Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Author Tag

Last week, my writing friend Krystal Jane Ruin posted an Author Tag video on her YouTube channel.  The questions were fun, so I've decided to answer the author tag here on ze blog because I ain't about to film myself. Because clearly, as the pretty quote below says:

Here is Krystal's cute video:

Friday, June 9, 2017

Passing Books On

As a budding history nerd and confirmed bookworm, little Sunflower Michelle read (in this relative order):

--a series of paperback (I remember the covers were blue) biographies of historical figures. There was JFK, from boy to man. Abraham Lincoln. Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. Benjamin Franklin. What the hell was the name of that series anyway? And where did these books go in my life?

--The Baby-Sitters' Club. Oh, my, but I was really into the Baby-Sitters' Club. (These either went to my younger cousin or to someone in Japan)

-The American Girls books. They were the first ones I read with historical notes in the back matter and it made my little nerdy heart sing. (These definitely went to someone in Japan)

And then, The Joy Luck Club. And then something from Harlequin. And then something from Readers' Digest that I think was true crime and was probably not meant for me to read at age eleven...

-And the Dear America series, which I think I started reading around 11 or 12 years old. They were hardcover books and the idea was that they were the diaries of (usually) young girls who were supposed to be around that preteen to adolescent age.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IWSG: June

It's time for June's IWSG post! The IWSG posts every first Wednesday of the month. June's co-hosts are: JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

Did you ever say "I quit"? If so, what made you come back to writing?

When I graduated college, although I was exhilarated to be a college graduate, I was also feeling pretty burnt out. I was a writing major. My school believed in that academic writing program thing of workshops and literary fiction, trying to channel their writing majors into Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees and MFA programs.

That was not me. I didn't think I was a particularly good fiction writer, to be honest. It was the only kind of writing I'd ever wanted to do but I came out of college thinking I didn't have the chops. I didn't have a particular genre I was drawn to write (I had a few I was very drawn to, reading-wise). I was hardly the most talented, most praised, most encouraged, or most anything of my fellow writing majors.

But I didn't actually say, "I'm never creatively writing ever again. I quit."

I think I decided that trying to finish up a story I'd been writing and rewriting since college was the way to go, for some reason. I'd been wanting to write a real book since I was 12. I had time, after graduating grad school. I might as well write that book now.

Thus, Book the First. It's terrible, by the way, but it represents that last gasp of the stuff I was writing as a relaxer in college. It was never meant to be submitted in writing workshops.

I eventually came around to realizing that my entire personality is just..."writer." Storytelling is compulsive. The incremental improvements, the nuggets of info and technicalities, the satisfying (or not satisfying) shape of a story coming together and doing what it's supposed to...

There's no coming back from that sort of thing.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Snippet Time!

This is a scene from my current mess-in-progess, The New Bride of Banner's Edge.

            The Serpentine was a river in Hyde Park. Well, that is, it was called a river, when in reality it was simply an odd-shaped lake. But on a clear, blue-skied afternoon where the May weather was fully a warm enough spring and not the drizzly, smoggy remnants of winter, Hyde Park looked like the ultimate English garden: leafy trees, thick green grass, flowers in bloom, and ducks gliding around the lake.
            Alex and Mady walked a few steps ahead of him. It was crowded today in the park. Carriages drove by on the wide carriage roads, flutters of parasols and skirts within them. Riders on their horses clip-clopped by. People strolled. Nursemaids ushered their charges along.
            In such a crowd, they were one family among many, practically anonymous. Except, of course, whenever a pair of eyes would flick towards Mady for just a second too long. Or when that flick of the eyes took in Alex, striding with purpose beside her sister, and then sometimes, the look would come to him as well.
            Miles was used to it, but that didn't mean he liked the judgment or the speculation behind the darting looks.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Market Research: Romance

I've been a reader of romance--specifically, historical romance--since I was a teenager. And though I know that romance is a big category and it sells really well, I hadn't really ever looked into the numbers.

And since what I'm writing might be a historical romance (or is it a historical with romantic elements?), I thought I'd noodle around on Google and see what I could find.

Romance as a genre is worth $1.08 billion, which is something like one-fifth of all adult book sales. It's the size of the mystery genre and sci-fi/fantasy combined. According to the Romance Writers of America, in 2014, women made up 82% of romance readers. Most romance readers are in the 30-44 age range.

64 percent of romance readers read romance more than once a month. 35% buy romance more than once a month.

Romance readers adapated pretty early to ebooks and e-readers, but there is a fairly substantial print mass market format business still going strong.

Top Romance subgenres read by format:

Print: romantic suspense, contemporary romance, historical romance, erotic romance, New Adult, paranormal romance; Young Adult romance, Christian romance.

Ebook: romantic suspense, contemporary, erotic, historical romance, paranormal romance, New Adult, YA, and Christian romance.

Graph from The Business of Romance Novels Presentation

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Interview with Auhor Krystal Jane Ruin!

Today, I have a guest--brand spankin' new author Krystal Jane Ruin, whose debut novel No Rest For the Wicked was released on May 10th! Krystal and I have been blogging and writing friends for a few years now, so naturally, I wanted to interview Krystal a little bit about her book!

No Rest For The Wicked is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and tons of other places, too! 

So Krystal, your debut novel No Rest For the Wicked has been out for eleven days now! I finished reading it a few days ago! (Click here to see my Goodreads review) How does it feel to finally have your work out there?

It’s really kind of weird! I’m excited, but I haven’t gotten used to seeing the book out in the world like that yet.

I'm not going to ask you where you got your ideas from, because we writers all know that that's an impossible question. So: where did Tatum come from? Did she come to you fully-formed or did she develop along the way? I really enjoyed her voice. 

Haha. Ideas are a can of worms. Tatum came out of an idea I had for a group of traveling fortune tellers. There was a palm reader who couldn’t actually read palms, so she would just root around in people’s heads and mess with them. I thought she was really fun. So, Tatum showed up pretty well-formed. There were definitely things I didn’t know, but my characters drive the plot, so I have to know them pretty well.

I loved how the characters are one thing at the beginning of the book and they twist and turn and grow as the story goes on. Just what you want characters to do! But those twists feel really natural to both the story and the characters. Was there one twisty aspect that was harder to write, create, or refine for you than the others? 

You know, some of the backstory actually gave me a bit of a hard time. Getting all the little details right took the most amount of work. And so much was riding on it! There’s a part where a door is kicked in, and I had no idea who was on the other side until it happened! That was really exciting.

The book is set in Asheville, North Carolina. Why Asheville?

I love Asheville! It has such a cool, laid-back vibe to it. I’ve been on a using real places kick, and Asheville had everything I needed: namely an awesome cemetery and the perfect atmosphere for the characters to live in.

To go back to having your work out there...you self-published it! I felt like you made that decision fairly quickly once you decided to do it. What made you decide to self-pub it and how did you find the process? (You can check out Krystal's Self-Publishing Diaries at her blog) 

I can be pretty decisive. I think I thought it would be fun. The whole concept of getting to control the cover and content and who I worked with was really exciting for me. It’s such a steep learning curve. A lot of times I wondered if I’d lost my mind, but now that I’m on the other side, it was totally worth it. :) 

What about this story made you go, "All right. That's it. This is getting published."?

This was really interesting to think about. I think it was more what it did for my writing, than the story itself. I was in a writing funk for a couple of years before I wrote this. Writing it made me really excited about crafting stories again, and it's paved the way for all the other crazy ideas that I've been wanting to write but wouldn't because I was too scared. Once I knew I wanted to publish something, I knew this would be perfect with launch with. It's very me, and the thought of people reading it didn't freak me out. That's never happened before. :)

I know you researched a hell of a lot more on indie publishing than I did, so tell me: favorite thing you learned about indie publishing? Or the best source for info on indie publishing? (Strangely, formatting the short story felt really soothing) 

Favorite thing! I actually found formatting to be kind of meditative, too. Haha. Two places where I got more info than I can handle are the Publishing Profits Podcast and The Creative Penn Podcast. They’re both available online, and feature a lot of interviews and indie world news.

What's coming up next? Any more stories from this cast of characters or this story world or is it something else?

I do have an idea for a companion sequel, but it’s still in “wait and see if it finds its way out of concept only” mode. I’ve never written a sequel before, so there are some walls to climb over. LOL! But next up I have a Swan Lake reimagining that I’m in love with! I’ve been wanting to do a retelling for years, so I’m way too excited to have one finally pan out. It’ll be out in November! 

Krystal Jane Ruin is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction, living in the Tennessee Valley with a collection of swords and daggers. When she's not hoarding stuffed pandas, hourglasses, and Hello Kitty replicas, she can be found drinking chai tea, knee deep in Sudoku, in a YouTube hole, or blogging about books, writing, and random things at KrystalSquared.net.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Naming Your Historical Characters

During NaNoWriMo 2010, I attempted to write a serious work of historical adventure set in Tudor England, just as the Dissolution of the Monasteries was taking place. I gave my lead character a pretty outlandish first name--but it was a very Catholic first name, so I figured I could get away with it, since the character was born in a convent.

But as I was scrabbling around for a name that wasn't Elizabeth, Anne, Mary, or Catherine for a female character, I decided to ask a friend to help me brainstorm first names. Her suggestions weren't usuable for the time and place and that's when I realized that figuring out historically appropriate names for your characters is probably one of those odd historical fiction writer quirks. (For the record, among her suggestions at the time were Avery and Shirley, both of which were last names, then became first names given to boys in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, then more recently, given to girls as first names).

More recently, as I was tapping away at the draft I'm currently almost 12K words into, I realized that I had major characters named Jane, John, and James and a minor character named Jones. So that's a problem. And then I went back and looked up the types of names that would've been given to people born in the Georgian era, who would've been adults in the early 1800s, in England.

Unsurprisingly, many of the names are what we would consider traditional English names: William, John, Elizabeth, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Henry, Charles, Mary, George, James, Robert, Edward. Men sometimes had surnames as first names (think of Fitzwilliam Darcy, whose first name is his mother's maiden name because his mother's family had more money and prestige). There were many feminizations of male names: Georgette, Georgiana, Georgina, Edwina; feminization got even more intense as the 19th century wore on, resulting in names like Thomasina, Wilhelmina, Frederica, and Benjamina (!).

Of course, in this time period, naming also went by class, so lower or working class were more likely to have Biblical (Old Testament Biblical) names than the upper classes, while the upper and middle classes may have also had more Classical names because Greek and Roman culture was in vogue in the Georgian and Regency periods--think of Cassandra Austen, for instance, who was named after her mother, or babies named Julius, Augustus, or Octavius.

As the Napoleonic Wars heated up, babies were also named for battles and famous people, like Horatio Nelson, Lord Byron, and Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Names of the kings (who were named George for over a hundred years until George IV died) and the royal family were used, too: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, Sophia, and later on, of course, Victoria, who was born in 1819.

Many names we think of as girls' names were boys' names in the olden days: Evelyn, Ashley, Whitney, Aubrey, Beverly, Hilary, Meredith, Shannon, etc.

Granted, historical names are one thing and historical romance names are another. As long as the name you choose for your born-in-the-late-eighteenth-century character isn't utterly implausible, too modern, actually an animal name, or you can explain it some way--and it was in use at the time--then it seems like it can fly in historical romance.

For the record, while I had to keep Jane and John (they've been called those names for years, though John's often referred to by his last name), the other names in my new story changed. James (my default name for an English heir to anything) has become Richard and Jones, Jane's maid, was re-surnamed Griffith, because I finished reading a Welsh-set book not long ago and decided I could do a shout-out by using a Welsh last name for a maid.

What's in a Name?
 Regency Names
Top Female First Names in 1800
Georgian Girls Names

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Japan Trip: Food Part 2

We had Chinese food--well, the Japanese version of it--twice: once in Hakone and once in Tokyo. Both times, we ate family style and both times, it was flavorful but not the greasy and overly sauced foods that we in New York get from our Chinese take-out restaurants, which usually find some way to upset my stomach.

The second time we had Chinese, the food was placed on a lazy Susan and we took what we wanted of the dumplings and fried rice and beef.

I had a light lunch with my aunt and her friends one afternoon in Ginza, in a French-inspired tea shop called Le Mariage, where we each had an individual pot of tea and super pretty plates. I had crab and carrots wrapped in a spring-roll like thing with a sweet orange dressing (or so I was able to glean from the menu, which was written in French and Japanese. Sometimes, the four years of French I took in high school come in somewhat handy).

I had Thai food in Shibuya with some friends the night before it was time to come home. I enjoy Thai food, but I cannot do spicy, so I always get it mild at home. But there was no "can you make it milder for me, please," option so we did our best to choose a variety of foods that weren't overtly spicy--but it was still pretty spicy, at least to us. There are a fair number of Thai immigrants in Tokyo, so the workers in the restaurant were definitely, genuinely Thai and we shared dishes that I hadn't had in my forays into Thai food at home.

My friends also took me to a wafu restaurant--I think it was in Omotesando or Harajuku--where the menu consisted of the Japanese version of spaghetti--all kinds of spaghetti. Spaghetti with salmon roe. Spaghetti carbonara. Spaghetti with little sardines.

I went with the spaghetti with avocadoes and shrimp.  It came with a daikon salad and a cup of soup. I now have this urge to try to recreate this dish.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


It's IWSG time! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a large network of writers and we vent our frustrations and questions to the world every first Wednesday of the month. Check out IWSG here.

I'm writing again, what I think will be a full-length novel, a historical romance. I've read countlesss historical romances. I've even read a few where the heroine starts out a widow or married to someone else, but then falls in love with the hero and gets her HEA.

So, I'm not too worried that my heroine's just become a widow in Chapter One. Besides, it's a draft and I may very well trim the beginning next draft. Sigh. Oh well. I'm having fun while writing this, actually since it's kind of like visiting old friends; these are characters I've had in my head for quite a while.

This month's IWSG question: What is the coolest/weirdest thing you've ever had to research for your story?

Oh boy. Let's see: *scrolls down to research tag*

I'll venture to say that British noble titles, mourning customs, vague and archaic inheritance laws...are relatively normal to Google, at least if you write historical anything in Britain. Clothes? Also fairly normal.

Maybe it was when I had to research slavery, the West Indies, and plantations? Then again, when you're writing a story that involves those elements, I don't think the research itself is too weird. Disturbing, in many instances. But not weird in itself.

Or strange 18th century British taxes?

No, wait, definitely the historical epidemics.

Or maybe various New Hampshire ghost and other myths for a short story, "Haunted Lake"?

I think one of the coolest things I've researched, though, was the London theater scene of the 1890s.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Japan Trip: Food Part 1

Now let's get to the stuff that I know my best friend Nali is the most interested in: what I ate while in Japan.

What is it about vacation that has you eating your body weight in yummy (but very healthy!) food?

I eat Japanese food nearly every day in one way or another, so it wasn't that Japanese food was oh-so-exotic to me, but we really ate the spectrum on this trip.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Writing the Same Characters, Years Later

I'm somewhere in Chapter Three of a draft of The New Bride of Banner's Edge, which takes place in the Keegan family/Pearl Georgian England world, but focuses on a character who did not make the cut in Pearl, a lady who becomes Miles Keegan's second wife.

This particular story starts in 1804, when Jane Windham's husband dies by being thrown from his horse. Jane's brother lives near Miles and his family, so she's in the acquaintance circle, but because she didn't make an appearance in Pearl, I feel like I get to create her anew and give her more dimension than the much more amateurish attempt of the Keegans that I wrote back in 2012-2013.

But it brings up a funny thing: because Pearl ended around 1801, 1802, I find myself picking up these characters in May 1804 and trying to get reacquainted with their world and their lives.

So, for example, in macro terms, in 1804, William Pitt The Younger became Prime Minister of the UK again, Napoleon is proclaimed Emperor of the French--convieniently, these two things happened in May, when the Epsom Derby occurred and Jane's husband bumps his head and dies.

Britain is at war with France (as ever in this period) and the coastal towns are prepared for a possible French invasion.

William Wilberforce is still introducing bills in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament to ban the slave trade, as he did all through the 1790s. But there was a gap in action for abolition societies in the 1790s because of the start of the war with France, which is why in Pearl, there isn't any action with any official Abolition or Anti-Slavery societies.

But things were changing in 1804: the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade began its work again and in June 1804, Wilberforce's annual bill on abolishing slavery passed the Commons but was too late in the session to pass the Lords. Still, it was progress and to my not-total surprise, Miles Keegan is shedding some past business ties and associating with abolitionists in London.

His daughters are ten years old now. How have they grown since we last saw them in Pearl?

For that matter, what's Pearl been doing since she found her brother Julius?

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge: 10 Books Read!

Hey! I finished reading my tenth book of the year last night!

I'm so glad I decided on a 35-book challenge this year; it makes for a gentler reading pace, especially since I'm writing at the moment as well.

Here is my list. Click on the title links if you're curious about my reviews (the one for Silence, I warn you, is basically an essay) What are you guys reading or what have you read?

1. The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.
Nonfiction/history/British. 4 stars.

2. The Viscount Needs a Wife by Jo Beverley. Fiction/Romance/Historical Romance/Regency England. 4 stars.

3. Room by Emma Donoghue. Fiction/Adult/Contemporary/Thriller. 4 stars.

4. Lonely Planet Tokyo by Lonely Planet, Rebecca Milner, Simon Richmond. Nonfiction/Reference/Travel/Japan/Tokyo. 3 stars.

5. Black London: Life Before Emancipation by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina. Nonfiction/History/British/Black British. 3 stars.

6. Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker. 3 stars. Fiction/Historical Fiction/American/19th century/Women

7. The Autumn Throne: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eleanor of Aquitaine #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick. Fiction/Historical Fiction/European/British/French/Fictional Biography. 3 stars.

8. Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight For an Education by Jane Robinson. Nonfiction/History/Women/Feminism. 2 stars.

9. Prudence (Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger. Fiction/Historical/Victorian/Steampunk/Fantasy/Supernatural/India. 2 stars.

10. Silence by Shusaku Endo, translated by William Johnston. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Classics/Japanese Fiction/Translations. 4 stars.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Japan Trip: Hakone

We got on a train headed for the hinterlands.

And by the hinterlands, I mean western Kanagawa Prefecture. We got on a train with wide windows in Tokyo and rode it for about three hours.

Hakone--which I didn't know a thing about before this trip--is a town in the mountains, mostly within the bounds of the Fuji-Izu-Hakone National Park and is famous for its abundant hot springs, its mountains and Lake Ashi (Ashinoko)--plus, there's some historic significance, because in the old days of shogun and samurai, Hakone was a major checkpoint on the road to Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Tokyo Bus Tour: Stops 3 through 6

Senso-ji temple

All right--more Tokyo, guys!

After the Imperial East Garden, we got back on the bus and headed to Asakusa, which--I have since learned--is a district in Taito, Tokyo, and used to be an entertainment district from the Edo period on to about--you guessed it--World War Two.

(Are we sensing a theme here with Japanese history?)

We went to Asakusa to visit Senso-ji, a temple dedicated to the Buddhist boddhivista Kannon (from whom the founder of Canon took inspiration for the name of his company, btw). Senso-ji is also neighbors with a long, narrow road with tiny stalls on either side--souvenir stores, food stores, etc, on a road called Nakamise-dori (Inside Store Road, roughly translated).

Bad picture of one of the gates from inside the bus

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG April

It's April! It should be more spring-like around here, but it's been rainy and kind of cold instead. It's time to get back to whatever it was I was writing before I went to Japan for ten days, which means back to that Regency romance thing I was writing.

That is, I'll get back on that once I'm more fully back on Eastern Standard time. I'm almost there, but a two-day migraine didn't help things, and I'm getting up at weird times because I'm hungry at odd times of the day.

This month's IWSG question is:

Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

In short, no. I've never done the A to Z Challenge and I don't see myself doing it--I've thought of possible themes and I could probably do it if I applied myself to the idea of the A to Z, but after so many days straight of blogging, I would actually get tired of my own blogging voice.

Plus, since I barely have time to visit the many blogs I follow now, I don't think I could read and visit all the blogs during the challenge. After all, I'm not blogging as a business venture and I don't only blog about topics related to whatever I'm writing.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Tokyo Bus Tour: Stops 1 and 2

My favorite day of the Japan trip was the day we took a tour bus through Tokyo.

We were on a bus called a Hato Bus, stopping and looking at various places throughout central Tokyo, and I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement because when in Tokyo, you want to see the sights of Tokyo, yeah?

First stop: Meiji jingu or the Meiji Shrine is a Shinto temple dedicated to the spirits of the Emperor Meiji (he of the Meiji Restoration and a big figure in Japanese history) and his empress Shoken. The shrine was built after Meiji's death in 1912, destroyed by bombing during WWII, and subsequently rebuilt.

The Meiji shrine is in the middle of 170 acres of parkland in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo.

On the path to the shrine: sake drums!
Also, French wine barrels.

Haiku written by the Emperor Meiji

Torii gate leading to the shrine

Our second stop: the East Gardens (Higashi Gyoen) of the Imperial grounds (the kyuden), the east gardens being the only part of the imperial grounds open to the public. The Emperor and Empress of Japan live in the midst of Tokyo, in a huge compound surrounded by a moat. 

The grounds include the Imperial Household Agency, archives, a museum, and other buildings. 

The site of the Imperial palace grounds was, in the Edo period, the site of Edo Castle, home of the shogun (the samurai warlord leader of Japan for centuries). When the Emperor Meiji took on power from the last shogun, he moved the imperial capital from Kyoto to Tokyo and ordered the shogun out of Edo Castle, building a new palace on the site.

 Edo Castle and many of its structures burned in a fire in 1873 and the original imperial palace was built in a different part of the grounds. But then it was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945, so the current imperial palace was built in the 1960s. 

The East Garden, however, contains a huge rock wall around the site that dates from the 1600s! It was there during the shogunate and was part of the Edo Castle structure. 

The moat
The current Emperor of Japan is Akihito. Since at least the Meiji Era, each emperor's reign corresponds to an "era" in Japanese culture. Akihito's father Hirohito's reign is called the Showa period, which was long enough to mean that me, my mother, and my grandmother were all Showa babies. 

A reconstruction of an Edo era gate, where the shogun's men would've met you before you entered Edo Castle.
Part of the East garden.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

About The Trip

I went to Japan on March 16th and came back to New York on March 27th. That was the trip.

I didn't mean to be cryptic about going to Tokyo, but there were some familial circumstances that made it necessary to keep things on the down-low social media wise. But I'm reasonably sure none of the multitude of Japanese relatives read my blog, so I'll be writing a few posts over the next few weeks related to the trip.

The last time I went to Japan, I was ten years old, so Japan--and me--have changed a lot in the intervening two decades.

My family isn't from the Tokyo area, so in the past, at most, my time in Tokyo was limited to overnights before moving on to other parts of Japan, so to spend ten days exploring Tokyo was a real treat.

We went to Japan for a not-very-good reason: my grandmother died in January and we decided to bring her ashes back to Japan to be kept in the Buddhist temple the family belongs to, where my grandpa's ashes are also. But we ended up having a fun time there, too.

A few random-but-salient facts about Tokyo:

-Tokyo is Japan's capital city, but also one of its 47 prefectures, where there are 23 special wards, each administered like its own city, but all of it is part of Tokyo.

-Tokyo and its surrounding areas have a really good, incredibly punctual public transportation system. Unlike New York's, the trains and buses are on time, the stations and platforms and trains are clean (so clean), and the fares are calculated based on distance of travel, so you have to wave your pass thing over the turnstile machine quite often. The trains and buses do not run 24 hours, however.

-I can speak Japanese, but I can't read it. That is, I can read hiragana (but it takes a long time), katakana (which takes longer), and I can read "1st grade kanji," which I couldn't learn and remember when I was 5, never mind now that I'm 31.

-I have no concept of Japanese yen, except that 100 yen is about $1. Hence, the 100 yen shops were my fave places to shop.

-Japan is 13 hours ahead of New York, so, um, the jetlag is real. I slept for 18 hours on Tuesday. I kept wishing for this form of travel instead of a cramped airplane(s) for 15 hours getting there and 14 hours getting back.


Monday, March 27, 2017

I'm baacckkkk

Hey y'all,

I am home, I have been reunited with my computer, and I have a fresh set of new adventures to share with you all!

I feel like someone tied me up like a pretzel and since I jumped time zones, my internal clock is even more way off than usual. So recovery and laundry and unpacking to follow.

"Talk" soon,

Sunflower Michelle

Monday, March 13, 2017

Regency funerals, Cambridge riots, and a travel notice

In more random research...

I'm writing one story and researching/thinking about/percolating another story which actually has something like 30K already written but I've had on hold.

The one I've actually been writing is The New Bride of Banner's Edge. It's ostensibly a Regency romance, so it should be light and fun and frothy, but because this is me and I'm nothing if not a slightly warped soul, the new bride of the title begins the story a widow.

I hope the romance-y bit kicks in at some point.

So last week, I went through a Google search to figure out Georgian and Regency era English funeral and burial customs. I knew embalming began in the U.S. during the Civil War, but were bodies embalmed in 1804? Did they have funeral directors? And what about this idea that women didn't attend funerals?

Granted, this can be skimmed over in the interests of, well, getting to the romance-y bits, but the answers turned out to be: no, embalming wasn't a thing in England, the dead were washed and laid in a shroud in a coffin in a room in their house, and other facts and things I can't quite remember at the moment. Women often didn't attend funerals (because emotions in public=bad), but sometimes they did.

Jane's husband dies in Epsom, but he's buried in Kent, so that means the coffin needs to travel. It'll only take about a day or so of travel though, so I think it'll be okay.

The second thing I've researched recently is women's higher education, specifically in the late nineteenth century in England because I want a character in the Victorian story, Beatrice, to attend university. I'm duly reading a book called Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women To Fight For an Education right now.

There were women's colleges by the 1890s and many of the major universities in Britain granted women full degrees--except Oxford and Cambridge, which admitted women as students into women's colleges like St. Hilda's, Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville College (where Vera Brittain went), Girton, Newnham Hall and others. The female students were allowed to attend lectures at the universities, sit their exams, study full courses, but they weren't allowed to take degrees from Oxford or Cambridge.

I'm still a little shaky on what this means exactly, but basically, I think it means that they didn't get diplomas at the end.

In 1897, Cambridge University voted whether to include the female students at the various Cambridge-satellite women's college as full members of the university--to grant them full degrees and allow them to be part of the governing of the university.

In protest, the male students created an effigy of the typical female undergraduate on a bicycle, hung it outside of a building, and held banners saying things like "No Gowns For Girtonites" and "Varsity For Men."

And there's photographic evidence!

Look at this nonsense!

At any rate, the resolution did not pass and in celebration (no doubt drunken celebration), a crowd of men tore down the effigy, tore it to pieces, decapitated it, and then stuffed it through the locked gates of Newnham College.

Beatrice would be giving an elaborate eyeroll upon hearing this story.

Oh, also: this post will be my last for a while. I'm traveling overseas and won't be back until the end of March. I'll be back in April with news posts galore, I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

No Rest For The Wicked by Krystal Jane Ruin: Cover Reveal


I'm thrilled to be part of the cover reveal tour for No Rest For The Wicked by Krystal Jane Ruin, aka Awesome Blog/Writing Buddy. It's her first book!

No Rest for the Wicked
Krystal Jane Ruin
Publication date: May 10th 2017
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal
Since her release from the psychiatric facility and into the smothering guardianship of her aunt, twenty-one-year-old psychic Tatum Torabi has been sneaking away to sell curses and plagues in the underground, a black market known for illegal and supernatural wares. 
Tatum’s unique abilities catch the attention of a hella-creepy trash peddler who offers her a job tracking down people who owe his boss “a favor.” She couldn’t be less interested, but when she refuses, the company forces her compliance by threatening the lives of the only family she has left. 
Because tracking barely scratches the surface of what they really want from her. There’s a reason Tatum is so good at making curses, and they want her to use those skills for a much darker purpose.

Author Bio:
Krystal Jane Ruin is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction living in the Tennessee Valley. She can often be found knee deep in Sudoku and other puzzles, in a Youtube hole, or blogging about books, writing, and random things.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Smashwords Read an Ebook Week

Hey everyone,

From March 5th to March 11th, it is Smashwords' Read an Ebook Week.

A lot of books are on sale throughout the Smashwords site, including my own:

You can get "When Mary Left" for FREE with the coupon code SFREE. 

You can get Pearl for $1.50 (50% off) with the coupon code RAE50.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG March

It's the first Wednesday of March--that means it's IWSG Day!

The IWSG is a large support group of writers and we post every first Wednesday of the month, following the lead of the founder, Alex J. Cavanagh. Our co-hosts for March are IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it ever work out?

First, define "really old." Have I pulled out a story I wrote in college and reworked it? No. Book the First was pretty much the last gasp of anything I was holding onto from college.

But Pearl was basically a completely gutted and reworked version of a novel I wrote, which I'm now picking apart and expanding for other stories, because you don't actually need that crap novel to understand the stories, I think. The story was better from Pearl's POV.

Anything older than, say, the beginning of this blog isn't really worth revisiting. It's not complete; a lot of it is slapdash and I don't think I could really relate to the characters anymore, if indeed those characters were characters and not just my friends placed into a story.

Also, we don't talk about the reams of fanfiction I wrote pre-, during, and post-college.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Widowhood in Georgian England

Ages ago, I wrote a post about British mourning customs . In a slightly related note, for my Regency/Georgian romance story I'm currently tinkering with--The New Bride of Banner's Edge--I needed to know a few salient points on being a widow in those days because early on in the story, Jane Windham is widowed. The story is about her finding a second chance at love with Miles Keegan, Pearl's employer in Pearl and father of the two girls Pearl nannies.

Miles is a widower, but things were different for men.

Feme covert
In the Georgian/Regency era into the mid-19th century or so, when a woman married, anything she'd inherited or owned--money or property--became her husband's. In law terms, a married women didn't exist as her own separate legal entity. It was known as coverture and a married woman was legally called a feme covert--a covered female, under the care of her husband.

If she went into the marriage with a good fortune but no safeguards like a marriage settlement in place, her husband could spend that money the way he saw fit and the wife had no legal recourse. If they separated, he could leave her destitute and she had no rights to their children, property, or money. If she earned any money during the marriage, it was his. She couldn't even deny him conjugal relations.
Baby Princess Victoria (future Queen Victoria) and her mother in mourning, 1819

Marriage Settlements
A lot of aristocratic and upper middle class families hammered out a marriage settlement for their daughters, which outlined how much she brought into the marriage (her dowry), how much of the dowry was set aside for her children to inherit and for the woman to live on if she was widowed (a jointure), and how much pin money (an allowance) she got from her husband.

So really--any girl with a decent fortune who was stupid enough to run away to Scotland to get married quickly (the Vegas of the late eighteenth and early ninteenth century) was truly stupid if the marriage went sour.

Poorer, working class women had it differently, naturally. They often didn't bring anything into a marriage anyway, so they didn't do marriage settlements. If she worked, her earnings belonged to her husband. Her children belonged to her husband. And divorce was practically impossible to get (you needed an Act of Parliament in England), so I suppose many women simply endured if their marriage went bad or their husband was ill, abusive, alcoholic, or a bum.

If a woman went into the marriage with a marriage settlement (Jane absolutely does), legally she's entitled to her dowry and to one-third of her husband's estate to live on. Also, she becomes her very own legal entity once again--a feme sole--and is allowed to own property and keep her own money.

Working class women also became feme sole in widowhood, but their position could be either livable  or precarious. A husband's death could mean ending up in the poor house. Working class men and women, if they lost their spouse and were left with a lot of children, often married fairly quickly because they needed financial stablilty or someone to care for the kids.

Jane's husband is a baronet, which isn't aristocracy but gentry and is one of those inheritable titles. They don't have a son to inherit, so when Jane becomes a widow, she has to move out of her home. In her social circles, she'd be expected to wear black for at least a year. She would be well-off enough to not have to marry soon after and in fact, it would be frowned upon if she married too quickly because, like, what if she happened to be pregnant by her dead husband?

Men, though? They could marry quickly after if they needed to. Who was going to raise the kids if he didn't?

Widows generally had more social freedom than married or single-never-married women. Yes, they were expected to swaddle themselves in black for a year, but they could live comfortable lives if the finances were good. Having been married, they didn't have to be as sheltered as a never-married woman was, so if they were discreet, an affair or travel or a profession wouldn't be completely out of place.

If she married again, everything she had became her new husband's and she became a feme covert again.

Jane Austen's World: Dowagers and Widows in 19th Century England
Historical Hussies--Marriage Laws in Regency England
Status of Women
Heroines in an Era Lacking Women's Rights
Survivors' Guide to Georgian Marriage
Show Me The Money: Marriage Settlements in Regency England

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On Japanese Names

In high school, I was assigned a really fun essay: it was all about your name. Why did my parents name me that? What does your name mean? What's the language of origin? Is it a cultural name?

I duly searched baby name websites for the Japanese half of my real first name, Rei, which is from my grandmother's name Reiko. (The other half of my real first name is a pretty common name, often used for middle names these days) They said that Reiko meant "pleasant child" (-ko, a common suffix in girls' names, means "child").

The kanji for "ko"

So, then, "Rei" must mean "pleasant."

Except when it doesn't.

Japanese names are often written in kanji form; that is, in Chinese characters (though the Japanese read the kanji differently to Chinese people). But because a variety of kanji can be read in a variety of ways, the meaning of a Japanese name--even if it sounds the same--can be different, depending on the kanji that is used.

My grandmother's Reiko, for instance, originally used a character for "Rei" that she didn't like, so she  used a different one. In my full name in Japanese, my character for "rei" isn't my grandmother's--in many families, a kanji character is passed down or used by successive generations. (On my grandfather's side, the kanji "ya" was passed down--Yasujyo, Yachio, Yajuro, Yasuhiko...)

My "rei" does not meant pleasant; it means mountain summit. Here are the different kanji you can use for "rei."  Pieced together, my Japanese name is said the same way as one would say it in English, but the kanji meaning is "tranquil mountain summit" which is, um, well... I guess it's a personality to strive for?

But if you're searching on baby name sites for meanings for Japanese names, just know that the meaning there might only be the most common meaning, based on the most common kanji rendering of the name. Or just some uninformed meaning. Which is completely fine if you're just looking for a quick name to use for a character and you think you might want to go Japanese.

I named a character in Book the First Hikari, which means "light," which fit the character. I named a character in a short story Kimiko, because I wanted her to have a quick English nickname that she's known by while her full name often gets ignored.

If you're writing a story about Japan, with Japanese characters, then I expect a little kanji talk and some kanji research--a common conversation: "Wait, she uses that character for 'Yasu' in 'Yasuko?' Really? I didn't know that could be read like that!"

Popular Japanese Girls and Boys Names: 2015
Behind the Name: Japanese names

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy 8th Birthday, Blog!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear bloogggggiieeee

Happy Birthday to you!

What? I'm allowed to wish my own blog a happy birthday-anniversary-whatever, aren't I?

The Sunflower's Scribbles is 8 years old today.

That's 737 posts total. I have no idea how many words those 737 posts add up to, but I'm going to guess they're fairly substantial at this point.

For past blog birthdays, I've dug through the blog archives, I've posted short stories, I've shared memes and quotes.

This year? Have a recipe!

In the past year or so, my cooking has come along. I've still very much a beginner-type cook--also a fairly lazy cook, in that I don't want to make anything overly complicated.

Turkey Burgers

My mom really, really likes my version of this recipe for turkey burgers.

1 pound of ground turkey
Mushrooms, chopped finely. I usually do a whole thing of mushrooms. Doesn't matter what kind.
One whole bell pepper or several mini bell peppers, chopped finely.
Two to three green onions, chopped.
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 egg
salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.
Mix together.
Form into patties--I can usually get 6 patties out of this recipe.
Oil in a pan.
Once the oil is heated up, patties in the pan.
Leave the patties cook about four to six minutes on that side before flipping it over.
Check that it's cooked; make sure the turkey meat has turned whiteish. Stick a fork in the center. If the juice coming out runs clear, you're good.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Victoria on Masterpiece

From The Radio Times

For the past few Sundays, PBS' Masterpiece (the people who aired Downton Abbey as well as a shit ton of great British dramas) has been airing Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman as the queen and Rufus Sewell as her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

Victoria begins on the morning that the 18-year-old Queen Victoria becomes queen. This past Sunday's episode covered Victoria and Albert's wedding.

Like The Crown and Versailles (though, frankly, more The Crown than Versailles, if you get my meaning), the program is a sumptuously shot television show taking place in the mid-nineteenth century. The costumes are gorgeous--and like Downton Abbey, there are scenes of the palace's servants going about their work and lives and what it is like to serve the Queen of England.

But it isn't exactly the Victorian Era as we come to know it later; photography is still brand new and
the men, at least in the palace, are still wearing stockings and knee-breeches as if it were the Regency era. The common people are agitating for wider voting rights. I suppose the 1840s were a transitional time.

Victoria's coronation portrait

But at the center of it all is a merry eighteen-year-old girl who has been brought up in a very sheltered environment. Her father died when she was an infant and her German mother doesn't like the licentiousness of her in-laws.

But Victoria, all four feet and eleven inches of her, is a very determined young monarch, though in need of guidance in the guise of her prime minister Lord Melbourne. But now she's married Albert, her first cousin, and the man that we all know Victoria would wear black for for over sixty years.

Prince Albert in 1840, the year he married Victoria

It's an interesting, dramatic look at a young Victoria and times in which she began her rule. By 1901, when she died and the Victorian era came to an end, the world had changed drastically.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: February

It's IWSG time for February! The IWSG is a group that encourages writers and we post every first Wednesday of the month! Come check us out here.

In January's IWSG post, I laid out some writing goals for 2017. They were:

-Stay the hell off social media. Not forever, mind you, but just....be on it less. I found that it was crowding my brain a bit too much in 2016.
I have not been very successful at this--frankly, there's too many important things going on in the world right now. But I'm learning to temper the crazy with my own brand of crazy.

-Maybe finally move this blog onto another platform? I want a more professional look. Maybe. I'll probably change my mind in about five minutes.

-Finish the Victorian novel and get started on the second draft (finishing the second draft would be nice, too, but let's not push it) I've made a little progress on the novel, but not much because...

-Send "Haunted Lake" to a beta and figure out what to do with it (I'm leaning towards finding a magazine to submit to)
Done. Sent to a beta, revised, and I just sent the edited version to other betas as well. Also, researchng where I can submit this thig.

-Draft and finish "The New Bride of Banner's Edge," which is more Regency romance than historical fiction. I've started the first draft and I think it'll be novella length.
Made progress here--I think I can see the shape of the beginning of the story, at least, and I know which direction I want it to go in.

-Get back into the research I had done for Pearl and draft her brother Julius's story.
Still reading a book that could be helpful here.

-Interspersed with other things as time and attention allow

When I get around to submitting "Haunted Lake," it would be my first time submitting a story to magazines, zines, or websites. What is that process like, writers? Any tips?

And now getting around to the IWSG question:
How has being a writer changed your perspective as a reader?

I was a reader before I tried writing and for the longest time, my reading experience wasn't really affected by my being a writer. I got lost in the story. I went on the ride with the characters. And for the most part, I'm still able to read and go on the journey with the characters.

But I am a heck of a lot more critical about what I read. There's always a part of my brain that is analyzing the plot, word choices, background characters, and dialogue when I'm reading fiction. I also have more respect for the written word; I don't usually review books on my Goodreads as "this is a bad book." Someone worked on that book, they sweated over that book, they did the best they could--even if it didn't work for me in many ways, I can't just flat-out say, "That was a bad book."

I can, however, point to why something I've read doesn't work for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Con Where It Happens: BroadwayCon 2017

Y'all, apparently it's not normal to memorize and regurgitate lyrics to multiple musical theater songs, even ones you haven't heard in a couple of years.

Or as my friend said to me today while we were roaming the Jacob Javits Center, "You didn't even miss a beat on 'Satisfied.' How does that happen?"

2017's BroadwayCon was held at the Javits Center over this weekend and two of my friends and I went today, the last day of the convention, and had a great time.

We went dressed in pink, blue, and yellow as a nod to the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March NYC 2017

Today, two friends and I arrived in Manhattan around noon, walked downtown about ten blocks, and participated in a historic day: the day of the Women's March and the various sister marches all over the world.

1st Avenue and 47th Street

The funniest thing about waiting to get into the plaza: there's a Trump Hotel on that corner!

At one point, a young girl stood at her hotel window and jumped up and down waved at the crowd. At another point, we noticed a guy hanging a sign under his apartment window and leaning out way too far to take pictures.

Guys, don't lean out of high apartment windows, please.

See the Schuyler Sisters signs? Photo credit: Nali

Once on 2nd Avenue, we turned downtown and the pace picked up a bit. Our chants began to fill the air: "My body! My choice!" (For the men in the crowd: "Her body! Her choice!"), "Tell me what democracy looks like!" "This is what democracy looks like!"

We turned onto 42nd Street and walked crosstown. The crowd thickened and slowed the closer we got to Grand Central Terminal. We saw more signs--so many signs and so creative. We were part of this mass of humanity walking through Manhattan, but the energy was really good. There weren't any crazies or rage or anger in the crowd; it was a peaceful, focused crowd.

We walked by the Chrysler Building.

At Grand Central, we looked up and saw people standing outside the terminal and we all did the same chant. It echoed as we walked under the bridge.

We got to 5th Avenue. Fifth Avenue took a good long while. The crowd was thick and there were police barricades on either side, so we were channeled onto the road. We marched closer and closer to the evil castle--Trump Tower--which looms over Fiftth Avenue.

We were stopped at 55th Street and we had to disperse either west or east, but before we left completely, the march got in a cathartic "New York hates you! New York hates you!" and "We are the popular vote!"

I've done a few protest marches, but they were back in college. I've never been in one in my hometown and definitely not in one this large. The fact that it was worldwide is astounding.

I'm seeing a bunch of pictures from all over the country, from friends who attended various marches, and on Twitter, from people posting pictures of their local gatherings.

The best thing? As far as I know, it all went off peacefully. And there was so much diversity in the crowd: plenty of men, lots of kids, different races, ages, languages, abilities, sexual orientations.

Women's March on Washington Goes Worldwide
Women's March Protests, Live Coverage
Women's March--NY Times