Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Out of My Preferred Genre

So, I finished writing the detective story last Friday morning. I re-read it (countless times) edited, revised, re-wrote, and finally put The End on it. Actually, I wrote the end on it Wednesday, but I didn't like and tore it all apart on Thursday. Put it all back together on Friday. Called it done.

Don't get me wrong, I still have another round of edits (and probably ten more), but it's readable and I believe the story's tight. I also have to take a look at the structure. Some places it drags and don't you just hate that. But I have to say, after writing this book, I want to immediately start writing another one.

You know why, I'm having so much fun building these characters I don't want to stop. And I came to a major realization the other day.

I have absolutely no expectations of this story. 

I feel the same as I do when I finished THE LADY'S MASQUERADE. I had no idea what to expect, but I finished what I started. I wrote a detective story of 34K words. And I think it's pretty good.

I don't have a clue who my target audience is. I'm also having trouble with my keywords and BISAC category. Is it a thriller? Suspense? Murder? Police Procedural? Detective? Mystery?

I've been giving a lot of thought to options about this story, Should I query it? Should I submit it in a contest? Should I self-publish? Should I promote? Under which name should I publish? Should I get a new pen name? How much time do I want to invest in a "big" project? Is it worth it to continue writing in this genre, with these characters? (As well as the new Regency series = 2 big projects.)

Or do I not publish at all, put it in my drawer and hide it away.

I've given that some very serious consideration. Would you like to know why?

Because everything I write has been judged. People have expectations. Readers become fans if you do it right. Those fans have expectations of my writing.

If I publish under another pen name, who's going to know it's me? You won't if I don't tell you.

I can hear Anne R. Allen screaming at me from across the states. I don't need another pen name. I already have two. However, Anne, you said it yourself, unless you're writing in disparate genres, you don't need a pen name. And well, I am writing in three disparate genres now.

I'm too stupid to know I don't know what I'm doing. 

But here's the thing...I've been writing and publishing (formatting, marketing, editing, proofreading, revising, and watching the industry change and evolve) over the last six or seven years. I know EXACTLY what I'm doing. Kind of.

Whatever ideas I may have about publishing these stories, I won't know if they'll work, unless I try. Right?

If I do decide to publish any of the detective stories, it won't be for a long while yet. I'm enjoying the high from knowing I started and finished something. (I also painted my office in between the time I began and finished the story -- pics coming soon. June 1 - June 25. I think total writing days equaled 17.)


The only thing I do know for certain, is that I like the story. And I want to write more of them.

Stay tuned!

***

And yes, I changed the blog back to a more beachy feel. And also the name of it. SEO is what it is.

***

I hope you all have a safe and non-explosive 4th of July.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Uploading/Publishing to Google Play

I dropped this post in on a Saturday instead of waiting until Monday. And yes, I changed the title, and background in the header. I just can't stand not being on the water. More to come at a later date.

*****

Yes, I finally figured out how to upload to Google Play. And let me tell you right now, if you're thinking about it, don't bother.

1. The dashboard/interface is an absolute NIGHTMARE. It is NOT user friendly at all.

2. You have to change the titles of all your files, but you can't do that until they give you the GG Key. Stupid. (I should say, that if you want to upload your series they give you a template, which then you can use the GGkey for. However, the template didn't work and I got confused as to what I was uploading, so I had to scrap that idea -- and then had to upload each title individually, which I didn't use the GG key for. It was such a pain in the ass, I only uploaded 3 books.)

3. I can't even tell you how hard it was to set up the banking account page. And then to actually have each book correspond to my bank. And then, to set up the book so that all the different countries' money will flow into that account. (Which, incidentally, you need to "refresh" otherwise you may get paid a lower denomination. Money fluctuates in the world as we all know, but YOU need to manually "refresh" your account instead of Google automatically doing it for you.)

4. I cannot seem to get their excel spreadsheet to work on ANY of my computers. I even have a Google Chromebook.

5. Your epub has to be PERFECT, which, on every other platform mine are. Except for this one. It kept telling me it was in error. I sent mine to a friend who checked it out for me. He said it was perfect, shouldn't have a problem. It still did. Finally, after repeated emails to Google, they said it was because my ORIGINAL WORD document was written on Word 2003, it wouldn't format correctly. What? Yeah. (I have no problem uploading original Word docs to Amazon or Smashwords.)

6. And the kicker to all of this -- My books are priced at $3.99 across all platforms. Google decided to discount the price to $3.03. And of course when the Amazon bots found out, they lowered their price. (So I'm earning less on Amazon.) And Google only pays 58% in royalties.(Which is only 2% less than what B&N pays @ 60%, but somehow just seeing that 58% makes me FEEL like it's so much less.)

So, there you have it. I've been published there for 5 months now and have still not sold a single copy even though I have embedded metadata in my files for the Search Engine Optimization that everyone talks about.

I've heard that Draft2Digital and Smashwords, and one other aggregate are trying to get Google Play into their fold, but I haven't seen anything in stone yet. And, from what I read a few weeks ago, Google Play stopped allowing new authors to upload. I can't remember why. (Probably because no one could figure out how to do it and crashed their stupid system. No, that's not the reason.)

The talk for the last year or so has been getting into foreign markets. Three quarters of the world speaks English, and we need to be seen. So far, the only major player is Google. Amazon has a few countries, but have problems in one form or another. However, Google is Android, and it seems the people who look at this stuff seem to think that these billions of English speaking people read books on their phones. Well, obviously no one wants to read mine. And yes, I do realize that I write Regency romance, and it's a niche market, but if I can sell books in Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and India through various other aggregates, then why can't I sell books on Google Play? They must have found my books by searching for it. What is the largest search engine in the world? Uh, that would be Google. So why haven't I sold any books through them? (And no, this isn't sour grapes, it's just utter, blinding confusion.)

The whole Google Play experience was a nightmare, and the frustration wasn't worth it to get into English speaking foreign markets. Perhaps if I had sold a couple of books, but so far the till is empty. And with Amazon cutting my price because of them, I'm  not really sure if it's worth it to stay.

My advice to you -- wait until one of the other aggregates gets them in their corral and upload through them. In my opinion, Google Play isn't worth all the hype.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Writing is Hard "Work"

Good Morning. I've been thinking about my five year plan. I touched on it with this post in January. The Year of the Popcorn Kittens. Writing the Regency series took a lot out of me, in more ways than I ever thought. During my last blog break between March and June my brain just shut down. I didn't want to write anymore. Seriously, I thought about giving it all up. Actually, I just wanted to sleep until I decided to get up again.

However, writing is my JOB. I am (for the most part) an historical romance novelist. That's what I do to make money. Yet, after pushing out so many Regencies, (7 novels and 6 novellas in 4 years) I just didn't want to write another word. But as self-published authors, we're taught to write, write, write. To get it out, publish, rinse and repeat.

not all the books are here

What I had forgotten during the last two years, and what my blog break showed me was how much FUN I used to have while writing.  I always have five or six different WiP sitting on my hard drive. (If one gives me fits, I just go to the next.)

However, the guilt I felt for wanting to abandon my chosen genre was eating at me like a cancer. How could I disappoint my readers if I didn't churn out another series when I said I would write it? Would I lose my fan base? I had found success by publishing every four months or so. Would they wait for the next book? (To make a success of a series, readers don't LIKE to wait. They want to read them all from beginning to end. Write, write, write, publish, publish, publish.)

However, what I found when I sat down to write the next series was that I had no new ideas. I have six heroines I have to find plots for, and I had already pretty much done them all. Mistaken identity, brutish hero, war hero, lies, spies and country bumpkins and long-suffering women who waited for their man to come up to snuff. I had nothing left. And I couldn't bear to do any more research. (The timeline for the new series is set 5 years before the last one. Different wars, different people, different politics.)

So I said f*ck it. Yes, I did. I had written 5 chapters for the new Regency series first book and I stopped.

And let me tell you what a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Writing this detective novel has been like a breath of fresh air. New characters, minimal research, contemporary language. I feel as if I've been reborn. (Could I have any more cliches in that paragraph?)

Like that rhyme we used to sing at the end of the school year -- No more teachers, no more books, no more bully's dirty looks. Well my rhyme is now -- No more Dukes, no more Viscounts, I can write whatever I feel like. Yes, I know it doesn't rhyme, but I never said I was a poet. lol

I'm writing for FUN again and it feels so good. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel like I'm driven to the brink of madness doing research. I don't feel as if I'm wasting my time writing other things when I should be "WORKING".

And this, my friends, is the most important lesson I learned --

No matter WHAT I write, that means I AM working. 

Tell me -- Do you write for fun? Or are you writing as a job? Do you ever feel guilty if you write out of your chosen genre?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

I'm Back -- Kind Of


Well, it's been awhile. I got through my mid-life crisis intact. I guess. I'm not sure if that's what it was or not, but life has settled down and I'm feeling much better.

I cleaned my house, or at least straightend out the mess that was my dining room. Here are a few pics to show you the before and after...

the original dining room

note the bannister and the rug

the upper room is now my reading nook
front door entrance and new dining room



note the bannister is gone

the cabinet where I keep my treasures



the other side of the front door entrance




This is what it looks like now because I've started writing again


Yes, I've started writing again. I mean, I can't not write. It's encoded into my DNA. Life just threw me a bunch of curveballs in March and it took me until now to hit them out of the park. Now that I've straightened those out, I'm back to the grind.

I think part of the problem was that I wanted to write other projects and ditch the Regency stuff. It took me awhile to realize I could actually do both. I mean I wrote REMEMBERING YOU at the same time I wrote THE LADY'S FATE. It's all about scheduling and sticking to it.

So that's what I'm doing. Sort of. I'm still not sure about this blog. I hate to give it up completely, this is where my friends are. But I've noticed more and more of them are also giving up their blogs to devote more time to family and writing.

It's hard to keep it up after so many years. With so many other social media avenues to travel on, why keep on blogging. It's not like any one is here anymore anyway. However, on the off chance someone is, I'd like to keep in touch.

So I guess here I am. I'm thinking I'll post updates about once a month. Although, I tried that before and eventually that fell away too.

I do have the other blog, Anne Gallagher Writer but that's mostly for my readers. Although, if you want to stop by and say hey over there, I won't ignore you.

And if I don't see you, have a great summer!

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

Examining My Mid-Life Crisis

After publishing the last book in my series two weeks ago, I decided to clean my house. Ugh, what a nightmare. It's spring, well, almost, so in the midst of my cleaning, I decided to do the BIG clean. You know, wash windows, declutter, rearrange furniture. I also have every intention of painting, and putting in new floors. Or at least ripping up the old rugs. Lots to do.

The first couple of days were easy. I didn't even miss my computer. But then, I started to get itchy. You know that feeling -- I'm finished with that one, what do I write next? But I fought it off. I had so much to do in the house I refused to give in to the nagging.


Another couple of days passed. I had some work to do at school so I took care of that. Another couple of days and I went through my closets and Monster's closets weeding out the stuff that doesn't fit. Another couple of days and the kitchen cupboards were straightened out.

I'm not done by any means, that is just the preliminary first draft so to speak. I've given myself until the end of April to finish the house.

In the midst of all this cleaning, I couldn't help think about what to write next. I have six half-finished manuscripts in my hard drive. I have a new Regency series in outline. I've been musing on a new short series of cozy mysteries (those were Monster's idea actually). However, as before, I kept pushing them off. I wasn't ready to sit down again. Like I said, lots to do in the house.

I was talking to an acquaintance about finishing the series and she said, "Well, it must be a relief to have it all done. Ten years is a long time to work on a project. You must be glad you can finally move on with your life."

I didn't think anything of it, but then a couple of days later it hit me. "I can finally move on with my life."


For the last couple of years I've been struggling with a bunch of personal issues -- my health, my ex, my parents' aging and their problems -- I started writing seriously when Monster was a baby. I was still living in Rhode Island then, but also worked part-time. I thought the writing would supplement my income.

When we moved to North Carolina and I couldn't find a job when the crash hit in 2008, I figured I would give the writing thing a chance full-time. It was a wild, bumpy ride and when I started making money, I thought I had made it. I thought I would be set and I wouldn't have to get a "real" job. Yeah, not so much. As we all know, the publishing business changes with the speed of light, and when things are good, they're great. When they're not, it takes awhile to gain that traction again. I've had my share of ups and downs. I'm sick of riding the wave. There's no security no matter how many books I write. (16 so far. Some of them sell well, others, not so much.)

And if I were truthful, I miss working in the real world. I've isolated myself to the point of almost becoming agoraphobic. (Not really, but almost.) I had a gift card for Penney's from Christmas and I went the other day to see what I could spend it on. Oh, the dresses, the shoes, the bags, the cute tops...and I didn't buy anything. Where would I wear any of it? My wardrobe for the last few years has consisted of faded jeans, t's, and sneakers. I don't go anywhere except downstairs to my office or to school. Why do I need to get "dressed"?

Monster is ten now. I want to start dating again. But where would I meet men? It's not like in the old days when I was in the restaurant business and it was easy to meet someone. It's not like I have single friends to set me up, they're all married, with married friends. Just for fun I went on matchesingleharmony.com but those guys are looking for 20-somethings with no baggage.

It's a different world now. Unfortunately, I keep thinking it's 1999 and I'm still 37. I keep thinking I have twenty years ahead of me to make all my dreams come true. I'll be 53 in April. My twenty years are gone. My bucket list has been kicked to the curb. Instead of thinking of retirement and traveling, I have to wonder if I'll ever be able to retire. I just don't have that security.

Which has led me to this place -- this dark and scary place I keep seeing as my future. I'm trying to convince myself that I need to get a real job. One side agrees. It would be good for me to get out of my own head, meet people, have that extra cash. The other half says, if I just keep writing I'll have all that I need. If you build it, they will come. And yes, I do have readers who have turned into fans and that's fantastic. But right now, I need more than that. I think.



See, part of my problem is that I don't know what I want. I think I'm having a mid-life crisis. In the old days I would get a divorce and buy a Corvette. But, I've never been married, and I don't like Corvettes. The question is, where do I go from here?

I guess, back to the Florida room to clear out the remaining junk.

I should also say I'm going to be taking a long blog break to figure this all out. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing From The Inside

Good Morning. I'm almost finished with the final book in my Reluctant Grooms series. WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST. I've been working steadily on this story since Thanksgiving. In it, I examine Lady Olivia's life and why she does the things she does. It has been an intricate journey filled with twists and turns and and angst and depression, grief, heartache, love, loss, and agonizing pain.

One of my best friends, (a mom at school) whom I speak with nearly every day on the phone, wondered where I'd been. She never calls me because she knows I'm writing, so she waits for me to call her. It was three weeks before I picked up the phone.

"What the hell have you been doing? I thought I had done something to piss you off," she said, when I finally called her last Monday.

"No, I've just been writing." We chatted about the book. She's actually my sounding board for plot twists. When I described certain elements of it to her she thought I was a genius. "Brilliant." is what she said. But then she said, "I saw you in car line yesterday. You look awful. Are you okay?"

For the last five weeks, I have been working 14 hours days at the computer. I have sorely neglected my "real life" because Lady Olivia has pretty much dragged me through the ringer. I've cried during every chapter, sometimes nearly every scene. It wasn't something I planned to do, believe me. Making my readers cry with my words is one thing. Making me sob like a little baby is another.

Lady Olivia has always been in the background of all my stories. As other characters say, "She likes to have her hand in all the pies of the aristocracy." From matchmaking and charity work to Parliament and political intrigue, Lady Olivia is a diverse character.

However, she never had her own Point of View in any of the stories. She was always there, giving advice, and scheming to make everything turn out in her favor, but always through the eyes of another person. Until LADY OLIVIA'S UNDOING.

I set her up in UNDOING to take a fall. I don't know why. I thought it was good reading. In THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE, I allow her to fall even further. Yet, once I finished that book, I realized I hadn't done enough. She needed to hit rock bottom.

It hasn't been easy, let me tell you. I cried nearly every day. I've had more than a few sleepless nights pondering over chapters. I suppose I can honestly say I am "suffering" for my art. And here's the kicker. Just as I was almost finished, on the last chapter I might add, I came down with a nasty sinus infection and bronchitis. I tried to write through it, but I had to take a few days off. Lying in bed forced me to examine what I had written and why.

You see, Olivia and I are almost the same age. (I'll be 53, she just turned 56.) She's led a charmed life. So did I for a very long time. And then mine fell apart. I lost everything, (IRA's, my savings, my home, my job, my fiance) all within a couple of months. I hit rock bottom and had to climb out of the mess circumstances had thrown me into. I don't know why, but I wanted Olivia to go through exactly the same thing. I'm thinking that I had never dealt with the nightmare that was my life back then and this was my own personal catharsis.

It wasn't easy putting myself through the emotional roller coaster again. But I dug in and remembered how I felt during that time -- angry, unbelieving, sad, depressed, gob-smacked, furious it had happened, wondering when it would end, how I would ever get out of it.

As a writer, we have to dig deep into our own emotional highs and lows so our characters will be able to SHOW that to our readers. As writers we need to get it from the INSIDE. Granted, it takes courage to be able to look at our past selves and examine where we were, how we felt, and then go through it all over again. And I can tell you, that's why I got sick. Within those six months when I lost my "life" I was also really sick (the beginning of my current health situation I deal with now). Hence, my illness for the last week. History is repeating itself.

Truthfully though, I think this is the best book I've ever written. WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST is the perfect title (thank you Jane Austen) because Olivia has nothing. She's hit bottom and at the end of chapter ten she has lost EVERYTHING, much the same way I did. What else is the poor woman to do? I make her suffer endlessly, because I did. It took me a long time to get from that point in my life to where I am today.

However, in the book, Olivia has a champion -- ME-- who makes it all better by the end of the book. Why? Because I'm a sucker for a happily ever after. I can't tell you what happens, but let's just say she gets what she needs. As have I.

Tell me -- How far do you go for your characters? Do you "suffer" for your art? Do you write from the inside?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Time is Irrelevant

Good Morning. Anne R. Allen had a great post this weekend on what mistakes newbie writers make. I laughed as I read it because I made every single one of them and then some. I thought back to then, and up to now, and how much I learned over the y-e-a-r-s I've been writing.

I've been writing since I was a kid. Just like most of you. There's some inexplicable NEED in us to get the stories out of our heads and onto paper, or in this day and age, onto the screen. In my comment to Anne, I said how I began scratching out my prose on legal pads, and then graduated to a Smith-Corona electronic
typewriter with erasable ribbon. That was big back in the day. No delete button anywhere.

I didn't get my own pc until 2005. I knew how to access email, but other than that, had no clue what a computer could do. I started writing my first story THE LADY'S MASQUERADE on it, copying what I'd written down on legal pads. I had it nearly finished by the time Monster turned 18 months. She was in day care then, while I worked as a housekeeper, and one day I caught her pushing buttons on my pc. Well, it seems the sitter at day care had an old pc that could access games, and Monster wanted to play them on my computer. Alas, she crashed it (or so I thought because I had no idea how to fix the mess she made) and I lost everything on it.

We moved to NC in 2007, and I was back to legal pads. My cousin Tommy is an IT guy and has his own business (very successful I might add). We visited one day in 2008 and he gave me an old XP desk top. Because I knew nothing about computers other than how to access Word, he said it had 5GB of RAM. I asked what that meant. He said, "It can hold 100 books at 100,000 words each." Yay. I could write whatever I wanted and not have to worry about running out of paper.

So here I sit, 7 years later with my obsolete XP desktop, with (has to be by now) a billion words in my RAM. (And I use it every single day.) I have 16 books published, with a few short stories thrown in, writing a half dozen more books that I may or may never finish. I did a mock-up cover for the latest book I'm writing, and put it on Twitter over the weekend.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if I can do it, so can you. We are only as inhibited as we believe we are. "But I can't learn that stuff," you cry. I never believed I could do any of that either. How many times did I want to give up, throw my computer through the window? Gadzooks, I need to meet a person 6 times before I remember their name. Do you have any idea how long it took me to learn how to format a book. IN WORD. Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out how to erase the green and red squiggly lines, or how to set my margins, or how to create headers? A long time. A really long time.

Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure out what a gerund was, or a double negative, or just the basic "rules of writing"? YEARS. Yes, I took high school English. Yes, I took creative writing courses in college, but that doesn't teach you how to write in the real world, for real readers. It teaches you how to write "perfectly". Real people don't want perfect, they want a good story.

A mom at school, who didn't know I was a writer, said, "Oh, you write novels. Gee, that must be really hard." Yes, yes it is. I didn't know "writing is hard work" until I published my third novel. That's when I began to make money. That's when I figured out that writing for money is a JOB.

And with every job in the real world, there's always something new to learn. I read industry blogs to see what's going on. I read writing blogs and craft books to refresh my skills. I figured out which social media I can use to keep my name circulating. I figured out what to do to spur sales. And found out the hard way that it's pretty much -- just keep writing, publish the best book you can, pray a LOT, and hope for the best.

Time is now irrelevant in this new publishing dynamic. I published my first book in 2011. With Amazon's algorithms geared toward indies back then, I rose like a shooting star. I thought I had made it. I thought the rest of my career would be easy. Then with traditional publishing seeking some of that, I sank like a rolling stone. Algorithms change. Only now, 4 years later, with the Grace of God and my series completed have I seen an uptick.

And that's the way it is. Up and down, back and forth. We can't always be on the way up. We have to come down sometime. However, time is irrelevant. If you only have one book in you, then so be it. Write it. Finish it. Publish it. How many authors have only been one hit wonders? Harper Lee. Margaret Mitchell. J.D. Salinger.

And yes, those authors are pretty much national icons now. But how long did it take them to achieve their success?

No matter how long it takes to write THE END, just write the book.
Write the best story you can.
Learn the rules before you break them.
Read the craft books. Even if you think they're hogwash. Read them.
Find your "voice" and don't give in when someone wants to change it.
Learn how to edit.
Learn how to format.
Learn whatever it is you need to do to get the best story possible.

Just keep writing.


Time is irrelevant.


Tell me -- How long did it take you to finish your first book? How long before you published it?


Anne Gallagher (c) 2015