Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

Welcome! Today I'm sharing another scene from my historical novel, set in Japan in the 1870s.

Hanako stood her ground and tightened her lips, struggling to maintain a measure of decorum and respect toward the unkempt man before her. The buzz of springtime activity in the marketplace faded to the back of her mind. She had work to do.

Sato-san peered down at her, a menacing scowl adding more wrinkles to his sagging jowls. Drawing himself up to the fullest extent of his limited height, he looked down his nose and deigned to speak. She managed not to cringe outwardly from the stench of his stale breath.

“And why is your husband or father not here to purchase this livestock himself?”

Hanako ground her teeth to prevent herself from lashing out at the pompous merchant. She curled her fingers into fists, lest she should give in to the temptation to claw out his eyes. Sato-san knew very well why her husband was not here to purchase his own livestock. But she needed his cooperation, so she answered.

“The men in my home live no more,” she replied. “My father has been gone these past five summers, and my husband perished during the raid of the ronin last year.”

“Then you must take a new husband.” Sato-san grinned widely, displaying the few brown crooked teeth that remained in his mouth. “You are still fairly young. Perhaps I could be persuaded to give up my bachelor ways. A beautiful widow should not be left to fend for herself on a lonely farm. Even though the shoguns have declared peace, there are still dangerous men roaming the countryside.”

Hanako had first hand knowledge of the dangers. The memory of the attack last summer still haunted her dreams. Still, the thought of becoming Sato-san’s wife was even more repulsive than the bloody memories. She willed herself not to shudder visibly.

Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment, and then go back for more Sweet Saturday Samples.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another School Year

Classes start next Monday at GVSU. I'm going to teach two sections of my class. But for the first time in three years, I'm not going to be a student. My Japanese language class was canceled, due to lack of enrollment. I'm so disappointed, because I feel I'm starting to make progress. Learning to speak a new language is fun, but sometimes frustrating. All the things I learned in English grammar, such as "every sentence must have a subject and a predicate" do not apply in Japanese. And many words we consider verbs are not treated that way.

So, if I'm going to make any more progress I'm going to have to do it on my own, or look for alternate venues. I have a few options. One is to join a conversation group. There are actually a few in the Grand Rapids area, which would require a drive to get there and back. There will also be some groups forming on campus. I'm really hoping that someone will start an online group. Things like Skype and Google+ make that a viable option!

Another way I can practice is to communicate with Japanese people who don't speak English. My cousins and I have been e-mailing each other ever since I went to visit last summer. This has been such a good experience. Sometimes I have to ask mom for help, but I'm starting to figure out more and more on my own, with the help of a few online aids.

I guess that even though I won't be sitting in a classroom, I'll be a student forever. And that's okay with me. Life would be pretty boring without learning new things every day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

This week I'm sharing a sample of my historical novel, set in 19th Century Japan:

Disgusted, Hideyori removed his outer robe and threw it, not caring where it landed. The garment landed on another rock with a "clink."


Out of habit, he turned to call for a servant to retrieve the garment for him, but then realized there was no one to hear his summons. Grumbling, he rose from his seat and took the two steps to his robe. The garment was heavy, made of thick brocade, and the long, hanging sleeves were lined with several layers of silk. He picked up the robe, checking under it. Finding nothing there, he inspected the robe itself. The brocade was worn thin, the fraying threads a testimony to his dire financial status.

Turning the garment inside out, he noticed the silk was dingy. When he had a full staff, his court seamstresses would keep track of these things and replace the linings at regular intervals. But there were no more seamstresses. He was stuck with this lining. There were holes here and there, and the seams were worn. He smoothed the lining down. When he regained his fortune, one of the first things he would do would be to order some new clothes. No one would take him seriously as a leader if he had to wear rags like this.

His hand ran across a hard bump in the fabric. Had the holes become so large a rock had lodged in between the layers? He inspected the bump more closely. No, it wasn't a rock. Eagerly, he picked at the fabric, trying to scratch a hole in the weave. No luck. He needed something sharp. Casting a frantic look around, he spied a short branch under a nearby tree and scurried over to retrieve it.

Ten minutes later, the robe was in tatters, but Hideyori didn't care. He held a beautiful hand-painted fan and its elegant lacquer case. For once, a servant had actually followed directions. He remembered the day he had instructed the little maid to "hide the valuables somewhere the emperor's men will not find it." The girl must have hidden the fan in the lining of his robe. Clever girl. Too bad he hadn’t been able to keep her.

His growling stomach was forgotten as he went back into the hut to look for other hidden treasures in his clothing.

Hope you enjoyed it! Find more great excerpts at Sweet Saturday Samples by clicking here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Recycling Project

I realized it's been a while since I've written about anything except writing. And that's because it's been a long time since I've really indulged in any of my creative pursuits other than writing! Having something published really motivated me to push on and write more, so that's been my main focus for several weeks.

It's not that I don't do my other crafts at all. Every Tuesday morning I'm sewing, either at church or at my friend Diane's house. And once a month I get together with a group of friends and scrapbook. I have a crochet project sitting beside my recliner, so when I'm too tired to think but too keyed up to sleep I can sit here and stitch for a few minutes. But all those are part of my routine and didn't seem exceptional enough for me to expound upon.

So, I guess it's time for me to take a break. My plastic bag tote is project I'm really proud of, so I'll share that with you. I'm not the environmentalist my younger daughter is, but I don't like to waste things. Unfortunately I forget to bring my reusable shopping bags with me to the store, so I end up using their bags to bring my stuff home. And then the bags pile up.

One day at sewing, Marcia mentioned the tote bags she saw in Florida. She told me how ladies would cut up their plastic bags and crochet them into purses and other bags. They would use different color bags from various stores to make them into pretty stripes. So I went home and found the instructions HERE. And I went to work. The bag in the picture above is what I came up with. I love it! It's lightweight but strong. It's the perfect size for my lunch. And I take it to outdoor events with my water bottle, bug spray, and other stuff. I've shared the online direction with other friends.

Give it a try!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

Here's another scene from my still unnamed Greek Island story:

"Dimitri said he had planned to make spetzofai tonight. All the ingredients are here, so we’d better get started." He glanced at her, and she nodded in approval. He hauled the sausage and vegetables out of the refrigerator. "I can handle the main dish. Would you like to make the rice and perhaps a salad to go with it?" Without waiting for her answer, he went to work, oiling the large saucepan and chopping the peppers and tomatoes for the savory sausage dish.

The man definitely knew his way around a kitchen. His movements were efficient and precise. She turned and measured out the rice, putting it on to boil.

"Were you a chef in another life?" she asked.

"My father’s family owned a restaurant on Santorini. We all helped out in the kitchen."

Francie thought about her father, so brilliant in many ways, but utterly helpless in domestic affairs. When he remembered to eat, he depended on someone else, or he went out. Alex didn’t seem to be helpless in any situation, but most of the men in this country had definite ideas about division of labor between the sexes.


She turned to him. "Yes?"

"Are you planning to do anything with that knife?"

She looked down. Her right hand was wrapped around the handle of a large chopping knife, but nothing was on the block in front of her. She had been caught daydreaming. Her mother would often say living with her and her father was like living alone. "You both get so caught up in your other worlds," she'd say, "that I might as well not be here." And then she would leave. Again.

She shook herself, mentally. "Sorry, I was somewhere else."

"Wherever you were, I hope it was a pleasant place. I’d hate to see you wield that knife when you’re angry." He went back to tending his grill.

Francie stared at him a moment. There had been no censure in his voice, only mild teasing.

Thanks for stopping! Please leave a comment. You can find more samples by clicking HERE:

Friday, August 12, 2011

The BIC Method

This week I'm getting a lot of BIC time. That's a technique I heard about from another writer. The acronym stands for "Bottom In Chair". The B actually stands for something else, but that's what I'll call it. Anyway, the BIC technique is crucial for finishing my writing projects. Unfortunately it's also an easy way to waste time.

I'm participating in a Writers' Retreat at Grand Valley. It's offered for faculty members three times a year, and even though I'm an adjunct, I've managed to snag a spot every year. First priority is given to full-time faculty who are writing their dissertations or other scholarly writing projects. If there aren't enough takers to fill all the spots, the opportunity is opened to the rest of us. We're each given a six foot table, a place to plug in our laptops, fed lunch, and given all the coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and snacks we can consume. It's a wonderful opportunity!

So far this week I've finished a short story, revised two chapters on my six-year-old work in progress, and started a new project. Just like at home, where I have a dozen craft projects in various stages of completion, I tend to jump from manuscript to manuscript. I always thought I was ADD!

On the down side, with internet access here, I've also racked up a lot of facebook time, as well as game time. I have to really watch that. But I try to limit myself - I don't allow myself to play a game until I've written at least five hundred words. Or I don't check facebook more than once every few hours. That seems to help. And my compulsion to write every day at helps to ensure that I do actually write SOMETHING.

So I guess the BIC method works for me, as long as I put limits on myself.

Please come back tomorrow for my Sweet Saturday Sample! I'm joining over two dozen writers who will offer a glimpse into their works.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sweet Saturday Sample

Thanks for stopping in! This week I'm sharing a scene from my Yet-To-Be-Named Work in Progress. It's a contemporary short story, taking place on the Greek Island of Paros:

The music stopped, and the dancers paused as an elderly gentleman made his way to the head of the men’s line. His gait was slow and unsteady, but his face was determined. She saw the doubtful looks on the faces of the other dancers, but tradition dictated the eldest person would lead the dance, and the rest had to follow. Would this man be up to the task?

And then he was there. Alex stood next to the old man, but instead of taking the man’s hand, he wrapped his right arm around the man’s frail body, holding him upright. The other men wordlessly fell into place behind Alex, and the music began. The line moved, Alex supporting the patriarch’s weight with one arm. Up and down the street they went, cheers and applause coming from those not dancing. The music soared, and the old man's wide, toothless smile tugged at Francie’s heart.

When the dance was over, Alex guided the man back to his seat in the tavern. Several of the villagers patted his shoulder in acknowledgement. A woman pressed a huge piece of baklava, wrapped in a napkin, into his hands. "Efharisto - thank you," she whispered to him before she returned to her seat beside the old man.

Alex Leonidis was a special man. But he was Greek, he was powerful, and he was charming. Francie knew if she weren’t careful, she could fall in love again with the wrong man. Doing so would be sheer stupidity.

Too bad her heart didn’t want to listen.

Hope you enjoyed it! Please leave a comment. You can return to the Sweet Saturday page by clicking here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Putting Myself Out There

I'm continuing to network and meet other authors. Most of the meetings are virtual. I joined a facebook group of authors from my publisher, Astraea Press. It looks like I joined at a great time. Someone came up with the idea of posting short excerpts of our writing on a regular basis, and linking our blogs together so that readers can hop from blog to blog, sampling our writing and perhaps finding an author or two that they like. The idea is that readers will purchase some of our publications. And our blogs will get more readers, too.

The discussion resulted in the creation of "Sweet Saturday Samples". Each week we sign up to join, and each Saturday we post our samples. You, as a reader, can go to the "Headquarters" from which you can choose an author (either a familiar one, or one at random) and read the sample from her blog. When you're finished, leave a comment if you like, close that window, and then you'll be back at the main page from which you can choose another author's work. Last week twenty-four authors participated. I know I got more traffic than usual at my blog, because I had nine readers leave comments!

I'm excited about this new adventure. Since my body of written work isn't large, it's going to keep me on my toes. I'm going to have to share excerpts from things that haven't even been submitted, let alone published. But I'm hoping to get a lot of experience form this. It's going to keep me accountable, and it's definitely going to keep me writing! And that's what it's all about.

Give it a try tomorrow! Go to and enjoy a great weekend of reading. All the excerpts are supposed to be G-rated, and should contain a warning if the book itself is not. Have fun! Be sure to leave comments if you enjoy what you read.