Friday, April 26, 2013

Sweet Saturday

Welcome back! I'm sharing more of my current WIP, The Plum Blossom Covenant, which takes place in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. We've met the hero and his parents, and this week we meet the heroine, Yumiko:
Hiro and Hanako both turned toward the voice. Several other heads turned as well, since Tanaka was a very common name in this area. But the person waving to them was a familiar face, and Hanako held out her arms in greeting.
“Yumiko-chan!  What are you doing here?”
Yumiko Sasaki, the daughter of Furano’s mayor, bounded toward them. She and Yasa had grown up together. Now, Hanako noticed, Yasa’s former playmate had grown into a beautiful young woman.
“I am working for a conference of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Two of the speakers are to arrive on this ship, so I have come to meet them. But why are you here?”
“Yasa is returning from America. We decided to surprise him by meeting his ship, rather than waiting for him to make his way to Sapporo.”
“I am sure he will be overjoyed to see you.” Her eyes clouded and she looked away. “I’m sure he wouldn’t be so glad to see me, though.” She took a deep breath, blew it out, and pasted her smile back on her face. “But until the ship disembarks, I can chat with you. How have you been?”
Hanako wondered about the girl’s reaction and a glance at her husband told her that he was curious too. But they put their questions aside and made conversation until the ship pulled up to the dock. The whistle blew, and they all turned eager eyes toward the lowering gangplank. By the time people began to disembark, Yumiko had disappeared into the crowds.
Hanako frowned. Why did Yumi believe Yasa would not be happy to see her? They had been childhood friends - sometimes enemies - but surely he would welcome the sight of another familiar face.  Had there been some sort of argument between them?
The answers would have to wait.  She turned toward the dock and watched eagerly for her son.
Thanks for stopping by! For more free excerpts, please visit the blogs of other authors. Their links can be found at Sweet Saturday Samples blog.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Can't is a Four-letter Word

Writers often have to reach out to strangers for helping getting the details correct while we're writing about things out of our personal area of expertise. When I wrote The Christmas Phoenix, I contacted a local ice sculptor who not only answered all my questions about his craft, but also sent me videos of a show he and his crew had appeared on so that I could SEE how he worked. That went a long way toward helping me create the ice sculpting character, and it's no coincidence that the hero of the story has physical traits similar to him.
So when I started working on a story about a quilter who suddenly starts to lose her sight, I contacted Diane Rose, who had been featured in a video interview uploaded on YouTube. Diane is the creator of almost a thousand quilts - all sewn without the ability to see. You can watch the video here:

As you can see, Dynamo Diane doesn't let an "inconvenience" like blindness stop her from living her life to the fullest and doing the things she really wants to do! She gives motivational speeches and appearances, and shows people how they can do so much more than they think they can! Unfortunately, health problems have curtailed her speaking engagements, and thus her income, for the first part of the year, and she is now in the process of healing. But she would sincerely like to reach out to people, and is looking for venues to speak, especially in the Detroit area, during the second half of June.
I've had the pleasure of speaking to Diane personally, and I'm excited at the possibility of meeting her personally this summer! We're looking forward to meeting when she comes to Michigan. She is in need of venues to spread her message of inspiration and empowerment, so if you belong to an organization that would like to hear her, be sure to contact her via her website (, or leave a comment below.
There are other ways you can help. Diane's website lists materials she needs to continue her quilt ministry. She is always looking for donations of fabric and thread. 
Right now, I'm headed downstairs to pack up some of my fabric stash to send her.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leaving a Legacy

Today I went to my quilting group at church. I made a quilt top out of some beautifully appliqu├ęd and hand embroidered snowmen that I'd gotten from a fellow author, Cheryl Sterling. Cheryl and her husband recently sold everything and moved from the eternal winter in Michigan to sunny Hawaii. Before they left, Cheryl gave me several tubs and boxes full of fabric and quilt supplies. A lot of the fabric had already been cut into squares, and some had been sewn into nine-patches and other designs.

I shared some of these squares with the other quilters, and we combined Cheryl's squares with other fabric to create several quilts that will go to the hospital, the veterans' home, and a women's shelter. All the pictures on this page are quilts made with fabric from Cheryl's former stash.
This got me thinking. By giving us this fabric, she's left a legacy in this town she left. Several people will benefit from the warmth generated by these quilts, and the designs she created will give them pleasure. And since she's an author, she's left a legacy with her books. People can enjoy them while staying warm wrapped in her blankets.
Of course, where Cheryl is, she doesn't need any blankets.
Well done, Ms Sterling.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sweet Saturday

Image credit: haraldmuc / 123RF Stock Photo

Welcome back! I'm still hard at work on the sequel to my samurai story, tentatively titled The Plum Blossom Covenant. Last week, we met the hero, Yasahiro Tanaka, as he returned to his homeland after several years in America. This week, we join his parents, Hiro and Hanako Tanaka, the main characters in The Samurai's Garden:
"Do you see it?  Over there, to the left."
Hanako Tanaka squinted and peered in the direction her husband pointed.  Lately, she'd had more and more trouble seeing things at a distance. Could she really be aged enough that her eyes were failing? Hopefully, she would not have to wear spectacles. It would be so embarrassing.
"I can make out the sails now! Surely it won’t be too much longer." Hiromasa’s voice rose with excitement, and Hanako's heart beat faster, both with excitement and with the thrill of being Hiro's wife. After all these years, her heart still fluttered each time she looked at the tall, strong former samurai who had swept into her life and made her world complete. At fifty-three, he still made an imposing figure. She'd noticed the admiring gazes of several other women. It happened everywhere they went. Her handsome husband stayed fit through hard work on the farm. But it was his intelligence and willingness to try new innovations that made Tanaka Farms a great success.
"Patience, Hiro," she reminded him. "Wishes won’t make the ship travel any faster."
They had traveled to the main island so they could meet Yasa’s ship. They'd been apprehensive about taking the train, but thanks to the new railroads traversing the country, the trip had only taken a fraction of the time it used to. They both missed him terribly and wanted to be reunited with him as soon as possible.
Hiro smiled at her now and put an arm around her. "You are right as always, my little flower. I must learn to be more patient. Our son will arrive when he arrives." He squeezed her harder. "But I have missed him so."
Heedless of the stares they garnered at their public display of affection, she turned toward him. She reached around to squeeze him back, reveling in the sheer power contained in his yukata.
"I have missed him, too," she reminded him. "But you told him he needed to go."
He chuckled. "Yes, it was my fault. Are you angry about that?"
"No, not at all.  I understand why he needed to go. Other than the visits we made to Tokyo, and the years he spent at the University in Sapporo, he never knew about life outside our village. If he is to be a leader, like his father, he had to learn more about the world.  So each day I went to the temple and prayed for his safety. And each day I felt better about him. He will be a well-educated, strong leader, like his father."
Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know what you think of this sample, and be sure to read the excerpts offered by other authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples. If you haven't already read Hiro's story, The Samurai's Garden is available at Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other ebook outlets.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'm Hard at Work on this - Oh look!

My psychologist daughter says that I am not ADHD, but I've always had a hard time sticking to what I should be doing. Right now I SHOULD complete two manuscripts, both sequels to books I've already written. Both stories are outlined and at least 50 percent complete. I need to finish them so that I can submit them and do the promotional dance necessary for keeping my name in the public eye. And I need to finish them so that I can cross them off my to-do list and feel the sense of completion. Whatever.
But as my profile says, I'm happiest when I'm starting a new project. And my publisher threw out a call for submissions of a specific type of story. And the deadline is in three weeks. I thought about it for about ten minutes and a germ of an idea entered my head. And before I knew it I was plotting and planning and researching. A new Scrivener document is started and I've got the first chapter written. Knowing me, I'll have the ending finished by the end of the week. Which means I will have two weeks to write everything in between.
Meanwhile, my two sequels are screaming at me, "Why have you abandoned us?" Sometimes I feel like I'm back in my mom-with-young-kids stage, when I'd be reading with one kid and the other one would need something right now. I'm amazed that they've both turned out to be fairly normal. And then there's social media. I spend WAAYYYY too much time finding out where everyone is, what they're having for dinner, songs that they're thinking about, and the general health of everyone I know and everyone they know. I also get a lot of email I don't need, and in order to find the emails I do need, I have to keep deleting the junk ones, and dealing with the writing business ones as soon as I open them.
Maybe there's a chance my books will all get finished, and they'll be great. But that means I'm going to have to concentrate on writing, and not getting distracted by—
Oh, I've got another email! I wonder who it's from.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sweet Saturday

Plum Blossoms Image credit: hanaschwarz / 123RF Stock Photo

Welcome back to Creative Hodgepodge! I've been hard at work on some new stories, and I hope you'll like them. Today I'm sharing the opening for a work-in-progress that follows the son of my samurai hero in The Samurai's Garden. My working title is The Plum Blossom Covenant. This is the opening scene:

Yasahiro Tanaka stood at the bow of the ship, gazing intently ahead.  The salty spray from the ocean stung his face, but he kept his eyes pointed toward his goal.  He was returning home, back to the land in which he had been born and raised, the land of his family, his roots.
It had been five years since he had left his parents' home, under protest, not wanting to separate from the cocoon of security his loving family had wrapped him in all his life.  But his father, his wise samurai parent, had insisted. “You need to see more of the world before you settle down,” he had said. “You know of nothing but your surroundings. There is much to see, so many other lifestyles, ideas, and knowledge that is yours for the taking. Go. We will miss you, but you must do this before you can truly lead.”.
So he had gone. First, he'd gone to the mainland to visit his father’s family in Tokyo. He had been there before, but this time he'd gone alone, absorbing everything he saw and heard. He'd visited the courts where his grandfather, the great samurai warrior, had served the emperor. He'd worked out at the dojo where his father and uncles had trained.
After a few months, he had boarded a ship and gone across the ocean to the enormous country called America. He had a limited knowledge of English, having attended the Hokkaido Agricultural College in Sapporo, where the president and several instructors were American. They had told him stories about their homeland, and he wanted to see if the tales of the largeness of the land, about the freedoms to move about, and the opportunities to be had there were all true.
And now he was coming home. He had so many wonderful tales of his own to tell, to share with his family, and a few souvenirs as well.
A young boy nudged into his side, reminding Yasa he was not alone on the deck. The youngster peered through the railing, only to be pulled back by his anxious mother. Yasa cast a quick glance at the mother, his breath catching at the sight of her purple jacket, emblazoned with white plum blossoms. It was a painful reminder of another woman in a similar gown, in another place and time.
No matter how hard he worked, or how far he traveled he couldn't escape reminders of her. She had professed to return his feelings, but then abandoned him.  Even now the pain of her rejection had the power to make his his temperature rise, to make his mouth taste bitter. She had worn his favorite kimono that night, white plum blossoms embroidered on purple silk.  She'd fastened matching plum blossoms in her hair and he had never seen her looking so beautiful.
Growing up with flowers, he'd known the meaning of those blossoms.  Westerners associated plum blossoms to beauty and longevity, but in the Asian countries the blossoms meant “pure and true”.  He cringed at the irony. He had known her all his life and had believed he'd found his soulmate, but in reality he hadn't known her at all.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to leave a comment, and check out the excerpts offered by other authors by going to Sweet Saturday Samples. And if you want to read about Yasa's samurai father, check out The Samurai's Garden by clicking on the book cover below.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Please Welcome Author Elf Ahearn

Today I have newly published author Elf Ahearn as a guest. Elf's new release, A Rogue in Sheep's Clothing, was just released this week and is already climbing the charts! Here's the blurb:
In Lord Hugh Davenport’s opinion, women of the ton perpetually hide behind a mask of deception. That’s hard for Ellie Albright, the daughter of an earl, to swallow—especially since she’s disguised herself as a stable hand to get back the prized stallion her father sold to Hugh to pay a debt. If Hugh learns her true identity she’ll lose the horse and her family will go bankrupt. Somehow, though, losing Hugh’s affection is beginning to seem even worse.
Already only a step away from being snagged in her own web of lies, Ellie’s deceit threatens to spin out of control when Hugh’s mother invites Ellie and her sisters to a house party. Now Ellie has to scramble to keep Hugh from knowing she’s the stable girl he wants to marry, while simultaneously trying to win his trust as herself. Can she keep her costumes straight long enough to save her family? And even if she does, will it be worth losing his love?
Doesn't that sound fascinating? I asked Elf some questions about her life and about her writing:

What do you do when you're not writing?
Do you want the truth or a lie? The truth is my husband and I watch a lot of TV. The lie is, I jog, cook gourmet meals and listen to Beethoven.
The truth would be closer to what my life is like! What would your fans be surprised to know about you?
That I like boxing. I’m not obsessed with it or anything. I don’t tune in to watch the latest match or know the names of any of the boxers, I just think it’s a very elemental sport. Whacking each other is really what competition is all about, isn’t it? What do they do at hockey games – punch each other. Basketball games – punch each other. No matter what athletic event, the moment one guy gets a little hot under the collar he hauls off and decks his opponent. In boxing, they just go at it without all the preliminary skating and dribbling and stuff.
Interesting observation. What's your idea of an ideal vacation?
Well, it’s not sitting around watching TV, I can tell you that. My ideal vacation would be to go to a place with super unique and inexpensive stuff to buy and a beach. A few years ago, I visited Thailand with a small carryon. I returned with a six-foot diameter suitcase and that carryon nearly burst open on the plane. You can buy some awesome stuff in Thailand and some of the beaches are beautiful. Hot though.
I haven't been to Thailand, though I have an aunt who lives there. My parents went to visit and told me how hot it was. Sounds like you had a great trip! Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
When I was living in New York City, brokenhearted by how little money I could eke out as a professional actress, I had a terrible dream. It was so upsetting that for days afterward I felt as if I were shaking inside. In the dream, I was standing on the downward slope of a side street in Manhattan. Below me was a man with a huge black snake on a leash. The snake looked like the inner tube of a tire, but stretched straight out for maybe 20 feet. Suddenly, the man holding the leash took a hatchet and drove it into the snake just behind its head. In agony, the serpent opened its mouth revealing huge sharp teeth. Horror at the snake and pity for its pain made me wake up crying. I realized then that the man who cut the snake was an agent I’d been hoping would represent me as an actress. I’d known him for years, he dated two friends of mine and seen my work countless times, but I could never get him to send me to an audition. Shortly thereafter, I read Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. In it, a minor character struggles to become a painter, but she has no talent. Seeing her literally starve for her art, the hero goes to his teacher and asks if he’s got what it takes to be a success. The teacher says, no. When I read that, I realized I had the talent, but not the confidence to take the kind of rejection acting ladles out. The book changed my life. I subsequently became a newspaper reporter and have been writing ever since – with relatively few rejections.
Fascinating story! It's not often that a single book has that great an impact on one's life. What books/authors have influenced your writing?
When I read The Rake by Mary Jo Putney, I knew I could be a romance author. Have you read it? It’s awesome. The story becomes deeply emotional and dramatic as the hero struggles to overcome alcoholism.
No, I haven't read The Rake, but I love Mary Jo Putney's books. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Having experienced the trauma of rejection in the theatre, I was worried if I didn’t get a publishing contract pretty early on, I might not have the heart to keep going. I submitted A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing to a few editors. They came back with some amazingly detailed and excellent advice on how to improve the manuscript, but they didn’t accept it. A year went by while I re-worked the novel. My critique partners, who are the best people in the world BTW, kept gently pushing me to put the book out again. Finally, I took a second plunge. Nothing. Okay, I thought, write another book. Lots of people have drawers full of manuscripts that never made it into print. So in six months, I banged out my second book, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower. That novel was accepted immediately by Crimson Romance. Then I pitched Rogue to them and they took it as well. Earlier this week, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing was featured on USA Today’s hot romances list, and the book was ranked 18,400 of the top sellers on, so I’m happy!
Critique partners are the best. Congratulations on the USA Today list! Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
No, but I’ve written a play. It’s a full-length drama based on the true story of an English nurse named Edith Cavell. She lived in German occupied Belgium during World War I, and is considered responsible for saving the lives of as many as 200 Allied soldiers. She sneaked them out of the country right under the German Army’s nose. They caught her, tried her for espionage, and shot her by firing squad. Her death and the sinking of the Lusitania are considered two of the major reasons the U.S. got involved in the war, but no one’s ever heard of Edith Cavell.
I love historical novels, and this play sounds fascinating! What has been the best compliment?
“I stayed up all night reading your book.” Bet you’ve heard that one before.
Yes, that certainly is a great compliement! Where can readers find you?
My Web address is and I welcome folks to friend me on Facebook.
Thanks so much for visiting! Where can we get your book?
A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is available at, and iTunes.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Please Welcome Author Jennifer Lowery

Today I am pleased to have Jennifer Lowery here again! She has another new release out called Murphy's Law, published by Lyrical Press. I had the pleasure of reading several excerpt from this book when Jennifer and I participated in the Sweet Saturday Samples blog hop. It's a great story with a strong but caring hero (the very best kind, in my opinion!) and a resourceful heroine. Jennifer is here to tell us about her own journey in writing this book.

Hi Patty  and all you fabulous readers out there *waves* Thank you so much for having me today! My contemporary romance, Murphy’s Law, released this month so I’m very excited to be here! Thank you so much for sharing it with me!! 
In honor of my release I am giving away a $5.00 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter so please leave me a comment with your EMAIL to be entered to win!!
This book is very special to me. Not only because it is the story of my heart, but because I signed the contract with Lyrical Press on my birthday! Yep! It was the best birthday ever! 
Murphy’s Law was the third manuscript I ever finished. I wrote it never expecting it to see the light of day. I knew I was lacking GMCs in my characters in my writing and I wanted to learn so I set my mind to character building and learning the craft. I bought Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict and it changed my life! And my writing! Murphy’s Law was my attempt to build deeper characters. Hence, my practice run and the reason it was never to be read by anyone but myself, lol.
But, something happened as I began writing Murphy and Sara. I fell in love with them from page one and just couldn’t stop writing! They haunted my dreams. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Couldn’t stop writing. I finished the first draft in only a couple months (80k). The more I wrote the more I fell in love with them. The more I learned.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I messed up. Big time, lol. This manuscript went through six edits before I signed a contract. Ah, the life of a pantser, but I love it. Completely. I don’t want you to believe that I just read a book, sat down and wrote a book that sold. Absolutely not!! Blood, sweat and tears went into this book and I don’t regret one single moment of that journey. Murphy and Sara were so worth it. I hope when you read their story that you think so too!
I was lucky enough to final in the Golden Heart with this manuscript back in 2006 and final in another local RWA chapter contest with it. But that was before the edits that finally got it contracted almost eight years after I wrote it.
So my advice, don’t ever give up on the story of your heart or any of those stories you have hidden under your bed or in a drawer!! It just may be the story you sign a contract for on your birthday. So don’t give up! Follow your dreams!
Thank you for having me today, Patty!! I just want to send out a big THANK YOU to all my readers out there! Without you I wouldn’t be here. My wish is to one day meet each and every one of you so I can personally thank you for your generosity and support! 
All my best, 

Murphy's Law is available at Lyrical Press, Amazon, and other ebook outlets.
You can find Jennifer at her website, on facebook and on twitter @JLoweryauthor.