Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lest We Forget

My 83 year-old uncle died peacefully in his sleep just after midnight last Friday, succumbing indirectly to cancer. A veteran of the 2/6th Cavalry Commando Regiment in WWII, he stands tall in my memory, a big man in every sense with a merry grin that made light of adversity. We'll lay him to rest today with all the familiar rituals and take what comfort we can from them.

"Bomb Happy" was a common term just after WWII. It referred to the state of mind of many returning veterans who, having seen hardship and action aplenty, came home with the happy certainty that nothing in the future would ever seem so bad. The term was never derogatory and I knew several to whom it applied. All of them faced difficulties with the same elan, smiling at some secret memory that shrunk the present dilemma to its true size. I'm not sure I would like to pay the price they paid to reach this state, but I admired them unstintingly.

James Henderson Stacey was such a man.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Congratulations to all the Eppie Finalists

A heartfelt congratulations to all whose books made it into the finals of each and every category. You undoubtedly deserve to be there.

An equally heartfelt congratulations to the judges and coordinators. The system is demonstrably fair because I've read at least one of the finalists and, while it wasn't to my taste, it still got up and made the finals, probably on the basis of writing and story-telling.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back to Normal (???)

Our daughter came home from hospital yesterday, reuniting the family and allowing us to step back to the more passive grand-parenting role. It was great for a few days, but we both breathed a sigh of relief when it was over.

The vegetable garden is fully planted and everything seems to have survived both the patch of hot weather and persistent smoke from the bushfires to the north and east of us so my excuse to work outside has flown and it's back to work on the next story.

This one is interesting. I'm fortunate enough to run short courses in creative writing in our adult education system and part of the exercise in showing how to turn an idea into a story is watching a scene from an entirely forgettable movie starring Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman. There is no backstory given and no explanation, just the scene in isolation. From this we develop a synopsis and outline the highlights of the story drawn from individual personal experiences. It comes a third of the way through the course, when they know what a story is and what elements it must contain and has proven successful in bringing together the work covered to this point and giving a common thread to the rest of the course.

The Better Man is my own example of the exercise and I use it to illustrate the steps needed to take a simple idea and turn it into a story. It has a synopsis and six highlight scenes written, but no more and each course I'm asked when I intend to write the complete.

When the next course starts in February, I'll be able to say "Now."


Saturday, December 09, 2006

He is come

Declan Harold arrived last night at 11.35 pm. We were called away from the Christmas function and nudged the speed limit all the way to their house to take over the care of Isabella while they raced to the hospital. He threatened to arrive in the car, but they made it and he weighed in at 9lbs 12ozs. Mother and baby are doing great and we're on our way to the hospital to greet him officially.

It's a great life.


Friday, December 08, 2006

The end is nigh

Our elder daughter's pregnancy was reached full term and we are in the nervous final days before the Doctors take matters in their own hands. There's movement afoot and we are on standby to look after Isabella when Christine goes into labor. We spent the night at their home because the arrival of our grandson seemed imminent, but things settled down again and we came home again this morning.

We're off to a Christmas breakup party tonight with cell phone on silent vibrating alert, just in case.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dad's Army

A former England player labeled the current Australian Test team as Dad's Army, so it was particularly sweet to see two of those "aging has-beens" so intimately involved in a stunning victory at Adelaide.

It went some way to balance the bad news of bushfires, 80 year-old uncles battling cancer, fellow writers involved in similar circumstances.

I am re-reading a book after a gap of twenty years and it bothers me that there are entire passages I no longer remember reading. It's never happened before and the story is gripping enough to have stayed in my mind long after the book ended. It is tempting to think I was wrong in thinking I'd read it, but circumstantial evidence is against the theory.

Perhaps it's the first sign of enlistment in Dad's Army?


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Water Restrictions, Gardens and the Second Test at Adelaide

There are bushfires (wildfires in the US) within sight to the north and east, snakes are being driven into suburbia by lack of water and destruction of habitat and water restrictions have been tightened because the reservoirs are at their lowest for many years. We are fortunate in having two rainwater tanks with a gravity feed watering system for our vegetables, but hand watering is required for the rest. It takes time, but the exercise is good after a day's writing and we planned our garden for low water usage and implemented many water-saving procedures into our daily routines.

Like everyone else, we must endure.

That's a good description of the Second Test in Adelaide. Our beloved enemy lifted their game to score 551 runs in their first innings and we replied with 513. They're batting again now, with only a day to play, so a drawn game seems inevitable. It's great to see them making a contest of it, something that seemed unlikely after the First Test in Brisbane.

I played golf yesterday and drew for first place, losing only on a countback. The course was in great condition in spite of the drought and the company was good. One of my companions had just come back from a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest and we compared notes between the coach and the barge as a means of touring. They sailed during the night and spent the days at the wharf, except for the most beautiful section of the Danube. There, they sailed during the day. One great advantage was they unpacked when joining the barge and didn't have to pack again until they left it fifteen days later.

That sounds great after a coach tour.


Friday, December 01, 2006

A Shared Responsibility

Apart from some administrative duties, the computer has been abandoned for the garden until yesterday as we rearranged garden beds, altered paths and removed weeds.. It's been very productive, very restful.

An email brought it to an end with a request to lighten the load of another volunteer judge to meet the contest deadline and I found myself plunged into another's writing for a day. It's done now and I can turn to more pleasant pursuits (like the opening sessions of the Second Test). I don't like judging. It makes me very uncomfortable and all the entries were published e-books

As writers, we share the responsibility for our books with publishers. They provide the outlet, the format and the cover art. They do an editorial audit of the manuscript and suggest improvements, bring fresh eyes to words we have read repeatedly. My limited experience of editors has been generally good. I have not always agreed with them, but I've always understood their criticisms. The authors in the entries I've judged have not been so fortunate because the level of editing has been poor generally and appalling in places. Such low standards feed the critcisms of e-publishing.

Publishers and writers must lift their game.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Test Cricket

For half the world at least, Test Cricket is a complete mystery, for the rest of us, it's an addiction.

Our favorite foes are in Brisbane for the first test of the Ashes series and my writing has taken a serious hit for the first three days. The result is almost a forgone conclusion now and my interest has waned a little. Perhaps my writing tempo may recover.

It's a strange game. We love beating the Poms, but we admire them individually. Flintoff, the English captain, was arguably the most admired man on the field yesterday as he toiled to lift his team to competitive standards.

Let's hope he succeeds.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let the Writer Beware

A friend of my elder daughter received a provisional acceptance from a Kiwi publisher and asked for my advice. I went to their website and navigated my way through all the information and came away undecided. There's nothing directly questionable, but they've been in operation for two years and have only one book avaiable to booksellers.

Writers, particularly beginning writers, are very vulnerable. I managed to navaigate away from Commonwealth Publications (now the subject of a class action by those who didn't) but have wasted enough time on those who stroked my ego to have paid my dues in this area. It comes down to never accepting what you're told without checking.

The organisation in question may well be genuine, just a little more honest than most, but question marks always need to be resolved before you commit your work.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Longest Journey

The motorcycling story is on its way again, renamed, with large sections rewritten to reflect the criticisms. It's part of my search for a different publisher, one which reflects more closely my preferred level of sensuality.

It's quite difficult to step away from a publisher where you have found acceptance because there's comfort in dealing with the familiar and I have no real complaints of New Concepts, we're just not suited.

I've gone back to my work in progress, re-reading it from the beginning (82,000 words now) and settling myself back into its environment. I'm enjoying the process, which says something.

Hopefully, it will make the next ninety days a little less daunting.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Romance Writer at Large

That's the title of my page at The Romance Studio. I think they've done a great job, but I may be biased. Have a look and judge for yourself.

They have a copy of Mitchell's Valley on the 26th of this month in their Book-a-day giveaway.

I was interested that their review highlighted the complexity of the world building in New Blood. It is a common feature of all its reviews, yet I'd merely followed the logic of the original premise, each feature leading inevitably to the next. It's one of the downsides of creating new worlds that they must be able to work.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Swings and Roundabouts

After the rejection of Beyond the Barriers, it was pleasant to come across the following review for New Blood at The Romance Studio


New Blood
Amy Gallow
Paranormal romance
Available from New Concepts Publications ISBN: 1-58608-857-2
March 2006

Dael is part of a Hive, a group Mind of elite rulership. As such, she and the others of the Blood incarnate in flesh, take over control of the body. Telepathy and Mind control are just two of their amazing abilities. The Blood cannot function without flesh bodies, because essentially they are just mental constructs. Each individual chosen as a host body gives up control for seventeen years, but is granted untold wealth and social power as well as an extended life span for their sacrifice.
When her host body, Samara, is kidnapped, Dael is astonished to find soothing words spoken telepathically from the kidnapper, who is a Commoner, not Elite. Then she is excluded from the group Mind and fears exile equaling her death. In actuality, Samara has been removed, not kidnapped, by a henchman acting on the orders of another Mind, Peter, whose access to her mind she has allowed.
New Blood is an intriguing tale with a massive amount of complexity in its world building. I had to truly concentrate from the first sentences in order to understand this world, which is very detailed and fascinating. While some readers may find it requires concentration to understand this very new and different fantasy world, it is definitely a tale worth reading.
Overall rating: Four Hearts

Sensuality rating: Mildly sensual
Reviewer: Annie

November 6, 2006

Rejection Dejection

Rejections are part of a writer's life and, no matter how nicely they're couched, they hurt.

This one began with a list of the things the editor really enjoyed before it reached the stumbling block about motor cycle racing and the hero's motivation to ride the "Widowmaker", a bike with a radical suspension and a habit of killing its riders. She knew very little about the sport, as would most of the targeted readers, and found my descriptions confusing and his motivation unbelievable.

This highlights the difficulty of describing something you know very well to a group who are likely to know nothing. From my perspective, I verged on over-explaining.

The hero's motivation is a more vexing question. Is it my familiarity with the sport and the people who follow it that makes it believable to me? Or is there a more basic problem?

I reread the manuscript yesterday pondering those questions and am still no closer to the answers.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Century Young

Yesterday we drove down to have lunch with my life partner's aunt, who will be a hundred on January 3rd. She's an amazing woman. One of the genuinely nice people you meet along the way. Her daughter was there too and we looked through photograph albums, recalling the past and sharing memories when she was a single Mum raising a daughter on her own.

Her story makes you realize how lucky most of us are


Saturday, November 04, 2006


Our trip away allowed the accumulation of maintenance tasks around the house and in the garden and the better weather has provided a window to get them done.

There's gates, a wrought iron fence, the facia and the external windows to paint. The garden beds need weeding and mulching. We'll do most of it ourselves (with the help of the family) and be ready when the real summer comes. The work in progress is almost done and it will need to sit for a while before I start rewriting so the timing is good.

The spectre of down-sizing to a town-house, or something similar, has raised itself once more and we will have many discussions in the near future. Maybe this time, we'll do something about it, because we both realize it will have to be faced some time.

Probably not.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Wee Small Hours

I got up to work because of a bad dream that needed time to dispel before I could sleep again.

It, the dream, is an old friend. A recurrent theme from my past, my subconscious drags out when I am worried about something else. Knowing why doesn't make the dream less real, nor solve my current dilemma, but writing allows me to escape for a while even if elements of the dream work their way into the story.

As in my currrrent story, where the hero has just realized an unpleasant fact he can share with no one, which is difficult because his companions are telepaths.

I don't worry too much. There's always the rewriting stage to remove irrelevancies created in the wee small hours


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Normality at last

Yesterday was great.

Judging duties were behind me and my day fell into a work day pattern of writing, promoting and correspondence. Everything was up to date for the first time since the end of June when we left for the UK/Europe.

This morning, it took me less than ten minutes to deal with my inbox and post two excerpts on a Yahoo Group before settling down to writing. Two hours later, I having a coffee and taking a break to write this while I ponder the dilemma of my two protagonists. Both of them are hiding their despair in the physical act of love and only I know the logical surprise prepared for them in the next chapter.

There's always a fine line between preparing the way and telegraphing story elements and I'm trying to tread this one very carefully.

It's great fun.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Sigh of Relief

I've read all the stories, gone back over my notes, reread the sections I noted and studied the judging criteria before grading each entry. I put aside everything to get it done because I found it so uncomfortable to be criticizing other writer's dreams.

It's different when you teach. Criticism is constructive and the student can change the passage and learn. Published works can't be changed and I know how uncomfortable my mistakes in print make me.

Still, the job's done and I did my best, so I can go back to my writing with a relatively clear conscience, even if I'll have to think very hard before I attempt it again.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Never Volunteer!

Military service should have engraved those words on my forehead.

I put myself forward as a first run judge in an award run by a writers' group and was given a number of published books to read in two categories and some broad judging criteria.

I began the first one as soon as they arrived and my discomfort level escalated quite rapidly when I found myself struggling to continue reading the antics of some grotesque caricatures from a comic book. Technically, I could admire the smoke and mirrors expertise of the writer in maintaining the story line, but I had no connection to any of the characters. They had no reality outside the printed page. I ploughed on and completed the book, keeping notes as I went, then gave it a gut reaction mark.

I'll complete all the others and then go back and review my reactions before I submit them, but I'm terribly uncomfortable with the task. I know how much sweat and blood goes into a book and I could see the thought processes behind the writing and admire the technique, but none of the characters were real.

Wish me luck with the rest.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The story I'm working on began with two characters in the environment established in NEW BLOOD. There was no clear end in sight and I had little idea what would happen in the story. I just started writing and followed my characters, letting them react naturally to events. This was possible because I knew their environment and its rules.

Other characters came into being as the story progressed and each of them added to the mix until I realized my original goal was only a staging post along the way and we traveled further, this time with even less idea where it was leading. The story problems mounted and the solutions seemed distant- until last night.

I'd had an injection during the day and suffered a reaction that drove me from my bed in the early hours of the morning to sit in front of the computer for an hour or so working. Deciding I was too tired to continue, I went back to bed and found the reaction just as uncomfortable so I let my mind roam where it might to provide a distraction from my discomfort.

It did.

Suddenly all the disparate threads of the story gelled into a coherent whole and I had my ending drawn from threads I'd already established without planning. It felt great and I was thinking so hard I drifted into sleep without realizing it, the discomfort of the reaction forgotten.

I woke this morning and started writing, only to lose a thousand words when a power surge dropped the computer offline and the auto-save hadn't worked. It didn't stop me. I just went back and retyped a revised version before manually saving it and continuing.

It's a great feeling.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Common Problem

A fellow writer agonized over an online interview, certain she'd have nothing of interest to offer, and other writers offered comfort. It highlighted a common problem.

Writers, largely speaking, are ordinary people. It is both our strength and our weakness. It gives us the common insights with our readers that illuminate our writing, but makes it terribly difficult to maintain our self confidence when challenges arise, like interviews, book-signings, personal appearances, etc.

Even a stable of published works with different publishers can't dispel the feelings of being an undiscovered fraud. We revisit them occasionally, anxious for reassurance, only to find every mistake, every piece of sloppy writing, glaring at us from the page. We can only hope our readers are less critical and more forgiving before we go back the solitary hours of writing, beset with the doubts that make us try harder.

I've yet to meet a writer who is complacent about any aspect of their writing at any level except the public face we display to the world. It seems to come with the territory.



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

True Writers?

There's a message thread in the New Concepts Reader's and Authors group about romance writers not being true writers and it's excited some passions, including the dichotomies between male and female writers, literary and popular writers, etc., etc., etc.

Personally, I find it rather irrelevant. I write stories. If I write them well and they are good stories, people read them and come back for more. It's what I enjoy doing. The better I write, the more I enjoy it. It's all very simple.

To give more people the opportunity to read my stories, I have to find publishers who believe they can make money selling my stories. This sometimes means that the stories I choose to write are of a specific genre, sub-genre, etc. I still enjoy writing the stories and the only people who have the right to judge my stories are the people who read them. If they enjoy my stories, they will read more.

End of subject.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Changing Direction

I began writing category romance in 1997 and my first book, Mitchell's Run, was published in 2000 by Rocky River Romances in Australia. (In 2006, an Americanized version of Mitchell's Run was released in the US under the title Mitchell's Valley) It was followed by three other books, A Soldier's Woman, A Fair Trade and Snow Drifter. A fifth story, Beyond the Barriers completed a five book contract, but has not yet been released. Snow Drifter is scheduled for release in the US in April 2007.

In 2004, I wrote a paranormal romance targeting a Canadian E-publisher, LTD Books, having downloaded every free excerpt they allowed and aiming the story somewhere in the middle of their range. I wanted to see what E-publishing was first hand. They accepted the story and we exchanged contracts, but the company folded in 2005 before it was released.

Left with a story considered good enough to publish, I looked for another publisher and a writer friend suggested New Concepts Publishing. They seemed to fit the bill so I sent them the manuscript and they accepted it, releasing New Blood in March 2006. It has since received favorable reviews in the US, as did Mitchell's Valley.

Both books have a level of sensuality in the middle of my comfort zone, more romantic than erotic, and New Blood is the first in a series about a group called The First Family, for reasons that have nothing to do with the White House. I have written the next two with the intention of submitting them to New Concepts, but remain uncomfortable with the company they will keep there. I neither denigrate nor decry erotic literature, I'm just uncomfortable writing it and do not believe my books fit well in its company.

This means striking out again, doing my research and finding a publisher whose line suits my stories, then reformatting them to meet their submission requirements.

Wish me luck.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Back to Earth and Down to Work

Today was my first full days work since our return. Till now, I've been dabbling rather than writing, racing over to see our new granddaughter, dealing with a fractious computer, catching up with friends, etc., etc., etc.

I began the morning with a hard copy of the story so far and read it through to get the feel of it before going back to consider the storytelling and characters separately, scribbling comments in the margin as I went. (This one of the stories where I began with two characters clearly in my mind and a general idea of what I expected to happen and commenced writing). I finished mid morning and began working the comments into the story, continuing on uninterrupted until late afternoon, when some visitors arrived.

I've just read the revised story and it feels good. More importantly, I know where I'm going tomorrow and have a clearer idea of the probable outcome. I'm looking forward to the journey now.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A New Grand-daughter

Jasmine came into the world late Monday night and we saw our younger daughter with her first child about an hour later. I shall never forget the look of wonder, almost awe, on her face as she watched us take turns in holding her child. Her eyes only strayed momentarily when she answered a question or responded to a comment, returning immediately the distraction was over.
It was a touching moment. One of the memories you carry with you always,

Thursday, September 14, 2006

An Unscratchable Itch

I'm not very smart.

That damned Fanlit challenge niggled at the back of my mind until I had another go. It didn't matter that the heroine's claim to be a Countess flew in the face of the laws of succession/inheritance for English Nobility and would have been laughed out of any Regency Drawing Room (My first attempt at least gave her a legal claim to the title) flawing the whole premise of the story. I was sucked in a second time.

The only benefit is that I've filled my quota of submissions and go back to productive work.

It still itches though...


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Weekend of Fantasy

I'm joining some other New Concepts authors, 16/17th September, to present a Fantasy weekend on the Yahoo Group for NCP authors and readers. We post excerpts of our fantasy books, run competitions and answer questions. It should be a lot of fun and everybody's welcome to join in and help it along.

The third book of what I'm now calling "First Family" stories, is developing nicely, now I've worked my way back into the story. It's set two hundred years after NEW BLOOD and the hero is Peter's grandson, part of the "First Family" and filled with the same quixotic ardor to right wrongs. I'm looking forward to seeing what he gets up to over the next forty thousand words.

See you on the weekend


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fools rush in

That feels like a perfect description at the moment.

I was browsing Shelley Munro's Blog, saw her link to Avon Fanlit and followed it to their competition page. The current task is to write a Regency romance, chapter by chapter, with each chapter being voted on progressively. They give an opening scene and you have fifteen hundred words to write it. (There's an amplification hidden elsewhere in the site that I missed)
The date is Spring,1815. It struck me that Napoleon had just left Marseille and was marching on Paris to begin the hundred days leading to his defeat at Waterloo,(You collect all sorts of trivia as you get older) and that the Waltz was introduced to London Society by the Prince Regent about that time (Fifteen months later actually). These two unrelated facts jelled into a situation that fitted the opening scene (but not the hidden amplification).

A wise soul would have sat on the thought, or stored it away for later use. Not me. With no experience of writing Regency Romances, I dashed off the fifteen hundred words required and submitted it, turning the heroine into a French spy and the hero into an arrogant sob. The voting so far reflects my folly, but you can read it if you choose. It's called "A Dangerous Game"

Back to more productive work.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Old Routine

Our sleeping pattern is almost back to normal, we've unpacked the last of our clothes, caught up with our washing and our trip is finally over.
It feels a little strange. I keep waking and expectiong to be somewhere else. Walking through the house in the dark, I bump into things I normally avoided without thought. It's great to be home, but...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to Work

I've hit the deck running, energized possibly by the favorable reviews sitting in my in-tray when I returned.
I've just sent off a 2000 word short story to a national woman's magazine who've published my stories before and have started fleshing out an idea I developed while travelling, the words flowing well into the early hours of the morning.
It's a great life.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


A little mind candy arrived while we were away and I'll share it with you.

New Blood by Amy Gallow
Marlene Breakfield, Reviewer
Four Moons - Excellent work.
Class Two - Limited sexual content
Dael is an administrator in a remote outpost for the Hive--beings who share a Group Mind but must use humans to contain their entity. The Chosen humans agree to host a member of the Hive for seventeen years in return for better health, a longer life, and wealth. Samara, Dael's human host, has been a host for twelve years--since her early teens. Samara/Dael are kidnapped by Torred, who is following Peter's orders, and taken to a human settlement that has escaped the Hive's notice. Dael is confused and terribly upset, wondering how such a large settlement has escaped notice. Then, Dael meets Peter, a powerful being, who plans to change her world.
NEW BLOOD is a very unusual romance with a "TWILIGHT ZONE" feel. Although, NEW BLOOD is slow in the beginning--it took me awhile to familiarize myself with Ms. Gallow's complex world--I became wrapped up in the struggles of all the characters. Dael and Peter make an endearing and loving couple, and the secondary romance between Samara and Torred is very satisfying. However, the fantasy elements of NEW BLOOD take equal billing with the romantic elements, and Ms. Gallow creates a thought-provoking fantasy romance.

RT Rating: Three Stars
Publisher: Rocky River RomancePublished: May 2006
Type: Contemporary Romance (Paranormal)

When Cynthia Sheldon discovers that Andrew Mitchell, the man who saved her life during a snowstorm, went missing in 1886, she sets out to find answers. Her journey takes her to Mitchell's Valley, the ancestral homestead of her rescuer.It is there that she meets Drew Mitchell. The striking similarities in both appearance and mannerisms between Drew and her memories of Andrew are quite evident. And Cynthia is surprised to find that she shares an attraction and yearning for both men. Was the savior with whom she shared such an intimate connection truly a ghost or merely a hoax?

This is eloquently written and almost poetic in style, with great attention to detail. But readers must suspend too much disbelief to make the book totally credible. Gallow redeems this beautiful tale of the search for truth and the longing for love with her uniquely elegant approach, reminiscent of a classic love story. (May, 219 pp., $4.95)—Connie Ruebusch

I'm not sure how significant reviews are to book sales, but they're certainly a little music to the soul of a writer.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Home Again

Sixty-four days after we left, it was good to step through the front door again and feel the familiarity of the house enfold us. We'd seen much, met interesting people and made new friends as well as visited old ones.

It was a ball!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Forty days into our trip and that is a perfect description of my reaction.
We're staying in the English Lakes District for the next few days as a breather, catching up on washing etc., and enjoying the view.
We began in Dubai, staying for two days and doing the tourist thing-a great place for shopping, but it was the beginning of the trip and our bags were full, so we controlled ourselves.
On to London and the beginning of a twenty-four day coach trip through Europe. Amsterdam, Cologne, Strausburg, Heidleberg, Lucerne,Vienna, Venice, Rome, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Lourdes, Bairitz, Bordeaux, Paris and back to London. The highlights were too many to list and our disappointments few. Coached on enough language to be polite, we were treated well everywhere, but my accent probably put Anglo-French relations back twenty years. My attempts to speak the language were invariably greeted with a pained smile and the admission that the listener spoke English.
England and four days in London saw us doing the tourist thing again before we picked up the hire car, moving from youth hostel to youth hostel where possible. It's a great way to travel and considerable more economic than B&Bs or hotels.
The south of England first, ending in Bath and Jane Austen territory. (Met a fellow writer and had a ball in Exeter.)
North to Shrewsbury and onwards to the Lakes District.
Next it's Scotland, and the Edinburgh Tattoo, but I'll tell you about that later.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


A venerable saying, weighted by usage, and completely appropriate - Situation Normal All Fouled Up - or something similar in sound.
Our packing is complete, our house sitter briefed and ready, only one more fairwell party to go and our twenty-year-old wall oven cooks its contolling circuit board rather than the evening meal. Spares are no longer available and repair is impossible.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Countdown to Departure

All the tickets are in our hands, we have drawn up a detailed itinerary, have selected the clothes we're taking and even had a trial packing of our suitcases to ensure everything fits. The communication channels are set so we can be contacted in an emergency and we've familiarized ourselves with the tourist information available, all with six days to go before we board the first plane.

It's time to relax a little, enjoy the farewell parties and other celebrations and go back to a little light writing on the 3rd book of the Blood trilogy, tying in the 11,000 words I cut from the second book to the 9,000 words already written.
I'm still not decided about this story. It is a further shift in genre from the first with the two main characters separated for most of the story, each fighting to survive, each using the other as a goal to focus their efforts and the villain is oddly likeable. I'll make up my mind when I return.

SNOW DRIFTER is due for release in April 2007, assuming my Australian publisher's foray into the US market continues. It's set in Sydney (Australia), the New South Wales snow fields and Aspen and we had great fun researching it, walking, skiing and driving the same paths as its characters.

Bye for now

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Pause that Refreshes

"New World" has been submitted and I can now turn to the preparations for our trip with a clear conscience. I transferred the two chapters to the third book, even though it makes this one seem a little truncated to my eyes. We'll see what NCP think of it.
On the family front, our son is off to Iraq with the security detatchment for the Australian Embassy. He's keen to put his training into practice and we can do little more than provide support to him and his family until he returns.
My posts will be a bit more sporadic over the next ten weeks, but I'll log in when I can and keep you updated.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Writer's Dilemma

I have reached the final stages of "New World" Re-reading, polishing, correcting typos and the simple mistakes caused the length of time I've worked on it and faulty memory. Generally speaking, I'm satisfied with it, except...

That's a dreadful word, isn't it.

Midway though the story there's a two chapter diversion which explains something of the past and sets up the third book of the series and I've realized this is its only function. It provides no psychological or emotional development of either the heroine or the hero and I probably wrote it with the 60,000 word target in the back of my mind. It's survived two major rewrites, but this last one has marginalized it even more by shifting events to where they belonged rather than as asides to link the diversion to the main story.

There's one more shift I would have to make to complete the process and I am sitting in front of the computer steeling myself to make it and cut the diversion entirely.

It wouldn't be lost, just shifted to the third book - where it really belongs.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Four Roses for Mitchell's Valley

Romance Reader at Heart reviewed Mitchell's Valley and gave it four roses. This is what they said.

If you’re in the mood for a modern romance, look no further! Amy Gallow’s MITCHELL’S VALLEY is just the book for you. With its interesting characters and beautiful settings, you’re sure to enjoy this book.
Cynthia Sheldon has just been rescued from near death by the handsome Andrew Mitchell. After a passionate kiss goodbye, he gives her a trinket and asks that she never forget him. Once Cynthia is finally recovered, she realizes that the trinket Andrew gave her was a golden nugget! Intrigued by this man and the memory of his kiss, Cynthia goes on a quest to find him to thank him again for his generosity, and perhaps reenact their parting kiss. But what she finds instead is a mystery that she is committed to solve, no matter what.
Drew Mitchell is a descendent from the legendary Andrew Mitchell, for whom his ranch is named. Drew is one hunky cowboy! When Cynthia finds Drew, she swears that he was the one who rescued her. But Drew denies it, and claims instead that it was his namesake, the deceased Andrew Mitchell who saved her instead. Could it be? A ghost who saved her and kissed her? Although Cynthia is willing to play along with Drew’s story for a little bit, she can’t help but think that maybe he’s telling the truth. A ghost did save her.
MITCHELL’S VALLEY sizzles with the romance between Cynthia and Drew! I loved that Ms. Gallow added the mystery of Andrew Mitchell as the driving force to bring together Cynthia and Drew. She keeps you guessing as to whether it was really Andrew Mitchell’s ghost who rescued Cynthia.
I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading MITCHELL’S VALLEY. I breezed through the book and I was satisfied with how it ended. All in all, a very good read!
Julie Kornhausl

My smile makes house heating redundant on a cold winter's day.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Beauty and the eye of the Beholder

I received an odd email this morning, purportedly from an American living in the Philippines, asking what was the most beautiful Australian city in a cliche sense. My first reaction was to delete it as spam, but I attempted to answer it in spite of my reservations because I found it difficult and difficult things attract me.

Sydney makes the loudest claims to beauty, but Sydney is the loudest in everything. The Gold Coast runs it a close second. Melbourne shares with Vancouver (BC) the tag of being the world's most livable city (or did.) and the environs of Hobart are spectacular. Albany (in WA) has King George's Sound and Perth (also in WA) has the Swan River and Fremantle (named for one of Nelson's Band of Brothers). Their diversity creates confusion when considering them in terms of beauty. It's much easier to name personal favorites, which I won't, or the most uniquely Australian (Darwin).

I hope my answer made sense to the American, if the inquiry was genuine, or my spam and virus filters work well enough if it wasn't.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Home Stretch

The days are counting down to our departure for the UK/Europe and I think the two days we'll spend in Dubai are going to be very welcome because every day before we leave is now accounted for - glitches will not be welcomed.

Our son didn't go to East Timor and it appears a thankless job because years of guerrilla fighting is no preparation for governing a country. It's understandable, but a great pity. The Timorese deserve better. My family's connection to the place goes back to WWII when an uncle, left behind in the retreat, lived in the hills and fought the Japanese until his group cobbled together a radio from stolen parts and made contact with the Army again. He still speaks warmly of the Timorese and we owe them a debt.

No time to waste. Shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone etc.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A little touch of Magic

Every successful story has a little touch of magic, a moment that gells all the elements and makes them real. I discovered the one for "New World" just before five am and lay there while my mind raced through the story, making adjustments, adding scenes and deleting others. It took nearly an hour and then I had to get up and work.

It's now seven thirty am and I am temporarily sated, having spent ninety minutes at the keyboard typing as fast as my fingers would go. I still have much to do, but the moment of magic now has a physical reality and the coffee in my mug tastes great. I will be tired later, but the exhileration deserved to be enjoyed and shared.

These moments make writing great.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Writer's Block

Mandy Roth started a thread in the NCP Reader's group about writer's block and some interesting views emerged, showing how personal a subject this is and how different are our definitions for Writer's Block.

The traditional one, made famous by countless movies and novels, shows the disheveled author in a crisis of confidence, unable to type a coherent page, surrounded by crumpled sheets of paper, chain smoking with a near empty bottle of liquor at his elbow.

Computers and word processing packages have removed the crumpled sheets of paper, the anti-smoking lobby has stifled the chain smoking, the medical profession have confiscated the liquor bottle and our partners have frowned on dishevelment. Only the crisis of confidence remains.

Something I've yet to suffer because I began with the knowledge I knew nothing and learnt my craft step by step. A stumble sends me back down the path I trod to get here, retracing my steps until I can see my way ahead again, applying the same old lessons yet again to the story I'm working on until I see my way clearly once more.

"New World" has been beset by every possible interruption. Overseas trips, family crises, reviews of "New Blood", the launch of "Mitchell's Valley, etc., etc., etc., and I've had to pick up the pieces more times than is reasonable, but I've never lost confidence in either the story or myself. It's a writer's life to do these things.

In a month's time, we're off overseas again and I would love to have "New World" submitted before we go. The odds are good that it will happen, but real life has a habit of interposing itself into my calculations. If it does, I'll mutter a little and accept it because submitting a manuscript before its ready is not the act of a professional writer.

Therein lies my self confidence!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Four Roses from Romance Reader at Heart

New Blood received four roses from Romance Reader at Heart and I have a very large smile on my face.

Here's the Review:

Dael is essentially a person within a person. She lives inside of a host, whose name is Samara and is a healer. She has this great personality that is all her own. Dael and Samara literally take turns using Samara's body, and they communicate with one another through telekinetics. Their bond is very strong, and before they were through sharing a body I had come to think of them as sisters.
Upon discovering a new life and a new way of doing things when Samara—and Dael—are stolen from their hive, Dael uses the help of a man named Peter to make changes to herself. She literally creates herself a body, right from the very first cell. What Dael doesn't understand is that Peter is a very powerful being and he is manipulating her to get her to do his bidding. He wants to create a better way of life for his people, and knows that Dael and the son that they will have is the answer to his prayers.
While a little disillusioned when I began to read NEW BLOOD (mainly because there is a lot of information, and at first, everything is not explained very well), I ended up really liking this story. Dael and Peter conquer great odds to be together and with their son, Karrel, they become a force to be reckoned with. Theirs is a very strong familial unit and I grew to love them while reading their story.
This being my first experience with this type of paranormal book, I was pleasantly surprised while reading Amy Gallow’s NEW BLOOD. It was an interesting read and helped to show me a new aspect of paranormal romance.
Kristal Gorman

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Life goes on

"Mitchell's Valley" gained three stars from RT.

I haven't read the review yet, but its importance shrank with the news the Australian Army is taking troops out of the Solomon Islands and deploying into East Timor again. Our son is currently in the Solomons with a rifle company. and has been to East Timor twice before, once with INTERFET and once with the UN. He'll be keen to go again.

The preparation for our next trip goes on, checking bookings etc., and another trip to NZ has appeared on the horizon(back to the North Island again to see the rest of it), both our daughters are happily pregnant and the night course I teach in the adult education system has reached its halfway mark with signs of success.

The rewrite of "New World" is progressing steadily with growing satisfaction on my part, although I'm no longer sure I want to return to this environment again for the third book( a decision I'll make when the time comes)

As you can see, writers have a normal life as well.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rewriting is Hard

The discard file of "New World" is growing and contains a half dozen scenes that were very hard to put aside, even when I acknowledged their replacements were better, or the scene itself was redundant. A little piece of me weeps when I transfer a scene to the discard file (I can't bring myself to simply delete it) because I know it will never return. I promise myself I'll cull the discard piles one day, but I probably won't and they'll continue to clutter my computer memory until some disaster wipes them for me. (Given my propensity for tinkering, disasters happen frequently enough to prevent me reaching saturation point on my hard drive.)

I was muttering to myself about how long this story is taking to complete when my more logical other half overheard and stood ticking off the points on the fingers of an outstretched hand, listing the New Zealand trip, preparations for the UK/Europe trip, first sequel story, "Mitchell's Valley" in the US, and a myiad of family events, all exciting and distracting. I'm not sure I was convinced, but it did make me feel better.

Finishing the rewrite will make me feel even better, so I'd better get back to it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It gets better by the day

"Snow Drifter", my fourth book with Australian publisher Rocky River Romances, will follow "Mitchell's Valley" into the American market in April 2007, probaly with a changed cover as they reused this one for "Mitchell's Valley" in the US.

It's set in Sydney, the Perisher snowfields in New South Wales, on top of nearby Mount Kosciuszko and Aspen so it has a built-in American connection as it tells of the love between a footloose ski instructor and a girl recovering from a tragic love affair and clinging to her past and her home.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's a Great Life

"Mitchell's Valley" has hit the bookshelves at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Wadenmart and Powell's Books and will be part of a full page ad in the Romantic Times. The Austalian publisher of Rocky River Romances is on a promotional tour for the four books of this release in the US and "there's movement at the station", as "Banjo" Paterson might say.
In addition, my first royalty payment came unexpectedly for "New Blood". Only a month's sales, but a delightful surprise none the less.
Writers are not supposed to have favorite stories, other than the one they're working on, but the one on the right will always have a special part of my heart and I was very glad to have the opportunity to apply a five-year learning curve to a great yarn before its American release.
There's more about it and "Mitchell's Run" on my website

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Damn! Damn! Damn!

I've been struggling with the second book of the "New Blood" series since we came back from New Zealand. No matter what I did to it I wasn't satisfied. The story is good and my writing felt fluent, but the sense of reader engagement wasn't there.

In the early hours of this morning, I realized why.

I'd used the same structure to tell the story, emphasizing the inevitable similarities growing out of being set in the same world as the previous book.

I've been working on it since, the words flowing effortlessy from the keyboard, my mind racing ahead in the buzz of creation.

Why does it take so long to recognize our mistakes?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Todd Russell, Brant Webb and Larry Knight

Along with every other Australian, I've shared the high and lows of the fourteen days since the mine collapse on Anzac Day and Larry Knight's death. I was awake when the two survivors were finally freed just before five am local time and shed a silent tear when they walked from the pit-head cage and took their name tags from the board showing who was down the mine. Their black humor during the rescue made me chuckle, their determination to exit the mine as they entered it, on their feet, made my throat tighten.

I'm a proud Australian this morning, happy to share a bond with these men, however tenuous.

At one pm, when Lary Knight's funeral begins, I will be silent, remembering him and giving thanks for the miracle that spared the others.

This morning, and doubtless in the days to come, many claimed these men's conduct grew naturally from their nationality, their upbringing and their industry.

All nonsense, of course.

Courage, humor and grace under pressure has no nationality. We should salute them as individuals and be thankful that they exist as guidons for the rest of us.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Things I should've learnt from Scheherazade

I'm sitting muttering to myself as I contemplate the tatters of a manuscript...all that remains of 64,000 words. It's the second book of the New Blood series that I'd put aside before going to New Zealand. At the time, I'd thought it just needed a rewrite, a bit of cut and paste and a polish to be ready for the publishers.

Now I realize the magnitude of the task.

What does this have to do with the lady at the centre of the Thousand and One Nights?

She survived, not by the number of stories she knew, but by her craft in telling them. "New World" is a good story, but I'd allowed myself to be gulled by its connection to "New Blood" and depended on the credit and knowledge already established instead of crafting it as if it were completely fresh.


Friday, May 05, 2006

A Dark Fantasy?

When Fictionwise catalogued "New Blood" as a dark fantasy, my first reaction was to blame the cover art and mutter to myself, but then I reconsidered. A fantasy world created by a dying soldier in which the underlyng logic of his decisions takes charge to twist his creation out of shape does have dark elements, regardless of the outcome.

The same argument makes the next two books in the series dark fantasies as well, which will make the choice of cover art interesting. Will a lighter approach change the category Fictionwise applies to them?

I'm finding this series fascinating. Every development is controlled by the initial premise that this is an environment created by a man born in 1898 and dying in 2005. Nothing can be introduced that he wouldn't know, even when I venture into his distant future and the story's distant past. It simplifies the science considerably, because speculative discoveries he didn't have the tools to understand are barred.

This type of cogitation is what makes writing fiction so enjoyable.

It's a tough life.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

At last!

It's eight days since we arrived back and today is the first normal work day. I've finally dealt with stolen cell phones, lost credit cards, taught the introductory lesson of the evening course and this morning I settled back into the comfortable routine of writing rather than snatching moments between distractions.

Routine is my saviour. It makes it easy to keep writing and ignore distractions.

How about you?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fresh Eyes

Holidays are great, but returning to a task refreshed is the real benefit. I've prepared the first week's lessons, reread the first draft of "New World" and started the next draft, rearranging large blocks of the story and confining others to the cutting file to be discarded when the story is published.

It's a different world when you have the whole story in a physical form, even though I've hacked it about a lot, and this is another enjoyable stage. You know where you're going and exactly what you want to achieve. I have to force myself to take breaks and the seven week course is great because I have student assignments to drag me away.

Teaching is great fun, particulalry with motivated students who've paid money and given up their evenings to attend the course. It imposes a responsibility to ensure they get value for their money and use their time effectively, but there's always time for a laugh and lots of opportunities to learn a little more about the craft of writing. I can't think of a more effective way to learn a subject than to teach it.

Perhaps I should be paying them rather than vice versa?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Back in Action

The holiday is behind us and another looms at the end of June (It's a tough life) so I reluctantly bit the bullet and published my website, , so I could get back to writing with a clear conscience, only to find it involved me in a burst of correspondence that delayed my return even longer.

It's done now and I'm savoring a final mug of coffee before I start preparing for the seven week course I teach at night. When that's done as well, I can start writing and release the ideas brimming over in my mind.

It's a tough life.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

We're Back!

For Kiwi's generally and Shelley Munro in particular, a warm thank you for your hospitality and kindness during our stay.

Shelley, a New Zealand author whose link also appears on the right-hand side of this page, and her husband joined us for lunch at a Mission Bay restaurant where I sampled NZ mussels for the first time and drank a Belgian beer called "Forbidden Fruit". Both were delicious. We talked a little shop and exchanged backgrounds, proving writers come from everywhere, but mainly enjoyed ourselves. Have a look at her site and her blog, both are worth a look.

The holiday's over and it's back to work for me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Zealand Wind-up

We're into the closing days of our visit to New Zealand and I've finished Michael King's book on its history with a greater appreciation than I could have had without visiting some of the places we've been. We're having lunch today with a New Zealand writer I know only from her Blog and emails, visiting her favorite restaurant in Mission Bay, and looking forward to it.

One odd thing has been amusing me over the past few days. With the approach of Anzac Day, hundreds of red Flander's poppies have appeared on people's lapels instead of the Anzac badges you see in Australia. I asked one poppy seller about it (we wear Flander's poppies only for Armistice Day, November 11th) and his explanation was that they shipped some Flander's poppies out to New Zealand in the 1920s and the shipment arrived too late for Armistice Day and they decided to use them for Anzac Day instead. (I suspect a gentle leg-pull, but it is a delightful story)

Part of me would love this holiday to go on longer, but the writer within is champing at the bit.

This is a great country. Visit it if you possibly can. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


I've escaped holiday mode for a few moments to check emails and such things and thought I'd give New Zealand a well-deserved wrap, even if we've only seen from The Bay of Islands to Mount Ruapehu in the North Island so far.
Compared to Australia, it's so damned green!
An interesting sideline, is the comparison between the cultural exhibitions and the more scholarly history of the country written by Michael King and published by Penguin (I'm reading it in the breaks between our travels), but that doesn't detract from either the people, their beliefs, or the scenery.
I'm having a great time. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Under Threat of Extreme Prejudice

We're off to the Land of the Long White Cloud (God Zone to Kiwis) for a well earned break and I have been threatened with violence if I write anythng other than post cards while we're there so this page will go quiet until we return in late April (the 26th)
Enjoy your writing

Monday, March 27, 2006

The End

When I first started writing, reaching the point where I typed "The End" to mark the completion of a manuscript seemed impossibly far - a little like life itself. I'm much older now, with a growing body of published work, and my definition of "The End" has changed to the point where I never use it anymore.

There are two reason for this, one practical and the other artistic.

The practical one is the difficulty in determining when a manuscript has reached the stage where it is ready for submission. Completing the first draft creates a physical reality for the initial idea, revealing its strengths and it flaws. It also creates a sense of inevitability, making it difficult to see other ways of telling the story and I need to step away for a while to refresh my critical sense (usually by starting another story). There seems no end to the benefits of the review process. Submission and acceptance lead to further review stages, with the introduction of other minds, and the process continues until the final proof-read is complete and control is relinquished, allowing any remaining faults to pass into the public domain to haunt you each time you see the book.

The artistic reason for not using "The End" is simpler. If the reader is not aware they have reached the end of the story, then I have failed to tell it effectively and it isn't finished.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why do we write?

My partner expressed disatisfaction (not for the first time) at my retreat to this computer to capture an idea before it turned illusive and it started me thinking.

Writing is the loneliest profession I've ever experienced. I spend days sitting here, intolerant of interruptions, focused on creatures that have no existience outside my mind and, hopefully, the printed page. Every other task I've undertaken required interaction with others. Why am I doing this now?

If it's the search for fame, why do writers use pen names? Fortune may come to a lucky few, but most of us labor for the satisfaction of bringing the stories into existence. I suppose some write out of loneliness, searching for congenial company, revisiting their past perhaps, but that doesn't explain the number of writers out there, nor even the ones who come to my classes at night in spite of inclement weather and busy lives.

The buzz that comes from a completed manuscript, a published book, a royalty payment(which is usualy just enough to pay for a good dinner for two) is intense, but I've experienced others just as intense and was paid better for them.

In the end, I suspect my answer will be the same as every other writer worth their salt.

Because I must!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The First Review

The pause is over and the first review is in and I'm sitting at the computer with a big grin on my face.

It reads, in part, "New Blood is definitely an unusual story but I thoroughly enjoyed my time within it and Amy Gallow is a new author to my diverse collection but I enjoyed the way she wrote New Blood and found it to be a very good read. The characters within this book were special in their own way but they all suited the storyline and in some instances enhanced it. While reading this book I could undoubtedly understand the love between the hero and heroine because their love affair moved me emotionally seeing as they fought so hard to be together. If you want to escape into a world made from dreams then New Blood will take you there and allow you to enjoy the unusual environment because Amy Gallow has penned a stirring and emotionally involved tale that crosses many boundaries to unite two people in a love of a lifetime. "

You can read the rest at

I can resume breathing now

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hero figures

On the NCP Authors Blog, Donna Grant wrote about what gave her the inspiration for her hero and quoted a couple of film stars as visual triggers. With me, it's different. I rarely visualize the hero until the writing process begins, long after he appears in my mind as a person.

In "New Blood" the hero emerged from the obituary of a 107 year-old WWI soldier when I began wondering what sort of a world he would have created, given the power. In "Mitchell's Valley", he was a composite of two men separated by a century, each the product of his times. "A Soldier's Woman" had a hero drawn from conversations with SAS troopers over a number of years and experience in dealing with Asian engineering companies. In "A Fair Trade", he sprang from the heroine's past rather than his own. Stuart Ferguson of "Snow Drifter" was a match for my younger daughter (A ski instructor), while the hero of "Beyond the Barriers" grew from musing over the changes in professional motor cycle riders over the years.

By the time they reach the pages, they have grown naturally from their histories, their general appearance the product of heredity and their environment and I start filling in the details as they become relevant and I rarely have a full visualization until the job is finished and I'm reading the submission copy. Until then, I probably wouldn't recognize them in the street.

It's a strange process, isn't it?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Pregnant Pause

The review copies of "New Blood" have gone out and now we wait.

This is another new process for me, print books are handled differently. The process is longer and the results from the local booksellers more immediate, so I'm not sure what to expect and I've been reading published reviews and comparing them to the books themselves.

The numbers of reviewers involved is staggering, which reduces the process to a lottery. Hopefully, I hold a winning ticket.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Luck of the Irish

I'm not Irish, either by inclination or descent, but an outlaw who proclaimed his Irishness is almost a national hero here in Australia and "Game as Ned Kelly" is an accolade well worth the earning.
Every group of emigrants has brought something with them to enrich our society, even our indigenous people came from somewhere else whilst the land bridge to Asia still existed. (This continual movement makes a nonsense of claims to land ownership, which will remain long after we're gone, but that's another subject.)
Getting back to the Irish and the diasporas that have sown their seed in every corner of the Earth. It wasn't a sense of adventure that drove them, it was desperation. They fled Ireland to escape starvation, poverty, persecution and, sometimes, prosecution, enriching their new home without ever relinquishing their old.
I salute them, but hope my luck will always be better than theirs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A crisis in confidence

A fellow writer across the Tasman in the Shaky Isles asked how others dealt with the inevitable rejections that interleave our successes, particularly when we try to spread our wings a little wider, and it started me thinking.

Succeed and you get feedback, fail and you get none. It should be the other way around.

In the beginning, when rejections were all I knew, it was easier. I'd failed and had no option but to try again. I'd try to analyze it, testing my choice of publisher for the manuscript, re-examining the writing, the story, the presentation, searching for a reason I wouldn't know enough to recognize when I saw.

A few successes and the problem grows more complex, the analysis more difficult - the perfect example of the danger of a little knowledge.

Do you stick with the publisher you know, and who knows you, even when you doubt their suitability, or go on looking for the perfect match for what you want to write?

If we were all immortal, it wouldn't matter. We could afford to waste a few decades polishing our skill at writing as we looked for the perfect outlet, but we aren't and time is racing by.

I guess all we're left with is the core of self-confidence that made us try this writing game in the first place and trusting our judgement one more time.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Vampires, were-wolves and other beasties

I'm on their side.
Created out of ignorance and saddled with impedimenta neither logical nor attractive to give an explanation for their existence, (It doesn't really matter whether it's imposed by religion or pseudo-science, it's still unattractive) they are the untermenschen of society. Tradition gives them enough power that their defeat reflects credit on the victors, but they are programmed to fail individually even as they provide a continuing presence to justify their persecution.
It's not fair!
Romantics humanize them, believers demonize them, everyone wants them to change. I vote to set them free from their dependency on us and let them escape. They deserve an existence without the restrictions our ancestors have imposed and we have refined endlessly.
Free the creatures of the night. Let them depart unheralded into the great unknown.
It's the reason I don't write vampire stories

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Out on its own in the world

With "New Blood" out in the world on its own and the second book "New World" put aside until I can start the editing process with fresh eyes, I've begun the third book. It only has a working title for the moment "Treaty Port" because that's the goal of the hero at this stage of the story.

These three stories are the first time I've used the same environment more than once and it's interesting. The first book dealt with it's creation, the second with its pre-history and the third with its distant future and each story grew from elements of the one before so it's probably more accurate to call them a series rather than a trilogy.

I'm having fun with the terminology of a theocracy in this third book. It has to grow logically out of the history that created it as well as being readily recognizable to a new reader - a part of writing we hope the reader never thinks about.

I must admit to some nervousness about "New Blood". It's a great yarn, but a little unusual and probably sits closer to the edge of its genre than is entirely comfortable and although the cover art is excellent, I'm not sure its entirely appropriate.

The truth is that another of my babies has ventured out into the world on its own and I'm a worried parent.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

New Blood goes on sale at NCP

She became a woman and changed destiny

Experience a unique world and endlessly fascinating characters through this sensuous new romance.... New Blood by Amy Gallow

Abandoned by her race, manipulated by a unique individual, Dael grasps the opportunity to break free of ancient bonds and become the woman she imagines. In doing so she finds a love beyond anything her world has ever known and bears a son with the power to rewrite history.

Use the link to drop in and have a look. They've put two thirds of the first chapter up as a teaser. I think you'll enjoy it.

Jane Austin

Jane Austin died of Addison's Disease on July 18th, 1817, but her legacy lives on.

I became a fan of hers when I was quite young, listening to a radio adaptation of Pride and Prejudice before I went to school in a small country town. It was late enough that I had to run all the way to school and the single male teacher (all the classes were together in a common room) was not amused by my excuse so I kept trying out new ones until he took me aside and suggested I stick to the truth or come early and listen to it with him on the school radio. I don't remember his name now, but when the time came to leave that town, I looked over my shoulder with regret. Something that didn't happen often.

I went on to read her other stories, her collected letters, including a fanciful history of Englandand a poem about English weather she dictated just before her death and saw an excellent one-woman show about her life based on her correspondence. All this gives me some interest in the most recent of screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

I enjoyed Matthew MacFadyen in "Spooks" and Keira Knightley is an attractive young woman playing a thoroughly modern Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The settings were gorgeous and much more realistic than any of the previous attempts, while the pastische of scenes cobbled together in an attempt to span the high points of the story without becoming too long were thorougly enjoyable, but I can't help feeling that they missed the whole point of Jane Austin's writing and would have been a terrible disappointment to her.

I escaped ever having to analyze Pride & Prejudice in school, so I've never read the academic notes on the story, just Jane Austin's views and my own regret that unlike Dickens she chose to write in a political vacuum during times of great change. I would have loved reading her slant on the contempary events around her.

I guess I'm growing old and grumpy.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Choosing a Title

"New Blood" as a stand alone title appeals to me as it is quite story specific and the answer to the story problem. It becomes problematic only when associated with vampire stories, which it is at New Concepts, so be very careful in choosing your title and take into account where it's going to be marketed.

My first book, "Mitchell's Run", began life as "High Plains Ghost" until I realized that the property called "Mitchell's Run" (Run is an Australian term for an outback rural property, a ranch) was the driving force behind the story. When rewritten for its American release, It became "Mitchell's Valley".

I aim for two things in choosing a title, brevity and aptness. Like the closing words, I want it to resonate in the reader's mind so they'll look at my next title with appreciation for the care taken in choosing it.

Which is why I was reluctant to change "New Blood".


Friday, March 03, 2006

Tomorrow, the World?

I was going to blog on the NCP Authors site this morning ( introducing "New Blood" and showing the eye-catchingcover art, but a mix-up saw someone else posting first so it goes here instead.

Every story you write comes complete with a series of mental images and trying to communicate these to a cover artist is fraught with difficulties because they will probably never read the story. In this case I failed badly and will have to depend on my writing to overcome the disappointment of the expectations created by the artwork.

There's been considerable discussion on the NCP readers' group about what prompts readers to buy books and eye-catching cover art came close after author recognition. The implication of inappropriate cover art is therefore serious.

Without knowing what "New Blood" is about, what would be your guess from the cover?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Web Site Blues

I sat down to the daunting task of creating a web site. Daunting not only because I've never done it it before, but also because it is not what I want to do.

I enjoy writing and am determined to become proficient. I want to share the interesting characters who pop into my mind and make me dream their adventures, to have the freedom to write what I want to write and have editors willing to publish it. I want readers to enjoy my books because they are well written and interesting, not because my name is on the cover.

As you can see, I am a hopeless romantic.

Self promotion is the reality of the modern workplace, no matter what your profession. I already have the freedom to write what I want, but if I want to be published and gain the insights of professional editors, then I must also be commercial. Part of being commercial is name recognition.

Name recognition now means an interesting web site, regularly updated, and a Blog.


Sunday, February 26, 2006


I'm having one of those days.

The second book of the New Blood trilogy has reached the interesting stage where the background is established and the story has its own momentum, we are preparing for two overseas trips and the weather has turned comfortable after a series of hot and humid days.

I should be focused on the tasks at hand, but I'm not.

Instead, my mind keeps straying to the damned vampire story I mentioned in an earlier post, adding lots of interesting little twists to a different take on an area of the genre I usually leave to people who can do it much better than I, especially in the erotica stakes (an appropriate term for a blog on vampires??).

I've tried all the old tricks, even posed a question on the NCP readers and author's group in the hope than someone would say it was nonsense, but the heroine keeps stalking into my thoughts and demanding attention. I've told her to wait her turn a dozen times, but she ignores me as completely as she ignores danger.

Perhaps that's her secret. She really ignores nothing, merely bends it to her will and she's proving stronger than my writer's discipline, even slipping unnoticed into the characters in a different story.

I'll end on that note and go back to the struggle.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Every time I have a book published, that quotation springs to mind, not because I feel the passage of the years, but because I've released another time capsule of my writing style that I will never be able to alter or correct as I learn more. C.S.Forester (of Horatio Hornblower fame) said in his autobiography that he didn't read his published books because their mistakes haunted him. I've learnt what he meant in the last five years.

Rewriting Mitchell's Run for its American release as Mitchell's Valley was pure joy. It's a great yarn and deserved better writing than my first attempt. (It still sold it various print runs so I may be a little harsh on my writing, but who's better qualified)

The sneak peeks of New Blood are due out today in the NCP Readers and Authors group ( hence the philosophical ramblings.

I guess the only answer is to keep writing and hope my readers become addicted enough to forgive my stumbles.

Friday, February 24, 2006


We've all read of the kind-hearted publisher who recognized talent in a new writer and fostered it to the benefit of both parties, or of the Agent/Editor the famous writer thanks so fulsomely for their support and advice.

It possibly still happens.

For the rest of us, the truth is a little harsher. Publishers and Agents have cut staff numbers to remain solvent and the survivors are very busy. Glimpses of latent talent are not enough. They have to see something immediately marketable, or close enough to be turned into it with the small amounts of time they have available.

This means a clean edited manuscript without typos or corrections directed to the appropriate person in the organization and introduced with a professional query letter giving the required information in a recognizable format. (Familiarity saves time, gimmicks waste it)

The economies don't end there. Professional proof readers may still exist in large successful publishers producing mass market books. The others throw the responsibility back on the author. With print books there is the printer's proofs to help. The changed format highlights errors that slip under the radar on the computer screen because we've read the words so many times we "know" what's there. In E-books we don't have the benefit of that stage.

It all sounds a bit gloomy, doesn't it?

If it was easy, everyone would suceed and the intensity of the buzz produced by success would lessen.

Good Luck and keep writing.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Changing Editors

After five books with one publisher, I was comfortable with her editing style and preferences. It made submissions easier. I knew she prefered the newspaper hierarchy of quotation marks for conversation rather than the traditional one espoused by Fowler, changed all semi-colons to commas, and the areas she considered off-bounds for category romance. I was familiar to her too and we both benefited.

I've just received the first edit from NCP and my writing environment has changed. It's too soon to say more than that, but it is different and I have a new set of preferences to learn. It's a little like changing the language settings in a word processor.

Another four books and this new relationship will be just as comfortable as the other and I will have broadened my skills a little more.

It's the great thing about writing. You never stop learning.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Story ideas come from the oddest things.

I responded to a general invitation to join a Yahoo group run by two NCP authors which pretends to be a nightclub peopled by vampires, werewolves and the like. Wanting something better than a simple "Hi, I'm Amy." I shared an imaginary first visit to the club, writing about 650 words.

Vampires, ghosts and things that go bump in the night are not my favorite genre, but I suddenly had a full-blown story on my hands about a daughter's revenge on a vampire father, complete with incest and a poignant ending when he willingly sacrifices himself for her love and learns her true identity in his dying moments.

I've written enough to capture the main elements of the story and put it aside to return to my current project, the second book in the "New Blood" trilogy.

The first 1000 words of the vampire story appear in my Yahoo group and the group run by the two NCP authors is _

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lessons I should have learned earlier

I came to writing through a love of reading and a father who could make the old Bush Ballads real. Listening to him, I rode on the wing with the Man from Snowy River, chasing the wild bush horses, stood with the Boss of the Admiral Lynch while Balmaceda’s enemies pounded his boat to pieces and “saw the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended” with Clancy as we went Queensland droving.

It took me years to relearn the two simple lessons this should have taught me.

(1) In the books I enjoyed best, I had no consciousness of reading, only of the story unfolding before me; and
(2) My father spoke with voice and knowledge of the Bush.

These distill into:

(1) Don’t intrude between the reader and the events of the story; and
(2) Do your research.

Edward George Bulwer Lytton, of “It was a dark and stormy night” fame, was guilty of the first and I can no longer achieve the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy several, otherwise good, writers because they strayed into my world and got it terribly wrong.

Can any writer afford to lose even one reader?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Research Treasures

One of the pleasures of being a writer are the pearls you find when researching.

"Snow Drifter" is set partly in Aspen and partly in the Australian snowfields near Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales. The mountain was named by Paul Strzelecki in honor of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish freedom fighter and American War of Independence General, because he thought standing on its peak gave you a view of what freedom should be.

We met a descendent of Paul Strzelecki in Cooma and spent a day with him exploring the area, meeting locals and listening to their tales. In the process, he told us the story of how Paul Strzelecki left Poland and came to Australia.

He fell in love with a seventeen-year-old heiress living near his home, Alexandrina Turino. He called her his "beloved Adyna". Her father wasn't happy with the match. He was saving her for a wealthy suitor, which Paul certainly wasn't at the time. Lacking her father's consent, they eloped, but were caught before they'd covered 20 kilometres. The ensuing scandal drove Paul out of Poland. Although he wrote to her for the rest of their lives, and even sent her a pressed flower from the top of Mount Kosciuszko, they didn't meet again until he visited her in Switzerland when she was sixty.

The message is don't short change your research, because you never know what you'll find.