I wore dual hats for the two days of the festival – one as reader fangirl, and one as author. You see, fellow Virginia Romance WriterSue London was there featuring her marvelous Haberdashers series, and she graciously allowed me to displayA Man of Character in her booth. I even got to spend a few hours hanging around to sign copies for anyone who wished one (and to my utter delight, there were some people who did!). It was my first big book festival signing (I’ve been blessed to hold signings at the Artisan Galleries in Massanutten, but the two venues are quite different). I met several enthusiastic book aficionados, sold a few books, and several readers signed up for my newsletter – hooray!
Speaking of which, congratulations to Carla W. for winning a copy of A Man of Character! Maria G., Elizabeth S., Debbie S., and Holly W., thanks for signing up for my newsletter. Even though you didn’t win a book, I hope you’ll stick around to find out more about my books and me!
I wasn’t alone in my adventures, either – luckily for me, fellow friends and Shenandoah Valley Writers Foy Iver and Rebekah Postupak were in attendance. After a delightful dinner together on Friday, we listened in awe as Neil Gaiman charmed the entire audience with his humor and insights, and even read us a story.
Saturday morning that reader hat was firmly fixed to my head as I hit the famed used book sale, and scooped up a rather insane number of romances for under $20. Woo hoo!
Then it was off to hear the charming Homer Hickam speak – he’s really quite entertaining and funny, and the stories he told about his folks were both amusing and touching. My favorite anecdote was when he talked about meeting Harper Lee. She appeared at an event at which he was scheduled to speak, where she said to him, “So I hear you wrote a classic?” “Yeah, that’s what they say,” he responded. “Your readers will never forgive you,” was her comment. Something about that struck a real chord in me – we do tend to associate an author of a famous book only with that book, and anything else they write likely pales in comparison, right?
I missed Jeff Shaara and Jacqueline Woodson, as I was chatting with Sue at the romance booth while also meeting and greeting folks, but finished off the festival by listening to Jodi Picoult speak. It’s with great embarrassment I admit that I’ve only read one of her books — House Rules — but I have a number of friends who love her stories, and after hearing her talk about some of the subject matter and research methods for a few of her hard-hitting books, like 19 Minutes, many more of hers are on my list.
Book Festivals are fun, y’all. When I’m there, I truly sense I’m with my tribe, my people. I felt that both as a reader and as an author, and it makes me even more determined to get to RWA and any other romance festivals I can find — and has me anxiously awaiting the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville next spring.
Thank you, Sue, for allowing me to join your party!
Thank you, Charleston and West Virginia, for a fabulous weekend!
This photo doesn’t do the stunning scenery justice, but I have to admit, I literally whooped and hollered at the gorgeous fall foliage draped across the mountains.
Every once in a while, I break my Wednesday and Thursday traditions and go crazy by interviewing an author on a completely different day. I know, insanity. AND OH SO FUN!
Today I’m delighted to have Aria Glazki pop in to tell us a bit about herself and her new slightly paranormal romance novel, Mortal Musings.
Aria said to me, “Thanks so much for having me, Margaret! It’s great chatting with a fellow romance author & Flash! Friday enthusiast ;),” to which I have to say, the pleasure is entirely mine. We romance authors have to stick together (especially since the world of flash is often populated with tragedies and not-so-happy endings. At least the flash I’ve read.)!
And … here we go! Enjoy!
Why romance? What draws you to this genre over others? When people criticize you about your reading/writing genre of choice (and if they don’t, I need to hang around with your people), what do you say?
Romance as a genre allows us to genuinely delve into people’s psyches and personalities; we can get to know people from all walks of life, in all sorts of situations, who nevertheless all experience that fundamental human desire of finding love—and then we get to see them do that! We get to see characters through the tough times and to an uplifting point in their story. Happy endings leave readers upbeat, which is that extra little benefit to romance.
People around me absolutely criticize the genre, but I’m actually lucky that many of those closest to me make an effort to read romance novels following my recommendations. Some have still never read a romance novel and consider the genre beneath them, or lacking intellectual value, so I just point out all the benefits of romance; that many classics (like Pride & Prejudice) would be classified as romance if they were published today; and that these people are likely thinking about stereotypes from bad romance novels, since they’ve never actually bothered to read the genre themselves. I sometimes add that the only rules in romance are that it has to be about a central couple finding love and it has to end happily, so the range within the genre is as broad as within all of fiction—which means the only way someone could not like the entire genre is if they’re somehow categorically opposed to a happy ending. Most people recognize how silly that is.
How long did it take you get Mortal Musings from head to page to printed book?
All told, from the very first word written to publication, it’s been almost 10 years! That’s a scary thought. But from the moment I picked up the old, unfinished draft and started over, it’s been just over two years.
Tell us about Mortal Musings’ journey to publication. As a fellow indie author, I want to know all the steps you took, and why you felt indie was the right way for this book.
This journey has been so long and complex… Skipping past discouragement from established authors that led me to shelving the story and forward to when I picked it back up, I went through the pretty normal stages of writing and revising (and revising, and revising). I did query a few agents with this book, but everywhere I turned, agents were saying that paranormal romance wasn’t selling and they weren’t acquiring. So, I moved on to querying some publishers.
Mortal Musings received several offers, and I spent almost 6 months evaluating and negotiating those. But ultimately, those offers didn’t work out, for business reasons and for creative ones. (One editor suggested I add toilet humor! Not really my style.) A common theme I was hearing from the publishers, though, was that they didn’t want any substantive changes. So the manuscript was pretty much ready, there was just the question of the business side.
It was intimidating, but I’ve thought for a while now that the smartest path for modern-day authors was hybrid—indie and traditional. It seemed like this book was being pushed away from the traditional path, and truly what I care about is getting the story in readers’ hands, so I chose to bet on myself. A lot of research and quite a bit of work later, Mortal Musings is finally available to readers!
What’s the hardest thing you find about being an indie author? What’s the most enjoyable?
The most difficult thing is knowing that every decision is entirely in your hands, which means you’re responsible for every success or failure. It can be paralyzing, but I try to remember no one moment is life-or-death and there’s always something to be learned from the results, good or bad.
The best is the same with indie and traditional publishing—seeing readers loving the story!
You’re a regular on Flash Friday – how do you think writing flash, or poetry, illuminates and aids your novel writing…if it does? 😉
Flash or even short fiction really allows you to focus in on a particular situation or character, and like poetry, it forces you to be concise yet evocative at once. For me, it’s almost like running drills, since we should aim for that same efficiency in whatever we write, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to create something whole in one or two writing sessions, as opposed to the longer term of novels.
What’s up next from you?
I don’t know! Publishing is so unpredictable, I am not yet sure which story will be available next. I will continue to write and hopefully to publish in one way or another. Anyone interested can stay up to date on my next steps through my blog or social media.
Muse Alexandra has had it with the arrogant, ungrateful humans she is obligated to inspire. When the internal ranting of her latest charge pushes her past reason, she disregards the rules and forces her own words through his fingers, and is instantly entrapped in mortal form. With no magic, no identity, and no resources, Allie has no alternative but to navigate the mortal realm, depending entirely on her reluctant host while discerning what exactly caused her transformation — and how to reverse it.
Brett doesn’t have a chance to consider the words that mysteriously showed up on his screen; he’s too distracted by the stunning woman who appeared in his office out of nowhere. Before his brain can catch up, Brett’s uninvited guest becomes enmeshed in his everyday life. Her artless innocence gradually lessens his suspicions. Most importantly, the writer’s block that’s been plaguing him dissolves under the fantasies the naively beguiling Alexandra inspires.
All too soon, the forced proximity sparks a confounding awareness neither writer nor muse are able to resist.
Aria’s writing story started when her seventh-grade English teacher encouraged her to submit a class assignment for publication. That piece was printed, and let’s just say, she was hooked!
Since then, Aria has run a literary magazine, earned her degree in Creative Writing (as well as in French and Russian literatures), and been published here and there. Her novels Mending Heartstrings and Mortal Musings are now available for purchase. Though her first kiss technically came from a bear cub, and no fairytale transformation followed, Aria still believes magic can happen when the right people come together—if they don’t get in their own way, that is.
Other than all things literary, Aria loves spending time with her family, including her two unbearably adorable nieces. She also dabbles in painting, dancing, playing violin, and, given the opportunity, Epicureanism.
Thanks for visiting with us today, Aria! I’m looking forward to reading Mortal Musings (yes, I already have a copy in my grubby little hands. Well, okay, in my less-grubby little iPad) and wish you the best success with it!
This post originally appeared on Sydney Scrogham’s blog. I thank her for graciously letting me reblog it on my own site.
It was January 10th, 2000. I was in Hamburg, Germany, in month five of a yearlong DAAD grant for dissertation research.
I was also desperately lonely.
I missed my husband. We were newlyweds, married not even six months before. He’d visited in December. We’d spent the Christmas holiday together in the states. And then, suddenly, I was back in my subleased apartment on Beethovenstraße, facing seven more months of work – and separation.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t.
I’d lost interest in my doctoral work a while before. I’d applied for a Fulbright/DAAD grant anyway, mostly because it seemed the thing to do, the next step toward acquiring that PhD. I never thought I’d get the grant – they’re highly competitive. But, somehow, I did, and I found myself planning for a year away, a year I didn’t want to take.
How could I say no? This was a prestigious award, after all, an acknowledgment of talent and promise I never fully believed I possessed. I’d said for years I was going to be a professor of medieval history, and one couldn’t do that without a doctorate. I had to go. Right?
It never occurred to me it was OK to give up something in which I’d invested so much time – and money. Definitely money.
That was failure. That was defeat. That was unacceptable.
What would people think of me? What would people say? I couldn’t disappoint my new husband like that. He’d married me thinking he was marrying a fellow academic. Would he still love me? Would my mom, my family?
My identity had long been invested in my intelligence. People had told me my whole life I was smart. I excelled in academics. How could I stop in the middle of what I’d been pursuing for years, a career path that “proved” to me and to everyone else I was exactly what they thought I was?
Don’t get me wrong – I loved medieval history. I still do. But on January 10th, 2000, three years to the day after my husband and I started dating, my heart won out over my head.
I called my husband and then my mom, and told then I was coming home. I sobbed into the phone all my worries and fears about them thinking I was a failure, a quitter. My mom said this was a decision I, and I alone, could make. My husband said he supported me either way.
I called the airport to book a last-minute flight – and I took it, leaving all of my belongings behind.
I had no idea what I was doing. I thought maybe I’d be home for a few weeks, soak up some time with hubby, get my head on straight, and go back.
Nope. Oh, I did go back, six weeks later, on a whirlwind weekend trip to clean the apartment, gather my stuff, and to explain and apologize to the professor who’d been advising me.
Then I headed home again. I officially quit my doctoral program. I gave up a coveted grant and three years of graduate studies. And I was never happier.
Sometimes, when I tell people this story, they ask, “Don’t you want to go back?” They shake their heads (figuratively, if not literally), saying, “But you were so close! Why didn’t you just finish?”
Because. My heart wasn’t in it. My dreams weren’t in it.
Quitting grad school was the best decision I ever made – because I made it for me, based on what I wanted, on what I needed to feel happy.
Should everybody make such a rash life change? Not necessarily. I was blessed to have a supportive husband and be in a position where switching up life goals wasn’t unbearably financially risky. I was, and am, lucky. I know that.
Quitting grad school was the most freeing decision I ever made – because I did it, and the world didn’t fall apart. I didn’t fall apart. I was a quitter, and yet people still loved me, respected me, wanted what was best for me.
That was eye-opening – that quitting wasn’t necessarily failing. And that even if it were, people were there to catch me when I fell.
We’re still happily married. I’m still blessed, because my husband, my sweet, darling, ever-supportive husband, is 100% behind my decision to write, even though it means I’m likely to be costing us money, rather than making us money – at least for a while.
I’m so fortunate, y’all, and I know it. Not only do I have the support of family and friends around me, but I also have the knowledge, the certainty, that if I fail, it’s not the end of the world.
And when it came to pursuing this forgotten dream of writing romance, that certainty is what gave me the courage to try.
What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?
Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.
A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh. Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which – or whom – she wants more.
Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.
A lover of romance novels since the age of ten (shh, don’t tell mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen that she’d write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that master’s degree in medieval history), not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader.
Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person).
Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here: