Friday, 27 June 2014

My First Pitched Novel: "Almost An Empress"

It took over a dozen novels, but now my mastery of the Craft was coming to fruition.  I'd had a fair bit of luck getting several short stories published, as well as regular columns for internet magazines and some non-fiction articles for rather prestigious publications.

I could safely say I'd moved from Apprentice Writer to Journeyman. Yay!  (If anyone asks, I tell them I'm a Journeyman. 'Cause that's what I am.)

I was inspired to write another novel based on Middle-Eastern culture (pre-Islam), with feminist overtones.

Dance is women's magic--a close-kept secret. Maysa ibn-Nabil has been trained well. As the daughter of a powerful lord, she becomes the first wife of the new young Emperor, well-placed to influence an entire nation. It is a political marriage only, one that looks never to be fruitful.

The throne is not a safe place. One of the Emperor's brothers escaped the purge of rivals. Now he challenges the Emperor for control of the nation.

The true power of the nation is not the man who sits on the throne, but the woman who stands behind it. Seating the best man to rule would be a simple matter, if not for a rival magic--unknown to Maysa--that is counteracting her own.

Hmm...  not the best blurb. I'll have to work on that.

So, I got an opportunity to pitch my novel.

Back then, few publishers accepted unsolicited manuscripts.  So when Harlequin/Silhouette opened up, for a time, to unsolicited queries, I queried away!

Not my best query evar (see below), and it was not a surprise to see my novel be rejected.  But hey! I'd pitched.

            Maysa, daughter of a powerful sheik, finally comes into her own as a woman grown with the completion of her year as a Dancer.  Unbeknownst to men, who believe it to be nothing more than entertainment, Dance is also the women’s magic, with which they influence the world.
            When Maysa returns home after her year of study, she learns that Idris, the man she loves, is leaving for war.  Wanting to convince him to stay, yet not raise the suspicions of her mother, she dances “Remember Me”.  Unfortunately, he follows his honor.
            She follows the wishes of her father and enters into a pleasant, albeit short-lived marriage with an older man.  After she is widowed, the young emperor desires her as his wife.  It is a political marriage, where she doesn’t even like him, much less love him.  No sooner is the betrothal contract signed, than Idris returns, looking for her.  Indeed, he remembered her because of her dance--so much he couldn’t get her out of his mind…  Can love defy an imperial contract?

            In the tradition of an "Arabian Nights" tale, "Almost an Empress" is the story of Maysa’s journey through marriage, widowhood, and an unwanted engagement to convince Idris of her love.

Um, still not right. Maybe I don't know my own novel.  That can happen.  You write the novel and are so close to it that sometimes you can't see the themes for what they truly are.

Themes I played with:

  • Sisterhood
  • Dance as a secret magic to influence the world
  • Secret love
  • Successful (albeit short-lived) marriage and subsequent widowhood
  • Political instability
  • Women as a respected socio-political power.
  • Political marriage (arranged marriage)
  • Music as a secret magic to influence the world
  • Teamwork
  • Family Betrayal
  • Fratricide
Several years later, I rewrote the novel as a NaNoWriMo project.  It's better, but not my best novel to date.  Ah well.  Revisitation is always an option.

Her Grace once learned American Tribal belly dance and would love to learn Urban Tribal, that tightly-controlled and mesmerising style: World Horror Con 2008 Gothic Belly Dance

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