Sample Saturday, “Pompeii Fire”

Hi, everyone. Today’s sample is from my work in progress, Pompeii Fire. As always, since this is a draft, there may be changes to the final text. Enjoy!

Pompeii Fire v 2“How different life is now,” Stephanus looked around at the countryside. “To think that, just a few years ago, I was buying my freedom and my business. All of those years being paid to pick up people’s nightsoil in town, and look at me! I’m able to help an old friend set up his new business with both my time and my treasure.”

Drusus nodded. “I can only imagine.”

“No, I don’t think you can, my friend. You were never a slave. You never had to say ‘yes’ to things that made you want to choke. You never had to stand knee-deep in piss to clean clothes. The day my former master gave me the nightsoil route was the day my life changed. Everyone in town had to pay me to pick up their chamber pots to collect the urine, and my master let me keep the money. Now I’m a free man with slaves of my own. I don’t have to obey orders anymore, and no one can deny me my wishes.”

Drusus’ mouth straightened into a grim line. “Life is not so simple, my friend. I think we both know that. There is always someone above us to direct things. For instance, you must obey the aedile, or a senator.”

“Yes, yes,” Stephanus waved his hand. “But in daily life? No one may gainsay me. I only wish my Vorena had lived to see this day.”

Drusus shook his head. “She was a good woman.”

“Hmm. Yes. She was a modest, virtuous person, and she gave me a son. What woman could have wanted more from life?” Stephanus sighed with contentment. “Your Servilia was a good woman as well, although it was a pity she only gave you a daughter.”

Sample Saturday: “Hugs and Hisses”

smartmockups_kheynjzcHi, everyone. August 28 is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. I could think of no better book to sample today than Hugs and Hisses, which is dedicated to two very special cats who live at the Rainbow Bridge, Gigi and Teddy. Enjoy!

Nov. 20, 2010

It’s my first hands-on training as a cat socializer with Humane Society Silicon Valley. I’ve already had five hours of classroom training; the academic background is a big part of what makes this Animal Community Center different from the other SPCA where I volunteered in the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong; that was a marvelous experience, and I adopted my beloved Mr. Nicky there (RIP, sweetie-puss).

I’m wearing my uniform t-shirt, jeans, a name tag and closed-toed shoes. Ashley, the cat behaviorist, has let me into the room of the cat I’ve chosen as my first visit. She hasn’t been socialized today, according to the board. Her activity chart tells me that she is shy and doesn’t like to be picked up. Her name is Fuzzie; I’ve seen her listing on the shelter web site. Her owner passed away and she is looking for a new forever home. The web site says Fuzzie is a Manx mix; she has a little bobtail. She’s been in the shelter long enough that her adoption fee is sponsored; the Homeward Bound program is a wonderful concept that means the right family can take this kitty home for free. She won’t be euthanized for space or time; she’s here until she finds the right place. Unless she develops a horrible medical condition or behavior problems, she’ll find a home.

I go in and sit down on the floor; Fuzzie is eating. Ashley tells me that this is a welcome sign; Fuzzie had been off her food and losing weight. The shelter, no matter how nice and up-to-date, is a stressful environment. I start talking to Fuzzie, telling her about why I came to the shelter: to help pets like her find a new best friend. She stops eating and turns around to face me, giving me a gravely meow. I extend a finger to her and she strops against it, purring. She walks over to me, closing the social distance between us, and I pet her some more. She goes back to her food dish and eats some more. I keep talking quietly to her.

She hops up into the cat tree next to me, and I look for signs that she’s done talking to me — turning her back to me, for example. Instead, she looks toward me, extending her face through an opening in the cat tree. I readjust my position on the floor, still giving her plenty of room to move. I talk to her some more and stroke her chin. She is still purring.

She extends one smokey paw (she’s an unusual smoke tabby; she’s the color of a thunder cloud, with a white undercoat) toward my lap, touching my knee. I keep talking. She puts another forepaw onto my leg … and crawls into my lap to purr.

I remain sitting there and talking to her, with tears flowing, as I recognize once again that I’m in the right place.

Want your own copy of Hugs and Hisses? Back cover copy and purchase links are below.

Award-winning author, animal communicator, and Reiki practitioner Sharon E. Cathcart shares tales from her humane education work in this new memoir. Sharing stories of both happiness and heartbreak, Cathcart brings us into the challenging world of animal rescue. All proceeds from the book will benefit Humane Society Silicon Valley.

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Sample Saturday: “Flowers of Europe”

Flowers of EuropeHi, everyone. Today’s snippet is from Flowers of Europe, the two-part, steampunk-flavored tale from my Pocketful of Stories series. This sample comes from Part One, Flowers of London. Enjoy!

Thaddeus Flowers awoke in a bed not his own, head pounding. He’d definitely taken too much ale at the White Horse last night, and was not entirely sure where he was. The pub was in the Seven Dials, but he might be anywhere from there to Chelsea.

Raking his fingers through his dark hair, Thad sat up slowly. The dull light filtering in through the curtains showed a respectable enough room; his clothes were draped across a chair … on top of what looked like a petticoat.

Oh, dear god.

Thad looked at the sleeping figure next to him. The young woman’s auburn hair was spread across the pillow, her face serene in sleep.

A pretty girl. I wish I remembered her name!

With movements that were far too practiced even for his own liking, Thad slid out of bed without disturbing the redhead. All clothes except for his boots were donned quietly. Once outside the room, and the house, he would put on his boots and walk away.

As he’d done so many times before.

Of course, that had been in America. Thad had promised himself that he’d be better behaved once he moved to London. But the women all seemed to adore his handsome face and charming accent … and so, here he was again.

Tiptoeing out of what seemed to be a respectable boarding house, Thad paused to slip on his boots and get his bearings. There was Covent Garden, and Drury Lane. So, not far from Seven Dials at all.

Very well, then.

Want your own copy of Flowers of Europe? Here are the back cover copy and purchase links.

Thaddeus Flowers, American inventor and charming rake, is chasing adventure and romance across Europe. English scientist Arabella Abingdon is always one step ahead of him. Join the excitement in these steampunk-tinged historical tales that take you from Hyde Park to the Place des Vosges.

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Sample Saturday, a Day Late (Again): “In The Eye of The Storm”

iteotsHi, everyone. I’m a day late with this week’s snippet, which comes from my award-winning, dual timeline Phantom of the Opera novel, In The Eye of The Storm. The narrator here is Gilbert Rochambeau, whom we first meet in In The Eye of The Beholder. Enjoy!

As it turned out, it was some months before I summoned the courage to go back to France for good. I had friends and family in London, and the leave-taking was more difficult than I’d anticipated. Jeremy drove me to the train station. From the train, I took the ferry and yet another train, reversing the journey that had brought me to England years before.

I went first to Paris; I wanted to have the latest suit and so on, so that I would make a good impression. I had grown a full beard, but the barber convinced me that the Van Dyck was the latest style and I was shaved accordingly. I carried the blue-knobbed walking stick Claire had given me some years back, and had a bespoke suit of brown Bath superfine that I knew suited my coloring. I was terrified at what I was about to do, and hoped that the suit, haircut and the like would serve as armor to bolster my nerves.

I caught the earliest train I could get for Avignon. I had a valise with my belongings and a sketchbook in my pocket. I had no firm plans, but knew I must take the risk I was about to assume. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read or draw, and my stomach was too knotted to eat anything. What if she had forgotten me? What if she had someone else already? Was this trip folly after all?

Want your own copy of In The Eye of The Storm? Here are the back cover copy and purchase links.

San Francisco, 1948

When a mysterious stranger approaches Clarice Kaye in her favorite restaurant, his words trigger a voyage of discovery: “You look just like your grandmother, but you have your mother’s eyes.”

There was only one question in Clarice’s mind: how could he know?

Armed with family diaries that tell of the scandalous grandmother for whom she was named, Clarice embarks on a journey through Paris’ modern art movement, 1906 San Francisco, and the depths of the Opéra Garnier in this long-awaited sequel to In The Eye of The Beholder.

In The Eye of The Storm is the 2015 Silver Medal Winner for Best Fan Fiction in the Global eBook Awards.

AbeBooks; AlibrisAmazon (geo-targeted link takes you to the site for your country); Angus & Robertson (Australia); Apple BooksBarnes & Noble; Better World Books; Blackwells (Great Britain); Bokus (Sweden); Bol (Belgium & Netherlands); Book DepositoryBookshopBooktopia (Australia); Chapters Indigo (Canada); Dymocks (Australia); Exclusive Books (South Africa); FNAC (France); Gandhi (Mexico); Kobobooks (available for 2400 Superpoints if you are part of the program); La Feltrinelli (Italy); Livraria Cultura (Brazil); Mondadori (Italy); Overdrive (via your local library); Porrúa (Mexico); Rakuten Japan; RiffleScribdSmashwords

Sample Saturday: “Around the World in 80 Pages”

Hi, everyone. I’m dealing with some fallout from my Hashimoto’s disease and have been very tired. Ergo, my weekly sample is a little late this week. My apologies. Today’s story is one of the ten historical fiction tales from Around the World in 80 Pages, which is perma-free on Smashwords.

Counting Blessings Along the Horseshoe Canyon

atw80pIn September 2006, I took advantage of an opportunity to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along with investigating the city proper, I went to Horseshoe Canyon to photograph the pictograms and petroglyphs left there not only by the Anasazi peoples but, to my surprise, the settlers. That visit inspired this story.

“Get you back in the wagon, Hattie.”

“Yes, Mister Johnson.” Her voice was listless.

“Told you to call me Dan’l, gal. This ain’t your fancy East coast parlor.”

No, it wasn’t, Henriette thought as she dragged herself away from the ancient carvings. She was fascinated by all of the symbols carved into the rock walls of the arroyo. Horseshoe Canyon, it was called. Her husband, Daniel Johnson, had plans to turn his now-ragged herd of cattle into a vast empire here in the New Mexico gulch. He’d scratched his own name amongst the ancient symbols.

Johnson’s promises of wealth and prosperity had impressed Henriette’s father so much that he’d essentially sold her in marriage.

“He’s a solid man,” Papa had said. “You, with no prospects to speak of now, should count yourself fortunate. It’s all arranged with the parson for tomorrow.”

Counting, indeed, just as Papa was counting on his share of profits in the ranch; Johnson had given him a deed the day the betrothal was sealed. In the saloon, of course.

Henriette swiped a hand across her reddened brow. If Mama were still alive, she’d have spoken up. Instead, Henriette was in a wagon train from Cincinnati to this strangely beautiful place. Her fair skin was sunburned, her pale hair dry where it was uncovered by her hat. Johnson had given her an enormous calico sunbonnet after a while; she eventually gave in and donned the horrid thing. Likewise the plainstuff dress that Johnson deemed “ a sight better than them furbelows.”

He was rough … callous. He was also nearly twenty years her senior and clearly though himself quite the fellow for getting the hand of the “uppity” twenty-three-year-old.

She looked despairingly at her roughened hands as she climbed up next to her husband. Her gloves had worn through some time ago. Johnson mocked her over them anyway.

“You’re gonna be scrubbin’ clothes on a board with lye soap, Hattie. Ain’t no call to be worryin’ about your hands.”

“I don’t suppose, Mister Johnson, that you could call me by my proper name?”

“Don’t sass your husband, gal. I ain’t going to call you a fancy name like that. You’re Hattie.”

God, how she hated him. She especially hated the nights when he would roll over in the wagon and do what he called his “manly work” — always without preamble. No kisses or caresses for Daniel Johnson. Henriette lay still during those times, grateful for their brevity. Now that she’s seen the stone pictures around Horseshoe Canyon, she was determined to pretend she was one of them when Johnson came to work. Not a real woman, just a stone image.

”Thought I was gettin’ a better bargain to wife,” he complained as the oxen shambled along in the wagon traces. “You’ve said hardly anything since the weddin’ and you won’t call me by name.”

What was there to say? Johnson boasted that he’d taken his annual bath the day they married. He could read, write and figure but had no use for refinements. Henriette knew that he saw her as a trophy that he could turn into a workhorse, and her own father was happy to see it happen.

Henriette looked at her husband, trying to keep the disapproval from her face. He had taken off his shirt; his red Union suit top covered his chest and one suspender strap had fallen down his arm. He needed both shave and haircut; on his head he wore something that was a hat in name only.

“Daniel,” she ground out miserably.

“That’s more like it, gal,” He cuffed her shoulder so hard that she winced.

Henriette could not help thinking of another man called Daniel. One who was handsome and refined. One who was clean and well-dressed. One who, before he died of a cancer no one knew he had, had asked to marry her. One who had been the first to do his “manly work” with Henriette — but with gentleness and care.

She could only hope that Mister Johnson’s figuring abilities were poor when she gave birth to the other Daniel’s child in this harsh, new place.