Friday, January 5, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things: The Good, Bad, and Best of All

Just wanted to say "hi" and wish everyone a

Happy New Year!!

I'm still finding my blogger feet as I continue to help my 92 year old mother move and now adjust to a new retirement home, a process that started in November. She is about 45 minutes away, which is wonderful, as she has been a day's ride away for most of my married life. I'm happy to have her closer, but I had no idea how I exhausted I would feel after the move. My husband and I are her sole source of family here, and the demand on our time has been tremendous. It didn't help that she fell and bumped her head and then came down with stomach flu right after the move. Then just the other day, her chin swelled up terribly from an infected tooth, so we are processing that now. I feel bad that I'm complaining. I love my mother dearly and would do anything to make her last days comfortable. I just want a little rest for all of us. We could use a break.

Okay, got that off my chest. Now for the rest the story..... Prior to Mom's big move, Vince and I had an accident in our small RV8 airplane. No injuries, thank God, but the right wing now needs to be replaced, due to a damaged gas tank and spar. It all started with a take-off that went bad. Loss of rudder control and a crosswind pushed us off the runway onto the grass median. We hit a landing light, which then ripped through the wing and gas tank, and damaged the spar (part of wing structure). 

Lucky for us we were air born by the time we realized what had happened. I smelled gas, looked out the window, and saw gasoline leaking in great quantity from our right gas tank in the wing. Fortunately, the other tank was full and not leaking. We had to stay in the air until the tank was completely empty for obvious safety reasons, fearful it would ignite upon landing.  Meanwhile, Vince had declared an emergency and we were directed to an airport where firemen and two emergency vehicles awaited our arrival. I was greeted by a tall, burly fireman about seven feet tall, dressed in fireproof garb, hose in hand. I could have hugged and kissed the guy, but managed to stay calm. We landed just fine without incident. Boy, were we ever the sight! 

Then just the other day our Toyota was rear-ended on the freeway in Seattle. Again, no injuries so very thankful about that, but we are looking at $5000 dollars worth of damage.  Grr...

So-000 that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. It really has been a good year otherwise.  Really....truly, truly. My book was published, my mother lives closer, I wrote 17k words in new novel, and Vince and I are healthy for the most part. I have to say too that you can always find something to complain about, but it really is the little things in life that matter most. A neighbor delivered a pot of soup last week and I was reminded of how lucky we are to have them next door. My son and family visited from California and my home was decorated beautifully for Christmas. I pulled out decorations I hadn't used in years. Check out my grandkids asleep on the floor. I got some terrific pictures when we traveled to Seattle and saw more family on New Years day. These are the moments I'm going to remember most. They will warm my heart and make the bad bearable...and when you think about it, it certainly could have been worse! 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

"Come celebrate with us" 
To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog

Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Friday, December 15, 2017

Evernight Teen: Microwave Chocolate Drops Recipe from Sharon Marie...

Evernight Teen: Microwave Chocolate Drops Recipe from Sharon Marie...: Evernight Teen authors are serving up the sweet stuff this week. Check out this easy-peasy, no stovetop recipe for Microwave Chocolate Drop...

This really is good. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gifts Along the Way: Mom's Big Move and Interview of Me

WISHING YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND WONDERFUL HOLIDAY! Had wanted to write the IWSG December post and share a holiday series similar to last year's 'Words of Old at Christmastime', but couldn't fit it in, so sharing an interview of me instead and the latest news, Mom's Big Move. Two gifts along the way this season! 

We're buried, truly buried right now in minute by minute details. I've been helping my mother move into a retirement home this month and it's been pretty darn time consuming for the family. The move is still underway as my husband and I (and others in family) help her downscale the furniture and get rid of a lifetime of stuff. Helping her say goodbye to favorite things and finding treasures in the mix hasn't been easy. The good news is Mom will be living only 45 minutes away. For most of my married life, I have lived a good day's ride or more away. Mom is doing fine, I might add, a bit frazzled with the change but eager to get some semblance of her life back.  

I know some of you have shared similar moves. Did any of you do this over Christmas? What a delight it was to see the retirement home beautifully decorated for the holiday when we arrived. Being we were all borderline nervous with the pending change, the decorations were a bonus in helping with the transition. After hanging a Christmas wreath on the balcony railing and displaying Mom's lighted tabletop Christmas tree, her tiny studio apartment began to sparkle with charm. Turns out December isn't a bad time to move. 

If I may indulge, below is an interview of me that took place in November, published on Jennifer Macaire's blog, but few read. Kind of proud of my answers because they explain why I wrote this book. There is a Christmas scene in the book I happen to adore, where Callie and Lucas find a tiny Christmas tree ornament in the Mersing market. They secretly display the tree on Lucas's red T-shirt surrounded by gifts for their newly found Muslim family. It was risky on their part, given the family doesn't celebrate Christian holidays, but the gesture turns out well for both sides of the family. I won't tell you what happens :-)  The ornament in the scene is based on one from my collection. Love how the 'things we collect' inspire our writing, don't you? 

Christmas tree ornament from collection.

(As first published...Jennifer Macaire: The Shells of Mersing by Sharon Himsl: "Today I'd like to welcome Sharon Himsl, whose debut novel, "The Shells of Mersing" will interest young adult readers")

Me: You begin with a sailing journey from Seattle. Was there a reason for this?"
Sharon: Yes. I wanted Callie to know there are people in the world she can trust. Her father is dead, her mother is missing, and she has just witnessed a grisly murder. She has her little brother to take care of, but she has never felt more alone. The captain (Eric) becomes a father figure who proves valuable in locating her lost mother. In Hawaii, Callie faces the gray areas of trust with Uncle Azman and his questionable forgiveness.
Why is the second half of The Shells of Mersing set in Malaysia and Thailand?
It’s hard to say which had more impact. My stay in Malaysia in 1995-1996 or the novel that resulted. I only know that when my husband accepted a teaching position at a Malaysian polytechnic in 1995, nothing would ever be the same again. I joined him three months later, following a job lay-off at the telephone company where I had worked for fifteen years.
What was it like becoming an expat?
Huge learning curve. I received travel specifics and instructions for expats from my husband’s stateside employer about what to wear and what not to do in a Muslim run country. For instance, knee length skirts and tops with capped sleeves (no bare shoulders, please) were recommended.
Your main characters Callie and Lucas travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia alone. Are their impressions yours as well?
Some of the sights, sounds and smells they experience are straight from my diary. Malaysia was over 50% native Malay (Muslim), 35% Chinese (Buddhist), and 15% Indian (Hindu) in 1995. Each ethnic group has their own language and dialect, but they use English to communicate publicly. Callie and Lucas are relieved to hear English spoken at the market in Kuala Lumpur when they lose their way. The Muslim girl Hayati is based on a teen girl I met on the bus in Kuala Lumpur.
Callie and Lucas meet their Muslim family in Mersing, Malaysia. Do they experience any religious conflicts?
Yes. Malaysians are a religious people. In 1995, expats were warned not to share their Christian faith or pass out bibles if so inclined. It was likewise illegal for Chinese and Indian Christians to do so. I couldn’t resist putting Callie in a situation where she accidentally gives a cousin a Christian flyer handed to her at the market. She has a brief falling out with her Muslim family. As Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, Callie and Lucas then find a way to give gifts to their aunt and uncle, and cousins.
Where did the idea for The Shells of Mersing come from?
I was volunteering at a local orphanage in Kluang, Malaysia. I learned that one of the boys (aged 7) had been rescued from domestic slavery. I was aware of human slavery, of girls mostly, but my shock level jumped to a new level. This was the little boy I had made yarn dolls with at Christmastime. My heart was melting. I then learned that human trafficking and slavery did indeed exist in Malaysia and more so in Thailand to the north. From this experience a story grew.
In Thailand, Callie and Sam kiss for the first time and learn to trust each other. Did you find inspiration anywhere?
Yes. I imagined Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens when I wrote about Callie and Sam. The innocence of first love portrayed in Highschool Musical 1 was my go-to source. I must confess also, that my husband and I very much relate to their romance. We were high school sweethearts♥♥.
Excerpt: Floating Market scene in Bangkok:    
“…The air buzzes with the din of boat engines winding down and taking off.
Sam takes my hand when it’s time to board. Eric beams at us from across two rows, noticing. That obvious, huh. Earlier he was worried about the prison arrangements tomorrow, but I’d rather think about this cool guy holding my hand. I can’t think about Mom right now, because every time I do my thoughts go dark and I’m instantly depressed. Not today, not now.
Sam squeezes my hand. “You okay?” he shouts over the engine.
He always seems to know. “I’m fine.” And I am, just gazing into his light brown eyes.”
Who is your ideal reader?
Teen girls primarily (13 up), and anyone who identifies with a teen’s point of view in an otherwise out of control adult world. The choices made at the brink of adulthood can have a powerful effect on one’s future, even when the odds are against success. Callie’s experience ranges from losing a father and mother and being placed in a disreputable foster home, to fending off smugglers and human traffickers, and then finding favor with the King of Thailand. On the other hand, a seventy-plus year old male relative of mine said he identified with the characters and cried at the ending.    
(Print & E-Book) (Suspense, Mystery & Romance)

Short synopsis: When notorious Uncle Azman disobeys orders, and secretly sends Callie and her younger brother Lucas to meet their mother's sisters in Mersing, Malaysia, 14-year-old Callie hopes their troubles are over. After all they have endured, what more could go wrong? Their American dad is dead, Mom is missing, and their foster dad in Seattle was murdered, with Callie falsely accused. Pawns in a crime operation gone awry, Callie and Lucas barely escaped being targeted by their uncle's sinister boss for sale in Thailand’s human trafficking market. Although Uncle Azman's turnaround was a miracle, Callie knows that real safety lies with family in Mersing, where they can begin searching for Mom, but a shell box, a ruby, and a boy named Sam from Chicago are about to change everything.
Short Bio:
Sharon spent more than ten years developing The Shells of Mersing, a story first outlined in Malaysia in 1996. With a B.A. in American Studies, she has a soft spot for history and other cultures. Malaysia is a rich storehouse of culture, with its Malay, Chinese and Indian populations. Today she is working on a second novel (a sequel to Shells…) at her home in Eastern Washington, where she lives with her husband on the edge of a desert runway . . . but that’s another story!