Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Writing Challenge–Future tense

Hubby and I went to Melbourne on the train the other day for a show and on the way back, in the dark, with nothing to look at, I started thinking about story ideas. I tend to write in both first person and third person in my novels but I do like to mess around a bit with the occasional short story. I’ve done one in the present tense and I decided to try the future for a change. If you’d like to join in the challenge there’s no prize but you’re welcome to put a link in my comments section so everyone can have a read. Here’s my effort:

Tomorrow

© Christine Gardner

 In the morning I’ll get up at six o’clock. Steve won’t even notice; I’ve been getting up during the night lately and he’s a heavy sleeper anyway. If he does wake up he’ll presume I’ve gone to the toilet and go straight back to sleep. He will never imagine I could leave.

I have my bag packed and hidden in the linen cupboard, with just some essentials that will do for a couple of days until I get sorted. He never looks in there. I always make sure there’s clean towels in the bathroom and clean sheets on the bed, so why would he? I won’t stop for breakfast, just in case. I’ll just grab my bag and head out to the car. My little Pulsar. I won’t take Steve’s BMW because, after all, he’ll still need it for work. And I don’t need it, not really. Mine’s a little dented from when Steve backed into the fence but it runs okay; he’s very good at stuff like that. Everything in our house is well oiled and runs perfectly. Everything except me.

Will he be sad or relieved? Of course I know the answer to that; he’ll be furious. He’ll try to ring me first and then he’ll start driving around looking for me.

I’ll go to Maccas for breakfast, but not the one near us; I’ll drive over a suburb or two, maybe Richmond. I don’t know. I’ll find a Maccas somewhere, or a Hungry Jacks. Somewhere I’ll be ignored and I can just eat whatever junk food I want with no-one looking over my shoulder. Steve doesn’t like me eating junk food, especially now, but he’s always been a stickler for healthy eating while I just like to have a breakout occasionally. Mostly I eat healthy food but just now and then I like a change. Not Steve. He might be more horrified at my eating junk for breakfast than at me actually leaving him!

He’ll think I’m just doing it to annoy him; he thinks I deliberately push his buttons but I don’t. I try so hard to do what he wants—to be what he wants me to be. I’m just not that person—not Mrs Perfect—and I’ll never understand why, or how, he thought he could make me into something I’m not. Maybe he’ll find her once I’m out of the way.

After breakfast I’ll head over to Mum’s house and she’ll be surprised to see me so early, but glad Steve’s not with me. When I tell her I’ve left him she’ll be flabbergasted; she’s been nagging me for months to do just that and she doesn’t even know anything really. I never let her see me with black eyes and it’s easy enough to come up with a story about broken bones; she says I was always terribly clumsy as a child.

Then she’ll insist I call the police and I’ll say no, so she’ll call them. I’ll cry, I know, and she’ll probably shed a few tears as well, more for herself and her own memories than for me though.

The police will come—no doubt there’ll be a sympathetic female cop and a male who looks as if he can handle any irate husband. They’ll take my statement and suggest I move to a shelter for women like me—somewhere safer than my mother’s home. She, who protected me throughout all my childhood, can’t protect me anymore. I’ll agree of course, because I don’t want to put my mother at risk, but she’ll be at risk anyway. Steve will look for me there and won’t believe she doesn’t know where I am. He and Mum never really see eye to eye about anything, even though they both love me. It’s my fault. Steve’s right about that, I know. I have said bad things to Mum about him and of course she doesn’t like him. She thinks he’s a monster like my father but if I was better, a better wife, he would be perfect. And he’ll be a wonderful father.

The police will probably take me somewhere and then go to arrest Steve. There’ll be bail though and if he gets out he’ll go after my mother. If he doesn’t get out then he’ll go to gaol for a while and then be released and look for me again. And my mother.  And my child. My child will be born while her father is in gaol. How long will he be there for? Will she understand why her father’s not with us or will she grow up thinking he deserted her? Will I take her to see him in prison and have her know her father’s in gaol? That he hit her mother? That he had no regard for her safety, tucked away in her mother’s womb?

I sigh and pull the quilt further up around my neck. My child moves inside me and my husband, sound asleep, throws one arm over me, as if to prove ownership. My woman; my child. In the morning I won’t be leaving. I can’t condemn my child to a future with a father who’s in gaol; I’ll be a better wife. I’ll try harder to make my marriage work. Life wasn’t meant to be perfect; I can do better, I know I can.

***

For information on all my books please visit my author pages  Amazon.com, Amazon UK and Amazon.au

 


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100 not out!

No, I’m not 100 years old and neither am I a cricket fan, but this is my 100th blog! Maybe not as big a deal as turning 100 but at least as good as 100 runs on the cricket field. Well, I did say I’m not a fan, right?

It’s been a little over 3 years–I just looked up my first blog and it was March, 2013. Since then I’ve written three books which have been more successful than I ever imagined (Red Dust series) and my family has grown considerably. I had two grandchildren in 2013, now I have four plus six step-grandkids!

At times I’ve struggled to find things to write about and my blogs became less regular as time went by–now I’m no longer trying to blog weekly or monthly. I only write when I have something I want to say. For some reason I’ve recently joined Instagram as well but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. I might just spend my time writing books instead. The one I’m working on at the moment is based in the area I’m living in, which should make some aspects easier at least. The story starts in 2015 and then changes to the 1860s, much of which will be based on the goldfields here. Unless my characters decide to go elsewhere–you never know really!

The sun’s shining here and I can see a bird on next-door’s TV antenna–I think it’s a pigeon–but it’s freezing cold and apparently we’re in for a winter blast in the next few days. I’m sick of winter already but it’s nice to see the sunshine from the window in my cosy home office.

darkamazonNothing better than curling up by the heater on a cold day with a good book is there? I have a free ebook coming up on the 27th June (USA time), Dark Innocence. It’s quite short, novelette size, and inspired by some of my experiences growing up in the sixties in a country town. Check it out and feel free to leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy it!

For details on my other books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK.

 

 


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FREE SHORT STORY

Winter, or at least autumn, is here at last; we’ve had quite a bit of rain and very little sunlight this week. Lovely after a long, hot and dry summer. Whether you’re curled up in front of the fire or soaking up the sun on your outdoor lounge here’s a gift for you: The Runt of the Litter, from my short story collection. My short stories, like my novels, are over a large range of genres–that’s the way I like to read as well!

 

 

RUNT OF THE LITTER

© Christine Gardner

 

The boy stood at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves smashing onto the rocks far below him. His coat, handed down from his father, flapped around his ankles in the roaring wind. Hugh was small for twelve and an onlooker would think he was in grave danger of losing his footing and slipping over the edge at any moment, but he was accustomed to the wind and had stood in this same spot far too many times since the death of his father four years earlier.

Before his father’s death, Hugh and his sister and brothers would never go anywhere near the cliff top; their father built a wall of rocks to keep his children and his sheep safe from the dangerous precipice. Since his death the wall had crumbled somewhat from the harsh and icy winds raging across the Atlantic Ocean and the cliff top had become a sanctuary of sorts for Hugh; a place of quiet isolation. Away from his stepfather.

His mother, Bridget, had married her childhood sweetheart, John McIntyre, when she was pregnant with Hugh and his birth was followed quickly by that of his twin brothers, Andrew and David. However they managed it, there were no more children for four years, until the arrival of Eliza, the apple of her father’s eye.

John and Bridget were content enough; at least Bridget thought they were. It was true, as all the villagers said, that  they didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but they always managed to feed the children; Bridget was very good at making a hearty soup from potatoes and mutton bones with the addition of a few herbs from her garden.

John, she found out one day, was not so content; he was worried about the future of their family. Eliza would marry a decent man, someone who could take care of her properly; John would make damn sure of that, but the boys could never make a living for all three of them on the little farm. They would want to marry and have families of their own—it simply was not possible. If he, John, though, were to go to Dublin for a few months? Just during the winter, when there was not much to be done here; the boys could take care of it, with a little help from their mother, then he could buy that plot of land Old O’Neill wanted to get rid of.  They could have a proper farm; even if he had to spend every winter at the Dublin mills for ten years, it would be worth it.

Bridget was horrified; she begged him not to go. She’d heard stories about the mills and about Dublin; it was not safe. And she couldn’t manage without him here. The boys were not old enough; she would be frightened without him. Eliza was just a baby. All her pleading did no good. Once John McIntyre made up his mind to do a thing it was as good as done.

She packed him a bag with a change of clothes and some mutton and bread and he filled his belly with her wholesome soup before he left. The children all woke to see him off on the trusty old chestnut, Sal.

He was found later that day by a farmer on the way home from market, by the side of the muddy road. Sal was nowhere to be seen and in fact was never seen again, at least not by the McIntyres. Someone, no doubt, had found a use for the animal. It seemed something must have frightened her and she’d thrown her beloved master into a nearby ditch, where he’d lain for several hours before the farmer came upon him.

“Are you all right?” the farmer had asked. The fellow had just looked at him, he told everyone later at the Old Cock Inn. He was trying to talk, but couldn’t manage it and then, that was it. “He just gasped for air, but couldn’t get none, like. He were a goner. Knew that soon as I saw him, of course.”

They’d buried him the next day and it was six months later when Bridget had succumbed to Jamie’s O’Donnell’s efforts at seduction. Or at least his persuasion—he could provide for her and all her children and, as he kept telling her, she clearly could not. She had no family left and John’s parents, who lived many miles south, were dirt poor and could never take them in. Since Jamie’d bought Old O’Neill’s bit of land next door the farm was now a reasonable size and he worked the boys hard to make sure it was in good shape.

Not that he was a shirker himself—everyone said Jamie O’Donnell would never ask anyone to do anything he’d not do himself. Of course Jamie was thirty-eight and he expected Hugh, at nine years old, to work as hard as he did. He was only slightly easier on the twins, who were eight, but taller than Hugh, who he always called the runt of the litter. And laughed every time he said it. That was the thing that annoyed Hugh the most—the laugh.

The beatings he could put up with—the continual bullying, both verbal and physical. The verbal was even a source of amusement at times, since he was well aware of his stepfather’s shortcomings in the areas of communication. Bridget’s grandfather had been the village parson and both John and Bridget saw value in reading, value in broadening the mind beyond the cottage, beyond the small village. They’d insisted all their children learn to read and write and Hugh had a stash of his father’s books hidden away. Jamie was not able to read and therefore did not want anyone else to read, especially in his house. Occasionally, just to taunt his stepfather, Hugh would use words he knew the man would not understand, to speak to his brothers, and they would look slyly at each other and grin when they thought he wasn’t looking.

He would become furious, of course, and Bridget would chastise them, but she couldn’t hide the smile, and the pride, in her eyes. Unfortunately Jamie saw it as well and would as likely hit her as the boys. None of them were safe from his jealous anger.

It was his little sister Hugh was most worried about. His mother, he figured, had made her bed and she must lie on it. He and the boys, well, they could put up with it for a few years; they’d talked about leaving, but knew they’d have to be older before they’d get a living wage anywhere. And they were reluctant to leave Eliza until she was a bit older.

She was eight years old when she first felt the back of her stepfather’s hand. It was also the last time. Eliza barely remembered her father; her brothers had told her about him and he was like a mythical creature in her mind—somewhere between a prince on a white horse and a unicorn—so Jamie O’Neill was her father, to all intents and purposes.

Bridget and Eliza were cooking and the little girl was excited to be able to use her mother’s knife for the first time, to peel the potatoes. Her stepfather came in just as she dropped a roughly peeled and chopped potato into the soup pot and he grabbed it out and looked at it.

“What do you call that?”

“A potato?” Her bottom lip quivered.

He threw it at her. “That’s a disgrace!” He looked at Bridget, already cowering in anticipation. “D’you expect me to eat that? It’s half peel and half dirt! Are you trying to kill me?”

“She’s just learning,” she said softly. “She has to start somewhere, Jamie.” She smiled at her daughter and handed her another potato. “Just let me check it before you put it in the pot this time.”

Jamie was not about to let it go though. “She’s bloody useless, that’s what she is. Just like her mother.” He looked the little girl up and down. “And what’s she wearing? That dress is too short for her. She looks like a little whore. Is that what you’re training her for?”

Eliza sat as still as she could, given her frail little body was shaking. She knew her dress was too short but Ma always said there was no money for fabric to make another. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she made no sound; she knew better than to make a fuss. Nonetheless his rough and enormous hand swiped across her face and Bridget stood up, shocked into action.

“Jamie!” She held her sobbing daughter to her chest and the tiny kitchen was suddenly filled with boys and noise and chaos and they were all yelling and they were not boys any more.

Jamie was hitting out randomly at whoever was close enough and he was massive in that room. He roared like a giant and Eliza’s sobs were drowned out and lost in the racket.

David picked up the poker from its place beside the fire and hit out wildly with it. Jamie laughed as it missed him and connected with the table. He was in his element; he loved a good fight and it was about time these little shits grew up and had a go.

When he saw Hugh take the poker from his younger brother he laughed even louder. “Oh ho, the runt’s going to have a go, is he?” He pulled his fist back to hit out at the boy but Hugh was quicker.

He took a deep breath and gripped that poker with an iron grip; he swung out at everything that was wrong with his life, at everything he hated. He brought the poker down on that hated head and silenced the laughter forever. Silenced the torment, silenced the bullying, silenced everything.

Bridget screamed when Jamie hit the floor; his face was a bloody mess and she knelt down beside him and put her head to his chest. Suddenly she was a widow again; she felt helpless. But when she looked up at her sons, at Hugh standing somehow taller, towering over her, backed by his brothers, and her daughter also staring at her brother with something like adoration, she realized she was not alone. Hugh was in charge.

“What will we do?” she asked him.

“Just take Eliza to your room, Ma,” he said quietly. “We’ll set things to right.”

The twins followed Hugh’s instructions and dragged the heavy body through the kitchen door to the cold and welcoming wind outside. They left him there while they cleaned up the blood on the kitchen floor so Ma and Eliza didn’t have to look at it.

It took some time to drag him all the way to the cliff and all the strength they had to hoist him over the crumbling rock wall. When they finally got to the cliff edge Hugh told them to leave the rest to him and to go back to help Ma and Eliza.

They were disappointed and relieved, in just about equal measure, and obediently returned to the cottage.

Hugh wanted to spend some time thinking, on his own. He wanted this moment to be a ritual; he knew he would remember every moment always and he wanted to remember it with pride.

So he stood there for several minutes—fifteen or more, with the wind whipping around him. He felt strong—invincible—and he knew he could do anything now.

He wasn’t shocked when he heard a groan from the heap beside him, only mildly surprised the man was still alive. And rather pleased. He now had the satisfaction of knowing that Jamie O’Neill would know his fate as he tumbled down to the rocks. And would know he’d been dispensed with, easily enough, by the runt of the litter. The last sound, apart from that of the waves crashing below, that Jamie heard before he met his maker was the sound of laughter—not his own this time.

 

FOR MORE INFO ON ALL MY BOOKS CHECK OUT MY BOOK PAGE OR MY AUTHOR PAGES ON AMAZON.COM OR AMAZON UK.

They are available now on Amazon’s Australian site and digital copies are also on Apple, Kobo and others through Draft to Digital, as well as Google Play.

 


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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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Writing Challenge–Present Tense.

I would never read or write a novel in the present tense; I’ve often thought a short story could work quite well but hadn’t got around to trying it. Having just finished my novelette, Dark Innocence, I decided to set myself a challenge to write a short story in the present tense. It’s a very short story so I’m posting it here intact.

I’m hoping some of you will take up the challenge as well, either a short story or just a paragraph. There’s no prizes but if you’d like to post your first paragraph in the comments section of my blog you’re welcome to link it to the rest of the story on your own site.

Here’s my effort:

The Here and Now

© Christine Gardner 2014

 

She stands at the open window watching the traffic. She feels like some kind of goddess watching from the heavens as the mass of humanity swirls below her, frantically going about its day to day business; people leading their boring ordinary lives, thinking themselves so important. She can see them for what they truly are, ants—no—less than ants. Ants rush about with some purpose; they collect food for the whole colony. Not like people, who only collect for themselves.

And what pointless things people collect, she muses. Money, mostly. She doesn’t need to look in the direction of the bank opposite; she knows it all too well, inside and out. Every evening she crosses the busy road, at the traffic lights on the corner, and walks briskly back along the dark street to the forty storey building, where she shows her ID to the security guard; the same guard almost every night for ten years or more. Every evening he stares at the tiny photo and then stares at her face. Every evening he makes some inane remark, such as, ‘Don’t look much like you’, or if he’s in a particularly jovial mood, ‘Don’t really flatter you, if I do say so myself’. On these occasions he winks and looks her up and down. She’s used to it but it makes her uncomfortable still, not least because she feels as if he thinks he’s doing her a favour; that she should appreciate the undeserved attention. She knows very well how drab she looks in her work clothes—she wears grey track pants and a faded blue top or sometimes a faded black one which almost matches the grey pants. Not that she cares.

Every night she picks up her equipment from the supply room and spends the next six hours looking at the leftovers of others’ lives; the lives of people she will never meet. The lives of people who live on, almost, a different planet to her; she picks up framed photographs from untidy desks and studies the smiling families. Are they real, she wonders sometimes, or did the pictures just come with the frames. She can’t remember her family ever being like that—the perfect white smiles, the matching outfits.

What did any of it matter? You live and you die. Or, as some eloquent person has put it, on a tee shirt somewhere, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. Too true, she thinks, and sighs deeply.

Her black cat, Shirley, interrupts her, winding itself round and round her legs, making its presence felt, and she leans over and picks it up. ‘At least you’re honest, aren’t you?’ she says, holding the soft black fur against her face. ‘You’re here for the food and shelter and don’t need to pretend anything else, do you?’ She puts it down gently.

It starts to sprinkle with rain and the cat looks anxiously at her and retreats to the doorway.

‘It’s okay, Shirl, it’s just water.’  The rain settles into a steady beat and she sighs and steps over the worried cat into the kitchen/dining/living room of her apartment. Shirley follows her and leaps onto the bench as her mistress opens the cupboard and takes out a can of cat food, then jumps back to the floor and starts the manoeuvre in and around the legs again. The cat keeps begging until the food is in the bowl and then is pushed away while her mistress puts some drops of something into the food.

Sniffing suspiciously at first, the cat eventually finds the smell and the flavour of the tuna strong enough and tasty enough, to overcome any misgivings about that mystery substance. The bowl is clean in the time it takes for her mistress to pour a glass of wine and sit on the couch, where Shirley joins her. Settled onto a familiar and comfortable lap, the cat is soon fast asleep; it twitches once or twice and is still.

The woman finishes her wine and walks over to her computer; she wonders what she will say and to whom she will address her note. She almost laughs out loud; if there was anyone, then perhaps there’d be no need for such a note. Perhaps she’d feel differently about her life if there was someone, anyone, to share it with her. It’s not the job she hates or the dismal apartment; it’s being alone in this city of millions. Always alone.

There is no-one to write to and nothing to say. No-one to miss her—would anyone even notice?

She washes and dries her glass and the cat’s bowl and tidies the kitchen bench, then walks through the apartment, just to make sure everything’s tidy. Then she walks back out to the balcony, climbs over the metal railing and, with no hesitation, she jumps.

 

 

 

 


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Free Short Stories

My short story collection, Connections, is free on Amazon until October 31st. If you’ve read a previous version this one does have those stories in as well as several new ones. I’m posting a few excerpts to pique your interest in the hope you’ll download your free copy and then write a fabulous 5 star review on Amazon for me! You might not like all the stories but you’ll almost certainly like one–they’re all very different.  And if you like one I’ll be happy for you to review the one you like.

I’m rather pleased with the cover on this one. It’s a photo of the Pinnacles in Western Australia and has nothing to do with any of the stories but I think it looks good. It’s an amazing place and was part of an amazing holiday hubby and I took a few years ago–actually part of a trip to watch our youngest son perform in a national musical theatre competition. He won of course and it was our first time in Western Australia so it was just fantastic.

THE RUNT OF THE LITTER

© Christine Gardner 2013

The boy stood at the edge of the cliff, staring at the waves smashing onto the rocks far below him. His coat, handed down from his father, flapped around his ankles in the roaring wind. Hugh was small for twelve and an onlooker would think he was in grave danger of losing his footing and slipping over the edge at any moment, but he was accustomed to the wind and had stood in this same spot far too many times since the death of his father four years earlier.

Before his father’s death, Hugh and his sister and brothers would never go anywhere near the cliff top; their father built a wall of rocks to keep his children and his sheep safe from the dangerous precipice. Since his death the wall had crumbled somewhat from the harsh and icy winds raging across the Atlantic Ocean and the cliff top had become a sanctuary of sorts for Hugh; a place of quiet isolation. Away from his stepfather.

THE COLD TRUTH

© Christine Gardner 2013

The water was dark and cold and she wore a strapless gown of pure silk—white with pearls sewn onto the bodice. She could feel the icy water up to her knees and she clung to him, trying to draw on his strength and calm.

He was dressed in a tuxedo and, at last noticing her shivering, he took off his jacket and helped her into it; she held her arms out like a child and she looked childlike as she stood there, tiny and trembling in the man’s jacket.

GOING HOME

© Christine Gardner 2013

“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.

Of course the landlady didn’t believe me; she was a lot like my mother that woman. All that stand by your man shit; all very well, but did they have to be deaf, dumb and blind?

INDEPENDENCE DAY

©Christine Gardner 2013

I’d been driving along the dirt track for about an hour when the noise started—sort of a regular clunk, clunk, clunk. I ignored it for five minutes, having a long-standing theory that most unwanted noises will go away by themselves if only they remain unacknowledged. It is, I admit, an as yet unproven theory and was not to prove itself on this particular occasion. I then decided I must have picked up something on one of the tyres, which would of course eventually drop off without any interference on my part. When the shrieking noise began, somewhere under the bonnet, I had to rethink that idea; I would have thought of a perfectly reasonable explanation for that too if only the car hadn’t then just stopped.

A PERFECT STRANGER

© Christine Gardner 2013

“So you risked your life for a perfect stranger?” She smiled at the camera and managed a look of astonishment for Harry’s heroism.

“Dunno about perfect,” someone in the crowd muttered.

“Pardon?” said the blonde.

“Wouldn’t say old Dick was perfect.”

HELPING OUT

©Christine Gardner 2013

I think a lot these days; not much else to do really. I like to think about the old days; stands to reason I suppose. I was a child after all; life must have been easy mustn’t it? I can’t recall any time when my life was all that easy. My childhood?  Well some of it was easy enough but it certainly was never any golden age of happiness and innocence. My family wasn’t much like a TV family.

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

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.

THE COST OF PEARLS

A dreadlocked head emerged from beneath the wildly coloured quilt. “I did?” The girl was sixteen and as emaciated as a model; heroin chic for real. She looked as if she hadn’t had either a shower or a change of clothes for at least a month; in fact it had been six weeks. Flora had been unable to persuade her to do either the previous night. She had only managed to put her to bed and remove her shoes. She would just have to wash the sheets today, that was all.

 

 Connections 99c at Amazon

 


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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

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Thanks.


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Having a break from murder . . .

I’ve been writing short stories lately, after spending the last few years on true crime and novels, and rather enjoying the change. For some reason though, my creative thoughts keep turning to murder. Those of you who’ve looked at my book list may not find that so strange but the beauty of writing short stories is the variety and I don’t want to get stuck on the one genre.

‘A Twist in the Tail’ is a step away from that then and, since I have nothing to write about today, I thought you might like to read a little tale.

A Twist in the Tail

© Christine Gardner

Shelley sprawled her lithe body on the black rock, trailing the fingers of one hand in the waves as they caressed the shore. It was a glorious spring day and she stretched luxuriously and arched her body, her naked pert breasts pointing skywards.

She smiled secretly to herself. They would all be watching, she was well aware. And Daniel would pretend to be cross at her public display but she knew he was proud of her and pleased that everyone envied him. He was the most handsome of all the guys and they were the undisputed leading couple at the school.

She’d known Daniel pretty much all her life and had always known they were destined to be together, but it wasn’t until they hit puberty that they became a couple. Their relationship developed from friendly flirting to secret kisses and at last to passionate lovemaking. Both sets of parents were happy with the pairing and, since they’d waited until they were both sixteen before their first sexual encounter, had no problem at all with their connection.

Daniel was like the other half of Shelley; everything about him was the opposite of her. His hair was black like the rocks here at their favourite bay and his eyes, she told him, were like the ocean on a stormy day—green and grey and somehow changeable. His temperament was serene and not at all like the stormy sea, while Shelley could be, she admitted, somewhat tempestuous.

Shelley, Daniel said, had eyes as blue as the ocean on a calm summer’s day, and her hair, which was silky and fell to below her waist, was the colour of the white sand on the beach. Together they were complete; together they had everything.BookCoverImageconnections

Today was a special day. Daniel didn’t know yet but he and Shelley would be leaving the school—leaving their friends behind. She stroked her flat stomach, smiling her secret smile. When a girl became pregnant she and her partner had to join the family group and they’d see little of their old friends at the school until, each in turn, they would also join the family group.

Shelley and Daniel would no longer be the unofficial king and queen at the school but Shelley was looking forward to becoming a mother and she knew Daniel would make a great father. He had a lot more patience than she did.

She sat up at last. Daniel would be thrilled with her news and she suddenly couldn’t wait a minute longer to tell him he was going to be a daddy. She turned around to face the ocean and slid into the water. Gracefully she dove under the waves, swimming well underneath the white surf, and the cool water was welcome after the warmth of the sun.

Daniel and the rest of the school had watched her enter the water. He smiled, relieved; she tended to overdo the sun at times.

When she reached the group she emerged from the waves with a joyful jump into the air and the others joined in, playing like dolphins and showing off their blue-green tails, sparkling in the sunshine. None of the school noticed when Shelley took Daniel by the hand and led him away to their secret place to tell him her news. It was time for the school to find new leaders and time for Daniel and Shelley to join the family group and nurture their own little mermaids.

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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  

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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!

 

 

 

 

 


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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.