Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My First Tag

Four jobs I've had:
  • Working my way up through the ranks of an Alaskan fish cannery for three summers (I started on the "slime line", moved into the egg house and ended up in high-grade caviar).
  • Genealogical research in the Quaker archives of my university.
  • Teaching English in China.
  • Assisting with correspondence between families of organ donors and organ recipients.
Four favorite foods:
  • Chocolate.
  • Wine.
  • Cheese.
  • Potatoes.

Four movies I could (and do) watch over and over
  • Cabaret.
  • Singing in the Rain (or any musical from the 1940's through the 1950's).
  • Amelie (or anything by Marc Caro and/or Jean-Pierre Jeunot).
  • Spirited Away (or anything by Hayao Miyazaki).

Four TV shows I enjoy watching:
  • The X-Files in Chinese.
  • America's Next Top Model.
  • Travel shows.
  • Learning Mandarin on CCTV9 (in China).
Four places I've traveled:

Four websites I visit (almost) daily:

Four people I'm tagging to do this:
  • Huar
  • Elina
  • Kerry Blaisdell
  • Griselle
My computer suddenly stopped being able to add links. So none of the websites referenced are linked. Quelle horreur!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Scent of a Scholar

From the hotel website:

This exquisite hotel filled with strong scholarly aroma is an ideal site for you to either read books or sit idly.

Strong scholarly aroma? I admit to thinking the smell of books and leather is hot, but just how strong are we talking? Will there be doddering men in black capes muttering over ancient tomes? That could get pretty aromatic. And is my romance writing scholarly enough? Do I smell strong enough? I'll let you know...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Romancing the Stone

What have I been doing instead of finishing my NaNoWriMo WIP? Numerous procrastinatory and one or two legitimate activities. Going on a DVD buying binge falls firmly into the former category. And what did I find at the bottom of a big box of movies I was rifling through at my favorite illegal DVD shop? The 2006 special edition release of Romancing the Stone. Call me maudlin, but I love this movie. It's lost none of its luster with time. Michael Douglas is not my type at all, but he's just plain sexy in a swaggering yet sheepishly sweet kind of way. And I'm such a sucker for a makeover. Any makeover will do (note to self--include a makeover in next MS). Watching Kathleen Turner transform from frowsy, scatterbrained writer to machete wielding, thigh-baring tigress will never get old.

Now if only Joan Wilder could write me out of my NaNo funk.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I've thought about participating in National Novel Writing Month for the past two years. But this time I'm taking the plunge--with a little help from my new found friends from Avon FanLit. I'm especially pleased I met Tessa Dare. She was the grand prize winner of a day with Avon, and she is just the loveliest, most talented and deserving person. I'm so happy for her! We've vowed to keep each other on task and motivated during the crazy month of November. Signing up for NaNoWriMo means pledging to attempt 50,000 words in one month. It's a lot. But that's what I'm in China for.

So wish me luck! I'll figure out how to get one of those word count widgets onto my site in the next few days. Maybe public exposure will shame me into typing faster.

In China news, I taught my kiddies a lesson on Halloween last week. They loved it when I floated into the classroom on a broomstick with a pointy hat and a mask. Here's a picture of some of my ten-year-olds posing with the masks they made.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blue Suede Shoes

OK, they're actually shiny patent leather. I just bought these shoes because I wanted to reward myself for getting so much writing done. And because I'm in China, they were only seven dollars. Oh yeah, baby. I heart China.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Being greatly harassed by this obstacle...

Oh how I love thee, Charlotte.

From her preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights.

This bringing out of our little book was hard work. As was to be expected, neither we nor our poems were at all wanted...

The great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind from the publishers to whom we applied. Being greatly harassed by this obstacle, I ventured to apply to the Mssrs Chambers, of Edinburgh, for a word of advice...

Ill-success failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued...

These MSS. were perseveringly obtruded upon various publishers for the space of a year and a half...

...there came a letter, which he [Currer Bell] opened in the dreary expectation of finding two hard hopeless lines...and, instead, he took out of the envelope a letter of two pages. He read it trembling. It declined, indeed, to publish that tale, for business reasons, but it discussed its merits and demerits so courteously, so considerately, in a spirit so rational, with a discrimination so enlightened, that this very refusal cheered the author better than a vulgarly-expressed acceptance would have done...

Monday, September 25, 2006


My latest obsession is the Avon FanLit contest. The "American Idol" of romance writing keeps me up into the wee hours voting and reading the forums. I may even post a chapter, even though I don't write Regency. If your chapter makes it into the top ten for that round, it gets read by Eloisa James, Teresa Medeiros and Julia Quinn. Exalted company, indeed.

Avon FanLit Romance Event

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hot Blooded (check it and see)

I'm not sure if my fever ever got up to 103, but I've been sick, sick, sick. China finally got to me. More specifically, traveling by bus and train to remote parts of Guizhou province got me. First it was the dreaded "xie duzi"--yes that's Mandarin for the runs. Then it was fever and chills and the worst cold I've ever had. I'm still feeling miserable after eight days but at least I'm back in my apartment where I don't have to scoop water out of a wooden basin to wash myself and endure constant cigarette smoke blown in my face by the men occupying the other bunks in the "hard sleeper" train sections. And I've discovered a wonderful remedy for congestion--heat vinegar to boiling and inhale the vapors. Works like a charm and lasts for twelve hours.

Of course it wasn't all desperate trips to the toilet and air pollution. I saw some stunning scenery, met many wonderful people and ate tons of amazing food. And I wrote constantly. I decided not to bring my laptop, and something about the simplicity of pen and paper, coupled with our mostly rustic accomodations, made me realize that I need to bring my writing back to that elemental level--back to the sheer joy of using my imagination to fuel creativity without over-analyzing my target audience or the confines of my chosen genre. The beauty of traveling is the need to embrace extremes. And in so doing, you free yourself from the tedium of habit and the lull of comfort. I'm not saying I'm happy to be sick, though. Far from it. But I am pleased that I started writing my next full-length novel. It will be a true gothic this time, in every sense except the use of first person narrative. I'll write more about it, and post pictures from the trip, when I'm feeling cooler.

Oh yes, the other good news is that blogger seems to have been unblocked here because I'm suddenly able to access it without using Anonymouse. Yeah!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I've decided all my entries will have song titles, since I was leaning that way already with the Madonna and Zappa references. This is also inspired by the utterly random selection of English songs I found at my first karaoke experience here. I forgot just how surreal private booth karaoke can be in China. The joint was called "Haoliday" a play on "holiday" and the Mandarin word "hao" meaning "good." We walked up a long flight of stairs and into a hallway with garish 1980's geometric carpeted walls and flashing purple neon signs over the booth doors. Girls in tight red dresses and men in tuxes bowed profusely and ushered us into a large private room with its own bathroom and a pyramid of frosty Chinese beer stacked on the low central table. It was me, a cute Chinese English teacher named Grace, and a large group of chain-smoking, beer-swilling, mic-hogging men. I decided to sing songs in Mandarin because the English selection was limited to the usual suspects: My Heart Will Go On, Like A Virgin, The Rose, Jailhouse Rock, with a few unexpected surprises: Welcome to the Jungle, China Girl, and Purple Rain. My mission is to introduce China to Heart, Pat Benatar and Liza Minelli. I'm getting my nightclub act together.

My classes haven't started yet so I've been writing and sightseeing. The revision process is going well. Confessions is so much better now and I've written pitches for two other novellas based on interlinked characters. I want this blog to be about writing mostly. But maybe I'll have one day of the week where I write about China and post pictures. I haven't decided yet, but don't worry, I'll unveil a new blog direction very soon.

Until then, enjoy a glass of nice wine and some Danish triple-cream blue cheese for me. And I'll have oysters barbequed and smothered in garlic, and a coconut with a straw stuck in it, for you.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Just this. Offices. May they rest in peace. Far, far away from me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sister Time

I'm going to San Francisco for some relaxing this weekend. Absolutely no writing or worrying allowed. It's my sister's bday and we're going to be girly girls together--that's right--sushi, good chocolate, sappy musicals, cutting each other's bangs and, of course, thrifting at Thrift Town!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Red Velvet

This pic was taken while we were gluing the flocked wallpaper to my business cards. The designer showed me five different card treatments, but I immediately knew it had to be the hand. It just says it all. It's ghostly and gothic, hints of an invitation to a Victorian boudoir (she's not wearing gloves--oh my!) and is reminiscent of vintage advertising. There's also something slightly strange about it, and for a girl who likes her Edwards Gorey and her Gogols Bordello, it's perfect.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I suffer from verbosity. Here's an ironic example, an actual line from Confessions:

She tried to prune her words to a bare minimum--the sooner he tired of her dull company, the sooner she could escape the disturbing intensity of his eyes.

Hello!?! "She tried to prune her words to a bare minimum," needs serious trimming. Why not just say, "she pruned her words." Ah, the simplicity.

I have so many ticks. I love to write things like, "she felt his hands begin stroking her thighs," instead of "his hands stroked her thighs," and then there is the dreaded "seemed."

All the years of self-denial, all the elaborate barriers she had constructed to contain her emotions, suddenly seemed like flimsy paper creations that one strong breeze could blow away forever.

All the "she felt" and "she seemed" and "as if's" have got to go. Luckily, I have two amazing critique partners with big sharp shears who aren't afraid to go "snip snip." (I pictured Martyn Jacques from the Tiger Lillie's singing those last two words--god I love him!)

But the hacking and slashing is almost finished and I'm sending it off today or tomorrow. So cross your fingers for me--soon I'll have feedback on Confessions from industry professionals.

It's my poor, long-suffering sweetie's birthday tomorrow, and I haven't even bought him a present yet. I'm a bad girlfriend.

In China related news, my cat got all her shots, and a microchip, in preparation for the journey. I've never taken her with me before. She's going to love it. Guangxi is subtropical and the city I'm going to is right on the ocean so she'll get lots of fresh seafood and real sand in her litterbox.

Monday, May 08, 2006

First Base

Where do I start? The conference was a stomach-churning, nail-biting, delirium-inducing whirlwind of sheer amazingness. I got requests from everyone I pitched to (seven total), which makes me very, very happy. I'm going to take a week to polish the novella until it gleams and then send it off.

Kerensa Brougham, my critique partner and conference roomie, also got requests. We were both so keyed-up, we woke at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday and started pitching to each other before we even brushed our teeth. Nervous energy is such a strange phenomenon. I'm accustomed to being on stage, but nothing could have prepared me for the terror that struck when I realized that in two minutes I would be face to face with a senior editor at Kensington (she was extremely nice by the way). I had my lines carefully rehearsed, but promptly went off script. Luckily, she seemed to like it.

And all that time I spent analyzing what outfit to wear paid off as well. My sweet vintage red shoes with the white piping got lots of compliments, as did my business cards with the plush red wallpaper on the back (thank you, Laura!). I was glad I spent the time to research and create my identity system before the conference.

Julia Quinn taught a very helpful dialogue class. She's funny, honest, and down-to-earth. But my favorite speaker was Stella Cameron. I've never read any of her books, but I'm going to. If she were a guru, I would grasp the hem of her robe and follow her to the ends of the earth. All the speakers shared a common theme: don't let fear hold you back. I needed to hear that.

I've spent too long doubting myself.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

First Pitch

I've been writing historical romance for just over a year. But this weekend I'm actually going to try to sell some at a conference organized by the Romance Writers of America's Silicon Valley chapter. I'll get to meet other authors, go to fun workshops with titles like "Say Goodbye to the Slush Pile," and flirt with agents and editors at the Speed Dating event.

I've practised my pitch ad nauseum (even going so far as to set it to a Cole Porteresque tune -- for my own private amusement, of course). I bought a cute black and white vintage sundress, had a fancy website made, and picked up my fabulous red business cards today. Now I just have to glue flocked velvet wallpaper to the backs of them. They'll scream bordello, but that's appropriate. I am writing gothic Victorian-era romance, after all!

I'll check back in a few days and blog about the conference, and my upcoming journey to China!