The Best Summer Blog Tour Ever 2012
(edited to remove extraneous material like introductions)
Ann Tracy Marr is the world’s worst book promoter. She has published three, but when it comes time to promote – to urge someone to lay out money for her books – she falls apart.
Ann lacks promoting talent but she does have a gift for storytelling. She writes for the love of it and it shows. Her view of life is a little off the wall, sometimes class clown, but with an underlying thread of realism. She likes to read about real women looking for joy, so that is what she writes.
Knowing we wouldn’t learn much about her books, I asked Ann questions that would reveal something about her approach to writing and life.
Question: Who was the toughest character for you to "get right"?
Ann: The hero in Round Table Magician took a long time to evolve. Brinston started out as a conventional Regency hero, but when I added a paranormal twist to the plot, he demanded he be a magician. Magic fit with his reclusive tendencies, giving him reasons to hide his true nature from the ton. Other than that, I struggled to cleverly convey his motives in ignoring Martha. It was a matter of finding the best tailoring for the story. Once the jacket fit, Brinston himself filled it out.
Question: Is there a genre that you love to read but don't want to write?
Ann: I love the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Funny and all about vampires, you know. But I doubt I will ever write a vampire novel. I don’t have anything to add to their mystique; they scare more than attract me.
Question: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Ann: I would make an excellent Rich Bitch. It’s a full time job, but I wouldn’t mind getting up at 10 am, donning the haute couture uniform, jetting past rush hour traffic in my Maserati on my way to a five star restaurant. I’d donate freely to charity and spend money all over the place to keep the economy going.
Question: Can you tell us about your books?
Ann: Awestruck published my three book series set in Regency England. King Arthur and Merlin are not myth, but history. They are traditional Regencies with the addition of a splash of magic.
I have loved the Regency period since I was a girl and my mother introduced me to Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland, two of the most well-known authors of the genre. You should write what you love, right? It was natural that I begin writing my own Regency story. That book failed to find a publisher. Rather than give up, I wrote a second. The plot was missing something. It needed a spark to bring it to life. I fiddled, dithered, thought, and rewrote until I realized that making the hero a magician made the book exciting.
How could a magician fit in the Regency? That took planning. If King Arthur and Merlin had really existed – if they were a fundamental part of British history, magic could fit into the period. So I decided just as George Washington lived, so did King Arthur. Taking it the logical step further, Merlin, Arthur’s magical cohort, existed. Voila, magicians are real and my hero was a magician. That made the Round Table the preferred method of governing Britain, not that there is any real difference between it and Parliament. Fundamentally, it is still the Regency, with Prinny, Lady Jersey, bonnets and reticules, and eventful country house parties.
It is a unique twist on the Regency – as one reviewer said, it sounds strange, but it works. If you can believe that vampires live in New Orleans, you can believe that magicians populated Regency England; it just needs that stretch of imagination to make it real. The manuscript sparkled enough that it was accepted by Awestruck and published, as were two more. The three books received very good reviews – two won awards.
Thus, my published works are paranormal Regency romance.
I “dabble” with other writing also. My daughter considers my best work to be the manuscript about two men railroaded into prison. A gory rewrite of the Bell Witch haunting is languishing on my hard drive. I am currently polishing a diary about my recent battle with breast cancer. One of these days I will find a publisher for those books. Faith and begorra, it’s hard to get a book published!
I, Ann Tracy Marr, guest blogger, am supposed to write about how I research, but I am pretty sure I have done that before. (I mostly cruise the Internet, googling until I run into enough information to satisfy the need.) Don’t want to bore myself, let alone you. So let’s turn the topic on its side.
When would research have been helpful?
Say you are reading a Regency. When did Prinny build his vulgar Marine Pavilion in Brighton? If you have cascade brain failure, let him have his Eastern influenced fantasy in 1814. Wrong. The Pavilion was built from the “ashes” of a farmhouse in 1787 into a conventional English pile of stone. It was redesigned between 1815 and 1822 into a Chinese monstrosity. So the gaudy domed building I described in one of my books was not in existence in 1814. A Regency purist would hang me in effigy.
Or it’s a western romance. In the big fight scene, the cowboy takes one in the chin and falls through Judge Roy Bean's swinging saloon doors into the arms of his lady love. Stop! Don’t do it, not if you are staging the fight at Roy’s place. Maybe a bunch of saloons had those swinging doors, but his didn’t.
You can bet that Shakespeare got ribbed for having a clock strike three in Julius Caesar (there were no mechanical clocks in 44 AD). How is the beleaguered author to know that before the fifteenth century rosemary was called rosmarine? No tomatoes, vanilla, or potatoes until we discover the new world, please, although corn can refer to medieval grain.
The problem isn’t confined to history. Woe unto the writer who calls it the Sears Tower when it was renamed Willis Tower in 2009. If you don’t put Tiffany’s at 5th Avenue and 57th, New Yorkers will laugh. If you call the newspaper the Sacramento News instead of the Sacramento Bee, you will lose credibility. Get your guns right; don’t cock the hammer on a Glock. Don’t send him out in a sailboat in a fifteen knot wind unless he’s suicidal. Or put a cervical collar on a knee. If you want her to get to the meeting at 10 am, figure how long it will take to get through rush hour traffic, okay?
The wise author stays ahead of sharp eyed readers who expect fairly accurate world building. They nail you to the wall every time. Worse, they might not read your books. It is one thing to suspend belief, but who wants to be the artist who created the statue of Columbus with a telescope that hadn’t been invented in his lifetime?
PS: I forgot to say that the examples given are all taken from published works.
Now, let’s have fun. Who was standing at the foot of my bed last night?
Doesn’t that sound like a great title? If it is for a movie, you can bet it’s horror. The vampire at the foot of my bed –has he just risen, as in the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and he’s hungry, he’s going to suck me dry as a bone? Or am I the woman who can redeem his soul?
If it’s a poem, it’s by e.e. cumming – the guy who forgot capital letters. He wrote something like this:
who was standing at the foot of my bed
hungry for a grilled cheese sandwich
and needing the back of his ears scratched
i used the sandpaper i keep next to my glasses
and ordered him back to his corner
until the alarm clock went off
no cheating on your diet, sweetie
But if it’s a romance, guess the ways you can stretch the phrase.
The cowboy, drunk on moonshine and his stupendous win at the poker table, turned left instead of right at the inn stairs. He counted doors and this door was the right number. Just the wrong direction, if his head wasn’t too muddled to realize it. After fiddling with the stubborn door, he raised a foot and kicked it in. Swaggering, he entered and headed for the foot of the bed, slinging his gunbelt down with a whomp. Whoo, hoo, there was a female waiting to celebrate with him. Better yet, two. The curly headed girl smiled at him; he grinned back. The other, the black haired witch, jumped out of the bed and punched him in the nose.
Or – Snow drifted through the oilskin flapping at the croft window. Breanna tugged at the moth eaten blanket, trying to cover her bare shoulder. Her sister must have rolled over, taking her share of the bedding. If only they were at the castle. Her own room, rich furs to keep her warm. An odd sound made her open her eyes. A man, as tall as the ceiling, with moon colored hair untidily on his shoulders, grinned at her. Blessed Mary have mercy on her soul. A Viking.
Or—Lady Ann, the bedcovers a tent over her head as she read by the light of a shielded candle, stiffened. The door had quietly opened. Closed. Muffled thuds sounded on the carpet. Hessians? Gentlemen wore Hessians. Heavens, had her father discovered that she was reading a book of philosophy? There would be a dreadful row. Mama would cry. Papa would take a switch to her. Expecting the worst, Lady Ann flipped the covers back and sat up, clutching the candle. The dastardly Duke stood at the foot of the bed. He said with a grin, “Surprise. Your father neglected to inform you – we were married three months ago by proxy.”
Or – Kristen threw the remote. “Don’t stand at the foot of my bed,” she howled. “I can’t see Conan.”
Matt grinned. “I’ve got something better than that lame comedian.”
“How dare you! Just because we’re stuck in this godforsaken airport hotel together doesn’t mean you can…” Her voice trailed off as his zipper went down.
“It’s our lucky day, Kristen. Stranded by a snowstorm with the hotel crammed to the gills so we have to share a room. Don’t you think we’ve danced around our lust long enough?”
Oh, yes, it’s a great title.
What am I reading this summer?
This is a hard question for me to answer because so far I have not enjoyed a normal year. You see, last October I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, reportedly the most dangerous form of breast cancer. My whole life changed; it shrank to medical procedures and discomfort. (Thank God, not very much pain.) Because I am a writer and an independent computer consultant, I didn’t have to go to work 9-5, but I also didn’t go much of anywhere except hospitals. I didn’t go to bookstores, brick or otherwise.
I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. I was sick, tired, uncomfortable, exhausted, so messed up that I failed to promote the morphing of my third book into a paperback. I vegetated in front of the television and lolled in bed. I researched my cancer and the associated side effects, kept a diary (hopefully to be published somewhere), and couldn’t write romance to save my soul. Couldn’t clean the house, couldn’t work on anything meaningful. For a while, I could hardly walk. I could lose weight – lots of weight -- though the doctors complained. What can I say? I wasn’t trying to lose weight.
My husband pulled out the boxes of “keepers,” those novels I had saved because I liked them so much. Most are Regency romances. Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joan Smith, Barbara Metzger, Catherine Coulter – I had complete series to read, sometimes with double vision. And fall asleep over. I slept more than a college student with mono.
I’m okay now, thank you. Had a clear mammogram. My skin is almost recovered from what they carefully do not call radiation burns. I can get through the grocery store without collapsing. The doctor says to aim for two cancer free years – if I get past that, aim for five. I am to the point I can browse a bookstore, but I don’t have a clue what has been published, what received good reviews, what I might enjoy.
Instead of me telling you what I have been reading, I would love to hear about the outstanding books you recently read. What did I miss?
I want to tell your readers what I would have done before I became published, if hindsight were twenty-twenty.
The girl two seats over on the plane was editing her book. The man sitting between us was enthralled with the budding author. They enthusiastically discussed the convoluted plot (enough going on to support a trilogy) and characterization (wow, one of the heroes burst forth as Superman. But where was his growth?) She sounded like Shakespeare, Hemmingway and Faulkner rolled into one. The number of major characters exceeded the limits of my aunt’s dining table – the one that sat 24 at the peak of our Thanksgiving celebrations. My guess is the girl was seduced by the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, with a little Star Wars thrown in. She was the right age for those epics.
Man and girl moved on to ways of evaluating word count (no kidding, she was around 290,000 words), and her status as a grad student. I forget what the degree was, but it was something to do with writing. The professor was delighted with her manuscript.
I, a published author, kept my clap trapped. The girl was going to get a shock when she got into the real world. How was she going to sell her masterpiece to an agent who knows what the industry will take? How would she convince an editor that he could make money on one book when it should be a trilogy? How would she entice readers to slog through the mud?
Take a class in marketing.
Good writing or bad, to sustain a writing career you have to sell your work to multiple people in multiple ways. You have to know how to pull a catchy jingle out of your plot. You have to know where to go to reach the right audience. You have to know how to budget an advertising campaign and how to make it effective. If it doesn’t work, you have to tweak it to make it work. You have to sell your baby to everyone, including doubting Thomases. Especially doubting Thomases. You have to do it again and again, for each and every book you want to publish.
I have picked up books at Barnes & Noble which must have been marketing miracles. That’s the only way they could have made it to the shelves. I have also read thoroughly enjoyable books that never made a splash. Were they victims of marketing mistakes?
I wish someone had taught me about marketing before I started writing.