Dreams, Dreams, Dreams

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

dreaming

 

I’m a dreamer. Not in an adjective sort of way. But truly, a habitual dreamer.

I’ve always had very detailed and creative dreams. I’ve also suffered through years of night terrors, but that’s a different story. This morning I awoke with one of those dreams that you are brought out of too quickly and you wish you could go back and finish it. For in my dream, I was left devastated. And it’s dragged me down all morning. It went like this….

Ben, Amanda, and I were in a foreign country that according to the people and landscape could have been Vietnam. A few of his business colleagues were also there, so I’m thinking maybe we were there for a look-see for a possibly upcoming move? I don’t know but we were right in the middle of a huge festival and it was hot and very crowded, and Amanda was only a toddler. Suddenly, something happened and the crowd went crazy. People were running, disappearing down side streets and into buildings, etc..

I found myself alone. No purse, no husband, and most terrifying of all…no Amanda.

I freaked out, screaming and crying for Ben and Amanda. I ran down streets, up alleys, etc.. trying to find them. For hours it seemed I searched, until it was dark and the only people around were rifle-toting soldiers (mean ones) and beggars and homeless people. I didn’t give up, though. I was exhausted, slogging through the streets but finally I thought I heard her voice. I kept going, following it until I was sure it was her, calling out and sobbing, “Mama…Mama….” over and over. I came closer and realized her voice was coming from a window in a tall building. I crept up some stone steps and through a huge antique-looking door, and found myself in a cavernous room. It was really dark but moonlight came in through the window enough that I could make out the tiny figures of at least a hundred or so babies and toddlers, all dressed in white gauzy sleeping clothes. Most were sleeping but I could still hear Amanda’s cry.

I whispered to her that Mama was there, and I followed her voice until I found her with her arms outstretched to me. In the corner a nanny slept and I reached down and snatched Amanda up and ran out with her. We both sobbed as I told her I was so sorry I had lost her. Then I carried her up and down more streets, searching for Ben. Finally, when I thought I’d drop from exhaustion, I saw a tiny lit shop.

We entered what looked like a small clothing store. The shopkeeper was a middle-aged Asian woman and she waved me in. Thankful for a safe place, I came in and gently lay Amanda down on a bench. My arms were so tired they were like limp noodles and I sorted through racks of clothing trying to find something to put on Amanda to ward of the chilly night temperatures.

I heard a noise at the door and turned to find a tall, white man enter. He began bargaining with the woman until I realized I was not in a clothing store, but instead a small brothel. I immediately went to pick up Amanda to take her and go, but she was gone!

I felt tears running down my face as I tore the shop apart looking for her. I reached up to wipe them and realized they weren’t tears, it was moisture from my dog, Riley’s, tongue as he tried to wake me. The dream disappeared.

I’m not sure if Riley sensed my despair, but he’s never woke me like that so I can only assume he did. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to resume my search for Amanda. So now my heart has been heavy all morning as the details of the dream swirl in my mind, pleading with me to figure out what it means.

I can only assume that because we are going through some medical scares with Amanda, my instinct to mother her and protect her has initiated a yearning for her to be a baby again. But I have to come to terms with the fact that she is growing up and is at college, and though she needs me, I can’t protect her from everything. Which is obvious in my dream as I failed to protect her twice.

Motherhood.

It’s a scary thing.

Mama Knows Best

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

Amanda_9

How many of you out there have agonized over whether to send your child to camp or not? Guess what….you are not alone. We lived in China for almost five years and during that time, our youngest daughter Amanda was at a very sensitive age. On our summer visits back home, we decided that possibly our daughter was losing her American heritage. We did some debating and decided she needed to experience camp. We wanted her to ‘know’ what American kids were like. What they did for fun. How they interacted. We wanted her to have American friends!

She didn’t want to go. Amanda was a shy kid. She was happy just being with us. But I knew she needed more than just us. I was adamant. Mama knows best, and to camp she would go.

I’ll admit that the first time we sent her, it was torture. She was about eight years old and after signing her in, I did my best to help her pick ‘a good bunk’, then helped her get it ready with her sleeping bag, soft blankie and even tucked her teddy bear Maggie into it before Ben pushed me out the door. I didn’t want to leave her. What if no one talked to her? What if she was scared at night? What if she got eaten by a bear? I cried all the way back to the hotel and this is a true story–the next day we parked on a bridge near the camp and used binoculars to try to see Amanda. Sigh.

She made it through camp and seemed to have a good time. I remember one summer she met a girl she called Becca, and that was her new friend who made her laugh and helped her get through her homesickness.

Last week she and I made the road trip to take her to move-in day at college. On the way, we talked about summer camp and she admitted to me that at first, she cried every night when she’d read the email I or her Daddy had sent her. It broke my heart when she told me there were nights she cried herself to sleep. *sob* But she also said she appreciated that we were strong and made her stick it out, because some of her best childhood memories were from camp in America! (mingled in with her Asian memories, of course)

So on move in day, I got all those same drop-off feelings I had years ago when Amanda was a little girl and I was leaving her at camp. In the dorm room, I helped her make her new bed. Instead of Maggie, my gesture of comfort to her this time was an expensive mattress topper covered in bamboo, a barrier between her and the mattress that hundreds of others have slept on. We worked around the room and I held the sign that I’d gotten her, a plaque with ‘our song’ on it, the song I sang to her literally thousands of times to rock her to sleep…. ‘You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine’……. her dad took it from me and hung it on the wall, where Amanda can look up at it from her desk and know her Mama loves her.

I lovingly helped her hang her clothes, making sure to straighten every wrinkle I could find. I told her a few hundred times to hang up her wet towels, drink plenty of water, and be sure to eat regular meals.

Finally it was time to go. I hugged her close and through the lump in my throat, told her I am proud of her and I love her. Then once again, Ben led me away as I fought back tears.

This time leaving her was almost or possibly even harder than leaving her at camp. This time she was taking her first steps into adulthood. This time there’d be no counselors or lights out curfews to protect her. I left the campus a terrified mom.

But one thing I forgot to mention.

That buddy she made in camp….the girl named Becca. They became best friends. Best friends for life, as they say.  The relationship discovered through their childhood camp has only strengthened and together they have vacationed in  several beaches in South Carolina, Key West, Mexico, and even the Bahamas. And though leaving Amanda at camp was hard, and leaving her at college was harder, at least I know that as she traverses these next steps as a big girl, Becca will be by her side.

Becca and Amanda are attending the same college. See how camp worked out? Sometimes Mama does know best. And if anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas, I think a new set of binoculars would be fitting.

rebeccaandi

Introducing Kay Bratt’s…The Scavenger’s Daughters! (With a Sneak Peek!)

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Adoption Stories, China-Inspired Book Recommendations, Short Story

SD

*Confetti! Confetti!*

So for the last year I have been writing, editing, tweaking, sweating, dreaming, writing, editing, tweaking some more….and finally I can introduce to you the fruits of my efforts (and those of the team behind me).

I do hope you will be in love with this family as much as I am.

The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters

Having survived torture and imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution, Benfu escaped to find love with his compassionate and beautiful Calla Lily. Together they build a fulfilling life around the most menial of jobs—Benfu’s work collecting trash. As he sorts through the discards of others, he regularly discovers abandoned children. With unwavering determination, he and Calli spend decades creating a family of hand-picked daughters that help heal the sorrow and brighten their modest home. But all is not perfect and when crisis threatens to separate their family, Benfu—or possibly his band of headstrong daughters—must find a way to overcome the biggest hardship yet.

Inspired by a true story, and set against the backdrop of a country in transition, The Scavenger’s Daughters is a sweeping present day saga of triumph in the face of hardship, and the unbreakable bonds of family against all odds.

  

The Scavenger’s Daughters is Available for pre-order NOW at Amazon!

And…..Coming in December 2013…

 Book Two in the Tales of The Scavenger’s Daughters,

TANGLED VINES

Scroll down for a Sneak Peek of The Scavenger’s Daughters:

Chapter One

Beitang City, Wuxi, China, 2010.

On a cloudy day in early January, Benfu stood outside his house and held the red pail under the spigot, waiting for it to fill. Today was a good day; when he pumped the handle the old pipes didn’t moan and rattle too much before deciding to cooperate. But he didn’t mind it so much either way—like him, the piece of iron was ancient but stubbornly kept going. And anyway, they had a history together and if a man could feel affection for a thing, then Benfu absolutely did. A silly fondness, but there all the same, for it was the very same temperamental water spigot that had been the matchmaker that brought him and his precious Calli together so many years before.

When the water reached the top, he pushed the pump handle down and carried the pail across the street to the old widow’s house. Quickly he filled the tins for her chickens and used the last of the water on her pot of herbs hanging in her window box. He looked at the chicken droppings and considered cleaning it up, but that was a task Widow Zu usually took on and he didn’t want to deprive her of that joy. And anyway, nothing was worse than the smell of chicken dung on a man’s hands.

Chuckling, he returned to his yard across the street, got on his bike and headed out for the day. Twenty minutes later, he pushed his rusted three-wheeled bicycle slowly up the steep hill and turned the corner. Around him the streets were coming alive. Morning vendors were opening their stalls and stacking displays of fruits and vegetables, sweepers cleaned the sidewalks, and early commuters bustled to work. As he strained to push the bike, the cars, electric scooters and other bicycles rushed past him. Most paid him no attention, for he was just one of many laborers out at the crack of dawn trying to get an early start to the day. With his weathered brown face and deep wrinkles he blended in, but unlike some of the men his age he passed who were doing their morning Qigong exercises or sitting at makeshift tables’ playing cards, Benfu still had a job to do. Even though he had lived on earth for over six decades, he could not retire.

He struggled the last few feet, listening to his water canteen bumping against the metal bar it was tied to and thought about how much the city had changed over the years. At least his side of Beitang City—Old Town Wuxi as some called it—still kept some of the old charm, while new Wuxi had grown with businesses and even many foreigners coming in to make their mark. Benfu was a transplant—he’d been sent to Wuxi as a teenager by his parents to escape the danger of Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. It was for his protection, they’d told him as they cried and bid him goodbye. What they had thought would be a better life for him was a time of trauma and hardship. And though he’d never intended to stay for so long, fate had intervened and Wuxi had become his home. But that was long ago and he’d survived many more hard times since then. Times that were better left unspoken of, times that made a day like today feel like child’s play.

At the top of the hill, Benfu mounted the bike again and with shoulders bent over the handlebars to add more weight, he pedaled slowly. He was already tired and that irritated him. He’d always been known to be bigger and stronger than most, but for the last year he just couldn’t shake the cough and heavy feeling that had enveloped him. Passing the line of street breakfast stands, he winced at the sudden squeaking from the rusty back wheel of his bicycle. As it began to bump and turn haphazardly, he hoped it would last the day, at least until he could ask his daughter to take a look to see if she could repair it.  If she could, that would save him some valuable coins that he could avoid paying the local repairman. He was lucky to have the transportation, and the three-wheeled bike was fitted with a makeshift cart on the back, allowing him a way to haul things home without carrying them in a basket on his back as he’d done for years before.

Benfu passed the cigarette store and for a moment he fought the sudden craving that overtook his thoughts. His wife had finally got her way when he’d stopped smoking a few years before, but there were days he could almost taste the sweet tobacco, he wanted it so badly. A welcome distraction, he heard his friend call his name from where she perched on the next front stoop, peeling peanuts.  His mouth watered at the sight of the treats in her bowl. He would have liked to be able to bring some peanuts home to add to their own simple dinner. Occasionally the woman saved a small bag behind her to hand over to him, but not today. He had many friends in the neighborhood and one had even complimented him long ago by telling him he was a big man with an even bigger presence. He didn’t quite know how he had a big presence but it had sounded nice. Always known to be soft-spoken and one to choose his words wisely, when he had something to say others usually listened.

Zao, Benfu. Cold day, eh?”

Benfu raised his hand to the woman and smiled. “Good morning to you, too, Lao Gu. Yes, very cold. But don’t worry, spring is coming soon!”

These days he was so used to being cold that he no longer thought much about it. At least there hadn’t been any snow this season—saving him the trouble of carrying his load when he couldn’t get the cart through. Sure his cough was worse in the cold, his old joints ached, and his gnarled hands cramped from the hours spent wrapped around the handles, but instead of dwelling on it he chose to focus on other matters. Matters like finding enough discarded items to earn enough for a day of meals for his family and if he was lucky—enough to put some savings toward their monthly rent bill. But first, his self-imposed obligation needed to be fulfilled for the day.

Zhu ni haoyun, Benfu.” She wished him luck and went back to peeling. No small talk was needed because there wasn’t anything new to discuss. They’d been passing each other for the last fifteen years and only stopped to catch up every month or so, unless either of them had news worth interrupting their chores. The woman was widowed and Benfu had known her husband back in the hard days. But those were times they didn’t talk about.

Benfu continued with his cart and hoped his morning would be uneventful. He didn’t wish to find anything out of the ordinary as he turned past the block of buildings. He really didn’t. He always wished to find nothing except trash. But sometimes something other than trash found him.

Now in the alley between two buildings, he guided his bike around soiled refuse bags and a line of jumbled bicycles, then heard the first mewl coming from a pile of boxes. He hoped it was nothing but a new kitten, strayed from its mother.  That would be the best scenario, for Benfu could help it find the rest of the litter and then go on with his day as usual. But the closer he got to the huge pile of trash, the more that hope faded. He’d heard this same sound before and he scolded himself that he should have known the difference from the start.

Sighing, he stopped the bicycle and climbed down. He walked over to the pile of cardboard boxes. Lifting them carefully and tossing them aside one by one, he dug down until he finally found the right one. As he paused to look at the labeling on the side of the cardboard, a couple at the end of the alley stopped and pointed at him, then moved along.

Gently he picked up the box and carried it to his cart. He carefully set it on top of the pile of trash he had collected on the way over. Opening the two flaps, he peered into the box and immediately connected with tiny dark eyes.

Aiya,” he muttered softly, so as not to scare her. The baby was very young—maybe only a few hours or possibly a few days. She lay in the box fully unclothed save for a scrap of a red shirt with frog ties and a few balled up newspapers scattered around her.  Benfu wrinkled his nose as the smell of urine wafted up from the soaked box.  He noticed her umbilical cord still hung from her tiny button, already turning dark from the lack of sustenance running through it. From the weak sound of her mewling and the mottled color of her skin, she didn’t have much time left.

Faster than most would think an old man could move, Benfu struggled out of his worn red overcoat and laid it on the ground in front of him. He then lifted the infant and set her on top of it. As he knelt down to wrap the material around her, he ignored the throbbing in his knees and rubbed her tiny feet and hands. He counted under his breath as he quickly massaged each petite toe and finger. While working to get the blood running in her body again, his eyes met hers and held.

With the surprise of being suddenly discovered, she had quieted and serenely stared up at Benfu, her dark eyes twinkling at him. She was beautiful, this one was, and he wondered what sort of ailment she might have that would have prompted her parents to relinquish her to a new fate.

“Hello, nuer. I’ve come to take you home.  Just hold on and we’ll get you all fixed up. And we’ll add one more scavenger’s daughter to the world, yes we will.” He wrapped the coat all around her, making sure to double the sleeves around her icy feet. He gently laid her back in the box and after checking to make sure he had made a sufficient tunnel through the material for her to breathe through, he closed the flaps again.  Looking around, he hoped the remaining cardboard would be there when he returned, but for now he needed to hurry.

Turning the bicycle around he shivered from the sudden gust of wind that blew through his clothing. He climbed aboard and slowly began to pedal, willing the stiffness in his knees away. As he picked up the pace and began his journey home, he sighed and looked over his shoulder again at the box his newest treasure was nested in. He ignored the nervous fluttering in his stomach that reminded him how hard it would be to feed one more hungry mouth, and instead gave thanks to the Gods that he had found the baby girl before it was too late.

The Sting of the Scorpion is much like Publishing

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

 

 

Yesterday we had a bit of excitement in our house. Having just moved two weeks ago, we are still unpacking and organizing. In exchange for a tank of gas, I set my teen on getting rid of a few more boxes. Only minutes after starting to unpack one, she screamed for me to come.

When I arrived at her side, I was horrified to see a scorpion trapped in a bowl she’d removed from a box. At first I thought the scorpion was dead, but was unpleasantly surprised to find just a short time later that it wasn’t. We weren’t stung, through no competence of ours. We were just lucky. But for the rest of the day I was jumpy, jittery, and dropping my pants at every imagined tickle. Finally, I decided to google scorpions in South Carolina, just to see what I was up against if I was indeed stung later.

I found out that though I might wish I could, I wouldn’t die from a sting. I read articles that walked me through the symptoms and processes of a sting from start to healing, and I’ll say it was therapeutic for me. Though I was squeamish reading the stories of others who had been stung, I was no longer terrified of what may come because I had educated myself as to what to expect.

Considering publishing your first book is sort of like the unknown and uneducated sting of a scorpion. Just in the last three days I’ve had four people write to ask me about the publishing process. I can sense their fear and trepidation. What I can honestly say is that yes, it is terrifying to think maybe everyone will hate your work, tell you that you can’t write, insist a third-grader wrote it, and might even start a flame-throwing party over your latest release. But now that I’m close to publishing my 7th and 8th titles, I at least know what to expect if things go well, and what to expect if they don’t.

That takes the terror out of it for me.

I’ll admit, I’ll still get nervous before the release of each book. I’ll still say a million prayers that my readers will like my story and more importantly, ‘get’ my story and what I am trying to say within the context of the tale I weave. But those days of walking around petrified of the unknown no longer exist. I’ll put my sweat and tears into it, then let it go, and it will be what it will be.

The publishing scorpion has lost it’s sting.

And I sure won’t be dropping my pants over it. Can I get an amen on that?

Gorgeous. Outrageous. Sexy. = Not Kay

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

What do these outrageously sexy shoes make you think of?

My first and foremost thought was I’d never wear them in a million years. Why? Not because I don’t like them…I think they are awesome….more due to the fact that they just don’t fit the profile of The Me I have molded over the years.
Here are a few scattering thoughts as I stare at the picture of these fabulous shoes:
1. I wish they fit my personality—just for a day—but they don’t and as Popeye would say, “I Am What I Yam…”
2. They make me think about the sad reality that I never went to a school dance or prom
3. I am too tall to wear high heels and no, they would not make me look like a model I would just look like an Amazon dork
4. My husband would probably like me to wear these just once for about an hour, but Oh…that fantasy will never happen
5. If I wore them, I’d also need to learn how to giggle which I never do and these shoes absolutely go with a giggly girl and I don’t giggle and giggly grown-up women get on my nerves
6. They’d look cool with a pair of jeans and that is one compliment I can claim, that I can still wear jeans from the teen department
7. I love the interior pattern of these rockin’ shoes!
8. My big size 8.5’s would never go in them and I’d look like Cinderella’s wicked stepsister trying to squeeze my gangly feet into them
9. I should have more pure hot-pink-fun moments in my life
10. My little sister would wear these and look great in them but then again, she IS a foot shorter than me and only 30 years old [update, she’s now older! Haha!]
11. I am aging too fast and have not yet met all my goals [I’ve met a few more since this posted, including getting a 3-book publishing deal!]
12. I never went to a high school or college football game and I don’t know why the shoes make me think of that and don’t know why I even care
13. I want to do something unpredictable before it’s too late!
14. If I forced myself to wear them I would be in agony the next day because my fms does not like uncomfy shoes
15. The shoes could very well double as a weapon in a pinch
16. I don’t own a single fashion item that is pink and I don’t want to
17. They might scratch my hardwood floors and that would totally freak me out
18. If I wore them, I’d need to carry around a Cosmopolitan cocktail to complete the look …and I have been known to drink a few eight of those in one evening—okay, it happened once. No more details on that and I’d rather be snuggled up with a good book than at a party any day
19. Who wears this stuff in real life? [besides Gwen Stefani] [Update: and now Lady Ga Ga]
20. A Sex In The City commercial just popped through my head
21. I daydream too much and it’s time to do something more productive which is what I am wired to do and will continue to do until I drop from exhaustion which might be any day now and I might even welcome the respite
22. I wish I was 21 again—thought of that cuz I am on #22—and actually, no I don’t because 21 was a hard time for me and now my life is just peaches [Sort of. Glass half full answer]
Would YOU wear the shoes? Be honest…
Disclaimer: [This posting was published on my old blog several years ago and I stumbled upon it and realized not much has changed]

More of a Marathon than a Race

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

To the many Indie authors out there struggling to find that right combination of word count, plot, and characters to finally jump onto the bestseller list you so crave, don’t get in such a hurry! We can’t all be immediate success stories. (Though some of us might!)

The road to where I am now has been a bit bumpy but maybe sharing it will inspire some of you to keep plodding along.

Back in 2003, my career in the corporate world was interrupted when my husband took us all to China to live for almost five years. I didn’t mind—I was excited to get off the American fast track for a while and I planned to use that time to fulfill a few goals.

  1. Learn the language
  2. Work in an orphanage
  3. Write a children’s book

What I didn’t plan on was that working with abandoned children would rock my world and shake my soul to the core. My life became wrapped around my obsession of making their little lives a bit better. The children’s story I was writing was put on the backburner and I spent that time journaling about life in the orphanage and the kids who were stealing my heart.

Later, those journal entries were put together in a memoir, titled Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage.

I self-pubbed it in 2008 and it sold thousands right out of the gate. Amazon approached me and offered a contract, and I became one of their first AmazonEncore authors. The book was re-launched in 2010 and HMH even picked up print rights in 2011. The book hit 50,000 sales this year and still holds a fair ranking with currently 222 (5) Star reviews on Amazon.

In the meantime, we had returned to the states and I was struggling physically and psychologically from all that I had witnessed in China. My health took a bad turn with intense neurological pain, back pain, insomnia, etc.. Even though I didn’t want to, I took a very stressful job as an executive assistant in another Human Resource department and went back to my old life.

Sort of.

With the success of my memoir, I realized how much I loved writing and would like to do it forever. I used my free time to promote the memoir and build my platform by getting very involved in the online community of people interested in China. I also did many speaking events to talk about my work and how to do something different in life.

Despite the continued success of the book, I was still unhappy until I figured out that in order for me to feel at peace with myself, I needed to get back to volunteer work. I joined an organization and returned to advocating for children in any small way I could find, while continuing to fine tune my craft of writing by participating in online writing communities and taking Creative Writing courses.

I also buckled down and wrote a novel titled Chasing China. I submitted it to my agent and she wasn’t thrilled with it, but she sent it on to Amazon. They declined it. I was shattered. But then I pulled up my bootstraps, sent it through an editor (Red Adept) and self-pubbed it myself in November 2011. With a huge boost from using the KDP free days that gave away 30k copies and pushed it up into the rankings, as well as a few well-placed advertisements and a blog tour, that book has sold over 10k copies.

Consecutively with the Chasing China project, I worked with an artist in Budapest and put together my first children’s book. It published a month or so after Chasing China, titled Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi. While it has not been a huge income provider, the story filled a need in me to write something to help children deal with the issues of adoption and bullying. With each book that goes out, (and I’ve given away 25,000 free ones!), it just feels good.

So I was doing okay but I was determined to prove I could write something else. Something better. Something that Amazon Publishing would want! I found myself interested in the travesty of trafficked children as child brides in China, so I wrote A Thread Unbroken. I’d lost confidence in my ability to attract a publisher, so thought it would be another self-pubbed title. I worked with Red Adept again, and let Streetlight Graphics design a beautiful cover. But then I remembered I needed to at least let Amazon take a look. This time I bypassed my agent and sent it directly to my Amazon editor. He immediately offered a contract. It was published last month and is doing fair. (Oh, and they let me keep my SG cover because it was so pretty!)

I also took the time to expand a short story to a novella and published The Bridge. It did very well!

 

With what I was bringing in monthly in royalties from those five titles as an incentive, I once again left the corporate world to focus full-time on volunteer work and writing. With all the success I’d read about short stories and novellas to fill the gaps for writers, I decided to write another novella. I spent two months just writing 17,000 words and then per my Amazon contract, ran it by my editor so he could say no and allow me to self-pub it. While he was reviewing it, I worked with PhatPuppy Art for a cover and secured a slot with a copyeditor.

I was surprised when my Amazon editor emailed and asked for a phone call. Most of our communication is done online but he wanted to talk. A few days later he told me he thought my novella was great, but there was just one problem; it was too short. I told him my plan was to make a series of novellas just to bring in some additional income. He said if I was interested in the book being picked up by Amazon, he wouldn’t promise anything but he wanted to see it again if I decided to lengthen it. He also gave me some insight into what in the book he’d like to see more of, etc..

Gone was my plan to publish the book as a novella and instead I concentrated on building it into a novel. The editor’s other idea was to add more historical facts, which took a lot of time to research. But over a few more months, I not only lengthened the book to 70k words, I also wrote the second book in the series (90k words) and an outline for book 3. I sent all of it to the editor and waited, holding my breath, for his feedback. I took those few weeks that he was considering it to write a novella, called Train To Nowhere, which I did self-pub.

The rest of the story is the kicker. My editor came back with positive feedback and a few weeks ago I signed a contract for a 3-book deal with Amazon Publishing. The first book in the trilogy will be released mid-2013! Of course you know we can’t give out details but let’s just say that I couldn’t be happier with the terms, making this one of the most amazing Christmas seasons my family has ever had.

The moral of the story is this. Never give up or cut corners. What was going to be a few novellas bringing in a few hundred each month has turned into an Amazon-Published trilogy with the possibility of being my most successful project yet.

So if I could leave you with any advice it would be to SET GOALS! I’ve learned that we aren’t here just to float along and wait for life to happen, we are supposed to go out and Make It Happen!

Good luck to you if you are on the publishing journey and if there are any questions I can answer, I’d be glad to share what I’ve learned. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

If Your Child is Abducted and Trafficked in China, You’d better pray for a Miracle.

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, China News & Tidbits

The above photo is of a mother in China. A mother who refused to give up. When her child was abducted and sold by her grandfather to child traffickers, the police refused to help her. She eventually found her child on her own but the couple who had bought it refused to give it back until she paid a sum of 350,000 rmb. (A Chinese fortune) Luckily, the public was outraged and the county officials have now gotten involved to get this mother and child reunited.

Thank you to All Girls Allowed for the story. Read more here.

[Chinese source here]

It’s is stories like that above that prompted me to write A Thread Unbroken. Researching other stories, I was soon even more captivated to know where the trafficked children end up. What sort of lives do they lead? Do they try to find their way home or come to terms with a new life? Those questions sparked my story of Chai and Josi. I hope it will also answer some of your questions.

Chai and Josi share a bond that transcends ordinary friendship. While Chai has always been Josi’s protector—ever since they were toddlers, growing up together in a small Chinese village—she finds herself helpless when they are both abducted from their families and sold to faraway strangers. In their new home, with the family of the fisherman who bought them, their old lives are torn away piece by piece. But Chai knows she must stay strong if they’re to have any chance of escaping.

That same tenacious hope guides Chai’s father, Jun, who fights to find the girls and bring them home, despite seemingly insurmountable odds and a corrupt legal system. The days since the girls were taken soon stretch to weeks and months, but Chai’s spirit remains unbroken and Jun’s resolve unwavering.

Set against the backdrop of modern day China, A Thread Unbroken is an inspiring story of remarkable courage, indefatigable hope, and the invisible ties that hold people together, even when everything around them is falling apart.

Silent Tears by Kay Bratt reaches a huge milestone in 50k copies sold! Thank you, Amazon Publishing!

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

Today I heard a knock on the door. It being a writing day, meaning no makeup, hair in ponytail, and my comfy sweatpants attire, I ran to hide in the bathroom. When the uninvited visitor left, I tip-toed to the window and peeked out to see a small package sitting on my porch.

 I stealthly opened the door, grabbed the box and darted back in.

I brought my tiny, mysterious package to the (secluded) back porch to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a small break, stretching out the anticipation of the mystery.

I opened the ugly cardboard box to find two small elegant boxes wrapped with a gold ribbon.

What could this be? Hurrying now, I untied the ribbon and found boxes of Frans luxurious chocolates, but no note! Who sent me chocolates? A secret admirer? A demented stalker? My husband sending an apologetic gift to be ready for the next time he’s in the doghouse?

I opened the first box of chocolates and much to my surprise, a note slipped out. This is what it read:

Silent Tears has surpassed 50K copies sold! Congratulations, Kay! 

Here’s a little something to complement that sweet taste of success. All the best, Jessica and your Encore team!

Wow. I knew I had an amazing publisher with Amazon Publishing, and a team that has been right on top of things for years, but this just confirms it all. I’m lucky to have been given the chance to take my book to a wider audience than I could have ever imagined. Thanks, team! And thank you, readers! Your support means the world to me. This little book is a story that needed to be told. Not for me, but for the children who are portrayed.

~Kay

Update from Kay Bratt

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

It’s been several years since I returned to the states from China. While I’d like to say that I am doing fine and am where I want to be, that would be dishonest. Sort of. I am doing fine, but I hope to take another journey to live overseas one day, perhaps once we get our youngest out of college and off on her own. Despite living in two states and a few homes since our return, I still do not feel like I’ve found home. I’m not sure where God will take me one day, but I am sure I’m not there yet.

Some questions I’ve been asked:

Do you still see the kids from China?

I do not see any of the children, though I did go back to China in 2010 to find where Xiao Gou had been transferred. She’d been lost in the system and I could not rest until I finished what I had promised her many years ago. With the help of many angels, that promise was fulfilled and Xiao Gou now resides in the states with her forever family.

Other children I wrote about in the book are doing fine and I am in contact with many of their forever moms. I just received updated school photos of Yue Hua and Le Ci and boy, are they adorable!

Do you plan to write a sequel to Silent Tears?

At one time I did plan to write a follow up to Silent Tears and actually have it about half way complete. But for now I’ve realized that Silent Tears was told from the China side but the follow up would now have to be told from this side of the pond, from the perspective of where are they now. For now, I haven’t found an idea that would allow me to do that without infringing on their new lives and privacy. So the follow up book has been put aside and may never be told.

Do you still advocate for the children of China?

Absolutely! Someone wrote a review for Silent Tears and said I had an agenda. What that is supposed to mean I have no idea but maybe she was right. My agenda was, is, and always will be to continue to give a voice to children who have none. I’ve been advocating for the kiddos for going on ten years now in many different avenues, projects, and positions. Currently I’m a volunteer director for AOW (An Orphan’s Wish) and that is how I give my time and efforts to continue my work for China’s children. You can read more about what we do here and possibly find a way to give a helping hand yourself! http://www.anorphanswish.org/what-we-do/what-we-do.html

Did you go to China and work in an orphanage just to publish a book?

No. But I won’t say I’m glad it didn’t work out that way because the book has found many readers who later adopted or became supporters of organizations that help children in China. The book came about when I was writing weekly (sometimes daily) updates of my life in the orphanage and so many people said the content should be put into a book so the rest of the world could know. I did go to China with a goal of writing a book, among other goals, but that was a children’s book and it was put aside half way complete when I could no longer focus on anything but my work at the orphanage.

Did you know you’d go on to write more books after your memoir?

Honestly, no. I have always liked to write and pour my words, feelings, and dreams out on paper. After publishing the memoir, I took some creative writing courses and joined a writer’s critique group. I decided to finally start expunging all the little stories out of my head by putting them in books. I now write Asian-inspired fiction, and by creating colorful characters that draw the reader in to know more, I strive to raise awareness about issues in China that affect women and children. I believe, and have been told, that I get better with each book. (Yes, my writing in Silent Tears was my first project and admittedly the writing somewhat amateurish!) I do hope readers will give my latest book, A Thread Unbroken, a chance because with it, I’ve put out what I feel is my best writing yet. I may never get to the level of my favorite authors, Lisa See and Amy Tan, but I’ll continue to try!

What’s Next?

I have just finished the first book in my family saga called The Scavenger’s Daughters

SD_ScavengersDaughters

Here is a sneak peek:

Having survived torture and imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution, Benfu escaped to find love with his compassionate and beautiful Calla Lily. Together they build a fulfilling life around the most menial of jobs—Benfu’s work collecting trash. As he sorts through the discards of others, he regularly discovers abandoned children. With unwavering determination, he and Calli spend decades creating a family of hand-picked daughters that help heal the sorrow and brighten their modest home. But all is not perfect and when crisis threatens to separate their family, Benfu—or possibly his band of headstrong daughters—must find a way to overcome the biggest hardship yet.

Inspired by a true story, and set against the backdrop of a country in transition, The Scavenger’s Daughters is a sweeping present day saga of triumph in the face of hardship, and the unbreakable bonds of family against all odds.  Available at this LINK ON AMAZON.COM

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Like Winter Just a Little Bit

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

So—the weather is finally getting colder and everyone around me knows how much I hate cold weather. It makes my back hurt, my knees hurt, and I walk around stiff and all old-lady-looking bundled up in scarves and thick socks, but stop! There is one advantage to cold weather. Something I see that is beneficial. A light at the end of the tunnel, pot of gold, rainbow, all that jazz…

The birds are leaving.

I know this is weird coming from a recovering bird lover. If you’ve been in my house, you’ll see a surprising  amount of bird cages. Heck, right now I’m at my desk and can see 5 without turning my head!

But my bird cages are empty. And so are the cute little bird feeders I hang from my porch and on the tree down by our pond. It’s so mean. I’m like, come on wittle birdies….see what I got…

And what I got is nada. Nothing. For them, anyway.  No more spending my hard-earned dollars on their skanky little beaks.

Why, you ask? Because I’m still not over my bird trauma. Two years later and I still shiver and sometimes have nightmares over my ‘experience’.

So this is the way it went down.

I loved birds at one time. L-O-V-E-D them, I tell ya! So much so that when one sassy little bird mama built a nest under out porch, I was tickled to death. All I had to do was get on my knees and look through the crack and could see the tiny speckled eggs! I was in heaven!

Then we went on vacation. While away, I worried about the little eggs and the sweet birdie mama. Were they okay? Did a snake get them? Would they survive?

We arrived back from our vacation and the next morning I realized I hadn’t checked to see how the eggs were doing. I went out to my porch, knelt down and put my eye to the crack between the decking boards.

Baby birds! Oh my—they were so freaking cute!

They sensed someone only inches from their nest and opened their tiny beaks at me. Feed me! I wished I could! I was so thrilled and felt so lucky that I had a front row seat to watch the baby chicks grow up and leave the nest. I wondered if they were as thrilled as humans when their young fly away, and if their young, like humans, come back when they are hungry and broke? But I finally got my fill of staring at the birds and got back up. It took me a second to get my aching knees under control but when I did, I felt something crawling on my neck.

That was just the beginning.

I reached up and felt lots of somethings crawling on my neck. On my face. In my hair!!

I screamed. Bird lice! Holy crap! I was covered in bird lice!

I ran across the porch screaming like my head was on fire and stripping out of my clothes. I slung open the front door and ran across the living room, losing articles of clothing and screaming until I was bare naked and hysterical—wiping the little suckers off of me.

Straight to the shower I went and stood under scalding hot water until it ran cold, sobbing and clawing at my hair. I poured shampoo, conditioner, Lysol, then more conditioner until my hair resembled something you might see on a Halloween scarecrow. I even considered hooking up electricity and frying the little suckers!

But that was just the first scene.

I got out and did what I always do when I’m freaked out and need to be educated about something serious.

I googled it.

Hmmm…bird lice comes up with quite some terrifying stories. Tales of humans losing their homes, money, and even sanity in their war against bird lice that has invaded their bodies and lives. Tales that had me shaking in my chair and dialing my husband at work to tell him life as we knew it was over. There was no outrunning it, I was doomed.

To see what I mean, you can go here. http://birdmites.org/nightmare.html

But I wouldn’t give up easily. I was taking back my life!

First, Ben was called home to remove the nest of mangy, lice-infested varmints. I wouldn’t let him touch it with his hands, I stood guard while he used a shovel. Because of Peta, I won’t tell you where the birds were relocated but I can say we didn’t hurt them. /snicker

Then I cleaned like nobody’s business. I vacuumed, mopped, scrubbed, scoured, disinfected, you name it. To me and the house.  And for weeks I never relaxed. Ben had to check my head several times a day. He never found a single one after that first shower, but oh, how I tortured him with my pleas to ‘just look one more time!’

I surfed all the nightmare stories online and sympathize with all those who were victims of the horrible disease of bird lice. I kept myself up at night worrying, scratching, checking, cleaning….

But I finally stopped.

Now I just worry about something else.

But I am glad the cold weather is here and our bird population is dwindling.

And honestly, I still have a soft spot for birds. As long as they stay far, far away.

The End–you can go back to your productive day and stop reading the ramblings of a crazy woman now.