To Reveal or Not to Reveal? That is the Question...

How many of you are pretty straightforward about your work, the title, the plot, etc.?

How many of you are as superstitious as sports fans when it comes to your work?  *raises her hand*

Hey, I'm from Massachusetts, and I don't think anybody is as superstitious as a Red Sox fan (except maybe a Cubs fan).

When it comes to a work in progress, I don't like to share too much about it, particularly the title.  I'll post tidbits here and there, but that's the extent of it in most cases. 

Why am I like this?  I'm not sure...  There's partial fear of somebody stealing a great title or concept, which I think is fairly natural.  However, my greater concern is talking up a project and then ultimately trunking it, and having to admit that it just didn't work out after all.

What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

The Process, Part 2

Way back in February, I posted about my writing process.  Well, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the topic of the writing process and give more details about it.

The process is not just about how we get from point A to point B (or C, D, E, or anywhere else).  There are rituals that many writers observe.   Music?  Maybe.  Lip balm?  Definitely.  Snacks?  Probably.  Work in pieces?  Only if inspired to write dialogue/action for a later scene.  Start at the beginning and write in a linear manner until the end?  Yes.  Outline?  No.

My actual process of writing a novel is similar to Holly Lisle's One Pass Manuscript Revision.

I write a first draft.  It doesn't always meet my word count expectations, and that isn't a problem.  My revision process is about asking the questions Lisle covers, and more - slaying adverbs, rewording sentences that need to be, er, reworded, and ensuring that there is variety when it comes to descriptions and words that begin sentences.  For example, it is very easy to get bogged down in always beginning a sentence with "I" or "my" when you write in first person.  (Digression: it seems like every book I read lately is in first person, and I'm getting quite tired of it.)

At the moment, the first draft of Project Muffin Man is complete.  Now, you might look at my word count widget on the side of this blog and say, "What?  It says that you've only reached 55% of your desired word count."

That's true.  The first draft was not quite 30,000 words, but it laid out the bare bones of the story.  That's how I do it.  Sometimes the first draft is "meatier" than others.  It all depends on what's in my mind.

Now my second draft (aka revision of the first draft) is tackled on a daily basis with three goals in mind:

1.  Revise one chapter per day over the next 30 days.  That doesn't put a huge amount of pressure on me to finish quickly, though if I do reach my goals, I will have written this novel in a month and a half.  Yes, I was and am quite inspired on this project.  ;)

2.  Add 1,000 words (or more) per chapter, per day.

3.  Email to two betas (in addition to the one who is currently giving feedback on one chapter per day).

I already have notes from the alpha reader, and I keep them open as I work.  The beta has given feedback on each chapter read, and I have incorporated that feedback.  Hence, my goal is to have a polished manuscript no later than October 31 to send to two betas (one of whom has already volunteered to read; the other will probably be someone whose input I value greatly).

The ultimate goal is to have it query-ready by November 30. 

I think some writers would be agog at the idea of writing a novel in a month and a half, and simply tweaking it here and there.  Others probably would say, "Pssh.  A month and a half is nothing!" 

Writing is like many things in life: you have to do what works for you, whether it's an intense twice-a-week 5,000-word sprint, or a leisurely once-a-day 1,000 word stroll.

My desk: where Sweet Tarts are organized by color and eaten in order from least favorite flavor to most desirable flavor, adverbs are slain, bubble gum-flavored lip balm is a must, bits of seed and torn paper are scattered by my caique, and Hermes hopefully blesses my work.  ;)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Awesome Alpha, Beloved Beta

I don't normally utilize an alpha reader, but I decided to with Project Muffin Man 1.0.  I discussed the novel with him, emphasizing the caveat that it is not reader-ready.  He understood and I told him to feel free to be cruel - to be ruthless.   As I told him, there was no way I could be devastated by seriously raw feedback on something that I knew to be unfinished and incomplete, and as we discussed the novel, I pointed out the areas I knew to be highly flawed.

He returned great feedback to me that was more grammatical than plot-related.  His general feedback was very helpful too, and I asked him for specific ideas regarding items to incorporate into the story.  He gave me one and I will definitely make use of it.

Generally, I go with two or three beta readers and call it a day.  They get the finished manuscript.  However, I am going with... hm, would you call it a 1/2 Beta?  Heh.  That is, I have somebody reading the finished chapters as I go along.  So I am saying to him, "Here is what I consider the finished product.  What do you think?"  Yet the reading is happening throughout the writing process versus at what I consider the first end.

I say "the first end", because what beta readers often see is the manuscript you *hope* is polished and ready to query.  You may end up making another set of revisions after they see it, and another and another...

All in all, I consider myself a very fortunate person.  I've seen people talk about revising a manuscript a dozen times!  Not me.  I have a definite idea, I type it up into a first draft (which you might consider an expanded outline in a way, but it is action and dialogue), I go through and revise it chapter by chapter, I send it off to the beta readers, then I revise based upon their input, send it to yet another person or two for input and proofreading, and then call it a day. 

That is, if I'm satisfied with what I've written.  ;)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Do You Set Goals?

Writing is like anything else in life - a highly individualized process that cannot be dictated by "you must's" and "you have to's".  It is a personal experience and everyone's will be different.

Do you set goals?

I'm a half-and-half sort of person in that regard.

My son is with me every four months.  I homeschool him.  Add parenthood to pet ownership, being a housewife (cooking, cleaning, running errands, spending time with my husband), and you really don't get much time to sit and focus on writing.  Thus, when it is my turn with my son, I do not set writing goals.

Instead, I write when I can and allow the process to flow organically.  I give myself very loose guidelines based on what I hope to accomplish, but that is the extent of it.

When my son is with his dad in Germany, my day-to-day routine changes dramatically.  During that time, I approach writing like a job (and it really is my chosen career).  I get up, let the bird out, get dressed, clean the house, eat breakfast, check email, blogs, forums, etc., and then start writing.

During the morning, I only tend to knock out about 500 words, since I place more importance on cleaning and bird care when I get out of bed.  Still, I feel that managing anywhere between 500 and 1,000 words before my husband comes home for lunch is a good start.

Once my husband returns to work, the rest of the afternoon is mine.  It is all about writing.  My caique has a fairly set schedule about when he is in his cage and when he is out.  I get roughly 1-2 hours of non-bird time to write in the afternoon.  When I let him out around 2 p.m., it really doesn't mess with my writing groove.  I turn on music and will gladly play with him with one hand, and use the other to click through the web if I need to do some research.

During this 4-month period without my son, I *definitely* set goals.  I set goals to complete specific projects and to query at least one or two projects.  I also work best with lists, so I have an index card with a list of goals that looks like this:

1)  Complete (Insert Name of Top Secret Steampunk Project Here) (alpha reader notes are constantly flowing in; want to be ready for betas no later than November 1; query and synopsis are also underway)

2)  Submit (Top Secret Steampunk Project) to (Insert Preferred Publishers and Agents Here)

3)  Complete Trust & Magick first draft and begin work on second draft (Steampunk fantasy)

4)  Complete non-fiction project first draft

Having a list of goals keeps me focused.  What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

The Giggles

I love writing.  I particularly love writing a snarky character who embodies my own, personal offbeat sense of humor:

With a “tsk” of disdain, Demetra turned back to Francis and the kidnapper.  She gripped the back of her chair as a deep fretfulness overtook her.  Simon was correct.  A dead Francis meant she would not have to marry him.  It also meant the opportunity to eat muffins without censure.  It was a thorny dilemma.

Last night, when the running joke about muffins began, I was giggling before I even committed words to the virtual paper. 

So...  Does your writing ever touch you on an emotional level?  Does it ever make you laugh or cry?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Catching Up & Offering ARCs

Yet another cross-posting from my personal blog.  Sometimes topics just overlap, eh?

Monday was as productive as I hoped!

I woke up, took a quick shower (no dilly-dallying for me), and began cleaning house the moment I was dressed.  This meant a load of laundry (Monday is always linens day), doing the dishes, vacuuming, and giving Avery's cage it's thorough once-a-week cleaning.

Avery was placed back in his cage after about 2 hours of hanging out on my head, his favorite perch, and I sat down to write.  I only knocked out 500 words in the morning, which is actually a good number considering everything else that had to be done today!

There was still quite a bit of catch-up to do with planning and tracking my son's homeschooling progress.  I created a template for lesson plans to send to his dad and nanny, and didn't fill them in completely.  What an idiot I am!  So I needed to complete the lesson plans for the next two weeks and get them emailed to my ex-husband.

Meanwhile, my son's fabulous nanny/ex-husband's girlfriend (hm, what should I call her?!) sent me photos of their visit to Koln (Cologne), Germany.  She said she's not very good at remembering to take photos.  Neither is my ex.  Heh.  But her Uncle took photos of the family and friends who got together last weekend.  My son hung out with his nanny's little five-year-old cousin, and their English-French-German language barrier wasn't a problem.  Gavin has a tiny bit of French under his hat (thanks to me insisting on it since he was four!) and the little boy he met had some English.  However, as Gavin and I learned in Korea, childhood transcends foreign language challenges.  ^.^

After the homeschool catch-up and downloading the photographs, I wanted to make sure I responded to people who had expressed an interest in ARCs of The Gossamer Gate.

An ARC is an "Advanced Reading Copy" of an about-to-be-published book.  The Gossamer Gate will be released on December 21 in a variety of ebook formats ($3.99) and as a paperback ($7.99).

Now, here's where it gets interesting - if you would like to review The Gossamer Gate (whether on Shelfari, GoodReads or your blog) and don't mind possibly being quoted, then you can snag an ARC by or before November 15 (ebook or paperback). 

If you like what you see, you can email me at autumndivona AT yahoo DOT com to request an ARC.  For an ebook, I will simply need your email address and to know your preferred format (epub, MOBI, even plain ol' PDF).  For a paperback, I will just need your mailing address.

If you aren't into faerie urban fantasy, but do have friends who are, please ask them to drop by sometime.  ;)

How was your Monday?  Did you keep as busy as me?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

I Love Mondays

Just thought I'd share a little cross-post from my personal/homeschooling/Paganism blog, as a little insight into my personality and sense of humor.  This is a true story.  ;)

It's true.  I love Mondays.  They are the oxygen I need to keep going, else I would wither away.


A few weeks ago, I shared my feelings about my husband taking two weeks of leave.  Him.  Home.  For two.  Long.  Long.  Weeks.

It's not like I never see the man.  He works a normal eight-hour day, and comes home early enough for us to enjoy a six to seven hour evening together.  Not bad at all, in my opinion.  When he's TDY or deployed that is a different matter.  Of course I miss our six hours a day, Monday through Friday, as well as our weekends.  What I'm saying is this: his normal work hours work well for me.

I approach everything as a job: homeschooling, keeping house, genealogy, and - especially! - writing.

When the man is home, that throws off my entire groove.  Again, it's not that I don't want him home.  I want him home, but I want him out of the house for nine to ten hours a day!

So what did the past two weeks of hell love and togetherness look like?  Well:

Homeschooling: Not a huge deal, because my son is back with his dad for the remainder of the year.  I usually put about an hour a week into going over his lesson plans, emailing the week's lesson plan to his father, and adding the data into Homeschool Tracker.

Housework: HA!  I mean, seriously.  Did you read my last post?  Not that we woke up with a beer can in the bathtub every day, but I truly slacked off over the past two weeks.  Other than cleaning the bird's cage as usual, doing the dishes and keeping up with the laundry, I let the housekeepers do the rest on their once a week visit.  Shocking, I know.

Don't ask if I worked out because I, the girl who simply adores cardio, did not (unless you count other activities that shall not be shared here - this isn't that kind of blog).

Paganism: Well, Mabon is coming, so we've talked about our ritual plans for that.  I also started decorating for Halloween.  I couldn't wait!  I've got a bunch of pictures that really need to get hung on the walls, so I can get this house is order for Samhain.

Genealogy: There was a breakthrough and that's about it.  Genealogy really took a backseat to...

Writing: Well, let's see...  One book in the hands of the copyeditor, another novel accepted by a publisher and set for an April 2012 release both left me free to focus on another project.  How much time was I able to put into that project?  Not nearly as much I would have liked.  Why?  Because my husband doesn't believe in personal space/bubbles, that's why!

So, here's the recap:

  • Started an 80,000-word Steampunk fantasy set in 1892 London that is destined for awesomeness.
  • Played many video games
  • Named the huge bathroom spider "Croctobot"
  • Started a one-on-one D&D campaign
  • Missed out on going to London because the military got all jittery about the anniversary of 9/11
  • Watched many movies that my husband had never seen before ("Stripes", "Young Frankenstein", and "A Knight's Tale", just to name a few)
  • Read books (hey, if you're on Shelfari or GoodReads, let's be friends!)
  • Listened to music - mostly rock because, well, we rock
  • Became obsessed with The Chemical Garden trilogy (February can't get here fast enough)
  • Downloaded some cheap Steampunk ebooks to my Kindle for PC (I still read *real* books, and will NEVER convert to e-reader; the 3 books linked here are simply not available in print or I want to try them before I commit to print in one instance)
  • Spent roughly 99% of the past two weeks sharing these words of love with my husband:


Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Queries: Trying Something Different

Normally when I work on the query and synopsis for a book, I do it after the book is done.  However, by that time, I think coming up with a synopsis is especially difficult after I've already poured all of my creative energy into the manuscript.

This time, I'm doing something a little different.

I'm writing the query and synopsis *as* I write the book. 

Since I have two novels out of my hands and in the hands of editors, I can pour my heart and soul into my latest goal.  And it just seems sensible that, while I'm super excited about this project, I go ahead and create the query and synopsis as I'm writing. 

What about you?  Do you normally write your query and synopsis after you finish a project (as I generally do), or do you find that writing them while you're actually working on a project is better?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Thank You

The Writing Well Project has shared a blog award with me.  You can find a nifty variety of topics over at The Writing Well Project, on writing and reading, as well as interesting blogs to follow.  Why not head on over and check it out?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Awkward Writing Moment

Scene 1: Wherein I proudly show my husband this dialogue from my latest work-in-progress:

“You’re no fool.  What did you think the Chronos Clock would do?  Chime on the hour and play a merry little tune?”  Demetra retorted tartly, her hands on her hips.  “Name one timepiece for which you would willingly commit cold-blooded murder.”
            “Point made,” Francis groaned, pressing his hand to his face.  “Is this when I admit to you that I’ve been a disingenuous ass?”
            “Well, I won’t hold a natural flaw of your birth against you.”  She turned on her heel and strutted into the dining room, leaving Francis to gape after her.

Scene 2: Wherein my husband asks:

"What does 'disingenuous' mean?"

Me: "Oh, insincere, hypocritical, devious, deceitful."

Him: "And that's ME?!"

Scene 3: In which I realize I have opened mouth and inserted foot:

"Er, uh, um... I mean, uh, um, erm...  That is, he's based on you, but, you know... Er, he's not *you*.  Just, you know, you're the basis for the character..."

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Badly-Dubbed Brain

Not all writers are necessarily grammar-conscious when they speak, but I happen to be very aware of how I speak.  Today has been interesting, to say the least.  It all began with this sentence:

"I win you not read."

Yes, that's what I said, and I spoke it as a complete sentence, with no pause between "win" and "you".

At the time, it made sense in my mind, because I was referring to the fact that I had told my husband *not* to read my blog.  He did not read it, so I felt triumphant.  I expressed it rather comically, as you can see.

Here are a few more gems from tonight:

"Be careful or I'll hit my brain on the wall!"

"It will splatter everywhere inside my."

After several more verbal fails, I finally just gave a "DO NOT WANT!"

Vader style, naturally.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Radio Silence

Monday night was the end of the world as we knew it.  The internet decided to stop working.

When it was not working on Tuesday, we walked to our landlord's office to inquire about the situation.  Our telephone was not working either, since it runs off the same line as the router.

The secretary told us that the problem was affecting the entire neighborhood (not just our house), and that the company hoped to have the connection repaired by 6 p.m.

In a way, the "radio silence" was good.  There was no Tweet Deck pinging at me every second, no way for me to get absorbed into reading favorite forums or blogs, and I had lost the inability to check my email every other minute in hopes of hearing from the copyeditor for one of my novels and the editor for the other.

Well, I wish I could say that I took advantage of the time to really and truly write, but I did not.  I watched a few episodes of "The Girls Next Door" and "Sex & the City".  I read the first two stories out of Corsets & Clockwork.   I plotted an Excel spreadsheet on notebook paper.  I ran errands with my husband - the Post Office had my Dead Wrong bookmarks!  I played the "Phantom of the Opera" soundtrack and went through the bookmarks to make sure my blog was written on each and every one (silly of me not to have included that when I initially created the bookmarks).  Finally, we settled in rather late in the evening to play some D&D.

No internet this entire time.  We decided to call it a night around 11:15 p.m.

At 11:27 p.m., I ran downstairs for something and found that - of course - the internet was back up and functioning.

It figures.  ;)

Regardless of my fairly unproductive Tuesday, my week has gotten off to a pretty good start.  I knocked out 5,000 words on Monday and hope to get back into some forward momentum on writing today.  What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

A Writer's Distance

First of all, apologies if this post is incomprehensible.  I have a bit of a head cold, which resulted in me falling asleep in the car whilst running errands (my husband deemed that "cute"), my husband ordering me to remain on the couch for the remainder of the day, my husband making me stew full of beneficial herbs for dinner, and me drinking cup after cup of ginger ale or tea.

When my editor sent me a second round of revisions on The Gossamer Gate, I somehow managed to work my way through them with clarity and now the manuscript is in the hands of the copy editor.  Phew!

While I wait for her to pronounce sentence (pun intended) on the novel, I *also* know that I could hear from my editor from Eternal any day now regarding Heart & Fire.

Heart & Fire is intended as the first book of a trilogy, though it easily stands on its own. Now that leaves me with this question:

Do I work on the story that is meant to be the second book of the trilogy, and is between 1/3 and 1/2 done, or do I step back and focus on something else?

I don't know about other writers, but I do better with distancing myself from a project until that distinct, separate aspect of it that makes it a series is complete.  After all, what if substantial edits are suggested/requested?  That might alter the world to some extent, and render the work on book two useless or pointless.

Personally, I don't expect there to be a problem in that regard, but I still feel that need to step away, since I was so immersed in the world of Heart & Fire for quite some time.

What do you do when you have projects in the editing and/or proofreading stage, and either know that more is expect of you or you simply want to write more?  What is your preference?

At the moment, I am working on the first draft of another story intended to introduce a trilogy.  However, I will most certainly return to the projects that I am expected to complete first.

Did I make any sense tonight? *sniffles and sips her tea*

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Interview with Shiva of "Dead Wrong"

Me: So, Shiva, tell me a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from?  What do you like to do?  What is your little nest of vampires like?

Shiva:  You created me.  You know everything there is to know about me.

Me:  Well, perhaps you could say something for the benefit of the readers.

Shiva: I'm not really comfortable talking about myself...

Me:  Right then.  Well, why don't you tell me about Desmond.  You certainly seem to have a thing for him!

Shiva:  He has his uses.

Me:  That's... it? 

Shiva:  Is there more?

Me:  You're awfully nihilistic, aren't you?

Shiva:  Look, I exist.  I do what I have to do to survive, whether I want to or not.

Me:  Something awful must have happened to you in your past...

Shiva:  Wow, what are you?  A shrink?  How much do I owe you, doc?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Joys & Laments

It makes me happy when my editor says, "I couldn't put it down!"  I wish she wouldn't apologize for the red marks - she's already given me the greatest compliment I could ever hear.

It makes me sad that so many publishers want romantic fantasy versus fantasy with a romantic relationship.  I'm not a romance writer.  I'm a fantasy writer.  The romance is part of the story, but does not drive the plot.

Clearly I need an agent who can pitch me to Orbit, where I can sit between other great authors who tackle fantasy and plot first, and romance second, like Gail Carriger and Nicole Peeler.  ;)

What do you have to be happy about today?  What do you have to complain about today?  It doesn't have to be related to writing, but feel free to especially share your writerly joys and laments!

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Itchy Writing Fingers...

With two completed novels off to editors, I am taking my husband's - er - "advice" and taking a break this weekend.  Granted, I want very much to focus on two other fiction projects in the works, as well as my non-fiction book...

However, he's right.  I should take a break and clear my mind a bit.  Besides, those two manuscripts will be back to me soon enough with enough redlines and suggestions to make my head spin.  (Very important things, mind you.  Nobody who truly cares about their craft wants to publish complete and utter crap.)

How am I staving off the "gotta write" compulsion? 

By organizing things.  I looked at all of the non-fiction work that I've done and realized it really doesn't need to sit on my laptop any more.  All of my links/favorites are also quite a mess.

So between backing up my files and deleting some from the computer itself, and organizing links/favorites, I think I've been productive without being so deeply immersed into something, that I can't stop.  My husband probably thinks that's a nice change.

But I still want to write...

Perhaps reading a book will help!

What about you?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Congratulations to K'ttail!

The Great and Powerful Oz - that is, the random number generator - has selected K'ttail as the winner of a copy of Dead Wrong!

Thank you so much for the entries and the follows - you have given me some new and interesting blogs and Tweeps to follow as well!

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

"The Gossamer Gate": Back cover copy

I must say that I am quite pleased with the back cover copy prepared for The Gossamer Gate.  Of course I hope that readers find it enticing and look forward to reading an excerpt soon!

Nine years ago Khiara committed a grave offense against the fae, a crime for which she is destined to pay the price.  When a faerie prince intent on revenge returns to seek retribution against her, she is pulled into the Otherworld against her will.  She is given a quest: she has nine days to locate the gate that will allow her to return to the mortal world.

But the laws of the capricious fae are calculated to work against mortals and keep them trapped forever in their realm.  There is temptation at every turn, and even if Khiara does not give in, there is still a chance that the devious prince will go back on his word.

For the fae may change the rules of the game on a whim, and the prince has already set a seemingly impossible condition on Khiara’s quest for freedom…

Poor Khiara has quite a time of it in the Otherworld.  Thank goodness for unexpected allies.  ;)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callaha