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.

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.

Pale and Prolific

I just realized that I only blogged twice in August. Apparently that’s who I am, now. I’m just that lady who posts to her blog a few times a year. You know, back in my heyday I posted four times a week. I had A LOT more spare time back then. Seriously, I had, like, no kids and only one book in progress at a time. Simpler days.

Anyway, lest you think I’ve been sitting back on my laurels sunbathing and day drinking the last weeks of summer away, fret not. I’m pale and prolific over here.

I’m thiiiiiiiis close to being finished enough with Bai Treason to send it to my publisher, which is funny because my original goal at the beginning of July was to have it whipped into shape for beta readers by September. Instead, I started a new project and had Bai Treason in my beta readers’ hands at the beginning of August and now I’m just waiting for one last set of notes, having completed everyone else’s notes already.

Say it with me, kids:

As for that new project, I’m calling it Tranquility Land and it’s going REALLY well. Maybe a little too well. I’m 15,000+ words in already and the story is unfurling nicely. It’s actually two stories, staggered with one another, about a present-day daughter taking care of her paranoid elderly mother who suffers from dementia. The first story is told from the daughter’s perspective, the second story is set before the daughter was born and is told from the mother’s perspective.

That’s right. I have two, I say TWO heroines in this book. It’s Bechdel Test-tastic.

And always, the drum beat counting down the days of summer for me this year, is my looming surgery date on September 12. I’m feeling peaceful about it, because I worked my ass off this summer getting my writing projects in line. If all goes well, I have a real shot of finishing the first draft of Tranquility Land before crutches take over my life after surgery number two in October.

I may be a slacker of a blogger, but it’s because I’m RAZING AND CONQUERING MY TO DO LIST.

Onward, I Say!

Wow. I mean, right? Whoosh. Welcome to the other side of the book launch. It probably just looked like a lot (maybe too many) social media posts from your side, but over here it was like spinning ten plates with two hands. Except for yesterday. Everything leading up to yesterday was spinning plates. Yesterday? Actual launch day? That was something different.

As opposed to the frantic pace of promotion and marketing, yesterday was a nice, quiet retreat into Revisions Land on BAI TREASON.

What’s that? you cry. You cheated on TAKE THE BAI ROAD on its birthday?!

Not really. I’d just done everything I could do to spread the word about TAKE THE BAI ROAD, and the only thing left to do was let it happen (or not happen) and figure out what’s next. For me? What’s next is BAI TREASON, which is shaping up to be twisty and unexpected and fun in all the right ways.

I’m channeling Edna Mode from The Incredibles, darling, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

I’ve always wondered if launching something is the same for movie stars as it is for authors. You work on this massive creative endeavor for months, then it’s out of your hands getting cleaned up and polished, and then, right when you’ve started working on something else, you’re supposed to get all excited to talk about this project you finished working on ages ago.

That’s not to say I’m not stoked about TAKE THE BAI ROAD. I totally am. It’s a fun book and I don’t even feel bad charging people money for it because it’s worth a few bucks and will definitely spice up your summer reading time (I recommend reading this one with a nice, cold beer under a shady tree when it’s really hot outside). I’m all for the Bai Road, so to speak, I’m just trying to make sure I don’t drown in promoting one project at the expense of doing what I love (writing a new project).

So here’s to TAKE THE BAI ROAD, which you can find here (among other places). May it find a happy place among the literal and digital bookshelves of the people who purchase, borrow, steal, and are gifted it.

Now onward, I say! To a mystery! To Ukraine! To BAI TREASON!

Empty Tubes and Tests for Days

Man, I tell you. Coming back from Santa Barbara was a great, big, freezing cold splash of reality. Wes had to leave on a series of business trips, which is normally the cue for both my kids to get all kinds of peeved about their father’s absence and take it out on me.

They did not disappoint.

Me in my giant scrubs, mere moments before yet another health professional jammed a needle into my poor knee.

Adding to the fun, I did another MRI with contrast to see why my knee continues to be a literal and figurative pain and lo and behold, it wasn’t all in my head (ha?). I have a flap of cartilage that’s collecting edema, and the microfractures I had done a couple years ago healed irregularly, which means things are all kinds of messed up in there.

Before I go in for (yet another) surgery, I’m going to get tested by a rheumatologist to see if it’s possible to determine why the cartilage in my knee is shredding like a nice mozzarella.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m currently undergoing testing from an endocrinologist to see whether he can figure out why I keep gaining weight despite healthy eating and exercise habits.

Just think blood tests. Blood tests for days. All the doctors are holding up empty tubes with my name on them.

It’s all stressful, and at times terrible, but I’m keeping my focus firmly on the things that are going right. Things like:

  • Wes is home from his business trips, and will be home for awhile.
  • I have friends and family who care about me and all my suddenly myriad health issues. My best friend, husband, and mother-in-law all collectively spent hours on the phone with me when I found out about my knee, just letting me feel sorry for myself and assuring me things would turn out ok. I’m inclined to believe them.
  • I’m free of deadlines for now and making progress on revisions for Bai Treason (book 3 of the Bai Hsu series). I love it as much now as I did when I wrote the first draft, which is always a good sign of a worthwhile story.
  • There’s a book blog tour of Bai Tide (book 1 of the Bai Hsu series) that’s happening now and the reviews are uniformly positive so far! Like this one, and this one. I’m always particularly gratified when people who don’t normally read my genre enjoy my books. It shows me I wrote a good story, not just a good spy story.
  • I might be getting LASIK soon because you know what? My knee may be FUBAR but damn it, there’s still hope for my eyes.

That just about brings you up to current. Rest assured, if I’m not blogging it’s probably because I’m hiding from my health woes by writing stories. Given all the feelings around here lately? Bai Treason¬†is going to end up being a goooooooood book. Trust me on that one.