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.