Goodbye, 2016… Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, About Publishing, China-Inspired Book Recommendations, For Dog Lovers

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Hi ya’ll,

2017 is here and not a moment too soon! Can I get an amen?

Last year was brutal. Not just in politics (won’t go there) or in reference to the violence around the world, but also to me personally and I’m glad to see it gone. I can’t say nothing good happened, because through the trials and tribulations, towards the end of the year I finally found the courage to put on my big girl pants and say no.

I’m finding I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for and I could tell you all the things I’ve said no to in the last few months, but let’s suffice it to say that here in my 47th year on this earth, I am going to try something new and put my own well-being and path to peace on the top of the priority list.

Personally, that means I’m going to take more time to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun, maybe meet some more turtles out on Amelia Island.

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I’ll use the bike I got for Christmas to get out and feel the breeze on my face. There’ll be more breaks, stretching, and back to yoga I go. I’ll take every opportunity to consider and be thankful for my blessings, especially for my Ben and our ongoing love story. #Almost23YearsStrong

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I’ll try to bridge the distance with loved ones I’ve broken apart from, but if it doesn’t work I’ll be at peace with the decision to let it go.

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I’ll find a new avenue for volunteer work. Something different than I’ve done in the past but something that will fill the never-ceasing need in me to be of service to others. I’ll play with my dogs more. Give them more walks. More snuggles. More trips to the park. I’ll put more emphasis on family relationships and friendships, old and new, and work to let each one of them know their worth to me.

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I’ll release my search for the proper medication to treat my autoimmune disease, and instead focus on diet, breathing, and emotional well-being as treatment for the chronic pain. I’ll return to a place of spiritual content, relying on a higher power to fill my soul and shelter me from life’s pain.

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I’ll stop obsessing about the future and focus on the present, squeezing every drop of joy I can out of my days before they are gone in a flash. I’ll continue my goals to find ways to scatter kindness in small ways throughout my days.

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Professionally, I will release my first women’s contemporary fiction book where I rely on my love for dogs and my experiences as a child advocate to bring the reader a story of a young woman battling demons from her childhood as she journeys toward her own happily ever after.

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WISH ME HOME is available for pre-order now and will hit your kindles on March 21.

In the fall, I’ll release a historical fiction trilogy titled Sworn Sisters. It is set in the late nineteenth century and chronicles the saga of three young Chinese women, bound by fate and determined to overcome oppression and heartache to find a better life in America. Be sure to join my newsletter to be notified when all the new books are ready to go!

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So those are my goals for 2017 and I hope that you’ve set some too. As always, thank you so much for supporting my work. And by the way, what is your main focus or goal for the new year?

Much love to you and yours,

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(Why) Do I Love Dogs!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, For Dog Lovers

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Most of you recognize Riley Radcliffe, my sidekick, shadow, and canine soul mate. Based on my posts and constant photo stream highlighting him and his antics, you know that I love dogs, but did you know that I’ve longed for more dogs in my life? On that note, I decided that the best way to fulfill that need as well as encourage others to do something for needy animals in their life, was to become a foster for dogs. My first thought was can I do this? Will it break my heart? Will it fulfill that hole and need to have more puppy love in my home? I didn’t take the decision lightly and I began to online stalk other fosters for dogs, as well as rescue groups. One of my Facebook friends, Luanne, was a great example to watch as she took in one or two dogs at a time, helping them heal physically and emotionally from whatever life had thrown them until they were ready to go to their furever homes. Each pup she posted I watched the updates and then waited to see if they were adopted. And they were. Every time.

I finally decided I could do it too.

That being decided, I began the process to be approved to be a foster for pups. (I say pups but that includes dogs of every age and I just find it an endearing term). I decided to apply with NC Yorkie Rescue because Riley is a Yorkie (albeit a huge one at 16 healthy lbs!) and I’m familiar with the breed. I completed the online application then waited to be contacted. First I received a call from one of their foster coordinator’s named Sharon. She was lovely but to the point, making our phone interview one that covered everything from how many people and what age lived in our household, to do we rent or buy, have fence or not, what animals we have, what veterinarian we use, and other questions to help them decide to approve my application or not. She then asked for permission to call my vet to question them. They would need to check to be sure Riley was up to date on all his vaccinations. After that call I waited another few weeks and then received an email that I was approved. I have a feeling the group also did their own online stalking to make sure I wasn’t some sort of nut or a creep wanting a dog to flip or use in dog fights. (Yes, that happens all the time because there are a lot of cruel humans out there)

Next, I was connected with another foster coordinator, Judy, who invited me to come out to her house to meet a couple of Yorkie dogs that were there and waiting for a new foster home. Once there, I was smitten by more than one Yorkie but the dog who caught my eye was a little frightened Shih Tzu who darted in and out, watching all of us interact as she kept her distance.

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I asked her story and was told her name was Sasha and she was rescued from a breeder after she was deemed of no further use to them, meaning she’d had all the litters of pups to line their pockets that she could manage. I tried to get Sasha to come to me but it only happened once, very briefly. I could tell she didn’t like all the chaos and noise of the other dogs and though I’d come for the familiar breed of a Yorkie, I knew that my quiet and calm household was what Sasha needed to recover and prepare for her furever home.  I discussed it with Judy and she agreed that I would be a good fit to foster Sasha, and we headed home.

First lesson I learned as a foster for dogs?

Bring a crate. Lola Mei1

It was a long drive home (several hours) with Sasha crawling around, unable to sit still as she anxiously looked for a way out of the car and I kept up a litany of encouraging words. But we finally made it and that evening started our journey together, her learning to heal and act like a dog, and me learning how to be a good foster. First thing I did was change her name.  I felt like the name the breeder called her might evoke bad memories so we began calling her Lola Mei. By day two, Lola Mei was still very sad but she liked sitting in my office with me and she was starting to let me pick her up, though it took a lot of courage for her not to cower and hide. I found that she was terrified of most everything, especially going through doors, grass, noises, and men. She trembled a lot, but I moved slowly around her and talked softly and little by little, she began to come around. It wasn’t easy, as Lola would wake up during the night and be afraid, and I would get up and hold/comfort her or take her outside at two or three in the morning just to be sure her needs were being met. For the first week I was exhausted, but committed that together, we would conquer. And I finally had to address her hygiene. I called the grooming shop and talked to the owner, explained Lola’s issues and made arrangements for her to be groomed by their most gentle groomer. She was matted and had to be shaved down, but they took a lot of time and effort to keep her calm and when she survived that experience, I moved to the next thing on the list. A few days later I was sad to leave her at the veterinarian hospital to be spayed. However, I thought I might get two full days of work done with her gone but just like a mom with her kids, I found that her absence made me too restless to accomplish much except worry.

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I didn’t expect it, but when the vet assistant brought her out of the back a day later, she was thrilled to see me. From then on, she was my shadow and went everywhere in the house that I did, and especially enjoying being carried or comforted like a baby in a soft blanket. As for Riley, he’s a great foster dog brother to have for new dogs because he’s such a gentle boy. He approached Lola frequently and she accepted him, though the one time he tried to wrestle with her she turned on him like a rabid fox and he never tried that again. I think after years of being bred, she thought he wanted more than an innocent tumble and she had decided she’d never be mounted again! And there were other things that weren’t so easy. I feel like a man must have played a brutal or neglectful part in her life because her fear of Ben– my gentle giant of a husband– was palpable. As Lola bonded tighter with me, she became more resistant toward him, even lunging and snapping at him when he came near the bed if she was on it with me. I talked with the vet and got guidance from a dog behaviorist and learned that from the beginning I should have been allowing Ben to play as big a part as me in her recovery. But we began to do some of the things suggested to get her used to him. Ben was very understanding about it all, especially the part that my life was suddenly consumed by Lola.

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I say Riley was a great foster dog brother, but in all honesty he had a few complaints about sharing my attention. Overall though he did wonderful in accepting that there was enough of me to go around. We had a lot of long talks and I let him vent his feelings, and he got a few extra snuggles and treats, but all in all I’m proud of him for sharing in the experience, however daunting it was.

The days went by and slowly, with a lot of patience from all of us, Lola started to recover. She spent a lot of time just staring outdoors and contemplating her new world, her face sad and drawn, and those were the times that I scooped her up and snuggled her close, telling her she was a beautiful girl who would have an amazing future and begging her to give humankind another chance. I took her for more vet appointments and was pleased when she gained a few pounds.

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Soon there began to be moments that we reveled in seeing her prance with her tail up and her feet dancing as she followed me around the yard, always keeping me in sight. We took in another foster dog named Kaiser (A follow-up post will be forthcoming) and she decided she liked Kaiser too. While she wasn’t used to a leash, or walks for that matter, she enjoyed going on our evening strolls, perched in the doggie stroller with a few stops to let her out to do her business. Then one day, a few weeks later we were out for a walk and suddenly, Lola jumped out of the stroller and decided she wanted to be a dog! That began a new phase of us getting her used to the leash and walking to enjoy all the wonderful and new scents a neighborhood had to offer. I believe it helped for her to see Riley and Kaiser and what they were doing, and in a way they showed her how to act like a dog and what the fun things to do were. We rounded a bend that evening and I could see a whole new Lola emerging. She ate with the other dogs, walked with them, and sometimes even played a little with them. Most of all though, she wanted my attention. She loved for me to hold her, snuggle her, brush her, or just walk with her around the yard as she stared up at the trees and down at the grass as though she’d never seen such magnificent things.

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A month after I first met Lola the day came that the founder of the rescue group sent me a message that had 4-5 families names and phone numbers. They were all interested in adopting Lola Mei and it was time to start screening them to see if they were a fit. As I stared at the message, I felt my heart fall. I knew that being a foster would be difficult, but I never imagined getting to be a part of the recovery of such a sweet girl who’d been through such emotional neglect, and then feeling the possessiveness I felt for Lola. I wanted to continue protecting her! I couldn’t imagine anyone else being patient enough to carry her out the door, or better yet, stand there for five minutes as she got the courage to run out it herself, then praising her for it. I didn’t think there’d be that person who would understand when she lashed out, knowing it was fear and not temperament that made her cranky when she was facing something new and unfamiliar. I thought no one but me would prepare her for bed by snuggling her, kissing her, and whispering to her all the way to the crate and then bending down to tell her goodnight and it would be alright.

The first family I screened we decided wasn’t a good fit for Lola, but would be a possibility for Kaiser. I moved on to the next name on the list and after talking with her, with a heavy and unsure heart, I set up a time for her to come meet Lola. She came the next Saturday and brought her dog and her fiance. Lola did not cooperate. With new people in the house, she suddenly reverted to the frightened, snappy dog she was on day one. When the lady tried to hold Lola, the situation went bad and a bite was barely avoided. They left without Lola, thinking that her needs might be too much for them, as on my end I thought Lola wasn’t ready. That evening, I called the founder of the group and she not-so-gently told me everything I did wrong as the foster facilitating the meeting. The criticism was hard to hear but was exactly what I needed and together, we decided to try again. Of course I considered keeping her myself, but something kept keeping me from saying the words. I just wasn’t sure we were the right fit for her as a permanent solution and I began this journey to foster, not adopt.

I went back to my list and called the next family, which resulted in a long conversation with a lovely lady who has many years of experience with not only Shih Tzus but also with rescues. I gave her the entire rundown of Lola’s issues, being sure not to leave anything out for full disclosure. At the end of the call I asked her if I’d scared her away and she said certainly not. I was relieved because she and her husband, and their little girl Shih Tzu Buffy, sounded like they could be the right home for Lola.  But I’d already been through one failed meeting so I was on guard and this time, I let the rescue founder walk me through exactly what to do to have the most successful outcome. We made an appointment for Lola and I to come meet them, at their address so that I could ensure their home/yard was appropriate for my girl. That next week I felt really sad and worried as first, I put her to bed for the last time, then the morning approached and we took our last walk around the yard.

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The morning of Lola’s new journey arrived and I packed up all the things I’d bought for her. I’d typed up a long list of instructions and details about her likes, dislikes, feeding, and walking schedule. Her crate, complete with her favorite pink blanket and a shirt I’d slept in was to be her carriage and I packed her in, putting treats in with her to help keep her busy on the road. About halfway there we stopped at a truck stop for her to use the bathroom and as she pranced around on the end of the leash, I felt a lump in my throat that here I was probably the first human she trusted and I was probably delivering her to someone else. I almost turned around and went home but I decided that the couple at least deserved to meet her, as they’d planned their day around me. So we continued on and around noon we arrived in Stanley, North Carolina, to a quiet and quaint neighborhood that was pleasing to the eye. I found their home and pulled in, so nervous I could almost hear my own heartbeat.

“We don’t have to stay,” I whispered to Lola as she looked up at me with those huge dark eyes. “We’ll just see how they are.”

Both Jim and Sylvia, the prospective couple, met me on the porch and I can honestly say from the first moment I felt nothing but a calm kindness from both of them. Here they were a retired couple who had recently lost one of their beloved dogs but was still settled and complete, yet willing to open their hearts and homes to a rescue that they already understood had some fairly severe issues to get over. Lola and I went in and I was shocked to find that Lola wasn’t as nervous as I thought she’d be. She pranced around their house, then their yard, as though she already knew she’d be coming.

We moved back inside and she settled down, not showing any aggression or fear; another surprise to me as I almost expected her to stomp her little paw and snap her tiny jaws in defiance. But none of that happened and as we all talked, she almost looked at home! Jim sat in the floor, talking to Lola and offering her treats, getting to know her while letting her have her space. We discussed how to avoid the mistake I’d made with Lola in hoarding all her attention. They’d decided in the first days to get her used to Jim as much as Sylvia, he would do most of her feeding/walking, etc.. I had shielded her from Ben because I knew she was afraid of men, but I had unknowingly set the boundary and would never do that again. We discussed other ways to help Lola when it came to doors, etc.. As we talked, their Shih Tzu, Buffy, was calm and paid scant attention to either me or Lola, but their resemblance to one another was something special and I could see them bonding as sisters. Buffy spent most of her time in her mama’s arms, every once in awhile reaching up to kiss Sylvia sweetly on the neck or cheek, and I could barely imagine her as the needy rescue dog they said she’d come to them as so many years before.

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I know I was there nearly three hours, picking the brains of Jim and Sylvia while they slowly interacted with Lola and I watched like a hawk, but by the time I finally stood up I knew that I’d found the perfect place for our sweet girl. Carefully, I put Lola in her crate and we talked some more, letting her watch from her known safe spot. Then eventually we moved our talk to the kitchen so that I could slip out without making a dramatic exit. I left there sad for myself, but satisfied in the realization that I had helped Lola recover enough to be able to accept a new family that I knew would have the capacity to love her through all her fear and sadness, and make the rest of her years on earth as comforting as every dog deserves. And I can’t wait to see and hear how Lola (with her sister, Buffy) is doing a year from now in her furever home. The photo below is from the second or third day in her new home and the sad look on her face brought me to tears. But the update was that though she looked sad, she was adjusting and had already accepted Buffy.

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The photo below is two weeks after Lola Mei went to her new home. Her furever mom had this to say about her: Ms. Bossy is settling in. She and Buffy get along real well and she’s one of the gang. We came home from dinner today and Lola and Buffy came running to the door, barking and tails wagging as if we had been gone all day. Lola LOVES being outside, she goes out, sniff’s the air, runs from one end to the other (ears flying), looks up at the trees, she’s a special little being. Thank you for preparing this sweet little girl for a family. 

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Lola Mei, I will always love you and remember you as my first foster dog. I’ve learned that it’s not easy to be a foster to dogs, but it’s worth all the time, patience, and heartbreak to know that you accepted me to be your safe place to recover and heal from your invisible scars as we prepared to find you the perfect furever home. You taught me a lot and I hope I taught you that you are worthy of loyalty and lasting love.

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I also hope that by making this journey so public, others will open their homes to foster needy dogs. Being that safe place as they heal and prepare for their furever home is a rewarding experience! Contact your local shelter or specific breed rescue groups to apply to foster or adopt. There are approximately 7.6 million companion animals entering animal shelters nationwide every year. and each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Many rescue groups pull dogs from shelters before they are destined to die, but they need our help to get them to a furever home. If you’d like to make a donation to help dogs in need, you can make one to Lola’s rescue [NC Yorkie Rescue] or find one in your area. All rescue dogs must be vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and all medical issues treated before being approved for adoption and that takes more funds than adoption fees bring in. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

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[stay tuned for my upcoming post about Kaiser, my second foster dog that on day one made me afraid and questioning if I was cut out to be a foster for dogs. What I learned from him is to never judge a dog the first day you meet them.]

Just Released! The Life of Willow …

Written by Kay on . Posted in China-Inspired Book Recommendations

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The Life of Willow duology was inspired by the many emails and messages I’ve received from my readers asking if my books are suitable for their teenage children. With that in mind, I set out to write a story that would appeal to those going into their teenage years, as well as entertain my usual adult audience. The story of Willow began from the prologue in my memoir, Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. In the prologue, Mei Li is a young mother forced by her husband and his family to give up her less-than-perfect child. The act is devastating to her and the child, changing their lives forever. Then, the Life of Willow picks up sixteen years later, for she is the daughter of Mei Li from Silent Tears. It is also my hope that in writing these stories, readers will join me in realizing what my connections to the adoption community have taught me—that families are built in a variety of ways, and it only takes love and acceptance to begin a foundation that can result in a lifelong bond between individuals, whether they share the same blood or not. And for those adoptees who are still searching for answers, I wish them a measure of peace and a reminder that the struggle is part of your story, though it does not have to be the ending. Every person is in charge of their own happily ever after.

 

Download Somewhere Beautiful [at Amazon]

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Download Where I Belong [at Amazon]

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The Question that Hurts….

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Orphanage Flashbacks

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Kay, did you ever adopt a child?
 
Lately I’ve read a lot of posts from the IA community about the at times intrusive or offensive questions they get from strangers.
 
Are your children adopted? Do they know their fathers? Are they sisters?
 
While some people are genuinely interested in a good way, others can be rude and far too probing. In a small way, I feel can relate to how you moms and dads must feel.
 
How? Because many times after someone reads my memoir, Silent Tears, about working in a Chinese orphanage, they reach out to me and ask, “Did you ever adopt?”
 
Four small words that pack a punch.
 
Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t get offended. But I do squirm a bit and feel uncomfortable. Why? Because while technically it could be a yes or no question, especially if I want to guard my emotions, there is so much behind why I did not adopt, so much I could say to defend my choice, though really– it should not need defending.
 
But I try. And fail.
 
For how can I describe what I experienced and what formed my decisions, all in an email reply or a short FB message? How can I tell them about Squirt, the little boy with the long eyelashes and petite fingers who stole my heart, who I felt a huge connection with, then came in one day to find that he had died in the night?
 
Or Charlie, the first baby boy we began to raise funds for, trying to beat the clock on his failing heart. He, so pitiful and weak, who I came in repeatedly to find sitting in the corner of his crib, tied to keep him upright, his anguish evident in his cries and outstretched arms, begging me to do something. Anything, to ease his pain. Sure, I could see him as a part of my family but when he was matched after his surgery, and I later made contact with his new mom, I knew that I had only been the connector.
 
Then we had Li Li, the tiny baby girl that when she was failing, the director let me take home to try to nurse her, and who went into heart failure under my very roof. Did I love her as I sat up all hours of the night, rocking her and singing to her, coaxing her to take on drop of formula at a time? I know I did…as I loved many. And when the ayi we hired to watch over her after surgery fell in love and introduced her to her daughter, who would become Li Li’s mother, I considered it a blessing.
 
But those were a few of the first children to burrow into my heart. The next one we all came to know and love through the stories I told of her early traumatic life. Xiao Gou– our little Sunshine who I first discovered in the ICU before she was abandoned, then later found in the orphanage when her parents never returned. That child– Xiao Gou — there is no doubt in my mind that I was put into her path to help her reach a new, more loving future. I advocated for her left and right, and through it all she was not put on the adoption list because of a snafu of legalities and her birth parents’ greed.
 
At one time, I would’ve adopted her in a heartbeat. But it wasn’t to be so. Still, she was a part of me and I never closed the door on her until I was able to see her adopted into a family that couldn’t be more perfect for her needs.
 
The last child that lingers in my mind was Xin Xin. She, like Li Li, was so frail with a struggling heart, and was the child who I last stood in the gap for. With funds raised, I begged, pleaded, and bargained for her to be allowed the medical care she so direly needed. When it was post-phoned, I requested she be given one-on-one care. Doctor visits, meetings, phone calls….her case kept me busy day and night, trying to move her through the mountains of red tape just so that she could have a chance at life.
 
Then one day the phone call.
 
Xin Xin had died in a taxi on the way to the hospital. Heart failure. I remember that call so vividly and even today — at this very moment– I am brought to tears at how callous the news was given. I can see myself as I stood holding the phone, then as I for the first time ever in my life, completely lost control. Screaming, crying, cursing, pleading with Ben to tell me it wasn’t true, on my knees too weak to stand. In my bed for the next days, too depressed to move, too frozen by the vision of her tiny lifeless body laying somewhere in a morgue.
 
Alone. Abandoned. Again.
 
Xin Xin was the child that tendered my resignation. She was one loss too many and I left China with the hope of adopting a child reduced to ashes in my heart. I closed the door on it all. Emotionally and physically drained, my body depleted and feeling like no more than an empty shell. The journey was over. I’d done all I could do, and some of it had been in vain. I wanted to forget.
 
But after some time I began to recover physically, then emotionally. I opened my heart again and decided that my China journey wasn’t over, that my time there was only the beginning chapter. With the platform gained because of my memoir, then through more speaking engagements, I used/use my reach to advocate for other children in China, helping more now than I ever dreamed of even while I was there.
 
So no, I never adopted a Chinese child. But you know what? I’ve loved many. 
 
–Kay

The Story Behind ‘THE PALEST INK’ by Kay Bratt

Written by Kay on . Posted in Book Recommendations, China-Inspired Book Recommendations

The Story Behind THE PALEST INK

By Kay Bratt

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THE PALEST INK is a story that started in my heart and stayed there for three years before putting it to paper. As I wrote my previous books, I was storing thoughts and possibilities, even characters and plotlines to be used, but only when I felt ready to take it on and do the story the justice it deserved.

Let me tell you how it began.

After writing Silent Tears, a memoir detailing my five years working in orphanages in China, I came across a news article about an elderly person in China who worked near the train station for decades. During that time he found many abandoned babies. Rather than turn them in to the authorities and let them enter the broken child welfare system, he took them home, him and his wife raising them as their own. Soon another similar article followed, this time of an elderly woman dying of cancer and the many now-grown children at her bedside who were saved from the streets by her. Both of these stories were heart-warming and thought-provoking. As I navigated daily life in China, I’d passed many elderly people. With simple conversation using the conversational and sometimes comical mandarin I’d learned, I knew they held nuggets of wisdom and well-guarded memories of a past gone by—history that was mostly unrecorded because in China, the media is controlled by the government and twisted to fit the picture they want to present to the rest of the world.

So I decided to write my own story about a man, his wife, and the family they build by rescuing abandoned girls. Though they were a poor and struggling family, they were rich with love and loyalty.

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I began the story with a prologue of the man—Benfu—as a teenager, escaping from a commune during the Cultural Revolution after being persecuted and tortured. By the acts of a country gone mad, he was torn from his family and forced to hide, but found acceptance with a girl who became his wife. Chapter one opens with Benfu in his golden years, together with the love of his life, having built their garden of flowers consisting of the many daughters they had rescued. The book did well enough to evolve into a series called The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, and readers let me know that they’d like to know more about the time that Benfu was in the commune and the events that transpired which set his life on the path it took.

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I agreed that despite the popularity of the modern-day series, perhaps I’d missed the real story, which was Benfu’s early and tumultuous introduction to adulthood by way of the Cultural Revolution. I began to add to my knowledge by researching that time period in China. The real life accounts of people who’d survived—and some who had not—were intriguing yet harrowing, and THE PALEST INK began to take form. As I wrote outlines and took notes from many sources, I decided to weave in real-life accounts of innocent people who were persecuted; beaten and imprisoned, their families torn apart for nothing more than leading the honest life they’d led in which Chairman Mao decided was against loyalty of country. The truth I dug up in my research was startling—that just for being an artist, musician, writer or teacher, one could be deemed a traitor and discarded like a piece of trash. I also discovered that for decades, the truth of what really happened during what they informally called “The Ten Years of Chaos” that was the Cultural Revolution was all but forgotten.

Why was this so? Because in Mao’s attempt to re-write history, most accounts of abuse of power were hidden from the world. To be caught with uncensored photographs or reports could mean death. Unapproved media articles or reports rarely slipped out. All over China, others had no idea of the path of death, starvation, and destruction that was happening around them. Thousands upon thousands of people were misled and fell into the trap of blindly following their leader, allowing him to reshape their thoughts to a point that many turned on their own families in an attempt to show their loyalty to Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.

With months of research under my belt, I finally came to understand the fear that I’d noticed the elderly Chinese people held for anyone in a position of authority. Everything began to make sense, and the reasoning for why Benfu was the way he was began to fall into place.

In THE PALEST INK, Benfu comes from an upper class family of scholars, which during the revolution was a source of shame. His best friend, Pony Boy, is from a poor class which is suddenly the favored class. Together they decide the people need to know the truth of what is happening to their country. There is an old proverb that says the palest ink is better than the best memory, and it is fitting considering the ban against recording of history that happened for so many years in China.

In the book, the idea of an underground newsletter called The Palest Ink is formed and is the catalyst for either the path to freedom, or the first steps to destruction of every bit of stability they’ve ever known. Benfu and Pony Boy must decide between being courageous and following what they believe in, or conforming like others around them to protect their families and themselves.

In closing, I think it’s important to mention that THE PALEST INK is more than another novel to me. It is written in dedication to the many who lost their lives, or were torn from their families and persecuted, for nothing more than the name they carried, the career they held, or any artistic talents they were unlucky enough to be born with. With this book, I want to convey to the people of China that every life is worth living, and not a single one should ever be considered anything but precious. With THE PALEST INK, I hope that they or at the least, their descendants, know they are not forgotten.

THE PALEST INK is available in print and Ebook on Amazon at [this link].

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For those who prefer to listen to a story unfold, THE PALEST INK is available in Audio.

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….and don’t forget that now that THE PALEST INK has launched, there are five books in the Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, so get them all to be totally engrossed in the story of a family who puts love and loyalty above all.

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Kay Bratt’s Favorites; China-Inspired books of 2015

Written by Kay on . Posted in Book Recommendations, China-Inspired Book Recommendations

I began this career as an author of China-inspired stories because I love to read them. I also like to share my favorites with others, who like me also enjoy entertainment combined with learning about other cultures. Give me a good story set in China, or some other Asian country, and you might as well send out a posse to find me because I’m going to be offline for a piece of time. So in case you missed it during the year, here are some of my favorite China-Inspired reads that I devoured in year 2015.

SusanKason

First on the list is a memoir called Good Chinese Wife, by Susan Blumberg-Kason. “Falling in love with a foreign culture can be a tempting love affair: one that gives you a chance to escape yourself and the constraints of your own upbringing. But when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong, as Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir amply illustrates. GOOD CHINESE WIFE is a refreshing, painfully honest look at what happens when the mask of romance, both cultural and personal, is dropped, revealing the stranger beneath.” – Lisa Brackmann, author of the New York Times bestselling Ellie McEnroe series. You can get your copy [here.]

silk

 

Next is a book that will probably stay on my list of favorites for a very long time. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a story that pulled me in and kept me there until the very last pages. Even the summary is spellbinding and I find it amazing this this is a debut book by the author, Kelli Estes. If her first book is this good, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

From the book page summary:

The smallest items can hold centuries of secrets…

Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt’s island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara’s life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core — and force her to make an impossible choice.

Get your copy [here]

ghost bride

A hauntingly beautiful tale of one woman’s quest for answers as she tries to save her own future, The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo is culturally rich and sprinkled with just enough other-worldly details that you’ll find yourself enamored and pulled in enough not to let go until you find out what will become of the ghost bride.

From the book page summary:

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy–including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets–and the truth about her own family–before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

Get your copy [here].

driven out

Next is a book I’ve been reading and re-reading for research as I am writing my next series. Driven Out by Jean Pfaelzer has opened my eyes to a part of American history that I never knew existed. You will be shocked, and then proud of how hard Chinese immigrants fought to claim their new lands.

From Amazon book page summary:

In Driven Out, Jean Pfaelzer sheds a harsh light on America’s past. This is a story of hitherto unknown racial pogroms, purges, roundups, and brutal terror, but also a record of valiant resistance and community. This deeply resonant and eye-opening work documents a significant and disturbing episode in American history.

Get your copy [here].

 And two favorites from years gone by, in case you don’t have them in your library I highly recommend you get them! daugher

Wild swans

And though I haven’t yet gotten a chance to read it, I can’t wait to dig into the newest by Mingmei Yip.

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“Inspiring, courageous story…Yip’s prose is simple yet descriptive, immersing the reader in the sights, sounds and smells of rural and urban China.” 
Booklist on Secret of a Thousand Beauties

Get your copy [here].

red

If you are looking for something poetic and lyrical, look no farther than Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen.

A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this inspiring story told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold.

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights. Get your copy [here] 

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And of course I hope that if you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of my latest China-inspired book, you’ll consider reading The Palest Ink.

It comes in E-book, Hardcover, and Paperback and the print version is on sale at Amazon from Jan 12 – Feb 12!

The Palest Ink is a beautiful, moving, gripping, mesmerizing story of ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. It is a story of bravery and honor, of love and compassion, as well as growing up and taking chances.

The Palest Ink is certainly the best novel I have read about Maoist China; simply superb!” —Fresh Fiction

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And if you want to devour more than just one book of the same characters, feel free to sink into my best-selling series, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, for a story of love, loyalty, and family in modern day China. With over 2000 combined Amazon reviews, it has stolen hearts of readers from all around the world.

Get your copies [here]

The Palest Ink Celebration Giveaway!

Written by Kay on . Posted in China-Inspired Book Recommendations, Contests and Give-A-Ways

Ho Ho Ho!

To celebrate the release and fantastic launch of The Palest Ink

Palest Ink 3DI’m giving away FIVE Kindle Fires!

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How do you enter?

1) Take a selfie of you holding a print or e-reader copy of The Palest Ink.  

(But in yours, make sure your face shows!)

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2) Post your photos with the hashtag #ThePalestInk to [YOUR] Facebook, Twitter, and/or personal blogs.

You can post it to one or all three.

Each posting will equal one entry.

 

3) Comment below that you’ve done it and on which platforms so I can verify and add your entries to the spreadsheet

The fine print…

The photo must be a selfie of you with the cover of the print version or the cover page on your Kindle/eReader

Only entries to Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs will count

Entries must use the hashtag #PalestInkGiveaway to qualify

Due to Cost of Shipping, Contest is only open to US and Canada recipients

Winner will receive an unregistered Kindle Fire and must register it to their own account

IRL friends and family members of  Kay Bratt are not qualified to win

Prize Details:  Kindle Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black

4) Want to get 5 extra entries?

Here’s how:

Post a review on Amazon & GoodReads for The Palest Ink. (But only if you’ve read it!)

In a separate comment on this blog, post your name with a link to your review.

WINNERS WILL BE DRAWN ON  DECEMBER 10.

 

Edited on December 10 to add……And the winners are as follows:

Starla Germeraad

Tammy Leon

Kristin Hillukka

Debbie Udycz

Trish Coleman

Have you read all five books in the series? If not, I know what would make a wonderful gift this season to yourself, or another bookworm in your circle!

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All Books in the Series also Available in Audio MP3 & CD for the Commuter in your Family!

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Order Now for A China-Love Christmas!

Written by Kay on . Posted in China News & Tidbits, China-Inspired Book Recommendations

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If you or yours have a love for China, it’s time to get thinking about putting some China-love gifts under the tree.

Don’t wait too long…custom gifts take a lot of time and effort. Need some ideas?

Here are a few of Kay’s Favorite Things…

Ruffled Feathers Lydia Love dolls

The Lydia Love Dolls are always sweet to see in the arms of a little one.

$40 + $6 for shipping, contact Valerie Almquist @ Ruffled Feathers FB

Twins

You can sponsor a child in China, or give the gift of a donation in a loved one’s name! We all know I am obsessed with twins (I am one!) and I’ve sponsored these twins, Frances and Jack Robert, to give them the chance to experience life outside of an orphanage via foster care.

Go to Love Without Boundaries to learn more.

MeiMei

Custom charms from Jiayin Designs is a great gift for the younger or older ones,

… and the proceeds support Chinese Nationals doing purposeful work in China.

$55 each (must order by mid-Nov for customized characters).

Contact Kelly @ Jiayin Designs and see other ideas for China-inspired gifts there too!

red butterfly

For the middle-grade or older reader in the family, Amy Sonnichsen’s debut book, Red Butterfly, would make a lovely gift.

In Red Butterfly, A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this inspiring story told in verse.

Available here on Amazon.

ChinaHome

Adoption maps have gained popularity recently and I found one on Etsy you may be interested in.

$9.90 + shipping, click here.

CorolleDoll

Of course, we can’t ignore the sweetness of a soft Corolle doll!

At the time of this post, it’s 50% off on Amazon Prime at only $20.46!

Click here.

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Lastly, I fully recommend if you have a bookworm in your family that you go ahead and hit the button to buy my latest release, The Palest Ink.

Available in a beautifully embossed hardcover edition, it would make a wonderful gift. You could even send it to me and I’ll autograph it and send it back!

(You pay shipping costs)

Kay’s best selling memoir, Silent Tears, a Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage, exposed the horrors of life behind the walls of a Chinese orphanage.

Now she returns with a thought-provoking novel set during the tumultuous Chinese Revolution.

The Palest Ink, a prequel to the beloved Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters series, weaves a heart-rending story around actual events most of the world has no idea even transpired.

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OR……you can buy the entire series and wrap them up with a pretty red bow!

Available on Amazon

 

The Mothers’ Bridge of Love by Xinran
 [Illustration by Josée Masse]
Featured in Time Magazine’s Top Ten Children’s Books of 2007

China Ends One Child Policy but is it a Little Too Late?

Written by Kay on . Posted in China News & Tidbits

The Mothers’ Bridge of Love by Xinran  [Illustration by Josée Masse] Featured in Time Magazine’s Top Ten Children’s Books of 2007

The Mothers’ Bridge of Love by Xinran
[Illustration by Josée Masse]Featured in Time Magazine’s Top Ten Children’s Books of 2007

A Little Too Late?

 

While many around the world yesterday were surprised and pleased by the breaking news that China has scrapped its infamous one-child policy for a more relaxed two-child policy, others felt the impact in a much more personal sense.

As Jenni ‘Fang’ Lee, a young woman adopted from China put it, ‘how can something so political feel so personal’? Jenni is one of over seventy thousand adopted from China since the country opened its doors to international adoption decades ago. Many like Jenny were relinquished (a more accurate and compassionate word than abandoned) because of illnesses or disabilities their birth family could not financially support. But for those who were separated because of fear of the heavy fines and penalties a second child would bring—or even the loss of jobs or persecution of family members as punishment—today’s news is bittersweet.

Over thirty years ago the one-child-per-couple policy was launched with the idea that implementing a strict family planning policy was the only way to control the rising population of over a billion Chinese, and reach a goal of modernization by year 2000. Human rights groups have long claimed that the policy is directly responsible for the high numbers of abortions—those voluntary for sex-selection and those forced by family planning officials—which China has worked to keep hidden. Not as widely acknowledged was the subsequent issue of infanticide due to the long held belief that a newborn daughter is not as valuable to a family as a son, and if a couple could only have one child, a son it must be. Another repercussion of the policy has been the ever increasing gender imbalance, resulting in more illegal trafficking of women to villages and cities suffering from too many men and not enough women to marry.

But as of Thursday, October 28, many applaud the news that all Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children without fear of governmental repercussions.

‘”To promote a balanced growth of population, China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on population development,” Xinhua, China’s state run new agency reported, citing a communique issued by the ruling Communist Party. “China will fully implement the policy of ‘one couple, two children’ in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population.”’

But what about the damage already done? Does this change mean that many of that country’s undocumented ‘ghost’ children can now be claimed? Perhaps even given the coveted hukou legal identification that is required to attend school, receive medical care, travel, and even marry later in life? Or will those children who were already living in the shadows of a policy gone wrong be forced to remain there with ripples of their undeserved punishment passed down from generation to generation? *China’s 2010 census estimated that there are over 13 million people without the official documentation (hukou) that will enable them to move freely around China and live normal lives.

ghost child

As for how the changes will affect children still in orphanages across China, Amy Eldridge, Founder of Love Without Boundaries, an organization that supports orphans in China says, ‘”I know so many people were overjoyed at the news today that the one-child policy is officially being retired, but I honestly don’t anticipate any change in the often overwhelming needs of Chinese orphanages.”’

Amy makes a very valid point, as I look back and remember my years working as a volunteer in the orphanage and the fact that almost every child I met had some sort of disability or illness that was the catalyst for the separation from their biological family. Read more about my time there in my memoir, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

Despite the harsh criticism of motive, and the outspokenness of those who say the government still has no business regulations how many children a couple can have, most of us can agree that this policy update is a positive step for the future of China’s social welfare system.

However, as the world acknowledges that China has taken a step in the right direction in the subject of human rights, we must not forget the adoptees around the world and those left undocumented in China, who because of the repercussions of a draconian-style edict such as the one-child policy, will forever wonder if this new change has come a little too late.

 

 

The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt! Now Available on Amazon!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Book Recommendations, China-Inspired Book Recommendations

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I can’t believe after an entire year of researching, writing, editing, cutting, polishing, sweat and tears……it’s finally launch day for the book that my editor called my tour de force! Readers asked to know more about Benfu during the Cultural Revolution, and I’ve given it to them. Available as of today, you can order HERE at AMAZON! (bites fingernails in hopes that you all will like it!) Just in time to purchase the beautifully embossed hardcover to give as a holiday gift, too!

Want to know more about the story? Here you go….

A sheltered son from an intellectual family in Shanghai, Benfu spends 1966 anticipating a promising violinist career and an arranged marriage. On the other side of town lives Pony Boy, a member of a lower-class family—but Benfu’s best friend all the same. Their futures look different but guaranteed…until they’re faced with a perilous opportunity to leave a mark on history.

At the announcement of China’s Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao’s Red Guard members begin their assault, leaving innocent victims in their wake as they surge across the country. With political turmoil at their door, both Benfu and Pony Boy must face heart-wrenching decisions regarding family, friendship, courage, and loyalty to their country during one of the most chaotic periods in history.

The prequel to the beloved Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters series, The Palest Ink depicts Benfu’s coming-of-age during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution.

What others are saying about The Palest Ink:

Bratt brings to life the struggle of two individuals during China’s terrible time that all should know about with an honest, yet compassionate style. She brings us as close as we ever want to be to an evil time, yet shows some found the courage to preserve their dignity. A must read. — Mingmei Yip, Author of Skeleton Women and other China-inspired novels

The Revolution itself is well documented and the historical significance of Chairman Mao’s Red Guard leaves fear in its wake. The danger and fear that come through the writing create discomfort and unrest, much as it must have been during the times. The danger is palpable, and adds to the chaotic feelings left after the reading of this work. If you enjoy history, revolution, courage, romance and family, then this will make a great work for your library. Kay Bratt has given us a work of intensity. Blogcritics.org

The Palest Ink, the story of Benfu’s early years fills in so many gaps in my knowledge of China during the Cultural Revolution, a topic that is practically taboo in China right now. This prequel to the four “Scavenger’s Daughters” books  shows me what the Chinese term ‘eating bitter’ really means. Kay Bratt sure has done her research, and presents the tale of those tumultuous years in a fascinating narrative. –Sibylla Grottke, WanderlustAndChineseInk.com

 

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