Mei Li and Wise Laoshi Books Donated to Classrooms around the World to address Bullying

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

We all know the insults, racial slurs and mean faces that children can make up and use against others. Or what about the innapropriate questions adopted children are asked over and over again? Is that your real mother? Where are you from? There is a whole list of them I’ve been told about. It is my hope that my little Mei Li book might just bring some awareness to some classrooms of adopted children. I will be donating copies to various schools around the country and some outside the USA. If you’d like your school or classroom to be considered, please comment or send me an email and your recommendation will go in the next pot for drawing.

Next week I’ll be mailing copies of Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi to:

Sharon Elementary, Indiana

Benfer Elementary, Texas

Bain Elementary, NC

Brighton Elementary, CO

Maple Elementary, OH

..and…Auchtertyre Primary School, Scotland!

Has your child been bullied or teased? And how have you handled it? This would be a great place to exchange stories and ideas on how to handle.

Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi FREE one day only!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Adoption Stories, Contests and Give-A-Ways

As a huge THANK YOU to those of you who have supported my work, read my books, given Amazon reviews, participated in giveways, and helped to get the word out by sharing links…..I’ll be holding a promotion and putting my new release, Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi, for free for one day only as a Kindle e-book. If you do not have Kindle, you can download the book to your PC or Smartphone–and even your Ipad.

I hope this will give you parents a chance to screen the book and decide if it is one you will add to your children’s collection. I also hope (fingers crossed!) if you download it for free, you will take the time to put a short 1 or 2 sentence review on Amazon letting others know your thoughts.

Again, I can’t thank you all enough for believing in me and encouraging me to continue my dream of being an author. You’ll never know how much it means to me. I hope that my ‘giving away’ of thousands of dollars in royalties with this freebie will adequately show my appreciation.

Please be sure to get your free download from Amazon during the free period of 12:00 am (midnight) 1/2/2012 until it ends on 11:59 Pm PST on 1/2/2012. For those of you like me who are still in a holiday fog, the 24 hours starts tonight! (what I consider Sunday night but is really Monday morning)

I will be so anxious to hear what the kids say about Mei Li! Here is a short blurb:

Mei Li has just about had it with Cameron’s teasing, and she daydreams of having a fairy godmother. Instead she is granted with a wise old teacher from China who appears at her bedside! With his magic cane and his gentle ways, Laoshi takes Mei Li on an adventure to China and back to the day she was born to show her how her story began. Together they perch on a shaky pagoda and look at the Great Wall of China, a flowing river, and even pandas as the wise old Laoshi guides her through some hard questions she has been holding in her heart. Laoshi teaches Mei Li that a family is not just about who you were born to, but can also be created through the amazing gift of love.

Last Giveaway Just in Time to go under the Tree!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

Are you all tired of the Kay Bratt Giveways yet? If so, you’ll be glad to know this is the last one of the season. It’s special, too. You’ll like it!

What can YOU win?

First Prize is a set of beautiful pink Mei Mei pearls. A 10 inch strand of dainty pink freshwater pearls with matching earrings for your little girl. These pearls were grown in the Jiangsu province of China and come in a Suzhou silk drawstring pink pouch. I have sold hundreds of these Mei Mei sets but these are my absolute last ones!

Second Prize is a white pearl drop necklace and matching earrings in a Suzhou silk bag (Coffee colored with dragonflies). The lone white teardrop earring is on a silver chain and will fit a young girl or woman. It is also a freshwater pearl grown in the Jiangsu Province.

Third Prize is a signed copy of my newest release, Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi, autographed to anyone you choose.

How do you get in the drawing for these prizes? Simple!

1. Go to the Amazon link of one of my books and copy/paste it to your facebook page or highlight it on your blog. The links are below for your convenience. Click a link and go there. Copy the url to the book from Amazon and then paste in your fb update or blog.

Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi        The Bridge         Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth       

2. Come back here and comment on this post that you did it and which book you linked.

3. As promised, any Amazon reviews given for any Kay Bratt book will earn you extra chances. Be sure to tell me in your comment if you reviewed–which book and what name your review was under so I can verify.

That’s it! You might win one of the prizes above!

Oh, the deadline for the drawing is Monday, December 19 so I can attempt to get you the prizes by Christmas–though there are no guarantees, I promise to mail on Tuesday, December 20!

Kay Bratt and Sophia Jane Boutique partner for a great Christmas Giveaway!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

I love the story of how the Sophia Jane Boutique began.

Another waiting mom ventured forth to make bows for her daughter who would soon join her from China. With the arrival of Sophia and encouragement from other moms who loved the bows, the Sophia Jane Boutique was born and now boasts many beautiful and original creations! Today dresses, bows and tutus are worn by children all over the world.  You have to go to their website and see for yourself! While you are there you’ll also see some amazing photography of gorgeous kids modeling the wide selection of boutique items.

Kimberly at SJB has graciously donated a $50 gift card for a lucky winner! …and I’ll throw in a 2nd place prize of a signed copy of my newest release, the children’s adoption book called Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi. (signed to a special child).

To get in the drawing to be held on Saturday, December 17, just follow the following prompts:

1. Go to the Sophia Jane Boutique fan page and “Like” it, then comment on the thread that I start as to what your favorite SJB item is.

2. Come back here and tell us you did it so we can check, and put your name in the drawing.

3. IF you have left a review for ANY Kay Bratt book, tell me here in the comments which ones and you will get extra chances for each review. (I ‘told’ you if you leave Amazon reviews for my books, you’ll get a jump on these giveaways..and there will be more to come so be sure to do your reviews!)

The deadline to participate by coming back here and commenting you have followed the guidelines is Friday, December 16.

             

 

Kay Bratt Releases a Children’s Book! Introducing Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Adoption Stories, Contests and Give-A-Ways

Available just in time for Christmas from CreateSpace and Amazon and now on Kindle and soon to be on Nook!

Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi

By Kay Bratt

Illustrated by Monika Vass

Mei Li has just about had it with Cameron’s teasing, and she daydreams of having a fairy godmother. Instead she is granted with a wise old teacher from China who appears at her bedside! With his magic cane and his gentle ways, Laoshi takes Mei Li on an adventure to China and back to the day she was born to show her how her story began. Together they perch on a shaky pagoda and look at the Great Wall of China, a flowing river, and even pandas as the wise old Laoshi guides her through some hard questions she has been holding in her heart. Laoshi teaches Mei Li that a family is not just about who you were born to, but can also be created through the amazing gift of love.

Just in time to wrap and put under the Christmas tree for that special adopted child in your life!

[Buy now at CreateSpace, or Amazon]

..and of course we have to include a giveaway to celebrate what has been one of my most difficult projects yet! So share a link to this blog post on your fb wall and/or website and come back and comment that you did it. Last day to get in the drawing is Friday, Dec 9 @ midnight EST. The winner will be drawn on Saturday, December 10, just in time to get you out the prize of a signed collection of Kay Bratt books. You’ll receive an autographed Silent Tears (with brand ‘spankin new red/white cover), an autographed Chasing China, and of course an autographed Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi with a special note written to the child of your choice.

You will get an extra chance to win for each Amazon review you have written for a Kay Bratt book. Just be sure to alert me in the comment you leave below and tell me which ones you reviewed so I can double check and add your chances!

    

Thank you for your support of Mei Li and the Wise Laoshi!

Tom Carter, Travel Photographer for China: Portrait of a People

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

 

Travel photographer Tom Carter spent 2 straight years traveling 35,000 miles across all 33 provinces in China to create his groundbreaking photography book CHINA: Portrait of a People. Kay Bratt sits down with Tom to discuss western misconceptions of Chinese culture, the difference between China’s rural and urban schools, and the challenges of being a foreign photographer in a Communist-controlled police state. 

Tom, some of the images you captured are amazing. [scroll to bottom of post to view]. Before you came to China, what impressions did you have of the country and its people, and how have these impressions stood up? 

I was born and raised in the City of San Francisco, which has the largest Chinese population in North America, so Chinese cultural has always been present in my life.  But despite San Francisco’s multicultural reputation the Chinese tended to be isolationists by nature: they had their own neighborhoods and Chinese kids hung out in “their” corner of the school yard.  This of course added to the intrigue and made me even more curious, like sneaking into the Chinatown projects to buy illegal fireworks, or befriending the Chinese (my first crush was an eight year-old Chinese girl who sat next to me named Claudine Wong, who is now kind of famous).  But this distance between “us” and the Chinese distorted itself into certain stereotypes, which I was just as guilty party to as anyone. I wrote in my introduction to CHINA: Portrait of a People that it literally took traveling across the world and then throughout the entire country before I would come to understand the Chinese. Yeah, some of my original general conceptions have been reinforced since coming here, but more importantly I understand WHY: I understand why the little old Chinese ladies on the 38 Geary line always pushed and shoved to get on first; I understand why China-Born-Chinese had such a notorious reputation behind the wheel of a car; and now I understand why the Chinese in San Francisco didn’t mingle with other folks. I have since come to recognize that the key to global harmony is in understanding, because without that element then we are guilty of ignorance, and I can think of no worse fate for a society or an individual than to be ignorant. So it is my most sincere hope that, if nothing else, CHINA: Portrait of a People will serve as a visual conduit for global understanding and awareness of Chinese culture. Plus, it’ll look cool on your coffee table.

What inspired you to travel all 33 provinces and autonomous regions in China?

I think world exploration is in my blood. My mother is from Denmark, a direct descendant of the Vikings, and my father was born in Panama, so there’s this long family history of migration. I love to wander; it’s my absolute dream to drift around the Earth, take pictures and write about it.  I came to China as an English teacher, and I worked like the devil for two straight years, saving all my RMB with the goal of eventually hitting the China road. When I left Beijing to start my trip, I didn’t have any kind of itinerary beyond the next day. I tramped around from province to province – yes, just like Caine in Kung Fu, walking from place to place, meeting people, getting in adventures. Tibet was the 5th region I visited during that journey, and I had this fantasy of marrying into a Tibetan Drokpa shepherd family because their nomadic life would have suited me perfectly. Anyways, it wasn’t until I finished my first spin around China that I had compiled this massive cache of photos. I was introduced to my publisher (Blacksmith Books in Hong Kong), who specializes in Asian-themed books, and the rest is literary history.

You got your start in China teaching English, which is a popular vocation for western expats in China.  Did you feel that you were actually making a difference in the classroom?

My first year in China (Shandong province), I taught 1,500 primary school students, grades 1-5, all alone; no teaching assistant, no translator, no book.  It was a true baptism by fire – and I absolutely loved it, which is strange for me because I despised all my teachers when I was a kid. However, I now am a firm believer that teaching children just might be the hardest profession in the world…after coal mining. But the warmth and love that radiated from those students was like a solar-spiritual energy that kept me going and pushed me to make a difference in their lives.  But that was in 2004, before China had reached its economic zenith and the spoiled 2nd generation took over.  Middle-class Chinese students these days are less motivated to learn due to a lethal combination of their parent’s new liquidity and the Communist government’s ruinous one-child policy. Rural China has yet to be infected, I mean affected, by the economy, so in terms of making a real difference, countryside schools are probably the best place for a teacher to be.

When you are traveling across such a large country as China with such a variety of different landscapes as well as peoples and languages, do you always feel like you are in China, or does each province have a unique atmosphere that distinguishes it as place in its own right?

That’s exactly the myth that I intend CHINA: Portrait of a People to dispel–China as a homogeneous culture and country.  We as westerners are accustomed to thinking of the Chinese as a single race with common physical attributes and uniform customs, when the actuality is that China is comprised of 56 different ethnicities each drawing from bloodlines that run deep and long outside of China. For example, the Mongols and Manchu of north China, the Hui and Uyghur (Muslims) in the northwest, the She in the southeast, Tibetans, the Zhuang, Miao, Yi, Dong, Yao and Hani in minority-rich southwest China. Not to mention all the unrecognized subgroups such as the Hakka of south China and Macanese (Portuguese/Chinese) from Macau. The Han government is doing their best to extend their influence across China’s indigenous population, so we will unfortunately see a lot of these ethnic minorities, or at least their folk customs, eventually phased out. I was very conscious to include as much of a photographic variety of ethnic minorities as I could in CHINA: Portrait of a People, for the fact that China is this beautiful prism of racial amalgamation that most westerns are oblivious of.

Given the pace of change of China’s economy, do you think that your book captures a snapshot of China that, while still valid in a historical perspective, will be unrepresentative of China in five or ten year’s time? Or do you think that through the photography of people, you have been able to capture an essence of Chinese culture that is changing more gradually?

There are already dozens of published books about China’s history that offer a visual timeline between the Cultural Revolution to the new millennium. But today’s China is going through the single greatest period of change in its 5,000-year history – what I have coined ‘The Change Dynasty.”  CHINA: Portrait of a People definitively captures this fascinating era of transition, showing the country and its people in a state of flux that has never been and will never be again. China’s development and progress is moving forward at such a break-neck pace that the timing of my photography was uncanny, and lucky! My book focuses heavily on people, and readers will notice the stark regional disparity between the residents of urban China and the villagers of rural China.  I also included a number of architectural photos from around the country showing the last remnants of Old China – slate-roof tenements being leveled against rising steal-and-glass skylines. The best example of this was Gongtan, a 1,700 year-old river village in Chongqing.  I was able to photograph these ancient homes just before they were submerged in the Wu Jiang so that the government could build a power plant. I have heart-breaking images of Gongtan residents moving centuries-worth of family furniture on boats down the river.  Today there’s nothing but water over Gongtan.  For this reason alone, I believe CHINA: Portrait of a People has considerable historical value.

Has much of your work been censored? How does censorship work for a photographer based in China; is there a secret policeman following you around wherever you go?

I’m reminded of Eve Arnold, who was the very first foreign photographer allowed into post-Cultural Revolution China back in 1979.  It took her over a decade before her visa was approved. At the remarkable age of 67 she traveled around China for half a year taking pictures – but she was shadowed her entire trip by government spooks.  Her photographs were brilliant, but you are left wondering what she might have accomplished had she been left to explore China unattended. It’s a new century now, but in many ways nothing has changed.  China is one of the most heavily-surveyed countries and boasts the largest secret police force in the world, so in essence, yes, most foreign correspondents in China are followed.  Print, broadcast and online Chinese media are 100% controlled by the state. Red propaganda is as raging as ever, as is the suppression of online information by the Great Firewall of China (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, most blogs, and occasionally even Google and Wikipedia, are all blocked in China by the Golden Shield Project). Foreign correspondents are required to register in Beijing and provide a media itinerary so that the Ministry of Public Security can monitor their whereabouts; certain locations and coverage of certain affairs are very off limits to the foreign press (e.g. coal mines, AIDS villages and property confiscation). If a foreigner in China shoots something that the Ministry of State Security considers “sensitive,” then your film will be confiscated, period.  The West tends to be highly critical of China’s censorship laws, however it is imperative that we at least acknowledge the Chinese government’s perspective on this issue: foreign journalists have this bad habit of vilifying China, focusing only on controversy because it makes for good copy.  We are all guilty of it to varying degrees.  But if 1 billion peasants were to find out about all the civil liberties injustices and land disputes that continue to be perpetrated by authorities across China, there would unquestionably be a second Chinese revolution.  Therefore, the Communist Party of China believes that it is in their best interests to keep the people of their eponymous republic collectively uninformed. What government in the world doesn’t want to preserve their position of power?

Has your photography brought you into dangerous situations or trouble with the authorities or anyone else?           

The beauty of being an independent freelance photographer in China is that I drift like a ghost from province to Chinese province.  The Ministry of State Security doesn’t know that Tom Carter even exists.  But I’ve also had my share of run-ins with local public security bureaus. In small-town Hunan I just happened to witness an uprising of several hundred peasants against the police. There’s no greater offenses in China than political dissidence and social disorder; for a foreign photographer to capture such a moment on film is once in a lifetime. But before I could get the hell out of dodge, I was detained by plainclothes police, who demanded I turn over my photos of the riot or be incarcerated. I tried arguing the new State Council Decree 477 (Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists) but that drew blank looks. Apparently nobody sent them the memo. 

Has being a foreign photographer closed opportunities for you or served to open doors that local photographers cannot pass through? 

For all of China’s strict regulations, foreigners are undeniably given special treatment and exemption by both the government and the people, treatment that Chinese citizens, and especially Chinese reporters, are not granted.  As a result, many westerners who come to China subconsciously develop a sort of God Complex because they can act with immunity.  Foreign journalists are especially prone to this because they tend to think they know what’s best for China, and that through reporting they are saviors of the “suppressed” Chinese people.  So here’s this mob of white people with notepads and cameras trying to “expose” the dark side of China “for its own good,” then at the end of the day they get together at a foreign correspondents club bitching about censorship and wondering why the government doesn’t recognize their “rights” to reporting. After thousands of years of isolation, the Chinese have opened their venerable doors to the west and given us vast latitude to explore, yet very few foreign journalists want to use that access to show China’s loveliness.  Sure, CHINA: Portrait of a People includes some controversial images of Chinese counterculture, but it was my primary objective to accurately portray China exactly as I saw it during my 2-year journey across the country, and that China is mostly beautiful. 

Does a foreigner need to speak Chinese or have an interpreter to take good photos in China?

Chinese people are extremely impressed by foreigners who have the slightest grasp of their language. You can be speaking like an infant, but they will still rave about how great your language abilities are. It’s very encouraging. I think anyone coming to China should be familiar with at least a semblance of Putonghua (standard Mandarin), because a little goes a long way here. My Mandarin is admittedly bad, as I have never had any formal education on learning the language. I picked up my entire vocabulary on the streets of China, chatting with locals and out of dire necessity.  But it has been my first-hand experience that learning Chinese is a bit futile when it comes to traveling, because the range of dialects throughout the country is so vast. Even most Chinese people can’t communicate to well with each other outside of their respective hometowns.  As for photography, some of my most special images came about out of a mutual curiosity that my subjects and I had for each other that might have been diluted had we been able to properly understand each other. And after all, isn’t that the point of photography, to communicate without words?

What have you been up to since CHINA: Portrait of a People, and what does the future hold in store for Tom Carter? 

After my book was published, I spent 1 year working in Japan, followed by another epic year backpacking across all of India to photograph my next book. However I ran out of money before I could complete that project, so I returned to China, where I am presently living in a rural village deep in the countryside. I am completely isolated by all the progress, development and break-neck economy I witnessed in the big cities; life here is a page right out of The Good Earth, which has been very inspiring to my creativity. So, while I await a generous benefactor to send me back to India, I’ve been working simultaneously on a few new book projects about China.  God willing and the Yangtze River don’t rise, those will all hopefully be published next year,

Purchase CHINA: Portrait of a People on Amazon

Follow Tom Carter on Facebook

See more of Tom’s photos on Youtube

I appreciate Tom taking the time out to guest blog today. To really show my appreciation, I’m going to do a drawing on Wednesday, November 30 and the winner will win a copy of Tom Carter’s China; Portrait of a People. This will be a wonderful addition to your books about China. The second winner will get an autographed copy of my latest full-length book, Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth.

To get in the drawing, simply go to China; Portrait of a People fan page and ‘like’ it, add a comment to wall thread started for this post. Then head on over to the Kay Bratt fan page and do the same. Simple! Then return here to this blog post and comment that you have liked/commented at both pages. Drawing will be on November 30, 2011.

       

     

*Photography copyright by Tom Carter. [Single photo showing Tom Carter, credit to Eelco Florijn]

The Winner of the Karito Wan Ling Doll is Midge Cole!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

KaritoWinner

 

Thank you all for participating in the Karito Wan Ling doll giveaway. I wish I had hundreds of them to give away!

The Winner has been pulled from Random.org and is #17, Midge Cole!

[the link above called ‘Karito Winner’ goes to the screen shot of the random.org winning number]

Please stay tuned because tomorrow a new Giveaway Starts!

 

Karito Wan Ling doll Giveaway by Kay Bratt

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

Win this beautiful Karito Wan Ling doll!

As many of you know, Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth was released only two weeks ago. Many of you have already bought/downloaded it and I want to show my appreciation by doing an awesome giveaway of the popular Karito Wan Ling doll! 

Because I decided to rush and get this book out there now instead of spending a year or two chasing (no pun intended) a publisher, I am officially my own marketing team. Unlike with my book, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage, it is up to me to get the word out–or in other words, get the buzz going about my newest releases. That is where you come in! By posting the link to Chasing China on your blog or fb walls, you are in a sense helping me to advertise. So to say thank you to those who are on my marketing team (YOU!), each of you will have your name put in the pot to win this gorgeous doll. And those who also have read the book and write a review on Amazon, will have a leg up on everyone else!

The drawing for this Karito ‘Wan Ling’ doll (listed for $87.81 on Amazon) will be done on Black Friday! I want to ensure that if you win, you will have her under your tree for someone by Christmas!

To get your name in the drawing you only have to do one thing:

1. Post the link to Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth on your blog/website/fb page and recommend it to those interested in China or adoption. Here is the link: CHASING CHINA LINK

BUT IF…. you have posted a review on Amazon for Chasing China before the drawing date, your name will go in an additional time.  Then, if you download my novella, The Bridge, (which is only 99 cents) and you post a review for it, your name will go in another additional time! And obviously, if you have reviewed Silent Tears on Amazon, there is your 4th chance. Easy, huh?

So you could potentially have your name in the drawing four times! (4x) Once for posting my book link on your site, and once for each review you post for either Silent Tears, Chasing China or The Bridge.

Please comment below when you have done so and whether you posted only on your site, and mention if you did reviews so that we can get your name in for each one.

I hope you win Wan Ling, so get busy!

     

Chasing China has officially released!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Contests and Give-A-Ways

Just Released!

Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth. 

Chasing China holds a warm place in my heart, and let me tell you why. Every child character in this book is based on a real child I met, or saw in China. Every description of the orphanage, towns, historical sites, and people are created from memory. Actually, the book is fiction, and the story line is fiction, but it is wrapped around much of the truth I experienced during my years in China. I really, really hope you like it. I feel like a student turning in my thesis and waiting for the professor to declare it worthy–with more to lose because of the emotional investment of my words. For those of you who decide to read it, thank you and I do hope you will consider giving it a review on Amazon, your reviews will help give it a boost. (inside secret…my next giveaway is freaking awesome and review writers…even the less-than-5-star givers!….will have an edge on winning it.. or should I say ‘her’!)

Chasing China; A Daughter’s Quest for Truth: After an episode of prejudice rocks her usually secure world, Mia hops a plane back to the country of her birth to search for details about her birth parents, and confront the feelings of abandonment she has kept buried throughout her life. What begins as a simple tour of the Chinese orphanage where she spent her first few years quickly becomes complicated as Mia fights to untangle the web of lies that is her finding details. As she follows the red thread back through her motherland, she is enamored by the history and culture of her heritage—strengthening her resolve to find the truth, even as Chinese officials struggle to keep it buried. With her unwavering spirit of determination, Mia battles the forces stacked against her and faces mystery, danger, a dash of romance, and finally a conclusion that will change her life. 

Now! To celebrate my release, I am doing a giveaway of an awesome prize! …and it’s simple to enter! Kelly over at Jiayin Designs has offered to give one of her amazing Chinese New Year Rabbits to the first winner.

For the second winner, I’ll give an autographed copy of Chasing China.

To participate:

1. Share about the release of Chasing China by either the “Share” button on fb or posting this link on your fb, blog or Yahoo group.

2. Go to Jiayin website here, look around and decide which is your favorite Jianyin item.

Then come back here or to the facebook thread and comment that you have shared about Chasing China and tell us your favorite Jiayin item, then you are in!

Drawing will be held Wednesday, November 9. Good Luck and thank you so much for your support as I wrote Chasing China! For your own copy, you can find Chasing China at this Amazon link. The Kindle version is at this Kindle Link. Nook can be found at B&N site.

Introducing Denise Grover Swank!

Written by Kay on . Posted in Contests and Give-A-Ways

 

This week I am honored that my good friend, Denise Grover Swank, has agreed to write a guest blog post. I’d like to congratulate her for her recent achievement, the publishing of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Way to go, Denise!

Honestly, I can’t pinpoint what it is about Denise that I find so intriguing. Perhaps it is because she is a super mom to six children–two THREE who were adopted internationally. (and we all know that is a fascinating subject to me!) or is it the dry humor that is evident in all of her blog posts? (She reminds me of myself) It might have a teensy weensy bit to do with the fact that I laughed out loud when I stumbled across her blog for the first time when she mentioned that she was trick or treating around the neighborhood dressed as her favorite author. (Guess who!!)

Or Seriously, it could even be the fact that she has proven what a strong woman she is; surviving the tragic and unexpected death of her husband and instead of living the life of a victim, has reinvented herself in a way that her hubby is probably looking down and beaming with pride over.

I love to bring ways for you to support each other in the IA Community and this is my latest brag moment. Denise, I’m so proud of you. Now here is a bit from her in her own words. And go buy that book! You can get the Kindle version for only 99 cents right now! Please leave her a comment of congratulations— it is amazing how hard she has worked for this release. For anyone who leaves a comment, I’ll put your name in to win one of my 1st edition Silent Tears books, autographed to whomever you would like to give it to. Drawing to be held Monday, August 1.—-Kay Bratt

A Message from Denise:

I’ve always been a writer ever since the fourth grade when I started a novel in a wide ruled spiral notebook. I didn’t finish it. I made a few attempts at writing a novel in my twenties, never finishing those either. And for a while, I gave up my writing dream, thinking it was foolish. What made me think I could write a book? 

In September of 2007, I first started a blog, There’s Always Room for One More. I was preparing to fly to Vietnam to adopt my daughter Emma and I knew a lot of families had blogs to record their journey. I’d also recently discovered the blog of Dawn Meehan, who wrote the blog Because I Said So. After years as a frustrated writer wanna-be, I thought, “Here’s something I could have fun with.”

And I did. For two years the majority of my blog was devoted to our daily family life, the misadventures of a single mother raising six children. I wrote with humor, sarcasm and the bittersweet moments in life. I prided myself in the transparency of my life. If I felt that way, 10:1 odds someone else did too. And while writing my blog posts, I perfected my writing. Plots had always plagued me when I tried to write anything of length. But with my blog posts, I learned the fine art of telling a story, that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. I learned about pacing. Sure that sarcastic comment I just wrote was funny (if only in my own head) but it slows down the story and interferes with the flow.

But while I loved the writing, I found I lived my life through a filter. As a situation occurred, I’d think, “How can I make this a blog post?” and to be honest, it began to bother me.  While I loved creating stories, I felt like I lived my life watching my children so I’d have something to write about.

In the fall of 2009, I heard about NaNoWriMo, which occurs every November and stands for National Novel Writing Month. People all over the world sign up to write a novel* in the 30 days of November. (Their definition of a novel is 50,000 words. Most novels are actually 70,000-100,000) If you finish your 50,000 by the 30th you win! (A certificate, LOL) But it was the push I needed and I decided it was now or ever. 

So in October, I plotted a book, a romantic suspense about women who died from heart conditions after going to a holistic diet clinic. I started on November 1st, eager and excited. On November 30, I had 69,000 words. I finished on December 10 with 94,000. And when I typed The End. I cried like a baby.

I did it. 

Pretty awesome, huh? So why isn’t it published? To put it bluntly, it’s crap. Situations were completely contrived; there were plot holes big enough to drive a semi-truck through. But guess what? That’s okay because I needed to know I could do it. Perhaps I would have been more upset when I realized how bad it really was if I hadn’t already started novel #2—Chosen, my paranormal thriller/urban fantasy that will be out this September. I learned a lot with that first novel, titled So Much to Lose (diet clinic, get it? LOL) and I learned that sometimes things we think are “it” are only stepping-stones to what we’re really supposed to achieve.

But honestly, isn’t that what life is all about? Obstacles fall into our path, that seem so insurmountable at the time, but really steer us the direction we need to go. 

When I finished that first novel, I fell in love. HERE was the job I’d been searching for my entire life. So I devoted my heart and soul into it, writing five books over the next year and a half. The third book I wrote, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, a quirky southern mystery with a paranormal twist, was released on July 12.  Out of all of my books, Twenty-Eight is most like my blog. Sweet, but not sappy. Humorous, but bittersweet. 

The reality is I wouldn’t be in this spot, with a published book, if my husband hadn’t died five years ago. That’s how I became friends with Kay, while I was attempting to write a memoir about my experience. She offered encouragement and support while I floundered. As I reevaluated my life, I realized that life is short and if we have dreams we need to live them now, not put them on hold for “later.” Because sometimes later never comes.

I also learned to take the bad and turn it into something good. I never chose to lose my husband, but the time I used to spend with him I now devote to writing. Life changes and moves on and we need to learn to move on with it.

And so I’m moving on. I have two more books coming out this fall, the first two books of a paranormal thriller/urban fantasy trilogy. And I have at least three more books planned with Rose, the main character of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. My children, who’ve watched me hunched over my keyboard, are now excited and proud, finally seeing the results of Mommy’s late night hours.  Hopefully, they’ve learned that life is hard and things don’t always go our way, but sometimes when we work hard, dreams do come true.