Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ferry Tale reviews + a video update!

My new book, a love story set in Hong Kong, has been out for one week. Thank you to everyone who grabbed a copy! The reviews are starting to come in, and I wanted to share some of my favorite excerpts:

“A fun, fizzy story that takes readers from the smoggy ferry decks to the spectacular harbor views of the InterContinental Hotel’s Lobby Lounge. Young’s fondness for her adopted home of Hong Kong comes through on every page of this cheerful and charming romance . . . as effervescent as champagne.” –Maura Cunningham

“Young evokes the vibrancy and sense of possibility in her adopted home Hong Kong. Her characters are each cast with their own unique mix of endearing qualities and weaknesses. Through alternating viewpoints, you’ll barrack for Katrina and Sam as they tackle their demons and learn more about themselves and each other in the process. Ferry Tale is an enjoyably sweet and classy romance – set in the digital age, but not lost in it.” – Booklover Book Reviews

Get the book on Kindle here, or buy the paperback!

I'll be reading from Ferry Tale at a love-themed event at Aesop on Hollywood Road on February 24th. Come along if you can!

In the meantime, I've also posted a video update about my ongoing writing journey. It has been 18 months since I quit my day job! Check out the update here:

Monday, January 4, 2016

10 Plans for 2016

It's that time of year again. Last January I posted 29 Things, a report on my 14 goals for 2014 and 15 plans for 2015. Most of the items revolved around the completion of The Seabound Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic adventure series under the pen name Jordan Rivet. Here's how I did: 

1. Rewrite Burnt Sea (the Seabound prequel). Done!

2. Finish revising Seaswept (Seabound Chronicles 2). Done!

3. Publish Seaswept in e-book and paperback. Done! Here's the link to Seaswept.

4. Rewrite Seabound Chronicles 3. Done! The title is Seafled.

5. Finish revising Burnt Sea. Done!

6. Publish Burnt Sea in e-book and paperback. Done! Here's the link to Burnt Sea.

7. Finish revising Seabound Chronicles 3. Done!

8. Publish Seabound Chronicles 3 in e-book and paperback. Done! Here's the link to Seafled.

9. Write a memoir about growing up in a homeschooling family of nine kids, possibly of Kindle Single length, under the Shannon Young name. The project is complete, but I haven't yet decided on the appropriate publishing path for it.

10. Promote Year of Fire Dragons in Hong Kong and during the US/e-book launch. Done. I was also able to speak about the book at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival again in November.

11. Write a brand-new novel for NaNoWriMo, probably under the Jordan Rivet name. I wrote 34,000 words during NaNoWriMo before the Seafled publication consumed all my hours. I plan to complete the draft in January.

12. Begin production of a Seabound audiobook. This is on hold for now. 

13. Write one more secret pen name short, just for fun. Nope. In fact, I unpublished these three shorts as part of my ongoing effort to devote time only to projects that grow my Shannon Young/Jordan Rivet career.

14. Read Infinite Jest (which has been on my Kindle for a long time) and all the paperbacks I have purchased or been given this year. Nope. This one's still on the to-do list. I watched The End of the Tour on a plane recently, and it has given me new motivation. As for the paperbacks, I made decent headway but my Kindle lured me away almost every time.

15. Make enough money from writing to avoid returning to my day job. I ended up taking a part-time teaching job for October-December to replenish my savings. I'm back to full-time writing until April, at which point I'll reassess my situation again. I have big plans for the intervening months!

2015 Milestone Roundup

-Completed and published three full-length novels
-Completed a new as-yet-unpublished memoir project
-Honed my promotion strategies, eliminating time-consuming tasks with low ROI
-Had my first 10,000-word writing day
-Had my first 100 sales day
-Broke into the top 2,000 e-books on all of Amazon on three occasions
-Planned a new series, a fantasy about a professional duelist in a mountaintop kingdom, and wrote the first draft of Book 1
-Exercised my "focus muscles" to the point where I now regularly manage 6-hour writing sessions
-Kept up my writing and production schedule during the months when I had a part-time job with a lengthy commute

Here's one I never expected: an interview in Chinese!

10 Plans for 2016

Looking ahead to 2016 is quite exciting. My writing and publishing process is getting smoother, and I have a better sense of how long things take. I've decided to set 10 goals for the coming year.

Here are my plans for 2016:

1. Release a box set of the Seabound trilogy.

2. Finish my NaNoWriMo project, a Hong Kong love story called Ferry Tale.

3. Publish Ferry Tale under the name Shannon Young.

4. Complete Book 1 in my new fantasy series.

5. Commission covers, possibly with custom artwork, for the fantasy series.

6. Write Book 2 in the fantasy series.

7. Publish Books 1 and 2 approximately 6 weeks apart to gather sales momentum.

8. Write Book 3 in the fantasy series.

9. Write first draft of a new post-apocalyptic book (this great idea jumped fully formed into my head on the MTR one day).

10. Publish Book 3 in the fantasy series in time for Christmas.

Thank you all for supporting me along the way, and especially for buying my books and writing reviews. You have all been so kind and helpful. Apologies if you don't see me outside of Starbucks for the next four months!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cross-Cultural Love at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival

Last year, I launched my memoir, Year of Fire Dragons, at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. This November, I'll be participating in the festival again with a panel on Cross-Cultural Love. The event takes place on Sunday, November 8th at 3:30 pm at the historic Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences in Central.

The panel, which will be moderated by David Nunnan, features a great line-up of writers. We'll be talking about cross-cultural relationships and sharing from a wide range of experiences as expats in Asia. I'll be joined on the panel by...

Marshall Moore
In addition to being the author of multiple novels and short story collections, Marshall is the publisher of Signal 8 Press, which was responsible for the expat women in Asia anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit.

Ray Hecht
Ray is an American living in Shenzhen. His debut novel, South China Morning Blues, just launched from YOFD publisher Blacksmith Books. I'm reading the novel now!

Susan Blumberg-Kason
You may remember Good Chinese Wife, Susan's memoir of her marriage to a man from central China. Susan also contributed to the Dragonfruit anthology and she has been a great supporter of my writing. Susan is traveling from Chicago for the festival.

The discussion is sure to be interesting. I know many of you have experienced cross-cultural relationships of various kinds in your lives abroad. It would be great to see you there and hear your thoughts on the topic. Buy your tickets for the event here!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

It's Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, the season of fire dragons, moon cakes, and the first hints of fall. What are you doing to celebrate? I'll be enjoying a relaxed weekend with my husband and going to see another fire dragon!

In honor of Mid-Autumn festival, here's the chapter from Year of Fire Dragons that takes place at the fire dragon dance in Tai Hang...

Fire Dragon 

The fire dragon trundled toward me through the crowded street. Smoke curled from the incense sticks protruding from its long, thin body like thousands of spines on some mystical porcupine. Sweat poured down the face and back of every spectator. The fire dragon wound back and forth through the streets, faster and faster, dancing to the beat of drums. A wave of cheers rippled through the crowd each time it came near. The drums rattled the high-rises, the dragon danced, and the pavement shuddered under our feet. 

This was the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, a time to celebrate the moon goddess and her flight across the sky. 

My flight wasn’t like that of Chang’e, the goddess who escaped her lover in a blaze of luminescence. I was flying toward mine. His gravitational field had pulled me across the sea, drawn me to a distant isle of fire dragons and skyscrapers. I’d follow him anywhere—even to Hong Kong. We hadn’t lived in the same country since we’d met, but this was our chance to be together, to build a life in the city where he grew up. 

But one month ago, his company sent him to London. 


I first met Ben in London, at a fencing club. I was a bookish American student on a semester abroad. He was an opportunity for a real live English romance, my very own Mr. Darcy, except that unlike Darcy, Ben was talkative—and half Chinese. 

I’d taken up fencing several years before, attracted by the romance of sword fighting and the fact that it was something unique, historic, literary even. I wasn’t bad, and the sport brought me unexpected confidence. It seemed like a great way for an introvert like me to connect with people at the university in London. 

When I pushed open the door to the club, the familiar buzz of the scoring machine and the squeak of athletic shoes on the floor reached my ears. I rocked on the sides of my feet, unsure how to join in. Ben came over immediately, introduced himself, and invited me to fence him. I was relieved at being included and already curious about this open-faced young man whose accent I couldn’t place. He won our first bout by one point; he always said I wouldn’t have dated him if I had been able to beat him. 

We fenced a few more bouts, and then sat cross-legged in our matching gear, masks forgotten on the floor. He prodded at my shy shell; he asked me questions, joked about fencing, told me he was from Hong Kong. He had an eloquent vocabulary mixed with an offbeat sense of humor. He didn’t seem to mind when people didn’t get his jokes. He put me at ease, and I found myself stealing glances at him as I adjusted my equipment and met the other fencers. By the time I changed my shoes and left the gym, I was already lecturing myself about reading too much into his attention. I didn’t want to get swept away, blinded by the novelty of an international fling. But it was too late. 

For two months, we wandered the streets of London together, kissed on street corners, and took spontaneous trips to Oxford and the coast. He took the time to get to know me, using our shared love of fencing to get me talking. He surprised me with his insight, his persistence. He seemed to understand why I, analytical and introverted, never quite fit into any group. As someone who had grown up shuttling between Hong Kong and London, not quite Chinese and not quite British, he knew what it was like to be an outsider. Ben had a gift for coaxing people to confide in him and trust him. Before long, he got even the most reserved, responsible American girl to give him handfuls of her heart. 

When the semester ended, we said goodbye at Heathrow in a flurry of kisses and long-distance promises: 

“It will just be for a year, maybe two.” 

“I can visit you in America.” 

“I’ll get a job wherever you live after graduation,” I told him. Our confidence in each other was reckless and optimistic, but staying together felt like the only sensible thing to do. 

In 2010, thoroughly in love, I moved to Hong Kong to be with him. 

It lasted for one glorious month. 


Ben left me in Hong Kong on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Instead of exploring the city with him, I was at the airport saying my goodbyes while the children of Hong Kong flooded the streets and parks with lanterns. Instead of walking beneath the Mid-Autumn moon together, we shared a fierce hug and made a hundred tiny promises. The next day, still reeling from the sheer solitude, I found my way to Tai Hang—to the incense and the drums. The fire dragon loomed, full of possibilities. 

It had already grown dark, or as dark as it ever gets in the city, when I emerged from the subway into a night that felt nothing like the end of September. The humidity surrounded me like steam pouring out of a broken dumpling. I made my way along the street. An arch announced the festival in gold foil and tissue paper fringe. I found a spot beside a Chinese family of three or four generations. A group of Mainland girls chattered in shrill Mandarin in front of me. The balconies of a hundred apartments teetered over our heads. 

I hadn’t had a chance to ask Ben what the fire dragon would be like before the airport security line swallowed him and carried him away. The fire dragon in my mind looked like a dancing, tuft-eared Pekinese dog, with people standing under a big sheet to form the body, holding up the head. Of course, that’s an image from a lion dance, not a dragon dance, I would soon learn. I was just starting to discover that Hong Kong was full of surprises—and I was ill prepared. I jumped up on my toes and looked for the Pekinese head. 

The drums began. “Want me to hoist you up?” An American man stepped close behind me. He was tall, and the scent of stale beer mixed with the incense. 

“No, thanks,” I said. 

“You sure? You want a good view when they bring out the dragon,” he reached for my arms. 

“I can see just fine.” I maneuvered away from the man, finding refuge on the other side of the Chinese family. My fingers curled tighter around my purse. Suddenly, I was aware just how alone I was in the crowd, and in the country. 


“Why didn’t you just go to London instead of Hong Kong when you found out Ben would be leaving?” my friends had asked me. “You’re already moving across the world for him.” I wondered the same thing myself—now. But this was 2010. I wasn’t in a position to jet around the world after men lightly. I’d graduated from Colgate University with US$70,000 in student debt, debt I had taken on before the economy crumbled. Moving without a job was not an option. Employment would be hard to find in London for an English major with limited work experience and no visa. I didn’t have a chance. 

Jobs were not easy to come by anywhere in the Western world. My generation faced the worst job market in living memory. My college educated friends competed tooth-and-nail for part-time barista work, borrowed more money for graduate school, and moved in with their parents. There was a mounting sense of desperation among those of us who had taken out big student loans only to discover there was no work for us in our own country when we graduated. 

Asia was another story. 

There were rumors going around that this was where the jobs were to be found. Ben had found work in Hong Kong, his hometown. My own sister had recently begun teaching English in South Korea. So, I spent nearly a year applying and interviewing for a job in Hong Kong (and yes, living with my parents while I did it). When a local school emailed and asked me to be their new English teacher, it seemed the long distance part of our international romance, which had lasted two and a half years by now, was finally done. I showed up with a work visa and a salary advance, ready to take on the city and the next stage in our relationship. Yet here I was, alone in a crowd as the fire dragon approached. 

I couldn’t afford to give up my new job when Ben’s circumstances changed. With a one-way ticket and a monthly student loan payment of US$935, I stayed in Hong Kong. 


The drums pounded. A row of children appeared, carrying lanterns that bobbed above the crowds. Their glow mixed with the lights from the apartment buildings looming over our heads. My arms brushed an elbow on one side, a woman’s handbag on the other. 


Ben had been lucky, really, to be sent to London. It was a one-year placement at a law firm with the prospect of a permanent contract afterwards. All I had to do was spend this year in Hong Kong looking for an opportunity in London where we could be reunited once again. “It’ll be for one more year, and then we’ll be together,” we promised each other as we set up our web-cams. “We already know we can handle the whole long distance thing.” We plotted our reunion in a whirl of emails and long distance calls. “It’ll just be this year,” we said, “and then that’s it. No more long distance.” 

Of course, the other thing people asked was, “What if you don’t get along when you finally do live in the same country?” That was a question I couldn’t answer. 

As I stood in the Mid-Autumn crowd, little did I know that my move to Hong Kong would bring about our longest separation ever, a separation that would bring me face to face with the reality of the risk I had taken. 

The pounding of the drums intensified. The people around me drew closer together, choking what little breeze there was. Finally, the fire dragon appeared, followed by more children carrying lanterns. I was surprised when I saw what it was really like. It had an elaborate head, made from branches twisted into intricate shapes and filled with a thicket of incense. The thin body was over 200 feet long and muscular bearers danced beneath its undulating shape. The people around me cheered as the dragon’s head passed us and then turned back on itself, leaving behind a million tiny trails of smoke. I felt a growing sense of excitement as the fire dragon whirled and darted through the streets. Its wiry, crackling body defied my expectations. It was fast. It was wild. I pushed forward so I could see better. I was a part of the crowd. I didn’t feel like a foreign girl, alone, in an interrupted romance. This was an adventure! I could do this; I could live in Hong Kong, alone. Ben and I would be together soon enough. 

As the dragon twirled in front of me, I didn’t know that in nine months I’d be sitting on the floor of my single apartment, cell phone pressed to my ear, feeling the foreign ground shift beneath me, feeling a panic I’d been too confident to anticipate. I pulled my hair away from my neck, trying to find relief from the suffocating heat, too stubborn to guess at the coldness that was coming. 

This was not what I had planned. Nothing happened the way I expected. This was Hong Kong. 

As the rumble of the drums reached a crescendo, the men carrying the dragon pulled off the sticks of incense and passed them to the crowd. Within seconds, the fire dragon dispersed into a thousand tiny sparks in the night.

You can buy Year of Fire Dragons in Hong Kong bookstores, on Kindle, or anywhere else books are sold.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered our giveaway over the past few weeks. Thank you, especially, to all the bloggers who posted it on their sites and everyone who shared the links on social media. We really appreciate your help spreading the word about our books!

We are happy to announce that the giveaway winner is Charlotte Steggall. She will receive copies of all three books in the post soon. Charlotte used to be an expat in Japan and Germany. You can check out her blog here!

If you didn't win the giveaway but you'd still like to grab a copy of any of the books, here are the links one more time. Thank you for your support of these new stories of life and love in Asia. Happy reading!

Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman's Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong by Shannon Young ($7.99 on Kindle)

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras by Leza Lowitz ($9.99 on Kindle)

The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World by Tracy Slater ($10.99 on Kindle)

Thursday, July 2, 2015


This week I'm participating in a joint blog tour with two other authors of new memoirs set in Asia. You can enter our giveaway here. We each read each other's books, and I'm pleased to share my thoughts on the second one today: Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz.


An American woman finds love in Japan and embarks on a journey toward motherhood through adoption and yoga.


If you're a fan of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit, the expat women in Asia anthology I edited for Signal 8 Press last year, you might recognize this title. Leza Lowitz contributed a moving excerpt of her then-unpublished memoir to the anthology, also called Here Comes the Sun. Now we get the full story! 

Leza's memoir follows her journey to motherhood through adoption, and to peace and self-understanding through yoga. Set primarily in Japan but also featuring Leza's roots in Berkeley, California, the memoir is a beautifully written reflection on life, motherhood, and finding a home.

Leza's background in poetry is evident in the language of this memoir. There's a moving simplicity to her words that draws you in as you follow her move to Japan, her romance with a handsome Japanese writer, and her search for the child she knows is calling out to her.

In addition to the story of her family finding each other, Leza's memoir features her heartfelt attention to yogic practice and philosophy. Leza writes about her decision to open a yoga studio in Japan and organizes her story around the eight chakras. Her spiritual journey is particularly interesting because she brings together her practice of yoga and the traditions of her Jewish upbringing. It's a story for modern, multicultural times if there ever was one.



The Kindle edition is $9.99. I received a free copy of the ebook for review. Disclosure: Leza also wrote a very nice blurb for my memoir, Year of Fire Dragons.


If you'd like to win a copy of Here Comes the Sun, along with The Good Shufu and Year of Fire Dragons, you can enter our giveaway here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

THE GOOD SHUFU by Tracy Slater

This week I'm participating in a joint blog tour with two other authors of new memoirs set in Asia. You can enter our giveaway here. We each read each other's books, and I'm pleased to share my thoughts on the first one, The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater.


An American academic finds herself falling in love and moving to Japan with a Japanese salary man.


American Tracy Slater was not looking to move abroad. It came as quite a surprise when she fell in love with a Japanese businessman who also happened to be one of her English students. In this candid memoir, she shares the process of coming to terms with the new life she would share with the man she loved. Rather than permanently moving to Japan, Tracy spent years trying to split her time between her new life and marriage and her first love: the city of Boston. Eventually, the combination of her father-in-law's ailing health and her efforts to conceive throughout her early forties drew Tracy further into the arms of Japan.

This memoir is a candid look at a journey of love and compromise as a couple works to make a life together despite vastly different backgrounds and plans for their lives. The central relationship in the memoir is sweet in its earnestness, and you really root for Tracy and her husband throughout the book. The portrayal of Tracy's relationship with her father-in-law is especially moving as his health slowly fails. She examines what it is like to take on a highly traditional carer role as a woman who never quite expected her life would take this turn.

The memoir is deeply thought-provoking because of the way Tracy's expectations and affluent background war with her new life as a wife in a more conservative culture. Her journey to conceive after the age of 40 is heart-rending. I won't spoil the ending, but this is a book that will leave you thinking for days afterwards.



The Kindle edition is $10.99. I received a free copy of the ebook for review.


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win the hardcover edition of The Good Shufu, along with copies of Here Comes the Sun and Year of Fire Dragons. Look for my review of Here Comes the Sun tomorrow!
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