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.

Win a Paperback Copy of “Which Half David”

Hello friends. Head on over to Goodreads on the link below and enter to win a paperback copy of my new release, “Which Half David.” It’s an explosive and fun story about a man who seems to conquer the world yet can’t conquer his own soul. If it sounds a little like King David, it’s no coincidence. But this story is set in present day Southeast Asia.

Check it out. And good luck!

Enter to Win “Which Half David”

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10 Reasons You Should Check Out My New Novel

I’m not one to presume what other people will like, but I do think you should give my new novel a try. It’s releasing on Thursday, by the way. Here’s the top reasons why you should put “Which Half David” on your to-read list.

  1. It’s loosely based on the story of King David, the classic tale of the chosen king who fell hard to temptation and the worst kind of devices. It’s a great story.
  2. But my David story is set in Southeast Asia, home of the best food in the world. And great weather. And beautiful people. The only sand is on the beach.
  3. This is a story I’ve been mapping out since 2011. I chose a fictitious island in-between Borneo and the Philippines as its location. It’s called The Republic of Sulu. It’s an awesome place to visit. You’ll get to visit there if you read the story.
  4. You need to know NOTHING about the story of King David to enjoy this story. Its a tremendous mix of adventure, thriller, and psychological drama. It will keep you on your toes and keep you guessing. (I hope.)
  5. If you DO know a lot about the Biblical story of King David, you will especially enjoy guessing along at the symbolism and built-in allegory. There’s much to see and discover concerning David’s story, but it’s not all obvious!
  6. I have never worked harder or longer on a story! The basic story was finished in the summer of 2015, but I worked and worked and edited and revised until it finally got to the point where I was happy with it.
  7. I used more beta readers than ever! And boy, did they help! At one point last spring, I received some feedback that forced me to go re-write the whole thing. I changed MANY aspects of the novel based on the feedback. I told my other beta readers to just stop reading until I sent them updates. All of them agreed, the re-writes made the story much more engaging.
  8. It’s my longest novel ever! It clocks in at just under 100,000 words. You’ll get your money’s worth.
  9. While the Sulu Republic may be fictitious, (though there used to be a Sulu Empire near that location), I have drawn upon my vast knowledge of Southeast Asia to help craft this unique story. What’s on my resume in that regards? I’ve lived in Vietnam for ten years and Malaysia for another ten years. So I hope my experiences help bring the background and people to life.
  10. It’s diverse. It’s got some wonderfully fun courtroom scenes, some sultry seduction, flying bullets and car chases, and some interesting humor.

I’m happy to put my name on the cover, and at the end of the day, that’s all a writer can hope for. Oh, and a few readers.

Which Half David. On Kindle and in Paperback. Tomorrow!

Find it here!

UK here!

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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.

These Girls at It Again

Wow! I saw today for the first time these girls perform my new script.

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Yes. Lexi and Yzzy. These are the two whose performance at Short & Sweet Penang 2015 swept 5 awards with their poignant rendition of a mother and daughter in “Words to Say at the End of the World.”

Well, they are at it again. One more time. They are preparing for the Southeast Asia Forensics Competition which is coming up in two weeks.

Today, they performed my new script entitled “Me, Myself, & the Bridge of Sighs” in our high school assembly.

Yes, I teared up. Partly because they’re chemistry is something you don’t often see. The push and shove, the familiarity and intensity – just perfect. I also teared up because this is the last script where they will be performing together. It’s like I’ve found my own Tracy and Hepburn – magic happens when they are around. And I’m going to miss them. Lexi will be heading off to study medicine in Australia and Yzzy will be going into film studies in the UK.  Yes, talent overflowing.

It’s such a blessing to see a script of mine come so much alive because of so much talent. I actually wasn’t sure if it was a good script, but they confirmed, with their performance, that it was.

Watch out, competition. Yzzy and Lexi are back one more time. You’ll be happy to see what they are going to do.

Know Your History: Christmas Invasion of Cambodia, 1978

The beginning of the end of the dark periods of modern history began on December 25, 1978, when a sure-footed, well-oiled, Vietnamese fighting machine crossed the border, heading straight towards the nearly deserted Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

The ramifications and irony of such an invasion were lost on many people at that time, and even today, it’s a period of Southeast Asian history which few people know much about.

Pol Pot, the enigmatic and dogmatic Communist leader of Cambodia, had created an illogical and frightening socialistic society. (We’ll have to deal with how he got there at another time.) His vision for Cambodia, inspired by Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution in China in the mid-1960s, was to create a completely agrarian society by removing every vestige of western, political, religious, and modern influences. This was cultural divergence on an unprecedented scale. Everyone was driven out of the cities and forced into labor camps, completed at the mercy of Anka, the all-knowing party. Kids were ripped away from their parents, taught to have allegiance only to Anka. And then the killing began. Elderly, educated, those with ties to Americans, those who spoke a foreign language, those who wore glasses, etc …  The hit list was long and brutal. Different factions of the party couldn’t be trusted, and purge after purge began, spilling blood on an unimaginable scale – eventually to be known as The Killing Fields. Upwards of two million, nearly 1/3 of the entire population of Cambodia was caught up in the unrelenting killing. This was the time period from 1975 – 1978.

But the Vietnamese did not cross the border on Christmas day in order to stop a humanitarian crisis. Something else had been brewing as well. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot turned his eyes towards southern Vietnam, claiming the entire delta as belonging to the Cambodian people. He severely resented  the Vietnamese and ordered cross the border raids, slaughtering entire Vietnamese villages.

The Vietnamese tried to bring international attention to these atrocities, but no one was interested and in fact hardly even believed them until a western journalist documented the case. Why were the Vietnamese being ignored? Much of the western world considered the communist Vietnamese government to be nothing more than a pariah, one who had reneged on the Paris Agreement on Vietnam, until they eventually overwhelmed the South Vietnam government in April 1975. The west had little interest in worrying about the border issues between two communist countries. It eventually began evident to the Vietnamese that if they wanted the Khmer Rouge to stop the attacks on the Vietnamese border, they would have to do it themselves.

So they did, starting Christmas 1978. So forceful and effective was the Vietnamese fighting machine, that they rolled through the countryside, pushing into Phnom Penh and liberating much of the country from the Khmer Rouge in a matter of weeks.

In a twist that is in hindsight quite ironic, the U.S. and other allies condemned the Vietnamese invasion, which, they thought, proved their point that the Vietnamese government was nothing more than a pariah state, wanting to conquer more lands.

On the ground, however, the reception was very different. The Cambodian people welcomed the Vietnamese, thanking them for overthrowing the Khmer Rouge.

Only after this invasion did word of the real extent of the Killing Fields begin to spread around the globe.

The ramifications of the invasion were great:

  • China retaliated against Vietnam in early 1979. (more on that later)
  • Vietnam (unwisely) outlived their welcome in Cambodia, putting a pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government in power and leaving their troops in Cambodia for a decade, further alienating them from the rest of the world.
  • The Cambodian people, dazed and desperate, began a long, long journey back to normality. For perspective, it took thirty years to have the first Khmer Rouge trial in Cambodia. It started in 2009. A whole generation of people were scarred beyond imagination – no family untouched.

For a fascinating read on this incredible topic, I especially recommend Nayan Chanda amazing book, “Brother Enemy.”

My Top 10 Favorite Places in Asia: #1 – northern Vietnam (Part I)

I’ve had a lot of fun counting down my favorite Asian places. Once again, these are only places that I have actually visited. Many of you have offered up some other incredible destinations perhaps worthy of another list. I hope to get to them all some day. But on top of my list, and it will come as no great shock to anyone that knows me, can only be one place – the place I hold dear in my heart for many, many reasons – northern Vietnam.

I shall attempt in two blog posts to break down why northern Vietnam is my favorite. I realized that I couldn’t do it in one. There’s just too much information. So here goes.

THE PEOPLE

This is where it begins for me. The Vietnamese people are precious and I have been blessed to know so many wonderful people. We lived in three different locations in northern Vietnam for a total of almost 10 years and in each place we had special friends and neighbors who always made us feel welcome. Let me outline a few of the types of friends and situations I am talking about.

Neighbors – A couple across the street from our house in Thai Nguyen had a small drink shop. I could pop over at any time just to chat. I remember one time in particular that I hate translated an English article about Vietnam into Vietnamese and I wanted someone to check my grammar. I walked right over and uncle and aunt drink neighbors were ever so happy to read my work, compliment me on my Vietnamese, and help me fix my mistakes.

Students – I taught hundreds of incredible students in my years in Vietnam. They made me feel too special, really, always complimenting me about something or other. Always wanting to do things together and, especially, always wanting to speak English. I do miss those incredible students who made my years so wonderful. I remember the times I would invite them to try pizza for the first time ever. Or we would invite them to experience a typical American Christmas. I had two students who took me by motorbike about 20 KM out of the city to find these scraggly old pine trees. They climbed to the top of one and cut me off the top, then they flagged down a bus and tied it to the roof, bringing it home to our house so we could have a real evergreen in our house. Truly special.

Strangers – Strangers were some of my favorite people of all time in Vietnam. Friendly doesn’t even begin to describe it. Once I got used to the ritual of tea, and I understood the language, there was no amount of time that I couldn’t waste. Countless times I would be invited by strangers, or sellers, or whomever, to just sit down and drink strong green tea with them. Not the whoosey kind of green tea you get in the west. This is the real stuff. Thick dark yellow that will burn a hole in your taste buds. Bitter as anything, and I miss it. I miss the random kindness of strangers.

Friends – I miss playing basketball with my friends there. I was so tall I felt like an NBA star. I miss the shoe shine boy in Hanoi who used to come around a couple times weekly and taught him how to play catch with a baseball and glove. I miss the talks and invites I would get to other peoples’ houses.

I love northern Vietnam for the people, and it that was all it had going for it it still would be enough. But I’m just scratching the surface here. I also love it for its places (the raw beauty is unparalleled – Sapa, Hoa Binh, Halong Bay, Cao Bang, Bich Dong, Hoa Lu, Huong Pagoda, Hanoi, Dien Bien Phu), its food (I miss bun cha!), and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I’ll touch on all of these in Part II.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took of the beautiful Vietnamese people.

A friend’s father saying some prayers.
altar prayer A bird catcher.bird catcher A friend on her wedding day.friend ngoc on wedding dayA friend who later became our landlord.
huong friend Friendly kids in the countryside happily pose for the strange foreigner.kids countryside Working hard in the rice fields of Thai Nguyen. Tam Dao mountains in the distance.rice field workers thai nguyenSome of my students.
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In Review:

10. Malacca, Malaysia

9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

8. Singapore

7. Hong Kong

6. southern Vietnam

5. Sabah, West Malaysia

4. Beijing, China

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia

2. Penang, Malaysia

1. northern Vietnam