Sunday, March 16, 2008

FIRST Blog Tour: Only Uni by Camy Tang

It is March 15th,
but no need to worry about the Ides of
when we have a special blog tour for one of our FIRST
members! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) Normally, on the FIRST day of
every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST
chapter! As this is a special tour, we are featuring it on a special day!

The special feature author is:

and her book:

Only Uni

Zondervan (March 2008)


Camy Tang is a member of FIRST and is
a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in
Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband
and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist
researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing
full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church
youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.

Sushi for
One? (Sushi Series, Book One)
was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni
(Sushi Series, Book Two)
is now available. The next book in the series,
Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three)
will be coming out in September

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

Trish Sakai walked through the door and the entire room hushed.

Well, not exactly pin-drop hushed. More like a handful of the several
dozen people in her aunty’s enormous living room paused their
conversations to glance her way. Maybe Trish had simply expected them to laugh
and point.

She shouldn’t have worn white. She’d chosen the Bebe dress from her
closet in a rebellious mood, which abandoned her at her aunt’s doorstep.
Maybe because the explosion of red, orange, or gold outfits made her
head swim.

At least the expert cut of her dress made her rather average figure
curvier and more slender at the same time. She loved how well-tailored
clothes ensured she didn’t have to work as hard to look good.

Trish kicked off her sandals, and they promptly disappeared in the sea
of shoes filling the foyer. She swatted away a flimsy paper dragon
drooping from the doorframe and smoothed down her skirt. She snatched her
hand back and wrung her fingers behind her.

No, that’ll make your hips look huge.

She clenched her hands in front.

Sure, show all the relatives that you’re nervous.

She clasped them loosely at her waist and tried to adopt a regal

“Trish, you okay? You look constipated.”

Her cousin Bobby snickered while she sneered at him. “Oh, you’re so
funny I could puke.”

“May as well do it now before Grandma gets here.”

“She’s not here yet?” Oops, that came out sounding a little too
relieved. She cleared her throat and modulated her voice to less-than-ecstatic
levels. “When’s she coming?”

“Uncle picked her up, but he called Aunty and said Grandma forgot
something, so he had to go back.”

Thank goodness for little favors. “Is Lex here?”

“By the food.”

Where else would she be? Last week, her cousin Lex had mentioned that
her knee surgeon let her go back to playing volleyball three nights a
week and coaching the other two nights, so her metabolism had revved up
again. She would be eating like a horse.

Sometimes Trish could just kill her.

She tugged at her skirt—a little tight tonight. She should’ve had more
self-control than to eat that birthday cake at work. She’d have to run
an extra day this week … maybe.

She bounced like a pinball between relatives. The sharp scent of ginger
grew more pungent as she headed toward the large airy kitchen. Aunty
Sue must have made cold ginger chicken again. Mmmm. The smell mixed with
the tang of black bean sauce (Aunty Rachel’s shrimp?), stir-fried
garlic (any dish Uncle Barry made contained at least two bulbs), and fishy
scallions (probably her cousin Linda’s Chinese-style sea bass).

A three-foot-tall red streak slammed into her and squashed her big toe.

“Ow!” Good thing the kid hadn’t been wearing shoes or she might have
broken her foot. Trish hopped backward and her hand fumbled with a low
side table. Waxed paper and cornstarch slid under her fingers before the
little table fell, dropping the kagami mochi decoration. The sheet of
printed paper, the tangerine, and rubbery-hard mochi dumplings dropped
to the cream-colored carpet. Well, at least the cornstarch covering the
mochi blended in.

The other relatives continued milling around her, oblivious to the
minor desecration to the New Year’s decoration. Thank goodness for small—

A childish gasp made her turn. The human bullet who caused the whole
mess, her little cousin Allison, stood with a hand up to her round lips
that were stained cherry-red, probably from the sherbet punch. Allison
lifted wide brown eyes up to
Trish—hanaokolele-you’re-in-trouble—while the other hand pointed to the mochi on the floor.

Trish didn’t buy it for a second. “Want to help?” She tried to infuse
some leftover Christmas cheer into her voice.

Allison’s disdainful look could have come from a teenager rather than a
seven-year-old. “You made the mess.”

Trish sighed as she bent to pick up the mochi rice dumplings—one large
like a hockey puck, the other slightly smaller—and the shihobeni
paper they’d been sitting on. She wondered if the shihobeni
wouldn’t protect the house from fires this next year since she’d dropped

“Aunty spent so long putting those together.”

Yeah, right. “Is that so?” She laid the paper on the table so it
draped off the edge, then stuck the waxed paper on top. She anchored
them with the larger mochi.

“Since you busted it, does it mean that Aunty won’t have any good luck
this year?”

“It’s just a tradition. The mochi doesn’t really bring prosperity, and
the tangerine only symbolizes the family generations.” Trish tried to
artfully stack the smaller mochi on top of the bottom one, but it
wouldn’t balance and kept dropping back onto the table.

“That’s not what Aunty said.”

“She’s trying to pass on a New Year’s tradition.” The smaller mochi
dropped to the floor again. “One day you’ll have one of these in your own
house.” Trish picked up the mochi. Stupid Japanese New Year tradition.
Last year, she’d glued hers together until Mom found out and brought a
new set to her apartment, sans-glue. Trish wasn’t even Shinto. Neither
was anyone else in her family—most of them were Buddhists—but it was
something they did because their family had always done it.

“No, I’m going to live at home and take care of Mommy.”

Thank goodness, the kid finally switched topics. “That’s wonderful.”
Trish tried to smash the tangerine on top of the teetering stack of
mochi. Nope, not going to fly. “You’re such a good daughter.”

Allison sighed happily. “I am.”

Your ego’s going to be too big for this living room, toots. “Um
… let’s go to the kitchen.” She crammed the tangerine on the mochi
stack, then turned to hustle Allison away before she saw them fall back
down onto the floor.

“Uh, Triiiish?”

She almost ran over the kid, who had whirled around and halted in her
path like a guardian lion. Preventing Trish’s entry into the kitchen.
And blocking the way to the food. She tried to sidestep, but the
other relatives in their conversational clusters, oblivious to her,
hemmed her in on each side.

Allison sidled closer. “Happy New Year!”

“Uh … Happy New Year.” What was she up to? Trish wouldn’t put anything
past her devious little brain.

“We get red envelopes at New Year’s.” Her smile took on a predatory

“Yes, we do.” One tradition she totally didn’t mind. Even the older
cousins like Trish and Lex got some money from the older relatives,
because they weren’t married yet.

Allison beamed. “So did you bring me a red envelope?”

What? Wait a minute. Was she supposed to bring red envelopes for
the younger kids? No, that couldn’t be. “No, only the married people
do that.” And only for the great-cousins, not their first cousins,
right? Or was that great-cousins, too? She couldn’t remember.

Allison’s face darkened to purple. “That’s not true. Aunty gives me a
red envelope and she’s not married.”

“She used to be married. Uncle died.”

“She’s not married now. So you’re supposed to give me a red envelope,

Yeah, right. “If I gave out a red envelope to every cousin and
great-cousin, I’d go bankrupt.”

“You’re lying. I’m going to tell Mommy.” Allison pouted, but her sly
eyes gave her away.

A slow, steady burn crept through her body. This little extortionist
wasn’t going to threaten her, not tonight of all nights.

She crouched down to meet Allison at eye level and forced a smile.
“That’s not very nice. That’s spreading lies.”

Allison bared her teeth in something faintly like a grin.

“It’s not good to be a liar.” Trish smoothed the girl’s red velvet
dress, trimmed in white lace.

“You’re the liar. You said you’re not supposed to give me a red
envelope, and that’s a lie.”

The brat had a one-track mind. “It’s not a lie.”

“Then I’ll ask Mommy.” The grin turned sickeningly sweet.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Trish tweaked one of Allison’s
curling-iron-manufactured corkscrews, standing out amongst the rest of her
straight hair.

“I can do whatever I want.” An ugly streak marred the angelic mask.

“Of course you can.”

Allison blinked.

“But if you do, I’ll tell Grandma that I found her missing jade
bracelet in your bedroom.” Gotcha.

“What were you doing in my bedroom?” Allison’s face matched her dress.

Trish widened her eyes. “Well, you left it open when your mom hosted
the family Christmas party …”

Allison’s lips disappeared in her face, and her nostrils flared.
“You’re lying—”

“And you know Grandma will ask your mommy to search your room.”

Her face whitened.

“So why don’t we forget about this little red envelope thing, hmm?”
Trish straightened the gold heart pendant on Allison’s necklace and gave
her a bland smile.

A long, loud inhale filled Allison’s lungs. For a second, Trish
panicked, worried that she’d scream or something, but the air left her

Trish stood. “See ya.” She muscled her way past the human traffic cone.

She zeroed in on the kitchen counters like a heat-seeking missile.
“Hey, guys.”

Her cousins Venus, Lex, and Jenn turned to greet her.

“You’re even later than Lex.” Venus leaned her
sexy-enough-to-make-Trish-sick curves against a countertop as she crunched on a celery stick.

“Hey!” Lex nudged her with a bony elbow, then spoke to Trish.
“Grandma’s not here yet, but your mom—”

“Trish, there you are.” Mom flittered up. “Did you eat yet? Let me fill
you a plate. Make sure you eat the kuromame for good luck. I
know you don’t like chestnuts and black beans, but just eat one. Did you
want any konbu? Seaweed is very good for you.”

“No, Mom—”

“How about Aunty Eileen’s soup? I’m not sure what’s in it this year,
but it doesn’t look like tripe this time—”

“Mom, I can get my own food.”

“Of course you can, dear.” Mom handed her a mondo-sized plate.

Trish grabbed it, then eyed Venus’s miniscule plate filled sparingly
with meat, fish, and veggies. Aw, phooey. Why did Venus have to always be
watching her hourglass figure—with inhuman self-control over her
calorie intake—making Trish feel dumpy just for eating a potsticker? She
replaced her plate with a smaller one.

Lex had a platter loaded with chicken and lo mein, which she shoveled
into her mouth. “The noodles are good.”

“Why are you eating so much today?”

“Aiden’s got me in intensive training for the volleyball tournament
coming up.”

Trish turned toward the groaning sideboard to hide the pang in her gut
at mention of Lex’s boyfriend. Who had been Trish’s physical therapist.
Aiden hadn’t met Lex yet when Trish had hit on him, but he’d rebuffed
her—rather harshly, she thought—then became Christian and now was
living a happily-ever-after with Lex.

Trish wasn’t jealous at all.

Why did she always seem to chase away the good ones and keep the bad
ones? Story of her life. Her taste in men matched Lex’s horrendous taste
in clothes—Lex wore nothing but ugly, loose workout clothes, while
Trish dated nothing but ugly (well, in character, at least) losers.

Next to her, Jennifer inhaled as if she were in pain. “Grandma’s here.”

“No, not now. This is so not fair. I haven’t eaten yet.”

“It’ll still be here.” Venus’s caustic tone cut through the air at the
same time her hand grabbed Trish’s plate. “Besides, you’re eating too
much fat.”

Trish glared. “I am not fat—”

Venus gave a long-suffering sigh. “I didn’t say you were fat. I said
you’re eating unhealthily.”

“You wouldn’t say that to Lex.” She stabbed a finger at her athletic
cousin, who was shoveling chicken long rice into her mouth.

Lex paused. “She already did.” She slurped up a rice noodle.

Venus rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “All of you eat terribly. You
need to stop putting so much junk into your bodies.”

“I will when Jenn stops giving us to-die-for homemade chocolate
truffles.” Trish traded a high-five with Jenn, their resident culinary genius.

“Besides, chocolate’s good for you.” Lex spoke through a mouthful of
black bean shrimp.

Venus, who seemed to know she was losing the battle, brandished a
celery stick. “You all should eat more fiber—”

Trish snatched at a deep-fried chicken wing and made a face at her.
“It’s low carb.” Although she’d love to indulge in just a little of those
Chinese noodles later when Venus wasn’t looking …

She only had time to take a couple bites before she had to drop the
chicken in a napkin and wipe her fingers. She skirted the edge of the
crowd of relatives who collected around Grandma, wishing her Happy New

Grandma picked up one of Trish’s cousin’s babies and somehow managed to
keep the sticky red film coating his hands from her expensive Chanel
suit. How did Grandma do that? It must be a gift. The same way her
elegant salt-and-pepper ’do never had a hair out of place.

Then Grandma grabbed someone who had been hovering at her shoulder and
thrust him forward.

No. Way.

What was Kazuo doing here?

With Grandma?

Her breath caught as the familiar fluttering started in her ribcage.
No, no, no, no, no. She couldn’t react this way to him again. That’s what
got her in trouble the last time.

Trish grabbed Jenn’s arm and pulled her back toward the kitchen. “I
have to hide.”

Jenn’s brow wrinkled. “Why?”

“That’s Kazuo.”

Jenn’s eyes popped bigger than the moon cakes on the sideboard.
“Really? I never met him.” She twisted her head.

“Don’t look. Hide me.”

Jenn sighed. “Isn’t that a little silly? He’s here for the New Year’s

Trish darted her gaze around the kitchen, through the doorway to the
smaller TV room. “There are over a hundred people here. There’s a good
chance I can avoid him.”

“He probably came to see you.” A dreamy smile lit Jenn’s lips. “How
romantic …”

A mochi-pounding mallet thumped in the pit of Trish’s stomach. Romantic
this was not.

“What’s wrong?” Venus and Lex separated from the crowd to circle around

“That’s Kazuo.”

“Really?” Lex whirled around and started to peer through the doorway
into the front room. “We never met him—”

“Don’t look now! Hide me!”

Venus lifted a sculpted eyebrow. “Oh, come on.”

“How does Grandma know him?” Jennifer’s soothing voice fizzled Venus’s

“She met him when we were dating.”

“Grandma loves Kazuo.” Lex tossed the comment over her shoulder as she
stood at the doorway and strained to see Kazuo past the milling

Venus’s brow wrinkled. “Loves him? Why?”

Trish threw her hands up in the air. “He’s a Japanese national. He
spoke Japanese to her. Of course she’d love him.”

Jennifer chewed her lip. “Grandma’s not racist—”

Venus snorted. “Of course she’s not racist, but she’s certainly

“That’s not a good enough reason. Don’t you think there’s something
fishy about why she wants Trish to get back together with him?”

Venus opened her mouth, but nothing came out. After a moment, she
closed it. “Maybe you’re right.”

Trish flung her arms out. “But I have no idea what that reason is.”

“So is she matchmaking? Now?”

“What better place?” Trish pointed to the piles of food. “Fatten me up
and serve me back to him on a platter.”

Venus rolled her eyes. “Trish—”

“I’m serious. No way am I going to let her do that. Not with
him.” The last man on earth she wanted to see. Well, that wasn’t exactly
true. Her carnal body certainly wanted to see him, even though her brain
and spirit screamed, Run away! Run away!

“Was it that bad a breakup?” Lex looked over her shoulder at them.

Trish squirmed. “I, uh … I don’t think he thinks we’re broken up.”

“What do you mean? It happened six months ago.” Venus’s gaze seemed to
slice right through her.

“Well … I saw him a couple days ago.”

Venus’s eyes flattened. “And …?”

Trish blinked rapidly. “We … got along really well.”

Venus crossed her arms and glared.

How did Venus do that? Trish barely had to open her mouth and Venus
knew when she was lying. “We, um … got along really well.”

Jennifer figured it out first. She gasped so hard, Trish worried she’d
pass out from lack of oxygen.

Venus cast a sharp look at her, then back at Trish. Her mouth sprang
open. “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” Lex rejoined the circle and the drama unfolding. She
peered at Jenn and Venus—one frozen in shock, the other white with anger.

Trish’s heart shrank in her chest. She bit her lip and tasted blood.
She couldn’t look at her cousins. She couldn’t even say it.

Venus said it for her. “You slept with him again.”

Lex’s jaw dropped. “Tell me you didn’t.” The hurt in her eyes stabbed
at Trish’s heart like Norman Bates in Psycho.
Well, it was true that Trish’s obsessive relationship with Kazuo had
made her sort of completely and utterly abandon Lex last year when
she tore her ACL. Lex probably felt like Trish was priming to betray
her again. “It was only once. I couldn’t help myself—”

“After everything you told me last year about how you never asked God
about your relationship with Kazuo and now you were free.” Lex’s
eyes grew dark and heavy, and Trish remembered the night Lex had first
torn her ACL. Trish had been too selfish, wanting to spend time with
Kazuo instead of helping Lex home from one of the most devastating things
that had ever happened to her.

“I just couldn’t help myself—” Trish couldn’t seem to say anything

“So is Kazuo more important to you than me, after all?” Lex’s face had
turned into cold, pale marble, making her eyes stand out in their

A sickening ache gnawed in Trish’s stomach. She hunched her shoulders,
feeling the muscles tighten and knot.

Her cousins had always been compassionate whenever she hurt them,
betrayed them, or caused them hassle and stress by the things she did. She
knew she had a tendency to be thoughtless, but she had always counted on
their instant hugs and “That’s okay, Trish, we’ll fix it for you.” But
now she realized—although they forgave her, they were still hurt each
and every time. Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Where’s Trish?” Grandma’s refined voice managed to carry above the
conversations. “I’m sure she wants to see you.” She was coming closer to
the kitchen.

“I can’t face him.” Trish barely recognized her own voice, as thready
as old cobwebs. “I can’t face Grandma, either.” A tremor rippled through
her body.

Venus’s eyes softened in understanding. “I’ll stall them for you.”

Trish bolted.

Out the other doorway into the living room. She dodged around a few
relatives who were watching sports highlights on the big-screen TV. She
spied the short hallway to Aunty’s bedroom. She could hide. Recoup. Or

She slipped down the hallway and saw the closed door at the end. A
narrow beam of faint light from under it cast a glow over the carpet. Her
heart started to slow.

Maybe she could lie down, pretend she was sick? No, Grandma might
suggest Kazuo take her home.

She could pretend she got a phone call, an emergency at work. Would
Grandma know there weren’t many emergencies with cell biology research on
New Year’s Eve?

The worst part was, Trish hadn’t even gotten to eat yet.

She turned the doorknob, but it stuck. Must be the damp weather. She
applied her shoulder and nudged. The door clicked open. She slipped into
the bedroom.

A couple stood in the dim lamplight, locked in a passionate embrace
straight out of Star magazine. Trish’s heart lodged in her throat.
Doh! Leave now! She whirled.

Wait a minute.

She turned.

The man had dark wavy hair, full and thick. His back was turned to her,
but something about his stance …

The couple sprang apart. Looked at her.


Kissing a woman who wasn’t her mother.

Taken from Only Uni, Copyright © 2008 by
Camy Tang. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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