Thursday, April 27, 2006


I haven't written too much these last few days. A sick kid and too much time on the internet. I need to get back to it.

There are many days when I focus completely on my writing. But sometimes I don't mind a few distractions.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Poor Cynthia

Cynthia is an important character in the first two books of the Echoes Series, but she never says a word. She hasn't earned the right. She is The Other Woman.

She lured Sam away from his wife and sons. It wasn't very hard. Evie resented her from years.

Until she realized what Cynthia put up with. Sam changed wives, but he didn't change.

Cynthia tolerated Sam for forty years. How in the world did she manage?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Born to Be

Each of us has a special talent.

Some of us find our talents and gently, patiently polish them. Others toil their lives away, never knowing what they could have been.

I write.

I can never remember a time in my life without books. My mother always read to me and took me to the library. A wonderful place where I discovered the magic of new worlds.

I cannot imagine my life without books. Holding a bound copy in my hand. Turning the pages, only to find new revelations. Inspiration. Communication.

Not everyone is a writer, just as not everyone is a doctor or a firefighter. But I pity the person who has not yet discovered the joy of reading.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Doc

Jim Evans grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois during the 1960s. His father walked out when he was ten, leaving his mother alone to raise four children.

But Jim Evans was undeterred. He managed to go to college, eventually earning his doctorate in education. For more than twenty years he dedicated himself to lovingly guiding his high school students.

When his daughter brought Joshua home, Dr. Evans had his doubts. Joshua had a checkered past, which he was trying to leave behind, and his ways were still rough. Reluctantly, Jim Evans allowed Joshua to marry his only daughter.

Like him, Joshua grew up without a father. Jim Evans understood, and he became an important father figure for this young man.

His love and kindness are never forgotten.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

To write

To breathe. To live. To feel.

To string together
A thought
A plot
A masterpiece

Words coming alive on the printed page
My soul poured out

When I write
I am

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Everyone need an Aunt Arlene

Who is your favorite aunt? The one who made you feel special even when you thought they treated you like nobody at home? The who remembered your likes and dislikes? The one who gave you real presents?

Aunts are nice. Like parents, but with a distance for comfort. Caring. Supportive. Interested in you.

Except for the ones who pinch your cheeks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Umar's secret

Umar is a strong character. Usually stoic. Controlled. A pious Muslim.

But he's not perfect. He makes mistakes. And he must deal with his past.

He was young. He didn't know what to do. He thought he was handling it. He was wrong.

The past never disappears. And it can come back at the most inconvenient times.

Umar has a secret he's kept for over twenty years. It's about to be revealed.

The echoes of the past keep rebounding.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Love of words

The slippery snail slides slowly south.

The sun rises on the horizon, glowing bright in reds and yellows and offering the promise of a new day.

She trudged into her bedroom and dropped her briefcase on the bed, sighing deeply. Another day of crunching numbers and tolerating sexist comments from the boor in the cubicle next to hers.

I love to write!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Willing to give someone a chance

Fawad is a simple man. He works hard at his restaurant all day, then goes home to his wife and four children. He is a devout Muslim and good businessman. And he believes in giving someone a chance.

When Joshua walked into Fawad's restaurant and asked for a job, Fawad didn't turn him away. Joshua was still a young man, a little awkward and not particularly well-groomed, but Fawad gave him the opportunty to show what he could do.

How many of us turn others away? Or will we give them a chance?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A community of writers

Writing is a solitary life. The writer climbs into a world no one else can see, searching for the right word or phrase to give power to the words. The writer creates a world of people and places which do not exist except in the writer's imagination. The writer molds and shapes the story, which starts from a tiny germ of an idea and grows into a full-fledged work.

Those who live with writers often complain. Here but not here. Sitting at the computer, glassy-eyed and unresponsive. Obsessed.

Once in a while, even a writer needs to socialize. Family and friends are very nice, but the best people to share with are other writers.

We commiserate. We critique. We enthusiastically share our own created worlds with other writers, who actually understand.

Non-writers can never truly understand. They try, and we appreciate that. But writing is a world unto itself.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Two mothers

Evie Adams was beaten by her husband, but she never submitted.

Sharon Evans has a happy marriage, more than thirty years now.

Evie raised three boys on her own. No husband. No extended family.

Sharon has three children. They have a loving father and a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins who care about one another.

Evie loves to cook and bake. Her specialties include spaghetti and apple pie.

Sharon loves to cook. Her mouth-watering beef stew is the best.

Evie lives in Chicago and works for an insurance firm.

Sharon lives in the town of Moline. She's a registered nurse.

Evie's son loves Sharon's daughter. Through their marriage, two mothers come together. And they find that in spite of their differences--family, geography, occupation, race--they can become good friends.

One is black. One is white. Can you guess which is which? Are you sure?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Practice, practice, practice

I used to think I could just sit down and write a book. My first draft would be perfect. It worked for me in high school and college. Why won't it work for me now?

(In fact, my greatest writing accomplishment in college was the time I had to write a 10-page analysis of David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest. This is a good book, but it's about 800 pages long. I finished reading the book on the afternoon before the paper was due. Then I sat down and wrote the paper. First draft. Ten pages. On a typewriter. With footnotes. Incredible. And I got an A!)

So maybe you could get by with first-drafts "back in the day." But a whole book? I don't think so.

In every profession, the person who does it best is the one who makes it look easy. Writing is no different. We should produce a finished product which looks like it rolled easily off our fingertips. The reader shouldn't see the blood, sweat, toil and tears every writer experiences.

So, do not turn in a first draft. Rewrite. Then do it again. And again. And again. My first novel had nine revisions before being published, and that wasn't enough. I've read that Hemingway would go through his draft as many as fifty times. My current average is thirty.

If you want to be writer, you must practice. There is no other way.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A gentle teacher

Joshua becomes a Muslim. That's not where the story ends. It's where it begins.

Joshua has a lot of bad habits. A mild addiction to beer. A strong need for female companionship. Laziness. Anger.

When he becomes a Muslim, the habits are suppressed. Temporarily. But habits don't go away easily. Joshua confides in his friend, Mahmoud. He doesn't know if he can keep it up. Being a Muslim is harder than he thought.

Mahmoud sends Joshua to spend time with his uncle, Abdul-Qadir, in Pakistan.

Abdul-Qadir is a poor shopkeeper with a big family and a generous spirit. He gently guides Joshua, teaching him Islam not through rebuke but through caring.

Abdul-Qadir is a true Muslim, following the example of Prophet Muhammad (S). Never harsh. Patient. Calm. Loving.

In the course of my twenty-five years as a Muslim, I have encountered many individuals who were harsh and judgmental. I think we need more Abdul-Qadirs.

Monday, April 03, 2006

How do I know what your character really feels?

Do you remember when you were in elementary school? In one of the early grades. The day your teacher told you to identify emotions.

Happy. Sad. Angry. I know you did a good job.

You know the emotions, but can you write them?

If someone just landed her dream job, what will she do? How will she look? What will she say?

If someone buried his best friend, how will he react? Can you describe his gestures, his facial expressions? Will he say anything, or will he mourn quietly?

This is where writing gets down to the nitty-gritty. Feeling the emotions and making your readers feel them too.

It's not easy. First I describe the scene. More or less barren. I go back later and add the emotion. Then I go through again and make it stronger. A writer is always a rewriter.

Life is full of emotions. You can identify them. Can you describe them?