And here it is. Bigger, bolder, with a better tan on him and a fuller head of hair on her. (I specifically requested more hair on her, since her hair actually begins and ends the story, in a way. In fact, I requested a great deal more of hair on her–I wanted the old fashioned, will-engulf-small-villages-and-smother-unsuspecting-farm-animal kind of ginormous hair. But I was shot down, because the art department said that much hair might make the cover look muddy. :-P)

Not Quite a Husband Update

The good news is I have a rough first draft. The bad news is that I still have to write the bulk of the secondary romance and that the 2nd half of the rough draft is truly skeletal. So much work still remains, but oh boy, does this book have a fantastic epilogue. 🙂

And here is the preliminary cover design for NQAH.

The cover isn’t final. The border might go, since it juxtaposes rather weirdly with the rest of the image. The background color might change to make the red pop more. The art department thinks the cover will feel bolder and sexier if the couple take the whole cover. And I’m all for it. I write pretty darn sexy stuff. And my previous covers, although gorgeous, didn’t reflect The Hawt.

So just a little news before I hunker down and go back to work. Until then, everybody vote! (And yes, I did already.)

One Last Post Before I Unplug

My wrap-up of my excellent Levy adventure is up at Dear Author.

The ladies at The Romance Roundtable review DELICIOUS.

And on Wednesday, October 1, I will be paying a visit to the Word Wenches, which is where the historical romance goddesses hang out. Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice, Jo Beverley, Edith Layton, Miranda Jarrett, Susan King, and Loretta Holy-@#$% Chase. Yes, I know I’m on deadline, but you tell me you have the will power to say no to THAT. 🙂

And here’s a picture of me signing. I love how harmless I look, given that my new nickname from the tour is the Imp from Hell. Hehe.

The Other September Offensive

Just want to mention that I will be on the Levy/Meijer READ THIS! Author Tour, barnstorming 9 Meijer locations in Michigan in mid-September.

Friday, September 19
10:30am Kalamazoo/5800 Gull Rd.
3:00pm Grand Rapids/Cascade
5:00pm Grand Rapids/Knapp’s Corner

Saturday, September 20
10:30am Lansing/2055 W. Grand River Rd.
3:00pm Ann Arbor/5645 Jackson Rd.
5:00pm Canton/45001 Ford Rd.

Sunday, September 21
10:30am Rochester Hills/3175 Rochester Rd.
12:00pm Royal Oak/5150 Coolidge Hwy
4:00pm Monroe/1700 Telegraph Rd.

Please check here for updates.

Also, for folks who are on Google Read or other blog feeds and wonder why I haven’t been updating on my writing progress, I have. They updates are appended to the original post.

Beyond Boobs and Buttocks

I know what you are thinking, what is there beyond boobs and buttocks? Truly there isn’t, but one must occasionally lift oneself out of the puddle of shallowness to contemplate such things as lips and eyes and elegant fingertips. Or–gasp–emotions!

That’s what I did in a guest blog at Plot Monkeys on physical desirability, or the successful, non-clichĂ©d portrayal of it. Go have fun with it.

Also, if you live in or near Austin, Texas, I am giving a little talk on query letters at Barnes & Noble Arboretum at 2:00 pm this afternoon, followed by a quick signing. I’d love to have more than just my mother in the audience!

Have a lovely weekend!

Of Embassies and Napoleons

No, not that napoleon. This napoleon:

Otherwise known as a mille-feuille.

And there are no embassies involved in this story either, only a consulate. The Chinese Consulate in Marseille, to be precise.

I was an exchange student at the UniversitĂ© d’Aix-Marseille III in Aix-en-Provence. It was autumn. The consulate was hosting a dinner party on its grounds to celebrate the Chinese national holiday and all the Chinese students in surrounding universities were invited.

I’d never been to a party in a consulate before. It sounded like a posh affair. I put on a prim, neat dress that was various shades of very pastel mauve, and a pair of white stiletto-heeled sandals. (Come to think of it, this was back in 1994, it was somewhat fashion forward to wear strappy sandals with dresses–I was certainly alone in it. And that was probably the last time I was ever fashion forward.)

We drove 30 kilometers to Marseille. But no sooner did we arrive than it started to rain. To pour. The garden was out of the question. The dinner, a buffet-style affair, would now be served inside.

We milled around and chatted and waited. And waited. And waited. After a while my stomach began to cave in on itself. The conversation, too, reduced in scope to the dinner and only the dinner. What was going on in the kitchen? Would we have been fed already had the buffet been laid outside? And when, oh, when was food going to be served?

And then there came urgent news, dinner was in sight! We rushed to the small dining room, which was crammed like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on parade day. There were two doors leading into the dining room, one by which we stood, unable to push our way in further because of the sheer population density inside (3 per every square foot, by my estimate), another one at the opposite end of the room.

The first two platters of food arrived. I don’t remember what they were. All I remember was the astonishing speed with which the platters emptied as soon as they reached the dining table–around which the guests were piled four thick.

We soon perceived our severe error in not coming sooner to the dining room to lie in wait. Because the other door was the one by which food was being introduced from the kitchen. The people squashed in that corner were as far from dining table as we were, but food must pass through them in order to arrive at the table.

And so they turned to plunder.

I watched, agape, as hands descended upon a steaming platter of dumplings. By the time the food-bearer arrived at the table, the dumplings were all gone. On the plundering went, with me drooling and desperate, and dinner might as well be on the other side of the Channel.

Now I wonder, had the party actually taken place on the other side of the Channel, whether the British stiff upper lip would have prevailed and some sort of more equitable pecking order imposed. But we were a gathering half French, half Chinese, both known for their fanatic devotion to dining. If any civil society was three meals away from unraveling, the undoing of ours required probably only one and a half.

I don’t remember much of what happened immediately next, not when I finally got my shaking paws on some edibles, and no idea at all what they were either. What I do remember was a little something from later that evening when I was in a different part of the consulate. I was no longer starving, but I was still hungry and my mind still in piranha mode, when a plate of mini desserts strayed close to me.

I fell upon it, and the first thing I picked up, I swallowed whole, not caring what it was or how it tasted, intent only on getting more stuff down my gullet. As I swallowed, however, I suddenly realized that whatever it was, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever eaten. But by then I’d already swallowed it.

When I recovered somewhat from my stupefaction, I went after the dessert tray again. But since I was I was hardly alone in my abdomenal unfulfillment, the contents of the tray was long gone.

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever fallen for any man so hard and fast, but oh that little mille-feuille, that marvelously little mille-feuille. That was the beginning of my love affair with French pastry, or rather, my love affair with pastry cream in any incarnation. And I can’t think of a better memory with which to launch a book called Delicious. 🙂

And now I’ll have to go eat something.

P.S. The Romance Reader has awarded Delicious a five-heart review. According to them, “Readers who are worried that Sherry Thomas is a one-book wonder should be assured. If anything, her second novel tops her outstanding debut.” Hehe.

Look What the Husband Brought Home

After hosting the inimitable Bettie Sharpe Friday night, I was still in bed Saturday morning when His Hawtness, the spouse, came back home with an impromptu present for me. He’d been jogging in the neighborhood and came across a garage sale. And for $2, he bought me this:

Which opened up into this little marvel:

I oohed and aahed. It was the cutest thing. And then I said to His Hawtness, “Hey, you know what I could use this for? As background to make a book trailer for DELICIOUS!”

“Why do you think I got it for you?” replied His Hawtness.

I’d been half-heartedly thinking of a DELICIOUS trailer for a while, just so that darling book wouldn’t feel less loved than PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. (And it’s not, if anything I love it more.) But I was all publicity’ed out, there’s no evidence that book trailers sell books, and I couldn’t think of a scene in DELICIOUS that would easily turned into a script.

But the dollhouse got me started.

In the end, I didn’t photograph the dollhouse. The little paper dolls that came with the dollhouse were either unsuitable or damaged. My own paperdolls were too big in proportion. Bettie Sharpe and her husband gave many helpful suggestions on how I could accomplish it as a simple bit of computer-generated graphics by merging a shrunk-down paperdoll into a digital background in Photoshop. But I was not quite in the mood for doing battle with Photoshop–and it would have been a battle, given my general ineptitude around both graphics and sophisticated software.

But I did make a trailer, a simple, barebones teaser.

And His Hawtness still gets credit for inspiring me, because without his lovely present, it would never have happened. Thank you, sweetie.

Holy Batman and Free ARCs

The 2008 Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction ended on May 31. And my box of lovely chocolate truffles went for $305!

::Picks self off the floor::

And today I got notice that the bidder paid. I’m not sure I believed she would but she did. I’m stupefied.

::Tells self that it is a beautiful, beautiful box of chocolates. And comes with an ARC of Delicious too::

Congratulations to the winner and my baffled and enormous gratitude too. And thank you also to everyone who bid on the chocolate truffles.

In other news, this time there are no chocolate truffles involved, but Romantic Times is giving away 5 signed ARCs of Delicious on its website. So go forth and enter and win yourself a free book. And I was still noticeably editing the book during the page proof stage (after the ARC was printed), so if there’s anything you don’t like in the ARC, just think that it was fixed in the end. 🙂

Pancake from Heaven and Sherry Thomas the Grand Romantic

Part I: The Pancake

Actually, not a pancake, but a xian bing, or, as people from my part of China would say, xiar bing.

Those round golden disks on the very right of the image, those are xian bing–or at least they look that way to me–elastics ball of dough stuffed with some sort of cheap veggie and a bit of ground pork, then deep fried and served hot. So yum and so hard to find in the States.

The expression “a big xian bing from heaven” is probably somewhat analogous to “manna from heaven,” but much more practical, like if a relative you didn’t even know you had gifts you with a brand new Wii, or if Sybil from The Good, the Bad, the Unread emails you out of the blue, while you are trying to decide whether your hero should see this big old cabbage flower carpet on the floor of the servants’ hall. The servants were having themselves an annual ball, you see, so wouldn’t it make sense for the carpet to have been rolled up and put out of the way for the evening?

Begins bad re-enactment

Sybil: You around?
You: Yeah, what up?
Sybil: I’s been working hard for you.
You: Oh yeah? What have you done for me lately?
Sybil: Need a quote? I have been told to send this to you and if you have need of it feel free to use it in any way you like…

“Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today. She is a rebel, a rule-breaker, and above all, a romantic. Searing, tender and filled with passion, her writing is nothing short of a revelation. ‘Private Arrangements’ clearly heralds the beginning of a dazzling career, and I am looking forward to more brilliantly told romances from this accomplished writer.”

You: (Look around for your glasses to make sure you are reading right)
Sybil:Oh wanna know who the quote is from? Lisa Kleypas!
You: Holy Batman! (Brain melts)

End of bad re-enactment

See what I mean about a big xian bing from heaven? One moment I was thinking about nineteenth century carpet, and the next, I had a quote from Lisa Kleypas.

Much gratitude goes to Sybil, for finding a copy of Private Arrangements to give to Lisa, when the latter was signing Blue-Eyed Devil in Houston. To Lawson, Sybil’s lovely henchwoman, for paying for that copy when Sybil went to look for her phone. And to Lisa, who is much, much too kind. Really, ladies, none of you needed to go to such trouble.

(But I’m so grateful that you did.)

Part II: The Romantic

I don’t know what strikes you about Lisa’s quote (other than how many years I must have promised to clean her house for free). I’ll tell you what had my heart thud.

Not the extravagant praises. They thrill me, but I have trouble reading extravagant praises. It is as if some part of my upbringing automatically kicks in and would not let me believe too much in it. (A very good thing, in a way, for writers get reader reaction only on books they’d already finished writing. To luxuriate too much in favorable opinions of a work finished months, if not years ago would be like a woman forever reliving a past soiree at which, for that one night, she looked smashing hot.)

Rather, what made me feel elated and exposed and a bit vulnerable was when Lisa called me a romantic–as if some Duke of Hawtness had whispered in my ear as we were waltzing around the the ballroom, me in my big Scarlett O’hara crinoline, that he knew I didn’t have any drawers on and he liked it.

I guess I’m what you’d call a closet romantic. A cynics’ romantic. For I am most certainly a cynic: I think the world is a brutal vale of tears; I’m not entirely sure intelligent life is in any way superior to trees and sea cucumbers; and I’m almost certain that love is the greatest stupid-pill of all time.

And yet despite my cynicism, or perhaps precisely because of it, I am moved beyond words by kindness, wisdom, and love. A clear blue sky is enough to fill me with hope. And every day that the world lugs on–stupidity, violence, and grief in tow–is another day of blue sky somewhere, another day of courage, compassion, and love somewhere and everywhere.