Caleb James on Writing Habits and ”Exile”, his latest release (guest blog)



Exile (Haffling #2) by Caleb James
SP Publications

Available for Purchase at

DSP Publications



How to write a book in Thirty Days


Caleb James/Charles Atkins

It’s four in the morning. My oldest cat, Lulu, reluctantly relinquishes my lap and I turn to the computer. Hi-de-ho, hi-de-ho, this is how we go. I boot up Microsoft Word, make a blank file, and change the font to Times New Roman twelve point. Let’s begin.

This is how I write. This is how it gets done. Today it’s a blog post for the virtual tour of my novel, Exile. It’s a high-fantasy story of redemption, and it’s book two in the Haffling trilogy—an intense and lush tale that asks the age-old question, “Can the leopard change its spots?”

But whether I’m prepping a workshop−I give over fifty a year, including ones on writing−working on a novel, or writing an article, short story, or blog piece, my writing habits are a set, daily process. Most successful authors have similar routines. And after fifteen traditionally published books and more than two hundred articles, essays, and short stories in everything from The Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) to Writer’s Digest Magazine, I know my stuff.

But why, you might ask, do I need to a routine? How boring. Isn’t it all about inspiration and being moved to heights of orgasmic creativity? Not so much. And… it’s the daily regimen that allows for those beautiful and unplanned moments.

On the one hand, it’s absurdly simple. Whether you’re shooting to be the next Stephen King, JK Rowling, or Nora Roberts, or have less lofty and lucrative ambitions, it comes down to the daily word count. Did you meet it or didn’t you? For those who take this stuff seriously, if you didn’t hit your quota, you’re not leaving that keyboard or notepad until you do. By the by, in Stephen King’s On Writing he famously discusses his own ten-page-a-day habit. When I’m plowing through the rough draft of a novel, I do the same, at least on the days I don’t have to go into the office. On the suit-and-tie days, it’s still two to three pages.

The flip side derails many. When it’s time to get the book, essay, op-ed, short story, or recipe out of your head and onto the page, that’s the goal. It’s not about neatness, or grammar, or prose so exquisite that tears stream as you type. Those things can happen, but when you’re vomiting out that rough draft, they’re unimportant. Trying to get it right the first time leads many to the quicksand of writer’s block. Just get it on the page. Here’s a useful mantra, “You can edit later. You can edit later.”

Let’s recap, because we’ve almost got that book written. Set yourself a daily time. It need not be at four in the morning, though serious writers seem to favor either early morning or late in the day/night. Set yourself a word or page count and stick to it. If you go with ten pages a day, the math is simple. After thirty days you’ve got a three-hundred-page manuscript. Oh look. It’s a book.

Yes, it’s a mess. And no, you should show it to no one in that form. But give yourself a pat on the back. Let the manuscript sit for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, and then take it out. Set yourself a new page count for the first edit, grab a machete, and don’t stop until you’ve got a readable first draft. And there’s an idea for the next essay. So if you want to know how to tighten that manuscript, join me and my good friend and editor extraordinaire, Liz, for the next stop on this blog tour. I think we’ll call it Ten Steps to a Publishable You.


Blurb (EXILE):

Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.

Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.

As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.

As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—that even the most wicked are not beyond redemption, and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.

About the Author


(Caleb James/Charles Atkins)−Caleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.


Web site:


Twitter: @CharlesAtkinsMD

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