Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas tree ornament from collection.

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

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

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


  1. This is a wonderful interview!

    Thought you might be busy with your mom. Once she is firmly settled, things will fall into place for you all, and I think you will both enjoy the closer proximity. I was sure happy about my dad’s move to assisted living. He really, really likes his new digs too.

    But my sister still does so much for him- running errands and picking up meds. She talks to him every day on the phone and visits a couple times a week. But she no longer has to worry about him being home alone all day long.

    Your mom will make friends and maybe have a grand time.

    1. Thanks Cathy for tbe encouragement! We have already had one run to urgent care when Mom fell and bumped her head. Taking this one step at a time and Traveling back and forth more than expected. All writing on hold for time being.

  2. Your book sounds really good. I hope your mom does okay with this move. It sounds like a really hard thing to do. Best to you and your family in the Christmas season!

    1. Thanks Mary. Same to you and your family! Although it's hard right now, I have an amazing family. We stick by each other no matter what and always pray for each other.


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.