Monday, April 29, 2013

Top of the Ninth -- Two Outs

Real life has thrown me an incredible curve ball over the weekend (some good news some bad news) and I have to swing the bat. Ninety miles an hour isn't the way I usually play, but I remember how to do it. I might not like playing so fast anymore, and I might be a little rusty, but when it comes to taking an at bat, I'm all in. I can still swing for the fences. We'll see how it all shakes out.

So, I'm off this blog again. I may or may not occasionally post once a month here at the Piedmont Writer. Who knows. However, I have pre-written posts for

Anne Gallagher Regency Romance Writer . I post on Sunday for readers and Wednesday for writers


Robynne Rand Author -- The Other Side of Providence  This is my contemporary romance/women's fiction author blog.  So Yvonne, if you want to discuss "Kate" over a drink, that's where I'll be.  I'm usually there on Thursdays.

I hope you all have a great summer. I'll see you when I do.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Nicki Elson

We're just going to dive right in today. Lots to talk about.

1) When I read Three Daves (which I loved BTW), I saw that each chapter had part of a scripture attached
to it. I thought it was interesting, but didn't quite "get it." I found though, that this is considered "inspirational". Would you consider yourself an "inspirational" writer? (Because I don't. I mean, not that you're not inspirational, it's just that to me, you're a writer of women's fiction/romance, inspiration notwithstanding.)

I’m very happy you loved it. The story behind the Psalms at the end of the chapters is that while I was writing Three Daves, I came across a Psalm that made me think of a particular scene. After that, I thought it would be fun to identify a verse that related to each chapter, so I did. In some cases the connection between the scripture and the chapter are quite strong, in others, I’ll admit, I was stretching. But one of the coolest things about the Bible is that you can read it again and again and get something different out of it every time, depending what you’re going through in this life at that moment. I began the search as a private exercise, but since I got something out of examining the scripture from the story’s angle, I thought others might too, so I left the Psalms in when I submitted for publication—but I purposely set them off from the rest of the text so that readers who chose to could simply skip past them.

Other readers have expressed mild confusion about the inclusion of the verses, but enough people have told me that they really enjoyed reading and pondering each one that I’m glad I was able to keep them in. I was half-prepared for the publisher to tell me they had to go, which would’ve made me sad, but I also would’ve been okay with it because they’re not story-essential and I understand the eyebrows they raise. But not one editor along the way ever suggested that they go, so I guess they were meant to be there.

Okay, to finally answer your question—no, I don’t consider myself an “inspirational” writer. It’s only natural that my Christian worldview will affect what I write, but like you said, I write women’s fiction/romance, period.

2) Your new book DIVINE TEMPTATION has been described as "edgy inspirational". Okay so what does THAT mean?

Hehe, um, I think it means that there are a group of authors who don’t quite fit the strict Christian Fiction genre, but they’re close, and so they’ve made up a whole new category. I was led to it when my publicist  asked me to search out Christian Fiction review sites. I knew that category wasn’t right for my book, so I was very happy when my searching led me to this Edgy Inspirational sub-genre, which allows the characters more leeway in the sinning department.

In my opinion, Divine Temptation fits in the Edgy Inspirational category, though some might say it teeters on the edge of edgy. Faith is present via Maggie’s relationship with the angel and her job at the church, but the focus of the story is on her struggle with things like life after divorce, resentfulness, an inability to trust, and not least, lust—sometimes she loses those battles, and sometimes the loss leads to dark consequences.

3) I'm dying to know how you came up with this idea of an angel in Maggie's bed. Sure, we've all dreamed of coming home and finding the perfect man, but this seems a bit...wild. Where did you find this idea? (Because I so love it.)

Yeah, I’ve raised a few eyebrows with this one too. Well, the first spark of inspiration was to have a supernatural white-knightish type inserted into the life of a mature, experienced woman (i.e. not a swoony teenager), and since my natural bent is toward writing reality, I chose a being that I believe truly exists, and so we arrive at an angel. Plus, casting him as a heavenly angel most definitely kicked up the “forbidden love” factor. It’s the opposite of all the bad boy, alpha male stories, but to me, a good boy can be every bit as enticing, in many ways more so because he appeals to more than just the libido.

Great stuff this. Gives me a few ideas of my own...

4) And trying not to give any spoilers, (but I've read some reviews) there is somewhat of a clash between good and evil...was that a natural extension because you're writing about an angel? Or did it just hit you one day?

It was a natural extension. Nothing about this story really just came along and hit me. It lived in my head for years, mutating, with new twists growing and winding their way through the storyline. Now that I’m thinking back to the very beginnings, what ended up being Divine Temptation is actually the coming together of two different ideas—one being the angelic white knight idea described above, and the other being the notion that evil is alive and thriving on this Earth, even under the immaculate surface of manicured suburbia. The seeds of this second idea came while doing a study on Death by Suburb by Dave L.Goetz

5) And because we all know you're an 80's girl, who was your musical inspiration while writing this novel?

You know me well. While writing Divine Temptation, a few songs came along and smacked me in the face as perfect for the dream soundtrack, like “Perfect” performed by Smashing Pumpkins (Maggie & her ex-husband Carl’s theme) and “Something Beautiful” performed by Needtobreathe (Magge & Evan’s theme and also her & God's). Now that you’re talkin’ 80s, however, how can I not offer up “Just Like Heaven” performed by The Cure as the lead track? It's got a nice blend of happy, longing, and dark, which I think fits the story well.

Thanks for having me over, Anne!  I greatly enjoy our discussions.

Thanks for being here Nicki! Great time as usual.

You can find Nicki at her website below, and her books are linked.


Three Daves:

Divine Temptation:

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Themes in Writing

To be quite honest, I have no idea what this is. I was told once I had a lovely theme running through THE LADY'S FATE, but until she pointed it out to me, I had no clue I'd even written one.

I'm presuming a theme is a recurring item, or something, that keeps showing up in the book. Let's go with that for the time being. (I'm too tired to look it up and then get bogged down in some scholary discussion.)

While I've been away, my latest character Kate, has come knocking on my door. Which is nice. At least I know who I'm going to be working with for the next little while. I know how the story starts, I know where it goes. Still not quite sure how it ends yet, but that's another post.

Anyway, while Kate and I have been schmoozing about her story, something clicked in my head, not like a light bulb, more like an explosion. I always knew Kate had a somewhat troubled childhood, but I didn't know why, until (as I was semi-plotting/outlining) I saw her sitting on the couch thumbing through a photograph album. Kind of the same way Aunt Fortuna did in REMEMBERING YOU.

Where Aunt Fortuna was looking at her life in comparison to what she would leave behind, Kate is looking at her childhood to see where it would take her. And that is where my explosion happened.

See, Kate's father was killed in a mill fire (he was Captain of the Fire Dept.) and there are pieces of her childhood that elude her. What she finds in the photograph album were the pieces. And that, my friends, is the revelation! Ta Da!

I guess this is my theme then -- photographs. I don't know if it's going to be in all my women's fiction, but I know when I look at photographs, I find out things about myself and my past that I never really thought about before. It's a good mirror.

Tell me -- Do you use themes in your writing? Do you know what they are?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Birthday to ME!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday dear Anne! Happy Birthday to me!

This birthday is a milestone, and a mood stabilizer for sure. 51. Yup. 51. I really can't believe it myself. How did I ever get to be this old? My only consolation is that the 50's are supposed to be the new 30's. Which is nice. I liked being in my 30's. Well, my early 30's anyway. I was hot!

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything in my life, because I wouldn't be where I am today. And the Monster is the prize at the end of my rainbow. So, in retrospect, I would never change it anyway.

However, there are several things I would have done differently if I could. I would have THOUGHT about the consequences of my actions BEFORE jumping blindly in with both feet. I would have been kinder. I would have looked at the future instead of only being in the moment. Be that as it may, there is no magic wand, no fairy god-mother to "poof" my mistakes away. And besides, mistakes are what make you who you are. And in my case, great fodder for my books.

During my writing break, I've been thinking about my new main character Kate, a lot. (Romantic women's fiction) Who she is, who her family is, what she wants, what's she's going to do about the predicament I've placed her in. If I'd lived a more boring and sedate life, lived by societal rules and been the person my parents wanted me to be, Kate wouldn't have the plot line she does now.

But because of my "wild life" (oh, yes, I was a wild child. Remember I grew up in the late 70's early 80's) I've had my share of oh-my-God-that-episode-was-something-you-could-only-read-about-in-a-novel moments. If I wrote a memoir, people would think it was fiction. They would say "She couldn't have done THAT!" But yes, yes I could have and did. (Did I ever tell you about the gun-fight I walked into the middle of at the Silver Dollar Casino in Nevada? True story.)

And now Kate gets to live some of those episodes. (Not the gun-fight, I'm saving that for someone else.) The same way that Genna lived some of my episodes in Remembering You. Watered-down versions from those I've experienced. I mean, I can't have people suing me can I? (My sister-n-law for one.)

Tell me -- How much of your "real life" do you put in your stories? Would people believe you if you told them some of your "episodes" from your "wild child" days? Were you a "wild child"? When's your birthday?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Linda Grimes

If you don't know Linda, she's the lady who has pictures of camels on her blog every Wednesday. If you do
know Linda, she writes some pretty wild urban fantasy. She graciously agreed to an interview, so let's see what she has to say.

1) Ciel, your main character, is an "aura adapter" meaning she can change into whomever she wants. As a former actress, you know what it's like to step into a different role for 6-8 weeks at a time, and become "somebody else". Did you take that into consideration when creating Ciel's character?

My acting background certainly contributed to my propensity for writing characters who become other people. I guess being just one person has never been enough for me, and acting was a great way to "be" someone other than myself without, you know, going the actual multiple-personality route.

I do like to experience all kinds of personalities—to really get to know other people (the fictional ones, anyway).  Preferably from the inside out, as you can when acting or writing. People are fascinating creatures. When I write, I get to explore them to my heart's content. In a way, writers are the ultimate "aura adaptors."

2) Quick Fix, (slated for Aug. 2013 release) is a sequel. When you began writing, had you envisioned a sequel, or was this idea from someone else? Are Ciel and the "FIX" books going to become a series?

As soon as I neared the end of In a Fix, I knew there were more stories to tell about Ciel and her cohorts. Working on Quick Fix kept me busy (and sane) while I was looking for an agent, and again while my agent was trying to sell In a Fix. I was halfway through writing Quick Fix when Tor bought both books. (Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to start a second book before the first one sells.)

Tor is calling the books "an original urban fantasy series," so I'm hoping that means they'll want more. (Well, what I'm really hoping is that readers will want more, because engaging the readers is what writing is all about.)

3) Ciel is such an exciting character -- do you have dreams Hollywood will think so too? (Shades of Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap come to mind.)

Thank you! I'm glad you like Ciel—she's a kick to write.
It would be cool if Hollywood came knocking. A TV series similar Quantum Leap would be ideal, I think, because of the episodic nature of Ciel's adventures. No word yet on any nibbles from that arena, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

4) As a writer, you must have a process. Do you outline? Pantster? Notes? Spreadsheets? 

I used to write completely by the seat of my pants, but I'd say I'm maybe five to ten percent plotter now. Due to the nature of writing a series, I find a teensy bit of organization is essential for continuity. Alas. But mainly I still like to sit in front of my laptop, fingers poised on the keyboard, and wait for the characters to start talking. Frankly, I'd rather my subconscious take care of the plotting while I'm doing other things, and then surprise me while I'm tapping away. I like surprises.

5) I don't know which genre to classify your writing -- sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal -- but the question is, do you have plans to write in another? Or are you going to stick with what you know, and obviously love?

The Ciel Halligan series is classified as urban fantasy. Because humor plays such a large role in my books, I call them "light urban fantasy" (aka LUF—don't you just luf it, dahling? *grin*). They're not as dark as the majority of UF books, so I like to make the distinction. I wouldn't want readers to buy the books thinking they're getting blood and guts, only to wind up with giggles instead. Not that there isn't plenty of action and danger, but I tend to see the humorous side of the even tensest situations. Plus, I like the juxtaposition of conflicting emotional reactions—I think the contrast heightens the experience.

As for other genres…well, I'm currently polishing up a paranormal suspense (definitely not ha-ha funny like the Ciel Halligan books), and I've just begun what I think will be a thriller. An idea that I love struck me out of the blue, and I'm running with it. We'll see where it leads me.

Gaah. Which I suppose, when you count the third Ciel Halligan book, means I'm working on three novels right now. And here I suck at multitasking… Watch out—my head might explode. Better stand back out of the splash zone. ;)

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Anne! I love spending time here at the Piedmont Grill. 

And thank you so much for being here. It's great to read about other genres!

Linda grew up in Texas, where she rode horses, embarrassed herself onstage a lot, and taught teenagers they'd have to learn the rules of English before they could get away with breaking them for creativity's sake. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband.

(Quick Fix is slated for an August 2013 release.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Complacency in Our Reading

On Monday I talked about how some New York authors have become complacent in their writing. Today, I'd like to discuss when we become complacent in our reading. Or rather, how I became complacent in my reading.

When I was a kid, we had 3 television stations. No cable, no DVD, no VCR. No cell phones, no game-boys or Wii. When my parents bought the beach house, they decided they weren't even going to allow us a tv. So what was there for us kids to do?

Well, my brothers had friends in the village (there were no girls my age) so there was nothing for me to do BUT read. And read I did. Anything I could get my hands on. In the beginning it was always about horses. Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, National Velvet. Then one of my mother's friends left a Harlequin romance behind The Honey is Bitter by Violet Winspear, and I was hooked on romance.

Soon after that I found what is now known as a bodice-ripper, about a Scottish Highlander and his lass. And thus began my love affair with historical romance. For over twenty years, that was all I read. Okay, that was MAINLY what I read. I delved into poetry for a bit because I am a classic romanticist, but for the most part I was totally into historical romance. Transported in time and place, I was all in.

After I graduated high school and began living at the beach house all year round, I worked two, sometimes, three jobs, but I always managed to have some time in the afternoons off -- to lay on the beach, get a great tan, and read my lurid love stories.

So from 1976 until about 2004 (28 years for those who don't do math) New York pubbed romance writers of the historical genre were all I read. Pretty sad, huh? Over those decades, I would say I accumulated about 10,000 books under my belt.

When I started writing, agents, bloggers, big names in the biz, would say "Familiarize yourself with your genre -- Read what's out there -- Get a feel for what's publishing now" Okay, but I already did that. So much so, I felt I was drowning in it. And I also knew, that when I began writing, I didn't want to be like all those other writers. I wanted to write what I wanted to read and no one was writing it, so I decided to do that instead.

In the last couple of years, I've branched out of my genre and started reading things that wouldn't have ever been on my radar when I was younger -- literary fiction, mystery, thriller, women's fiction. This summer I want to dive into some classics.

These days, I don't read nearly even one tenth of what I used to. (Back at the beach house, I could get through a book a day.) I think now if I get through a book a month I'm doing something. But that, in turn, has made me very selective about what I reach for.

Tell me -- What do you read? Do you stay strictly in your genre? Or do you branch out? Do you not read anything in your genre because you're afraid of finding out your plot has already been done? (Truthfully, this is one of the reasons I don't read in my genre very much anymore.)

I've been working in the yard this week trying to get most everything done before it gets too hot. By the time I get home, I'm on the couch. I do read your comments and your posts, but sorry to say, I just don't have the energy to comment.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Complacency in Our Writing

Good morning. As you all know I've stopped writing for awhile. Last year's writing/publishing frenzy has left me blocked, which may or may not be a good thing. We'll see how it goes.

But, because I haven't been writing, my brain has been left to rattle around in my cranium with nothing to focus on, so it wanders to and fro in its own little world. Last week, I happened to find an old book I had lying around that I hadn't read. Mind you, it was published in 2009, so it wasn't that old, but still.

(Funny how it takes New York almost 18 months to publish something, and then in 6 months it's already in the Dollar Store.)

Anyway, as I read this book, my little brain kept urging me to throw it across the room. It was an historical romance, by a very famous New York published writer. And I had read almost everything she's ever written, so I was dismayed when I got to the end and realized I SHOULD have thrown it across the room. (It ended up in the yard sale.)

I wondered then, why on God's good green earth, would her agent, editor, publisher, BFF, and mother, allow her to publish something that was just so ... dare I say it .... bleh. Not to mention her own self.

I mean, really. Where is her pride? Her intergrity to stand behind her work?

Don't get me wrong, I've had reviewers harangue me for my plot lines and characters, and some of my word choices, but I stand behind everything I've ever written. I think what I write is special, it's not your same every-day-run-of-the-mill historical romance. I don't write sex, but I insert the historical facts as accurately as I can get them and I think that makes up for the lack of voyeurism.

I make sure I trim my adjectives, keep my plot moving forward, don't keep repeating the same things every 5 pages. Readers, I have come to find, aren't stupid. They wouldn't read if they couldn't follow the plot. But jeez, this New York writer broke every single "bad" writing rule in the proverbial book by my standards. What's up with that?

When did these New York pubbed romance writers get so complacent? Is it because they know whatever they write will hit the best seller list? Or is it because their publisher doesn't care what they come up with and they know they'll sell 200,000 copies in those 6 months anyway?

However, one thing, I do know, I will not be complacent. I will always strive to have the best plot, characters, and story-line out there. I really don't want people throwing my book across the room.

Tell me -- Are you afraid of being complacent? What do you do to combat that? How do you define complacency in writing?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Laurel Garver

Because April is National Poetry Month, I thought it might be nice to have a real live poet here at the Piedmont Grille and Laurel has graciously agreed to sit down and chat. For those of you who don't know Laurel, she writes prolific blog posts on the craft of writing and editing.
 You can find her here at Laurel's Leaves.

Let's jump in.

1) As an editor, you've likely seen all kinds of crazy writing. What's the one thing you see over and over again and wish writers would stop doing?

Apostrophe abuse makes me cranky. The craziest thing I deal with is editing non-native English speakers, who carry over quirks from their native languages. For example, some eastern European languages don’t have possessives (they’d say “the truck of Bob”) and some Asian ones don’t have articles (a, an, the), so making the English sound natural is very tedious.

Some days, my English is very tedious. lol Although, I do like the sound of "the truck of Bob". Harkens back to the romance languages.

2) Poetry (to me) is a somewhat exotic form of writing. Simple words and phrases are turned into something else entirely. Take your poem “Affliction” for instance.


In the decade between

dawn and alarm sound,

a new story swells

like a sprained ankle.

It pains you to wakefulness.

Dough-rising, volume-doubling,

pressing ever outward,

it stretches the sorry sock

that deigns to contain it.

Huge and purple it emerges,

in every sense an enormity.

The only medicine for it

is bloodletting, bard-style:

pen, paper, patient play.

© Laurel Garver, 2013.

Writer's angst is now turned into a sprained ankle. How do you do that? Is it another way of thinking entirely? Or do you just "see" it?

Poetry writing involves making intuitive connections between things. It’s looking at clouds and seeing fantastical shapes rather than just water molecules gathered in the atmosphere. Most everyone has the ability to do that (especially when we’re young). It’s really a matter of cultivating it rather than letting conventional ways of viewing the world quash it.

Peter Mayle, one of my favorite writer's, can do this as well, although I don't think he writes poetry.

3) I believe poetry is undervalued in this country unless it rhymes and we learned it as a kid. Why do you think that is?

I think there are forms of poetry that are valued today. They take poetry back to its oral-tradition roots and tend to have a performance element--song lyrics, spoken word, slam poetry, rap. Take apart just about anything Eminem has written, and you’ll see a poetic that draws on the Beats (1950s-60s counterculture)--the intricate sound play, the satire, and interest in the urban poor and social justice.

Sometime in the last century, poetry became increasingly by and for people with advanced degrees. Because of that, the average reader believes all poems are difficult to understand.

Apart from the mean streets or a classroom, most Americans only encounter poems in greeting cards. Those sentimental, one-note pieces aren’t really representative of what good poetry is or can be. Yet there are hundreds of journals publishing quality, accessible poems. I suspect we could see a renaissance if a few film and TV stars talked up loving poetry. Hey, it worked for knitting and veganism.

Very true.

4) I used to read poetry when I was a teenager. Rod McKuen was one of my favorite "modern" poets, and I don't think there has been another of his caliber for quite some time. Can you share your favorites?

Some contemporary favorites are Annie Dillard, Scott Cairns, David Citino, Denise Levertov, Geoffrey Hill. I’m oddly fond of the Beatnik poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti--their use of soundplay, their often weird subject matter, their emotional intensity. Going even earlier, I love the work of Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

On my quest to read more this summer, some of these authors will definitely be on my list.

5) Writing poetry takes a certain amount of discipline, more so, I think, than any other writing. I grapple with my writing angst all the time. Does it make sense? Is it too much conflict? Is it not enough? etc. etc. Do you "fight" the same way with a poem as you would a novel?

Poetry is far more condensed than other forms of writing, so it takes patience to tinker until the rhythm and word choices work. I find writing poetry less difficult than fiction writing, though. Poems are by nature short and very focused, which to me is easier than weaving the many threads of fiction over many pages and incidents. Like any genre, if you read it a lot, you become steeped in that way of thinking.

Laurel, thanks so much for being here today. It's been a real treat having you.

Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, poet, and writer of faith-based fiction. She enjoys quirky independent films, British TV, and geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

About Muddy-Fingered Midnights

This thirty-poem collection is an eclectic mix of light and dark, playful and spiritual, lyric and narrative free verse. In an intricate dance of sound play, it explores how our perceptions shape our interactions with the world. Here child heroes emerge on playgrounds and in chicken coops, teens grapple with grief and taste first love, adults waver between isolation and engaged connection. It is a book about creative life, our capacity to wound and heal, and the unlikely places we find love, beauty, and grace.

Buy Links: $1.99 e-book

Kindle ( / Nook ( /
all other ereaders (;

$6.50 paperback (

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Full Stop

And no, this post isn't about punctuation.

The last two weeks or so have seen me doing things I never thought I would do. Using a chainsaw, cutting down trees, dragging said dead trees into the little forest on the side of my house, using drill bits, and axes, not to mention getting cut, scratched, and bitten by every sharp-needled thing God decided to put on his green earth.

The last two days saw me weed-wacking, blowing leaves, moving fences, and hauling downed limbs to the front of the house for pick-up. To say I'm exhausted is an understatement. To say I need a man around the house is blasphemy. I wouldn't trade this for the world.

Yeah, it sucks in ways you can't imagine, but I'm not giving up my independence for one moment. (I'm also trying to show the Monster Child that a woman can do anything she sets her mind to.)

But all this outdoor work has gotten me thinking about why I stopped writing. I've not written anything in weeks. I can't. I'm totally blocked. Okay, I didn't want to admit it before, I thought I was just mentally fatigued, but I'm not. I'm blocked. I've got nothing, nada, zippo, zilch.

I decided when the weather broke I would let it go and just do all the outdoor stuff that I needed to do, and that this in turn would inspire me to get back into writing. Get "real life" settled, and the "writing life" would come back. It always worked before. This time it's not helping.

Writing non-stop for the last 18 months has taken a toll on me. A bigger one than I ever expected. I let my real life stuff get so out of control it's overwhelming me and I can't see the end in sight. And this pushes me further away from my writing. I don't even know if it could be called a vicious circle because to me, it's just a never-ending straight line of neglected responsibilities. So I suppose something had to finally give. And that had to be my writing. I am a "grown-up" after all.

But perhaps this is what I needed. If I didn't stop writing, who knows what dreck I would put out there if I decided to push through. And I definitely don't want that.

So for the time being, I'll be content in my real life. My keyboard will still be there when everything is done. Right?

Tell me -- How do you make time for both worlds? Do you write M-F and leave the weekends open for real life? Or do you do a little at a time?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Great Lines

Rick Daley (of My Daley Rant) posted the Letter C last week on his A-Z Challenge and it was about Eric Clapton. (For those of you too young to know who Eric Clapton is, he is one of the best guitarists in the world.)

Anyway, for the rest of that day after I read his post, I couldn't help hear the song Bell Bottom Blues in my head. (One of my most favorite songs. Recorded in 1971 - shows you how old I am.) There is a line in that song --

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back

That everytime I hear it, I think, "That is the best line EVAH!" Sends goosebumps up my spine. Listen to him sing it. Sheer heartbreak. Anguish. All that fun stuff a romance writer loves.

This in turn, brought me to thinking about great lines in books. Every so often, I'll run across one that just blows me away. And they may not seem like anything to you (it's all very subjective) but each of these lines invokes something in me that makes me want to remember it.

There is something about trains, drinking, and being an Indian with nothing to lose.
-- Sherman Alexie

What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
--Alexander Pope

Family ain't what you inherit, girl, it's what you make with those you love who love you back.
--Olivia Goldsmith

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.
--Antoine Saint-Exupery

But Cash had been thinking how sad it was there was not even a plant on the windowsill in here. Not one green thing that can sit in the sun and be quiet.
--Barbara Kingsolver

That was enough for the both of us because those kisses came from the same place where pain and hunger live.
-- Robert Olmstead

One cannot live rightly when one lives without love.
-- Anne Gallagher (The Lady's Fate)

As you can see, I posted my own "great line" up there as well, because I feel it deserved a mention. Of everything I've ever written, that's the only line I ever remember faithfully.

How about you? When you pen your stories do you ever sit back and say, "Hoo-doggie, that was a GREAT line!" If so, what is it?

For your listening pleasure Derek and the Dominoes Bell Bottom Blues

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday's at the Piedmont Grille

On Today's Menu -- Carol Kilgore  SOLOMON'S COMPASS

Following up her debut novel, IN NAME ONLY, Carol has written another smashing tale of intrigue combined with  romance and has graciously agreed to a few questions. 

I know so little about you.  How did you end up becoming a writer?

I’ve always had stories and characters floating around in my head. And I’ve always made up stories about people I don’t know. I thought everyone did. When I learned that wasn’t the case, I wondered if I was supposed to write these down. I took some writing classes and fiction classes and found my true home.

I love your brand -- Crime Fiction with a Kiss. How did you come up with that?

I needed something to describe what I write. Yes, it’s mystery, but not traditional mystery. Yes, it’s suspense, but not Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark suspense. And it’s romance, but not contemporary romance or romantic suspense. The romance is more of a love story. So I thought for a while about genres and about what all my books have in common instead of how they’re different. All my novels have at least one crime, and they all have a love story. I played around with different words and phrases for a few days until I finally hit on Crime Fiction with a Kiss. I knew that was the right line as soon as the thought came.

Gee, perhaps we should brainstorm. I want a tag like that.

Are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?

Both. I pay attention to three-act structure. I know the things I want the story to cover, and I have a timeline for when they occur in the plot. I know a lot about my characters. I know their backstories and motivations and what they’ll be doing in this story.

As I write this, my muse is perched on a stool behind me filing her nails. “Sure you do, honey. Keep on thinking that.”

She’s right. Once I start to write, the characters and my muse take over. Usually they follow the plan close enough – my in-control self says it’s a good thing there’s a plan or the story would be all over the map. My muse is laughing. Why is that?

What do you read? What are your favorite genres? Who are your favorite authors?

My reading habit is eclectic. I love reading work by bloggers I know, and the range of genres is amazing! I love discovering authors whose work is new to me and falling in love with their stories. And, of course, I have favorites I’ve loved forever. My most favorite forever author is Lisa Scottoline. I also like David Baldacci, Lisa Gardner, Suzanne Brockmann, and James Patterson. Left to my own devices, I gravitate to the mystery, suspense, and romance genres.

Now that Solomon's Compass is out, are you working on something else, or are you taking a break from writing?

I don’t think I know the true meaning of “taking a break” – LOL. I’m working on two projects. One will be the next book in this non-series of standalones set on the Texas Gulf Coast. The other is the first book of a trilogy set in San Antonio.

 What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Ah-ha! The trick question. Stop laughing…I’m serious. There are lots of different parts of writing, and I have difficult parts with all of them. Or so it seems when I’m there. It’s difficult to make myself actually “start” writing instead of doing something else, especially on a new project. Getting the opening right is hard. I lose track of how many times I redo it before I’m satisfied. Sometimes I only redo the first page, but sometimes it’s the first few chapters. I’ve learned to embrace this as an important part of my process. It grounds me. Oh…and I really dislike the search and destroy part of editing.

      I know that you've self published -- Was that always your goal or had you tried the          agent route?
I did try the agent route. I even succeeded and had an agent for a couple of years. She was less than useful, and we parted ways. By the time I queried again, I had no luck. The publishing business as we once knew it was falling apart, and self-publishing was becoming more and more accepted and acceptable. I decided to try it, and so far it’s been good.

     What is the most surprising thing you discovered after you began marketing your books?
I didn’t discover anything that knocked my socks off, but I did discover several things that surprised me. I found no way to calculate what works. People don’t always purchase the day they read about your book. Or even the week or month.
It’s important to be yourself and not follow someone else’s formula for what works or doesn’t work. Listen to your gut. Don’t be afraid to try something different or a little “out there.”

Carol Kilgore
Crime Fiction with a Kiss

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Opening Lines

Kristen Lamb had a similar post about this called In Media Res, a couple of weeks ago. And I think it's time we discussed this again. I know how topics come and go, and then come around again. But it seems to me that sometimes we just need to be reminded of stuff we know and thought we forgot.

Back when I was querying, I read a lot of agent blogs and they all said the same thing -- You need to have a great opening line, a fabulous "hook" to draw the reader in. Sounds good in theory, but I was never one to practice it. My stories start at the beginning (if that makes sense). I don't want to drop three paragraphs or chapters for that matter just because that's where the action is. I mean, just because you have a great opening line doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of the book won't suck. Believe me, I've seen this happen.

Standing in a bookstore, you open the novel, read the first page or three, plunk down $15- for something you think is going to be fabulous and once you get to the end, if you even GET to the end, you find out the $15- was wasted.

In my opinion, I'd rather start the book off a little more slowly and allow the reader to get the WHOLE idea of what is GOING to happen rather than just dumping them right into the zombie apocolypse, or the shoot out at the corner of 5th and Main, or into the middle of a conversation where you wonder who's speaking, and having them say, "What the hayzoo is going on?"

For example, when I started showing REMEMBERING YOU around, everyone told me to dump the first two pages and open when Genna first sees Tony at the diner. Then I could fill in all the backstory later. Uh, no. That's not where the story began. It began with her driving up interstate 95 and thinking how surprised Uncle Sal would be when he saw her. It began with her remembering what it was like to be home and why she left in the first place. It began with her nervousness and anxiety.

I mean, ten years is a long time to be gone, there's a boatload of emotions going and then, BLAM, there's Tony. I mean, that's like going to a funeral and having the dead person sit up in the casket.  It's an "Oh shit" moment. (Not an "Ah Ha" moment.) But as in "Oh shit, what is Genna going to do now?" I like to REACH the tension instead of just starting out with it.

Some people call that backstory. Others call it info dumping. I call it the beginning.

As a reader, no one would care about Genna and Tony and why the meeting was so significant if they didn't know she hadn't been home for ten years or why. And that's what the first two pages were all about. It's a lead in to the "Oh shit" moment.

Tell me --  Would you rather get dropped in to the action, or would you rather be led to it? Do the old publishing "writing rules" apply anymore?  Do we really need to "hook" a reader with the first sentence?
Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Phenomenon of Bad Reviews and Being Number One

And first, let me just say, this is NOT an April Fool's joke.

Last week, I mentioned in my post on Responding to a Negative Review about this crazy phenomenon that is happening. Because of my bad review, I decided to check out other books in my genre and price range. And what I found is mind blowing. (And this is only on Amazon.)

Now, I have a couple of novellas that are priced at 99 cents. I also have one at $1.29, and one at $1.49. I like to stagger them this way because, well, I do. Stores use this tactic all the time. They lure you in with the cheap, then offer you another item at a slightly higher price. Then they give you the big gun at the even higher price. I call this Good, Better, Best.

Anyway, because of my bad review, I went searching to see if this reviewer had left other reviews on other books. (And no, my reviewer was not listed among any of these bad reviews.) However, in the midst of my searching I nearly had a heart attack. Because what I found time after time was that the books with the most bad reviews were ranking in the top 10. Which means they had more sales.

WTF? No seriously. W.T.F.?

Nearly every single book in the top 20 of my genre (Regency romance) in the short story category were these books with sometimes 10 or 12 bad reviews. And they were selling a lot. (You can tell how they're selling by the rank in which they hold, right under the product description.)

#607, #1,235, #58, #362. In order to have numbers like that, you have to at least, AT LEAST sell around 40-50 copies per day.

My rankings are no where near that. I hover generally, between the 25,000 - 70,000 mark. Which is good. On really good days, I get back into the teens. And I can honestly say, I don't usually go over the 100K threshold. So I'm lucky.

But after reading all this, and all the reviews, I couldn't help wonder what it was that made these books sell. ALL of the reviews, ALL OF THE REVIEWS, on ALL of the books I looked at (25 at least)  were written by different people, but they all said the same thing -- bad editing, typos, crazy plot, bad characters, no research -- so my question was, why did they bother to read them? (And those that had a single five star, you know were written by the author's mother or BFF.)

I'm likening this phenomenon to a bad car crash. You know, you're cruising down the highway at 70mph and then BLAM, cops everywhere, you have to slow down, and as you drive by the wreck, you can't help but look.

So all these readers decided they HAD to read the book to see if it really was as bad as the first reviewer said it was? And this in turn prompted them to write a bad review? And so on and so forth.

There is this little thing on every book called "Look Inside". It gives you a preview of what the first few pages look like. Allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not you'll like it and then buy it. So these people just didn't do that? Or they did and bought the book anyway?

What is up with that? Do these people have money to burn? Or are they trolls? (You know those parasitic reviewers who are actually authors out to trash other authors in their genre.)

However, even still, it doesn't account for the ranking. Obviously, someone, actually a LOT of someones are buying those books and reading them. And the more people who buy them, cause that author to move up in rank, and the higher in rank you are, the more exposure you get. The more exposure you get, the more money you make.

I don't get it. I really don't. I bust my ass (as you saw last week) to put out a quality product to entice readers to read my stuff. I price my books accordingly. I think I'm fair. I have a Good, Better, Best attitude. I strive to make my books the best that they can be. So why am I not in the top 20? Hell, why am I not even in the top 100?

And you know, I won't even get into the discussion on the covers of these books either. They were all "hand-made" and some were just plain awful. What is up with THAT? I'm no cover expert, but I designed my covers with a particular idea in mind. I don't do my own, I have an awesome designer, but I have done covers for other people, and I know how to do lay-out and composition. And the stuff I do produce isn't "professional" (there's a subtle art to design) but the covers I do make don't look "home-made". Let's call them "semi" professional. (If I had the right program I could make them even better.) But that's neither here nor there.

The only way I think I can wrap my head around all this is that, when you're on a book page, there is the scroll of "People Who Bought This, Also Bought..." with page after page of other books. Amazon makes it easy to click and buy, so perhaps these other people were duped into buying. I don't know.

So, in summing this all up, what I've found (in my genre anyway) is that it doesn't really matter what you write. Someone, somewhere is going to buy your book. Even if it's bad. Even if the cover is lousy. Even if all your reviews are 1 star. And you will become the next #1 bestseller.

Makes me wonder if I made a mistake taking the time to rewrite my novellas. Makes me really think of chucking every thing I know about writing out the window, and writing a bad book. Just to see what happens. A kind of social experiment maybe. Who knows, maybe I'll make it to #1. (Wouldn't that be really something?)

So how about you? Do you bother to read a book with more than 2 bad reviews? Or are you in the rubbernecking category? Do you "Look Inside" before you buy?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013