Showing posts from 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…

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

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 showHamilton. 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 …

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 …

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 sa…

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:


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/ri…

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 tod…

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."

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! Ourawesome 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 1Author: Glorie Townson Genre: Contemporary Romance Reading Level: Adult Content Rating: PG-13 Formats:paperback and ebook Pages: 235 Words:57,000 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 vacatio…

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. Histori…

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 …

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 experienceWatching 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 …

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:

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 …

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 h…

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!

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).

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 a…

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 …

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.

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)

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 t…

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 t…

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 nove…

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 …

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, historica…

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…

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 US:
Amazon UK:

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 …

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.

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 me…