Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

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How much of you is in your writing?

Most of us have mercifully little experience of murder, espionage and so on, not to mention the lives of people who lived hundred of years ago, but the characters we write about in such stories can still be built from ourselves and people we know and it’s inevitable our life experiences will affect our writing.

BookCoverImageconnectionsWhat about using our own experiences deliberately? I taught creative writing at a community college a few years ago and the first exercise I set the students was to write about an episode in their own lives. The next step was to turn that into a story, which they could do by simply changing the point of view or they could choose to make it more fiction, retaining just some elements of the initial story, which is what they all did. It’s a good exercise for anyone who wants to write but doesn’t quite know how to get started. We all have a story to tell–even if you think your life is boring and nothing ever happens, to someone else with a very different life it might be riveting!

One of my short stories, ‘Brown Dog’, while not at all about me, includes lots of my life experiences. When we were very young newlyweds my husband and I went from our home town in Victoria to Queensland, two states away and around 2,000 kilometres. Our first destination was Munduberra, a tiny inland town where we already had work and accommodation lined up on a citrus orchard. We stuck it out for a few weeks but, to cut a long story short, it didn’t meet our expectations and we headed for the coast. We spent a couple of years living around the Sunshine Coast, including Marcoola Beach, which is not only the basis of ‘Brown Dog’. but also a large part of ‘The Road to Karinya’, the second bookdarkamazon of my Red Dust rural romance series, as is Mundubbera itself.

In ‘Brown Dog’ Luke is broke, living in his car and almost suicidal when he comes across a stray dog on the beach and his life is turned around. After a cyclone wiped out our tent we also slept in our car for a while, but I don’t recall being particularly depressed–we had friends and work wasn’t that hard to find. We did pick up a stray dog during that time though and we did have to let him go after a few days and we also spent some time beachcombing; I remember well the joy of finding a glass ball amongst the driftwood!

You can read ‘Brown Dog’ and my other short stories free from 23rd to 25th June and ‘Dark Innocence’ on 29th June to the 1st July. ‘Dark Innocence’ is another story where I used some of my own memories, growing up in a country town and hitchhiking down to the river at weekends. And having seances with Vegemite glasses and cut out scraps with letters and numbers written on them!



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!



Back to the joys of self-publishing.

I have digressed . . . and will again, but I’m going to discuss self-publishing and I’d love to hear of your experiences. It has taken me quite some time to get the formatting right–a nightmare, but so satisfying to finally have something up. The book covers were another experience, but kind of fun. CreateSpace allows you to use your own photos as part or all of the cover but also gives you options to just use theirs.

I now have seven books on Amazon, most also on CreateSpace, which is their paperback department. Two that are not are only small ebooks, one a short story, ‘Brown Dog’, which I am putting up free for four days, from tomorrow.

‘Brown Dog’ was based in part on my own experiences living on the beach in Queensland in the early seventies, with my husband. We were very young and not long married, which probably explains why living in a tent, or, after we lost that to a cyclone, sleeping in the car, seemed more of an adventure than a hardship. I may be looking back through rose-coloured glasses but it seems we had a lot of fun in those days, walking along the beach collecting cuttlefish, living day to day on whatever we could find. 

The excitement of finding a glass ball, which fishing boats used on their nets, was rare and very real. They were worth considerably more than cuttlefish and didn’t smell anywhere near as bad! Our car, which we were sleeping in, stank constantly and we sprinkled curry powder, among other things, throughout to try to get rid of the stench. The car then stank of curried cuttlefish, which was only a very slight improvement!

We tried our hand one day cutting sugar cane, which was disastrous. I think it’s all done by machine these days but it was a horrible job to do by hand. We didn’t last long at all and I think, from memory, my husband did the cutting and I may have helped pile the canes up or something. Or possibly just stood around looking helpless. I do remember we were covered in black because they burnt the fields of cane before cutting. 

I also spent some time working at The Big Pineapple, a working farm developed as a tourist spot. That was a great place to work, mainly because we were allowed pretty much free access to all the goodies! Tropical sundaes for morning and afternoon tea every day! Probably just as well I didn’t stay there for long.

Here I am digressing again, but that’s what blogs are for isn’t it? Meandering along, taking detours? Have a look at ‘Brown Dog’. It’s only a few pages and I’d love some feedback. If you like it please post a review on Amazon.

Happy reading.