Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hey, Bhagwaan! Oh, God! – Vingettes of India

peacock"Aa-yo" comes a piercing cry and this beautiful bird lands gracefully in the garden. With its bobbing comb, arched brilliant blue neck, and distinctive tail feathers, it prances its way towards the bowl of seeds kept especially for it. On the way, it detours to dip its head into a cuppa tea left accidentally nearby.

Driving here is a series of misses with a style characterized by: you inch forward, you wedge, you bluff, you honk, and you pray like mad. I sit with my eyes shut tight. Traffic consists of everything that moves: camels pulling hay carts, hand-push carts of produce, trucks, bicycles, cars, and cows with horns (going the other way, naturally).

horned cowNow, we're not talking measely bone protrusions here. These cows have H.O.R.N.S. If a car and a cow were to come in intimate contact, the car would lose badly by being picked up and flung into the other side of the highway. Unlike the dumb cows back home, these cows are brilliant. Relatives up north had a padlock on the double main gate into the driveway. They said that some cows figured out how to hook their horns into the top latch to open the gate.

rickshawOf a sudden, a three-seater three-wheeler rickshaw darts forward on our left, with four people in the front, six in the back, discotheque lights, and hopping music. A shared taxi ride for the weary back home.

Towing a car implies a three-foot jute rope tied from the bumper of one car to the other. At least it wasn't the way we came down the mountains of Kerala during our honeymoon, coasting in neutral with the driver leaning out of his window rope in right hand, and a passenger in the jeep in front holding on to the rope in two hands.

No matter the technological advances on the international stage, education is a huge struggle for girl children. If Priyanka, a student in the sixth grade, is attending school, it is all because of a gritty fight her mother has been putting up at home. For her father, a watchman, girls have no business studying and wasting money. "Mother who works as a house-maid," says Priyanka, "would have none of it. She fought with my father to ensure that I go to school and not end up washing utensils." Priyanka wants to be a teacher.

camelThe Indian camels are one-humped, unlike Bactrian ones. After having examined them closely, I cannot imagine how a love scene that I read couple years ago on the back on a moving camel is remotely physically possible. How do you, er, hump when there's that huge hump in the center?

History talks about the cradle of theology as the Middle East, forgetting that four religions with billions of adherants flourish here in the subcontinent: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism.

Mosquitoes are in great supply in the Midwest, but they cannot hold a candle to these bee-like Indian ones. The only way to deter them from sucking you dry in the night are via British-Raj-style cotton mosquito nets. Très romantique.

Medieval cupboards with hooks as well as wall hooks for clothes are still the norm for clothing storage. Wealthier people indulge in heavy steel vaults for jewelry, which is worn by even the poorest folks.

banyan treeCute donkeys with silky white mane, temples with amazingly delicate filligree stonemasonry and vivid painted scenes, a sudden swath of long-legged white cranes taking off from salt paddies, and enormously wide banyan trees line roads winding through fields of wheat and cotton. It's a reminder of the historically wealthy agrarian kingdoms of South Asia that were willy-nilly, and reluctantly, thrust into the Industrial Age by the advances of the British Empire.

Queen Victoria as Empress of IndiaThe world's most extensive rail system, the telegraph, the parliamentary system, and the English language employed so eloquently by Gandhi and Nobel laureate Tagore (much to the fury of Rudyard Kipling) are some of the many legacies of the British rule. Along with those are the memories of the brutal Jalianwala Baug massacre, theft of the Kohinoor diamond (now part of the English royal collection), and indigent poverty.

There are three taps of water coming into every house, none of which is hot. Water in one tap (i.e., bacteria soup) comes from the town for one hour early morning and one hour in the evening. So backyard tanks have to be filled up with water. Who knows when those tanks are cleaned. So now we have local flora and fauna flourishing in there, in addition to, city-provided bacteria. This water comes through the second tap. Water for drinking has to be irradiated, so there's a device for that and clay pots have to be filled. This is the third tap. Hot water has to be boiled on the stove, except for a special heater that is installed just for bathing water.

Father-in-law's temple is being designed by committee and architected by the entire village. So the, er, shape is unique—no two windows are alike and all the colors of the rainbow have been utilized with artistic freedom. Since the temple is being built for this ancestral village and is dedicated to the memory of his father who was head of the village, everyone just has a good laugh over every meal and is satisfied that the villagers feel ownership towards their temple.

At the end of the day, it's just that. Laughter. The reason that makes this country work and its people survive a 5000+ year tumultuous history. My entire year's laughter is crammed in these four weeks.

Friends and Romansistas, may your holiday celebrations have tons of laughter.

Historical Romance author Christine Wells has been traveling to all sorts of fun places for the last three months: New Zealand, Japan, The Great Barrier Reef, and a beach resort. Check out her adventures here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Books Make Great Gifts

With December 3, the publishing industry's Black Day, still fresh in our memory, it behooves us to do everything we can, to get people reading and buying books this holiday season. We also would like folks to make that one of their new year's resolutions, too. To that effect, blogs such as Books for the Holidays have sprung up all over the 'Net.

(Click on the image to see the animated version of the bookmark.)

Have you bought books for anyone on your list?

Monday, December 15, 2008

16 Random Things About Me

Write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. Since I was a kid, my mother claimed, I should've been born in the Victorian era. Little surprise, I became a historical fiction writer.

2. The longest journey I've embarked on was this most recent one: 45 whole, entire hours.

3. I've seen/met the Rabari folk, the original gypsies of the world, whose ways are largely unchanged for centuries.

4. I'd like to visit Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands some day.

5. I've always wanted to be sing, not be a singer (i.e., performer) per se, just sing.

6. I adore BBC's spy series Spooks (aka MI-5). I'm currently on season five (via Netflix DVDs). There are two more seasons to go.

7. Colors for my eyes, music for my ears, fragrances and aromas for my nose: These are a few of my favorite things.

8. I'm partial to a tumbler of mead or a finger of an aged single malt.

9. I cannot survive in a world that has no Nutella.

10. I read my first romance novel at nine. To my everlasting embarrassment, I had to ask my uncle and aunt for some of the meaning to words because they didn't have a dictionary. I sure got some funny looks, but they didn't censor my reading. That Mills & Boon was such an exciting read.

11. I went to a girls' only school from kindergarten to tenth grade. Boys in the class. ZOMG! Eleventh and twelfth grades were major shockers for me.

12. My favorite place in the world is Hawaii. The ocean, the beach, the sun, the mai-tais. Life doesn't ever get better than that.

13. I cannot dance to save my life. I have an instinctive sense of rhythm where music is concerned. Dance—oops! I was the train wreck in the couple aerobics classes I tried. Even the treadmill is hazardous for me.

14. I'm a good listener.

15. I'm a good teacher. Discovered that in graduate school when I was a teaching assistant for two years.

16. Friendships are the wind beneath my wings and the breath in my lungs.

I'm not a taggee, but I sure am a tagger: Diane Gaston, Amanda McCabe, Cara King, Megan Frampton, Liz Maverick, Caren Crane, Jeanne Adams, Louisa Cornell, Joan Kayse, Donna MacMeans, PJ, Tasha Alexander, Anna Sugden, Kirsten Scott, Deb Marlowe, Carolyn Jewel, Kelly Krysten, Santa O'Bryne, Erin Eisenberg, Christina Arbini, Megan Crane, and Anna Campbell. OK, so I can't count. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Year 2008 in Review

Make New Friends1) Where did you begin 2008?
My brother's wedding.

2) What was your status on Valentine's Day?
Married. Surprisingly, we celebrated it for the first time.

3) Were you in school (anytime this year)?

4) Did you have to go to the hospital?
Yes, emergency, but not for me.

5) Did you have any encounters with the police?

6) Where did you go on holidays?
India, San Francisco, Milwaukee, San Francisco, India.

7) What did you purchase that was over $1000?
Car repairs.

8) Did you know anybody who got married?
A cousin and a friend.

9) Did you know anybody who passed away?

10) Did you move anywhere?

11) What concerts/shows did you go to?

12) Are you registered to vote?
Of course!

13) Where do you live now?
Seattle area.

14) Describe your birthday?
There was a beautiful hand-made card, a cake, and flowers. It was quiet, and I enjoyed it.

15) What's one thing you thought you'd never do but did in 2008?
Finish a novel.

16) What has been your favorite moment?
The national writers' conference in July/August.

17) What's something you learned about yourself?
I can write a historical story set in the early 1800s.

18) Any new additions to your family?
Nope. :(

19) What was your best month?

20) What music will you remember 2008 by?
Jane Austen's favorite songs, period movie soundtracks, Loreena McKennitt, and Gjallarhorn.

21) Who has been your best drinking buddy?
Due to migraine meds, I have had less than a handful drinks in the entire year, and my sister-in-law was always there, as were a few other folks, I can't remember.

22) Made new friends?

23) New best friend?
My best friends are few, but I'm going to see them more. I have dubbed 2009, the Year of Friendships.

24) Favorite Night Out?
December 7th. Celebration of father-in-law's birthday. The whole day from seven in the morning till midnight was a ton of fun. I haven't laughed as much since January, when I was last here at Hubby's parents' house.

25) New goals for 2009?
Of course.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Strength, Knowledge, Power

RWA 2009 Nationals And so the excitement starts building yet again...

The 2009 RWA National Conference is at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. from July 15 through July 18.

The fee is set at $425 for member early registration and $475 for member late registration. Non-member fee is $500 early registration and $550 late registration.

Thursday Keynote Speaker: Linda Howard
Friday Awards Luncheon Speaker: Eloisa James
Librarians’ Day Luncheon Speaker: Stella Cameron
Awards Ceremony Emcee: Anne Stuart

We're Safe!

Logging in from Singapore's Changi airport. Twenty-nine hours after we left Seattle, here we are. And no, seven hours later, we're not headed into Mumbai, the site of these horrific attacks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are you a goal-blocking goalie or a goal-getting goalie?

Thank You As the year comes to a close and the days gets shorter and colder (and wetter here in the Pacific Northwest), my thoughts turn naturally to brighter things like the coming holidays, new beginnings, the new year, and goals and schedules.

A part of the making of new goals is a reflection of goals for the closing year. I had two main ones: writing and friendships.

On the writing side, I finished one story and started a new one. I joined Eastside RWA chapter, attended the National conference, started this blog, and have write-meets with Lacey Kaye every weekend. I couldn't attended the regional conference due to a mix-up in registration and have unfortunately not been able to update this blog on a bi-weekly or even a weekly basis. This is one of my goals for the new year. Consistency, consistency, consistency, health bedamned.

In terms of books, this translates to finish and revise both books, enter a couple contests, put PRO application through, and pitch, query, pitch, query, pitch, query.

The same goes with friendships. I have made amazing friendships over the course of my haunting blogs and boards for the past three years. I can never say "thank you" enough times or with enough gravitas that is their due. My friends have enriched my life beyond all measure. Life's definitely a far better place to be because of them.

This year, as my writing and health issues crept up, regularity (posting, not the other, hah) has been a problem. My correspondence has suffered. I have too many stops on the web, so many friends, so many interesting places. Greediness is my downfall, because I have less time than I did last year. Better to be concentrated and consistent, than flitting and flirty.

Here is my now prioritized and shortened list of places to stop on the 'Net... Twitter, Facebook, livejournal, Hotmail, Weather, riskyregencies, romancebandits, Candice Hern board, Berkley Jove Authors forums, Eloisa James & Julia Quinn board, waxcreative, rebelsofromance, titlepage.tv, romancenovel.tv, wordwenches, historyhoydens, Elizabeth Boyle, Jo Bourne, Jane Porter, manuscriptmavens, aplacefororiginals, vauxhallvixens, romancevagabonds, Tessa Dare, singlecitychick, Kelli Estes, Beau Monde email loop, WritingRegency email loop, Eastside RWA email loop.

Happy New Year 2009 As you laugh, joke, cook, and shop for the holidays, are you thinking of the new year to come and what it holds for you?
How many web stops do you have every day?
Do you have correspondence goals? Travel ones? Writing ones?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Travel, yo!

Travel plans changed all of a sudden last night. No, no, nothing alarming. It's all good. Hubby discovered more time off on his work schedule. So, in less than ten days, we're off on our annual pilgrimage to the other end of the earth visiting every relative in Hubby's bushy family tree.

Doctor to visit, holidays cards to write, gifts to buy and mail, thousand and one things to cross off list....Watch Keira work herself into a tizzy. (I think the school teacher is the most stressed out of everyone involved. She has to prepare the homework kit. Heh.)

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, Happpy Kwanza, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule, Merry Solstice, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Oh, and try to have a smashing New Year's Eve, too, if you can, and do eat my share of the turkey, too.

See you in the new year...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Love in Romancebloglandia

I Love Your Blog AwardThe wonderful writers of the blog First Edition: A Place For Originals were kind enough to present me the I Love Your Blog! Award. A big thank you to historical romance writer Kelly Krysten, YA writer Mary Danielson, and historical suspense writer Stephanie Janulis.

Being a recipient of this award doesn't mean I can rest on my laurels. I have a job to do by following these five rules...

1) Add the logo of the award to my blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to me
3) Name at least seven other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on my blog
5) Leave a message on their blogs

Without much further ado, here are my winners...

1. Risky Regencies — In the short lifespan on blogland, the Riskies are the oldest continuously running group author blog with a very loyal fanbase. The six of them write about their stories, their unusual characters, the history of the Regency, and everything from daily life to the fantastical (such as, Austen Trek).

2. Romance Bandits — The Banditas are the funniest group of writers of young-adult, the sweet, the suspensy, and the hottie. Amongst them, they've held every job imaginable, suffered every rejection letter possible, and have succeeded in laughing and writing every single day.

3. Rebels of Romance — If you ever want to learn how to network and market and promote your books, these two edgy, fashionable gals are it. Passion is their middle name and shyness is not a word in their repertoire. Their blog's a breath of fresh air.

4. History Hoydens —As readers of historicals know, we usually see the tip of the tip of the research iceberg behind the stories, which is as it should be. However here, these experts give us a glimpse into the meticulous collection of detail that goes behind every scene, every nuance of every story.

5. Wax Creative — This blog is a look-see behind the scenes of the most prominent website design company for small businesses, freelancers, and the self-employed. Marrying an extremely creative side with a pragmatic core, the Wax team wins first by their generosity and friendliness and then ensures loyalty with their professionalism.

6. Elizabeth Boyle — If you've ever heard Elizabeth's delighted laughter then you know what I'm saying here. Her books and her personna are both hilarious and lighthearted. Always ready with a quip and a helping hand, Elizabeth is one of Seattle's foremost authors. She knits. She cooks. She does many, many things exceedingly well.

7. Barbara Vey — The Babs always has something fun and interesting to say, whether it's her blog or on Twitter or on one of the other social networks. She is one of the most connected professional of the publishing world. She even had drive-by videos of the events around her while waiting out a hurricane in an airport with hundreds of other people.

8. Vauxhall Vixens — They bonded first at Eloisa James and Julia Quinn's message board as The Bon Bons and then again over Avon's e-book chapter-by-chapter contest. Wonderful writers and fabulous people, they love vixenating about the historical hotties and haughties.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hack. Hack. Wheeze. Technicolor Yawn. The Runs.

Life has been terribly exciting the past three weeks. Such incidents always start with a special germy gift from school. Ms. Wee succumbs and bears up marvelously and without complaint, but the maternal heart is a gooey marshmallow under that brave suffering look.

All that cuddling, leads to my getting it, and getting it bad. Starts out innocuously enough, moves to another facial orifice, returns here, presses in there, then meanders down to the chest and proceeds to sit there and get heavier and heavier. Then cometh the fevers. And they overstayed their welcome by fourteen days.

All that marital cuddling means, Hubby turn comes, too. Hack, hack, snore, snore, snuffle. I can't remember the last time, I had a full night's sleep.

Two visits to the doctor, two emergency hospitals runs later, we each have our stash and join the pill-popping populace of the evergreen, ever-dreary, every-dripping Pacific Northwest.

If you've wondered how come Keira's scarce in Romancelandia, here's the reason why.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Share the Love

Maya Rodale and Ann Bleakley, two historical romance writers, have started Share the Love to bring romance novels to women in crisis.

Share the Love"After all,' says Maya, "they are not merely love stories and are certainly not rescue fantasies. They are rich narratives of women overcoming conflict, discovering their own power, falling in love, and being rewarded with optimistic, emotionally satisfying endings. And shouldn’t all women enjoy the same treasure of words filled with inspiration and empowerment—or, if nothing else, a pleasant diversion from day to day life?"

"Mass-market paperbacks are considered to be inexpensive," says Ann, "but are still not in the budget for everyone who might enjoy them. How better to encourage literacy—an incredibly valuable skill that benefits not just women but the families they support—than by providing engaging reading material? Doesn’t everyone deserve the pleasure of a good story with a happy-ending?"

Do you want to Share the Love? Here’s how you can participate:
1. Get a box (USPS turns out to be cheapest).
2. Start filling it with romance novels you’ve read, but don’t imagine re-reading.
3. Send the box to one of the following locations.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Regency Gowns by Kalen Hughes

Exciting news! I am thrilled to announce that author Kalen Hughes, an expert on historical fashion, is leading detailed workshops and discussions of extant (i.e. real, not reproduction) Regency Fashions on Candice Hern's message board. Did I mention, tons of pictures???

First up: Round Gowns.

Added 10/17:
2. Apron-Front Gowns
3. Fabrics

Added 10/18:
4. Getting dressed (undergarment layers to outer dress)
5. Definition of extant

Please stop by and take a look. Kalen is also willing to answer any questions, so if you're curious about Regency fashion, take advantage of this opportunity to pick an expert's brain!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Noah Webster!

Cacography as documented in its first use in Thomas Blount's Glossographia (1656) refers to bad spelling or ill writing. This is something that lexicographers for eons before and eons after tried to correct in the unwashed masses.

Noah WebsterOne such living in the American counterpart of the Georgian-Regency period was Noah Webster (1758–1843). Another admonisher was wordsmith Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790).

When Webster was ten years old, Franklin published his unpopular Scheme for a New Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling, which recommended that the alphabet be remodeed. Under Franklin's plan, six new letters would be added, and all thirty-two would function phonetically. Franklin argued, "As our alphabet now stands, the bad spelling, or what is called so, is generally the best."

Noah WebsterYears later, Webster offered a simplified solution but, like Franklin's proposal, it was roundly ridiculed and rejected.

Webster did, however, pioneer the deletion of unnecessary letters from certain words, such as the 'U' from neighbour, colour, and honour and the 'K' from musick, publick, and mechanick, thereby setting American English irrevocably on a path divergent from its parent language.

"England and America are two nations separated by a common language." —George Bernard Shaw

RomanistasSo, Romanistas...
Which other words did Webster set out to "improve"? Which ones are you favs?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Super Tuesday Loot

September 30 was Super Tuesday in Romancelandia. Many of 2008's hotly anticipated books by mega stars were all released on one single day. Life doesn't get better than this for a committed reader.

My favorite bookseller manages a Borders in a town 30 miles away. It opens at 10 o'clock every day. I was there at 9:53am that morning. While I wasn't quite spreadeagled across the locked double glass doors, perhaps I was wearing a pitiful expression. She bustled right out and opened early.

"Glad you came out here today, Keira," said Andrea. "Half your list of favorite authors have books out today. Check the bookshelf behind the counter where I've set those aside for you."

"Andrea, you're a marvel," I enthused. "In addition to the ones on your list, I have a few new-to-me authors to try and anything else you can convince me is worth my reading time." This was in the days before the economic crash. My reading addiction knew no bounds.

This is what I picked up...

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT by Candice Hern et al
PRICE of DESIRE by Jo Goodman
THE WILD SIGHT by Loucinda McGary
IRREVERSIBLE by Liz Maverick

In addition to...

My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
Secrets of the Night by Jo Beverley
Unmasked by Nicola Cornick
Warrior's Lady by Gerri Russell
The Scarlet Spy by Andrea Pickens
One Forbidden Evening by Jo Goodman
A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith
Lucky Charm by Carly Phillips
The Art of Romance: Harlequin Mills & Boon Cover Designs

I've finished reading the first six of the seventeen already. OMG! Swoon-worthy good. CAVENDISH #1 is on the NYT bestsellers' list, SUNRISE #2, and NIGHT #20.

RomanistasSo, Romanistas...
What books have you read this month? Is your reading 'habit' just as out-of-control as mine? (Tell me I'm not alone!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

If Home Were To Be England...

Risky Regencies Romance Bandits Drawing inspiration from Anna Sugden of Romance Banditas’s list of what moving home to England for her was like and from Amanda McCabe of Risky Regencies’s list of her sightseeing plans of England, here’s my list of what I would do if I had the opportunity to call England home for once in my lifetime for a few moments (read that as: months).

First the assumptions. I would have to be a lady of a certain age and certain independent means if I have to achieve this dream.

Big BenSoane Museum 1. I can rent rooms at a hotel in London for a few weeks, at Oxford for a few weeks, then a few other sites, and finally settling in Bath.

2. Hang the unpacking. Sightseeing's going to be foremost on the agenda in London, and that's going to mean the Tower, the V&A Museum, the British Museum, the British Library, Hyde Park, Mayfair, London townhouses, watch Shakespeare at the Globe Theater, Sir John Soane's Museum, Devonshire House, Windsor Castle, and the list is endless. The only stopping point is going to come when I'm exhausted.

Radcliffe Camera, OxfordChatsworth 3. Then I'll hie myself off to Oxford and stay with my cousin. From that vantage point, I can reaquaint myself to the beauty and peace and splendor that's Oxford. Perhaps I can inviegle a couple history classes from their education outreach programs.

4. Derbyshire and the Peaks and Lake districts, then it's off to Bath and rooms at a bed & breakfast. This is where I hope to remain for the majority of my staying: working and writing.

Bath Crescent5. Staying at a B&B and walking everywhere is an absolute must for me to integrate myself into the fabric of the place I'm in.

6. Buying groceries, eating local produce, delicious curry take-aways, talks with regulars who sit in the main church square...food and conversation make for good starts to friendships.

7. Working in a place increases the stake I have in the community. When I'm paying taxes, I start caring what those taxes support. Getting to know people I work with also means I care what their concerns are.

8. Similarly, attending the parish church on Sunday mornings and joining the choir further enmeshes my square into the town's quilt. I'm not a fan of organized religion, but music makes my heart sing.

9. Resume my building up my collection of Enid Blytons. My goal is to own every known EB book published by her (not by other authors in her name) before she passed away.

10. Squirelling away a lifetime's worth of memories, sights, smells, sensations, tastes, touches, sounds for when I return and miss England with a visceral ache.

RomanistasSo, Romanistas...
What would your dream location be? And would you like to permanently move there, or just for a while?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Was MIA, Back Now

Nope, I didn't levitate off the face of the earth (no matter what those ancient wise yogis thought). Hiding under a rock also isn't the explanation for my absence from this blog.

My first week off, I was in Milwaukee for a wedding. It was an emotional experience. Life was at its hardest and at its best when I was living there all those years ago. I was creative; I matured; I did many new, fun, and some scary things. Meeting up with the people who'd watched me grow up, and attending the wedding of a dear, dear cousin and one of the people I admire the most, was empowering and touching all rolled together.

The second week, I was off to San Diego to an ayurvedic retreat. That was an out-of-body experience: some good things, some puzzling, some definitely woo-woo. My takeaways were: twice daily meditation, yoga stretches, and eating a bigger, heavier lunch than dinner. The best part of the experience was the wonderful group of people I met. I laughed, definitely cried, and came away immensely comforted.

Every conference/event I attend, it's never the talks, perks, deals, etc. that make a difference to how much I value the experience. At the end of it, what I remember are the people. I go for the people, even some of whom I haven't met face-to-face yet and some whom I know only as names on a list. And I come away taking them with me in my heart.

The third week off was due to a bunch of "then life happens" stuff: school, activities, bills, chores (read: a Mt. Everest of laundry), food, etc. etc. etc. The weekend was devoted to Le Migraine.

Early this evening, I typed up this blog and then typed up one on Eric Maisel for tomorrow and was about to post them, but I got sidetracked and sorely tempted into watching part one (for the 1000th time) of North & South. (Longtime friends know how this story is going to end.) At the end of the first episode, I said only ten minutes of the 2nd episode. Before I knew it, I was hitting next for the third episode with a mere twinge or two of the conscience. At the end of the third one, I had had to watch the last episode. I mean, you wouldn't want me to toss and turn and not know if Richard Armitage ends up with the girl or not? I mean, you never know. At the 1000th viewing, I could get lucky. Well, never fear for my husband, my friends. RA got his girl, and I got to re-live one of the best love stories on film (a wet Darcy rising from the lake, notwithstanding.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Conference by Numbers

Following in the tradition set by Lindsey Faber of the Romance Vagabonds, here's my conference experience as a meme.

Number of books I brought with me to the conference: Zero, since I thought I'd be loading up.

Best Traveling Companion: My laptop on Virgin Airlines, which has a power socket. Score! Yano flying Virgin for a historical writer has got to be a surreal experience.

Moment being at conference really sank in: When I met my roommate Cassondra Murray and immediately got immersed in the Romance Bandits party happenings. The party was the next day. In my room. Oops, surprise. Fifty people. I was like cool!! Par-tay!

Best Roommates: Cassondra was fabulous. I'd room with her again in a heartbeat.

Best Reason to Get Out of Bed: Fun people to renew aquaintances with and make new friends with.

Best Nametag Flair: Goddess of the Hunt pins, not to mention, pins from: Candice Hern's Bluestockings, Risky Regencies, Romance Bandits, and Squawk Radio.

First Nora Sighting: Wed, Jul 30, 7:30am at registration.

Second Nora Sighting: Book signing, Wed, 7/30, 7:30pm

Number of books I bought at the literacy signing: Four, including two I already owned (Joanna Bourne and Connie Brockway), Teresa Medeiros, and Susan Crandall.

Best Dinner: Beau Monde Soirée

Best Goody Room Find: Books, mais oui, pens and bookmarks. I also snagged a Marian Keyes title.

Most Star-struck Moment: Meeting the Harlequin executive editor. I babbled. Every time. I met her five times. Ugh!

Best Lunch Table Companions: Fog City Divas and Christie Ridgway

Best Celebration: The Awards Ceremony always causes me to choke up and cheer, and go home and write, write, write.

Fun Event Outside the Marriott: Cupcakes and Champagne party by the Fog City Divas at Citizen Cupcake. Everybody who's who was there. Spotted Jayne Anne Krentz walking outside, and she was so nice, she didn't mind my gushing all over her.

Number of time I tried to have breakfast with Anna Campbell: Thrice, but I did meet her in brief snatches. Something is far better than nothing.

Best Workshop: Eric Maisel on Creativity and Life. It was simply WOW!!

Dinners I expected to have: Five

Dinners I had: Two, by myself at the Terrace Restaurant and at the Beau Monde soirée.

Coolest Moment: When Mary Jo Putney met me and asked, "Are you THE Keira Soleore"? Yeah, totally made my day.

Funniest Moment: Megan Crane and I were talking about her taking pole dancing lessons for the recent launch party. She said that she has bruises up and down her legs. So she hoiked her leg up and rolled up her pant leg to show me, and some fan snapped a picture. Yikes!

Tastiest Moment: Kalen Hughes's Kickshaws class, with authentically prepared snack food and wines.

Number of booksignings I attended: Two, main and Grand Central Publishing.

Number of books I shipped home: 20

Best RITA Dates: Romance Banditas

Best RITA Entertainment: Emcee Suzanne Brockman

Number of RITA statues I touched: One, belonging to JQ

Number of days it has taken me to recover: I’m not sure I’m there yet! I'm still unpacking, but I've been reading, reading, reading.

Number of authors I blogged about meeting: Many. All mentioned in my photo captions.

Number of authors who blogged about meeting me: ?Don't Know?

Romance Bandit Golden RoosterNumber of people I owe thanks for an awesome conference: Everyone I met, and so many unsung tireless volunteers. For the History conference, Kalen Hughes, I love you. For the touring, caring, and general awesomness, Diane Gaston, I love you. Ammanda McCabe, for your fashion sense and friendship, and Anna Campbell, for your delight and kindness, you both have my love. Candice Hern, as always, love you for everything. And to the Golden Rooster, Chook of the Romance Bandit Lair, hugs and kisses and grapes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

RWA Conference Photos

With Anna Campbell[Edited 8/12: The album links are all working now.]

[Edited 8/11: So. After I spend a few hours uploading and annotating the pictures on Facebook, I find out that it doesn't allow non-Facebook people to see them. Now, I'll have to come up with a different plan. Aargh!]

I've uploaded photos from the conference with detailed notes to my Facebook. Here are the quick links to all the coolness with daily notes to follow.

Album One
Album Two
Album Three

With Jane Porter With Diane Gaston

Monday, July 28, 2008

Touring and Packing (the redux)

GoogleGoogleI've been in SF exactly 38 hours now. I've brunched at Mimi's Cafe, taken an ethusiastically guided tour of the Google campus in Mountain View, taken a drive-by tour of the famous spots of San Francisco, and supped on haute Vietnamese cuisine at Bong Su in the SoMa (South of Market) area of San Francisco, couple blocks from the RWA conference hotel.

GoogleGoogleThe secret techie inside me was thrilled by the tour of Google. What an exciting place to be. A simple idea. A complex problem. An enormously successful business plan. Et voilà. A dynamic company is born, thrilling users, developers, and investors alike.

Today I'm to lunch at the Samovar Tea Lounge that has it's own Internet TV channel, blog, in-the-news, podcasts, iTunes, in addition to a food-and-tea pairing menu. Sounds üaut;ber delish. Dinner's to be at Chez Papa Bistro. I could eat the menu. Looks très, très magnifique, n'est ce pas? After being in foodie heaven, it's going to be back to packing for my move to the hotel, with the promise of Nepali food next Sunday before I get shipped to the airport and home.

[Edited: OMGosh. My palate's permanently exploded. At the Tea Lounge, I had the Russian Chay Platter with zavarka black tea from the samovar.]

My conference day starts bright and early tomorrow when I meet Diane Gaston for breakfast and a tour of the city, followed by lunch with Amanda McCabe and more touring with them. Then I meet my roomie at the Marriott, check-in, register, and stuff bags for Wednesday's Historical Romance Writers' Conference. Then there are drinks with the extraordinary duo of Waxcreative Emily Cotler and Abi Bowling (recommended by Avon editor Lyssa Keusch, and dinner with Kalen Hughes. At which point, I shall repair to the bar to recoup and regroup before heading to the room to collapse in preparation for four intense days of conferencing.

RomanistasSo, Romanistas: If you're on your way to RWA, are you excited or panicking or both?

What is the one takeaway you're looking forward to from the conference?

If you're at home and reading this blog, what is the one thing you want me to look for and blog about for you?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Packing, part 3 of x: Almost, Almost

By Saturday one o'clock, we'd just returned from a birthday brunch, my bag was totally full, with more clothes to go, and tragically, no business cards in hand yet. Staples messed up the order thrice.

The third time, I had two hours to go before heading out to the airport and more clothes to iron and stuff, er, lay out carefully, into the one suitcase Virgin Airlines allowed me to carry for free. So I made do with the glossy (isn't matte!) photocopying with lighter inks, crammed clothes into suitcase, and sniffled on the ride to the airport.

Now, I've been security-screened and am posting from the airport gate.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Packing, part 2 of x: Panic

Romance Writers of America We're at T-2 days now for me since I'm heading down to San Francisco early to stay with my bro and sis-in-law. Papers are scattered everwhere in the bedroom. Clothing's folded, bags decided upon, but the shoes are still en route from Zappo's. (I know, I know, I may live to regret the shoes, but hey, I'll atleast live and look good, right?). I'm busy printing workshop handouts. It's confusing to know what I'll need, what I can skip. I'm double-booked in some cases. And I'm volunteered up to my eye-balls. Life's très complicated. So...PANIC!

And while you're panicking, do try to avoid these fashion failures, I beg you.

Fashion Failures Fashion Failures

Monday, July 21, 2008

Packing, Part 1 of x: Contemplation

Packing for RWA 2008Uh-oh-oh-oh-oh!!

I can't even begin to contemplate how I'm going to fit it all in one suitcase. Toileteries and sundries, still to go.

Hubby's suggestion was this bag. Hubby was dispatched to purgatory, roaring with laughter all the way.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tag Friday aka Three Things Meme

From TheDiaperDiaries.wordpress.comAll good things come in threes, right?

So, here's this meme (a definition), courtesty of the très fun Lil Bee.

1. What are the last three things you purchased?
- Plum-colored purse
- Littlest Petshop toys (no, you may not ask me about this at National)
- Self-sticking bandage to tape fore and middle fingers (nope, not about this either)

2. What are the last three songs you downloaded?
- None, because I'm the last person on earth who doesn't own an i-something. My sis-in-law is so horrified, she's going to gift me her iPod Shuffle (w00t!)

3. Where were the last three places you visited?
- Great Wolf Lodge (indoor water park and magical themed resort)
- Portland (family)
- North Carolina (see earlier blog)

4. What are your three favorite movies?
- Pride & Prejudice
- My Fair Lady
- Kolya

5. What are your three favorite possessions?
- Cell phone
- USB memory stick
- Laptop

6. What three things can you not live without?
- Books
- Books
- Books

7. What would be your three wishes?
- Clean drinking water for everyone
- Compulsory vaccinations for all children
- Happiness

8. What are three things you have not done yet?
- Sold a book
- Met a writer with a burr up her backside
- Read a book that changed my life profoundly

9. What are your three favorite dishes?
- Nutella (what? that's not a dish? I challenge you prove otherwise!)
- Princess cashew chicken with tons of broccoli
- Roast chicken (yes, I'm a choco-carnivore, contributing to the 1.5 billion chickens consumed, according my dad the encyclopedia)

10. What three celebrities would you want to hang out with the most?
- Judi Dench
- Helen Mirren
- Angelina Jolie

11. Name three things that freak you out.
- Heights
- Public toilets
- Crunchy cockroaches

12. If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
- (A?) Loyal Friend

13. Name three unusual things you are good at.
- Laughing at every joke (don't believe me? try me!)
- Putting both feet into mouth at the same time
- Meeting the most wonderful people everywhere (not that I have anything to do with it; they just appear)

14. What are three things you are currently coveting?
- A small pocket camera with the resolution and ease-of-use of The Brick
- Trip to Tibet
- The first sale

15. What three bloggers would you like to tag?
- This blog does not discriminate against, nor does it distinguish between, commentators. All are welcome.

Aaaaand, go!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RWA: To Do or Not To Do

Everybody in the universe is writing about what you should definitely do once and many times over and what for heaven's sake you shouldn't do ever. The passing of your manuscript under the stall door to the editor while she's doing her business falls in the latter category. Hiding in your hotel room by your lonesome also falls in that group. However, hanging out at the bar and being the life of the party (so long as you don't dance across the table-top or accost an agent in the restroom) is very much in the former category.

If any of the following pictures apply to how you feel about National, then my super sekret tips, that you'll find nowhere else, guaranteed, are for you.

1. Spanx, Body Glide, and you are going to be close intimate friends by the time the Awards Night is over. Body Glide will prevent bandaged, blistered feet you have to hobble on. If you must use a band-aid, use moleskin. It stays on better and will not cause another blister. Spanx and Flexees for the obvious reason—containing those bulging pounds you'd written into your new year's resolutions.

2. The bathroom becomes the bottle-neck to getting you to events on time, if you're sharing a room. So, if you can fit it in, bring a hair dryer, or a dry shampoo for those events when you don't have time to wash, blow-dry, and style hair.

3. Hotels set their air-conditioning to stun to prevent the proliferation of body odor. Weather in San Francisco is changeable and on the cooler side. So, prepared to be dressed in layers. A jacket, sweater, or a shawl works well in most cases.

4. Carry a small water bottle. The air-conditioning can also dry out your eyes, sinuses, and throat. If you wear contacts, carry a spare pair and your glasses. Wearing the latter is better than not seeing.

5. Don't forget an under-eye concealer and an acne buster, if you have the tendency to break out from stress, lack of sleep, and make-up.

6. Attend a workshop given by an agent or an editor. Don't approach them at the close of the workshop when every person sitting on the panel gets mobbed. Wait for an opportunity to present itself later. When that happens, walk up to her and say, "I attended your workshop this morning." Then you can follow it up with a "thank you for giving it" or "this is what I learned" or "I have a question that I hope you could answer." This gets the ball rolling, allows you to connect, and then the opening is there if you want it. I used sentence number one. It didn't get me a contract, but it got me over the fear of this agent as an entity. She was warm and personable.

7. And here's the lucky seventh tip: Have fun. Sounds obvious doesn't it? But, is it on your schedule? No, I didn't think so. Last year, I was so grimly determined to make every possible workshop I could, I trotted to and fro rooms missing people everywhere. They later reported, I was being a devoted student. Perhaps. But I was being a poor networker. After all, what's more important? You can buy the tapes. You won't have the chance to relax and share a few laughs with people for another year.

Cinderella's ShoesHow many pairs of shoes (22, if you're Tawny, pounds that is) are you taking? Do you think everything that you need to take and bring back will fit in one suitcase? How do you recognize an agent or an editor at the bar? Most rarely choose to wear their badges?