Sunday, December 11, 2011

GIANT FOOTPRINTS--what the end of the world can do for me

It works for fictional characters, doesn't it? Impending doom gets them moving, doing the thing that must be done. So why don't we use it too, especially since we have a unique opportunity to scare ourselves into motion?

I'm referring to December 21st of 2012. If you've lived in a cave, go here. The end of the world is on the calendars of so many, let's use it. Let's write it on the walls of our offices. But maybe we could call it 'F' Day. (No, not that.) 'F' would stand for Freedom, Fulfillment, or better yet, FOOTPRINT.

I know FOOTPRINT is a bad word in environmental circles, but I'm talking about our FOOTPRINT on humanity. I realized a while ago that I write to prove I was here. I don't want to slip from this life into the next and just be forgotten. I want all have meant something. I want to make it nearly impossible for people to forget me, including those who will wish they could.

So join me, won't you, in making this year count. Leave a footprint. Make it permanent. Let's realize our major goals this year. If your goals are out of your hands, then take them back. We can use the momentum of the countdown for our own purposes, but the world will count down with us. How exciting is that?

When F-Day comes, I want a footprint like Godzilla's. One in which you can fit a hundred Matthew Brodericks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My First Interview!!!

This is my first Blog interview since GOING BACK FOR ROMEO hit the market!
It's all Holidays and Joy, baby, so go check it out!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Miss me?
Yeah, you didn't even know I was gone.

Well, my friends, we're up and running again. And I'll tell you why.

'Cause deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on this wall. You NEED me on this wall. It's getting crazy out there and in order to thrive in his publishing-rich environment, you're going to need a little focus to go with that GIDDY FACTOR.

You're gonna want to start running before you stretch, and I can't let that happen. What kind of friend would I be?

You're going to burn yourselves out in that money box, grasping and stuffing. You're going to need to fill those carts again, with more product to sell, and you're going to hurt and want to go to sleep.

But I won't let you down. When you need a push in the right direction, I'll be here for you. We'll keep each other from becoming one-hit-wonders, okay? We'll kick those pants when needed. You can kick mine if you can get your foot up that far. And when our writing butts are draggin', we can lift each other--figuratively of course.

So I'm here. And if you need a refresher on how to find exciting content for your wips, check out John D. Brown's blog.

John's your friend too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Farewell Butt-kicking Speech

This is my farewell post for this blog. I've started repeating myself and I'm going to move on to a new less-Lesli-centric blog. (Not quite up and running, but it will be )

But before I go, let me just sum up what I've been trying to tell you since 2007. The only way to get past whatever it is you think is blocking your ability to write, is to take action. Write. Write crap you'll toss in the rubbish bin later. Write a list of things your character really hates. Write why you hate this blog, or anything else. Just as long as you write! Losen your typing muscles and your own writing goals will insert themselves while you're trying to remember where the q is, without looking down.

If you've spent a couple of years studying the craft, there comes a time when you should stop studying and start applying. If you've written a piece of crap and need to figure out how to fix it, pick up some books and start experimenting. Get off the internet and work.

If you thought writing a novel would merely be a long drawn out version of your free verse class, you were wrong. It's work. Back breaking, tendon swelling, sleep depriving work. Don't want to do it that way? Then go back to writing free verse and leave real writers alone. Don't come to our parties, our conferences, or our bbqs and claim to be one of us.

(If you are one of us, then by all means, come. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we publish!)

So do what I always tell you to do. Piss, or get off the pot.
We writers are funny creatures. We're suckers for other writers. Need help? Just ask. We're full of all kinds of free advice and brotherly love. But if we smell a faker, we're going to pinch our noses and point at the culprit. Every time. Don't want to smell like a faker? Make a schedule and write at least a few times a week. We're not Nazis. We're artists. Some of us write pure crap, but it's not from a lack of trying. We're like nurses; a fart is as good as a bm. It's all about the trying.

And on that happy note...pthththththththththt!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 'THIS IS BULLSH** Speech

Who else could possibly surpass writers when it comes to procrastination?

No one, that's who. Although, I must admit I'm far too tired to think very hard on the subject. In fact, I'm pretty freaking tired in general. And you know what's making me tired today? (No, not chocolate.) The overwhelming reality of what I should have accomplished in the last few weeks, but I won't get into that. You're welcome.

What am I going to do about it? Whine? Rant? No again. You're welcome again.

Instead, I'm going to plan out my writing time for the next week, sparing you the details of course, and I'm going to defend it like the freaking Alamo.

There. I feel better. A week from now, I won't be tired of my own failures. I'll be pumped to kick my own arse yet again the following week.

I so swear.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Sick of the jealous feeling, I began looking for a cure and I think I've got it. And I think it worked!

Late last night I learned of my friend's major, debut, three-book, YA, sold-at-auction between four houses, enough to retire from her day job, pub-house with the BEST covers DEAL. Her name is CJ Redwine.

I was so thrilled she sold, since she was a Golden Heart Finalist in 2008 and I believe it was not the first book her agent tried to sell for her. It was just her turn, you know? And she really is a mad genius.

I really expected the envy-riverbanks to overflow, but they didn't.

I woke up this morning and realized why I'm okay.
And no, it's not the Rapture/Fail thing.

For the past couple of days, I've been paying a little more attention to what's happening around me. Scary, uncharacteristic of me, I know. But I pushed back all thoughts of other writers, the fame and fortune thing, and just asked myself what my personal definition of success would be. How much fame and fortune could I handle without it having an adverse affect on the life I want with my family. How much would huge success take me away from them?

Let me admit, right here and now, that I totally want the fame and fortune thing--that hasn't changed. But no matter how fun it might be to live in the shoes of Stephanie Meyer or the Beautiful Creatures Chicks, I really don't want to mess up my family or trade them in for a smaller more manageable crowd. (We are now ten, with two daughter in laws on the way.) I can't just pack them in a Winnebago and drag them around with me.

So I'm listing my goals, in order, in a very 'one step at a time' 'totally against my nature' way. I'm already able to write full time. I've got an agent. Now I've got to get a deal too. Will it be a CJ Redwine deal? No. But I think I'm going to be so happy to be sold, it won't matter. For once in my life, I'll be grateful instead of greedy.

At least, that's the plan.
What's your plan?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The great James Dashner said recently, at the LTUE conference, that jealousy is a great motivator in this business.

I wonder who was the focus of his jealously when he wrote Maze Runner. I do know that envy of JD has poked and prodded me until I'm black and blue. And again, today, I was swept away by a monsterous wave of the stuff when I heard good news for another local writer.

Am I happy for this writer? Yes. I'm exstatic, really. And is there enough room on the NYTBSA for us both? Of course. This writer is not my competition.

What do I do about my jealousy?

I RANT AND RAVE AT MY FAMILY UNTIL THEY ARE HAPPY TO HAVE ME LOCK MYSELF IN MY OFFICE to pound out my frustration on the keyboard. They're not so interested that I succeed as a writer as they are to see me remove my moody self from their peaceful existences--as long as I come out in time to make dinner.

And I'll tell you what. I may come out for only that for a while. This bug up my butt is planning on a full-body possession and it's got a good head start. I may not come out until the NBT-next big thing-is finished!

So, share with the class. How do you handle your professional jealousy? Don't even pretend you aren't affected by it. There is no lying permitted here.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Writaholic Paradise

Say you're Hemmingway.
Money. Fame. Published Author.
Bully. Dictator. King or Queen of all you survey.

Got it?
Whatcha gonna do with it? Make your family keep their traps shut until noon so you can write like Earnest did?

My fantasy? A huge field of green. A hut in the center. One road through the field down which my family comes thrice a day to bring me food, cheer, and their good tidings. A couple of kisses for the kids, a grope from the hubster, and the dustless departure of a group of humans whose happiness I made possible.

Then I take a dose of chocolate, a sip of an icy beverage in which the ice has not dared to sweat, let alone melt. I turn back to my desk to find my creation waiting patiently, prepared to jump back into the sky and take wing as soon as our eyes meet.

Oh, the power and joy in my arm when it pounces from me, into space! Into the world! And it will never be nothing again!

This is what my distractions steal from me.

And you? Whatcha got hiding in that back corner of your mind? Make a wish...or three. We'll all keep your secret.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Secret Abbreviation!

On Twitter, when I think I've tweeted something that makes me laugh aloud, I follow with OMHIF. Only YOU will know it means OH MY HELL I'M FUNNY.

See? Now you have to follow me on Twitter so you can watch for it. @LesliMuirLytle

You can't help yourself, can you? You may even start your Twitter account just so you can follow me. Trust me, it's easy, and I'm worth it. Especailly if there is a chance I look like this========>


Thursday, April 21, 2011

And God said: DO NOT DISTURB!

We are so together in our solitude, aren't we?

We are all on that same road to publication, yet no two vehicles are alike. Some fly down the road in a convertible, smiling and waving and sure they're headed in the right direction, though it's hard to see with all that hair whipping in their faces.

Some roll their windows up tight and avoid eye contact with anyone they pass or anyone who passes them.

Some walk and talk and encourage others. Some take their time to help lost writers plot a course on their map, then strike out again, only to stop and help yet another writer because they cannot possibly ignore the need.

And sometimes, when the road is dark, we circle our wagons and have a giggle around a campfire, forgetting who is driving what, bonding as travelers, not writers.

But we are alone. In the throngs of authors and dreamers shuffling from one writer's workshop to the next, sitting on top of each other in seats meant for children, we are...alone. Wherever it is we end up--indie pubbing, traditional pubbing, or living in one of the six big castles in New York--we get there alone. Those who squee for us, throw terrific launch parties for us, or buy us cheesecake for every rejection, stand beside us, of course. But when we arrive or fail to arrive, we are alone.

In a library full of writers, we write alone. We edit alone. We meet our characters alone. We are rejected or loved depending on how hard we worked in solitude. It is the ultimate test.

I wonder, when God created, if he closed himself off, for a time, to come up with something brilliant. I wonder what the sign said--the one he hung on his door.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


A. So when you write--and you must write--where do you write?
Do you write in a controlled unimaginative space--either to encourage your creativity to fight for its life, or to keep those creative moments pure?
Or do you need to pull from the energy of the space--a creatively designed room, the great outdoors, or public, manic places?

B. Sterile or messy?
Is your writing controlled or chaotic? Do you end each writing session with something presentable, or is it presentable only two minutes before it must be shipped off somewhere?

C. Lastly, are you making
a sculpture,
a piece of music, or
a pizza?

Hi. I'm Lesli. I'm a chocoholic.
I write in a controlled, sterile space. I write chaotic pizza.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Too Old for YA?

It's time someone discussed this non-rationally.

I want to know what you think. Do you prefer YA books written by people in their 20's? 30's? 40's? Do you see a trend in your favorite books? Or is it just the book you see?

I'm 46. There. I'm out.
But I'm finding the YA and middle grade genres are crackling out of my fingertips--with lightening, not because my fingers are crumbling. It's probably because of my adolescent-stuck brain or the fact that I've raised four boys and a diva and therefore have plenty of content. But the question remains, will young readers want books written by somebody's grandma, or will they give a rat's butt?

What about you? Peek at bios much? Of course YOU do. But do you suppose the young readers do? POST A COMMENT AND YOU WIN...NOTHING

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Agent Soup

Most of you know I have an agent. She's Cori Deyoe of 3 Seas Literary. If you can find an agent who is as perfect for you as Cori is for me, marry her--ish.

Here are the basics you want in that marriage:
Agent should love the author's writing.
Agent should love the author's writing so much that said agent is determined to find that author a home for all that author's sellable work.
Phone calls between author and agent should leave both parties higher than kites about said author's career.

That's it from where I stand. Just three things. Love, love, and a pie in the sky. I'm just waiting on that pie to fall from said sky and land cherry-side up on my desk...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


First of all, read Hunger Games. If you're not a fan of Young Adult Fiction, I don't care. If you're a writer, you should read Hunger Games. Period. There is no other series I can think of that will give you such an education on pacing, turning points, holding on to your butts, etc., etc.

But this is what HG has done for me.
I am pumped, like I have never been pumped before, to write a great, mind-blowing book. I realized that my version of outside-the-box is more like a paranoid/security-addicted/keep the box in sight at all times version of creativity. But no more.

In fact, I think we should be writing books that only loosely resemble books, loosely qualify as novels. Let's write it all in blood on the walls--wait, that's been done. Let' SOMETHING without rules. Come on. You crazies know who you are. Let's fly over the cookoo's nest, baby.

I know this seems like every other rant I've ever been on, but it's not. In fact, this is the first time I've been afraid of just how crazy I might get. Reserve a rubber room for me somewhere, just in case.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Keefer Boone Secret from Book 1, Chapter 12

My first middle-grade series is about a lad named Keefer Boone who is more afraid of getting emarrassed than he is of death. But when he gets Death's attention, he just may change his priorities.

Note to others: when you see a cloaked figure stalking around the workroom before hours, don't go banging on the window!

All for now. Invisible fish are waiting to be written.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Time for the "Life Is Short" Speech!


Life is short.

One of my favorite lines, for obvious reasons, is from Shawshank Redemption.

"Either get busy livin', or get busy dyin'."

You think you'll still be around next year?
What if you're not?

Life is short.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The New Blog is a Short Blog

Okay, so it won't be 140 characters or less, but the blog posts, from now on, will be short and sweet. I so swear.

Here it is.

If you have a problem surfing blogs instead of writing your brilliant novels, then put a note on your monitor that reads:

"What are you looking for? It's not there. Do something else."

Acknowledge that what you're really hoping for is an email from an agent or editor. If it's not there, go back to making sellable pies (good books). People are starving out there!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I signed with an agent ten months ago, and today I sent her manuscript number five.

Today I sent her genre number five. (And I wonder if Katie MacAlister started this way.)

So I guess, if there was ever a local case study on what happens when you don't stick to one genre, I'm the guinea pig. I shall know, in a couple of years, whether or not the plan paid off.

Only there wasn't really a plan. I'm not truly schizo. I don't have ADD. I just had a story to tell, and it happened to be in a new genre...five times.

But I look at it this way. I had five fishing poles, five lures. I could drop them all off of one boat, or I could drop them each off a different boat. Since none of us really know where the fishing is good these days, I took option number two. I'm fishing in five different waters. We'll see which ponds have fish for my bait and which do not.

Simple. I'm letting the fish pick me. Only they can't pick me unless I have a line in the water, now can they?

Drop your lines, people, while there are still fish to be caught. Who knows when physical authentic fishing will no longer be an option? Who knows when we'll have to trade that thrill of life jerking on our pole for something...dare I say...electronic.

For those of you who are curious, the five genres were, in order, Time Travel, YA Paranormal, Scottish Historical Romance, Middle Grade, and Picture Books. My next project may, indeed, end up being Speculative Adult Fiction. Not kidding.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ghosts To Avoid

Here's a great quote from Neil Gaiman: "Sometimes I think that when I die, or perhaps as I am dying, I shall be confronted with my characters. Not the ones you would expect, the ones who had their stories, but the other ones."

Who, among your novels, is waiting for his or her own story to be told?

I can think of a few already, and they're not the people I want hovering about when I'm struggling for words, reaching for a caring hand, and gasping for air.

Motivation enough for me. How about you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Piss or Get Off The Pot--Seriously

I'll be gentle for those readers just joining this blog...

If you wish you were a dancer, do you tell people you're a dancer, hoping that someday you can prove you weren't lying?

If you wish you could be a rock star, do you tell people you are a rock star and hope, by some flick of a wand, you will suddenly become one?

Then why would you tell anyone you are a writer if you do not write? Writing is the key. Actually hitting those keys on a regular (or regularly sporadic) basis will do.

Let me give an example.

I was enrolled in a screenwriting class a few years ago. We all decided we would write screenplays and enter them into a major contest. We all cranked out what we thought was a brilliant attempt, which was probably complete dark sticky piles of ****. We entered and got lovely loser letters with a raised little Oscar on the stationery. It was very exciting.

Some of us were all hanging out in an office during a Sundance Event being held downstairs, in the art gallery, when our professer walked in. A very popular movie producer walked in behind him, and everyone scrambled to get out of their way. I didn't recognize the guy, so I stayed where I was. Then a great thing happened that I will always remember.

The professer introduced me. "Lesli, this is So and So. So and So, this is Lesli Lytle, a writer."

It wasn't that I got to shake the guy's hand and he treated me well. It wasn't that we made small talk about Robert Redford. The thrilling part was being called a writer.

After Mr. Big left, I thanked the professer for calling me a writer and said he'd really given me a thrill. He frowned and said, "I wasn't pretending you were a writer; you are a writer. You don't have to have a Guild card to be a writer. You have to write."

I've introduced myself as a writer ever since.

Are you a rock star?
Are you a writer?

So, if you are a writer, are you selling your material yourself? How's that going for you?
What about an agent? If you're not trying to sell yourself to magazines or publishing houses, you must be trying to find an agent to do it for you.

You don't think your product is ready? When will it be? You don't know? Then you'd better be finding out. Find someone to read your baby. More importantly, when you find someone willing to take the time to read a chapter or two, ACTUALLY HOLD OUT YOUR BABY AND LET SOMEONE TAKE IT.

It's not going to be your only baby, surely. And if it stinks, you don't have to spend the rest of your life feeding it and trying to make it a pretty baby. You get to start over.

Here's some great motivation for you to aggressively seek an agent:

Pretend I can tell the future. For you. Just for you.
What if I tell you that you will find an agent only after you have received 30 rejection letters/emails?

What if I tell you that you will be published only after you have written four complete novels?

Here's the promise:
After you have queried 30 agents, and after you have completed 4 novels, you will have a really good grasp on what you need to improve in order to land an agent. Finding a publisher is the agent's business.

And when I say four novels, I don't mean absolutely pristine, polished-like-a-brass-doorknob finished. I mean finished. It doesn't have to be the Holy Bible, or Lord of the Rings, or Pride and Prejudice. It has to be you.

Four books and 30 emails. The only way to fail is to give up--and you know it. That's why you say you are a writer, to deny that you have given up. If indeed you have given up, I say, piss or get off the pot. Admit it and make your life easier.

If you haven't given up, then you'd better get your query letter ready and a list of agents. Make sure your first three chapters are as good as you can get them, and give yourself a time limit to get that done. (As in a number of days, not weeks.) When time is up, you have to stop and say "good enough".

I want to hear about it.

(By the way, I got my agent with my second book, but by the time I signed, I had four books finished and thirty rejections in the can.)

Friday, February 11, 2011


Does it bother anyone else that we can never go the non-social days of media?

Remember when you had to call a person to see how they were? Remember the sound of their voice? The real-time conversations? And I'm not talking about IM-ing. That is not real time if one of you can walk out of the room and get side-tracked by a dozen different things before coming back to pick up the conversation.

Twitter, you argue? Not real time. Replies are hardly real-time. And who's idea was that phrase anyway--real time. As if there is a false time, an unreal time. I've had times that were unreal. It felt pretty un-real when I got "the call". It was pretty un-real when I held my new granddaughters in my arms. They were so identical it was unreal.

But it's the real that can no longer be defined. That is your assignment, should you choose to accept it. Define real. Find real.

I'm afraid real life will require 'real' vacations, where we will go to an island where there is nothing wireless, electronic, or prepared for us. We'll all go insane from withdrawals, kill each other, and try to build computers from bones. Aliens will look down and decide we're not worthy of our world and toast us. And we'll deserve it. All because we couldn't define what's real.

So find the answer, people. Save the world.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Went to the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday. First time there. Great Building. The fact that there are five stories of books (kids are on a lower level), makes the building a breathing, thinking entity. Very cool.

What made the trek most productive was I GOT OUT OF MY OFFICE.
What floored me was the monster in the basement.

Yes, there was a monster. In the children's section. On the lower level.
And I'm not talking about some wild new toy for kids to climb on or crawl through. Not talking about the lion at the door of the story-time room. Or the treehouse room, or the computer room that looked like the control room in a submarine. That was all very cool.

But the monster of which I speak lurked between the bookshelves, always just an isle away while I hunted. Did I know I was hunting a monster? No. I thought I was hunting for some trend in middle grade books, something I could try and get ahead of in the marketplace. I wanted to know what was overdone and what was up and coming.

You know what I found?


THAT was the monster.

It looks like Middle Grade is being avoided by writers, ignored even. There was a plethora of picture books with bright chubby illustrations, some with weak colors and pale lines from years of little fingers brushing over them. Plenty of books for baby, etc. But what did they have for middle grades? Jungle gyms.

It was if librarians, writers and parents had all gathered for a meeting and decided that kids aren't going to want to read much at that age, so let's just make the library a fun place to be. Perhaps when they're a little older, they'll still think it's a cool place and we'll have a lot of great YA books ready for them. But for now, we'll leave a row of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Captain Underpants, and King Harry Potter. Potter will get them through, just has he has for years.

Are there books out there for young boys? Yes. Thanks to Lemony Snicket, Fable Haven and others, there are at least......a few month's worth of reading. A year's worth, you say? Maybe.

The age group is 8-12. Four years. If there's a year's worth of reading for the kid who enjoys reading, we are telling him, "I'm sorry. This is option A, there is no option B. Read slowly. Make it last. When that's gone, you can fill your time with...gaming. When you finally mature enough, through the magic of gaming, you'll have new options."

No wonder kids are in a hurry to grow up.

Well, I'm going to do something about it. My boys are grown now, but I remember when they got excited about Aragon and Harry Potter. And I remember when the supply ran out.

I know it's a grand undertaking. I can't do it alone. A few books from me won't fill the need, won't chase that monster away--the one who whispers, "There's nothing here for you, little boy. Play somewhere else. You didn't really want to read, did you?"

Don't you want to subdue that monster with me, pull his teeth, superglue his tongue to the roof of his mouth so all he can do is growl and roar, like any self-respecting monster would do? Come on! Give it a try. There is plenty of room on the shelf, once we blast his hairy ass out of there. PLENTY of room.

It all starts with a little boy's name.
My little hero is named Fletcher...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

TIME TO WRITE--Or, immersing myself in Scottish rain

Let's say you've done the impossible; you've found time to write, your systems are all a 'go'. You're fed, hydrated, and you won't be interrupted for a while.


But how do you get started? How do you get into your current work in progress without going back to the beginning and reading all those brilliant words you've already written?

Well, I was wondering the same. I was ready, stoked. I even remembered where I'd left off and what I needed to do next. But I just couldn't do it. It was like getting out of bed when I didn't have to. The chances were slim. But that was crazy--writing was what I wanted to do! I was sure of it.

I needed to immerse myself, give myself no other option. I knew I'd forgive myself for whatever I did once I was in the zone. Then I thought...IMMERSE MYSELF.

I was trying to project myself to the Highlands of Scotland, to pick up a trail while it was still fresh. But like in the movie SOMEWHERE IN TIME, I was sitting in a 21st century home office. It was holding me back. There was just too much...air.

So I imagined water rising in my office, damaging nothing, but commanding my attention away from the business of social media, interior design, from Mr. Feng and Mr. Shui. The water warmed my feet, my aching knees, my fingers. As it covered my eyes, I stopped noticing the goals pinned to the wall, the hero's journey mapped out on the whiteboard.

When the room was full, I felt only the water against my skin, the pressure of its density on my chest. I closed my eyes and felt it on my lids. And I projected myself, and my water, to a bluff above a glen filled with nothing but heather. A walking path cut through the waving purple branches. And there, along the path, my heroine pulled the reins of her tired horse.

I hovered, there in my bubble of warm Scottish rain, and watched alongside the hero as she shortened the distance between us. Despite her own fatigue, she smiled as she trudged toward the bluff, pleased to have finally shrugged her pursuer. And he and I waited to see the look on her face when she would realize she was wrong.

And later, the difficult part was getting me back from Scotland. But my family is well-trained. They send a request for my company and attention, but don't hold their breaths while they wait for a reply. Only sometimes, the more devious ones leave a 1970's penny in my pocket...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blog Tour Stop with Mary Martinez

Author Mary Martinez has graciously added writersblockbuster to her list of blog tour stops. She has a giveaway planned, so read on, McDuff!

Lesli: Mary, welcome. You're the first author to be interviewed here.

Mary: Thanks, Lesli, for hosting the sixth day of my blog tour. Anyone who would like to know the schedule can check it out here. Each blog a different question from the host. Sort of like a continuing interview. I will also have two giveaways at the end of the blog tour. At the bottom, I’ll tell you how you can participate.

Lesli: I'm sure everyone can guess what my question will be. What's the longest writer's block you've ever had, and how do you deal with it now?

Mary: Interesting question, Lesli, had you asked me this question a year ago, my answer would have been short and simple. At that time I’d never had writer’s block. I truly thought it was an excuse writers use when they’d frittered their writer’s time away with nothing to show for it.

Then last year happened. Stress I guess is what caused mine. But last fall I lost all desire to write. I didn’t have any ideas, I literally thought about giving up writing. I didn’t have any desire to sit down and edit, query. I was worried. I thought “I’ve invested blood, sweat and tears and now the passion is gone, what am I going to do?”

I was under a lot of family stress and I will not bore you with the details. However, I was also stressed about the fact that when I had time to write I couldn’t think about writing. My characters were not talking to me. No ideas were popping into my mind at odd times. Stories were not keeping me awake at night. I was no longer the writer I thought I was. Which made me more stressed because….

Anyway, as you can imagine it was frustrating. I was stressed; I was stressed over the fact I didn’t want to write. I was stressed over the fact that I didn’t seem to care. A vicious cycle of stress.

Then one day I thought, “There’s nothing I can do about this now, I don’t have time and I’m making myself sick.” So I gave myself permission not to write until January 1, 2011. I didn’t let myself even think about the ‘not’ wanting to write, or ‘not’ having time or ‘not’ having any ideas. I just shoved all thoughts toward the beginning of the year. I knew that 99% of my personal stress issues would be resolved by then.

Best thing I ever did. Sure enough before the end of the year, I had an idea sprout and it’s still blossoming.

So if things are spinning out of control. Step back and give yourself permission to not write or even think about it. Give yourself a deadline of when you need to start again.

Thank you again, Lesli for having me on your blog.

Lesli: Thanks Mary. Good luck on the rest of your tour. And for those of you who have visited, here's a treat for you--a blurb for Mary's new release, CLASSIC MURDER: MR. ROMANCE with the giveaway info at the end.

Adam enjoys a lifestyle most men only dream of. Then one day he wakes up to find the morning headlines blaring, "Another victim falls prey to Mr. Romance. Who is next?" He suddenly realizes his way of life is not only frivolous, but deadly.

Dubbed Mr. Romance by New York society for his romantic adventures, Adam Fernando Russo loves women. But lately he realizes how lonely it is coming home to an empty house. Can he settle for only one woman? After he makes a list of qualities worthy enough to merit giving up his desirable existence, suddenly recipients of his coveted attention mysteriously fall prey to a murderer. The murders seem unrelated with one exception--all the victims have recently returned from a fabulous weekend rendezvous with Mr. Romance.

Adam’s assistant, Katie Sinclair, knows Adam is innocent with airtight alibis. The police are at a loss so Adam and Katie work together to discover the link between the murders. As luck would have it, their plan to prove the murderer is copying classic Cary Grant movies goes astray just as Adam realizes his perfect woman has been by his side all along.

Available from BookStrand Publishing (Electronic Format, Print coming in spring 2011)

For an excerpt and to see the trailer visit my web site:

Now to the giveaways, everyone one who participates by commenting on each day of the tour will have their name placed in a drawing for a Photo Album and a signed copy of Watching Jenny.

Everyone who participates and comments on half of the days will have their name in a drawing for a download of Classic Murder: Mr. Romance (or they can wait until it’s in print for a signed copy)


Someone brought this up on Twitter a couple of days ago and it just now sunk in.
Just. Now. 11:40 pm.

It's such a profoundly simple question...simple like turning the wheel on your car, to get you back on course after running a guantlet of pot holes.

I'm here to tell you, Newanda, that I'm turning the wheel now. Yes, now. At 11:40 at night, I'm getting back on course. I'm nearly too excited to sleep, but I will. Santa can't come until you go to sleep, right? And Santa's coming tomorrow. I'll have to mark my calendar. January 30 is the new Christmas, baby. At least it will be for me.

2010 was a good year for me. Sorry, but it was. The year you sign with an agent is always going to be listed in the positive column.

But one major struggle I had in the past 12 months was with a particular manuscript. And tonight I clearly see the problem; I was so busy avoiding regular pot holes, I didn't realize I was IN one GIANT pothole.
Just like Matthew Broderick in Godzilla, I was missing the reptile's footprint because I was standing IN the reptile's footprint. It was so much bigger than I could imagine, and yet, so simple.

Get on with it? Okay, I will.

Here's the magic question: Are you writing something you would want to read? Are you? The manuscript I struggled with was certainly in the genre I love. The characters were the type I like of course. The situation was ripe with potential and plot, just how I like it. So why wasn't it something I would want to read?

Good question!

My problem was, I was trying to write a good book, a marketable book, a clever story with great characters. A problem, you ask. Why is that a problem?

The question should be, "What SHOULD I be writing instead?"

I shouldn't be trying to write a good or great book. My goal should be to write THE PERFECT BOOK. If I was writing THE PERFECT SCOTTISH ROMANCE, instead of a great Scottish romance, I'd put everything in the book that made me love the genre. My characters would be the perfect combination of...whatever. The setting would be perfect, etc. Scottish fans everywhere would praise the book and read it when they wanted to re-read a favorite, and so on.

But this fantastic book would never be written by someone wanting to write a great book. Throughout 2010, I'd pick up this manuscript, thumb through it, and try to puzzle out what was lacking. But what it lacked was my passion.

I was looking at the market, at the fans in the stands, instead of the catcher's mit in which I needed to throw the perfect pitch. I was settling for something over the plate, in the strike zone, fast enough to be swung at and missed. I put all my effort into throwing a strike, instead of throwing the perfect pitch--a pitch that would smack into that dark leather shadow with such a tight fit the folks down the block, who'd gone to bed too early, would wake with a start. A pitch thrown so hard, with every muscle woven through my arm, it would cause the catcher to pull his hand from his glove, his face a blend of satisfaction and pain, sure that his hand would look like shattered glass, but honored to have been a part of the event.

Look back at the first book you wrote. Weren't you trying to write the perfect book then? How long down the career path were you when you started thinking "great is good enough?"

Forget the market. Forget the fans in the stands. Remember the fan in your skin. Write the perfect book for you. Chances are, it will be the perfect book for someone else too. Maybe your sister...but maybe the world.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Disney Cheats--Or A New Approach to Synopsis Writing

Anyone looking for a secret formula to synopsis-writing? I think I've found it.

In an industry where the golden ticket consists of 'the same thing, but original', I'm always on the lookout for a new way to look at ANYTHING. So this morning, while being subjected to my son's animated version of comfort food--BEAUTY AND THE BEAST--I was hit over the head with new perspective.

No, Newanda, I'm not talking about Hero's Journey, which we all know is Disney's handbook. This time I'm talking about The Disney Cheats, the Disney Synopses all neatly packaged, tied with a beautiful bow, and sitting under your nose.

Are you ready?

They are...the songs!

I know. I know. It sounds too simple. But listen to the opening song of Beauty and the Beast and watch for the hidden gift . Go ahead. I'll wait.

I KNOW! And there's more! Ready?

For every major plot point in the story, there is another song!

So, let's review what goes into a great, succinct synopsis.
Characters and their motivation.
Conflicts, stakes.
Turning points, and resolutions.

Don't know what a Disney character's motivation is? Just wait. They'll sing it to you. And this is not just Disney. I think Pixar is in on it too.

I believe the real magic of great animated movies is the ritual of handing Randy Newman a copy of the synopsis and letting him put it to music.

So. Now what? How do use this insider information to make a lucrative trade? How about writing a song for your characters? How about writing a song for the POV character to sing at turning points? Don't worry about the tune--steal one. It's not like anyone's going to hear it.

Too lazy? Try listening to the soundtracks of these movies. Just like studying other works of fiction, this may just give you the pacing and rhythm to write that award-winning song--I mean, synopsis.

A cheat only works if you show up to take the test, you know.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Competing with The Shelf

When is the last time you went to the bookstore? Have you considered setting aside a block of time to go and immerse yourself in your genre? To study The Shelf? Who's publishing, agenting, or designing the covers you love? (Perhaps you should plan an outing...while there are still brick-and-mortars to visit.)

Do you have a story that might inspire an amazing cover that would look both original and competitive?

Have you realized that publishing is now a competition?

I know. I know. It's all about writing a great book.
Yes. Writing is about writing. Obviously.

But this is not about writing. It's about publishing.
Take off that Writing Hat, or Editing Hat, or Marketing Hat, and dig in your closet for something new. Something edgy. You need a Publishing Hat.

"Now, hold on a minute," some of you say. "It's not my job to worry about that. I need only write a great book, find an agent, and let my New York Editor worry about the publishing part."

Go ahead. Write a great book. That SHOULD land you an agent, if you've been paying attention to the do's and don'ts. But I've got a friend who has done all that, even had a big agent love her entire story, but not be able to offer representation because she couldn't sell it. Anywhere.

You wanna know why? Go look at The Shelf. Go see what's already been done, what's on the best-seller list, what kinds of things publishers are willing to take a chance on. Pick up a book. Take a whole minute and find out what the selling point was, the hook, the mind-blowing original idea that made each one stand out. Nothing? Take a peek at the writing. Anything there?

No? Pick up another. Is this your genre? If it is, you'd better pay attention. Can you put the book of your heart in a different package? Can you see it there, on The Shelf, among the others? Can you see someone picking yours over the one next to it? If not, what can you do about it?

If you're starting with a new book--especially if you're starting a new book, go see what you're competing against. Get off your dusty High Horse and admit that the industry has changed. Everyone in your genre is your competition if you both end up on The Shelf. Everyone.*

*In my next post, I'll discuss how to create your own gang.