My Fair Concubine – June 2012

Unofficial blurb:

During the Tang Dynasty, the imperial court used a practice called heqin, or peace marriage, to form alliances with their barbarian neighbors. The alliance brides were officially recognized as Tang princesses, however often it was the Emperor’s niece, palace concubines, or daughters of high-ranking officials who were sent to the fronteir instead of a true princess with royal blood.

Chang Fei Long has been called back home upon the death of his father to learn that the family is swimming in debt. Before his death, his father arranged for Fei Long’s sister to become an alliance bride to regain favor with the imperial court. When Pearl begs for mercy, he can’t bring himself to force her into marriage and exile to a barbarian land. As a result, he has to come up with another false princess to go in her place.

Yan Ling is a servant at the tea house where Fei Long goes to brood about his troubles. When she mistakes his musings as a proposition for sex, she dumps a pot of tea on him and gets thrown out into the streets. Now homeless and destitute, Yan Ling begrudgingly accepts Fei Long’s offer to train her as a replacement princess.

This lighter look into Tang Dynasty culture takes place in the capital city of Changan, going from courtyard mansions to the infamous entertainment district to the seedier parts of the city. In an homage to the classic story of My Fair Lady, Fei Long and Yan Ling are joined by a clever maid and a flamboyant actor as they work to fool imperial rivals and navigate the complicated landscape of their growing attraction.

News from the Bedside

Rather than news from the Desk of Jeannie Lin.

As my Recent Update states, I’ve been on “hiatus” — more specifically bedrest as I incubate my little twins. I sincerely don’t want the blog to turn into a personal journal of my everyday ramblings or a baby blog, which is why I chose instead to remain a bit quiet rather than feel the need to chime in via blog, Twitter or Facebook. My newsletter has also been quiet since October. Typing is rather hard while laying down, but I finally found a comfortable position where I can use my computer now that I’m in the hospital, so I thought it was time for a little update post.

Hospitalization always sounds scary to me, so I didn’t want to alarm anyone. My little zygotes are doing well at 28 weeks and I’m getting good care as I try to incubate them a little longer. First pregnancies are scary things under normal circumstances and mine has been a bit of a roller coaster.

So let’s get on with a few Jeannie Lin authorial things…


Thank You

Thank you so much for all the little notes and messages from readers either about the books or wishing me well. I really do read each one, but have been a little slower in responding due to bedrest and hospital visits. Each note gives me a much needed boost and I promise to eventually reply to everyone.

Also thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing or mentioning The Dragon and the Pearl and The Lady’s Scandalous Night. I really had to cut all promotion efforts short for this book and was a bit sad that I was only able to do one booksigning and a few blogs.


From the writing front:

My doctor was concerned because one of the biggest problems with bedrest is boredom and feeling unproductive. Everyone seemed a bit worried about my mental state having to go on such long-term bedrest. I revealed that though I had to go on leave for my day job, I did have a couple books on contract that I needed to finish. My doc was thrilled to hear that. She’s a fan of medical thrillers (surprise!), a big reader and had always been curious about what I was reading whenever I came to the office.

And it’s true…I do have a couple of titles contracts, novels and short stories, that I’ve been working on from bed. I wasn’t worried about boredom. I’ve always liked summer breaks as a kid. I was always able to find things to do — write in my journal, make up games, draw, and of course, write stories.

It is rough though. My brain hasn’t been as active without other tasks to keep me moving. I don’t want to blame “baby brain” either, but I do think about the little zygotes a lot. I can spend hours with my hand to my baby belly just feeling them squirm. I tell them to stay with me a little longer and try to become dragons (The Year of the Dragon starts Jan. 23, 2012).

Mostly, I try to brainstorm. My ideas don’t come flying at me as they do with many other authors (jealous!). I need to spend a lot of time developing them. I replay what I now call “the movie versions” in my head and do a bunch of what ifs and director’s cuts. A LOT gets thrown out, because I can see the storyline isn’t compelling or viable. I incubated my third novel for a good nine months before I really sat down to outline and write it in three months.

Tee hee…so try as I might, it takes nine months to make a baby.

What I’ve found is that now there are certain expectations about what to write next to “build readership”. I don’t mind. My editor and publisher have been lovely about giving me freedom in my stories, but there are still schedules and expectations for what comes next and it’s not always the most compelling story in my head that they want next.

I find myself course correcting a lot, which is not something I used to do. I’d start one project only to find I needed to redirect to another one. My latest dilemma was trying to write a short story linked to my next release, My Fair Concubine. I discarded so many scenarios trying to find a linked tale that would fit in a short story format. Because I started out as a short story writer, I take a lot of pride in my Undones and want them to be complete works of some merit. In this regard, sometimes I angst over them as much as I would a novel…maybe more.

But I’m putting words down now. I’m writing like I used to write on those long summer breaks in my notebook. Scene by scene. Raw. Just to keep writing.


Publishing news!

I have the title for my next novel release which is MY FAIR CONCUBINE. I believe it’s slated for some time next summer–June or July. By then, the US and UK releases should be synchronized. I’ll keep everyone posted. I’ve been very lucky to be able to retain all my working novel titles: Butterfly Swords, The Dragon and the Pearl, and now My Fair Concubine.

As the title suggests, it’s a nod to My Fair Lady in Tang Dynasty China. It’s lighter in tone and a departure from the usual political intrigue and angst of my first two books, but I hope readers will enjoy.

The title for my next Undone short release is CAPTURING A SILKEN THIEF. This story is what I consider the most “Tang Dynasty” of all my stories, depicting a classic match-up between an imperial scholar and a song girl. (Yes, in the Tang Dynasty, the heroes were scholars. If you ever wonder about how deeply the emphasis on education goes in Asian culture, this is a big clue)  I drew a lot from my time as a student at UCLA when writing the story (funny where inspiration comes from), at the same time it’s a glimpse into the culture of the entertainment district of Changan, at least as I imagined it. No official release date yet, but I’m really looking forward to sharing this one.


Awesome Bedrest Reads

So what have I spent most of my time doing?

Reading. Reading and reading and reading.

I bought an iPad when I knew I was going on long-term bedrest and it’s been wonderful. All of my Kindle books transferred over and I’ve been able to read a book a day for nearly a month, making a huge dent in my TBR pile. I’m a little sad because there are still a bunch of paper books stashed downstairs in my basement that I want to read too, but dear hubby has been so busy attending to me as well as getting ready for the babies all by himself that I didn’t want to bug him — “Honey, down in my office, there’s a pile of books on the coffee table. Can you rummage through them and bring me The Shadow and the Star?”

He’s already complained about how many books I have lying around as he needs to convert my office into a guest bedroom.

Blame the hormones or the freedom (due to bedrest) to immerse myself in books without any distractions, but I’ve been blown away by so many great stories. I’m a bad objective reviewer of books, because I really give over a lot of trust to the author when I read. I want to be swept away. I want to believe.

So here’s my hit list of awesome bedrest reads:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

I’ve had this on my TBR forever. Everyone was raving about it and then I met Susanna at RT in Los Angeles. We became convention buddies as we kept running into each other. I was so impressed by the dual storylines, past and present, and how they were woven together in this book. Each one enhanced the other and I just devoured the pages. I felt this book was as good, if not better, than The Time Traveller’s Wife. The historical detail was incredible and the story craft was the sort that filled me with writer envy. This book and the ending resonated with me a long time after I finished it.


Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

One of the books I was hovering over to buy on release day. Great adventurous follow-up to The Iron Duke which also blew me away. This is probably the best steampunk worldbuilding I’ve encountered, though I’m a relatively new fan of the genre. I just love traveling in the world that Meljean has created and how she mixes in historical tidbits (they’re chasing after Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches in this one), steampunk technology, and settings all over the globe. So much fun. I would love to see movies made of these books!


Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

I hate it when I read a review of one of my books that starts with “I had misgivings about reading this…” It always makes me sick to my stomach and then even if they ended up liking it “more than they thought they would”, it’s like having someone meet me and say, “Wow, you’re a lot nicer than I thought you’d be.”

So…um…I had some reservations about the hero Mark through the initial chapters. I love Courtney’s writing and also the psychological nature of her conflicts. In Unveiled, I wasn’t swept away because the hero was so superior to the heroine. Kind of smugly so. Power and emotional differentials are important to me when reading romance, and though Courtney’s heroines are also super-strong, her heroes as of late can be too noble, too self-assured, too perfect. It’s kind of the opposite vibe I get from Sherry Thomas whose characters are so broken and fascinating.

Ha, that’s another problem when I’ve read an author’s entire backlist. Baggage from other books. In any case, I was swept away by the courtship in Unclaimed. I loved how Mark was seeking true love and his idea of it was so very different from what everyone else assumed about him. I cried and cried when his heart was broken. (Oh, also I usually love Courtney’s books for the heroines, but Unveiled and Unclaimed definitely were more hero-centric.)

I said I was a bad objective reviewer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t analyze my reading experience to death.

The Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

I’ve been following this series from the first book, Lily of the Nile, and this follow-up took some bold moves. The magical realism or historical fantasy or whatever you call it in this series just pulls me in. I’ve said it before, but I do feel like I’m reading one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s epic historical fantasies whenever I read a Stephanie Dray book. These books take me back to that time in my life when I hung around the library and books spoke so loudly to me. (Ah, the teenage years) Dray’s Cleopatra Selene is epic, unconventional, larger than life, yet very human in depiction. It’s the type of book that makes me want to Google for hours afterwards, reading up on Augustus Caesar and Selene and the lives of everyone mentioned in the book. I can’t wait for the third book and then I want to sit down and re-read the entire series.

Similar to how I felt with Susanna Kearsley’s book, Song of the Nile makes me believe, as fantastic as it seems, that this was how it happened.

Passing Under Heaven by Justin Hill

I came across this book while researching the life of Yu Xuanji: courtesan, poetess, and a bit of a rebel of the Tang Dynasty. I had come across one of her poems where she laments that her silken robes (being a woman) obscure the lines of her poetry (keeps her from being recognized for her talent). There’s another poem where she mentions being jealous of the list of imperial scholars. Something about her voice, coming from over a thousand years in the past, has always spoken to me.

Passing Under Heaven is a retelling of her whirlwind, restless, and ultimately tragic life. I don’t like Chinese tragedy for the sake of melodrama, but this book was more than just a lament about the trials of being a woman in imperial China. Yu Xuanji’s life provides a rare glimpse into so many aspects of Tang Dynasty culture since she was a concubine, a  Taoist nun, and a courtesan. Plus I loved seeing the depiction of Tang Dynasty culture, the North Hamlet, the justice system, the imperial exam system…I have so few reference works to go to that this was just a special, special find for me.  I would love to have a conversation with the author about Tang culture.

My doc says she likes to check out what her patients read because it says something about them. I guess you can see my hot buttons: stories about remarkable woman, throughout time, across cultures–real or imagined.