She Walks the Walk


I’m supporting fellow author, Jenna Peterson as she walks 60 miles in the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk. She is also raising $3500 for breast cancer research through an online auction of critiques, advance release copies and signed books starting Monday, June 5 and ending June 12. Every penny will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the National Philanthropic Trust to fund breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment.

If you’re an aspiring author, consider bidding for a critique of the first 50 pages of your manuscript by me. (I promise to be gentle.)

If you’re a reader, bid for a signed copy of In Between Men. (If you’ve already read it, think about bidding on it as a gift to someone you know and love.)

Check out all of the auction items at http://www.passionatepen.com/auction.htm

Go Jenna!

Torn Up About “The Break Up”

I saw “The Break Up” with my husband and our couple pals last night. Mixed feelings. On one hand it was a very good movie; Vince and Jen played successfully with the dark side of their personas. And yet, we left disturbed. My husband and I talked about the issues that push male and female buttons. This movie pushed all of them: how women play games rather than just say what they really want; how men get aggressive in a fight and fight to win even when they’re wrong.

Like us, a lot of couples probably left that movie talking about people they know who are just like those characters. Fewer saw those characters in themselves.

However, I digress. This movie won’t do well at the box office next week because the previews promised one thing, but the movie delivered a completely different experience. I think that’s the biggest problem with movies today. First, there are way too many writers in the writing room and what was once a strong screenplay, got diluted. Second, some movies try to be everything and then forget what they were needed to be. In this case, there were moments of ridiculous comedy (ala Wedding Crashers) and then it took a screeching turn into searing drama.

From one writer to another, I recommend you watch it and take those lessons back to your desk. As a movie viewer, wait for the DVD.

Where the hell have I been?

Dude, if I could tell you, I would. Okay, I’ll try.

Have you ever had a period in your life when there’s just too much happiness? It’s a three-hundred foot wave off the coast of Hawaii that sweeps you into a tumbling reel and then dumps you on the sand when it swoshes out to sea kind of happiness. I’m not complaining, nor trying to figure out why or how. I’m just in awe.

Two weeks ago I flew to Miami and kept flying on the energy of 70-plus writers, filmakers and readers. After writing two anthologies with them, I finally met the Friday Night Chicas: Berta Platas, Sofia Quintero and Caridad Pineiro. While we chatted or I heard them read their work, I couldn’t believe I was hearing their voices or looking into their eyes after so many email conversations.

And don’t get me started about Alisa Valdes Rodriguez. I confess that I was a little frightened at the prospect of meeting her. Not that she’s scary in a bad way; she’s scary smart and I thought that I’d have to say all kinds of smart things for fear that she’d think I was a nimrod. But then there was a moment at the last dinner when some very brave authors took to the mic and performed or read their works in progress. There was one who was so vibrant, hilarious and heartbreakingly obscene (dude, her stuff was on!), that I happened to look across the room and meet Alisa’s disbelieving and delighted eyes. And then I figured it out. Alisa, in spite of her success, taking on a-holes on CNN, etc. is just another girl. An amazingly generous and loving one; one that I’m so priveleged to call a colleague and friend.

I could go on but I won’t. Well, just a little bit more. There are two new stars on the horizon and their names are Caridad Ferrer and Reyna Grande. Reyna is in touch with the universe with her novel, Across a Hundred Mountains. Listening to Cari read from her upcoming release, Adios to My Old Life felt like she’d read my diary when I was seventeen and full of impossible dreams.

And then after returning from Miami, I prepared for my bestest friend’s wedding. There’s something so special about seeing someone you love walk down the aisle on the arm of the man she loves. Her uncle spoke during the ceremony and his words have stuck with me ever since, “Don’t grant judgement; grant safety.”

By the way, I’m loving the new CD by the Dixie Chicks. When they were Bush-whacked for (gasp!) speaking out against the war, I went out and bought all of their CDs in support. Now they’re back and this CD has weight. It amazes me that some Americans forget we have a First Amendment right to criticize our elected officials. (But they sure got off on fighting for “democracy” in Iraq, didn’t they?)

Okay, I concede that everyone is entitled to an opinion. (I’m granting safety!) Some are just not as informed as others.

But wait there’s more! Yesterday, my husband found out that his screenplay won the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program Contest. This is the second screenplay he has ever written and I am so very proud of him.

While I was reeling and reveling in all this happiness, I finished my proposal! After another spit and polish, I’ll send it off on Tuesday with the hope that it will get picked up (gotta feed the Little Dude, you know) and then in a year or two, find its way into your hands as a complete novel.

Off to work…

Cheers,
Mary

For Mom

I think it was an hour before my wedding when I heard my mom’s distinctly say, “Stop right there!” My maid of honor and I instinctively froze and then realized she wasn’t talking to us. When I came back from my honeymoon, mom told me how an angry step parent tried to confront me about a corsage. Mom, who is a strapping 5’3″ and maybe 120 pounds soaking wet, had thrown herself in the path of the snorting brute, determined that my day would not be ruined.

There were so many times when mom threw herself in front of me: she single-handedly cowed my elementary school principal, confronted the violent, alcoholic mother of a girl who threatened to beat me up and don’t get me started on what she threatens to do to the people who post negative reviews of my books on Amazon.com.

Before I became a mom I didn’t know where she had the guts to do all that. (Me? I used to run from confrontation.) But when I held my son in my arms for the first time, a surge of love and protectiveness lit through me. I knew what it felt like to love someone more than myself and why my mom seemed to possess the strength of ten angry Mexican women when someone threatened her cubs.

The greatest gift my mom has ever given me was the day she went home after my son was born. Hormones had me crying with a fear I had never known and I knew I was the worst mother ever. But she wrapped me in her arms and said, “You’re such a good mother.” When the best tells you that you’re the best too, you feel like you can go on and do the impossible like protect your cub and battle his dragons. And you hope that when that little cub grows up into a papa or mama bear, he or she will do the same.

Thanks mom.

Bathroom Epiphanies and Sangria

I was in the ladies’ room at Diedrich’s yesterday when I had a breakthrough on the new story I’m writing. Don’t you love it when that happens? It’s almost as if the universe cuts you some slack. When I ran back to my table to write the scene, I couldn’t help but wonder why my characters always (a) make out or (b) do it so early on in the story. Hmm…

I donated a critique and a signed copy of In Between Men to the www.themichelefund.com/. This fund was set up to help a fellow writer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. If you want to bid, this magic link will take you there.

Also, I’m this month’s featured author at www.romancenovel.com. Come on over and say hi if you’re at work and the boss is out on a two-hour lunch. Oh and I just discovered Sacha Boutros. Her music is best described as Latin lounge jazz. Very hip, very cool and yet sensuous like sipping sangria at sunset.

That’s all I’ve got today. I’m this close to finishing act I of my latest WIP in case my agent and editor are spying on me!

Love ya, Mary

Bathroom Epiphanies and Sangria

I was in the ladies’ room at Diedrich’s yesterday when I had a breakthrough on the new story I’m writing. Don’t you love it when that happens? It’s almost as if the universe cuts you some slack. When I ran back to my table to write the scene, I couldn’t help but wonder why my characters always (a) make out or (b) do it so early on in the story. Hmm…

I donated a critique and a signed copy of In Between Men to the www.themichelefund.com/. This fund was set up to help a fellow writer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. If you want to bid, this magic link will take you there.

Also, I’m this month’s featured author at www.romancenovel.com. Come on over and say hi if you’re at work and the boss is out on a two-hour lunch. Oh and I just discovered Sacha Boutros. Her music is best described as Latin lounge jazz. Very hip, very cool and yet sensuous like sipping sangria at sunset.

That’s all I’ve got today. I’m this close to finishing act I of my latest WIP in case my agent and editor are spying on me!

Love ya, Mary

How She Got Caught, Got Dissed and Lost Her Movie Deal

I usually don’t do this sort of thing but I have to say something about KaavyaViswanathan and her alleged photographic memory that has been making the news.

Let’s take a ride in the way back machine to 1997 when Nora Roberts sued fellow author, Janet Dailey for copyright infringement. Dailey allegedly plagiarized 13 of Nora’s books. By the way, Dailey has published novels since then and she claimed that severe emotional distress was the cause of her eh, faux pas. Articles about the scandal can be read here and here.

Anyway, it seemed that the only people who took the issue seriously were Nora and romance writers. One news writer referred to the sordid affair as a mere bodice-ripping cat fight and a reader claimed that one romance novel was no different than the other.

Fast forward to “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” and its similarities to Megan McCafferty’s novel (and didja hear that there are claims that Viswanathan “may have internalized” passages from Sophie Kinsella’s “Can Your Keep A Secret? The AP story is here). Now it seems that everyone understands that plagiarism isn’t just a crime against the writer, it’s also defrauding the reader. Less than a week after the first claims of plagiarism were made, Viswanathan’s book was pulled from book shelves by her publisher and her movie deal has been reportedly nixed.

As an author who has put my heart and soul into every page of my books, I am so happy that publishers, readers, my fellow writers and the media are taking plagiarism seriously. And I believe we have Oprah and James Frey to thank for the more responsible handling of the Viswanathan scandal by her publisher, Little, Brown and Co. When Oprah made Frey take responsibility for his not-so-honest memoir (and humiliated his cell-phone packing publisher on national TV), it has made us stop and think about the importance of the written word. There is an unspoken agreement between author and reader that the book, fictional or non-fictional, are expected to come from a place of truth and originality … not his or her photographic memory.

UPDATE: This just in from today’s PW Daily

No Encore for ‘Opal’
By Rachel Deahl

Readers who have a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan’s How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life may want to hold on to it, as the book is now a collector’s item. In a statement issued from Little, Brown, the publisher finally said that it will not be releasing a revised edition of the book. And Viswanathan’s second book in that two-title deal she signed with LB is dead too. The brief announcement came this afternoon from LB’s senior v-p and publisher, Michael Pietsch.

While LB would not comment on what this means for the highly publicized $500,000 advance the young author received, agent Robert Gottlieb told PW that it’s certainly possible the imprint could request that the money be returned. Explaining that every author signs a contract stipulating that the work they’re submitting is wholly their own, Gottlieb said in cases of plagiarism an author is always breaking this legal agreement. “Technically the author is in breach of her contract,” Gottlieb said, referring to Viswanathan’s plagiarism. “If the publisher decided that they wanted to demand the advance back, they could.”

Though Little, Brown could sue Viswanathan—for losses it has incurred in publicizing, printing and distributing the book—Gottlieb believes that this is unlikely. “I’ve always recommended to publishers that they avoid suing authors, because it just doesn’t look good,” he said. He then added: “We all do live in a community.” That we do, and it seems that Kaavya Viswanathan has officially been kicked out.

How She Got Caught, Got Dissed and Lost Her Movie Deal

I usually don’t do this sort of thing but I have to say something about KaavyaViswanathan and her alleged photographic memory that has been making the news.

Let’s take a ride in the way back machine to 1997 when Nora Roberts sued fellow author, Janet Dailey for copyright infringement. Dailey allegedly plagiarized 13 of Nora’s books. By the way, Dailey has published novels since then and she claimed that severe emotional distress was the cause of her eh, faux pas. Articles about the scandal can be read here and here.

Anyway, it seemed that the only people who took the issue seriously were Nora and romance writers. One news writer referred to the sordid affair as a mere bodice-ripping cat fight and a reader claimed that one romance novel was no different than the other.

Fast forward to “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” and its similarities to Megan McCafferty’s novel (and didja hear that there are claims that Viswanathan “may have internalized” passages from Sophie Kinsella’s “Can Your Keep A Secret? The AP story is here). Now it seems that everyone understands that plagiarism isn’t just a crime against the writer, it’s also defrauding the reader. Less than a week after the first claims of plagiarism were made, Viswanathan’s book was pulled from book shelves by her publisher and her movie deal has been reportedly nixed.

As an author who has put my heart and soul into every page of my books, I am so happy that publishers, readers, my fellow writers and the media are taking plagiarism seriously. And I believe we have Oprah and James Frey to thank for the more responsible handling of the Viswanathan scandal by her publisher, Little, Brown and Co. When Oprah made Frey take responsibility for his not-so-honest memoir (and humiliated his cell-phone packing publisher on national TV), it has made us stop and think about the importance of the written word. There is an unspoken agreement between author and reader that the book, fictional or non-fictional, are expected to come from a place of truth and originality … not his or her photographic memory.

UPDATE: This just in from today’s PW Daily

No Encore for ‘Opal’
By Rachel Deahl

Readers who have a copy of Kaavya Viswanathan’s How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life may want to hold on to it, as the book is now a collector’s item. In a statement issued from Little, Brown, the publisher finally said that it will not be releasing a revised edition of the book. And Viswanathan’s second book in that two-title deal she signed with LB is dead too. The brief announcement came this afternoon from LB’s senior v-p and publisher, Michael Pietsch.

While LB would not comment on what this means for the highly publicized $500,000 advance the young author received, agent Robert Gottlieb told PW that it’s certainly possible the imprint could request that the money be returned. Explaining that every author signs a contract stipulating that the work they’re submitting is wholly their own, Gottlieb said in cases of plagiarism an author is always breaking this legal agreement. “Technically the author is in breach of her contract,” Gottlieb said, referring to Viswanathan’s plagiarism. “If the publisher decided that they wanted to demand the advance back, they could.”

Though Little, Brown could sue Viswanathan—for losses it has incurred in publicizing, printing and distributing the book—Gottlieb believes that this is unlikely. “I’ve always recommended to publishers that they avoid suing authors, because it just doesn’t look good,” he said. He then added: “We all do live in a community.” That we do, and it seems that Kaavya Viswanathan has officially been kicked out.

So you STILL want to an author, eh?


Then focus Daniel-san.

When I read my rejection letters the other day, I think it was pure stubbornness and a sense of entitlement that kept me going. And anger. What really pushed me up against the wall was a rejection letter from an agent who had me rewrite my book two times before deciding it wasn’t good enough for her sell. If that agent hadn’t pissed me off, I never would have found the courage to ask the Avon Romance editors if they were looking for a book like mine. I might not be here today dishing out this advice.

But here’s the funny thing about maturity: three years later, I’m grateful to all of those agents who passed on that early version of Hot Tamara, especially the one who made me so mad. They eventually led to me to my agent, my editors, my fabulous publishing house and all the people who got behind my book and promoted the heck out of it. So I guess my point can be summed up by Mr. Miyagi who told Daniel Russo in Karate Kid, “Okay to lose to opponent. Must not lose to fear!”

Now where were we? You sent out your queries to your top ten agents.

  1. The response has arrived and she wants a partial or a full. Oh my God! She likes me! Hurray!

    But what if she wants an exclusive and you still have nine other agents with your query?

    Now focus, Daniel-san. Most agents ask for exclusives because they operate on limited time; in fact, they do most of their reading on the weekends at home. So why should an agent bother to read your work if you have other agents reading it and then you decide – before she can make an offer – to go with another agent?

    Your response should work for your business and her business. Admit that you have queries with other agents and you would be happy to grant her an exclusive read on the partial for three weeks. (If it’s a full, I’d give her six.) Most agents are happy to go along with that as long as you honor that agreement.

  2. But then another agent responds after you have sent off the partial to the first agent. Now what?

    Again, focus Daniel-san.

    Respond that you have granted Agent-A a three-week exclusive read on the partial. Would they consider waiting until the end of that period?

    If they get miffy, then don’t bother. You owe it to yourself and your book to make the best decision possible. Trust me; no agent is better than a bad one.

  3. An agent really likes your work and offers to represent you. (For the sake of brevity, let’s assume she already read the full, etc.) Remember that finding an agent is like dating. You wouldn’t marry someone after the first date, would you? You want to get to know each other, see if you have common values and goals.

    AAR (Association of Artists’ Representatives) has a great list of questions to ask a prospective agent. A note of warning: never sign with someone who charges agency fees. More than likely, she is not a real agent. And by the way, I tried to link to the AAR website but the server was down.

  4. When you agree to sign with your agent, start talking about (a) how she will market your book and (b) how you will establish a career. You should have some ideas of publishing houses that might be a good fit. Don’t rely solely on your agent. This is a business partnership and you should have an active role in this venture because you, mi amiga, are the one who wrote the book. Your blood, your tears and your weekends went into its creation.
  5. Write a business plan. This doesn’t have to be a formal document. Mine is a document in which I write down all those impossible dreams. It also keeps me focused and reminds me why I am a storyteller. I blush as I write this but I also cut and paste the nice emails I get from readers.

There are so many websites and “book doctors” who are willing to part writers from their money. Here are some of most helpful sources that I know of (please feel free to share others in the comments!):

Romance Writers of America

Orange County Chapter of RWA

Marcela Landres

Harlequin’s Learn To Write Portal

Pen on Fire

Writers Digest

UPDATE: I am donating a free critique and a signed copy of IN BETWEEN MEN this weekend at www.themichelefund.com. This fund was set up to help a fellow writer who was diagnosed with breast cancer in Feburary. They also have critiques offered by Patricia Gaffney, Susan and Harry Squires and Lisa Valdez.

Thank you Erica!

Erica Orloff posted a picture of my writing desk at her blog! It started a really cool discussion about writing spaces and I’m thinking of painting my room yellow because someone mentioned that it’s a good color for creativity. (Hey, I’ll stop at nothing to make writing easier!)

My gal pals and I discovered a cool book Friday night. Yes, we were fueled by bellini’s, martini’s and good-old estrogen. Anyway, it’s called Colorstrology and I think this will be a fun writing tool to create characters.

Later this week I’ll post the second part of my thoughts on selling a book. In the meantime, rock on.

Mary