Michelle, You Tease, You

A couple of days ago Michelle Buonfiglio dropped me an e-mail.

I’d come across her name a couple of times before–she gave the cover blurb on Eve Kenin’s Driven, and Lisa Lleypas thanked her in the acknowledgment section of one of her contemporaries–but I didn’t really know who she was. Well, she is a great advocate for the genre, lifetimetv.com’s romance columnist, and the marquee name at Romance B(u)y the Book.

And she picked up PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS out the hundreds of ARCs she receives every months, read it, liked it, and wants to feature it. (Can you tell how thankful I am that my publisher gave PA a distinctive cover?) I feel like Lana Turner, discovered at a drugstore soda fountain.

And the woman works fast. She’s already posted a fun tease for PA.

Really, I’m a little overwhelmed with the attention PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS is getting. Maybe I should fly up to Hayden Christensen’s farm up north and have a chat with him about how to deal with sudden fame. 🙂 Oh, look. Here’s another stack of 1065 tax returns. Okay, that will do too.

My very own Desert Isle Keeper

I was at AllAboutRomance this afternoon doing my usual drive-by review reading. And then I had to blink and look at my screen again. It’s still five weeks before PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS’s street date, but AAR’s review is online.

Now when I go to RWA nationals next time, I’ll get to wear one of those “I’ve been DIK’ed by AAR” pins that I so coveted in Dallas.

This is a true milestone. I’ve been reading AAR since the previous century–indeed, the previous millenium. 🙂 And I have waited a long time for one of my own books to join that venerated desert isle. My grade is an A-, rather than an outright A. But oh well, next time.

In other news, the excerpt of DELICIOUS is up at last.


Yesterday was an excellent, excellent day.

I know you’ve been thinking, well, sixty hours a week isn’t that much, there is still 52 waking hours left to update this blog and run the pay-it-forward contest. 🙂 That would be very true, if I hadn’t spent so many of those 52 remaining waking hours getting my new website into shape.

Well yesterday, after all sorts of wrangling, the new website finally went live–which necessitated some further wrangling, as the remote browser turned out to be a lot less forgiving than my local browser. But now everything works–in IE and Firefox at least, though it is somewhat wobbly in Firefox: the formatting is a little off at times and the “back to top” links remain stubbornly comatose. And my gorgeous and smart husband just pointed out to me that my printable book list is a Microsoft Word document, which is limited to the Windows platform. So I guess I’ll be switching it to a pdf file very soon.

And I know this will be disappointing to the two diehard Sherry Thomas fans out there, 🙂 but the DELICIOUS excerpt isn’t live yet. I had actually styled the exerpt and everything before I remembered that I can only post as excerpt what my publisher uses on its website and in print. So that will go up as soon as I know what portion of DELICIOUS Bantam plans to use.

But still, go ahead and give it a look-see. The newsletter subscription is live, though it will be a few more days before the subscription page is styled to look exactly like my site.

A great big happy-sobbing “Thank You” goes out to my friend Michelle McGinnis, a true web maven, who has been instrumental in helping me achieve my dream of becoming my own webmaster. Just think, before Michelle came into the picture, I didn’t know about syntax-sensitive editors or link checkers or even how exactly my html files would upload into my server.

A great big “Thank You” also goes out to Frauke of CrocoDesigns, the woman responsible for the look of the new site and a consummate professional in every way.

And thank you so much, dear blog readers, for your patience. I will try to better at blogging when all the craziness calms down a little.

Here’s a little guest-blogging I did at the Valenduckie event at The Good, the Bad, and The Unread, in case you are desperately looking for something to read. 🙂

Until next time.

Updated to add: My Library Journal interview is online and that is everything you’ll ever need to know about me. 😀

Death by Tax Returns

No, not my own, those at work.

I’ve been doing lots of them. Lots. On Monday I worked 14 hours. On Valentine’s day I worked 10 hours, and that’s only because in the afternoon I took a 2 hour break to work on my website, otherwise another 12 hour day.

So the Pay-it-forward contest will have to postpone a little. Sorry. ::hangs head in shame::

My contract expires on February 28. (I’m a seasonal worker. Saying that makes me feel a bit like migrant farm labor but that’s what I am.) I suspect at the beginning of March I will still be flat out racing to finish my line-edits and all sorts of promotional stuff for PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS.

So the new date for the pay-it-forward contest will be March 15. And I’ve decided not to promote it elsewhere. It will be just for readers of this blog. The contest closes on March 25. I will wake up that day ready to pay it forward. 🙂

Random Facts

I’ve been tagged by Bettie Sharpe to cough up seven random facts about myself. So here goes.

1. I am useless between the hours of 11pm and 7am. You hear a lot about writers who get up at 4am to write before they go to work. When Kidlet #2 stayed at home fulltime with me, I think I tried that a bit. And gave up after 2 days. Nor can I stay up late to write. My brain turns into a pumpkin by midnight. So if you are glad that I’m publishing, you should totally send perfumed love notes to my husband, who never—not once—asked me to get a real job, even though there were times when we really could have used the comfort and security of a second income.

2. I don’t own a belt. I don’t remember if I’ve never owned a belt, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t had one for the past ten or twelve years.

3. I went to see Godzilla—yes, the American-made one—twice in theaters.

4. I don’t watch TV. And it’s not because of any personal disdain for pop entertainment—heck, I work in pop entertainment and have extremely suspect taste in movies (see 3)—but because when Kidlet #1 was small, he was a TV zombie. If the TV was on, he’d be staring at it mesmerized, unable to do anything else. I also hate commercials. But I’ll happily watch TV shows on DVD. I have The Office about to be viewed. Next up, Prison Break.

5. The word “trousers” used to be the bane of my existence. As some of you might know, English is not my first language. When I was in fifth grade, and happily ignorant of alphabet-based languages, my grandmother—who, along with my grandfather, had attended an English-medium college in Shanghai in her youth–decided to teach me English at home. Ah, the torment. The sheer WTF-itude of it all. English wasn’t taught at regular schools until 7th grade, why was I always singled out for extra work that I had no desire for doing? But Grandma was a formidable individual and it never occurred to me to dare to refuse. So I submitted to it. But it was slow-going and reluctant and to be honest I sucked pretty hard at it. And I could not spell “trousers” no matter what. Which is kind of astonishing looking back, because there are a bunch of words that I habitually misspell these days, but none of them “trousers”!

6. I compulsively turn off lights whenever they are not shining on someone. Have been that way since long before I’d even heard of global warming or peak oil.

7. I only wear my wedding ring when I am in an environment teeming with cute guys. 🙂

In other news, the Pay-it-Forward contest is scheduled to open in the first week of February. It will be a post of its own. The prize? A query letter consultation. The contest will remain open until I’m done with my line-edits and can pick a winner–so it’s not for someone in a desperate hurry. 🙂

New Year’s Resolution–What’s That?

This year, I resolve to:

1) Have no tight deadlines
2) Not write 1,000,000 words to get a 100,000-word novel
3) Not be constantly behind on laundry, yard, and house cleaning
4) Not exercise only when I have trouble fitting into my clothes
5) Not neglect this blog for months at a time

I remember reading somewhere that Jenny Cruisie said that characters shouldn’t have only negative goals, i.e. read above. So I have also made a few positive goals.

1) Spend so much time with Hubby that he runs away when he sees me next
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).
3) Improve my grasp of the languages I already know.
4) Learn Spanish.
5) Make some money from writing. I made a grand total of $1,450 in 2007, from the Russian sale of Private Arrangements.
6) To make 5) happen, I should sell 4 books on contract.
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.
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!)
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.
10) Care enough to be upset when my resolutions languish from casual neglect. 🙂

In other news, DELICIOUS is finished. Yet again. But I like it this time and sent it out last night with excitement rather than half-dread. We shall see what my editor says.

Also, I’m thinking of a Pay-It-Forward kind of contest, even though I didn’t win the one at Bettie’s blog. Alas, I have very few practical skills. But I do write effective query letters. I’m also pretty good at helping people craft a pitch. Would there be any interest on the part of folks in such services? Or other suggestions on how I could pay it forward?

Christmas De-hiatus

I think I’m in love.

Yesterday, I made my usual visits to the gossip blogs and came across this.

“What a douchebag.”
It feels good to say, “douchebag.” It’s got two different plosive sounds, the “D” and “B”, and nicely wedged between is a wonderful “sh” sound (technically known as a voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant, at the risk of coming off douchey) that, when preceded with “oooooh”, give your lips the sensation of sliding on a hardwood floor in a pair of woolen socks.

It was someone quoting John Mayer, on his dissection of that ever-useful, ever-in-vogue term after he learned by googling himself that he is considered a douchebag by many. I didn’t know anything about John Mayer, other than he dated Jessica Simpson for a while and he’s a weird-looking musician of some sort–the tragedy of our times is that all too easy a man becomes better known for whom he bangs than what he does–but after I read a hundred words of his writing my interest spiked higher than the price of milk.

I read the paragraph again, aloud, lolling like a pig in mud in the texture and weight and sound of his words, and shivered as I recited “the sensation of sliding on a hardwood floor in a pair of woolen socks.” And then I immediately went to read as much of his blog as I had time for.

I still haven’t tried his music, but what a gorgeous writing voice the man has.

If you are bored, or suffer from blog-itis as I do, here are links to a bunch of blog entries I have up at various places around romancelandia.

Old Dudes I’d b–date, I mean.

Turn of the Century means people bathed.

Please don’t read this if your name is Anne Stuart. (Ha, like Anne Stuart cares. But I’m still scared of her.)

I hate heart-warming unless it has Hayden Christensen in the shower.

In other news–though I could be eating those words in two weeks–I think DELICIOUS will turn out to be a superior book to PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. Now everybody pray hard that I’m right.

A safe and fun New Year’s Eve to everyone. And a happy and healthy 2008 to all. Should be an interest year for me.

Thanksgiving De-hiatus

The content of the dedication and acknowledgment pages from PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, a good substitution for a thanksgiving post. I’m a lucky gal and I’m infinitely grateful for all the wonderful people in my life and the interesting roads I’ve traveled.


For my mother. There are few joys in life greater than that of having you as my mother

To the memory of my grandfather. I will always miss you. And to the memory of my grandmother, for loving books as much as I did.


Because I’m sure to forget someone, if you are reading this now, let me say thank you. Thank you for everything.

Now onto specifics.

Miss Snark, for her unqualified recommendation of Kristin Nelson via her snarkalicious—and much lamented—blog. Kristin Nelson, for living up to every last one of those recommendations and then some. Sara Megibow, for being the first person besides myself to read this book, and e-mailing Kristin late at night telling her she’d better get reading too.

Caitlin Alexander, my editor and Fairy Godmother—for making me feel like Cinderella. Everyone at Bantam, for treating me so well and publishing me so beautifully.

All my friends, classmates, and professors at the UT MPA program. It was a great year and I think of you with such fondness—in particular, Professor Fabio, who should have graced my cover.

Everyone at the Harrington Fellowship program, for everything. And putting my picture in the New York Times on top of it.

All my friends and sisters from Austin RWA. You guys are the best.

Janine, Jane, and Sybil. Bloggers rock.

Sue Yuen—for her excellent advice on Schemes of Love and for all the good times.

Mary Balogh, Jane Feather, and Eloisa James—for their generous praises. I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you and the honor of cleaning your houses.

My husband and sons, three of the cutest and kindest men in the world under one roof. The wonderful family I married into, everyone unfailingly supportive of my dreams, especially my grandfather-in-law, who backed up his prayers for my eventual publication with donations to that effect. You see, Appachen, it has come true.

The Stake is High

I’m going into revisions again, for DELICIOUS. This time it won’t be a complete demolition-and-rebuild, but still enough of a renovation that walls would be knocked down, the kitchen unusable, and plastic tarps stretched everywhere.

The problem. Not enough at stake in the second half or latter 3/5 of the book.

Strangely enough, after I spoke to my editor, during the days when I was waiting for her detailed notes, I thought very little of DELICIOUS, but a lot of HEART OF BLADE, the one manuscript under my bed that I think really has something special. I believed its problem was that it didn’t start in the right place. So I pulled it out, set chapter 7 as the new chapter one, and tried to put together a 50-page proposal for my agent to have a look before I jumped back into DELICIOUS. And guess what, the wrong starting place was only one of the problems with HOB. Yep, not enough at stake in that one either.

It’s me. I tend to be intensely doubtful of HEAs when the situation is too dark or complicated. So in some ways, in my subconscious I tend to try to take out conflicts, because the cynic in my says that nope, once trouble goes beyond a certain personal comfort level, then nobody can overcome it.

That’s obviously not true, as my tolerance for interpersonal conflict in real life is very low, and I always stand amazed at couples who fight a lot and stay together and are pretty generally happy anyway.

So I’ve been reading craft books, and fiction in which the stake is high–hoping to absorb by osmosis. And in the middle of last week, I jumped back into DELICIOUS, ready to play with some stakes.

No doubt I’ll feel differently when I’m on my next book. But part of my frustration with DELICIOUS has always been that it is a tremendously important book to me, from a career standpoint. I don’t want to be a one-book wonder. I want DELICIOUS to blow people away. And yet I keep missing that hurricane factor.

So I’ll be busy hammering and drilling, and doing my best to stay away from the interwebs. I won’t blog here again until revisions are done. But I have written a review for Anne Stuart’s Black Ice–one of the books I recently read in my stakes-hunt. It would appear at Dear Author probably in a couple of weeks as part of a dueling review with Janine. And I will be doing a guest post at the the Romance Roundtable on November 6.

I will post permalinks when they are to be had. In the meanwhile, I’ll write. And here’s looking at you, kids. Write well. Write lots. And if you have any wisdom about upping the stakes without throwing in the kitchen sink, well, don’t be shy. Let me know.

Confessions of a Former Special Effects Junkie

When I was a kid, I was a special effects junkie. I loved them. I just loved them. I would watch sci-fi movies with even the most ridiculous premise if it meant I got to see futuristic vehicles and technologies. One time I even watched a horror movie by accident because the poster looked as if there might be some interest special effects.

The first time I realized that special effects wasn’t enough for me anymore was at a movie called Lost in Space. It had some cool effects moments, but the story was so ridiculous, the characters so cardboard-y, that I came out of the movie theater shaking my head. But nothing drove home the limited effects of special effects like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The trailer of the movie gave me shivers. The imagery was beautiful and fantastic. I read every article about the movie leading up to its release, tried to download a second trailer onto my desktop on a dial-up connection, and saw the movie the second day after it opened, late at night. The whole theater exploded into applause at “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” There were only a few half-hearted claps at the end of the movie.

When I watched the first trilogy again, I marveled. How was it that the mere image of Tatooine’s twin suns setting could affect me so much? And why was it that a Death Star made of plastic toy parts felt so real while Jar Jar Binks, despite his photorealism and painstaking details, was a stupid cartoon who only wished he were Roger Rabbit?

I’ve come around full circle in a similar way about on-page sex in romances.

I think I am fairly typical for someone who cut her romance teeth as a teenager on books by Rosemary Rogers and Johanna Lindsey. I like that heat. I expect that heat. I’m a firm believer in that you can talk all you want about metaphysical true love, but sustained physical attraction has to serve as the foundation to any successful relationship.

In other words, I’m all for the hot. But the more I read, the more I realize that unfortunately on-screen sex ≠ hot. A lot of times on-screen sex can be as dull as PCAOB Standards, and a jumble of pink parts madly attaching, detaching, inserting, squirting about as arousing as stray dogs in rut–I’d stop to look for a moment, but I certainly wouldn’t be fanning myself.

Many a time I’d wished that George Lucas didn’t have a practically unlimited budget to diddle around with special effects when he was making The Phantom Menace. When you watch the Star Wars prequels on DVD and listen to the commentary, only the effects people are there–the visuals so consumed Uncle George that character, story, and everything else took a backseat. Similarly, all the emphasis on hot in recent years has produced some reading material that’s taboo, derivative, and boring all at once–committing the unspeakable crime of sucking the fun out of hot loving.

Hot loving, like fab visual effects, should not be an end in themselves. They should exist only to serve the story. They should be an AND, not a BUT, as in “The movie rocked, AND the visual effects were kickass,”–The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, anyone?–and not “The sex was hot, BUT the story made no sense and the characters were made from soggy construction paper.”

The story always has to come first.

No pun intended. I swear.