Nov 12, 2008

Off The Menu TLC Book Tour & Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host Off the Menu by Christine Son on Savvy Verse & Wit. You're in for a treat today because not only will I share my review of the book with you, but Christine Son will also be offering her advice about writing and publishing. In addition, one of my lucky readers will have a chance to win a copy of Off the Menu, stay tuned for details. . .

In Houston, Texas, three friends with very different lives, backgrounds, and careers graduate high school as co-valedictorians; their friendship lasts beyond high school and through college, but how well do they really know one another after all of these years? Does Hercules Huang know Whitney Lee's secret desire? Does Audrey Henley know the familial struggles Whitney and Hercules deal with daily from their immigrant parents who are steeped in tradition and their homeland culture? Likewise, do Hercules and Whitney understand what it is like to be adopted by a family of a different race like Audrey does?

These three characters, despite their differences, are more similar than they realize, and as the story unfolds, these characters evolve in the ways they could never have anticipated, but only once they have realized their best assets are held in their long-lasting friendship. Hercules is a master chef who owns her own restaurants, but her relationship with her father is strained at best, while Whitney is a third year attorney at a major law firm that only has one minority on staff--her. Audrey is an adopted Asian child from a wealthy family who teaches first-grade students at a local academy for intelligent students, but she doesn't consider herself as a minority.

All three of these characters are under pressure from themselves, their families, and society to exceed everyone's expectations. But in the midst of trying to achieve these goals and objectives, Hercules, Whitney, and Audrey discover they want something more, something different, something that is their own. Hercules' restaurant chain is on the cusp of expansion, she's writing articles for the National Spectator, and she's finalizing a deal with a cookware manufacturer, but there is something missing in her life. Whitney is a top attorney in her third year with a firm that can only be described as an old boys' network, but she longs for something off the beaten path. Audrey is a school teacher, but her dream lies in the Ivory Tower of academia.

Despite the longevity of their friendship, these characters never really open up to one another until they take their first girls only trip to Austin, Texas. The ability of these characters to keep their frustrations and dreams trapped inside is something readers can relate to, particularly if the readers perceive themselves as overachievers like Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules.

This novel touches upon the struggles many immigrants must feel when adjusting to a new home, but it also examines the transitions felt by all humanity when we move from our small high school community to college and to the workforce. Hercules is a strong and brash entrepreneur, but at the same time she is vulnerable. Whitney is strong, but flexible when the need arises, and Audrey is a bit naive, but strong in her convictions. When Jimmy Fujimoto blazes onto the scene in this novel, he nearly steals the show. His presence stands this friendship on its head and has all of these women calling into question some of their deepest convictions and beliefs.

Without further babbling about how great this book is (now my favorite friendship book), here's Christine Son and her guest post for today.


"Yes, It Can Happen" by Christine Son

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hits bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a lot of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at

Please also check out her blog. Here's an interview with her as well, in case you want to get to know her better.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of Christine's tour and to thank Christine for not only being a wonderful author, but also a dream to work with. I had a great time, and I hope you did as well.

Without further ado, here's the contest:

(Remember I must have a way to contact you, so leave an email address or a blog location; if your Blogger profile is not working, I will not be able to contact you without an email)

1. What is your biggest fear (whether it is finding your place in the world or a fear of water or dying)? Leave the answer in the comments for one entry.

2. For a second entry, visit Christine's blog and leave a comment here with something that interested you on her blog or a link to an interesting post you found.

3. For a third entry, visit the interview or FAQ on Christine's Web site and come back here and leave me a comment about what you learned.

4. Spread the word on your blog about the contest in a sidebar or a post, and receive a fourth entry.

Deadline is November 18 at Midnight EST.

Other stops on the TLC Tour:

Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)

Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)

Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)

Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)

Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians

Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages

Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, November 17th: Planet Books

Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric


Anonymous said...


first .. answers to your questions -
1) my greatest fear is to -
a) die i guess
b) think of a life alone
c) die in a bomb blast etc - unnatural death etc
d) not be able to WORK!

2) I did read ehr post

3) Nothing she is really cute and down-to-earth and instantly likeable persona! Don't know- she makes me feel it is really not that hard to be nice and cute and FAMOUS :)

Enter me !

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a great book. I lived in France for a couple years so I know about the struggle to fit in. My greatest fear is heights - they petrify me.

Anna said...

Great review and guest post! How wonderful that she can now talk about it with a sense of humor.

No need to enter me, as I'm part of the tour, too, but I will put the giveaway in my sidebar!

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Aren't you just a sweety posting the giveaway in your sidebar when you are part of the tour. I knew there was a reason we are friends. :) I'm glad you liked the guest post and review!

Anna said...

:) You know I love you!

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

Sigh, I'm SUCH a sucker for contests, darn you Serena (smiling of course). My biggest fear? Being afraid. I refuse to do it. Clouds your reasoning. And 90% (true fact) of the things we WORRY about NEVER happen. Saves energy for dealing with difficulties when they DO materialize.

That's one entry.

BTW, LOVED Son's story about the fainting. WOW - and how it all turned out so great for her. See? All the worry, the fear, and what is really happening? Just wait and see, lotsa times, God has a better plan than you ever imagined.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, Serena. I'm just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted over at Win a Book for you.

Anonymous said...

Back again-

"Wonderful and FITTING (lol) analogy, Christine - loved your post."

Anonymous said...

Jeez, Serena- What're ya goin for 300 comments today? Bak & forth, back & forth - I'm getting the cyber dizzies. Ahm - I learned that Christine is Korean NOT Chinese, (anyone with a cursory understanidn of Asian cultures know Son is a Korean name, but just sharing), she's a virtual ever-ready battery woman, apparently, I mean full time lawyer, wife, novelist, plenty of hobbies and interests. And I loved her answer to "why do youwrite about Asians," "Because you write best about what you know!" True dat.

That's 3 entries - haveta wait til tomorrow for the 4th.

Can I go now? Tee hee.

Unknown said...

Well my current fear is not finding a job soon and running out of money and lossing everything I've worked so hard for. I have a ton of fears, one of my other big fears is dieing alone, without someone to love and without a family.

Anonymous said...

Me again - can ya believe it? I have to do things right now when I'm remembering so I got a permalink to this blog/post with a "win-a-book" contest announcement up in my Free Spirit Blog sidebar.

OK - now I REALLY DO have to be going.

That's 4 BIG ones, darling.

Serena said...

Marvin you rock!

Alyce said...

My biggest fear is spiders, which seems silly because unless they are huge (like tarantulas) you can easily squish them. But I'm really terrified of spiders, the bigger the spider, the bigger the fear.
akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'd love to read this book. It sounds like fun but meaningful. Thanks for the chance(s)!

1. My biggest fear is that my 2nd biggest fear will be discovered and someone will set me up and make it happen.

2. I found her whole blog interesting and have added it to my favorites list. I like that she is so down to earth, and I found her experience at Abercrombie & Fitch amusing. I believe her about the jeans – I have a niece who is ridiculously skinny and it’s the only place she can find jeans that fit right.

3. Christine does not speak Chinese, but apparently she can toss around a little French!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Serena said...

Alyce: I have no fear of spiders, but my husband will squeal like a girl if there is even the tiniest one in the apartment. I am the designated spider killer.

Gwendolyn: Thanks for entering...I just love Christine's book and her blog.

gautami tripathy said...

My biggest fear is wake up one day and not able to write!

Count me in, please!


Jo-Jo said...

Ok...this is going to be a long one.
1. My greatest is fear is that I would be diagnosed with alzhiemers disease leaving my family to deal with caring for me.

2. I got a kick out of her trekking through the mail and enduring the atmosphere in the Abercrombie and Fitch store. My teenage daughter ALWAYS drags me in there!

3. From her q&a I love that she has favorite tv shows that she is hooked on. I love to read, but i have my tv nights that must NOT be interrupted!

4. I did add this contest to my sidebar.

This sounds like a great book..

Anonymous said...

My biggest fear is of being buried alive. I know it's not going to happen, but I'm still thinking cremation's the way to go.

It sounds like a great book.

djecse at yahoo dot com

Toni said...

Hi.. I would like to enter.

Biggest fear. I didn't think I had one until I started thinking about this question and then it didn't become a matter of how to come up with a fear it became a matter of which one did I want to commit to words.

So... I am going to say I fear that I would/or could leave this life with many things that I still want or feel I need to do. And possibly without letting the ones that I love the most know how incredible they are.

Okay... I am reading to tuck the fears back into the subconscious and not "deal" with them. :)

Unknown said...

My biggest fear is deep water. I can swim, but I panic as soon as I can't touch bottom! I'm only 5'2", so the water doesn't have to be very deep for that to happen :)

Anonymous said...

What a great interview and review. This book goes on my must read list immediately.

So, yep, I'd love to win a copy.

Hmmm.. my greatest fear? Aside from the big ones (death and tax audits), my major domo fear is FALLING. As I was reading Christine's story about fainting, it was the falling part that really freaked me out. Falling from high places is especially teriffying.

Amber said...

My biggest fear is not doing something worthwhile with my life that I can be proud of. That I will be on my deathbed and have regrets.


The Bookworm said...

Great post! This sounds like a such an interesting book.
I have a fear of deep water, I cant swim well.

Suey said...

Great review! Sounds like a fun book.

My entries:

1. Biggest fear: something bad happening to my kids

2. On her blog: I really enjoyed the post about her observations on Facebooking... funny stuff!

3. In her interview: I thought it was fun to learn she was Korean. I have two Korean cousins.. and they are both pretty much as cute as Christine is! :)

Me... said...

My biggest fear is spiders. There are other things that maybe one should fear, but you don't tend to run into those on a regular basis. Out of sight, out of mind kinda deals. But spiders could be anywhere, just waiting for you............

daq_17 at hotmail dot com

Shana said...

Great review Serena. I really enjoyed Christine's guest post. That story about fainting at the cocktail party is funny and encouraging.

I have the book, so no need to enter me. But in answer to your question, I fear death, auto accidents, spiders, bats, and a host of other frightening things!


Anonymous said...

Hello, all! I love reading your entries and about your fears! Quite a few arachnophobes here. Not to freak anyone out (and hopefully, it'll allay your fears?), but I was bitten by a Black Widow in law school. Survived it, obviously, but it was a terrible, ridiculous ordeal. In the middle of my criminal law exam, too. But I came out just fine! And have fancied myself Spiderwoman ever since. Hmm. Maybe I'll blog about it. Some life lessons there (and in hindsight, the ludicrousness of the experience is kind of amusing). Not afraid of spiders now, oddly enough. Deathly afraid of deep water. Well, deathly afraid of drowning. I can swim, but I don't float well. Huge rib cage, small lungs. Near drowning incident in the third grade. As I write this, it occurs to me that I may be coming across as a bit of a mess. And all I had intended to say was thanks for visiting Serena's blog! She's AWESOME!!

Beawhiz said...

My biggest fear is eternity. Forever is a seriously long time. Scary long. I'm also afraid of things (i.e. people) who lurk in the dark.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Serena said...

Veens: that's quite a few fears.

bermudaonion: I'm with you on the fear of heights.

Anna: no fears?

Amandasue: I hope you find a job soon and your fears are for nothing.

Gautami: I would hate not being able to write...that would be sucky!

Jo-Jo: dementia is a disease I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Carol: my goodness that is a morbid plan on doing some espionage or something...

Toni: i think we all have more than one fear. i know I do...just not of spiders.

Janel: I have a few friends shorter than you and one of them does not swim at all...I wonder it is related to their height.

ravenous: I have falling dreams often...i wonder what that means?

Amber: I think that fear is something many of us have...we all want to make our marks on this world.

Naida: you are not alone in the fear of water and drowning...some others have the same fear.

Suey: how did I know you were going to say that. I think any mother would have that fear.

Stephanie: oo those ugly spiders are rearing their heads again.

Shana: you have quite a big list as well.

beawhiz: I wonder why you fear eternity...are you a vampire?

Serena said...

Christine: Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate it. I really loved your book and love working with great authors like you.

You are just full of fun stories. Keep em coming!

Darlene said...

Serena, I knew I was missing something when I was doing that giveaway post. I do want to enter this one. 1)My fears are dying, water, spiders and the list is too long to list here. 2) I had seen Christine posted this on someone's site before and it's on her blog-when she was wandering with a pile of books cradled in her arms like a paper baby. Don't know why but I find that so funny. 3) From her interview-trying to convince her mother that her characters aren't based on her. That sounds like something I'd likely have to do with my mother-lol. Last, I'm adding this to my blog giveaway post right now.

Serena said...

Thanks for stopping by and entering this contest Dar. I just loved this book. And Christine is a doll.

Keyo said...

first .. answers to your questions -
1) Get lost at sea
2) I did read her post
3) She is really down-to-earth affable person :) She seems like someone who comes across at making you feel like its a day's job to be a lawyer and a writer and yet have so many hobbies and interests.

amazing!! begin a lawyer is tough work, yet she found time to write this book? i cant do it and i am not even a lawyer!!


Wrighty said...

Wow! Great review, great guest post, great comments and great book! There's so many interesting things to read here.

My greatest fear is that something will happen to my children. I can take anything myself and I would gladly take on anything for them but my only true wish in the world is that my children stay safe.

I've been to Christine's blog before and she sounds like such a fun person (and is beautiful as well). She has such a sense of humor when she writes about going to the mall in search of the perfect jeans. Despite the effort and the loud music she found some! That's not an easy feat for women.

I also enjoyed her comments about her family and her Korean heritage.

I am adding this to my blog. Thank so much for this contest and all of the good things I've found here with it.

windycindy said...

Please enter my name in your book drawing. I enjoy reading books about women and their friendships. Right now, I think my biggest fear is for my two sons and the world as it is.
Thanks, Cindi