Beguiling the Beauty ARC Giveaway & Other Stuff

So I’ve just had a ARC giveaway over at Smart Bitches.  The good news is, it was really fun. The bad news is, the giveaway is now closed.  BUT, because I’m such a big softy, I’m having a consolation giveaway on my Facebook author page. Ha, you didn’t even know I had one of those, did you?  Most days I don’t either.  All this multiplicity of social media makes my head spin.  But since it is there, we might as well climb that mountain.  So head on over right now and post a comment in the giveaway announcement.  No need to say anything witty, you just can write, “Ima Reader wuz here” or “Want book” and that will count.  We’ll hold that open for 72 hours.

And if you don’t get lucky there, I’m giving away another copy on March 29 on author Ashley March’s blog.

Now onto Other Stuff.

1) AT YOUR PLEASURE is out next week.  Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?  If not, why not?

2) TEMPTING THE BRIDE has a cover and it’s a good one.

I love her face.  That is the perfect face for Helena, the heroine of the book, who will most definitely be glancing toward the hero with that look of challenge in her eyes.

I am on my knees in prayer that the book will be as good as the cover.  It is still being worked on and will prolly be worked on until Berkley comes to take the pages out of my cold, cramped hands to hand them to production.  That’s the thing about secondary characters in other books–they always seem so interesting.  And holy @#$%, the hero of TEMPTING THE BRIDE submits an illustrated erotic manuscript to Helena, a publisher, in book 2 of the trilogy–I’d call that interesting.  How to do it so that they don’t suddenly become boring in their own book?  The stress has very nearly wrecked my wrists.

(When I get stressed I play casual games, esp. the time management variety–the irony.  Those are hard on the wrists, even more so if you play them on a laptop.  There were a couple of weeks when I had radiating pain shooting up and down my wrists and forearms.  I even purchased some braces on Meredith’s advice.  But since then I’d come to my senses and uninstalled some of my favorite games and my wrists are back to being okay. Phew.)

(Isn’t that awful?  There are writers whose wrists are damaged by actual work.  And here I am, damaged by fun.)  🙂

3) And you thought 3 books out in a year is a lot.  Well, as it turns out, I am also part of an anthology featuring Courtney Milan and Carolyn Jewel titled MIDNIGHT SCANDALS.  We are self-pubbing it August of this year and the price point will prolly be something like $2.99.  Cheap thrills, folks, cheap thrills.  🙂

4) This does not really affect readers in North America much, but my books are not available for legitimate downloads in UK, ANZ, or other markets because Random House, which publishes my backlist, does not have world English rights and cannot offer them for sale outside of the U.S.  (They can export physical copies, but cannot directly sell digital copies on such platforms as Amazon.)

But I can.  And I will, very soon.  Working with my agency, we are in the process of making my books available on Kindle overseas (Amazon is the only one that lets me select the territories, so I don’t step on RH’s toes here in N.A.).  We’ve the covers.  I’ve already proofed PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and DELICIOUS and will be proofing the other two shortly.

The overseas editions will actually be slightly improved over their domestic counterparts, as the RH ebooks didn’t have the proper accent marks for either books when foreign phrases were involved.  Also, all the occurrences of the word “madam” in DELICIOUS, used to address the character of the Dowager Duchess were changed to “madame”s–in both paper & e editions–after I had done my final proofing, without my knowledge, which quite frustrated me, as one simply do not go around calling an Englishwoman “madame” for no reason.  So now only the French cook will be addressed as madame.  Which probably matters to no one else, but really matters to me.

(And oeufs à la neige had been turned into something that made no sense at all in the e-edition, at least.  So that is also now correct.)

It was interesting to read PA, which I hadn’t read since I proofed it for publication.  I think my taste in prose has become more spare, at least in the simile/metaphor department.  There were times when I thought to myself, this is verging on florid, but I usually left the prose as written.  However there was one particular simile, something like “thoughts in his head streaked wildly like chickens at a weasel invasion” that stopped me cold.  As it was in the middle of a dead serious scene, I was like, yeah, time to wield the mighty delete button here.

I also corrected for a few Americanisms that I hadn’t known about then, a couple of minor research errors, some conversion-related punctuation errors and word breaks and that’s pretty much it.  Not sure about the exact dates they will be released into the wild, but I think definitely before the release of BEGUILING THE BEAUTY in May.

5) I will be speaking at quite a few RWA chapters this year, starting with a keynote gig at the Connecticut Fiction Fest in May, then on the the San Francisco Chapter in June, the National Conference in Anaheim in July, to which I’ll bring my new subtext workshop, the Orange County Chapter in August, North Texas Chapter in Forth Worth, TX and the Buns & Roses event in Richardson, TX both in October, and to round it out, a daylong gig at the West Houston Chapter in November.  Dates and whatnot are on the front page of my website.

6) Foreign Covers

There is no escaping them!  😀

First up, German re-release of Delicious.

Now, Indonesian Delicious.

I am happy any time there is food on a Delicious cover and here is food aplenty.


Happy New Year

I’d first published this post on January 10, only to discover as I was updating the sidebars that the excerpts that ‘d loaded to my website had disappeared during the server migration earlier that day–long story that began with a hacker attack on my host server right after the new year.  So I had to pull the post.  If it showed up at Goodreads or in your feed, my apologies.  I should have checked first whether the excerpts were still up, and failing that, I should have had back-ups that would enable me to quickly reload, so I didn’t have to wait until I had a three-hour window of time to recreate the pages.  Lesson learned.

Phew, am I glad to have the blog back.

You’d think, given how casually I neglect this blog, that I wouldn’t even notice if it went down for a week or ten days.  And you’d be right.  But ironically, the hacker attack on my host server that started the year happened to coincide with me turning in a couple of manuscripts and wanting to say a thing or two about them.

The folks at Janus Portal have been working around the clock.  Today they asked me to change my name server in my domain registry.  And finally the blog is back–and let’s hope it stays back.

You might have seen the cover for my July release, Ravishing the Heiress.  In case you haven’t yet, here it is, in all its purple glory.

I like the cover, but more significantly, I love the story.  When I started working on the trilogy, I was still bombed out from HIS AT NIGHT and didn’t know whether I had anything historical left in me.  I’m happy to report that working on the trilogy has totally rejuvenated me.

I think of the three books of the trilogy as the appetizer book, the main course book, and the dessert book.  Rest assured each of them function perfectly as stand-alones, but together they form a three-course spread.   The appetizer book and the dessert book are of course, slightly lighter in character.  But the main course book is as angsty as anything I’ve ever written–and answers the question I’ve been asking myself, namely, can I write a book in which the hero and the heroine are always nice to each other?  (Cuz you know how I love to have them rip each other apart.)  And the answer is yes, the leads can be absolutely lovely to each other and the story can still rip your–I mean, my–guts out.  As a result, RAVISHING THE HEIRESS currently holds the position of my personal favorite among not just the trilogy, but all my romances.

Your mileage, of course, will vary.  I’m just reporting mine. 🙂

Excerpts for both BEGUILING THE BEAUTY and RAVISHING THE HEIRESS are up at my website.

Now I must return to work on TEMPTING THE HEIRESS, which is due on February 1.  Happy New Year!

Meredith Duran Foreign Covers Omnibus Edition

The idea struck one morning.  I was on Meredith’s website, looking at her news.  She mentioned various foreign rights sales, and I was like, “But where are the covers?”

It’s not quite real until you have covers.

So I decided to hunt down as many of her covers as I can and post them here.

Let’s go with the French covers first.

Bound by Your Touch. French title: Last Hope

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Recipe Post: Light and Fluffy Pancakes

FYI/Reminder: All my ebooks are still on special promotion at $3.99 at AmazonBN.comKobo.comGoogle Books,Sony Reader Store, and Apple bookstore.


This is not my own recipe.  It is from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen and it is pretty darn perfect.

Here’s what you need.

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

(What I often do is I take quadruple the above listed quantity of ingredients, stir them together in a big mixing bowl, and then store it in an airtight canister.

Like that.  Voila, homemade pancake mix.  Saves a lot of measuring down the road.)

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The RITA Speech

The what, you ask?  Oh, that.  But that was ages ago, you say.  Well, last year I wrote a post called “Summer Omnibus Update” in October.  Seasonality is not my best trait.  🙂

You can’t really see me but if you set your audio to maximum, you can hear the speech pretty well.



See, you don’t need to speak English all that well to write okay in it.  🙂  (A long time ago, Bettie Sharpe confessed that before she first heard me, she’d imagined I spoke with a smoky voice, kind of like an expat in a French cafe. Darn it. I think I should too.)

My gratitude goes to my RWA roommie Kristyne Raley, for taking the video and then transferring it to a USB stick for me.  (Btw, Kristyne, your USB stick is so fancy it took me a minute to realize it has two ends!  Hmm, did I just reveal again how much of a Luddite I am?)

Since we are it, a couple more foreign covers.  Up first, Slovene HIS AT NIGHT.  The cover model is awfully pretty, but I’d always pictured Elissande a bit fuller–both in the face and in the bosom.  🙂

And now, the upcoming German reissue of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS.  From what I understand, Cora Verlag (Harlequin Germany) first distributes their titles to train stations and other such convenience spots.  And then later a book might get repackaged for the bookstores.  So here is the repackaging and I’m very excited to have my first leads-lying-down-together cover.

That’s all, folks.  For now.

An Interview with Bettie Sharpe

Guess who has a new novella out?  Bettie Sharpe, one of my favorite writers.  Bettie burst onto the scene in 2008, with Ember, a retelling of the Cinderella story. And what a retelling. The story was posted in ten weekly installments, and readers were counting the days until the next installment.

She publishes infrequently.  So a new release from her is always a cause for celebration.  I did a little interview with Bettie for my newsletter and thought I’d post it here also.

Cat’s Tale


Once upon a time there was a scheming, lying tart who cared for nothing but her own pleasures and her shoe collection.

Once the peerlessly beautiful Lady Catriona, consort to the king, Cat’s fortunes fall far when her aged husband dies. The king’s wizard turns her into a cat and tries to drown her in the mill pond. Fortunately Cat is a clever survivor and enlists the help of Julian, the miller’s youngest son, in her plan for revenge.

She originally sees Julian as a mere pawn for her plans to break her curse, but as they work together Cat comes to know and care for him. Even if the curse can be broken, can a good-hearted man love a woman who has been as vain and selfish as Cat?

A Few Answers from Bettie Sharpe

Bettie Sharpe Signature

Bettie Sharpe is a Los Angeles native with a fondness for hot weather, classic cars, and air so thick it sticks in your teeth. When she’s not busy attempting to metabolize smog into oxygen, she enjoys romance novels, action movies, comic books, video games, and every other entertainment product her teachers said would rot her brain. She loves to write almost as much as she loves to read. As a child, she dreamed of seeing her name in shiny gold cursive on the cover of a luridly titled paperback book.

Bettie and her husband share their house with two cats, numerous computers, and the possum in their palm tree.

Three out of the four stories I’ve read of yours (Ember, Cat’s Tale, and the retelling of The Little Mermaid in the upcoming Agony/Ecstasy Anthology) are reworked fairy tales. Holy-$%!# reworked fairy tales if I may add. What draws you to these classics?

Cat's Tale

I grew up reading the gory old versions of fairy tales, and was always kind of appalled at the Disney versions (even though I do adore some of the later Disney fairy tale movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog). The cool thing about fairy tales is that these stories were told again and again as folk tales before they were codified in print, and every author who has ever told these tales aloud or in writing has put their own spin on them. It’s what you’re supposed to do with them. Also, it’s really fun to twist and
reshape familiar elements into something new or different.

Are there any fairy tales you look at and say, nope, not interested? If so, why not?

Like a Thief in the Night

Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, but there are already so many great retellings–Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Robin McKinley (twice!), and all of the many, many romance novels that use variations on the theme. There are already more than a dozen versions
of the tale that I adore. I’m not really sure I could bring anything new to it.

If I’d been asked to answer this question a year ago, I might also have said that I didn’t care for fairy tales that ended tragically, but then I wrote “Each Step Sublime,” my retelling of The Little Mermaid that will be part Jane Litte’s Agony/Ecstasy Anthology, and I had a blast giving those characters an appropriate happy ending. So I guess my main criteria for retelling a story is
just whether I think I can do anything different with it.

You are known for your bad-ass heroines–and when I say bad-ass, I mean BAD-ASS. Yet you in person are a complete lady from top to bottom. Where do your uncompromising heroines come from?


Writers tend to be introspective and thinky. Sometimes it’s fun to get out of your own mind and step into the thoughts of someone completely different from you–someone with different morals, different values, different capabilities. While some of my characters’ traits are exaggerated versions of aspects of my own personality (Cat’s obsession with clothes and shoes springs to mind), other traits are the complete opposite.

Also, with the fairy tale retellings, the plot is predetermined. I have to create characters who would logically act and react to plot developments in ways that drive the plot to its proper ending.

I find your heroines exhilarating to read. Why do you suppose I–and other readers like me–get such a kick out of badass girls being badass?


Probably for the same reason I get a kick out of writing them–they’re fun! My favorite quote on the subject of badassery is from Neal Stephenson’s book, Snow Crash:

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken….Which is okay. Sometimes it’s all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you’ve got.

I like to read and write about badass heroines, but I don’t think I’d ever want to be one–it seems like a lot of effort. I follow the Hiro Protagonist Philosophy on Badassery– it’s good to be a little badass. In fact, it’s probably best. But seeing a true badass, or reading or writing about a really fun fictional badass, is always liberating.

Last, but not least, what are you working on now and when can we have the pleasuring of reading it?

I have plenty of projects, but the one I’ve been writing the most on is another fairy tale retelling based on a comparatively obscure story about a princess cursed with perfect ugliness. After the heroine of Cat’s Tale, who was beautiful and quite enamored of her own looks and the advantages they grant her, I thought it might be fun to write an ugly heroine. I can promise you now, she does not whine or wallow in self-pity.

I’m not sure when I’ll be finished, or even whether it will be another novella or –gasp!– a novel. It’s running a little long for a novella right now, and I’m nowhere near the end.

Be still my heart! Thank you, Bettie.

If you haven’t tried Bettie yet, you can read Ember free online at Bettie’s website or buy it for your e-reader for
only $0.99.  And then it’s only three bucks for Cat’s Tale!  What are you waiting for?

How to Make Caramel Popcorn–and General Update

The senior kidlet, who is a gourmet, has written a recipe post for the blog.  And lo and behold, he sounds exactly like the smart-aleck fourteen-year-old he is. 🙂  And he also sounds like he is talking to a bunch of other teenagers, rather than to ladies of his mother’s generation.  But oh well.  I have some general update following the recipe.

And if you need a query consultation, I have one up for bit at the Brenda Novak Diabetes Research Auction.

Caramel Popcorn

Hi I’m John a.k.a the senior kidlet. First off, this blog is pretty cool. Do i sound immature? Never mind.  If you don’t already know I’ve been on a cooking spree for a while now. Most of the time  I make slightly more complicated dishes than caramel popcorn but I just had to share this one because it’s just so delicious, easy to make and not expensive either.  This is great food for any sports event on TV, a movie you rented and brought home, or just a quick snack. Do you really want to know this recipe? I bet you do, you wanna know how I know it’s cause I’m a psychic. Not. All right, on to the recipe.

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In which I get chatty about nothing in particular

Over the holidays, I (finally!) made it home to my parents’ house for a solid twenty days. It was fantastic to be back in the Bay Area, surrounded by mountains and water every-which-way I looked.  No offense to the Jersey folks – the shore is very beautiful – but I like a little sudden elevation with my ocean.  Not to mention the food!  I’m a glutton when in California.  Sourdough baguette, good wine, Zachary’s deep-dish pizza, fresh artichokes and Brussels sprouts from the Sonoma Coast…


Speaking of Brussels sprouts, I’ve been noticing a disturbing web-wide trend of disparaging these heroic vegetables.  (Carolyn Jewel, I am looking at you!  Yes, I saw that interview!)  While driving along the coast, I obtained two stalks of Brussels sprouts and they changed my world.  I am here to tell you that said stalks are 1) fun to wave like wands; 2) ideal for bopping people atop the head; 3) DELICIOUS.  I now issue a dare to all the haters:

1. You get some Brussels sprouts and slice them into thirds.

2. You put them into a bowl and add a whole lot of olive oil, salt, and chopped raw garlic.

3. You mix it all up.

4. You toss the contents onto a tinfoil-covered pan and cook it for twenty to twenty-five minutes at 400-425 degrees, depending on your oven.

5. When the sprouts look nicely browned on top, you remove the pan and you eat the sprouts with sour cream.

6. Then you come back and talk to me about how you like Brussels sprouts!

* Disclaimer: If you steam the sprouts, all bets are off.  I cannot argue with the awfulness of steamed Brussels sprouts.


I am one of those curious children who truly enjoys being at home with my parents, doing nothing.  Indeed, if left to my own devices, I would have been shamefully content to spend all twenty days of my break sitting on my parents’ couch, egg nog (AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS) to my left, sourdough bread and e-reader to my right, mainlining various World War II-themed miniseries. Winds of War and War and Remembrance?  So fantastic!  (Apart from the whole miscasting thing. Robert Mitchum is a fantastic actor, but he was 65 at the time the first series was shot, playing a character who’s supposed to be 39 or 40.  As a result, a romance that thrilled me in the book began to seem rather…icky…on-screen.)

But the Lad, AKA my partner in crime, was out in California to meet the parents.  And he insisted we Do Stuff.  Which, you know, sounded reasonable.

So off we went to the aquarium in Monterey, where I ogled a great many jellyfish, cuttle-fish, octopuses (nope, it doesn’t pluralize to octopi, apparently.  This bums me out for obscure reasons.  I guess I like the idea of a Latinate sea creature), sharks, and otters.  I return to you with a discovery: the underwater world is twice as weird as anything ever shown to me in Star Trek: The Next Generation (a formative influence).

The aquarium experience also got me thinking about how wonder is such a devalued feeling in adult life.  As a child, so many things are new and strange, but once we grow up and settle into jobs and learn the art of juggling bills and various other responsibilities, we tend to forget to take time to search for the strange and unexpected.  I certainly forget how rejuvenating it can be to encounter something you knew absolutely nothing about.  Sea horses, for instance—did you know they could look like this?

Not a great photo, but trust me, the sea horse is technicolor.

At the aquarium, I felt like a wide-eyed kid as I walked through those rooms, and I left feeling younger and lighter, somehow.

The other wondrous highlight of my holiday was The Secret River, by Kate Grenville.  This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that conjures 18th century London and Australia with vivid, gripping immediacy.  I highly recommend it to the historical fiction fans out there!

All right, I feel a wee bit bad having posted and said not a word about writing.  Suffice it to say that A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal is off my desk, into production, and features a heroine who’s my favorite yet.  (How amusing: I feel slightly bad admitting that…as though Lydia and Emma and Gwen et al might take offense.  Ha!)  I’ll be sure to speak more of ALLiS in my next post. In the meantime, please attend to your Brussels sprouts!

New Covers

First up, the cover for Meredith’s July 2011 release, A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal, which I think is just soooo gorgeous.

Next up, German Delicious.

And now, Thai His at Night.

Near the end of HIS AT NIGHT is the following paragraph:

The top of the Hangman Cliffs gave onto a stunning vista: miles of verdant headlands towering hundreds of feet high, a twilight-blue sea upon which the sun glimmered like silver netting, and in the distance a pleasure boat, all its sails unfurled, gliding across the water with the leisurely grace of a swan.

I love this cover!

Chinese Mothers, My @ss–Updated

Update: Thanks to reader Victoria and Leda, I did some digging around and realized that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, far from a how-to manual featuring the sort of methods so prominently depicted in the WSJ article, is actually a memoir.

This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs.

This was *supposed* to be a story about how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.

But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.

My apologies to Ms. Chua.  I feel relieved, actually, to know that I was wrong.  I was getting rather worried for those two daughters.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, here is the link to the WSJ article on why Chinese mothers are superior.

I grew up in China, in a densely populated apartment complex that housed many families associated with the medical school where my grandfather served as a professor of parasitology.  Dozens and dozens of Chinese mothers lived in that complex, the strictest of them all was none other than my own grandmother.

I went to regular schools.  But at the same time, she educated me at home.  When I was five, she had me copy lessons from first grade Chinese textbooks.  I did not enjoy that particular activity and once spent a futile half hour trying get her to let me write the easier version of the word “zero”–when I had to write three of them in a row–instead of the regular, complicated one.  I came home on the last day of my first semester of elementary school, and there awaited me a set of traditional brush and ink, for me to practice brush calligraphy over the winter break.  In third grade, months before our first abacus lesson at school, one appeared at home, and I was working the apparatus like a little accountant by the time we finally got around to it at school.

I had strict bedtimes: For as long as Grandma lived, I had to be in bed at 8:30 pm on school nights.  I was the kid in the entire apartment complex who got to play the least.  Even in the midst of summer holidays, when the sun was still high up in the sky, by 5:45pm she’d be on our balcony, shouting for me to come home.  In fifth grade, she decided she would teach me English–she’d been an English major in college.  That same year, my elementary school decided it could use me as a track-and-field athlete, which entailed an hour of practice before school and an hour after school.  Guess who had to get up at five something in the morning for a half hour of English lessons before heading out to run and jump?

(As it turned out, I am a much better learner in a competitive environment than at home, where I was dying of boredom and couldn’t wait to get the day’s lesson over with.)

That said, I have no arguments with how my grandmother raised me.  But the thing is, she was a famously strict parental figure.  Most of my classmates were not subjected to extra learning at home, neither were most of the kids in my apartment complex.  They got to watch the TV programs which I only got to listen to, as I lay awake in my bed–I was widely pitied for my baby-ish bedtime.  And when school was out, they played outside till the cows came home.

And you know what?  My famously strict grandmother would have considered the lady who wrote the WSJ article nuts.  Yes, children can and should be pushed.  But the entire time I was growing up, I knew not a single Chinese mother who was anywhere near so fanatical.

When I quit playing the piano after two years, Grandma did not throw a fit–and when I did play, I was required to practice 40 minutes a day, not three hours.  As it became clear I had no particular talent for calligraphy, I was not pressed to continue.  And when I came home with a second place finish after a bunch of school exams had been tallied–and I came home with a bunch of second-place finishes in 7th grade–she didn’t herniate herself asking me why I wasn’t in first place.

And most importantly, even though I played less than my friends, I still got to play–many, many play dates at both my friends’ homes and my own, the best parts of a childhood that was both secure and happy.

My beloved and much lamented grandmother, were she still with us today, would have been insulted to be thrust into the same category as the writer of the WSJ article.  Grandma’s methods had been sane and reasonable.  She was strong-willed, but she did not ride roughshod over me.  And her main goal had never been to create some super achiever, but to keep a smart and slightly–okay, more than slightly–troublesome girl profitably occupied.

And she, not the writer of the WSJ article, is the Chinese mother whose example I will always strive for and emulate.

(Two blog posts in one day.  As the Chinese would say, the sun has risen from the west.)