Sunday, December 27, 2009

How do they do it?

My big question of the moment, only of the moment, is how do bloggers keep up with their blogs? Don't they have jobs, housekeeping, car maintenance, pet care, child care, bills to pay, grocery shopping, and hundreds of other life duties to perform?

I just checked the last time I updated this blog and shame, oh shame, it's been way too long. Luckily readers are few, so anticipation is almost nil. Hopefully, though, after Wind and Bones comes out, I'll pick up readers and blog focus. I'll get with the program.

On Solstice, I sent the last revision of Wind and Bones to my editor, the intrepid Cindy Cresap. She doesn't seem all that concerned about the Jan. 1 she thinks we can get 'er done. So I suppose we will.

It was ass-busting to revise, but damn, I leaned lots about fiction writing. I would never have believed that I, the composition teacher, would be guilty of verb tense issues. Who me? I've railed to my students for years about their sloppy verb tenses. And, holy shit, there they were in black and white, my own personal verb tense errors. blush

And then there was a whole plot piece that had to get deleted. A great back story wiped out, sent to the teeming fiction trash bin of history. And the book is better for it...tighter. I eliminated a character my own discretion...wiped him off the whiteboard of characters with nary a blink. God, I was playing God...loved it.

And then I needed to up the sexual tension at the beginning and mitigate my protagonist's obsessive thoughts about a honey bunny from the past. Plus, I completely erased a six page info dump about Montana farming history....fascinating only to me, I guess.

And the book is better. That's what editors are for.

So now I have to think of all the folks I'm supposed to thank for this endeavor and write an acknowledgement paragraph. How can I remember everyone that helped? I'll feel rotten if I leave someone out who deserves a kudo. I guess it's inevitable.

And poor Jude and Rachel. My long-suffering but infinitely supportive family who frequently do without me. How do I make it up to them? AND all the times in the future because there are more books coming. Two more for now, anyway. How do I thank my family...even the dog?

Ah well, I suppose all writers have the same conundrums. Stephen King said that once you become a writer, you've pretty much left "polite society." That's true in more ways than one, let me tell you. But that's for another blog post, I think.

And that brings me full circle to the demands of blog maintenance. With W&B almost in the printing phase, I think blogging will improve at this site. Of course, talk's cheap.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I've been thinking about Victorian novelists lately. The Russians too. Those lengthy, juicy stories full of diverse characters. Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy and scores of others. They produced their massive books without computers or even typewriters. How, oh how, in the world did they do it?

This tricky tricky business of writing fiction is treacherous. Details escape the writer as she barrels through her story. Was that character 36 or 37 years old? Does my timeline match with her age? Oh shit, this timeline makes her 39 years old. Is that too old? Should I go back and change the timing? Is her mom's name Harriet or Henrietta? Where did I write that? What page? And what was that attorney's car? Was it a Jag or Alph Romero?

And then there's the issue of character creation. How to make the character realistic. In the current tarot novel I'm working on, my secondary characters were far more interesting that my lead. That's dismaying. I've re-written her 4 times...and now I have her nailed....but my computer was all-important. I'm learning to write the bios of my characters before I start. A basic technique, I know, but in my arrogance, I felt I could forego. And I store the bios on my computer.

Which takes me back to my original question. With all those setting details, plot consistencies, character traits to organize, how did Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy, do it? I've always loved the old novels, the ones most people won't read today, but my deep respect for those writers has only grown as I venture down this pothole riddled road of fiction writing.

Maybe I should just stick to tenure reports and master course outlines.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Autumn malaise

I think all teachers have it in one form or another....the fall freakout.
And I think we all get through way or another. For me, it involves a reminder of what a great job I have and all the fabulous students and colleagues that come with the territory.

But this fall is different. Now I'm a writer. Oh shit. What did I get myself into? I can barely read my own work. Soon it will be out in black and white print with a vaguely lurid glossy cover (a cover I happen to like a lot). And OTHER PEOPLE will read my writing. STRANGERS, not my loving, encouraging friends. Well, I'm just not going to think about that today.

So what comes first? The writing or the job? I don't worry about the family; they are so much a part of me that they get the best of me. But which....the writing or the job?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


So today Radclyffe, the president of Bold Strokes Books, sent 4 possible covers for my book. Talk about a close-your-eyes-and-point process. Well, not really. Every choice seemed off except the one that was quite different from the others. And, to me, that was the one that best reflected the atmosphere of the books. Rad even liked one that was different. And, gosh-oh-gosh, I had to speak up for my favorite. And she was okay with that. A few years ago I would have deferred.
And, of course, now I'm nervous about the choice.

All choices had blacktop highway and mountains except one. I wanted dirt road and prairie. We came out somewhere in between. It also includes a leather-clad female leg with an automatic rifle resting against it. It works and I'm happpy. Hopefully, it will be interesting enough to attract a few extra readers besides my friends and family.

Lately, I've been dealing with people who judge all artistic endeavors by the amount of money made by the creative work.
"Oh, she makes indie films? Does she get paid for them?"
"He's a poet? How much money did his book make?"
"Well, has she ever sold any of her short stories?"
"You make pots? You should sell them at art fairs."
"I hope you negotiated a decent contract with your publisher."

Nancy Pearl (America's great librarian and professional book reader) says that books make money from luck and "fairy dust." She said, just the other day, that it's a mystery why some books become famous while other books that are better, or just as worthy, go unnoticed.

Can't people just create for the sake of creating? Why do we Americans only value artistic work that has monetary value?

And I know my book will be judged by the number of copies it sells or by how much my publisher pays me. Frankly, I really don't need the money. I have a great job already. And since Wind and Bones is clearly a niche book, I'll be happy with a few strangers reading it. I already expect my friends to buy it....not necessarily read it, though. Reading is optional.

So, hopefully, I won't get that teeth-grinding question: "How much you makin' off yer book, Marra?" Because the answer will be a shrug and a smile and the questioner will go unsatisfied. But he/she will walk away thinking the book has no value because it's not making me rich.

"Oh, what a world, what a world..."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Treading Water

I know, a cliche for my title. Can't be helped, though, because that's how I feel.
My book is in the expected stasis between editorial review and revision. In short, I'm waiting to hear from my editor, and she informs me it will be mid-September. Right when I go back to work, of course. But that's the way it works, and I'll sit it out patiently. She said we are on schedule....whatever that means. I'm such a newbie.

Here's what's really cool: the Bold Strokes community of writers. After getting wonderful "welcome aboard" emails from several BSB writers, I've been invited to join a BSB book group. And their communication with me has been full of humor, so I'm not too worried that my sometimes provocative jokes will alienate me....much. We meet on Sept. 12, my sainted father's birthday, and I'll just have to overcome my social anxiety. Breathe...breathe...and remember these gals are writers and probably have some of the same shyness I have. If they supply me with a white board and markers, maybe I'll feel right at home.

In the meantime, my mind is working over the plot for a Wind and Bones sequel. I've got most of it outlined. And here's what I'm wringing my hands over: a title. I love the Wind and Bones title and feel like I won't think of anything I like better than that. What to do? What to do? I want something evocative of the area in north Glacier Park. How 'bout "Cold and Lonely"? Or maybe "Stolen Native Land". Don't think those are catchy.

My novel about the tarot reader has come to a stop because I'm not working on the conditions of tarot-land. I need to build another the hell do fantasy and sci-fi writers to it? That's my big challenge. I've read the 10 pages that I've written, and it's actually pretty good. I know how the plot is supposed to go, but I have to create another world for portions of the book. Cripes. (I can't believe I used that weird expletive)

So, my sister asked for a new post....hope this works, Shell.
Be back after all next week's visiting relatives have returned to their homes and Rachel is snuggly deposited into 5th grade.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bold Strokes Books press release. How cool is that?

July 24, 2009 Press Release: New Title from Kristin Marra

Bold Strokes Books is pleased to announce the acquisition of Kristin Marra’s new romantic intrigue novel, Wind and Bones, which is scheduled for release in 2010.

Wind and Bones – Coming in 2010

Women, funerals, guns, and rattlesnakes. What could go wrong?

Jill O’Hara, award-winning journalist and inveterate egotist, is about to find out. When Jill is summoned to her hometown of Prairie View, Montana to bury her father and clean up his messes, she assumes a few tedious days of signing papers and delegating responsibilities will complete her obligations. But Jill’s duties as Dean O’Hara’s daughter soon become less mundane and more menacing. To complicate matters, Jill’s first love, Annie Doyle, lives in Prairie View and despite Annie’s blistering past betrayal, Jill still desires her. Fortunately, Sheriff Rae Terabian, a woman with a uniform, power, and shady associates, deliciously distracts Jill from her obsession with Annie.

Amidst her customary confusion over women, Jill is forced to confront her father’s treacherous legacy, battle the extremes of the northern Montana wilds, and face down survivalists bent on silencing her. Despite the remote location and severe peril, she discovers the possibility for one more chance at love.

About the Author
Kristin Marra spent the first thirty-five years of her life in Montana where she never learned to love snow. Conceding defeat, she moved to the Pacific Northwest and freely admits she adores the clouds and gloom. Overcast days encourage delightfully obscene hours of reading and more hours for writing. Besides books, cooking, and movies, Kristin enjoys sharing adventures with her partner Judith, daughter Rachel, and varmint canine Spud. Kristin is employed in the public sector.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tasting my own medicine

It's official: Radclyffe made the announcement from Bold Strokes Books and now I have to deliver the goods.

Revision. I'm always harping at my students about the joys of revision. And, boy oh boy, do they hate it when my famous green pen is used at the bottom of their papers, "Better, but re-write using the suggestions I've supplied."

Okay, so now I have to joyfully revise in whatever way requested. I sorta think I can do that. I'm wondering if my editor used green font. Poetic justice in that. I can hear my students snickering now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why I wrote Wind and Bones

Here I was, helping a writer with her fiction, giving opinions and basically telling her what to do with her story. I grew three gray hairs when she asked to see some of my fiction to give her an example of my suggestions.

Busted. I hadn't written fiction in years. Studied it...yes. Critiqued it...yes. Got drunk on it...yes.

Having just buried my last parent and coming to terms with my childhood in northern Montana, I decided to write a tribute to one of the last forgotten places in the U.S.

I have two goals for Wind and Bones: First, to entertain. Second, to share a unique place with the reader.

Years of traveling to my hometown, Shelby Montana, to care for failing parents were finally over. I had discovered something important in all those hours in the nursing home, the bars, the hotel. Northern Montana, its geography, history and people, are extraordinary.

There was no way to do the Highline (nickname for northern Montana east of the Rockies) justice unless I wrote the only novel I know how: lesbian romance action.

Okay, so it's not about homesteaders or cowboys or Indians. Well, not exactly, but all those elements inform the lifestyle on the contemporary Highline. Most lesbian novels about Montana focus on the mythical past, on a Montana that never existed or existed only briefly. I wanted to write about the real Montana that exists now with references to a fascinating past that has shaped its current colorful condition.

I wanted to write about the Montana I know; hence, Wind and Bones.