You think you know the story of the ark? Think again.

You already know about Noah.

Just wait until you read the animal’s story.

“I found the pages flying by…”

“a breath of fresh air…”

“not just for children…”

4stars

Four and a half stars on Amazon!

Thimblerig is a little groundhog with big problems.

He’s a loner con-artist who’s losing his mojo; the wild dogs who run the forest harass him at every turn; he’s having vivid nightmares of apocalyptic floods; and worst of all, he believes he sees unicorns when everyone knows unicorns are only the stuff of legend.

But what one animal might call a problem, Thimblerig calls an opportunity.Thimblerig's Arc_3 (1) copy

In a moment of inspiration, he comes up with the ultimate con: persuade as many suckers as he can that a world-ending flood is coming; the fabled unicorns have told him where the only safe place will be; and only he can lead them to safety.

All for a reasonable price, of course.

When the flood really does come, Thimblerig has a choice: either save the ones who trusted him, or lose everything.

And that’s when he discovers that his problems have only just begun.

Author Nate Fleming at a book signing at the Bookworm, Chengdu, China - summer 2014

Children’s book author Nate Fleming at a book signing at the Bookworm, Chengdu, China – summer 2014

Author Nate Fleming at a a book signing at the Binding Time Cafe in Virginia, summer 2014

Children’s book author Nate Fleming at a a book signing at the Binding Time Cafe in Virginia, summer 2014

 

Purchase and/or download Thimblerig’s Ark today!

Thimblerig’s Ark Book Launch • Chengdu, China

I was thrilled to launch Thimblerig’s Ark two weeks ago in Chengdu, at the Bookworm.  It was a great event, with a capacity crowd attending, and I enjoyed answering questions and sharing the inspirations behind the story.

 

Penang, Malaysia • Spring Break 2014

One of the big perks to being an international educator is that interesting places, formerly out of reach, are just a hop away. In our case, we were whisked from Sichuan province by Air Asia for a quick spring break trip to Penang Island, Malaysia.

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According to visitpenang.gov.my, Penang Island has a long history intermingled with the west, and is an island full of stories of colonization, pirates, spices, opium, and invasions by all sorts.

Today, the island is mainly invaded by tourists, and good on the people of Penang for taking advantage of that by having a fantastic place to visit, with friendly people, tasty food, and beauty unsurpassed. I was also inspired by our trip there to begin work on a book series that I’ve been contemplating for quite a while, dealing with lost treasure, such as the story of the lost treasure of the Flor De La Mar.  More on that to come.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of our very relaxing time at the Golden Sands Resort, in Penang, Malaysia.

 

Tomb Sweeping Day on Mt. Qingcheng

Nothing says Tomb Sweeping Day like climbing a mountain.  And it makes it better that this was the mountain that inspired the makers of Kung Fu Panda 2!

Thimblerig's Ark Cover ArtMeanwhile, if you are looking for a good middle grade fantasy novel, try my new novel, Thimblerig’s Ark.  You know about Noah, but wait until you read the animal’s story!  The novel was inspired by C.S. Lewis, the book of Genesis, and an Irish pub song that tells why the unicorns didn’t make it on Noah’s Ark.

Soundtrack of Life in China

I woke up Saturday morning to strange sounds coming from outside.  It sounded like some sort of other-worldly car alarm, as if someone had bumped a UFO in my apartment complex parking lot.  I got up to see what was going on, and was greeted by the man in this video, rather than angry little green men.

I just had to chuckle, watching this man playing with what looked like some sort of Chinese yo-yo.  But as I watched him, I realized that what he was doing was actually pretty calming to me.  Why did it calm me?  Had my short time living in China already changed me?  I imagined the angry protests this yo-yo practitioner would probably get from neighbors if he were playing with such a loud device in the U.S. on a Saturday morning in a crowded apartment complex.  There might be fists thrown or cops called.

But not here.

Not in Chengdu.

In Chengdu, background noise is a part of life that that you come to accept.  We are a city of 14 million, all squeezed into box apartments in tiny little apartment complexes.  There will always be background noise, and you have to come to terms with that.

For example, I have a neighbor on the other side of our apartment who practices his musical instrument daily, sitting on his porch.  Every day he’s out there, playing the suona (sort of a Chinese oboe), the sounds echoing up and down the apartment complex, and it’s brilliant.  Whenever I hear it, I feel like I’m not only living in China, but also in a movie about living in China.  But again, in other places, neighbors would probably be complaining to the landlord about the noise and threatening a lawsuit.

It’s a part of the soundtrack of life here, the good and the bad.   A less delightful example was when our upstairs neighbor was doing some sort of renovation a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to go and knock him on his head.  Hours and hours of drilling, hammering, stomping around; but I didn’t go knock him on his head, or even on his door.  Why?  Because renovation is  an accepted sound in our close quarters.  People have work to do, and besides, one day I might have some renovation of my own to accomplish, and then my neighbors will have to deal with it, too.

And then there have been the endless fireworks this past week, during the Chinese New Year celebrations: the long rows of firecrackers that made it sound like our neighborhood was being attacked by people with machine guns; the M-80’s playfully tossed into the koi ponds by children; the black widows that my own son loves to detonate; they have all added to the soundtrack of this Chinese experience.

I will work hard to enjoy these extra sounds of life in Chengdu, because each one contributes to my living in a land that is not my own, and they are all so completely unlike the sounds I will hear next year when we find ourselves living in a new place.  There, I will have to adapt to a completely new soundtrack, and if I’ve learned anything in China, it’s that each place has its own sound, and you need to listen and learn to love.

Except for renovation.   Renovation stinks no matter where you live.

Fleming’s Chengdu Spring Festival 2014

Our family has had several days off for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), not as many as if we were working for a Chinese company, but a welcomed week and a half in dreary January.  As usual, we stayed in Chengdu during the holiday, mainly to enjoy the city of 14 million when the population dwindles to 8 million, the other 6 million having returned to their hometowns to celebrate the holiday.  Yesterday, some new Chinese friends took us on a sightseeing excursion to a small village about an hour out of the city, where we saw an old village, and then up to Chengdu’s famous Great Fake Wall of China – for those without the energy or scratch to make the trip up north.  Here are some pictures from our excursion…

The Race

I will always remember China as the place where my third child and my first novel were born.

chinaWe came to Chengdu, China with absolutely no idea that we would have a third child, but we were pleasantly (and cautiously ) surprised to find out we were pregnant after being here about two months.  My wife and I are both in our early 40’s, with two kids who are already in the double digits, and it was quite an intimidating idea that we’d have another tiny one in our house.

Meanwhile, about the same time the pregnancy was discovered, I picked up my old unfinished manuscript of Thimblerig’s Ark that I’d been working on for nearly fourteen years.  Nanowrimo was coming up in November, and I decided that it was time to finally finish the darned thing.  Certainly, I could finish it by the time new little baby Fleming made his/her grand appearance, right?

The challenge was extended, the challenge was accepted, and the race was on.

In the first lane was my wife with my unfinished, unpolished, unformed child inside.  In the second lane, my unfinished, unpolished, unformed manuscript, also waiting to see the light of day.

And then came the complications.

First, we discovered that the baby had a single umbilical artery, which meant that there might not be enough blood, and the baby could be underdeveloped.  Then, we discovered that we had placenta previa, the placenta covering the cervix, and that if it didn’t shift out of the way, it could be dangerous for my wife and my baby, and we’d need a C-section.  Then, my wife had a couple of early morning bleeds and was forced to go on bedrest.  Then, we found out that the placenta not only covered the cervix, but went up into the abdomen, which would make a C-section very dangerous.  And all of this was going on while we were less than a year in Chengdu, China – with no language, little understanding of the medical system, no medical insurance for my wife (long story), and plenty of anxiety and fear.

With my writing, there were also plenty of complications.  While trying to write I was doing my best to take care of my wife (who is the real hero of this story).  I was taking care of our two older kids (thank heavens for the concept of Dad Bucks, which I found here).  I was working full time as an elementary school teacher.  I was directing the high school drama program.  I was cleaning and preparing breakfasts and lunches and dinners (thank heaven for the friends who helped with supplying meals from time to time, too!).  And I was trying to get Thimblerig finished.

As you can see, it was a hard race, and it was questionable if either competitor would actually reach the finish line.

A side note – I have never prayed or been prayed for so hard in all of my life (for the baby mostly – don’t tell the book), and I’ve never been so unsure about what would happen at that finish line.  In fact, I felt how Thimblerig, the hero of my novel, must have felt as I was trying to keep him from getting him to the ark.  I was throwing everything I could at him to prevent him from making it, and at the same time I felt like everything, every problem, was being thrown at me.  There was a strange and – in retrospect – beautiful symmetry to what my family was experiencing, and what I was doing to the protagonists of my story.

But back to the race…

Things were darkest towards the end.  Every night I would work on the novel after everyone was asleep, and then when I went to bed, I would pray and beg God to keep my wife from having any more bleeding and that we wouldn’t have to have any late-night runs to the hospital.  I didn’t sleep well, I felt nervous all the time, and every time my phone rang while I was at work I was worried that it would be my wife letting me know that she was on the way to the hospital.  I wept in front of our church, requesting continued prayer.

At the same time, I was nearing the end of the novel.  I’d finally figured out how all the loose ends should tie up, but trying to figure out how exactly how to tie them was nearly impossible.  But still, I pushed on.

And then, it happened.  The day of the scheduled C-section arrived.  Because of our insurance situation, we’d chosen to stay in China, and give birth at Angel Hospital, a private hospital that was extremely luxurious, and yet still cheaper than if we’d flown back to the states with insurance.  But as nice as the hospital was, this was a day we’d been dreading.  The placenta previa had not resolved and the danger during the surgery was more real than ever.  People have died with the complications we were experiencing, and as much as we’d prayed and done what the doctor wanted us to do, there were no assurances that we’d have a happy ending.  If the baby was born in distress, they would have to stabilize him/her, put him/her in an ambulance, and rush him/her to the bigger hospital that had a NICU.  But the doctors weren’t leaving anything to chance, and when they wheeled my wife into the surgery room, I saw that they had their best staff on hand to help.  We said a final prayer, and the surgery began.

I would love to say that the procedure went exactly as planned.  I would love to say that there was no need for any of the extra equipment, or the ambulance, or the extra blood we’d had to buy from the central blood bank.  I’d love to say that my wife was just fine, that the baby was just fine, that there were no complications, that the surgeon showed considerable skill in bringing it all to a happy ending.

I would love to say it, and I do love to say it, because all of those things happened.  The baby won the race.

Noah Abai Fleming was born on June 10, as scheduled, and was as healthy as a little newborn baby could be.  My wife, while having extreme pain and discomfort for several days because of the C-section, was just fine.  The hospital was incredibly supportive and turned out be nicer than anything we’d ever experience in an American hospital – on all fronts.  The relief we felt as a family was so tangible that we could have put it into bottles and sold it at the market.  I can see it now – “Relief juice for sale!  Get your fresh relief juice!”

Thimblerig’s Ark came  in a close second.  Just a few days after the birth of Noah, I was finally able to type the two words every novelist is happy to type:  “The End”, and I celebrated by kissing my newborn baby and holding my wife.

I’m happy to say that in both cases, the story doesn’t end there.  The baby has grown and grown into a healthy chubby seven month old – curious about everything, incredibly eloquent with his one word vocabulary of “ba”, and a complete delight to all of us – brother and sister included.   dad and noah

Thimblerig, meanwhile, has been through a bevy of revisions.  After the childbirth we had a quiet Chengdu summer, with most of our expatriate friends having returned to their home countries for the summer break, and so with very little to do, I was able to spend glorious hours in a variety of Chengdu coffee shops, living the life of the full-time writer.  Finally, in the autumn, I gathered a team of intrepid beta readers, who gave great feedback, I revised a few more times, and by December, Thimblerig’s Ark was ready to go out into the world.

What does the future hold for these, my child and my novel, both made in China?  I don’t know.  I hope the best for both of them.  For Noah, I hope that God blesses him in every way a child can be blessed.  For Thimblerig, I hope that his story is read by as many people as possible.

And finally, and most importantly, I hope I don’t have to have another child to write my next novel.  I don’t think I could make it.