Just When I Think I’m Free … They Pull Me Back In

Yes, that line was from the worst movie in the Godfather trilogy but I had to come up with something to describe my current frame of mind.

Just when I finished Switchcraft, I’m in deep with revisions to a novella I wrote last summer. It’s not too bad considering that I was in the last trimester of my pregnancy. But I have those too-many-espressos jitters without having inbibed any coffee today. This seems to be a regular pattern when I start or restart a story. Could I be physically addicted to writing?

Anyway, the coolest thing happened to me today! I went to the Borders store at South Coast Plaza to sign stock and Will, the sales manager, went on the store intercom to tell everyone about my book. Woo hoo! I admit that I did the “aww shucks” squirm while my husband smiled proudly and the Little Dude cruised in his stroller. But inside, I was eating it up!

By the way, if you haven’t been to my website lately, check it out. I posted a deleted scene from Hot Tamara, starring Isa, my heroine from In Between Men. Also, I’m scheduled for some book signings and I hope you’ll stop by!

Finally, the Fabulous Dana Diamond interviewed me for OCC RWA’s Orange Blossom magazine and part of that interview is now on her blog and at The Writer’s Vibe.

Cheers!

Mary C. who has still not found the elusive Green Tea Martini in Orange County

The Book Is Done

I finished it at 5:10 a.m. this morning. It needed a little spit and polish here and there before I sent it to my agent and editor. In the meantime, I’ll have to think up a new title and more than likely, will receive notes from my editor. But for now, it is done.

Thank you God for the gift to write my stories and actually make a buck at it. I’ve accomplished something really amazing by sharing these crazy ideas of mine with readers not just once, but now thrice with In Between Men.

So with that, I’m off to watch the Food Network. I’ve become addicted to cooking shows – especially Paula Dean and Rachael Ray – because nothing bad ever happens. Makes me feel at peace that in one part of this crazy world, something will turn out okay.

But the reprieve will be short-lived. On Sunday, I revise my novella.

Beats my old day job even thought I haven’t slept since Tuesday.

Salud,
Mary

Can’t Give Up The Clean

First off, I’m still working on Switchcraft even as In Between Men is now officially in a bookstore near you.

Second, I’ve little sleep and less contact with the outside world.

Third, this isn’t a diss of any writers who become so invested in the work that they forget to shower or change their clothes. It’s just an admission that I can’t give up showering no matter how deep I am into the writing. Yes, I walk around my house like a ghost but only when it’s my husband’s turn to watch the Little Dude. Even then, I’m still listening for that particular tone in the baby’s cry that only a mommy can hear.

But that’s a whole other topic.

So back to personal hygeiene: does my need for cleanliness make me less of a writer? Am I not as committed to the work? Am I … Bourgeois?

I tried to write in my jammies the other day – mom, I did brush my teeth – but I couldn’t concentrate because of that not-so-fresh feeling under my armpits.

Also, showering and cooking are my meditation. Before I go in, I carefully select a body wash from my fiercely guarded collection. Do I need White Tea, Soothing Lavendar, Revitalizing Mint, Seductive Rose or plain oatmeal soap? And then there’s the question of exfoliation, which I use when I literally and figuratively need to rid myself of dead skin. Moisturization is a must and I always use SPF 30 on the face.

When I’m under the water lathering up, my mind plays with different approaches to a scene, hence my handy mini-recorder is always on the counter just in case my character delivers a line of dialogue that could be forgotten on the rocky path between the shower and my desk. Or, I practice what I’ll say to Oprah or Tyra on the off chance I’m invited to their shows.

Now I don’t feel so guilty. But I better get back to work.

I hope you have a great time with Isa and Alex. Funny thing about being an author is that at the time I was writing In Between Men , I hated them for making my life miserable with their damn problems. Now, I miss them and hate the characters who are making my life hell right now.

Cheers,
Mary

It’s Mommy-licious!

I’m so excited to announce that In Between Men will be Catalina Magazine’s Book Club Read for March! Woo hoo! I can’t read to talk to y’all about Isa and Alex and for those of you who are wondering about Tamara and Will, they- well, I just can’t give it away.

I know, I’m a brat.

Also, Romantic Times said that In Between Men “is laugh-out-loud funny but still throws hits of heartbreak that will make the strongest woman gush.”

Aww gee, guys … thanks!

If you’d like to join me and the girls at the book club, check out Catalina Magazine.

Discipline Protects The Talent

My very first mentor, Ben Masselink, said those words to me the last time I saw him. I wish he was still here to see that I took many of his lessons to heart. But I have a feeling that Ben knows what I’ve been up to.

So as I go into lock down mode to meet my February 15th deadline, I want to leave you with the 7 Healthy Habits of the Happy Writer. I promise not to be gone for long, but in the meantime, if you feel like you can’t type one more word, or that your work will never be good enough, think of what Wonder Woman would do. Do you think she’d give up while fighting for our rights in her satin tights?

  1. Writes to strengthen her voice
  2. Makes time to write, rather than wait for the right time
  3. Knows an excuse when she hears one
  4. Listens to her instincts
  5. Erases failure from her vocabulary
  6. Writes through the pain
  7. Has the courage to overcome and learn from rejection

Luv & Besitos,
Mary

It Never Gets Old

Yesterday was an awesome day! The Little Dude and I went to the mailbox and opened a package of advance release copies of In Between Men! I got all chocked up and tears were in my eyes … It never gets old seeing my name on a book. But what really got me this time was the page opposite the title page where it reads, “By Mary Castillo” with a list of my two Avon titles. With three books in print, this isn’t a dream anymore; I’m a real author, baby!

After that emotional event, I got myself all dressed up and signed at the American Bookseller’s Association Winter Institute in Long Beach. The big surprise was on my table: freshly printed copies on In Between Men! So fresh, they had paper dust on them. So thank you to my peeps at Avon Trade – NO ONE does it better than you do!

Okay, now where were we on our list … Ah yes, #4. On my desk, I have three quotes tacked onto the shelf above my computer. One says, “I pay no attention to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

That’s some tough talk from an artist … Then again, when you’re tied with Beethoven as the world’s greatest composer, you can probably say things like that. On the otherhand, maybe that’s what it takes to be great; complete focus on your work so that it is pure. The consequence, of course, is the possibility of dying poor and ending up in an anonymous pauper’s grave.

Either way, I hold onto the spirit of this quote. With every story I write, I live this awful fear that haunts me: will everyone think I’ve gone too far?

With Hot Tamara, I worried that the last love scene between Will and Tamara was too cheesey.

With “My Favorite Mistake,” I worried no one would respect Isela for sleeping with a man she just met, and who could possibly get her an in with his famous brother.

With In Between Men, I worried that the appearance of Joan Collins as Isa’s guardian angel would be way over the top.

With Switchcraft, I have all kinds of worries that I can’t discuss right now.

And while that’s quite foolish of me to waste so much energy worrying about what people will think, I will admit that I have paid attention to the right people in my career. In the very beginning when I was still finding my footing, I had the good fortune of meeting a man named, Ben Masselink. He taught a writing workshop through the USC Professional Writing Program and our first assignment was to write the first five pages of a work-in-progress. I was terrified. But after I read it out loud, Ben asked me to step outside with him. No one moved, no one looked at me because all of us smelled the scent of doom. Outside, with my backpack slung over my shoulder because I could not have walked back in for it, Ben snapped my pages with his fingers and said, “Mary, you’ve got something here. It needs work, but keep writing.” And I did.

Since then, there are only a handful of people whose opinions I listen to. And even then, I keep my counsel against comments like, “that’s great,” “no comment,” or “are you sure this is English you’re writing?”

For those of you who think you need a critique partner/group, or to pay a freelance editor gobs of cash to whip your writing into shape, first hone your instincts. Write for yourself, play with words and make mistakes. Don’t rush over to the first person you meet and have them critique your work. Look for the right person. In my experience, I didn’t have to look. They came at a time when I needed them.

And now, I’m going to mainline some coffee to wake up. I was out late and Little Dude was up at 4:30.

Excuses, excuses!

This is the fifth day that I’ve operated on less than four hours of sleep. But as soon as the Little Dude goes down to sleep, I will carry on. You see, even lack of sleep isn’t a reason to make me stop writing. Admittedly, when I was unpublished I annoyed and frightened my friends with my determination to write. I wrote during my lunch hour, wrote into my handheld tape recorder in traffic, wrote at work (oh yes I did!) – or, ran into the bathroom at work to jot an idea or a bit of dialogue – wrote through achy shoulders and burning eyeballs.

But then there was Mardi Gras of 2002. I took that first draft of Hot Tamara with me to New Orleans and editted it, so I wouldn’t lose any time before I had to go back to work. Yes folks, that was how annoying I was and well, still am.

My plan tonight is to jump back into chapter 11 and work in a great idea I had while I was in the shower. I was going to start chapter 12, but this supporting character is taking a life of her own and I’m trying to tame her.

But I don’t want you to miss an excellent, funny piece on excuses and why they just don’t cut it. Go read Dana’s Reasons Why Not and then get back to work!

Mary

“So they opened their big mouths, and out came talk. Talk! Talk!”

This line is from one of my favorite movies, Sunset Boulevard, when Norma Desmond (played by the brilliant Gloria Swanson) decries how the talkies killed silent films and sent “faces” such as hers, into obscurity. Too much talk can also kill your writing.

How many of you have ever been at a party and told someone that you’re a writer? How many times did at least one person reply, “Really? I always wanted to write a book but never had the time.”

Someday I’ll be brave enough to answer, “Gee, I always wanted to do brain surgery but never had the time.” But let’s face it, I’m a wuss.

The more we talk about how we want to write a book, or how we just can’t seem to get into the characters, or whatever, the more reasons why one shouldn’t call oneself a writer. A three- to four-inch thick pile of paper that constitutes your manuscript is the real deal, baby.

And so I don’t look like a hypocritical snot, I’m signing off to revise chapter 12.

Adios!

Mary

Are you there voice, it’s me Mary.

At the age of ten, my Grandma Margie planted the idea of becoming an author when she snuck me a copy of Hollywood Wives. Jackie became my image of what an author should be: controversial, gutsy, rich, powerful, famous, loaded with fabulous jewelry and of course, those luscious pool boys who’d serve me cocktails.

Even when I made a serious commitment to writing ten years later, I kinda sorta still had that image in mind. I’ll never forget that moment, I was in a gift store in Sedona, Arizona during spring break of 1994. I found a tiny statuette of a Native American storyteller for $10.95 and as I held her, I decided that I would become an author and as God as my witness, I would have my pool boy!

Six years dragged on as I wrote one crap manuscript after another. When I finished a book that I intended to sell as a category romance, I realized that I had to stop writing for publication. I know that sounds very odd, but it’s true. Writers don’t get published because they created a story that fits the new trend everyone is buying. They are chosen because of their voice, their unique way of looking at and making sense of the world.

When I saw where I was going (e.g. nowhere), I turned my soul inside out and wrote the story that became my first book. Do you know how I know I’m writing in my own voice? Well, there are two things.

First, when I wrote Hot Tamara I kept thinking: dear God, my mom is going to disown me. While the character of Susan Contreras is not my mother, there are parts of my mom in her. And while I’m no Tamara – although I always wanted a Karmen Ghia – there are parts of me in her, as well as in Isa (In Between Men), Isela (My Favorite Mistake from Friday Night Chicas) and Nellie & Lulu (Switchcraft – working title). In other words, I know the story is true when it is so honest that someone could get hurt.

Second, the writing is like I’m typing an email to my friend … but with more drama and a liberal use of SpellChecker. I know the characters are real when it feels like they’re talking through me. By the way, that doesn’t happen all the time and it often happens when I’m doing other things like showering or feeding my son. However, in revisions it is much easier to tap into what I imagine is an underground river of words. Which is why I race as quickly as possible through the first draft so I can get to the good stuff.

Out of the two screenplays and two manuscripts I had written, Hot Tamara was the first story I wrote for the sake of uncovering my voice. Publication came after the story was told and because it had authenticity, my editor took a chance on it. So when I hear writers at conferences and meetings exclaim that this will be the year she’ll get published, I hope she’ll come to understand that publishing won’t validate her as a writer. If anything, becoming an author makes writing that much harder.

Every now and then I toy with the image of showing up at some massive booksigning in a Bentley escorted by the pool boy who looks like this guy … a little fantasy never killed anyone, okay?

In all seriousness, what consumes and tortures me almost every day is the writing: am I mining those characters deep enough, am I telling the story the way it needs to be told, and why does this character who I never planned on, suddenly want to be in the story? Writing stories that are true to me and to my readers is what has made me successful.

Thanks for reading.

Mary

The Seven Unhealthy Habits of Unsuccessful Writers

I shouldn’t be posting this because you’re probably going to think, “Who does she think she is?” Well, it all started when I was taking a break from revisions and came up with the following list based on some of the bad habits I’ve had to undo (yes, me), and the habits I’ve observed in others.

So before you hate me, hear me out okay?

The Seven Unhealthy Habits of Unsuccessful Writers
1. Wrote to get published when I should’ve written to uncover my voice
2. Spent more time talking about writing than actually writing
3. Believed my own excuses as to why I never had time to write
4. Needed the approval of others whether it was a contest judge, a “get-published-quick” seminar or a critique partner
5. Said “if I finish a book” instead of “when I finish the book”
6. Couldn’t keep my behind in the chair, or worse, played online Mah-jong for “inspiration”
7. Gave up too early

What bad habits have you had to undo, or are in the process of un-doing?

Mary Castillo is the Amazon bestselling author of paranormal mysteries and romances. Ebooks, audiobooks, complete book list, free books and the occasional writing tip.