Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hello 30

It took me awhile to get this post up (surprise, surprise), but I turned 30 three weeks ago. (!) Starting a new decade has made me quite introspective, but for my birthday, I just wanted to do something fun. So that's what I did.

(L: The whole group near Fort Mason; M: The bridge on a stunning day; R: Me making the trek across)

Ten of my favorite people accompanied me on a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. My mom, youngest sister, and three friends drove the nine hours down from Oregon, and two other friends drove over from Sacramento--all to celebrate with me. (They are awesome!)

This was the perfect way to begin my 30s in style. We grabbed coffees at my favorite joint in the city, rented bikes near Fisherman's Wharf, and took off on an adventure through the city--riding past Fort Mason, along the water at Crissy Fields, and up some gnarly SF hills to reach the bridge itself. The view from up top was unbelievable, and despite the fact that the bridge is often socked in fog, we were blessed with glorious sunshine.

(L: The Marin Headlands; M: Looking back toward the bridge from Sausalito; R: The Sausalito waterfront)

(L: The view of SF from Sausalito; M: Me and Mr. Darcy, hehe; R: Drinking wine while waiting for our table at Albona)

Once we reached the other side, it was (thankfully) all downhill until we reached the charming town of Sausalito, where we took a sun break--complete with wine juice boxes and Maynard's wine gums--while waiting for our ferry back to the city.

After returning our bikes (and a quick costume change), we walked over to North Beach where we had the most amazing dinner at Albona, an Istrian restaurant there. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Cheers to a new Decade!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

To Wolf Hall We Go

Wolf HallWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set in Tudor England during the reign of Henry VIII--and at the rise of Anne Boleyn within the court--Hilary Mantel's story is a captivating read, detailing not only Henry's infamous divorce and break from the Roman Catholic Church, but also the growing shift in public opinion toward the church and the religious fervor that inspired on both sides of the issue. Told in the engaging voice of Thomas Cromwell, a fascinating man, this novel views the infamous time period from a new angle, through the captivating lens of a man at the heart of the story. There is love, terror, political intrigue, and biting wit. At turns funny, thoughtful, and on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, this novel will have you looking at these characters in a new light, even if you're familiar with the history.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taking Stock

This post has been a long time in coming. (I'm sure we'll all be sad to see Harry's face leave the masthead, but it must be done.)

In the past few months, so much has happened in my life--weddings, birthdays, a funeral, and travel travel travel--that every time I come here to write about it, there's too much to share. I don't know where to start.

There was the amazing trip to Greece in September (Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Le sigh.). My grandma's sudden and unexpected passing. A best friend's 30th birthday spent in a treehouse hotel. A January luau-themed surprise party in celebration of my mom's 50th. My darling niece's 1st birthday. My father-in-law's re-marriage, as well as a best friend's wedding. When you put it all together, I spent over seven weeks away from home in the last eight months. (Don't get me started on the nine-hour drive home. Ugh.)

And on top of all that, I fell off the blogwagon last summer when I suffered the worst migraine period of my life--having migraines three weeks out of every month from about May to September.

I began this blog to reach out to other writers and to talk about my own writing journey, but with my current focus on finding an agent (and my reluctance to discuss that publicly on the interwebs) I'm finding it hard to think about anything else. (Suffice it to say, it has been both encouraging and discouraging all in one, and I've never checked my email more!)

The reason all this has been on my mind? This is the last week of my twenties(!), and I feel I ought to take stock of my life to date. There are so many things I'm proud to have done in my twenties--finishing college (and more recently, paying it off), writing (and rewriting and rewriting) my novel, running a marathon, skydiving, training my cute puppy into a (mostly) well-behaved dog, traveling abroad alone, getting a tattoo--but there is so much more I want to do and accomplish in the next decade. I'm starting off my thirties with another adventure--friends and family are joining me on a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, something I've wanted to do since we moved here seven years ago. I'm also working my butt off toward my biggest goal--making my novel the best it can be (even if that means more revision) and securing an agent. And this summer, husband and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary (yes, we married young) and commemorate it with a return to England, my favorite place to travel.

So in sum, hello again. (*waves*) I will try to check in more frequently with what's certain to be an interesting year. Oh, and HUZZAH to 30!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


22 days and counting...

I am such a dork, but this makes me almost tear up. Nine years ago I made Husband take me to the midnight showing of the very first movie, which just happened to fall on our three-month anniversary of marriage. At that time there were only four books, and I'd re-read them I don't know how many times. The years have flown by, and still I eagerly await each new Harry Potter release. These books and films have marked important milestones in my life over the years--getting engaged the summer I started reading the books; the release of book 5 while I lived in London; speculating over the details of the final book with two best friends, while secretly setting them up using their shared love for all things Harry (they later married, btw!). I will be so sad to see it end, but what a ride it has been!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Beautiful Malice

Having met Rebecca James through the wonderful world of writing blogs, I was more than a little excited to get my hands on a copy of her book. It didn't disappoint. James kept me turning the pages from the beginning. She had an interesting premise, peopled with unique characters who jumped off the page.

Katherine Patterson's secret lies at the heart of this story. She buries her past and begins anew by changing her name and moving to a new city, but eventually her past catches up with her. Her baby sister, Rachel, was tragically and violently murdered, and Katherine bears the burden of guilt, believing it was her fault. When Alice--beautiful and popular--befriends Katherine, she starts to think life can be normal and lets her guard down. But Alice has a secret too.

The story unfolds in terrifying ways, and although I guessed Alice's secret halfway through, it didn't deter me from reading faster to find out how it all ended.

Beautiful Malice explores the dark side of friendship, and although I haven't experienced a relationship this toxic, I could definitely identify with the familiar feeling of unease that Alice creates throughout. I highly recommend this psychological thriller. You can pick up a copy of Beautiful Malice in hardback on Amazon or in paperback here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reading Bees

Caroline Smailes' Like Bees to Honey was a haunting, thought-provoking look at one mother's struggle with the loss of her child. The book follows Nina Robinson, a woman born in Malta, who left to attend college in England, where she found love, but also loss. Nina falls pregnant while unmarried and in college, disgracing her traditional Maltese Catholic family, so her father shuns her. When she returns years later with her husband and young son, hoping for a reprieve, the family disowns her, unable to forgive her for shaming them.

After years of estrangement from her family, Nina returns to the island to deal with the recent death of her mother and to finally release her dead son, Christopher. Feeling like she has lost everything--her son, her mother, her culture--she almost loses herself to the vivid spirit world surrounding her. In a hilarious and refreshing turn, Jesus arrives--in the form of a beer-swilling, toenail-painting island rockstar--and guides her back from the brink by helping her understand her guilt over Christopher's death so she can forgive herself. A colorful cast of characters from the spirit world support Jesus in this mission to save Nina, including my favorites: Tilly, an angry, foul-mouthed ghost with unresolved issues, and Elena, Nina's aunt who also left the island for love.

As in previous novels, Smailes plays around with language and visual text to good effect. Rather than distracting, these elements add to the building narrative.

Reading Like Bees to Honey was like a magical trip to an exotic world where the curtain between this world and the next is lifted and what you discover is both familiar and remarkably new. In Smailes' Malta, spirits flock to the island to heal; it is a magical place teeming with centuries of tradition and culture, where the bridge between past, present, and the future beyond intertwine.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Pile of Books

I received more fun mail!

Rebecca James is a very lovely blogging friend, and her debut novel released in May in Australia. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my hands on a copy of the Australian version, so I have been waiting ever so patiently for Rebecca's book to release in the UK. (The US version released later and in hardback.) Lookey what I received:

Huzzah! Isn't it pretty?

While I delved into my final edits, I fell behind on my reading, and now I have a stack to dig into this week, starting with sweet Caroline's Like Bees to Honey and lovely Rebecca's Beautiful Malice. After that, I may have to dive back into the world of Sookie Stackhouse.

This summer is shaping up to be great.
(Psst. Please don't mention that it's already August! *Sticks fingers in ears* Lalala. Argh.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Near-Death Experience

This afternoon I experienced my worst nightmare.

Try not to laugh. My husband couldn't help himself though, even when he realized the seriousness of the situation.

Have I previously mentioned my extreme arachnophobia? Well. I'm generally a rather brave person. Blood, vomit, dirty diapers? No problem. Bring it! Skydiving, marathoning, parasailing? Yes, please. Even my other deep-seated, slightly irrational fear of serial killers has nothing on this. I have convinced myself that I would fight back using the mad skills I learned from self-defense classes, kickboxing, and Oprah specials (oh, yes). However, there is no fighting spiders. Something to do with all the legs. *shivers*

My big fear? Having a spider crawl on or in front of me while driving.

(Are you laughing yet? Pfft.)

The problem is, when it comes to spiders, I become a completely irrational, screeching, jumping freak. It's like a nerve damage problem. No matter how much I try to control the flailing and screaming, put an eight-legged monster in front of me, and I lose control. I've always been afraid that if a spider got to me in a car, I might cause a freeway pileup.

So there I was, minding my own business, chatting to my husband on my (hands-free!) cell, when a spider appeared on the INSIDE of my windshield. Cue MAJOR panic attack. Thankfully, I was sitting at a stop light, so I didn't crash into anyone. There was a gas station just before the light, so I was praying the spider wouldn't move before I could get to it and jump out. No such luck. The fat little beasty started opening and closing it's mouth at me in an attempt to hiss (spiders DO hiss, don't argue!), and then started crawling up the windshield closer to my face. At this point I'm sure all my husband heard on the other end of the line was high pitched squealing and hyperventilation. Luckily, the light changed, so I drove with my head cocked to the side and as far back as possible. Just in case. Pulled into a no parking zone, jumped out and proceeded to scream and flail, before removing my sandal and dealing the hideous monster a death blow. (Followed, of course, by more squealing.)

Husband's biggest concern during this interaction? That I would make a fool of myself. Ha! Not scared of that, clearly. Done and done! (Psh. Called my sister while still shaking afterward since her irrational fear of moths makes her much more sympathetic!)

I survived this round. However, husband has a major spider hunting task in my car tonight, as I may not be so lucky next time.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


After I finished my final revision, I decided to take a trip home for a little rest and rejuvenation. Before I left, I started querying agents; I thought the break might help me avoid obsessive email checking as well. (Grins) A week home in beautiful central Oregon with my mom, sisters, and friends seemed like the perfect respite. (I think Drew liked it too!)

I did relax a little, but the trip turned out a bit different than predicted. I received some quick and positive responses from agents (EEK!), so I had to attend to that. (Great problem to have, but I spent more time working than expected.)

On top of that, half my family got sick, all with different, non-infectious problems--from cysts bursting to an IBS flare-up to a kidney infection requiring hospitalization to a double-ear-infection in my niece--thwarting our winetasting plans and making my niece a bit tired and fussy for her first birthday party. (Although, that didn't stop her from enjoying her first taste of cake!)

Needless to say, things did not go according to plan. Thankfully, it wasn't all illness and work. I did get in a nice hike along the river, saw Paula Cole perform at a free concert in the annual summer Munch N' Music festival (LOVE her and she didn't fail to meet expectations!), and taught Drew to swim in my mom's pond. My youngest sister and I failed to float the river since every store in town ran out of floaties, but we had a blast trying. It felt wonderful to get outdoors and soak up some Vitamin D.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Secret Agent

Well, I couldn't type that title and not share this song, could I? Good stuff.

Today I have some exciting things happening. Over at Miss Snark's First Victim the first 250(ish) words of my novel--along with 49 others--will be posted anonymously for critique by this month's secret agent, as well as other writers. If you haven't checked out the Secret Agent contests or Authoress's blog yet, it's well worth a look.

Friday, July 09, 2010



Anyone out there?

It appears the blog needs another good dust-off since I last wrote.

I spent the past month in my editing hidey-hole, but I finished the *final* revision this week! I am beyond excited, but also mildly terrified, because that means I have to take the next step on this journey.

I wrote my query letter, made my list of preliminary agents, and now it's go time.


I plan to start sketching and outlining book 2 soon, but could use a small break in between. Meanwhile, I have a pile of books to read, a synopsis to write (just in case), and a pool to visit for some vitamin D time, but I would like to avoid the obsessive email-check-itis.

So. Any ideas for distraction while I wade into query territory?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Note to self...

In the future, don't edit the intimate scenes at public coffeeshops!

Yesterday I spent a few of my holiday hours working on the novel revisions. Somehow I didn't realize just what chapter I was on, until I was stuck there, peeking over my shoulder every five seconds to make sure know one could read my writing! So embarrassing. Although, it did increase my editing speed immensely! *giggles*

Do you ever find yourself looking over your shoulder when you read or write romantic scenes?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Royal Mail

Yesterday a package arrived via Royal Mail:

Ooh, I love receiving mail approved by Her Majesty! I waited all week for this package, hoping it would arrive. Look what I found inside:

Lovely Caroline's newest book, Like Bees to Honey. Isn't it beautiful? I adore the cover. Last week I hosted a sneak preview, but I've been waiting for the real deal. There's something about holding a book in your hands, isn't there? I'm excited to dig in, now I just have to get through some Sookie books fast, since I'm on book three!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I awoke this morning to a lovely surprise:

(With flowers he brought me yesterday!)

Husband left a present for me, and it's not even my birthday, Christmas, or our anniversary! A rare treat.

This weekend I told him I felt petulant about my work. I'm tired of editing, tired of reading the same words over and over and over and tired of endlessly streamlining my novel. I suppose anyone who has revisited a project 50 million times would want to stomp their feet and throw it out the window. The chapter that induced this irritation wasn't even a difficult edit, in fact, it's in pretty good shape, but I'm ready to move on already. New characters and story ideas are clamoring for my attention, trying to lure me away with their newness. Of course, I'm ignoring them until I'm done going through this manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, but not without a little teeth-gnashing. *grins*

Being a native Pacific Northwesterner, I love me some fleeces, and I've wanted a lightweight North Face fleece for some time. Inside the bag, I found this:

Rockin' a fierce myspace pose in my pretty blue. ;)

A gorgeous light blue (my favorite color!) North Face fleece. He said he's proud of what I've accomplished and wanted to cheer me up in face of the petulant chapters. (Ah! At this point, I teared up a bit. Ahem.) However, it made me giggle to think of my chapters being petulant--stomping around the office, pouting like naughty children. The best part is that, with all the weird cold spring weather we've had this year, I could actually wear it today!

Feeling less petulant as I approach the page in my pretty blue fleece this evening...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Bee's Knees

Today I'm taking part in a special one-day blog tour. Lovely Caroline's newest book releases next week, and hopefully readers will be flocking to it like bees to honey. *Grins*

Each chapter of her book is featured on one blog today. To begin the tour, start here and follow the links. I'm hosting Chapter 22, and the tour continues on Liz Fenwick's blog.

UK readers can order a copy of Like Bees to Honey on Amazon UK, while reader elsewhere can purchase it from The Book Depository, which offers free worldwide shipping.

Without further adieu, here is Chapter 22. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Busy Bee

Just checking in to say hi since it's been awhile.

*Waves hello*

I'm keeping myself quite busy adding my final revisions, and my perfectionist tendencies mean added time editing every last line of every last chapter again, but I'm so excited to be near the end! Light. End. Tunnel. After I finish, I'm going to bed early and sleeping in late. (Party, party!) No more of this going to bed in the early morning business. (At least for a short time. Once a night owl...)

Since I'm working (nearly) around the clock, I haven't had time for much else, but I'm a sap, so Husband took me to see Letters to Juliet tonight after I squealed over every preview for the last few months. It lived up to my expectations and was the perfect romantic fix. I loved the leading ladies--Vanessa Redgrave was radiant and Amanda Seyfried was adorable. Unfortunately, it made us want to return to Italy. Now that's an idea! In addition, I finally got around to reading the Sookie Stackhouse series, and even though I'm only sneaking in a few pages here and there, I'm on book two, Living Dead in Dallas, and loving it.

Oh, and speaking of Bees, come back on Thursday for a sneak peek at Caroline's fabulous new novel! I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reading and Spamming

If you haven't already picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I can't recommend it enough. I finished reading last night, and immediately wanted to share it with friends who haven't read it.

For some reason, this book kept bringing to mind Portnoy's Complaint, one of my faves, and another story about growing up on the fringe of American society. The books are very distinct--the narrators are from different ethnic backgrounds and come from disparate socioeconomic groups--and yet they still speak to universal truths. Love, acceptance, loss, coming of age. This book made me laugh and cry within the span of a page. Junior encounters so much heartbreak, but at the end he holds on to hope and humor. Although categorized as YA, Alexie's book will entertain and charm young and old alike.

This morning I sat down to start work on editing (and to post this blog), and was greeted with a spam message in my personal email account...sent from my general email account. Apparently I wanted to share viagra and cheap prescription meds from Canada with every single person I've ever had email contact with. Aren't I lovely?

I use a mac, so I haven't dealt with viruses and other garbage for the last few years, but this one worried me. My virus scan came up clean, which is good, but I don't know whether my account was hacked or whether a spammer stole my address and made it look like the emails were sent from me (though they were in my sent mail...). Still feeling a little on edge. Technology can be so cool, but it sucks that someone can access so much personal information like that.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Where in the world is...

Drew's chewie?

The bookshelf is his favorite hiding spot, much to my consternation. Perhaps because mama keeps her favorite things there too? I had to crack up when I was walking to the couch and saw this. He may need to learn better hiding skills if any other dogs come over, though.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Writing and Running

Writing is a lot like running. Both require stamina and vision, and a wealth of patience. When people compare writing a novel to giving birth, it gives me pause. They're so different. Perhaps if a couple is battling infertility and has to hold on to hope and patience in order to have a baby, then it is similar, but for most couples, it involves the initial action, followed by nine months of waiting. Now before you start throwing things at the blog, I'm not saying it isn't difficult to carry a baby. I have the utmost respect for mothers, however, you don't have to continually work at it. You take care of yourself, visit the doctor regularly, and make sure to follow a set of guidelines.

In my opinion, writing a novel is more like running a marathon. You put in months--sometimes even years--of training, wake up early on weekend mornings to run for hours, run in the evening after work or during lunch breaks in an effort to get in the miles. Your diet and sleep schedule revolve around your runs. (Trust me, you don't want to eat or drink the wrong thing before a long run!) You have little time for friends, other than running buddies. And when the big race day finally arrives, you fight not only a physical battle to reach the finish line, but more importantly, you fight a mental battle to convince yourself that you can indeed keep running, even though it's already been 20 miles and your knee hurts and your feet are swelling and you're not entirely convinced that you can even lift your feet on your own accord to run 6.2 more! That is how writing a novel feels to me at times. I spent two years researching and writing the first draft, and at the end felt such a rush of accomplishment, until I realized I had only completed the first 20 miles; I still had editing and revisions, and major plot holes, and could I really do this what the heck was I thinking?!

I feel like I'm on mile 25.2 right now. Only one mile to go...but what a long mile it seems!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beer at 30...

It's been busy around here the last two weeks. Last Wednesday was husband's 30th birthday (yay!), so I spent my time planning, cooking, and shopping. I was exhausted by Saturday, but the outcome was fantastic--we celebrated his birthday with a 'Tarts & Vicars' Dirty Thirty Party over the weekend. Here's a sample of what I've been doing:

(Top: Making Czech Goulash and bread dumplings.)

(Bottom: In honor of Husband's dual love for beer and jelly beans, I etched pub glasses and filled them with jelly beans for the party favors.)

Husband and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest--arguably the center of craft microbrewing in the United States. Portland, OR has more breweries per capita than any other city, and we grew up in a town with one of the best and most-well known microbreweries in the country: Deschutes Brewery. In college husband and I studied abroad in London, where he was introduced to traditional English beer and grew to love it above all but his PacNW microbrews. We stayed with a host family, and the dad was an avid 'Real Ale' fan (introduced us to CAMRA, and etc.). The very first night there, he took Husband out to the garage to make his first beer. Adam's Ale. Then he took him to the pub and gave him an education in cask-conditioned real ale. It's no wonder husband became such a beer lover. So for Christmas I got him his first beer-making kit. His second batch was finished just in time for the party this weekend.

A friend hosted the party at his house--his built-in bar and back yard were much more fun than our tiny condo. We ate and drank 'around the world' with food and beer samplings from various locales. The original menu included most of the major beer countries, but we had to whittle it down to avoid drowning in food and beer, so instead we sampled the following: England, the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Pacific NW, California, and India (random, but our friend makes a mean curry, and wanted some Maharaja).The end result was quite a blast. Any guesses on my costume? Here's a hint: I went with a bookish stereotype, while Husband--standing next to me--decided that as the birthday boy he should be the pope. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Future of Publishing?

I saw this video on Powell's Book Blog and had to share it: