Sunday, July 23, 2017

Floating Market - Bangkok 1995

Photos from author's visit .... 

Callie, Sam, and Lucas would have seen this at Bangkok's famous Floating Market. 

They toured the canal in a long boat

A Thai spirit house 

View inside a Thai home.

The market where goods, fruits, and vegetables are sold

Time to eat!

Selling hats to the tourists above.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fun Facts - Durian: One Funky-Looking Fruit in Malaysia

Durian has long been known for its pungent odor. Descriptions range from rotting fruit, dirty gym socks, stinky armpits to even sewage. True, true, it is all true! While living in Malaysia, I could smell this fruit a block away when ripe.
Callie and Lucas in The Shells of Mersing taste their first durian in the Kluang market. Sam and Josh have a fun time watching their reactions. Eating durian in Malaysia is almost a rite of passage. It's just something you have to do, if only the one time.  

I still remember the truck heaped with durian that lumbered through our neighborhood one afternoon, the driver honking his horn, the neighbors gathering with excitement as he approached. Malaysians love durian. At twelve inches long, six inches wide on average, and with a thorny husk as hard as a nut, durian is one funky-looking fruit. Definitely one of a kind.

Durian is native to southeast Asia, dating back to prehistoric times, but it has only been known to the western world for about 600 years. Durian trees can grow anywhere from 60 to 164 feet tall. One fruit alone can weigh about 3.3 pounds and fetch a surprisingly high price. A high quality durian purchased in Singapore, can cost as much as $50 U.S dollars. It has long since earned a reputation as the "King of the Fruits."  

Durian is eaten fresh, cooked as a vegetable, boiled, roasted and fried. It's added to various dishes and sometimes sugared as a confection. Nutritionally, durian is a good source of dietary fiber, thiamine, vitamin B6, Manganese, and vitamin C. 

There are plenty of myths surrounding durian, among them its aphrodisiac qualities and lethality when consumed with alcohol, neither of which has been proven. But one myth is indeed a fact. The damage done to one's head by a falling durian could be deadly. It's best to heed the posted warning signs when the fruit is ripe for picking.

Popular recipes in Malaysia include combining durian with chilies in a spicy Sambal sauce, and durian mixed in curry sauce served over fish and vegetables, but many Malaysians prefer eating durian freshly cut as is.

(Durian Ice Cream at Pink's)

Another popular form is Durian Ice Cream. I sampled some once, thinking, How bad could it be? It was ice cream after all. Let's just say, it's not my favorite! You can imagine my surprise when I then discovered it was recently on the menu at "Pink's Ice Cream" shop in Seattle.

Durian Jokes

Said the Puffer fish to the Durian: 
 "I'm in love, I'm in love!"

No  joke!

We saw signs like this at upscale hotels in Singapore and Malaysia.

Durian Books

Durian: King of Tropical Fruits by S. Ketsa (2001) (nonfiction)

Durian by Kelly Weisheit (2010)  
(With her family murdered, young Shekrah 
escapes to the Kingdom of Durian, where she meets the prince of Durian, Torian)

So How Smelly Is Durian? (video link)

Durian Song (video link)

"Durian" by Zainal Alam (1950)

Zainal Alam (1926-1991) was born in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. A popular performer in his day, he has been called the 'Bob Hope' and 'Bing Crosby' of Malaysia. (Song is in Malay).


Friday, June 16, 2017

Almost There: Teaser Excerpt and Release Date

The Shells of Mersing is ready for release June 23. Next
F-R-I-D-A-Y! It's really going to happen! I dreamed 
a story and POOF....a book is born.

A teaser excerpt - The Shells of Mersing:

Groaning, his eyes flicker open. “What happened?”

“Don’t move, Mr. Pirone. I’ll get Judith.”

He grabs my wrist. “You’ll do no such thing. Help me up.” His face softens. “Please, I hurt my back.” I pull him to his feet.

He staggers to the door and stops mid step at the threshold, hanging there for the longest time. “What are you doing here?” he finally says.

“Benjamin, my old friend,” a male voice replies.

Benny inches backward. Glancing back at me, he speaks in a low deliberate voice, “Run, Callie.” He mumbles something else, but all I really hear are his first words. Run, Callie.

A muffled pop pierces the air. Benny falls to his knees and collapses face down. I cover my mouth, stifling a scream, afraid to move as blood gushes from a bullet hole in Benny’s temple. A crimson pool forms on the floor.

A flashlight beam travels over his face and the wound. I gasp, recalling the glowing moon eyes in my dream. The beam of light shines on my face next and goes out, blinding me at first.

“Who’s there? Please. Who are you?”

A cold, unmistakable chill travels down my spine, and then I see him, a man clad in black. He steps over Benny’s body, entering the room. A gun hangs loose at his side in his black gloved hand. I step backward. He flicks his black hair away from his face and moves closer. Two sunken cheeks dominate his long face. A red scar zigzags across his nose. He’s young, in his twenties, maybe thirties. He eyes Benny’s body, snickering to himself.

A toilet flushes upstairs. Please let it be Judith. I step to the side, eyeing the door and the stairs behind him. I can run for it. I can do this.

He snatches my hand. “Not so fast.” His steely eyes are those of a cobra’s. I can almost hear the hiss when his bony fingers clamp down, pinching me. He forces my palm over the gun handle, curving my index finger around the trigger. “You tell anyone about me, and I’ll kill you. Your mama too.”

My mouth goes dry. “My mother?”

He smiles, a cruel deliberate sneer. “That’s right, your mama in Thailand.”

My heart rips apart, a scream building inside. This horrid man knows my mother. He knows her!

His cobra eyes gloat. “Yeah, that’s right. I think you understand. Now don’t forget.”

I struggle to move the gun wedged in my hand. No, I’ll never forget your warning and cruel voice, or your snakelike stare and jagged scar.

He snorts. “Tell them it was self-defense.” He kicks Benny’s body as he leaves.

My knees shake as I watch him disappear. The soles of my feet are molded to the floor. I have a gun frozen in my hand, and a scream welling up inside. No one would believe me in a million years if I told the truth, because the only truth I could fabricate is an outright lie. Tell them it was self-defense, he said. But I can’t lie, nor can I live with the deadly consequences of the truth.

Judith rushes into the room. I have no idea when. Seconds, minutes, hours could have passed. I’m standing where the stranger left me.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cover Reveal - The Shells of Mersing by Sharon Marie Himsl

Live now! Cover Reveal at Tonja Drecker's blog: BOOKWORM FOR KIDS

Very pleased with the novel's book cover. Evernight Teen's digital artist (Jay Aheer) did a fabulous job capturing the heart of the story. The most important setting, shells on a beach in Mersing, Malaysia, is where the family's story begins.....

SO.....Is it possible for a fourteen-year-old girl on the run with her eight-year-old brother to find their missing Malay mother? And a family she has never met before? Their American dad is dead, and up until now, Callie Davis has only known Seattle where she and her brother were born. 

But a foster dad's murder is about to change all that. Run, Callie, run, her mother warns in a dream, and run she must, because now it's a matter of life and death.