Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Spinster's Christmas Japanese versions


Three or four years ago, I felt God’s calling to have my books translated into Japanese so that I could release my Christian romance fiction in Japan. On December 1st, The Spinster’s Christmas in Japanese released in ebook and print book! It’s available in Japanese in both the photo version and also the illustrated version.

I wrote this book specifically for non-Christian women, in order to introduce them to Christ. If you know of any Japanese women who enjoy fiction, please be sure to send them to the Japanese language pages on my website or buy them a copy of the Japanese version of my book!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Spinster's Christmas illustrated edition

The Spinster's Christmas illustrated edition available for preorder in ebook and print

This prequel book to my Lady Wynwood's Spies series will release on December 1st with an illustrated cover and more than twenty manga-style illustrations inside. You can check out this website page to see a few of the interior illustrations.

It's now available at a sale pre-order price of $1.99 for the ebook (Kindle, iBooks, Koboicon) and $6.30 (which is the minimum author's cost) for the print book (Amazon). But hurry because the sale prices only last until January 1st, 2020!

The book is also still available with the original cover and no interior illustrations in ebook (Kindle , iBooks, Koboicon) and print (Amazon).

Some of you may have also noticed that the series title changed to Lady Wynwood's Spies. Click here to read about why the series changed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Lady Wynwood series is changing its name

Hey everybody! It’s been a while since I’ve been online, but I promise I had good excuses! I’ve had a few bad bouts of writer’s block over the past couple years (I blogged about how I coped with it on my Story Sensei blog), and I also was unsure about how I wanted to structure my Lady Wynwood series.

When writing The Spinster’s Christmas, a lot of plot and character twists came up that I hadn’t expected when plotting the book. I was writing the book for the Mistletoe Kisses anthology, so I didn’t have much leeway in changing how that book turned out, but when it came to writing the next book in the series, I was undecided about how I wanted it to go. I could continue in the same vein as The Spinster’s Christmas and write historical romantic suspense novels only loosely related to each other, or I could go with the new overarching series idea burning in my head that would take the series in a slightly different direction.

I discussed it with my husband, Captain Caffeine. My new idea for the series would be similar to the Japanese light novels (translated into English) that I had been reading. Most light novels series consist of several volumes and a plot mystery gradually uncovered in each book. The story in each volume is heavily dependent on the volumes published before—you can’t just dive into a volume in the middle because you’d be really confused about what’s going on.

However, I only knew of a few Regency romance series structured that way. Most Regency series are books that are complete stories that don’t necessarily need to be read in order.

The problem was that the series idea and the cast of characters in my head was too large to be structured that way. But I’ve been writing those types of standard romance stories for my entire writing career, and it would be a big leap to change to a new structure, especially since there aren’t many serial Regency novels out there right now.

But Captain Caffeine pointed out that God had spoken to me about writing for Japanese women. My plan was that the books in the Lady Wynwood series would be all eventually translated into Japanese and released in Japan. Since that was the case, he suggested I structure the series more like a Japanese series than an American series.

So The Spinster’s Christmas became a prequel book to my series, which I retitled Lady Wynwood’s Spies. I had spent considerable time plotting the next book and trying to make it fit into a typical romance novel, but now I scrapped all that and began plotting my books as several volumes, or “episodes,” in my series. It was a lot of work (I’m still not entirely done) but I had enough plotted to be able to write Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1, which I finished on November 2nd. Yay!

I’ll be titling each book in the series like a light novel series, as volume numbers rather than different titles. So far, volume 1 is pretty long and will probably be around 80,000 words, but I think the other volumes might be a bit shorter. The nice thing about self-publishing is that I’m not constrained by a particular word count, so each volume might vary widely in length.

I really feel this is the direction God wants me to go with this series. It was especially nice to have the words flow so quickly as I was working on it—I started this new version in early August this year and finished in only 3 months!

I hope to start editing the rough draft in December and then maybe have it ready by spring 2020. If you’re on my Camille Elliot newsletter, you’ll be sure to hear when it’s available for preorder, which will be a sale price.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Balasun First Flush tea review - MastersTeas.com

Today’s blog post is another review of the teas I received from Masters by Adagio Teas. Today I am reviewing the Balasun First Flush Darjeeling tea.

See here for my thoughts on Masters Teas and its website in general.

I took pictures of the tea before steeping and after steeping, but because the light is different on different days, I also included some rosemary and chocolate mint sprigs so you can compare the color of the tea.

Balasun First Flush:

According to the website:

“Our 2019 Spring Darjeeling is an early harvest black tea from the Darjeeling region of India. Different from later harvests, this first flush has a light body and layers of character that lean toward floral with a hint of fruity notes, and a crisp clean finish. Grown on the Balasun Estate, it has all of the classic notes of a first flush that are highly prized by connoisseurs across the globe.

Famous for producing some of the best quality teas, the Balasun Tea Estate (est. 1871) is spread across rolling hills with moderately gentle slope. The garden altitude varies from 365 meters to 1375 meters above sea level and temperature ranges between 44 degrees in winter to a maximum of 85 degrees in summer.”

“This tea contains a high level of caffeine. Steep at 212° for 2-3 minutes.”

The first time I made the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha tea, I used a tablespoon and the tea was very light. So this time, I just weighed the tea when making my first pot. I used 3 g of tea in 235 mL (about 1 cup) of 212℉ water for 3 minutes.

The flavor was stronger than I expected, but elegant. It had a brightness and yet a hint of maltiness in the aftertaste that was very pleasant. Darjeeling is the only black tea I will occasionally drink straight, whereas with other black teas I will usually add milk and/or sugar. However in this instance I added a splash of milk, which surprisingly gave it a warm caramel mouth feel. I hadn’t expected the milk to enhance the sweetness quite so much.

The tea was decent when resteeped (212℉ water for 5 minutes), only a little weaker than the first cup and still strong enough to be enjoyable.

This was a delicious tea, faintly sweet, and I especially preferred it with just a touch of milk. The is probably one of the best Darjeeling teas I’ve tasted.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Shi Feng Long Jing tea review - MastersTeas.com

Today’s blog post is another review of the teas I received from Masters by Adagio Teas. Today I am reviewing the Shi Feng Long Jing green tea.

See here for my thoughts on Masters Teas and its website in general.

I took pictures of the tea before steeping and after steeping, but because the light is different on different days, I also included some rosemary and chocolate mint sprigs so you can compare the color of the tea.

Shi Feng Long Jing:

According to the website:

“Our 2019 Shi Feng Long Jing, which translates to Lion's Peak Dragonwell, is one of the most famous green teas in China. It hails from the equally famous and historic West Lake area in Hangshou, Zhejiang province. This Shi Feng Long Jing is a pre-Qing Ming Festival, and so its early spring harvest results in a tender, young plucking. The liquor is a pale yellow, with a soft, sweet chestnut aroma. The crisp body is delicately nutty, quite complex, with a flickering hint of sweet grass and apricot blossoms.

About the leaves:

This Shi Feng Lung Jing is grown at an elevation of 500 meters above sea level in Zhejiang, China. This hand plucked variety has a standard of one bud and one or two, three cm long leaves. which were harvested in early April 2019. The firing time and temperature is determined by the tea master and depends solely on the tenderness of the leaves at that time and is repeated one additional time. Compared with other Lung Jings, this one has a flatter, lighter appearance.”

“This tea contains a moderate level of caffeine. Steep at 170° for 2-3 minutes.”

The first time I made the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha tea, I used a tablespoon and the tea was very light. So this time, I just weighed the tea when making my first pot. I used 3 g of tea in 235 mL (about 1 cup) of 170℉ water for 3 minutes.

The color of the tea was very light, but it had a very deep, strong tea flavor that was very nice without being too grassy. The flavor was definitely on par with some of the expensive sencha teas I’ve tasted. I thought it tasted a little nutty, with just a hint of floral, which I enjoyed with Japanese youkan, a sweet jellied bean paste dessert bar. The aftertaste was bright with only the faintest hint of bitter, which made me also try it paired with some Japanese cookies (Shiroi Koibito and Kitakaro Hamanasu), and I thought that was a good flavor combination also.

I steeped it a second time (170℉ water for 5 minutes), but it turned out too weak for my taste.

As with the Yu Qian, I was a little disappointed with the fact that if the tea was not completely poured out of the pot at the end of the steeping time, the tea left in the pot oversteeped and started to become bitter if it was left for longer than 5-7 minutes. Other high-grade sencha teas I’ve tasted have not become bitter despite the water being left in the pot, but granted, most of the time I completely pour the tea out of the pot when the steeping time is over.

As I mentioned in my review of the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha tea, when I usually make sencha, I use 2 teaspoons of tea (which weighs between 2 and 3 g) and 1 cup of water at a temperature of 190℉ for 2 minutes. This green tea recommends water at 170℉, which is cooler than I’m used to. I didn’t mind the cooler temperature of the tea, but some tea drinkers like my mom really dislike the cooler water temperature, regardless of how the tea tastes. So I decided to try to make it at a higher temperature just to see how it tastes in comparison to the lower temperature. I also weighed the tea for the third pot, but I only added a little more than 2 g of tea to 1 cup of 190℉ water, steeped for 3 minutes.

It tasted remarkably like it did at the lower temperature water, although perhaps the floral scent was weaker. It has such a bright yet warm mouth feel that I just really like drinking it while eating sweets.

I resteeped it for 5 minutes in 190℉ water, and unfortunately this did not resteep well at the higher water temperature. It was incredibly weak, more like just plain hot water.

Overall, I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve this tea to my mother even at the higher temperature water. She tends to like stronger tea so I’d probably add 3 - 3.5 g of tea per cup of water, but it’s a really elegant tea that goes well after dinner.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha tea review - MastersTeas.com

Today’s blog post is another review of the teas I received from Masters by Adagio Teas. Today I am reviewing the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha green tea.

See here for my thoughts on Masters Teas and its website in general.

I took pictures of the tea before steeping and after steeping, but because the light is different on different days, I also included some rosemary and chocolate mint sprigs so you can compare the color of the tea.

Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha:

According to the website:

“With its exquisite spear-like leaves, our Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha is a very young plucking. A gentle yet complex cup, it offers notes of spring flowers, sweet grass with traces of lychee. A beautiful tea for those who want the experience of a green tea without the sharp grassiness found in other styles.”

“This tea contains a moderate level of caffeine. Steep at 170° for 2-3 minutes.”

I put 1 heaping tablespoon of tea in 235 mL (about 1 cup) of 170℉ water for 3 minutes. Since the leaves are extremely long, 1 tablespoon was actually quite airy, so I put a heaping tablespoon rather than just a level tablespoon. For reference, when I typically make sencha, I put two level teaspoons per cup of hot water.

This tea is quite delicate, and without the strong grassiness of a typical sencha. I can definitely taste the hint of sweetness. It had a warm mouth feel that went well with Japanese youkan, a sweet jellied bean paste dessert bar.

I wasn’t sure if the delicate flavor was because there were fewer tea leaves per pot, since the leaves are so long that 1 heaping tablespoon isn’t actually that much tea. So I weighed the tea for the second pot, adding 3 g of tea to 1 cup of hot water, steeped for 3 minutes.

I think 3 g was a little too much of this tea for my personal taste, since the grassiness was stronger. But compared to the other Japanese sencha teas that I’ve tasted, this was definitely on the more delicate side, and even the stronger cup still had that hint of sweetness. Again, this was perfect to eat with Japanese sweets like youkan.

This tea resteeped quite well (170℉ water for 5 minutes), tasting almost exactly like the first cup. The next resteeping (170℉ water for 7 minutes) wasn’t bad, but it was a little weak for my taste. I was impressed by the ability of this tea to steep multiple times, because most sencha I drink does not resteep well at all.

The only thing I was a little disappointed with was that if the tea was not completely poured out of the pot at the end of the steeping time, the tea left in the pot oversteeped and started to become bitter if it was left for longer than 5-7 minutes. Other high-grade sencha teas I’ve tasted have not become bitter despite the water being left in the pot, but granted, most of the time I completely pour the tea out of the pot when the steeping time is over.

When I usually make sencha, I use 2 teaspoons of tea (which weighs between 2 and 3 g) and 1 cup of water at a temperature of 190℉ for 2 minutes. This green tea recommends water at 170℉, which is cooler than I’m used to. I didn’t mind the cooler temperature of the tea, but some tea drinkers like my mom really dislike the cooler water temperature, regardless of how the tea tastes. So I decided to try to make it at a higher temperature just to see how it tastes in comparison to the lower temperature. I also weighed the tea for the third pot, but I only added a little more than 2 g of tea to 1 cup of 190℉ water, steeped for 3 minutes.

The tea tasted very much like it had at 170℉, although there might have been a slight harshness to the flavor because of the higher water temperature. It lost some of delicateness and sweetness of the flavor. I resteeped it for 5 minutes, and it wasn’t bad, but a little weaker than the first pot. The tea definitely tasted better at the lower water temperature, but if I were to brew this tea for my mother, for example, the taste wouldn’t be terrible at the higher water temperature.

Overall, this was a very light and delicate tea. It’s not something I’d drink with a meal or after a meal, because it doesn’t have the strong brightness that I prefer to compliment food. However, this tea was very good with sweets or on its own as a sanity break.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ali Shan Special oolong tea review - MastersTeas.com

Today’s blog post is another review of the teas I received from Masters by Adagio Teas. Today I am reviewing the Ali Shan Special oolong tea.

See here for my thoughts on Masters Teas and its website in general.

As a disclaimer, I drink a lot of green tea—sencha, genmaicha, and hojicha—and I’m a big fan of various black teas prepared British style with milk and sometimes sugar, but I don’t drink much oolong tea. I prepared the oolongs the way it recommended on the MastersTeas.com website, but since I don’t have a lot of experience with oolong, I used this article on the smithtea.com website as reference for steeping the oolongs Gong Fu style.

I have a small Japanese tea pot which I used for all the teas.

I took pictures of the tea before steeping and after steeping, but because the light is different on different days, I also included some rosemary and chocolate mint sprigs so you can compare the color of the tea.

Ali Shan Special:

According to the website:

“Our 2019 Ali Shan Special is buttery and amazingly rich. It brews a very complex, silky cup that speaks of its high altitude origin and beautiful tender leaves. A truly satisfying cup for anyone partial to oolongs.”

“This tea contains a high level of caffeine. Steep at 212° for 2-3 minutes.”

I first steeped it according to the website. I put 1 teaspoon of tea in 235 mL (about 1 cup) of 212℉ water for 3 minutes.

The color is light and the fragrance is a delicate green smell. The flavor is unexpectedly a bit like the high-priced sencha I bought in Japan, with a fresh and verdant taste. This was a good tea to drink when eating sweets, but strangely, I really enjoyed this with chocolate! As soon as I sipped it, I thought, “This would taste good with chocolate,” and when I tried it, I really liked how the tea tasted so silky and yet fresh after I ate the chocolate.

The tea also tasted good when I drank it alongside some Japanese youkan, a sweet jellied bean paste dessert bar. However, I didn’t care for how the tea paired with some Japanese cookies.

This tea re-steeped incredibly well. The second steeping (212℉ water for 5 minutes) tasted almost exactly like the first, just a tad weaker but not enough to tell that it was a second steeping.

I tried the Gong Fu method of brewing next according to the website (1 teaspoon of tea, 100 mL of 190℉ water). After discarding the rinse, I brewed each steeping one after another and poured them into teacups (and tasted them as they came off). In the picture, it starts from 12 o’clock, which is the 20 second steeping, and going clockwise, each cup is an additional 10 seconds of steeping, ending with a 70 second steeping. The website recommends to keep brewing until the flavor of the tea is too weak, but I stopped at 70 seconds. I could have re-steeped at least another 3 or 4 cups, or possibly more.

As with the Formosa Bai Hao oolong tea, I didn’t care for the tea using this method. The first two steepings were weak, while later steepings were stronger. However even later steepings were not very flavorful, in my opinion. I think part of the whole process is the experience of drinking cups of weaker to stronger tea and discerning how the tea changes with each steeping, and my taste buds are probably not that refined.

I did not make this into an iced tea because I could tell I would not enjoy it cold.

In making this tea in the future, I’ll just use the normal method (212℉ water for 3 minutes), and I will probably re-steep the pot also, since this tea seems to re-steep quite well. I enjoyed it a lot when drinking it while nibbling at some fine dark chocolate.