Monday, October 31, 2005

Publishing and Paolo the Pool Boy

I had a friend email me the other day and ask for the lowdown on how this whole book publishing thing works. Since I wrote it all out for her, I thought I might as well post it up here for any others who may be interested. Here goes.

Step 1: You have a genius idea. It's going to be the next Da Vinci Code.

Step 2: You write a two-page outline and send it to uber-agent.

Step 3: Uber-agent loves it! Thinks it is the next Da Vinci Code. Immediately contacts publishers.

Step 4: All publishers love it! Think it is the next Da Vinci Code. (Dan Brown's publisher is scared of your greatness).

Step 5: Bidding war ensues over your idea. Finally, you settle for a million dollar offer from Uber-Publisher.

Step 6: You write book. It flows out of you like fine wine - brilliant, utterly brilliant!

Step 7: You get an AMAZING cover. Oprah interviews you. Dan Brown sobs that he wishes he'd written your book. He becomes so desolate that he needs theraphy. You lend him a shoulder to cry on.

Step 8: You become filthy rich and marry a buff pool boy named Paolo (or if you are male, a sexy cabaret girl named Tiffany). You are only twenty-five.

Step 9: You are made a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and tour the world with Bono and Angelina Jolie.

Step 10: You wake up from the coma you fell into after receiving your 277th rejection, which said your brilliant idea was 'Da Vinci Code as written by a lobotomized rabbit on heroin', and realize that the past ten years have been a figment of your comatose brain.

Step 11: You ask doctor to put you back in coma as you were about to discover the cure for cancer and win the Nobel Prize.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I love and admire you!"

What a declaration! For those of you who aren't obsessed with this particular love story, the quote is from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I've been watching the BBC's adaptation (for the xillionth time) and I was struck once again by the way so much is said in the scenes between Lizzie and Mr Darcy without a word being spoken.

A glance, a smile, a subtle change in expression and the viewer knows exactly what's going on. The whole relationship is so restrained and yet so incredibly passionate under those genteel manners. It fascinates me to wonder what might really be going on inside their heads.

As you might've guessed, the only point of this post is to wax lyrical about Pride and Prejudice. Any other fans fell free to jump in with your favorite lines or scenes (or just longing sighs for Mr Darcy!).

Friday, October 28, 2005

I Am Not An Eskimo

It's getting cold where I live. I don't deal well with cold. At all. My blood freezes and I do a very good impression of a geriatric penguin every time I have to leave my super-heated apartment. It's just as well that I live in the southern part of Japan because it's already snowing up north.

I did suck up all my courage and venture up there for the snow festival last winter and it was definitely worth it (see pic) but to live there? My worst nightmare. The entire city was completely white. Not a single spot of color to be seen. Very long as I had a plane ticket outa there in a few days.

This weekend, I think I'm going to pull out all my winter gear in preparation for the time when earmuffs, gloves, mufflers and boots are the only thing standing between me and life as a frozen still-life. I'll take stifling heat over below zero temps any day of the week. Who's with me?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Inside Nalini's Head

Personality 1: You know there's an unfinished bar of chocolate in the fridge.
Personality 2: No, not listening. (Claps hands over ears and starts humming).

Personality 1: If you don't eat it it'll go to waste.
Personality 2: NOT listening!

Personality 1: Oh well, I suppose you better throw it in the garbage to avoid temptation.
Personality 2: Good idea. (Goes to fridge, grabs chocolate.) I. Can't. Put. It. In. The. Garbage.

Personality 1: Might as well eat it then.
Personality 2: (Stares at chocolate which has miraculously unwrapped itself). Just two small pieces.

Personality 1: But that'll leave only two other bits and you can't put that amount back in the fridge.
Personality 2: Why?

Personality 1: Who puts two pieces of chocolate back, an anorexic Barbie doll on a diet? And honey, you ain't no Barbie doll.
Personality 2: Yeah, you're right. I have to eat it to protest against the impossible media image of women. I'm doing it for a greater cause.

Thirty Minutes Later

Personality 1
: You know, there's...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bob, Betty, Bianca and Bill

I'm currently working on a story with a lot of characters. It's a romance so there are two main characters but there are also several secondary characters.

For every book I write, I maintain a list of character names and any special points about them (ie. this character is scared of spiders) because this helps me not make a complete fool of myself by turning a male character into a female halfway through the book or something else equally odd. I'm currently pondering a reader version of this for my book, basically with just the relationships listed ie. Bob is married to Betty. Bianca is their daughter and Bill is their son.

My question to you is, what do you think of books that come with a Cast of Characters page in the front? Is it helpful to you as a reader?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Nurses Team

I hate to admit it but I think the nurses team pipped us at the post as far as costumes go. However, no one came near to our fierceness. Yarrrrrr!

Pirate Cat

The back of a certain pirate's shirt.


People who actually know what they're doing (well, most of them anyway!).

Pirate Duck

Because every self-respecting pirate needs a duck.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Back Alive

I'm back, sunburnt and sleep-deprived but otherwise alive. There were a few close calls with the dragonboat and the river's retaining walls but our pirate-might prevailed. And we didn't come last! Yippee! Pictures up tomorrow. So what did everyone else get up to this weekend?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pirates and Men

I'm heading off for distant pastures this weekend. Along with a crew of nine other lunatics, I'm going to participate in a regional dragonboating competition. Why are we lunatics? Because of the ten crew, only one, one, has ever dragonboated before. And given that paddling in unison in a very big boat requires a lot more practise and skill, we've got no illusions that we're going to win.

Instead, our only goal is to beat the other hopeless team of lunatics from another prefecture and possibly win the prize for the most outlandish costume. So join me in wishing lots of luck to the Pirates of the Yagawa: Curse of the Green Tea (that being our name, mateys).

While I'm off trying not to drown, why don't you all have a go at this quiz I stole from Dee's blog.

You Have Your PhD in Men

You understand men almost better than anyone.
You accept that guys are very different, and you read signals well.
Work what you know about men, and your relationships will be blissful.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I'm currently working on the galleys of my March book - galleys are the final page proofs an author sees, our last chance to catch any errors and inconsistencies. It's amazing what slips in and by this stage, I've read the book probably over a hundred times and so have several other people. But I actually like doing galleys. When I received them for my very first book, I was over the moon. Why? Because they have a cover page with the words "Author's Copy" on them in big letters. Several books later, those words still send a happy shiver up my spine.

What about you? What's something you never get tired of doing or seeing?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mean Characters

When most authors begin a book, they like the characters they create. I'm no different - I love all of the major characters I've written onto the page...or do I? For Awaken the Senses I had to write Spencer Ashton, a mean, mean man who is a borderline sociopath and an unashamed narcissist. I didn't like Spencer as a person, but boy was he fun to write.

That's a writer's point of view but what about as a reader? Should an author always make sure that a book contains a protagonist that the reader can identify with, someone they'll like? I used to think so but I'm not so sure any longer. For example, I really don't like Scarlett O'Hara, and I know others who don't. And yet, Gone With The Wind is a book most readers can't put down.

I also recently read a very good thriller but the main detective was hardly a character I warmed to at the start - in fact, it took a good chunk of the book for me to like this guy. When I thought about it, there wasn't a single character in that book whom I liked from the get-go. But that didn't stop me from continuing the thriller, because the underlying story was excellent and it needed these characters to make it work.

So it looks like not all books need a likeable protagonist. However, I think the rules are different for romance novels. Because romances are all about two characters fighting through obstacles to find each other, we as readers, need to like them enough to cheer them on. If we don't engage with the character, we're not going to care whether they find true love or not. (In my opinion, Gone With The Wind isn't a romance but part of the wider 'love story' genre). Villains and secondary characters can be unlikeable in a romance, but the two main protagonists must be redeemable.

That leads me to another point - one unlikeable main romantic lead is actually worse than two. Why? With two of them, you can just say they deserve each other. But, for example, if the hero is a great guy and the heroine is a completely unlikeable character, then the romance becomes impossible to believe in. I've often found myself hating a book because I kept asking - what could possibly attract him to her? (Or vice versa of course).

Anyone else, readers and writers, care to weigh in on this topic?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just for Fun

I figure every blog should have a ridiculous survey once in a while, so here's one for this blog: What's the oddest/strangest/weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

In my case, the prize would probably have to go to the possibly cooked, possibly raw sea snail in a shell that I made a blood-pact with another friend to eat at a dinner party last year. All I can say is never again. Ever.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Late Nights

I stayed up past 1am last night reading a book, desperate to finish. I haven't done that for a long time, though once, late nights huddled over a good book were a regular part of life. I think the latest I ever stayed up reading was till 4am. Three hours later, I got up for school. Insane? Perhaps a little bit, but who wants to be responsible all the time, right? And isn't it wonderful that such great books exist?

What about you? What's your latest book-night? Any of you ever pull an all-nighter?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cute, too cute

This website is too adorable. Hours of time wasting fun!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Living a life of champagne and caviar

It's the weekend and while most of you are sleeping in on Sunday morning, I'll be weeding. Yes, weeding. Why? Because communal weeding of the apartment complex is both a mandatory exercise and my chance to bond with the folk who live around me. At least that's what they tell me.

The first time someone explained the whole get-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-on a Sunday-to-pull-grass-concept to me, I laughed hysterically because I thought it was a joke. I laugh no more. So think of me while you're snuggled up in your beds tomorrow and have an extra minute or hour of shuteye on my behalf.

Weird Things Writers Do: Volume 1

So I just happened to be looking around Amazon Japan and I just happened to type in my name into the search box (as you do) and what do you know, Secrets in the Marriage Bed (March 06) is already listed! So of course I then just accidentally happened to go over to and found to my surprise that Secrets isn't listed there yet. Why?! Why?

Moral of story: Writers are neurotic. Even the ones who tell you they aren't.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Today's entry comes courtesy of the word "Procrastination". For the past couple of weeks, I've been procrastinating over something non-writing related. Yesterday, I finally went ahead and got it done. And now I feel so free. So why was I procrastinating in the first place? It served no purpose but to be this annoying little buzzing insect in the back of my mind until I cleared the decks.

And yet I know I'll fall victim to it again, so why don't we all share procrastination tactics today? For my own part, I've been known to clean the apartment from top to bottom and then sideways, when I'm really wanting to put something off. Suddenly, the vacuum and duster become my best friends and that really is a sad, sad thing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's a bright, bright sunshiny day...

It's a stunningly beautiful day today and I just rode my bike into work, the wind in my hair and all that good stuff. This kind of day makes me glad to be alive and living where I am. I swear I'm sitting here with one of those peaceful-content smiles on my face that usually only appear on the faces of old stone statues. So how about you? How's your day going?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Life in Japan: Desperation

I'm writing today's post on a Japanese computer in Japan. This means that everything on the blogger page is automatically in Japanese, which makes for interesting times. I speak tolerable Japanese but my reading is atrocious (mostly because I, um, kind of stopped studying soon as I was able to understand the t.v.).

Is there a point to this post? Actually, yes. I've always thought of myself as a broad-minded person but soon after arriving in Japan a couple of years back, I discovered something about myself - I was a card-carrying member of the book-snob-club. I knew what I liked and that was it. Surrounded by bookstores and libraries, I could indulge my needs as I pleased. It wasn't only a matter of genres but also of authors - with a huge auto-read list, squeezing in a new author wasn't something I particularly worried about (except for my writing buds who sold).

Then I came to Japan. And I moved to the middle of the countryside, far, far, far from the metropolis of Tokyo. There are bookstores in my town. Not a single English book in them. That was when I began my journey of discovery. It took me a while to figure out how to navigate the online delivery sites (cause they're all in Japanese), so for a couple of months, it looked like I'd be in a book-free zone. Nooooo!!!! In desperation, I started going through the box of books left behind by a friend who'd moved back home before I moved to Japan. She had very different tastes from me but beggars can't be choosers. So I started reading. Literary fiction. Fiction from the American South. Booker Prize stuff. Sagas.

Some of it I hated. But to my surprise, some of it I loved.

Two years on, my reading tastes have broadened considerably. I still have my favorite authors and genres, but I no longer turn up my nose at things that don't fall within my past range of experience. Will this last once I return back home or will I be sucked back into the world of the familiar? I don't know. What I do know is that the familiar has now become far wider than it once was.

So my question for you is, how willing are you to try not only new authors in a genre you love, but new genres itself? Have you made any recent discoveries about your reading tastes that you were unaware of before? (fyi I realized last week that no matter how desperate I become, espionage novels just do not do it for me.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I finished the first draft of a futuristic yesterday. And it came in long rather than short, which is always great news. Before I start on edits, I think we should kick back and party. So pull up a chair at Nalini's cyber-bar and order the beverage of your choice. It's on me!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Flawed Heroes

Over on Romancing the Blog, they're talking about anti-heroes. It got me thinking - I love flawed heroes and so do most readers. Why??

I mean, wouldn't it make more sense for the heroic knight in shining armor to be this perfect beacon of light who makes the heroine's life beautiful and completely without stress? Surely no one wants more stress? And yet the heroes we love are men who will undoubtedly raise our heroine's temperature, make her crazy on occasion and have the potential for as much dark as light.

Every single one of the heroes I love falls into this category. Here's a sampling.

from the In Death books by J D Robb - um, he was a criminal mastermind (need I say more?).

Mr. Darcy
from Pride and Prejudice - the man is so stubborn and proud, he drives Lizzie half insane.

from Remembrance by Jude Deveraux - not only is he selfish and vain, he thinks the heroine belongs to him. That's it. He's not even going to try to woo her because as far as he's concerned, she's already his. And yet he's one of my absolute keeper heroes.

from Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon - even his friends think this hero is certifiable (as in should be locked up and the key thrown away).

All of the heroes listed above have deep and sometimes dangerous, flaws. And yet that is the very thing that makes them so powerful for me - their imperfections turn them from characters on the page to something far more real, far more human. I can't imagine a perfect knight, but I can imagine a flawed man who has the courage to rise above his flaws when the circumstances demand.

What about you? Do you love flawed heroes? Why? Who's your favorite?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Epilogues and Endings

Those of you who checked out yesterday's link know that the prize in my website competition is a Down Under edition of Craving Beauty, which comes with a special bonus feature at the end - a letter from the heroine. The letter acts as an epilogue, which the original book didn't have.

Several people who have so far entered the competition have commented on their love for epilogues, a love I fully understand. I adore writing epilogues, especially when there is something ‘unresolved’ in the book that needs to be tied up. If the heroine is about to have a baby, I need to see her and the baby healthy and well after the birth. Or if there’s been a major operation, I want to see the character a ways down the track, doing fine.

If I read a book and it doesn’t have an epilogue, I sometimes create one in my own head. For me, the characters become real people, whose lives continue on even after the pages of the book are closed. The epilogue is a glimpse into that life, a look through the window and I can’t resist peeking in. If you ask me about any of the characters I’ve ever written about, I could probably tell you the names of their children, what career they’re currently pursuing and whether they’ve had a fight lately. Yes, I know it makes me sound slightly nuts but I’m okay with that.

However, I know some people don’t read epilogues. They feel that it’s an extra that dilutes the powerful ending of a book and takes away from the tension. They don’t want to think about these dramatic, passionate characters living an ‘ordinary’ life. For them, the book ends when the climax is reached and the last chapter finishes. Nothing more is necessary.

What side of the line do you fall on? Do you want that glimpse into the future, that peek behind the curtain, or are you happy to leave the characters happy, their future undefined by anything but your imagination?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The day job has taken over my life for the past couple of days and today looks like another full day so apologies for the fly-by-post. Be back tomorrow! Until then, check out the competition I'm running on my home page.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I want to be Angelina

I've just sent off two Desire proposals and am feeling very virtuous. Part of me says, take a break, you deserve it. However, that part is being drowned out by the part whispering I've only got 10k more to go on a futuristic and the first draft is done! Guess which part is winning?

I did manage to catch Tomb Raider on t.v. last night. And after much thought, I've decided that in my next incarnation, I'd like to have Ms Lara Croft's body. Who would you pick?