April Reading

Here are the books I finished in April:

  • A Sinister Revenge, by Deanna Raybourn
  • Red London, by Alma Katsu
  • The Raven Thief, by Gigi Pandian
  • Intrigue in Istanbul, by Erica Ruth Neubauer
  • The Secret of the Lost Pearls, by Darcie Wilde

Red London proved to be one of those books that sucked me in, had me on the edge of my seat through the whole book, and will stay in my head forever. I loved it and I want to shout about it from the mountain top. The story is timely (complete with Russian oligarchs), has strong female characters, and is one of the most suspenseful books I have ever read.

Book Club Questions

Does your book club plan to read Nairobi Ndoto? Here are some possible book club questions:

  • Between Tilly, Pauline, and Zara, who is your favorite character and why?
  • If you could meet one of them right now, what would you say to her?
  • If you adapted this book into a movie, who would you cast for each of the three main characters?
  • How much did you know about Nairobi or Kenya before reading this book?
  • Did this book change or challenge any preconceived notions you had about either?
  • How did the setting impact the narrative?
  • Have you ever traveled to the destinations described in this book?
  • Are there any places from the book you would like to visit?
  • From your point of view, what were the central themes of the book? 
  • Did you have a favorite quote or quotes? If so, share which and why?
  • If you could ask Mahua one question about the book, what would it be?
  • Pretend you’re a famous author writing a blurb for the cover. What would you say?

Last but not least: What food and wine would best pair with a Nairobi Ndoto book club meeting?

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers Guest Post

My guest post is live on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers!

The website is the blog of Anastasia Pollack and features guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Who is Anastasia Pollack? She’s the star of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series by the USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author, Lois Winston.

I’m so happy to have the opportunity to guest post on the blog. If you want to know more about Nairobi and how I decided to write Nairobi Ndoto, you can read about it on Anastasia’s blog.

March Reading

I read a lot in March. Much of this is a result of being on vacation during the last week of that month. Here are the books I finished:

  • You’re Invited, by Amanda Jayatissa
  • Daisy Darker, by Alice Feeney
  • Déjà Dead, by Susan Kieran-Lewis
  • Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook, by Celia Rees
  • Atomic Habits, by James Clear
  • The Things We Cherished, by Pam Jenoff
  • Frost, by C.N. Crawford
  • Ambrosia, by C. N. Crawford
  • Win Every Argument, by Mehdi Hasan
  • The Ghost Who Wanted Revenge, by Bobbi Holmes
  • Mermaid, by Jodi Picoult

Write What You Will Research

The following is a report from my old blog.

There is an adage: Write what you know. I agree with that up to a point. After all, I’m writing a novel about expatriate women living in Nairobi. It’s not autobiographical, but it is based on what I know. However, if I only wrote about the things I know, then I’ll run out of stories to write.

I agree more with what many other writers advise: Write what you are willing to research. Are you willing to put in the work, dig deep, and research the hell out of something? Then, sure, go ahead. Write about it. This is the approach I’m taking on what I hope will be my second novel.

The story is set in Vienna, Austria (something I know). The protagonist is an American ex-pat (again, something I know). The theme has to do with human trafficking – a topic that is brand new to me. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the subject.

Committing to that research proved harder than I imagined. The subject is heartbreaking. I have found it emotionally wrenching to dive into the information. Still, I did it. I can’t write this story well or with due respect to the victims of human trafficking without doing this homework.

Thankfully, I could spread it out in batches, working on it during breaks from my current manuscript. Right now, I’m on such a break and I hope to have the research finished by the time I need to get back to the Nairobi-based manuscript. I realize there will be a need to go back and look up something or confirm details as I start on the Vienna story. But, that aside, I will have the bulk of the research complete soon.

I should note that there was an aspect of the research that was not as depressing. I did a lot of research into Austrian and Viennese history. That part has been fun. I’ve learned a lot about my current home, and it’s been useful not only for my story but also in my daily life. 

If you’re curious about the research, here are a few of my sources:

  • A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888–1889, by Frederic Morton
  • Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, by Siddarth Kara
  • Various reports by the OSCE Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings – in particular: Following the Money: Compendium of Resources and Step-by-step Guide to Financial Investigations Into Trafficking in Human Beings
  • The Palermo Protocols from the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Information from The Liechtenstein Initiative for a Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
  • I took the following certification course: Fighting Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking by The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists

Meet Pauline

Expat life means many things to Pauline. It’s an adventure. It’s a path to new professional opportunities. It’s a way to fix her strained marriage. She put all these hopes into moving to Nairobi. Things did not go as expected.

Now she’s trying to establish a life in Nairobi. She’s figuring out what to do about her marriage. She’s working as hard as she can to get her career back on track. But one thing after another keeps going wrong.

Pauline is struggling.

Expat life doesn’t always go as planned and isn’t always what you think it’ll be.

February Reads

Here are the books I finished in February:

  • Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun, by Elle Cosimano
  • Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, by Angela Carter
  • The Blue Bar, by Damyanti Biswas
  • Night Angels, by Weina Day Randel
  • Thank You For Listening, by Julia Whelan
  • Mango, Mamba, and Murder, by Raquel V. Reyes
  • The Cartographers, by Peng Shepard
  • Children of the Night: The Strange and Epic Story of Modern Romania, by Paul Kenyon

That was indeed a lot of books last month. Most of them were started before February. I expect to have a big list next month as well. I’ll be going on vacation which means lots of reading time!

Meet Tilly

Tilly and her family have been expats for ages. Nairobi was meant to be a two-year post, just the next stop in their many adventures abroad. Somehow, two years turned into nine without her even noticing it. She loves Nairobi, as do her husband and their three sons.

She stopped thinking of Kenya as a new, exotic location years ago. It’s just where she lives. She has practically become a local and her life is fully enmeshed in Nairobi. She hasn’t even thought about the next move, until now.

She’s ready for a new career, but is it worth exploring if they have to move in a year or two? Part of expat life is knowing that you have to leave at some point. But what if she doesn’t want to say goodbye? Could she stay?

My First Reading

My reading at Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers went really well. I was blown away and awestruck by the turn out. As a new author, I had hoped for a handful of people – instead, we had the place fully packed! I am so grateful to everyone interested in Nairobi Ndoto who came out to hear me read. I hope everyone enjoyed the reading as much as I did.