Friday, November 30, 2012


Woo! It's here! After a lot of hand wringing with Amazon, "HATSUKOI." is finally here. Actually, it's up on every retailer except for Kobo (surpriiiiiise.)

Thanks to everyone who has supported me thus far, and please look forward to more REN'AI RENSAI goodness coming in the next few months!

Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
All Romance

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Scene Preview of "HATSUKOI." !!

With only two days left until the official release date of "HATSUKOI.", book 2 of the REN'AI RENSAI series, it's time to release the official preview! First, the blurb!

If society has taught Aiko anything, it’s that one day she will marry a man. Not until she meets Reina, a lesbian with a knack for flirting, does she decide she wants to experience a different kind of sexual liberation – assuming she can overcome her insecurities and nosy family. As she succumbs more and more to Reina’s charms, however, Aiko wonders if she can really abandon everyone’s expectations.

Reina has met plenty of girls like Aiko before: cute, naive, and ready to screw the status quo. After being burned by countless young women who go on to marry men and forget their lesbian lives, how can Reina trust yet another “good girl” following her around? Especially when she thinks she may be having those foreign feelings for her best friend instead.

Time will only tell if Hatsukoi, or “first love,” has really come to two such different people. Is their relationship genuine or just another footnote amongst flirting, lying, and sneaking around love hotels? 

"HATSUKOI." is the second published novel, but the first one chronologically, so it can be read either before or after "DAISUKI." Below is the first scene (about 1700 words) to whet your need for more! ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT! Maybe less? I'll be uploading it tomorrow! 

WARNING: Strong language and sexual topics. A certain character (gee, I wonder who) likes to refer to sexual relations in the crudest language possible. 

Tokyo; December 10th, 1992

            Somewhere, Aiko’s favorite song played on a stereo.
            Her ears followed the pop-rock sounds to the corner of the room where two girls huddled around a mirror, applying makeup. Aiko turned to her cousin Shizuka and waited for her to proceed with the tour and introductions. It was Aiko’s first time to see the backstage of a music theater, and she didn’t want to embarrass herself or get her cousin in trouble.
            She always thought such a scene would be alight with human energy, but the few staff members wandering around yawned behind limp hands. A costumer pushed a rack of colorful sequined dresses across the room and was followed by everyone else, except for the two girls still applying. Aiko recognized their dresses as the same style Shizuka wore.
            “Are those your group mates?” she asked.
            Shizuka nodded with the same dead energy. “Two of them, anyway.”
            “Is one of them the American?”
           “Well, one of them is American.” Shizuka blinked. “No, not the one I told you about. The other one is blond.”
            “There are two Americans?” Aiko had heard about one, a pale blonde with a high voice and a sordid reputation, if sarcastic cousins were credible. “How lucky!”
            “Yeah, lucky. They talk in English behind our backs. Well, fight is more like it.” Shizuka took a step further into the light. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the nicer one.”
            Although she sauntered through the room without a worry, Aiko took more care to ensure she didn’t step on a forgotten feather or bump her head against the cords hanging from the ceiling. This place is so amazing. Every time she watched a live music show on television, she wondered what the places the talents retreated to offstage were like. Now that she had a cousin in the entertainment industry, it was like Christmas came three weeks early.
            Yo!” Shizuka called as they approached the duo of bandmates. “If you two aren’t careful, you’re going to kill our make-up supply and piss off the manager.”
            One of the women dropped her eyeliner and craned her head around, revealing Western face framed with bobbed brown hair. “Is there a problem?” Aiko was surprised the foreigner spoke Japanese well. “Or are you jealous we got the new stock before you?”
            “Oh, please.” Shizuka smiled. “Ai-chan, this is my fellow forgotten backup singer, Michiko.” She stepped out of the way so Aiko was unexpectedly presented on a bashful platter. “She’s the other American I just now told you about.”
            Michiko also smiled and extended a hand towards Aiko. “Hajimemashite,” the American greeted. “What’s your name?”
            The giddiness over getting to shake hands like a “real” foreigner was enough to make Aiko beam, although her eyes kept pointed to the ground. “Hajimemashite,” she said, and gripped Michiko’s soft hand. Aiko pulled it away again before her shyness could overcome her. “My name is Aiko. Aiko Takeuchi.”
            Oi!” Shizuka smacked the other woman on the shoulder. “Don’t be rude!”
            “Eh?” The woman in blue spun around. Vibrant eyes shrouded in thick eyeliner stared at Aiko, dissecting her, judging her.
            Aiko didn’t know why another Japanese girl’s face shocked her so much. Maybe it was the eyeliner, or the eyes – upon reflection later in life, Aiko would gauge it was a combination of those eyes alongside the sleek and long, black hair making her heart still in her chest. This woman looked like a veritable Cleopatra.
            She did not, however, talk like an Egyptian ruler.
            Mou, Shi-chan, why’d you bring a little girl in here? We just practiced for three hours and I’m tired.”
            “You’re a dog,” Shizuka bit with a sharp tongue. To Aiko, she said, “This is Reina. She sings well but is all sorts of gross.”
            “Yeah, well, fuck you too.” But Reina grinned, and confusion swam in Aiko – perhaps from the rough and coarse words coming out of such a dainty mouth. Reina’s vocabulary made her sound like the tough boys at Aiko’s old high school.
            Shizuka responded with a thump on Reina’s shoulder, and soon the group mates laughed in unison while Aiko stood in perplexity. They must be really close. She never took her cousin as somebody to laugh at another woman’s crudeness, but this world she worked in was different from everyday society.
            As the laughing died down, Reina pulled out a carton of cigarettes and passed one to Michiko. Shizuka further surprised Aiko by reaching out to take one as well – since when did she smoke? Did her mother know? Before the lighter in Michiko’s hand sparked to life, the cigarette carton appeared in hand’s reach.
            Ii yo.” Reina shoved the carton at Aiko again. “Ah, let me guess, you don’t smoke.”
            Aiko shook her head as Reina leaned back and took a light from Michiko. Soon three plumes of smoke wafted around Aiko’s head and made her swoon; she wasn’t sure if the high was from second-hand smoke or from seeing Reina wrap her tongue and skinny fingers around a cigarette. Men who smoked were disgusting and inconsiderate, but something about a woman crossing her legs and pursing her lips made Aiko double-take.
            “Figures.” The smoke lingered around Reina’s face, obscuring her thin eyes. “You’re a good girl, I bet. You don’t smoke, get drunk, or fuck.” When the smoke cleared Aiko could see Reina’s eyes searing, daring her to respond.
            “Oh, shut up and leave her alone. Don’t listen to her.” Shizuka took another draft of her cigarette. “This one never stops thinking about sex.”
            “Hey, at least I get some.”
            “I told you, I’m not interested in women.”
            Throughout this small exchange, Michiko kept a curious eye on Aiko and her reactions. Now, upon both the declaration of Reina’s passive thoughts and her assumptions about Shizuka, Michiko studied Aiko’s face as if she had a second nose.
            “Maybe she’s not as good as you think she is, Reina-chan,” Michiko said. “She hasn’t flinched once upon hearing the naughty things we’re saying about you.”
            “Naughty? Don’t drag me into this.” Shizuka waved her hand, her cigarette smoke bouncing up and down.
            When Aiko spoke to defend herself, her voice was a pitiful squeak. “I’m sorry, Michiko-san,” and it pained her sensibilities to not call Michiko by her last name, but since she did not know it, she resorted to the more familiar given, “I’m afraid my reactions are not satisfactory to you because I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m sorry if I sound dense.”
            Michiko’s brows rose and Reina laughed. “See. Told you,” she said in triumph. “She’s so goody-goody she doesn’t even know a conversation about fucking.”
            “Not everybody is as sexually needy as you,” Michiko mumbled between goes at her cigarette.
            Aiko blushed. She certainly knew sex! How old did they think she was? But that’s not what they had been talking about at all. The conversation was about an implication between Shizuka and Reina. Absurd. Shizuka had a boyfriend.
            But then she announced to Aiko in out-loud confidence, “Reina is a lesbian.”
            Scoffing, Reina stood and threatened her with a roll of the tongue and some brash, masculine words. “Hey! Who told you it was okay to just blab that around? Shinjiran.” She smashed her cigarette into an ashtray. “I’m gonna get a beer.”
            Michiko asked for one as well before Reina stalked off to another room. “Don’t mind her,” she then said to Aiko. “She’s a rude little lesbian. I’m a much nicer one.” She discarded her cigarette next to Reina’s.
            Even Shizuka spun her head towards Aiko at that. “Are you serious? You don’t know what that means?”
            Aiko stiffened. “I know what it means.” She had Western friends; of course she knew what a “lesbian” was. The word was even in Hollywood movies! But a Japanese woman? A lesbian? It didn’t make sense. “But isn’t that…weird?”
            “Not if you like fucking women.”
            No amount of blinking could make Michiko’s statement clearer. Aiko tried to imagine two Japanese women having sex, and all she could come up with was two naked women bumping into each other and apologizing as if they were on a crowded (nudist) train. She blushed again. “How would somebody know that?”
            “You…want to fuck women.” Michiko rolled her eyes as if to say, “Japanese.” Aiko knew that eye-roll well from her foreign-exchange friends. “It’s not rocket science.”
            Maa, don’t listen to her.” Shizuka tugged on Aiko’s arm. “They’re perverts.”
           Before Michiko could open her mouth, Reina reemerged with two beers in her hands. “Are you still educating her about vaginas?” she asked, passing a beer to Michiko.
            When their eyes met, Aiko thought she saw a familiar teasing quality, although it unnerved her. What if she thinks I’m some sort of prey now? Where did that thought come from?
            Oi, Little Miss Good Girl.” Reina snapped her fingers to get Aiko’s attention. Her eyes unglazed and she looked into a satisfying smirk on Reina’s face. “How’d you like it if I fucked your pussy real good?”
            All the blood froze in Aiko’s body as Shizuka smacked Reina on the head and Michiko likewise said some scolding words. The three of them would’ve been amusing to any impartial onlooker, but to Aiko all she could see was Reina’s mischievous smile and hear her naughty words. Do what? To my what? She took a step back from the fray of “That’s my fucking cousin you pervert!” and “Reina, you no-good idiot!” and hugged the wall as if nobody could see her there.
            “How’d you like it if I fucked your pussy real good?”
            “Come on, Ai-chan.” Shizuka appeared, taking Aiko by the arm and hauling her towards the rear exit. “I’ll take you to the train station. I’m sorry I introduced you to that asshole.”
            They were outside in the alley before Aiko could look back and see either Michiko or Reina again. A light December drizzle began to fall as Shizuka pointed out the direction to the nearest station and offered Aiko fare to get home. She glanced around as if she were in a dream.
            “How’d you like if I fucked your pussy real good?”
            “Don’t worry about anything.” Aiko shoved the money away and took a step towards the main road. “It’s fine. Really.” She said some curt goodbyes to her cousin and thanked her for the tour. Before Shizuka could respond, Aiko was halfway down the alleyway, her shoes dunking in the puddles and heart pounding in her chest.


"HATSUKOI." will be available to purchase at the biggest online ebook retailers by Friday, November 30th!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekly Writing Check-In: Nano Conquered, Release On the Way!

First, yay! I kicked Nano in the teeth. (Was there ever any doubt? ;)) Sometime yesterday I crossed the 50k line, thankfully. Now I can focus on the edits for "HATSUKOI." while getting writing down at a trickling pace like I was before! I've managed to get Hatsukoi all formatted for kindle and it is now being edited by my Fire. This is an incredibly important step for me, as it allows me to see errors, overused words, and other no-nos that are harder for me to see in Word. I'm on perfect track for getting it released by Friday! (It'll probably be more like Thursday sometime. Either way, I'll be sure to let everyone know when it's out for purchase!)

Please look forward to an official preview coming this Wednesday! If you follow my tumblr, you'll be getting special illustrations and selected quotes from "HATSUKOI." every day up until release!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New "Book Matching" Site Needs Your Help!

Over at Kindle Boards, a new project is underway for a website that "matches" you to books based on criteria you set, beyond just genre and rating. (Seriously, go read through the forum thread and see how it's going!) Currently one coder is working on it, and is sending a plea for help from authors to add their books to the database so the search functions can be tested. All genres (including erotica) are welcome, so give it a spin! When this thing rolls out your book could be one of the first readers are stumbling upon!

They're also looking for a site title to use, but currently it's going by Match A Book. And yes, it's a pseudo-parody on dating sites. What are you waiting for? Spread the word, yo!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekly Writing Check-In: That Moment Between Can Do And Futility

First, pleased to say that as of tonight I will cross 40k in Nano, and should I keep this up, I'll be done by the end of this week, a whole week early!

That's good I'll be done early. Because "HATSUKOI." will be out NEXT FRIDAY(!!!) and I'm currently in the final edits/formatting stage. Which is gonna take up a lot of time. I mean, I have to go through the editor/beta notes and comments, do a read through, format, read through kindle, read through on it again, blah blah blah. It's gonna be a tight two weeks on the editing front. But I'll prevail, and hope to god that nano doesn't go by the wayside, because I would REALLY LIKE to have Book 3 more or less done by the time Hatsukoi rolls out.

Lawd. Wish me luck. Oh, and there's Thanksgiving in there too, isn't there?

WHELP there goes my free time. Woo!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Title Poll! Help me give a title to one of my stories!

If I may be so bold as to steal your time for a couple minutes, I have a proposition for you...

How would you like to help some poor author come up with a title for a story? Cause I could really use some help!

Next month I plan on putting out a short story (under 5k) on perma free as a loss lead for the REN'AI RENSAI series. I even know what I'm going to write. But I don't have a title! And I can't write ANYTHING until I have a title! (Writer's quirks, woo.)

Below is a poll featuring a few titles I'm mulling over but haven't settled on yet. I've provided flexible translations for your benefit if you don't know any Japanese, but please keep in mind it's more important to me that the actual title is memorable even if in another language.

No guarantee I'll end up using the winning title, but hey, it'll give me some ideas!

What Title Do You Like Best?

Thanks! *kisses*

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "The Hundred Secret Senses" by Amy Tan

The Hundred Secret SensesThe Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I'm reading all of Amy Tan's works again, I realized, upon reading all their summaries, that "The Hundred Secret Senses" was the only book I couldn't remember anything about. (I read all the books around the same time before, so it wasn't like a loooong time ago.) Probably because Senses is not about Amy's classic mother/daughter dynamic, but a sister/sister relationship.

The story is about a 40ish woman named Olivia, who has put up with her elder half-sister Kwan's nosiness and...her incredible ability to talk to spirits. Like a medium. Actually, that's exactly what Kwan is. A very well-meaning medium who can't stay out of anybody's business, and doesn't even care when people call her names and shun her for being weird.

Olivia finds herself with a failing marriage, her 17yo relationship with Simon always meddled with the ghost of his first love. Kwan decides the only way to fix their marriage is to take them all on an excursion to her tiny village in China, where a Olivia discovers that all of Kwan's stories about past lives and ghosts are true...and what they have to do with herself.

The first thing to note about this book is its voice. I'm a firm believer that Tan is one of the only authors who can pull of first person present and not make me want to run for the hills screaming. That said, there are two POVs in this book - one for Olivia, and one for Kwan. Olivia is a snooty, bratty woman (and child) with a fantastic "woe is me and my messed up family" complex that makes you want to slap her more than once. (And so of course I loved Olivia, because she reminds me of the type of person we hate because she says what we all are thinking but don't have the balls to say.) On the other extreme, we have Kwan, who speaks in broken English. They both love going off on tangents that make you forget what they were originally talking about. But if you're not new to Tan's books, this shouldn't bother you at all.

I found myself gobbling this book up and wondering why the hell I never remembered it. I mean, there's no "reveals" because all the "omg what a twists!" are so damn obvious that even M. Night wouldn't touch them, but the actual writing itself keeps you along for the ride. "Why don't I remember this? This could easily become one of my favorite books!" I thought to myself.

Then I got to the ending.

Which is where a star off comes from.

The ending is trite and contrived, and overall a huge disappointment that makes you go, really? I think I rolled my eyes so hard they're still trying to go back into place. And in that process, the ending asked way more questions than it answered. The pure "whatever" I felt at the end reminded me why I never remembered anything about this book later. Still, you'll notice I gave it four stars - because until the end, I really did love this book, from Olivia's epic cynicism to Kwan's witty stories. As long as I pretend the last two chapters didn't happen, I'm good!

View all my reviews

Monday, November 12, 2012

Japanese Naming Conventions 2, Or Fun With Villages, Fields, and Mountains

Last week I discussed Japanese naming conventions for first names. This week, it's family land ville!

Most of you are probably familiar with the Eastern convention of putting the family name first, then the given name last. (Japanese people, at least, usually do not have middle names.) This puts prominence on the family name, which is a more important identifier than even the given name. Chances are, if you're Japanese, you'll be called only by your family name for most of your life - this includes by close friends, depending on your gender and dynamics. (Boys/Men are more likely to solely call each other by family name, whereas Girls/Women may use given names in close relationships.) Your last name will also probably give away what region you're from.

Popularity and the Top 10

Here's a quick and dirty skinny about Japanese family names:  like given names, they come in "puzzle pieces," although family names tend to go in any order. (You'll see examples of this below.) Their kanji and associated meanings are almost always natural or geographical, and denote where a family may have once lived. (In contrast, think about how many Western names come from very old professions, like "Smith" and "Baker.") There are some odd hundred-thousand possible family names in Japan, but, as you can imagine, some are WAY more common than others. To begin deconstructing family names, let's start with the top ten family names in the nation, courtesy of here:

(Please note that almost all these family names have various kanji spelling and meanings. The ones used below are just the most common ones.)

1. Satou (佐藤)  "Helpful Wisteria."
2. Suzuki (鈴木) "Bud Tree"
3. Takahashi (高橋) "High Bridge"
4. Tanaka (田中) "Middle of the Field"
5. Watanabe (渡辺) "Crossing the Border"
6. Itou (伊藤) "That One Wisteria"
7. Nakamura (中村) "Middle of the Village"
8. Yamamoto (山本) "Foot of the Mountain"
9. Kobayashi (小林) "Small Woods"
10. Saitou (斉藤*) "Adjusted Wisteria"

*This is a difficult name to translate. The first kanji essentially means "equal," "similar to," etc.

As you can see, almost all these names have to do with geographical locations and natural elements. ("What's with all the Wisteria?" you may be asking. The wisteria is a very popular flower appearing throughout Japanese history, and could be considered one of the visual icons of Japanese culture. "Tou" as a suffix appears in other Japanese names such as "Katou," and as "Fuji" in many prefixes, like "Fujiko" for a girl's name and "Fujita" for a family name.) Other geographical names including these pieces are "Yamada," (山田) "Nakayama," () "Honda," (本田) and "Nakata." (中田) But of course, they don't stop there. Cardinal directions (/Kita, Minami, Nishi, and Higashi) all make frequent appearances in Japanese surnames.

Meanings of Whole Names

So now that you're familiar with both first names and last names in Japanese, we can take a look at how they affect a person's whole name! 

Remember Yuka (Gentle Aroma / ) and Ryota (Big Dragon / 太), two kids we had in our post last week? Let's pretend they're sister and brother and see what their names are like with some of the most popular surnames above!


1. Satou Yuka (佐藤香) "Gentle Aroma of the Helpful Wisteria"
2. Suzuki Yuka (鈴木香) "Gentle Aroma of the Bud Tree"
3. Takahashi Yuka (高橋優香) "Gentle Aroma From the High Bridge"
4. Tanaka Yuka (田中香) "Gentle Aroma of the Middle Field"
5. Watanabe Yuka (渡辺優香) "Gentle Aroma Crossing the Border"
6. Itou Yuka (伊藤優香) "The Gentle Aroma of That One Wisteria"
7. Nakamura Yuka (中村香) "Gentle Aroma From the Middle of the Village"
8. Yamamoto Yuka (山本優香) "Gentle Aroma From the Foot of the Mountain"
9. Kobayashi Yuka (小林香) "Gentle Aroma Of the Small Woods"
10. Saitou Yuka (斉藤香) "Gentle Aroma of the Adjusted Wisteria"


To save myself the typing, just take out "Gentle Aroma" from above and replace it with "Big Dragon." Bam! Done. 

Some of those meanings are kinda "what," and that's to be expected. I mean, think about us, most of us Westerners don't even have a first and last name in the SAME LANGUAGE. *ahem* But yes, sometimes choosing a name for a child is more about the syllabic sound and flow, rather than the meaning. Recently whole name meanings tend to matter less, especially with the trend of first name meanings also mattering less. 

Amount of Kanji

All the names above utilize a clean and even four kanji, which is the standard amount of kanji for any given person's name. However, this is not a rule, or even a suggestion! Five and three kanji names are also common. But in my experience, names tend to balance out to around an even four. If a surname is only one kanji, then a person's given name is likely to be three kanji long, and vice versa. Two kanji name exist, but are rare, similar to six kanji names. And since the kanji are ultimately what dictates the meaning of a name in Japanese, some parents have a lot to consider when naming a new child. 


Familiarizing yourself with Japanese family names is one of the easiest ways to learn Japanese kanji, since many of them use simple and common ones. They are also likely to tell you the long-ago origin of a family, and in the case of very rare names, can even tell you what region of the country a person is probably from. "Hasegawa" is a common name in Gifu Prefecture not often as found in other places. 

Of the ten names listed above, odds are 1/10 Japanese people have one of them. Probably more in actuality. The beauty of them is that they can be "spelled" in many different ways, just like Western names. 

From A Writer's Perspective

I both love and loathe picking out surnames for my Japanese characters. Most of them are so common that I have to be careful that two characters I don't intend to be related  have the same name, or even a name that sounds too similar. (Recently had this issue with a character who I wanted to name Nakayama, since I have another character already established with the name Nakamura.*) There's also laws to follow and consider, such as any female character who gets married is required by law to change her name to that of her husband's. (Isn't that just lovely?)

*And nobody wants to be mistaken for that guy. 

Hope you enjoyed part 2 of this series! Part 3 (and the final one) will come next week, where we'll take a look at nickname conventions!