Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


26 Comments

Formatting for CreateSpace

Book number six on CreateSpace and I think I’ve finally figured it out! All the text fitted in first time and was accepted immediately–then I read the proofs and found a couple of typos but that was easily fixed. Feeling pretty good about all that I decided I’d get that first page number business right. I’d never been able to work out how to start the page numbers on the page I want them, which in this case is page 5, after the Contents page etc.

I confess I’m not good at reading instructions–never have been and probably never will be. My eyes sort of glaze over and my brain goes to a happier place when faced with technical details.  I used to sew a bit, for myself and my kids when they were little. I managed, usually, just by cutting out the shapes according to the paper patterns and sewing them together in a logical manner. If I started to read the actual instructions I’d give up. Too hard. I’m one of those people who have to learn using the hands on method, I think.

My CreateSpace experience, therefore, has been very . . . um . . . let’s just say it’s probably taken me longer to figure it out than if I’d read the instructions properly the first time. A lot of trial and error later, here I am at my first properly formatted book. I’m still not sure about the font though, or more so, the size of the font. What do you use? I’ve used Bookman, which I like, but while size 12 looks good to me it’s hard to say until I have the actual book in my hands. The book, by the way, is an extended version of Connections, my short story collection. I’ve added several more stories to it and a new cover, which was fun and I’m happy with. The POD version is available now for $5.65 and the kindle should be up next week. It will be free for a few days and I’ll announce that here, so stay tuned. BookCoverImageconnections

If anyone has found this post via linkedin please reply here. For some reason my computer seems to have taken a sudden dislike to linkedin and won’t allow any emails through from them. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks.


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

Connections–Do you read short stories?

I haven’t written short stories for some time but since I bought a kindle a few months ago I’ve found I like reading them more than novels. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the kindle format or just because I’m busier these days.

I spent a very large chunk of my life bringing up five boys so I’ve always been busy and always managed to find time to read novels, so not busy-busy, but maybe it’s because my brain is more occupied these days with my writing. Occupied in a different way–I assure you it was very much occupied bringing up the boys!

Or maybe it’s the format. No page numbers. No feeling the book in your hands and seeing how far you have to go at a glance. But you can see what percentage you’ve read, so it can’t be that.

Perhaps I’ve just become more particular about what I find enjoyable. I know I’m very put off by poor writing, as I’m sure everyone is, but I found my most recent library expedition, even with favourite authors, disappointing.
I’ve downloaded a few short stories for the kindle, some good, some bad, but at least if I don’t like something I don’t feel I have to give it 100 pages just to make sure! It’s only a very small time investment to read the whole thing. Maybe that’s the secret.

After selling a couple of short stories to a USA audio magazine I decided to go through all my short stories and put some on Amazon as a collection. I’ve called it ‘Connections’, which is the name of the first story and also applies, in a way, to all of them. It’s what life’s about isn’t it?

I was going to put one on my blog but I realise they’re all very different so one story wouldn’t give you much idea of the book overall. Instead I’m including a few samples here. If you’d like to have a look at Connections, it’s free now. If you like it, reviews would be very welcome. (If you only like one story, feel free to review that one only!)

CONNECTIONS

Sophie’s heart was speeding up as the train was slowing down. She had a momentary thought, about the human heart as an alternative power source. It was a pump after all, wasn’t it? And surely that would be great for the planet; the greenies would love it. The self-distraction wasn’t working; she was still nervous as hell. Shit-scared, actually. She didn’t have to go through with this. She could just take a look and keep walking. He was probably some old sleaze.

STUDY IN BLUE ©Christine Gardner

George Arnold got up at six thirty Wednesday morning. He had set the alarm for 6.45 but his inner clock had woken him at six. He lay under his warm eiderdown for half an hour, thinking through his plans for the day, then he jumped out of bed and ran for the bathroom. He allowed himself an extra five minutes in the shower since he was up so early and he soaped his obese body thoroughly, lifting up his hanging belly to lather underneath, making sure he was scrupulously clean.

GOING HOME
© Christine Gardner

“Get the hell out then!” she screamed at me through the screen door. So much for worrying about the neighbours. That was another ‘home’ I’d lost, the third in as many months. This one had lasted exactly two weeks; two weeks of tip-toeing around the house so as not to disturb the ‘man of the house’ who worked nights, and trying to avoid his blatant advances when he was awake.

BROWN DOG (Available permanently free at Smashwords)
©Christine Gardner

It was the ugliest dog Luke had ever seen. He was standing at the edge of the sea, not really contemplating suicide (but oh, what a seductive sea it was, just walk on in and don’t look back). The dog ambled over to him and just sat beside him, uninvited and unwanted. It was skin and bone, with long legs like a greyhound. All brown, with no relieving patches. Just an old brown dog. It whined and wagged its tail back and forwards across the sand.

‘Connections’ is available now.


10 Comments

How do you celebrate finishing a book?

A writing teacher from a few years ago told the class we should never wait for publication but always celebrate completing a book–reward ourselves. It’s a big deal finishing a novel; a lot of work goes into it and a lot of time spent thinking and planning away from the computer as well. My teacher chose champagne as his customary celebration but even a mouthful makes me incredibly ill, so not much fun there.

I’m quite partial to a glass of Jim Beam and Coke but, honestly, the whole alcohol as reward thing doesn’t appeal to me much. I suppose I could go out to dinner or lunch but it’s very cold and wintry here and I just can’t be bothered. I decided what I’d really like to do is visit the library and get a couple of books from my favourite authors and maybe buy a box of chocolates. What could be better than curling up in front of the heater with chocolates and a good book? Since I had no idea what I wanted to write next I planned a few days rest and maybe a bit of family history research.

I won’t mention what books I got but I grabbed three, two by favourite authors. I forced myself to read a few chapters of both and was bored stiff! I have no idea why but maybe I need to try something different. I did grab one book by an author I didn’t know, so hopefully I’ll like that better. I always try to vary my reading and generally get one or two by authors I know and one or two by  others new to me; I’ve come across some great stories.

After spending an hour or so on family history research I now have an idea about my next writing project so my brain is occupied again. I’m thinking of a three part story beginning in Ireland and finishing in Australia, in the 19th century.

I have a small ebook (19 pages) free on Smashwords and would appreciate some reviews, if anyone has time. Only if you like it of course! It’s called ‘What Did You Say?’ and is all about English Grammar and Punctuation.

My other books are available on Amazon and other stores–please see my Book page for more information.  Stony Creek is free. 


6 Comments

Mapping Fantasy–and a free book, ‘Beast of War’.

My reading tastes change frequently–sometimes I like horror–I used to love Stephen King; sometimes I prefer historical fiction. I’m always looking for something different and it’s hard to find. Jodi Picoult’s always interesting; she clearly does lots of research on her subjects. I enjoyed fantasy for a while and love Game of Thrones but I must confess I haven’t read the books.The only trilogy I ever read was The Axis Trilogy, by Sara Douglass, a very successful Australian fantasy writer, who died in 2011. I knew I had to read three (huge) books but I expected each to have some kind of an ending; I didn’t expect that I would have to drive around to my son’s house one night as soon as I’d finished book one so I could borrow the next one in the series. I did at least have the foresight to grab the third one at the same time but I vowed never to read another trilogy! Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I spent that week or so basically living in that fantasy world, scarcely functioning in the real world. That sounds a bit extreme but if you’re a keen reader you’ll know what I mean. Some books are very hard to put down and when you really have to you’re still thinking about that other world. Sara’s world was so fascinating I was totally caught up in it.

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop of hers, in which she told us the basics of writing a fantasy. She always started with a map. When she said that I groaned inwardly; not a good start for me. Geography was never my strong point, and maps? I could barely read one, let alone draw one. (And yet I love travel and have just started adding some photos on a new page here.)

The other point I recall from that workshop was that all fantasy is about a quest and as I was, at that time, studying writing for children, I began with that map and found it worked beautifully. As soon as I had the (very rudimentary) map drawn I could see what kind of creatures would live there and what kind of quest they would have to go on. Beast of War was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book and it’s free from the 20th May to the 22nd. Let me know what you think. It is for kids but my intention was to reach the Harry Potter audience, which seems to range from around 8 to 80.

http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08

Image

Happy reading.