Monday, March 31, 2014

Blossoms and Bayonets Signing in Hampton, Iowa

Cornerstone Cottage owner Keri Holmes arranged for me to do a book tour in her neck of the woods--Hampton, Iowa. Thanks to a great many sponsors (the Hampton Public Library, Franklin County Arts CouncilFranklin, Friends of Beeds Lake, Franklin County Historical Society, Cornerstone Cottage ,El Paisita Family Mexican Restaurant and Godfather's Pizza) next Monday morning at 10am, I'll be talking at the Hampton-Dumont Highschool. In the afternoon from 4:30-6:30, I'll be talking and signing books at Godfather's Pizza. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Is writing worth the effort?

This afternoon I was at the Spring Boutique signing books. It was a record-breaking event. In addition, readers have been buying so steadily on Amazon that Blossoms and Bayonets is #61 in historical fiction. Despite these happy events, an author friend pointed out that a day of great sales (unless it's in the thousands) doesn't make up for the amount of effort.
"How many hours did it take you to write your book?" He asked. "To refine it over and over?"
I can't count that high.
The thought gave me a long depressing pause.
"Some days are long," another friend pointed out. "But this is what we signed up for."
Put that way, I'm inspired all over again.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Author Appearance/Spring Crafts

Next Saturday, I'll be with author Bob Davis signing books at the Saratoga Spring Boutique. 
Along with some fun books, there will be lots of arts and crafts developed by local artisans. 
Come by and check it out. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recap of Blossoms and Bayonets Book Club Gathering

The following is from Melissa Maglio's Evening Book Club Blog :

" was fascinating to be able to read a novel and then have access to both the author and one of the characters in the book.  For those who read this story but were not able to join us last night, we learned a lot about storytelling and the power an author has to share someones life.  Hi-Dong Chai was Baby He-Dong in the novel, one of three voices we hear.  Many of the events in the story did happen and some did not.  He-Seung may not have repeatedly visited the prison and fed a Korean prison guard in the hopes of saving his father, but his determination and belief that his father would eventually be returned to his family was certainly not fictionalized.  

The historical information, and the vision of Korean life during WWII that we receive from reading and discussing this novel is important.  It is a good example of why studying history is so important.  When we are able to put ourselves into the shoes of a character in a book that is a real person in this life we can make better decisions.  We can become better people.  We may even find ourselves standing up for injustices that we may have previously not cared about. Being human is about making connections with other humans.  It is about having empathy and understanding of someone next to us who may have had a life much different than ours, much more traumatic then ours.  This story reminds us to forgive but not forget in order to heal the past.  Thank you Jana and Hi-Dong for sharing this amazing story."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blossoms and Bayonets a Library Book Club Kit

Last night, Los Gatos Public Library invited co-author Hi-Dong Chai and me to join their discussion of Blossoms and Bayonets. It was a magical time, with members asking question after question of Hi-Dong. Was your father really a minister? Did you really have a dog? Did your brother really join the war to save your dad?
At the end of the evening, Lloyd Russell-- member and BookSage writer--suggested Blossoms and Bayonets represented a new genre--historical fiction that was basically all true. We got a chuckle out of that.
Librarian Melissa Maglio mentioned she has 10 copies available for book clubs. So, if you're in the Los Gatos area, get your club to read it. (If you send me a message, we will try to attend your gathering as well.) If you're not in the area, please ask your library to create a book kit.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Writing characters beyond the stereotype

An amazing auditorium full of students showed up at Evergreen Valley College yesterday. They listened enthusiastically... and were eager to ask questions. Each student would first state his/her name, personally welcome me to the college, then ask a question. Some students even stood up to do all this. In an age of casual head nods and tweets, this ritual was impressive. I loved all their questions, and want to share some.
Do your children help your writing? Does your writing help your ability to parent? (I loved this question as it indicated writing as a process...rather than just a one-shot activity. My children definitely inform my writing. And I think that writing helps me navigate the different phases of being a parent.)
Do you consider yourself a feminist? (Yes)
Is it important to read? (Yes, and preferably beyond a text message, facebook or blog post.)
How does someone start writing? (Just start...and join a writers group. In California the best one I know of is the California Writers Club.)
What do you want readers to get from your books? (Hopefully a better understanding of the world...and of themselves.)
How can we write characters which are not stereotypical caricatures?
(It's a matter of digging. As my children are quick to point out, stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. The trick is not to avoid mentioning that the old man drives down highway with his left blinker on or that the helicopter mom hovers at the edge of the soccer field with a juice box or the ghetto child walks down the street with a baseball hat on backwards and his pants sagging. The trick however is to dig deeper than the outer appearance. Who is that old man? Is he suffering dementia and his daughters have asked him many times not to drive? Is he in a rush to get to the hospital to meet his first grandson and thus not really paying attention to his driving? Who is this woman? Who is this kid? Dig deep into their personalities to make them not just stereotypes, but human beings who happen to display some stereotypical qualities.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Evergreen Valley College Authors' Guild Speaker

I'll be discussing Blossoms and Bayonets next Wednesday at Evergreen Valley College (3095 Yerba Buena Rd, San Jose). It's open/free to the public. Please come!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Be an Active--not reactive--Writer

A dear friend of mine is having a difficult time at work. Every time she tries to make improvements, a co-worker sends a nasty e-mail or accuses her of trying to grab power. My friend ends up wasting time sparring with the co-worker instead of moving forward with her own ideas. Recently, a mentor suggested, "Focus on the future. On who you see yourself becoming. On where you want to be. The rest is noise."
That message resonated with me. It's easy to become reactive--to the e-mails, the phone calls, even the full dishwasher. It's easy to respond to something concrete with a predictable outcome rather than to stumble around blindly in the dark hoping to find a path.
Yet the path is there.
We just have  to have the courage to stumble.

What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010

"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man

A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack

My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation

My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child

Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You