In 1999, I was introduced to two dead people. One was a white guy from Ireland that died a hundred years ago and the other was Ayaou, a Chinese woman that was a mystery since Robert Hart tried to erase her from his personal history.
I’m fortunate that Hart failed and traces of Ayaou survived.
Since I was a child of seven or eight, I’ve been writing stories. They were short with lots of bad drawings.
Soon after I was honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps in 1968, I took my first writing workshop at a community college. Then Ray Bradbury came to the campus to speak and although I never read his work, what he said inspired me to never stop writing.
Although I did receive a few encouraging rejections through the decades and was represented by two or three reputable agents before Amazon.com and eBooks were born, nothing I wrote was picked up by a traditional publisher.
Believing I wasn’t good enough, I decided to learn more of the writing craft by earning a BA in journalism. An MFA with a focus in twentieth century American literature came much later.
Between earning the two college degrees, I drove about 150 miles one day each week for seven years to attend a workshop out of UCLA’s writing extension program.
The teacher was a chain smoker with an explosive tempter but she was sharp and several of the writers in her workshop went on to publish their work. When she felt one of her students was ready, she went all out and even found an agent for the author. She found one for me, but that’s another story.
When I published My Splendid Concubine in 2008, I held my breath wondering if anyone would read it and enjoy the lusty, violent story of Robert Hart and Ayaou in the middle of 19th century China immersed in the smoke of the Opium Wars and the oceans of blood of the Taiping Rebellion.
On May 12, 2009, an Amazon reader, an anonymous person in Hong Kong, posted a one-star review of My Splendid Concubine.
The anonymous reader wrote, “As a great fan of Robert Hart’s, I was very eager to get my hands on this book. And what a huge disappointment it proved to be, for many reasons…”
One of those reasons was a “g” missing from one of five “Tang Dynasties” in the novel.
This one-star review was of the first edition. By the time it appeared on Amazon, the second revised edition was out and some of the anonymous reader’s complaints had been corrected.
In three years, My Splendid Concubine earned three honorable mentions in city book festival literary contests then Our Hart earned another four honorable mentions and became a finalist for a national writing award.
About a year ago, the sequel, Our Hart, was submitted to the 18th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Recently, an envelope arrived from Writer’s Digest.
Jessica Strawser, the editor of Writer’s Digest, wrote that the competition was particularly fierce this year…
Our Hart didn’t win.
This is the book trailer I produced in 2008 of the first edition of My Splendid Concubine. My wife has been telling me I need a better one and to delete this version.
However, when you enter a book to this Writer’s Digest literary award, a judge writes a commentary of your work and ranks it for plot, grammar, character development, production quality and cover design, which helped dispel the criticism of that one-star review that discovered a missing “g” from one of five “Tang Dynasties” in My Splendid Concubine.
The Writer’s Digest judge, a professional in the publishing industry, awarded grammar a five with five being the highest score.
The judge wrote, “In Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, author Lloyd Lofthouse has penned an intriguing story set in an ancient Chinese dynasty. Political intrigue and matters of the heart are both fully explored. The book is meticulously researched and the author’s enthusiasm for his subject is evident.… The author has an ear for natural-sounding dialogue, making Our Hart an engaging read.… That said, readers who enjoy vicariously experiencing other times and cultures will find Our Hart a fascinating journey.”
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