Friday, March 27, 2015
Thursday, March 5, 2015
New developments just keep rolling in. I just found out that I've been selected as a Featured Author on Indie Book Bargains. They're based in the UK, so my plans for world domination are moving forward apace. Thanks everyone, for your support, and especially all my new fans in the UK!
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The good folks at Spy Guys And Gals seem to have enjoyed the Emily Kane Adventures so far, and we're very glad to hear it. And with Book 6, Girl Rides The Wind, due out soon, we hope they enjoy that one too! We can only hope to complete Books 7 & 8 quickly enough to please all of Emily Kane's admirers. Wish us luck!
Monday, January 5, 2015
“I challenge,” the voice said, and Emily stopped at the edge of the ring, turning to look over her shoulder. “My choice of weapon is shinai.”
“There is no need,” she said, as she rushed to the center of the ring to kneel at Kano’s feet.
“Do not insult me,” he growled. “You will accept my challenge… unless you think it is beneath you.”
“I would rather be your student, Sensei, than your opponent.”
A moment later, she stood on the side of the ring, as Ishikawa and Lt Otane helped her strap on protective equipment. Shinai are practice swords, made of bamboo strips bound together in a single shaft, lighter than a bokken, and with no edge. But in the heat of competition, an errant blow can still do some damage… and Kano did not look like he meant to tap her lightly.
“You should not have entered the ring,” Lt Otane said. “This could have been avoided if you had just let Sgt Tsukino have his victory.”
“Nonsense,” Ishikawa roared. “Moon behaved like a donkey. He deserved what he got, and she fought brilliantly.”
“What are they saying?” Durant asked from behind Lt Otane.
“Dice thinks I’m a fool, and so does Kiku-san.”
“No, Durantu-san,” Ishikawa said, in the best English he could muster. “I think Tenno-san is awe-inspiring. But she is probably in for a beating.”
“I’m sorry for getting you in to this pickle, LT,” Durant said, after Emily glowered at him.
“Pic-kel-u?” Ishikawa said, with one raised eyebrow as he tried to fit his mouth around the word.
“Just like tsukemono,” Lt Otane proposed.
Emily offered an alternative translation: “He means this is a difficult situation.” When Ishikawa still didn’t understand, she said, “I’m screwed.”
“Yes, yes,” Ishikawa said with a big grin. “Screwed.”
“Can you take him?” Oleschenko asked.
“Not if he’s anything like his father,” Emily said. “Besides, kendo is not my best subject.”
“Kano-san was national youth champion as a boy,” Ishikawa said. “He is kyoshi.”
“You knew his father?” Oleschenko said, looking on as Emily tugged on her equipment to get it to fit better. “How is that possible?”
“It’s a long story, sir. Let’s just say it hasn’t put me in Kano’s good books.”
A Distinguished Personage
In the hot and humid season, merely standing in formation while a party of dignitaries made speeches could be torture. Emily managed to peek over at Oleschenko and Durant, both of whom had begun to sweat through their fatigues. A bit further along the line, she caught a glimpse of Ishikawa in similar straits, but Tsukino and Kano managed to put a brave face on the whole situation, even as the beads formed on their faces. She felt one hanging from her own nose.
“Man, this is interminable,” she muttered. “Why can’t a breeze find us on this infernal base? Is that too much to ask?”
Durant couldn’t suppress a snort at her words, and Oleschenko glowered at the two of them. “Shut it, you two,” he hissed.
Eventually the proceedings on the shaded podium drew to a close, and several well-dressed people made their way across the front of the formation, accompanied by Colonel Kamakura, commander of the first Airborne Brigade. The command to stand “at ease” made its way around and Emily’s platoon assumed a slightly more comfortable posture, feet apart and hands behind their backs.
“The tall one is Mr. Saito,” Oleschenko whispered. “He’s the Deputy Minister of Defense.”
“Who are the other two?” Durant asked.
“I imagine we’ll find out in a moment,” Emily said. She could just make out what they said to Kano’s unit. Praise for their service in the recent evacuations after the typhoon up north, and encouragement for the tournament to be held later that day.
“Thank you, Soga-san,” Kano said with a deep bow.
“Your family must be proud of you achievements, Tsukino-san,” said one of the women, and he bowed deeply in return. “Your predecessors at the Atsuta-jingu will be honored to receive you into their order, once your tour in the Jietai is complete.”
“You are too generous, Heiji-san,” he replied.
“They’re so polite,” Durant whispered, and Oleschenko shushed him.
Mr. Saito said something in a few, clipped Japanese phrases to Capt Oleschenko, and he immediately glanced at Emily, who supplied a translation.
“Thank you, sir,” Oleschenko replied, with a little bow. “We are honored to have the opportunity to serve side by side with the Ground Self Defense Force.”
“We have heard a great deal about you, too, Tenno-san,” the taller woman said.
“This is Heiji Gyoshin, my Industry Liaison,” Mr. Saito said. “And allow me to introduce Soga Jin,” he continued, gesturing to the smaller woman. “She is the Vice President of the Takenouchi Corporation.”
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Heiji-san,” Emily said. “And I am honored to meet you as well, Soga-san.”
“Your reputation as a martial artist precedes you,” Soga Jin said. “Will you participate in the tournament?”
“Fighting is a man’s game,” Emily said. “We have several very capable fighters, including Durant-san.” She pointed to Durant with a flourish that left him tongue tied, and he bowed nervously.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
“Gaijin kusai,” said Sergeant Tsukino, who the rest of the platoon knew as Moon. With a sneer and a snort, he looked across the table for moral support.
Takeishi Kano, who occasionally let his sergeants call him Tak, glanced at Emily sitting a few seats away, hoping she hadn’t heard, since he knew she’d understand. The third time club-hopping with their American guests in the Roppongi neighborhood of Tokyo had taken a toll on him, too. But he had other concerns.
“Shut it, Sergeant,” he growled.
“C’mon, Lieutenant. How many more hakujin bars do we have to take these guys to?”
“At least it’s not a karaoke bar this time,” Sgt Daisuke Ishikawa offered.
“Tenno, what are they going on about?” Captain Oleschenko asked.
“And do they have to call her that?” Moon said, loud enough to be heard the length of the table. “I mean, what kind of name is that anyway?”
“Sergeant Tsukino thinks we smell bad, sir,” Emily said.
“We smell bad?” Sgt Durant chuckled. “What the hell does he think he smells like?”
“It’s an old prejudice, from the second world war,” she said. “Japanese didn’t eat much meat in those days, and they thought the GI’s smelled strange, you know, like old butter.”
Kano glowered at his men as she spoke. As irritating as he found her presence, having to guard against offending her made it so much worse. She wasn’t responsible for his father’s death, but she damn well reminded him of the infernal code of honor that propelled him to his end. His father had sacrificed himself to protect her, and he’d done it at the behest of the Crown Princess, even though it required accepting a pretended disgrace in order to go undercover… and even now, the Imperial Household still refused to acknowledge him, or to restore his good name.
“Moon, you eat enough meat to smell like a slaughterhouse,” Sgt Ishikawa roared.
“What do you know about it, Dice?” Sgt Tsukino said.
“Only what my nose tells me.”
“What are they saying now?” Durant asked, and then stood up abruptly, sending his chair clattering behind him. “Because if they’re trying to pick a fight…”
“Take it easy, Sarge,” Oleschenko said. “We’re supposed to be cooperating, remember.”
“Oh, and Sergeant Ishikawa doesn’t care for your singing,” Emily added.
Oleschenko glowered at her, and Durant tilted his head as he digested this new information.
“If he thinks he can do any better…” Durant growled, eyes fixed on Ishikawa, and then paused to consider his sentiment. “I seem to recall hearing singing at a bar around the corner on the way over here.”
Both sides stared at each other in cool silence, until Durant turned to Emily and made a face.
“Well, Sensei, are you gonna translate, or what?”
“Karaoke bar is not needed,” Ishikawa said, in broken English, before Emily had finished relaying Durant’s challenge. “We can sing right here. Do you know El Paso by the magnificent Marty Robbins?”
A Few Weeks Earlier
The drive up from the gate of the Soga Estate took a few minutes, giving Gyoshin Heiji time to reflect on the changing nature of fortune. Well over a thousand years ago, her ancestors broke the power Minoru Soga’s ancestors within the imperial court, and now the old man was willing to form an alliance with her family.
“How ironic,” she said, to no one in particular. “The Taika reforms undid them, and now they are much wealthier than us, who were only cheated of our influence during the Meiji reforms, barely yesterday.”
Of course, by that time scale, yesterday amounted to a century and a half. Exquisite gardens slipped by, tended by squads of men in pale green coveralls. The main house resembled a shrine from one point in the curving approach, but looked more like a castle as the car climbed the final slope. A man wearing gray gloves waited at the door, bowed to her from the waist, and ushered her into a lavishly furnished drawing room. Exquisitely carved wood panels decorated one wall, and a painted screen concealed a small writing table in a far corner. She smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirt, and wondered if her navy blue suit, the standard-issue business attire of a civil servant—albeit a relatively high-level one—really suited the occasion.
“Welcome, Heiji-san,” the old man said from across the room, walking stiffly with a cane. His daughter trailed behind, in a rather non-traditional, silk kimono, which, without an obi sash to bind it all together, resembled more a dressing gown than formal attire.
“I am honored by your invitation, Soga-san,” Gyoshin said, with a little bow that extorted more confusion from her than she’d anticipated. Should she bow to a vanquished enemy of her family, and if so, how low? She supposed he affected the cane in order to excuse himself from bowing as low as his ancestors would have been obliged to do a thousand years earlier. She shook her head and tried to put her grandfather’s preoccupations out of her mind. The Soga clan now held a controlling interest in one of the largest defense contractors, and was among the wealthiest families in Japan, and in her capacity as Industry Liaison for the Deputy Minister of Defense, she worked closely his daughter, who had taken the position of Vice President at Takenouchi Corporation.
“Gyoshin-san,” Jin Soga said. “Thank you for coming. We have much to discuss.”
“I will leave you two to talk. You must forgive an old man his hobbies,” Minoru said, and hobbled off into another room.