Monday, October 12, 2015

Shout Out for Mac

My friend R. Mac Wheeler has just published his 28th!!! novel and this is a shameless promotion for him. I love his stuff. His voice is distinctive and the stories are wild and wooly. If you haven't read him yet, you should. (My favorites were the REVENIR series--gotta love those vampires. But really, any of Mac's stuff is great. You won't be disappointed.)

Book 3 of the 6 Ways Series

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.

If you haven't read Book 1 or 2, and like to start at the beginning...

Alcoholic parents treated Margarite as an unwelcome stranger, then left her at fourteen with her thirty year old autistic brother. At sixteen, things really sour, thanks to her brother. A medical researcher, Reggie engineers the ultimate plague. Fanatics seek to control him. The government pursues them as terrorists. Margarite witnesses ruthlessness, compassion, and competence she couldn't imagine from her brother, but the world needs a miracle. The best she and Reggie can do is wing it.

Nightmares. Panic attacks. Depression. Margarite is hammered by the typical issues of a seventeen year old loner, whose parents sympathized with insane people intending to collapse civilization. The few who care about Mar have more concerns. Her drinking. Fighting. Jumping out of airplanes.

Her brother engineered the plague that’s breaking out across the globe and she holds a little guilt for not stopping it. Or being one of the first to die. Still, conspirators behind what they call The Correction are not done with her.

The Author
R. Mac Wheeler writes about characters with a lot of baggage, men who make many men look like wimps, tough chicks that can whip most men...puts them in situations that push them to the worlds that don’t overly stretch the imagination.

A former IT professional,  he now focuses full time on suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy  that leverages the quirkiness and baggage of real life more often than the far fetched.

Visit his Home Page: WWW.RMACWHEELER.COM

Monday, October 5, 2015

And Then It All Fell Apart

So, two weeks ago, I was well on my way to completing my latest WiP. I had the ending outline, knew where it was going, how I was going to get there and then BOOM. It blew up in my face. I had to go back to Chapter 2 to find a conversation thread and as I read it, I realized the plot wasn't going to work.

Talk about a bummer. I took a few days and mulled it over, rethinking the whole thing, hoping maybe I could MAKE it work the way the story was written. Nope. Well, yeah, it could, but it wouldn't be believable. Okay, that's not true, it would have been believable, but only to a certain few. And I don't need bad reviews.

I discussed the problem with two friends who aren't writers and although they agreed that I could probably finish the story the way I wanted, readers would have had to REALLY get behind the premise of love at first sight. And as I thought about it, the main character, Cathryn, wasn't really believing it either. Lots of great internal dialogue, but I think if you have to QUESTION if you love someone, then you probably don't.

Of course it's been a long time since I've been in love and in writing this book, I've had to really dredge up memories that probably should have been left locked up where they were. Obviously, I haven't been lucky at it, and if I had been, I'd probably still be in it. Right?

So now what? Well, for the most part, I'm just too busy to care. Real life has once again taken a nasty turn and I'm knee deep in school crap again. Also, when I write, I like to block out days to get it done. Say Tues Wed Thurs for 6-8 hours per day (not necessarily in that big of a chunk, but split the day into shifts). However, I haven't been able to block off any days in a row.

When do I think the book will be finished? I've now given myself until the end of October. Why? Because I have no choice.

Am I working on something else? Well, yes. I can't not write. I've gone back into the new Regency I started last March. And I've dabbled a little bit with the mystery detective stories again.

Am I freaking out? Yeah, kind of, a little bit. But hey, the way I figure it, it'll get done when it gets done. And hopefully, still in time for Christmas.

So tell me -- What do you do when you're almost at the end and you realize it's not going to work? Do you leave it alone? Or continue to work on it? Or do you make yourself sick on chocolate and pistachio ice cream?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Down to the Wire

Good Morning. I had worked on a blog post over the weekend for today, but then abandoned it. Friday night I was at 68K on my latest WiP and decided to do the dreaded outline. I never outline before I start writing, I just follow where my nose (and characters) lead. However, once I get to the 3/4 mark, I usually give myself a little nod as to where it all ends up.

Friday night I wrote the last plot points, climaxes, and big surprises. I left out the denoument because I'm still not sure what's going to happen at the very, very end. My characters have already thrown me for a loop several times. I figure I'll just wait and see what happens.

I've given myself until the end of September to finish it. Almost 10 days. And you think that would be easy, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's not going to happen. This is the second deadline I've given myself (originally supposed to be finished by the end of August). I NEED to get this done. And not for any reason other than, I'm dying to see how it ends. HAH!

I've put a lot of work into this one, and even though I'm writing the book, my characters have completely taken over the story. Revelations keep popping up and startling me. Don't you just love it when you find out you're totally brilliant/insane? Lol.

Once it's finished, I'll be able to tell you all about it. I hate to jinx myself. Hopefully, next Monday I'll have a cover reveal and back cover copy because once it's finished it's going up for pre-order. I'm very excited about this book. VERY EXCITED. I'll be looking for reader/reviewers so stay tuned.

Tell me -- Do you outline at the end or the beginning or are you a strict pantster? Do your characters surprise you? Do you have moments of brilliance or are you just insane?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Real Life, Real Writing

Good Morning. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. That's where I've been. I started writing a new contemporary romance sometime at the end of July, abandoning my mystery detective series. Why, you may ask if I was having fun writing out of my preferred genre.

Because sometime at the end of July, I found a book I had written two years ago sitting on my desk-top hard drive. It was finished and even published, but then I sent it to a writer friend who said, "This basically sucks." You see, I had written the book with very broad strokes and as he said, "There's nothing to push back on. There's no substance, no structure. Yes, it's informative, but there's no STORY."

I was crushed, as this author is someone I highly regard, so I promptly unpublished it and left it alone. When I found it again, I thought, "Hmmmm. I think I'm ready to tackle this. I think I know what to push back on."

Let me digress.

As you may or may not know, I'm a single parent. I had a volatile relationship with Monster's father, who came and went into our lives when ever he felt like it. I'm over the hurt, disappointment, and pain, Monster is relatively well-adjusted, and I decided after ten years, I was ready to look for a man. 

Not so easy. There's a whole lot of stuff I needed to take into consideration with this endeavor, and decided that I would just LOOK and SEE what was out there instead of jumping into the dating pool again. In my little microscopic world, there's no one.

I have no friends with single male friends to set me up with, they're all married. I refuse to do online dating. I don't go to bars or clubs (I think I'm just too old for that now.) We have no family where I could meet a friend of a cousin. Monster attends a private school where everyone is married. No single men anywhere. 

Until Stanley. (Not his real name.) Stanley's children attend school with Monster. He was married and his wife, through circumstances I won't discuss, left him a few years ago. Stanley is in the military and has always been our key-note speaker for our Veteran's Day Celebration. I've always been a sucker for a man in uniform and for the last several years have had a mild crush on him. He's very nice, handsome, and very smart. Fine attributes all.

We've had a few brief encounters at the PTO meetings, Veteran's Day, and volleyball games. He laughs at my jokes and takes me seriously when I discuss serious things. I think we're "friends" now, rather than just mere acquaintances. 

There is no way I would date this man. Not that I wouldn't want to, but life in a private school is a fish bowl and our children don't need to be involved in the gossip. Besides, he hasn't asked me out, and I would never ask him. Just too old-fashioned.

Moving forward...

As I discussed this infatuation with my friend one day, (because what woman doesn't discuss falling in love with her BFF), a whole array of topics were brought to light that I hadn't even considered before. Primarily, how hard it was, as a woman over 50 (!) with a ten year old daughter to find a man who was willing to date her. (I'm not looking for a relationship, just a date.)

As a writer, if I find someone foolish enough to listen to me babble on about plot points and story structure, I will talk their ear off. As my BFF and I discussed Stanley, the root of the new story began to take shape. Conversations about Stanley began to taper off and the story took hold.

My BFF, LOVES this story. She wants me to finish it so she can read it and she's not a big reader. I call her every day to fill her in on where I am in the writing and how I'm going to get to the Happily Ever After. 

After a particularly trying day (stress in my personal life is through the roof), I started discussing progress on the book. My BFF said, "It's so nice you have something to look forward to. You're so happy when you talk about your writing. You love it so much."


Writing is hard work, and the Regency series eventually became a "chore". I had lost the magic in writing until I stopped writing for "business" and started writing for fun again. Developing the mystery detective series was fun. 

However, this contemporary romance is something I'm particularly excited about as it explores the "plight" of single women everywhere--how they meet men, where they meet men, what women actually want in a man rather than the fantasy they've all dreamt of, and also, what real men are actually looking for in a woman. As we all know, men and women think differently when it comes to relationships and that is what this book is all about.

In case you were wondering, it should be out by Christmas.

Real Life. Real Writing.

Tell me -- Do you pull your stories from real life? Has writing become a "chore"? Have you switched genres to find the fun again?When was the last time you went out on a date?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Not a whole lot. Or maybe too much. I can't decide. Monster and I didn't go anywhere this summer so I cleaned the house and wrote a bunch of stuff. Murder mysteries for one, and a contemporary romance for another. Still not finished with any of it -- cleaning or writing. But here are a few pics (because I really don't have a lot to say. School started last week, Monster is playing volleyball, I got roped into more PTO junk and I'm just flat out for the next few weeks.)

So much junk

After (First coat. Looks better with 2 but didn't take pics)

Before it was soooo dark

Now it's soooo bright (again, only 1st coat)

the new color for my dining room

It's dark in the pic, but it looks nice in the room

So, that's what we've been doing.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What I Learned (Am Learning) Writing Murder Mysteries

As an historical romance novelist, my pages are filled with angst, longing, yearning, the promise and hope of love, and the absoluteness of happily ever after. As a first time murder mystery writer -- there's none of that.

First and foremost, I thought writing a murder mystery would be semi-easy. I wouldn't have to do much research on word choices, I could use contractions, I pretty much grew up where the novels are set, and I have a couple of yearbooks where I could pick my character's names from. The plot lines were supposed to be fun -- I had killed a half dozen people in my head over the course of my lifetime. Bad bosses, a couple of frenemies, not to mention nasty ex-boyfriends. How hard could it be?

*cue the laughter*

Research Is Killing Me

Killing people takes guts. It also means you have to know about guts, and physiology, biology, science, chemistry. You need to know where bullets holes go in and out, what happens when a particular body part gets hit by a bullet, the difference between the sizes of bullets to make bigger or smaller holes, and how long it will take to recuperate from said bullet wound. And that's just for starters.

Do we want to talk about poison? Chemical reactions? Deterioration of evidence? Chemical compounds? Knife wounds vs. bullet wounds? Yeah, I didn't think so.

To put it simply, you can't just write whatever you want. People will laugh. Especially people who actually protect this country from bad guys for a living. And I hate being laughed at. So research it is. I'm finding I research when I need to know, not before. Also, what you think is simple common sense, isn't.

For instance, my MC has a gun. The gun has a magazine for the bullets. In researching, I found out that most police officers don't call it a gun, they call it a weapon. They don't have bullets, they have rounds. They don't have magazines, they have clips. (Or vice versa, I forget.) They also don't call cars, cars, they're called vehicles. They also don't generally say "10-4" anymore. Real life isn't Adam 12. (How many of you remember that show?)

Research takes time, and for anyone who wants to write (anything), if you're not going to do the research, don't write the book. (This statement also applies to the blog post I wrote last week. Thanks to VR Barkowski for reminding me.)

Writing About Murder is NOT for Sissies

The first book (novella) I wrote, was this crazy idea I had one day because the characters in my head would not shut up. I said, "Okay, if I get this out, will you please leave me alone?" They all agreed and so I wrote it from start to finish in 17 days. It was a rush, and I felt proud that I did that quickly. (Not exactly a sucky first draft, but after two critique partners read it, I know what's it's missing and where it needs to go.)

The characters begged me to write another story. I figured, hey why not. I can blast out another one. It's summertime after all. I'm on vacation. However, this story was different. The plot was about a cold case murder that had been languishing in the police department for forty years. My MC finally gets a break in the case and he learns pretty much what happened the night of the murder. Suffice it to say, it was not pretty. What the murderers did to this poor girl had me depressed for DAYS. And she is only a character.

I was absolutely distraught because, well, I knew what happened to her long before anyone else did. The problem was, now I had to get it down on paper (laptop). Writing that scene was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write. In the first book, the murder had already taken place and I only shared the details sparingly throughout. In this book I had no choice but to make the murder scene/sequence as real as I could get it. Yikes.

This book is not going to end with a happy ending or even a clear resolution to the murder. I'm dreading that scene as well, but it will have to be written. Police work does not always bring the bad guys to justice. And that's hard for a writer who's used to writing happily ever afters.

Slitting My Own Throat

Overwriting is the bane of my existence. I want these stories to be tight, well-worded scenes that flow from one chapter to the next. I want the writing to be hard and fast, in your face because that's how I want to write it. That's not the case. I'm finding I'm heavy with dialogue, explaining everything twice (because one character knows something that another character doesn't). And because I'm a pantster I don't follow an outline. Editing is going to be a nightmare because it's all about the clues -- who knows what when. I want to make sure it's all in there. I don't want people to say the story dragged or that they missed something because I inadvertently cut it out.

I also want my characters to sound realistic. One of my biggest challenges is that most cops, most real people of my acquaintance swear. I don't want to offend my readers, not that these books are rife with F-bombs, but peppered with shit, hell, damn it, son-of-a-bitch, bastard, and asshole. In this day and age, are those considered swears? I hear them on tv all the time. And I don't even get HBO. I hear them in the grocery store. I hear them at the gas station. I use them myself.  If my hero gets shot, he's not going to say, "Oh, drat." He's not even going to say, "Damn it!" He's going to use strong language. Right now, I'm leaving everything in. And yes, I've read detective/mystery/thrillers in which no offensive language is used. Amazed and shocked was I that it could be done. But that's not me. It's not my voice. However, when I go through edits, I'm sure most of them will go. It's a fine line between realistic and offensive.

The Kiss of Death

In writing this series of books, (what was I thinking writing a series!) my MC the detective has a deceased wife. She's been gone five years, and only now, since he's met the psychic does he think about women again. He doesn't want to become involved because he thinks he's not good enough. He's a small town detective, she's a once-famous celebrity. He also doesn't think he's ready to let go of his deceased wife. Love, and all its complications, must play a role in these books. Why, you may ask? Because love is the glue that holds people together, whether they're together or not.

I also have several other characters who are in the midst of breaking up or trying to stay together. Why am I sub-plotting all this craziness? Why drag the romance into murder mystery? Because most murders are considered to be crimes of passion. (more research). Passion is the element that lies underneath love and hate. It's all very psychological bouncing passionate murders against passionate lovers and I don't quite understand it all, but I like the idea of it, and well, it's my series, and I'm writing it that way.

Killing My Darlings

Why am I doing this? I'm supposed to be writing another historical series, not messing around with murder. I'm also supposed to be finishing up a contemporary romance I've had kicking around for years. (That I totally promised myself I would do at the beginning of the summer.) Why am I killing myself trying to write books in days rather than months?

Because it's fun.

Writing the historical romance series was fun in the beginning. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just writing, writing, writing, books that I wanted to read because I couldn't find any historical romances that were like Jane Austen's. (I'm sorry, I just don't like Georgette Heyer.)

Writing this detective series is fun for me. I get to challenge myself mentally (research), spiritually (good vs. evil), emotionally (love, hate, death, life), and physically (10-12 hours days because I just can't stop writing). I also have no idea what I'm doing, and so far, I've only let two people read it, so there are no reviews to cry over. (Remember the Kryptonite from last week?)

I also think it's fun because I'm exploring contemporary characters, which I haven't done in almost ten years. I don't have to think about social mores, or social classes, about a society that only exists in history books. I'm right there, in the middle of someone's life, someone I might know (if he actually existed). I'm diving into the depths of what it means to be human, what makes someone who they are, in the here and now, good, bad, and everything in between. I don't have the strict rules of writing historical fiction to get in my way.

So, that's what I've learned. So far.

Tell me -- What genre do you get the most fun out of writing? Do you like the challenge of writing something different or do you stick with what makes you comfortable? Do you have any tips for writing murder mysteries?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Important Lessons I've Learned About Writing

With any new job, there's a learning curve. Take waitressing for example -- in the beginning, I just kept my little pad and a pen on me all the time. Over the course of several months, I didn't need the pad and pen anymore, I could remember the order. I could remember customer's names and what they drank. I could get my side-work finished and be out the door come closing time without having to look at the closing list. I think if I ever took another waitress job, it would be second nature. Sort of like riding a bike. I might not want to take a spin, but I remember HOW to do it.

Same with writing. I can't TEACH you POV, or dialogue, or structure, which is why I don't do it on the blog. I've been writing for almost ten years full-time and now it's just stuff I know how to do. Fingers on the keyboard, butt in chair -- GO. I had to practice, and practice makes almost perfect, and now it's just second nature. The way a pianist practices scales.

There are tons of books and articles, and blogs, and videos to learn HOW to write, but you can't really learn it until you actually DO it. You can sit in the restaurant all day long and watch the waitresses, but you won't actually know HOW to waitress until you walk up to that first table and say, "Hi, how are you. Are you ready to order?"

And don't get me wrong, I didn't just write a book and BAM I know how to write. I've read craft books, studied other writers, and blogs, written my million words of shitty first drafts. Those things helped to TIGHTEN my writing, but they didn't actually TEACH me how to write. I just sat down one day and wrote "Chapter One" because that's what I wanted to do.

Jhumpa Lahiri said:

“All writing, all art is just a wild leap off a cliff because there’s nothing to support you. You’re creating something out of nothing, really.  No one’s telling you to do it.  It comes from within, and it’s a very mysterious process, at least for me.  I still don’t understand how I write a story or a book.  I don’t understand how it happens.  I mean, I know it takes time, I know it takes effort, I know it takes lots and lots of drafts and hours, but I still really don’t understand the internal mechanism of how it really happens.”

Lesson # 1
Write what you want to read.

You can't write for the market, the market changes in a heartbeat. Ten years ago, it was all about wizards, and sparkly vampires, two years ago it was all about the shade between black and white. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Write what you can't find in the marketplace. Write what makes you happiest to read. There are other people out there who will want to read it too. I write traditional Jane Austen type Regency romances. They don't have sex and they don't have contractions. I wanted to read something without a heaving bosom and washboard abs on the cover. I couldn't find it. So I decided to write it.

Lesson #2

Write about what you know.

I recently sat in on an online conference and mostly it was about non-fiction. How to make a bazillion dollars writing a book about beet farming. And hey, if you know all there is to know about beet farming and you think there's a market for that idea, then go for it. Write that book. You probably could make a bazillion dollars.

It's the same in fiction -- stick to what you know.  I also write contemporary romances that are set in Rhode Island with crazy ethnic families. WHY? Because that's what I know. You have a penchant for parakeets, you love cozy mysteries, and your Aunt Matilda is the town gossip -- well, there's a book if ever I heard one. You dress up every year for Halloween as Frank Sinatra, noir is your favorite genre, and you would totally love to time travel. Go for it.

Lesson #3



My favorite quote of all time from Margaret Atwood (THE HANDMAID'S TALE). I've had it on my blog forever. To me it means, no matter what anyone says about your writing, don't let it stop you from writing. Don't let ANYONE stop you from writing. Your mother, husband, BFF, writing teacher. If you're not good now, it doesn't mean you'll never be good. You don't know what you don't know, and practice makes almost perfect. (Nothing is "perfect" but it can be damn near close.)

I recently sent a story to a friend of mine for a quick critique. I thought it was fantastic. I thought I wouldn't have to tweak any of it. Yeah, not so much. It came back with several (okay, lots) of "suggestions" on how to make the story better. And it hurt (because I have the ego of Superman), and one well-meaning "suggestion" is like Kryptonite for me. I went through my usual two days of self-doubt and throwing in the towel, but then I got over it. Those crits weren't going to stop me from doing what I love. As a matter of fact, it only gave me more reason to "show him". I'll make this story the BEST DAMN STORY I've ever written.

7/28/15 Post Script -- Thanks to Maria for pointing this out in the comments. 

It's hard to think that I'm NOT a "perfect" writer. I ask for help from critique partners and because my EGO is larger than my pea-sized brain, I tend to get all grumpy about their suggestions. As I said to Maria in the comments, Critters are the best people on the planet. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. And generally, 9.5 times out of 10, I always take their suggestions and put them in the book. For #3, I guess I should have made the point about those people who aren't writers who nay-say our "little hobby", or trivialize our passion for the art. You know, those people who say, "Oh, you're writing a book -- how quaint." Or "You're writing a book -- WHY? What do you have to write about." You know, the mean ones. We all have mean people in our lives. Don't let those bastards grind you down. Keep plugging. Keep working at it. Don't let nay-sayers have their way.

Lesson #4

Learn your craft.

You couldn't be a mechanic if you didn't know what a torque wrench was. And sure, I've just said write -- what makes you happy, what you want to read. But the caveat is you need to learn the CRAFT of writing. It's not just stringing a couple of sentences into a couple of paragraphs into a couple of pages into a book. It's about grammar, and punctuation, and spelling, and structure.

YOU CAN'T BREAK THE RULES UNLESS YOU KNOW THEM. Did you know you can't use a semi-colon in dialogue? Even though Word says you can. Do you know the difference between a 3-act structure and a 5-act? Do you know the difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and omniscient POV? Do you know the difference between an em-dash and an ellipse? Learn the tools of your trade and the correct way to use them. You wouldn't put a fuel cap on a tie rod.

Lesson #5

Writing is hard work.

Sure, we all saw the instant overnight success of sparkly vampires and pale colors. Sure, we're all jealous. I know I am. Hey, I'd love to have something I write be turned into a hit movie or make the NY Times Bestseller list. Who of us wouldn't. But those are just dreams I hold onto because they're fun. Like winning the lottery. I spend the millions in Powerball every week. But I don't buy a ticket. What would I do with millions of dollars? Buy the stuff I need, make sure Monster has enough for college and give the rest of it away. I wasn't raised to be idle.

I write for a living, and I love my job. I can't see myself ever retiring. And with every job I've ever had, I gave it 110%. Including this one. Every time I sit down at the computer I give it everything I can. No, I don't write every day. I can't. But during the days I do, or the hours that I can, I'm in it until I know I've given 110%. Until I'm satisfied with the outcome. Until I can honestly say, "Job well done."

Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing your self to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.

Mary Lou Retton

Extra Lesson 

Social media doesn't sell books. I don't care what anyone says. The only thing that sells books is still word of mouth and a damn good book.

Tell me -- Have you any lessons you want to add? Share them in the comments.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015