Tag Archives: Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

SAPAHM Guest: Jax Cassidy

Hey y’all! We’ve got Jax Cassidy carrying the APAHM banner today! 🙂 I hope you’ll read on!

Jax CassidyHi, I’m contemporary author Jax Cassidy and I’m SO excited that Limecello asked me to participate this month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). It’s such an important month because it’s about celebrating Asian culture and heritage. I’m also equally stoked to be able to share with you some things I’ve been researching, on and off, for about a decade now. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Grace Callaway

You guys, I love this post. I’m so so happy that I decided to go ahead and celebrate the Smithsonian Heritage Months again this year, but even more, that I have such wonderful guests participating! There are so many amazing, vibrant women in the romance community. I like to feature them regularly, but there’s just something about the Heritage Months that makes it that much more special to me. Today we have Grace Callaway, as you see, and I hope you’ll read on!

The Duke Who Knew Too MuchHello, Grace Callaway here, and I’m delighted to be a guest on Limecello’s blog. In celebration of APAHM, I’d like to reflect upon my own journey as a writer of steamy historical romances. The relationship of my ethnic identity (Asian Canadian) to my stories might not be readily apparent, yet the more I pondered the connection, the more I realized that my cultural background has a deep, inherent impact on the kind of stories I write and am interested in. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Bella Andre

HI FRIENDS!!! IT’S MAY!!! WHEE!!! Well first of all, I didn’t realize capslock was on but then I left it because it fits. Now, I like May a lot. We’re solidly into spring up here, it’s warmer and beautiful out, summer is just around the corner, and guess what? It’s APAHM! “WTF is APAHM, Lime” do you ask? Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! The “S” is for Smithsonian. At ALBTALBS I’ve taken to celebrating the Smithsonian Heritage Months, and I love doing it. I am also  excited because we’ve got Bella Andre guesting with us to kick off the month. This is what she has to say. 🙂

Confessional Writing

All I Ever Need is YouBefore I began writing romance novels, I was a singer-songwriter who released 4 CDs, toured internationally, and wrote with hit songwriters in Nashville and Los Angeles. Joni Mitchell was my idol, and I know most people would agree that she is one of the best songwriters of all time. Now that my days are completely full writing books, I don’t write songs anymore, but I still listen to music all day long as I write. And the songwriter that I listen to most often is Taylor Swift (although I also often still go back to Joni’s “Midway”, “Amelia” and “The Gallery”). Adam Samberg’s NY city cop character, Jake Peralta, on Brooklyn 99 said it best when he explained why Taylor is his favorite singer: “Her songs makes me feel things.” Continue reading

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Don’t you think I forgot about Teaser Tuesday! Cuz I didn’t! I had asked Courtney Milan to provide an excerpt, but she did me one better! She got one from Sonali Dev – so really here’s Courtney (her continuation – I wanted to separate this out because shew – this excerpt!)

Luckily, I asked Sonali if I could give you a teaser, and she was nice enough to send one along. So here it is:

A Bollywood AffairMili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

There was a knock on the door. “Who is it?”

“Room Service.” Mili’s husky voice punched him square in the gut. His heartbeat sped up. The blood rushing through his veins sped up. Even his breathing sped up like some teenybopper coming face-to-face with her crush. All those damned pushups down the toilet.

He pulled the door open a crack. Whatever droll line he was going to throw at her died on his tongue. She was wearing a turquoise sari. Her hair cascaded around her shoulders, spiral ribbons falling all the way to her exposed waist. Someone had outlined her eyes in smoky kohl. Her irises glittered like gemstones. So what? They always glittered.

She pushed the door and squeezed past him into the room.

“Come on in,” he growled, much like the wild beast raging in his chest.

“You’re in a dressing gown.” She was standing too close to him. The passage leading into the room was narrow. Too narrow.

He could smell her once he got past the blast of perfume. “What did Ridhi spray you with, a hose?” Without meaning to, he leaned in to smell her. Great, she’d turned him into a lecher, that’s what she’d done.

She stepped away. “Oh, good, you remember Ridhi. My best friend. The one whose wedding you drove four hours for.”

“I didn’t drive four hours for Ridhi.” He tried to hold her gaze, but she looked away, that damned flush swept up her cheeks, maroon and pink tinting the deepest caramel, like a rose that needed its own name.

She took a breath, raised those glittering onyxes, and met his gaze. A head-on collision. “I’m sorry, Samir. Can’t we put that behind us and go back to being friends?”


“Okay, so don’t be friends. But get dressed. The wedding ceremony is less than an hour away. We have to get back to Ridhi’s house.”

“I’m not going to the wedding.”

“Okay. But I have to be at the wedding. And you have to take me.” Now her eyes went all pleading. If she joined her palms he was throwing her out.

“How did you get here?”

“I made Ranvir drop me off.”

“Then make him pick you up.” It’s the least Pillsbury Doughboy could do for her.

“Samir, can you get dressed, please?” She pressed her hands together and he cursed.

“I already answered that.”

“Listen, you owe me. Come on.”

“I owe you? For what, for lying to me?”

“I did not lie to you.” She looked around the room and found the magazine lying on the bed. “I protected you. From that witch. It wasn’t easy. She’s scary.”

“Right.” But he was stupid enough to smile. She took full advantage and blasted him with all one-twenty watts of her smile. And he wanted to kiss her sneaky lips so bad, he had to step away and push into the mirrored closet behind him. “You should not have come here, Mili. You don’t just walk into some man’s hotel room like this.”

“You’re not just some man. You’re Samir.” She pushed the cascading mass of curls off her face with both hands and he knew it was going to bounce right back.

“Okay, somewhere in there is a compliment.”

“Of course it’s a compliment. I feel safe with you. You’re my friend. I know you will never hurt me. The list is endless.”

Yeah, an endless pile of crap. He didn’t feel safe with her. He didn’t want to be just her friend. And he knew he was going to hurt her shitless. “So this is my married friend come to get me. Nothing more.”

She nodded and her hair slid back around her face. “Nothing more.”

He dropped his robe.

At least five shades of red rushed up her cheeks. “What are you doing?” It was no more than a squeak, but he was impressed she got the words out.

“I’m changing like you asked me to, why?” He had pulled on boxers earlier, but the rest of him was as bare as the day he was born. He turned away and threw open the closet with both arms, no point having those back muscles if he couldn’t put them to good use when he needed to. He took his time pulling pants out of the closet. Then an even longer time bending over and pulling them on. He’d been a model for almost a decade. She had no idea whom she was messing with.

She made an incoherent sound behind him, something between a choke and a groan.

So good! I can’t wait to read this.

APAHM Feature: Courtney Milan

I’m at the airport – and I temporarily have wifi – so hopefully I’ll be able to fill in posts. Here we go with today’s originally scheduled programming. The badass superstar Courtney Milan. Really she needs no introduction. Although if you guys have any tips on how I might attempt to wow her (or at least not underwhelm her) I’d appreciate them – cuz I’m going to be seeing her! 🙂

So with that er >.> intro – here’s Courtney!
Courtney MilanHi everyone. I’m an author. I happen to be hapa (my mother is Chinese), but I don’t want to talk about me today. Or my books. I want to talk about what I’m reading.

This year, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading. The thing is, I thought I was trying to do that in the past. I really did. I told myself that I was open to reading anything that came my way. I made a conscious effort to try and buy books that I knew were written by an author of color. But I went back through my “read” list for 2013, and my attempt to be open meant that less than 10% of my books were written by authors of color.

I realized that I can’t wait for a book to jump in front of my face. If I want to read diverse books, I’m going to have to actively search out authors of color. So in 2014, I’m reading one author of color for every book I read by a white author.

So, today, in honor of APAHM, I want to talk about some of the awesome books I’ve read that were written by Asian authors so far this year.

* Alisha Rai’s Bedroom Games series, going from Play with Me to Risk and Reward and ending with Bet on Me. What I love about these books is that they take the same couple and see them through different stages of their relationship–from first love to tentative commitment through the happily ever after. But Alisha Rai does this without using emotional manipulation or cliffhanger endings. Every book is satisfying. Each book brings the hero and heroine closer together. There’s a lot of conflict in these books–but I never felt that the couple was “backsliding” into their old ways that you thought they’d fixed up.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo* Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. This is a wonderful historical romance between a Malaysian (but I believe ethnically Chinese) woman and an Indian man. It’s based on Jane Eyre–but a version of Jane Eyre where Jane doesn’t end up with Rochester, and when St. John offers to take her to India, it’s not to colonize and proselytize, it’s because it’s his home. I don’t know how to describe this book but it made me want to jump up and down and push this book into other people’s hands. Read it, read it, read it!

* Suleikha Snyder’s Bollywood and the Beast. Every good Beauty and the Beast tale features two people who are both outsiders in their own way, but react to their exclusion in ways that serve as a foil for each other. This book is a wonderful Beauty and the Beast story. I identified so much with Rocky/Rakhee–her hard work, which was so often dismissed by others, her feeling that she didn’t really fit any place. I just felt so protective of her.

Claiming the Duchess* Did you know that Sherry Thomas has a new novella out? Claiming the Duchess is absolutely free, and it’s delightful. More than that, it’s an epistolary novella filled with her trademark wit. I can’t say much without giving out spoilers, but it was so, so lovely. So good that it made me reread her Fitzhugh Trilogy. Again.

* Amber Lin’s Giving it Up. When romances touch on sexual assault, they very often tend towards the stranger-danger sort of thing–some unknown, or barely known person assaulting the heroine. But statistically most rapes aren’t committed by strangers. I have a lot of thoughts about why romances tend to stranger-danger. I think, in part, it’s that the thought of rapes committed by dear friends make us (well, at least me) feel far more vulnerable. We want to believe that our friends would NEVER hurt us; if they do, it’s a double betrayal. This book has a raw honesty to it. If you are at all triggered by rape/sexual assault, this book WILL trigger you. This book has a difficult heroine, a very dark edge, and it delivers all the feels.

* I’m also super-excited about Sonali Dev’s upcoming A Bollywood Affair, a romance between a woman in an arranged marriage (she was married extremely young and she hasn’t seen her husband in 20 years–since she was four, so I assume the marriage hasn’t been consummated) and her husband’s brother who comes to serve her with divorce papers. Gah. That premise! I want to read it RIGHT NOW. But sadly, this is going to be out in October 2014.

For full disclosure, I should mention that I am friends with some of these authors–but I wouldn’t recommend a bad book to you.

I’m actively looking for more authors to read. Have someone to recommend? Let me know in the comments, and I will look them up.

So what recommendations do you have for Courtney? I’m curious too!

APAHM Feature: Cindy Pon

You guys! It’s May! I’m here, I’m alive, I have internet, and a new guest – Cindy Pon! She’s an ALBTSALBS first timer, so everyone please give her a very warm welcome!

“There are thousands of other women to choose from. You understand me? And this court runs on ambition alone.” — Zhong Ye from Fury of the Phoenix

Much of Fury of the Phoenix takes place in the inner court of the Palace of Fragrant Dreams, where the concubines reside, inspired by the actual concubine quarters of ancient China. When I was revising the novel with my editor, she actually crossed out “thousands” once and wrote “hundreds?” above it. Toward the end of the Chinese dynasties, some emperors did choose to have fewer concubines in their harems, but for much of history, the Son of Heaven did indeed have thousands of women at his beck and call. Not only was a large harem a symbol of power and status, but it was encouraged that the Emperor sleep with ten to twelve different women each day for optimal health and spiritual benefits.

The palace women came from all walks of life, some given by noble families (both Chinese and foreign) for political motivations and to secure royal favors. Some girls were simply plucked from the cities and countryside by scouts for their beauty or their dancing, singing or acrobatic talents. The best looking were kept in the actual harems, while others were sent to training centers to further improve their artistic talents. The rest were assigned to menial tasks around the palace, so that wherever the emperor went and looked, his eyes would fall on young nubile women.

There was a strict hierarchy among the Emperor’s consorts, from the Empress to concubines ranging from the first grade to the eighth and beyond. Each with imperial emblems for their clothing to specify their rank. There were so many concubines, that actually seeing the Emperor, much less sleeping with him, was a slim chance for most of these women. The women fortunate enough to be chosen were checked for concealed weapons, given a silver ring to identify them, then wrapped in silk, and carried to the Emperor over the shoulder of eunuch. If a concubine was lucky enough to become pregnant (an instant rise in status within the harem), she would be given a gold ring to wear.

Given these dynamics, you can imagine the jealousies, intrigue, plotting and struggle to power within the concubine quarters in the Imperial Palace.

“The Emperor had rolled off Mei Gui, and she rose to pour him a cup of wine. Zhong Ye hoped she would be with child after a few more visits. When the concubine returned to the massive bed, the Emperor was already snoring. She stood at his side, her expression unreadable. He wondered what she felt, what she thought. Her sole purpose in life was to please the Emperor, hope that she made herself alluring enough to catch his eye, to be bedded by him, to have strong sons. She and Zhong Ye both had sacrificed themselves in different ways to gain the Son of Heaven’s favor.” — Fury of the Phoenix

Although most eunuchs were purchased from their families as young boys, castrated then drafted to work in the palace, a select few (such as Zhong Ye in my novel) chose to give up their manhood at a later age for a chance to enter the Imperial Palace, with hopes of rising in rank. But as with the concubines, only the most clever, smart, resourceful, charming and conniving manage in a household of thousands. Li Lien-Ying was one such eunuch, who presented himself for castration and work in the palace at sixteen. He then charmed and ingratiated himself with Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, so that by the time he was forty, he was one of the most powerful figures within the court. Chief Eunuch Li went on to sell official posts and was believed to have poisoned the Empress Dowager’s rival on her behalf.

These were just a few tidbits from the fascinating history of what went on in the Imperial Palace of China. I did draw inspiration from the research but couldn’t use everything, as much of it was “stranger than fiction” and would have made my story more sensational than I intended! Still, I truly enjoyed the setting and writing that storyline from Zhong Ye’s point of view. It was certainly an unusual choice, having a teen eunuch who was the villain from the first novel, tell his story. But I thought it was essential for Fury of the Phoenix and made sense. And for me, as the author, the most important thing is being true to your characters and their stories.

Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China by Mary. M. Anderson and Daughter of Heaven by Nigel Cawthorne were used as references in this post.

Cindy PonCindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website.

And guess what? Cindy has very generously offered one lucky commenter a signed paperback copy of Silver Phoenix to a US resident! (So >.> I guess in the comments please just add if you’re stateside or not?) And … confession – the cover will probably look different – HarperCollins changed it. Alas, because isn’t the one shown gorgeous? And pink! 😀

APAHM Feature: Jax Cassidy

First up in May! Whoo! Jax Cassidy! >.> But she abandoned me in May so I have nothing more to say about her. ;X

Jax CassideBrace yourselves… although I’m a city girl on the outside, I’m truthfully a country girl at heart.

Yep. It’s all true. I was raised in a tiny little cozy town called Van Buren in Arkansas. At the time the population was probably 13,000…maybe. Those were the best years of my youth! I grew up learning English from watching daytime soaps with my mom and a variety of children’s programming like The Electric Company and Sesame Street. Mr. Rogers would take off his shoes and change into his slippers and sweater on a daily basis. When I look back, I realize that I was fortunate because I can’t recall having to deal with discrimination and hate. It was a community of very loving, caring people that I was surrounded by and it shaped me into the person I am today.

Seoulful KissThis is embarrassing, but also a blessing. Growing up with my friends, I’d never known that I was any different than the kids I hung out with. I was just…well, me. There were no identity issues I can recall except for the usual childhood angst and puberty. In fact, for most of that time, I’d assumed I was white. It’s the truth. Maybe I was a little sheltered or naïve but I lived a normal, carefree, tomboy life of playing outdoors and first puppy love crushes. Even the town I lived in was magical. The downtown could be a set from every romantic comedy that featured small towns. Sweet Home Alabama, Beautiful Girls, or Hope Floats could’ve been filmed there. I swear, the townspeople reminded me of something out of Hart of Dixie. We always had an interesting cast of real life characters.

Brush with DesireIt wasn’t until the end of my middle school years that I discovered that I was different. I’d campaigned for the high school student council and during our election week I was faced with a harsh reality. Some cruel kids had painted through my signs with the words “Gook” and “Chink”. I figured it out real quick how it felt to be despised by my ethnicity. My true friends helped me remove the signs and even offered their support but that was the turning point in my life. I had to start seeing the reality of it all. There were people out there whose ignorance became their crutch and it was out of fear, their environment, and lack of knowledge that made them who they are.

Fast forward many, many years later. I embraced my love for being American as I do for my Asian heritage even more. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been given and I feel like it’s a blessing to have the perfect balance of Eastern and Western cultures to turn to. I don’t feel any differently than when I was growing up. I’m, well…still me.

Shibuya MomentAs an Asian author it is important for me to continue writing ethnic characters. I have a responsibility to show that we’re no different in the way we think or act when it comes to love. It’s a universal language and readers will eventually forget what race the characters are as long as they’re immersed in the storytelling. Most importantly, I also have a responsibility to my readers, Asian women who look up to me. I’ve been blessed to have met readers who appreciate what I’m doing and have told me how wonderful it is to see Asian heroes and heroines. This is exactly what I’d hoped for. That’s why I want to continue to penning romances that these women can relate. It’s unfortunate I didn’t have books featuring strong Asian women to read, but now I am able to provide to readers this very thing that was missing from my life.

However, Jax loves all of you – so she said she can give away a copy of Shibuya Moment, Seoulful Kiss, Brush with Desire…or something from her back list.