Monthly Archives: December 2008
Another Christmas has come and gone, and this year, I must say, has been really fantastic!
We started our Christmas a little early this year. Now, although in Western society it is common to exchange gifts on Christmas Day, here in Russia, the western tradition of Christmas on Dec 25th is not seen as a religious holiday, and for Russians, Dec 25th is a normal work day.
So as mama goes to her regular job at the kindergarden before the sun rises each morning, we decided to do our gift giving last night.
Without going into details of who got what, I will just say this: That last night was the best Christmas Eve I have had in some years.
Now getting onto the food, which is everyone’s favorite. Without a doubt, the Christmas celebration (or as my sister calls it “Festival Of The Feasts“), is about the one time of year when one can get together with family and friends and eat them out of house and home) 🙂
Yesterday, we started the food preparation later in the day. I started with my famous Pork Roast. Now, I will say here that finding a market that sells pork with the crackle on it (the skin) is really hard to come by, just as it in the US. (I guess this brilliant idea comes courtesy of the Heart Foundation). But in my opinion, the crackle is one of the best parts of having a roast pork to begin with. Not only is the crackle good to eat (if done right), but it also seals in the natural flavor and juices of the meat.
Okay, so my famous pork roast is a trade secret, and I wont give away any details on what I use in the preparation, but to give you all a hint, I use around a dozen secret herbs, spices and sauces in my recipe 🙂 Needless to say, the end result is nothing short of spectacular (not my words, but the words of everyone who has had the fun of trying my home cooking)
Now comes the gravy. Gravy is not a big thing here in Russia, but this year it was part of our new tradition.
To make the gravy I use the juices from the roast. Pour this into a pan and bring it to the boil over a low heat. Mix some flour and water and add this to the gravy, stirring continuously until done. Add salt to taste, but really you don’t need any extras if you have done this right.
Now comes the part which we all love. The Pumpkin Pie. This is my own recipe so try it and see if yours turns out the same.
Although some online recipes tell you to use molasses or a cream substitute, I came up with this brilliance when I discovered that here in Russia such items are pretty much non-existant.
Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees.
BASE: For the base lets start with the basics:
250 grams plain flour
4 large eggs
60 ml cold water
125 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend ingredients until you have a thick batter. Batter is properly mixed when it has a thick texture. Spread evenly in a pie dish and put in fridge for about an hour. (or put in freezer for half an hour). (This will let the base give a firmer texture and easier for your baking).
Next, lets go onto the filling. What I use here is:
1 large pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar
Cut the pumpkin into small pieces and place in a large pot. Boil pumpkin until tender. Once tender, take off heat and allow to cool. Next, peel the pumpkin and put into a blender. Add eggs, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla sugar. Whisk until well blended and thick.
Next up, pour the puree evenly over the pie crust until you have a thick layer. Place in oven. Cook for approx 30 minutes until done. Pie will be done when you can stick a knife in the center and it comes out clean.
Serve with instant whipped cream.
In Russia, Festival of Winter is celebrated instead of the religious festival of Christmas but still Christmas lingers in some parts of the country. Traditional Russian Christmas involves special prayers and a fast of 39 days til the first star appears in the sky on Christmas Eve (which falls on 6th of January in Russia). Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It’s a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration.
After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn’t until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it’s once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.
Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather to share a special meal. The various foods and customs surrounding this meal differed in Holy Russia from village to village and from family to family, but certain aspects remained the same.
An old Russian tradition, whose roots are in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast, typically, lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although, meat is not permitted. Kutya (kutia), a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.
Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin. Although all of the food served is strictly Lenten, it is served in an unusually festive and anticipatory manner and style. The Russians call this meal: “The Holy Supper.” The family gathers around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white table-cloth, symbolic of Christ’s swaddling clothes, covers the Table. Hay is brought forth as a reminder of the poverty of the Cave where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is place in the center of the Table, symbolic of Christ “the Light of the World.” A large round loaf of Lenten bread, “pagach,” symbolic of Christ the Bread of Life, is placed next to the Candle.
The meal begins with the Lord’s Prayer, led by the father of the family. A prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of the past year is said and then prayers for the good things in the coming year are offered. The head of the family greets those present with the traditional Christmas greeting: “Christ is Born!” The family members respond: “Glorify Him!” The Mother of the family blesses each person present with honey in the form of a cross on each forehead, saying: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year.” Following this, everyone partakes of the bread, dipping it first in honey and then in chopped garlic. Honey is symbolic of the sweetness of life, and garlic of the bitterness. The “Holy Supper” is then eaten. After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. Then the family goes to Church, coming home between 2 and 3 am. On the Feast of the Nativity, neighbors and family members visit each other, going from house to house , eating, drinking and singing Christmas Carols all the day long.
The “Holy Supper”
Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity. Some families used to throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling. According to tradition, if the kutya stuck, there would be a plentiful honey harvest.
Traditionally, the “Holy Supper” consists of 12 different foods, symbolic of the 12 Apostles. Although there was some variation the twelve foods are:
1) Mushroom soup with zaprashka; this is often replaced with Sauerkraut soup
2) Lenten bread (“pagach”)
3) Grated garlic
4) Bowl of honey
5) Baked cod
6) Fresh Apricots, Oranges, Figs and Dates
8) Kidney beans (slow cooked all day) seasoned with shredded potatoes, lots of garlic, salt and pepper to taste
10) Parsley Potatoes (boiled new potatoes with chopped parsley and margarine)
11) Bobal’ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppyseed with honey)
12) Red Wine
It was once common practice, on Christmas Eve, for groups of people masquerading as manger animals to travel from house to house, having themselves a rousing good time, and singing songs known as kolyadki . Some kolyadki were pastoral carols to the baby Jesus, while others were homages to the ancient solar goddess Kolyada, who brings the lengthening days of sunlight through the winter. In return for their songs, the singers were offered food and coins, which they gladly accepted, moving on to the next home.
Ded Moroz and Yolka
The origin of Santa Claus is in St. Nicholas. He was born in Asia Minor at at the Greco-Roman city of of Myra in the province of Lycia, at a time when the region was entirely Greek in origin. Due to the suppression of religion during the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year’s. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaiden, who helps distribute the gifts.
The Christmas tree (Yolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era.To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year’s trees, instead. Since ornaments were either very costly or unavailable, family trees were trimmed with homemade decorations and fruit. Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700’s.
Why January 7?
In ancient times, many, mostly unreliable methods had been used to calculate the dates according to either the lunar or solar cycles. By Roman times, the calendar had become three months out with the seasons, so in 46 BC, Julius Caesar commissioned the astronomer, Sosigenes to devise a more reliable method. This, we know as the Julian Calendar and was used widely for 1500 years. The month of his birth, Caesar had named Quintilis, but the Roman Senate later re-named it Julius (July) in his honour. In those days, February had 30 days every 4 years.
However, this calendar was still 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year, so that by the year 1580, the calendar had accumulated 10 days off again. In 1582, therefore, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the difference between the sun and calendar by ordering 10 days dropped from October, the month with the least Roman Catholic Feast days. His calendar, we know as the Gregorian Calendar, which is used in almost all of the world today. Pope Gregory made further changes to keep the calendar in line, which on average is only 26.3 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian Calendar is so accurate that it will take until the year 4316 to gain a whole day on the sun.
That year, 1582, October 5th became October 15th and was immediately adopted in most Roman Catholic nations of Europe. Various German states kept the Julian Calendar until 1700. Britain and the American Colonies didn’t change until 1752, but Russia and Turkey did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the early 1900’s.
January 7th by the Georgian Calendar would have been December 25th by the old Julian Calendar and is therefore why it is still Christmas Day for the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Russians will have celebrated along with the rest of us and will then celebrate again on the Orthodox date.
New Year Eve instead of Christmas
When the communists took power in 1917 they banned the open expression of religion. While it was easy to pray at home, the Russian people were concerned about giving up their traditional Christmas celebration.
The New Year’s holiday tradition was re-invented to include a decorated tree, and introduced a character called “Grandfather Frost.” Known as “Ded Moroz,” Grandfather Frost looked very much like the western “Santa Claus” or “Pere Noel”
Ded Moroz was a character that existed in the pagan culture, centuries earlier. For a time, Christmas was all but forgotten. In fact, it was generally celebrated only in small villages, where the citizenry was far from the prying eyes of the Party.
Today, Christmas is celebrated again, on January 7. But, to date, New Year’s remains the bigger event.
For people in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas is all about cold mornings, large hot lunches, and snow. In Australia, Christmas is celebrated during the summer months with no snow and log fires for us! For Australians it’s about sun, the beach, and often inappropriate large hot lunches, though our Christmas Cards and traditions usually depict those of colder climates. Australians have Christmas Trees, Father Christmas, Christmas Carols and gifts which are a familiar Christmas scenario.
For the majority of Australians, Christmas Downunder experiences all the seasonal variations of a Summer Down Under…..electrical storms, floods, hailstorms, cyclones and bushfires. But 80% of the time they are blessed with blue skies and depending on the Australian location, temperatures ranging from 25 – 34 degrees centigrade.
Australia is a multicultural country and with this, the traditions we have are often mingled and derived from a mixture of other countries. Australia, although huge in size, has a population of just over 20 million people. Our country is a harmonious mix of many ethnic groups. Our backgrounds are very varied, with people having connections with England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Russia, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Middle East, Vietnam, China, Japan, Thailand as well as North and South America. So you can imagine that each of these national groups brings the colour ,customs and festive rituals of the Christmas celebrated in their respective homelands. Australians are able to appreciate culturally diverse Christmas celebrations.
House decorations in Australia are not usually as elaborate as in the United States, although there are plenty of decorations and symbols, and even a few wreaths. Because it is warm weather, there are many native plants in bloom. These are easily picked for decoration around the holiday season – orchids, Christmas bells, and the like are common.
Christmas is special to the majority of Australians for it is their Summer Holiday season and students especially are “wrapping” up their school year. That means sitting for end of Semester tests or exams and waiting for their results, as well as getting ready for the Summer Holidays. For the majority of Australian students this means …SUN….SURF….SHOPPING. For students it means an end to homework and school studies and the beginning of lots of time for family, relatives and “mates” (friends).
Traditional dinners have been replaced with family gatherings in back yards, picnics in parks, gardens and on the beach. For many, it is the occasion to be with friends and relatives, to share love and friendship and not to forget, the exchange of gifts in the traditional manner. For many, it is a time to enjoy and consume massive quantities of food.
So how do we REALLY celebrate Christmas? Christmas for childen means presents, and lots of them! When I was a child, traditionally in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we would decorate the house with tinsel, Christmas lights, and a large plastic Christmas tree would adorn our front entrance. Christmas was an exciting time of year. Next to Easter and my birthday, it was my favorite time of year! 🙂
Every Christmas Eve, I would put a “Christmas pillowslip” (stocking) at the end of the bed and try to stay awake to wait anxiously for Santa Claus to arrive. Of course, I always fell asleep and never saw Santa arrive, but when I awoke in the morning, my pillowslip was filled with toys and goodies of all kinds. Each year was as exciting as the previous. I would throw off my bedsheets and open my presents from Santa while everyone else in the house slept.
In more recent years, I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with my sister in New Zealand. Although we had forgone the traditions we experienced as children, we still decorated the house with Christmas lights and various other decorations, and on Christmas morning we would sit around the Christmas tree and exchange presents we bought for each other. Of course, there was always one of us who would dress up like Santa and give out more gifts, which added to the magic that is otherwise “Christmas”.
In my sister’s house, the usual Christmas Lunch consisted of roast pork, roast turkey, roast potatoes, pumpkin and other hot vegetables as well as salad, cold ham, cold chicken. The traditional Christmas meal may either be taken in the middle of the day which is the hottest part of the day or in the cooler evening hours. With some families opting for a celebration meal as dinner on Christmas eve. In some households, Christmas Dinner may be a barbeque in the backyard or a picnic on a beach. The evening meal is leftovers from lunch.
Currently everyone is beginning to get ready for the “silly season“. Everyone is busily planning Christmas break-up parties. Children are writing letters to Santa Claus. Decorations are being bought and set up. Shopping centres and malls are experiencing record breaking crowds. In homes, many of the traditional Christmas rituals are being followed. Many children are helping to decorate the family Christmas tree. Australians have yet to follow the American ritual of getting “real” Christmas trees……though some do use gum tree branches. Children are learning Christmas Carols so that they may be sung at festive occasions such as public “Carols by Candlelight” and school concerts. Christmas stockings are being hung in homes….though fireplaces are in short supply. Cards galore are being written and posted. Everyone awaits…….the anticipation is high!
It must also be mentioned that Australians consider Christmas a time for remembering the true meaning of Christmas………a time for remembering the birth of Jesus and the spiritual meaning of Christmas. For many, Christmas will begin with families attending a midnight mass. 70% of Australians are either Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran. After the midnight Mass, a little sleep is attempted. For many, the children in various households, wake up the family at dawn. Gifts are unwrapped and the joy of Christmas begins. For many with relatives and friends overseas, it is a mad scramble to get an early phone call to relatives worldwide.
In order to celebrate an Australian Christmas in your house this year, consider displaying a map of Australia on the wall. Use an Australian animal, like a kangaroo or koala, as the gift or favor of choice for your guests. Create a beautiful tree with wooden decorations, tinsel or garland, and the fairy, angel or star on the top. Serve up a picnic instead of dinner, with champagne and pavlova, (a meringue dessert that is topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit). Or if you choose to serve traditional Christmas plum pudding, offer ice cream or cream on the side. The Christmas pudding during Australian gold rushes often contained a gold nugget; the lucky person who found it was considered to be blessed with good luck for the coming year. These days the gold nugget is replaced with small favors; consider adding these to your pudding.
This year will be my first Christmas in Russia, so although I will be celebrating the traditional Orthodox Christmas with my family, I will also be bringing a little bit of Australiana to Russia with celebrating Christmas “Aussie” style, with lots of decorations, roast pork, roast chicken, roast vegetables, salad, and not to forget, lots of presents for my family! 🙂
Happy Holidays everyone!
Australian Recipe: Pavlova
The Pavolova was first created in 1935 by Chef Herbert Sachse of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
4 egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar (granulated)
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
half pint whipped cream (one cup)
strawberries or your choice of fruit such as passion fruit, kiwi fruit…
Place egg whites in a clean glass bowl. Beat slowly until frothy, then increase the speed and beat until stiff.
GRADUALLY add the sugar, beating well after each addition. (When all the sugar has been added, the mixture should be shiny, very stiff, and should stand in peaks.) Gently fold in the corn flour with a metal spoon.
Line a cookie sheet with brown paper and grease it lightly. Pile the meringue mixture on it
Slow-bake the mixture at 150°C (300°F) to dry all the moisture and create the meringue, approximately 45 minutes. This leaves the outside of the Pav a crisp crunchy shell, while the interior remains soft and moist.
When cooked, turn off the oven and leave the door open to let the Pav cool on the oven shelf – this helps to prevent the middle of the Pav from collapsing (although if it does collapse, generous application of cream hides any mistakes)
When cold, peel off the paper and transfer to a serving platter.
Slice the strawberries in half. and roll in icing sugar (confectioners sugar), and refrigerate.
Cover top of the Pav with whipped cream about 1 hour before serving.
N.B. Turn the Pav upside down before decorating with cream and fruit because the bottom is less crispy than the top after cooking and, unless you serve it immediately after decorating, the “top” absorbs moisture from the cream.
JM: Will you please share a short bio with us?
CA: I grew up in Brisbane Australia. At a young age I was fascinated with the world of writing, but I never really did anything about it until 1989. Since early 2008, I have spent a majority of the year travelling to places such as China, Russia and Japan.
In April, I set foot back in my home country, Australia, after almost a 10 year absence. I now reside primarily in Samara Russia with my wife, Anna, and I spend my time writing and working as a recruiter.
JM: Tell us about The Chosen and where it’s available.
CA: My first novel is called The Chosen. It is a Supernatural Horror, set in modern times. It is the story of Alex Manning who is “The One”, well actually Alex Manning is a nice guy, with anxiety attacks who has visions. He doesn’t know he is “The One” until he gets wrapped up in the investigation of the Jamiesonn house. Then he is drawn neck deep into betrayal, battling demons, freaky scary ghosts, and falling in love again tossed in for good measure. My novel can be purchased through Amazon.com and various other online retailers.
JM: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your story.
CA: I first discovered writing when I was in grade 9, when I attended Kedron State High School. Instead of reading a book and writing a report on what I thought about the topic, I decided to pen a short story. In about 2 hours I penned a short sci-fi story, which was my first attempt at the world of writing. The story received top marks from my English professor, who also encouraged me to continue writing. That was the first and seemingly last time I put pen to paper.. That was until the summer of 1989….
In 1989, I was living in Melbourne at the time, and once again I found myself writing. My first short story was titled “Shack of Evil”, a 9 page story based on the character Jamiesonn. The story idea came from a Hobbytex picture my mother had on the wall of her apartment. I was not automatically drawn into the world of horror, but after reading stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Misery by Stephen King, I knew that I wanted to write novels that would entertain and scare the audience. But like some beginning writers, I had no idea how to get storyline past the seemingly impossible short-phase and also written in the third person context.
After writing “Shack of Evil” I went on to write an additional 25 short stories, all of different genres, including a children’s story. Shack of Evil would later become the base for what is now the trilogy of The Chosen, Bloodline of Darkness, and Prophecy’s End. In 1994, I wrote the first draft for what is now The Chosen. Some 14 years later, I saw the realization of my hard work come to fruition when my novel was published by Amira Press.
JM: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
CA: I tend to go with what I feel at the time and don’t stick to any particular routine. The thing I like best about writing is being able to see what will happen in later chapters, like seeing a movie that is being played out in my head.
JM: Do you have a specific time or place that you write?
CA: A typical day for me will start with coffee. Coffee kick-starts my mind into gear and when I get around to it, I start answering emails, writing new scenes, and then editing those scenes if I don’t like it. There is thins one chapter I wrote recently about a new character I decided to introduce, based on his life and his success with YouTube, but I scratched that entire chapter as it was too close to my own life.
So I may yet keep that character and have him introduced in a different time-frame. I don’t stick to any type of schedule. That would put me into a category of being routine and then the flair for writing wont be as fun anymore. For me, writing comes from the heart.. from inspiration. I have to be inspired to write. Mostly, I find I write best when I have the headphones on and listening to my fav songs on YouTube.
JM: What kind of research did you do for this book?
CA: I have studied different theologies about the supernatural throughout my life and I have always been fascinated of what possibilities would lay in other spiritual worlds, so my writing maintains a basis of the clichéd “good versus evil” and the “what-if” scenarios without coming across to heavy.
JM: Who has inspired you as an author?
CA: Some of the writings of HP Lovecraft inspired me, as well as other great authors like Clive Barker, Deen Koontz. These people have proven themselves and are among the greats.
JM: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
CA: I cant think of five authors or people off hand, but the two who do come to mind straight away are H.P.Lovecraft and M Night Shyamalan. First off, Lovecraft was a master horror writer for his day, and even today he still remains the true master of horror. It is a shame that he wasn’t recognized for the genius he was until after his death. M Night is also brilliant. It seems that anything Shyamalan touches turns to gold. So my obvious question to M.Night would be; would you make a film of my book?
JM: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
CA: One person I know said to me the other day, “When are you going to include me in your book.” That made me smile as she obviously does not realize that if I created a character based on her, the character would be, well, let’s just say that the character would not last long in any chapter. Another person I know said that they wanted to sell the only autographed copy in existence (so far) on E-Bay!
JM: What do you do in your free time?
CA: When I do have free time I travel quite extensively. This year I have travelled from New Zealand to Russia then to Australia via China, then to Japan then back to Russia. I think by now I have enough Frequent Flyer Points to go to Mars and back. When I am not travelling I like down-time by listening to music on YouTube.
JM: What’s next for you?
CA: Next for me is writing Bloodline of Darkness, which is the second in the trilogy in the life of Alex Manning – A man who is put in the middle of a spiritual conflict he otherwise wants no part of. Bloodline of Darkness is set seven years after The Chosen. Alex has forsaken his powers to live a “normal” life, and the forces of Tartarus have arisen to harvest the souls of humans and plunge the world into darkness. Alex once again must stand and save humanity but can he overcome the ever present darkness that also reigns in his own heart?
JM: Where can you be found on the web?
CA: I can be found online at http://authorcamilson.info
I usually don’t do reviews of partials – for obvious reasons – and I don’t usually do reviews of ebooks (because my eyes already get enough damage from all the work I do at the computer). However, I decided to put aside my rules as a favour for a fellow Australian and do a mini-review of The Chosen based on an excerpt than can be found here.
About the Book
There was a time when Alex had everything in life. He had a wonderful fiance and a fantastic job. That was until seven days ago when his completely normal life was turned upside down and he lost everything. It started with the sudden death of his father, Paul, then the disappearance of his mother, Samantha.
The third event occurred on the seventh day when the life of his fiancee, Alison, was taken in a horrific car accident. Now, years later, just when he started to get his life back on track, he is once again thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, and he alone must come to terms with who he is and his calling to fulfill a destiny that he wants no part of.
For a beginning that involves abuse, prostitution, sex, and satanism, The Chosen excerpt wasn’t a bad read. Milson starts off by lulling the reader a bit into a former memory, thus – in my mind – rendering the horrors that occur more ‘digestible’ for the reader. This was a good move on his part, as it helped me be able to keep reading and to not be put off by the events that occur.
However, it does look like The Chosen needs a picky editor. Various typos – admittedly few and far between – pop up and could be taken care of with some good story polishing.
Even so, having read this first bit, I am interested enough to read on further.
This is Part III of my interview with C.A. Milson. I have greatly enjoyed participating in this book tour interview with C.A.
Now, back to the questions. (C.A.’s response in bold.)
Many things are expected by an author when writing, publishing and promoting their book. What, if any, are some of the unexpected things that you have noticed or experienced during this journey?
As I explained above about “marketing”, marketing to the masses is like trying to get the word out to everyone who reads a book, and then one is competing against the 177,000 new titles that are released each year. That is quite a difficult challenge to face for any author, whether it is their first novel or tenth novel. Okay, granted, if your name happens to be Stephen King, J.K.Rowling or Clive Barker you don’t have to do any marketing as your name itself sells the book. But for those who do not have that prestigious title of being part of the “World’s Best”, publishers do expect the (new) author to know about promotion/marketing, and also expect the author to do a majority (if not all) of the promos themselves. Not that I want to say that being published is ruthless, as it is a blessing to see your book in print. Nor do I want to deter any writer out there who is hoping to get their first novel published, but I do want to share my experiences and hope that the aspiring writer will take this advice and learn from it. This may be going off on a tangent, but writing is not all about the fame, the glamour, and dare I say, the stardom. Now some aspiring writers may have flights of fantasy about what “may” happen when they are published. They may fantasize that their book will be an international best seller from Day One, but that is not how it is. I can say this because I used to have those same thoughts when I wrote “SOE”. Truth is, once you are published, you don’t sit back and watch the royalty checks come flooding in, nor are you inundated with calls from Fox, Touchstone or any other film company. When you “do” get published, then you need to start promoting yourself. It is definitely the case of thinking to yourself; Okay, your book is released. Congrats. Now is time to start promoting.
Would you like to add any final thoughts?
If you don’t mind Brian, I would like to share these pearls of wisdom with the audience. There are probably a lot of new writers out there who have no idea where to start, but, if you are an aspiring writer looking to get your first work out there, start with a good letter to an agent or publisher. That is your starting point. A good letter with the synopsis of your novel will get the attention of the agent or publisher, even if the response is a polite “No thank you”. Learn by my example. It took 14 years from the main draft of The Chosen to now to get published, which shows that it is worth the wait. That is not to say that it will take 14 years for you to get published! I am saying this as I left mine sitting on the back-burner until I was ready. Yes, you will get rejection letters, or even worse yet, no reply at all. Don’t worry about that as it will happen. Those rejection slips only tell you that you are on the right (write) track! Okay, now that you have your email draft ready to go out to agents/publishers, make sure you do your homework, by checking out what genres they represent. If it is unclear on their web if they are accepting new clients, don’t be afraid to ask! Make a mental note on some of the authors they represent. Also, if you come across an agent or publisher that charges a fee of any kind, stay away from those. They are predators who will take your money and you will never hear from them again. I don’t have to ramble on about this topic as there are dozens of websites about this. But what I will say in concluding is this: If you have the ability to write, you have a gift. Like any skill, it is a talent that should be nurtured and polished. Find your niche, and keep on writing, no matter what wanna-be’s may tell you.
I want to thank C.A. for inviting me to be part of his book tour and taking the time to respond to your comments/questions. As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this interview.
Great interview. So thorough…leaves me with not even one question. I wanted to thank C.A. for the last bit of information. It is so nice to hear encouragement and advice from a published author about breaking into the biz. Great information.
December 17, 2008 10:25 AM
Thank you Ang. This was a very informative interview. I have more interviews scheduled for next year as while. It is my hope that we will read more from C.A. in the near future when his second book is released.