Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Excerpt from my next book...

“Come on, Junior.  Don’t be scared,” Tai giggled and grabbed his hand.  It was dark, and they were surrounded by a jungle.  He could hear the toads croaking and the breeze moving the leaves in the trees.  He felt nervous.  He felt scared. 
            We shouldn’t be here, he thought.  It didn’t feel right.  He felt like they were intruding on a sacred space and they were not welcome.  The hair on his arms stood up and he felt a chill slide down his back.
            Tai’s hand felt soft and warm.  He could smell her ginger perfume.  She was pulling him deeper into the darkness.
            We shouldn’t be here, he thought again.  He tried to pull her back, but a force was dragging him forward.
            Tai turned to look at him, frowning, her pale blue eyes glowing in the dark.  His knees felt weak and his body began to shake as shadowy figures rose in the darkness behind her.
            His eyes were burning behind his closed eyelids.  He could feel a cool, wet touch to his forehead.  Gentle hands were massaging his head which was pounding.  His body felt like it was on fire.  He kicked off the sheets then began shaking uncontrollably from the chills.  Someone put his covers back on and added a heavy blanket that pinned him to his bed.  His head was being lifted.  Cool water touched his lips and he drank thirstily.  With his head back on his damp pillow, he moaned.  He heard his mom’s voice as she stroked his hair, singing softly.
            Fiti stood at the edge of the cliff.  The water below was crashing against the rocks.  Blow holes shot ocean water high in the air sending droplets to fall on them like rain.  The wind was whipping through the coconut branches nearby.  Junior was nervous.  He didn’t want them to get hit by flying debris.  He also felt a deep fear.  Fiti was standing too close to the edge.  A gust of wind in the right direction could send him over the cliffs into the swirling mass and jagged rocks below.
            “Fiti, come away from there,” Junior pleaded.  “Let’s talk about this.”
            Fiti turned and glared at his friend.  Or the person he thought was his friend.
            “You know, Junior, no one wanted to be around you.  None of the guys.  They used to tease me because I wanted to be your friend.  They told me I was crazy.  They said you were cursed.  I never believed them or those stupid stories.  You were a nice person.  Quiet, yes.  But that was okay.  I never thought you would betray me like this,” Fiti’s eyes filled with tears.  His face twisted into a scowl, fists tight at his sides.
            Junior’s shoulders slumped, and he reached his hands out, stretching toward his buddy.
            “No, Fiti.  I didn’t betray you.  You’ve always been my best friend.  Always,” Junior said sadly.  He didn’t know what else to do.  He felt powerless.
            “Give her up,” Fiti challenged.
            Junior whispered, “I can’t.”
            Junior woke up in sweat covered sheets.  His mouth felt dry, his voice hoarse as he tried to call someone.  He felt movement on his right side.  Strong hands lifted his head and put a cup to his lips.  He drank deeply.  Eyes still closed, his whole body burning, he heard heavy rain pattering against the tin roof above.  Gusts of wind blew in cool air.  He heard footsteps and the closing of louvres to keep out the wind and rain.  A clap of thunder and a flash of lightening made him jump.  A hand touched his forehead.  A cool cloth took the place of the hand.  He focused on the storm outside that lulled him back into a fevered sleep.
            He turned as he heard a voice he didn’t recognize.  Frozen, he stared in the direction of the sound.
            “Junior,” the voice said again.
            Mama was standing behind him.  She smiled and reached out her hand.  Silently, he took it.  Her fingers were straight, long and graceful, and her grip was strong.  Tears streamed down his face.  When did she start talking?  And how was she able to use her hands again?
            “There are many things you need to know,” she began.  She guided him to the door.  They walked out into the sunlight toward the family graves.  Junior brushed off some leaves and sat with his grandmother near his father’s headstone.
            “Talofa e, isi ‘ou tei,” his grandmother said holding his hands.  “My sweet grandson, there is so much I need to tell you.  But time is short.  You are almost sixteen.  Have you noticed there are no men still alive in this family?  Only fafine.  Women.  Why do you think that is?”
            Junior shook his head.  He had wondered the same thing.  The idea nagged at him as he looked expectantly at Mama.
            “There is a family curse,” she began.
            Suddenly he felt an agonizing pain in his chest.  He bent over and wailed.
“Every time I try to take the ula off his neck, he screams in pain.  I don’t know what to do,” his mother cried.
            Junior lay on the bed clutching his chest with both hands, protecting the boar’s tusk necklace.  He moaned.  His eyes, still closed, produced a trail of tears down the side of his face.  He could hear crying on both sides of him.  A cold piece of metal touched his chest near the tusk, so he clutched tighter making sure no one tried to move it again.
            “Junior,” a female voice said softly.  “It’s Doctor Koria.  I’m just checking your vital signs.  That’s the cold metal you’re feeling on your chest.  It’s my stethoscope.  You’ve had a very high fever for a week.”
            As the metal touched more of his fevered skin, it warmed up.  He could feel the doctors soft but strong hands checking his glands and feeling his limbs.  He tried to open his eyes.  They felt so heavy.
            “We need to get him to the hospital for some x-rays,” the doctor said.  “I’ll call the ambulance to transport him.”
            About twenty minutes later the sound of a siren broke through the normally quiet, peaceful Sunday afternoon.  Strong hands lifted Junior onto a stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance.  He could hear Dr. Koria’s voice as she called orders to the attendants.  Mama and one of his sisters were going to follow in their car.  His other sister would stay at the house to watch over Mama.
            The ride was short since there was no traffic.  Everyone was doing what they would normally do on a Sunday.  They would be sleeping, reading, or watching television.  No children would be out playing, and no one would be working outside.  It was a day of rest.
            He felt himself being wheeled into an air-conditioned room and he began to shiver again.  A blanket was put on him as he was lifted onto a hard surface.
            “Junior, it’s Doctor Koria again,” he heard a woman’s voice say calmly.  “I know you’re cold, but we need to take off the blanket to take some x-rays.  We’ll make sure it’s quick, so we can get you covered up again.  If you understand what I’m saying to you, can you squeeze my hand?”
            Junior felt a hand holding his and he concentrated on using his muscles to do as she asked.
            “Good boy,” she said.  “Your mom is watching through the window.  We’ll get you into a room as soon as we’re finished.”
            “Doctor, are we going to take off the ula?” a male voice asked.
            “No,” the doctor answered.  “He screams in pain any time someone tries to get it off.”
            “Oka,” the male voice said.  “I hope it’s not some ‘aitu thing.”
            He felt a rush of cold air as the doctor removed his blanket.  He lay as still as possible despite the waves of chills.  As the doctor promised, the x-rays were completed quickly, and the blanket was placed on him.  As the warmth enveloped him, he fell back asleep.

(This story takes place in American Samoa during the 1980's.  I'm excited to write it as this is home to me.  Person of Shadows, my book based in Kauai using Hawaiian legends, is available on Amazon)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Black-ish Hits Home

If you are not caught up with the show, Black-ish, do not continue reading.  You have been warned.

A couple of weeks ago I was catching up on some shows I've missed this spring season.  I don't watch a lot of television due to a busy schedule that includes work, children, and trying to write/publish.  But every once in a while, there is a lull in the craziness.  I take advantage of those less busy moments to just sit and enjoy the down time.

If any of you have watched the show Black-ish, you'll know it's a sitcom that combines comedy with some serious takes on real world issues facing people of color.  Although I don't always agree with the parenting styles of Andre and Rainbow Johnson, I love the content.  Ruby and Pops remind me of the old school parenting where we graduated from the school of hard knocks and still came out okay. 

I also identify a lot with Rainbow because I'm biracial (afakasi in Samoan).  It probably doesn't help that my husband and a former supervisor say I remind them of Bow with my facial expressions, tone, and sarcasm.  I remember the episode where they cover the issue of Rainbow identifying as a black woman and dealing with the feeling that she was neglecting her white (dad's) side.  I've had this same conversation with people in the past because I identify as a Samoan.  This does not discount my caucasian side one bit.  Rainbow's talk with her dad revealed him seeing her as a black woman because that's how the world saw her.  But not once did he feel as if that took away from him being her father or being a part of her life.

There have been bits and pieces of each show where I can say I've experienced some of what was going on with the characters, but these last few episodes really struck a chord on a deeply personal level for me.  It started off with the marital strife between Rainbow and Andre.  I cried at some point during every single one of these episodes because not only did I feel their pain, I lived it.  After one episode, my third daughter commented, "I thought this was supposed to be a comedy?" Every marriage takes work. Many marriages go through difficult times and sometimes, unfortunately, end in separation.  I'm happy to say, like Bow and Dre, my own marriage has suffered but we were blessed to have found our way back to each other. 

The final episode has been on my mind since I watched it last night.  This is what prompted me to write this blog entry.  The middle of the night phone call with Bow sobbing and Dre asking her what's wrong.  Her dad had passed away.  It transported me back to this past August with a 4am phone call.  Dad.  Hospital.  Not going to make it.  Nothing they can do.  I remember sobbing by myself, completely lost.  I called my husband in Kauai.  Like Bow, I cried uncontrollably.  My dad.  My rock.  I got on the earliest flight I could.  As I was getting my rental car, the agent asked what brought me to the Bay Area.  I told her I was visiting my dad.  She said, "Oh, you're his angel to come and see him."  I told her, "He will actually be our angel soon."  And the tears started to fall.  When I looked up at the agent, she shared my sorrow.  She shared my tears.  She asked if she could pray for me and my family.  I said yes.  And I thanked her.  Then she thanked me.  Not for my business.  But for sharing such a personal and painful thing with her. 

Thank you, Black-ish writers, for not sugar coating anything.  For showing us the real stuff. The good, the bad, the ugly. For showing us the pains that families go through.  For showing us the absolute love that only families can share. Thank you.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Official Published! Person of Shadows

I can't believe it!  I have a book being sold on amazon.com!  Me!  Little ol' me!  Wow!

Link to:  Person of Shadows

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Desert Beauty

I've lived in Utah for over 20 years, mostly in the Rose Park area.  This desert landscape with its dry grass and few water sources never quite appealed to me.  I grew up on a lush, tropical island where the color green was seen year round and the sweet smell of tropical flowers filled the air after every rain.  Rain, something that happened often, during some seasons on a daily basis or for days on end.  Living in this dry heat summer and freezing cold, snowy winter for such a long time, you would think a person would get used to it.  Maybe grow to love it.  My heart has always longed to return to a tropical island, to put my hands in the soft, warm dirt, to feel the warm rain against my skin, to hear waves crashing along the shore during high tide.  Instead, as I walk along the Jordan River, I hear the trickling of water.  The croaking of frogs signal spring time along with families of ducks swimming lesurely past me, every once in a while splashing the water with their wings.  I now understand the beauty that is the desert.  The changing of the seasons?  True wonders of the world from the bright fall colors to natures ice sculptures on the trees, the summer heat to spring's promise of warmth and regrowth.  My camera lens has been blessed by the tropics, spoiled by its beauty.  But this weekend it found a new subject.  One that my heart, once biased, used to see as plain and ugly, now sees as charming.  The colors are there.  I just had to dig deeper.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Outside My Window (A Year of Writing Prompts)

The rain was falling all night long.  I could hear it on our tin roof, sounding like a steel drum symphony, lulling me to sleep.  Rain, with the cool air and smell of fresh flowers, comforts me, wraps me in its peaceful arms.  I begin to wake in the morning because it’s quiet.  The rain has stopped.  I look outside my window and I see the sun shining.  The air, still cool from the night, blows softly into my room.  I open the louvres and breathe in deeply.  I can taste the salt from the ocean just down the hill.  I can hear the crashing waves, feel the fierce current pull at me, call to me.  I long to be out in my yard, digging in the soft dirt, pulling weeds and soaking in the daylight.  I am reminded of my childhood, taking a book and climbing into the guava tree, picking its fruit to be eaten while living through a story of adventures.  Outside my window stands a row of gardenia.  Its white blossoms giving off a fragrance that is comparable to none.  I turn and smile softly as I feel arms wrap around my waist, a chin settling on my shoulder, and a light kiss on my cheek.  I will venture outside my window, but for now, I will stay in the arms of the one I love.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Merlot (A Year of Writing Prompts)

          They named their baby Merlot.  Seriously?  This poor child will spend the rest of her life having to explain that her parents named her after a red wine.  I always knew my best friend and her family leaned toward a bohemian life style, which was totally cool with me.  They had this free spirit, fun loving attitude, grew their own food, and built their home from the ground up.  They even turned me into a pescatarian.  That’s saying a lot since I come from one of Texas’ royal family of cattle ranchers.  Steak and potatoes were on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  My family almost disowned me when I told them I no longer ate red meat.  But my best friend’s family supported my choice and even offered to adopt me.  Of course, my family learned to live with my choice, but I had to find a different path in life since running a cattle ranch and not eating the produce wouldn’t fly with our distributors or purchasers.  I became a college geology professor, which my parents thought fit right in with my new bohemian family.

            But to have my bestie name her child Merlot?  Their explanation was the child was conceived after a really great bottle of the red wine.  Okay.  I get it.  It must have been a tasty bottle and a whole lot of fun after, but do you really want your child to know that story let alone relay that to people when she gets older?  Mom and Pop, my best friend’s parents, were always very open about everything, literally everything, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  I remember I would test their openness by asking stupid questions.  Not once did they shy away from the harsh realities of explaining the mating rituals of wild geese or birthing methods of a blue whale or, my personal favorite, a queen bee’s choice in males.  The explanations were always very tasteful and biologically correct, but I got a kick out of how they were never embarrassed explaining things of nature.  And very thorough.  My own parents, even though we helped in many cow births, couldn’t explain where babies came from and left it to the cattle hands to run down the whole birds and bees stories.

            My poor goddaughter.  She will have such difficult times unless her parents, Mom and Pop, and I train her to be comfortable with herself.  I’ll probably take her on a few excursions to a boxing ring.  Just in case.  As I sit here, shaking my head, and enjoying a glass of red wine, I think about the world this beautiful baby is growing up in.  She’ll need to be tough.  She’ll need to stay grounded.  And she’ll probably need to stay away from merlot when she gets married.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


I watched as they loaded the boxes onto the truck.  Here we go again, I thought.  Another move.  At least we were here for one year.  That was longer than most places.  I shouldn’t complain, though.  There is a reason for the madness and that’s why I make sure we live as frugal and with as little as possible.  Our moving truck isn’t very big.  It’s funny how the moving guys call our boxes ‘cargo’ like we’re loading up a freight ship.  Normally it would be myself and my hubby who load everything but this time it’s different.  I’m seven months pregnant with our first child and have been ordered by the doctor to take it easy.  That is what hurts the most about this move.  I love my doctor.  But now I have to get a new one and she won’t really know who I am yet she’ll be responsible for making sure my child and I make it through the birthing process all in one piece. 

“So much cargo,” my husband chuckles from behind me.  His arms go around my swollen waist and he kisses the top of my head.

I lean back and close my eyes.  I remember our first move.  So much cargo, so many memories.  I found creative ways to get rid of cargo to move and downsize.  It was been a blessing but the moves are making me tired.  This should be the final move, I tell myself.

One of our neighbors walks by with his dog and waves.

“Good luck with the team, RJ,” he says to my husband.  He gives me a pitying smile and continues down the sidewalk.

I sigh.  We’ve worked hard to get to this point in our life.  If all goes well, we’ll stay put, buy a home, raise our children in one state and one city.  Let’s get this cargo loaded so we can head out, I say to myself.

Our landlord is making small talk with my husband.  They exchange the keys for our deposit and shake hands.  I will miss her.  I hope our new landlord is just as nice and understanding, especially now that we have this new addition coming soon.  Would we count this little one as cargo?  I chuckle to myself and walk toward the passenger side of our SUV.  I’m ready for this adventure.