Thursday, December 28, 2006

Life imitating art. . .kind of

Next week, insha Allah, I will be traveling with my mother to warmer climes. Our trip will resemble, to a point, the journey of a main character in the Echoes Series.

I won't say anything more, but I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


As of December 26 at roughly 1:30 a.m. the Echoes Series was finished. Well, kind of.

The third book, Turbulence, will come out at the end of February, insha Allah. I've written several drafts of the fourth book, Ripples, and expect to have it completed within six months. Last night (technically early yesterday morning) I completed the first draft of Silence, which ends the Echoes Series.

I can't wait to share these books with my readers. I hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Filling in the gaps

I haven't done much writing today. But it's only 11 p.m. and I have another two hours. Maybe three.

The time I did spend writing, I worked on providing more details in an earlier section of my rough draft of Silence. And I noticed something. Not for the first time.

What I wrote today sounds stilted to me, and rough. I'm sure some of it is. But what always amazes me is that when I go back to read what I wrote previously, some of it sounds very good.

I'm not the only writer with this experience. I think it's common.

I'm come to the conclusion that we writers are our own worst enemies. We worry so much about what people will think that we tear apart our own work and sometimes don't show it to the public at all. We fear rejection. We're convinced everyone else writers better.

A little humility is a good thing. But I believe writers are, in general, an insecure lot. That's why we sometimes experience wrter's block. And that's why some writers never allow their works to be seen.

Doubting your work is normal. It probably isn't as good as it could be--not if it's a first draft, anyway--but it's yours. And you can keep working on it, polishing it, until it is very, very good.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I'm working on a difficult story line right now. Death comes. And how many ways can people mourn?

They can moan and wail. They can softly weep. They can deny. They can collapse.

They can reminisce while they miss the one they loved. They can hide their feelings and soldier on.

I've asked it before. How many different ways can you say someone cried?

I hope my readers will feel the raw emotions of the characters. Sometimes that isn't easy to do. I come perilously close to resorting to cliches. I work hard to avoid repetition. I don't want the story to read like a soap opera.

But life is emotional. And that's what a writer must convey. Sometimes very delicately.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another World

I was writing an intensely emotional scene tonight when my 17-year old tried to get my attention. I don't know how many times he called me. When I did finally respond he said "Never mind." But I wouldn't let him get away that easily. My concentration was broken.

Reading takes us into another world. So does writing. I imagine my characters before me. I "hear" their voices. I picture the world they see through their eyes.

Sometimes, when I'm in the middle of writing a novel, I wonder why the rest of the world is oblivious to a world in which I am totally engrossed. The anger. The grief. The joy. They're all so real to me. Why can't anyone else see them?

Which is one reason why it is such a wonderful thing to hold my printed book in my hands. Finally, others will see and feel what I have seen and felt all along.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pulling the threads together

Every novel is composed of different story threads which, by the end of the book, come to a satisfying end of some sort.

As you know, I write from the top of my head. Sometimes the various story threads are easy and natural for me. Other times I must work at them. In Silence, the story I'm working on right now--the fifth and last book of the Echoes Series--the threads are pulling together in my first draft. That's never happened this easily before.

I guess it's like they always say. Practice makes perfect. Well, not perfect exactly, but definitely better.

I can't wait for you to read these stories so I can talk about them. In two more months Turbulence will be out, insha Allah. And I can't wait to hear what you have to say about it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Last Chance!

Tomorrow, December 15, is the last day to buy books for Eid at a specially discounted price.

You can order MWP titles (including Islamic Rose book, Star Writers, and Halal Food and Fun) through

And you can order my books--Innocent People, Echoes, and Rebounding--by going to my website at

If you have any questions please email me at

Books are great Eid gifts. Ask my kids!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Going Strong

It's happened twice now in the space of five or six weeks. I don't think it's a coincidence.

One night last month I wrote about how I was struggling with my NaNo novel. The next day, I found my groove and took off.

Last night I mentioned my minor difficulties with Silence, the last book in the Echoes Series. I couldn't quite find my way, writing only a few pages a day and procrastinating because I was on the verge of serious writer's block.

But I have it. It happened today. Now I'm at the point where I can write while my kids are making noise. Soon I'll be able to do it while my husband's watching a game on TV. When I'm really strong, nothing can stop me.

Maybe talking about it is what fixed it. That's my guess. You might want to try it too if you ever find yourself stuck or in slow motion.

From what i can see, it works!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hesitant Steps

I've mentioned before that I strongly prefer to write from the top of my head over writing from an outline. The planning, which is welcome to some writers, stifles me. I'm having that problem again.

When I started writing Echoes, I knew only that the book would be about a new American Muslim named Joshua Adams and his relationship with his mother. I started from that very minimal perspective and wrote my story, encountering many surprises along the way.

Before starting Rebounding, I knew I would be including certain changes in Joshua's life--and the lives of those around him. But, for the most part, I plunged in.

In Turbulence, I knew what the central theme would be--which I won't discuss right now because I don't want to give anything away. I had one or two events in my mind. The others popped up on their own.

When writing Ripples, I felt more constricted. I needed to bridge the books while giving voices to different characters. As I mentioned, Isaiah gave me a very hard time. Kyle and Jennifer were much more cooperative. In fact, I wrote a wholly different novel while trying to define Isaiah. I may pursue that story line in another book one day.

Silence is the hardest of my Echoes Series books. I know of two major events in the book. Events which dramatically affect the other characters. But I'm struggling to express myself with everything in between. It will take me a few days or weeks to become comfortable enough. Once I am, I will write day and night until the story is written. But I'm not there yet.

So far I'm taking hesitant steps with this story. I write a little, then break to eat something or check my email. I haven't written at all yet today. I'll start in a little while, insha Allah. I will probably write only a page or two. It will take time for me to build up steam. To get to the point where I'm thinking about the story even when I shouldn't--like when I'm praying (astagfirullah).

Sometimes my writing gushes and I can't type fast enough. Sometimes I need to pull it out, gently, gradually. But I never give up. The story is there. My job is to discover it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Four days left!

No, not NaNo. That story is safely tucked away.

There are four days left in the Muslim Writers Publishing Eid'l Adha sale. Through Friday, the 15th, you can save 40% on any book published by MWP. That includes books in the Islamic Rose series, along with Star Writers--an Islamically-oriented book for writers--and Halal Food and Fun--a great cookbook for kids or adults.

My books, Echoes and Rebounding, are included in the sale. And I have a special price also for Innocent People, which is not an MWP book.

I always buy books for my kids for Eid. It helps them value reading, which is a must. Last Eid I gave my ten-month old granddaughter some books too. It's never too early to start.

I hope you'll take a look at our books at and Don't just fall back on gifts like DVDs and video games. Give the gift of reading.

Iqra! It's the gift that doesn't need batteries and never wears out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Building Tension

I'm at the point in Ripples right now where the tension is so great that I need to take a break. I know how it ends, and I control how it flows, but still I get involved in the story.

In order to build tension, there must first be foreshadowing. A hint of something. Whether it's horror, action, or romance, there must be that little clue. An astute reader will pick it up. Others will miss it entirely. And I imagine many readers, like me, later slap their foreheads and say, I should have seen it coming.

Sometimes the tension builds rapidly. Other times it's much slower. A single step. A noise. A doubt. Then it progresses. When writing, I like to remember Othello. Shakespeare's tragic play started out quite simply before becoming much darker.

Of course, once the tension reaches the boiling point you need a resolution. It can't be trite, either. Your resolution must reflect your characters and their motives. For me, the resolution is the hardest part. In writing Ripples I had to brainstorm all the possibilities, and write out two of them, before I could find an acceptable ending.

Building tension is fantastic for the reader. That's what makes a person stay up until 3 a.m. just to finish a book. But it's a problem for this author. When my characters get into trouble my teeth grind. I have to save my work and go on the internet until I'm ready to jump back into the fray.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Echoes Series Women

I recently received a comment from a reader suggesting I should give the women in the Echoes Series stronger voices. She especially would like to hear from Jennifer, she said.

I've thought about the roles of my women characters since I started the Echoes Series. When I wrote Heather, originally, I was going to show only her mean nature and sharp tongue. But I softened her a little because I didn't want to simply produce a stereotype. Heather has turned out to be a fun and sometimes warm character, and definitely a main stay of the series.

And I wonder too why I write primarily from the male perspective. It's a challenge, for one thing, and I always like a challenge. And I have lived in a male-populated (and often male-dominated--drop by our house on a Sunday during football season and you'll see what I mean) family for 25 years. If any woman can understand how guys think, I should be able to. (It's not generally that hard, really.) And of course Joshua has made a most compelling character.

But I have not forgotten Jennifer. Like her mother, she has a quick tongue--though she's a little better about controlling it. Like her father, she's energetic and sometimes restless. And of course she needs her turn at narration.

I'm working on her story right now in Ripples, the fourth book. But she has two coconspirators, and conarrators. Kyle, Brad's son, and Isaiah, Chris's son, both make strong appearances in Ripples.

Jennifer is growing before our eyes--from a toddler to a young woman. And she will continue to grow to the end of the Echoes Series.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Books About Writing

Some authors swear by them. Others loudly brag the'd never touch one with a ten-foot pole. Who's right?

I belong to Writers Digest Book Club. I just sent in an order. A book for me to help with an upcoming novel (Silence, the final book in the Echoes Series) where I tread unfamiliar waters. A book for my 13-year old about writing horror. (Watch out, Stephen King.) And a calendar about grammar for my 17-year old who, I think, is a budding linguist.

My favorite non-reference book for writers is Between the Lines. It deals with the subtle nuances in a story. The little things which separate pulp fiction from literature. I read a few pages at a time and always come back wit a little more writing wisdom than I had before.

Maybe you don't need books. That's fine. I don't think Will Shakespeare ordered a single volume to make his plays read smoother. But maybe you do. And that's fine too.

One thing I love about writing. Few rules. Lots of room to roam.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I stepped out into the cold night air. It was so cold I had to zip my jacket and stuff my hands into my pockets. He finally joined me. "Hurry up," I said. "It's cold out here."

What is it? Cold. Good, you've been paying attention.

Maybe it's a little too cold though. Three times in one sentence. We get the point already.

What about this instead?

I stepped out into the frigid night air. The cold ran through me. I zipped my jacket and stuffed my hands into the pockets. He finally joined me. "Hurry up," I said. "I'm freezing."

That's better, isn't it? It's still not literary quality, but it's easier on the eyes and the tongue. And it paints a clearer picture.

Synonyms are a wonderful tool. I advise using them whenever possible.