Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: A Year In Blog

Let's see. What did I do in 2015, writing wise?

Well, let's start with the biggest news of the year: I published a novella! I wrote Pearl, I had the manuscript beta-read, I found a wonderful copyeditor, bought a pre-made cover, and figured out how to code an e-book and put it up on Amazon and other places for sale. I learned about a whole new realm of writing life by self-publishing.

And people have bought it. People I definitely don't know have bought it. Whut?!

I also put up a Facebook Author page so I could stop clogging up my friends' feeds with writing things. I joined two historical fiction-related groups on Facebook as well. I posted on and read a few author threads on Goodreads. I continued on with the Insecure Writer's Support Group. On AbsoluteWrite, there is now a hangout thread in the Historical Writing sub forum which is super fun as well. So, still trying to make connections with fellow hist fic types.

Writing wise, other than Pearl, my writing friend Randi Lee asked me to be part of an anthology, which will come next year (I'll keep you posted) and I started and threw out one short story and then more quickly wrote another one for it.

I also wrote, in a haze of happy thoughts and quick typing, a very long fan fiction that I shared with my best friends. They agreed that I've finally learned a bit more about plotting.

What else? I completed my reading challenge of 42 books.

I delved back into research for my Victorian novel, which I haven't worked on in a while, but is definitely in focus for 2016. It's going to be full-on historical because the modern half I'd been playing with simply doesn't work. Or as my friend Katie said, "I can't see you writing romance novels, but I can definitely see you writing a really messed up love story."

I decided to make guest posts a thing---because I'm running out of ideas :-) In 2015, there were 9 guests on the blog. I hope to have a lot more in the coming year!

I went to Elsie Fest and I saw Hamilton. Both were inspiring and fun. I also went to my friend Edie's wedding this August.

I lost my grandfather in May, but my cousin's baby daughter was born in November, so the circle of life goes on.

Have a happy and healthy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge: The Stats

I was going to write up a quick little summarization of what I read this year, but Goodreads actually sent me an email about that today, too!

According to Goodreads:

So, out of the 42 books I read this year:
 35 of them were fiction. 
Of them, 
20 had some kind of historical setting
5 were contemporary
2 were dystopian
2 were sci-fi/action/fantasy
4 were short story or novella collections

5 were non-fiction.
1 biography
1 family history
1 writing craft book
1 how-to on family history
1 history book

There were also:
1 book was a companion book to a fiction series.
1 was a collection of essays, including notes on fictional stories
1 was extremely journalistic fiction, so while the characters are fictional, the situation wasn't.
1 was poetry
1 was a book of plays

37 of my 42 books were written by female authors
9 were by authors of color

Friday, December 11, 2015

Jessica's #Ham4Ham Adventure

Hey y'all! Today, I have a very special blog guest---one of my real-life friends, Jessica, who is here to tell us about a short but awesome adventure she had the other day. I've been trying to get Jess to start her own blog practically since I started this one. At least I got her to come along and guest post.

Hello Blogosphere! This is Jess. I'm one of Michelle's friends who proudly takes the blame for dragging her out of her house for some fun excursions. So she asked me to write a guest post related to one of our adventures.

About a month ago we went to see the Broadway show Hamilton. And just like she has, I have also become obsessed with the show. Through following the show and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter, I've become aware of a sweet treat they provide fans called #Ham4Ham. On certain 2 show days, some of the Hamilton performers (and friends) come outside the theater and put on a mini show in the time between the 2 performances. 

The concerts could vary between amusing lip-synching skits or songs from other shows. On Wednesday this week I happened to check Twitter and saw they planned a #Ham4Ham and since I had time to kill after work, I thought to check it out. This time around, Lin-Manuel brought his Tony-winning friend Billy Porter to sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." 

It was lovely. And given the large crowd outside, I don't think I've ever heard a Broadway street so quiet. 

Another reason for the extra large crowd is that the #Ham4Ham show coincides with Hamilton's ticket lottery. Broadway lottery is a way for shows to sell a very limited amount of discounted tickets for same-day performances, but the catch is that you have to be at the theater at a certain time to throw your name in a bucket with (potentially) hundreds of others. When I was there for #Ham4Ham, I was mixed in with the largest lottery crowd of my life. I guess that's a testament to the hype Hamilton has gotten. I overheard a conversation where a couple tried 48 times before they finally won Tuesday night. 

This phenomenon started with Rent which sold $20 tickets for seats in the first 2 rows through the lottery. Most shows currently on Broadway have adopted and adapted this program for themselves. Playbill lists in detail the different show lottery and rush policies: 

So if you ever want to catch a show at a super discount, this is one way to go about it. I've seen a few shows this way (including Rent, Hairspray, Wicked, and others) and it's good if you have the time and patience to try your luck. 

Jess and I saw Rent through lottery once, when two of the original cast members were back on Broadway as Roger and Mark. We were front row center. It was really special. Plus, I think we saw Spring Awakening with student rush. Thanks Jess for coming and writing this for us, not to mention taking the pictures and the video!

#Ham4Ham is a real show of the Broadway community, I think--you can check out a lot of Ham4Ham videos on YouTube. Hamilton's lottery tickets are, appropriately, $10.

Has anybody out there ever rushed/gotten in a lottery for a show? Which one and when?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

IWSG: Your Creative Well

A few weeks ago, I saw the Broadway show Hamilton and for whatever reason, as it happens every once in a while, I felt so incredibly creatively inspired.

And then I came home, read over the short story I've been working on since frickin' September, read my critique buddies' notes, and wondered if I really wanted to salvage what I'd been trying to do. The answer? No. My critique partners had great ideas and great pointers, but I couldn't see a way to get it together in that story.

So I decided to try another story idea and although I'm only a little over a thousand words into the first draft, it already feels much better. I'm not sure how much of that is due to getting my creative well filled up via Hamilton and how much of that is due to the idea being a little more in my wheelhouse.

A lot of authors will say that writing everyday is the most important thing and it is, whether you feel inspired or not. But there's a huge difference, for me, in writing something that I feel like I'm only grasping with my fingernails and writing something that I feel almost immersed in.

So, don't forget to fill up your creative well, people. Go read a book you didn't write, watch a movie, geek out over a Broadway cast album, go see a ballet, try to learn the Lindy Hop, or learn how to bake a pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

4 People In Hamilton That I'd Never Heard Of Before

Since seeing the Broadway show Hamilton, I've been listening to the songs on my iPod whenever I'm out and about. I'm notorious among my friends for learning lyrics quickly, but since Hamilton has a lot of lyrics--most of them rapped--we'll see how many of the words I'll memorize.

One thing the musical has done is have me back in historical mode. As I mentioned earlier this month, I knew some basics about Alexander Hamilton and a bit more on the presidential Founding Fathers--I went through a long phase as a kid where I read kiddie history books on the presidents. And of course, being American, I was taught early American history.

But as a true history nerd--and as a historical fiction reader and writer--I love learning more about a period or historical people and I especially love learning about the lesser-known people. They tend to be less mythologized than the more famous people, but no less interesting.

So, here are four people I'd never heard of before I saw Hamilton. For those who think they might see this show sometime in the relative-near-future, there be spoilers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Very Unscientific Poll: Which Banner?

Okay, guys. I've decided to change the blog's banner.

Periodically, I get sick of looking at the same thing and want to change it. So:


Edited to add:
A few people wanted to see Number #2 with clearer font or font from number #1:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


So what do I know about Alexander Hamilton? He was born in the West Indies. Founding Father. He's on our money. He wrote a lot of the Federalist papers defending the new Constitution. He did some important but boring work on our financial systems. He did stuff in the Treasury. He was shot in a duel in New Jersey by Aaron Burr and died. 

Oh, yeah, and he's the subject of the currently very buzzy Broadway musical hit Hamilton.

I went to see Hamilton with two of my friends tonight (well, last night as of this typing). Every so often, there's a Broadway show that gets a ton of buzz and sells out tickets like crazy...this show is that show, so we counted ourselves very lucky to have sprung for the tickets relatively early. 

Hamilton is about Alexander Hamilton's rise to prominence in American politics, from the Revoluton to being Washington's right hand man to Secretary of the Treasury, including his marriage to Eliza Schuyler, some scandals, and his long friendship/rivalry with Aaron Burr. It painted a portrait of a very passionate, hotheaded, and complicated man...

...but the music (and most of the musical is sung-through) is, like, largely hip-hop. There are rap duels between Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson (who was costumed in a fabulous velvet purple 18th century waistcoat and breeches), there's R&B, there's a hilarious recurring ditty sung by Andrew Rannells called "You'll Be Back."

Andrew Rannells plays George III. You know, the king the American colonies wanted to dump. It's probably un-American of me to enjoy George III that much. But he was so archly funny ("They say George Washington's yielding his power and stepping away. 'Zat true? I wasn't aware that was something a person could do.") And I want a scepter to wave around in my everyday life now. 

Megalomaniac? What? Me? 


Another favorite: Jefferson taunting Hamilton after the Reynolds pamphlet: "Well, he's never gon' be President now."

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. From the New York Times.

Also, the vast vast majority of the parts are played by black and Hispanic actors. That's right, a bunch of dead old rich white men played by a very diverse cast--and other than the usual parsing of figuring out who's who, it's not even anything to think about. See, Hollywood? You can cast actors of color! You can cast them in parts that white people would play! You can have them play the roles of the people who founded our country.

The time period in the musical is suggested through the costumes. Of course, there's a historical element to all of it which I loved--and realized how little I actually know about Alexander Hamilton and the very earliest years of the United States. But with the music, the cast, and frankly, the repeated reminder that Hamilton was an immigrant and the foreboding mentions of dueling (guns), Hamilton is also a story that is very much about the now in America, too.  I'm like 99.99% sure that Hamilton will win next year's Tony for Best Musical. I can't wait.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Call for Guest Posts + Short Story Writing

I feel like I've been neglecting the blog as of late. When I said earlier this year that I felt like I was running out of things to blog about, it wasn't entirely a joke.

So, I'm calling on my creative friends to consider coming on and writing a guest post. :-) I love learning about new things and reading different experiences, so hit me up!

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I've been writing a short story which is bound for a collection a writing friend is putting together. I recently read through the publishing contract for said collection--my first publishing contract, y'all!

I feel like it's taken me ages to draft this story, but then again, short stories aren't my usual medium and my first drafts are usually on the shitty side, so I'm trying not to be down on myself. I'm very nearly done with my draft and then I plan to ask my usual writing and critique buddies to take a look before I submit in early December.

I was watching TV earlier today and had an idea that'll make the story a lot more interesting. And last night, I saw a flash of a scene that I can end with.

I know the story will end when I can see the ending somehow.

Friday, November 6, 2015

More Japanese Stories, Please


My aunt found this the other day when she was cleaning. It's a sakubun my cousin wrote for Japanese school--an essay. My two older cousins and I went to Japanese school on Saturdays growing up (for the record: I slept with my eyes open through most of it). This sakubun is special because it's about me as a baby.

I wish I could read Japanese better. I can just about read the sakubun. I suspect that our grandmother dictated this to my cousin because there's no way that an 8-year-old boy is going to write things like, "My cousin is really cute and I like her very much."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's Like the Full Moon by Glorie Townson!

It's IWSG time! We post about our writerly insecurities every first Wednesday of the month. Come join us here! Our awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG will be Stephen Tremp, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson! 

Anyway--instead of sharing my insecurities or triumphs this month, I am offering my space to another IWSG member---Glorie Townson! Scroll down for a short interview on her new release, It's Like The Full Moon!

See other reviews, interviews, and follow this tour here.
Title: It's Like the Full Moon
Series: Sayings Series 1 Author: Glorie Townson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Reading Level: Adult
Content Rating: PG-13
Formats: paperback and ebook
Pages: 235
Rebecca has just turned thirty. She’s happy living a perfectly comfortable and predictable life. She’s even ready to marry her long-time boyfriend whenever he finally gets around to asking her. But all that changes when her best friend whisks her away to Italy for a much-needed vacation.
In the midst of site seeing and finally letting loose, Rebecca manages to catch the eye of a young English tourist; but doesn’t let it go to her head. By the time she’s back in the States and back in the arms of her long-time beau, Rebecca has already forgotten about Peter, Paten, Paul…whatever his name was, that is until he shows up at her brother’s cabin in the woods.
A life of normalcy, routine, and stability gets turned upside down as Rebecca decides whether or not she’s truly ready to get married. And if so, who is the one she’s really meant to be with?

1. Where did the inspiration for It's Like The Full Moon come from?
There are two answers to this question. First, I started writing this book because I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I’d only recently began to have a real appreciation for romance as a genre and thought, what better way to pay homage than to pen my own tale of love in a modern world. Second, since my romance reading experiences were limited and still developing, I looked to films of the genre that have stuck with me. After reading the blurb and diving in to the first few chapters, the influences of A Room with a View, Moonstruck, and How to Make an American Quilt become quite evident. 

2. What do you enjoy the most about writing romance? 
 It’s funny that you ask that because I didn’t really like the process of writing romance at first. For this project I had to invoke a long dormant muse by the name of Glorie to help me through this process, and for that reason, she’s given the author credit. 
For so long I’ve dwell in the realm of the speculative, writing mostly paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi. When I started to write It’s Like the Full Moon, none of my usual techniques worked and I became frustrated. After a while though, I began to accept that that plotter needed to let go a bit and my muse to revel in all the drama I’m usually trying to avoid. From that point forward, I enjoyed just letting the story flow into its simplistic end. 

3. Tell me a little bit about your heroine, Rebecca. 
 Rebecca is a bit more Toi that Glorie except for one small detail, she’s a true girly girl. She’s the type of heroine you don’t expect much from at first but then you see how she’s capable of change and unyielding strength. Even if you don’t grow to love her, you have to respect her. 
I like that Rebecca is soft spoken and practical, and that she only really lets loose when circumstances are beyond her control. Ultimately, she’s the heroine of this installment because it doesn’t take long to realize that she’s a binder in the making. When one character, whose role is to hold the family together, is removed from the scene, it’s Rebecca who becomes the familial and friendly glue.

4. I know this book is the first in The Sayings Series. How do you think the next story will take off from this one?
 The fact that this story has spawned a series is still a bit of a shock to me. The idea of the Sayings as a series came from beta readers demanding the stories of the other characters be told or developed more. With the way this one ends, there are so many places the next one could start off; I’ve already made up my mind how to proceed, but I can’t tell you that now. I will however give you a hint. One character who seems to be all alone won’t stay that way, while other characters who seem to be settling down will just be starting their adventure.

5. What does romance mean to you?
For the longest time I thought romance was all the relationship drama I didn’t have time for. Then one day I realized that while there are some universal themes of romance, that romance can be many different things to different people. Part of the challenge I posed to myself was to write a love triangle that was believable because so many others I’d experienced seemed fake or rushed. 
But on a personal note, to Glorie, romance is all the crazy things we do in the name of love because sometimes simple and easy doesn’t get the job done. Romance is the catalyst to passion, and I truly hope readers discover the passion within themselves, for the significant others in their lives, after seeing how Rebecca finds hers. 

This book is currently available for Pre-order as an ebook through and as a paperback direct from the author. Be sure to pre-order your copy at its reduced introductory rate and save your receipt number to earn extra entries into Glorie's cool giveaway
Pre-order Kindle | Pre-order Paperback | add to Goodreads
Which cover do you like? 

Click numbers to share on Pinterest. Feel free to heart
Register your vote for a chance to WIN below!
Glorie Townson is more than just a pen name for the author, Toi Thomas; she's an entirely different personality. Glorie is the softer side of Toi, who puts down her comic books and picks up a volume of Robert Frost poems. Like Toi, Glorie is happily married to her wonderfully supportive husband, and together they share a home with their pet turtle, Betty. This is Glorie's first publication, but she's already feeling the inspiration to pen another tale, to which she'll gladly share with the world. 

I hope you've enjoyed this stop on the 
It's Like the Full Moon Tour and will consider
supporting the Thunderclap to announce the 
official release of this book. 
The giveaways for this tour will include:
a $5 gift card, signed and personalized 
digital sneak peek, and something for everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: Goal Met!

In January, I set my reading challenge to 42 books--and today, I met that goal! Yay!!!

Here is the last bunch of books I read to meet my goal:

31. The Best Man (Blue Heron #1) by Kristan Higgins. Romance/Contemporary/Humor. 4 stars.
32. The Perfect Match (Blue Heron #2) by Kristan Higgins. Romance/Contemporary/Humor. 4 stars.
33. Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard. Non-fiction/History/World War II/Japan. 5
stars. Review.
34. Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson. Historical romance/fairy tale/Young Adult/Vienna/1920s. 3 stars.
35. Writing Your Family History by Gill Blanchard. Non-fiction/How-to/Writing/Genealogy. 3 stars.
36. Affected by Randi Lee. Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic. 5 stars.
37. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Thriller/Mystery. 3 stars.
38. Root of Unity by SL Huang. Sci-fi/Adventure/Action. 5 stars. Review.
39. Lies Told in Silence by M.K. Tod. Historical fiction/WWI/France. 4 stars.
40. The Scarlet Kimono (Kumashiro Saga #1) by Christina Courtenay. Historical romance/Adventure/17th century/Japan. 4 stars. Review.
41. The Gilded Fan (Kumashiro Saga #2) by Christina Courtenay. Historical romance/Adventure/17th century/Japan/England. 4 stars.
42. The Jade Lioness (Kumashiro Saga #3) by Christina Courtenay. Historical romance/Adventure/17th century/Japan. 4 stars.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fear of the Short

1. It's really bizarre when you cough so hard you lose your voice.

2. The good thing is, I'm a writer and I can write whatever I want to say and it comes out better than when I say it. It's very convenient for times you lose your voice. Unfortunately, it won't do me much good at work tomorrow...

Anyway, today (before I coughed out my voice), I met up with Katie, my old college roommate, who has come to New York this weekend to take some advanced Lindy Hop classes--swing dancing--and naturally, we reminisced a little about college.

And I realized that my basic fear of writing short stories doesn't necessarily stem from the fact that I prefer to write longer stories...i.e., books. I thought that because I tend toward the verbose, that that's why I don't like writing short stories--getting a beginning, middle, end, a plot, and decent characters in under, say, ten thousand words? 'Tis a challenge!

Pearl is just under thirty thousand words, for instance.

In college, as I've mentioned before, I developed Workshop-itis (definition: the dislike and fear of having your work workshopped). It's really strange now because while I have no problems with my writing group critiquing my work when I request some help or a second or third pair of eyes and I don't mind the idea of strangers reading my novella, the idea of having to submit a short story to a callow and grim class of twelve other writers in a classroom setting terrifies me.

Though, I have to say, if I were in that situation now, I would actually have quite a bit to say. I've learned a lot about writing since college.

But my Workshop-itis is tied into my squeamishness about writing short stories because that's all we did in fiction writing. I never thought I was particularly good at writing those stories for a variety of reasons.

How appropriate that the short story I'm writing has to do with turning points, then, huh? Because I feel like if I can really get this short story to come together and work, then I can write more of them--and find places to submit them to.

So, Workshop-itis and college's time to get out of my way.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Long Time, No Post

Just a fly by to let everyone know that I'm alive. Sorry about the radio silence! I've been a bit under the weather this last week or so (it's a cold, but with a gnarly cough), which means I couldn't think clearly enough to think of anything to blog about.

I've been...

  • Hopped up on cold meds, which is always an interesting experience
  • Watching Major League Baseball playoffs. As a devoted Yankees fan, I'm sad that my team didn't get past the wildcard game. But I'm watching both National League (Go Mets, I suppose) and American League games.
  • Reading. A lot. I finished Root of Unity by SL Huang (I think it may be her best one yet) when this cold was simply sniffles and a runny nose and am about 25% through a historical fiction novel about WWI France, Lies Told In Silence by MK Tod.
  • Playing this ridiculous Downton Abbey game on my iPhone. 
  • Paging through an issue of Poets & Writers magazine. 
  • Revising a short story 
  • Deciding not to do NaNoWriMo this year.

What about you? 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Author Charts & Pearl news

When you give birth to a book, you are then obliged to look at graphs and charts telling you things about your book.

But before we get to that, I wanted to mention that Pearl is now wide. She's up on iBooks and Kobo and will be on Nook as soon as B&N uploads it! 

I thought I'd give you guys a peek at a few of these author charts. Welcome, briefly, to the world of indie authoring.

So, first: what authors want. Sales!

This is Pearl's sales chart from Amazon for the past month:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: Two Questions

This is October's IWSG post! The IWSG posts every first Wednesday to discuss our neurotic, needy writing problems among others like us, led by our ninja captain Alex J. Cavanagh. Sign up here! October's co-hosts are: TB Markinson,Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar!

I have two questions this time around. I'm hoping people will chime in.

1. I'm working on a short story right now. I haven't really written one since... well, the very beginnings of Book the First. What's the upper word count limit of a short story?

2. I keep wondering how to reach readers--I check my Amazon stats once or twice a week and sometimes there will be pages read or a download here or there. 15 people have added it to their Goodreads shelves, but...for future reference, how do you all reach readers? I seem to have the knack of reaching other writers. But we can't necessarily market to writers, can we?

However, in rather exciting news, I recently received my first royalty payment from Amazon, where Pearl is currently enrolled in Kindle Select. I can afford a pizza! Or put a decent amount on my MetroCard. Or get food at Chipotle and still have another twenty leftover. In other words, it's a modest amount, but means that something paid me for my writing and that's exciting no matter what.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What I've Been Reading

I'm something like eight books away from my arbitrary 42 book goal for this year. This isn't going to be my usual list but more of a dissection of what I've been reading most recently.

So, I started reading The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman on September 12th. I'm 5% in. For those who haven't heard of this book, here's the blurb via Goodreads:

A post-apocalyptic literary epic in the tradition of The Handmaid's TaleDivergent and Cloud Atlas, and a breakout book in North America for a writer of rare and unconventional talent.

From Guardian First Book Award finalist Sandra Newman comes an ambitious and extraordinary novel of a future in which bands of children and teens survive on the detritus--physical and cultural--of a collapsed America. When her brother is struck down by Posies--a contagion that has killed everyone by their late teens for generations--fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star pursues the rumour of a cure and sets out on a quest to save him, her tribe and what's left of their future. Along the way she faces broken hearts and family tragedy, mortal danger and all-out war--and much growing up for the girl who may have led herself and everyone she loves to their doom.

The plot isn't unfamiliar--it's straight-up post-apocalytic, pandemic, dystopian. Right? But Ice Cream Star is written in a truly unique style: you can check out the beginning of Chapter One here.

Go on. Read it. I'll wait.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Elsie Fest 2015

Today--Sunday, September 27th--my friend Jess and I went to Pier 97 on the West Side Highway in Manhattan to attend the first annual Elsie Fest (named after Sally's friend in Cabaret)! Elsie Fest was organized by Darren Criss from Glee and it was a music festival for musical theater.

We arrived around 2 pm, wandered around the grounds a bit (stage there, facing the Hudson River; porta potties down there, three food trucks over there, lots of bar places--and all the way at the back, a piano, bar, and musicals singalong).

This is what the stage looked like:

At 2:20, the first performer went on: Tony winner Lea Salonga, who starred in Miss Saigon as well as Les Miserables and was also the singing voice of Mulan and Princess Jasmine!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Amazon Keywords

Back in June, just after I put Pearl up on Amazon, I came across a thread on AbsoluteWrite discussing keywords.

Amazon keywords are important because they help potential readers find your work. Also, the more niche you can get with the keywords, the more likely it is that your book's rank will be higher, which makes it more visible to more people. Now, how Amazon's Super Secret Algorithm works is unknown, so the rank of your book doesn't necessarily correlate to sales.

When you upload your book and begin the process of filling out the basic information (your author name, your title, uploading the cover, assuring that you hold the rights), Amazon also asks you to choose a basic category.

As you can see, some are very broad (General, Action and Adventure) and others are more specific (Amish and Mennonite, for instance. Lower down, there's a category for Black Humor).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Family History Mysteries

My cousin Liz went on a three-week long study abroad course to Belfast, Northern Ireland this summer--and she brought me back this book.

I should probably explain. I appointed myself the family historian.

This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I love history. 2) I'm a masochist (hehe) and 3) Since I basically have to explain my ethnic origins every ten minutes, I might as well know as much about them as I can find out.

I can already tell you that I'm not ready to write a family history any time soon.

The earliest ancestor I've been able to trace (mind you, this is almost all on the Irish side of the family because I can't read Japanese and those records aren't online anyway) is Peggy Mulroy, born in 1791, death date unknown. She's my 4th great-grandmother.

Otherwise, I've been able to trace a few cousins, at least out to the third degree.

But the fact is, I don't know a lot about any of my ancestors beyond a certain point (so, my great-grandparents, who all died before I was born), as happens to us all. I know names, some dates and how I'm related to these various (and mostly dead) people but stories? Pictures? Nope.

There are things I'd like to know more about, though. My grandmother's mother's family, for instance, were my first ancestors to set foot on American soil. My great-grandmother Annie was born in New Jersey--but her parents both died before she was six years old.

Supposedly, we have cousins in Australia. Who are they, why did they go there? I'm not sure what branch of the family they're from.

I still don't know what my ancestors were up to during the Potato Famine.

We're related to Father Flanagan somehow. How? Don't know.

I've decided that all Irish family trees lead back to a Peggy, Biddy, Mary, Thomas, or Paddy. But I've been pleasantly surprised by the several women named Sabina and Honora back in my tree.

I am thinking of how I can fit all the people I've traced onto a poster or something and drag it with me to Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

5 More Things I've Learned About Writing Recently

1. Writing friends are awesome

My first college writing professor told me that while writing is a solitary occupation, writers still need people. I didn't quite believe her. Sorry, Professor Triant, wherever you are. You were right. In the past couple of years, through blogs and writing forums, I have made writing friends. We met for an online chat recently and although we were helping one of the girls work out the plot for a story, I ended up writing more of the novel I've been so on-and-off about this year because I felt inspired to get back to it.

2. Sometimes, you just gotta cut and paste.

I was working on the novel last week when parts of it struck me in such the wrong way. I realized that really, one part of the story was working a little bit more at this stage and the other parts read like I forget how to write.

So I cut and pasted one half of the story into another document, to be looked at once I've finished the part I'm working on now. It'll keep me from going mental.

3. Even goofing off writing helps

I posted about this pretty recently: comfort writing. It's completely not serious, it's only shared among very close friends, and everything and the kitchen sink is liable to get thrown into it. But the lessons I took away from that are: Remember how much fun this is, actually? Yeah, try to have more of that.

Writing something light, frothy, and hilarious is awesome. Plus, since I've developed as a writer since the last time I wrote one, this story actually has, like, a plot, a premise, character development, and an ending.

4. Be open and the opportunities will arise.

Writers, I have come to learn, are a very supportive bunch, whether they are writing friends, belong to the IWSG, or are in the pool of writers in a contest or regular commenters on a blog. Paying it forward is an important part of being in the writing community--and it is an online community. It's one of the reasons I wanted to start featuring guest bloggers on the blog, to foster some of that writing community. I was helping a friend out with some book promo and she asked me to join her in a writing project.

5. New challenges will teach you new things.

I started drafting a short story for my friend's writing project. I'm not great at writing short, but I did write short stories in college, so...we'll see how this goes. At most, it'll teach me how to write short and then I'll be able to write more of them, which will allow me to explore other writing opportunities.

6. A blog schedule really does help

I've been reading how one of the "cardinal rules" of blogging is to keep to a blogging schedule. I never have. And that's been fine. But there was a point in August where I didn't want to work on the novel, I didn't want to blog, I didn't even particularly want to read--and in the event of those types of mood swings, keeping a schedule really does help your readers know when to anticipate a new post. If they know when it's coming, then they'll come to read 'em--maybe? So I'm trying to keep a Wednesday and Saturday schedule for now, with the reserved right to post on other days if I feel like it or if there's a guest post or something exciting happens. Writing is cumulative.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Randi Lee's Affected Buy One, Get One!!

The Affected BOGO is Upon Us…

Author Randi Lee is running a buy one, get one promotion for two of her books: purchase a copy of Randi Lee’s “Affected” between September 14—22, 2015 and receive a free eBook version of “Snap! A Quite Quick Collection.” To receive your free eBook, e-mail a copy of your receipt for the purchase of “Affected” to:

“Affected” by Randi Lee is available on major online bookselling sites, such as: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, kobo and Powell’s. Visit for more details.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The London Theater World, 1890s

The theater world of London in the late 1890s was an exciting place.

Burlesque was a big part of that world in the 1880s--bawdy songs, dancing, farce. These shows were short, silly, and pastiches of operas or other popular shows of the era.

These are just some of the things happening in London's West End in the 1890s.

The Gaiety Theatre
But in the 1890s, the Gaiety Theatre started putting on productions that became musical comedies. These shows were light, breezy, with witty dialogue and nice music and dancing. They were original shows, not pastiches, and from 1894, The Gaiety put on a string of "girl" musicals:

The Shop Girl (1894)
My Girl (1896)
The Circus Girl (1897)
The Gaiety Girls 

Part of the Gaiety's shows were the Gaiety Girls--the chorus girls. Unlike the chorus girls in the burlesque age, the Gaiety Girls were pretty, well-to-do, respectable young ladies who wore the latest fashions as they sang and danced on stage. Some became leading actresses in their own right. Because they were popular and fashionable and polite, the girls attracted wealthy men to the theater--and several Gaiety Girls married into the nobility.

Beerbohm Tree
Beerbohm Tree as Hamlet, 1892

Herbert Beerbohm Tree was a leading actor and manager of the time. He managed the Haymarket Theatre and staged new work. But he was known as a Shakespearean actor, performing in Henry IV, Part 1, Hamlet, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. He continued staging Shakespeare once he took over Her Majesty's Theatre as its manager in 1897 until his death in 1917.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde's plays were produced between 1892 and 1895 in London. Lady Windermere's Fan opened in February 1892; The Importance of Being Earnest opened on Valentine's Day 1895 and closed after 85 performances despite its success because of Wilde's arrest on charges of sodomy. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

No, I Don't Carry Those Facts Around With Me

Last week, a friend asked me, "You know what I don't get? How do you remember all that stuff to put in your story? All those facts?"

She was specifically talking about the fan fiction that I've been writing and she's been reading, which involves a real person and therefore, contains a few facts of said real person's life and career within the story.

"It's probably displacing something important," I replied. In my case, anything I stuff my brain with during a project is displacing math.

But I've been thinking about this--and then I came across the above pretty quote because it's really true, isn't it? Writers steals things from life, from other people, from books, movies, TV, and whatever else and it gets folded, reshaped, recorded, and shaded into our stories.

It's one of those brain mysteries, because while I feel like I don't remember a lot of things about my characters or the setting or something, when I'm really in the zone with a story, I'm pulling all kinds of things out of the subconscious.

I'm also pulling a lot of things out of random websites, Google, Google Maps, and Wikipedia.

But it's a lot more romantic to say that it's pouring forth from my subconscious.

So. What kind of random things do you all find popping up in your stories?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG: Let It Go

The IWSG is an online writer's group. We post about our writing and our insecurities every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here! Thanks to our co-hosts for September: Julie Flanders, Murees DupĂ©, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner!  

Somewhere in August, I had this intense burst of inspiration and wrote a 150-page long story in a very short amount of time. Too bad it's a fan fiction, so rife with Mary Sues and the fruits of too much time Google-Stalking certain movie stars that it'll never see the light of day beyond my two best friends.

But still, it's fun, comfort writing.

And it taught me something (as writing anything does): that letting loose while writing, not being too rigid, is the best way to write. It's the fun way. It reminds you why you like to spend vast amounts of time in worlds you make up with people you make up (well, unless you're writing a fanfic, that is).

So now, I'm getting back into the folds of my novel. And I've realized that I paused it several times now because I was being so rigid about how it needed to go and where it needed to go and what I wanted to convey.

So here we go, novel. I'll let you breathe and I'll let you lead. I'm half a pantser (that is, I do have a plan for this novel), but it's the getting there that's the problem. So, time to make like Elsa and let it go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Comfort Writing

I took a pause yet again on my novel in order to reorganize what I had into different segments, which I think will help me feel less bloody confused. Of course, it's an early draft, so it's okay to be confused, but I want a cleaner draft and a clearer way to the end.

I've been reading a lot (non-fiction this time), I watched a couple of Netflix (The Woman in Gold was awesome), and I've been doing something that I think can be most aptly called Comfort Writing.

You know how you read your favorite genre and it's just cozy and comfortable and makes you feel good? I have that for stories--in my case, Comfort Writing consists of a very Mary Sue character, whoever I'm Google-Stalking at that moment in time, my best friends, and off we go into fan fiction land.

These stories don't get posted and they only get shared with my friends, who have read several fan fictions over the years ("So far, this one's better than the others," my friend Jess told me via email. "You got into the plot by chapter one.") My process is a lot more relaxed--I'm blatantly stealing things from real life, so it's not heading toward any discernible route to publication--and I think that comes across in the many one-liners and weird puns and, frankly, absurd situations.

Because writing's supposed to be fun. I mean, even when it's a pain in the ass, I suppose writing is fun. But there are definitely times when it's more fun than other times.

Oh! And I also wanted to add: Pearl's Kindle Countdown ended on the 15th. It sold 6 copies in the countdown period and there were a couple of borrows, so thank you to everyone who read it!

And good luck to everyone doing Pitch Wars!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Sprawling Epic

I love a good, sprawling epic of a story: the more expansive the setting, the more intricate the relationships, the more characters, the better. And for the longest time, I think that my stories were, on an unconscious level, really going toward that.

But these days, though I still enjoy a good epic in theory, in practice, I'm often not too thrilled when I have to read 400+ pages to get to a climax or conclusion or connection. I have a modern day diminishing attention span, what can I say?

As for writing epics, I tend to get anxious when something I'm writing reaches over 350+ pages. I'm not really sure why. It might because at that point, with a large word count, I'm losing track of everything else I've written. Or because at that length, I know that so much of it is either filler or just bad, and it doesn't need to be that long.

Also, I've come to realize that my writing is better when I have fewer characters and a tighter handle on a plot.

Now, historical fiction tends to have a longer word count than a lot of other genres--and I think Vic and Nic are heading toward a large word count, at least in this draft. So I'm trying to remind myself that it's okay if it's long as long as the story is moving and everything in there is absolutely necessary.

But then, on the other hand, I think about Pearl and how easy it was to write--and how easy it is to read because it's short. Really, there's a lot to be said about novellas.

So, which do you prefer to read or write? Long, dense, complicated stories or shorter, tighter ones? Or both?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nagasaki, 70 Years

Seventy years ago today, at 11:02 am, the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, a city on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. I feel like I've heard a lot about Hiroshima and its atomic bomb on August 6th for most of my life and less about Nagasaki.

If you look at the map above, just above Nagasaki, there's a city called Sasebo.

That's where my family is from.

Growing up, I attended Japanese weekend school and I've been in and out of my Japanese grandmother's house my entire life. This--plus knowing that on the other side of my family, my grandfather was fighting against the Japanese--has always given me mixed feelings about how we're taught about the end of World War Two in school. Like, on the one hand, I'm here because the Americans decided not to bomb Sasebo, which was one of the cities under consideration. But then, the bomb killed thousands and affected so many peoples' lives with so much cruelty that I grew up taking the Japanese side in the argument. How can you inflict something like that, even on your enemy? How can you inflict a bomb that vaporizes people, so that they're only left as shadows?

But then again, I'm here because my Irish-American grandfather didn't have to go and invade the Japanese home islands.

Growing up, also, every story I read in Japanese school had to do with the war. Family lore has given me the story that my grandmother, who was in her late teens in 1945, could see Nagasaki's mushroom cloud from Sasebo--I have no idea if the cloud was high enough to actually see it in Sasebo or how the bomb might have affected the cities surrounding Nagasaki.

I began reading a book about the bombing of Nagasaki today, hoping to gain insight into what happened there. Because it's been seventy years since the bomb and the generation that lived through it is getting old, growing forgetful, and dying and soon, we won't have a chance to ask them questions  about what happened.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pearl is 99 cents!

Hey everyone!

The time has come for PEARL's Kindle Countdown. So if you haven't read it and are interested or know someone who might be interested, do spread the word. PEARL will discounted from its usual price of $2.99 to 99 cents from August 8th to August 15th!!!

Amazon UK:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: Historical Fiction Week

It's time for August's IWSG post. The Insecure Writer's Support Group is an online group meant to foster connections between writers. We post our writerly insecurities every first Wednesday of the month. Go here to check out the group!

I saw on Twitter on Monday that it's #HistoricalFictionWeek on Goodreads. You may have guessed if you've been here before/ have taken a cursory gander around that historical fiction is my genre. That is, most of what I read falls into historical fiction (straight historical, historical fantasy, historical romance) and I tend to write mostly in that realm as well.

And yet I don't know a lot of historical fiction writers. Most of my writing friends are fantasy, YA, supernatural writers. There are unique struggles in writing any genre, I think, and the ones I come up against in writing historical are:

Is there enough research for me to delve into?
And how much of this research am I willing to stick into the story?
(Also: will this research put me to sleep by its academic style?)

And here's the insecurity:
Am I getting this right? Is that accurate enough? But I don't know how they would have done this/that/the other in that time period!

I think it was Diana Gabaldon who said that stealing things from the historical record was a good way to disguise any lapses of imagination.

So. What was the last historical novel you read? Have you ever tried writing one? And where would you like to visit in the past, if you had a time machine?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Restaurant Week NYC: Lafayette

New York Restaurant Week is twice-annual, when many restaurants have specific discounted prix-fixed menus. This time around, it goes from July 20th to August 4th and, being a little inspired by Michelle Tran's restaurant posts, I decided to take pictures of my meal.

My best friends Nali and Jessi and I went to Lafayette, a French bistro on Lafayette and Great Jones in NoHo, Manhattan--not our usual neighborhood and not our usual fare. Which is the point of Restaurant Week! Lafayette has a bakery in front--and a bar tucked into a corner, from which I ordered a cocktail called the Raspberry Fix.

My drink, the Raspberry Fix

It was fizzy and fruity and sweet. I drank that first one wayyy too quickly. Nali tried a sip and said it tasted like Tang. :-) It was on the lighter end of cocktails, almost tasted like soda, and therefore, I was buzzed rather quickly. Nali ordered a mint Julep. Once we were seated in a comfy corner booth, Jess ordered a drink called the French Melon, which tasted much more of lemon than melon, but was pretty yummy. I think we cooed as we took sips of it.

Jessi's drink, the French Melon

 So we ordered. Nali is a vegetarian, so her meal was pretty set by the menu: salad (which was huge), heirloom tomato risotto (delicious), and then a dark chocolate ice cream bon bon, which looked very good (and so full of dairy). Jessi had the glazed pork belly for a starter, then the short rib ravioli, then the dark chocolate ice cream as well.

This was my meal:

Grilled octopus on chickpeas with fennel and two sauces--one of them was pesto. So good!
I also had the short rib ravioli for my entree:

Also super good, but it was about the same size as my appetizer. Just sayin'. This was my dessert, the the almond chiffon cake with raspberries and chantilly cream. The right size for dessert, spongy but not too sweet, and the cream went well with the slight bitterness of raspberries. 

Throughout the meal, we also kept checking on whether or not Nali was finished with her drink yet. This is what she was left with at the end of our meal:

However, dinner would never be complete without the often-random and varied conversation and company of my buddies.