Monday, January 22, 2018

The Long Good-bye

Well, it has certainly been some time since I was here. For those of you who still check in from time to time, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's December 2016, although I've been dealing with her forgetfulness for the last several years. First it was just writing lists so she wouldn't forget what she needed at the grocery store. Then it was taking care of the laundry. Then it became preparing meals (after she almost burned the house down.) Then it was driving her to and fro after she had a car accident. Then it became coming to my house every afternoon so she would have someone to talk to after her incoherent ramblings drove my father to not speaking to her at all.

Both of my parents vehemently denied that she could possibly get this awful disease (even though her father and sister both had it) so for the last 6 years I have shoveled crap against the tide trying, begging, pleading for some help and it was only on New Year's Eve this year that my father finally saw reason and allowed me to hire in-home help. Unfortunately, setting this up is taking time, and when my mother ended up with pneumonia over Christmas, it added a whole other layer to her already forgetful mind. She used to be able to concentrate on important things, but's any one's guess where her thoughts go.

All of this has left me grappling through the Stages of Grief as I try to take care of her. My own life has taken a back seat--my daughter, my writing, my friends, housework--even showering on some days because my mother (God forgive me) is worse than a set of two-year-old triplets on steroids. I have been in therapy for the last several months just to have someone to talk to about my situation because I'm sick of bitching to my friends about the unfairness of it all.

My life wasn't supposed to be this way. I'm not supposed to be helping my mother take a shower. I'm not supposed to be cutting her food into little pieces because she doesn't know how to put her dentures in anymore. I'm not supposed to be cleaning pee off the bathroom floor because she can't remember to sit down on the toilet or worse yet can't remember what toilet paper is for (and refuses to wear Depends).

And I'm not telling you any of this to gain sympathy--I'm telling you this because if you know anyone who is caring for an aging parent or relative with dementia, to please help them. Cook a meal, offer to get groceries, offer to pick up dry cleaning. If they'll let you in their house, vacuum, fold laundry, do the dishes. Hell, just buy them their favorite coffee and a piece of pastry and sit with them for an hour and hand them a Kleenex when they start crying. You cannot know, unless you are living through this, what even the smallest kindness means to them.

Because in the back of their minds, as well as my own, is if we don't find a cure, or even a reasonable delaying of the disease, we too, will succumb to it. It's terrifying to me that Monster will only be thirty if my own mind starts to decay when my mother's did. And I don't want her to have to wipe my ass because I peed all over myself.

And so, it is with great sadness that I must say good-bye to all of you. I had a great run. I met some great people, found some great friends. I learned a lot about writing and publishing from all of you. But I just can't keep up with the blog anymore. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that I didn't want to just disappear from the blogosphere. For those of you who may follow me on my other blogs, those too, will be closing down. (I only have enough energy to write this blog today while the nurse is with my mother.)

I wish all of you success in your careers. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

Take care of yourselves.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Book I've Been Working On is Finished

I'm pleased to say the latest manuscript is finished. I shored up my last round of editing last night. Now it's off to readers to see what they think. I'm ready for a night like this.

The novel is somewhat autobiographical as the main character is a caregiver for an Alzheimer's family member. However, not all of the aunt's mental incapacity is from my own experience. I have several friends who are also dealing with aging parents and I took licence with their stories.

The most difficult scene I wrote was when I killed the aunt, by accident. She fell down the stairs. But then my cat took ill and eventually succumbed to pneumonia. Which is why I couldn't kill the darling aunt. It took too much out of me. Besides, it's romantic women's fiction. The ending wouldn't have been the same.

The most difficult thing I've had to do FOR the book is find a cover. I have gone through nine different covers. I had 12 friends choose. It was a 4-way tie. I found two more covers. I changed the title. I still don't have a cover. My friend Katrina has a camera. We took test pictures this morning. We're going to take more tomorrow.

I enjoyed the process of writing this novel. I kept track of how much I wrote and how long it took me. I think in total 45 days to write 104,000 words. 279 pages. An average 6 hour writing day was 4500 words. However, those six hours were broken up over the course of 14. It was a very rare occasion to get all six in one fell swoop.

This book was my summer novel. I started during Spring Break in April, and worked on it until the end of school in June. Then on and off during the summer. I was also working on another Regency as well, so time was divided. I had hoped that I would finish by the end of the summer, but things got a little hairy at my house-- the cat got sick, we went back to school, volleyball, and well, I finished the book last night.

I went through it I can't tell you how many times over the course of the last two weeks. I rewrote the ending three times. I'm still unsure of certain word choices, but for now they're staying. No, I did not drop the F-bomb. However, maybe I did have a few choice words, but they're in Italian. They give it flavor.

This is one of the covers I did for it. And the cover copy.

At forty-two, Abby Pryzbylowicz had everything she thought she ever wanted—nice apartment, nice car, nice life. A novelist by trade, she penned romance novels for the money, detective mysteries for fun, and the occasional piece of literary fiction to keep her name in the papers. A reclusive woman by choice, she only wanted to be left alone with her characters. However, when her cousin phoned and begged Abby to help with her mother she couldn’t say no. Abby loved Aunt Rose. Besides, it was only for the summer.

Upon her arrival to Rose MacLaren’s house, Abby found her aunt a ferocious hoarder, had frequent bouts of forgetfulness, and a penchant for choosing her clothing according to color rather than season. Conversations had to be pieced together to make sense. Convincing Rose not to drive proved to be a covert operation. 

When Abby set out to help her aunt, she thought it would be simple enough. All she had to do was clean the house and get it ready to sell. Rose was moving in with her daughter in September. However, as family skeletons started falling out of the closet, Abby’s only confidant was the mechanic next door.

Dealing with him was another story. 

So, this is where I've been and what I've been doing.

THE MECHANIC NEXT DOOR will be published SOON.

And for those of you who didn't know, yes, Robynne Rand is my other pen name.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

RIP Mike Wyczowski -- Eulogy for a Kitty

This is Mike. She was my 7 month-old kitty that Monster found behind the shed at school in April. She was scrawny and skinny, but crawled into Monster's lap on the car ride home and fell asleep. Once at the house, I fed her, starvin-like-Marvin, and then she climbed up on the couch and slept for two days. She was home.

Mike talked. Well, she talked to me all the time. I'd walk in, she'd meow. I would call her, she could come. Just like a little dog.

She would sit on the counter when I was in the kitchen and watch me do whatever it was I was doing. Cooking, making tea, washing the dishes. Didn't matter. She'd stare at me. Just the same way she is in the picture. Just sit. And watch. Never smelled anything. Never wanted anything. She just wanted to be wherever I was.

I set up my ironing board in the dining room. I have a large plant stand in the front window that Mike would climb up to sit and watch me iron. (Which I did every day.)

At night, I would sit downstairs in my office and catch the news. Mike would sit at the top of the stairs behind the baby gate and wait for me.

I don't know what it was about her. We have another cat and three dogs, but I have never felt for them what I felt with this cat. Don't get me wrong, I love my animals. But Mike was my familiar. I loved her, she loved me. She slept on my feet every night.

Mike took sick about three weeks ago. Really sick. She got better. Then she got sick again. And never recovered. I had to put her down. This morning. About eleven o'clock. An hour ago as I write this. Her loss is still fresh in my heart.

I am bereft because I brought her to the vet (after my vet couldn't fit her in -- knowing she was so sick, and calling three other vets in the area) to see if he could help her. He tried, but she collapsed on the exam table. I had to put her down.

I walked around the house just now picking up her stuff and putting it in the laundry. Her binky, her towel, and her rug. I took all her pots of grass (she was an indoor cat) and put them in the garden. (I know she appreciated the fact that I would go out in the yard and dig up fresh grass for her every week. If you have indoor cats, you should do this too. Just make sure it's the right grass.)

Mike was suffering. It was the right thing to do.

I want to blame someone and unfortunately, the vet I brought her to the first time, I believe, misdiagnosed her. But that's something I won't get into here, because I'm just bitter and sad and heart-broken and I have no idea what to do now.

I will never be able to be in the kitchen again without seeing her soulful eyes staring at me, her contemplative gaze meeting mine, sharing something that no one can explain.

I love that cat. Loved that cat with my whole heart and soul.

And I know she was just a cat, but she was my cat, my little furry person who hung out with me all the time. Like my best friend. And now she's gone.

And I am very very sad.

Anne Gallagher (c) September 11, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Finding Characters for My New Book

Robynne Rand is my alter-ego, as some of you may know. I blog over here under that name as The Rhode Island Writer (Get it Piedmont Writer/ Rhode Island Writer). Anyway, as part of my writing process I need to have pictures of who I think my characters would be. This helps me focus. I'm now at 40k words, the half-way mark and have been writing blind, as it were. I couldn't really see who my characters were. In Chapter 12, Abby and Michael have to go to the 4th of July party in Bristol. Which brought me back here,

Remember Cathryn and Steve?
Remember Genna and Pete?

and this prompted me to start searching. Last night, I found these two. I've always loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan and when I found out he and Hilarie Burton were a couple, well, that was just icing on the cake. (Love her on the Hallmark Channel)

My main characters Abby Pryzbylowicz and Michael Rosetti

Don't they make a nice couple? And they're just the right age. And bonus on top of that, Jeffrey was born on my birthday - April 22 - and his character name in P.S. I Love You (with Hilary Swank -- great movie!) was William Gallagher. So, yeah! I think that is a good omen for this book.

This novel takes a lot from my personal life dealing with my mother's diagnosis of Alzheimers. Write what you know, right? I've been trying to keep it light, some lines are just laugh out loud funny, because well, if I can't laugh about it sometimes, I'd spend all my time crying and who wants to do that. I think I'd classify it as romantic women's fiction because, well, it's not chick lit.

Abby is a novelist who keeps to herself. She's a nice girl who got screwed over by her ex-husband, and although doesn't necessarily hate men, she's wary of getting taken again. (Again, write what you know.)

Michael has his own garage and works on classic cars. His ex-wife was a bee-yotch of the first water who promised him kids and then reneged on the deal. (There's more to this but no spoilers here.) He's Rose's next door neighbor, hence the title of the book.

Then there's Abby's Aunt Rose. Her kids are wanting her to pack up her house to sell it, so Rose can move to California and move in with her daughter Mandy. However, Mandy's in London with her husband and kids for the summer, so Mandy asked Abby to go help Rose.
Aunt Rose

Last but not least, there's Elwood. Michael's dog. Because who doesn't love a good Rotty.
Elwood Blues

Here's the cover copy.

At forty-two, Abby Pryzbylowicz had everything she ever wanted—nice apartment, nice car, nice life. A novelist by trade, she pens romance novels, cozy mysteries, and the occasional thriller. A quiet woman, she only wanted to be left alone with her characters. However, when her cousin phoned and begged Abby to help her out with her mother she couldn’t say no. Abby loved her aunt. Besides, it was only for the summer.

Upon her arrival to Rose MacLaren’s house, Abby found her aunt a ferocious hoarder, had frequent bouts of forgetfulness, and a penchant for choosing her clothing according to color rather than season.

Then there was the mechanic’s dog who thought of Rose’s back yard as his literal dumping ground, not to mention the barking, the hole in the fence, and the ruination of forty years of heirloom roses.

Helping her aunt get her act together was the easy part.
Dealing with the mechanic next door was another story. 

Here is the mock-up cover I did. Needed one of those as well. Don't know if if this is the image I'll use, but it puts me in the right frame of mind to finish the book. (Fonts are obviously not my strong suit.)

If you want to read more about places I used to go in Rhode Island, here's my latest post on Scarborough Beach in RI. For all the ex-Pat's out there.

Tell me -- Do you need pictures of your characters to help fill in the gaps of what's inside your head? Do you need a cover before you can finish? Have you ever been to Rhode Island?

Anne Gallagher/Robynne Rand (c) 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Books Were Pirated -- How I Handled It

To add to the growing number of crappy things that have happened to me in recent months, I found out that several of my books were pirated and offered for free as a PDF download across multiple web-sites. Naturally, I was stunned, then angry, then depressed. It's been hard enough to write these days, now I had to confront this nightmare of a situation, which I didn't really want to do for a number of reasons:

1) It was wasted energy.
2) It was wasted time.
3) What was the point of writing and trying to sell books if some little piss ant was just going to steal them?

A few years ago, I found a blog post that gave step-by-step instructions as to what to do if you ever found yourself in this situation. Luckily, I had saved it in my bookmarks bar. I reread it, then searched for more answers. I read about a half-dozen more blog posts just to make sure I knew what I was doing. (Just search "ebook piracy" or "DMCA notices".)

I took nine days to get my act together to deal with it. Last Friday I sent out DMCA notices. (Digital Management Copyright Act). By Saturday night, after another Google search, the pirated books were gone. I kind of didn't think it would be that quick, but I guess when you mess with copyright infringement, pirates are scared they'll get sued for damages (which for some could be in the millions.)

It was a process to be sure because even though these websites are supposed to have a DMCA tab for such things or an email address on their site, most didn't. I had to look them up on WHOIS. And once I did, it was a nightmare to figure out which address to use. It took just about 5 hours from start to finish to send 9 notices.

Here is the letter I sent. (Pretty much word for word from the blog post.)

7 July 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

In accordance with Section 512(c) of the DMCA, I am submitting this takedown notice in writing and with a digital signature at the bottom. 

My name is Anne Gallagher. Effective 7 July  2017 it came to my attention that my copyrighted material, specifically The Lady's Masquerade is being offered as a free download on your site (You have to make sure you include their website. Found this out when I received an email from one of the pirates who asked, "Which website?" Needless to say, said pirate obviously has more than one.)

I have a good faith belief that the use of these copyrighted materials on your site is not authorized by the copyright or intellectual property owner, its agent, or the law. Under penalty of perjury, I certify that the information in this notice is true and accurate, and that I am the copyright owner of the copyright(s) involved.

Under this statute, you are required upon receipt of this notice to remove and disable access to the infringing materials specified in this notice.

The title is as follows, with an active link to this item on your website:

Title: The Lady's Masquerade
(You also need to include a link to the book, not just your author page. I used Amazon because they have global reach. Most of the websites had domains in India.)

Thank you for your assistance and for handling this matter promptly. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via email at .

(You also need to include a written signature. At least that's how I interpreted the instructions. I think it makes the pirates take you seriously.)

Anne Gallagher
Shore Road Publishing

Here is a link to the post

They also explain much better than I can.

I wrote the main text in Word, then copied and pasted it into the email. I couldn't figure out how to insert the written signature so I wrote one out, scanned it, then uploaded it as a picture to insert in the email. (I know, I'm still so outdated when it comes to computering.)

I found six Regency romances and my latest contemporary romance in the pirates' booty. Unfortunately, every book I found, I had once offered for free at one point in their publishing history. So take that as a lesson to be learned. Free is not what it used to mean. And that's not to say that pirates won't take a bought book and do the same thing, I'm sure it's just easier with free. Most of these websites also maintain they're doing a service to the reading public by offering these books.

However, as the above mentioned blog post says, most of these sites are just scams wanting to steal information or infecting your computer with viruses. And I know one of the pirates had more than one website because I found the same comments on three of them, all claiming "this is one of the best websites around to get free books. Now I can finally read the book I have been wanting without paying for it." It made me sick to my stomach.

How did I find out that my books were being pirated? I Googled "The Lady's Masquerade free download". I then searched each of my other books. I found Women of a Certain Demographic quite by accident. I wanted to see if it was up on itunes so I Googled it and voila, there she was.

So, two lessons today, my bloggy friends--
1) Take the time to search your titles.
2) Think long and hard about offering your books for free.

Tell me -- Has this ever happened to you? What did you do about it? Do you still offer your books for free?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017

PS. I've also posted on my other blogs this week if you want to take a look. I'm finally rested enough to get back in the game.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing for the Future

For the last year or so, I've felt like a deep sea diver, descending into uncharted territory, a shark spear in one hand, flailing for the guide rope to the surface in another. My mother's diagnosis has left me nearly paralyzed under the routine of housework, Monster, and writing to keep my feet on terra firma. But paranoia swims at the bottom of that endless ocean and the question remains --what state of mind will I have in ten years?

Alzheimer's disease is a nightmare to live through. Blinding frustration, overwhelming panic, incredible sadness, and just plain helplessness are a few of the more colorful adjectives I can think of. My grandfather had dementia. My maternal aunt has it (has been suffering from it for the last 22 years). Technically, my aunt shouldn't even be alive, but she is, which frightens me even more that my mother could live with this horrible affliction for the next fifteen years. And that if she is still alive in fifteen years, she will be 90 and I will be 70. Chances are, I will be fighting that same disease. Monster will only be 27. I do not want to leave her with that legacy.

I've begun to seriously consider the next ten years. Something I don't often do. I live in the present, have tried not to plan ahead more than a few weeks. Plans change and I hate to be disappointed. It's that Taurus thing. However, when I first started blogging I read that every writer should have a five-year plan. Same as a small business model. I achieved my five-year plan, albeit with an extension to finish The Reluctant Grooms Series. (By this time, my mother's illness had begun to show its ugly head.) Somewhere in the back of my mind I had thought to write the next Regency romance series, Ladies of Dunbury, within the next five year plan, which is where I am now at two years in. I have written and published three books, contracted to write five more, hopefully within the span of the next two years, which will leave me at year four of this five year cycle.

Having said that, last year I began writing a detective/mystery series. What was supposed to be a lark, has actually turned out to be an interesting opportunity for me to stretch my wings as a writer. It's also turned out to be a massive project. I have finished 6 of the 24 novellas, and started on five of the others.

I also have a contemporary romance in the works with 24k words on that. Those words took only eight days for me to write. I could probably finish  the durn thing in three weeks if I had a mind. But since the day Monster got out of school, I have been spring cleaning and moving furniture, and trying to keep up with the yard work. I bushwhacked through a jungle of overgrowth three days ago and am still paying for it.

Taking all that into consideration, I look at where Monster is in school- 7th grade. Two more years until she graduates, then high school (four years), then hopefully, college at Wake Forest (four more). Equals ten years. Monster will be 22. I will be 65. And my mother will be 85. I know what all the Alzheimer's doctors say-- they only give the patient five years from the diagnosis. Well, my family throws that theory out the window.

So, here I sit contemplating the next decade. The five remaining Regency romances will take at least two years to finish. The massive detective/mystery project will take a year to finish, at least, and then another year for edits. And not only do I have one contemporary romance that I want to work on, I have several unfinished manuscripts lying around in the bowels of my hard drive I'd like to work on again. I think I have enough work to keep me busy for the next couple of years.

In ten years, I will be sixty-five. What state of mind will I have? Will I still be able to write? Will I still be able to function? Will they have found a cure by then? Will my books still sell? What is the legacy I'm going to leave for Monster?

I know, heavy thoughts for a Monday morning. With the looming idea of Alzheimer's disease added into the equation, it's not looking good for me. But I'm ever optimistic. As cynical and jaded as I am about the rest of the world, I have faith that some human spirit will break through the mysteries of the disease and find a cure. Not just for me, but for every single person who's suffering right now.

As for me, I intend to just pound the keyboards until my writing looks like this
[m/d w   gjwoudn  gjou njowrspw.
Maybe by then I'll be so famous, those words will be worth a zillion dollars.

Tell me -- Do you ever think about what you're going to write next? Do you have a five-year/ten-year plan?

 Anne Gallagher (c) 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Power of a Bad Review

I've been debating to broach this topic for a couple of weeks now, but I decided if I don't let it go, it will eat at me and possibly cripple me for the rest of my life. Having no one to discuss this with in "real life" who could possibly understand, you guys are it.

I generally check my Author Amazon page a couple of times a week. I check my stats, and then reviews just to see if anything is happening because I don't get many reviews, so when I do, I'm excited. Even if it's a bad review. At least someone is reading my book.

So, I checked. And I got a 2-star on several books (several books) from the same reviewer. It seems she purchased my boxed set on KU because it's free for KU subscribers. Not only did she leave the reviews on the boxed set, she decided to leave the reviews across the board on each of the individual stories. Nine (9) stories total.

Now, anyone who has had the experience of a bad review knows DO NOT ENGAGE the reviewer. It can only lead to a pissing contest and a social media nightmare. I've heard enough of these stories since I began writing to know not to do that.

It also seems that this reviewer left comments on one of the last reviews and when I looked, it seemed as though she and another reader were having a conversation about, not only MY books, but another author's as well. On MY comment board. WTH?

So, I politely inquired of the reviewer that if she didn't like my books, then why was she going to bother reading the rest. She gave me her answer, we had several paragraphs of dialogue where I explained my thoughts about my writing and why I wrote the books the way I did. She seemed satisfied with my answers and I thought she would either repair, replace, or hopefully bump up the stars. (Because I had done this once before with a different reviewer and she did bump up from a 2 to a 4.)

Nope. What she then did was read the final boxed set, trash it and pretty much tell the world, "Don't bother reading this series." IN THE HEADING!

I looked up her stats because she was a top reviewer and found some comfort in the fact that she didn't like anything she ever read. Every book was tagged with 2 stars. (Some 3, but those were few and far between.)

However, during this time, I had just taken my mother for cataract surgery and had to make sure she had her required eye drops 4 x a day, (hard to do with an Alzheimers patient), was getting ready for Spring Break (which meant I had to get my school responsibilities together when I came back b/c my mother's NEXT surgery was that week--lots of paperwork), try to get the yard in order--we've had rain, finish doing my mother's garden (b/c obviously she can't do it anymore), make a list of what to clean in the house during Spring Break and attempt to install my new bathroom sink, but most importantly...

...finish the book I had started in March. Yes, on March 1, I started the 3rd book in the Ladies of Dunbury series and had 75,000 words written. I was on a roll writing (even with all the other stuff on my plate) because I LOVE this story and was just writing, writing, writing. Until I read the reviews.

And then I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I didn't even look at my computer for almost a week. My Never Give Up Never Surrender mantra was out the window. I honestly wanted to give up writing. I hadn't been this depressed in about twenty years. Seriously. I mean what was I going to do if I couldn't write. It's not like I can just go out and get a job. Not with my mother the way she is.

I finally broke down and wrote to a good friend and dumped the whole load on her (which I did not want to do because really, who wants to hear this shit). Thankfully, she talked me off the ledge. She loves my stories and is a talented writer in her own right, so her kind advice to "let it go, there are trolls everywhere" seemed sage and heartwarming.

I know and understand that every reader will not like what I write. I get that. I do. And I have several 1 and 2 star reviews to prove it, not only on Amazon but Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and Goodreads to boot. However, for some reason, this just slayed me. My overwhelming urge was to kick this chick in the teeth and tell her, "Well, if you hate what I write, then write your own damn book."

That's the thing about this business that gets me the most (and I think most other writers as well). We pour our heart and souls out onto the page, write what we love, take the time to revise and edit--sometimes for months--and publish with the hope that this book will
make the NY Times bestseller list
make us the most money we ever had
give us the recognition that we crave
fulfill our heart's desire
fill in the blank

What this chick did with her reviews was to take away my dreams of a good life for Monster, make me rethink my future as a writer, and jack hammer my fragile ego to smithereens. It took almost 10 days for me to go back to my computer, something which has never happened. EVER.

I'm happy to say that I am finally writing again, have 83,000 words on the story, and if I play my cards right, one final chapter to write. I'm trying not to hear this chick in my head every time my fingers touch the keyboard, but it's damn hard.

I know this is a business and it's not supposed to be personal, but it is. I don't care who you are, whenever someone says something about you, good bad or indifferent, it IS personal. The old adage comes to mind -- if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all. But in this day and age with the privacy of the internet, manners have gone out the window.

I'm sure this reviewer, who actually said to me, "I feel I'm doing your readers a service"
does believe she IS providing a service. But at what cost? She has no idea who I am, what I'm trying to achieve, or what my life is like at this point in time. She sits on her throne and reads book after book and passes judgement on what she thinks is good writing. (She told me that's what she does all day--just reads. Must be nice to have that kind of life.)

Anyway, I guess the lesson I learned this time is to never ever read your own reviews.

Tell me -- Have you ever had a review that just knocked you off your feet? What did you do about it? Do you read your own reviews? Do you write reviews?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017