Monday, March 21, 2011

The Risk of Publishing

Every time I think about my new book, 78 KEYS, coming out in May, I’m filled with excitement tinged with dread. The excitement part is easy to diagnose. What writer wouldn’t be excited to see her book in print, a creation emerging directly from somewhere within her brain and heart? Just the thought of my words being read by many people whom I know, but mostly don’t, thrills me.

So the dread? Ah, the dread. It’s not the fear that people won’t like the book. That’s a given. I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. I’ve read many a book that came with heartfelt recommendations only to find the book didn’t please me for some reason. Books are a matter of taste, mood, chemistry and simpatico. If the reader doesn’t match with the book, it’s a matter out of the writer’s control.

78KEYS came from a churning place within me, a place more cerebral but in some ways more spiritual than WIND AND BONES. W&B was a book of the heart, arising from all my losses in Montana: parents, home, land and friends. 78KEYS gives voice to my dismay at our current anti-intellectual, photo-shopped culture and its ramifications for our inner lives.

Does that mean the book isn’t fun? Oh, hell no. It’s an exciting little read that I like to call elastic realism. Will readers feel comfortable with it and the way it stretches the bounds of our mind-controlled existence? And then there is the use of tarot cards, a subject where interpretations are as differing as each reader of cards. How many emails will I get that disagree with my card interpretations?

Oh, and let’s not forget the Yiddish. Yiddish? The book is peppered with Yiddish because my character was raised in a Yiddish speaking household. I love the language. It’s truly a language of onomatopoeia, the words sounding like their definition. The Yiddish in 78KEYS is a deep bow of love to all my Jewish in-laws, but it’s equally an acknowledgement to the Jewish lesbian readers who rarely see themselves in lesbian fiction. I just hope they go easy on my Yiddish spelling. Every farshtinkener time I’d look up a spelling, three or more versions would taunt me, leaving me fartootst. So I did the best I could.

And finally, not with dread but with awe, I have to admit deep gratitude to my editor, Cindy Cresap. She had me rip the book in half and rewrite one half. And what a better book it is because of that. Had we kept the book in its original structure, dread would be keeping me at home, cowering under my desk.

As it is, I can function with this small amount of dread coupled with excitement. And I suppose that makes me no different than any writer in the world who will see her creation on the shelves in a few months.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Okay Folks,
Read below and see why I'm the happiest writer in Seattle today.
Thank you to the Sapphic Readers of Austin. I always heard you had a cool city; now I'm convinced of it.

Hi Kristin,
Congratulations! Wind and Bones is the winner of the 2010 Sapphic Readers' Award! This award is given annually by a local LesFic reading group. Criteria for the award includes:
original storyline
believable plot
well developed characters
superior writing style
quality entertainment
The Sapphic Reading Group has been in existence for over six years. It has 18 members from Austin and nearby cities. The Group meets monthly to discuss our favorite lesbian fiction. Three years ago, we decided to recognize new authors who have published an outstanding novel. The first winner was another BoldStrokes' author, KI Thompson.
The Sapphic Readers' Award is our thanks to you for giving us many enjoyable hours of entertainment. It includes a very modest check and a personalized plaque created by a local ceramic artist. Although it will take about six weeks before the plaque is ready, please feel free to publicize this award.
On a personal note, I'm especially pleased that Wind and Bones won the award. My partner and I spent a wonderful week at the Hole-in-the-Wall Ranch west of Missoula a couple of years ago. Your descriptions of the local culture and geography made us feel as if we were back in Montana!
Best wishes in future endeavors!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Which Character is Who?

It's becoming apparent that lots of great questions get fired at authors, most of them pretty much the same ones. I like it when people ask these questions; it shows interest in my work. It's fun to answer them because each time is a little different, and I see the work in a different light. Besides, I'm a teacher; I love to answer questions. I do it all day long.

However there are three questions that catch me short every time, and they are related to each other.
1. Am I in your book?
2. Is that character __________? (insert name of a friend or acquaintance)
3. Will you put me in your next book?

Sorry to say, at least for this just doesn't work that way. Nobody in my last book, or in the book I'm currently writing, is specifically someone I know. I couldn't do that. If I did, my character would have to behave against my wishes and plans for him/her.

I love building a character, her/his biography, foibles, desires, physical appearance, idiosyncrasies, etc. I'm sure I draw all this information from those around me, but it's fairly unconscious and non-specific.

Granted, I will ask my wise girlfriend to explain my why a particular character would respond a particular way. My partner is an experienced psychotherapist who studies human motivation all the time. She will sometimes give me a childhood sketch for someone who could turn out like I want one of my characters to turn out. That helps to create a coherent biography and make a character's behavior logical.

But I never use specifically anyone I know to create a complete character. And probably, if writers did such things, there would be lots of nasty lawsuits to contend with. I remember when Rita Mae Brown wrote that tennis novel ostensibly as an indictment against Martina Navratilova and the world of pro tennis. As I remember, there was kind of a flap about that. Who needs it?

So, folks, you don't know my characters and they don't know you. Hopefully, that's not too disappointing. But really, it should be freeing. Now you can read my book without wondering where you are in there. Just enjoy the read.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How could I forget? Easy

One time Paul McCartney was making an "unplugged" solo version of "We Can Work It Out." He got several bars into the song and then stopped. He couldn't remember the words. One of the greatest pop composers of all time, and he couldn't remember the words of his own song. The first time I heard that gaff, I was aghast. But now, a few decades from my dotage, I unfortunately understand.

That forgetfulness has been cropping up around Wind and Bones. People mention lines they enjoyed, and I respond, "Did I say that?" I'm really thrilled when people have something memorable to quote from the pleases me to no end...but sometimes, I don't remember writing it....much less editing it a dozen times.

So why is this happening...this geriatric-like forgetfulness? Because all I can think about these days is my current project.

I'm so steeped in 78 KEYS that Wind and Bones has taken a back seat. My new project pushes all else out of my mind. I'm thinking about Tarot cards again, after so many years of the cards languishing in the drawer. I'm thinking about settings in the Pacific Northwest that would be interesting as well as thrilling. My main character is Jewish, so I have to get her right. AND most of all, I have to write the damn thing. It's coming along; it's coming along, but not as quickly as I had hoped. Rad hopes to have it out a year from now, so I've got to write...and write....and write.

Paul McCartney, I forgive you for forgetting the words to a song I love. I know you were thinking about your next project.

Now let's all hum a few bars of "We Can Work It Out."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Backroom Blues

A thousand years ago, I worked at K-Mart in Missoula, Montana. One of our managers (he always said good morning in German) clucked at me when I was slow to unpack certain merchandise and get it onto the showroom shelves. "Kristin, you can't sell what's in the backroom," he said. One of those little nuggets of wisdom that has followed me through my life...and I can't even remember the guy's name.

So now my book is out. No longer anticipated but really out there for sale. Besides my publisher, who does what she can, I am responsible to get the book out of the backroom. So folks ask me why I'm not reading in a bookstore? Where are the bookstore debuts?

Well, guess what, folks, there are no bookstores.

Yeah, there are B&N and other large Seattle bookstores. But why invite a first-time novelist of lesbian romances when they can get Sarah Waters, Alice Walker, or anyone else who'll draw a crowd? I've tried contacting a few of those bookstores and don't even get the old F.O. from them. The last gay friendly bookstore closed last year. Oh, not that those big bookstores are gay unfriendly...quite the opposite...but Sarah Waters, Alice Walker and the other big names need to visit bookstores too. So they get to have the readings and signings.

The rest of us have to use the networks we've built over the years, web-based or otherwise. And, frankly, I'm so grateful we at least have this medium for book promotion. I'm hoping to use it to the max but am not sure what else I can do besides this and Facebook.

Therefore, if anyone has any suggestions for more web-based promotional activities, feel free to let me know. I want to keep my book out of the backroom and get it on a front shelf.

Another topic I want to briefly mention: Star-Crossed Productions, an online lesbian book dealer, has, sadly, gone out of business. I want to thank all those people at SCP who sent me books over the years. They were professional, prompt and hassle-free. I mourn their closing and the loss of those delicious packages full of books arriving at my door. Adieu, Star-Crossed Productions

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Mom taught me how to read when I was four, and I never stopped. She had me reading classic literature before most girls get addicted to Nancy Drew. My mother always wanted me to be a writer.
She never really saw that part of me realized...or did she?
Yesterday, 12 days earlier than expected, both my sisters received my book from wherever they ordered it. Yesterday was also the 4th anniversary of my mom's death.
Thanks, Mom

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Please excommunicate me.

Things may be stagnant at this site, but not so anywhere else in life right now.

I've received my 10 comp. copies of Wind and which I wrote every fucking word.
A book, with my name on the cover....and I did it. The kick-ass cover by Sheri starts many a conversation in this house.

Gill McKnight, my writer friends and excellent beta-reader wrote the sweetest review of Wind and Bones on her blog.

And if you want a blast reading some paranormal books, you have to try Gill's two werewolf novels: Golden Seal and Ambereye. Sexy, funny and chilling. What more could you want? I can't read Gill's books when Jude is asleep next to me because my guffaws wake her up. Actually, I can't read Gills books late at night because I can't go to sleep until I find out what happens.

So, what's next for this writer? Well, I'm working on a new novel, scheduled to be out a year from now. It's entitled 78 Keys and draws on my deep dark past as a Tarot card reader. It's set in the Pacific Northwest. The cover, after lots of feedback from family and friends, has been chosen. Damn, I'd better write the darn thing.

If you're a happy Catholic, skip the next part of this blog. This is all about me, not you.

My upmost project has nothing to do with writing. I learned that the Catholic Church still counts me on its rolls. Apparently, as long as you haven't been excommunicated, they keep you on their rolls until you die. No wonder they brag about their numbers. They're counting folks who haven't been to church in decades.....including me. That frosted my ass.

I have not wanted to be a Catholic since second grade, exactly 50 years ago. I assumed that if I wasn't giving them money or registered in one of their parishes, I wasn't considered Catholic. Not so....unless they boot me out, I'm one of them....even if they really don't want me....and we all know they don't. I'm hoping that something I've wanted for 50 years will finally come to pass. I want all of myself, all of my power back from them, an institution I find intrinsically bogus and, at times, evil. Sorry to all you believers...remember this is about me, not you.

I became motivated to get officially excommunicated. There are several steps in the process but it starts with writing a letter to the parish where I've been baptised and confirmed. Luckily for me, they are one and the same. I had to write a letter requesting excommunication and send it to my Shelby, Montana parish. gulp. I have not done this lightly or as a frolic. The little girl who was forced-fed damaging dogma still resides within me. However, I know what's right for me and where I want to put all my spiritual energy....and it's not with the Catholic Church.

I have decided to post my request on this blog and give you updates. After being notarized, the following letter was sent to St. William Parish, Shelby, Montana, USA on April 22, 2010 by registered letter.

April 11, 2010
Dear Father Drury,

Before I make my request for excommunication from the Catholic Church, be assured that I am of sound mind and body. I am a consenting adult, fifty seven years old. I will have this letter notarized as proof of its authenticity and sincerity.

I was born in Shelby, Montana on March 10, 1953. My parents were Sam and Jeanette Marra, now deceased. I was baptized in St. William Church at the customary time subsequent to my birth with my god-parents attending, William and Francis Neely, now deceased.

I attended St. William School from fall 1959 to spring of 1967. I received first communion at St. William in approximately 1960 and was confirmed at St. William in approximately 1966.
When I was in grade school at St. William, I witnessed and was victim of several sessions of verbal, emotional and physical abuse. I will be happy to supply names and approximate dates of such events upon your request. I was also slapped several times for asking questions about God or church doctrine. By second grade, I had decided that the church was no place for me; however, I continued to attend school because I had no choice, of course. My parents believed in church doctrine, and they felt I was lucky to be at a Catholic school.

My lack of belief at an early age also accompanied the knowledge that I was different. Back then I didn’t have the language for it except for “evil”, “sinful”, “of the devil”, “perverted”, and other degrading terms. So from the age of five, I knew I was a lesbian but had nothing but church terms to define me. And, as you know, those terms are still the same. Fortunately, I no longer subscribe to such brutality and love myself completely.

I am appalled that the church can call me such hateful names, but act as an apologist for the thousands of priests who preyed upon children. One such priest, and maybe more, even served at St. William.

There was a period of time, even though the church hates gay people, when I considered going back to mass. I thought having a place to pray with a group would be helpful. Then the church elected Cardinal Ratzinger as pope, a man whose vicious career I had been following since 1980, and all plans for returning to the church were dead to me. This will never change now.

Let me be specific, Father Drury.

1. I don’t believe that God is a father or mother.
2. I renounce that Jesus is his only son. We are all children of God.
3. I renounce the doctrine of the holy spirit.
4. I renounce the doctrine of the virgin birth.
5. I renounce the doctrine that Jesus descended into hell and rose three days later.
6. In fact, I renounce the complete doctrine of Jesus, especially since 90% of it was made up three hundred years after his death and added to as it suited popes to consolidate power.
7. I renounce any doctrine fomented by the so-called “apostle” Paul who never laid eyes on Jesus.
8. I renounce the communion of saints.
9. I renounce the church’s doctrine of forgiveness as it is selective and cruel.
10. I renounce the doctrine of original sin, heaven, hell and purgatory.
11. I renounce all the sacraments of the church as they are exclusionary.
12. I especially renounce the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Let me just give a blanket renunciation of the church and its entire body of doctrine from birth control to marriage. My belief is the church has caused more harm and suffering to the world, over the last two millennia, than any other political or religious movement in history. If you want me to supply dates and examples, I will be happy to do so. Suffice to say, an objective study of history would prove me correct.

I see nothing in the church’s future that portends a change in its wanton effort to oppress and mislead millions of people throughout the world, but now especially, the under-educated and needy in places like Africa and South America. It is shameful.

And so, Father Drury, I request, no, I plead that you start proceedings to excommunicate me from the church. I do not ever intend to return. I do not want the final sacrament at the time of my death. I do not believe in the church’s teachings, and I am ashamed to have my name attached to it, even tangentially.

Please notify me as soon as possible that you have started my process of excommunication from the Catholic Church and official removal from its rolls. I do not want to be counted.
Thank you for an immediate response,

Kristin Eleanor Marra

And there you have it, folks, my damnation into hell. However, considering the dogma I was taught, I'll be meeting most of you there. I'll bring a nice bottle of Bordeaux....oh, hell, we'll need several cases of Bordeaux.....and port....and gin.......................