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A Writer’s Life: If I Were A Man, I Never Would’ve Gotten Any Action

August 10, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Because in my 20’s, I had a real problem with asking for what I wanted.

I remember the very first query letter I wrote to Harlequin Silhouette. I was almost apologizing for wasting their time in asking them to consider my book. Admittedly, it wasn’t a great book but you think after all the nights and lunch hours I spent on that thing that I would’ve been a better advocate than that.

As time wore on, I wanted to be published so badly that it became my life purpose to sell Hot Tamara. Maybe I was tired of rejection, or just getting ornery as I approached my thirties. Whatever the case, I began thinking about why I should be published as opposed to why I shouldn’t. When I wrote that fateful query letter to Harper Collins, I shook my moneymaker, baby. I was damn proud of that story. Having reread the letter recently, there’s a chutzpah to it even though the book had already been rejected by ten agents.

The thing is, when you finally climb up into the realm of publishing, you have to keep on asking for what you want. You have to risk that someone will tell you no, which then requires that you do some fancy footwork to change their mind, or maneuver around them. Even though I consider myself to be moderately ballsy, I still squirm just a little bit when I ask my agent to do something on my behalf, or my readers to buy my next book.

When I hesitate, I remember that no one else will do it for me … unless of course, I ask them to.

Mary Castillo is the author of In Between Men and Hot Tamara. Her website is www.marycastillo.com.

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Go There

May 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

When I was first writing “Till Death Do Us Part”, I didn’t realize that Dori had a past love. But when Pete called her name in that scene in chapter three, my heart jolted just like Dori’s. When I saw where we were going, I jumped out of my chair and paced my office. I finally turned off the computer thinking, there’s no way I can go there.

But many months later after I’d finished the story, approved the galleys and then went on to a new story, Ryan and I were watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clint Eastwood. In the role of Harry Calahan, Eastwood once had to jump off a bridge onto the top of a moving school bus. When James Lipton asked if he had been afraid, Eastwood replied, “No. When you’re really in the character, you can do anything.”

I realized that writing is like acting. It only becomes real when we become the character. And man, that can be scary as hell!

Even though I still run away from the computer when the story gets too real, I know that I’ll be back. Just like an actor who spontaneously discovers a new bit of dialogue or action, we writers must jump off the bridge with our characters. What I’ve come to realize is that if we don’t go there, then neither will our readers.

So when the story and the character get under your skin and it feels icky and scary and awfully itchy, just keep yourself there because that’s when the good stuff is about to happen.

Mary Castillo’s new book, Names I Call My Sister hits bookstores today. She is the author of In Between Men and Hot Tamara. Her website is www.marycastillo.com.

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When is it good enough?

April 10, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as
Before you read this, I have to confess that I posted this entry previously on my blog. But it was right before Easter and more than likely no one read it. So if it sounds familiar, come back tomorrow!

Ahem.

The other day I was nosing around online and came across a message posted from a writer who asked, “when do you know a story is any good? How do you know if its worth pursuing?”

For me, it’s gut instinct. If the characters come to life and refuse to go away until I finish their story, then I know this is a journey I have to complete. I don’t judge if the story is “good” or “bad.” My agent does that for me. How I feel is that every story and character who has come into my life has done so for a reason.

Right after I turned in In Between Men (waaay back in September 2004), I wrote a drama about two sisters who never knew the other existed until their father was diagnosed with cancer. I loved the characters Dori and Sela, but the story was so so. I talked to my agent about it and she asked me what I was doing writing a heavy-handed drama when I’ve been publishing comedies? Unfortunately, she has an annoying tendency to be right and that story has since become an organ donor.

But I missed those sisters. Five or six months later, I was at a wedding and while eavesdropping on a conversation, found the story for Sela and Dori. Next month, “Till Death Do Us Part” will be inflicted on the reading public in Names I Call My Sister.

I’m not sure if I successfully answered this question. Perhaps some stories are meant to slip by the gatekeepers, or others are just the long way around to the real thing.

So I ask you: how do you know if your story is “good enough”?

Mary Castillo is the author of the upcoming anthology, Names I Call My Sister (Avon A, May 2007) as well as In Between Men and Hot Tamara. She was once named one of the hottest 25 people in the OC by OC Metro Magazine. She keeps the certificate in a prominent place so her husband won’t forget. Her website is www.marycastillo.com.
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A Writer’s Life

March 9, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

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A Writer’s Life
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By Mary Castillo
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The first audience a writer has to convince is her family. And God help you if you have kids.

I lucked out. I was already writing when I met my love so he had no problem leaving me alone every Saturday so I could write. But I had a full-time job, a two-hour commute and a close-knit Mexican family who didn’t understand what I was doing on weekends when I should’ve been with them.

The thing is, until you have some street cred, the people you love will not understand why you’re begging them to leave you alone so you can sit in front of a computer. My mom would call me every Saturday morning and ask, “So what it is that you’re doing again?”

“I’m writing a book.”

“About what?”

I think I answered that very same question on more Saturday mornings than I care to remember. It wasn’t that mom didn’t care. She just couldn’t figure out why I’d rather hole up in a bedroom than drive down for a bonfire barbeque on Coronado.

My family finally cut me some slack after I wrote two screenplays and two novels. But it wasn’t because I had written two screenplays and two novels. It was because I started writing movie reviews for my local paper and had a byline to prove it.
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After mom had tangible proof of what I was doing – she showed my reviews online to her co-workers – she would call on Saturday mornings and ask, “What are you doing answering the phone? Shouldn’t you be writing?”

Mary Castillo is the author of two romantic comedies – Hot Tamara and In Between Men. Her novella, “My Favorite Mistake” is featured in the anthology, Friday Night Chicas. She is a columnist with VidaGirl.com and has also contributed feature articles to Catalina Magazine, Romance Writers Report and Och Tamale (the alumni magazine for the University of Redlands).

Mary has two blogs: Chica Lit for writers and readers at http://www.marycastillo.blogspot.com/ and How to Survive Your Best Friend’s Baby for friends of new moms at http://www.bestfriendsbaby.blogspot.com/.

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MARY CASTILLO: The Anti-Conference by Mary Castillo

July 16, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

Not going to conference this year? Me, too! Actually, this will be my second year of absence and I don’t feel guilty or left out at all.

But let me explain. Last year, I was eight months pregnant and of course, the weekend of conference my doctor informed me that I was dilating! (Also, everyone including my editor and agent promised to send me home if I so much as peeked into the Reno Hilton!)

This year I have a book to finish and well, it boiled down to the choice of spending our extra money to leave my boys behind for Atlanta; or go on our first family vacation. My boys and my book won hands down.

So I wanted to share some tips for those of you who aren’t going because you lost the battle of the budget, or you don’t feel ready.

1. Get together with some writer friends and talk about writing over coffee or cocktails. This might be the start of a critique group or even better, new friendships. The best things about conference are the people you meet and the ideas exchanged. Don’t get me wrong, the OCC suite, seminars and networking are priceless. But when I left the conferences in New York and Dallas, I went home invigorated and ready to write. You can only get that charge from fellow writers, so if you can’t be in Atlanta, round up some buddies!

2. Join a Book in a Week program. I can’t think of any better time to buckle down and make some progress on your WIP. Make yourself a promise that if you finish that WIP by fall, you’ll sign up for RWA National in 2007.

3. Write your writer’s business plan. If you plan to finish your WIP by next year’s conference, why not take some time out and dream? Your business plan doesn’t have to be super fancy or formal. It can be a place where you start thinking about how you want to be published. Or, you could make it fancy and formal with charts of your top ten agents, etc.

4. Clean your office, desk or PC files. I don’t know about you, but when I finish a draft, my office looks like a bomb went off and then the firefighters left a huge mess from their efforts to put out the fire. So I take a moment to clean up and when I’m done, I can take a nice big breath of relief. Also, I have this fear that the ghost of the previous draft will haunt me if I don’t clean.

5. Or, just take a break from writing. This worked for me last year … then again, pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep might have had some hand in it. Anyway when I came back to my writing (er, two and a half months later!), I was raring to go and oddly, getting back into the story seemed much easier.

Feel free to use any of these suggestions or ignore them. Either way, make the most of the week while the mice are playing. Sometimes us cats just need a break!

Mary Castillo
Author of IN BETWEEN MEN, Avon Trade
and HOT TAMARA, Cosmo’s Red Hot Read April 05
Please visit http://www.marycastillo.com/
or http://www.marycastillo.blogspot.com/

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