Saturday, December 31, 2005

I've been driving myself crazy trying to come up with something profound or at the very least, amusing to post on the last day of this year. But I'm literally this close - as in five chapters away - to finishing Switchcraft, my third book for Avon. It's like the giant boulder chasing Indiana Jones - the book is the boulder and I'm the writer trying to write as fast as I can.

In other words, while everyone else is out getting their hair done or matching shoes to tonight's outfit, I'll be the lame-o sitting at my computer and bringing in 2006 with people who only exist in my head. Ahh the life of a writer.

Oh, back to my original intent. Instead of a post, I'm posting a sneak peek scene from In Between Men, my gift to you in 2006. Afterall, a writer writes to bring magic into the world. At least that's how I see it.

Enjoy and may you and yours have a wonderful New Year!

Updated January 3, 2005:

Hi everyone! I finished the book - hurray! Thank God!

Originally I posted an excerpt here on this blog. I didn't take it away ... it is now on my website at

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I meant to post last Thursday but then that whole Christmas thing erupted and I'm just now getting back into the action. If my editor reads this I'll vehemently deny it, but I got no writing done last week. Wait. I lie. I wrote five lines of very compelling dialogue.
So what did I do, you wonder. Well, I prepared for my son's very first Christmas. I never once jerked awake in the dead of night in fear of missing my deadline. Nor did I pause in the middle of playing with my son, or unpacking Christmas ornaments wishing I were writing at my desk. I did something I have been striving to do for the last six years I've been studying Buddhism: I lived in the moment. There was no future, no worries, no pining for what might or might not be. Dude, I never even checked my horoscope!
And it was wonderful. I was free. It was the best Christmas I've ever had. The smile on my four-month-old's face when we showed him his baby gym is a smile I'll carry in my heart forever.
Oh but there was a price to be paid. Today, now that presents have been put away and my mother-in-law came over to watch my son, I am struggling to get back into chapter 21. My characters resented being put on pause for a week, but they're coming around. Slowly. They'll eventually realize that the only way they get their happy ending is cooperation. And since we're in the middle of Act II, we have a lot of work to do.
But I would pay this price ten times over again for the week I had. (I just knocked on wood and kissed my storyteller in case Fate was listening.) For ten years, writing was The Most Important Thing in my life. I gave up weekends with my family and my husband for it. I resented Christmas because it meant that I'd give up valuable writing time to hang out with my family. If you had told me that I would be a stay-at-home mommy at the age of 31, I would've thrown holy water on you and cried, "The power of Christ compels you!"
Having a child changed that and I'm still getting used to closing down my document in the middle of a scene when my son cries for me. Trust me, the words "wait just one moment" means nothing to a child. In fact, those words will bring certain calamity to you so learn from my mistake.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I wouldn't give up one moment I have spent with my son and my family that I could've spent writing. Even though I'm not as far along with my book as I'd like to be (but still on schedule!) and I had to ask for an extension, I don't regret my choices.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More often than not, I forget to be grateful. But today I remembered to count my blessings and you know, gratitude feels so much better than wanting what everyone else has, or even worse, wishing I had something better.

For those of you who happened upon this blog, I'm Mary Castillo - new mom, new author and the kind of person you'd see hoarding those perfect fit tee's at Old Navy when they have one of those three for one sales. Even though I write chica lit, I don't own a pair of Manolo Blahniks (actually I didn't know that was a shoe until I started watching "Sex and the City," after it ended!), I'm up at all hours of the night because of the demanding new man in my life, who currently weighs 18 pounds and makes me melt with his toothless smiles, and oh yes, I drive a minivan.

So back to my point, I had an epiphany the other day while changing my son's diaper and "Soak Up The Sun" by Sheryl Crow popped into my head. I don't know if this ever happens to you, but isn't it curious that songs just randomly play it your head and that's when you really listen to what that song is trying to say? Well, that happened to me. The song seemed to get stuck on the following line like a scratch in the record: "I don't have digital. I don't have diddly squat. It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got."

And then later that day, I met my husband for lunch at Sam Woo's. My fortune cookie said, "The poor man is the one who wants everything. The rich man is the one who wants nothing." I won't be offended if you think I'm crazy for finding a life lesson in a fortune cookie. But it was a necessary wake-up call to the way I had been thinking for quite some time.

You see, a few months ago, I heard about a fellow author who made a killer six-figure deal. My first thought was, "why not me?" I'm not proud of that, especially when I had the phenomenal fortune of publishing two - yes, two! - titles my first time out the gate. Not only that, my novel Hot Tamara was selected by Cosmo as a Red Hot Read for April 2005 and the New York Daily News called it one of the Hot, Hotter and Hottest book titles for Spring 2005. But to my credit, I can honestly say that I was happy for her because I know what it takes to write a book, much less actually sell the damn thing. She's one of the hardest working authors I know and certainly, the most generous.

Hmm...perhaps I'm not as bad I thought. But I could be better.

Here's the thing, I'm ending 2005 with a top 20 list of the things I'm most grateful for. Usually I end each year with a master plan of all the goals I want to accomplish in the new year. I'll certainly continue to do that, but only after I pay my respects to what has been an incredible year. Just in case you think I'm about to get all Oprah on you, I won't tell you to do it, too. Unless, of course, you want to. However from my own experience, gratitude is a gravitational force. Neediness, envy and fear are born out of nothing, usually from our own imagination. But gratitude has weight, and yet, it's not baggage. It has reopened by creativity, my love for the written word and restored peace to my soul.

I, Mary Castillo of sound body and mind, am grateful for:
  1. My son
  2. My husband
  3. My mom, dad and mother-in-law
  4. My girl friends
  5. My two pugs, Francoise and Rascal, who trained me well for motherhood
  6. Having a home and food in my refrigerator
  7. Each and every moment I can sit down and write
  8. My agent
  9. My colleagues at Harper Collins
  10. Orange County Chapter of RWA
  11. Every new idea that comes to mind
  12. All of the emails from readers who loved my book
  13. All of the readers who came to my booksignings
  14. All of the emails from readers who hated my book
  15. The lessons I learned from my mistakes
  16. The advice my first writing teacher gave me, "Discipline protects the talent."
  17. The giant tree outside my living room window
  18. Each new day
  19. Second chances
  20. Not always getting what I want

Thanks for reading!

What I'm Reading: Mrs. Jeffries Stalks the Hunter by Emily Brightwell

What I'm Writing: Chapter 21 of Switchcraft