Friday, July 29, 2011

Interview with Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu

While signing my book at the conference, Dori Jones Yang offered to do an interview on my blog. Needless to say, I was touched. I've never interviewed an author before, so this is exciting!

Daughter of Xanadu is a fun Asian adventure with intense battles, an independent heroine, and impossible love. I'd say more, but this trailer explains the book better than I can:

1. You did a lot of traveling for this novel. Where did you go and what did you do?

Daughter of Xanadu takes place in a land that is “long ago and far away” – the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, in the days of Khubilai Khan. In order to transport readers to this exotic land, I wanted to visit Mongolia and learn as much as I could about its people, customs and culture. While there, I rode on a camel, slept in a yurt, shot arrows, rode Mongolian horses, and visited temples and monasteries and palaces. I also drank mare’s milk, watched archery contests, and even bought a Mongolian del (robe) and lady’s hat. I found it fascinating!

2. When you researched this novel, did you discover anything that surprised you?

I was surprised to find that Xanadu was a real place, the site of Khubilai Khan’s summer palace.  It once had a marble palace, lovely gardens, flowering trees, winding brooks, pagodas and pavilions.  It was destroyed completely and is now in ruins.

3. You said in your author bio that having a Chinese husband inspired you to write about international love. Has he inspired your writing in other ways?

My husband, Paul Yang, suggested I write a novel about Marco Polo, who was the first European to visit China and write a book about his experience there. Marco stayed in China 17 years and never mentioned a love affair; he was a young Italian male, and I suspect he found someone to love!  Since he didn’t mention it, I created a love interest for him.  Once I imagined this young woman, I wanted to tell the story from her perspective. Most books don’t speak from an Asian female point of view.

4. You write for a YA audience. What made you decide to write for teenagers?

I’ve noticed that both teenagers and adults enjoy Daughter of Xanadu. Teenagers, though, are much more open to unusual settings because they are growing up in a multicultural society and a global world. The YA genre is booming, with some great literature, and it’s an exciting time to write for it.

5. If you could choose just one thing you want your readers to get out of this book, what would it be?

I hope readers will find Daughter of Xanadu lively and fun, a story that takes them far from their daily life. However, underneath lies a message about the importance of getting to know people from distant lands because it opens our minds and broadens our worldview.

6. What will the sequel be about?

The sequel, Son of Venice, continues the story of Emmajin and Marco and includes a journey, a battle, heightened romance, an archery contest, and some serious choices by both Marco and Emmajin. It is scheduled to be published in May 2012.
Fashion show at conference

7. Tell us a little bit about your upcoming book, "Voices of the Second Wave."

Voices of the Second Wave is a totally different kind of book!  It is a collection of 35 life stories of Chinese Americans who came to the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.  Many people have heard the stories of the Chinese immigrants who built the railroads, mined for gold, and ran laundries and restaurants; few know of this “second wave” generation, who came as university students and were unable to return home because of war and revolution. I wanted to interview people from this generation and ensure that their stories were heard.

 I welcome readers to visit my website,

Thank you so much, Dori! I can't wait to read your upcoming books.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rewards and Punishments Don't Work

A month ago, I decided to submit my book to agents on October 31. About 2 weeks into it, progress was somewhat slow. I realized I needed a better work ethic. Maybe I could have some kind of reward system to motivate me to meet my writing goals.

The problem is I can’t think of any good rewards because I already do what I want. I can’t say, “If I write for two hours today I get a bubble bath,” because I would just respond with, “Shoot, I’ll take a bubble bath right now.”

It can’t be something I can buy because if I could afford something I wanted, I would have bought it already. It can't be an edible reward because if I wanted to eat something, I would have eaten it already.

This whole seize the day thing isn’t working in my favor.

My husband suggested I use punishments instead of rewards (i.e. no candy bars until I finish 2,000 words), but I don’t want writing to feel like a chore.

I guess my only motivators will have to be the pure pleasure of writing, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and coming closer to my dreams.

Why is that not enough?

It’s so ironic. I love writing more than anything else in the entire world, so you would think I’d fight to get to the computer. It’s just like exercise; I love doing it, I love how I feel afterwards, and I love the results. But do I ever exercise, ever? No. Not even a little bit.

I have no answers to these questions. So, I’d like to open the floor to my readers.

1.       How often do you write? Everyday without fail, everyday but you’re not strict, infrequently but you write a ton when you get to it, or is it hit and miss?
2.      How long are your writing sessions?
3.      Do you do anything to motivate yourself to write? Rewards? Punishments?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Little Bit of Culture Shock

My aunt and uncle moved from Utah to Tennessee when he graduated from medical school. Utah is full of nothing but white republican Latter-Day Saints, so my aunt wasn’t used to being around people who were different from her.

At the time, a popular kind of pants called "knickers" was popular. They went past the knee but didn’t go down to the ankle, and my uncle thought they looked ridiculous (I have to agree). My aunt insisted they were popular.

"Yeah right," he said. "I've never seen anyone wear them."

Shortly after moving to Tennessee, they were in line for a movie behind a group of African Americans. One of them wore the kind of pants my aunt liked. She was excited that she had the opportunity to prove her husband wrong, so she tugged on his sleeve, pointed at them, and, loud enough that everyone could hear, said:

“Look, Steve. Knickers!”

He tried to shush her up before the African Americans heard, but she thought he was just trying to prevent an argument, so she continued to point. It wasn’t until they were out of earshot that he explained her mistake.

By the way, a terrible thing happened to me. I read the most amazing article online by an author and thought, "Wow, this is a fascinating woman! I should see if she'd do an interview on my blog just so I have the chance to talk to her."

Her name sounded familiar. Come to find out, she was at the conference. So I could have met her in person.

*head desk, head desk, head desk*

Moral of the story: know your genre! Do your research to find out who's who and what's what.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sex in Books

I’m going through an inner battle about my opinion of sex in books.

On the one hand, there’s the firm Christian in me who believes intimacy is a sacred union between husband and wife that should be kept private.

On the other hand, there’s the writer in me who wants to get into every aspect of my characters’ lives and minds, no matter how gritty, and can accept that people aren’t perfect.

I often put down books that I feel are too explicit or vulgar. At the same time, I don’t believe it’s okay to ignore a character’s sexuality. It’s an important part of life, and it defines us.

I get irritated when an author is too squeamish to include important details. It’s not enough to just draw the curtains and move on to the next scene because I want to know what happened. Not all sexual experiences are the same.

I also hate it when the character all of a sudden starts talking about something completely unrelated, like a cloud. People having sex do not think about clouds. Also, when a good character does something bad, have you noticed writers often say “he didn’t know what he was doing”? Come on. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

So, what am I comfortable with, and what goes against my standards? I have no idea.

I do believe, however, that when I find the right balance I can use my Christian roots to help me write better sex scenes. Everything I wrote would be deliberate, necessary to the plot, tasteful, and will focus more on emotion than sensations. I just have to decide what’s necessary and tasteful.

How do you decide the best way to write your sex scenes (if you write them at all)?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Books I Read in June

The Last Queen C.W. Gortner
Juana of Castile, also known as Juana la Loca, is next in line for the Spanish throne, but the greed for power turns everyone she knows against her as they battle to rule.
I haven’t read a book this intense in a long time. In some parts, I found myself skimming the text because I couldn’t wait another second to find out what happened next. When she was claimed to be insane – a legacy she would carry forever – and locked up for it, I can’t tell you how mad it made me! Everything in this book is unpredictable and it’s full of twists, especially the ending.

Madam Tussaud Michelle Moran
Famous wax sculptor Marie Tussaud works for the royal family until the French Revolution evolves into the Reign of Terror and the rebels force her to abandon loyalty and forced to sculpt the heads of the executed.
If you like Michelle Moran, everyone I know says this was her best work. Choosing Madam Tussaud as a protagonist was a brilliant move.  Since she was both involved with the royal family and the revolution, her character gives us a comprehensive view of what happened all over France. I had no idea the revolution was so awful. This book was both intimate and far-reaching, touching and terrifying. Definitely a page-turner.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang
Princess Emmajin, granddaughter of the Khan of Mongolia, wants nothing more than to join the army and help her people conquer the world – until she meets an Italian explorer named Marco Polo, who changes the way she sees the world and steals her heart.
This book is a fun Asian adventure with battles, an independent heroine, and an impossible love story. One of my favorite aspects of the book is how Dori shows us not just what the exterior of the culture was like, but how the people thought (as opposed to giving everyone modern values). I also greatly enjoyed the romance. She offered to do an interview on my blog, so that’s coming up soon.

More Reviews:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Humiliation in a Locker Room

Whew! Now that I'm done talking about the conference, I'm ready for a break. I haven't told a story in a while. I think I'll share the most embarrassing thing I've ever done.

When I was a freshman in high school, I had to take PE (which sucked, by the way). In the locker room, my friends and I were getting dressed in our gym clothes when I saw something shocking.

One of my close friends had long scars all over her body. They were in neat rows, so they were obviously inflicted. I found them on her back where she couldn’t reach, so I knew she hadn’t done it to herself.

I was so upset that I confronted her about it right then and there, with her shirt off in front of her locker. “Who did that to you?” I demanded, loud enough for everyone to hear.

She looked bewildered. "Did what?"

"The scars. Tell me who gave you those scars right now!"

A friend grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. She explained to me that when a person gains a lot of weight, they get something called “stretch marks.”

I couldn’t even look at that poor girl all day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When it Was All Over

By the end of the conference, I had to fit 21 books in my small carry-on bag. It is a great source of pride that I was able to pack every single thing and bring it all home. I didn’t even leave my shampoo.
This is going to sounds really stupid, but my maiden name is “Packham,” and for generations, my family has been known for packing things into small spaces. It’s a gift.

That whole weekend, I had felt elated. It was like a taste of the life I was always meant to live, the one I'm going to have someday.

But as I checked out of the hotel, I felt a surge of nausea over the things I didn’t get to do. There were authors I wanted to meet but couldn’t find, panels I couldn’t attend, and friends I never said goodbye to.

No matter how many places I went and how many people I spoke to, there would always be one thing I couldn’t do.

They say you should live without regrets, but I disagree. That mindset would drive me crazy. Opportunities pass us by, we make mistakes, and sometimes we’re just too tired to keep up. Instead of living with no regrets, I want to always be able to say to myself, “At least I did everything I could do.” And I did.

Speaking of missed opportunities, there was a waiting list at the pitch sessions in case writers didn’t show up. I was shocked. Why on earth would someone not show up to a pitch session? Talking face-to-face with an agent is a precious opportunity.

A fellow writer said she thought it was because they chickened out. I have a hard time believing that. I would rather puke on an agent’s shoes than stand her up.

That would actually be great advertising. People would point at you all weekend and say, “Isn’t that the girl that puked on Kevon Lyon’s shoes? That’s so funny. It’s admirable that she tried to pitch when she was that nervous, though. What does she write about, anyway?”

Then if Kevon became your agent, you’d have a flippin’ awesome story to tell about how you two met. And isn’t making good stories what life is all about?

Thanks for following my conference series! I hope you enjoyed it. The conference was an incredible experience, and I'm glad I was able to share some of it with you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fact in Fiction, or Fiction in Fact?

My last panel – and my favorite! This one discussed balancing history and fiction, which is something all hist-fic authors worry about.
The moderator asked the writers which was easier: to write about fictional characters, or real people?
Sandra Worth said fictional is easier because she has the freedom to take pieces of people who existed, and then do what she wants. It’s like a diving board; climbing the ladder is doing the research and diving into the water is the writing.
“I love that freedom,” she said. “Writing historical fiction is taking a series of facts and telling how things went from one point to another. Discovering the facts is the best part.”
Chris Gortner, on the other hand, said fictional work is harder. Real people give him structure, whereas with fictional characters, he has to come up with the plot, psychology, and motivation on his own. He described it as making his own roadmap. Still, he loves the freedom of writing about someone who isn’t well-known.
They discussed what to do when there isn’t much information available about a real person. Donna Woolfolk Cross called this a “skeleton story”; the novel has to put flesh on an obscure topic.
Donna had a skeleton story with Pope Joan, which is about a woman who became pope. She had one little fact that would have only made sense if she developed an intricate sub-plot. While the sub-plot isn’t in the history books, this snippet of a clue gave her an insight into Joan’s life that completely transformed the book.
If you want to know more, scroll down and highlight the white space under “Spoiler Alert.”
She felt having a character who isn’t well known gives the writer a lot of freedom.
I had the same experience with Sacred Fire. Each of my characters only take up a paragraph or two in the history books, so I had to base their personalities off of very little information. It was actually a lot of fun, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
The moderator asked, “When you have to create a character from scratch, what do you look to create? What facts do you need?”
Karleen Koen said, “I look for someone who is believable to me. In the first draft, characters feel like cartoons who need to be filled in. I’m always looking for an outward story and an inward story that captures me. If it captures me, I just trust that it will capture you. It’s important to give the character flesh and blood with flaws and virtues. I have to think of what facts were going around that I can use, but for me, I just want the person to feel real and have problems like I have problems.”
An audience member asked about fudging facts.
Chris Gortner said if you can’t make something completely true, at least make it plausible. Don’t fudge so much that you end up with an alternative history.
Sandra Worth said, “I don’t call it ‘fudging.’ I call it ‘fiction.’” Everyone chuckled.

SPOILER ALERT (highlight white space)
All sources agree that Joan died in childbirth. Donna said, “The obvious question is, who knocked her up?” If anyone discovered Pope Joan was a woman she would have been killed, so there’s no way her affair was just a casual sexual encounter. It would only make sense if she and her lover had a deep, romantic relationship. Her pregnancy – a tiny fact in history books – helped Cross make educated guesses about Joan’s character and her life.
If you haven’t read that book yet, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

C.W. Gortner's Submission Advice

When C.W. Gortner found out Jennifer Weltz, his agent, was interested in me, he jumped at the chance to give me advice. Nice guy.
He gave me an audio book called “How to Write Historical Fiction” by Persia Woolley. It was his Bible when he wrote The Last Queen, but he doesn’t need it anymore… obviously, since he’s published four books.
Now that two agents and an editor have requested my book, I feel pressured to send them Sacred Fire as soon as humanly possible.
It’s not that I think they’ll lose interest; no matter how many months go by, my book will be about the same thing. It’s not that I think they’ll forget me; when I send them the book, I’ll write “Requested Material” in the subject line, so they’ll know they liked it at some point in time.
Mostly I’m worried that if I take too long to send it, they’ll think I have a poor work ethic. Kris Waldher told me repeatedly that agents are used to waiting. It’s not like they sit in front of their computer twiddling their thumbs and wondering why you haven’t sent the book yet. Still, the pressure is there.
My eagerness to get the ball rolling doesn’t help. Sometimes I see my book as the key to getting out of my life. When this happens, the writing suffers. I get unhappy, impatient, and impulsive.
C.W. Gortner told me over and over again to take as long as it takes. Make it perfect. I only have one chance at this. He’s right, of course. It would be tragic if she didn’t accept me not because I didn’t have the skill, but because I didn’t use my skill to make the book as good as it needs to be.
I had an idea. I’m thinking I will set a deadline way past when I think the book will be finished and refuse to send it until then. I choose October 31. If I can wait that long, as a reward, I get to do NaNoWriMo for Fierce. I did it last year for Hunger, and I’ve been aching to do it again all year.
Here’s to patience! *sigh*

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is it Okay to Switch Genres?

Almost forgot about the Inspiration Blogfest! You can scroll down to the bottom to see my entry.

At the writing biography panel, Margaret George mentioned she might write a book that takes place in this day and age. I raised my hand.
“I would like to switch back and forth between writing historical fiction and contemporary, and I was wondering if that’s considered acceptable. I know you would have to build two separate platforms because you have different audiences. Do agents frown on genre hopping, or do authors do this?”
Cecilia Holland said when you switch genres, you can’t take your union card with you; you have to get another one. The general consensus was that it’s difficult, but do what you feel is right.
Mary Sharratt said, “You can always use two pen names.”
I shook my head. “It’s hard enough to be one famous author. I can’t imagine being two.”
Jess Wells said an agent told her it was okay, but that doesn’t matter. You should focus on what you want to say and not what you think others want to hear.
“Just follow your heart,” said an audience member.
Personally, I always thought the whole “follow your heart” thing is bunk. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read a book and thought, “Wow. Your heart told you the wrong thing.”
If I was gripped by an idea, I like to think I’d write it regardless of what others thought. But publication is important to me. I want to know ahead of time if a book is doomed to failure.
Julie Caton said something that made me feel better: “What really matters is just writing a good book. If you write good books, people will want to read what you write regardless of whether it takes place today or yesterday.”

Now for the Inspiration Blogfest, where I must post an inspiring prompt. I'm going to post the picture I taped to my computer when I worked on Hunger for Nano (and all year since then because I love it).

You just can't look at this without feeling to urge to be romantic.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Author's Notes: To Add, or Not to Add?

During the panel “Writing Biographical Fiction,” Dr. Fredrick Ramsay asked the audience if they like it when the author includes notes at the end of the book saying what was real and what wasn’t.
Everyone unanimously agreed that they liked author notes.
“Some people even read the notes before they read the book,” said an audience member.
We all groaned. It’s hard to believe anyone would do something so awful. When my book gets published, don’t any of you dare read the author notes first.
Kate Quinn and Michelle Moran told me it’s a good way to cover your ass. Historical fiction authors get plagued by emails that whine over inaccuracies, so they make a preemptive strike. They tell readers they’re aware of what’s inaccurate and why they wrote it that way.
The trouble with historical fiction readers is they feel so brilliant when they notice an inaccuracy. They swell with pride and announce their intelligence to anyone who will listen, at the expense of the author.
That reminds me; during the panel “Editor Author Relationship,” someone actually pointed out that the model on the cover of Madame Tussaud wasn’t wearing a powdered wig. I couldn’t believe someone would be so tacky!
Michelle explained there was a flour shortage in France during the Revolution, so people had to stop powdering their hair. Ms. Tacky would have known this if she read the book.
“I feel author notes are absolutely necessary,” said Joyce Elson Moore. “We owe it to the readers to tell them what was real and what wasn’t.”

Author's notes might be necessary, but some are better than others. To read about how to write author's notes at the end of your book, you can read my post "Author's Notes that Ruin a Novel." 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writing about Real People: How Much Truth?

Making any historical fiction accurate is enough of a challenge. Writing a biography is another matter entirely. They’re about real people.
Margaret George said you can’t write someone’s history perfectly, but you should write something the person would like. At the computer, she imagines Cleopatra looking over her shoulder, and she tries to make Cleopatra happy.
“Think of how you would want to be written about,” she said. “Characters want to be fairly represented.”
“I don’t think it’s fair when you’re writing about another person to change truths,” said Cecilia Holland.
Every time Cecilia Holland spoke, she said something exceptionally interesting. I wish I met her. One thing she said was that history isn’t what happened, it’s what we remember. It tells a story just like we do.
A member of the audience said, “Historical fiction is the lie that tells the truth. It tells us what it felt like to live a certain life, and that’s something we don’t get from history books.” I was mad he said this because I was just about to raise my hand and say the same thing. He added, “All history is an interpretation. Ours is just a different kind.”
Susan Vreeland agreed. “Slavish obedience to fact serves little purpose. Fiction invites us into the person’s soul.”
The moderator asked the authors, “History is already fictionalized, and sometimes you run into conflicting sources. How do you read between the lines?”
“As soon as something happens, people write about it, and the truth mutates,” said Cecilia. “You can’t take anything at face value.”
Cecilia said lies are clues to the truth. You can find out a lot from the way people bent facts and the reason they did it. Her book “The Secret Eleanor” is a good example. Eleanor of Aquitaine made a lot of men angry, and all the historians were men, so they wrote unfair things about her. Cecilia didn’t trust the sources, but they revealed how people felt about her and helped her figure out how Eleanor must have acted to get that reaction.
The moderator asked, “If every history book went up in flames and the only knowledge of the past came from historical fiction, how would that change your work? Would you feel a heavy responsibility to tell the truth?” They said they wouldn’t change a thing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Embarrassing Moment

I have a history of saying embarrassing things to authors (click here for an example). I was pretty nervous about this before I went to the conference. I’m thrilled I only embarrassed myself once.

Me with Michelle Moran

When I went to the book signing, I accidentally left Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover in my room. The signing was almost over, so I told her I needed her signature later and I would keep my eye out for her. Later I saw her but didn’t have her book on me, and we brought it up again.
Finally on the last day she was walking out of the room and I jumped in front of her. “Wait! I need my book signed!”
“Oh yeah, I remember you telling me that,” she said. She sat down on a chair, picked up a pen, opened the book, and…
It was already signed.
She probably thought I hadn’t read it, and I had already told her I loved it (I really did).
This also told her I got the book used. 
Not to mention I was pretty peeved I dragged a signed book from Mississippi all the way to San Diego.
She was pretty cool about it, and she personalized the signature by including my name. So I guess it wasn’t too bad.
Dori Jones Yang and I got into a discussion about used books. She said it’s not about the money you get from new books; it's all about the words. If the words are out there, that’s what really matters.
That was a very noble thing for her to say. But I’m sure she’d still prefer it if people paid for their books.

Here are some pictures from the artist Emily Carr, the main character in The Forest Lover. Aren't they amazing?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Talk to Novelists

I finally accepted that authors aren’t gods when I went to the Fashion Show. It was so cute! They strutted on stage in their costumes and struck silly poses that made us all bust out laughing. I felt much more comfortable and less star-struck afterwards.
Add this to my list of goals: I so very much want to participate in next year’s fashion show dressed as a Vestal Virgin from my book, Sacred Fire. What do you think? Could I pull off this look?
I made an interesting discovery while I talked to the authors. When I told them I loved their book or I couldn’t wait to read it, the conversation was short and sometimes even awkward. They would nod politely, say thank you, and some of them would blush. Then we’d just stand there.
Often I said, “Well, anyway, I liked it, and, uh… I’ll see you around.”
On the other hand, if you talk about history or writing in general, they light up and you can talk all day. What surprised me the most was how most of them were more interested in my book than they were in talking about theirs.
I spent a long time wondering why this would be the case. I have a few guesses:
Writers undoubtedly appreciate compliments, but there’s nothing they can add to the conversation. All they can say is “thank you.” Also, they’ve heard all these things before. If you want to keep a writer talking, you have to bring something new to the table – something that will open up a conversation.
As for talking about my own book, I can see how it would be exciting to hear about potential future authors. Do not mention your book unless they ask.
What’s your take on my advice? Do you agree? Disagree?

Monday, July 11, 2011

8 Minute Interrogation... I mean, Pitch Session

Right before I went to pitch to Marcy Posner at Folio Press, Christy English told me I shouldn’t be nervous because the agents are already on my side. They want me to succeed. They’re on the prowl for good books, and they want you to be the author they’re looking for.
I sat down and told Marcy pretty much the same thing I told Jennifer Weltz. Marcy said, “It doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of action. Does anything else happen?”
That took me by surprise. I frantically tried to remember what happened in my own book. This was the only question I wasn’t prepped for, so I think I butchered my answer.
“The turning point in the novel is the Second Punic War and the vestal’s execution,” I said. “This vestal is a mother figure for Tuccia, so it’s very traumatic for her, and it defines the rest of her life. Other things happen too. Another vestal gets accused, and… other stuff.”
I should put that on the back cover: Other stuff happens too.
Marcy: “Tell me about yourself. Where do you live, what do you do?”
“I live in Mississippi and I’m a temp at a desk job. It’s nothing glamorous and I don’t make much money, but I won’t quit because it gives me time to write. Every time I consider quitting, my husband reminds me that at a new job, I might not have as much time. The writing is more important than the money.”
Nice. I can’t believe I had the chance to tell her that.
Marcy: “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?”
“I was eight. My teacher assigned us to write a book. We illustrated it, made covers, got them bound, and put them on the bookshelf so anyone could read them. Kids came up to me and said, ‘I loved your book.’ I decided I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”
Marcy: “How long did it take you to write your book?”
“Way too long. Five years.”
“That’s not long, especially for your first book…”
“No, it was too long,” I interrupted. “I kept putting it down. I even went through a bad writer’s block for a while that put things on hold.” Why am I telling her this? “I would like to be an author who can write a book a year, maybe every two years. At the most,” I added quickly.
Marcy: “What published books would you compare your novel to?”
“Memoirs of a Geisha. My book focuses heavily on ceremonies, and the life of a woman. Except there’s war and death.”
She didn’t ask about my market, but I told her anyway: “I think men would enjoy this book. There’s war, Tuccia is in life-and-death situations several times, and men who read it have liked it. Unfortunately, we can’t market it to men because they won’t believe they’ll like it until they actually read it. My audience would have to be primarily women.”
Marcy: “Do you have any other book ideas?”
“Ugh, I have tons of ideas. I come up with an idea a year, and since I took five years writing this book, I’m clogged up.” I pitched Hunger. I'm so glad I wrote out the query letter already; it made pitching on the fly much easier.

“I never thought I would write romance,” I said, “but I love it. It’s so much fun.” We had some extra time, so I briefly told her about my third book.
By now the eight minutes were up. She reached into her bag and pulled out her card. “When will your book by finished?”
“I plan on querying in the fall.”
“Good. When you’re done, let me know.”
For those of you at home keeping score, that’s three for three.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Making Friends at One in the Morning

The last event of the night was a reading of sex scenes, which I didn’t go to. I felt bad missing out on anything at the conference, but… well…

I didn’t have anything else to do, but I didn’t want to go to bed. Originally, I had this vision that at the end of each day I would collapse on my bed in blissful exhaustion, and I wasn’t tired enough for that.

I’m a huge fan of SARK, and she likes to go on Miracle Walks. Before she starts her walk, she puts her hands out and says, “Miracle, find me now!” and keeps her eyes open for discoveries. Cute, isn’t it? I like the idea of not always forcing things to happen, but just being open.

I sat on a couch in the lobby and waited.

After chatting with some non-conference people for about twenty minutes, I saw a group of six writers sit down across the room. Two of those women were bestselling authors Michelle Moran and Kate Quinn.

I practically skipped my way over to them.

The first thing Kate said to me when I met her was, “Your dress is phenomenal!” I liked her instantly.

She writes about ancient Rome, and she knows a ton about their history. One of the characters in her book Mistress of Rome is a Vestal Virgin, which is what my book is about. I’ve read it since then, and I really enjoyed her depiction of them.

Our group talked until one o’clock in the morning. It was amazing! The women were fun and fascinating, and I made some great friends. We discussed history, marketing, and life in general. I can’t remember the last time I sat in a group of people and just talked.

It was one of the highlights of my trip.

At one point I realized I would get hardly any sleep and I had a pitch session in the morning, but I couldn’t leave. It was a great way to end a great day.
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