Sunday, August 28, 2016

My upcoming blog tour schedule!

Thank you to Quanie Miller for setting up my blog tour for Trixi Pudong and the Greater World!

I'll be writing guest posts on why I wrote the book, what I learned from it, and lots of other juicy subjects that I hope will get you thinking, too. Thank you, thank you to my wonderful blog hosts for generously posting my writing. I will update these links as my guest posts go live.

Drop me a note, give me a call, catch me on my flights across the country!
(Actually... "flights" between the refrigerator and my laptop...)

And if you enjoy what you read, THANK YOU for sharing my posts. It benefits me and my blog hosts. We are all working writers, many of us indie authors, who appreciate the word of mouth.

My Virtual Itinerary

Monday, August 15: "Documenting My Family's Old Shanghai," hosted by Lidy Wilks at Paving My Author's Road.

Wednesday, August 17: "Tips for Writing a Page-Turner," hosted by Quanie MIller at Quanie Talks Writing.

Thursday, August 18: "The Anatomy of Productive Inspiration," hosted by Diedre Knight at Pensive Pens Post.

Saturday, August 20: "Why the Difference? The Puzzle of China and the Greater World," hosted by Stephanie Faris at Stephie 5741.

Monday, August 22: Author feature hosted by Michele Tracy Berger at Michele Berger/Creative Tickle.

Wednesday, September 7: "What? Why? How?" hosted by Linda Sienkiewicz at Linda K Sienkiewicz.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Blog Tour #5: Magical Realism, a Shanghai Family Saga and Finding One's Readers

"I'm so happy to participate in the blog tour of new author, Audrey Mei. I'm grateful to Quanie Miller, a wonderful writer and blogger who helped bring us together. Given Audrey's amazingly diverse creative practices that run the gamut of music, writing, health and science, I knew she would be a great person to interview. In our correspondence, we've discovered that we have many overlapping interests.

-Tell us about your recent book, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World. Why did you want to write this book? 

Continue reading at Michele T. Berger's blog.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Blog Tour #4: The History of China and the World

A giraffe brought from Somalia in the twelfth year of Yongle (1414)/(wikimedia)

Rich and poor.
Giant and small.
Upstairs the foreigners, downstairs the Chinese.
The foreigners shine like gold and diamonds.
And we Chinese are dull like bamboo and clay.
Why the difference?

In my book, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World, Edwin Kuo is an 8-year-old boy in Shanghai, 1938, a city colonized by virtually every country in the West: England, France, the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, and Holland, for starters. Edwin asks himself the question "Why the difference?" between the poverty-stricken Chinese and the wealthy foreigners from the world outside China's borders. He continues to search for the answer throughout the book as he sails through World War II with the British Merchant Navy, and later works as a ship's captain in Communist China.

I don't know at what point in time I decided to integrate the question of "Why the difference?" into my book. I think it began with the idea of making Edwin a very precocious little boy, despite having miserable grades at school. At my release event in Berlin on August 6, I was unexpectedly grateful that I had added this dimension into my book because there were academics and journalists in my audience who were particularly intrigued by this question. They spoke to me about it after my reading, and it was pleasant surprised for me as a first-time author.

And of course, I'm just fascinated in subjects like: Why did the West rise to power starting in the 19th century, even though humanity's greatest inventions had come out of Asia and the Middle East until then?

Specifically, how did China, a country that led the world's civilizations for thousands of years, become so poor?

Continue reading at Stephanie Faris' blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Blog Tour #3: The Anatomy of Productive Inspiration

The typewriter with the red ink from the movie The Lives of Others.

Thank you Diedre at Pensive Pens Post for hosting me on my blog tour! 

This week, I've posted about why I wrote my novel Trixi Pudong and the Greater World on Lidy Wilks' blog, and on Quanie Miller's blog about the secret to writing a page-turner that moves forward. Today I'm writing about Inspiration, how I use Inspiration as a concrete tool in my writing.

I'm one of those authors that writes backward -- to create something that moves forward. My inspiration comes from knowing where my book ends. And how the chapter ends, and how the paragraph ends.

But how do I find a good point of inspiration to work towards? Well, you know that feeling when you see a movie or read a book and that profound moment comes where you think, "This is great"? 

Like the scene at the end of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation where...

Continue reading my guest post at Diedre Knight's blog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My Book Blog Tour #2: Tips for Writing a Page-Turner

"I'm crying, your book is so great."

It was one day since I'd sent my manuscript out to a round of beta-readers. I was nervous. Then I started getting real-time updates from people as they read my book.

"I have SO much to do this weekend, but I can't stop reading your book!"

And I realized, I had written a page-turner. A 120,000-word, historical, literary fiction page-turner! Talk about an oxymoron.

It hadn't even been my goal to write a big, fat, Chinese family saga that readers would eat up in two days, although I was very (cautiously) flattered when feedback started rolling in sooner than expected. My goal was just to write really well, to cleanse my manuscript of the most pernicious mistakes that writers make. However, in retrospect, I learned from writing Trixi Pudong and the Greater World that to create a true page-turner, you need two things.

Continue reading on Quanie Miller's Blog...

Monday, August 15, 2016

My Book Blog Tour: Documenting My Family's Old Shanghai

Many thanks to Lidy Wilks for hosting my blog tour for Trixi Pudong and the Greater World. I've written about why I wrote this book. Here's an introduction... Enjoy!

I was born in Oakland and grew up like many of the Asian Americans who now populate Northern California. My parents worked and made sure my sister and I each had our own bedrooms, our own cars, and that we'd graduate from college with multiple degrees, debt-free. I was privileged.

My father came from Shanghai but in my suburban childhood, Dad's origins didn't play a big role. Imagine that: Dad was born in the 1930s in the fabled Paris of the Orient, one of the most decadent cities to have ever existed. A storied city of dreams, thousands of times more debaucherous than Las Vegas. And I didn't know anything about it. 

Continue reading at Lidy Wilks's blog!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Warm and fuzzy book launch success! And when you don't know what you're going to read...

Me. Nervous as all heck.
Before you proceed, turn on this video from Youtube to have a soundtrack in the background while you read this post:

And imagine the scent of sandalwood incense and bitter Chinese baijiu wine. 

And the sounds of people chatting, sharing ideas, laughing, getting caught up with long-lost contacts. 

Now you're starting to get the feeling of my book launch event from last night, aka My Little Shanghai Project. Just starting.

Having just moved into Berlin with a toddling 2-year-old and with my life packed in banker's boxes, organizing this event was stressful for my perfectionist self. Honestly -- as ALL my guests know by now -- I still didn't know which excerpts I was going to read aloud from my book, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World, even as people were arriving. This is very rare for me. All my writer life, I have not only prepared my reading list weeks before my events, but I have also rehearsed my readings in front of my writing partners. I'm a planning freak.

So yesterday, I stayed nervous, procrastinated, and mingled with my own friends until one of my closest author buddies (who'd just flown in from LA) arrived, one hour late. She had just stepped foot in the Rote Beete Cafe and I was already grabbing her arm whispering to her, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO READ YET."

And you know what? She was calm. She smiled. Her words rescued me. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The week before launch!

I'm a fun person. Really. 

Ok, I admit I'm not so much fun since I got married and pooted out a baby who just turned 2 years old in July. But really... I used to be the Fun Meister that everyone wanted to know. I sharpened my teeth during my years living in Berlin in 2006-2010. It was harsh. It was a survival marathon. I have an entire bank of stories yet to tell from that era.

So it's been a while since I threw a P-A-R-T-Y, but girl's gotta still have it!

On Saturday (aka "tomorrow"), I'm going to try convert the Rote Beete Bar in Berlin-Schöneberg into Old Shanghai for the book launch event for Trixi Pudong and the Greater World (trailer below).

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Maximizing a book trailer's potential

wikimedia commons
Book trailers are an awkward genre. Somewhere between movie trailer and short film, animation and PowerPoint presentation, spoken word performance and late-night informercial.

And very, very often, just plain bad. Sorry.

But book trailers are a new concept, and the quality of a nascent art form is always iffy. With book trailers, authors of extremely varying skills and background have to either cobble together their own movie or spend unknown thousands hiring someone to make it for them, of further unknown quality.

And who watches book trailers anyway?

Well, judging from my research checking Youtube View stats for hundreds of trailers... 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Soul Pain of Receiving Feedback

"I would rather [FILL IN THE BLANK] than hear honest feedback about my writing."

Every region in the world has its natural disasters: tornados, floods, malaria, earthquakes. Up here in the Gritlands where artists are hard at work, we've been spared all of those. Perfect weather all year on stable ground. Great, right? Not so fast. Because what we have instead is potentially much worse: honest feedback.

Let's be honest about honest feedback: It hurts.

And oh, how you deal with it. Do these voices sound familiar?

But I want that chapter to be unclear.
You're not my target reader anyway. You just don't get it.
A vague sense of place and time is the effect I want.
I don't want to write like mainstream authors! They all suck.
Your suggestions take away all the style of my writing.
If you were a real friend, you'd be supportive of my writing.
Your comments made zero sense to me. None. At all.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Comp Titles for a #DiverseBook

"Who is your target audience?"

That's another question that I was too lazy to answer. Until this week.

Because now I'm getting ready for book launch [tightening my shoelaces and carb-loading] and with a 2-year-old kid to raise, I have to be wise with my time in approaching people to read an advanced copy of Trixi Pudong and the Greater World. It is fascinating how it stands out to me now who will read my book. And who won't.

I've been to writer's conferences and I've seen the kind of people who won't give my book the time of day, not in a million years. Here they are:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Physical Writing: Getting Into Character

Physical theater? No, I'm talking about physical writing.

One of the most abstract, difficult elements of good writing is cleaning up the narrative's point of view (POV). That was a concept that I had a hard time getting my mind wrapped around. Now that I get it, I spot this weakness in other books that I read too.

What does it actually mean?

Take this example:

The stray cat walked carefully around the corner of the church which was commissioned by King Henry in the 11th century. In the front of the church, the cat encountered a cheerful goat which was bleating with glee. The cat, unfamiliar with such a large creature, rounded its back and hissed. Upon hearing the car's threatening call, the goat became suspicious and looked silently at the cat.

Ok. Besides that I've dived into an impossible scenario with a cat and a goat, here are the problems with the paragraph's POV:

Friday, July 1, 2016

On being a reluctant citizen of the Gritlands

"What does it mean to be an artist?"

If there was ever a prelude to a pretentious conversation, that's it. I despise that tattered cliche of a question, "What does it mean to be an artist?" I never ever thought I'd opine about it myself. Yet here I am.

I learned one winter evening what it means to be an artist. But not in the sense of the "artist" wearing a black turtleneck and beret, scribbling in a Moleskin notebook while sipping a cappuccino in Soho. I mean "artist" as a completely normal person in jeans and a grey sweater, having cheap Thai dinner one night with a dear close friend who asked me, "How have you been?"

I answered, "Depressed."

"Tell me about it, dear," she said.

And then I discovered what it means to be an artist.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Between hard work and surrender

Sketch of Tita Pasang flying from the book trailer to
Trixi Pudong and the Greater World.

I have a personal philosophy about work. I believe in grit, defined in Webster's as "firmness of mind and spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger." When you're an artist, the hardship or danger is the lack of motivation or inspiration. Or the loss of your will to go on in the face of harsh criticism.

I use grit to overcome these feelings. But what exactly does grit feel like? Let me share my experience with you. It might be different from what you feel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On doing everything myself

Don't try this at home. 

I strongly recommend that you hire professionals for aspects of your book project that you're not trained to do. Like cover design, illustrations, and video trailer. There are people better qualified than yourself who deserve to be paid for a job well done.

But wait... Didn't I just do everything myself?