Portrait by Tao Nguyen

Monday, July 23, 2012


It happens before you know it. A glance in the mirror shows the beginning of age lines. Traces of gray hair have suddenly cropped up. You awake one morning, get out of bed and feel aches and pains in your joints when you walk. While shaving or moisturizing, you observe your neck is starting to look like a wattle. You can’t stop it. Aging is part of living and if you consider the alternative, a few wrinkles and some joint aches aren’t so bad. But why, you lament, why can’t you stay young forever? This is a question people have pondered for centuries while searching for eternal youth. British author James Hilton wrote of Shangri-La in his novel “Lost Horizon.” He created the residents of Shangri-La as almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan while they aged slowly in appearance. For thousands of years tales of a fountain of youth have been written. Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon was searching for the fountain of youth when he traveled to what is now Florida.
“Forever Young”
By Bob Dylan

"May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young."

We’re bombarded every day with messages to eat healthy foods, take vitamins, exercise, don’t smoke, apply sunscreen before going outside. Tummy tucks, liposuction, facelifts and laser treatments pay college tuition for dermatologist’s kids. I do my best to cook whole foods, moisturize with SPF 30, get regular exercise and floss at night. But I admit there are times when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. I still feel like a twenty year old inside but the reality is, I’m not.

In “Good Fortune” I write about Michael’s and Wu’s feelings about the changes they see in their outward appearance as they realize they’re aging. I introduce Michael after he’s suddenly laid off his executive job and finds himself literally thrown into a pool of much younger job seekers who have a definite edge over him. He confesses his frustration to his friend Eric:

“Going on job interviews at my age sucks. Twenty applicants show up for one lousy opening. Most of them are kids compared to me. Hell, I’m twice their age. I feel old and . . . well . . . useless. Like my time has come and gone and there’s no future for me anymore.”
“Bullshit. You've got experience, those kids have got acne.”
Michael placed his spoon on the table and stared at it for a few seconds, and then his eyes met Eric’s. “Well, a lot of good a clear complexion does me. I haven't had a single response to the resumes I've submitted.”

Later, when he’s contemplating whether or not to take a temporary job while he’s figuring out how he’s going to open his own business, Michael steps from the shower and regards his image:

            Above the bathroom sink, steam misted the mirror blocking his reflection. He used the corner of his towel and rubbed a circle in the middle; his reflection stared back at him. It was apparent his recent setback had taken its toll because his face looked slightly older. He noticed a certain edge to his expression that wasn’t there before, enhanced by the small worry lines that had begun to form between his eyebrows. Well, there was nothing he could do about that. Since he would be interviewing soon, he hoped his life experience and maturity would count in his favor.

Like Michael, Wu is facing his own personal challenges and one morning while shaving, he notices how the passage of time is changing him.

            While he lathered up to shave, Wu scrutinized his reflection in the bathroom mirror and noticed the beginning of fine age lines fanning his eyes that would inevitably turn into deep wrinkles like his father's. He was struck with the harsh realization that time was passing for him, too.

Beyond the cosmetic changes Wu observes in himself, he has deep feelings about his father growing old. He expresses his concern, but his father has a quite different perspective:

“Son, I appreciate your concern about my health, but you must accept the fact that all men grow old. I cannot prevent time from passing, and if I could, I wouldn’t want to. Life has its own rhythm that conforms to our daily existence. It changes with us as we grow and mature. For most of my life I have worked hard, and now, I am getting ready to slow down my pace and take the needed time to rest. I have earned that right, which did not come easily. Do not deny an old man the reward he has labored toward his entire life.”
Until that moment, Wu hadn't realized how much he had taken his father for granted, or that he wanted him to remain healthy and vigorous so he would never die and leave him, like his mother. Even though they clashed for years, his father was always there, a solid presence he now recognized he would lose. This sudden realization forced him to acknowledge that as much as he wanted to change the course of life and keep his father forever young, he knew it was beyond his human power to do so.
Accept the change; that's what Father is saying. I’ll try, but it feels as if he is asking too much of me.
Sensing Wu's distress, Tong addressed his son in a calm voice. “In due time, your own sons will become grown men who will feel all that you are experiencing now as you observe how old and withered this body of mine has become. If you can learn acceptance of old age and how it transforms those you love who were once strong and full of spirit into frail tired souls, when it becomes necessary, you will be able to guide your boys with love and compassion as they struggle to accept the changes they perceive in you, when you follow in my footsteps.”
Wu approached his father’s bed. “If that's what you wish, Father, I'll try. But please be honest. Is it only old age that ails you? If you are suffering any pain, any pain at all, I want you to see the acupuncturist.” When Tong protested, Wu added, “At least let Anna brew you some medicinal tea to make you feel better.”
Tong wouldn't hear of it. “Nonsense! Occasionally my joints ache, but I have nothing hurting me in the way you fear. I’m slowing down, so if I work less and keep myself warm, that will be my best tonic. My biggest comforts in life now are a bowl of hot noodles and watching my grandsons tumble on the floor the way Cho and I once did when we were boys.”
It was impossible for Wu to imagine the two old men as young rambunctious boys and he smiled at the thought of his own sons being the same as his Uncle Cho and Father once were.

Yes, we were all young children who took our youth for granted. Now that we’re older and wiser, let’s be accepting of the aging process and the knowledge that brings us. If you have unfinished business with someone, do what you can to make peace between you while you still have the opportunity. After exchanging harsh words with his father, Wu watches him walk away:

Tong turned his back on his son. On the way to his room his slippers made an angry slapping sound on the wooden floor. With sorrow, Wu watched his father walk away thinking how he always looked old and tired, but that night especially, he detected something more, something beyond the usual air of sadness surrounding him, something that had made him unapproachable. He knew he was helpless to stop his father's grieving for his long-departed mother. Nor was he able to stop the inevitable changes that accompany aging. Time was fading the old man into the shadows, and Wu’s chance to mend the cracks in their relationship before his father’s death seemed impossibly out of reach. The realization consumed him with grief.

I choose to view aging as a positive experience. Wrinkles tell our life stories and should be cherished. Aches and pains remind me I’m alive. Each day I repeat these words: “I make peace within myself and let go of anger towards those who are unapproachable and unyielding. I’m mindful of the blessings each morning brings when I awake, and I give thanks for this day.”

Yours in good fortune,
Leslie Bratspis

"Good Fortune" is available on Amazon.com & Kindle, Barnes & Noble.com & Nook
Goodreads.com & Smashwords.com

Friday, June 15, 2012


No, I don’t want your money! What I mean is, can you spare some time to reflect and look at what’s going on in your life that needs to change, and then do whatever it takes to make that happen? Here's an example. I constantly rushed around and became so accustomed to being stressed out that stress became my “normal.” Monday through Friday I left the house an hour early to make a commute in congested traffic that shouldn’t have taken more than twenty minutes. By the time I arrived at work I was so keyed up the mood was set for the day and I couldn't slow down. Year after year my husband and I both worked ourselves into a state of exhaustion until one of us realized we had to take a vacation before the pace we were keeping had a negative impact on our health. It was a wake-up call that brought me to my senses and sprung me into action. I booked our flight to Kauai, a car, and rented a condo in Poipu Beach. The next morning I informed my boss when we were going and I arranged for a temp to cover me in my absence. I was so firm when I told her our plans I didn't get any resistance.

The morning of our departure the airport shuttle came for us fifteen minutes late and freeway traffic was making such slow progress I was sure we wouldn’t make it to the airport in time. My heart pounded until we arrived. After we checked our bags and passed through security we went to a restaurant for breakfast. I kept checking my watch, impatient to board the plane. My husband’s cell phone rang—a business call—life as usual. 


We arrived! My husband knew the way to Poipu Beach and drove us directly to the condo. On the way, I drank in the sunlight, awed by the deep red soil and lush vegetation. Ancient mountains in the distance dotted the countryside. Kauai is a paradise where papaya trees grow alongside the road and tropical flowers bloom everywhere. By the time we drove beneath the tree tunnel I knew we were almost at our destination.

I was anxious to get settled and felt it took the clerk much too long to check us in. Our internal clocks were operating from totally different perspectives. The condo was beautifully furnished and had a spectacular ocean view. I opened the sliding glass door and the breeze caressed my face. The sound of breaking waves and the rustle of palm trees embraced me and felt like a soothing balm. Tropical birds sang, “padda pah pah, padda pah pah.”

Almost in a trance, I settled back on the couch and said to my husband, “I remember this; now I remember this feeling. I haven’t felt this way since the last time we were here.” My shoulders relaxed and the nervousness poured from my body like running water, replaced by a feeling of inner peace and well-being. I’d surrendered to island time. I was being mindful and living in the moment.

Two characters in Good Fortune, Michael Hamilton and Wu Chow, are over-achievers. They focus only on work and neglect the rest of their lives. When Michael gets laid off he's completely lost and doesn’t know how to process what's happened. Several weeks later when he meets Jennie Greene at a bookstore and invites her to coffee, they talk about themselves and Jennie is such a good listener he makes a confession.

             Until a few weeks ago I was an executive at an advertising firm. My job dominated my life. Now I don’t know what to do with myself and all this free time.” He adds, “I was so busy I didn't even allow myself time off to take a real vacation. Work became my identity.”

Later, at his friend Eric Brewer’s house, Michael talks to his wife Susan, a licensed therapist. Susan listens as he expresses his feelings about losing his job and his frustration with his situation. Susan says:

           “I don’t want to make you feel worse. Look, the important thing to recognize is, by driving yourself to achieve in school and business, you were so driven to succeed that you didn’t leave yourself enough time to develop your personal life. What have you got without your career that defines who you are now?”
“Nothing,” he admitted. He averted his eyes for a moment. “It’s depressing, but I don’t know what to do and I’m feeling kind of lost. Everything I was—or thought I was—is gone.”

Wu’s circumstance is the mirrored image of Michael’s, exactly the same but opposite. He has a wife and sons and manages Good Fortune family restaurant. His job is secure and even though he can make his own schedule, instead of taking time off to be with his family he chooses instead to work long hours and neglect them as the excerpt below reveals.

Anna and the boys spent a lot of time without him despite the fact the restaurant was so successful he no longer had to prove himself to anyone. Instead of celebrating his achievement with his wife and children, he imposed pressure on himself, believing only he was qualified to run things at the level he wanted. He forgot his father’s lesson: “Learn to delegate authority to others. They will appreciate the opportunity to earn your trust.”
At night he played host in the dining room, networked parties, and bought customers drinks. He put in so many hours at work he rarely, if ever, was home for dinner anymore.

Wu’s father, Tong, waits patiently for the right moment to confront him. When it finally comes he says:

“For years I have watched you work tirelessly in your effort to amass more and more money for the future, never seeing what it cost you in the present. You achieved affluence years ago. Nonetheless, you have felt driven to accumulate a greater fortune without realizing the irony of your endeavor to obtain what you already have.”

Michael and Wu both have to make life altering decisions and change their priorities. They each have important life lessons to learn while they embark on personal journeys and discover how to overcome difficult challenges. Tong's gentle wisdom will guide them in totally different ways.  Please read Good Fortune and find out what happens.

When facing your own life challenges, I wish you success in reaching your goals toward good fortune.

Leslie Bratspis, Author
Good Fortune

Good Fortune is available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes&Noble.com,  Nook & Smashwords.com 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


What does Anna Chow do when she’s alone? When Wu is at work and their sons Dennis and William are at school what has she been up to? Recently, she’s become involved in a secret activity, something that gives her a feeling of satisfaction. It’s not that being a wife and mother aren’t rewarding in their own way. But Anna’s life had become too boring and routine; she needed something to do just for her—something to nurture her soul, something that took her beyond the mundane chores of mothering and laundry, preparing meals and doing dishes.

Her friends have often remarked (with envy) how great Wu is. He’s the whole package—handsome, successful, totally devoted to her and the boys, and sensitive to her emotional needs. Even so, it just wasn’t enough and something was lacking. After mulling this over for weeks with the need inside her growing to do something, anything, to shatter the boredom, she enrolled in a Tai Chi fan class. There, she met other women, wives and mothers who shared her feelings and understood where she was coming from. The class was an activity where they could spend time outside the house with newly formed friends, and get good exercise, too.

The Chinese dancing fan, Mai Ogi, dates back to the 7th century. Today, it’s an important cultural symbol originally introduced by Japan that became fashionable during the Ming dynasty (between 1368 and 1644). The folding fan, shànzi, consists of 10 slats made from bone, mica, mother of pearl, sandalwood or tortoise shell, covered with paper or fabric painted with a family crest. Fan dances tell stories and are visually beautiful. They look as graceful as a traditional ballet and like ballet, require skill, practice, strength and control.

Having a secret from Wu gives Anna’s life a little “something extra.” Someday she’ll share her secret with him when her dance troupe puts on a performance. She’ll want him and the boys to come but until then, if by chance you run into Wu at Good Fortune restaurant or perhaps strolling downtown while running errands, please don’t let on I told you what Anna’s been up to. Let’s keep that between us!

Leslie Bratspis, Author
Good Fortune


Tuesday, March 27, 2012


That’s what I had to determine when I wrote her into my manuscript. Here's Michael’s first glimpse of her:

Seated a couple of chairs to his right was an attractive woman in her late twenties or early thirties, clear blue eyes and golden brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She was dressed casually in jeans and a tight-fitting sweater. Perched across her finely shaped nose was an attractive pair of reading glasses through which she scrutinized him with a look of concerned amusement. Her smile was warm and appealing.

I wanted Jennie to be a positive influence on Michael, part of his transition from shallow egotistical bachelor with his “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude to a man with heart, yet afraid to commit to marriage because of deep unresolved emotional problems he still has to work out. After their initial meeting inside The Words of Wisdom metaphysical bookstore, he watches her walk away.

…Michael found himself admiring Jennie's feminine shape in her tightly fitted jeans and wondered what she would look like without her clothes on.

Typical. He’s just had an interesting conversation with her about dreams and symbols and how they translate inside the unconscious mind, but all he can think of is her nude body. Before watching her leave, Michael asked Jennie to join him later for coffee after she’s finished teaching dance class. They meet at the Second Cup and Jennie finds herself drawn to him. She shares private information she’s kept secret.

“While I was still in school, an artist friend gave me a beautiful gift. She made an oil painting depicting a ballerina after she danced her final performance.” Her hands moved expressively as she spoke. “She's seated backstage with her torso bent over and her head resting on folded arms across her knees. Flowing down her back, her long black hair makes a graceful veil.”
Jennie fell silent, picked up her spoon and stirred her coffee again with unnatural concentration.
Sensing she was about to share something of a personal nature, Michael wondered what he ought to say to put her at ease. Without knowing her very well, he decided to be cautious. “It sounds beautiful. How did the painting impact your decision to teach?”
Jennie stopped stirring her coffee and met his gaze with complete honesty.
“When I hung it on the wall, I only saw the dancer's sadness. My friend viewed it strictly from an artist's perspective. Her eye appreciated the shape and form of the dancer's body draped in the chair and she painted what she saw, but I felt as if I were seeing into a mirror reflecting what could be my future. Not everyone is good enough to become a professional ballerina, and even those who are eventually become too old. The painting showed me the depth of the dancer's sadness after her final performance, and every time I looked at her I felt her pain, too. I knew I didn't want to end up like her.
“Then one day, I found myself looking at the painting in a different way. I realized I was also an artist, and I had the power to paint my future. My life was a canvas and the future my work of art. Once I came to that realization, I was able to take the steps to protect myself from such a heartbreaking fate. That changed everything. Now, whenever I look at the sad ballerina, all I see is a beautiful painting.”
As he listened to her, Michael was reminded of Susan's words: “Anyone can receive significant life-changing messages from unexpected sources, but they can only influence us if we are open to them.”
“I can't believe what I just told you,” Jennie said with embarrassment. “I've never shared that story with anyone, but for some reason I trusted you with it. Can I trust you?”
He met her eyes. “Of course you can.”

Michael responds to her candor.

“Hearing you talk about yourself makes me realize how wrong I was to cut myself off from my friends by not returning phone calls. I thought no one else could possibly understand what I was going through. I was an ass.”
Jennie regarded him with sympathy. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Life is difficult enough without making it harder. We all react to situations differently. Your friends will understand.”
He sipped his coffee and settled back against the booth. “You’re right, they’ve forgiven me. It’s not that I’m against change, but for years my life was routine, a little boring perhaps, but safe. Now, I feel things are out of control and—well—I feel lost.”
“I get it.”
“There's more to it than that. My whole perspective of what's real and what isn't has come into question.”
“Did you stop to consider that could be a good thing?” When he didn’t answer, she continued. “I'll bet when you were working so hard you used to wish you had more free time to relax and do things you like.”

After they leave he sits in his car, turns on the engine and muses:

Will we remain only friends, or will our friendship evolve into something more intimate? I like her. She seems special, genuine, and different from the other women I’ve known who were power-driven to climb the corporate ladder and break through the glass ceiling.
He considered her attributes. She obviously isn’t after my money, and she’s very attractive—sweet yet sexy—creative, a good talker and listener, honest, intelligent, and blessed with a good sense of humor. What more could I ask for?
The following morning…Michael phoned Eric at his office and told him about…meeting Jennie.
“You met her at a bookstore? Dude, I don’t know how you do it.” Eric tossed his drafting pencil and the lead broke.
“I know you and Susan are going to like her. In fact, she reminds me a little of Susan.”
“What else? Gimme the juicy details.”
“She's pretty and sexy, creative and intelligent, which makes me wonder how I ever managed to meet someone like her who wasn't already involved.”
“What's her body like?”
“A perfect ten.”

This is a brief introduction to Jennie Greene. She emerges as a strong willed, self confident stubborn woman who stands up to Michael, refusing to become just another of his meaningless conquests. She knows what she wants out of life and is willing to walk away from their relationship to get it. What happens?

Read GOOD FORTUNE to find out.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I was recently given advice in relation to blogging about Good Fortune. “Select a character and explain why readers should get to know him or her. Tie the character into a historical context, current events, a trend or a niche interest.” Maybe that’s sound advice but it’s not my personality. So while musing about what to focus on in my next blog and how to approach it, I recalled something unexpected that happened while I was writing chapter 22. Then, I took it a step further but I'll get to that later. Let me preface this by admitting I’m no expert on how or why this happened—it just did. I’m not a professor of writing fiction or else I’d offer you a rational explanation.

I had just started writing a new chapter when two characters, Tom Clark and Lyle Gardner, appeared unexpectedly. Tom and Lyle differ from my other characters because they don’t fit into one of two molds—either college educated professional Caucasians or 4 generations of Asian-American immigrants striving for the American Dream. In contrast, Tom and Lyle are rough around the edges working class guys, high school graduates who have gone through some tough economic times, are currently without girlfriends and are living rent free in a Big Sur cabin Lyle inherited from his dad. They’re long-haired bearded outdoors types who have done construction work and whatever blue collar jobs they could find in Salinas. Since moving to Big Sur they’ve managed to support themselves as artists. Tom creates wind chimes from driftwood pieces, beach glass and shells he gathers for free, and sells his creations to wealthy private clients and tourist shops. Lyle is an expert wood carver who sells his work at coastal galleries. These two guys are best friends since high school, and spar with each other through playful insults and constant shoving.

I admit their arrival came as a complete surprise since I thought I had the whole book neatly planned out, characters and events all listed in chronological order so as I wrote, I methodically checked off each item: done. After I completed the draft of chapter 22, I leaned back in my chair and gazed at the computer screen somewhat perplexed and asked aloud, “What just happened? Where did those two guys come from?” The interesting thing about Tom and Lyle is not only did they spontaneously appear without fanfare, but they added a level of depth to my story and tied things together in a way that otherwise might not have worked so well. The manuscript is better because of them.

Before writing about my surprising experience I indulged in a bit of fantastical musing about Tom and Lyle’s spontaneous generation and my imagination came up with a possible scenario. What if there’s a place “somewhere” close to earth where fictional characters exist while waiting to be called? I imagine this as being like a lavish resort. It has a swimming pool and tennis courts and is near a white pristine beach lined with swaying palm trees and blooming tropical plants that permeate the air with fragrance. The ocean is always warm and calm and the weather placid and sunny. The tanned and rested unemployed characters enjoy themselves every day doing what people do when vacationing. There is no pressure on them and no demands on their time. They hang out, get massages and facials and manicures, eat delicious healthy gourmet meals they don’t have to prepare for themselves, don’t have to do laundry or pay bills or do anything unpleasant or be distracted by mundane tasks. No one talks politics and argues philosophical differences, no one dies, marriages don’t fall apart, children are perfectly well-adjusted and behaved; there isn’t a care in their utopian world.

Then suddenly a bell rings, or a sleeve is tugged, or perhaps a cell phone buzzes and an agent calls and says something like: “Hey guys, Leslie Bratspis is writing a novel and you’re both needed or her book is going to be lacking in depth. No time to pack. Her fingers are typing as we speak and I’m sending you to help her hone her craft NOW.” Do you think this is possible? And if so, what happens to characters who suddenly find themselves written into a situation they don’t like? Perhaps they’re given radical political views they don’t share or they’re being pursued by a psycho killer and there’s nowhere to hide. Or they’re tossed into a manuscript where demands are made on them to solve mysteries, survive tragedies, work jobs they don’t like or their personalities are altered to the point they can’t stand how they’re portrayed. So much for resort living. Is this too far-fetched? I told you I was musing!

I hope Tom and Lyle are happy with the way I depicted them and I don’t think I have to apologize for tearing them away from an idyllic life out there “somewhere” in the ether before they came alive on the pages of Good Fortune. I’d like to hear your point of view of where characters suddenly emerge from, and have you ever experienced such a thing yourself when writing? Please email me your thoughts and experiences to lesliebratspis@yahoo.com.

Yours in good fortune,
Leslie Bratspis
© 2012

For all you folks with e-Readers I'm participating in "Read an e-Book Week" beginning March 4th - 10th. Be sure to enter coupon REW75 at checkout to receive your discount. Go to http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/65462. Wishing you good fortune!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Last Thursday, February 9th, I had the honor of being the guest of the Gig Harbor Welcome Club, Book Club II that selected GOOD FORTUNE as their February read and they invited me to attend their meeting. To have my book acknowledged this way was truly an unexpected honor. The ladies were warm and welcoming, and almost everyone brought their copy of my book with them. The few who came for the first time purchased one from me and asked me to autograph it. I practically had to pinch myself to prove to myself I wasn’t dreaming! The lovely hostess had prepared a Chinese lunch with a variety of delicious chocolate desserts including chocolate fortune cookies. Of course, the chocolates went with the theme of Michael’s business, Kokoa Joz’. With so much thought put into the lunch so it evolved around my book both pleased and humbled me.

Every writer hopes and dreams their work will be read, appreciated and most of all enjoyed. What deeply touched me about this book club was I saw the ladies had dog-eared pages of GOOD FORTUNE with passages underlined and highlighted. They asked me questions about certain phrases I’d written that especially touched them and wanted to know: How did you write that? The answer is simple: It came from my heart and beliefs, and what I have personally experienced. Writing GOOD FORTUNE was truly a labor of love.

One lady appreciated what I’d written about inner reflection, and turned to page 195 where Tong is talking to his son, Wu:

You are your own best teacher; no one else but you can know your innermost soul. I urge you to put aside some time each day for quiet contemplation. You may be surprised by what you hear.

Another lady asked me about what appears on page 31 regarding self-doubt. Here, in a flashback, Great-Grandfather addresses young Tong as he tutors him:

            Listen for your inner voice to guide you. Trust your instinct.” As if it were yesterday, Tong remembered Grandfather’s voice instructing him when he was ten. “It may be no more than a whisper, but if your intent is pure, you will hear the voice clearly. Follow where it leads you.”
“I’ve tried, Grandfather, but I hear nothing,” Tong insisted with frustration. “What am I doing wrong?”
“If you try too hard, the noise from your thoughts will obliterate all other sounds, thus making it impossible for you to hear your heart speak.”

A basic rule of mindfulness is to live in the moment, relaxed and quiet, with acceptance. Allow the flow of energy to be one with you. If your mind begins its endless chatter accept that without judgment. Breathe deeply and focus on your breath; relax and be in the moment. It is a simple technique anyone can do with success.

Yours in good fortune,

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Happy New Year! I’m glad to be writing another blog entry because I got so busy towards the year’s end I didn’t have time to write. Now that I’m snowbound I'm anxious to share some exciting news. Last week I was notified GOOD FORTUNE was chosen for February’s read for the Gig Harbor Welcome Club Book Club II. I’m thrilled and honored they chose my novel and I look forward to meeting the members at their next meeting. Spurred by their interest, I opened an account with Goodreads.com and already have two 5-star reviews posted! Woo-hoo! (Please feel free to add yours.) When I wrote GOOD FORTUNE I hoped my readers would enjoy it, and the feedback I’ve received has made me realize my dream. Thank you so much for your support. To read all my reviews go to:


Most of us make new year's resolutions—save money, join a gym, take a fabulous vacation, lose weight, volunteer etc., but when Wu’s wife, Anna, prepares to celebrate the Chinese New Year the first thing she does is shop for her family. Once again, she and Wu are hosting New Year’s Eve dinner at their house and all the close members of the Chow family will assemble to enjoy the six course feast prepared by Anna, her sister-in-law Sue and Aunt Ying. But first Anna must clothes shop because it is important her family have new outfits to wear.

Page 271: Since it was traditional to start the Chinese New Year with a smart new outfit, weeks before she began cleaning house in preparation of the guests who would be coming to celebrate New Year's Eve dinner, Anna shopped for her family. As hosts, it was important her family be well-dressed for the holiday. She chose garments of bright red with accents of gold; red to ensure good luck and gold for prosperity, the two most important elements for the upcoming year.

After she shops, Anna tackles the project of cleaning house from top to bottom because as a teenager, she learned the hard way the importance of this task.

Page 272: Anna hummed as she mopped the kitchen floor, smiling and remembering how she used to hate housework. Now, she took enjoyment from keeping the house clean for her family. Her change in attitude began when she was sixteen. Like most teenage girls, she had a rebellious streak; both her mother and fate would rid her of it.
“No! I won't do it!” Anna yelled at her mother. “That's just a dumb superstition someone taught you when you were my age, and I'm going to prove it by leaving my room exactly the way it is.”
Anna's mother pressed her lips together with frustration. “At sixteen you are so sure you know everything. I warn you, Anna, if you don’t clean the mess in your room before the New Year, it will affect your whole life.”
“Do you hear how stupid you sound, Mom?” Anna shook her head with disgust and flopped down on her bed.
“You will have only yourself to blame when your life becomes total chaos,” her mother warned one last time, then slammed the door in anger because Anna put a pillow over her head to drown out the sound of her mother’s nagging.
Anna soon wished she had heeded her mother's ominous prediction, because the next year was the worst year of her life. It started when she came down with a bad case of German measles. After that, she and her best friend began to argue unceasingly. She received a “C” in geometry that ruined her straight A average and, as if that weren’t enough, her once regular menstrual cycle became erratic and painful.
After that ill-fated year, Anna always made certain to straighten her room well before the year's end. When she married, she continued the ritual by thoroughly cleaning the entire house from top to bottom, careful not to use a broom three days from New Year’s—a broom sweeps away good luck.

After consuming a delicious six course meal, the Chow family looks forward to the story-telling part of the evening that has become a tradition.

Page 283-286: A hush settled over the room as mothers sat their toddlers on their laps. Older brothers and sisters kept the other youngsters quiet so Tong could address the gathering.
“Tonight we are assembled to celebrate the coming New Year, the Year of the Boar, which has always been one of our most fortuitous years.
“As you know, the boar is a symbol of wealth and family. Since wealth usually involves a certain amount of counting, whether it is in blessings or money, tonight I have chosen to speak about the Chinese system of numbers and our lunar calendar.
“Children are taught to count by using their fingers. However, before there were numbers as we know them today, in a distant time past, three thousand years ago, our ancient ancestors drew lines and symbols to keep track of the days.”
A baby's cry interrupted Tong's speech, and he waited patiently while the mother quieted her infant before he went on.
“A thousand years later our people discovered a way to keep track of the months by watching the changing face of the moon.”
“What about the animal faces, Grandfather? Where did they come from? Was there a giant zoo in the sky?” Dennis wanted to know.
“Ho! A very good question, my little scholar. During the great Han dynasty, each year was matched with an animal name. How many of them can you identify for me?”
Dennis stuck a finger in his mouth and sucked on it while he thought about the answer. “Um . . . I know . . . there's a monkey . . . and a dog . . . and . . . and . . . and a pig.”
“Excellent. I will write out the names of all twelve animals for you. Can you draw a picture for me of each animal next to his name?”
“Don't forget me, Grandfather. I want to draw pictures for you, too,” William chimed in, jumping up and down, which excited the rest of his young cousins who all began to jump and cheer at the same time.
Tong chuckled. “Very well, all of you can learn together. I will give the list to your father. He will make copies at work so you and your cousins can each have one.”
As always, Wu was amazed by his father's broad scope of knowledge and his inspiration for teaching children. “I'd be glad to, Father. How did you learn so much about our calendar?”
“Grandfather passed on all his knowledge to me because he knew I would travel far from home and most likely never return. He made certain to teach me Chinese history so I wouldn’t grow up in a far off place and forget my heritage.”
His father's words made Wu wish he had spent more time learning from him instead of being so single-minded about business. With the approaching New Year, he made a firm resolution to make the time to listen to his seemingly endless store of knowledge, learning what he could while he still had the opportunity to do so. This was a sobering thought to have on New Year's Eve, and he quickly dismissed it, but not without resolving to act upon it.
Uncle Cho spoke up next. “Well then, I have something to share. Would anyone like to hear?”
Encouraged by the group’s cheers, Cho looked around the room, grabbed his full stomach and assumed a teasing voice. “I could not help but notice that all of you ate your fair share of noodles tonight.”
“They were delicious,” a voice called out.
A small utterance came from one of the youngsters. “I love noodles.”
“Very well.” Cho began to articulate in a sing-song voice perfect for telling stories, replete with nuances and colorful descriptions. “Tonight I am going to tell you about the Shuikou noodles that come from the beautiful Shuikou region, where the Chang and the Daning rivers meet. This basin is full of tiny black birds with beautiful red feathered tails. The birds fly within a gorge carpeted with yellow wildflowers. Five hundred years ago, the people of this region made thin round noodles out of wheat flour and limestone spring water. Rumor has it these noodles were so delicious that after one of the Ming emperors first tasted them, he demanded his tribute from the Shuikou region be paid from then on in nothing else but bundles of noodles.”
“Uncle Cho, why didn't you tell me that story when I was your Little Tadpole? I remember every story you ever told me, and that wasn’t one of them,” Wu said.
“Because I didn’t know it until today. Not to be outdone tonight by my older scholarly brother, I searched through my books for an interesting story that would have something to do with food in honor of tonight's feast.”
“Ho! Very wise of you indeed,” chortled Tong. “Just like the old days; still trying to keep up with me.” Then he turned to his beloved aged companion seated beside him. “Now we await Feng to tell us something of interest. What about it, old friend? Is there something you want to share?”
Feng slowly ground out his after-dinner cigarette and nodded his head, smiling with the sly look of someone who concealed a wonderful secret. “You probably expected me to come here on this all-important night unprepared, but your clever son alerted me to have a story ready, and his warning gave me plenty of time to plan ahead.”
Such an unexpected action on the part of Wu made Tong and Cho view him with renewed respect and pride. Apparently, Wu had invested some serious thought into the after-dinner storytelling portion of the evening that began a few years back and had since evolved into a Chow family tradition. Secretly, Tong believed it was the influence of the book of fortunes, whether or not Wu was aware of its effect on him.
“Please begin, Feng,” prompted Wu. “All of us are eager to hear what you have prepared to tell us.”
Feng felt the eyes of the guests in the room upon him and, although he was unable to make out the details of any but the closest faces, he knew these people well and felt comfortable addressing them.
“I spent many years of my life as a keeper of books. What some of you may not know is that in my youth I was also an accomplished calligrapher. I was tutored by a great scholar who taught me the art of calligraphy while also instructing me in its history.”
Only Tong knew about this area of Feng's education and he listened intently, wondering what he was going to say next.
“In ancient China the art of calligraphy was held in the highest esteem by the whole population, educated and illiterate, rich and poor. Calligraphy soared to a stature above all other forms of art because it had the most profound spiritual value attached to it. Over hundreds of years, various scripts evolved. To the student, it is easy to recognize and differentiate, for example, between Kaiti, Caoshu, Shaoer, Lishu, Weibi, and Xiaozhuan. These different styles represent not only the distinct stages in the evolution of our written language but serve as a record to preserve our past. A fact all you young people should take pride in is that your Chinese ancestors invented paper eleven centuries before the western world.”
Feng folded his hands in his lap, which indicated he had concluded.

The difference varies between cultures as they celebrate New Year according to their traditions, but what they share in common is gathering with friends and family and celebrating with hope the next year will bring good health, happiness and good fortune.

I wish you all the best!