Christmas Excuses

Oops. It’s been awhile since I posted. I have a legit excuse, I swear. You see, I was having major surgery on my knee. If you’ve never had major surgery (lucky you!), take my word for it that both preparing for it and then recovering from it takes a tremendous amount of both time and energy.

The surgery went well, though, and I’m healing well. I’m ordering ALL THE THINGS online for Christmas, and enjoying plenty of couch time with my family. Having kicked my hard narcotic painkillers, I’m clearheaded again and look forward to returning to writing soon.

If I don’t have a chance to blog again before the holidays begin in earnest, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Festivus, and Happy Holidays to you all. May your egg be nogged, your yule be logged, and your favorite holiday treats hogged (by you)!

Tranquility Now

This looks tranquil, yes?

A couple years ago, I came up with a story idea I really liked. It was a marked departure from anything I’d ever written and, I felt, would be a fun challenge to write. Bai books got in the way, however, with their shiny chase scenes and explosions, and I put this story idea in the vault for a future day.

Usually, story ideas lose their shine in the vault. You take them out months or years later and they’re plainer, less appealing, than they were when you sent them there. You wonder what you saw in them in the first place and either put them back or throw them out.

Not this one. This one waited for me. It was ready. I was ready. I sent Bai Treason, the last book of my Bai series, off to my publisher and started sketching out ideas for the story.

Wes and I spent almost the entire drive home from the Oregon coast hashing out possibilities. He’s one of the greatest sounding boards of all time and my favorite person to brainstorm with. I came home with a wad of napkins all covered in scrawled notes, then spent the rest of the summer organizing those notes onto index cards so that when the time came I could keep the details near at hand.

I began the novel in August of this year. It slow, as both its format (a split perspective, the story told by the daughter in the present and by the mother before the daughter was even born) and it’s style (heroine’s POV, third person past tense) were unfamiliar to me. Over time, I settled into it and by the end I was clocking 3,000+-word writing sessions as the word poured out of my fingertips.

And now, on a rainy afternoon in November, I’ve finished it. The first draft is complete, and I feel oddly bereft without it. This project is the most honest thing I’ve written to date, and I’m both anxious for people to read it and nervous about the prospect.

My goal, way back at the beginning of the summer, was to have Bai Treason sent to my publisher and have a first draft of this new project ready by Christmas. Done and done, with time to spare.

Now all I have to do is have surgery on my knee after Thanksgiving, re-learn how to walk, and fix the new project up and I’ll be ready to pitch it in Manhattan in July!

Oh, and move to a new house next year and release Bai Treason. All easy stuff, right? Ha! As always, writing the book may well have been the easy part.

Framers Hate Her!

Not many people know this, but for three years in high school I worked at Aaron Brothers. I took classes and seminars and actually had a lot of fun helping people custom frame the pictures, artwork, and memorabilia that were important to them. To this day, I’m still the weirdo who inspects the artwork on her friends’ walls and occasionally admires a reverse-beveled mat or float-mounted piece of artwork.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty finicky about my own framing projects when I get a chance.

Today, I took this beautiful photograph my good friend Aaron James (you may remember my glowing endorsement of his photography work from this post) printed out for me down to Aaron Brothers. My goal was to get it custom matted and framed in an off-the-shelf frame (also known as a Quick Frame in Aaron Brother terms).

I unrolled it onto the familiar counter top and announced my intentions with the frame, specifically that I wanted a top mat the same color white as the moon, and a 1/4″ gray mat that matched the tone of the moonlight on the waves. What did the framer pull out?

A black top mat (the tone of which was wrong) and a double white mat (which is twice as expensive) to go on the bottom.

Having lost my faith in his eye for color, a crucial skill for a framer, I corrected him and picked out the correct colors. When he rang it up, he told me the grand total would come to $225 not including frame. As I looked at the cost breakdown, I laughed and told him he could skip the Preservation Mount (something expensive you only need to do if something is rare, one-of-a-kind, or signed/numbered and worth money), the UV glass (preserves the colors in your artwork longer, but not necessary if you’re hanging the piece out of direct sunlight, and that pesky double mat again (hi, I’m not new, here).

As I turned down the unnecessary services, one of his coworkers tried to convince me of the necessity of the Preservation Mount, to which I held up one hand and said, “I’m aware of what it is, I worked here for three years. It’s not necessary.”

She shut up, he took the extra charge off with a sheepish look, and I left having secured the correct price for the services I was requesting.

This might all sound like gibberish, but what it boils down to is this: Either through incompetence or greed, people will try to upsell you if you don’t know better. If you need something framed, ask me to go with you. I’m really good at it, and I’ll make sure you’re not charged for something stupid.

Also? How awesome is this photograph? I love it so much I want to stare at it while brooding and drinking Scotch. Aaron is crazy-talented. Go buy a bunch of his work and then let me come with you to frame it.

Me, too

On Facebook right now, there’s a movement wherein women post Me, too to spread awareness of how widespread the issue of sexual assault is. I’ve been thinking about these disclosures a lot, and posted this on Facebook in response. I’ve copied it here because I feel strongly about what it says.

The Me, Too disclosures have been on my mind a lot. For every female acquaintance or friend of mine who speaks up, my heart breaks a little. That these women, these strong, articulate, educated women have been violated and humiliated by men who by and large escape the encounters unscathed is wrong in every way.

The reason the disclosures have been bothering me is that very few of the women I know well can say they’ve never been harassed, molested, or raped. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to about this. It’s something almost all of us have done our best to put behind us.

What this tells me is that this isn’t the kind of thing WOMEN need to be more aware of.
In short, what I’d like to see all over Facebook is men speaking up and owning up to the times they pushed things too far, did something they weren’t supposed to, or made a woman feel uncomfortable. What I’d like to see is men holding EACH OTHER accountable.

I’ve been sexually assaulted three times in my life. Two of those times I was underage and my assailant was more than twice as old as me. I promise you, those guys didn’t bother themselves a bit about their actions, because we were all taught that men can’t be held accountable for their libidos.

It’s time for men to hold themselves accountable. It’s time for the perpetrators to feel shame, not the victims. The women I know who’ve been assaulted have all found strength in each other and found ways to move on. We, by and large, have each other’s backs on this.

It’s the men’s turn. Speak up. Own up to it if you’ve messed up and do better in the future. Call other men out on their predatory behavior. Raise a future generation of men who will respect the women in their lives because YOU demonstrate respect for the women in your life.

It’s time. Past time, really. We’re 3D printing body parts, for crying out loud. I think being respectful of women isn’t too much to ask.

Are You Ready for Bai Treason?

Have you finished reading Take the Bai Road and wondered, What’s next for Bai after this? Well, I have good news! Bai Treason, the third and final book of the Bai Hsu trilogy has a release date! June 4, 2018, baby!

Bai Treason is very special to me. One, it’s my longest and most ambitious story to date.  It has a plot so twisty that so far no one’s been able to guess what’s going on until they’re almost to the end. To be honest, I wrote it way back in 2014 and, when I dusted it off for revisions in early 2017, even I couldn’t remember the twists. If that’s not the mark of a good story, I don’t know what is (pay no attention to the fact that I have the memory span of a goldfish).

Two, it’s the last Bai Hsu novel. I’ve been writing about my favorite Chinese-American CIA case officer for five years. Even though it’s time for me to move on to new projects, Bai will always be special to me because of his unique qualities. I’ve put him in some awful situations, but he’s always managed to extricate himself with good humor and self-deprecation. I feel pretty maudlin about saying goodbye to him.

Three, I had a chance to do some of the research for this novel in real life, which is pretty cool. Like all my books, this one moves from place to place, so you’ll have to read it to guess which setting I researched in person (hint: It’s the place in the picture. Can you guess where it is?). As a result of this IRL research, this story is personal to me. It’s my favorite book so far, and I can’t wait for all of you who have been reading Bai’s adventures to go with him one last time.

June 4, 2018. Mark your calendars. This one’s the big one.