$Monday: Pitching Books in a Pandemic

#PitMad is coming up on June 4, and I am going to try it out even though all of this sounds a bit like hurling books into a natural disaster. (And even though I've never bothered to learn how to use Twitter properly. Why not learn a new thing in quarantine?) I hope that my tweets will at least attract some hints about which of my completed novels I should focus on querying this year.

It does seem like an inauspicious time to put a novel out there, but I'm doing it anyway, because unlike lobbing an actual paperback into a tornado, this exercise costs nothing but the time I put into it. My books will still be there afterward, fully intact on my digital shelf. They were written in the Before Times about medieval times, so I don't believe that they will somehow become less relevant after this pandemic ends.

I never set out to write to a trend. I wrote the kind of books I wanted to read, which were incredibly fun and rewarding to create. I love researching a long-forgotten or poorly understood setting. I love the process of exhuming musty old texts from the underground storage chambers of old churches and institutions of higher learning. I love reading experts' heated debates with colleagues about the implications of new and old archaeological finds. I've even gotten a thrill out of plunking down hundreds of dollars for a smoking-off-the-press academic hot take on very old texts. "Are you sure?" the bookstore clerk asked skeptically. I was sure! Now I have two completed novels that are ready for submission and a patient passion for my next novel, which I am ready to begin properly researching as soon as the physical library system can operate again.

In the meantime, I can make rough outlines and lists of questions to investigate and dream about the life of  Zoë Porphyrogenita, a Byzantine princess who was cloistered until the age of 50 but not defeated. Having spent half a century working out in the fanciest of gymnasiums and running a skincare laboratory, she burst onto the public stage looking like J.Lo at the Superbowl, to take the throne and whip up an army of rabid fans ready to tear a man limb from limb for her. She seduced and murdered her way through a glorious reign that culminated in a public ménage à trois, a thousand years ago in the most Christian city in the world.

I'm feeling wickedly inspired by the subjects and narrative voice of Anne Thériault's Queens of Infamy series for Longreads.

Are you participating in this week's #PitMad? If so, leave your handle in the comments, and we'll see each other in the madding pit!


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