Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fun Trip to Chinatown to do Research on a Chinese Paranormal Romance

I visited San Francisco's Chinatown yesterday to spend some time with my sister who was in town for a study session. We had dim sum at the Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House, the oldest continuously run dim sum house in the US, established in 1920. After eating a variety of tasty dishes, we decided to walk off the calories by going up and down the various streets and of course, taking pictures to get a feel for the neighborhood and enjoy the sights and sounds.

My first paranormal romance is a sweet romantic comedy set in San Francisco Chinatown. My heroine is an ordinary everyday woman who works as a greeter at a bank, and my hero is the Son of the Kitchen God, whose job is to fight kitchen fires, especially ones that start during cooking.

I got my idea from cooking in my wok and accidentally igniting it on fire when I let the oil get too hot. I didn't take a picture because I was too busy pulling the wok off the gas range and stopping the fire myself. I didn't have the help of a supernatural demigod who'd jump out of the wok and put out the fire by pushing the flames around with his hands until it turned into a tiny ball. His name is Johnny Wok, the cosmic firefighter, and hero of my story.

See that wok that is darker than the rest? It is seasoned, meaning there is a polymerized layer of oil that has been chemically bonded to the bare metal. A wok like that is basically nonstick without the use of too much oil, and it is a joy to cook in it. In my story, Sapphire Sing, the heroine is trying to find out her grandmother's matchmaking skills and she believes it has something to do with a magic wok. While seasoning her grandmother's wok, she starts a fire that attracts Johnny Wok.

Chinese mythology is so rich in gods, goddesses, magic, and symbolism, that there was literally too much to cram into my story. I had to be satisfied in sticking to only a few of the gods and goddesses, a few demons, and of course magical animals to make the story work. Ultimately, though, it is a romance and a love story, this time between an ordinary woman and a demi-god. It is a sweet romance with no steamy scenes other than hot food.

When ordinary you and the Son of the Kitchen God are all that stand between a playboy apocalypse and innocent hearts yearning for love.

Sapphire Sing is in desperate need of her grandmother’s matchmaking skills. She’s stuck on a not-so-merry-go-round of second-hand men while wedding bells ring for her snooty stepsisters.

Sapphire sets out to discover her grandmother’s secrets but runs afoul of Johnny Wok, the Kitchen God’s Son. When Sapphire’s friends steal the magic wok, one reputed to cast love spells, she is hurled into an ancient conflict between love and evil.

What’s a girl to do when a playboy demon and a seriously hunky demigod both want your heart … and your wok?
Why does visiting the location of a story help a writer when most of it won't make it into the book? I took lots of pictures, saw a lot of sights, tasted food, bought dishes and bowls, and spoke to shop owners. Did a lot of research, but most likely only a few small details will make it into my story.

It is those details that give the reader the few that your story is authentic, and some of it cannot be found online. Examples are the barbed wire around freeway signs in LA, and the poems on the sidewalks in Berkeley.

There were a lot of details I saw while walking around Chinatown that someone who only did Google Maps would not have noticed. For example, in the Portsmouth Square, there were many groups of elderly people sitting around playing games. One would assume they were playing Chinese chess or maybe some kind of Chinese game with tiles and cards. But it turns out they all had decks of playing cards, the type with hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds, and everyone gathered around were in rapt attention at the games going on. Since I'm no good at card games, I couldn't tell what was being played, only that many, many people spent their day sitting in the square playing cards. Maybe I'll mention this when Sapphire and Johnny visit Chinatown on their shopping trip. Maybe not. But my sister also noticed something carved on one of the foo dogs. "Made in Free China" and I noticed that one of the dogs had a ball under his foot and the other one had a little dog under her foot.

I hope I'm not boring you, but it is fascinating to find tiny details and learn things while doing research for a book. And I do hope you'll also visit Chinatown someday, either in person or by reading Black Tied where Sapphire and Johnny not only visit Chinatown, but also Twin Peaks summit and the Inner Sunset District.
Watch for Black Tied to come out in a boxed set with 5 other paranormal romances, as well as in paperback.
Be sure to check out my Sweet Romances at my website: https://www.rachelleayala.net/sweet-romance and or sign up for my Sweet ONLY newsletter: http://smarturl.it/SweetRachelle and get two free sweet books. I'll also have a new sweet series after my Hart Family is done, and will be announcing it later this summer.
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  1. Ooh...your sweet paranormal romance sounds so interesting, Rachelle. Please keep us updated.

    1. thanks! I will. :) It's going into a "mixed" boxed set.

  2. What yummy and fun research! Thanks for sharing, Rachelle!

  3. You're welcome. It was a fun day. :)