A beautiful gift.

Getting back to school at the beginning of our school season has taken my breath away, to say it in a somewhat dreamy way. I feel like I run from morning till night and sometimes we are doing spelling words or discussion questions at 9:30, right before bed. It is worth it, and I know that I just have a few years ahead of me that are very full, and I won’t wish them away.

They are full of the beauty of bad puns,

Cups of coffee under the white flowering tree,

Teens who sing me happy birthday (my own and others that I love)

Good discussion,

Endless discussion,

Discussion first thing in the morning when I’m still making smoothies,

Trips to the market,

Pencils and pens,

Being read to by a nine-year-old,

Love,

And fairy dust.

And sometimes I am very tired from it all. Even good gifts can make you tired. And sometimes good gifts take your breath away in even dreamier ways.

I just had a birthday and my beautiful, tall, kindhearted daughter gave me this as a present:

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I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face, because I couldn’t speak for several moments. I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at for a minute, because it was a print of Isika, a character that I made up in my own head, and how did that happen? But as it turns out, Kenya drew it, had it printed, and gave it to me, rendering me speechless. 

It bodes well for a magical year. I’m praying it is so. 

Writing.

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I’ve been finding a good rhythm, back in my space. I start by writing morning pages at the table under the white flowering tree, a cup of coffee, warm against my palm. Whispery Bible pages and the most beautiful words. 

(“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29)

 Then into my little studio working on World Whisperer 4 at a new gifted desk that is big enough for notebooks and papers, for sprawling out. Sometimes I grab my jar of stones and rattle it. The jar of stones reminds me that this is not all there is, that I have been in many forests and on many seashores, that I have friends around the world who know my name and have seen me under many skies. Writing can be so scary that you have to reassure yourself of strange things like that. 

And just like you can hold stones in your hands, you can also hold the different people you have been: the daughter, the young friend, the crazy dancer in the city, the potter, the piper, the painter, the young wife and mother of one tiny baby, the dolphin lover, the cyclist, the student, the fool, the fool, the fool. I pour the stones into my hands and remember how small I am, that the words are just little words, and then I put them back in the jar and begin to write again.

I have dabbled with dictation for a while, and am back to the keyboard. I need the quiet to be able to write. My own voice distracts me. It makes me happy, returning to the keyboard. I feel that it is a familiar space, one that I have fought for over many long years. I do listen to music while I write, so that I can move. I need to move while I write, dancing or rocking back and forth. I’m sure it would look quite comical from the outside. And you might laugh at my collection of songs, which includes weird remixes of indie songs and a Chopin playlist that makes me cry.

***

And for a week I’ve shut myself away in a cheap Airbnb room in Bangkok, living a very Bangkok life of work and street food. It’s a little three room apartment, a bed, a couch, and a kitchenette (which I thought had a burner but turns out to only have a microwave, so I’ve been making microwaved eggs in the morning. I told this to my sister and said “It reminds me of Grandma, at the very same moment that she said, “Does it remind you of Grandma?”

Maybe when I said a very Bangkok life you imagined Khao San road or the Grand Palace, or worse, the party life on Sukhumvit, but the majority of Bangkok is not like that. When I think of Bangkok, I think of small apartments crammed with belongings, of people jogging or doing aerobics in public parks in the hot evenings, people coming out of their offices to pick up street food in the middle of the day, heading back with every finger holding a bag of iced coffee for their office friends, people lined up patiently in the alleyways in the evenings, waiting for a motorbike taxi. I think of the smell of coconut curries, of fried bugs in bags, of tiny intricate desserts. I think of the dividing economic line of AC and non AC, of the skytrain, of friendly distance. Street markets where you can buy colored contacts, jasmine offerings, or fish for your evening meal.

I find that in Northern Thailand, people speak Thai to me, expecting me to understand and respond, so I do. But when I speak Thai here, people nearly choke on their own saliva. It has taken me three times of going to the fruit man for him to believe that I speak Thai, rather than pointing from fruit to fruit, telling me the names of the fruits. Yesterday, though, he told the motorbike taxi guys around him that I spoke great Thai. With a lot of awe. (PS, if you are a foreigner, people will say this no matter how much Thai you speak, so it’s not really something you can judge your progress by. Though it is a little gold star.)

I also overheard boy in 7-11 asked his father what kind of person I was as he pointed to me. That was funny. I’m not sure either, I was interested in what his father’s answer would be, but he only answered “foreigner.” It’s nice when people call me something other than foreigner. At the second hand shoe stall in Chatuchak market, the owners remember me and call me the respectful word for “teacher,” which is cool. And at home in Pai people call me by a version of my name. 

I like to envision myself in other people’s lives, so it’s fun to live this life for a while. I write until my fingers can’t move anymore, and then I go out and get my papaya salad from the street for lunch. Write a few more hours and get some rice and stir fried vegetables for dinner. (That was surprisingly hard to translate- the Thai word for the different dishes you can buy to go with rice is “with rice,” which makes so much sense to me, easy and you don’t have to describe exactly what you ate, but it doesn’t make sense in English.) 

The papaya salad lady has been the most friendly. Turns out she’s from Chiang Rai, in the North also. Maybe people from Bangkok are a little more reserved? I wouldn’t blame them, big cities are massively overstimulating, with advertisements blaring from every possible surface. 

Also, my rooms are decorated to look like hipster Japanese decor, so I can also make believe that I live in Japan. Except I imagine Japanese apartments have more buttons, at least on the toilets. This one is pretty simple. 

I went out only (past getting lunch) a couple times so far. I went to Chatuchak market to buy used Birkenstocks from the amazing used Birkenstock place there (pretty much the only place I buy shoes) and then to the mall to go to Kinokinuya, the giant bookstore, which is a treat like no other. Surrounded by books: art books, design books, poetry books, comic books. They have a piano music section and a Chinese book section. You don’t know how much you’ll miss being surrounded by books until you have no libraries or large bookstores in your life. It’s been ten years for me, so trip to a big bookstore is as exciting as a helicopter ride. 

The same mall has one of the largest art stores I’ve ever seen in Thailand. Since I’ve moved here, we’ve gotten quite an impressive art store in Chiang Mai. It’s not big but it has everything. Everything I need (nearly, I still have to order ink) and lots more. But there is no beating this Bangkok art store for the pretty way they arrange their pens. I’m a girl of simple pleasures. Let me look at a pen store and some art books and I’m happy. I left without buying anything other than two new black fineliners (an addiction). I don’t need any more art supplies. I need to use the ones I have.

So that was my artist date for the week. Maybe I’ll make it to a gallery or something while I’m here, but I’m really focused on this book. And my face is a tiny bit disfigured right now, because it turns out that I can injure myself even alone in a couple of rooms without anything else here. I woke up one morning and ran straight into the glass door that separates the kitchen from the living room, crunching my nose and gashing it open. I lay there bleeding and couldn’t get up for quite a while, feeling like I was going to faint. If it broke, it broke straight, which is good, but I’m going to have a scar. Like a cage fighter. Although, unlike a cage fighter, it was only one punch to take me down. I told my friend Ro that I’ve ruled out MMA as a possible career choice. I’m a bit too much of a wimp. Anyhow! Back to Aria and Demon’s Arrow, book 4 of World Whisperer. 

I will finish this book. I will. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I'm so thankful for my patrons! I've got some fun patron-only extras going up today. :) 

Launch Day!

Here it is, beautiful people! A new book in the world. Shaper's Daughter, Book 3 in the World Whisperer series, is out today. And it's also the day of the relaunch, with all three books heading out with brand new covers. 

Here are the links to where you can buy the books:

World Whisperer
Guardian of Dawn, World Whisperer Book 2  (Formerly Path of Springs.)
Shaper's Daughter, World Whisperer Book 3

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In the third book of the World Whisperer series, Isika must face her deepest fears and emerge with her true identity intact.

Isika is growing into her life in the Royal city of Azariyah. Her pottery apprenticeship is going well and her friendship with Jabari is blossoming. She loves her life with her family and longs to be a normal Maweel girl, something that isn't possible with the Desert King in pursuit of her life.

Evil forces want Isika captured or dead, and the threat of the Great Waste grows stronger daily. Why is the Desert King approaching Azariyah and why is he trying to burn Maween to the ground?

As fires erupt all around Azariyah, the loyalty of the Maweel toward their World Whisperer is tested. Rumors follow Isika as she fights fire and suspicion to protect the city she loves and earn the trust of her people, ultimately standing before an evil so great, it will take everything within her to withstand and defeat it.

***

I will be hosting an online Facebook relaunch party to celebrate, and you're all invited! It's a very easy kind of party to attend, with chatter and thoughts about the book, music and a few prizes. You can ask me anything! Just click the button that says you're going, and you'll be able to see all the posts and qualify for prizes.

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And I'm focusing a lot of my promotion efforts on the first book. I need your help! If you have a minute, you can tweet or post on Facebook about my book. Or share one of the images below. Thank you so much! 

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New World Whisperer cover and Patreon launch.

Thank you for your kind comments and messages. I have never ever regretted sharing about the deepest and hardest things in this space, because you are all so kind and respond in such gentle ways. You teach me. Thank you. 

I have just a couple of things today. I had hoped to give you a Shaper’s Daughter launch date, but am reluctant to do so before I have my new cover files in my hot little hands. So just know that it is coming very, very soon. We are waiting for covers, and that is it! 

Once I have the date, I will be relaunching all three World Whisperer books with a launch party on Facebook, so stay tuned for that info. 

For now, here is the first redone cover. I’m very happy with it!

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Isn’t Isika beautiful? Covers 2 and 3 are beautiful too. I can’t wait to show them to you!

Anyhow, I’ve been learning a lot about genre cover specifications. All the stuff you need to know to do authory things.

And speaking of authory things: Today is the launch of my Patreon site. In case you haven’t heard of Patreon, it is a new-fashioned way to accomplish an old-fashioned concept, which is patronizing the arts by supporting artists and writers. I have always hesitated to support this blog by using ads because I am a minimalist, and don’t love encouraging people to buy new things if I don’t have to. But I  believe that my writing is valuable, and support can help with hosting costs. You can support me on Patreon for only a dollar a month, and there are rewards for Patrons, including Q and A’s and patron-only posts.  

So there you are! Exciting times. Books ahead, patron only posts, and children growing very, very quickly. 

Much love to you all. Be gentle with yourself today. 

Muscle memory.

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* My heart goes out to all those affected by the hurricanes, floods, and fires this season. I’m so sorry. *

I’m home after a long journey. 

“Hello, house,” I say, unsure of whether she will be angry that I was gone so long. The house says hello, stretches her doors open to me. Beautiful wood, mess for me to clean up, smelling of mildew, a jumble of love and work. She missed me, I’m the careful one. The mother. Organizing, reorganizing, getting rid of the detritus. It will take some time to get this place back in order, and it will always be a tropical order; slightly chaotic, moldering on the edges, a little damp.

It’s been raining, to put it mildly. We have arrived at the tail end of an abundant rainy season and everything is green, exploding with life, growing with mold and spores. This town goes through an amazing transformation every year. When I left, it was brown and brittle under a hot wind. But now… how do I describe how this tropical air feels? The clouds drape around the mountains closely, white against deep green. And the air is wet, close to the face, hot in the middle of the day. Vines trail over everything, flowers heap themselves against the fences on the sides of the road. The world is heavy with growth.

I’ve lived here for five years, but the air and the smells somehow still bring me back to India at first glimpse. I’m snapping back into life her, muscle memory crackling as I take the motorbike to the market. But in those first two days when I arrived, I kept being drawn back into the first months in India, into every monsoon. And the flashes of memory brought deep love, reminders of young children, arms and legs and nursing babies. So it is a comforting feeling, this wet air. And the smells of mildew remind me of coming home.

As I am. I’m coming home. Over the next few days I have to scrub and organize my kitchen and sort through all the clothing in the house (somehow it is all on the wrong shelves). I have a house helper, a partner in crime, and I am very thankful for her right now, as it all threatens to overwhelm me. I’ve never been so great at housework. So much of life is managing things, it seems, figuring out the kids’ schedules and homeschool season, helping friends in town, hours in markets finding good things for us to eat. I have learned to love it, to lean into it. I’m waking the muscle memory for this now. I’m excited to get back into community rhythms at Shekina Garden, and I’ve signed myself up to cook the next two weeks of community lunches. Home.

The kids seem very settled and happy. Especially Isaac, who had lost his mind a bit there, at the end. He keeps spotting me in the house and running over to hug me out of pure happiness. I’m working on habits, all the good ones (writing and exercising) and bad ones (despair and panic) are all in the muscle memory as well. But I have changed, in these months away, and I’m reaching to the light places. Clearing the mold away. Saying hello to my neighbors and friends. Hearing the little bits about what's been going on here and there.

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A couple of practical things: I wrote a post for The Charis Project after spending a day with them. The post is up! If you are looking for a place for your giving dollars, I can’t recommend Charis enough—they are an organization that works to support marginalized families in order to keep them together. 

“This is the vision I caught so clearly as I went with Charis staff from hut to hut, watching and joining in as they greeted, chatted, answered questions and sat for hours together with women in the lower margins of society. This is the kind of support that allows a mother with a special child to keep him.” Read it here.

Also, I’m soooo close to finished with my final edit on Shaper’s Daughter, World Whisperer Book 3. I’ll be sending review copies out to my Amazing Unicorn Readers’ Group for proofreading and reviews soon. The whole series will be getting a makeover too. (Yes, another one! We haven’t quite hit the genre expectations for covers yet something something, so I hired a professional book cover Artist.) 

And… I’m working on a fourth Journey Mama Writings book. So that's exciting! There are always new days to write, new days to make things.