Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I'm getting anxious for the release of The Samurai's Garden, which won't be for another two months. I'm sharing another excerpt with you today. Hiro, a former samurai, has come to help Hanako on her tiny subsistence farm in the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.

"Why did you come here?" she asked one day as they returned to the hut after a trip into the village.
"I felt I needed to pay a debt incurred by my brothers in war."
"No, I mean why were you in our particular village? I understand many of the samurai are finding other uses for their skills. Did you truly expect to find anything suitable here, so far away from the capital city?"
Hiro took his time answering. After his best friend had died, he had lost his will to fight. When the Emperor Meiji put an end to the samurai class, his duty there had ended, and he had traveled north, farther away from the capital and the political wars. He’d wandered across the countryside, watching people, sleeping wherever he could find shelter, and working when he needed to. The money he had used to purchase Hanako’s animals had come from a wealthy merchant who’d been grateful for Hiro’s temporary services as a bodyguard.
"I was ready for a change from my life in the city. I needed to find another path, one with more peace and harmony. I have grown to appreciate the life you lead, the way you supply most of your needs from the land around you."
There was much more to his story, but thankfully, Hanako seemed to accept his answer.
"Don't you have responsibilities to your family?" she asked.
"I am the second of four sons. My eldest brother is now a member of the Imperial Guard. He has primary care for my mother, now that my father is gone."
"Will you return to the city after the harvest?"
"I am not sure about my future. I think I would like to stay here for some time. If you will agree to teach me all you know, I will continue to stay and help you with your farm."
She regarded him thoughtfully. "The life of a farmer is difficult. It is hard physical labor, and one is always dependent on the weather. Many other things can go wrong, destroying all your work. Fire, drought, disease, and of course —" She swallowed convulsively before continuing, "— invasion by ronin."
Hiro had taken seriously his vows of samurai ethics, and he was repulsed by the antics of the ronin. "The emperor’s men are clamping down on them," he began.
"The emperor’s men cannot be everywhere," she argued. "The ronin travel at night and take people by surprise. No one is exempt from the terror they impart."
He stopped walking and turned to face her, but waited until she met his eyes before he spoke. "They will not harm you again. I swear it."
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to check out excerpts from other fine authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples and clicking on their links!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Please Welcome Author Cathy Tully

Today I am pleased to present author Cathy Tully. Cathy's novel, All You Need is Love, was released at Astraea Press in June. She's here to share a bit about it. Here's the blurb:
Jack DeVane is on the fast track to becoming CEO of Cunningham Coffee and nothing will get in his way…until a little dog wanders into his condo and a beautiful dog walker wanders into his heart.

Caitlyn Stiles has one wish--to take over the family business. When she returns from college and this is no longer an option, she travels to Promise, Massachusetts to look after her ailing grandmother where she takes a job as a part-time dog walker.

Can one sweet, little dog teach Jack there’s more to life than work?
Teach Caitlyn to let go of her resentment?
And teach them both that ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE?

Here's an excerpt from All You Need is Love:

“Caitlyn, are you ready yet?” Her mother called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Hurry. All the best plants will be gone if we get there too late.”
She closed the closet door and gazed out her bedroom window.  It was a clear, warm day with a vivid blue sky. A vivid blue that reminded her of Jack’s eyes. She groaned and headed down into the kitchen where her mother waited.
With Easter only a week away, she’d promised her mother she’d go to the nursery and pick up some crocus, hyacinths and assorted flowers to brighten the front of the townhouse.
“So, are you ready to help me pick out some pretty yellow tulips?” Her mother wiped her hands on a kitchen towel.
“What did you say?”
“Yellow tulips. This year I’ve decided to fill the entire front of the house with yellow tulips.”
Caitlyn flinched. “But I thought we’d decorate the front of the house like last year when you first moved in. Use a mix of assorted pansies. What happened to that idea? You loved the effect. You even agreed it would be colorful and perky.”
Her mother shook her head. “No. I’ve changed my mind. This year I want to use bulbs, so they’ll come back again and again. Since I didn’t plant any last fall, we can buy potted tulips that’ll come back again year after year. And I’ve decided that yellow tulips should be the main accent color. Bright yellow. Vivid yellow. Beautiful yellow tulips.”
Caitlyn groaned. Tulips? The one flower; the only flower she hoped to dissuade her mother from using.
“What’s wrong with you? A beautiful bright yellow will serve as the perfect accent color for the house’s brick face and black shutters. I even bought a gorgeous yellow spring wreath for the door.”
Caitlyn put her head in her hands.
“I think yellow will look stunning. They’re going to make our house stand out from all the others on the block. I even saw something similar in a magazine, and I’m telling you, the effect was beautiful.”
“Okay mom. I get it. You want yellow.”
“Yes. Yellow tulips. You used to love yellow tulips. They were your favorite flower.”
“Were is the operative word, Mom. Were.”
“What happened to change your mind?”
Caitlyn couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Jack happened.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He ruined everything.”
“Nonsense. How can a man ruin your favorite flower?”
Caitlyn groaned. “It’s not bad enough he works for a company I detest, but then he shows up out of nowhere to get his mitts on dad’s recipe behind my back. To top it all off, he brings me yellow tulips.”
“I said Jack brought me yellow tulips.”
“No. Before that.”
“Dad’s recipe?’
No. Before that.”
“Jack works for Cunningham Coffee, Mom.” Caitlyn blew out an exasperated sigh.
“Oh honey, you’re thoroughly confused. About everything.” Her mother walked over to the table and sat next to her. She kept her voice low. “Tell me sweetie, did you insist Jack leave that morning he came to town, even though you love him, because you thought he still worked for that horrible company?”
Caitlyn nodded and bit her quivering bottom lip. “I can’t be with someone like that. Someone who works for people like that. What does that say about him?”
Her mother sat opposite her then reached across the kitchen table and squeezed both her hands. “Caitlyn, Jack doesn’t work for Cunningham Coffee anymore.” She handed Caitlyn a tissue.
She blotted her eyes. “No. He probably owns his own company now. He’s probably taking advantage of more people like they taught him to.”
“As a matter of fact he does operate his own company. Well, part of the company. He and I haven’t worked out all the details yet.”
Caitlyn stood and pushed her chair in, ignoring her mother’s comment. “If I know him, he’s closing every innocent, little store he can get his hands on.”
“You don’t know him at all do you?”
“What does that mean?” Caitlyn said.
“It means you better get ready to eat some crow!”
All You Need is Love can be purchased at AstraeaPress, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
Cathy can be found at her website and on Facebook.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! This week I'm continuing to share excerpts from my upcoming release, The Samurai's Garden. This scene takes place directly after the one I posted last week:
Hiro put the axe away and walked back to his hut. He made use of the tiny washbowl and returned to Hanako’s hut to find out what the day’s work would be. She was still busy cooking, so he sat down on the cushion to watch her.
He hadn’t expected to be comfortable here, but he had slept soundly and awakened full of energy. The air here seemed cleaner, everything looked brighter, and he had tiptoed past her hut to investigate the surroundings in the light of day. Noticing the nearly depleted woodpile, he imagined her struggling to chop the wood for her fire. The thought distressed him so much he chose the tallest tree he could find, cutting it down and chopping it into pieces so that she wouldn’t have to worry about the chore for a while.
Watching her now, as she worked on the simple meal, he compared her to the women he had known. Embodying the traditional concept of beauty, their smooth, uncalloused hands held delicately painted fans in front of their powdered faces. Hanako’s fingernails were lined with dirt, and her face was tanned from working outdoors. Her clear eyes shone with intelligence and sincerity. Yet in her simplicity she was as elegant as a geisha.
Hanako’s breakfast preparations were interrupted by a strange bellow from behind the hut. Hiro looked up, uncomprehending, while she jumped up and ran outside. He got up to follow her.
The cow had broken her lead rope and had begun to trot away. Hanako ran after the animal, but the kimono she wore didn't allow her to run very fast. She could only move her legs from the knees down, and the cow got farther and farther away.
Hiro knew he could overtake the animal more easily and raced after the errant cow. Charging past Hanako, he finally reached the animal and grabbed what was left of the lead rope. Then he slowed his steps, gradually bringing the cow to a halt. The massive animal resisted his pull, but Hiro managed to turn her around.
A flash of gray to his right caught his attention. A wolf? Was that why the cow had run? Perhaps he'd better go hunting later.
Before Hiro had the cow back to the hut, Hanako was already hard at work digging a hole. A sturdy pole and a thicker rope lay on the ground nearby.           
He admired her athletic movement, as well as her fine form, as she set about her task. She was such a hard worker. A sudden thought entered his mind, startling him with its intensity.
She is a strong woman, worthy of a strong warrior.
Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment and check out the excerpts from other great authors by visiting Sweet Saturday Samples. See you next week!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! This week I have another short scene from my upcoming release, The Samurai's Garden:

She stopped suddenly at an unfamiliar sound outside her hut. Who or what would be making that noise? The road was not well-traveled, and it was not the sound of an animal foraging for food. She peeked through the doorway, and her jaw dropped as she realized what she had heard.
Hiro stood at the edge of the clearing, swinging an ancient axe in a deadly arc at the trunk of a thick tree. A loud crack preceded the thunderous boom as it crumpled to the earth. The axe continued its work as limbs and branches were separated from the trunk.
Hanako’s mouth went dry at the sight of her handsome guest. He was stripped to the waist, his tanned and muscled arms glistening as they swung rhythmically. She couldn’t resist leaning out of the doorway to get a closer look. Mesmerized, she stared at the rippling muscles on his back. Kenji had never stirred such feelings in her. Of course, Kenji had never subjected himself to hard physical labor. He was an artist and an intellectual.
Thinking of her husband brought memories of him cowering in a corner, pleading for his life. A big, muscular soldier stood over him, his sword raised…
Memories of that dreadful time brought a dull ache to her heart. She lifted a hand to her breast as if to massage the ache away. Remembering her guest, she turned from the doorway. She couldn’t think about such things now.
She lit the fire and put on water for tea. The little earthen jar held enough rice for one healthy serving, so she washed the precious grains and set them aside to soak. A quick trip to her garden produced a radish and some herbs. After a moment’s hesitation, she picked a few blossoms from her flowerbed. Such a fine gentleman was probably used to having lovely things at his table. She didn’t have much, but her flowers would have to do.
She found a thin wooden board and cleaned it as well as she could. Remembering an old bottle of cheap sake her father had left behind, she dug it out and pulled out the stopper. The rancid odor nearly made her swoon. The fancy gentleman would definitely not drink this concoction. But the decorated bottle gave her an idea. After dumping out the contents, she arranged the blossoms in it and set the arrangement on her makeshift tray.
The rice was boiling in the pot, and she had just finished seasoning the chopped radish when Hiro entered the hut. His face and torso gleamed from his morning exertion. Hanako forced herself to look away.
"Thank you for cutting up the firewood. I didn't realize the woodpile was so low." She continued to look away as she prepared his tray. If she gave in, she would subject herself to longings she had forgotten. It would not do to wish for the attentions of the wealthy traveler.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to leave a comment, and find other great excerpts by going to Sweet Saturday Samples.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Please Welcome Author Teresa Blue!

Today I am pleased to welcome Teresa Blue! Teresa is another fellow member of the Mid Michigan chapter of RWA. Teresa says she has always enjoyed the magical journey of meeting memorable characters between the pages of books. Most of her life’s been spent devouring one book after another.  And then one day she picked up a pen and began to write. Five novels later she received ‘the call’ in an email from Jennifer Lawler, editor of Crimson Romance. Teresa's new novel, Man of Her Dreams, was just released today, and she's here to tell us a little bit about it.

"Man of her Dreams is a fun journey that reflects on the challenge of finding the one person meant for you. It’s not an easy task, but paired up with a new best friend, Leslie is determined to overcome the obstacles that litter her road to happiness."
When she’s not writing, Teresa loves searching high and low for those ties to yesterday. Whether it’s a tin cup or plate to cheery yellow smiley mugs, she enjoys the hunt and almost always never comes home empty handed.

Leslie Stone stumbles upon her fiancĂ© cheating with the maid of honor just days before her wedding. Determined to put distance between them, she heads to the family’s cabin in Sleeping Falls, Michigan. Unfortunately, her car barely hit the city limits before breaking down. And with no money for repairs, the scrolling marquee above the biker bar advertising a mechanical bull riding contest seems like a perfect solution.
Jay Westfield learned at an early age to avoid women who chase the limelight. After all, his mother had been the star attraction in Harvey’s Traveling show. The minute Leslie clears the door in cut-offs and skimpy tank top, things heat up. She’s on a mission and he wants no part of it. The last thing he expects is the attraction he feels seeing her on the back of Old Iron.
Add in a squeezy rag doll named Mr. Jingles, the colorful antics of newfound friend, and the renowned tarot-card reader Madame Luella. Leslie’s about to discover in order to find the man of her dreams she must be willing to believe in magic.

Here's an excerpt from Man of Her Dreams:
Jay dipped his head and stopped an inch from her face. The background noise fell away as he noticed a tiny spray of freckles dotting her nose; her cheeks glittered from face powder. The scent of hops tickled his nose. Her chest rose as her breath quickened. The urge to taste her grew and he hardened, fighting an overwhelming desire to lick every drop of beer from her skin.  He longed to pull the wet stands of hair aside and kiss her neck, taste the sweetness oozing from her body. 
     Leslie tucked a stringy lock of hair behind her ears. “You may be leaving, but I’m not,” she said, jutting her chin out. “I’m having fun,” she said, her eyes narrowed in challenge.
     “How much fun can you take?” Jay’s voice trembled. “Let’s go. I’ve got a feeling you’ll thank me in the morning.”
     “Is that a promise?”
     He glowered at her. Her suggestive question left him with one of his own. What the hell did he care? It was a question he couldn’t answer. “Consider me your white knight.”
     “Oh, perfect. And I’m off to Fairy land, right?”
     The bar room boomed with laughter and for the second time that night Jay felt twelve years old. Only this time he couldn’t run away. He knew what people whispered about him but he didn’t care. He’d purposely added to the rumors by not getting involved with any of the local women. There had been plenty willing and available when he first arrived. A few even asked out-right if he’d like to go home with them. But Jay always turned them down, refusing to play in his own backyard. Not wanting to bed any of them.
     Until now.
     “You’d be surprised what a little fairy dust will do,” he said, and easily hoisted her over his shoulders. The crowd ate it up, yelling instructions behind him.
     They’d almost cleared the door when Sally came running over carrying a cowboy hat filled with ten and twenty dollar bills.  “Les! Wait up! Your money. How you gonna leave town without it?” she said, and held out the floppy hat.
     Leslie struggled against his chest and Jay reluctantly let her slide down his body. She dipped her fingers into the hat and pulled out a wad of money. “You mean all this is mine?”     
     “Sure is. Look around, Les. That ride was the best they’ve seen in awhile. Shit, even the ladies have something to think about. The way you work those thigh muscles, maybe get a little more verbal. You’re an inspiration to us all.”
     Sally squeezed her in a boa-constrictor hug, smashing her against a huge bosom. She planted a wet kiss alongside Leslie’s cheek, then pulled out the napkin she’d tucked in her cleavage earlier and proceeded to wipe away the lip gloss her smooch had left behind. “All I know is, if that ain’t enough to buy a new alternator, then come back tomorrow night. You can double it.  I guaran-damn-tee- it,” Sally said, as proud as if she’d won.  
Man of Her Dreams is available at Crimson RomanceAmazon and Barnes and Noble.

Visit Teresa at her website.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome! I'm so glad to be back to Sweet Saturdays. I've been working on some new projects so that I'd have more to share, but this week I'm busy with edits for The Samurai's Garden, which has been accepted at Astraea Press and is slated for release in November. So I'd like to introduce you to a few of the characters I'm working with. In this scene, Hiro, a former samurai now working on a farm in northern Japan, meets a former comrade:

Ginjiro’s winding path took him past the woods where Hiro stood, and he teetered as he noted Hiro’s presence. His eyes scrunched as he tried to focus. "Friend, could you help an old soldier?" he slurred.
"You are not so old, Ginjiro, and I see your habits have not changed. Why do you continue to drink yourself into a stupor? You can hardly walk. Sit down and stop weaving about before you hurt yourself."
The inebriated man started in surprise. "You know me?" He tottered forward and squinted again. "Tanaka-san, is that you? What are you doing so far from the mainland? I thought you would have a successful career as a merchant or a politician in Tokyo."
"We will not talk about me. You need to sleep off your drink."
"No, I need to fill myself with the ale. It will dull the pain."
"Why are you in pain? You don’t appear injured."
"I’m talking about the pain of my sword when I perform seppuku.
Hiro’s eyes widened, and he stepped toward his former comrade. "No!"
"Yes, my friend. You are smart. You have the mind and the money to become anything you choose. But I am a warrior. Perhaps not a very good one, but I am a soldier. It is all I know. I cannot do anything else. I have looked all around trying to find a noble to take me on as a guard, but I am too small, too weak, too — stupid. I even worked for some disreputable men, but I was not able to stay. I am a failure as a samurai. I must die."
"Ginjiro, do not speak of yourself this way. You can find honest work. I can help you. Please — you must not kill yourself."
Hiro had fought in countless battles, but nothing had brought him the horror he had once experienced watching a childhood friend disembowel himself in the name of honor. Hiro himself had taken the code of the Bushido, but he failed to understand the need for the awful ritual required of the samurai soldiers for crimes real or imagined. It was the primary reason he had left the mainland in search of another calling. He could not face his former comrades who had become politicians and merchants, vocations as cutthroat as the life of a samurai. He needed to find a more peaceful life. Ginjiro’s words had recalled the violence he had tried so hard to escape. He could not bear to watch another comrade take his own life.
Thanks for stopping by! Check out more excerpts by going to Sweet Saturday Samples and clicking on the links to other author blogs. But first, PLEASE leave a comment! I'm excited about this manuscript and am eager to find out what others think.