Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Happy Labor Day!

Hey Friends,

I’ve teamed up with The Kindle Book Review in giving away some Amazon gift cards this Labor Day season. You can sign up to win some great prizes while checking out some great deals on books — including my latest “Which Half David” — only $2.99 on Kindle.

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There’s my book on their website. And look, what a convenient yellow arrow pointing exactly in the right direction!

You can enter to win the Labor Day Giveaway HERE!

THE SET-UP: American mission worker Tobin Matthews faces off against two imposing giants: a vicious gang of human traffickers and a corrupt justice system ready to imprison a group of hill tribesmen. But his greatest foe remains within as he finds himself wrestling with a broken marriage and a crippling set of doubts. When his brazen ex-lover shows up with her own agenda, she becomes the greatest temptation of his life, and he must decide how far he is willing to go to have her.

Another Great Review for “Which Half David” Give it a try!

Chris, from the Christian Indie Book Review, gave “Which Half David” a great 5-star review. Here’s a short excerpt:

“This modern-day retelling of the story of King David has a lot of sexual tension in it, as the two ex-lovers conceal their past from their respective spouses, and while Tobin attempts to fight the shameless advances of the temptress he used to be intimate with. The internal struggle Tobin has to overcome, his failures and redemption, his passionate faith and darkening heart, become the central theme of the book.”
“The action and tension throughout the book was gripping, and I found myself dreading the next page but unable to stop turning. Five stars.”
Head over to his site and check out the complete review:

Review from Christian Indie Book Review HERE!

To experience this gripping tension for yourself, get a copy HERE!

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The Rebel Christian reviews my new novel “Which Half David”

Valicity at TheRebelChristian.com posted a new review of my soon to be released novel “Which Half David.”

She states: “I have read multiple Christian stories about King David’s journey and I think this one is definitely worth a read. It is different from all the others I have read because it takes place in such a vastly different setting—that fact alone makes it very interesting right from the start.”

Please head on over to her website and read the entire review HERE!

Available for Pre-Order: HERE!

Synopsis: Which Half David is a modern twist on the centuries old tale of King David. Set against the lush backdrop of the fictitious Southeast Asian island nation of Sulu, it is the story of one man’s dramatic fall from grace and his struggle to come to grips with both halves of who he really is.

American mission worker Tobin Matthews faces off against two imposing giants: a vicious gang of human traffickers and a corrupt justice system ready to imprison a group of hill tribesmen. But his greatest foe remains within as he finds himself wrestling with a broken marriage and a crippling set of doubts. When his brazen ex-lover shows up with her own agenda, she becomes the greatest temptation of his life, and he must decide how far he is willing to go to have her.

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Monologue 1: Excerpt from new novel “Which Half David”

I’m finally getting around to posting some monologues that people (especially drama folk) can use for a variety of purposes. You’ll find these on the right of the website under “Monologues.”

This first one is actually from my new novel, not even fully edited yet, but set to release later this summer. It’s entitled “Which Half David.”

Here’s the scene where Tobin is defending in court some tribal members from government oppression. Here’s his long speech. Let me know what you think!

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The last thing I want to do today is come here as the all-knowing, eloquent-speaking foreigner and tell you all how democracy and justice are supposed to work. I’m not here to preach, instruct, belittle, or go on indefinitely about this great American justice system the Republic of Sulu inherited from the Filipinos. I’ve lived here long enough to know that you, as a nation, have nothing to learn but much to teach. You already know what democracy is. I’ve seen it in the villages were I work. I’ve seen it in the cities where I have lived. We’ve all heard it in the sporadic demonstrations. You all know clearly what democracy and justice is. The only question you must ask yourself as a nation is whether you have the will to make it a priority. My defense attorney has already stated more aptly than I ever could the minutia of the law which, I believe, proves our case. We all heard what your constitution states about religious freedom. We all heard the testimony of the abuse of power, which was prevalent in Minao Province. And we heard the testimony of exactly what happened that terrible, terrible night. But here is the fine matter that I want to emphasize. When I first arrived in the Sulu Republic eight years ago, I met this remarkable man, Gani, and, honestly, I thought I came here to save him, to spread Christianity, and to teach him how to live a better life. But in turn, I have been profoundly changed by this amazing man. He would never tell you anything about himself. He’s too humble for that. But you need to know the type of man who made the decision that night to ‘take a stand’. He has taken on himself to make sure that every child in the village is properly fed and cared for. Now you might think that is kind of strange, and if strange means out of the ordinary, that would describe him beautifully. On Monday and Tuesday nights, he holds a literacy class where all thirty-seven children in the village show up for a three-hour lesson. And on top of that, he schedules a thirty-minute, once-a-week session with each of the children to make sure they are learning their lessons. Can you imagine that—at least twenty-four hours a week devoted to the children of the village? On Wednesday is his animal husbandry lectures he gives to the women of the village. My group introduced some basic techniques to better help the animal population of the village, but Gani, once he saw the benefit of it, didn’t stop there. He spent eight weekends in the capital at the National Library learning much more about the subject than I learned in any of my training. And he learned it all through a translator because he can’t read Sulunese. Mr. Toggi, can you hold up that notebook? This is what he created. A comprehensive animal husbandry course, adapted for the jungle and this environment, and within two years of implementing his program, the disease rate of animals in the village has decreased by 200%. So much so that when the surrounding villages heard of its success, they came and begged him to teach them the methods as well. Of course, he couldn’t refuse. So he spends four days a month traveling long distances into remote valleys just to improve the lives of the villagers. His wife died three years ago. He lost his oldest son last year. And he continues to have the widest smile, the most sincere greeting, and the warmest heart out of any person I have ever met. You see, it’s very simple, actually. Gani is a leader who truly leads. He does what he says he’s going to do. He backs away when confrontation is not beneficial. He is gracious, honest, and … and here’s truly the fine point of everything: he’s a Christian. For that fact, and for that fact alone, he has been imprisoned, threatened, bullied, and beaten by the local authorities. And yet, do you know what he did the day after Christmas this past year? I’m sure you don’t. He brought a basket of food and gifts from the village to Commander Tulok in Minao City as a goodwill gesture. Look at his face. He didn’t even know that I knew. Here’s another thing he never mentioned. Commander Tulok accused Gani of offering him a bribe and threw him in prison overnight. Of course, the commander enjoyed the generous gifts and foods that he brought. When Gani came home to the village the next day, he didn’t even tell us what had happened. We didn’t even know he was in prison until I was told about it the next time I passed through Minao City. This is the leader who is on trial today. What happens to me and everyone else is not important because we all follow Gani. He has proved himself over and over again, only to be pushed down and trampled on by the local authorities. But no more. No more. What happened in that village the night of the attack was horrific. We will never forget it, and we will always regret the outcome. But the outcome was not dependent on the brave, courageous man who is in charge of our village—Gani. He did not bring anything on anyone. And so if you are required to find a villain to pin these murders on, you will not find one sitting there. It’s your right and duty to decide all of our fate. That is the beauty of the jury system, but I guarantee one thing. If it was you that night, staring down the barrel of a gun. You would have done more than Gani. You would have reached down into your being for the courage to fight and defend what you have every right to defend.

Look at HBO: How amazingly diverse you are!

I came across a cool new writing opportunity being sponsored by HBO. In an effort to find diverse new voices, they are putting together a writing fellowship where a lucky winner will get to spend 8 months in LA working with and being mentored by some well-known HBO insiders. The culmination of the fellowship might lead to other professional writing opportunities.

It’s a great idea and some lucky writer will probably have a blast being challenged by the environment.

I curiously got onto the website just wanting to see what it was all about, and then it hit home: they are truly going for diversity and in doing so are excluding people from the mix.

Perhaps that last line seems contradictory, but not to HBO. It turns out that I would not even be eligible to apply. Reason? I’m white and I’m male.

Wait, I don’t need a lecture on affirmative action, I’ve seen plenty of its teeth living for years in Malaysia where it is ingrained into the very fabric of society. Ask the Malaysian Chinese and Indians what they think about affirmative action. You’re sure to get a mouth full.

And no, we don’t need to go into Dred Scott or Plessy v. Ferguson or Brown v Board or “I have a dream” to get a good take on what HBO is doing. They are excluding people because of their gender and color.

So how do you like that for diversity?

They don’t even have the common decency to bring the educational rules into their program – that being that race can play a FACTOR when determining who to accept into university. That sounds reasonable. We all need to encourage diversity in our schools and especially in our lives. Building understanding and learning from others is a foundational model of how to grow well-rounded kids who don’t view the world through race and color. That’s one of the reasons I’m raising my family overseas. The benefits are tangible. So using race as a factor is fine, just not the deciding factor.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about diversity. Living in Vietnam and Malaysia – learning language and culture over a twenty year period will do that to you. But, in my opinion, we should move beyond color of skin and gender of person when deciding who to choose for whatever. How about (in this case) who has the most interesting story to tell? After all, they want a writer, right?

Now if HBO wanted to go out of their way to find diverse voices and unique story-telling, that is totally fine, but allow white males to apply also. Let them make their case as to why their voice and their background is diverse as well. If they don’t have the stories or backgrounds that interests HBO, so be it, but let them be a part of the process. Don’t block someone simply because of the color of their skin. That’s called judging a book by its cover.

If you were to see me walking down the street in America, one would assume that I am just like a “typical” white male American. I look like them after all. But once I start speaking Vietnamese or cooking Thai Padprik Chicken, HBO would suddenly realize that I’m a little more diverse than I look.

I look at my oldest daughter. She gets this all the time. She’s white, by the way, like her mother and father. But on the inside, she’s Asian. Her formative years were spent in Asia – she speaks Vietnamese, married a Korean, and desires nothing more than to go “home” to Asia someday.

Diversity comes in all shapes and colors.

One more example. Just today I saw an elderly white man sitting amongst a group of Nepalese workers. But just one glance showed me there was something different about him. He was sitting and acting culturally Nepalese – speaking their language, having their gestures, clearly being one of them. A pale-faced brother, perhaps. Change his clothes, put him in a Parisian restaurant and he would look right at home, but would undoubtedly feel very uncomfortable.

Okay, just one more. I have another acquaintance – an elderly Irishman who married a Hindu woman and has worked his life with the Thai and Malay. The only thing not diverse about him is his skin color, and he can’t change that.

I hope we can look beyond skin color and treat everyone the same. And we need to understand that diversity is even more diverse than we ever thought.

Another bookstore closing

Another bookstore closing — this one a major retailer in Hong Kong. The major overhaul in the publishing market continues as traditional, large book retailers are finding it more and more difficult to be profitable.

The impact of e-books and Amazon has certainly been slower in Asia than in the USA. There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this. Amazon doesn’t have the reach and muscle in Asia as it does in the United States, but that is changing. Amazon has Amazon Japan, Amazon India, and Amazon Australia throughout the Pacific Rim and South Asia. But vast swaths of Asia have a huge gap and many obstacles to overcome in order for e-books and e-readers to be readily used and available, as this paper from June 2014 points out: 

Click to access ALA2014-SEA-Ebooks-paper.pdf

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Despite the lack of dedicated e-readers and the lack of commercially available e-books for purchase, traditional bookstores in the region are STILL closing down.

Right about the time Borders was shuttering its USA stores for good, a Malaysian company purchased the franchise rights to open Borders Bookstores in Malaysia. When Penang’s Queensbay Mall opened in 2007, one of the featured stores was Borders. It had a huge retail footprint with its standard books, music, and coffee shop. But within the first year of operation, it could easily be seen that the music portion of their store wasn’t making money. It kept getting smaller and smaller until the music was removed altogether. Skip ahead a few more years and they remodeled the store once again. But this time, they cut the store in half, making it just a fraction of its original footprint.

The Borders franchise here got creative and tried new things. They opened up a Borders Express outlet at another mall in Penang. This was a very small retail location – kind of like a teaser of their other store. This small location lasted only a few months before it was shut down.

Time and time again, bookstores in the region find themselves unable to remain profitable, despite the fact that e-readers and e-books are not popular here.

I can imagine that the future of e-books in Asia looks bright because there are so many markets to grow in and so much of the region is already extremely tech savvy. But that technology also underlines some of the problems which booksellers will have to deal with including a reading public which has its attention severely split between the myriad of entertainment options found on the Internet. Many bookstores will continue to struggle to stay relevant in the every changing technological revolution we are all a part of.

Zigzagging in Malaysian Traffic

I was buzzing through Georgetown today on my motorbike, heading home from running a few errands when it hit me: many people would think that what I am doing is insane.

But to me it’s such old hat that I could weave through traffic with my eyes closed – almost.

Friday late afternoon the traffic on Burma Road leading west of Georgetown becomes a bear. It’s backed up, bumper to bumper for a good long while.

But no matter. That’s why I bought a little Honda 100cc. It was meant for weaving through traffic. So that’s what I do.

I cautiously scoot by many cars, making sure my mirror doesn’t hit their mirrors. Then when I upon two cars which are too closely together, I’ll zip in front of one car and head to the next ‘lane’ – a ‘lane’ being the small swath of pavement between two actual lanes of cars.

Sometimes I have to scoot over a couple lanes and ride along the edge of the road, but I have intent and I know what I want. I want to make it to the front of the line of cars so that I am sitting at the red light waiting for it to turn green.

Why?

Because once it turns green, all the motorbikes tear off in their glory and have a stretch of open road in front of the cars until we catch up to the backup of cars at the next intersection. At that point I start the weaving in and out again.

Riding motorbikes in Malaysia cut down time in traffic by a significant margin and there is little that can’t be done. I don’t go through red lights. Many Malaysians do. I have, at times, used the sidewalk to get around a swath of cars until I make it to the front of the line. My wife didn’t like that when I told her I used the sidewalk. It’s not like any pedestrians ever use them!

So yes, it is kind of crazy when you think about it. Once false move and I could be up against a car. But its the only way to travel around here.

And besides, motorbike traffic in Malaysia is super-duper easy compared to Vietnam.

My Top 10 Favorite Places in Asia – #8 – Singapore

In some ways, Singapore is the anti-Asia. But only in some ways.

It’s clean. It’s extremely functional. You could live in their airport and be quite happy. It’s orderly. Did I mention that it’s clean?

It’s like a beautifully developed city-state that just works.

Sparkling malls. Manicured lawns. Beautiful parks. One of the nicest zoos in the world. Large amusement parks. And it’s clean.

I remember the first time I want to Singapore. My wife and I flew from Hanoi for a few days, and Singapore could not have felt further away from dusty, chaotic Hanoi.

We felt like we had stepped into an alternate universe for a while. And then some friends picked us up and took us to the waterfront for the amazing, Singaporean chili crab. Oh my, I was in love. Luscious, large, whole crabs smothered in a thick chili sauce, served with deep fried bread for tipping. Wow! This alone was enough to make it onto my top ten list.

Good food, great shopping, excellent transportation, and cleanliness.

Singapore makes the top 10!

Let’s review the top-10 so far:

10. Malacca, Malaysia

9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

8. Singapore

7. ?????