Random Thoughts

~ I love that my 9-year-old son refers to commercials as "comicals" and Chain Chomps as "Chomp Chomps"

~ Plastic sleeves for thermometers remind me of being in the elementary school nurse's office, and therefore make me feel nostalgic

~ It's funny how friends always want to jump to the conclusion that you are expecting when you've experienced 3 days of abnormal heartburn (and I wish I could say that I am, but I'm not)

~ Kitty-cooing sounds make me look at Kobold and say, "Aww" in response

~ Avery's excited little "Step up!  Step up!" when I walk to his cage, followed by the soft morning chirps when I take him out are some of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard

~ It's a satisfying end to the day when I read a chapter of Inkheart to my son at bedtime, and he gasps "What about Dustfinger?"

~ When I cannot finish reading a book, I don't give it a negative review unless I DNFed due to bad writing - most of my DNFs are merely because a story is not my cup of tea, and I cannot give a negative review based on novel-reader incompatibility

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Other Than Writing...

When it comes to my writing, I look at it as a job.  It may be a fun job and one that I can balance with other aspects of my personal life, without having to worry too much about what I should put first, but it's still a job.

Since I dictate my own hours and set my own priorities, that also means I need to see when it is time for a break.  As much as I love writing, it is possible to get burned out, or at least realize that I need to give other things priority in my life.

January seemed like a good month to do just that.  Although I mentioned writing a bit in previous posts, that's all the writing I did since the beginning of 2012 - a bit.  I have given myself permission to spend this month doing other things. 

My priorities for the rest of the month include beta reading for a fellow author, doing genealogical research for a friend, and finishing a cross-stitch for my husband.  There are random things to do, like getting our clunker to the junkyard, getting the kitten spayed, and decluttering in general.  Of course, the usual daily household routine applies - homeschooling my son, cleaning the house, running errands, caring for my caique, and enjoying family time in general.

My husband took 3 weeks of leave and this is the perfect time to get things done.  He wanted to travel to Ireland, but I don't even have my civilian passport (just my No Fee passport).  Thus, I can't travel anywhere, except home to the U.S. and here to England, where we are stationed.  So there's yet another thing to get done this month - get my civilian passport application out to the consulate!

It probably sounds like a rather boring month, but it is balanced out with plenty of reading and movie watching.  ;)

However, after the past couple of weeks of focusing on things other than writing, that urge to get back into my stories is getting stronger.  I am one of those people for whom writing is like breathing - I need to do it.  If writing is centered in my heart, then genealogy is my mind.  Oddly enough, the two work together.  Escaping into a fantasy world satisfies my spirit, while resolving family mysteries satisfies my intellect.

What do you do, other than writing (whether you need a break, or just in general on a day-to-day basis)?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Upbeat Girl

One of the things I am very passionate about is genealogy.  For some reason, ancestral mysteries (and jigsaw puzzles) clear my mind.  They relax me.

We genealogists find many cousins, usually distant, but sometimes close.  It is through the internet that we often get to know one another - some of us never meet.

In these online communications (whether through email or forums), we try to decipher someone else's personality.  One of the things I read quite often about myself is that people think I have a very upbeat personality.

Well, I do.  I smile often, always look passerby in the eye and say "hello" when I'm out in public, and I often pause to think about how grateful I am for things.  I've had nicknames like "Pollyanna" and "Sunshine", though they are balanced out by those who know me as "Fiery Valkyrie".  Former employers knew me as "Radar", because I anticipated their needs or work that needed to get done.

There are many arrogant people out there, especially writers.  My gosh, I cannot believe what some writers say about themselves (when they wax poetic about just how wonderful their writing/story is), or the derogatory things they say about agents, publishers or one another!  There is a huge difference between being an upbeat, confident person, who thinks they might have something that can entertain readers, and being completely egotistical.  I've also known the types of people who embody the "Misery loves company" cliche - people who want to bring others down to their level.

I guess I'm never sure what all the fuss about anything is, well, about.

Today on the radio, I heard one British passenger speak about her experience with the Italian cruise ship that just sank this weekend, killing at least 3 or 4 passengers.  She said that it is hard to believe that, only two nights ago, she was sitting on the side of the ship in the freezing cold.  Now she's just happy to be with her family.

I think gratitude helps keep a person upbeat.  So does doing what you love and encouraging others to do what they love.  I think this is why I like to beta read for a really sweet, smart writer friend that I've made online.  Likewise, I greatly appreciate those betas who are committed to helping me improve my work.

Last weekend, my son and I had a discussion about what he might want to do when he grows up.  He loves drawing, and wanted to know if there was such a thing as art school.  I told him that there is, and while my father denied me the opportunity to attend one when I asked (he wanted me to go to a "normal" college), that I would never deny my child the same opportunity.

He's got an easygoing, upbeat personality too.  Maybe it comes from being creative or from being my son, or maybe that's just the way he is, no matter what.

What I do know for certain is that it's more fun to hang out with people who laugh and share your sense of joy in something, than to waste time on those who want it to be their way, or the highway.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

"News of the World"

Ah, my favorite Queen album of all time.

I have my father's taste in music.  Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, The Steve Miller Band, Jackson Browne, and David Bowie are some of my favorite bands and singers.  My husband cracks me up, because he is 11 years younger than me, but loves the same music.  I was born in 1974.  He was born in 1986. 

Even though I tease him about it, it really is wonderful to think of how music can transcend time.  As with books, what we like in music is completely subjective.

My younger sister (born in 1977) prefers hip hop and pop, though she loves the rock anthems of the 70's and the 80's.  However, if you gave her a choice between tickets to Pink or The Steve Miller Band, I think she'd go with Pink.  Likewise, I do enjoy some modern pop (I'm a bit of a closet Kelly Clarkson fan and simply adore Katy Perry), but if you gave me a choice, I'd take Def Leppard over anything new.

Music is amazing in what it can do for us.  When I gave birth to my son, I listened to Boston and Journey CDs.  When I clean the house every morning or want something to boost my energy, I turn on some Katy Perry.  If I feel like sitting down and writing, Styx gets me in the mood. 

When I met my father-in-law last year, he also introduced me to his guitars.  When he told me that one of them was named "Jackson", I asked, "After Jackson Browne?"  (Alas, I was reaching for the wrong type of art - it is named after Jackson Pollock.)

I really love that I can listen to my favorite Queen songs - "Spread Your Wings", "Hammer to Fall", and "I Want it All" - and still feel just as moved by them as I did 20 years ago.  I also think it's cool that kids who are 20 years younger than me feel the same thrill those song evoke.

Just as books such as Pride & Prejudice and A Tale of Two Cities, or recent classics such as Anne MacCaffrey's early Pern books, or The Mists of Avalon continue to enthrall readers decade after decade, music also transcends time and culture.  I think that rocks.

Speaking of classics that still resonate with us, the hubby and I are going to watch "The Maltese Falcon" tonight.  ^.^

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

Furry Alarm Clock

We have one child (my 9-year-old son), one black-headed caique (purchased from a breeder here in England and to be joined by other feathered friends when we return to the U.S. in a couple of years and settle down), and three cats.  Two of those cats are in my sister's care, since we both agreed that one round-trip trans-oceanic journey was enough.  They lived in Korea with me from July 2009 to November 2010, and we didn't want to put them through the stress of flying again.

I adore cats, which is why I adopted one here in England.  She was irresistible with her gray ("blue") fur, and ocelot-like markings - stripes and spots. 

Kobold (or "Kobahhhhlllld" if you have ever watched "Unforgotten Realms") is a sweet girl.

She's also my furry alarm clock. 

Our caique doesn't wake up until I do, nor does he make a peep all night.  When he wakes up, though, he can screech the house down!

Kobold, on the other hand, is very subtle in her Wake Up Mommy endeavors.  First she walks on top of me.  Then she head-butts my face, which is generally under the blankets.  Finally, she gets up on my nightstand and starts pawing at my watch and lip balm. 

Now, I have this thing about having my watch and lip balm within arm's reach, and I think that furry little brat knows it. 

The alarm clock is on my husband's side of the bed, because he's the only person in the house with a definite wake-up time.  Thus, I like to have my watch next to me, where I can press the light button and see what time it is because I really can't read the clock from the other side of the bed.  I know.  My vision is pathetic without glasses.

My son pops out of bed whenever he feels like it (generally around 7 a.m., but the time can vary between 6 and 8 a.m.).

Then there's me.

And Kobold trying her best to drag me out of bed at 6 a.m.  She's cute.  Very cute.

Just not at 6 a.m.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

A New Balance in the New Year

I'm thrilled to have my son back home with me!  His presence means I can't write all day, every day, but that's something I don't mind.  I have more than enough projects done or mostly done, and I'm happy to slow down until summer.

However, I am setting concrete, daily goals for writing, querying, and other projects.  Some people might think, "Aw, just write while your son is at school." 

We homeschool.  :)  I love it, of course.  So when do I find time to write?  At night for a couple of hours, and that works out quite well.  I pushed myself very, very hard last year.  I wanted to get as much accomplished as possible before my son came home from his dad's house.  That's how I managed to bang out my NaNo project in 15 days.  I'm in the middle of revisions on it, and then I will forward it to my beta (if he's still willing!) for feedback.

For now, I'm going to set a 1,000-word-a-night goal and then see how things go from there. 

Meanwhile, I had to explain the agent querying process to my husband last week.  He was under the impression that having a partial or full request from an agent is a reason to get incredibly excited.  I told him that I preferred to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground, as a partial or full can be rejected just as easily as a simple query letter.

Though, after looking at some of last year's query numbers, I allowed myself to loosen up just a bit and say that it was at least a great honor to have a partial or a full requested, even if it is rejected later.

As one of my friends says, I'm the person she counts on for consistent logic.  So that is how I am looking at it now: not as a "Well, they can still reject the story, even after reading it", but as "No matter what happens, it is an honor to be read.  So many people don't even get that far."  That's slightly more positive, eh?  I think the trick is to be positive, but down to earth.  That, and just keep on working.

Well, we have friends coming over in a few hours to play D&D and there's a bit of laundry to fold.  To be quite honest, I would rather curl up in bed with Clockwork Prince.  The verdict is still out on it, but so far I think I like it better than Clockwork Angel.  However, if it is all about - as one reviewer put it - the characters dithering around, wringing their hands and getting angsty about who loves whom, I'm going to be disappointed.  What I want most is to learn about Tessa's origins.  That would satisfy me.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan

What I'm Reading, January 1

Living overseas changes how we shop for things.  The BX (Base Exchange) only carries so much.  As one friend put it last night, we get Ramstein's "leftovers".  It is rather disappointing not to have a big bookstore nearby. Sure, we could go to Bury St. Edmunds, but that's a half-hour drive and then paying pounds for a book costs roughly double the U.S. dollar.  So I either pick up what slim pickings there are at the BX (and I did get lucky twice last week) or order from Amazon.

As far as books are concerned, I don't like to order them online if I'm undecided about a title.  I like to hold the book in my hands and flip through the pages.  Reading a bit of the beginning, looking at the middle, and then reading the jacket or back cover help me decide when I'm not sure one way or the other.

I also make use of the library for books that I *know* I don't want to own, because they aren't in my usual genre, but that come highly recommended.  At the moment, I am on the waiting list for The Marriage Plot.  It's not my usual cup of tea, but sounds like it could be interesting (somebody at the homeschooling forum I frequent mentioned the title, so I looked it up on Amazon and thought, "Hmm...  Let's see if the library has it.").

So that's how I generally approach books - I prefer to hold them in my hand.  Here is what is on my nightstand now:

The Help - I think somebody recommended it last year.  When I read the description of the book, I thought "meh".  However, when it was turned into a movie, I thought maybe there was something to it, so I got it from the library.  I'm up to Chapter 10 and not yet decided on whether or not I like it.  However, I'm curious enough about what happens next to keep reading.

Clockwork Prince - Oh my gosh, I really didn't like Clockwork Angel.  It was slow.  It dragged.  I was incredibly bored.  It's funny, because I look at books that I absolutely *loved* and see somebody rating it 1 or 2 stars, and think, "HOW COULD THEY?!"  Well, I'm that person when it came to Clockwork Angel.  I just couldn't rate it more than 2 1/2 stars (though Goodreads and such defaults to full stars, so I gave it 3).  The lack of action bugged me.  The helpless heroine bugged me.  The petulant, bratty Will bugged me.  The do-nothing Jem bugged me.

However I found the overall premise intriguing enough to give Clockwork Prince a shot.  If it isn't an improvement, I'll give up on the series.

Beauty and the Werewolf - This was one of those "ZOMG, THE BX HAS IT!" finds.  It was on my Amazon wishlist and then... there it was... sitting in the YA section of the BX bookstore.  Of course, it belonged in the New Releases section with the other copies of it.  Somebody must have picked it up and rethought the purchase.

Anyhow, I like Lackey's Tales of the 500 Kingdoms.  The first two were fabulous.  The ones since have not been quite as good, and I was sadly disappointed in The Sleeping Beauty.  Too bad, because my favorite fairy tales are Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.  If Beauty and the Werewolf also disappoints me, I may have to give up on that series too.  But I hope not!

Darker Still - When I saw this at the BX just two nights ago, I swear to you, I caressed it.  Then I tossed it in the cart (along with the Christmas gifts we were buying for my son - he arrives tomorrow) and said "Mine."

Another book that was on my Amazon wish list, I cannot wait to read it.  Just.  Cannot.  Wait.

What are you reading to start your new year?

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan