Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy 500th

Well, today is my official 500th post. Seems kind of weird to think I've written so many. I didn't know what I was doing at the beginning, but over the last three and a half years (wow, it's really been that long, my how time flies) I think I've come a long way, baby.

I've learned how to
write books
post pics
publish books
handle a comma
review books
market books
make friends
revise books
make a book trailer

That's a lot of stuff to learn how to do.

And I couldn't have done it without all of you, who were here with me, helping me to learn and grow as a writer and a person.

So thank you, everyone, for making my little corner of the blogosphere so fabulous.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Interesting Weekend with my Personality

Good Morning. For those of you in the US -- Happy Memorial Day. Let us try not to forget all those who who made the sacrifices so that our country can be what it is today.

I had an interesting weekend. I learned a lot about my personality. Which I already knew, but then had confirmed when it slammed me in the face.

Friday I had to drive my mother into Virginia so she could spend 5 days with my brother and his wife. You can learn a lot about someone by the way they drive. She taught me how to drive, way back when, in a cemetary (no traffic). Very slow, methodical, patient. 30 years later, however, she's a road rage maniac. And because of the holiday there were state troopers everywhere. In and out of traffic, 10 mph over the speed limit, riding right up to the back of a semi and then darting out to pass them. I guess she was in a hurry to get there. I really can't blame her, after dealing with my father the last few months she needed a vacation. But with her driving, I was a nervous wreck, which I'm normally not.

Anyway, on the way home, I took my time, (much to the disappointment of The Monster), found a small open pocket of lane and stayed there. I had no need to spurt in and out of traffic dodging the lunatics or the big-rigs. I remained calm.

Fast forward to Friday night. My crit partner and I had been talking about book trailers, and as neither of us had ever made one, I found some simple directions, shared them with her, and decided to take a look. Well, that look turned into 5 hours in front of the Windows Movie Maker. I made a book trailer which you can find here. As with the traffic that afternoon, I just cruised at my own speed, made my choices and slowly but surely came to a final destination.

Then came Saturday. Now, having spent the spring bitching about doing yard work at my mother's house, I finally decided it was time that I do my own. After all we're putting this house on the market, and to say I've neglected the outside of my domicile is an understatement. It needs a lot of help (like the kind with 3 guys and big machinery). Anyway, I went outside thinking I could just plow through most of it and get it ALL done in a couple of hours. HA! One thing led to another, then to another, and then another (because nothing is ever easy at my house). However, I did manage to get 85% of it finished to my satisfaction. Then I gave the dogs a bath. I felt very good about all I had accomplished, but by 2:00 I had to lay down with a couple of Tylenol. Because in my zeal to get things done, I had broken myself AGAIN.

Sunday morning I finally had a chance to get back on the blogs and roam around for a little bit before tackling another house project. I found this article at Writer Unboxed which I thought might be interesting.
What Authors Seem to Forget about Marketing, Especially Those Who Dislike It. At the end of the article is a simplied version of the Meyers Briggs Personality Test (which I took and highly recommend). I found out I am a

Your Jungian Myers Briggs Personality Type:

( Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judgment )

Quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious. Committed and steady in meeting their obligations. Thorough, painstaking, and accurate. Loyal, considerate, notice and remember specifics about people who are important to them, concerned with how others feel. Strive to create an orderly and harmonious environment at work and at home.

I guess it's nice to have my personality confirmed by an impartial computer program.

Tell me -- Have you ever taken this test? Did it tell you something you didn't already know about yourself? 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inside the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Nicki Elson author of THREE DAVES

This is really a fun thing because we can learn so much from our friends.

1) What was the last book you read?

Last Novella: Semper Audacia by M.Pax (4 stars!)
Last Full Length Novel: South of Charm by Elliot Grace (Another 4 stars!)
Currently: The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern (We're at about 3 stars at the moment)

2) What genre would you like to try writing?

Horror. But not grisly horror, more like spooky horror.  I was surprised that the creepy scenes in the romance I'm currently working on were my favorite to write.

3) What is your favorite word?

Nevertheless...but you have to say it just the right way or the humor's completely lost.

4) What word is the bane of your existence to find in a manuscript, either yours or someone else's?

Audibly.  It's not a bad word in and of itself, but when used before an action that's already obviously audible, grrrrrr...

5) What is your favorite cliche?

"You'll never know until you try."

6) Which author, living or dead, do you wish you could write like?

Jane Austen.  Love how adeptly she weaves humor into the narrative and pulls readers into the characters' emotions.

7) Who is your favorite author?

Janie. :)

8) What is your favorite book from childhood?

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  I was also a big time Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fanatic.

9) What was the last book/story you published?

Sway, a short story that was part of an anthology last summer and is now offered free in pdf and 99 cents on Kindle. Just sayin' 
10) What are you writing now? (As much or as little as you want.)

I've recently finished the second draft of an original novel, title yet to be determined. If I had to categorize it (which is looks like I soon will) I'd say it's a contemporary paranormal romantic suspense.  Only -ish on the suspense though, and it's paranormal only insofar as I believe could actually happen. How's that for specific?

Wow who knew Nicki wants to write spooky horror!

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Vacation and the Blog

Good Morning. I know this post is late in getting up, but that's because The Monster got out of school yesterday for summer break and I got up late this morning. Well, not so late, 7:30, but that's late for me as I'm usually up at 5. But I didn't set the alarm this morning and I didn't have a post already planned. So here I am.

There's been a lot of chatter around the blogosphere about the blogs, and bloggers coming, going, leaving, comments, no comments, is blogging dead, is it cyclical, do we even care anymore....

I don't believe there are any definitive answers. As with writing, it's all subjective. What one may think about blogging, another may think about Twitter or Pinterest, or FB.

I think, and this is only my opinion, as most of us have been around for awhile, and have come far from where we started a few years ago, we've either gotten agents, small publishers, or took the plunge and self-published. And as everyone knows, once you do any of those things, your life takes on a whole different direction. I know a few weeks ago, I had a post about blogging and although I love it, it's just sucking the life out of me. I don't have time for it anymore.

I've always said the writing comes first, and that will not change. (Well, first after The Monster and my mother's constant demand to have her lawn mowed and gardens in perfect order.)  I haven't been around lately because I've been working on my latest story -- Monday's post --. We'll also be moving very very soon, add to that painting and fixing the old house, and throw some vacation in the mix and well, what do you get?

Me, in a straight jacket.

Well, sort of, but no, more than likely, you just won't get me around. I have some posts pre-planned for Monday's in the next few weeks, and I still would like to celebrate my birthday before I leave, so I hope you'll just keep me on your radar for a little while longer.

Tell me -- Are you getting ready for summer? Are you taking a blog break? Is blogging dead, or just cyclical?

Monday, May 21, 2012

What I'm Doing

Good Morning. If you want to know what I'm doing today, you can go here. I had a breakthrough yesterday morning and am hard at work trying to finish it now that I know how it's going to end.

And if you missed Anne R. Allen's post from yesterday, you really need to read that too. Really. Especially if you're trying to figure out where and how to publish.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Inside the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Elliot Grace author of SOUTH OF CHARM

I love Inside the Actor's Studio. So I decided to do it here. This will be an accompaniment to Friday's at the Piedmont Grille. Kind of like an appetizer instead of a full course meal. Hope you enjoy.

1) What was the last book you read?

    -"Creep" by Jennifer Hillier.  It's one of those edge of your seat thrillers that I found myself unable to put down until that last page was licked clean.  I highly recommend.

2) What genre would you like to try writing?

    -Believe it or not, I'm actually penning a YA romance at the moment, which for me, is definitely out of the ordinary.  It's an idea that was brought to my attention from a critique partner, who suggested that my voice carries the  kind of sensitivity needed for the soft touch of love's first kiss.  I'm currently testing the waters with a novella, and will move forward depending on the response.  Fingers remain crossed ;)

3) What is your favorite word?

    -Oh wow!  Tough one, and with an endless choice of candidates to boot!  I'll go with a word that may not be my favorite, but one I hold near and dear to my heart as of late.  Quash.  I used it while writing my first novel, "South of Charm," and received a thumbs down from my wife, who called the word, "just silly."  Then, wouldn't you know it, while doing battle with my sister in a game of Words With Friends on Facebook, my wife needed a high-scoring QU word to seal the victory, and...Well now, how funny is that?

4) What word is the bane of your existance to find in a manuscript, either yours or someone else's?

-Not so much a word, but a trendy phrase...  "he/she pictured it in their mind's eye."  Mind's eye...not a fan.

5) What is your favorite cliche?

    -"misery loves company." 

6) Which author, living or dead, do you wish you could write like?
    This one's easy, John Sandford.  I've read every word he's ever published.

7) Who is your favorite author?

    -Always a tough one to answer.  Sandford sits atop the list, but I'm also a fan of Joe Hill (Stephen King's hot shot kid,) King, Terry Brooks, and the late Robert Cormier.

8) What is your favorite book from childhood?

    -"Fade" by Robert Cormier.  I finished up that book and knew for certain that I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

9) What was the last book/story you published?
     -"South of Charm," currently on Amazon, and resting upon most local bookstore shelves.

10) What are you writing now? (As much or as little as you want.)

      -Tentatively titled "The Fall," its a YA romance novella that my teenage son has often stated, "is the best thing my dad's ever written."  I'm hoping it sees the light of day some time later this year.  For those in search of a quick hit tear-jerker, you're in luck ;) You can find a little bit of it here.

Thanks Elliot!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When a Cover Isn't Working

As a published author, I'm constantly checking the stats on my sales reports. It's part of an OCD behaviour, I think most indie authors acquire after they've self-published. It's not a bad thing, per se, but just part of what naturally happens.

Now, my Regency romances have always sold well. (Thank you to all who've bought and reviewed them.) It's an amazing feeling to think that so many people have read them and I appreciate all the support. These aren't the problem.

If you were around a couple of weeks ago, (maybe 6) I was just getting ready to upload the long awaited REMEMBERING YOU, my contemporary women's fiction/romance. My topic of conversation revolved around the use of my name. Should I publish under Anne Gallagher, or some other form of that, or should I possibly have a different pen name altogether.

For the informal poll I posted, you overwhelmingly thought I should publish that under the name Robynne Rand. However, there were good arguments to be had in that, I built my Regency brand under Anne Gallagher, and I should take some of that juice and use it for the women's fiction.

Well, I thought and thought and thought, and took all the opinions under consideration. I decided to publish under A.R. Gallagher. It seemed the best of both worlds. I published that almost a month ago. I asked a writer, who doesn't read women's fiction to write a review, (which she did, and for someone who doesn't read w-f, she loved it.) So I thought it was all good. I mean, I had a 5-star review listed for it the day it came out. It was also listed on my author page on Amazon, so my Regency readers would see I had something else out there.

To date, I have sold one copy. (And I know who bought it.) One copy. To say this doesn't hurt is an understatement. I love this book. I cried when I wrote this book. I cry every single time I read this book. This is the one that is closest to my heart. And nobody wants it. This, my friends, is a writer's worst nightmare come true.

Now this isn't a plea for anyone to buy it. ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is a statement of what I am now going to do with it so that if any of you are experiencing the same thing, perhaps you will find comfort in that you are not alone. (See what I did there with the bold and italics and font color. This is not a plea. Besides, by the time you read this post, this incantation of this book will probably not even be up for sale anymore. (**note, it's not as of 5/10/12)

I am changing the cover. Now, this cover above is a picture of Bristol Harbor, Rhode Island where the book is set. I thought this was a good cover. Yeah, good. Not great, not wow, but I thought it did the novel justice. But, I've been thinking it's just not doing it for me, and obviously it's not doing a damn thing for sales.

I'm also going to republish it under the name Robynne Rand. I had a gut feeling about this, right from the get-go, and although the discussion was persuasive for the other, I should have listened to my guts. (Believe me, sometimes guts are the best thing to go on, no matter who says what.)

And thirdly, I'm going to market and promote this book, something I didn't do for my Regencies. I don't believe in cramming things down people's throats. But I think this is a good idea for this one. My Regencies speak for themselves, you know what you're getting just looking at the cover. This is a whole different animal. (So if any of you would like me to interview, or guest post, or whatever on your blog, now would be the time to email me. piedmontwriter at gmail dot com  Anne R. Allen had a post a few weeks ago, that said I should be the one to ask. I didn't know that. I thought YOU were supposed to ask ME. I hate to be pushy. But now I'm asking.)

With the advent of self-publishing, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, and if that means unpublishing and republishing, hey, it's not that hard and it only takes a few clicks of the mouse. But once it's all said and done and republished, I'm hoping that this little experiment will be a viable one, not only for me, but other indie's out there. I'll keep you posted.

Tell me -- If you are self-published, have you done this? Changed a cover? Changed your name? And even if you're not, what is your opinion on what I'm about to do? Do you think it will help in any way? I mean, what have I got to lose, right?

As of yesterday, this is the new version of the cover and pen name that is now published on Amazon. What do you think? Do you like this one better?  I do.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Critique Partners

Now, it's been said a zillion times, you need to find a critique partner. For some, this is relatively easy, they just ask someone and boom, they have a partner. For others, not so much. There's a level of trust that must be examined when offering up your work to another person.  Finding a good partner is like searching for a needle in a proverbial haystack.

I've been lucky. All I had to do was ask. My first few partners and I didn't work out, not that I didn't love them and what they showed me with their advice and suggestions, it's just that we ended up writing in different genres and not knowing the YA or science fiction or paranormal genre, it was better to part ways, than to try and suffer through reading and critiquing what I didn't understand and frustrating them. Just the same as they didn't understand my Regency romances.

So if you're going to look, I'd suggest finding someone in your own genre.  Beta readers, on the other hand, are a different story. I specifically ask people who do not write in my genre to read my books. Their feedback is priceless, because if they like what I've written, then I know the people who DO read my genre, will like it too. However, I'm not going to send my Regency off to a writer of horror. I mean, what's the point, unless they express an interest in it. I stick to other genre romance writers, or women's fiction writers.

Back to trust. Handing your work off to someone else, is (to me) like handing my child to a complete stranger. Will they take care of her? Will they reprimand her? Will they feed her? Keep her from danger? Or will they just let her play in traffic willy-nilly, and not offer her anything more than a couple of crackers and a glass of water?

In sending off a complete manuscript for inspection and critique to another, you first must decide what you are after in the critique. Some people only want grammar checks, some to find plot holes, others want character assessments, and still others want the whole shebang. I have two partners now, one mainly for grammar and plot holes, the other for general assessment of the characters and complete storyline. Of course, both are free to inform me of anything that doesn't work, and they do, so it's a bonus for me.

That being said, when I offer a critique (to my partners or anyone else) the first thing I say, is that what I've critiqued are only SUGGESTIONS. I'm no expert, as I've stated, however, I'm also not stupid and generally know what works and what doesn't in a book. Therefore, if something isn't working, I'm going to tell them so, and the reason why. You can't just say, "Oh this doesn't work" and leave it at that, you have to tell them why, IN YOUR OPINION, you don't think it does. And then I offer up a suggestion or idea of what to do to make it work. It is then up to them to decide if they want to use it or not.

(Both my partners and I respect and trust each other enormously, so when Partner B decided one of my scenes made my MC look like a despot, she suggested I rewrite it and offered up an idea. Now mind you, the book, in my eyes, was done. However, after discussing it with Partner A, and she agreed with B, I rewrote the scene, which both B and A loved, and the MC came off as cute rather than awful. You have to learn to take the criticism that comes and decide what to do with it. If I wanted to keep my MC looking like a despot, I would have ignored her suggestion. But I thought her opinion had merit and so changed it. And that's not to say she wanted me to change other things, which I did not.)

Another area you need to look at when finding a crit partner is their level of expertise. When I first started writing, my partners and I were at the same level -- newbies. So we all learned how to do it together. And I learned a lot. Not only from them, but from following the blogs, reading craft books, and just plain writing. Practice makes perfect. And just because I'm published now, doesn't make me an expert in the art of critique. I still have tons to learn and that's what my partners are for. To show me the error of my ways with words. Both are brilliant writers, and have a clear distinct voice that I am insanely jealous of. One has written and finished five books and is under contract with a small publisher, the other has just finished her first novel, however has a long list of credits writing for magazines and newspapers as well as e-zines.

Now, I generally don't send them my book as I'm working on it. I wait until I'm completely finished and have gone through the ms. with my own fine tooth comb at least three times. Why? Because I feel that in order to do a thorough critique, they need to see the whole story together. If I send them chapter by chapter, it bogs down my writing process with editing and rewriting. And if I write something in Chapter 6, and then decide it needs to be changed when I get to Chapter 27, if they remember it, then they'll wonder where it is and question it, which leads to a round of emails and takes away from my writing. If I send them chapter by chapter, we're also both sick of looking at it and that's no fun for them when it comes to reading the final manuscript. They've already read it, so the reading becomes more like skimming, and who wants that from a critique?

That's not to say, that I don't send them a chapter or a scene just for review. If I know that something's not working and I need help with it, I'll send them just the bit I'm having trouble with. Usually their insights lend me an idea I wouldn't have come up with on my own.

And I never send a first draft. EVER. When the book is finished, I go over it with another comb, line edits, revisions, rewrites, grammar, punctuation, etc. I remove all the green and red squigglies and format the document as if I were getting ready to upload it. I want their reading experience to be free of encumbrances so they will enjoy it, and also, with a clean manuscript, errors are easier to find. The way I'm writing now, I write and revise and edit as I go along so by the time I'm finished, it's pretty much in 5th or 6th draft form. I only need to go over it once or twice before I send it off. Less painful than trying to restructure, or revise the whole thing. Which takes time I don't have. And in sending off a clean ms. it allows you to look professional. You wouldn't send a first draft to an agent or a publisher would you? Why do it to your crit partner.

And lastly, there needs to be praise. You can't just give a critique and tell the person just the mistakes they've made. You need to sprinkle in some good in there as well. I mean, if all you say is bad, then the writer will think their book sucks. And you know it doesn't, otherwise you wouldn't have offered to read it. Besides, how do you feel when all you hear is bad stuff. Doesn't feel good now does it?

Now having said all that, what do you do if you don't have a critique partner. Well, you hire an independent copy editor or proof reader. Most will offer a few pages of critique for free just to see if you like their work. Some charge by the page, others a flat rate. And sometimes even with critique partners, a copy editor/proof reader is a good thing. I just found this guy Robert Van de Laak, who reviewed one of my short stories and let me tell you what...I was blown away by how many mistakes  he found. Not only for grammar, but punctuation (mostly comma placement) and spelling (did you know the mantel on a fireplace is spelled -el, not -le. I didn't.) I normally don't recommend someone until asked, but if you find yourself in need of a once over, this is the guy to do it.  Tell him Anne sent you. (and no I was not paid for this endorsement.)

So there you have it. Tell me -- Do you have one or two critique partners? Are you in a group? How did you find yours? Do you love yours as much as I love mine? How do you critique? Do you use an independent resource for crits? Was any of this helpful? Please feel free to offer up your own suggestions in the comments.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Me again.

Just wanted to share with you the new cover for my new short story.

           Lord Randolph Remington Culpepper, Earl of Greenleigh, is known in Society as “The Boring Earl.” His conversations rarely stray from the topic of Renaissance art or Etruscan statuary. He longs for something “more” yet cannot define it.
            Until he meets the ravishing Lady Illora Ryder. She’s young, beautiful, and dangerous, as she could expose Greenleigh’s secret life as an undercover operative for the Foreign Office. As the daughter of the Earl of Harrowby, (the third most powerful man in the British government), Illora knows more about diplomacy and foreign affairs than the Secretary behind the desk.
            When Greenleigh is given a posh assignment as conciliatory diplomat to the Russian Embassy, he thinks his life just got a whole lot easier. However, an old nemesis rears his ugly head and Greenleigh and Lady Ryder are merely pawns in the game played among the French, Russians, and England.
            As the two grow closer, Lady Ryder is caught in a deadly trap, and Greenleigh must expose himself, not only to the enemy, but to Society. Can he save her before it’s too late?

            I'm hoping to get it out before Memorial Day Weekend. Just a little bit more to go. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What is it About Blogging?

Good Morning. I don't know about you guys, I'm sure you've all felt this way at some point or another, or maybe not.

What is it about blogging?

Let me just say this right now, up front -- I LOVE BLOGGING. I think it's the coolest thing I've ever learned how to do since I found the Styles and Formatting tab on my computer. The interaction, the people, the news, gossip, comments, sharing...I love it all. It's like going back to college for me every single day. Hanging out in the lounge until all hours of the day and night, just talking books and writers and publishing. It's such a great time!

But then why does it suck so bad when I just don't want to do it anymore? And it's not that I don't want to do it, I just don't FEEL like doing it. I just don't feel like going around to all the posts, leaving comments, finding new friends, ideas, threads to chase and ponder. But when I don't, I feel guilty. Oh. So. Guilty.

I mean, I love you guys. When I'm on hiatus, I mope around, I can't concentrate, I feel like I'm going to miss something (and have on several occasions), and then when I come back everything's great for like two weeks, but then I start to feel bummed out again.

Is it the time suck? Or is it the guilt? I know I should be writing instead of blogging. But then if I don't blog, my friends don't come around anymore. And if my friends don't come around, then I feel guilty, so I blog and comment, but that takes time away from my writing. Such a bitchious circle. (No that was not a typo.)

I know several friends who've stopped blogging altogether. Do I want to do that? NO!
I've run the gamut from 5 days to 2 days back up to 3 days down to 1 day.
I've taken hiatus (hiati?) I've switched to Google Reader, come back to Blogger, and gone back to Reader.

I just don't know what it is. I can't live with it, I can't live without it.

How about you? Do any of you ever feel this way? Or is it just me?

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Interview

The lovely Donna Hole is interviewing me today. We're bantering about a wide range of topics, some writing, some publishing, some even about my new book that's out, so I hope you'll stop by.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Hot Heat

Today I think I'd like to talk about redundancy. In doing critiques (which is why we all need to do them for someone else) you tend to find the mistakes you yourself make -- over and over. Redundancy. The bane of my existance.

Perhaps it's from having a young child in the house. I have to keep repeating myself over and over again. Pick up your wet towels. Hang up your sweater. Put your dirty dishes in the sink. Over and over.

I also found that when I am redundant, it's usually to stress a point. The heat down here is so hot. The dirt down here is so dirty. The water in the pool is so wet.

I know, I know. Hot heat. Dirty dirt. Wet water. But it's so true. How else could I describe it? Of course, this is easy. Stifling heat. Dry red clay. Silky flowing water.

It's all in the description. However, what you must keep in mind is that your readers aren't six years old. They generally only need to be told once about the oppressive heat, the filthy mud, the refreshing pool.

They only need to be told once the husband cheated with his secretary. The old lady on the corner makes pies on Sunday. It was Sally in the library with a candlestick.

The point is, to only make the point once. Oh sure, sometimes you might want to go back to the point, to make it clearer again, but take my word for it, don't.

The other niggly thing I tend to do is use the same word in the same paragraph. Especially if it's a descriptor. The dirt is so dirty. I can't believe how the dirt gets into every little crevice. My daughter's jeans are so dirty when she comes in from school. Now, I don't know about you, but I really hate that. I always try and change my words around so we're not always looking at the same thing over and over. The dirt is so red. I can't believe how the dust gets into every little crevice. My daughter's jeans are so filthy when she comes in from school.

Subtle changes can make or break a story. Don't be redundant. Your readers aren't six years old. (Well, unless of course they are.)

Tell me -- Did I make my point? Do you want to throw some dirty dirt at me right now? Are you redundant?