Sunday, December 23, 2007


My boyfriend is in the kitchen making truffles. The dark chocolate ones are: cardamom, lavender, St. Valentine's (floral Russian tea), and Grand Marnier. The milk chocolate are peppermint and cinnamon. This year, for the first time, he's making a white chocolate flavored with Matcha (Japanese green tea). I've been blissfully licking spatulas.

I hope your holidays are full of sweetness and love!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reaching Up

During the previous quarter of graduate school, in an assigned chapter of "Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama," I found the following distinction between genre fiction and literary fiction:

Reading literary fiction (as distinguished from fiction as a commercial product--the formula kind of spy, detective, Western, romance, or science fiction story), we are not necessarily led on by the promise of thrills; we do not keep reading mainly to find out what happens next...Reading literary fiction is no merely passive activity, but one that demands both attention and insight-lending participation.

I'm an unapologetic reader and writer of romance, and I'm not going to defend the genre here because I think others have done it eloquently enough (Eloisa James in particular). But lately I've been thinking about what elements make a romance transcend genre parameters.

I read Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm or Pam Rosenthal's The Bookseller's Daughter and they bowl me over every time. How do they do it? Every day I search for the elusive qualities that will make my WIP extraordinary. The perfect metaphor, the rich historical detail that will bring it alive, the most precise adjective.

George Orwell wrote that stale phrases choke writing like "tea leaves blocking a sink." I want this novel to be clog-free.

Sherry Thomas, author of the upcoming Private Arrangements, wrote a post on her blog about authors who choose to do the extra work to craft beautiful writing. I loved her acknowledgment of the difficulty involved in rising above the quotidian.

It is hard work constantly searching for fresh images, ruthlessly eliminating cliches, spending hours researching historical detail for one sentence. Sometimes I feel like I'm lashing words together like bamboo scaffolding to support the weight of my ambition. The bamboo bends and bows and feels like it may break, but each day I climb higher.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I did it!

I won nanowrimo! I'm going to bask in the glow of accomplishment for a few hours before I start agonizing about how much editing it needs to become pitch-worthy. I'm not going to think about all the gaping historical research holes or the way the plot falls apart in the second act. Right now I'm going to do a happy dance and pop open a bottle of bubbly.

I truly didn't think I'd be able to write 50,000 words in one month while starting graduate school and working two jobs. There were a few bumps (my laptop getting stolen was the biggest one) but this experience has shown me that I do have the discipline and stamina to sit down and write every single day, even if I'm exhausted and uninspired.

I would like to give a special shout out to Tessa Dare. It was her success story that inspired me to sit my butt down in my chair and write write write. Thank you, Tessa!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can I do it?

I'm at 44,000 but I only have two days left. Can I make it to 50,000? It's finals week, too. I think I can do it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Someone broke in to our house yesterday and stole my macbook. They didn't take anything else, just the laptop and some loose change. The police said that's typical because the thieves want to get in and out as fast as possible with any cash they find and one small expensive item like a laptop. Ever since my hard drive crashed I've been backing up like crazy so I didn't lose any writing. I'm not going to let this stop me from winning nanowrimo, but it wasn't a very good way to start the holiday. Ah well, it could have been worse.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Best Day Yet

I just sat down and wrote over 6000 words in four hours. I think it's because I've reached the steamy part of the book where the hero, Clive, (I know kind of obvious given my Clive Owen obsession but I can't think of another name right now) starts to appreciate the attractions of Edith, the heroine. It's a long story but he's sort of kidnapped her and installed her in the apartment that his last mistress occupied. His motives are not sexual at first. He wants her to help him summon the spirit of his dead wife. He's obsessed with spiritualism and believes he has finally found a genuine medium so he starts rearranging her life to suit his needs.

I'm reading Judith Ivory's Black Silk right now. She treats the hero's awakening realization of the heroine's unique appeal so perfectly.

This passage occurs 158 pages into the book:

Her mouth pursed. She was glaring at him. Her eyes looked dark and bright against their peculiar little feathering of short lashes. For a moment, these eyes stared over his hand, in open rebellion against attempted mastery, even this small one over a jawbone. She abruptly made a high arch, a display of long, white throat; she took her shin away.

"You are so --" He was going to say “pretty” or “beautiful” or –what? –“Winsome”? Did a man tell a woman she was winsome? This woman was, but it didn’t matter. He suspected that if he told her there were some universally pleasing quality to her looks, she would only deny it outright. And not without grounds. He stared at her, as if to anatomize his own attraction to her. Her eyes were too large for her face. Her nose was narrow, her chin pointed. Her skin was washed out except for its smattering of pale freckles. He found himself staring at her mouth, her lips as plump and pink and soft as a baby’s. She wet them and looked down. He watched the color rise in her cheeks. Her skin was ivory, he decided, not washed out. And her eyes, behind their canopy of thick lashes, were a changeable, mysterious blue. She was plain one moment, pretty the next. He couldn’t figure her out.

“You are devastating,” he said honestly.

I tend to like romances where the hero and heroine are not initially attracted to each other and then the sexual tension heats up with each encounter, but when I started writing Heart of Shadow I imagined Clive finding Edith alluring at first but fighting against that impulse because he thinks she is trying to trick him into believing she is a true spirit medium.

From chapter one (remember this is still in NaNoWriMo rough draft form!):

She had a stillness about her that made him feel awkward. Her heavily fringed dark eyes were too big for a little heart-shaped face with a pointed chin and a prim rosebud of a mouth. Her pale skin glowed like a pearl necklace held up to firelight. She must work hard to achieve that consumptive pallor, the mysterious, otherworldly air.

In her high-necked black silk she appeared painfully thin. Perhaps her look was not studied so much as necessitated by real hunger. He had a sudden urge to rush back outside into the rain and buy a pigeon pie from the nearby pub. He might grasp her by one tiny bird bone wrist and lead her into a dark room somewhere and feed her bites of steaming pastry. She would lick flakes of crust from his fingers with a deft darting tongue. Maybe even take a bit of meat from his lips with her sharp little teeth, her hungry mouth asking for more.

She caught him staring and narrowed her eyes. Someone had asked a question.

“Shall I go?” Denny asked.

“Of course,” muttered Clive, ashamed of the lustful bent of his thoughts. She was just a jaded charlatan like all the rest. Trained to lure men into parting with money. Her slenderness and pallor were obviously calculated to appeal to men's protective impulses. She knew her trade. He’d fallen straight into her pretty snare of twigs and temptation.

So I may have to rewrite that scene because now, in chapter six, I have Clive realizing for the first time that Edith is attractive.

How clever of Pruett to arrange Miss Crowe's hair like that, as if one judicious tug would send the whole mass of rich chocolate curls tumbling down past her bum. And that black velvet ribbon about her neck. Camilla had always worn flashing opals and heavy gold. The simple, girlish ribbon was pure genius, making him think about the pressure of it around her neck and the pulse that beat beneath it. Had it merely been the armor of her severe black dresses that made her look meager and unappealing? Now her pointy little chin above the black velvet ribbon lent her an air of provocative stubbornness.

Clive did his best to project avuncular warmth and solicitude, but the charade proved difficult to sustain as the evening wore on and brandy softened the edge of his resolve. He sank down beside her on the settee and placed a rare volume of D.D. Hume's collected works in her lap. She ran a slender finger over the gilt letters embossed in the red leather cover.

“I’m afraid you have overestimated my power,” she said softly. "I cannot control it at will like your Mr. Hume." She opened the book reverently.

He gazed at her solemn little face, those huge eyes haunted by visions of failure. His fingers reached out before he could stop them and captured one end of the velvet ribbon that fell down her back. She didn’t seem to notice. He stroked its softness between his thumb and forefinger while he watched her read.

That's what happens when you let your writing come out in an unexpurgated nanorimo rush. Suddenly, in chapter six, your characters start doing things you hadn't planned for. I'm not going to get too worked up about it. I have the whole month of December to edit my book because I don't have grad classes during that time.

In your WIP, is your hero immediately attracted to your heroine or does it take time for him to see her beauty?

p.s. Congrats to Tessa D. for her double contest wins and to India Carolina for her first place and manuscript request in the Golden Gateway single title category!!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

So Far So Good

I don't want to jinx myself but nanowrimo is going well so far. I think the storyboarding and powerpoint research presentation helped a lot. I've also been learning about the three-act structure of screen plays in a graduate class and thinking about my book in those terms has been very helpful. I've written almost 6,000 words so far. I think my first turning point will happen around the 12,000 word mark when the heroine is hired by the villain to pretend to channel the spirit of the hero's dead wife. The turning point is when she finally agrees to do it. This starts Act II where the hero and heroine are forced into an intimate situation fraught with emotional and moral complexity and danger.

Nano writing is so weird. The whole point is to forcefully subdue your inner editor and just let the words flow without worrying about making them sublime. I know I will have to do heavy editing once I'm finished, but right now I think the important thing for me is to finish a full-length novel. Then I can fuss with it and polish it and send it out into the world. A blank page will get me nowhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

nanowrimo newbie

I signed up for nanowrimo. I figure the very worst thing that could happen is that I drop out half way and then I've still produced more writing than I usually do.

I'll be working on my new WIP Heart of Shadow. It's historical romance noir set in mid-Victorian London, featuring a hero tortured by his wife's suicide and a heroine masquerading as a spirit medium. I'm going to tie-in a character from my previous unfinished WIP Heart of Ash, so it can be the second in the series.

To prepare I used a variation on Erica Ridley's story boarding technique (speaking of Erica Ridley, she is all over the contest winners section of RWA's latest Romance Writers Report--go Erica!).

I also tried a new technique for my historical research. Probably everyone else has already discovered this. I assembled all of my character and historical research into a PowerPoint presentation. That way, when I'm writing and need a historical detail, say about what brand of cigars my hero smokes, I don't have to go searching through all of my electronic notes, I simply open up my PP presentation and flip to the slide titled "Cigars." It's a great way to incorporate photos as well. I have slides for each house in the book with photos and layout diagrams. I really had difficulty keeping track of all my research before. I'm hoping this will keep it all in one place and easily accessible.

So is anyone else doing nanowrimo this year? If so, please buddy me here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The next big name in romance is...

...Tessa Dare! She just got The Call. And not just any call. She's a first time author who started a bidding war. Almost unheard of. I'm so thrilled and happy for her. She's talented, sweet, giving, extremely hard-working, and guaranteed to have a meteoric rise to fame. This doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who voted for Tessa's stories during FanLit. She's the real deal. I wish her the very best of luck and I cannot wait to see her Goddess series at Powell's City of Books.

Congratulations, Tessa!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So funny...

...and not just because it's 1:11 a.m. and I've been writing for five hours.

Get over here right now and watch Meljean Brook’s Five Easy Steps To Writing a Romance Novel video.

You will laugh, you will snort milk through your nose (unless you happen to be drinking sauvignon blanc, and then you will snort that through your nose), you will thank god for YouTube. Yeah, it's that funny.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Until yesterday I was in denial about how much writing I lost when my one-year-old macbook's hard drive crashed. I'd been taking a lot of notes by hand and I thought they would be sufficient to recreate what I had finished. Yesterday I put my mending elbow to the test and typed for an hour. Then it hit me. I lost fifty pages of my WIP as well as all the research I had carefully bookmarked and excerpted. And some of the scenes I wrote were not in my notebook at all. So now I'm back to square one. I'm trying to get the first 35 pages back in shape to enter the Emily contest. We all have setbacks. I'm trying not to let the extreme irony of this one get me down. Bike crash and hard drive crash in the space of two days. My muse is testing me. The exasperating hussy.

Lessons learned:

Back up! Lapse not into complacency, lest ye lose everything.

Accept not that third glass of wine from the cute tattooed bartender before singing more Liza Minnelli, lest ye be unfit to ride home.

Are you entering the Emily? Are you signing up for the Golden Heart? Are you asking yourself whether you can possibly finish your WIP by December 3rd? I know I am.

Monday, September 10, 2007


On Thursday night I flew off my bicycle and fractured my left elbow (I'm typing with my right hand only--fun).

On Friday my laptop completely died.

Sometimes you have to laugh, or else you're going to cry. I thought about posting lurid closeups of my battered knees, but I didn't want to make you sick.

The writing continues by hand. Maybe this is actually a good thing. My thoughts flow well on to paper. I hope I didn't lose my hard drive, though, because I hadn't backed up since I finished chapter one.

Ever broken a bone at an inopportune time?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

September Challenge--Day Five

This is going to sound like an excuse, dear blog, but it's true. I'm working ten-hour days until Friday, when I am supposed to send the 100-page Bulletin I'm editing to the printer. But that means I can take time off the following week. So no romance goals for the next few days, and then I'll write like mad to catch up.

Monday, September 03, 2007

September Challenge--Day Three

Wow, I have never posted on this blog three days in a row. It's kind of fun. No pressure to be meaningful, pithy or hilarious. Just me telling the computer what I did today. Unfortunately, Day Three was not pretty. I had way too much fun at a friend's birthday party last night, and I wasn't in writing shape. I only have three pages of Chapter Two finished.

I did find out what ham meant, though, and Shelli and Huar were both right. Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source ham1 [ham] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun
1.a cut of meat from the heavy-muscled part of a hog's rear quarter, between hip and hock, usually cured.
2.that part of a hog's hind leg.
3.the part of the leg back of the knee.
4.Often, hams. the back of the thigh, or the thigh and the buttock together.

Time to stop blogging and start writing. There are still a few good hours left in the day.


Finish Chapter Two

Sunday, September 02, 2007

September Challenge--Day Two

I wrote a prologue and first chapter yesterday. They included murder, illegal boxing, and a seance. I wanted to start with a bang.

Historical Tidbit:

In the illegal boxing matches held in gambling dens in mid-Victorian England, the Prize Ring Rules stated:

That no person is to hit his Adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist. A man on his knees is to be reckoned down.

So that raises the question, what exactly is "the ham"?

Maybe tomorrow I'll post an excerpt. I'm hoping that public exposure will keep me honest.

Meljean Brook, author of dark and brilliant paranormals for Berkley, suggested I give myself a reward to look forward to. I've got that covered. My birthday is in the end of September, and the BF promised to take me away for a weekend on the Oregon coast. Writer Lynda Rucker has been extolling the virtues of the Sylvia Beach Hotel to me for years. Known as the definitive "hotel for book lovers," it has literary-themed rooms that range from the Colette to the Alice Walker. We'll be staying in the Edgar Allan Poe room, of course.

In other news, my friend and CP, Kerry Blaisdell, took first AND third in the inaugural Golden Claddagh contest. She also finaled in the Golden Gateway contest (along with Tessa, Courtney Milan, and India Carolina). Congratulations!!


Fill in the missing historical details in Chapter One. Start Chapter Two.

What are your goals for September?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

September Challenge

It was exactly two years ago today that I started writing romance after reading an article about Eloisa James. The same afternoon, I went to the library and checked out Potent Pleasures, and I was hooked. Two years later, I'm writing Victorian noir smut, not frothy Regency, but my passion for reading and creating smart romance continues unabated.

I shudder to think of my first attempts, and my blithe "this will be easy" attitude. It's not easy for me. But the pain is worth it. I've seen my writing progress and become more saleable. But my biggest problem is establishing a consistent writing schedule. For now I've settled into a routine that seems to be working. I start around ten o'clock at night and write until the computer screen is just a blur. Then I get up late, do my yoga, and go to my graduate assistantship in the afternoon. But graduate classes start in a month, and then I'll be writing papers, instead of romance. So I want to make September as productive as possible. And I need some kind of accountability. Therefore, I'm pledging to update this blog almost every day for the next month in a desperate attempt to force myself to be productive. I hope it works!

In other news, I'm so thrilled for all my online writing friends who are achieving their dreams. The new releases, contest finals, and agent signings are too numerous to list (and I promise to do a better job of giving shout-outs as they happen), but they have shown me the tangible benefits of believing in yourself enough to send your work out into the world. Thanks for inspiring me, ladies.


Finish Chapter One of The Night Side.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Laura Kinsale

Laura Kinsale, Laura Kinsale. I just met an author named Laura Kinsale, and suddenly I see, how delicious a tortured hero can be...oh Laura, Ms. Kinsale! Say it loud and there's poetry flowing, say it soft and the sexual tension's growing...Laura Kinsale, Laura Kinsale, I'll never stop reading Laura Kinsale.

Please forgive my horrendous tardiness in discovering this legendary author. How could it have taken me this long to read Flowers From the Storm?

When did you discover La Laura?

The 1992 Fabio cover

The tasteful 2003 edition

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The winner is...


You were randomly selected by my cat (shown here selecting a fine Porter):

Email me at lenora AT, and I will put your prize in the mail.

Check out Sherry's website, ogle the gorgeous cover of her upcoming novel, Private Arrangements, and read what Mary Balogh and Jane Feather have to say about this "irresistible new voice" in romance.

Thanks for making my first contest fun, everyone!

Good luck with your RWA national preparations.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Deadline Extended

We're unpacking the Uhaul and rearranging our basement so I'm extending the contest deadline to 7/7 at midnight. I'll announce a winner on Sunday morning.

Keep those entries coming!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Inaugural CONTEST! The Measure of Success

Eleven months ago, I packed up my bags, and my fluffy cat, and moved to China. I vowed I would not come back without a book deal. Well, here I am, with no book deal, but lots of cute shoes and silk scarves. Now, while I never underestimate the power of shoes, I am disappointed that I wasn't as productive as I wanted to be. But the good news is that during a little contest called FanLit I met a group of supremely talented and supportive people who share my passion for romance.

Was my journey a success? You can measure success in many ways. There are the small victories. Rejection letters mean you actually sent something out, so that is a kind of success if you have writer's block. There are larger triumphs, like finaling in contests, or being asked to submit a rewrite. I know many talented writers who are celebrating those successes right now. There is the success of seeing your book in print for the first time, the moment you hit a bestseller list, the RITA nomination.

And then there is the thrill every time you write a passage you know is better than anything you've written before. That's the success I'm celebrating right now.

I have a phobia about posting excerpts on my blog. I think it stems from the fear that I will read them next week and feel horribly ashamed. But I want to post a few excerpts now, to show you how far I've come, and what I have to celebrate.

My first attempt at writing romance featured a squeaky-clean missionary's daughter who was dragged into 1890 Shanghai's seamy underworld by a bad-boy opium trader. Unfortunately, the hero and heroine did not meet until page 50, and when they did, much head-hopping, leaden dialogue, and cliche-ridden situations ensued. I vomited out 400 pages, and then realized it was truly awful.

Here, for your amusement, is an excerpt from The Devil of Shanghai--completely unedited, in all its unbridled glory, rendered in purple, because purple it is:

So many layers of cloth between them, yet Mabel felt naked with longing. She had seen the beauty of this man’s naked chest, had lain beneath him in dreams and in reality. He was the inevitability of the pleasure and delight she could no longer deny herself. He was the reason she breathed. She was swept up in the dazzling passion of a boundless love. She could hear the Queen of the Night's aria ringing in her ears as his hands freed her heaving breasts and his lips teased the aching peaks of her nipples. Even if he lost all respect for her, even if he only wanted her as a mistress, regardless of the consequences, she was his. Even though they were members of two different worlds. Wasn’t it ironic that her mother had found solace and love in the arms of a penniless American doctor and now she, a penniless American herself, was finding passion with an Earl?Mmhm. I said "heaving breasts." Good lord.

I know you're saying to yourself, "But what does this have to do with me winning something?" You're right, I've been awfully slow getting to the contest part of the post.

Here are your choices:

1. You can submit an excerpt that make you terribly ashamed, or one that makes you darn right proud. It can be the thrilling tale you wrote about My Little Pony in the fifth grade, or something from your latest WIP. I don't care. Just make me laugh, or sigh with envy, or both.


2. Tell me how you define success at this point in your writing career.
The winner will be randomly selected by a process that involves my cat and slips of paper soaked in a catnip solution, and announced on Friday, July 6th.

The prize is a silk scarf I bought in Suzhou, China from one of the most famous Chinese silk brands, Xiu Niang.

The scarf is HUGE, you could use it as a table cloth, or wear it to RWA National (if it arrives in time). It's high-quality 100% pure silk that shimmers in the moonlight. The photos don't do the vibrant colors justice.

And so begins my first contest. Thank you for reading, thank you for getting me through the dark times, and thank you for helping me celebrate the small successes in life.

p.s. Guest blogger Carrie Ryan is talking about a similar subject today over at the Manuscript Mavens blog.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Where the Air Is Clear

The first thing that hits you when you step out of the airport after a prolonged sojourn in China, is the blessed blueness of the sky and the sweet, fresh air. I'm still marveling about it two weeks later.

We're grandma-sitting in Palo Alto right now, giving my bf's aunt a vacation. During the day I field the many questions of a wandering mind, dole out reassurances, and think up clever distractions to calm anxiety. But grandma goes to bed at 8:30, and then I take my laptop out under the stars to write. We're here for two more weeks and then it's back to our little 1886 farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest. Our renters say there's a bountiful crop of luscious raspberries and plump blueberries in our yard this year--yum. Cherry trees and fresh rosemary will be so wonderful after six months living in a hotel.

My favorite baby was in the hospital getting a cleft lip operation on my last day at the orphanage, so I couldn't say goodbye. But I knew his life was improving, and I have high hopes for his eventual adoption. I'm staying in contact with the other volunteers, and they will keep me updated. For some obscure reason, the Chinese government makes it impossible to adopt from a facility where you were a volunteer, and they recently tightened their adoption restrictions, so that my bf and I would have to be married for two years before we could adopt. I sobbed and sobbed when I had to leave. I wanted to take pictures of the babies but it was forbidden. I'll never forget their dazzling smiles and pleading eyes.

I'll post reflections about my time in China as they come to me, as well as the long-promised post on men reading romance. I've been a very inconstant blogger lately, and for that I apologize. I've never been good about sticking to routines during times of change. My writing suffered as well, but now I'm back on track and sinking my teeth into a dark and sexy gothic featuring a brilliant, obsessive hero named Rodric. More on that later. And check back next week for information about my very first contest. The prize will be a treasure I bought in China.

Oh, and speaking of contests, I am dying to win a coveted single-maven critique from one of the fabulous Manuscript Mavens. Read all about this priceless prize here. I haven't won a blog contest yet. Maybe this will be my lucky link.

I'll leave you with some photos. Thanks for reading, and sorry for the long dry spell.

No, I do not play the pipa (more's the pity), but the gentleman sitting next to me is a zither master. He was teaching me a traditional pingtan aria for voice.

Scene from the opera we saw in Beijing, The Marriage Between the Dragon and the Phoenix.

Azumeth on top of the Beijing Ancient Observatory.

Shadow puppet play in Wu Zhen.

Rice wine distillery in Wu Zhen.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beijing Again

I'm back in Suzhou after my third, and favorite, visit to Beijing. More about that later. For now, here's proof that we climbed a section of the Great Wall on a blustery yet clear and pollution-free summer's day. I promise to make my next post writing related (since I owe you a review of The Taming of the Duke from a male perspective), but here's a romantic detail for you. My partner and I have taken photos of our hands every May since our first year together. This is the eighth photo and the second one in China.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Did you notice what was missing in my last post? Yes, that's right. There was no Lenora Bell, only Emily Bronte. That's my sneaky way of posting without actually having to write anything. Get those wet noodles out--I've assumed the position.

I just have to give you a snapshot of our hotel room right now. I'm sitting on the bed, alternately cheering and cursing at the television set, because I want the Houston Rockets to win this game in Utah. My bf is curled up (as much as a 6'4" man can curl up) in a comfy chair by the window, reading Eloisa James' The Taming Of the Duke. Yep, you heard that right. I'm swearing like a sailor because T-Mac only made ten points in the first half, and my better half is reading a romance novel.

I only became a basketball fan in the last few years, and he is reading his very first romance novel. Did I choose a good one for popping his cherry?

Have you given your significant other a favorite romance novel to read? What was their reaction?

Friday, April 27, 2007

I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

--From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pages in Bloom

I'm going to spend the rest of April chained to my desk, finishing my current WIP, Heart of Ash. So no blogging for me (see NTW post). My parents come to visit in two weeks, and I won't get much writing done while they are here, so it's now or never. Wish me luck, and I'll see you back online in May.

I'll leave you with some pictures of spring in China, in the hope that they inspire your pages to bloom.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Sometimes things come to you when you need them the most. That's what happened today when I opened my Absolute Write newsletter and clicked on an article about writer's block by Mayra Calvani. You see I've been struggling lately. I sit down at my computer with the best of intentions. And then I inevitably get sidetracked. Last night I spent four hours reading about George Eliot's extraordinary life because I was looking for the right book to have my heroine read. Unfortunately, my story is set in 1853, almost twenty years before Middlemarch was published. One of my critique partners says this should be known as NTW (network time waster) from now on, and is to be rooted out before it can rear its ugly head. Given my propensity for NTW, the article was exactly what I needed to read.

One important point it raised was that lowering your expectations might actually make you more productive. If I set a goal that is impossible for me (20 pages a day) then I'm more likely to write nothing because I get depressed about my inability to reach the goal. But if I try to write five pages a day, I might just surprise myself and get excited enough to write more, thereby surpassing my initial goal.

I know there is only one cure for not writing, and that is to write. Author Elizabeth Hoyt wrote in a recent article on Romantic Inks:

Here’s the deep dark secret that we published authors hide: we’re not necessarily better writers than the unpublished. What we do have is a finished and polished manuscript. Ninety-nine percent of writing is finishing the product...which is why, every day, I sit down and write. I sit down and write even when I don’t feel like it—especially when I don’t feel like it.

I have a long history of writer's block. The most famous example is the college paper I turned in six years late. It was a paper about a Vietnam war book, and I finally managed to write it while I was traveling in Vietnam for three weeks. I somehow needed that historical immediacy in order to finish a task that had been weighing on me for so many years.

Have you ever struggled with writer's block? Have you done anything extreme to jolt yourself out of it, or do you have a simple little trick that works?

I know, I know. Just sit down and write.

I will.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good News

Thank you all for being so supportive! I went to the orphanage again today, and it is so emotionally draining. I was the only volunteer this afternoon, and when I walked into the baby room there were at least ten babies balling their eyes out and no one in the room at all. It made me soooo sad. But I have really good news. There will be a team of surgeons visiting Suzhou in October to perform cleft lip and palate surgeries! They are from Alliance for Smiles, a wonderful organization out of San Francisco.

If you would like more information about the orphanage, you can pm me (link on my website). Thanks, again, for all your kind words and thoughts.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Two Tigers

Today I began a volunteer job at an orphanage. Somehow I just didn't picture all the babies with disabilities. Cleft lips and palates, Down's syndrome, preemies, they were all strapped into cribs, tearing my heart out with their bright eyes and big smiles. The orphanage was as clean and cheerful as it could be, and I was happy to hear them playing Mozart's Twinkle Twinkle variations, but there just aren't enough arms to hold them, let alone families to love them. The adoption rate from this particular orphanage is abysmally low, and I have yet to determine why. Perhaps because of the high percentage of children with special needs.

One tiny sweetie with a shock of fuzzy hair and the spindliest little legs I ever saw, fell asleep in my arms after cooing along to the tune of Frere Jacque. They have their own words to this song in Mandarin, here is the literal translation:

Two tigers, two tigers
Running fast, running fast
One has no ears, one has no tail
Truly strange, truly strange

There were over fifty little tigers in those two small rooms, and over half of them were there because of their "strangeness." It it made me feel so helpless when I saw their legs curling up from disuse, their eyes hungry for affection.

All I could do was sing them a song, and tell them they were not strange, but beautiful.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Weekend Getaway

We're going to the sleepy little town of Nan Xun for the weekend. Should be relaxing since it's not in any of the guidebooks. I'm bringing paper and a pen instead of my laptop.

Here's hoping your weekend is peaceful and productive.



Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Scrap Bag

Life is progressing...creamy magnolia blossoms unfurl...a car hit the bus we were riding in and thirty dollars changed hands outside our window before we were on our way again.

I am slogging through a synopsis of Heart of Ash because I think it's time to stop being such a complete pantser. Lydia Joyce's website has an excellent list of synopsis writing resources.

Pam Rosenthal's The Slightest Provocation is up for a RITA. Go Pam! Intelligent, lush, lyrical...her work is my inspiration.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blocked Again

They've blocked blogger again in China--just when I was getting into a nice posting and commenting rhythm. Now I have to go through a proxy website and it takes forever...aargh!!! *shakes fist at the government censors*

My Apologies

Please accept my apologies for subjecting you to that photo--it's the cover of the box of extra underwear that most Chinese hotel rooms stock. Just because I feel so sorry for your eyes, here's some candy to make up for it.


Feeling better now?

How about now?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Senior Man Trousers

In response to the many discussions about mantitty and its dubious merits as an inducement to buy novels, I hereby submit this disturbing photo. Now this particular specimen of homomammaries is not selling romance novels, but Senior Man Trousers--for the gentleman who forgot to bring extra underwear during his stay at the hotel. What does this have to do with romance novels? Absolutely nothing. I just thought it was hilarious, and wanted to inflict share.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Yet more evidence of Tessa Dare's genius. Check out her post on AutoSummarization--the MS Word feature that allows you to distill your manuscript into ten sentences (under the Tools menu). She found it while searching for a way to make synopsis writing less painful, and it fulfilled its function by giving us all a good laugh.

Here is the ten sentence AutoSummary of the first chapter of my latest WIP, working title Heart of Ash:

No doubt his face matched those hands—blunt-edged, intimidating, restless. “Where is my great-aunt Ethel?” blurted Lucidora. “My lord, if I may--” “Raise your eyes when you speak to me,” said Lord Ashe. Lucidora bowed her head. Never look a man in the eyes.
Lucidora inhaled sharply. Fenton will show you to a room.” “Ada--” With his stained hands and dismissive eyes.

So what does your MS look like in ten sentences? Kerry? Meljean?

Monday, March 12, 2007

To National, or Not to National

We've decided to return home a month early, and that means I could attend RWA's national conference if I wanted to. Of course I would only have been back in the states for a week--but since it is the biggest event of a romance writer's year, I'm thinking I should hop back on a plane and go to Dallas. I've only been to one smaller conference, so this would be a new experience for me. And I've only been to Texas once, and pardon me for saying so, it did not leave a good impression.

I was hired by a national speech coaching company to manage their San Francisco office, but they were headquartered out of Houston, so they flew me there for training. The moment I walked into the shiny corporate offices, I knew I was going to stick out like a...well like a San Francisco girl in Texas. Everyone was coiffed and power-suited and chipper, and they could all tell with one quick downward sweep of their blue-frosted lids that I was not a member of their sorority. I will spare you the details of that painful week, but I will let you know that I quit that job a mere two months later, even though they offered me a huge raise, stock options, and money for a new, more corporate appropriate, wardrobe.

But I'm sure this time around Texas would be different. Especially if I had some friends to seek out. So are you going? Is it worth the money? If I buy you a lemon drop will you let me sit at your table?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Pam asked about the new brand of shoes I found--so I thought I'd post a few pics.

My new favorite brand is Safiya. Inside the shoes it has a sweet little logo of a snail and the words, "My world. The Safiya's world. The young world."

My other favorite brand is Changes and Insects 100. Rather Kafkaesque.

Anyway, here are my most recent Safiya purchases:

Shoes with Scales (yes, it makes a fish if you put your feet together).

Black tap shoe style with crimson appliqued flowers.

So what do you think? I can take orders...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Juice It

I'm doing research about the state of the romance industry right now, trying to figure out what to start writing next. I want to write a story that I'm passionate about, but I want to make sure it will be saleable, too, which is the dilemma.

In a recent interview, Hilary Sares from Kensington said that whatever you are writing you should, "...juice it to the max." This time I mean to take her advice. Whatever I decide upon, I'm going to make it dark, deep and thrilling, and that means no boring filler paragraphs, no cliches, no cumbersome backstory or dialogue that doesn't advance the plot. So now I know how I need to write--that just leaves me with what.

I have three ideas I'm choosing between, and they have to do with the following:

1. Edgar Allan Poe
2. Insane Asylum
3. Birth of Photography

Any preference without knowing more than that?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Message From Above

I sent an email to one of my favorite romance authors, Pam Rosenthal, and she wrote a very gracious reply. It was so nice of her to take the time to answer. If you haven't read any of her books, you are missing out on some of the most gorgeous writing in romance today.

From The Bookseller's Daughter:

Such a jumble, such a torrent of sensation. And such a mystery, for she couldn’t think how they’d come to be in each other’s arms in the first place. It didn’t seem quite accurate to say he’d “swept” her into his arms -- or, for that matter, that she’d “rushed” into his embrace. If there had been a crucial gesture, a shy or importunate first touch, she couldn’t specify what it had been or who had made it. The embrace had simply -- happened, like a bolt of summer lightning.


OK, your turn. Tell me about an author I *have* to read...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Endings

By the end of a well-written romance novel you should be gobbling up the pages like they were cotton candy that would stick to your chin if you didn't melt it with your tongue fast enough. I just read Eloisa James's Kiss Me Annabel and I'm still savoring the spun sugar. Once I got to that ending, I didn't care that the conflict was slightly manufactured, or that certain parts of the plot felt improbable. I didn't care because she made me believe that Ewan and Annabel shared the transcendent kind of love we are all searching for. And she left me wanting more, left me with a terrible sweet tooth that only she can satisfy. Damn her.

I could just give up writing right now. Or I could work even harder to discover the elusive recipe for eliciting that kind of emotional response from readers.

Can you tell I'm still working on the ending of my book? It's just that I want it to be perfect. It has to stick to the editor's mind enough to make her pick up the phone. It has to leave her with a mouth full of melting sugar and a craving for more.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

da da da da DA DA

The Muzak version of the theme song from Chariots of Fire is perpetually playing in the hallways of the hotel I'm living in. At first it just drove me crazy. Now I've decided that they're featuring it especially for me as I sprint to the finish line of my self-imposed writing deadline.

The music will swell, the crowd will roar, and I will click the send button. Victory shall be mine!

Harold M. Abrahams: If I can't win, I won't run!
Sybil Gordon: If you don't run, you can't win.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Fifth Ring

Yes my friends, I am in the fifth ring of Rewrite Hell. I am guilty of Wrath and Gloom, and for those sins I should be punished.

At first the task of rewriting seemed straightforward enough. Add more historical detail, keep the tone consistent, decide whether the piece was full on Erotica or merely Very Sexy historical romance. I set out, like every naïve pilgrim, thinking that even though the path prove stony, I could surmount any trial with the help of my trusty pen. But then that pen led me astray. It veered off into the path of Wickedness. It started writing new characters and crossing out whole chapters. It introduced emotions and new conflict that were completely inconsistent with the earlier version. In fact, it decided to write an entirely new piece. Hence my descent into the fifth ring.

I have to finish this and send it off. I've been stuck here too long. I know parts of it are so much better than the original, but that does me absolutely no good until the damn thing is finished. Oh Wrath! Oh Gloom!

Have any of you been led astray by the very pens you trusted? How did you regain control? Did it work out in the end? Please tell me there is a path out of this hell...