Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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. 

 

 


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Life Without Power

There’s been massive storms in the last day or two, especially in South Australia, where the whole state was left with no electricity and several thousand homes are still without power. Commiserations to all South Aussies! The storm was forecast to hit us in Victoria last night but nothing happened; now they’re saying some time today but it won’t be as severe as it was in SA. I quite like storms but not blackouts. No-one likes blackouts, except maybe burglars.

Most of us have had the experience of being without electricity for an hour or two; it’s inconvenient and, mostly, boring. If the weather’s okay you can go out, although driving can be a bit risky if the traffic lights are out of action. Have you ever considered how your life would change if the power never came back on?

A few years ago something happened to the gas supply–I forget what, but it was a big deal. Big enough that we had no gas for a couple of weeks. Our house runs mainly on electricity but we do have gas heating and hot water; I don’t think it was particularly cold and we were lucky we have an electric stove and were able to heat water for baths but it wasn’t much fun. There were a few public places with electric hot water systems that allowed people to use their showers and we went to the nearest one, the jockeys’ showers at the race track! It was clean I suppose, but pretty awful and once was enough for me.

I have no idea how I’d survive without electricity though; no stove, no fridge or freezer, no air-conditioner, no TV, no computer, no internet. My phone would work for a little while on 4G but how would I recharge it? When I was a child most of those things didn’t matter and when my mother, who’s now 96, was a child, most of those things didn’t exist and those that did weren’t in every home. People were a lot more self-sufficient. I’m not pining for that kind of lifestyle at all–I like my comforts–but it’s a little scary to think just how dependent we are on other people and machines.

I doubt I’d be writing at all if I had to use a manual typewriter, let alone selling books to be read on kindles on the other side of the world!

For details of my books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-Fiction Page‘ or my Author pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.


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Good bye and good riddance, Daylight Saving

This morning saw the end of daylight saving for now; it will unfortunately be back some time in spring. I’ve never been a fan and I’m always pleased to see the end of it. Given that we live in a hot country and most of us whinge about the heat in the summer I don’t know why we choose to extend the hot days and have less of the cool nights.

Yes, I am aware we don’t actually change the length of the days, just our clocks, but summer itself does that already. I don’t have to rush off to a job in the mornings and I no longer have little kids to force in to bed when the sun’s still shining, so it doesn’t affect me as much as it does some. I had a particular hate for it when my kids were little.

As far I can fathom, longer summer evenings are nice for those who live in the cities and have to commute some distance for work, but they’re going to be going home in the dark in winter anyway, so may as well get used to it, hey? Mid summer sunset without daylight saving is closer to  8 than 7, I think, so plenty of time for most workers to get home. Wouldn’t that extra hour in bed in the morning, when you’re finally cool and comfortable, be more appreciated than in the heat of a summer evening?

Queensland and Western Australia, I believe, both had trial runs of daylight saving and decided they didn’t want it–interesting that they’re both very large areas of land with smaller cities than the southern states. I do think it’s the city folk that make the decisions for the rest of us here in Victoria, because more people live in the capital city, Melbourne, than the rest of the state. In Queensland it’s the country population that’s bigger than that in their capital city, Brisbane, so city folk there don’t have as much influence.

Well, that’s my whinge out of the way for now and yes, we do have bigger concerns, I agree. On the subject of my home country, I’m delighted to see Australian readers have found me on Amazon! I’ve been published there since 2012 but almost all sales have been in the US and UK, with just a few at home. Since I published the last book of my Red Dust series, set in Outback Australia, my sales here have grown tenfold! Thanks everyone!

For sales and all details on my books please visit my Amazon Author Page, or here for UK readers. 

 

 


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Who’s been sleeping in whose bed?

I recently wrote a blog on the misuse of the apostrophe with possessive pronouns; I’ve just realised I missed ‘whose’, which is another word that causes problems for some. The rule is the same–if you’re using an apostrophe you need to understand what it’s for. If the word you’re using is ‘who’s’ the meaning is ‘who is’ or ‘who has’: “Who’s going to take the rubbish out?” (Who is going to take the rubbish out?)

If you want to indicate possession the correct term is ‘whose’: “Whose rubbish is it?” (Who does the rubbish belong to?) When we know the owner of the rubbish we do use an apostrophe: “It’s Jimmy’s rubbish. He can take it out.” When we know whose it is but not his name, we might point to the owner and say: “It’s his rubbish.” No apostrophe is needed in his, whose, or its when used as a possessive pronoun. An apostrophe always indicates something missing and, for those of you who didn’t read my previous blog on apostrophes, the practice dates back to an old form of English when possession was written in a more complicated way. To indicate possession a writer would have to say “Jim, his rubbish,” and we now use an apostrophe to replace that pronoun ‘his’. (Jim’s rubbish)

A lecturer told me that when I was at uni and whether it’s actually true or not it’s quite a useful way of remembering which is the correct form of ‘its, whose, and their.’ For more easy to understand help on grammar I have a free ebook on Smashwords.

It’s Good Friday here today and autumn at last! I think we’re all happy to see the end of summer. Autumn is lovely here in central Victoria but with such a late start it won’t be long before we’re complaining about the cold! Time to curl up with a good book in front of the heater. My sci-fi for young adults, Sanctuary, is FREE today only at Amazon and I have others coming up free next month, Beast of War, Connections, and The Inheritance so keep checking in. For all info on my books on Amazon check out my Author Page.

 

 


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In the Top 100

All three books in my Red Dust Series are in Amazon’s Top 100! For their category, that is, but I’m pretty happy with that. The category is ‘Historical Australian & Oceanian Fiction’ and I’m in good company there. Stephanie Laurens has several on the same page as my ‘Road to Karinya‘, while ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms‘ share a page with Peter Carey and Catherine Gaskin, among others. Red Wine is the last book in the series and it’s been selling well from the start but it was good to see the first review on Amazon last week:

      By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

THIS IS A MUST READ STORY. IT HAS SUSPENSE, DRAMA, ROMANCE AND SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS AND LOTS OF CARING FOR OTHERS FEELINGS. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED EVERY PAGE

 

Amazon reviews are much appreciated by writers, at least good ones are! We take particular risks when we put books up free for promotions. The first time I did that was years ago; 6000 people grabbed a copy of ‘Inheritance’, and around 20 or 30 reviewed it.
Most were positive but not all–not everyone likes an unexpected ending! It was interesting that negative reviews often came from readers whose grasp of spelling and punctuation were sadly lacking and I tend not to take them too seriously.
        I went to a play last week, an independent production in Melbourne, in a small venue. The actors were fantastic and the play was hilarious and I was surprised to read a review online criticising the director. Even had I read it before I went I’d have taken no notice though because the spelling and punctuation were absolutely awful! When I see that I disregard the source as being some loner who thinks he knows something about theatre but actually doesn’t.
       Am I what didwrong to assume anyone who actually reads ought to be able to spell? And there’s Spellcheck. Typos I understand; we all do that, but if you’re not a good speller, do use your computer’s help. I have a small ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’, permanently free at Smashwords,which might be of use as well, especially for grammar and punctuation.
      Summer’s nearly over here and autumn will be very welcome. We have a very hot day forecast for tomorrow but it’s quite cool today and I’m hoping they’re wrong. Anyway one stinking hot day isn’t so bad. It’s when it goes on several days in a row and stays hot throughout the night it’s hard to take. Bring on winter!

 


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If Smart Phones were Smarter . . .

I bought a new smart phone a couple of days ago and I’m not going to go into the make and so on–not advertising or reviewing phones. Even if I wanted to I clearly don’t know enough about them to attempt that. I thought all I wanted from a phone was to talk to people and text. Then with my last phone I discovered how convenient it was to check emails and facebook without getting out of my lounge chair. I had that phone for 2 years and since we were due to renew the phone contract we decided to get me a flash phone with a bigger screen. One thing I knew I wanted was a decent camera which also allowed me to use Skype. The old one had no front camera and although it took reasonable photos outside the indoor ones were rubbish.

So the phone arrived, very promptly, the morning after we ordered it online. It’s not guilty 2014 coverbeautiful–all the bells and whistles, big screen but not too heavy–very thin and it does take nice photos. All good, smarter than me no doubt. What I want to know is if it’s so smart why couldn’t it just connect with the old phone and automatically upload all the settings and info that’s there? Why do I have to start all over again learning how it works and how to get what I need on it?

I confess I did virtually nothing; passed it over to hubby who spent all day mucking around and talking to a call centre (I suspect in India). Fortunately he quite likes playing with new technology. I just want it do what my old one did, but better. Is that too much to ask? I now have all my contacts on it and facebook etc. set up so it’s all good but, to be perfectly honest, if it had been up to me to set it up I’d have repackaged it and returned it to the sender long before the day was out. Hopefully I’ll be right now for another 2 years.

‘Not Guilty’, a true story about the brutal murder of three children by their mother in Australia, 1910, is free on Amazon from 11th to 13th of February.

RED DUST SERIES: Stony Creek, The Road to Karinya, Red Wine and Summer Storms.


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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Red Wine, Summer Storms and Createspace.

 

After a nightmare weekend of fighting with Word and Createspace over my lack of ability to format page numbers, I’ve finally finished Book 3 of my rural romance series (Red Dust Series).  The book itself has been a slow process, mostly because I’ve had problems with RSI, but I have to admit lack of motivation has also been a factor. Now at last I have my own office/study/den, whatever you want to call it. It’s a bedroom and still has a dressing table and a tallboy, but the dressing table mirror is no longer covered with my grandson’s assortment of stickers, and the tallboy—well, most of the drawers are still full of my youngest son’s indescribable stuff (e.g. two large chunks of pipe covered in plaster, paint and gold fabric, once part of his costume as the candle in Beauty and the Beast) but I have claimed a few drawers for writing and computer needs. Having my own space has made a huge difference to my motivation and I finished the book sooner than I thought I would.

The page number fiasco is something I go through every time I publish a book with Createspace and have to re-learn how to start the page numbers on the page where my first chapter is, not on the first page of the actual book. I don’t know why this is so complicated but maybe it’s not, it’s just that I’m only doing it once or twice a year and I always forget the process. I actually wrote some notes last time but of course they disappeared. I spent hours reading on-line lessons and watching videos and finally fluked it but I’m still not sure how exactly!

Then there was the cover. I bought a photo from istock which was close enough to what I wanted—storm clouds over a vineyard—and didn’t have much trouble building a cover for my ebook but I do like to have a POD available as well; getting the cover right for them—has to be the right

Sunset Vineyard

size, then you have to fit the text within a certain area—took me several attempts but I’m happy with it now.

So here’s a blurb and an excerpt from ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’. Those of you who read the last book in the series, ‘The Road to Karinya’ will remember Dan’s little sister Clare; this one’s about her, all grown up:

Book 3, Red Dust Series.  Australia, 1985

After a painful breakup with her long term boyfriend, lawyer Clare Sutton moves to Mildura to open her own practice not too far from Karinya Station, where her brother lives with his family. She’s thrilled to have her own office, even if she spends most of her days with paperwork, and is not looking for any romantic attachments.

On a visit to Karinya she meets Max Fraser, grape grower and budding wine maker. They become friends and he protects her on more than one occasion, because someone is stalking her, and although Clare’s work involves contact with criminals, at first she doesn’t take it seriously. It’s not long before her feelings for Max become more than friendship, but is it the kind of relationship that her brother has with his wife Prue? The kind that will last a lifetime?

In 1923, Fern is fresh from Sydney with her new husband, returned soldier George, to start a new life on a citrus orchard in Curlwaa. Their life is filled with hardships but their love for each other never dies and Fern has no regrets.

In 1985, now a widow, Fern lives in Mildura, next-door to Clare, and they become good friends. Estranged from her remaining family Fern looks on Clare almost as a daughter and becomes worried about her when she realises someone is watching her.

Readers of the other books in the Red Dust Series will know Clare and her family from ‘The Road to Karinya’, but each book can be read as a stand alone novel.

 

He had Prue in his arms by then and they were both grinning like Cheshire cats, clearly as happy in each other’s company as always. I was vaguely aware someone else was hovering in the doorway and I looked up to see who it was.

“Sorry Max!” Dan said and he gestured to the man to come in. “This is my beautiful baby sister, Clare.”

Max wasn’t my type, I thought immediately, which wasn’t a bad thing since I certainly wasn’t looking. He was gorgeous, but I preferred the leaner type, or, as friends at uni had said, I liked them lean and mean. Max, in his navy singlet and jeans, was all muscle. And very blue eyes. He was tall enough though and his hair was okay, sort of mousy blond—all in all he was a man who probably didn’t look as good in a suit as Pete did but then if Pete stood next to him in jeans and a singlet—well, that would just be hilarious. He’d look like a string bean. Max coughed and grinned and I realised I’d been staring at him—measuring him up like beefcake! 

 

this one           book2 karinya ebook

 

 

 

 

 


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Opening a Can of Worms–Daylight Saving

I know a lot of people love daylight saving and if you happen to live in a cool climate where you absolutely relish that extra hour of sunlight, then lucky you! Daylight saving absolutely makes sense for you. If, on the other hand, you live in a country where temperatures can get to the mid 40s (Celsius–100 plus Fahrenheit) and beyond in some areas, what on earth is the point? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to take an hour of the coolest part of the day, when they could be sleeping, and add it on to the hottest part of the day?

Now, to be honest, it doesn’t affect me a great deal these days; I’m lucky enough to have air-conditioning; I rarely have to get up  to an alarm clock and my kids are all grown and flown. The coop. But I remember what a nightmare it was getting little boys to bed when the sun was still shining in their bedroom windows. I don’t know if parents still do that or if they’ve given up and let the kids stay up until the sun goes down and then have to drag them out of bed in the morning for school.

Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland have all had the good sense to abandon daylight saving–I think they all tried it and it proved unpopular. I suspect the reason it succeeded in the south east states is more to do with our large city population than the fact that our climate is a bit milder than up north. City workers seem to like it because, I suppose, they have a chance to get home or even go to the beach before dark. Since more Victorian voters live in cities than the country I know it’s a lost cause but I still feel for those parents trying to get their kids to bed.

Daylight saving starts here tomorrow morning and I don’t even have to put the clocks forward any more–it’s automatic. I’d be interested to hear from other readers why they love or hate daylight saving, or wish they had it if they don’t.

It’s also footy finals today and ‘my’ team is playing. And winning. Sometimes I wish I cared, but it’s just a group of Aussie blokes playing another group of Aussie blokes and either way, we win, right? Now if we were playing New Zealand, or the UK, or USA, I might be more interested!

I’m getting on with Book 3 of my Red Dust rural romance series and will almost certainly have it finished by Christmas; I’m moving into a new office shortly which will make it easier, I hope. I’m currently working in the lounge-room and, with three empty bedrooms, I decided to bite the bullet and clean one out. I’ll be able to work with no interruptions and will get heaps done–at least that’s the theory! ‘Dark Innocence’ is FREE on the 4th and 5th of October–it’s quite a small book and will definitely keep you interested!

Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle          karinya cover           darkamazon


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Oranges and Wine–Title of my new book?

This is one of the hardest parts of writing a book–coming up with a title. It needs to grab attention and somehow indicate something about the content. I’m a long way from finishing this one but I’d appreciate suggestions if you have any.

This is the third and final book of my rural romance series (Red Dust Series); the first one is Stony Creek and the second, The Road to Karinya. Both of those titles use the names of rural properties involved in the story but that’s not an option for the current novel.

Like the first two books I have one heroine in the late 20th century and another much earlier and I need to find a title that suits both stories. Both women move to Sunraysia, an area on the Murray River which includes a small part of both New South Wales and Victoria. Clare, originally from a citrus property in Queensland, leaves her home in Sydney in 1985 to live in Mildura (Victoria), nearer Karinya Station, where her brother and his family live. She lives in a flat in a converted house, the other half of which is occupied by Fern, an elderly woman with her own story.

Fern left her home in Sydney in 1920 to marry George, who was one of the original soldier settlers in Curlwaa, New South Wales, and spent most of her life there on their citrus property. She sold the property and moved to Mildura as an elderly widow. Fern and Clare become good friends and Fern worries when she suspects someone is watching Clare.

Without giving away too much of the story, wine is an important part of Clare’s story which is why I’m currently using the working title of ‘Wine and Oranges’, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll end up keeping it. Is it catchy or boring? Opinions please.

Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle                 karinya cover