Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Accidental Book Contract & A Meal Fit For a Queen

A couple of years ago, I gave some serious consideration to adapting my blog into a book. I had many reader requests, and I was a fairly successful freelance writer back in the late 1980s and early '90s, so it looked like it might be time to pursue that career again.

Turns out the blog was too "close" to me. I got some some work done but it grew very boring. I prefer working with new material rather than polishing and rewriting so much of the old. But I pursued magazine work and quickly found moderate success again. For most of 2008 there wasn't a month when I didn't have an article in at least one magazine at Books-A-Million. That was very fulfilling, but the idea of a book was still dancing through my mind. Not a blog adaption; a new non-fiction topic in the self-help or animal or travel genres.

Writing/selling books has always been on my "short list" of things to accomplish in life. It takes a lot of work, as you have to create a full-blown proposal, outline and sample chapters which is shopped around to agents and/or publishers. I had a few ideas, so I devoted myelf to working up the proposals and started sending them around.

In the meantime, on a writers' forum where I hang out, there was a call for writers for a book in the "Complete Idiots Guide" series. It wasn't a topic that was quite right for me, but I pitched a book on choosing a counselor. They asked to see an outline, so I devoted a frantic weekend to preparing one. I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and the idea was fresh in the editor's mind.

Unfortunately it got rejected because they didn't think there was enough of a market. I'm the sort of person who believes that things happen for a reason, but at this point I was stumped as to the purpose of my putting so much effort into the outline to go for a tempting opportunity that was subsequently yanked away. Meanwhile I was shopped some other proposals around, and I decided that since I already had the outline done I would start sending out this one too.

Fast forward a bit to a fateful phone call. A publisher had liked the proposal but, like the initial company, didn't think there was enough of a market. However, he was producing a series of career guides and wanted to include one on becoming a counselor. Might I be interested in writing that?

I was indeed and promised to send a proposal, although in my mind I was worried that my chances of actually getting the assignment were slim. I guess it was a bit of paranoia over all the work I'd put into the original outline, which turned out to be for naught. I put it somewhere on my to-do list, where it promptly plummeted to the bottom because I was buried in magazine assignments.

Fast forward again to another phone call from the publisher checking to see if I was still interested. At that point I realized that I'd made a misjudgment and that they were really serious. I whipped together an outline and quickly dispatched it, and the publisher said that they would be assigning an editor once I returned the signed contract. I responded that I hadn't received one, and they responded with one posthaste! Yikes! Just like that, one of my goals for 2008, which I'd thought I'd have to roll over into 2009, had been achieved.

With a deadline for the manuscript of 12/31/08, I plunged headfirst into writing the manuscript. I'm still busily working at it and drooling at the thought of seeing it in trade paperback form in June, 2009.

Since this was a huge milestone, hubby suggested going to Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian to celebrate. It's one of the few WDW restaurants that we've never visited. As tourists we didn't bother because they require a jacket for men and a dress or fancy pantsuit for ladies and we didn't bring those type of clothes on vacation. Once we moved to Celebration it shifted to our "gonna do someday" list but never quite made it to the top.

Victoria and Albert's is named after the former Queen of England and her husband. It's located just off the Citrico's lobby, and stepping through the doors is like walking into another world of peace and serenity. The diningroom is dark and candlelit, and live harp music provides a soothing backdrop to hushed conversations. Everyone is dressed in formal attire, and the attentive waitstaff seems to psychically sense each diner's needs.

There is a set price for a seven course meal that is roughly equivalent to the annual economy of a small third-world country. You have several choices for each course, and you can add an optional wine pairing. Most of the portions are small, with the exception of the main entree and dessert, but with that many courses you end up quite full by the end. It's sort of like a "taster" of constantly-arriving gastronomic delights.

Better yet, your menu is customized with your name and anything that you might be celebrating. This gave me a lovely momento to stash away with my signed contract. The menu itself was overwhelming in its choices, and I decided to be somewhat adventurous so it was very difficult creating my mix and match meal. I finally ended up with: sesame seared tuna, poached quail (although I have to say that hubby's elk in this course was to die for), Alaskan king salmon, veal tenderloin (which was topped with sweetbreads...i.e. bull nads...which actually taste very good), a goat cheese selection (although the white chocolate gelato that hubby opted for was, in his crude and wine-sodden assessment, "An orgasm in my mouth"), and a chocolate selection for dessert. There was also a special chef's appetizer (four kinds of duck) which comes at the beginning of the meal.

In addition to the main courses, there are three types of bread. All were good, but the absolute best (and one of the best breads I've ever had at a Disney restaurant, which I don't say lightly) was the pumpkin soda bread. That's not really what it was called, but that pretty much sums up the taste. Like the other breads, it had its own special matching butter.

If you ever eat at V&As, you must order the coffee at the end, if only to see the 1800-esque coffee maker that they bring right to your table. At the end of the meal, ladies are presented with a rose and you get a mini-bread loaf to take home.

Everything at V&A was impeccable, from the hook they put on your table to your purse to the fact that they phone down to valet to have your car waiting for you (we didn't use that service because we wanted to stop in the lobby to buy some gingerbread and didn't know how long that would take). The hushed atmosphere is so different from the wild antics just outside the door in Citrico's. At V&A, children under 10 are forbidden and there is no kids menu. On the night we dined there it was strictly adults; I guess no one wanted to pop $120 for food most 10-year-olds would refuse to eat.

I don't know how strictly they enforce the dress code, but I do know that on this night everyone was suited up properly. The other Disney "signature restaurants" are supposed to have a code, too, albeit a much more relaxed one, but I've never seen anyone turned away even when they've arrived in jeans with gaping holes in places that give me too much information. Cell phones are supposed to be forbidden too and I do have to say that never once during our meal did I hear an annoying ring, followed by a high decible conversation, as I so commonly do in other WDW restaurants. It was hard to imagine that I was actually at Disney; I could easily have been in an upscale restaurant in Chicago or New York.

There was only one minor annoyance. In one corner, two women with one of those annoying strobe cameras were taking 3 to 4 photos of every single course. At a minimum, 3 pictures multiplied by 14 food items is 42 eye-searing flashes, made all the more noticable by the extreme dimness of the restaurant. They actually probably took closer to 75 photos as they took enough of the coffee pot to fill an entire album. Granted, taking photos isn't against the rules but it was lilke an intrusive lightning storm overtaking the serenity of the dark, calm dining room.

That was just a minor annoyance in the midst of an otherwise amazing meal. The taste combinations of the dishes, sauces and spices were phenomenal, even with the most commonplace items. For example, the spices made plain old raw tuna sing a brand new tune to my taste buds. I wasn't disappointed in any of the new items either. The quail was delicious (reminded me of duck), and even the sweetbreads were yummy.

After the meal, we hustled down to the gingerbread shop, which is only there for the holidays, to pick up some cookies for our neighbor (and of course for us too). I was still somewhat stunned at the evening's tab (high enough with the basics, but hubby had upgraded one of his courses in addition to doing the wine pairing), but I have to admit it was worth every penny. The only problem is, I'd love to go back but it definitely has to be an occasional treat. Oh well, it will serve as the perfect motivator to future literary achievements. We're already decided that once I get an agent, or when my book is released, we'll be back at V&A for another celebration.

1 comment:

Matt Boom said...