Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The End Is Only the Beginning

I have moved.

Or rather, we have move, to wordpress.

Who are we? Well, come on over and find out. :-)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Just for LOLZ

I couldn't resist. I could not. Once I saw that the site existed and I could make a three-D video just by typing, well, I couldn't resist.

I think I went where no romance writer has ever gone. But that's very likely because I am the frog at the bottom of the well who doesn't know what's going on in the big, wide world. So if there are other romance trailers made this way, please let me know. (I still think I must be among the first five, if not the first.) :-)

So here it is, a talking trailer for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.

P.S. And I just learned this myself. Click on the little triangle at the bottom right corner of the youtube video. And then click on the little tab that pops up. It will recede the video and reveal both its url and its embed code.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Delicious FTW, I hope

DELICIOUS is up now against the number 1 seed in the bracket, Loretta Chase's YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS, in the DABWAHA tournament. I didn't even notice when PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS went down. PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS can take care of itself, but DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS is my precious, preciousssss...

Okay, enough of my indecent love for that book. If you enjoyed DELICIOUS, please vote for it at http://dabwaha.com/blog. Voting closes 8pm EDT today.

And here is DELICIOUS in all its audio glory. Sigh, so pretty.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shana Abé Interview

Shana Abé is one of those authors who doesn't publicize herself much, which is a bit of a shame, cuz she is such a lovely, fun person. On the occasion of her new hardcover release, The Treasure Keeper, I hunted her down and forced her to do an interview with me.

Okay, I didn't have to tie her down, then shove a mike in her face. (Is it just me or does it sound terribly dirty? *g*) But you get my gist. The Treasure Keeper hits the stores today. Go get your copy.

You wrote six straight historical romance and one book of mermaid novellas (2 historical, one contemporary) before you burst on to the scene anew in 2005 with your Drákon series, beginning with The Smoke Thief, featuring an ancient race of dragons who have learned to shapeshift and pass as humans. I know, from a podcast you did with Sandy Coleman of All About Romance, that it had been a long-held desire for you to write romances with fantasy/paranormal elements. Did you also always want to do something with dragons? Or was it a case of “Hmm, vampires, no. Hmm, werewolves, no. Hmm, dragons, well, well, well?”

Actually, you pretty much summed it up right there! I realized I wanted to write about shapeshifting creatures of some sort, but I felt that there were already so many good werewolf/vampire novels out there, I really didn’t want to plunge into that pool.

I used to live in the foothills of Los Angeles, where there are a lot of red-tailed hawks. And I have pet house rabbits. A person with pet rabbits always keeps a sharp eye out for predators when they’re outside playing. I learned to recognize entire family groups of hawks, and I suspect they learned to recognize me. One cast of at least thirteen would circle by nearly every day at bunny playtime in my backyard. Being the superior, brilliant human that I am, I would stand in my yard and try to shoo them away by waving my arms and jumping up and down and yelling, “Go away!” Which astonished my neighbors (not in a good way) and totally frightened my bunnies—but not the hawks. Finally one day the hawks very firmly and rudely responded by, um, loosening their collective bowels directly above me. Seriously. I had to run away and hide under the porch. And it was a huge mess upon landing.

Anyway! Hawks. Despite all that, it’s impossible not to admire their elegance in flight. One afternoon as I was idly watching a courting couple above me, their fantastic circles and loops and turns—with the back of my brain simmering over my shapeshifting, werewolf/vampire dilemma—the answer came to me. It seemed so obvious. Not hawks (I mean, come on, they tried to poop on me!), but dragons. Dragons can fly, dragons are mystical and interesting, and plus, since they don’t actually exist, I could make up whatever traits I wanted to about them. :-)

The Drákon books have been an instant hit with both readers and critics alike. The Smoke Thief was Romantic Times’s Historical Romance of the Year. The second book in the series, The Dream Thief, which totally blew me away, made the New York Times bestseller list and was named by Amazon.com its #1 Romance of the Year. Bantam, your publisher, obviously did anticipate just such a reception, as the series is brought out in hardcover. Did you personally expect this level of success?

God, no. Like most novelists, I try to write the very best book I can every single time. But still, some books just end up being better than others. I don’t know why. As a writer, I do feel a certain tingle of excitement when I compose something I think is good...but I don’t necessarily expect anyone else to think it’s good. I only hope that they do, LOL.

It was a very happy surprise to get the call from my agent telling me that Bantam planned to release THE SMOKE THIEF in hardcover. In fact, I couldn’t really believe it for a while; I thought maybe they had made a mistake. Or that they would come to their senses and change their minds. But they put together a lovely package for it, and I think I’m very, very lucky that it turned out so well.

One thing I love deeply about your books is that they feature power couples. So often in romance--and particularly paranormal romance--the balance of the power is tilted, sometimes overwhelmingly, toward the hero. But your heroines have stunning abilities and nerves of steel and are full equals of your heroes. One of my favorite moments from Queen of Dragons, the third book in the series, is when Kimber, the hero, says to Maricara, the heroine, “Let me ask you, king to king…” Ah, it just melts me when a man is strong enough to be secure in the presence of a strong woman. Can you tell me a bit about how you arrive at this dynamic balance between the hero and the heroine?

It’s a very delicate balance, isn’t it? Personally I don’t enjoy a story as much when either the hero or the heroine has far more power than the other, either by societal or supernatural means. Because I chose to set the Drákon Series in the eighteenth century, and then chose my characters to be beasts disguised as humans, I had already set up a radically inequitable balance between the males and the females. Georgian society never exactly embraced the notion of women’s rights, and on top of that you’ve got this wolf pack-like tribe of beings whose ruling faction asserts that it’s biologically impossible for a female to lead, for example. It’s a double whammy against the girls!

So I definitely needed my heroines to have backbones of steel to deal with this. They were both underestimated and undervalued, even by their own kind. Yet they’re not soft, fragile little flowers who wilt in the face of difficulty. In my mind, these women are real, and that means they must behave in realistic ways. Even today we struggle with the consequences of sexual inequality, so imagine how much more extreme, and socially acceptable, it was then. I don’t know a single woman who feels she’s of lesser value than a man, and certainly not merely because she happened to born with a pair of ovaries instead of the other stuff.

Like real women throughout history, these drákon females have learned to relish their own strengths, to hone them; they understand that the foundation of their world is fundamentally unjust, but they adapt to it. They stretch their boundaries as they can, and sometimes they simply flat-out shatter them. Whether that means challenging the layers of rules that constrict them, or more directly just running away to live free, they make the choice not to endure the role their society attempts to force upon them.

Of course, that means they need a man—a male drákon—who is smart enough and wise enough not only to accept the heroine as she is, but to cherish her strength and individuality. It’s one of the facets of his character that makes him a hero: he falls in love with all parts of this amazing creature, even the aspects of her that buck societal norms and directly challenge his own authority.

In another interview with All About Romance, you described yourself as a young girl as “Scrawny. Chalk-white pale. Lank, dark hair that would never hold a curl. Terminally clumsy.” And you wore coke-bottle glasses because you were “one tiny degree away from being legally blind.” But then you went on to become a runway and print model in Japan. I find that absolutely fascinating—a real life transformation story. How did that impact how you view femininity and beauty and how you craft your heroines?

It’s interesting how our childhood shapes us, isn’t it? In my case, I didn’t get rid of the glasses until junior high school, and by then I was so profoundly shy that my mother enrolled me in modeling and acting classes to try to open me up a bit. I enjoyed acting and tolerated modeling, but I never thought it would really lead anywhere. It was a shock to get an offer to model in Japan as a teenager, and to this day I am so grateful for it, because it turns out that traveling to other countries and learning about other cultures is something I love.

But modeling was only ever a job to me, one I always realized would be extremely provisional. In the end, I modeled professionally for about eleven years, which was longer than most girls I knew. I did it around high school and college and then a little later, and the very best part of it was always getting to travel.

However, modeling is a grueling, fiercely competitive and sometimes vicious line of work, and it can breed monsters. I never once thought of myself as beautiful; I had a good look for a strong market, I was very lucky and that was enough. When you’re surrounded by peers whose jaw-dropping physical attributes become almost commonplace, you search for a deeper connection. You search for the mind, for the heart. You want to learn the who of the person instead the what.

That’s what truly matters. I still believe it. Physical beauty has its advantages, but it’s fleeting, and there’s nothing you can do about that. It’s far more important to develop the beauty of your soul, because that’s forever (or, if you’re of a more non-theological bent, it’s for the whole of your lifetime, at least).

Most of the other models I met were deeply insecure about their looks. That’s natural, when you consider how much emphasis is placed upon the seemingly random arrangement of skin and cartilage and bone. Girls I worked with would freak out over a chipped nail. They had reason to. You could lose a job over it, which might be a significant loss of income. A chipped fingernail! It’s a weird, weird profession.

I’m way happier as a writer, LOL.

You live with half a dozen bunnies and a dog. Now lots of people have dogs, so the dog is not very surprising. How did the bunnies come about? And is that the reason I never read about rabbit stews in your book? :-)

Ha! Once, I think in my first novel (a medieval) I had the hero go hunting and catch a hare for dinner, and I felt like such a traitor after that I never have anyone eat rabbit again. ;-) I’ve also managed to insert the names of almost every one of my rabbits (there’s been quite a few of them over the years) into my books, just for fun.

Many, many years ago, I was a desperately impoverished associate editor at a small weekly paper in Malibu (which shall go nameless but does still exist; it’s a really great paper, actually). We had an office parrot and one of my jobs was to go to the local pet store and get him (her? none of us were really sure) supplies.

The pet store, which I very much hope is now out of business, was a sad, small, dirty place. They sold all kinds of animals, and usually for heaps of money (it was Malibu, after all), but one animal they could not sell was this full-grown rabbit. It was a brown lop, nothing fancy or unique, but they kept it in an aquarium because it kept figuring out how to open the wire cages. The aquarium was so small the rabbit couldn’t even stretch out.

I watched this rabbit for almost six months, cramped and miserable in his glass prison. No one wanted him. I knew nothing about rabbits. I had no money. I could barely afford my rent, but one day I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I bought the rabbit.

I named him Christopher, until I saved up enough cash to have him neutered, and then I named her Katherine. LOL. She was brilliant and sassy and I loved her to pieces. She led to two more bunnies—brothers, abandoned Easter bunnies—and then to another one with a deformed ear, and so on.

That’s how it began. Right now I have five rabbits, some very old, one very young, all rescued, all house rabbits.

You need a good sense of humor to have house rabbits, and a lot of wood toys. They chew through everything.

Book four of the Drákon series, Treasure Keeper, hits shelves today itself. It features a son of the original Drákon couple from The Smoke Thief, the girl he first fell in love with when he was thirteen, and is set in a most intriguing and dangerous time and place. Would you tell us something about it?

Well, twist my arm, LOL. THE TREASURE KEEPER is the tale of Rhys Langford, who (as you mentioned) is the youngest son of Kit and Rue from the first book in the series, and Zoe Lane, daughter of the local seamstress (also a drákon). We glimpse them together as youngsters briefly in QUEEN OF DRAGONS, and she seems a little cold then, even as a girl, but it’s all explained in the new book.

I wanted Zoe to have different abilities from the other drákon, and so, something like a chameleon, she has the Gift of invisibility. She also sees ghosts in glass, and is shadowed by the dead (but not in a creepy way). She’s run away from the confines of the English shire in which she was raised because her fiancé (not Rhys!), who was sent out into the human world, has gone missing. Rhys, however, is also missing, because it turns out the drákon have a dire human enemy: the sanf inimicus, human dragon hunters. Both Rhys and Zoe’s fiancé are thought to be dead, but only Rhys shows up to haunt her in spectral form.

He starts off in the story a lot like what you’d think the younger, handsome son of a ridiculously privileged family would be: cocky, sophisticated, fairly wild and irresponsible. But deep down he’s also kind, protective, and genuinely in love with Zoe, the only vibrant thread of true life in his now-gray existence.

Zoe’s made it to Paris, and it’s just a few years before the French Revolution. It’s a dangerous and gritty and exciting time. Plus, she’s hiding out in a castle, which is pretty cool, LOL.

I had a great time with both the setting and the protagonists. Every time I get to delve into this world, I learn something new. It’s such an amazing process, and I’m truly delighted that other people have enjoyed the stories of the drákon as much as I have. I know I’ve said this before, but I feel so, so fortunate.

Well, I know I’ll be at the bookstore to pick up my copy. Thank you so much, Shana, for talking with me. And thank you for writing your wonderful books.

Thank YOU for your kindness! I was thrilled that you wanted to chat. Like a lot of folks, I’m a big fan of the Fabulous Sherry Thomas! :-)


Below are links to excerpts for Shana's Drákon books

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This & That

Both DELICIOUS and PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS are in the DABWAHA Tournament. It's set up like March Madness, 64 books, 1 champion. Go have some fun and vote for your faves. First round is on.

I just received the audio CDs for DELICIOUS in the mail yesterday. Now I feel like a rock star, or at least like Diane Settlefield, whose book The Thirteenth Tale, was the last book I listened to on audio. The narrator is Virginia Leishman, who also narrated Possession by A. S. Byatt for Recorded Books. Boy, does she make me sound like Masterpiece Theater. And it's got a great cover. (My camera is broken. I'll see if I can't take a picture of it with someone else's camera.) I'm wondering if I should do a giveaway. This would be the perfect romance conversion item, cuz your quarry wouldn't even have any idea s/he was listening to romance, until it's too late of course. :-)

I'm running a contest on my website, giving away an autographed copy of Shana Abé's Smoke Thief, the first book in her Drakon series, in honor of her upcoming new release, Treasure Keeper. I'll interview Shana Abe and give away Treasure Keeper on my e-newsletter on the day of her release, March 24. I'll also be posting the interview here. There is an absolutely hilarious story which I'd never read anywhere else on how she came to write about those dragons. Stay tuned.

If you haven't read GQ's feature on Robert Pattinson (ya know, the guy who plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight movie), you are missing the year's best comedy. I was rolling in the aisles. It is the most hysterically funny feature article I've read in a long, long time. The thing is, you have this clueless dude who comes into this mania completely blind. He is the anti-Edward, a beta male (a child, really), he doesn't smell good, he's insecure, completely flummoxed, and cannot stop talking earnestly and semi-coherently. I felt like making him tea, knitting him a pair of socks (I don't know how to knit), and maybe getting a girlfriend to have pity sex with him just to tell him it's alright. He's a nice kid. I hope he comes out of this okay.

The only movie I want to see right now, The Young Victoria, is, alas, not yet playing in the U.S. I usually don't go for costume dramas--surprising I guess, given I write costume dramas--except for Pride and Prejudice. But this one, I'm dying to see, cuz they've captured Victoria and Albert as real people, young, passionate, flawed--and hot, omg hot.

And last, but not least, I finally have a proposal accepted. Change of plans. It won't be THE IDEAL GENTLEMAN, for now. But a new one, THE PERFECT DECEPTION. When I'm further along in the writing I will make a page for it and post excerpt. For now, I'm still grappling with elements of the story. Suffice to say, it was inspired by Meredith Duran's upcoming book Written on Your Skin. Go read an excerpt. She is going to be one of the greats in our genre.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I have it, but what do I do with it?

Typically, I make a book trailer at the very last minute, a week before the book hits the shelves or something like that. Until I learned that for Borders to use your book trailer (a pretty big if), it has to be ready a good two months before the book's release.

So I went ahead and did it early this time.

Okay, I have it. And it is a very pretty trailer. But what do I do with it?

The ideal thing would be to build an online publicity campaign around it. But I don't really know how willing people are to host YouTube videos on their blogs, etc. Is it doable? What kind of prize should I hand out? Am leaning toward cash prizes, like prepaid visa cards or some such, but how much and how many?

Also, how do I publicize such a contest? If I just let people know about it on my blog, website, social group sites, etc, would it be enough? Or should I promise an e-reader to get Dear Author's attention, the way Kresley Cole did?

And what about widgets? I've seen promotional campaigns built around widgets here and there. Have you done one or participated in one or run into one surfing around? Do you think widgets work?

I'd love to know.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Uncritical II

In the summer of 2006, I was Terminator Mom. Or at least, I put on my Terminator Mom hat to do battle with Senior Kidlet's writing composition woes. He was between third and fourth grade, and on his report card his teacher had named him a "reluctant writer."

When I was a child, my grandmother had the habit of teaching me a lot of things before they were taught at school. Over all, I did not much care for the extra work. Some stuff were okay: The abacus was very cool. But don't ask me about the joys of getting up at 5:30 am to learn English, about the most painful and futile exercise imaginable. So when I became a parent, I vowed never to impose such trials on my children. These kids would play all they want and have a proper childhood.

Alas, sometimes teachers express concerns and parents have to step up the help at home. So reluctantly I entered the battlefield and had Senior Kidlet do three-paragraph essays a few times a week--the kind he'd have to produce on his assessment tests.

He improved some, but not remarkably. Suddenly in the middle of that summer I got a full request from Kristin Nelson, so had to finish PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which she read very quickly and came back with revisions. Revisions were finished just before I started grad school and needless to say, with school and a difficult-going second book happening at the same time, I didn't spend too much time on Senior Kidlet's homework for the next year and half, and in my mind Senior Kidlet remained a mediocre-at-best writer.

Then, in the spring of 2008, just before the end of 5th grade, Senior Kidlet brought home a book of poems that he'd written at school, to practice the poetry forms they'd learned in language arts and also as a teacher-directed Mother's Day present.

Now this was a child who used to moan at length "I don't know what to write about" every time he had to write anything. The refrains of those complaints and my memories of sitting long hours next to him nudging him on were still fresh in my mind. I expected minimum effort and output to get through the project, and lo and behold this was what I came across:


Midnight is like the bottom of an abyss,
And witnessing a dementor's kiss.
Midnight is a dolphin's sonar and a whale's song,
Accompanied with, an evil heart's throng.
Midnight is as cold as ice,
Along with the rushing flow of stale rice [sic].
Midnight is a rotten berry,
And the moldy flesh of Styx's ferry.
Midnight is the reek of rancid fungi,
With a slice of old spinach pie.

Now I wasn't entirely uncritical. I asked him how the heck was stale rice going to flow. He told me it was really hard to find words that rhymed with ice and we had a good laugh about it. But beyond that, oh baby, was I delighted.

Especially with "Midnight is a rotten berry," something I'd have been proud to have thought up myself.

Parenthood has a way of turning assumptions on their heads. How humbling it was to see that I'd underestimated him and how wonderful it was to be proved wrong. Children grow into their own capabilities, in their own time.

And what a pleasure to put aside my Terminator Mom hat and, for once, just applaud from the rafters.

(Though it is a total indictment of my disorganization that it took this long for the poem to appear here, given that I'd told Senior Kidlet nearly 10 month ago that I'd do it. The poetry booklet just kept disappearing on us every time I got ready to fulfill my promise. When I finally found it again this time I did not let it out of my sight. *g*)

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Toward the end of December, I took a break from emergency revisions for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I shed my first tears within moments of the beginning, when the clockmaker's backward-turning clock was revealed, and he spoke of how he wished that time could flow back and bring back all the young men (his own son included) who had perished in the Great War.

The tone of the movie was set. From then on, I was completely and rapturously enveloped in the gentle yet unsentimental journey of a man who ages backward. I'd read other aging backward stories, most notably in Dan Simmons' Hyperion, so I already know it is a peculiar genre that moves me. But still, I cried and cried at the end of the movie and then went home--it was like 2:30 am when I got back--and cried for another half hour. Because it touched me so. Because for me it spoke so eloquently of the fragility of life, the inexorability of death, and the gallantry of love, knowing in the end that it might not even be remembered or recognized.

But I seem to be in the minority in my uncritical love of this movie. When I've talked to people about it, they feel the movie was too long and rather boring at parts. My mom in particular, from whom I inherited my shallowness, complained at length that there wasn't enough young Brad Pitt for eye candy. :-)

Now, what else do I love uncritically?

Some of you might know that I had a lot of trouble with DELICIOUS, that I had to throw out the equivalent of two entire drafts before my editor accepted the third version. (I am, without a doubt, the best edited writer in all of romance--bar none.) When I received the first final copies of DELICIOUS hot off the press, I sat down and read it through--for probably the very first time, since before that I always had to make changes. My verdict? "Powerful but imperfect," as I wrote in an email to my editor, vowing to keep the powerful but get rid of the imperfect with my next book.

Some of you might also know that I had some major trouble with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND in the home stretch--namely, I sent it in and my editor sent it back with a few choice words that had me wander around my house shellshocked for half a day or so before I pulled myself together to redo the book in the three weeks. (Otherwise my pub date would have to be moved back to 2010.)

Having gone through three drafts with DELICIOUS, getting a sucky draft sent back shouldn't be anything new for me, right?

Well, it was a new experience. Each time I handed in a not-okay draft of DELICIOUS, I sort of knew that it wasn't okay. The first time I actually prayed that my editor wouldn't hate it too much--she did, and I wasn't too surprised.

This time I was really, really shocked. Even after I'd rewritten and resubmitted and had my new version accepted, I couldn't stop wondering about it. Why was my assessment of the original version of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND so diametrical from that of my editor's? The ability to judge one's own work is an important quality to have for a writer, especially a professional writer. And I'd thought that I'd finally acquired that ability.

Then I read the new version of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND in anticipation of the line edit and the copy edits. I cried--and cried and cried. It dawned on me finally that NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, even the much-flawed original version, was just like Benjamin Button for me.

Have you ever read a book that hurts so good that you lose all critical faculties? A book of deep lovely pain that make you feel with such intensity and rawness that you cannot grade it on any objective measure, because you don't care, because it just knocks you out in all the right ways?

That is NOT QUITE A HUSBAND for me. Me, not my editor, fortunately. The book as it originally stood had a couple of significant structural weaknesses which I completely ignored because I was an emotion junkie getting her fix with the rest of the story. My clear-eyed editor pointed them out and made me fix them.

And the new version gets to me even more.

It feels unsettling, almost, to speak of a book of my own that way. And I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. I could very well end up in the minority here, as NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is not an easy story, nor does it have a secondary romance to lighten things up from time to time. But it is, in a way, a marvelous experience, to write something that jives with me so much that I'm utterly blind to its faults, that upon reading it I am incapable of anything but teary-eyed happiness.

The rest of you, prepare to be sorely disappointed. :-)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How Did This Escape My Attention?

How did I miss this? Bettie Sharpe's LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT has been out in print, as part of an anthology, since the very end of 2008.

I wrote a combined review for EMBER and LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT January last at Dear Author. It's not very often that I exhort readers to support a certain author, but I think a special case should be made for Bettie. Cuz she is just too awesome a talent. And for selfish reasons, I want her to get a lot of money from her writing so that she needs to do nothing but write. For my enjoyment. :-)

I haven't seen the book in the stores yet--not that I was particularly looking for it--but you can get it from Amazon here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Write What You ------

I know a very limited number of things. I know what it is like to grow up in China in the 80s in a safe, comfortable, loving home. I know what it is like to move to a different country and feel like I’d been transported to a parallel dimension. (8th graders hugging and kissing in the hall, truly America must be going to hell in a hand basket.) And I know what it is like to be a suburban soccer mom from a very young age. That’s about it.

What I don’t know could float supertankers.

Writers are often told, “Write what you know.” Well, as you can see, that would put me in real trouble. Not only have I never been to any of the places or times I’ve set my stories in, but I’ve never committed a fraud or run away from home or fallen in love with a boss.

Or, as is the case in NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, ended a marriage.

Instead, my own rule has always been, Write What I Understand.

There are things I do not understand. Ménage-à-trois is the first thing that comes to mind—or basically any kind of multi-partner arrangement. Not that I don’t understand why people do it, but that I do not get, given my own views and experiences, how that leads to durable contentment for all parties involved. My take on relational happiness is two people focused on and devoted to each other, in faithfulness and equality.

But beyond a few such dead ends, I understand a great many things. Based on what I already know of my own immaturity, impulsiveness, and lack of will power, I can see how people would go beyond where I would pull up to a dead stop. I can see how they would do the unforgivable. I can see how they would make stupid decisions because they either cannot see any other way out or choose to ignore the consequences for the gratifications of the moment.

And then, there is my other rule: Write What I Can Imagine.

Or perhaps, What I Aspire To. My greatest aspiration is to one day achieve true generosity of spirit. It is easier to understand human frailties than to forgive them—all cynics understand human frailties. And it is easier to just understand that I’m a certain way rather than to undertake the effort to be better, to explore my own true potential.

So my books, in a way, are my meditations on this sincere but frequently bumbling aspiration of mine, on true generosity of spirit. Given that I understand how my characters get into such troubles, how do they extricate themselves from it? How do they rise above? How do they deal with their often justifiable hurt and anger? And how do others among them deal with their regret and self-loathing over things that cannot be undone?

I like to believe that my characters find the strength and courage and maturity in themselves to do what they need to do, whether it is to refuse to back down, to sacrifice, or to forgive.

Getting them there is the most difficult and, in the end, most rewarding part of writing. Because it is like getting myself there, however briefly. To bask in the extraordinary grace the human heart is capable of.

What I know is and will always be very limited. But my understand is deeper, and my aspiration has the potential to encompass the whole universe. (Why not dream big, eh? )

That's why I do not confine myself to writing what I know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Year-End Evaluation

Let's take a look at the 2008 resolutions. Black is my comments from April, when I did a quarterly evaluation. Red is my end-of-year comments.

The Negative Goals

1) Have no tight deadlines

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. The recent copyedits saw me rushing to Fedex at 7:45 in the evening to make the 8pm deadline for overnighting. And to ship a measly 5 lb of paper cost me $59.95. Why for a few more dollars I could fly myself, along with the copyedits, from Austin to New York City.

Again, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I thought I'd do great with NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, since the book has such a strong central conflict whereas with DELICIOUS we were looking for the conflict with a flashlight and a GPS system. But turned out I couldn't get a good grasp on how my H/H would interact with each other, the research was troublesome, there was an election going on which I followed obsessively, and the book just progressed SLOWLY.

I finally turned it in on Thanksgiving Day. And my editor sent it back. And I more or less rewrote 70% of it over three weeks. Third Christmas in a row my hair was on fire. And this time it was so bad I did not spend the holidays with my family, but stayed home alone to type from morning to night.

His Hawtness totally came through for me. This whole fall semester he'd been getting the kids ready in the morning, taking the junior kidlet to school and picking him up whenever his schedule allowed. And doing the laundry. And lots of the dishes.

I'm beyond grateful and more than a little ashamed. I've been awful at time management. So in 2009, only one resolution: Use my time properly.

2) Not write 1,000,000 words to get a 100,000-word novel

Haven't written any 100,000-word new novel yet. Stay tuned.

With NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, I probably wrote 150,000 words to get to an 80,000 word book. With DELICIOUS, it was 300,000 words for a 100,000 word book. So, an improvement. What can I say, my standards are not very high. :-)

3) Not be constantly behind on laundry, yard, and house cleaning

Gah! At the end of the copyedits, the abode resembled what my suburban, disney-fied imagination thinks of as a crack house. Kidlets were scrunching for socks in the laundry chute. And I just finally mowed the lawn yesterday morning, with some portion of the grass up to my knees.

With His Hawtness shouldering much of the work, and my mom pitching in all the time too, the house has been in not-too-awful shape. Good Housekeeping it ain't, but livable.

4) Not exercise only when I have trouble fitting into my clothes

Haven't had trouble fitting into my clothes. Have been forgetting to eat rather than eating too much. But what awful shape I'm in. Rode bike the other day to kidlet's school because he forgot something at home. Half a mile, and I was about ready to dial 911. Must exercise more.

Have not exercised more, is all I have to say for myself. :-(

5) Not neglect this blog for months at a time

Gah again! If not an F at least a D. True there have been various updates in the past two months, but very little proper content. One reason is that all the contents have gone to other people--I guest-blogged at everybody and their great-aunt's place during March. The experience was excellent, but my sluggish mind can only originate so many blog posts in a given time period. Guess whose blog got the shaft?

Looking a my list of posts, it doesn't seem that I've neglected the blog terribly. But still there hasn't been any serious content in a while, just miscellaneous updates. Will see if that can be ameliorated in the new year. Posts with themes, what an idea.

The Positive Goals

1) Spend so much time with Hubby that he runs away when he sees me next

He is still walking towards me whenever I see him. So must do better.

Honey if you are reading this, I love you tons! And the sexiest words a man can say to a woman in the English language are "You go write. I'll take care of it."

2) Get my bike repaired and serviced so that I never drive my car again for distances less than three miles, which should cover the grocery stores and the library and the most of the rest of my life when I'm not working my accounting job (which is 10 months out of 12).

Was all set to go Monday past, then it rained. And then the senior kidlet was sent home from school with a nasty bug and he's been recuperating at home ever since. Will do next Monday.

Yep, did get bike fixed and did ride it. And then in the whole of fall I left my house three times. So stopped riding it. But then never drove the car either. :-)

3) Improve my grasp of the languages I already know.


Read French in Action nearly cover-to-cover when I was at my sister-in-law's in Bangalore (she used to take French lessons). That counts.

4) Learn Spanish.

Maybe next year.

Maybe in retirement.

5) Make some money from writing. I made a grand total of $1,450 in 2007, from the Russian sale of Private Arrangements.

Well, what do you know? A goal accomplished! The delivery&acceptance check for Delicious came last month and surprised the heck out of me. I had totally forgotten that I was owed any money for it; I was just so happy that the book turned out right.

Nothing to add. :-)

6) To make 5) happen, I should sell 4 books on contract.

Sold two more historical romances to Bantam. And given the snail's pace at which I write, I'm going to call this a goal accomplished too. Lots of people would lose sleep--not the least of which me--to know that I have more than that many books under contract. If I ever manage to write a book in under six months again, I'll revisit this one.

Still writing at the speed of stoned snails. So again, nothing to add.

7) Have five foreign sales. I had three in 2007--Russia, Germany, Spain. Foreign rights sales are the awesome. Every one is like a little Christmas.

Sold French rights to PA in March. Not bad.

Sold both PA and D to Japan, which had me jumping up and down and sideways. And then a week later, sold both to Slovenia. Well, hello, Slovenia. So yes, that's five foreign sales altogether. Goal accomplished!

8) Become a better person. I'm actually not a bad person at all, but there is always room for improvement. (And I wonder what it says about me that this resolution is way down on the list. Ha!)

Uhhh...no halo around my head yet, so still a work in progress.

Still a work in progress.

Actually, I don't need to become a better person, I need to become a more attentive person. Because I'm pretty decent when I pay attention to what's going on around me. :-)

9) Buy a pair of skinny jeans. By the time this happens no one will be wearing skinny jeans anymore. But I'm patient. I'll hold on to them until they come back into vogue again.

I actually went out and tried on a pair. I looked stupid in them.


10) Care enough to be upset when my resolutions languish from casual neglect. :-)

Casual neglect, check. Casual indifference, check. Nope, still same old me. Well, I did hate that the house got so messy while I was on deadline. So perhaps there is hope for me yet. :-)

In 2009 I will be royally peeved if I don't follow through on my single resolution to use my time well. Every day during school hours I will write as if my hair is on fire, so that the rest of the time life is less crazy and His Hawtness doesn't have to do so much.

And there will be a first draft of THE IDEAL GENTLEMAN in to my editor by the time NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is released. You heard it here first.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Foreign Covers!

So I checked my email yesterday, and my agent sent me the link to Random House Mondadori's page for the Spanish version of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. And it's got a cover! In publishing, nothing's more interesting than covers.

I was totally tickled. Like my friend Michelle said, it's like a Jane Austen book with my name replacing Jane's! :-) Spanish PA goes on sale February 13, 2009.

So then I pestered Kristin about the Russian PA, because that was the first foreign rights sale we ever made, and should have come out already. And it was, and Kristin got a cover from Whitney, her foreign-rights co-agent. And behold:

My first Barbara Cartland cover!

Seriously, I couldn't stop looking at this cover. I mean, what a couch. Now I've got to have one like it. And of all the ladies who've graced PA's cover, this one actually looks most like what Gigi might--and with that attitude too.

If you look closely, you'll see that the front cover and the back cover are actually mirror images. The woman is painted over where the couch would have been on the right side. And if you look even more closely, you'll see that the it's the top curve of the same throw pillow under the plant on the right, they just painted out the buttons on it!

I am enthralled. ENTHRALLED!

P.S. The Russian title Idealnaya Para, means The Ideal Couple. (Or so I gather from googling.) And it is already available. Inform all your Russian friends! :-)

P.P.S. If there are any art history majors out there, I'd love to know what painting they used for the Spanish PA. It looks like a Victorian era artist, but I tried Leighton, Tissot, and a few others and came up empty.

Update 1: Thanks to Seton, now we know that the cover is based on a painting by Tissot, named "Study For."

Update 2: Thanks to Courtney Milan, I now know that the Russian PA is coming out in two different editions.

For 240 rubles, you can have this, same as above.

If you have only 200 rubles to spare, you still can have it, albeit in a slightly more somber package. :-)

Will wonders never cease? :-)