I feel like all of my blog posts from the last year have been me trying to wax poetic about how strange life is now, and about how much we’ve had to adjust to in such a short time. But now, after over a year of living in a pandemic, I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where this feels normal? Where the fear of going outside is not only a given, but smart? Where I’m used to not seeing friends or family, or really having anywhere to go?
I’m incredibly privileged to have been able to stay home and safe this whole time, and I’ve been doing whatever I can to still stay in touch with everyone back home in the US, and here in the UK. But now that things are really opening up again, and a lot of people in the UK are getting vaccinated, it seems that things are actually getting…planned again? I realise how silly this all sounds, but I’ve been such a hermit, that having Something to do, or Somewhere to Go, is really a novelty now?
I saw my best friends in person last week for the first time in 14 months, even though we only live a train ride or two away, and it was so wonderful! We acknowledged how weird the world has gotten, and how long it had been, but then we were off joking and swapping stories like no time had passed. It was so exhilarating, and the most social interaction I’ve had in well, 14 months, so I was exhausted after, but it really was a burst of sunshine, and made the light at the end of the tunnel seem a little closer.
Of course only the US and UK have enough (or a surplus of) vaccines since they’ve been hoarding them, so it’s so scary that the virus is still rampaging through the rest of the world. There’s still so much horror happening every single day, and I keep thinking about how the internet and social media are both a blessing and a curse, because while we can be aware of what’s happening on the other side of the globe, I think we’re also struggling with the mental weight of all these relentless tragedies. There’s been no time to really mourn, or rest, and now everyone’s so eager to get back to the pub/office/grind that I worry all of our collective trauma will just get buried and repressed. But I also know that everyone is just getting on, and getting through, as best as they can, which is all we can do really.
In my little hobbit hole apartment, where I’ve been living with my partner, I’m trying to stay busy with applying for jobs, building a routine and really sticking with it, and making (slow) progress with my writing projects. And I’m thrilled to say that last week I finished my long-overdue rewrite of my first novel, which used to be called HONORS. Now, its new title is THE RAVEN LADY OF INVERGARRY, and I’m pretty proud of it. It’s definitely a historical fantasy now, instead of just slightly spooky historical fiction, and it’s much angrier. But what it really needed was a plot refresh, and some deeper characterisation, and I hope that’s what I’ve done.
I (probably prematurely) decided to pitch it in #PitDark on Twitter the other week, and lo and behold I got two agent likes, and some really nice comments and retweets! I still need to do another revision (or two) to make sure it’s strong enough, but then I’m really excited to requery it, hopefully soon. I want to give it another chance and see how it does, now that it’s got brand new wings.
I’m proud of my Venice book too, since it had its first public appearance (sort of) when I entered it in #RevPit in April, which was good fun as always. I met new writer friends online, and also booked a session with one of the editors I subbed to, and she gave me some really valuable insights about where my novel might fit in terms of genre. I’m starting to realise it isn’t really a historical romance, at least not in the usual sense, since it’s not set in Regency/Victorian England and doesn’t have any dukes—not that there’s anything wrong with those. We talked about how historical romance has a long way to go towards representing the real world, both in terms of race and geography, and that even though the main plot of my story is the romance between the MCs, because it’s set in the 17th century, and in Italy, those are two counts against it when it comes to meeting the traditional (aka 19th-century-white-cis-straight-English) genre expectations.
And I can’t stop thinking about how that’s nothing compared to how hard it is for writers of colour and LGBTQIA+ writers who are working so hard to publish their historical romances (or any other genre!), but who have so many other cards stacked against them from the get-go. Publishing needs to get its shit together, basically, and that’s on the higher-ups, the CEOs and senior editors/VPs/whoever writes the checks and pulls the strings, to either start (FINALLY) putting their money where their mouths are and PAYING FOR THESE STORIES, or to step aside and let a new generation take over.
But I’m still such a newbie to the historical romance genre/community and these discussions, so I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic. I still have so much to learn (and read!), which is definitely a good problem to have.
I’m also starting to brainstorm a few new novel ideas, and want to get further plotting out my heist novel, especially since so many new deals have been announced for heist stories! (I mean, I hope I haven’t missed the boat if it’s already a trend…) There have also been so many amazing books released lately, I seriously need to speed up my reading to get to them all.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting my first vaccine in a few weeks, and then maybe (MAYBE?) planning a trip home to see my family, hopefully for Christmas. It still feels like early days yet though, and I’m not exactly rushing to get back into the hustle and bustle and burnout of the Before Times. (This Atlantic article perfectly sums up how I’m feeling actually…) For now I’m just enjoying the glorious and long-awaited return of the sun, and the bright green-gold unfurling of the trees in all their brilliance.
I hope you’re staying well, as best as you can, wherever you are, and that the sunshine and writing Muses have found you.
PS – Here are some new songs I’ve really been digging. Let me know what your favorites are right now!