A contest for The Sleeping Night

In the brave new world of publishing, few things are as valuable as the reader reviews that are posted on book and social media sites.  That is a very good thing because it puts readers–not critics or the like–front and center in the process of selecting which books catch the attention of a lot of people.  To that end, we are holding a contest to help generate interest in The Sleeping Night.



“A beautiful telling of forbidden romance . . . THE SLEEPING NIGHT is a refined, romantic tale. I imagine if Jane Austen wrote novels today, her stories would read a lot like Barbara Samuel’s.”



Barbara Samuel is celebrating the release of The Sleeping Night with a heartfelt giveaway to one lucky reader who helps spread the word about the book to others. This lovely prize package will include a collection of recipes – including Angel Corey’s pineapple upside down cake, a cast iron skillet, an assortment of books from Barbara Samuel (Barbara O’Neal) and a few other surprises tossed in for fun.

To enter, help Barbara get the word out about this beautiful book. You can do this by posting about it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or pinning the cover on Pinterest. Write a review of the book and post it to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, Books a Million or any other online bookstore (each review counts as 2 entries!) or make the cover of The Sleeping Night your avatar online. You are welcome to blog about the book or feature it as the book selection for your book club.

As a special bonus, until July 13th, Belle Books is offering a FREE pdf version of the ebook version to select reviewers!

Visit this link and enter in the password: free

Send links or screen shots of your efforts to barbarascontest@gmail.com by midnight Pacific time on Sunday July 22th. The winner will be selected at random from all qualifying entries and notified via email by July 25th.


Contest is open to US residents for prize package and to international residents who will receive an online bookstore gift card of equal value.
This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other online social media outlet. By submitting your entry you agree to completely release Facebook and Amazon.com from all liability.
By submitting your entry you agree to share your information with and sign up for Barbara’s newsletter. She agrees not to share your information with anyone else. You may unsubscribe at any time.
You must be 18 years old to enter.
Giveaway ends at midnight, Sunday, July 22, 2012.
One grand prize winner will be chosen at random from all entrants. Winner selection is at the sole discretion of SheridanINK.
All decisions are final.
Winner will be notified via email by barbarascontest@gmail.com.


Giveaway is sponsored by Barbara Samuel via SheridanINK.

No purchase necessary.



Kitten safety

Yesterday, the kittens slipped out through the backdoor somehow when I let the dog in. I came down stairs and saw the open door and my heart stopped.  

When I rushed over and called them, there they were, frolicking in the sunshine. Rafe was pretending to be a VERY BIG LION, his hair all fluffed up, skittering sideways on his tiptoes, chasing his baby sister, who was leading him on a merry chase. They were so happy to be in the yard.  

I can’t decide if I need an electric fence, or if I should train them to be just in the yard with me, and always come in at night.  There are foxes in the neighborhood.  Comments? 

A photo of a yellow flower in my kitchen

I promise I am not abandoning you to photo posts forever more. But this shot was just sitting there waiting when Jack and I came in for a walk the other day, so I thought you would enjoy it, too.

Also, I have had no time to write a proper blog. If you missed the Listmania post on Writer Unboxed, check it out here.

In other news, I have new kittens. Yes, that’s two. It seemed prudent, considering the ages of the other animals. Very happy snuggling into kitten fur.

shot in my kitchen this week...pretty, no?

Old and new…a quick post from the train

Long walk in the warm glaze of afternoon in “rural” Hawkhurst.  Terrified by the tiny cars whizzing three inches from my body on lanes not quite wide enough for two Tonka trucks, I detoured through a graveyard surrounded by meadows and vast hillsides peopled only by birds and dragonflies, the greenery topped with butercups. A public footpath winds around a pasture where a white horse grazes, long tail swishing, and then  leads me to the road where a 5 ton lorry hurtles by, blowing my hair straight up.  Old and new, ancient and modern, all here in a jumble.

Farewell to the Ancient One

I had to let Sasha go last Friday. You’ve all been so kind, I thought you’d want to know. Rather than weep, I think in her honor we should all laugh, eat something we love, and raise a toast to the scavenger dogs of the world. Here is a link to one of my favorite stories about her, the butter story:


Finally back to work

Oh, yes–I remember. The book happens as I am writing it. All the thinking, all the planning, all the scene lists and character sketches and theme spiders and metaphorical illuminations are lovely. The brewing time is also good, and I need a lot of it.

But in the end, what I learn over and over and over and over again is that I actually write the book while I’m writing the book. I find out what’s really going to happen when my fingers are on the keyboard and I’m watching the scene unfold. THAT’S where the magic happens, when I finally let go and let the book have its way and I let it unfold as it wishes.

The girls in the basement are rolling their eyes. “Finally,” they’re saying. “She’s finally getting out of our way.”

It was a very good morning. I’m so glad to be back to work. Life always feels slightly off-kilter without my companions.

An excerpt from the new collection by the Faery Four


We’ve been playing again, the Faery Four, and our latest collection of magical stories is out! The book is called THE CHALICE OF THE ROSE novella collection, written by Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Karen Harbaugh, and Barbara Samuel, and it traces the tale of the Grail through four different time periods. I think you’ll enjoy this quite a bit!

Library Journal said:
“Based on legends surrounding the mystical Holy Grail, this quartet sweeps readers across time periods with emotionally compelling, often lyrically written tales of courage, sacrifice, love—and roses. A young woman of ancient lineage is destined to bring peace to 12th-century England when she finds her protector, and together they call forth the chalice in Beverley’s “The Raven and the Rose”; a Guardian must use her powers to keep the Grail safe during World War II in Mary Jo Putney’s “The White Rose of Scotland”; a debutante is charged with keeping the Grail out of Napoleon’s grasp in Karen Harbaugh’s charming “The English Rose: Miss Templar and the Holy Grail”; and an American grad student studying in England becomes involved in a strange fey tale involving the Grail in Barbara Samuel’s “Eternal Rose.” VERDICT: This beautifully crafted anthology by some of the genre’s best is graced with flawless writing, touches of humor, and magical, creative plots.”

excerpt from
THE ETERNAL ROSE, by Barbara Samuel


“It’s haunted, you know.”

Alice Magill peered into the pearl gray fog that swirled around the garden of her freshly rented flat in an English village. Over the ancient wall bounding the property was an old woman, stout and bespectacled. She wore a dark blue sweater and a rain hat.

“The house?” Alice asked.

“Well, yes, that too, but the garden is what I meant. All manner of things come and go through there. I reckon you’ll want to be careful at dusk, miss.”

“Ah.” Alice carefully tucked her skepticism beneath a polite smile. “What kind of things?”

“Cats for one thing.” The woman caught sight of something behind Alice. With a wave of her hand, she said, “Shoo!”

Alice turned to see a big black and white cat, very well-tended, sitting on a stone bench, his long fluffy tail curling and uncurling in typical cat boredom. He did not seem to mind the old woman’s dislike. As if he were raising a brow in silent complicity with Alice, his left whiskers twitched ever-so-slightly.

“He looks harmless enough.”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you?” She tossed a twig toward the cat, and he dashed into the bushes. “They’re not harmless, Miss, and I’d watch them if I were you.”

Wrinkling her brow quizzically, Alice said, “Thanks.”

“American, then, are you?” The woman leaned in more curiously. “What brings you here? Are you studying at the Foundation? That’s what usually rents those flats, students and teachers.”

“Guilty.” Alice tugged off her thin gloves and walked over to the wall. The old woman was probably lonely, looking for a little conversation. Nothing wrong with that. “My name is Alice Magill. I’m here to do some graduate work in literature.”

“Oh, all of that nonsense is over my head, but welcome anyway.”

“Thank you….er?”

The woman gave a lighthearted, almost girlish laugh. “Silly me. I’m Mrs. Leigh.”

“Would you like a cup of tea, Mrs. Leigh?”

“Oh, no, my dear. I have to get my garden to bed before the freeze.”

“All right. Thanks for the warning. About ghosts and cats. And things.” Alice turned back toward the old manor house where she had rented a flat only two days before. The 14th century building came complete with mullioned windows, a pelt of thick green ivy and climbing roses, and a moat. A moat with actual water in it, which alone would have cinched her selection.

Under the current light conditions, the possibility of a haunting seemed not only possible, but likely. Fog drifted in clouds of mysteriousness, showing a clump of white asters nearby a stone bench, then parting to illuminate a single yellow rose on the vine climbing around her bedroom window. So beautiful!

Gratitude rushed into her chest. As long as she could remember, Alice had dreamed of traveling to England. Born to a sprawling Irish-American family in Chicago with more love than money, she had put herself through college, then graduate school, and now had saved enough to come to this little village and its Foundation for the Study of English and Scottish Ballads, to study the link between the legend of the Holy Grail, the famous lyric poem, the Romance of the Rose and a ballad said to have been written in the pub on the high street.

And from the moment she’d spied the rolling green land beneath the plane, her heart had been singing. England! She was here, she was here, she was here. Even better, now she was wandering around the garden of an ancient manor house that boasted a moat. A moat!

As if that were not enough, she was studying and teaching her favorite legends, all rooted right in these green lands. Life, she thought with a happy sigh, didn’t get any better than this. Some—her extremely superstitious Irish grandmother among them–might say she ought to be watching for the other shoe to fall out of the sky and give her a black eye, but Alice ascribed to a cheerier superstition: if you listened to your heart, it would lead you where you were meant to go.

Some said that made her naïve. But they were stuck back in the sharp winds of the Midwest while here she was collecting flowers from a centuries-old garden for her kitchen table. With a pair of heavy-handled scissors she’d found in the kitchen drawer, Alice clipped a fistful of blue asters and pale chrysanthemums, and then headed toward the back door. Up the back of the house climbed the rose bush, glossy dark green against the soft gray day. The roses were nearly spent, but a few still bloomed bright yellow. She reached for one, a little bit over her head—

Movement at the edge of her peripheral vision caught her attention. Alice turned in time to see…something…distinctly skitter through the trees. She caught a flash of scarlet, the impression of long black hair, and then the fog closed around her so completely that she felt as if it were a blanket, smothering and too close.

She might as well have been blind. Panic clutched her throat, as she spun around in a circle, seeking a marker of any kind with which to orient herself. Nothing. She made a decision and headed for the back door.

Or at least she thought it was the back door. Instead, she stumbled over a round clump of aromatic lavender and fell, face first, in the wet grass. Flowers went flying from her basket, her teeth clicked together painfully, and she jarred her right elbow. The wind was knocked out of her, adding to her panic, and she felt like she might pass out, right there in the garden.

Maybe she thought, struggling to take a breath, her grandmother was right.

“Breathe!” said a voice.

Alice struggled to obey, but it felt as if two fists were squeezing her lungs tight. The edges of her vision begin to blacken, which sent her spiraling into absolute terror, even though some distant part of her brain knew that passing out would be the end of the whole drama because she’d relax. Her body would take over and do what was required.

“Breathe!” said a man’s voice, and a blow struck her between the shoulder blades, startling enough that Alice sucked in a giant breath. Air filled her lungs, then flowed out, and she coughed.

She sat up, turning to thank her rescuer, but the fog was so thick she still could see nothing. “Thank you,” she said.

No one answered. The cloud shifted ever so slightly, and she thought she saw a foot in a soft leather shoe, but then it was swallowed again.

Uneasy, Alice went to all fours and gathered the flowers that had scattered when she fell. The basket could wait, since she couldn’t see it anyway, and the scissors would likely rust, but she wasn’t going to risk another tumble. Getting to her feet, she stepped carefully. Eventually she would come to the wall, the moat, or the back of the house. All sound was muffled, but she could distantly hear the water in the moat chuckling along its way. It was at least a point of orientation.

Moving cautiously, she peered into the dense air, and finally spied a single gleam of yellow, like a torch in the gloom. It was the rose against her kitchen window, dewy and bright. It led her the last few steps to the door safely.

Only then, with her palm flat against clammy bricks, did she look back into the fog-shrouded garden. Who had helped her?
Maybe the garden was haunted. A cold shiver crossed her shoulders, rushed down her spine.

After her class tomorrow, she would poke around the library for some research on the house. Who knew what dramas and lost loves she might uncover?

The Simple Joy of Dog-ness

Sasha in November
Sasha in November

This morning, I’m thinking about the difference in dogs and cats. As many of you know, my mid-size terrier mutt Sasha is almost 17 years old and over the past six months, her age has really been catching up with her. She’s quite deaf and a little shortsighted and even the smeller is going, since she nips at our fingers just to make sure there is no treat hanging in the air. She’s pigeon-toed and bow-legged because her legs are weak, and some days the shuffle is barely a shuffle. Some days, she’s incontinent and I’ve figured out the signs, and she wears a diaper with good grace. (I found her a denim overdiaper that’s actually kind of cute. With her green fleece, she’s stylin’, baby.) Once or twice, she’s had a day so bad that I was sure I would have to take her in the next day. A meaty bone, plenty of physical support (i.e. someone carrying her), some good drugs, and she rallies.

But unless she’s actually in pain, she works around her limitations with her usual canine glee, barking at the top of her voice when she realizes that we’re going for a walk, shuffling as fast as she can down the street, around the little green, and then back home panting hard (where she gets a bone while Jack and I head back out for a longer jaunt). She still makes her rounds in the kitchen 47 time a day, performing her sworn dog duty to keep all floors tidy.

This what one of the things I love about dogs. She isn’t wailing about the impending end of her days on the planet. She’s fully engaged, living today, living with excitement. She doesn’t mourn the long walks she used to take when she was a younger healthier dog, she just charges out there to do what she can do now. She doesn’t get all stressed out about the diaper or her funny walk. On bad mornings, she waits patiently for one of us to carry her down the stairs, and we gladly do it, and when she gets down there, she engages in the task of the morning—first, anything fallen since last night? Second, are the cats being fed (she gets to lick the plates)? Third, can I sit right here while you eat breakfast (peering in Mr McGoo fashion)… you are eating breakfast?.

By contrast, a cat will hide dramatically beneath a couch, rolling eyes in abject misery. I suspect this is because cats are vain. They don’t like to look bad. (Don’t misread this, of course. I adore cats JUST as much as I adore dogs, and am in fact aching to get a new kitten, which Jack would not approve, so I don’t). A cat gets a cold and creeps dramatically into a corner and waves a sorry paw—oh, never mind that tuna, you know I used to like it but I couldn’t manage even a single bite. I’m dying you know. Dying. Take it away. There’s no point. A sick cat must be coaxed into eating, teased into it, sometimes forced. (My favorite high-cal concoction is an egg yolk mixed with the oil from a can a of tuna, fed via eyedropper down the protesting cat’s throat. A cat who is a burrito in a towel. )

I tend to be more of a cat. Full of drama and worried over looking ridiculous and very invested in my fur. To honor Sasha, I’m trying to be right there with her. Joyful. Enjoying the good moments, taking care of her as well as I can during the bad ones, knowing that the very moment her true pleasure in life is gone is gone is the moment I will let her go, and glad we can do that with animals.

It’s an illumination in living. It’s easy to be happy in the moment. Easy to find ways to be joyful. My pleasure isn’t patrolling the floors, but I really love to write and read. I love to make beautiful meals. I love walking and dancing and cuddling the dogs. Right this minute, I love sitting in my favorite chair, a heavy Mission-style piece that’s big enough to curl up in, with a Titanic deck chair throw over my shoulders and a gold print throw over my legs, looking at Pikes Peak through my window. I’m writing, and writing delights me. My dog Jack is doing his job, glaring out the window at dogs who have the nerve to pass in front of us; also he is looking mighty gorgeous, which is his task. Sasha was here a moment ago, but has gone on patrol.

Today. Here. Now. In honor of The Ancient One, I’m sticking with the practice as much as I can.

What’s your joy, your task? Are you more of a cat or a dog?