lose words such as ‘delightful’ just to re-interpret words like ‘sick’, or even ‘cool’, but that’s one that been around for long enough to have earned its place. I haven’t heard ‘sick’ for a while; hopefully it’s already gone. Does it seem more like devolution of the language rather than evolution?

‘Her Flesh and Blood’ is FREE on Amazon from the 24th to 28th May (USA dates). For more information on my books please check out my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


11 Comments

Another one bites the dust . . . And the joys of self-publishing

Whew! Finally finished, formatted and uploaded my latest book, ‘The Road to Karinya’. What with RSI and my son’s overseas wedding in the middle of it I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen. The formatting with Createspace is so much easier now, after 13 books, but that page numbering is till a source of pain. Trying to get Word to start the numbers on page 3 instead of the title page. I did it with nothing but persistence last time around and even wrote notes for myself for next time; obviously not very good notes because it was still ridiculous. Eventually I succeeded but I don’t really know how so I won’t know any better next time.

Anyway I’m happy with the book, so that’s what counts. It would be lovely to hand it over to a publisher to do all the formatting and so on but, on the other hand, I am a bit of a control freak and as difficult as the process is I do find satisfaction in doing it all myself. The covers are fun as long as I can find the right picture and I’m happy with this one. Galahs in a gum tree is about as Aussie as it gets.

‘The Road to Karinya’ is Book 2 of my series ‘Red Dust’, the first of which was ‘Stony Creek‘. We met Prue King briefly in Stony Creek, as a 15 year old neighbour on Karinya Station. I decided she was worthy of her own story, set a few years later, and instead of a city girl going to live on a station, Prue is an outback girl who sets off on the ultimate road trip around Australia, with her friend Sally. She finds romance and trouble and grows up along the way.

Quite a few of the settings are based on my own experiences around the country–I certainly haven’t been everywhere but I lived on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for a while, as well as Mildura, where Prue starts out. I was born at Wentworth, where Prue and her six sisters were born and I have been to Perth, as well as Brisbane and Adelaide. I worked at the Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast and will never forget those tropical sundaes we had for morning tea every day! I also picked oranges with my husband in both Mundubbera, Queensland and Waikerie, South Australia, but not for long–it’s  really not in my skill set!

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Karinya-Red-Dust-Book-ebook/dp/B00QNTFV38/ref=la_B00AY80A08_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417990463&sr=1-9

UK:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Karinya-Red-Dust-Book-ebook/dp/B00QNTFV38/ref=la_B00AY80A08_1_14_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417992054&sr=1-14


2 Comments

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?


15 Comments

More problems with CreateSpace.

I love CreateSpace–I really do, but why is it so difficult to make changes once your book is published? I’m not sure if the BookCoverImageconnectionsproblem is CreateSpace or Amazon or me. I had a small short story ebook published with Amazon, called Connections, for a while. Then I decided to beef it up with more stories and make it available as a POD as well, through CreateSpace. The system seemed very confused that I used the same name even though I had a different cover and it took several emails and quite some time before the cover matched the new content.

not guilty 2014 coverNow I have the same problem with Not Guilty, my true crime book. It’s always been a POD and an ebook and I just wanted to add a couple of things and do some minor edits but then I decided I wanted a new cover as well. I spent weeks mucking around with that, mainly trying to find out who I needed permission from to use photos. After one rejection I went with a photo of the court house where the trial was held and I’m quite happy with that. Finally put it up on CreateSpace and Amazon.

The ebook is fine but the POD, while it shows the new cover on my author page, shows the old cover and content when you click on it. So far I’ve written several emails, which is always a bit frustrating because it takes some time to get a reply, probably because I’m in Oz and they’re not. I even considered unpublishing it and starting over but you need to make quite significant changes to do that with CreateSpace, including changing the name of the book. Has anyone else had problems like this?

I live in hope it will eventually be resolved and at least I sell way more ebooks that Stony_Creek_Cover_for_KindlePODs anyway. I’ve also just published a new story, Stony Creek, which is free from the 18th to the 22nd November; it’s a romance set in outback Australia, mostly in 1970. Those of you who’ve read Not Guilty or Inheritance might think romance is an odd genre for me to dabble in but I do like variety and I have actually co-authored a couple of romances published traditionally.

My son’s getting married in less than two weeks and I’ve been looking around for an outfit for a month or two–pleased to say I’ve found something I’m actually happy with. Woo-hoo!


51 Comments

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.)

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

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 Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk  

Facebook Author Page  

Author Website

Also at other digital stores, including Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble: Books2Read 

More information on my Book Page.

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!


10 Comments

Romance and Research.

I’m currently working on a rural romance–a retro rural romance–and it’s surprising how often I find myself stuck because I need to research some probably inconsequential thing. Maybe it’s because I actually have more of an interest in history than romance (as far as writing and reading goes!) but I do like a mix of the two. Perhaps most readers wouldn’t notice if the gears on the tractor my heroine is driving in 1970’s outback Australia are in the wrong place, but I would know.

Luckily for me, my husband drove tractors around that time and was able to give precise instructions on how to drive the typical tractor that was around then. I also have a sister and brother-in-law who spent most of their lives farming and a nephew who still runs their family farm. Still there have been other bits and pieces surprisingly hard to find out. Considering I had some personal experience with outback life myself I didn’t realise how ignorant I was.

Of course my experiences of what I call outback, which is an isolated station, not a farm near a town, are childhood memories. My best memory is actually romance and rural mixed together nicely, even though I was only eleven! I was staying on a station with family friends and we went to a wool-shed dance, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a dance held in a shearing shed.

It was, I think, 1963, and I vividly remember the dress I wore, a favourite at the time–pink checked gingham, with a frill down the front and stiff petticoat lining. I think I wore little white socks and black shoes. The band was an aboriginal group I’d seen perform at the local agricultural show, and the lead singer, a fourteen year old boy, was pretty good eye candy for a sheltered eleven year old.

I was swept off my feet, though, by a twelve year old boy from a local station. I’m not sure if we danced–probably–my main memory was of him spending what I considered a lot of money on buying me what there was to eat there. I was very impressed. The next day he swam across the river to spend some more time with me and later he sent me my very first love letter, signed, Your boy.

It makes me wonder why I’ve never written a rural romance before really! They obviously breed their men romantic out there in the bush.

My writing has been very varied and I enjoy trying different things–some of it comes very easily and some is a real struggle but the main struggle is simply having the discipline to sit at the computer every day and write something. I often find myself checking my email or facebook or even doing housework, rather than actually writing. Probably the most fun I’ve had writing was the fantasy I wrote for kids, ‘Beast of War’. I became so fond of the characters in that book I was more sad than relieved when it was finished. I’ll let you know when it’s up on the free promotion at Amazon later this month. I’d love some (good) reviews. Stay tuned and happy reading.