Browsed by
Tag: Thailand

Claiming My Place in the World by Jennifer S. Alderson

Claiming My Place in the World by Jennifer S. Alderson

I thought I was so cool, handing over twenty-five Euros to a freshly washed junkie I’d met in a Red Light District coffeeshop, instead of one of the smellier ones lurking on the poorly-lit bridges crisscrossing the canals. As soon as he pocketed the cash, he scurried outside and charged down the street. I hurried after him, half-running to keep up. When he darted into a darkened alleyway, I froze and my guard went up. Was he robbing me, or worse? Before I could run, he’d already returned with a beat-up BMX mountain bike in one hand and a broken bike lock in the other. He passed me the handlebars and disappeared into the night.

Within minutes of my first cycling adventure on that crappy two-wheeler, I got knocked over by two huge Irish guys who’d unwittingly stepped into the bike lane. I’d only been in Amsterdam for a few days and was so fresh to the city I apologized to them.

When I later learned a true Dutchwoman would have responded with a string of expletives, I remember being furious with myself for not reacting ‘properly’.

It was the same when I lived in Darwin, Australia. Within a week, I was taking the piss out of the locals, loudly expressing my love of barbecue for lunch and dinner, and happily referring to the then Prime Minister by his derogatory nickname of ‘Johnny’. Locals often gave me funny looks; fellow expats simply nodded and asked for another charcoal-grilled sausage.

In Nepal, I scoffed at tourists using utensils instead of their right hand to eat, and laughed openly at those freaked out by the rather large insects and rodents scurrying about.

Whenever I move to a new country or city, I experience an almost primal urge to fit in. I can’t help but adopt local customs as my own, usually within days of arrival. I get edgy and irritated when people want to know what it’s like ‘back home’. I always have to bite my tongue, resisting the impulse to ask what they mean, this is home for now.

I’ve traveled through thirty countries and lived in three. For several years, I considered my backpack to be my best friend. I’ve obviously contracted a serious case of wanderlust. So why this desperate desire to assimilate?

If anything, my extensive travels have amplified this deep-seated need to belong, to feel as if I am a part of something – a stained glass class, volunteer organization, kayaking group, Frisbee team, or whatever tickled my fancy at the time. With hindsight I now realize my endeavors were a way of justifying my presence and claiming every new city as my own.

I did eventually buy a Dutch-style ‘grandma bike’ from a proper shop. After many months of searching, I found a decent place to live. I did most of my grocery shopping at the Albert Cuyp Market behind my apartment and spent my afternoons biking along the Amstel River or through the small fishing villages of Marken and Volendam. I did my best to befriend any and every Dutch person I came in regular contact with. And after a long year of intensive Dutch language classes, I was able to speak it fairly fluently. Despite the fierce competition, I was admitted into the (then Dutch language) Master’s degree program in Museum Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I was doing everything I could think of to root myself and set the foundation for my new life.

Yet even after living in Amsterdam for thirteen years – eight as a naturalized Dutch citizen complete with passport – I’m very aware that my Dutch is heavily accented, I don’t really get Amsterdammers’ cynical humor, and I don’t know most of the cultural icons of my husband’s childhood. My son will probably never live in – or really understand – the United States of America, the country I spent my formative years in, the land that shaped me.

Every time I think, now I’m one of them, a shop clerk or waitress will ask, “Where do you come from, South Africa? England? You have such a cute accent.” Or even more painful, “You’re Dutch is pretty good. My brother-in-law / co-worker / bus driver has lived here ten years longer than you and still can’t speak it.” Though it’s meant a compliment, remarks like these always deflate my ego and remind me that, no matter how perfect my accent or choice of words sounds to my ears, I’ll always be that foreigner who speaks Dutch with a funny accent.

The worst question by far, the one that really cuts deep and used to ruin my day, is: “When are you going back?” Back to where, I want to ask, but never do. Realistically, in a city full of expats working temporary contracts at a plethora of international corporations and foreign consulates, it is not a strange question to ask.

Yet when I do go back to the States to visit family, all I do is moan about having to drive everywhere, the fatty, salty foods on offer and the absurd selection of products available at any store you step into. Seriously people, does the world really need ten variations of chocolate chip mint ice cream?

I have to ask for directions wherever I go because my favorite cafes and shops closed or moved years ago, leaving me without any reference points. My open disapproval of typical American behavior and attitudes leaves my husband wondering why I lived in the good ‘ole US of A for so long. At the end of every trip, I leave feeling as if I’m the ultimate stranger in a strange land, yet this was once my home.

For a long time these questions about my accent and plans for returning to the States really bothered me. Then all at once, the aggravation disappeared. Or I should say, one day I finally accepted that this is how it was going to be for the rest of my life. My newfound homeland will never really accept me as a local, even though I see myself as one.

This realization has allowed me to connect with other expats, people I avoided like the plague when I first moved here. I no longer feel the need to ‘prove’ myself by only befriending those born here.

Because I am an outsider, I recognize and appreciate many of the wonderful facets Dutch society has to offer and value them perhaps more than locals do, those who have grown up with socialized health care, short work weeks, dirt-cheap child care, and state-subsidized culture institutions. Those who don’t know what it’s like to live in another society with a different set of values and priorities may never be able to truly appreciate their own.

Perhaps it is impossible to assimilate completely, to lose that outsider’s perspective. Frankly, I no longer want to. Being aware of the beauty inherent to the Dutch way of living makes being here that much more special. Why would I want to let that go?

 

About the Author

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There she earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction. Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both books are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment in the series will be released in the fall of 2017.

On May 13, Jennifer will release a travelogue recounting her experiences as a volunteer and solo traveler in Nepal and Thailand, Notes of a Naive Traveler.

 

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.

A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell

Release date: May 13, 2017

Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooksKoboAmazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords.

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing by Jennifer S. Alderson

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing by Jennifer S. Alderson

So far this month we have been introduced to three travel memoir authors – Melissa Burovac, Jill Dobbe and Anne Hamilton – and their unique stories. It has been a pleasure reading about their journeys and how their travels influenced their writing.

The rest of the month I will feature articles by former and current expats and authors Beth Green, Annika Milisc-Stanley and Pamela Allegretto here on my blog.

Today I want to share my own story about how I came to write a travelogue. I hope you enjoy learning more about why I decided to take a break from fiction and publish excerpts from the travel journals I kept while traveling through Nepal and Thailand.

 

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing

By Jennifer S. Alderson

My travels around this crazy planet have directly inspired the settings, plot twists and several of the characters in my Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. While writing these novels, my journals, emails to friends, and postcards sent home served as memory aids when describing the landscape and people I’d met on the road.

Enjoying a boat ride around Ao Thalin, Krabi Provence, Thailand.

Before making the plunge into fiction, I did try to use these same journals and emails as the basis for a full-blow travel memoir, yet failed miserably. My attempts to write about the events I had experienced after the fact in non-fiction story form, lost all of their spontaneity and (in my mind) their appeal. So I concentrated on writing fiction and regulated my travel journals to sources of background information about the settings of my travel thrillers and mysteries.

My soon-to-be-released travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, only exists because I recycle. After cleaning out an overflowing closet, I stumbled upon a box full of old printouts, copies of the emails I’d sent to friends and family while in Nepal and Thailand. Most of the pages were crisscrossed with circles and notes I’d made while writing the first draft of Down and Out in Kathmandu.

On every corner and dusty square in the Thamel district of Kathmandu, Nepal you will find snake charmers.

These printouts were reference material I no longer needed. Because they’d only been printed on one side, I threw the lot onto our family ‘scrap paper pile’ which we use to make grocery shopping lists, or draw and paint on. While folding paper airplanes with my five-year-old son, my husband began reading the back sides of the pages, my old emails. When I got home that night, he asked why I had never published them. Just as many friends and family members have asked me over the years.

After much waffling, I re-read all of the emails and realized I could publish most them; only a few paragraphs were too personal. But the emails alone were about ten pages long; not much of a book!

Trekking with my volunteer group in Tharatum, Nepal.

So I went back through my journals and realized there was a lot of material I hadn’t used in Down and Out in Kathmandu that could be interesting to others who wanted to travel to Nepal and Thailand or volunteer abroad.  I threw together the first ten pages and sent it off to trusted beta readers. To my surprise, they were all quite positive and strongly recommended I finish it.

So I spent most of last winter piecing together excerpts from my journal and emails, then editing the mishmash of styles into one cohesive manuscript. By using direct, unaltered excerpts, I finally managed to keep the text ‘in the moment’, something I was unable to achieve the first-time around.

Tiger Caves Monastery, Krabi Provence, Thailand.

Honestly, I am incredibly nervous about having these excerpts from my personal journal out there. I admire travel writers who are able to unabashedly describe their stupid decisions, strange actions, and sometimes horrid behavior that the stress of long-term travel can bring out in a rational person.

Yet, I am also heartened by early readers’ (and even reviewer’s) positive remarks and interest in my journey. I hope those who read it are able to put themselves in my former self’s shoes and enjoy their time as a volunteer, as well as their trip around Nepal and Thailand.

May it inspire you to buy a backpack and see more of the world!

 

Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.

A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell

Release date: May 13, 2017

Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooksKoboAmazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords.

 

About the Author

Author photo by Fototeam.nl

Jennifer S. Alderson (1972) worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction.

Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand.

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: The Anthropologist) will be released in the Fall of 2017.

To read more interviews and feature articles, please click here.

 

Enjoy reading this post? Check back here Friday to read expat and TCK (Third Culture Kid) Beth Green’s contribution to my month long celebration of Fiction and Memoirs written by Expats and Travelers.

While you are here, check out Melissa BurovacJille Dobbe and Anne Hamilton’s fascinating contributions as well.

How Traveling Abroad Turned Me into a Writer by Melissa Burovac

How Traveling Abroad Turned Me into a Writer by Melissa Burovac

I have the strong feeling Melissa Burovac and I could spend many enjoyable hours swapping travel stories. After reading her excellent memoir, Wandering, I was struck by the similarities between our experiences on the road, as well as how we – as women traveling solo – reacted to the people and places we visited.

One of the things I love about Wandering is how Melissa was able to stay ‘in the moment’. After reading her article, ‘How Traveling Abroad Turned Me into a Writer’, I now understand how she did it!

 

How Traveling Abroad Turned Me into a Writer

By Melissa Burovac

My first experience of living in another country was a somewhat spontaneous RTW (Round the World) trip, beginning with a one-way ticket to Mexico and a pocket full of margarita money from selling my truck. I had long been wanting to travel, but gifted at birth with an awful sense of direction and a giant helping of anxiety, I never imagined I could make it work. My soon-to-be best friend moved to Kauai, where I live, and brought with her tales of exotic countries and fascinating people, and a house full of beautiful artifacts purchased around the world from her years of travel. She persuaded me to face my terror and take the leap — life is short, she told me, get out there and see how much more there is. With her help, I found a place to live at a school in Mexico, a very safe first step until I could get used to being abroad and so far outside my shoe-box-sized comfort zone.

 

Around this time blogs began to gain massive popularity with ease of use for regular folks, and I thought a simple blog with pictures and short descriptions of my travels would not only serve as an electronic memory book, but would assure my mother that I was safe and did not die in drug cartel crossfire — which was the assumption of most people when I told them I was moving to Mexico.

My travels began with high hopes and expectations; I had instant friends at the school where I lived and this allowed me to explore without too much trouble. I detailed my adventures each evening on my blog, usually at a café or bar while sampling the locally made alcoholic beverages. Life carried on this way for a few months, and it was pretty darn pleasant.

Over time I became worn out being in other countries by myself and talking to other people I’d only see for a day or two; the newness and excitement of each place was not enough to mask my growing anxiety of being lost and alone. I tired of introducing myself over and over again to dozens of people every day — I am normally an introvert and a bit shy — and speaking to so many strangers just so I had someone to talk to was starting to take a toll on my mental energy. Don’t misunderstand, though; I love people, but the need to talk to friends who already knew me was growing, and my desire to make small talk was exhausted.

Instead of cutting my experience abroad short, I spent more time writing in near solitude. Everywhere I went I searched out an uncrowded, quiet spot where I could safely use my computer, and it gave me an excuse to observe and listen to people while not inviting conversation. I felt a part of the culture and scene while not directly being involved; my social anxiety eased and I learned a new way to exist while my mind was screaming to go back home.

Eventually, though, I did go home, and was unprepared for the feedback from my blog. My mom was happy I kept in constant contact through writing; my friends were delighted by the places I visited and the adventures I had; women expressed amazement at doing the entire year abroad solo and eagerly read how it was accomplished — many had never imagined braving the unknown without a man as a travel companion. Most of the time I spent writing was time spent drinking as well, and apparently I’m funny when I’m drunk — adding a bit of comedy to travel tales doesn’t hurt. The comment I heard most often was “You should write a book.” The material was already written, all I had to do was clean up the grammar and random intoxicated rants, and stitch the individual posts into one coherent story. I didn’t know if I could do this, never having written much of anything previously, but getting a job after a year of travel depressed me and I began to dream of a career as an author and traveling more, but in shorter bursts.

 

The project was not easy; I spent months working 80-hour weeks to create my first book. I worked 40 hours as a bookkeeper to provide myself food and shelter, and spent an additional 40 hours writing, usually sitting on the tailgate of my pickup truck while parked at the beach. I wrote on a $200 laptop with sticky keys, once writing several chapters without the letter ‘m’ until I figured out a small pebble had lodged itself in the keyboard.

My first travel book, Wandering, was published in June, 2014 after what seemed like an excruciatingly painful mental effort. Even though it did not become an instant best seller, or even provide me with enough income to quit my day job, I am proud of the book and what I learned by writing it. I developed a new kind of discipline — skipping social events with friends, or even watching TV, so I could make time to write. I developed a real love of writing and have since published another novel, Sylvie Writes a Romance, and several short stories and articles on a variety of topics. As a result of blogging, I also began a personal journal to help myself when life gets more complicated than normal.

My first adventure abroad created my habit of writing, and it has changed my life for the better. I hope I continue to create new work, and am able to use what I’ve learned about all aspects of writing, editing, and marketing to help other authors fulfill their dreams of publishing.

You can visit my blog at Wander With Melissa and Facebook page, or check out my books on Amazon. Thank you for reading.

 

About the Author

Melissa is a writer and photographer on Kauai, Hawaii. An avid outdoorswoman, Burovac enjoys outrigger paddling—both one-man and six-man—SUP, running, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving, as well as yoga.

She is always up for adventure and loves doing things that scare her a little. She is the author of Wandering (2014) and Sylvie Writes a Romance, “a feel-good romantic comedy with a resilient heroine” according to Kirkus Indie Review.

 

Wandering

Traveling solo as a woman certainly has its ups and downs, but Melissa Burovac will be the first to tell you to embrace the adventure as you encounter it.

Facing her fortieth birthday as a single woman in a job she was tired of, Burovac decided to “do something.” Always keen for adventure, she chose to buy a one-way ticket to Mexico-and quit her job, sell her beloved Jeep, and store all her belongings.

Though she’d gone on trips abroad before, Burovac didn’t feel like she’d ever earned the title of “traveler.” But that was about to change.

“Wandering” relates the adventures, and misadventures (she encounters so many major weather events that her friends start predicting where the next disaster will strike based on her next destination), of her nine months traveling through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand. Her stories will crack you up-and they will inspire you. As someone with no sense of direction, no ability to plan, and plenty of social anxiety, her experiences prove that anyone who wants to travel “can”!

 

 

Enjoy this post? Check back Monday to read another travel-related article, this time by international educator and long-time expat Jille Dobbe.

 

Fiction and Memoirs written by Expats and Travelers

Fiction and Memoirs written by Expats and Travelers

In a few short weeks I will be releasing Notes of a Naive Traveler, excerpts from travel journals and emails I’d written while volunteering in Kathmandu and backpacking through Nepal and Thailand. This journey also served as the basis for my first novel, a travel thriller entitled Down and Out in Kathmandu.

My plan was to volunteer in Nepal for four months then backpack around Southeast Asia for another six. Things didn’t quite work out that way…

Traveling is an amazing adventure, one that can transform your world view – if you let it. Yet it can also be quite scary and lonely when you’re so far from home, especially the first time.

When I decided to set off from Seattle to Kathmandu, I was a twenty-six-year-old computer geek who didn’t have a passport because I’d never left the States. This first trip abroad ignited my wanderlust. This journey led to another and another, and after having traveled much of the world, I settled in the Netherlands and reinvented myself as an art historian.

Long-term travel and the expat experience are topics near and dear to my heart. To celebrate the impending release of Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, I’ve asked six incredible authors, travelers and expats to share their stories.

Every Monday and Friday during the month of March, I will be featuring fascinating articles by Jill Dobbe, Melissa Burovac, Beth Green, Anne Hamilton, Annika Milisic Stanley and Pamela Allegretto – as well as an article I’ve written about claiming your place in this world – on my blog.

I hope you enjoy learning more about these incredible women in the coming weeks, in particular their expat and travel-related experiences and the influence it’s had on their life and writing.

See you Friday!

 

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.

A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell

Release date: May 13, 2017

Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooksKoboAmazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords for 99 cents and have it delivered to your eReader the moment it is released!

 

The Lover’s Portrait and Down and Out in Kathmandu are 99 cents until March 1

The Lover’s Portrait and Down and Out in Kathmandu are 99 cents until March 1

Super Sale! For the first time ever, Books 1 and 2 of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series are on sale for 99 cents!

Don’t miss your chance to pick up The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery​ and Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking​ now for a ridiculously low price!

If you love art, history and mysteries, The Lover’s Portrait is right up your alley:

American art history student Zelda Richardson discovers clues to the whereabouts of a cache of missing masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, hidden away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboiBooksBarnes & NobleSmashwords and other fine retailers.

 

If you love travel fiction, thrillers and a bit of mystery, you won’t want to miss Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking!

An idealistic backpacker volunteering as an English teacher in Nepal finds herself entangled with an international gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes she’s stolen their diamonds.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboBarnes and NobleiBooksSmashwords and other fine retailers.

 

Sale ends March 1! Don’t miss your chance to get two great novels for less than the price of one latte!

MysteryThrillerWeek: Mystery and Thriller Passport Theme

MysteryThrillerWeek: Mystery and Thriller Passport Theme

Welcome to the first of four themed posts about Mystery Thriller Week, an annual event celebrating the Mystery and Thriller genres!

Over two-hundred authors are participating in this global event. To help readers and authors better connect, a variety of themed lists – sub-categories of both genres – have been created.

Today I’m thrilled to share with you fourteen books from the Mystery and Thriller Passport Theme, mysteries and thrillers set outside of the United States. Authors Anne C. Carmichael, Tomasz Chrusciel, Colin Garrow, Jane Jordan, Sarah Key, Paul Russell Parker III, Phil Philips, Nick Rippington, Leta Serafim, Marie Silk, Judy Sheluk, Michael Smorenburg, and Zaheera Walker have kindly provided a description of their setting and story. I’ve also included information about my own travel fiction thrillers. Click on the book cover to link to Amazon, where you can read an excerpt and learn more about the author.

I love to read books that transport me to other cities and countries. If you love to travel by fiction as well, pick up one of these titles today and take a trip to Nepal, Thailand, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Wales, Kuwait, Greece, Canada, South America, Guyana, South Africa, or the Caribbean from the comfort of your armchair.

These are but a few of the 40+ books currently listed in the Mystery and Thriller Passport category. This list will be updated with new titles through January 9th. You can see the complete list here.

Be sure to sign up as a reviewer or Super Fan on the MysteryThrillerWeek website to be kept up-to-date of all the fun games, prizes and giveaways taking place during the event, February 12 – 22, 2017.

I look forward to seeing you there!

But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the exciting reads in this category…

 

Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking by Jennifer S. Alderson

Down and Out in Kathmandu : Adventures in BackpackingNepal, Thailand and the Netherlands feature prominently in the first two books of my on-going stand-alone series, the Adventures of Zelda Richardson. To bring these settings to life, I’ve drawn on my own experiences gained while traveling through these countries as a volunteer, backpacker and student. My novels will whisk you off to exotic destinations and let you experience the sights, smells and sounds of some of my favorite places in the world.

Down and Out in Kathmandu: Adventures in Backpacking is a travel thriller set in Nepal and Thailand. In Book One of the series, Zelda goes to Nepal to volunteer as an English teacher where she gets entangled with a gang of Thai smugglers who suspect she’s stolen their diamonds.

Join Zelda and a cast of misfits as they immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu’s touristy Thamel district, discover the holy temples and stupas of the Kathmandu Valley, trek through the mountains of Eastern Nepal, explore the beaches and caves of Koh Tao, snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand and rock climb in Krabi, to name a few.

The cities, villages, temples, monuments, trekking trails and beaches described in this novel are all real places I visited while volunteering in Kathmandu or during my later travels around Nepal and Thailand. This book offers a peek into the backpacker culture of Southeast Asia, and insight into what life can be like for a Westerner volunteering in a developing country. I hope you enjoy traveling through Nepal and Thailand with Zelda!

 

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery by Jennifer S. Alderson

The Lover's Portrait : An Art MysterySet in the Netherlands, The Lover’s Portrait is the story of American art history student Zelda Richardson, who finds clues to the whereabouts of a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.

I was inspired to write this book while studying art history in the Netherlands and used my adopted hometown of Amsterdam as the setting. Visit world class museums, bike through the narrow bridges and streets of the capitol, meander through the quaint fishing village of Urk, clambor up the IAmsterdam logo on the Museumplein, attempt to break-in to the exclusive Amstel Hotel, and fly remote-controlled airplanes in Vondelpark with Zelda and her friends.

I hope you enjoy your trip to the Netherlands and wish you luck in solving this art mystery!

 

Elderhaus by Anne C. Carmichael

Elderhaus is the story of the Klingenfelters, a Jewish family who originally settled the fictional town of Pitch Pine, PA, having escaped Nazi Germany after WWII. Gertrude Klingenfelter is the daughter of Anyaleise and Helmut, who were brought together by her father in an arranged and loveless marriage.

Helmut gets Anyaleise pregnant when he comes home drunk one night and vows never to touch her again. When Gertie is five years old, he leaves Pitch Pine and never returns. Gertie spends the years after college until middle aged scouring Europe for her father, but her search proves fruitless, so she buys a dilapidated house (Elderhaus) in her hometown and plans to spend her remaining years remodeling it.

Gertie falls for handsome contractor/playboy Trey Haskell, who has an agenda of his own and many skeletons in his family closet. Even Elderhaus has secrets of its own.

 

Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel

Nina Monte has worked hard to achieve her dreams. At thirty-six she’s one of Italy’s youngest professors, and renowned for her knowledge of the ancient world. Old religious texts might make for lonely companions at night, but that’s nothing a bottle of fine wine can’t fix.

When a mysterious summons presents a career-making opportunity, Nina can’t resist. A relic has been found in a 15th Century galley and it’s the kind of discovery encountered once in a lifetime. But floating atop the depths of Lake Garda at the recovery site, Nina senses something is amiss. With local hotelier, Alessandro Pini at her side, she begins to unravel the truth surrounding the relic. She soon realizes that questions of the past pale in comparison to the dangers looming in the present.

The mystical object in Nina’s hands is no trinket; it has the power to change humanity’s perception of existence. And many believe a gift like that is worthy dying—or killing—for.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 21st to read my review of Fast Track to Glory.

 

Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is set in a mostly-fictitious version of a northeast seaside town in England, where I lived for a while after finishing university. The story was inspired by my own experiences as a taxi-driver in the early Nineties (in a different seaside town), though the novel is set in the present. Creating my protagonist, I never liked the idea of trying to represent police officers in a realistic way, so I made my hero an ordinary guy with ordinary problems and tried to think how ‘normal’ people might deal with discovering a dead body in their house:

When he learns of the death of taxi-driver pal Frank, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes it’s natural causes, but when he finds a note pinned to his front door and a corpse on the living room floor, things start to look suspicious – and not just because the murder weapon has Terry’s prints all over it. As if that wasn’t enough, old school friend Charis is in charge of the police investigation, and her elfin-like smile may not be enough to keep Terry off the list of suspects.

Launching his own investigation, the canny cabbie sets out to retrace Frank’s movements, tracking down anyone who might be able to shed light on the driver’s final hours. A taxi job leads to Swedish building contractor Elise Andersson, who could well be involved, but the tight-lipped lady poses more questions than answers.

Teaming up with Carol from the taxi firm, Terry meets a bald-headed man who knows a little too much about Terry’s recent activities. Then, finding himself unwittingly recruited into what could well be a Geordie crime family, it looks like the part-time sleuth is caught between one bunch of villains and another. In any case, when a third body turns up, Terry and Carol realise they need to stay out of sight. Only trouble is, their choice of hideout is a little too susceptible to arson…

Don’t forget to check back here on February 1st to read Colin’s interesting take on Amateur Sleuths.

 

The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Jane Jordan

The Beekeeper’s Daughter is a historical thriller set in Exmoor in the South West of England.

Exmoor is an inspirational place for writers.  The landscape is dramatic with great cliffs that plummet into the sea, deep wooded verdant valleys and large expanses of purple clad moorland.  A place where thick creeping mists can quickly roll in from the sea, and turn the beautiful countryside into a hauntingly eerie landscape.  Add to this an ancient castle, a preserved medieval village and a myriad of folklore and legends that intrigue locals and tourists alike.

The first time I visited Exmoor I fell in love with the romance of the place.  As a writer, I have attempted to capture the emotional experiences of living and working there. In parts, it still is an untamed place that still retains an air of a much slower and bygone era.

I also write about the city of Bath, famous for its Georgian architecture at a time when it was fashionable to take the waters at the highly-regarded Pump room, or to be driven in horse drawn carriage to an elaborate ball.

Annabel Taylor is the beekeeper’s daughter, and this is a story of her unwavering love for Jevan, the Blacksmith’s son. Her connection to Jevan is sensual and dangerous, but her ability to charm bees is the dark undercurrent that weaves throughout this thriller.

After Jevan shatters her world by leaving Exmoor, Annabel forms a friendship Alex, the heir to the foreboding Gothelstone mansion.  She is oddly drawn to Alex despite their social divide, she knows his attention is merely a distraction from her true love.  Alex has other ideas.

When Jevan returns, a destructive love triangle follows. Annabel is ensnared into the dark legacy of the Saltonstall family, and when the lives of those she loves most are threatened, she must use her inherent power and destroy a powerful witch.

 

The Dandelion Clock by Sarah Key

Silent Helene Van den Bergh has wandered the city since her release from a psychiatric hospital fifteen years earlier. Horrified when her friend is murdered, she knows the bullet was meant for her ‒ but why?

On Devil’s Peak, on the spring equinox, Helene waits for the gibbous moon to rise, unaware that two killers stalk her. The Dark Man, and Etienne Craig, The Diabolical Creation, a depraved lunatic whose lust for violence has reached its zenith. But something infinitely more evil tracks the hunters on the charred mountainside. Its depravity knows no bounds and its form cannot be predicted. Evil men set on slaughter may themselves become its prey.

Flash Peterson, Honey Esack and Petra Montgomery, the Sisters of Light, unite in a desperate scramble against the clock. Can they conquer the darkness in time to save their friend?

In this gripping psychological thriller, Sarah Key, author of Tangled Weeds, weaves the supernatural with crime to stunning effect.

Don’t forget to check back here on January 9th to read a electrifying article by Sarah Key about the setting in her books, Setting as Viewfinder for African Thrillers.

 

Mona Lisa’s Secret by Phil Philips

Joey is the great-grandson of Vincenzo Peruggia, the man who stole the original Mona Lisa in 1911. Along with his girlfriend, Marie, an art connoisseur, he stumbles across his father’s secret room, and finds himself staring at what he thinks is a replica of da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece.

BUT IT IS NO FAKE

The Louvre has kept this secret for over one hundred years, waiting for the original to come to light, and now they want it back at any cost.

With Marie held hostage and the Louvre curator and his men hot on his trail, Joey is left to run for his life in an unfamiliar city, with the priceless Mona Lisa his only bargaining chip. While formulating a plan to get Marie back with the help from an unexpected quarter, Joey discovers hidden secrets within the painting, secrets which, if made public, could change the world forever.

All In: The Globe Trot Shuffle by Paul Russell Parker III

All In: The Globe Trot Shuffle, takes place all over the world. It’s set in several countries, and even on the high seas. The first half of the story takes place all over Iraq, from Diwaniyah to Tikrit.  You see the characters in the military or as civilian contractor’s years later. They’re on FOB’s or sleeping in holes. Then it moves to Kuwait. You get to see a border crossing station, and a swanky 5-star hotel. The characters then move onto a container ship that’s traveling from Kuwait to South America. You get to see how life on a ship transiting pirate infested waters around the Horn of Africa, is. The characters make landfall in Guyana, and explore hotels and bars. From the port in South America, they travel the Caribbean on a private yacht to Roseau and Portsmouth, Dominica.

The story is about four US Marines who make an amazing discovery in a mansion during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. This discovery will force them to cross a line that there’s no turning back from. The line between good guys and bad guys are now blurred. The group soon finds that making their dreams come true isn’t as easy as flying home and making a deposit. They need to safeguard their discovery during a shooting war, and keep it hidden from locals as well as their fellow Marines. They decide to stash it for the lack of a better idea. Years later, the group of Marines are now civilians working in Iraq on a contract to the military. They must find their way past Iraqi Police checkpoints as well as insurgents to secure their discovery. After that, they must get home to make good on it. The only way to do that while carrying something highly illegal is to travel as low key as possible. They embark on a dangerous journey with Bedouins, on a shipping container ship, and on private boats to see their plan to the very end.

Don’t forget to check back here on January 16th when Paul will share more about the looting of Saddam’s palaces he witnessed while on a tour of duty in Iraq.

 

Crossing The Whitewash by Nick Rippington

Crossing The Whitewash switches from the inner city bustle of London to the wide open countryside of the Welsh valleys.

It tells the story of Gary Marshall, a talented teenage sportsman, who grows up in a hi-rise tower block on a rundown housing estate where he has to battle adversity both on the streets and closer to home.

In one particular incident he is accosted by a gang when he returns from school, only to be saved by another boy on the estate, the worldly-wise Arnie Dolan. As their relationship develops Gary’s dreams fade and he begins to realise that many of his problems can be traced back to the time when the two boys met.

After a dramatic series of events tear them apart, Gary is forced to give up on his football dream and takes the drastic step of moving away to start a new life in Wales, under a new name. The aim is to put as much distance between himself and Arnie.

In doing so he has to adapt to a completely different pace of life in an environment totally alien to him. He joins a newspaper in the Welsh capital city, Cardiff, and lodges with a work experience lad and his dad in the valleys.

As he acclimatises he begins to realise that there can be more to life than battling every day for survival, embedding himself in the local community and learning about their love of rugby – a sport completely foreign to him.

With one of the world’s greatest sporting events, the Rugby World Cup, about to descend on Wales he adapts to his new role as a sports reporter, little knowing that Arnie has embarked on a mission to track him down.

 

When the Devil’s Idle by Leta Serafim

In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth. Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island’s fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him.

What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder—the gardener and housekeeper, the victim’s son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family’s many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying. But which of these secrets led to murder? Book 2 of the Greek Islands Mystery series, which began with The Devil Takes Half.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 19th to read my review of When the Devil’s Idle and an interview with Leta Serafim.

 

Davenport House 4: Heiress Interrupted by Marie Silk

More to the story is revealed in this fourth book to Davenport House. Nellie Whitmore is accustomed to life as a carefree heiress, but her claim to the family fortune is at risk because of a new heir. Nellie is sent to Britain to be married before word spreads of her changing circumstances. What begins as a luxurious voyage becomes a fight for survival when the ship is caught in the midst of the War, forever changing the people who live to tell about it.

Friendship is kept afloat by telegrams between London and Davenport House. Mary Davenport announces exciting news, and the servants prepare for more changes downstairs. Ethan is anxious to move to Philadelphia, but becomes overworked while the estate is in search of a new groundskeeper. Relationships become strained when the unthinkable shakes the foundation of the house, and the ladies are left to evaluate the risks of keeping secrets.

Don’t forget to check back here on January 23rd when Marie will share more about sailing the Atlantic for research.

 

Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic is set in the fictional town of Marketville, which is located about an hour north of Toronto, Canada. My protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, a single city girl forced to move to Marketville, describes it as a commuter town where folks with two kids, a cat, and a collie moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields.

It is loosely based (and very much fictionalized) version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, where I lived for several years.

Callie Barnstable inherits a house in Marketville – a house she knew nothing about — from her father, who died in an “unfortunate” occupational accident. The catch: she must move into the house and find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie believed had left “for the milkman or some other male equivalent” when she was just six-years-old.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 20th to read my review of Skeletons in the Attic and an interview with Judy Penz Sheluk.

 

The Praying Nun: A True Story by Michael Smorenburg

At the southern tip of Africa lies a ship graveyard.

The reason is obvious: Before Suez, much of the world’s trade had to round the perilous waters where Africa interferes with ill-tempered southern ocean. Here you will find Cape Town, one of the world’s most majestic cities built around Table Bay, a bay that forms a funnel with its mouth yawning wide open to swallow the winter onslaughts. The result of wind-driven ships and treacherous weather is predictable; the highest density of shipwrecks anywhere on the planet.

Indeed, Cape Town’s city center is built on a mile of reclaimed land pushed out over what used to be the ancient anchorage a century and more ago. So that, when today’s civil engineers build our skyscrapers and burrow down to the bedrock of that foreshore to sink their anchorage, they find the sites of tragedy and shipwrecks in their foundations.

Let’s give this some context: Take a globe of the world and check out the distance Spain, Greece and Southern California are from the Equator – now look at the tip of Africa… we are the same distance south of the Equator as those great regions are north of it.

Around a headland from the city is another smaller bay, just a mile wide. That headland soars to 3,000-feet in towering height; it is the fabled Table Mountain. At three-times the age of the Himalaya it is one of the world’s oldest mountains and a World Heritage Site.

This smaller bay is called Clifton, and it surely is the most comely and magnificent setting for a suburb on this planet. Fingers of reef stretch from the beach seaward, lying eternally in wait to snag the keel of any unsuspecting ship’s captain. And, in 1794, one of these reefs got lucky, tearing the hull out of a slaver with 400 unfortunates chained in her holds.

The bones of that tragedy lay undetected until a friend and I found them nearly thirty years ago; in 2015 the Smithsonian identified them as the wreck of the São José Paquete Africa.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 4th when Michael will share more about his exciting find in the post, A Graveyard for Ships.

 

DEADLINE by Zaheera Walker

DEADLINE is set in Durban, South Africa. It tells the story of Feriyal Adam, an emerging journalist who has her sights set on the coveted prize, but… the universe has other plans for her – she loses her job, her mother succumbs to cancer and life has no meaning until the desirable Shane Black resurfaces.

Feriyal takes on a dangerous assignment to prove her mettle. Determined, stubborn and foolhardy, she breaks rules to get what she wants until the moment when she stares death in the face.

Held against her will by a notorious serial killer, she realises she might be living on borrowed time. He has lured women to their deaths and chances are he is set on doing it again….

Don’t forget to check back here on January 6th to read a fascinating article by Zaheera about her use of Durban, South Africa as the setting for her debut novel.

 

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up to receive the newest posts from my blog (enter your email address into the form on the right-hand sidebar). From now until February 22, this site will be inundated with MysteryThrillerWeek guest posts, articles, features, interviews, giveaways and much more! I look forward to seeing you there!

Goodreads giveaway: Down and Out in Kathmandu

Goodreads giveaway: Down and Out in Kathmandu

On December 16, 2015 my debut novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, hit the actual and virtual shelves!

I’ll never forget the feeling of astonishment and joy when I searched on Amazon and found my novel on the same lists as my backpacker fiction writing heroes…

To mark this momentous occasion, I’m giving away one signed copy of the Second Edition paperback. If travel thrillers are your thing, or you simply want to visit Nepal and Thailand from your armchair, you won’t want to miss this!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Down and Out in Kathmandu by Jennifer S. Alderson

Down and Out in Kathmandu

by Jennifer S. Alderson

Giveaway ends January 09, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway