Monday, December 17, 2007

What are Your Plans?

Will you be writing for the next two weeks, or will you enjoy a break and a time with family? Maybe a little of both?

I'll be taking a break and family time, which means no more blogs for the next two weeks. While I'm gone, I sure would appreciate some suggestions on where this blog should go. I started out with a clear vision but sometimes I feel I lost that along the way.

Keep writing. Stay warm. Be safe.

I'll see you next year, insha Allah.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I read through and revised parts of 17 pages yesterday. Not a milestone, but progress.

Rome wasn't built in a day and books aren't written that quickly either.

I think one of the major differences between a writer and a non-writers is that a writer is too stubborn to give up even when common sense says she should.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Page by Page

I have been working on this one book, Silence, for about a year now. At least five times I have started writing. Twice I finished a complete draft but I wasn't satisfied. Now I'm going back once more.

The early pages and chapters work well. I know where the story breaks down. I simply haven't found the magic tonic yet to bring it all together. I'm working on it.

I've decided to create a new file. I copy and paste a few pages, maybe a full chapter, at a time. I read through that chapter carefully, finding ways to express myself better. I delete some sentences and add more for clarity.

I'm sure it will be a slow process. This time I'm determined to get it right. I know the dangerous curves in the plotline lie ahead of me. I hope I can negotiate them smoothly this time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just Blogs and Emails

Not a single word or a single sentence today. Unless you count blogs and emails. It's not writer's block. It's merely the knowledge that I have many things to do and I can't afford to spend my time enjoying myself at the keyboard.

Oh, and we had a very, very nice day today. Around 66 degrees and sunny. Who can work on a December day like that?

Hmm. I wonder if more novels are written in cold climates.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reading and Writing

Last weekend I read a book. I was tempted to review it here, but I'm afraid I was in such a hurry to finish the story that I missed much of the symbolism. This is the sort of book I should have read when I was younger and more keenly aware and analytical.

Life of Pi. Is it simply a story of survival? I don't think so. I really would have to read this book again to get the full meaning. Not now, though. Sometime later.

I was surprised at the references to Islam. They were, for the most part, accurate. But no one could call this an Islamic book.

I would have to say that if you're looking for something to read and you're in a deeply analytical mood, you might want to read Book of Pi.

And as for writing? I always write. No new progress to report today, but there will soon be, insha Allah.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Still 'Falling'

I'm getting there. The plot is probably 2/3 done. I keep thinking about Silence and how much I want to work on that story.

So what should I do? Keep writing the story I'm on and finish it, at least, so I can come back later and at least have a full novel to revise?

Or abandon it and begin working on Silence?

I think Falling will be a good read, once it goes through some heavy revisions. But my heart hasn't been in the story for the last six days.

It's the age-old question. Go for excitement or go for commitment?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Islamic Fiction

I'm a member of Shelfari is a great site for bringing together readers, and often writers, from throughout the world. I've made many cyberfriends through this site.

There are many groups on Shelfari, most of them dealing with a particular genre or maybe a certain author. This last summer I started a group for Islamic Fiction.

A few members trickled in. I started some discussions but there were few, if any, responses. After about six weeks I decided I should close the group. But I have a hard time quitting anything, even a lost cause, so I kept it open and didn't visit too often so I wouldn't get depressed.

Suddenly, members are flowing in and Islamic Fiction is revived. Last night we had twenty-six members. When I checked about an hour ago the number was up to thirty-nine. Discussions are going on that I didn't have to jumpstart. The group is alive.

Storytelling has been going on throughout the Muslim world for hundreds of years. In the last few decdes some Arab novelists have emerged. Now a dedicated group of writers is working to establish Islamic Fiction in North America. There are opposing forces, and some losses, but there are increasingly more victories.

Some Muslims contend that writing a story is like lying. But when a reader picks up a book of fiction, he or she knows the story didn't really happen. There are other reasons for telling a story, from entertainment to a way to impart universal truths.

I like what Mark Twain said about fiction. "The difference between fiction and non-fiction," he said, "is that fiction has to make sense."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Falling or Dragging

I thought I would be finished with my NaNo novel by now, but it continues to haunt me. I haven't yet reached the conclusion and I can't stop until I get there.

I'm not writing much these days, though. There are so many other things to do. And I'm not talking about Christmas. I've bought Eid gifts for my family. I do need to send a package to my granddaughter. But I don't have to worry about decorations and parties. We'll have a simple Eid and a lot of family time during winter break. Nice and easy, insha Allah.

Still, my to-do list is long every day and I almost never complete every task. And I need to write. I must finish Falling.

The novel is dragging these days. I do think it will make a good story right now. But I'm ready to set it aside and move on to something else for a change. I've developed a middle-age case of ADD.

Have you ever felt dragged down by a project or manuscript? What did you do about it?

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Short Achievement

I finished polishing a short story today and sent it in for a national contest. It's probably hubris to think I'll win anything, but I like taking the chance.

Short stories don't come easy for me. It feels very good to be able to accomplish this.

Now I need to finish writing Falling so I can get back to Silence.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So Many Projects

NaNoWriMo 2007 is over for me. Now I have another writing assignment. I need to finish writing the story and start revising it.

I would also like to work on the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2006. And I need to revise Silence, the fifth book in the Echoes Series. Plus I have a few other new projects I'd like to starts. Two books, one short story, and at least one article.

I wish I didn't have to sleep.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Day After

It was nice to wake up this morning knowing that I'd already accomplished my 50,000 word goal. Soon after I woke up, my 18-year old joined me in this achievement.

Unfortunately, I have written nothing today. My document is open, waiting for me. I'm sure I will add to my word count before I sleep, insha Allah. But for now it's enough to "rest on my laurels."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I did it!

Tonight I finally reached 50,000 words. I downloaded my count and I'm officially recognized as a winner (though my first download recognized only 49,999 words--talk about frustration!).

This is my second year attempting and completing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I have two great novel ideas and first drafts. I made a feeble attempt, a few months ago, to turn my first NaNo work into a full novel. That character needs a little revamping though. She's strong, but not quite likable yet.

This year's NaNo will be easier, I think, when I go back to revise. First, though, I have to finish writing the story. I probably have another 25,000 words to go.

I have always dreaded autumn. The trees are brown or bare. The skies are too often gray. The air is cold. But all that has changed with NaNoWriMo. Now I can hardly wait until next November!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day of Feasting on Words

We didn't have a turkey this year. No one came to our house and my husband's not that crazy about turkey. But we did have a day together as a family.

And I had a wonderful time writing. So far I've added 3000 words to my NaNo novel. I have at least an hour of writing before I need to think about sleep. I've had quite a feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I introduced a new character today. I hadn't planned on him earlier but he just sort of worked his way into the plot. And once he was there he made sure I magnified his role. A simple extra has become a major supporting character. I'm still not where he came from. But I do know that now he exists, he's not going away.

That happened with my latest book too--Ripples, which will be published in March. I introduced a new character, intending for her to be only temporary. The trouble is that she wouldn't leave. Now she's an integral part of that story.

I dread unannounced company--especially at times like this when my living room is disheveled. But I love having characters who drop in, especially the ones who decide to stay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Only 30,034?

I like my main character and, overall, I'm comfortable with my character. But right now 20,000 more words might as well be 20 million. I know I'll make it, insha Allah. I can do it. Just write a little over 2000 words a day and I'm there. And this time next year maybe this novel will be polished enough to submit.

But right now I'm questioning my sanity. Why did I so enthusiastically sign up for NaNoWriMo? must have been crazy.

It's kind of like childbirth. I'm looking at the pain and suffering ahead of me before this novel is finished and I'm swearing I'll never do it again. But in two weeks I'll look at my finished novel with pride and relief. Childbirth is more difficult and the results are more rewarding, but you get the picture.

I think I can. I know I can. I'm over halfway there. . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

28,000 Words and Counting

I'm putting on a little steam in the NaNo challenge, though I don't think it's possible for me to catch up with my son, who has something like 35,000 words. At least I'm not out of the game.

I'm not sure this is the best way to write a novel. The problem is that I concentrate too much on the word count. My story is shaping up, however, and I think it has potential. It's better than the one I wrote last November. I like my main character better--even though she has some major flaws. Who doesn't?

One of the best things about the NaNo exercise is that it's given me time to rethink my efforts on Silence. Ten days ago I was ready to scrap the whole novel and start over again. Now I can see better what to keep and what to delete. In December, I'll be ready to finally complete that book. I've done so before, but I could never print it off because I was always changing the plot.

November is a good time to do something different and strive for the goal. And in a year or two I may be ready to introduce Laurel Bremer to the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

May I. . .

brag a little?

I've said this before and I'll probably say it again, though I will try to say it in a slightly different way. Three of my kids are writers, and I am really happy about that. (The youngest three. The oldest three are not writers, but one has writing potential and the other two have a real gift of speech--they could sell gun control to the NRA.)
About thirty minutes ago my 14-year old (who wants me to call him a 15-year old, which he will be 15 by the end of year) asked me to read through an analytical paper he wrote for his English class. It's not perfect, but it's a whole lot better than what I was able to write when I was his age. Look for works by S. A. Jitmoud to hit the bookstores sometime in the next ten years. (Yes, he has already decided on a pen name.)

And my 18-year old is doing the NaNo thing. He won't tell me the plot or even the genre, but I do know he has over 25,000--leaving his mother in the dust (I hope to pass 19,000 before I go to sleep tonight). This kid is a perfectionist and I appreciate NaNo for giving him permission to write without worry. He's on his way too. (But he hasn't decided on a pen name yet.)

My youngest, at 12, is constantly coming up with stories. At this point I'm not sure if he'll be a writer or just a really good storyteller--and you can't knock the oral tradition. He certainly has an imagination, and he knows how to string together sentences too. We'll see.

I am proud of all of my kids. It is satisfying, though, to see some of them follow in my footsteps--and I'm sure these three will all pass me up. I don't mind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

'Falling' Into a Habit

I started with a title and a simple premise. Laurel Bremer is Falling, in more ways than one. Every day I see her taking shape on my screen, her life and her personality developing in front of me.

I'm more than 16,000 words into my NaNo novel now. It's time to put on the steam. Still far from halfway but I can see where Laurel is heading. While I wash dishes I write whole passages in my mind. Now I just need to type them out.

I'm always amazed at the evolution of a novel. It starts with a word, a simple idea, and grows. If carefully tended, it may mature into a published work--a bestseller even.

I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Two Thousand Words

I was beginning to lag far behind in my NaNo effort. This weekend put a real dent into my ambitions.

I've had a good day of writing, though. Two thousand words and counting. I'm still a little behind, but I'm not worried. Not yet.

Meanwhile, and most importantly, my story is taking shape. This is probably the most frustrating point for me in writing a book. I know where I want to go but I can't get there fast enough. There are only so many hours in the day and, like it or not, I must take time out to sleep and do other meaningful tasks.

I think I can. I know I can. Insha Allah.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. . .

Three people in this household signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. One, my 14 year old, dropped out early due to homework. My 18 year old, on the other hand, is going strong. He's exceeded the recommended daily word count and really flying.

I have a little over 10,000 words. Not as much as I should have at this time of the month. Last week was incredibly busy. I was out of town over the weekend. I did manage to crank out maybe a thousand words in the last few days. This morning I was too tired to even think about writing.

Tonight before I go to bed I'll take a stab at producing a page or two. Of course, once I get started it will suddenly become much easier. But sometime soon I'm going to have to put on some serious steam. I made it last year. I hope to do it again.

I think I can.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Check out my new website. It's still a work in progress, but I think it's ready to go public.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NaNo Progress

I have been working on my NaNo novel for a week and I should have somewhere around 12,000 words by now--if I were trying to meet the minimum daily recommendation in order to reach 50,000. But I'm not there yet. I have cracked 8000, and may surpass 9000 before going to bed tonight.

It was the same last year. Worse, actually. I started very slow. My first day's count didn't even pass 1000. But I made it by day 28 or 29. So I'm not worried.

The plot is forming in my mind but I'm too busy to put it all down into words. That's okay too. Sometimes plots come out better when they're given time to simmer.

I haven't posted an excerpt yet because everything I've written so far is really just introduction. Well, I am about 300 words into the meat of the story.

The important thing is to keep on trucking.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time to Write

Today I worked on my NaNo novel in between parent-teacher conferences. By the time I came home I was too tired to write.

I still am. I hope my life settles down soon. I hate to leave my characters waiting. (Last night I stopped when a character was in the middle of labor. That's how tired I was.)

Good night.

Monday, November 05, 2007


The two news stories capturing my attention right now are the dire political situation in Pakistan and the writers' strike.

I've commented before about Musharraf. He's a petty dictator who acts in his own interest, not that of his country. He needs to be removed. He should have been taken out of office years ago. Now the climax. Arresting the opposition--1500 is the last number I heard. Shutting down the Supreme Court. Declaring martial law. He sounds like a desperate man. I hope the current chaos will lead to the death of his leadership. Pakistan deserves better.

The writers' strike captures my imagination because I am a writer and I feel solidarity with those whose work is being exploited. I know the feeling. I can do without the late night talk shows. If necessary, I can do without my soap opera. :-) And the truth is I won't even miss the primetime shows. I rarely watch TV in the evening.

Pakistan is working for the rights of the people to have truly democratically-elected leadership--not a third-rate dictator who has been propped up by Western support. The writers is working for their right to be paid fairly for their work and retain the economic rights to their work. Writing is not as easy as it looks and, considering the amount of work going into each piece--whether it's a novel or a TV screenplay, writers almost never get paid enough.

There are other people whose rights are being trampled, from Guatanamo to Myanmar. This is a beginning.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reading and Writing

Two of my very favorite activities. And right now I'm immersed in them.

I started my NaNo novel before going to bed last night. It's coming along. I have the plot. All I need is the time to write. Tonight much of that went toward making a 7th grade social studies test.

And I have so many books on my reading list. Library books, bookstore books, books I want to buy--and one of my own books, or manuscript actually, which is now with the editor.

Sometimes I wish all I needed to do was read and write. Wouldn't it be wonderful?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Almost Time!

According to the clock in the corner of my laptop, the time is now 9:43 EDT. In two hours and 18 minutes I will write the first words of my NaNo novel for 2007.

Of course, I have no idea what I'm going to write. I've had a few stories in mind, but none of them seemed quite right. I hope that in two hours and 17 minutes I'll have a burst of inspiration.

I won't stay up all night, though I'd like to. I'm a teacher again--part-time, anyway. I can't while my days away in my t-shirt and sarong. And tomorrow night, at the latest, I have to make up some tests.

Life goes on in November. But I fully intend to complete the challenge.

Now if I just had a character and a plot. . .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Good Advice

I'm very tired tonight, so I'll keep this short.

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.

(I can't remember which famous author said this. I'll have to look it up. But not tonight.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Unpleasant Choice

I've mentioned the recent plot twist. The problem is, I couldn't see exactly where it would take me.

So on Saturday I asked my 21-year old. He's not a writer and he doesn't like to write but he does read and watch movies. He knows plots.

I went through the story with him, exploring every turn. In the end he persuaded me I had only one choice. I was trying to avoid that. Innocent people will die, in a literary sense. But it was the only one I could go ahead with the story.
This choice will lend additional drama to the plot. But I want my readers to remember that when writers kill our characters, whether major or minor, it's often a difficult decision. (The movie, Stranger Than Fiction, definitely resonated with me.) But whether we like it or not, sometimes it must be done for the good of the story.

I killed one of my favorite characters in Echoes. I didn't mean to kill him, but he simply became too sick to live. That was my introduction to character death. In Silence, as in Turbulence, death will be one of the themes. And I feel that I don't have any other way.

P.S.--I am a literary killer, but of course that is as far as it goes. How do other writers feel about fictional murder?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In a Holding Pattern

In six more days I can start my NaNoWriMo 2007 novel. I have one strong idea, and a few I'm still considering. I'll decide when I sit down to write on November 1.

I'm still working on revisions for Silence. But I think I need a break. I don't know if I can go six days without writing. I've rarely tried it.

I am reading another novel. I won't give anything away yet, but it's good. When I'm finished, I'm sure I'll want to review it here.

So I'm waiting. Until I discovered NaNoWriMo, I never knew November could be exciting. It's a great way to spend an autumn day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Time for Nanowrimo!

And most of the people say, "What?"

Next month--next Thursday, to be exact--the challenge begins. Will you be one of the thousands to complete a 50,000 word novel during the month of November? Come on. I know you can do it.

This will be my second year. I can hardly wait. I don't have a firm story in mind yet. Only a couple strong possibilities. When I sit down to write on November 1, I'll know which one I'm going with.

I've persuaded two of my sons to join me this time so it will be extra fun. I hope they don't give up part way through. We'll see.

Are you ready to Nano?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Satisfying Moments

I mentioned the plot twist I came up with at the bathroom sink. Today I put my plan into motion. And it works!

I'm very excited, and if you're a writer I'm sure you understand. The old way just wasn't working. It was okay, but it wasn't good enough. This is just what my story needed.

Let's hear it for those "Aha" moments.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Inspiring Places

The Grand Canyon? The Appalachians? The Painted Desert?

No. I'm talking about my bathroom. The bathroom sink, to be specific. I was washing my hands there this past Saturday when suddenly it came to me. I knew what I was missing in the book I'm working on. It came to me with perfect clarity. For the last two days I've started writing in the plot change, and it works beautifully.

It's happened to me in the shower. It's happened while I was driving. I may be washing dishes or waking up from a nap. Suddenly it comes. Inspiration. Total clarity.

The Grand Canyon is wonderful, but if I ever get stuck in my story I think I'll just take a trip to the bathroom.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gotta Sleep

I've read that some inventors and other "famous smart people" slept very little. I won't quote the names here for fear of being wrong, but some, it is said, had only 2 or 3 hours of sleep every night.

Ah, I wish that it were so for me. Alas, I do need my sleep. This is troublesome, because my creativity flows most freely in the middle of the night.

When I can get away with it, I go to bed sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. I would stay up longer but I can't get by with a nocturnal lifestyle. I have family and obligations. So I reluctantly shut down my laptop and find little tasks to complete before eventually climbing into bed. I fall asleep very soon after my head meets the pillow, though I try to read--until the words begin dancing around. I sleep soundly. In the morning I'm amazed at all the sounds I didn't hear.

But I can't stay up all night. I can't live with only 2 or 3 hours sleep. To sleep. . .perchance to dream. Hey, maybe I'll get another idea for a story!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Statement

When I was in school, I learned how to write a research report around a thesis statement. I knew that once I wrote that first paragraph and that crucial sentence I was well on my way to finishing my report.

Writing fiction does not include a thesis statement. Not exactly. But a good story can be written around a statement. Maybe a quote.

I've written quite a bit in this blog about my book, Silence. I have the plot, the characters, the twists. I've revised the manuscript twice so far. But something was missing.

Last night while I was browsing news articles I found a quote. This particular quote is exactly what I needed. This is the statement I can use to keep my story grounded and focused.

The Statement. That's the missing piece. Now I expect this story to really come together.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Well. . .

It's been a long, busy day and I'm tired.

So. . .Eid Mubarak!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In the Name of God

I just finished reading a young adult novel titled In the Name of God, written by Paula Jolin. Both the title and the front cover--a girl reading the Qur'an--attracted me when I came across this book in the library.

I looked at the ratings for this book on Amazon. All readers highly recommended the book. I noticed too that all readers, like Ms. Joline, were non-Muslims.

As a Muslim, I had a different response. The book made me very uncomfortable. The story is of a 17-year old Syrian girl named Nadia and her anger at the U.S. over treatment of Iraqis and Palestinians. Step by step she becomes involved in a plotting a terrorist attack, though her intentions are often far from religious. In the end she must make what is, for her, a difficult choice.

Ms. Jolin did show Nadia's progression toward terrorism, but I still don't understand how a serious, religious school girl can change so quickly. The triggers were there, but I'm not sure they were strong enough.

Nadia's main fault, as I saw the book, is that she is very self-righteous. This continues also until the end. It was annoying--but would she volunteer to become a suicide bomber?

The author and I both have strengths and weaknesses in approaching this story. Her strength is that she has lived in the Middle East for several years. My strength is that I'm a Muslim and I see events through Muslim eyes. Maybe her portrayal of a young girl in Syria was right on the mark. I've never been to Syria so I can't say.

But, as I said, this book made me uncomfortable, and probably for the same reason I always squirm when I hear the word "terrorism." Religious Muslims are usually blamed. But as a Muslim I know that those of us who follow our religion strictly would never offer to kill innocent people.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing in Layers

I've mentioned that I'm working on third draft of a novel. Yet that's not completely accurate. In some places, I'm still working on the first draft.

I write in layers. First I get the story down on paper. Usually that's not much more than the bare bones of the book. I simply need to write down all the twists and turns while they're fresh in my mind. That first draft is the most intense.

Next I read through what I've written and begin to make changes. While looking through the manuscript again, I make some changes but leave some things alone, even if I know they'll need to be changed later. I'm not ready yet and I don't want to rush it.

Now, in my third draft, I'm perfecting some sentences and deleting others. I'm also finding places where content needs to be rearranged and/or the story line needs more flesh.

So I'm writing the first draft of a significant dialogue. Sometimes I cringe. I know I will change many of these sentences later. But first they need to be written. I have to put the thought of revision in the back of my mind as I forge ahead.

This dialogue will go through a few more drafts. Meanwhile, the next time I read through the manuscript I will probably find another essential change I haven't noticed before.

To me, a well-written book is one in which all of the layers come together seamlessly, not betraying the work that went into making them flow.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Getting Stuck

I am envisioning a wonderful scene, full of rich dialogue. I've written some of it. Now I'm stuck.

Or is it procrastination? Uncertainty? Self-doubt?

The scene isn't the most crucial in the book, but it is significant. And the dialogue I envision is so perfect that I'm having trouble writing it.

I was much too busy today to write anything. I thought about writing, but until 8:30 p.m. I had very little time to sit down and write at all. By then my mind was too tired. I lacked the concentration to produce the insights I imagined.

Tomorrow will be busy, but much less so. Maybe I'll wake up in the morning and know exactly where to go with this conversation. The words will flow from my fingertips.

Well. . .it could happen.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Making Time

Every writer knows this one, and can talk about it for hours. There simply is not enough time to write.

This is especially true for the full-time worker--whether toiling in a factory or raising small children. But even those of us who have (nearly) grown children and no outside jobs find trouble find time, I'm sure.

It's the little things. The phone kept on ringing. Two people I wasn't expecting appeared at our front door. I ran a quick errand which took longer than I expected and produced fewer results. I went to the library with a 14-year old who decided to use that time to browse every single book (or so it seemed). Then there was a dinner invitation from a really nice couple and I just couldn't refuse. (And she has the same name as mine!)

I did manage to write a few paragraphs today in between phone calls and doorbells. At this rate, the book will be finished by 2012--if the phone doesn't always ring this much. It's already 11 p.m. But the house is quiet now and I will probably stay up for another hour or two so I can feel a little more productive.

When I was teaching full-time I dreamed of how wonderful it would be to claim my time as my own. My life is much easier now. I can't deny that. But there's always something.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


We went out tonight, which is why I'm blogging much later than usual. During a quiet moment in the restaurant, I wrote this blog in my mind. Now I can't remember a single word.

It happens too often. Walking into a room and pausing, having to retrace my steps. Starting a conversation and forgetting what I wanted to say. Writing in my mind and forgetting to put the words on paper.

This is beyond the use of mnemonics (I've always liked that word). This takes extra measures.

Many writers carry journals or small notebooks with them wherever they go. That sounds like an excellent idea. I can find something small enough to fit into my purse. Though I'm always losing pens. Maybe I could wear one around my neck!

My memories of the past help me write. Now if I could just remember what it was I wanted to write about.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Devil's Advocate"

I like the meaning behind this phrase, though not the phrase itself. Unfortunately, I can't think of any substitutes.

Have you ever done this with your characters? I'm in the middle of doing this to one of mine.

He's a young man. A very sincere Muslim. He's grown up fairly protected by doting parents. But he's on his own. And he has found an ally in a very unfriendly world. The problem is that the ally proclaims himself to be an atheist.

How can our young Muslim learn to communicate Islam with this man? How can he hope to convince him?

The old man plays "devil's advocate." Along the way, the young man learns. Islam is more than rituals and phrases. His faith deepens as he works to teach the old atheist.

I enjoy writing dialogue. And I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from this particular story line. I especially like watching the young man mature into a stronger faith.

Monday, October 01, 2007

How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

This question may be as enigmatic as the old, "How many licks to the center of a Tootsie roll pop?"

Many will say years, or at least months. Of course, we need to define what we mean by "write a novel."

I wrote the first draft for Rebounding in only two weeks. But it took me another year to complete all the necessary revisions. My typical time for writing a novel is a month, give or take a week. But again, the revisions take much longer.

When I write the first draft of a novel, I concentrate on it completely. My family muddles by without me. I have no life away from the keyboard. I dream of my characters. Plot twists come to me at the oddest times. I am totally immersed.

It's a wonderful experience, in a way, but it is so intense that I can't keep it up for much more than a month. And there are times when I deliberately will not start a novel because I know I have something coming up which needs my attention. For instance, in two weeks my mother, sisters, and two of my nieces will come to visit. I couldn't possibly start a novel now. If I did, I would have to completely ignore my family when they're here.

So how long does it take? That's something each of us has to answer.

P.S.--Speaking of writing novels. The sign-up for the privilege of completing a novel in the month of November begins today. 50,000 words. Can you do it? If so, go to

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's a Mystery

Two people have asked me recently if I'm interested in writing a mystery.

I like to read mysteries. But I'm not sure I'm able to write one. I admire the way a good mystery writer builds suspene, strewing false clues along the way. I enjoy the twists and turns.

How is a mystery written? How does it all come together in the author's mind?

That's something I'd really like to know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Delicate Balance

I don't have a book review for today. I need to catch up on my reading first.

Today I have spent most of my time revising, once again. (Was that an oxymoron, or just a really close call?) I'm still working on Silence. And I'm looking for the delicate balance.

Because this is the last book in the Echoes Series, I want to go out with a bang. But I want to keep the mood positive. But I want to shake up the world of my characters. But I don't want to be sadistic.

My first revision was a simple read-through. Now I have to get down to business. I'm in the process of moving whole paragraphs and trying to decide where to relocate them. I'm adding some narrations and getting rid of others. I was too heavy-handed in my early drafts, creating a world of simple black and white. But nothing is ever that simple. Now I must add in the shading.

I know where the story is going, but I'm not completely satisfied with the way I got there. I need to soften the roads a bit--not too much--and intensify the journey.

A very delicate balance indeed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I have wanted to read this book for months. I bought it soon after it came out, but I waited. I wanted to find just the right time so I could savor the story.

I read A Thousand Splendid Suns over a two or three day period last week. It was hard to put down, but I had to sleep and do a few other essential tasks. And when I finished reading this book I wished I hadn't.

Mariam is the star. A humble woman with a lowly upbringing, she suffers terribly throughout her life. And yet she perseveres. I understand what the author did with Mariam in the end. But that doesn't mean I like it. I wanted so much more for her.

Then there was Laila. I had mixed feelings about this character. I felt for her, but she never measured up to Mariam in strength and purity. While I read Laila's story, especially in the beginning, I kept wondering, What about Mariam?

Khaled Hosseini did a wonderful job once again of weaving Afghanistan's history into the lives of his characters. In that respect, I think he wrote a much stronger book than The Kite Runner.

This was a different story. More subdued. Sadder. And still excellent. I highly recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns. But I also think you should make sure you have two or three days to truly savor this book.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Review: A Boy from Makkah

I read two Islamic novels last week. This week I will review them, beginning with A Boy from Makkah.

I bought this book years ago, hoping it would inspire my sons. Unfortunately, being the teenagers they were, they didn't want to read anything I had recommended. So this book sat on the shelf, except when I packed it up to move with us from Kansas City to Worcester to Milwaukee to Lexington. After this last move, I decided to read the book even if no one else would.

As a writer I was a little disappointed. Many scenes were rushed, told with sweeping overviews and only minimal conversation or description. Years passed on a single page. I wanted more detail. But as a writer I'm overly critical.

As a reader I enjoyed this book. It told the story of a young man, brought to Makkah by his father because the family needed him to work, and his life as a servant. I became involved in the young man's story because the characters were portrayed well. I was able to envision the Makkah scenes, though I've never been there. The story had the feel of a real story, though it was fiction.

The author wrote this book after 9/11 to help people know more about Islam and have more positive feelings about Muslims. Through his narration of the journey of this boy as he grew into manhood, I think the author, Dr. Muhammad Abdu Yamani, succeeded.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keeping it Simple

I filled out an interesting application today in which I was presented with in-depth questions. The instructions stated that I needed to keep each answer to 500 characters or less.

Not 500 words. 500 characters. I didn't do an exact count, but I'm sure each answer was within the allocated limits. It wasn't easy though.

Writing is about managing words. Sometimes the writer uses broad strokes to describe a summger day or an abandoned house. Other times the writer must be concise, economizing words without flourish.

Being a writer means knowing how to use the tools well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Revisions: Caught Up in the Cycle

I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. I'm also pretty sloppy with my rough drafts. That means I must commit myself to months of revisions.

I finished reading through Silence today. Sometime tonight, or maybe tomorrow, I'll begin reading through Silence again. And again. As long as it takes until it's in shape.

I have other projects I could be working on. I need to seriously write my next non-Echoes Series novel. I started. It was a rough draft. I was dissatisfied. I left it.

Silence is too rough, anyway. It needs many more revisions. Each time I read, I find a new way of looking at the story. I haven't looked closely enough yet.

My revisions don't continue in an endless cycle. I take breaks. In November I plan to write a another NaNoWriMo novel. I don't know yet what it will be about or what I'll do with it after November. Right now it's enough to have a general plan.

And I have other things I need to work on. But I'm concerned about Silence. It has the makings of a good story, but it is so far away from where it needs to be.

I once went to a writers' critique group and shared a few pages of a rough draft I'd recently written. I've never done that before, and I don't intend to do it again. I don't care if you find clutter in my house when you drop by, but you will not be allowed to see the clutter in my story. I'm not finished cleaning. Come by later.

Sometimes it feels like it will never end. But it does. And sooner or later I have a nearly (but never quite) perfect and nicely bound manuscript in my hands. Otherwise known as a book. One I wrote. What a feeling.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Writing to Make a Difference

The United States prides itself on its freedoms, as promised in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: the right to worship, the right to free speech, the right of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government. It has been said that these five rights distinguish the USA from other countries.

In some places, at some times, writers have been imprisoned or even executed for voicing unpopular opinions. It happened in the USSR. It happened in colonial America. The question is, could it ever happen here again? Or has it happened and we just don't recognize it?

Public debate and humiliation are the usual modern-day punishments. A book will be panned. A columnist will become the butt of jokes, and may even lose his job. But has anyone ever been imprisoned or died, here in modern-day America, for the right of written expression and the right of free speech?

Not that I know. But some are concerned. The Patriot Act looms, threatening harsher punishments. Executive orders have been signed. The threat is real.

I believe we still live in a free country, more or less. And I believe it is our right, in this country and everywhere else free expression is allowed, to write for a difference. Not just for entertainment and to make a buck. Write to leave something valuable behind and change society a little bit for the better.

That's just my opinion, of course.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Writing Silence

I've written the first draft. I actually wrote five first drafts. I've finally written one which feels comfortable enough. Now I'm working on the second draft.

How do you write a book that is, in some ways, a compilation of a series? My greatest challenge right now is the characters. There have been so many, and the majority are still alive and active in the final volume. Not only that, but I've introduced a few new characters. The spouses and the children. Brad, Chris, and Joshua grew old and their children grew up. Most of them are married and have children of their own. Some of these grandchildren--Umar is a great grandfather--make their own impacts on the family. And some of the children have grown to take their father's places.

That's one of my challenges. There are too many characters, but this is the last book and I can't eliminate anyone who hasn't already died. There are deaths in Silence, but death is never trivial, is it? Characters who sprung from my mind must be disposed of properly and with dignity. Or at least with feeling.

I hope to have the last book ready for publication in 2009. It seems far away, but I know how quickly time passes when a manuscript is due. If I delay, I'll be staying up nights in 2008 and exasperating my publisher with my procrastination.

The end. I think it works. Or it's beginning to. There are still miles to go. . .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Very Friendly Distraction

I have three writing tasks on my to-do list, along with various other chores and pastimes. But I didn't do any writing today.

It started when my 12 year old woke up coughing, wiping his stuffy nose. He didn't fast today and he didn't go to school. We spent the day together.

Out of all my sons, my youngest is the most compassionate. I hope that won't change after he hits puberty. Sometimes I was tempted to follow my usual daily routine, but he kept me connected most of the day. And that was a good thing.

He has a great idea for a new story he's writing. He's reading an interesting novel, too, but he can't read it at night because it's too scary. Right now he's lying on the floor near me, waiting for me to finish my blogs so we can talk some more.

I didn't do a single bit of writing today. I had someone important to share my day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time to Get Serious

Ramadan has begun, at least in much of the world. There's a mood change in the air. Trivial matters seem too trivial to pursue. Matters of faith have gained extra significance.

In our household, the TV will be turned off this month. Okay, to be completely honest, I will watch one show during the day when the kids are in school. It's a soap opera (horrors!) and unfortunately I'm a little hooked, especially since Marcie found out that. . .forget it.

Other than that one little hour every weekday, the TV will be turned off. I will concentrate on listening to nasheed rather than other types of music. And even though I will do some reading simply for entertainment--at least the book I checked out yesterday and thought I might be able to finish by now--I will more conscientiously seek out more worthwhile books also. And, of course, I'll read the Qur'an every day.

My writing won't stop. I'm sure it will slow. But I think Ramadan may be the perfect time to work on this last Echoes Series book. This volume is weightier than the rest, and it needs an air of restraint to bring it to maturity. Ramadan may be a very good time to work on this.

The air has changed. Do you feel it? Everything else should change too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Writing 9/11

9/11 was the catalyst to move me out of the classroom and push me toward pursuing my dream of becoming a novelist. Of course, the first novel I wrote had to be about 9/11.

Innocent People was my most difficult novel, not only because it was my first, but because it was laden with so many minefields.

When I wrote the first chapter, telling about the 9/11 attacks, I cried. It was more than a year later and I felt the emotions all over again. After that first chapter, though, I was careful not to let my emotions get in the way of the story.

I didn't want to present evidence for or against the 19 alleged hijackers. I didn't want to condemn anyone, except those who had done the act--but I didn't say precisely who they were. As I wrote, I strove to portray many innocent people--the dead and wounded in the attacks and their families, Muslims who were wrongfully accused, and the American people who lived in fear. Also the Afghanis whose country was bombed in an attempt to wreak justice.

This book was a balancing act. I wanted to portray American Muslims sympathetically, but not at the expense of other Americans. I used many real life examples, from my experiences and from the headlines. I wanted to convey a lesson out of this mess.

Innocent People isn't my best-written book. It was my first, and it's rough in some places. It was, however, the book I had to write. And Innocent People presents an earth-shattering time in history to young people who can't remember 9/11.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Time to Read

On Saturday I finished the Ripples manuscript--the fourth book in the Echoes Series. Now all I have to do is wait for the editor to give her feedback.

I can't begin another book project right away. I need to take a few days to relax. I have two projects in mind, but I can do only one at a time and it will have to wait until the end of the week.

Now I get to indulge in first favorite literary activity: reading. As it turned out, I picked up a virus somewhere and spent the last two days not doing much of anything. A perfect time to tackle my newest library books.

I won't discuss any of the books here. They all fit in the genre of chick lit, though one has a more serious subject--presented in an offhand manner--and another is very serious. I don't think they'll expand my universe too far, but they're enjoyable. Great for these days when I need to relax and get past this virus.

I've read two books within the last week. I have one more to go, and I started that this afternoon. By the time I finish this last book, I think I'll be ready to get serious about writing again.

One-fourth of American adults haven't finished a single book in the last year. Amazing. I know people have busy schedules, but reading is great activity--and free if you go to the library. (Though, as an author, I do recommend that you buy at least a few books for your shelves. Preferably mine, of course.)

Not read? Impossible.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Any Suggestions?

Yesterday I talked about marketing. This really is a weak spot for me. No matter how much I like a product, and believe everyone should have one, I have trouble selling it. That holds true whether it's my own books or Pampered Chef (I was once a consultant).

I know some people seem to be born with a knack for connecting with other people. My husband has it. So do some of our sons. Others are like me--cautiously poking their heads out of their shells and unable to do more than that.

So if you're not born with it, how do you learn it? What do you need to do to strengthen your selling skills?

Unfortunately, that's a reality for writers these days. It's not enough just to hide in a corner somewhere and write.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Marketing. How?

I love to write. I could do it all day, every day.

I dislike trying to sell my book. I'm naturally shy and most of the many marketing tips I've read don't seem to suit my personality.

But I want people to read my books. I hope they'll actually benefit from my stories, just as I've benefited from most of the thousands of books I've read.

So what's the solution?

How do you go about marketing your books?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Different Voice

The Echoes Series is coming along well. The first three books--Echoes, Rebounding, and Turbulence--have been published. The fourth book, Ripples, is finished and nearly ready to go through the final process. Silence, the final book, has been written though it still needs work.

I'm ready for something else. Last November I wrote a novel for the NaNoWriMo challenge. A few weeks ago I opened the file and took it out of storage. I read it all the way through--congratulating myself on some parts and cringing at others.

Off Balance, my newest novel, is still in the very early stages. I've begun writing the beginning--after realizing that my NaNo novel was really just the middle of the story. I know where I want to go but it will take me a long time to get there.

When I ran the plot by my son, after he heard me read the first few pages in a critique group, he said it didn't sound anything like me. But it's nice to try something different sometimes, isn't it?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Writing the Future

In my Echoes Series only the first book, Echoes, takes place in our time. The others go progressively further into the future. The last book is set in either 2040 or 2044--I need to study my timeline and decide between these two years.

In each of the books, I attempt to predict the future. The last book, Silence, is more futuristic than the others. I try to imagine the social life, the inventions, and the shapes of our cities in distant years.

Tonight I finally watched "Children of Men," a futuristic drama. Except for the unnecessary cursing and the overdone violence, I liked the movie. And after it was over I remembered how many stories predict a gray future, one devoid--or nearly devoid--of hope.

Nineteenth century writers imagined a wonderful future, full of flying machines and explorations. When and why did writers become so morose?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Living and Learning Creatively

About an hour ago we came home from the open house at my son's high school. I chose this school before we moved to this city because I saw enough, through their website and a spring visit, to be impressed. Three weeks into the school year, I'm more impressed.

My son is a freshman at an IB high school. His teachers have taken the IB concept and run with it. The emphasis isn't on harder but more challenging. There is a difference. And, whether or not the teachers used this word, I heard and saw creativity in every classroom. Learning Spanish grammar through conversation. Learning physics by devising and performing experiments. Learning algebra from a teacher with a sense of whimsy (have you ever seen a backwards clock?).

With all the emphasis on test scores, creativity is often neglected. In some workplaces, it's hard to find anyone with an appreciation for the creative. But where do books, plays, artworks, symphonies originate?

Even some writers take a paint-by-the-numbers approach to their craft. That may be fine for some, but I think we need to open our minds and let in the sunshine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Books and Censorship

Last night my 14-year old gave me a note from his English teacher. The teacher plans to have the students read a book which he knows might make some parents uncomfortable. He discussed the book and offered an alternative.

I'm nearly done reading The Bluest Eye, the recommended book. It is very well written and full of symbolism. But I don't think I'll let my son read this book. Not yet. If he wants to read it later, when he's 17 or 18 or 19, I'll support him. But he's not ready for this book. He has lived a sheltered life, and the realities presented would be, I think, a little much at his age.

The alternative offered by the teacher is A Lesson Before Dying. Tomorrow I plan to thoroughly scan that book--it's probably too much for me to read in a day--to be sure of my decision. Like the first book, it has received good reviews. I don't anticipate a problem.

Censorship is a dirty word. Sometimes, though, it is necessary. I censor myself when I write. In these days, especially, I'm careful to avoid any homosexual interpretations when I write about close friendships between men or women. I also take care not to be politically offensive. And when I present Christianity, or any other religion besides Islam, I do so with fairness.

I've been a parent for 25 years. And that's how long I have censored, to some extent, what my children are exposed to. I don't see how a mother can do otherwise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happy Endings

Happily ever after. That's how we expect stories to end. When they don't, something usually feels wrong and off kilter.

For me, the ending is the hardest part to write. I'm tempted to go on, adding to the adventures and misadventures of my characters. At some point, though, I must give the reader a rest. It is up to me to decide when and how my story ends.

Most of my endings have been happy. One has not--though even in tragedy I tried to leave on a note of hope. I didn't plan that ending at all. I sat at my computer and typed, praying for a reasonable way to finish the story. My fingers took over. I wrote it. I read it two or three times. I asked my son to read it and give his opinion. I still wasn't sure. But I went with it. And the ending is definitely memorable.

In another book, the ending crept up on me. I wrote a wonderful summarizing paragraph. Then I kept on writing, adding more and more to the story. I went back over those last few pages many times until I realized that my perfect ending was buried in the text five or ten pages before I stopped writing. I went back and corrected that, of course.

My greatest challenge was writing the book to end the series. It's done now. There is both happy and sad. I've asked my son to read the manuscript through to the final page. He isn't finished yet.

I'm tempted to just have everyone ride off into the sunset. But I want to make my stories real, and real life is much more complicated.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Part of Life

When I started writing Echoes, I had only a basic premise in mind. I didn't know how the book would be shaped, and I had no idea that it would become the first in a series.

I also hadn't realized that one of the main themes throughout the series would be death. In each book, someone dies--a main character or someone else who has an impact on a main character. As in real life, death is a constant presence.

I was reading my draft of the final book, Silence, to my husband yesterday. He thought it interesting when Joshua said that death is a part of life. It sounds odd, but no one can deny it.

As a writer, I'm careful in how I handle death. It must be a natural part of the plot. I don't have gratuitous violence, and I don't enjoy stories containing that. I show different types of death and different responses from those who survive. As in real life, there are many ways to die and many ways to mourn.

Because of the deaths, I've been teased that I'm writing a soap opera. I'm not. People live. People die. What I want to do is accurately portray life. Sometimes a family will go for years without a single death. Then there may be two or even three or more in close succession. And death is always present. Muslims are told to remember this, and not to fear death.

We have a life before birth. Then we have the life we know. Something comes later. No one has returned to tell us how it is. This is something we must each learn. And it is absolutely a part of life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Genres and Passing Fancies

Today I learned I wasn't invited to the Meet the Author event at the ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) convention this year. I've participated in this program for three years now, so it was a bit of a letdown.

I looked at the list of authors and books that were included. I believe they were all either history or political science. Not a novel in there anywhere.

I know history and political science are hot topics these days for Muslims. I find this interesting. I wrote my only non-fiction book, which encompassed both history and political science, in the 1980s. It was published in 1990. That was long before PCs and internet connections, so the book sold slowly. It's still available. I hope to revise the manuscript sometime in the next few years.

When I wrote my book, it wasn't a hot topic. Now it is very hot. Meanwhile, I've moved on to Islamic fiction.

My mother always told me I was at least 5 years ahead of my time. I think she's right, and it's very frustrating. By the time Islamic fiction becomes popular, if I'm still alive, I wonder what I'll be writing.

There is a plethora of magazine articles instructing the writer how to cash in on the latest craze. But I always remember the words of a scholar I once knew--he's been dead for several years now. "Don't imitate. Initiate."

That seems to me to be the more honorable way to go. Though there's not as much money in it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Far From Perfect

I mentioned yesterday how many different ways Brad found to mess up his life in Turbulence, before he repented. Brad was quite a sinner, but none of my characters is perfect.

Do you know anyone who is perfect? Is there anyone who always does the right thing in the right way at the right time with the right intention? Is there anyone who doesn't mess up?

We're not angels. The angels actually asked Allah why He would make us, claiming we would bring mischief. They were right, weren't they?

Fiction should mirror life. Life isn't perfect. People aren't perfect. Characters should not be perfect either. And I don't even go for the "Whoops, I sinned so I'll be a good Muslim for the rest of my life." It's more like, "Whoops, I sinned. I'd better stop. Whoops. I did it again."

When I was young I learned about original sin and I pledged to be the person who would break the curse. I no longer believe in original sin, but I do know that I mess up. I will never be perfect. It's useless to try. But I should try anyway.

And that's how I write my characters.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Does Islamic Fiction Sell?

I am a writer because I must write. In 2002 I decided I would write stories about Muslims. My stories show the humanity of the Muslim and the devotion of those who follow Islam. They generally fall under the category of Islamic fiction.

Although I love writing, I would be lying if I said I didn't hope to make a living from it. Many do. The problem is that I must sell books. Who is my audience?

Most of my readers are Muslims. At least that's the impression I get from the feedback I receive. Some eagerly devour my stories. Others aren't quite as enthusiastic. I know I lost a few readers with my latest book, Turbulence. This book appealed much more to Muslims, even though the central characters are Muslims.

What's the problem with Turbulence? Well, the main character--Brad, Joshua's oldest brother--is not a saint. But who is? He commits adultery--can you tell me no Muslims do this? He drinks alcohol--don't try to tell me all Muslims don't do this. He lies--I know from experience that many Muslims do this. And he repents. How many Muslims do this?

Islamic fiction is a new genre, especially here in the U.S. I will always have at least one Muslim character. He or she will face difficulties and probably succumb a time or two. But faith always wins.

Does it sell? Not yet. But I think my biggest readership is still in high school and college. Give me another ten or fifteen years. By then I expect to be joined by many more authors, insha Allah.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This writer is. . .

. . .restless.

I've had a busy summer in terms of writing. During the month of June I attempted a stage play. It didn't turn out as well as I'd like, but I might still be able to go back and salvage it one day.

After the stage play, I wrote Silence. the final book of the Echoes Series. This one took me six weeks. Rebounding, the second book in the series, took me only two weeks--the first draft, that is. Silence kept me going, wondering exactly where and how it would end. Overall I'm satisfied with the ending. It will need some tweaking, but it's a very good start.

Now I've started my first novel in years which is not part of the Echoes Series. I have a new cast of characters, a new setting, everything. Off Balance features Nina Weston, a very determined woman. I first wrote this story last November as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Last weekend I read through it. Now I'm starting fresh, including more back story, and giving Nina a sassier tone. She may be almost as much fun to work with as Joshua has been all these years.

I've been told I should be writing articles, or at least short stories, to get my name out there. That's good advice, but I just can't stop writing these novels.

Hmm. By the time I'm finished with Off Balance--first draft, that is--I'll need to start thinking about NaNoWriMo again. I wonder who and what I'll write about this year.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All Writers Must Absolutely Know. . .

. . .how many words is enough.

As a reader, I strongly dislike wordiness. I break my own rule a little here on the blog, but in my books I work to make sure that every word counts.

So, in the spirit of being concise--have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Writer is. . .

. . .only human.

We get tired, hungry, and even occasionally cranky. Those who love us have to put up with our moods. Most do.

And the greatest pitfall any writer can fall into is to forget his or her humanity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Writer Should Be. . .

. . .inspired.

Not all of the time, of course. The expectation of inspiration probably leads to writer's block more than anything else. Sometimes the writer must plod along, writing words and sentences.

But at some point, it all comes together. The spark of inspiration gives the words meaning beyond their dictionary definitions. The characters, the plots, everything meshes to create a true literary experience.

A writer should find that spark in every book, story, or poem writen. That's one ingredient of a true writer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I can't think of any author who isn't. . .

. . .curious.

It amazes me that some people are satisfied with what they already know. They're not driven to seek new knowledge and gain new experiences. It must be an easier way of living. I can't imagine it.

Writers are curious people, but that's another topic. Writers are curious. We want to know how things work or the history of things. Or maybe the future. I sometimes pick faces out of the crowd and wonder where they're going, what they've done in their lives, and how it has affected them.

Non-fiction writers are just as curious, producing tomes about topics which some people don't even bother with. Many of us would not write the books, but we're happy to find them on the libary shelf when we need the answer to a burning question. We're lucky that someone else thought of it first.

I don't think that someone who is contented will make a very good writer. A writer should be restless, wondering, and never quite satisfied.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Writer Certainly Should. . .

. . .have a good vocabulary. And a decent thesaurus.

By decent, I don't mean sophisticated. When I was younger, I thought a good writer often used words such as indeed and therefore. That's not the case.

My stories center around the dialogue, and I base the dialogue on the personality of the speaker. The lawyer, Walter Thompson, does use larger words and more complex sentences. His language reflects his profession. Joshua, on the other hand, uses slang and lazy grammar. Even after he graduates from college, his speech patterns don't change much. They're part of who he is.

In Echoes I wrote a short scene in which Joshua is trading one-liners with his friends, and he uses heavy slang. I wasn't sure of the slang of the day, so I consulted the experts--my teenage sons. They helped me write the scene.

While a writer doesn't necessarily have to use "big words," he or she should be aware of synonyms rather than risking repetition. I have a few thesauri I consult. One is my favorite. Another is electronic so I can use it when I'm traveling. If Joshua shouted in the last paragraph, maybe in this paragraph he should yell. Not all synonyms are that easy to find, by the way.

We are wordsmiths. Words are our tools. When describing a scene, I look for the word which fits the mood I'm trying to create. Is crying as powerful as sobbing, weeping, or bawling? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Writer. . .

. . .pays attention.

If I'm outside of the house and I have some time to kill (this is a great airport game) I watch the people around me. I try to find someone who resembles a character I've written. I also observe people to give me ideas for new characters.

I find that when I'm writing a long-forgotten memory will return through the mouths of one of my characters. I'm able to pick up the details of life, both recent and "ancient," and add them to my story.

You might just say that a writer is nosy. But that doesn't sound as nice. We pay attention, that's all.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Writer Must Usually. . .

. . .be very creative.

I've noticed that there are basically two types of people in this world. Many of us fall squarely into one camp or the other. Only a few gifted souls are adept in both areas.

There are the practical people. The Marthas of this world who, like the woman in the Bible, reminds us that the food must be prepared and there is much work to be done. They approach problems head-on, with facts and figures at their disposal.

Then there are the creative people. The Marys who, like another woman in the Bible, prefer to listen to an inspirational talk rather than bother with simple menial chores. They see the world through different lenses, and often contemplate the nature of what they see. Facts and figures sometimes come in handy, but those types of matter are far too boring to think of often.

I'm a Mary. Since childhood I've viewed the world in my own unique way. While riding in a car with my parents, I would look at the other cars and wonder where they were going. Sometimes I would imagine one of the cars crashing into another. A story developed in my head of the accident and its aftermath. Meanwhile, my father drove safely down the road.

Most of the people who are close to me are Marthas--including both my mother and my husband. They concentate on what needs to be done. They dream but they never daydream. They easily handle worldly affairs such as car insurance and mortgages. They have trouble understanding why the few Marys in their lives are so slow and dreamy.

The world needs both. But I contend that the best writers are those who live inside their imaginations.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Writer Must. . .

. . .be able to work in isolation.

Writing is generally a solitary activity. This is especially true of fiction. The writer creates characters and settings, problems and solutions. Often writers are fortunate enough to have "writing buddies" who will provide feedback, but the actual writing must be done alone.

Non-writers who live with writers say we sometimes become dazed, tuning out of the real world and focusing on the story. This must be true. I sometimes think about my story when I'm at the bank or the grocery store. If I have a breakthrough in my plot, I want to share this with everyone I meet. Sadly, they wouldn't understand. What would you think if a stranger rushed up to you and said, "Do you know what happened between Larry and Nina today? You're not going to believe this." We definitely cannot go around sharing with strangers.

Even with family members, discussing the plot may be discouraging. If my husband walks in and says, "How was your day?" I can't cry on his shoulder because I had to kill someone, even though I didn't really want to, because it moved the plot along. He would nod and mutter, and go to another part of the house.

The writer must be able to think alone and write alone. Until the book is published, that is. Then she must become a social butterfly, flitting from one promotional activity to another.

I never said writing was easy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Makes a Writer

Many people write. Students write reports--a skill also required of many professionals. A large percentage write emails and, at one time, used to write letters. Some write letters to the editor. Others write articles for the local newpaper or the church newsletter. Some dabble in poetry. In certain occupations, essay writing is a necessary skill. And many, many write blogs.

So what makes a writer? Why do some go the extra step and transform writing from a necessary task or a pleasant hobby into a vocation?

Over the next several blogs, starting next week, I'll begin discussing the characteristics of the writer--the person for whom writing becomes a lifestyle. If anyone out there has other characteristics or suggestions to add, I will be very happy to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Writing Death

I don't like killing my characters. I try not to do it too often. Sometimes, however, it becomes necessary.

I agonized over my first death, back in Echoes. I liked that character very much. Initially I only intended to make him sick. I researched the condition and wrote enough to place him in the hospital. But it turned out I had gone too far. His illness became irreversible and his death was inevitable. I still miss him.

I ended one of my books with an unexpected death. I didn't intend to write the ending that way. I wasn't sure, actually, how I would end that book. I just wrote, and the death appeared seemingly from nowhere. I didn't much like the ending, but it worked. I decided to keep it.

I haven't killed many people in the last book of the series, but there are a few deaths. Each has a purpose. The first was suggested to me by my son. I resisted, at first, but finally saw the wisdom in it. The other two deaths were very natural outgrowths of the story and I really can't imagine it going any other way. One of my characters has a slow death, which he decides to "own." He won't let anyone else tell him how to die. It's all on his own terms. (Maybe I shouldn't use a pronoun here, but there are several "he's" in my books.) His death is actually the best I've ever written, I think.

I love to hear when my books make someone cry--because they're moving, not because they're so badly written! I often cry, too, while I write.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gaining Momentum

As I mentioned earlier, I started working on a book--the last book in the Echoes Series--at the end of June. The rough drafts of my recent books have taken me only two or three weeks to write, but this one isn't done yet.

I'm on page 237, and I can feel the story drawing to a gradual close. It may take another week, but I'm getting there. In the beginning of this book, I felt the story dragging. I didn't go back to liven it up--I don't do that with first drafts. I just made mental notes here and there of passages which need to be changed or eliminated.

Suddenly, somewhere after page 150, the story picked up. It drew me in. The action is moving quickly now. I can't wait to see--exactly--how it ends. I have some strong ideas about the ending, but I haven't yet written the final pages, the closing paragraphs, the last line.

It will be hard for me to go to bed tonight. I want to keep writing. But, then, even a writer needs to sleep.

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Bridges Interview

Was anyone able to watch the interview last night? We don't have cable TV and I don't think we can get Bridges where we live, anyway. I will receive a DVD of the interview soon, and I can't wait to see it.

So, did anyone watch the program last night? How was it?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Weird People"

Tonight my husband accompanied me to a local writers' meeting. I asked him to come because the meeting started late and I have difficulty driving at night.

While we waited for the other writers to arrive, my husband said he would recognize them because they would be "weird," just like me. That's not an insult. It's the truth.

A writer develops an entirely new world, creating lives of people who have never been born and throwing obstacles in their way. A writer considers the weight and connotation of every word. A writer observes the outside world, looking for new ideas to use in a story.

And when a writer is "in the zone," inspired and caught up in the writing, no one can easily get his or her attention.

I accept the label of "weird" and wear it proudly because a writer is who I am.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Too Tired to Write

For too many nights I've stayed up until 1:30 or 2, writing after my family has gone to sleep. They seem to settle down later each night. It's now 11:18, and they're wide awake.

But my schedule is catching up with me. I can barely put two thoughts together.

After they quiet down, I hope to write for a little while. It helps me sleep. And as nice as it is to write in a quiet house in the dead of the night, even the most inspired writer must sometimes rest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spinning a Tale

For more than three weeks I have worked on Silence, the final book in the Echoes Series. Earlier attempts descended into a maudlin mess. This time I think I've found the formula.

But I still don't know where the story is going. It has twisted several times until I don't recognize it anymore. Just like a reader, I'm anxious to find out how the story ends.

There's Muhammad. I mean, he could. . .or he may just. . .Then there's Joshua. There's never any telling what he may do. I've thrown in a couple wild cards to keep things more interesting. And after I've finished with the rough draft I plan to weave in one or two more minor storylines.

I won't let you know how it ends, when I do finally reach that point. You'll have to learn that on your own.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My TV Interview

Last April I was interviewed for a segment to be shown on Bridges TV. The interview will air on July 29 at 8:00 p.m.

I hope if you have access you will tune in!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Writing Instruments

My 14-year old was in agony this evening because he can't have his own laptop yet. Not only that, we expect him to share the desktop with his brothers. He wanted to know how he could build his writing career without a laptop.

When I was 14, I bought my first typewriter. I'd had a summer job working as a day camp counselor, which brought in $100 for the summer (at $1/hour--minimum wage in those days). I spent $25 on a small typewriter. And I typed on that thing day and night. I wrote poems. I wrote stories. I wrote plays. I even wrote a book. (Though I never thought anything was good enough to be published.) My mother said that after I left home for college, she still imagined hearing the clackety-clack of my typewriter late at night.

I wish my son could also start on a typewriter, but they're not as practical these days. Ribbons must be impossible to find. And I imagine it would be very hard for a computer kid to get used to the earlier technology.

He may be able to upgrade my old laptop, but it's at least ten years old. It still works. I'm not sure if it has enough memory and speed to compete in today's world.

He will get his laptop eventually. In a couple of years he'll get a job and work for it, just as I worked for my typewriter. The computer he buys will be so much more special to him.

For now, he's writing his new story by hand. There are many choices for writers. We simply need to be open to them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Problem Solved

What I've through in my writing in the last three days confirms my belief in writer's intuition.

I introduced a plot twist withour any idea of how I would resolve it. I wasn't sure I should write it at all, but my intuition told me I should.

Yesterday I began working on a solution, butI still didn't have a clear idea of where to go.

It came to me today at around 2 p.m. while I was washing up for the midday prayer. Suddenly I could see the entire plot clearly in front of me. I can't wait to finish writing it.

Some of my best ideas occur when I'm dousing myself with water. I wonder why.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

At an impasse

It happened to me last night. I thought of an intriguing plot twist. I didn't know how I would resolve it. So I decided to shut off my laptopl and go to sleep. By morning, surely, I would have an answer.

That was almost 24 hours ago. I'm still stuck. I don't want to give up on my twist. I know if I'm persistent enough, I'll find the answer. But I don't have it yet.

That's the trouble with writing by the seat of your pants. Sometimes it can carry you into dark, dead-end alleys with no sign of escape.

This isn't the first time I've had this problem. It's always resolved itself before. I'm sure it will again.

I hope. . .

Is anybody out there? . . .


Monday, July 16, 2007

So many books to read. . .

. . .and so little time.

My copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns arrived on Saturday. I can't wait to read it. But I have other books already in my queue.

On Saturday evening I finished an amazing book about new cures for cancer which do not include chemotherapy. I thought I would pick up A Thousand Splendid Suns then. I had another book which needs to go back to the library soon, though, and I hadn't touched it yet. A few pages wouldn't hurt, I thought.

I'm nearing page 100 of this 500-page book. I want to peek ahead and find the ending, but the author didn't make it that easy for me. I have to keep going.

I have four other library books to read. I got one, though it's a novel, mostly for reference--the author is from, and writes about, a city I'm including in a future book. Another is a collection of short stories. That still leaves two very interesting looking novels.

For now, A Thousand Splendid Suns sits on a table in my bedroom. I want to read it. I can't wait to read it. But what about the other books?

Maybe I should set aside a week just for reading.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Writing as Catharsis

I was talking recently with someone who writes horror. He said he must write horror to help him purge his own fears and visions. The stories he writes are bold and often bloody--too strong for me to read. I never would have guessed the secrets he harbored.

I have a character who is great fun for me to write. She speaks boldly whatever is on her mind, with no apologies. She has been known to march into a room or a house and demand an explanation, usually at the top of her lungs. And sometimes, after an outburst, she does calm down and become quiet--even sweet.

Heather is my alter-ego. I wish I could be like her. I could say what I think without worrying about later repercussions. I could demand that people meet me on my terms. I would hold my head high and never offer an apology.

Writing is very therapeutic. My friend exorcises his own ghosts through his gruesome tales. I create characters who act as I never would dare. All of us writers create worlds where our imaginations run wild.

I write, therefore I am.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Keeping Characters Focused

I'm working on Silence, the last book in the Echoes Series. This book has been the hardest for me to write. There's so much I want to say before I end the series.

The most challenging part of writing this book, though, is the characters. I've been with them for several years, and I know each of them well. I can't expect the same of my readers, though. Each old character needs a light reintroduction--especially the children, who are now young adults.

Twice I've tried putting new characters into Silence. One was brand new. I wrote his storyline. Then I deleted him from the manuscript, placing his information in another file. I will probably write a short story just about him.

Another character was in the earlier books, but he was much younger. I started writing his narrative. Soon I was getting carried away. I was in danger of losing the focus of the story. So I made a separate file and put much of his story there. I can change the names later and make a short story out of those remnants.

As of tonight, I'm on track. I'm also on my guard. It's very easy to get sidetracked.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Growing Creatively

My 14 year old is working on a great short story. As soon as he told me the plot I knew it had potential. Once in a while I hear him reciting a few phrases. He has the right expression also. As soon as his story is finished, I plan to help him find the right magazines to send his manuscript.

My 17 year old writes also. His preferred genre is fantasy. My 12 year old is a budding writer. His poems and stories need development, but he has promise.

And I can't forget about my older three. They're all a little more practical, but if you sit with any of them you'll hear interesting ideas and propositions.

My kids are not prodigies or rocket scientists. Each one, though, is very creative. Creativity is a dynamic word in our household.

Video games and cable TV sap the imagination. Even school can sometimes turn children into robots rather than thinkers.

If you want a creative child, you must start when he or she is small. Add love, encouragement, plenty of books, and lots of unstructured time in the weekly schedule. Then sit back and watch your child bloom.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How Was Your Month?

I'm back. I've had a great month.

We moved to Lexington. Our home is settled and I'm feeling at home in the community.

I completed the Script Frenzy challenge--a 20,000 stage play written during the month of June. It wasn't always easy, and the script is rough, but I did it.

I even did a little reading. Not much fiction. Right now I'm working on a book about one man's search for a scientific cure to cancer. Some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar and difficult, but Racing to a Cure by Neil Ruzic is well worth the read.

This afternoon I finally ordered A Thousand Splendid Suns. I can't wait to read it.

I've also had more time, recently, to browse and post on I even started a group on Islamic fiction. You might want to check it out.

Enough about me. How was your June?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

My Summer Vacation

This is my last post for the month of June. I plan to be back in early July, insha Allah.

During my summer vacation, I plan to:

1. Finish packing
2. Move to our new house in Lexington, Kentucky
3. Use the time before our internet is reconnected to write
4. Read one or two books from my personal library
5. Enjoy our large new backyard
6. Explore my new hometown with my kids
7. Make a few new friends

I hope you enjoy the rest of your June.

And keep on writing!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have them. Some of us are better at description while others shine at writing dialogue. There are some who do both well, but not without a lot of practice.

We also have our preferred forms of writing. I've spoken with poets who write wonderful poetry and writers who produce fantastic short stories. I dabble in poetry and I'm learning the short story, but I'm not sure I'll ever excel in either.

My strength is the novel. This is becoming clearer to me as I struggle to write my 20,000 word play. I have two characters I like, and I know where the plot is going, but I'm having a hard time putting the words on the page. I plan to finish, but at some point in the future I hope to take my characters and my storyline from the play and turn it all into a novel.

Am I stuck in a rut? I'd rather think of myself as a specialist.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Islam and the American Experience

I have another book I would like to recommend. I'm only on page 64, and not likely to finish before I need to return it to the library, but I've read enough to be interested.

The book is American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion. Written by Paul M. Barrett, a Wall Street Journal reporter, American Islam portrays the struggles and victories of individual Muslims. Barrett has included Muslims from many different walks of life, and different ethnicities. The book is well-written and sympathetic to the difficulties faced, particularly after 9/11.

I won't be able to finish this book. But it's not because of the quality. I'm very busy these days with packing and simply don't have much time to read. After I'm settled, I plan to check out American Islam from the local library, or maybe even buy it. And when I have time I am looking forward to reading Barrett's report to the last page.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My Frenzy

Today is June 4. Four days into Script Frenzy. I have a little over 1000 words and a plot which may or may not work.

But it is an experience. I wrote a play or two when I was in high school. Of course, that was over 30 years ago. At least I can say I've done it.

If I finish, that is. I like my characters--Sarah and Hani. Their chemistry is good. But I'm used to thinking like a novelist, not a playwright. I realize now what a huge difference that is.

I'll keep going until the bitter end, even if I don't get more than 10,000 words. It's an experience. I've met a couple people. And I can say I've done it.

Besides, my whole life is a bit frenzied these days.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Goal Accomplished

I attended an eighth grade graduation tonight. My son was one of the graduates. But he's not the only one I cheered for. In 2005, I taught language arts to many of his classmates as well. They're a great group of kids.

I was already proud of them, but I felt an extra something as I read through the graduates' list of goals. One of the girls said she wants to write Islamic fiction.

They were times when I wasn't sure they were learning anything from me. It's always great to know that the kids are listening.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Need Suggestions

I started this blog to do two things: talk about writing; and talk about my books. I've done both, but I feel I need something more now.

What should it be? I'm open to all reasonable suggestions. Just make sure it has something to do with writing.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is American literacy decreasing?

I sure hope not. But it does seem that Americans are reading less. The bookstore owner who burned books in Kansas City claimed no one wanted the volumes. I've taught high school students who have difficulty finishing a simple novel. Other people are amazed when they see my boys read.

It's not only a loss of education. The emphasis these days is on math and science. When I've told parents that their students are good writers, I've received blank stares or even disapproving expressions. Language is not where the money is--unless, maybe, the child becomes a high-powered attorney. Otherwise, it's medicine and engineering all the way.

As writers, we need to be very concerned about literacy. Are we losing readers to video games? Will the younger generation value books? Are we about to become irrelevant?

Books were burned. That's not a problem. It's a symptom. The nation needs to take this very seriously.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Burning Books

A used bookstore owner in Kansas City, a town I know very well, set fire to some of his inventory. He said it was in protest over his inability to sell or even give away the books.

I don't know what books he burned. I'm probably better off not knowing. I don't want to think about the cherished volumes he turned to ash. It would make me too upset.

I agree with him that there is a problem. Books seemed to have lost their value. But why did he have to burn them?

I'm sure many schools would have welcomed a donation of his books. Maybe nursing homes. Maybe he could have sent them overseas. In some countries, books are like gold.

But not here. Now we neglect them and, when we have too many, we burn them. What else do you expect in the land of affluence?

I'm upset with the bookstore owner. But his actions point to a larger problem which I'll discuss tomorrow, insha Allah.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Must Be Insane!

Last November I thoroughly enjoyed my NaNo experience of writing a novel within a month. The novel still waits for my revisions. I'll let you know when it's ready to see the light of day.

I visit the NaNo site once in a while, and I knew about the screenwriting/script writing challenge in June. I had no intention of joining. But I did.

I had a high school English teacher who taught us some basics about screenwriting. I remember some of her lessons. Other than that brief experience, I'm at a complete loss.

But I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm ready for something new.

On the other hand, we're moving next month. Packing is going well, but it's far from finished. Once we arrive in our new home, there's the little task of unpacking. I have my work cut out for me.

So I signed up for a new challenge. It makes no sense. But I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Have you ever noticed that when you're in your perfect job, the one you were always meant to do, you feel comfortable with other people performing that job?

That's how I feel about my fellow writers. (But don't expect me to get sentimental.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

An Inspiring Read

For the last few days I've been reading a novel, and I have a hard time putting it down. I will probably finish the book tomorrow, in spite of its bulky 509 pages.

The novel is Lisey's Story by Stephen King. I've never read Stephen King before, but the synopsis of this book piqued my interest. I picked it up at the library last week.

There are, of course, several different story lines. The one which interests me the most is King's dissecting of the personality of a writer. The main character, Lisey, is the writer's widow. Through her memories, her husband lives on every page.

I won't delve into the central plot. The reason I'm mentioning this book is that it makes me want to write. I want to sit down and write a novel better than anything Lisey's husband, Scott, could have written--or at least something he would enjoy reading.

I think this is the first novel I've written which truly speaks to the writer in me. If I could, I would begin a new book tomorrow. That will have to wait, though. I'm sitting on the couch, my view partially blocked by the rows and columns of boxes stacked in our livingroom. I've barely touched the garage and basement. There's so much work to be done--and we only have three more weeks before our move.

So my inspiration will have to wait until we get to Kentucky. I'll unpack the essential boxes, do a little decorating, explore the city a little. Then I will sit down at my desk and write. I wonder where this next book will take me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Writer's Block

This is one of the most commonly discussed topics among writers. Like hiccups, writer's block is annoying and has several cures which may or may not work. Everyone has an opinion, and some claim to never have suffered this malady.

I hadn't until recently. The fog is gradually lifting. The cause, I think, is that I have too much on my mind. Once some obligations are fulfilled, I expect my fingers to leap onto the keyboard and hungrily type out one story after another.

My question is, What do you fo for writer's block? Have you ever experienced it, or are you among the lucky few who seem to be immune?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Progress? Hardly

I'm working on my short story challenge, but it's not going well. Does anyone have a suggestion?

I have a few different plots in mind. One is a killer, and it's already half written, but the flow is all wrong. Another has promise, but I'm afraid it will become too cliche. A third is a little off-beat, but not strange enough to make it interesting.

Writing novels is easy for me. I decide on a character, and a basic situation, and I write. Everything comes together--not necessarily in the first draft, but eventually. The characters become part of my family. I can sit down and write without much thought to where I'm going. It's instinctual.

This isn't happening with the story. I struggle, and nothing sounds right. Nothing feels right.

Can anyone let me in on the secret?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Personal Challenge

I have never written a satisfactory short story. I've dabbled, at least, in every other form of writing--books, poems, articles, plays, even a screenplay and a song when I was in high school. I tried short stories too, back then, but they left much to be desired.

So here I go. Insha Allah, 2007 will be the year of the story for me. I began something today. I also have four other stories begun, but never ended.

I need to do this, just to show myself that I can.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Emotional Brevity

In reviewing my next book, Ripples, today, I came across a few emotional passages. I hadn't read these in weeks. They still moved me. That's a good sign.

I noticed that the most powerful lines were some of the shortest. Wordiness doesn't create an impact nearly as much as brevity. Short and direct delivers.

A good lesson to remember in all we do. I'm stil working on it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gameel Hammadi

Gameel will make his appearance in Ripples. An Egyptian, he came to the U.S. to study, fell in love with an American woman, and stayed in this country. Gameel is middle-aged now, the father of two college students. Faisal is studying pre-law. His twin sister, Faiqa, is majoring in pre-med.

Gameel has a good life. Years ago he started a company to provide organic products. Now the demand is high and business is very good. But, of course, I won't allow Gameel to escape difficulties.

And I won't say any more. You'll have to wait for Ripples.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Islamic Fiction

Over the last several days, I've had an on-going online discussion with fellow writers about Islamic fiction. What is it? Is it allowed?

I was amazed to hear secondhand reports about those who consider Islamic fiction to be lying. The stories aren't real, and neither are the characters, but the storylines illustrate what it means to be a Muslim. Stories can convey ideas much more easily than sermons or essays. When I was a child I learned the parables in the Bible. No one ever insinuated that Jesus was lying. He used the familiar to explain higher concepts.

I consider Islamic fiction to be a mirror. I give back to the reader the inages I carry. They may be somewhat distorted, because they have been filtered through my own perceptions. That can be said of anything ever written by man or woman.

Is Islamic fiction allowed? I don't see why not. To read stories about people who face the samr vhallenges I do, and see how they confront their problems. This is uplifting and reassuring. Why would there be harm in it.

Anything new is initially resisted. Islamic fiction is not exempt. But I envision the day when my granddaughter will write a story, freely and without doubt. I hope she will look at her grandmother and my colleagues as pioneers.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Body Language

I had another interesting discussion with my sons today about character development. We were talking about distinguishing characters through their vocabulary and speech patterns.

Somehow the conversation turned to body language. The boys hadn't thought of that yet. I use it extensively.

When Joshua is angry or upset, his face turns red. Chris speaks in a low voice. Brad rubs the back of his neck. Joshua might yell and shout, but never Chris. As he gets older, Brad turns more to reasoning. All are brothers, but all have different ways of expressing themselves.

Of course, we use body language daily in our interactions. I have found it to be very useful in defining my characters too.


Remember, the Innocent People sale ends on May 14.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back in the Day

While packing boxes and crates today, I came across my old lime green canvas binder. The one I used in 9th grade. The one I doodled on during class.

The binder contains articles I wrote for my journalism class. I was surprised. They were better than I remembered.

Somewhere I have other old writings. A play. A novel. Several poems. Maybe some short stories. I was quite prolific in my teens, before adult responsibilities slowed me down. None has ever been published. Today's encounter gives me new hope that, perhaps, I will find something worth sharing among my old writings.

Writers progress. We must. But it's nice to know that I wasn't totally hopeless as a kid.

P.S.--Remember the Innocent People sale, which ends May 14.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Writing Life

I received a very nice email from a fellow writer yesterday, asking if she could interview me for her blog. I would like to share the interview with you.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Books, books everywhere--but no time to read or write

Did I mention that we're moving? In the middle of June, insha Allah. To another state--about 400 miles from here.

So I'm packing. Box after box. They're piled neatly against a livingroom wall. And 90% of them contain books.

I love books. I always have. You never know what secrets you may find inside the pages.

I still love books, even after packing hundreds of them. I'm almost done.

I think I'll start buying fewer books.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Turbulence Excerpts

I woke up to good news on Friday morning. My website had been updated, after months of unexpected delay.

You can log on to read two excerpts from Turbulence. I have a few other changes too. I hope you'll check out my site and let me know what you think.

In the next week or so you can look for further updates, insha Allah. I'm back in business!

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I started writing again this week. It began with a simple poem. Today I opened my file for Ripples, my next book, and went to work.

I was reluctant. There are boxes to pack and messes to clean. And the paperwork. I hadn't realized what all was involved in buying a house. On top of that, my sister-in-law is coming to visit next month. I don't think she wants to spend her days staring at me as I space out in front of the computer.

But I couldn't resist. My son suggested I should work on the fifth book, which is no more than a single rough draft. That would involve serious writing though, and days when I lost touch reality. I'm not ready for a project that deep right now.

My work on Ripples is only to revise. That's simpler. And I'm still writing.

It feels so good to be back.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Importance of Computer Literacy--And Beyond

Whenever I see an outdated website, I immediately judge the product. Anyone who wants to advertise on the web should be willing to put the time into keeping the information current.

But my website is hopelessly outdated--and it really bothers me. First, the web administrator died. He was kind, supportive, and very thorough. I miss him and the quality of his work.

Now other snags have come along. Delay after delay. Sometimes I wonder if my current website will ever be useful again.

I am looking for alternatives. The best would be if I knew how to develop a website on my own.

Writing is great. But knowing how to live in the real world is an essential tool needed by the successful writer.

I hope it's not to late for me to learn!