Sep 6, 2014

A peek into the process: ARCs and uncorrected proofs

I'm always fascinated to learn about what goes on behind the scenes when a book is published. Here's how it's working for One Witch at a Time:

Within a few days of each other, I got these in the mail:

Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)

And these:

Uncorrected page proofs

Outwardly, they look very different, but inside, they are exactly the same. Most importantly: They both have errors. (Which is why ARCs tend to have a big UNCORRECTED disclaimer somewhere on them.) This is where editing and production and promotion all overlap. Because while I'm reading the page proofs, and marking corrections and small changes (I'm STILL deleting extraneous, cringe-inducing words like just!), the bound version is going out to reviewers and booksellers.

And that's very exciting!

I just hope they don't just see the extraneous justs. I'd be just horrified!

Jun 9, 2014

Cover reveal!

The cover of One Witch at a Time is out, and I love it so much!

It was designed by a brilliant person at Simon & Schuster named Sonia Chaghatzbanian. I love her too, and I haven't even met her.

One Witch at a Time takes readers back to Brixen, where trouble is brewing once more. Can our hero Rudi undo the disaster caused when an unsuspecting stranger brings a foreign witch’s magic to Brixen?

Oma is back, and so is Susanna Louisa, and (of course) the Brixen Witch. And there are some new characters too, including a mysterious girl who Rudi can't seem to resist...

There are cats, too. And chickens. I hope that makes up for the conspicuous absence of rats this time around. ;)

The book is coming in February, so stay tuned for more news! There is a trailer in the works...

Apr 14, 2014

Who doesn't love a free book?

In honor of National Library Week and School Library Month, I'm giving away free signed copies of The Brixen Witch in paperback.

Hop on over to Goodreads to enter. Good luck!!

Apr 7, 2014

Adventures in Copyediting

Last week I got the copyedited manuscript for One Witch at a Time, which will be published in February 2015. (Ten months and counting!)

My editor still works on paper, which is very comforting if you don't take all the little stickies and margin-notes too personally.  Here is what it looked like:

But of course you DO take it personally. In fact it feels like a small stab with a heart-fork* because I've revised and revised and revised already, and my editor said she was happy with my revisions. So why is my ms. marked up AGAIN?

Here is where I explain what copyediting is:

Actually, it's a few things:

1. It's marking up the ms. for the typesetter and designer. Stuff like where to include chapter openers, nonbreaking spaces, dashes, ellipses, etc. Probably half of the red marks on the pages are stuff the author can ignore.

2. Nuts and bolts I might have missed: a repeated word, misspellings, incorrect use of commas or semicolons, etc.

I try to clean this up as much as possible before I turn in my ms, but I do miss a few things. Mostly this step consists of writing a line of dots under the deleted commas marked by the copyeditor. (A line of dots means to "stet" or "let stand" the original text, and ignore the copyeditor's mark.) I do a LOT of stetting of commas. I like my commas where they are, and I like an occasional run-on sentence, even if it breaks the rules of commas. But I suppose the copyeditor can't assume that, so she points out the rules and leaves it up to me to decide I actually DO want to break the rules sometimes. Easy enough, dot dot dot.

3. Consistency and logic. This is where a good copyeditor saves an author's bacon. She notices that you wrote "the dairy has only three cows" on page 14 but "the dairy's last two cows" on page 58. She will also tell you where she had trouble picturing what you described, and do you want to reword some passages? Sometimes she might even draw a picture:

This is where the heart-fork twists a bit, because the description seems clear enough to YOU (because you're the one who wrote it!), and rewording might cause that riveting scene to suddenly go CLUNK. But sometimes the copyeditor is right, and it needs to be done.

Sometimes, though, the copyeditor is wrong, and it's important to take a deep breath and remember that. The copyeditor is not marking your ms. to show you all the places where she is right and you are wrong. She is only asking questions, knowing that sometimes the answer to the question will be NOPE, or STET. But if she doesn't ask, how can you be sure of your writing? And how can you catch the two cow/three cow problem? And so she asks, and it's up to you to not take it personally.

And so I extracted the fork from my heart and forged through the ms-that-was-not-quite-perfect, and sent it back, pretty confident that now it's as perfect as I can make it.

*Heart-fork: Perfect, pithy term stolen from sports columnist Jason Gay.

Mar 25, 2014

A good non-writing day

Take a walk!
It's good for you.
Your dog will be grateful.
You might see a bluebird, even though it's really cold.

What? Can't you tell that's a bluebird?

On our walk yesterday, I learned these things about my new book:

- A bit of backstory
- A bit of my protagonist's internal conflict

and, most importantly:

- What the story's antagonist wants, and why he wants it.

This is big, because it will drive so much of the story. I read somewhere once that everyone is the hero of their own story. I think that's especially true of villains in novels.

It's also true that when you have epiphanies like this, you should get it all down on paper as soon as you get home, so you don't forget your brilliance.

Ya, yesterday was a good non-writing writing day. 

Jan 29, 2014

Novel Writing Made Easy: Your Characters

OK, so I have my SOP outline and a rough idea of what my story is going to be about.

Before I start writing, I need to know WHO I'm writing about. Because a plot outline is all well and good, and a helpful roadmap, but I want to write a story that is character-driven rather than plot-driven.

This just means that I want the twists and turns of the plot to grow out of the kind of people my characters are, rather than making my characters do things that fit into my plot. You can probably think of a TV show or movie where you like the characters, and you think you know them, and then they do something that seems really forced, and you say, "Yeah, right," and shake your head and go off to make popcorn.

For example, everybody watches Downton Abbey, right? The romance between Anna and Bates is so sweet! And it's believable, because those characters really do seem compatible. And the things they do (their PLOT) feel natural because those actions fit with their characters: I believed it when Anna traveled to London to visit Bates' first wife, but stopped short of doing anything nefarious. Because Anna cares that much about Bates, but she's also upstanding and honest and kind.

And then there is Lord Grantham and his romance (such as it was) with a housemaid a couple of seasons back.

Popcorn time! That little sub-plot was hard to believe.

Why? First of all, we hardly knew the maid at all. We really didn't know WHAT her character was, so we couldn't judge her behavior as fitting with her character or not.

But mostly, it was hard to believe because we'd never seen that kind of behavior in Lord Grantham before. He'd displayed poor judgment from time to time, but mostly in financial matters. He'd always been a devoted and loving husband, though, and so the dalliance felt forced.

That's the difference between character-driven story and plot-driven story. The first is organic, and believable, and much more satisfying. The second is OK, and can be entertaining, but it feels kinda hollow, and doesn't hold our attention for long. (Notice how that Lord Grantham/housemaid subplot didn't last very long either.)

Plot-driven novels can be fun. They're the books that make good beach reads or airplane reads. Books you don't mind leaving behind in the hotel room or the seat-back pocket.

I'm hoping to write a character-driven story, though. And I can't know what kinds of things my characters will do, or how they'll react to things that happen, if I don't know WHO they are.

And so, my characters. Most importantly, my protagonist, or main character.

(I'm going to cheat here a little and use The Brixen Witch in my examples. That way, I won't be sharing spoilers for a new book.)

Rudi is a 12-year-old dairyman's son living in an Alpine mountain village a long time ago. He's an only child. He's smart, but quiet and contemplative. He's good with a slingshot. He could find his way around the slopes of the local mountain with his eyes closed. He's loyal. He's brave. He has a strong sense of responsibility. He's generous.

I have an image in my head of what he looks like, but his physical appearance doesn't matter to me too much, because it's not how he looks, but what he DOES and what he THINKS that will be important. It will drive his actions, and his decisions, and those things will drive the plot.

Next: Point of view and voice. Stay tuned!