Monday, July 18, 2016

Writing to the Muse

Good morning. Here's something I haven't talked about in a really long time. Writing to the muse. Or in my case, when I get a bunch of free time and I can slack on
"You wrote that?"
the housework, and just write to my heart's content. Those times just don't come along very often. You know exactly what I'm talking about. The ever elusive "time" when you "work" outside of writing. (I consider MY writing, what I do when I sit at my desk, ass in chair, hands on keyboard, WORK. See what I did there. MY WORK.)

However, with ill and aging parents, a man still sleeping in my kitchen, and Monster who wants to go to the pool every day, I also "work" outside of writing. It takes a considerable amount of finagling these days just to find time to take a shower.

I follow a "school" schedule because of my volunteer "job" as the gift card coordinator, so in the winter I can only write in blocks of time during the day. We have 10 days for Thanksgiving break. 14 Days for Christmastide. 10 for Spring. During those blocks of time over the last three years, I have spent remodeling/painting/landscaping my house. So, it all boils down to summer writing.

I hate to say it, even on my last official vacation 3 years ago (I can't believe it's been so long...) I wrote 130k words over six weeks. I confess, it was so cold at the beach, I was grateful Monster found two friends across the street and went to the beach with them.

I have to tell the truth, I royally screwed myself when I came up with the concept for this new series I'm writing. It interweaves characters from the first series into this one. (Last night I realized I'm going to have to edit most of the Reluctant Grooms when I finish with these stories, so the connections are seamless.) And also answers some of the questions I've been asked by readers to clarify. I guess. I still don't really know what the hell I'm doing. I had a what if moment four years ago and said "Hey, why not? Has it ever been done before? I'm willing to test my boundaries of structure within a novel." What the hell was I thinking?

However, I must also confess, I am enjoying getting to know these characters. They have sparked my interest and curiosity, and quite honestly, are not the people I thought I knew. So that's nice. They've been keeping me on my toes.

Writing to the muse -- or -- when all your shit is done and you have some free time.

Do you keep a strict writing schedule? Do you find time even though there is none? Do you have a muse?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2012

Monday, July 11, 2016

Is It Manic or Maniac?

Well, since LAST week, I put another 20k words on my latest WiP. However, with that comes uncertainty, sore shoulders, and swollen ankles. I've been writing like a maniac in manic mode, or maybe I should say panic mode.

This could be Henry
Panic because I just want to finish this damn book. You can't even know how much I want to. Finish. This. Book. If I could just finish it, I could start the next one. I know, I know, and then fight the same battle with the next one.

I've gotten through all the backstory. I pushed past the first of several hurdles for Catherine and Henry. I initiated the final climax. And I can see the end in sight.

The problem is, I'm not sure where to stop. Do I stop at the climax and leave a cliff-hanger ending. Or do I wrap it all up? It is a series after all, but the books do follow each other in sequence, so in essence, each book is a cliff-hanger. (See, panic. How did I create such a mess?)

I don't know. And I won't know how this first book ends until I get there. Perhaps today. (Wouldn't that be nice?)

Also, I realize this post is fluffy, and I only wrote it so I can have 667 posts in my feed. I had 666 posts written since I started this blog, and that number always creeps me out, so that's why I wrote this post.

Anyway, I hope you have a great week. I'll be writing. What about you? What are you doing this week?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

Full Steam Ahead

Sorry about all the "ship" analogies, but it's summer and I grew up on the beach. Not the same, I know, however, beach=ocean=ships. (That's the way my brain works.)

Well, since last week, I wrote 7000 words on my languishing Regency romance. I finally found my way through the weeds (a waitress metaphor) and cleaned up the first seven chapters and added another two. Yay me.

What I discovered this week while writing, was that in this story I have become a bare bones writer. I got down basic setting, dialogue, and that's pretty much it. I think the problem is.  I've had this series in my hard drive for 4 years. I know it inside and out.

There is no surprise. The characters all have their predestined story lines figured out. There's no room for unexpected character diversions. Nothing will happen as I write that will make me say "Oh, wow. I never saw that coming."

See, people, real people, surprise me all the time. I never know what they're going to do or say. It's a constant head game.

I think characters should do the same thing. In each of my contemporary romances, when I couldn't figure out where the story was going, I usually started a fire, or blew something up, or had a car crash. The characters would have to "react." Surprise!

But this first novel in the Regency series has so much backstory, there's no room for surprise. Well, yes, little surprises like a sudden case of "Soldier's Nerves" (PTSD-yes, they had that way back then but it wasn't called that), or the fact that Stoney has to return to the Peninsula. (He was supposed to stay and marry Mercy.) Or the fact that Henry and Olivia are playing a game of cat and mouse. (Every time he goes to find her, she's not there. Very frustrating, but a great second story line -- will they or won't they get together?)

I knew I needed help to correct this problem, and I wanted to do something that would bring back my spark, my zing, the SURPRISE that I would feel while writing again.

Just for fun, I decided to pick up a Regency romance novel and read it. Something I haven't done in nearly 10 years. Why don't I read, you may ask? Because I'm afraid -- afraid of plagiarizing, afraid of stealing story lines, character names, incidents. I want MY books to reflect MY ideas, MY creativity, MY characters. It's just my way not to read anymore.

Anyway, it was published in the 90's, and written by a really famous Regency author.
Let me just say, I nearly threw it across the pool. Head-hopping, purple prose, -ly words by the ton filled the first five pages. I couldn't finish the first chapter.

What surprised me about this book was that it used to be one of my favorites. I must have read it twenty times. When I started it by the pool I was surprised how disgusted I was with the writing.

Does that make me a snob? I don't know. I know my reading habits have changed over the years. I also know that publishing has changed over the years. The question I have is--

Are we more sophisticated or less sophisticated readers than we used to be?

While I was playing with my options in Word, I ran across the "Readability Statistics" something that I turned off a long time ago. Just for fun I turned it on again and was shocked when it finally appeared. My Flesch-Kinkaid Reading level was Grade 3.9.

Let me just say WOW. That hurt. I like to pride myself on the fact that I'm pretty smart. Not rocket science, but I can hold my own in pretty much any arena.

So does this Flesch-Kinkaid Reading level thing mean I'm not as smart as I think I am?
The novel I'm writing is not as intellectually stimulating as I think it should be?
Should I just get over it because technically it's just a first draft?

What do you think? Do you ever wonder if you're really as smart as you think you are? Do you watch Jeopardy? Do you read older books and wonder what the hell the publisher was thinking?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Resume All Engines

So, it's been four months since I was last here. Seems like forever. I've turned on my laptop several times in the last several weeks to share the progress of Robert's injuries, but turned it off. I didn't want to whine.

Robert had his surgery, everything went according to plan, the doctor has given him a good prognosis--Robert should be walking again by the end of the summer. Unfortunately, that's not soon enough for me. I know, I know, people have said "it could have been so much worse". Yes, it could have, I'm thankful that it wasn't, but I'm sick of playing nursemaid--especially when I know Robert is capable of doing many things from his wheelchair but chooses not to. *whine*

I haven't written a word since March 9. Okay, that's a fib. I've written maybe 500 words since March 9. It's not enough. As a matter of fact, it deflates me as my usual word count hovers around 2000-3000 words per session. I can't seem to get into any kind of groove. Maybe because every time I sit down, I hear the cry from upstairs..."I need...Can I have...Where is my..." Not to mention, every five seconds Monster is hungry. *whine*

What's a writer to do if she's not writing? Well, I'll tell you. My house has never been so clean. The laundry is all done, nary a dirty sock to be found. The dust bunnies have vanished. The kitchen sink sparkles. The closets are immaculate. Trips to Goodwill have claimed two car loads of stuff. Did I mention I hate housework? *whine*

I finally got up the gumption to skip through the blogosphere and found I had missed soooo much. It's so disheartening. I never wanted to be one of those people who just disappeared, and then I was. I feel like such a slug. *whine*

I promised Monster this year that we would get a pass for the community pool down the street. We enjoyed it for the first three days, until sun poisoning and a hacking cough claimed us both. I thought it would be fantastically fun, and Monster would finally find some neighborhood friends. Not a chance. All the girls at the pool are either younger or older than her, and she just doesn't want to hang out with me. Needless to say, we haven't been to the pool as much as I expected. *whine*

So, where does all this leave me? I'm not sure. The only thing I do know is that I have to get back to it somehow. Get back to writing. So here I am. I figured if I posted something, anything, even if I whined (and I hate doing that) it might help me find some kind of groove again. We'll see if it works.

Thanks for listening.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

Forced Stop

Last month I wrote a post whining about the Blogging Conundrum-- do I? Don't I? Does it help within the sphere of publishing? Yes, no, maybe. There's no right or wrong answer, basically just do it if you want to, don't if you don't.

Last Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to put my priorities in order. Yeah, in the giant sphere of life, blogging isn't all that important.

On Wednesday morning at 9:38, Monster's father fell off the roof cleaning the gutters. I know exactly what time it happened because I had just come out of the house with the broom to sweep the stuff into the bin. I heard stumbling on the roof and then I watched him fall. Twelve feet from the roof onto the cement of the carport. It was a James Bond movie. All of a sudden this guy is landing in my driveway.

I called the EMT's they took him in. He broke both of his feet. Yes, BOTH of his feet. Left ankle, right heel. Instead of falling, he jumped, and landed straight down on his feet like a cat. The doctor told me on Sunday morning, Robert's prognosis is a year, at best, before he'll be able to stand on his broken heel. He will never walk right again.

This is a total guilt trip--I told him the gutters needed to be done. He's a roofer, that's what he does. Or did, until he took disability. But I knew he had experience on a roof.

I've had to wrangle the insurance claims, the Social Worker case manager, the hospital doctors and nurses, the PT guys, the medical equipment company who is coming to my house to bring a hospital bed, wheelchair, commode, walker, and other assorted items that a complete invalid might need. I've had to set up appointments for future care, and wrangle transportation to and from the doctor's office.

I've had to arrange for all this because Robert will not be allowed to go to a rehab facility.
The insurance company will not pay for rehab because the doctor said Robert was in for observation, not as a patient. That's a whole other side line I won't get into. It was HOURS of bureaucracy. Yes, let's thank the doctor for that as well.

*Pause for the telephone* I am writing this on Saturday morning.

Robert just called and said they were going to release him today. With no equipment in the house. His doctor gave me a follow up call two minutes later and said they were going to release him today. I explained to him the equipment wasn't here-- there was a long dramatic pause-- and then he said, "Well, we'll see if we can get it sorted out." I also explained to him that Robert needed to be taken home by ambulance on a stretcher because his (the doctor's orders) were that Robert was NOT supposed to be on his feet at all. Obviously. The doctor said, "Well, we'll see."

*Pause again for telephone.*

The lovely Ginger from After-Care at the hospital said she spoke to the Doctor who is releasing Robert today. I asked about the equipment. She said she'd get back to me. Fifteen minutes later she returned my call and said she spoke to the medical supply company who is bringing the bed and said they couldn't get out here until Monday. Not five minutes later, I received another call from the medical supply company that said they couldn't get out here with the bed until Monday.

I am writing this next on Sunday morning.

Robert now needs to have a bed downstairs. Unfortunately, the only way to bring Monster's full downstairs, is if I clean the entire house, move furniture, and spring clean at the same time. So, that is what I did, from Friday night into Saturday morning. It looks like I may even be able to paint upstairs now that he's living on the main floor. (I have to look at the bright side somewhere.)

Robert is now in bed, (which I will also have to move BACK upstairs tomorrow morning before the medical supply company arrives with the hospital bed.) He is happily encased in purple haze of pain medication. I am trying to figure out which closet to clean next.

Tomorrow brings a whole other nightmare of phone calls and furniture.

In the larger scheme of things, blogging is NOT important when the fit hits the shan.

There's a line from an old song

"... don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day."

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Blogging Condundrum

I fell into blogging just by sheer luck. Way back when, when Monster was in "play-school" (or Pre-K I guess is what they call it), a mommy told me that as a writer I should start a blog. I asked, "What is that?" I had no idea, having come into computer life very late. She said I would benefit from it as a writer.

Seven years later, here I am. It seems odd to me that I've been in the blogosphere for that long. Mind you, I'm not prolific. I don't share the secrets of the ages, I don't expound on glorious new ideas or even generally have anything important to say. I guess, I basically use it as a diary of sorts and perhaps share my opinions.

I do like to blog. I have friends here in this virtual world that I like to keep up with. I learn things. I have discussions about writing that I can't have anywhere in the "real world". The problem is, and I hate to admit it, for some time now I just don't want to do it anymore.  

I'm a writer. It's my job. Lucky for me, it's also my passion. I would rather spend fourteen hours a day in my made-up world than do anything else. Blogging hurts my bottom line of hours that I can actually write. I liken it to Pinterest. I went on there to pin one picture last Sunday and I ended up spending four hours looking through a billion pins. Blogging is the same thing. I scroll through my feed, check out a post, follow a comment to another post, then end up lost in space. 

Four hours to me is twenty pages. And it's bad enough I lose all track of time when I'm writing that I forget to feed the Monster. (How many times have I heard "I'm hungry. Are you going to make me dinner?") 

As a single parent and a single income earner, every monthly check depends on how many books I sell. More books = more pay. However, if I don't talk about my books no one knows I've written one. Where does one talk about one's books? On the blogs.

For the last few years, I've also been very active at Monster's school volunteering. It's a part-time job. Literally. With no pay. Talk about cutting into writing time. So, in order to make up the time I've lost writing, something else has to go, and that equals blogging. 

I hate the idea of giving it up for good. I really do. I hate the idea of losing friends. And you may say, well, just blog once a month, or only when you have something important to say. Or get on a schedule. Yeah, we all know what happens to schedules in my world. The best laid plans...

Over the course of the last seven years, I've seen very prolific bloggers leave. I always wonder what happened to them. Did they get famous and just don't have the time? Did something happen in their personal life? Did they move their blog to FaceBook? Did they just give up? I don't want to be one of those people. I don't want people wondering "Whatever happened to Anne?"

I've had this discussion several times over the last few weeks with other friends on the blogs. It seems for those of us who have been here for a long time, the allure has faded. We have nothing to say. Or rather, does what we say matter? I haven't had a new blogger join my little group in almost three years. Does that mean I don't want any? No. It just means communication is done differently these days. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, God knows what else is around the corner. I can't keep up with the blog. How can I keep up with anything else?

I don't really know why I wrote this post. It's on my mind. It's my opinion. I don't need advice. No matter what you say about the blogging conundrum, believe me, I've heard it before. 

Tell me -- How do you feel about blogging? Are you ready to chuck it? Have you found something else to occupy your time? Do you have a schedule? Do you love your blog?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Truths I Tell Myself

After last week with my lying, I figured I would search out the truth. This is what I came up with.

I'm a good writer. 

Yup. I am. A good writer. I'm not great, fabulous, Hemingway. I do have occasional moments of brilliance, or humor, or humanity depending on what you may be reading. My stories have been known to move women to tears. Men have said my male characters are realistic. I feel competent in my writing skills.

I'm better than I used to be. However, I would like to be really good. And I will. Eventually. Practice makes almost perfect.

I'm a good parent.

I am. Monster thinks I'm off the wall most of the time. Her friends think I'm wicked funny, she thinks I'm lame. Go figure. But I think she's a good kid, and I hope she thinks I'm a good mom. I try my hardest. I'm better than I used to be. However, I could be better.

I love my job. (Even the one where I don't get paid.)

I cannot tell you how much I love my job as a writer. Even on the most blinding frustrating maddening days, I love my job. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Making up stories is like living on the beach. Every day is a new adventure.

I even love the volunteer work I do at Monster's school. If I ever went back to work in the real world, it's going to look damn good on my resume.

I'm a good friend.

At least I think so. I hope so. My friend Debbie gave me a little plaque that reads You're The Friend That Everybody Wishes They Had  Isn't that sweet? Sometimes I'm a little too blunt and I say things I probably shouldn't, but I try not to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm just opinionated. And loud and bossy, and the girl your mother would never let you hang out with. But I'm also kind, and generous, and pretty damn funny once you get to know me.

So, those are my truths. Got any you want to share?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2016