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 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

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Year of the Popcorn Kittens

Good Morning. For the last two weeks, since Monster's winter break began, I've been laying around the house, visiting with friends, eating like a small tornado, and just pretty much been living in the real world -- something I haven't done in almost five years. I had almost forgotten what it feels like to be "normal". Whatever that entails.

I finished the last book in my Reluctant Grooms series in November. Once that went to publication, I went back in and line edited (again) the rest of the books in the series, tweaked a few things in the Hesitant Husbands series, changed my backmatter across all the books, and reformatted everything for upload to Google Play. (Again. No, I haven't uploaded those yet. As soon as Monster returns to school, I'll let you know how it goes.)

As the volunteer Gift Card Coordinator for Monster's school, December is a crazy month. Everyone wants gift cards, second quarter reports are due, end of year reports are due, balance reports are due in January, and next year's projected budget need to be thought about. It's a full time job to be sure, albeit with no pay. While on winter break, I tackled a bunch of that stuff so I could start January with a fairly clean slate.

To say I've been busy is an understatement. I just realized I haven't written a blog post since the beginning of December. I knew it had been awhile, I just didn't think it had been a month.

Now that the series is finished, I've been thinking about my life as a writer. What to do, what to write, where to start. Five years ago, I wrote up a business plan. Believe it or not, I accomplished everything on it. Time to write a new one. Thinking ahead to 2020 has me stymied.

A few years ago, Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a blog post called  "Popcorn Kittens"  (or something to that effect). For those of you who follow her, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. For those of you who do not follow her, you should.

In a nutshell, the post deals with the possibilities of writing whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Oh the ideas! One kept popping up right after another, like the kittens on the video.

And this is where I am right now -- in the middle of a herd of popcorn kittens.

I have so many ideas, I can't decide which one to tackle first.

The beginning novel to the new Regency series?
The contemporary romance that's been sitting on the hard drive for the last 4 years?
The sequel to Remembering You?
The surprise Valentine's Day Regency novella?
The literary fiction that won't shut up in my head?
The short story/flash fiction mash-up contemporary boomer romance that's been haunting me since 2012?
The fictionalized version of the real life drama I endured last year as the gift card coordinator?

I need to make a decision and stick with it.

Writing the Regency series was weird -- in that I had never intended to write an entire series. When I began writing THE LADY'S MASQUERADE, my intention was a trilogy. Now it encompasses 6 novels, and 2 novellas, with another 4 novellas on the side.

During the writing of those first three novels, I also wrote the contemporary romance REMEMBERING YOU. Back then my writing was more or less a hobby. I had no idea what I was doing, had just moved to NC, was trying to find a job, and writing to keep my head out of the depression because the job market tanked (Remember the crash?). Somewhere around the 4th Regency novel, when I received an email from a "fan" did I realize that writing WAS a JOB. (Will someone please explain this to my parents? They still think I'm writing as a hobby.)

The real problem with popcorn kittens is, they're so much fun to watch, I can't get anything done. They aren't part of my job description. After spending five years on Regency romance, I'd like to take a break for a few months. But why then do I feel so guilty every time I think about contemporary romance? If I take a year off to write other things, will my fans desert me? If I start the Regency series, will I be able to finish it in a timely manner? In today's market, it seems if you don't have a new book out every four months you lose whatever traction you've gained. (And I know this from first-hand experience.)

Looking ahead to 2020 (my God, that is just crazy), I know I'll finish up the new series. And maybe throw in a couple of contemporary somethings in there for good measure. I have a lot to write about and I'm sure I'll get new ideas along the way. But for right now, I need to begin something.

Tell me -- Are any of you experiencing this kind of angst about your writing? Are you on track with your business plan? Do you know exactly what comes next in your writing life?

Here for your viewing pleasure is The Original Popcorn Kittens video.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, December 1, 2014

Uploading to Google Play

Good Morning. As I said a few weeks ago, I was trying to upload to Google Play. Let me just say right now, it is a NIGHTMARE. I know what I need to do, and so far have managed to do it, at least THREE times, but the durn system at Google still says I have an unsanitized epub file. Whatever that means.

Here is what I had to do (and why so many people don't upload there.)

First, the interface is horrendous. Nothing is easy. Navigation is foggy at best. You need certain codes for countries, certain codes for monetary denominations, and if you don't have your own ISBN, they'll give you one, but write it down as soon as you get it, because you need to change the name of your files to that.

(Instead of THE LADY'S MASQUERADE.epub I had to write HQ873GKL4986_interior.epub. For the cover, you also have to rename that to HQ873GKL4986_frontcover.jpg. And you need the cover, otherwise the book won't show up in Google Play/Books.)

Second, well, I'll just tell you the steps I had to do. By the time you're finished just reading this you'll have a headache.

Upload the Mobipocket creator to computer. Also upload Calibre with the latest system (2.11.0), and Adobe Digital Editions. All are FREE downloads.

1)Save your Word.doc file to html. (File>save as>webpage filtered (a box will pop up and ask if you want to save it as some of the office specific tags will be lost -- click yes)

2) Upload your html file to the Mobipocket Creator with cover to create a prc.doc. (The same way you'd create a file for upload to Kindle.)

3) Upload your prc.doc to Calibre to create an epub version.

4) Download this file to Adobe Digital Editions to see if you can read it.

5) Then attempt to upload it to Google Play.

Now, as I said, I've done this 3 different times, using 3 different computers (2 laptops one of them a Google Chromebook and a pc). None of them took. Which I still can't understand if I'm using a Chromebook. Land sakes it's made by Google.

I've gotten the run-around asking the HELP desk for help. Bianca said that if I can read it on Adobe, then Google should be able to upload it, and if it's still processing in two days, then write back and they'll check the problem. It's been 4 days. I can read it just fine on Adobe.

I also tried uploading to this new interface called Liberio, which is supposed to create the proper document that Google wants. This is another nightmare. I tried it once, spoke to the creator of this new interface (who is very nice and tried to help all kinds of ways, but had no idea what the problem was with my documents.) Within a week of my problem, they rolled out a new way to upload -- through Dropbox -- which I then tried, but that too did not work. I gave up on Liberio.

Suffice it to say, uploading to Google Play is not easy. However, I'm going to give it one more shot. (Maybe two, I'm going to see if it makes any difference if I use a Word 2007 document rather than a Word 2003. It could make all the difference in the world, but then again it could be another exercise in futility.)

I honestly don't know what the problem is. I've never encountered this problem with any of the other booksellers before. My docs, no matter what they're written on, have always uploaded successfully.

If I had to guess, I'd say my problem is, I have no idea. They (Google) won't tell me. I mean, what is an unsanitized epub anyway? Is there doo-doo in the margins? Did my spilled tea make it into the document? Does it smell? Who knows. No one will tell me. I even Googled "unsanitized epub" and that's when Liberio popped up so you could make a sanitized one.

I wish they would just TELL me what I'm doing wrong so I could fix it. I'm not stupid. No matter what I have to do is a learning curve, but damn it, I've learned just about all there is to learn about publishing documents. I can even read html code. (I'm not very good at it, but I can do it.)

So, my experience with Google Play has not been very good. But that's not to say that uploading there can't be done. I'll let you know how the next round goes.

Tell me -- Do any of you out there have a clue what a sanitized epub is? Have any of you uploaded to Google Play? Did it work? How did you do it?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Can't I Stop Writing?

Good Morning. Last week I finally finished THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE. And I told you the ending sucked. And it did. Well, yesterday I had a brain fart and a whole new ending came tumbling out. Two pages worth, so I wrote it down, wrote The End and called it good. Which I think it was.

However, once I finished, I started to write the first few pages for another story in this series, which is SUPPOSED to be complete. Problem is, I need to write it from a totally different POV. See, I've had all these characters in my head for a long time. They're like my extended family. I know their quirks and their habits, and the way they speak.

And this character isn't new, he's just never made his presence known to me. He's like a ghostly apparition. I know he's there, he's always there, but I know absolutely nothing about him. Well, other than the fact he lost his missionary parents to influenza, he's 55, and he's a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. That's it.

And I don't really HAVE to write this story. The Series is finished. Everyone has their happily ever after. Well, except for one person. One VIP. or should I say one VIC (very important character). And that bothers the snot out of me. I mean, why should this VIC not have a happy ending?

I think, because I'm evil.

I think, because I don't really want to let go of this series.

I think, because I've lost my mind.

Anyway, I started writing this new story. I'm not very far in and I'm not crazy nuts trying to write it and finish it. I'm giving myself until the end of January for that. It's going to be short and sweet and to the point. I'm going to try and release it for Valentine's Day. I think that date is appropriate. Who doesn't love a love story on Valentine's day?


In other news, SEDUCTION is available for pre-order, or will be soon, I only uploaded it this morning. It should be across the board by Thanksgiving.

I finalized my gift card orders for school this morning so I'm don't have to be insane this week worrying about it. That means I'll have more time to blog. FINALLY. I'm still having trouble commenting on certain blogs, and STILL trying to rectify that. If you don't see me, it's not because I don't read you, it's because I can't comment. And it's nothing on your end, it's on mine.

I did all my laundry over the weekend, so today marks the BIG CLEAN. Ugh. I mean, the really BIG CLEAN. Dusting and washing windows, as well as all the other regular cleaning. I would rather scrub a 100 toilets than dust.


Tell me -- Do you ever get the urge to write MORE when you don't really have to? Do you think EVERYONE needs to have a happy ever after? What is your least favorite household chore?


Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Life Smackdown

Good Morning. Well, it's been a month and a couple of days since I've been here last and well, I've been hard pressed to get back into the blogging groove. I know a lot of you are doing NaNo and don't pop up again until the end of November, but I thought I would fill you in.

The Seduction of Mr. Summerville was going well until the end of October. I have now written 76,000 words, but can't seem to find the right ending. Yes, I have it in my head, but getting it down is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had this crazy idea that I needed another "big" thing to get down before I
finished it, and so I put it in. Then I had this other crazy idea that I needed a ghost. Yes, you heard right, a ghost in my Regency romance. It's not paranormal, it's just crazy, and I think it works, but I'll let my critters decide. I set aside this past weekend to finish it (I only needed a few more pages) but, alas, I'm still writing. Maybe by the end of the week.

Google Play Well, after trying to upload for several days to Liberio (the only epub maker that will upload to Google) I found out that both laptops and my pc wouldn't allow me to do it. Luckily, Liberio has opened other channels to accept manuscripts to upload and Dropbox is one of them. I haven't had a chance to get to this yet (see above) but as soon as I do, I'll let you know how it goes.

Anne Gallagher Blog For the last couple of weeks, I've been doing posts about Writing a Series. I try to give helpful ideas of what I did, just in case you wanted to write a series. Or maybe spin-off one of your books. I'm in the final stages of wrapping it up. You can find it here.

Volunteering at School I'm still volunteering at Monster's school as the Gift Card Coordinator, and last week I was also the chairperson for the Veterans' Day Observance we had. It was really nice (everyone said so), and the food was fabulous (everyone said so) and the Vets who came had a really great time (they all said so). I'm glad I did it because I proved that we didn't need to spend any money to throw a reception (all the ladies baked something) and we rounded up loose ends from various programs (coffee cups from the Booster Club, napkins from the cafeteria, table cloths from the PTO, and I used all my pretty platters and bowls from my defunct catering company). It was a lot of work, but something I'm glad I did. Veterans' Day is more important to me than Christmas.

Second Reader Services I've been putting together a small business plan for content editing services that I hope will be ready to launch soon. I've edited/critiqued/helped authors in the past get their books ready to publish, and have gotten pretty good feedback from them. My name has appeared in several acknowledgments, so I think that's high praise indeed. I expect to keep the cost down (so much so that my dearest friends are telling me to go higher because I'm worth it) BUT, I know struggling authors don't have a lot of money. I'm hoping to get this into gear in December.

Other than that, I'm trying to decide whether or not to let Monster get her ears pierced for her birthday in December. She'll be 10. I told her she had to wait until she's 12, but I'm wavering. However, I can barely get her to brush her hair before she goes to school. Can I trust she'll take care of her earlobes? Hmmm....

Tell me -- What are you doing? How is everything? What did I miss?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014