Not long ago, my son Omar accompanied me to Switzerland. I wanted to make sure the memories I had of boarding school were accurate, for they are the ones on which my ghost-hunting mystery Wax Works is based.
Americans Lauren Briant and Rachel Gordon reunite at Château Mont Rose in Lausanne. The former boarding school has opened a new business face as an inn/hotel and wax museum. Rachel has a girl Friday job with a ghost-hunting crew led by wealthy Greek clairvoyant, Helena Stamoulos, an alumna who wants to reach out to the spirit of a teacher murdered on site. Lauren interviews for the script-writing position.
Meanwhile, prodded by Interpol, Detective Cloquet of Lausanne Sûreté investigates the deaths of fourteen visitors to the château in its new business identity. He insists his nephew/intern, Paul Junod, get on the ghost-hunting team and close to the young women at risk.
The ghost of Danielle Schwartz stalks its former students at the Château de Chillon and elsewhere, but is not allowed within Château Mont Rose. During the second night’s lock-down, the damaged institution manifests power to impact human egos and animate the wax statues.
I currently am seeking literary representation for this thriller. You can see the book trailer at the link following:
In the summer of 2010, I celebrated not only a return accumulating to ten years on U.S. soil, but the graduation of my oldest child, a Saudi-American, from architectural school. An entire week was spent walking on air and feeling intensely grateful.
Many Saudi students come to the USA for education, but to have found myself with my son as he did so, here in my native land, indeed, to have watched both of my children become truly bi-cultural and appreciative of their two backgrounds is a blessing I once despaired of enjoying.
I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for seventeen years. It was the most dramatic change from my childhood as could possibly be imagined. There is an abundance of positive things I remember from my life in Saudi Arabia:
1. Saudi Arabia is really exotic. Jeddah, the town I lived in, is exotic. The Red Sea is exotic. Swimming in the Red Sea is amazing.
2. I learned that drivers and maids working for me or others ended up liking me. They liked being greeted and asked after. They liked being talked to.
3. Le Notre is a wonderful pastry house in Jeddah. There are days I yearn for its goodies. There are other excellent pastry houses but their names escape me at the moment.
4. Saudis love visitors and will give them juices, teas, coffees, cookies, and dates at the very least all in one visit.
5. There are lots of small amusement parks for children (accompanied by adults of course) in Jeddah.
6. There are lots of good restaurants in Jeddah.
7. If white is your favorite color, you will love the men’s clothes.
8. Provided one’s Saudi husband knows the right person, a Western woman can get a Saudi citizenship in about ten years or maybe fourteen, providing she has children and is Muslim.
9. Once a woman has a Saudi citizenship, any degree she has earned in her native land may help her get a job, provided she knows the right person.
10. Who you know counts.
11. If a Western wife went to a Swiss boarding school before coming to Jeddah, she may run into some people she went to school with.
12. They probably won’t help her get a working visa, but they will give her tea and cookies. (How often she is invited for tea and cookies depends on her financial state.)
13. Learning that comes with the degrees that are theoretically useless without a working visa or citizenship can be used to educate children.
14. Living abroad in places like Saudi Arabia will inspire a mother to discover internet and mail-based home tutoring schools in the West, which are credentialed. These institutions provide the means by which a child may receive an adequate Western education and step into a Western university without going into shock.
15. Western women married to Saudis make friends with other Western women married to Saudis very quickly.
16. Satellite dishes (though technically illegal) offer all kinds of packages and programming if you have the money.
17. Living abroad in places like Saudi Arabia is a good way to learn that changing the color of one’s skin or converting to the local religion won’t make a people like a person any more than changing one’s nationality.
18. If you like cats, there are a lot of them in the streets of Jeddah.
19. If you feed the cats, you will get as many feral cat visits as your heart desires.
20. Speaking a language with the precise regional accent can fool people over the phone.
21. Having self-respect and values starts in one’s own heart.
22. Sometimes the thing that is not considered “work” (hence not requiring the very difficult-to-obtain working visa) like writing umpteen articles for every single English newspaper in a foreign country under various pseudonyms, as well as writing several radio shows for the English service, will make enough money to buy airplane tickets home for a Western mother and her children during the summer vacation. (Pseudonyms help boost the volume of her sales.)
23. When children see how much a mother is respected in her native land, they may think about that.
24. Other Western writers, like Hilary Mantel, have lived in Saudi Arabia. Hilary wrote Eight Months on Ghazzah Street from that experience.
My sons Omar and Yousef have been really wonderful about reading my stories. As Omar said recently, “Mom, everything you write is as good as the stuff we read in class, or better. You write as well as the guy who wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” (Thank you, Sweetheart.)
Yousef delighted me by reading every story in Under a Crescent Moon: Stories of Arabia and calling me to talk about each one after he had read it. Yousef says Under a Crescent Moon: Stories of Arabia is one of his favorite fiction books in the world if not THE favorite. I believe him. He doesn’t lie, not even to make me happy.