Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! Here's another sample from The Samurai's Garden. Hanako's village in the far northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is under the threat of another attack by a band of former samurai soldiers called ronin. Hiro, is a former samurai who still lives by the samurai code of ethics. He has promised to help the villagers defend themselves by training them to fight.
Hanako knew she should participate more readily in the exercises. After all, this was her property they were defending. Last fall she'd been helpless to stop them. The image of her husband cowering under the furniture still left a knot in her stomach. Would she be as ineffective if put to the test again?
She decided to listen carefully to the instruction, and practice alone in the privacy of the woods, rather than in front of the other villagers. Perhaps later she could join the others.
Seeing that all the animals were settled for the evening, she picked up the handle to an old hoe, and holding it out in front of her, tried to mimic the movements the group performed with Hiro. Carefully, she sliced a diagonal arc in front of herself. The motion didn’t seem quite like the technique Hiro had demonstrated, so she tried again, raising the hoe above her head and bringing it down and across her body with her hands ending near her left knee. She prepared to try the motion again, but gasped when her back connected with a solid wall of muscle. A deep, melodic voice rumbled from the wall at a point above her head.
"Don’t bring your weapon down so far. Remember, this leaves your body open to the opponent’s attack."
Hanako's heart stopped at the unexpected contact. Before she could react, two strong arms came around her. Hiro's right hand enveloped both of hers as they gripped the hoe, and the other came to rest on her left side, holding her close to him. Without thinking, she leaned back against his massive chest. Time stood still as she sank into his warmth.
She barely registered his words as he gently guided her through the drill, keeping the weapon in front of her as it sliced through the air. Using a sturdy willow as an imaginary foe, he positioned her so that her right arm extended toward the tree and the right side of her body faced it.
"Turn your body away from your opponent. This gives him a smaller target and protects your torso from his sword." Her arms and legs continued the drill, but her senses were aware only of her body pressing against his. Her back warmed from his solid presence, and her side tingled where his hand pressed gently to guide her. What would it be like to have those strong hands caressing her, guiding her through a different dance, another ritual?
She let herself dream as his arms and body cradled her. They went through the motions, his right hand and arm directing the improvised weapon, his left hand moving her body. It was amazing how their bodies fit together, how their limbs moved in perfect synchronization. His hands switched as he moved the improvised weapon to her other hand and turned her body so her left side faced the imaginary opponent. Hanako knew the movements had been designed for fighting, but the two of them were engaged in a much different, though equally intense, reality.
All too soon, the fantasy ended. The muscular arms left her sides, and her heart returned to earth with a crash. Hiro backed away, taking the comforting warmth with him.
"Are you all right?" he asked, peering at her curiously. "You look pale. Perhaps you have been working too hard. I should end the training sessions earlier so that I can help you —"
"No." Hanako shook her head, her cheeks burning. The physical contact with him had affected her so strongly that he had noticed.
Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment, and be sure to check out samples offered by other great authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I have another excerpt for you from The Samurai's Garden. Hanako, a widow and poor farmer in northern Japan, has help working her farm from Hiro, a former samurai. She now has more time for socializing with her neighbors, including the wealthy Widow Nakamura:

The Widow Nakamura had invited her to tea, and Hiro insisted she go. "You should become friends with your neighbors," he advised her. "There may be a time when you will be of great assistance to each other."
So Hanako accepted, bathing in the stream and dressing carefully in her better kimono. She brushed her waist-long ebony hair until it shone, and then tied it carefully behind her neck with strips of fabric. The dusty road and the long walk nearly negated her attempt at tidiness, but she wanted to look her best. Her apparel was not as nice as the widow’s lowest servants, but the widow always received her with a warm smile, making her forget her shabby clothes. The older woman, though obviously well-educated and high-born, had a down-to-earth manner and outlook on life. Reiko was definitely in charge of the house, but treated her children and her servants with kindness.
Just like Hiro.
The thought came to her as she trudged along the road to the Nakamura home. Hiro and the Widow Nakamura had much in common. With them, she never felt small. She was treated as an equal. And this was why she trusted them, and why she was able to voice her thoughts with Reiko.
Today, the widow waited for her in the lush gardens beside her home.
"Good morning, Hanako," she called.
"Good morning, Nakamura-san," Hanako replied, stopping to bow respectfully.
"It is such a lovely day. I thought we would have our tea out here in the garden."
Hanako nodded her assent, and Reiko led the way through the garden to an open structure about the size of Hanako’s hut. Under the roof, a small, low table held a plate of appetizing treats. Reiko gestured toward one of the silky cushions beside the table. "Please sit down. Chidori-san will bring the tea shortly."
Hanako knelt on the cushion, looking around her at the colorful garden. It was such a peaceful spot. Her mother had grown flowers like these all around their hut. Hanako remembered the colors, the fragrance, and the brightness they had provided to their drab surroundings. Had the castle in Mutsu boasted a large garden, with a place to sit and entertain guests?
Reiko settled herself on the cushion opposite Hanako, smiling serenely as she poured the tea. Hanako reached out to pick up the fragile cup, carefully lifting it to sip the fragrant brew.
For a moment she remembered Kenji’s mocking words when she had wanted to purchase a tea set in the marketplace. "Why would you need something like that? You don’t need nice cups for the slop we drink. It would be a waste!"
If only you could see me now. I am drinking fine tea out of a lovely cup, seated on a silk cushion in a beautiful garden.
Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know what you think, and be sure to find excerpts from other authors at Sweet Saturday Samples.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Please Welcome Author Catherine Bennett

Today I'm featuring another author new to Astraea Press, Catherine Bennett. The Trouble With Charlie was released in May, and is a romantic suspense full of some great dialogue and action, as you can see from the excerpt below. Catherine is practically a neighbor, living in Ohio with her husband and two rescue Laborador Retrievers. They have two grown sons. She says she does most of her writing on Post-it notes, which she describes as "one of the greatest inventions known to man."

The Trouble With Charlie sprang from Catherine's walks through an affluent neighborhood a few miles from her home. She says, "It had picturesque walking trails, beautiful homes and probably a few secrets that would work sell as a Romantic Suspense." Great idea – get some exercise and inspiration for your novel at the same time!
Here's an excerpt from The Trouble With Charlie:

“No, Amanda. There’s nothing between Charlie and me.”
Before Charlie could move, think, or even breath, Evan caught Amanda up in his arms. She heard Amanda’s gasp of pleasure – or pain – a second before his mouth crushed hers. Charlie loosened her grip on the tree. The scene in front of her seemed to slow to a crawl. She staggered back a step.
Someone bumped into her from behind, causing her to let out an unladylike “ugh.”  Evan let go of Amanda so quickly that she fell to the pavement.
“Charlie?” His voice penetrated the fog in her brain. She spun around and ran, willing her feet to go faster than the strappy sandals would allow. She exploded out of the grove of trees, pushed her way through the crowd, and headed toward the parking lot. Her spiked heels dug into the soft turf. Swearing soundly, she bent down and yanked the shoes off, breaking the straps in the process.
Without them she could fly. She rounded the side of the building, dodging potted plants and party guests. She scanned the long line of cars through a blur of tears. They all looked the same. She continued down the drive to the street, juggling her purse, shoes and the car remote.
Her pace quickened. How many black SUV’s can there be?  Little stones dug into the bottoms of her bare feet, but she barely felt them. Holding the remote in front of her, she clicked it several times, hoping to see a set of headlights switch on in the dark.
A hand grabbed her from behind and spun her around. Charlie’s free arm swung out quicker than the scream that followed it. The heel of her sandal barely missed the side of Evan’s head.
“Get away from me, Evan!  Just get away!”  Charlie brought her knee up, but he sidestepped.
“Woman. Would you stop trying to maim me?”
“I’m leaving. Now!”
“Would you calm down and come over here?” he demanded. She resisted, but he kept a firm grip on her arm and wrestled the remote out of her clenched fist. After dodging her flailing purse, he clicked the passenger door open and nudged her in. He ran around the front of the vehicle before she could escape, swung the door open, and slid in next to her.
Charlie didn’t look at him. She simply folded her arms and stared straight ahead. They sat in angry silence for a few minutes. She wiped the back of her hand under her runny nose. He snapped open the glove box, handed her a tissue, and leaned back in the seat.
“What did you hear back there?” he asked finally.
Evan ran his hand through his hair. “Did Amanda know you were spying?”
“Even if she did, you’ve got control over what you say. Over what you do.”
“I know. I know. I was angry. She was pushing me.”
“Angry? So that’s your excuse? That’s why you kissed her?” She balled her fist up and he flinched. Good. Let him be afraid. Let him be very afraid.
The Trouble With Charlie is available at Astraea Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

You can find Catherine at her website, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I've been sharing excerpts from The Samurai's Garden, due to be released at Astraea Press in two months. Last week I shared a memory from Hiro's childhood, so this time I thought I'd share a memory of Hanako's:

Long ago, when she was about eight years old, she’d gone to Sapporo with her father. It was one of the last times she remembered her father with fondness. They went to visit a relative, a cousin of her mother. Her home had tatami floors, unlike the rough wood planks at home. Flowers, artfully arranged, graced brightly lacquered tables. But what had impressed Hanako most was the aura of tranquility. Servants came in and out of the rooms, their steps muffled by the tatami mats on the floors. Sitting in the courtyard with a tiny cup of tea, she heard nothing but the rippling of water in the pond.
The lady of the house greeted them with smiles. She had no children, she told Hanako, and was so happy her cousin’s daughter had come to see her. "Please call me obachan, since I am like an aunt to you."
This aunt, though older than her father, showed none of the signs of aging so evident on farm women. She wore her hair in a pretty style, and she smelled so nice. Her voice was gentle, reminding Hanako of a soft, comforting voice from deep in the recesses of her memory.
The pleasantries ended when her obachan’s husband came home. Hanako remembered a big man with a big voice. The servants dropped down, their faces touching the floor in a deep bow, and the temperature seemed to plunge considerably. The man reminded her of a bear, the way he stormed into the house and roared at everyone. Obachan stopped what she was doing, rose shakily, and bowed. Her smile disappeared, and she remained silent, her eyes remained downward as her husband frowned at Hanako and her father.
Hanako was sent to the servants’ quarters to wait while the adults conducted their business. She never knew exactly what her father had hoped to accomplish on this trip, but suddenly the voices in the sitting room were raised, and the sliding door opened. Her father was pushed roughly out of the room, and the magistrate was heard to say, "Do not come here again! I have already loaned you enough money to buy and supply your farm four times over! You have nothing to show for it. You are no longer family."
With sharp instructions to a servant to see Father out, the door panel slid closed with enough force to rattle its bamboo frame. A moment later, a maid came to escort Hanako outside, and the visit to the lovely home came to an abrupt end.
The walk home had been even longer than the trip there. After they returned to their hut, her father had been a changed man. Though he had once been a kind, loving man, he'd become distant and preoccupied. He no longer seemed to care about the farm or about his child. His only concern had been getting his next drink.
The experience had taught Hanako about the dangers of being in someone else’s debt. Allowing Hiro to build her a new home would put her deeply in his debt, unless they married. Her farm would be her dowry. Could she do it?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On The Promo Wagon

Last Saturday I participated in an "eBook event" at one of the Barnes and Noble bookstores in town. A very ambitious author who happens to write for the same publisher as I do set it up with the manager there. I was a little apprehensive. The last time I did a book signing, I was disappointed. But then I had only one novella to sell, which I had burned onto some CDs. And I was in a room full of people who had print books, which were sold in the hallway by a local bookseller. People came into the room having already purchased their books and went to the authors to have them signed.

This time, I was inside the bookstore, and the people around me also had ebooks. Only two people had print books with them. I met some really interesting people, including my fellow authors. Five authors with my publishing house participated, and we're in the blurry picture above. It was great to connect with them. We had lunch together first, and then walked over to the store, which had us set up in the mystery section. I set out my bookmarks and my origami birds (I didn't have candy or other trinkets, so I thought those would be something nice to give away), and waited.

My family showed up, which was wonderful. I gave away several bookmarks and even signed a few. But it really wasn't all that busy. It would have been nice to have more visibility in the store. There were two announcements made during the two hours we were there, and one sign, which was brought upstairs, so unless people knew we were there or happened to be shopping for a mystery, they wouldn't have seen us. I guess I could have been more aggressive about approaching people who were browsing there.

I have absolutely no idea if there were any sales generated that day. I guess we'll find out sometime soon.  But all in all, it was a good experience, and one I'd like to try again.  There was talk of setting one up during Black Friday weekend. That will be nice, because I'll have a new release then. If I get my mind in gear, I might even have two.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I'm sharing another scene from The Samurai's Garden, scheduled for release in November at Astraea Press. This scene is a flashback. Hiro, a former samurai now working on a tiny farm in northern Japan, remembers how his famous warrior father taught him about compassion:

The tiny kitten lay on the roadside, injured and abandoned. Ten-year old Hiro couldn't leave the animal in the road to die, so he brought her home, cleaned her up, and nursed her back to health. He found an old basket, lined it with a soft blanket, and hid the kitten in his room. Each day, after completing his studies and exercises, he sneaked back to his room, gently petting the fur ball and crooning to her softly. Always a dutiful son, he was careful to complete his tasks before indulging himself in the luxury of cuddling with his pet.
One day, the kitten fell ill. Hiro’s heart ached for the tiny being as she lay listlessly, refusing to eat, not wanting to play. He feared for the kitten’s life, but didn’t know how to help her. Chores were done quickly, and he hurried back to his room to check on his charge. He sat on his ofuton, gently petting her, when the shoji screen opened and his father walked in. In his hand was a piece of armor. Hiro had been instructed to polish the headpiece, but the lack of shine attested to his carelessness. Hiro looked up, up, up at the man he loved and feared more than any other. Not only had he failed in his duty, he was harboring a pet. What would the great samurai do? Could he stand by and watch his father callously discard the kitten?
He clutched the kitten to his chest, trembling. The pet squirmed, but thankfully remained quiet, as if understanding that her fate lay in this powerful man’s hand. Hiro struggled to contain the tears that filled his eyes and fought to keep from pleading for the mercy he knew would not come. Duty came first to a samurai. There was no time for the frivolity of pets.
And then the great warrior spoke. Hiro mentally prepared himself for the lashing he knew would follow.
"I wondered about the noises I heard coming from this room when you weren’t home. But you have not come here during the day before now. What caused you to abandon your duties today?"
Hiro’s heart held to a thread of hope. Was it possible that his warrior father understood? He struggled to find his voice. "F-forgive me, otousan. She — she seems ill. She is not eating."
Otousan said nothing, but one brow raised. He held out his hand and waited.
Dutifully, Hiro handed over the kitten, though his hands trembled, and he feared he might drop her. Otousan took the tiny bundle in his large hands and examined her closely. "It appears she has a cold. See, her eyes are watering, and her breathing seems labored. Let’s see if we can help her." He turned and strode to the ofuro, the bath area with Hiro following closely on his heels.
In the hot, steamy room, Otousan lay the kitten on a soft, clean towel. Gradually, the kitten settled in, her breathing calmed. Hiro’s anxiety also eased as he realized she was going to be all right.
Father and son brought the pet back to Hiro’s room to rest. "You should bring her back to the ofuro three or four times each day to clear out her lungs." He turned a stern eye toward his son. "Of course you will do this in between your chores and lessons." Hiro nodded in understanding. "And now that she is resting comfortably, you can return to polishing this armor properly."
Hiro bowed low, thanking the gods he would not be punished today. "Yes, Otousan. I will polish until it gleams."
The beloved pet had lived until Hiro left for the university, and he never forgot his father’s compassion that day. He had learned it was possible to be both a fierce samurai and to have a tender heart. And he realized that strength used to care for a weaker being showed a greater nobility than strength used to take from those who could not fight back.
Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment, and be sure to check out samples from other fine authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Please Welcome Author Samantha Combs

   Today I am honored to introduce you to Samantha Combs. Samantha is a prolific author, writing Young Adult Paranormal stories not only at Astraea Press, but also at Musa Publishing. She is a true cheerleader for her fellow authors. She was the first blogger to interview me after the publication of my first novella, The Legacy, and so I am glad to have the chance to return the favor as she prepares for the launch of her latest release, Waterdancer. Since Samantha herself is quite busy with all the promo surrounding the release, she sent her main character, Bailey Wasserman, to answer my questions.

PK: Thank you for coming to chat with us today, Bailey. Why do you think Samantha choose you to represent her?
BW: We are a lot alike.  Most of how I am in Waterdancer is drawn directly from her own teen years.  She had the standoffish stepfather, the new home, the new school, and the absentee father.  While he wasn’t a sea creature, everything else is the same.

PK: Tell us a little about yourself.
BW: I just moved with my mother and her new husband and my awesome little brother Landry to a brand new city.  I have to go to a new school, too.  I’m pretty laidback, but this is turning out to be a seriously stressful summer.  Even a zen chick like me has her limits.

PK: What is your birth date?
BW: Let’s just say my sixteenth birthday this summer will bring more surprises than presents.

PK: Where do you live? What is it about that area that drew you there?
BW: We live in Del Mar, California  Pretty ritzy place. This is where my stepfather, Warren, brought us to live. Before my Mom married him, we had a great little house in a totally not expensive area.  We were happy.  I’m still working out if I like being here.  Secretly though, I have fallen in love with the beach.  Never had that before!

PK: What do you wish people would know about you?
SC: If they knew about the mermaid tail, they would think I was a freak, or creepy.  So I DON’T want them to know about that.  Except for Jack.  He kind of found out by accident.  And he still likes me!  Unheard of.

PK: What is your perfect evening?
BW: Since I learned how to surf, the perfect evening is riding the waves with Jack until the sun goes down, and watching that sunset with him on the sand.

What do you do to relax?
BW: Surf.  And I’m a teenager.  We don’t relax, much.

PK: Tell us about Jack. What drew you to him?
BW: He is seriously cute and for some unknown reason, he likes me.  Besides, I wasn’t drawn to him…he kind of stalked me at Registration.  Thank you, Jesus, because he was the cutest boy in that whole room.

PK: What about the girl on the cover? Is that a fair representation of you?
BW: Yes.  She is a bit wistful, and you can sense her awakened desire for the ocean.

PK: What’s you biggest turn ons?
BW: Surfing with Jack, spending time with Landry, people telling me the truth.

PK: What are your biggest Turn offs?
BW: Deception.

PK: What’s your perfect day? Why?
BW: Digging in the dirt until I find something left from an ancient civilization. Sharing it with the people around me. Being able to learn something about the world that the user of that artifact lived in.

PK: Do you believe in ghosts?
BW: Well, I didn’t believe in sea creatures before this summer, so I guess I need to change my mind about ghosts, too.

PK: What is your biggest fear?
BW: That something will happen to Landry because of me.

PK: Why should the readers be interested in your story?
BW: Because I’m just a normal teenager trying to make my way in a life that has just been turned upside-down.  Because my story could be any girl’s story, maybe just not with sea creatures as parents.  And because I am honest, and real, and sincere.

Thanks for coming today, Bailey!
Readers can find Waterdancer at your favorite online source beginning THIS FRIDAY, September 7. You can find Samantha on Facebook, her blog, or on Twitter: