Monday, September 30, 2013

The Story of the Copperhead Snake

Good Morning. Some of you may have already seen this, if so, forgive the repeat. I've been flat out nuts since last Friday and I forgot to write up a post for this morning. I'll try to do better next week.

The Story of the Copperhead Snake

Once upon a time, in the land of Carolina North, there lived a writer who ripped up the rug in her kitchen. Eww, you must be thinking, a rug in the kitchen. Yes, a rug in the kitchen, which is why the writer ripped it up.

It was a large rug, so the writer, who was handy with an electric carving knife, cut the rug into manageable portions, rolled these portions up, tied them with an old clothesline and laid them in a small pyramid out in the carport to take to the dump at a later date.

As the writer knew deep down she would probably never go to the dump, she decided to place the rolled up portions of rug into the trash can. There were six portions in all, three small and three large. The writer took the smallest three and placed these portions down the street in her parent's trash cans, because, although not being the brightest bulb when it comes to math, she does have decent knowledge of what will fit into a trash can.

With that, she lifted one of the larger portions of rug to heave it into her own trash can and to her surprise, a snake lay in between the two remaining portions of rug. The snake was lovely, brown and yellowish green, small, and wrapped around in a lovely coil. He lifted his head slightly, as if to acknowledge the writer's presence and wondering for a moment why she had taken his warmth away, but then placed his head back onto his lap and returned to sleep.

The writer wondered what kind of snake it was, although did not give it a second thought that it could ever be something potentially dangerous, and so placed a box over the snake and then a large rock on top of the box.  Knowing the woman across the street liked snakes, the writer called her. However, the woman would not be available to look at the creature until later on that day.

And so, the writer continued cleaning the rest of the carport, cleaning the house, going about her regular Saturday cleaning business; laundry, kitchen, bathrooms. (If you thought this writer had a cleaning staff, I'm afraid you have the wrong writer.)

Early evening brought the woman across the street to the carport. And she was excited because all day long she had dreamed this small snake would be a replacement for a corn snake she had lost after 27 years. The woman eagerly lifted the box, and then quickly placed it back over the snake.

The writer asked, "What is wrong? Do you not like the snake?"
The woman said, "It is not a corn snake, my dear. It is a copperhead. And they are exceedingly dangerous."

The writer, who had grown up on the shores of Rhode Island, who had only ever seen a garter snake in real life, who at least had had the forethought to cover it with a box, said to the woman, "Well, what shall we do with it?"

The woman suggested they call -- the police, the fire department, animal control, the science museum, the hospital, the pest control business -- and all refused to deal with the poor little snake. When one last call prompted the response, "Oh, you must destroy it," this made both the writer and the woman very sad. It was a lovely little snake and not bothering anyone, and why was death the only option?

Surely, God had created the snake for a reason, although perhaps did not mean for it to be in the carport of a writer in Carolina North, near a small child, a little cat named Henry, and three very stupid dogs. Was there a way to transport the snake to a better place, where he would not upset so very many people, where he would be safe and not so dangerous?

Well, yes there was, however, the woman and the writer remained stymied as to how to pick up the snake in the first place without getting injured. He was a copperhead after all. Unfortunately, what they needed, was a man. A man who would not be afraid to deal with a little snake under a box. Okay, a poisonous little snake under a box.

Surprisingly, the man down the street had a son, a very lovely young man who was not afraid of anything, and after much deliberation, killed the little snake with one quick chop of an ax. The woman and the writer each said a prayer releasing the little snake's soul up to the Lord and asking for forgiveness in killing it.

Let this be a lesson for you all -- Be careful what you leave outside in the carport in the fall.

Did I happen to mention this writer also has a cord of wood stacked on the other side of the carport, and that copperhead snakes like to curl up into wooden stacks to hibernate?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Self-Gratification -- Instant or Prolonged

Good morning. I had an incident with a piece of brown bread the other day and it got me thinking. I know, first of all you're probably wondering, what in the hay-zoo is brown bread?

When I was a kid, every Saturday night we would have beans. Beans and hot dogs. Or beans and hamburgers. Or beans and pork chops. I don't really know what it was with beans, but there they were. When I was really little, my mother would make them from scratch in her big bean crock. They would cook all day in the oven and when she took them out, man, I can still smell them.

And then she would open the can of brown bread. I suppose it's called molasses bread in some places, I'm not really sure. I do know it's thick, and sweet, and sometimes has raisins in it. I also know it's steamed and not baked. It's not "traditional" bread, and I don't really know how to describe it. But it was always there on the table on Saturday night.

Having moved down South, I've had to give up a lot of food I took for granted when I lived in the North East. Fresh quahogs, fried clams with bellies, plums without pesticides, coffee milk, johnny-cakes, Twins Pizza, spinach pie, dough-boys --  the list is endless -- and brown bread.

Anyway, my mother found a can of brown bread at the local supermarket one day. She called me right away, nearly giddy with joy. "You'll never guess what I just found at Lowes Foods." When she told me brown bread I nearly cried. She was of course, making beans and hamburg for supper, and wanted me to come for dinner. I didn't feel good and I didn't want to take the chance I would give whatever malady I had to my father (his immune system is compromised) so I begged off. However, I told her to save me a piece of brown bread.

She sent me a chunk later that night. Probably around three slices if I cut it just so. However, what I did was leave it on the counter. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Finally, Tuesday night I cut off a slice and smeared butter on it and inhaled it in one bite. I left the rest for another day.

It has now been 10 days and the second piece of brown bread is still on the counter. It's not that I don't want to eat it. It's not that I didn't even go to the store and buy my own can and can have brown bread whenever I want. It's not that I'm afraid of the zillion calories I would consume if I ate it.

I've found the reason for prolonging my self-gratification is I'm afraid. I'm afraid if I eat that last piece, I'll never have it again. Even though I have my own can in the pantry. How twisted is that?

I did it with books the other night as well. I finally put the Kindle reading app on Monster's lap top so I could finally read books in bed. (I still don't have a real Kindle -- go figure. Santa can you hear me?)

So after I put the Kindle app on the lap top, I trolled through the stacks of books on Amazon. I hit several categories. I found so many books I have wanted to read for the last however long, but I didn't buy any. I've been saving money so I could buy them. I have lots of money so I could have bought as many as I wanted, but I didn't.

You know why, I wanted "real" books. Paperbacks. Okay, so maybe my "lots of money" was only $20 bucks and e-books are wicked cheap and I could have bought at least 15 books. But somehow, reading in bed constitutes turning pages, bad light, and twisted pillows. The thought of reading off a computer screen in bed totally turned me off. What gives?

I didn't buy e-books because I wanted paperback and I only had enough money for one or two, so in turn, I didn't buy any. I couldn't make up my mind which "One" to buy so I put it off.

Do you do this? Do you prolong your self-gratification for whatever reason? Or do you just "go for it"? Have you ever had brown bread?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Smashwords Interview

Good morning. For those of you who publish with Smashwords, you're probably already aware of the new changes to benefit their authors. Mark Coker is doing an amazing job for indies and I'm so glad I decided to stop playing with KDP Select and jump over to Smashwords and diversify. 

One of the latest tools Mark has given us is the ability to do an interview. Now me, I'm a talker. Ask me about my books and I'll go on and on. However, nobody has asked me lately, so I played around with this on Saturday morning, and this is the author interview I gave myself. 

Interview with Anne Gallagher

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in a little ocean side town in Rhode Island. My teenage summers were spent working at the local ice cream parlour and getting a tan (before that became bad for you). We didn't have a television (by choice) and the only thing to do was read. I cut my teeth on historical romance, bodice rippers and Highlander stories, and Fabio graced every cover. I loved losing myself in different places, not to mention different eras. Somehow though, I found the Regency period and I've never looked back.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I ever wrote was about a 70's rock band. I must have been seventeen. I still have it. Found it in a box of old papers when we moved. It totally stinks, is riddled with bad dialogue, and a horrible plot, but it means something to me because way back then, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a writer.

What is your writing process?

My writing process starts off in the wee hours of the morning. I like to get up at five, take a quick peek at emails and other social media before I start writing. Usually by my second cup of tea, I open my document and review/edit what I wrote the previous day. I write by the hour. If I can get to work by six, I'll stop writing around eleven and check my word count. Some days I can get in 1500-2000 words, others it's only 500 because I've stopped to do research.

During the school year, things are a little different. I still get up at five and check my social media, but then I take my daughter to school. I generally start to work writing by 8:30 and work until 1. Sometimes, if I'm particularly enamored of my story, I'll turn the computer back on after supper.

What do you read for pleasure?

Funnily enough, not Regency romance. Before I started writing, I must have read every Regency ever written. These days I'm finding myself drawn to women's fiction, cozy mysteries, and autobiographies.

Describe your desk-

In two simple words - a disaster. I have papers, books, research tomes, pens, pads, post-its, pictures, and two horseshoes on top of it right now. However, I'm in the middle of a writing my next book, so that's the way it will stay until it is finished. When that gets published, I will clean the desk and straighten out my office. Once I decide on my next project, it becomes messy again until I finish that. It's a vicious circle.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I had written my first three Regency novels and sent out queries to agents. They all said they liked my writing, but the market was saturated so they couldn't place me. A good friend of mine had chronicled her foray into self-publishing on her blog, and I thought, "if she could do it, so could I". It was a decided learning curve, but I'm so glad I did it.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

Smashwords has given me markets that I don't think I would have gotten into. Their reach is global, with varied companies, which means varied devices to utilize. Sure there are other companies who are global, but they only have one or two e-reading devices. And not everyone owns one. With Smashwords, the opportunity to be read by millions of people all over the world is just awesome.

What do your fans mean to you?

My fans mean the world to me. I think with every writer, the first letter or review you get that says, "I loved your book" gives you the feeling that you've finally found your place in the world. And that in turn, spurs us to continue. Sure, I've had my share of bad reviews, but the good far outweigh them. And the first thing we have to learn is that not everyone is going to love everything we write. However, for those readers who continue to read what I write is like Manna from Heaven. It sustains me.

What are you working on next?

I'm trying to finish up the last four books in my series The Reluctant Grooms. I'm currently working on Richard's story (hoping I'll have enough of a word count to make a novel), and that's slated for release around Thanksgiving. I hope. Then by Christmas I'm hoping to get two novellas out (both are prequels to the last book) and then next spring, the final book in the series should be ready for publication. I tend to work on two or three books at a time, and the two novellas have already been started.

So that's it. I know it's not the best interview, but I'm not a writer for Rolling Stone.

Tell me -- Are you published on Smashwords? Have you seen any of their new changes? Have you done an author interview with yourself?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Took a Job Part Two -- A Ray of Hope

Good morning. Yes, I know, last week I was whining about my stupidness in taking over the Gift Card Coordinator position at my daughter's school. This week, I'm feeling a little differently.

Yes, I may have possibly bit off more than I could chew, but I'm settling in. I was at school W-Th-F from 7:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. All three days after I got home, I worked on promotions, ideas, and letters to other parents. I also wrote my "speech" for the Executive Board Meeting for tonight (that I've been tweaking ever since) and another for the BIG PTO meeting next Tuesday outlining all I'm going to do. I also have to re-write the official "manual" that we use (because it is a freaking nightmare and I can't make heads or tails out of it). And quite honestly, I'm exhausted. Writing books is one thing, but being in the real world again is kind of scary. (The Ultimate Recluse -- yes that's me)

However, there is a bright spot. I'm starting to feel like a "whole" person again.

Since we moved down to NC six years ago, I haven't worked outside the home. Yes, I consider myself a full-time writer, and that is my official "job" but I don't have to leave my house. Sure I go out for groceries and shopping, but that's pretty much where my "social activities" end. I don't really "talk" to anyone. Yeah, sure, a conversation here and there with my neighbor about the snakes in his chicken coop, or chatting about the weather with the postmistress, but nothing of any real value. (Which truthfully is why I blog. I need the social interaction and why I miss you all so much when I'm off on hiatus.)

In taking this position at the school, I've found that I'm returning to my pre-Monster state -- where I was a viable part of a community. Where my ideas were met with enthusiasm, where I could state a case for something I believe in and find camaraderie, where I'm not just Monster's mother, but a bona-fide person in my own right. It's been thrilling.

In taking on this position, I find my creativity challenged in ways I haven't used for a very long time. Sure I bitch about how much work this all is, but honestly, it's fun. See, the girl I took over for (Tina) has done nothing but do the job for the last three years. She hasn't put any forward motion into it, hasn't wanted to. I can understand that -- she has 3 kids under the age of 8 and to say she's frazzled is an understatement.

I, on the other hand, have many ideas on how the Gift Card Coordinator position should be run and have implemented at least three of them since last Wednesday. All have been met with unbridled enthusiasm. (Which, quite frankly, is a little unsettling. If even the littlest things I do can have such a response, then either their bar has been set quite low, or I am particularly brilliant. I think I'd rather go with the former.)

I've also been "blessed" by everyone one who now knows I'm the new coordinator. As in, "God Bless You for taking on the task." "We're blessed to have you do this." "What a blessing it is to have you here." And hey, not that I'm overly fond of all that religion, but I won't turn down a blessing. You never know when you'll need it right?

I just wanted to tell you, I'm not feeling as crazed as I was last week.Yeah, sure, the job is still a little overwhelming, but I'm making strides, and so far, not faltering (unless you count the reconciling sheets I have to do. Ugh, it's all math.) But so far, I feel pretty good. I have every confidence that once I know my way around the books, I'll be able to get this job down to four hours two days a week. And then I can finish my next masterpiece. lol

I'm starting to feel like my "old self" again. I'm starting to feel like ME. Yay me!

And just one more thing.

I finished that "school project story" too and published it. (For those of you who don't know, I offered a prize for the school auction last April "Be A Character in a Story" and one of the teachers won it.) I decided to write it and then donate part of the proceeds back to the school. It's not my typical Regency romance, more about how two teachers find their way in 1809, but there is a little romance so as not to disappoint my regular readers.

This too, has been met with much enthusiasm and I'm actually going to do a real book signing for the paperback version on October 18 at the school's Fall Festival. So if you're anywhere near Winston-Salem around 4pm on October 18, stop by and say hello.

If any of you would like to read it for a review, I'll gladly send you a copy. (novella length word count 25K) I need all the reviews I can get. It's for charity and I'd like to see this do well.

So that's all the news that I have. Thanks for all your support last week. This is why I continue to blog. With all of you having my back, I am truly blessed. You can't find friends like this on Face Book or Twitter.

Tell me -- Have you ever taken on a job that you regretted, but then found it was the best thing you could have done for yourself?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Took a Job -- A Little Whine

Good morning. As the title of this post implies, I am now employed. However, there's no pay involved. You see, I took a job at my daughter's school as the new "gift card coordinator".

It's a volunteer position for the PTO, something I never ever wanted to join. (Because as you all know, joining the PTO is like going back to high school -- somewhere I never wanted to be in the first place.)

I've been thinking lately that I did need to find a "real" job. Don't get me wrong, I consider myself self-employed. Same as when I was a self-employed caterer. But back then I always had something in the pipeline for the slow winter months between Jan 1 and Easter before things started picking up again. I was thinking this time, I would find something part-time, maybe office temp to keep me afloat until I can get the next book out. I mean, I am a pretty good typist and know my way around a couple of computer programs.

Anyway, over the summer, the school posted their volunteer positions and I kept seeing the "gift card coordinator" job not being filled. My friend Tina (our daughters are in the same class) was leaving it because she was going to be the new PTO treasurer. I just naturally assumed one of the other women who helped her was going to do it. But no one filled in the little box.

So I did. My only real thought about the position was that it would look good on my resume if and when I ever did join the real world again.

HA! Hindsight is 20/20 as we all know, and last week I had my first two training sessions. It's a lot more involved than I ever thought. A lot (A LOT) more political than I ever dreamed or aspired to (I now am sitting on the Executive Board of the PTO with a vote mind you), and a way lot more hours than I ever planned on donating.

I was at school, both Wednesday and Friday for 7 hours. I didn't bring a lunch because I thought it would only take a few hours. It's a lot more complicated than just filling orders and checking off boxes. There's math involved. MATH my friends, and let me tell you now, math and I are hardly on speaking terms. My personal checkbook has never been balanced in the 30+ years I've had one. I mean, I do know how to add and subtract, multiply and divide, but balancing, yeah, not so much. I'm willing to let a few pennies slide into the ether. (My accountant despises me.)

And for the love of Mike, I had to learn the different terminology of what Tina calls the "brain". (The reconciling sheets that need to match perfectly with the numbers in the columns.) We have In-School Sales, Great Lakes sales, (where we get our gift cards), buy-out sales, (people who don't want to participate but we need to account for them as well), percentage totals, credit sales, (which the teachers are always getting credits to use), not to mention we have local vendors who participate who aren't in the "system" so they're on a whole different page.

Don't get me wrong, I can do this job. I was in charge of a $3 million dollar budget when I was chef at The Stone House Inn. I had to account for every purchase and sale back then. But it's been a long time.

And because I now hold a position on the PTO Executive Board, I've already been blindsided by the politics. (There's a fight raging over taking the microwaves out of the cafeteria for the kids to use. I'm already pressured to cast a vote to bring them back.)

Can I back out of this? No. I said I would do it. Do I want to? Hell yeah, I want to run for the hills. My perfect schedule of dropping Monster off at school and writing all day is gone. Granted the "job" only encompasses two days a week, but because I'm the "new" coordinator, I've already changed the order form and pick-up policy as well as the days we "work". There are a whole lot of things that need to be done that don't necessarily get done on school time. (Calls to other volunteer parents, scheduling the volunteers, writing the column for the weekly newsletter about "new" vendors that arise and "specials" the company provides.)

People are looking at me differently. Not only because I wear my "good" clothes for this "job" (I mean, I need to be "professional" and not just some shorts and t-shirt writer mom) but because people assumed because I was friends with some of these women in the first place, I got the job because of that. Which isn't true. And because I now hold a vote, they assume I'm going to side with those who are fighting the system. (If it warrants it, I'll cast a vote for what I think is in the best interests of the children. I mean that's why we're doing this to begin with, right. It's not about us, it's about them.)

I had just started a new manuscript as well. Richard's story which has been sitting on the back burner for oh, about 7 years. His book was a shambles, and in doing some research the last few weeks before school started I realized I had to throw most of what I'd written away and start from scratch. I've been really excited to get him going and now...this.


Obviously, I wasn't.

Tell me -- Have you ever made a choice to do something to help out and then realized you have just screwed yourself over?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013