A Week in the Life

by Ann Tracy Marr

Romance with a splash of magic
 

This was a week's worth of blog posts describing my career.

Fair of face on Monday

 Ann Tracy Marr here, humble author of paranormal Regency romance. I should be fighting my web page. Spry menus are a great idea, but they don't work. I'm back to buttons and links. I'll get to it. Right now, I'm in a reminiscent mood.

I wasn't born with a burning desire to write. I wanted to be Annie Oakley, Nancy Drew, or a mommy. Forgive me, it's the era I grew up in. I watched Gilligan's Island, where the only employed female was an actress. Who paid for Mary Ann's hair ribbons? I never knew and never cared.

The war in Vietnam rumbled while I concentrated on boys. Not writing, boys. By then, I knew I wrote well. "You have a gift," teachers One, Two, and maybe Three said. So what? Writing was for English class. Then the Creative Writing prof in college hated everything I wrote. The criticism made me mad -- and killed any ego I’d developed. I got a job that didn't require pens, paper, or pipe dreams. I added a husband and kids. A family of four is ideal because if you have three children, one of them will have to sit in the middle of the car and that generates fights. It has something to do with the hump on the floor. Since I’m not a psychiatrist. I can't explain it.

But you want to hear about my writing career. Fast forward if you please, past lackluster jobs, kids, and the discovery of self-employment. When you notice me spending more and more time at the computer, hit Play. That is when my creative ambition fired.

 

Tuesday is full of grace

I fell into writing when I was in need of quick money. Quick money publishing? Don't choke on your laughter. When I ignorantly started writing, I didn't have a desire to share ideas with the world. I wanted money to finance the college dreams of my ambitious ninth grader. Book one took a year and a half to patch together. Mid-sophomore year for the kid; plenty of time to finance an Ivy League school. I didn't know that quick in publishing is slower than downloading Windows updates on dialup. I got my comeuppance. Nothing came quickly or easily.

Today I am loaded down with college debt and my career is like my web page. It looks pretty good -- it's my creation and I'm proud of it -- but it clunks where I want it to whir. Dreamweaver is the program to use creating web pages. It does everything except make menus that work the way I want them to work. Three days of playing with the dratted menu got me nowhere. So today I'll put another day in, fiddling, when I could have been writing. Should have been writing. Have pity. Check my website for me, please. Is there elegance of design in the menus? No? How about if they get you to the right page? I'll settle for functionality.

I don't settle for functionality in my writing. I may have started looking for money, but I stay for the satisfaction. I absolutely, totally love being a writer and writing.

 

Wednesday: not full of woe

This is work, you know. Every moment I spend with my fingers on the keyboard is time at the office. You gotta love the job. Today is a typical day, but it's a good day. I woke up with my brain in gear. Three hours got me a solid chapter in my WIP.  Then my mind shut down -- I had so many words stored up and once they were typed, the closet was empty. Anything else I dredge up is fit only to throw away or donate to charity; it's a mishmash of mateless socks, worn out jeans, and shopping mistakes.

My conscience is clear. I can quit for the day. Clean the house. Or go to the grocery store. Pay bills. Nah, it's time to do a little promoting. Use Facebook?  I'm at http://tiny.cc/vwrbr. Writing without promoting equals nothing.

I've done the hard part. After fiddling away Daughter One's high school years writing the quickie get rich novel that went nowhere, my husband agreed that I should continue to follow my dream: the new dream. Instead of getting rich quick, I’d write a book people would enjoy. New York Times Best Seller list, here I come. Get rich and love doing it. Yes, I was hooked. Writing is hard, but fun. I wrote faster since the bills were piling up, and created works worthy of submission to a publisher. I even found a publisher willing to accept them. I am thrice published. Three books out in the world. No New York Times reporters in sight, but I'm a real to life author. Take a bow, rest on your laurels, girl.

Nope. Along with writing the next book, I must promote what is already out there. I don't know diddly about promotion. I used to know as much about plotting as I know about promotion, so I guess I can learn. Someone told me promotion is sticking your name in people's faces. If they see your name often enough, they buy your books. CALLOUS YUCK. I like meeting people, but would rather let my writing speak for itself. Test read, if you want to look at it that way. So I am writing this blog for a week. Giving you a sample of my work. Writing letters to friends (which is how I picture the blogging process) serves the purpose of promoting. You are here: am I in your face enough for you to buy my books?

No? Well, be my friend anyway. May I introduce myself? I am Ann Tracy Marr, the author. . .

 

Thursday has far to go

Hola, friend. Here is another installment of my authobiography. Neat word, authobiography. It's a typo, but it illustrates what I want this space to achieve. I'm writing the biography of my writing life. For this, invented words are appropriate. I do it all the time. I'll find the perfect word to describe an action in my WIP only to have my first reader complain that it's not a word. It's not in the dictionary. Too bad. If it's not a word, it should be. So I hereby decree that authobiography is a word defined by "the writing of a blog giving details of your writing career." As soon as I am certain I have a career, I'll let you know. Three books barely qualify as serious intent. Strive for longevity.

My WIP is going to knock your socks off. It's going to put me in a New York publishing house, it's going to soar to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List and stay there. Oprah, here I come before you go. The WIP has a cool title, so cool I'm afraid a writer who writes faster will steal it. I love the book. It will finance my dreams and/or pay those college loans. Pray for both.

I met Barbara Dawson Smith's niece the other day. Barbara plays computer games when she should write; so do I. That might be the totality of our similarities, but I can pray.

I took a writing class or two online; they showed me that there is always hope for dull dialog. Spit, polish, and pray.

 

Are you picking up a theme here? Thanks to three published works, I know I can finish my WIP. My stellar concept will come to completion stalwartly and steadily, if slowly (I like alliteration. Do you?) because I am not the fastest writer on the planet. I know a bit about what it takes to get published, how to promote, and how to pray. That's today's theme. Pray.

No matter how good the manuscript is, prayer is as useful as anything in the publishing world.  It's how I view a writing career. Type your fingers to the bone and pray, even when you have a stunning idea. Discouragement comes from every direction, so faith (in yourself) and prayer (to whatever power makes you strong) is essential.

 

Being loving and (for)giving for Friday

My first book is not published. My daughter says it's my best, but it isn't a romance. Romance is the easiest genre to publish because it's half the paperback market. There is an insatiable need for romance and romance writers. Need or not, it is still difficult to get a romance published. If you do it my way, you read every Regency on the shelf and then start dreaming up the plot you haven't read. When you perfect the plot in your head, spend a year and a half pounding a first draft into a Word file. Teachers nagging about a gift for writing make me a shoe-in, right? Join Romance Writers of America and enter three contests. And lose. Lose. Lose. My shoe-in is a seedy flip flop.

Writing a book is harder than knowing a stirring plot. I sopped up information about writing novels, rewrote my first romance three times, and kept learning. The prize lesson? I have what is considered a 'strong voice.' Don't ask what it means; what matters is that people either love or hate the way I write. There is little middle ground. Contest results had one judge raving, the second liking, and the third tossing my book in the trash. Once I recovered from near terminal bewilderment, I abandoned the contest circuit and attacked agents. I made the post office happy sending out approximately -- No, let's go for honesty here. Over the next year or so, I sent out 108 query letters to agents. 

I'm a masochist, a sucker for punishment, a dog to be kicked. 107 rejections or unanswered queries. The 108th letter was from an agent tottering on the edge of senility who would not offer a contract, but who kept talking to editors about my book. For two years I didn’t even know she was thinking about my work. Then, out of the blue, I got a letter from her. She had not given up submitting my book to editors. I wrote a formal letter pulling my book off her desk. If that agent had been competent, not crumbling. . .

I kept writing, kept polishing, kept trying to make characters jump off the page and dance. Rejection letters were worth eight hours of depression each; 856 hours of whining and my husband still smiled. My writing improved and my marriage was sound. If I became an agent, I would be gentler. Kinder. Quicker. Heck, I'll be truthful again. I'd ignore lousy writers too. Praise God I improved. And promoted. Go to http://www.youtube.com/marr794 to see what I mean.

 

Saturday: work hard for a living

A writing career is a series of pits with agents being the deepest and darkest. In case you neglected to read the prior post, I am not the author who rose to stardom publishing my first novel to the robust cheer of the first and only agent I ever contacted. I slog along, unagented, achieving modest success. And my first book is still not published because it isn't a romance. My publisher wants romances.

But after three years (or eleven, depending on how you count) and three books, I am comfortable saying, "I am an author."  

Hint: Don't count on royalties to fund college for your darlings. 9th grade to passage of the final CPA exam is roughly eleven years. That was Daughter One. Daughter Two graduated last spring. Even if I die in the poorhouse, congratulations to both. They are awesome. So am I; I managed not to call them Thing One and Thing Two.

When Awe-Struck E-books accepted my first title, I felt awesome. I walked on clouds for a week, minimum. Built a website, created bookmarks, post cards, business cards, searched the net for places to blow my horn and spent hours in those places, tooting and hollering. Making YouTube trailers is more fun than business cards, but they eat time. http://www.youtube.com/marr794 yeah! Work as hard finding a balance between career and life as between writing and promoting.

My personal gremlin is dreams. When I write a lot, when my schedule and life allow me to sit at the keyboard for hours, day in and day out, bringing characters to life, I dream a lot. The more I write, the more I dream. One night I filled in a crossword puzzle. Every letter I put into the puzzle, the clues and the grid changed. No kidding. Crossword puzzles all night. The dreams sap my creativity and I have to take a break from writing. Most of the writers I queried on the phenomenon experience the opposite: lack of writing leads to excessive dreaming. Still, my career is worth every pit that comes along.

 

A bonny, blithe, good and gay Sunday

I work on branding myself. If you do a Google search for Twist Legend into Truth, you find me. Google Ann Tracy Marr and you find me. You can find me without Google because I splurged and rented my own little house on the Internet: www.AnnTracyMarr.com, all in search of readers.

Branding will help me become known, improve sales of my books. I hope you don't think Twist Legend into Truth is stupid because I worked hard to come up with it. It describes my paranormal Regencies perfectly. Twist the legend of King Arthur, Merlin, and magic into being the truth of England's past -- its history.

I get a thrill when scenes flow. A clever turn of phrase is better than lobster. Characters coming to life beats the home team winning the World Series. My plots tend to be simple, but there is always more than one in a book -- they weave together into a rich read. When I write well, life is good. When a reviewer agrees, life is great. When a reader emails me to tell me he/she enjoyed my book, I am ecstatic.

To sum up this authobiography, my chosen career is hard work interspersed with prayer. Some validation that the writing is worth doing is a bone to keep me going.  I feel that I have accomplished something to be proud of. I don't plan to quit soon. I love my job.

And deliberately, intentionally, with malice aforethought, I did not tell you the names of my books. I even resisted handing over pics of the covers.  www.AnnTracyMarr.com.  Goodnight, friend.