Scenes From My Week 09.03.14

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My book is available for pre-order on Amazon now! Order your copy of The Yellow Suitcase today, and receive it on your e-reader automatically, when the book becomes available September 10!

 

 

 

 

 

Some sights from walking around our neighborhood…

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I love these trees with their huge, huge leaves. Each one must be at least a foot and a half to two feet long!

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And, of course, Cy Batman.

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Little by Little



Things I Wish I Could Tell My Readers


My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Order your copy of The Yellow Suitcase today, and receive it on your e-reader automatically, when the book becomes available September 10!

It took me just shy of four years to produce this book. The first year was spent writing the first draft. The second was devoted to revisions and many, many more drafts. In the third year, I tested the waters with professionals in the publishing industry. This last year was spent trying to build up the guts to put it out in public.

The good thing about writing a novel is that by the end of the book you end up a better writer than when you started. The bad thing is that by the end of the book, you end up a better writer than when you started, so when you go back to the beginning, you see how badly you wrote, and you revise, and revise, and revise, generally getting better, but never getting done. You never reach a point where you’re 100% satisfied with it, only 100% done with working on it.

Part of what is so scary about putting it out in public is trying to imagine how others will receive it. Will they think it’s stupid? Or (perhaps even worse), will they think it’s boring? Given the premise of the story, it was necessary for me to include some sexual violence (though I hope not a gratuitous amount), and part of my fears lie in what my friends will think as they read those parts. Writing and reading are such intimate acts: for the span in which I have your attention, my voice is in your head, and you are in mine. It’s scary to invite others in so deep.

An early reader once suggested to me that she thought my story would be a hard sell to publishing houses because it needed more “padding” for the reader to safely engage with the story, protected from the crises and trauma of the main character. She wanted more filters, like nostalgia and the sweeping historical drama of Memoirs of A Geisha, to make the hard parts easier to read. She had a very valid point. But I have faith that readers in 2014 are different than the readers of 1997, and I have faith that my readers are capable of more than such publishers might give them credit for. I have faith that my readers don’t need Richard Gere to save Julia Roberts from her own crassness to be able to engage with a story, and they don’t need another male author romanticizing the sale of young girls to make it a tale worth reading. I think, if anything, #YesAllWomen shows that today’s women can handle hard truths and that speaking them aloud may show us we’re not alone. And I have hope that what makes my story worth reading is not because of what happens to Ae Lin so much as who she becomes because of, or in spite of it, and how she seeks to overcome it.

Because ultimately my story was driven by a question I had, and the book was my attempt to answer it. In writing it, I learned that publishing a book isn’t the end or the final step. If I did what I really wanted to do, it’s only the beginning. I hope it is the beginning of a conversation, and I hope after reading it, my readers will want to talk to me about it and continue the conversation.

Scenes From My Week 08.27.14

_1070426This week’s post is short as I’m using all my spare moments to finish up the final details of publishing my book, which I’m aiming to release on September 10. But I want to share this other little detail that’s been going on over here. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to fill my home with more living things–the green kind that is. Plants and flowers. A home feels more homey when vases are full of blossoms and little corners are dotted with potted herbs.

_1070421I’m giving it a go with these adorable little succulents I found. But the problem is I am cursed when it comes to plants. I’m the only person I know capable of killing mint while actively trying to keep it alive. I need a plant that is hardy, sturdy, and determined. One that prefers the dark (since there aren’t many plant-friendly (read: out of reach of child & dog) spots in the house that get good sunlight), doesn’t need too much attention, and still manages to look pretty when left untended. Whatever that plant is…that’s the kind I need.

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In the meantime, I also found these adorable little bud vases. _1070460

There are several empty fields and houses that I walk by every day when I take Cy out for walks, and in rainy season, there are always little blooms popping up every where._1070462

So I steal a few fresh flowers and brighten my little home. And little cute things make my heart happy.

Little by Little



Momma Chat: On Doing What It Takes to Get Done

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The other day, I had Cy perched on the edge of the kitchen sink to “help Mama” do the dishes. By help, I mean I let him run his fingers in the water, splash around, and dip his fingers in suds while I tried to get the dishes done. I stood behind him so he wouldn’t fall off the sink, and interspersed my rendition of “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” with refrains of “No, don’t put your fingers in the dirty dishwater; that’s yucky” and “No, don’t pull on Mama’s plants,” meanwhile taking pauses between dish sudsing to discourage his hand from inserting suds in mouth or reaching for the glassware._1070442

Might be someone would call CPS on me. But knives were well out of reach, no glasses were harmed, boy was entertained, and dishes got done._1070444

It’s actually a little frightening amazing how many borderline bad idea things I do to keep him entertained and keep my household from disintegrating into crisis (and keep my sanity intact)._1070445

I sit him up on counters (with my body as a guard), I let him make veritable messes (of my choosing), and I let him explore things that aren’t exactly toys (under supervision, of course), if it’ll keep him occupied and happy while I make coffee and a bowl of cereal, put away laundry, respond to any urgent phone calls or emails that can’t be done while he’s sleeping, or do any of the other million little tasks that pop up in a day.

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I was reading a blog post yesterday that called bunk on the piece of parenting wisdom that says “it gets easier.” The author argued that it doesn’t get easier; it just gets different. You just trade in one kind of hard for a different kind of hard. At first, I disagreed. When Cy was less than six months old, taking care of the house (or my work) and him at the same time was impossible. He was what you might call a “high needs” baby. He needed my undivided attention almost constantly, so almost everything I did aside from child care was done when Toby finished work and could help with Cy. I scaled back everything in my life to the bare minimum.

Now, I can do so much more with him. I can run short errands with him if he’s in a decent mood, I can include him while I take care of small easy tasks, and I don’t need to be his entertainer nearly so much as when he was younger. I mostly supervise while he manages his own play.

But it’s all relative: I can do so much more than I once did, but still not nearly so much as I need to or would like. I still have to wait for evenings and weekends for many things; living my own personal life on the fringes of a day or week. And sometimes it drives me insane with impatience and frustration.

A couple days ago was one such time. I was itching to continue working on the final details of getting my book published (i.e. copyright registration and getting the ISBN), I was bored because Cy had been unusually clingy all day wanting me to read him the same books 7 or 8 times apiece, Toby had an unusually busy day, and I thought I would save us time by going to pick up dinner. Long story short, I got stuck in the worst traffic this side of Shanghai, Cy cried in the car almost the whole way (nearly 30 minutes each way) and I couldn’t do a single thing about it, I ran into several problems with the food, and I didn’t end up getting home until after 8, so we were still trying to eat dinner when I should have been getting Cy a bath and into bed. Turns out, my idea to “save time” took more than twice as long, and I still didn’t get anything done. Sometimes my impatience leads to really poor choices
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But with the hard comes this other thing: resilience. Once Cy calmed down after the trauma of the car ride, he was all smiles and giggles again. I couldn’t help him while we were stuck in traffic, but I did help him get over it afterward. With each new hard you encounter as a parent, you (try to) learn and devise new and creative ways to be who your child needs you to be. Might be that things are easier now than they once were. Might be that being a mama makes me a stronger person than I once was.

Thing I Love About Cy Today:

from "The Further Adventures of A Little Mouse Trapped in a Book" by Monique Felix

from “The Further Adventures of the Little Mouse Trapped in a Book” by Monique Felix

Cy’s new favorite book is one that used to be his dad’s – all images, and no words. It’s about a little mouse who gets trapped in a book, but as he tries to nibble his way out, he discovers a whole ocean just outside the book. The book begins to fill with water, so the little mouse builds a boat and sails away. I narrate the story for Cy and every time we get to the end, I say “bye-bye mouse!” and Cy opens and closes his hand, waving goodbye to the little mouse.

Scenes From My Week 08.20.14 & Book Winners

Cy’s first guitar lesson:
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Notice Dot?

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There she is! Giving dad some licks

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And the WINNING BOOK COVER is:

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And I decided to select TWO WINNERS of the GIVEAWAY. By virtue of random number generator, the winners of the giveaway are: JAMIE BIRKETT and SARAH COYNE! I’ll be emailing you both soon with details, Jamie & Sarah!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who voted and commented! It’s been so helpful to hear everyone’s thoughts and see what worked and what didn’t and I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement you all sent my way. Thank you, thank you!

Little by Little



Scenes From My Week 08.13.14

Three things to share with you this week!

First off, my little ham:_1070329 _1070336 _1070343 _1070344

Second, some fresh flowers and herbs to brighten up the day:
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And third, I’m publishing a book, and I’m inviting YOU to help me choose a book cover design! Head over to THIS POST HERE to find out the details and enter for a chance to win the giveaway too!
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And don’t forget to join us at Communal Global and Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



Vote on My Book’s Cover!

When I announced last week that I am going to be publishing my novel, I was so thrilled and thankful to receive so many messages of support and encouragement from you all! That really makes this process a bit less scary and much more exciting. I really can’t wait to share with you this thing that has been such a big part of my life for several years now. I want to include you all in every step of the way, and I hope you’ll join me!

The first big thing on the agenda (and one of the most fun, I think!) is choosing a book cover design! My talented husband, Toby, drafted up some design options and we’ve narrowed it down to our top three. I would love for you to help choose the favorite!

So here’s the deal, I’m presenting below our top three candidates, and a draft of the back cover copy for your reference. Please select YOUR FAVORITE ONE and let me know via comment here on the blog, on Facebook, or Instagram (only one comment per person, please), and everyone who comments will be automatically entered in a giveaway for one winner to receive an advance copy of my ebook AND a special surprise gift from Thailand, as a thank you for your support.

Okay, are you ready?

Here is Book Cover Option A:

cover-aAs many potential buyers will be coming across the book online or via their e-readers, here’s what the thumbnail version, in color and black & white, will probably look like:

cover a_thumbBook Cover Option B:

cover-bAnd the thumbnail:

cover b_thumbBook Cover Option C:

cover-cAnd the thumbnail:

cover c_thumbWhich one would you be most likely to pick up? And should I be so lucky as to have captured your attention with my book cover, here is a draft of what you’ll find on the back cover:

In a sleepy riverside town in the heart of Thailand, Ae Lin, a former Bangkok bar girl determined to put a painful history behind her, pours her passions into her new coffee shop and her resolve to create a life of her own making. But the past comes to find her in the form of an estranged and angry sister who insists she fulfill one remaining family obligation: to visit and pay respect to their dying father – which is the last thing she wants to do. As Ae Lin grapples with the desire to flee and the pressures to return, she meets Sai Kyin, a refugee from Burma, who had no choice but to leave home and all he loved behind. Prompted by the guidance of Luang Paw, a rather unconventional Buddhist monk, the stories of Ae Lin’s and Sai Kyin’s traumas converge as their memories unfold, in a tale about what happens to the fallen and what it takes to heal.

The Yellow Suitcase is an exploration of the devastating effects of dark family secrets where the lines between victim and perpetrator, and innocence and guilt, become increasingly blurred. The novel offers a poignant and heartbreaking portrait of the deepest kinds of betrayal, and a thoughtful rumination on forgiveness, healing, and the power of truth.

“…effectively examines the prostitutes’ difficult lives, outlining the terror, boredom, sisterhood and despair of their daily routines….An intriguing fictional look at Third World sex workers.” – Kirkus Reviews

Voting will be open for one week, ending on Tuesday, August 19. I’ll announce the giveaway winner and the winning book cover next week! Thanks again to everyone for your support!

Announcing….My Big News!

Da dadaDA! [Drumroll please]

Da dadaDA! [Drumroll please]

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I was ready to finally share with you all something that has been going on behind the scenes here for…well, years. Are you ready? Here is my big news:

I wrote a book. A whole book! A novel, to be more precise. You’re going to be hearing a lot about it over the next several weeks because I’m publishing it, and it should be out in ebook format sometime in early-mid September. I’ll let you know the exact date soon, and a whole lot more detail over the coming weeks, but I just wanted to let you know:

I wrote a book, y’all. It’s written. It’s been revised {so many, many times}. It’s been professionally edited and reviewed. And next week YOU get to vote on the book cover design!

I promise that very soon I’ll be sharing tons about the story, my process, and lots of other tidbits that hopefully you’ll find fun and intriguing, but in the meantime, just so you know, it’s a story set here in Thailand, and the title is: THE YELLOW SUITCASE.

And I’m really hoping you’ll have as much fun reading it as I had writing it…and I really hope we can talk about it when you’re done!

Momma Chat: The Fun Really Starts at the End of the Fourth Trimester

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Having a 10-month-old (almost 11-month old!) baby is the most fun ever. I mean, obviously, there’s been lots of fun times up until now, but suddenly almost overnight it seems, Cy became just stoked on life.

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This photo is just begging for a caption.

They say “9 months in the womb, and 9 months out of the womb” for a baby to really develop, and in Cy’s case it was totally true. All the battles and worries of the early days just one by one resolved themselves (regardless and possibly in spite of many of my efforts). The sleep drama ended, he weaned himself off pacifiers, the swaddle, almost all sleep aids (only nursing left), and is even now starting to request solid food instead of breast milk for some meals. (If I could talk to my earlier mom self, I would tell her to stop worrying so damn much. But then I know she probably wouldn’t listen anyway.)

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He’s curious, engaged, loving, and fun. I wish I could tell you about all the times he’s made us laugh with his funny faces, perfectly timed declarative noises, and exuberant display of personality.

And he can suddenly do so much more now: standing strong on his own; climbing up AND down the stairs (and furniture); saying a few words like Mama, dog, mam-mam (a Thai word for food), house, and ball; understanding simple directions; helping me brush his teeth; or peeling fruit to help Mama infuse her iced tea.

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He has this game he likes to play, where he’ll grab a few items (like a couple of his toy cars), and he’ll sit by a ledge or shelf or the threshold of a door and, one by one, place the items on the shelf, and take one down, and place another one. Like organizing, but by the guide of principles only he knows. I wonder what he is thinking while he does this, but then, as I describe this now it occurs to me: perhaps he’s just copying Mama, as she goes about the house sorting items by some generally indiscernible whim.

Where he was clingy and fussy before, he’s now growing in independence and sense of self. It’s like he was a baby bird cooped up, often squawking, in the nest, and then suddenly he stood up, peeped over the edge of the nest, and discovered he could unfold his wings. He’s been taking off ever since.

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Before Cy was born, I used to ask Toby or my parents what they looked forward to most about Cy. To answer that question myself, I always imagined reading together, taking trips to the zoo, baking cookies for him and listening to him talk. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say. Now, I realize what I really was looking forward to was having a relationship with my son. I was looking forward to loving him.

I loved him from the beginning, and every moment since, but it started as a little seed of awe and wonder. And out from that planted seed came one tiny, thin little vine sprouting, pushing through the mud and dirt and rain, finding the sunshine. Somehow, without my knowing or noticing, it’s become this multi-petaled flower, with new dimensions continually unfolding and unfolding, getting deeper, denser, and fuller…and I know it’s only just begun.

Such purple prose, I know. But I don’t know how else to put it. The more I get to know this little guy, the bigger he grows my heart.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: The way he waves goodbye–by reaching out and grasping.

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CHECK BACK HERE ON FRIDAY FOR MY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Scenes From My Week 08.06.14

I’d like you all to meet Lian._1070232

His mama is my neighbor, and she so graciously let me take pictures of this precious little angel baby.

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This is his guardian protector. He does a good job.

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I’m so thankful to have a mama friend so close by too! It makes such a difference; so much less lonely. I just can’t wait to get to know little Lian too.

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He’s got some big footsteps to grow into.

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But loving hands to hold him.

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And toes just begging to be nibbled.

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They sure do make a beautiful couple, don’t they?

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I had some big (for me) news to share…Well, I just want to say: I will be making my announcement THIS WEEK! Check back here on FRIDAY and I will let you know what bee’s been buzzing around in my bonnet! I can’t wait–hope you’ll be half as excited as me!

In the meantime, join the party at Communal Global & Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



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