Three years after Wuhan locked down – January 23, 2020, I published The Invisible War, a briefly rewritten and expanded version of what ended up being traditionally published as Kai’s Diary in 2020 in English and Chinese, and became, for a moment, an ‘international bestseller’ for China books in the nonfiction category.
After those first 60 days of January and February (and a little of March) 2020, I stopped blogging on CTV News’ front page because COVID had come to Canada and worldwide. It felt a lot like art therapy to keep on writing, but I wanted to know how it hit around the world – and was able to curate diaries and stories from 18 countries on six continents that, like a time capsule, shared hopes, fears, worries and joys of suddenly having our lives upended and a new paradigm, a new reality, to swallow. This collection has also just been published as ‘YEAR OF THE RAT,’ a whopping 800 pages long, full of my unusual journey intertwined with that of many friends and fam around the globe.
As a lifelong environmentalist constantly perturbed by the cognitive dissonance that ‘everything is fine,’ even as the world burned, having this undeniable shift in ‘what is what is’ hit me on a profound level, and much like ‘Burning Man felt like apocalypse camp training,’ the COVID-19 pandemic, despite 12+ million recorded deaths after three years, felt a little like ‘life disruption training’ for future, much more serious calamities to come.
As 2020 finished, some places decided the pandemic was over and the deaths – and illnesses of COVID – like the war itself – were invisible, and declared ‘COVID is over.’ In China, we endured two more years of lockdowns when needed, but mostly normal COVID-Zero life – at least in Chongqing, where I lived – until the variants became too contagious for the previous measures to contain it, and the masks too small to contain both mouth and nostrils of the delivery men, who inevitably all contracted COVID and became vectors of the outbreak, coupled with rising economic strife, depleting savings, and a people that were just more scared of quarantine centers and tired of isolation than they were of the weakening virus anyway, and something had to give. And one day, with very little notice, the walls all came down, and everyone in China basically got COVID, and mostly, we recovered. These two years, 2021 and 2022, full of firey dialogues and, eventually, an acceptance of the inevitable, became the third book, Aye of The Tiger. It, too, is published.
I can trace, like a silken thread, this moment to one night after my 40th birthday dinner, in August on a lovely August night in 2019 in Florence, Italy, and, having enjoyed one of the most delicious meals of my life at a 500+-year-old stopping place along ancient European highways, I watched the sunset over the old quarter of Florence and decided that, all in all, 40 years of my life had been pretty exciting thus far, and this 40-day trip through France, Italy, and Greece sure felt like a capstone, but, in the end, I wanted something more, and my dream as a 12year old boy to be a kung fu movie star OR a famous novelist had to find some purchase. As I’ve aged, as many people do, we think about legacy, and as such, I decided to make more writing and publishing my top bucket list item.
Little did I know that within six months, the world would grind to a halt; I would have days, weeks, and months free, alone, at home, with no friends, work, gigs, or distractions, and I could finally test the theory that the only thing stopping me from being a prolific author was a lack of focus and a busy social calendar.
On the other end of 2500 printed words and six books, including a fantasy novel that I always wanted to write, the first of many, if luck holds and I continue to enjoy writing Amos the Amazing stories, I realize it was true. We can do anything we set our minds to if we are patient, focused and give it enough time and gradual progression.
I’ve now just restarted class after a five-month break where we did online courses. It’s the first time in the pandemic where COVID is just free-flowing around China (possibly, although nobody seems to have it anymore), and I’m just teaching in the class, maskless, carefree. I guess I’m happy I got my affairs in order.
To be honest, there are a few contributing factors. If COVID does return to Chongqing, we’ll deal with it then, and the school might resume online duties – no one really knows, and there is no roadmap – but at the moment, it seems China’s incredibly dense population all got COVID basically at once, recovered more or less at once, and it’s just disappeared. I – knock on wood – so far have been lucky and managed to ‘ride the wave.’ If my luck keeps up, I’ll do it again next time, too; like a rabbit, burrow when trouble comes and emerge when it’s passed. Clever rabbit.
That said, the fire that a ‘deadly pandemic sweeping to my city’ that stirred me to write The Invisible War, my own reflections on all the stories I wanted to save to write later that I might not have the chance to anymore– my own ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro,’ hasn’t really left me, although, I do see the growing pile of books and feel a little satisfaction that even if I left the world tomorrow, a large piece of my mind would be forever floating the shelves of book stores and visiting my friends and loved ones, a kind of twinning of souls and magic, and, it is a special thing for a writer to accomplish.
For a limited time, I’m offering ARCS (advanced reader copies) of The Invisible War trilogy to contributors of Year of the Rat and their friends and family to read, give feedback on, and share. Please review it (either with a simple star rating or a text review) on Amazon and Goodreads, if you would be so kind. After about 50 reviews, Amazon suggests it to readers of similar genres, which is an excellent perpetual-motion machine. Unlike Amos, The Invisible War trilogy is a bit of a punk-rock DIY aesthetic, I did the layout and cover design myself, and, like a diary, I know it’s a bit random and raw at times, and in places. That said, it’s a time capsule of an exciting period of my life, where I went from a wandering dreamer to an international foreign media correspondent in a global crisis, to a plague harbinger or pandemic lifestyle guru, to doing speaking events and rubbing digital shoulders with Jeanne-Claude Van Damme, and then settling into the world of book deals and being a traditionally published ‘best selling/chart topping’ fantasy author in multiple countries and before 2023 is out, languages, too. It’s all been quite bizarre, like a dream, but a lovely one, and it means a lot to me that I got to share it with people I miss, love, and care deeply about.
I don’t expect The Invisible War trilogy to become an overnight sensation – because at this moment, I think we’ve all sort of had our fill of the pandemic, but in the years to come, I think it will be a curious time capsule of an interesting time in our lives. Either from the rubble of a world that has burnt to the ground or, more hopefully, on bookshelves of a world that used this period of reflection to pivot to a solarpunk dream of environmental protection and ecological rejuvenation. I have seen it with my own eyes in China. If the world’s biggest, most populous, fastest developing, and polluting nation can pivot to huge solar power farms and electric cars, hydrogen buses, and renewable energy, then the rest of the world can do it, too.
** The limited offer of free Advanced Reader Copies has expired, but if you are a contributor or a reviewer, please contact Jorah Kai and request review or promo/contributor copies **
That’s it for now! Here are the links to the ARC pack: here
Please rate & review on Goodreads and Amazon <3
If you are a contributor and need a couple of details of Year of the Rat changed/corrected – hit me up, and I’ll try to appease you! Thanks again, everyone, for everything and most especially, your time.
TTFN, Jorah Kai <3