Why you should register for #NECRWA19

Sharing a table with friends Teresa Noelle Roberts and Kristen Strassel at NECRWA16.

NECRWA 2013 in Burlington, Massachusetts, was the first romance writing conference I ever attended, and I will not lie: it was scary at first. I really did not have any friends yet, I was new to the industry, and I had to learn some difficult truths—primarily that the Big Five were not interested in historical romance set in the Gilded Age Philippines. At all. No matter how much they liked my writing, either, as one agent and one editor told me after marking up my pages. Would I be interested in writing a Regency duke for them?

(They were accurately representing the dominant historical chronotope in bestselling romance. I am not defending it, but I have come to grips with the fact that my heartfelt debut story of Georgina and Javier will never be sold in Walmart.)

And yet I have come to realize that meeting with an editor or agent is a great way to get a pulse on the market. I no longer pin my hopes and dreams on traditional publication, and yet I still take advantage of traditional A&E appointments. I put together genuine pitches for what I hope to work on next, and I get ten minutes of helpful feedback. If the agent or editor wants to see a partial or full, I absolutely follow through to see where it goes. Take your ten minutes! And check out who’s coming this year:

Agent-and-editor-NECRWA-2019

(For total transparency’s sake: I am the 2019 Agent and Editor chair of the conference. You’ve been warned.)

But back to my 2013 story: do you know who got me through my initial tearful disappointment? The wonderful friends I made at #NECRWA13! Many of them had never met me before that day, but they sat with me and helped to soften the blow when the very real anvil of publishing flattened me on the pavement. In my six years of conference going, my conclusion has not changed: NECRWA is one of the friendliest regional conferences around.

NECRWA has also become more inclusive, especially in the last three years—whether inclusion means indie versus trad writers, smaller subgenres, or diverse fiction and specifically #ownvoices. Check out the workshops below:

NECRWA-2019-workshops

Finally, we have a banging book event. It’s called the T.G.I.For Literacy Book Signing, and for the low, low price of $20 per author, half of which goes to a literacy charity, you can join too! It is free to the public, and there is no book fair with a longer table of gift baskets. At least, I don’t think so. I was the emcee for this event last year, and I think we had over 60. Sixty baskets. That’s a lot of free books.

NECRWA-2019-Book-Fair

Are you sold yet? You should be! Please come join us next month. Find the registration links on the NECRWA homepage. And come introduce yourself to me in person—I’ll be one of the conference committee wearing a tiara. (Haha, if you know me, you know how funny that is. I coach American football FFS.)

Upcoming Workshops: Spring/Summer 2019

I am so pleased to be offering a smattering of workshops all over the East Coast this year. Here they are, with descriptions:

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First, I will be reprising my study of historical romance at the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America on May 19, 2019:

Over eighty percent of bestselling historical romance books published in the first half of 2018 were set in Britain, either during the 19th century or the medieval period. These two fabricated chronotopes are selectively accurate to history and narrowly focused on high ranks of the nobility—in other words, they are “escapism.” This presentation will consider what escapism means in this context, who it serves, and who it harms. While any reader can enjoy a good duke Regency every once in a while, the net impact of the most popular chronotopes may be to corrode our understanding of history, marginalize anyone writing from a wider palette of settings and characters, and exclude authors of color.

I originally gave this talk at IASPR 2018 in Sydney, Australia. I will expand my comments a bit because I have more time, and I will answer any questions the NECRWA folks have. Guests are welcome (for a nominal $5 fee to the chapter).


My other speaking engagements this summer will be more focused on history itself and historical research:

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On Friday, June 21, 2019, bright and early at 8am (!), I will be presenting at the Historical Novel Society North America conference. My talk is entitled, “Schoolbenches and Trenches: The Philippine-American War Setting”:

Liberate and uplift? Or conquer and oppress? The revolutionaries of the eighteenth century became the redcoats of the twentieth, fighting a war to seize the Philippines (1899-1913) as the first step toward overseas empire. Enter the American Century, complete with debates over transpacific trade, immigration, Muslim separatists, and national security—all issues that resonate for the modern reader. Historian, teacher, and author Jennifer Hallock will explain why the U.S. colonized the Philippines, how this experience still shapes both countries now, and how it creates engaging American historical fiction.

I have given this talk to libraries and school groups in both the United States and the Philippines. Here’s an interesting twist: my Manila audience knew they had been an American colony—putting them ahead of far too many Americans!—but they had not been taught about the Philippine-American War itself or many of the controversial policies the Americans used to pacify the islands. If you want to know more, check out my history posts on this website.


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Finally, I will be a part of two workshops at the Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City, this 24-27 July 2019. In addition to being invited to take part in a Gilded Age panel (more on this to come!), I will be giving my own researching workshop:

How do you write authentic characters who are nothing like you? Through lots of research, of course. But beware—flat descriptions from encyclopedias won’t cut it because they reflect only the most common experience. The best characters are the outliers: the unusual, precocious, and maybe even dangerous heroes and heroines. Learn how to find inspiration from free sources online, such as books, memoirs, documents, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, maps, photographs, clothing, artifacts, personal papers, and videos. Though this workshop’s emphasis will be on historical research, especially the 18th through early 20th centuries, it will include tips and tricks for all authors. Just like the Hunger Games series used allusions from ancient Greece to Vietnam, true stories inspire the best fiction, no matter what genre.


I hope to see you this year at one of these conferences or workshops. If you would like me to bring one of these closer to you, please contact me at jen at jennifer hallock dot com. And happy writing!

Jennifer-Hallock-2019-Workshops

Essential History for Sugar Moon

I began writing Sugar Moon in 2013. I began writing this blog in 2016. In both cases, that’s a long time ago. It includes years of writing about the Philippine-American War, and in particular the Balangiga incident—a central event shaping the character of my redemption-seeking-hero Ben Potter.

Let’s say you know nothing about what happened in Balangiga—or even nothing about the Philippine-American War. Don’t worry, you won’t need to in order to read Sugar Moon. But let’s say you’re a history geek like me? Well, I’ve written a lot of content just for you!

I have tried to organize this by the most logical questions. Read the captions, and if you want to know more just click on the link below the image. Geek out!

Question 1: Where is this book set?
Visayas-Maps-Sugar-Sun-Jennifer-Hallock
Most of the Sugar Sun series takes place in the Visayan Islands in the central and southern Philippines.
Question 2: Why were Americans in the Philippines?
Question 3: What happened in Samar?
Question 4: What else do I need to know about a soldier’s life in 1901?
Question 5: What else should I know about the world of Ben Potter?
Question 6: What should I know about the world of Allegra Alazas?

And you can find out more about Allegra, her home, her family, and her background by reading through these annotated glossary posts:

Question 7: Where can I find some excerpts from this book?
Sugar-Moon-woman-pink-dress-jungle-2019-banner
Click on this banner to take you to the Sugar Moon teasers.
Question 8: When will Sugar MOon be published?

Spring/Summer 2019.

Not good enough for you? All I can say is that I’m working on it. Today wasn’t super productive—hence this page because blogs are great for procrastination. Don’t think I’m doing nothing, though. I’m mulling over a problem in my head, and these things can’t be rushed. And believe me, I’m more anxious about getting this book into the world than you are.

Thanks for reading!

Sugar Moon 2019 waterfall in jungle

Why romance? New Year’s musings

You might think mixing romance and history would be a highly-marketable combination, but there are a few landmines. Fans of historical fiction (who often know little about romance) want you to take out the happily-ever-after to make your book more “realistic” and “serious.” Fortunately for me, Olivia Waite came along and explained the problem with taking away my heroines’ HEAs:

Olivia-Waite-twitter-thread-why-romance

Jeannie Lin added that the Asian women in her family have suffered through “regime change, through executions, through so many personal tragedies—and still found a way to find happiness. That story is just as real.” As I’ve heard Beverly Jenkins say several times at conferences: even in the toughest of times, people still have picnics, birthday parties, and fall in love.

Of course, some of the worst bits are history are not going to make it to the page in a romance. (Hello, syphilis? Around ten percent of the general American population had the disease by 1900, and I choose to entirely ignore that fact.) I have written and discussed in interviews why I chose to set my books in the Philippine-American War. (They are not the typical Regency duke books, for sure.) I used my own scholarship on American colonial rule in the Philippines to fabricate my own fictional chronotope: I choose when to be constrained by real history and when to hold onto a more modern sensibility.

Writers have been fabricating chronotopes in historical fiction for centuries. Antony and Cleopatra—while not a romanceis proof that Shakespeare made this same choice. The play is based partly off the history he had at his disposal, Plutarch’s Lives, but he also added scenes and changed historical facts to suit the story. Some scholars even say that Shakespeare was really writing a political commentary of his times, using Elizabeth I as his model for Cleopatra. While Shakespeare is the platinum standard of literature now, keep in mind that he wrote popular fiction back then. He was a storyteller.

That’s what romance is: good story-telling that makes you feel. Tess Sharpe came up with a pretty exhaustive list of what I mean by this:

Tess-Sharpe-Twitter-thread-romance

But let’s not ignore sexual chemistry. One of the reasons that romance makes a person feel so intensely—and that is a big part of its appeal—is that the reader is so heavily invested in the two main characters and their relationship. How does that happen? How does the reader become so intimately involved? By being present at the most intimate of scenes, when the armor of clothing is shed and the characters become figuratively and literally naked. The sex scenes advance the plot because they are about navigating the relationship in its most raw state.

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Now, I will end with an apology. Clearly, it is now 2019, which means this brag did not pan out:

Header-Sugar-Moon-2018

My blend of “history ever after” has been a particular challenge in this book, and so revisions have needed revisions. I feel confident it will be out by spring 2019. Stay tuned!

Pizza, puppy, parol, and phunk

Mr. Hallock and I have a tradition we created our first year of marriage: pizza for Christmas. We spent the 1998 holiday in West Beirut, then our home. Since our neighborhood was predominantly Muslim, everything was open! (Also, the Lebanese knew that Santa can sell anything. For example, our local manousheh joint, Faysal’s, dressed an employee in a perfect jolly red suit and handed out chocolates.) Stephen and I were not big chefs or bakers yet (well, I’m still not), so we were hardly going to make a big dinner for two. We did the obvious thing: we ordered a pizza. Not obvious to you? As we sat and scarfed down a great New York-style pepperoni and mushroom pie, we decided we would always have pizza (or something styled after pizza) for Christmas. We have not broken that tradition in 20 years. There is dough resting on the kitchen table as I type…

1960s vintage tinikling postcard Christmas Philippines
A 1960s Christmas postcard from the Philippines, courtesy of the fabulous Pinoy Kollektor website.

The holidays have also been about our nuclear family, i.e. our dog(s). We sadly said goodbye to seventeen-year-old Jaya two years ago, and before that to fifteen-year-old Grover. This is our first Christmas with a little pipsqueak called Wile E. Dog. Her auntie and uncle brought her pigs’ ears, so she’s been just fine with the madness of the holidays.Wile-E-dog-pig-ear

And, yes, we have a parol—adjusted to 110v by our amazing Ate Edith! We give passing traffic seizures, but, hey, it’s festive.

parol-outside-hallock-house

Finally, one of my favorite holiday traditions: good funky Christmas music. My favorite funk? Bootsy Collin’s Christmas is 4 Ever.

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One thing you will have to do without this season is Sugar Moon. It is still coming soon, but rewrites are thorough and ongoing. We are hoping for early 2019, certainly in the first half of the year. Until then, check out the teasers on this site. If you want something Christmas-y, also please check out the epilogue of my latest novella, Tempting Hymn. (Click on the image for a buy link.) Merry, merry.

Tempting-Hymn-epilogue-teaser