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Whenever I see an outdated website, I immediately judge the product.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But my website is hopelessly outdated--and it really bothers me.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!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Creativity vs. the Business of Writing

My B.A. is in Philosophy and Religion. That in itself should explain my attitude toward the practical side of life.

I avoid practicality whenever possible. I hate working with details--especially when numbers are involved. I can complete income tax returns and pay bills, but these tasks are unpleasant to me and often stressful.

I've tried to get excited about business. A few years ago, I signed up to sell stoneware to friends kind enough to host a party. I enjoyed some aspects of that exercise, but it proved to me that I am not a business person.

Unfortunately, writing is also a business. Books must be marketed. Marketing budgets must be considered. And on it goes.

If I were clever, I would plunge into writing articles, or maybe short stories, and get my name out there. I do have a story I keep meaning to work on. An article, too. But I'd rather be writing novels.

P.S.--These days I'm not writing much of anything. We're moving in June. I can't wait for July!

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Short Bout of Writer's Block

This morning I scanned my to-do list. Three items on the list required writing. (Not counting emails.) I chose something else. I was drowsy and had no motivation to write.

Three hours later, I still didn't feel like writing. That's unusual for me, but it happens. Even though one of the items on my list needed to be finished ASAP, I couldn't imagine coming up with the words. My brain wasn't in the mood.

I opened my email. A friend, Pamela Taylor, had written an article responding to this question--"Is Islam a Violent Religion?" She did an excellent job of tackling this biased statement.

After reading her article, I scanned the responses. Some very supportive, while others went on the attack. When I reached the end, I decided to write some comments of my own.

I don't know how long it took me. Sometimes when I write, time seems to stop. I focused on the words and ideas I wished to convey and the world fell away.

I finished my response and posted it. It was then that I realized my writer's block had vanished.

Like they say, Use it or lose it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Human Should a Protagonist Be?

The protagonist is the good guy--someone everyone will root for. When he encounters the antagonist, everyone cheers for him to overcome the forces of evil. My question is, Does the protagonist always have to be good?

In Turbulence, I changed things around a little. My antagonist, Brad, is basically a good guy. But he has several unsavory habits which sometimes get the best of him. There are times when the reader can't stand him. In the end, though, he comes through.

I chose to make Brad very, very human--exposing all his ugly little habits, passions, and secrets. Some readers are uncomfortable with this. But I have always been attracted to the flawed character. Not the shining hero in white armor. Someone with dents in his armor and dirt under his nails.

In the long run, Brad is a good guy. He does the right thing, or at least tries. But Brad has some serious problems--ghosts left by his dead antagonist which continue to haunt.

I grew up in the days when the good guys were easily identifiable. The Lone Ranger was pleasant, in its day. I think, though, that we're ready for something more complex.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Writers and the Postal Service

There was bad news when the U.S. Postal Service announced rate increases, including the elimination of the M bag for media mail going overseas. Smaller media mail overseas shipments have already been phased out, as I learned last fall when trying to send books to the U.K.

Today I learned the move to get rid of the M bag came from Time Warner. A large publisher shutting out the smaller ones. That's life in twenty-first century America.

Writers and publishers are coming together to stop the measure. I encourage all to sign the petition.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beth Monroe Adams

Beth first was mentioned in Echoes, but she had no lines. That bothered me at the time, but Echoes was Joshua's story.

Beth rhada few lines in Rebounding, though she was still known primarily as Brad's wife. Which is ironic, because there is so much more to her.

She bursts on the scene in Turbulence. Finally readers can get to know her strengths and her weaknesses, her idiosyncracies and her passions.

Beth Monroe grew up as the oldest child of Don and Ann. Don was a respected physician. Ann was an energetic mother and homemaker. They provided a strict but loving Baptist home. When Beth met Brad, she was a grad student in the field of public health.

If you want to know more about Beth, you'll need to read Turbulence. A word of caution. Beth usually expects to get her way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Innocent People

My first novel was conceived on September 11, 2001. I watched the TV reports blaming Muslims and, in the ensuing days and weeks, I saw the misconceptions about Islam being blasted throughout the national media. Muslims were seen simple as "the other." I wanted to give a human face to the exotic image of veils and carpets.

Sadia Abdullah is an American Muslim--her given name is Sally. She's married to a man from Singapore. They have five sons, ages 17 to 6. On the morning of 9/11, she's preparing to go for a job interview--her first since becoming a mother. Tragedy changes her plans and shakes up her world.

Sadia struggles to make sense of the new reality while guiding her sons to a greater understanding of the world. She reaches out to non-Muslims and helps her own Islamic community.

For a limited time, Innocent People is on sale for a special price of $5 per book (and free postage, as usual). Any non-profit organization wanting to order Innocent People for literary and educational purposes will pay only $1 per book for shipping and handling.

The events of that day continue to define us, as Muslims and as Americans.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Life experiences

A day or two ago I was talking with someone about where I get the ideas I used in my stories. I mentioned that I observe people and store away information. She asked if I had plans to introduce any real estate agents--her profession--into any of my books. I laughed, but made no promises. She actually reminded me to pay more attention to details. And, in a few years, a character like her may show up.

Isn't that where we all get our ideas? A gesture, a word, maybe a statement which ignites the imagination. I've never consciously written a character in emulation of someone I know. My characters are composites of people I've met, with a little bit of me thrown into each one.

Observation is a necessary tool for the writer. Words, images, emotions all become stories and characters that, we hope, will inspire.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wish I Could Write

I'm in between books, for the moment. I'd like to write a short story or two, but the last couple of weeks have been incredibly hectic. I should write an article, but if I can't concentrate on a story there's no way an article would get done. I have my blogs, alhamdulillah--which are becoming less and less lucid.

Whew! I love being busy, but I miss my creative times.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Scratching the Itch

Today my 14-year old was bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have a laptop. We're on vacation and he wants to write. He spends at least part of nearly every day calculating how he can earn enough money and exactly how long it will take him to earn enough for a laptop.

I understand completely. I was 14 when I had my first job--working as a counselor in a summer day camp program. I earned $100 for the summer--minimum wage was one dollar an hour. At the end of the summer I bought myself a typewriter for $75. I spent the next several years typing away at that little typewriter. I wrote my first novel, my first play, short stories, and poems. My mother said that after I went away to college she sometimes thought she heard the click-clack of my typewriter at night.

It's hard to go too long without the feel of the keys beneath my fingertips. I know some writers still use long-hand, but my penmanship was never that great. I loved typewriting from the moment I tried it. There is something very relaxing about the process.

I wish I could buy a laptop for my son, but we have other children and I can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on one of them--except for something like college tuition, which is a different matter. Besides, I think he'll appreciate it more after he's earned it, just as I earned my first typewriter.

And he'll have to endure the itch until we return home.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Meeting My Readers

I had a great weekend. Our family drove down to Chicago for the ISNA Education Conference, which is an annual event for our education-oriented family.

While my husband attended lectures and workshops, our children relaxed in the hotel room--indulging in cable TV (which we don't have at home) and fairly nutritious but fun to eat food. And I sat at a table, my books stacked neatly in front of me, meeting and greeting my readers.

It was wonderful. Some were fans of Echoes and Rebounding who anxiously grabbed their copies of Turbulence. Others had never heard of the Echoes Series. I introduced them to Joshua and his family. Most bought Echoes. Some walked away with Rebounding and Turbulence too.

When I write, I sit at my laptop on my corner of the couch--or sometimes my desk--and conjure up stories which I hope my readers will relate to and enjoy. I love actually meeting my readers, especially when they tell me they have enjoyed my stories.

Now I'm waiting to hear from those who began reading the Echoes Series, those who didn't know Joshua Adams until this weekend.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

He Said, She Said

I recently read an article about writing dialogue. For some writers, this can be a daunting task.

Dialogue is actually one of my favorite parts of writing. (Description is my weakness.) I love to create a scene, especially a conflict, composed mostly of what my characters say--and what they think but don't say.

Dialogue can develop a character and advance a story. In real life, people don't just usually stand around and talk. They drive, cook, work, check emails, eat while talking. They also use gestures and expressions. They smile, beam, frown, glower, and nod. Some people nod while others may raise their eyebrows. The words are part of the conversation, while an undertone conveys the message.

"I like to run," said Dick.

That's how I first learned dialogue. Let's try that again.

Dick stretched, shaking the tension from his legs. A bead of sweat trickled down his face. He grabbed a towel. "I like to run every morning. You should try it."

I agree with Dick. Try it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Learned or Innate?

I received my Writers Digest Book Club monthly mailing today. Thirty-one pages of books and software promising to make me a better writer.

The books offered vary widely in range. Some provide step-by-step instructions for writing a novel. Others offer inspiration. Some contain historical or factual details which may be useful. Others address common concerns such as grammar and use of idioms.

I've bought a few books over the last year or so. My favorite is Between the Lines, which includes an in-depth discussion of the subtleties of writing a good novel. I have a few research books, and I've bought some books for two of my sons who are aspiring writers.

I've heard some writers say they never use those books, preferring to write strictly by instinct. I know other writers swear by books, workshops, seminars--anything to help.

So what makes a good writer? Can writing be learned, or is it an innate talent? Could a gifted writer rise above a mediocre education to produce great literature? Could someone with a scientific mind be taught how to write well? What do you think?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I want to write my blog tonight, but the words aren't there. I just came home from 3 1/2 days of traveling. We're taking off again on Friday, insha Allah.

There are times when I'm writing and my character is rendered nearly speechless by something someone has said or done. So I use body language instead. He nods silently. She walks away.

Like they say, actions speak louder than words.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Something Different

This afternoon I was interviewed by a reporter at Bridges TV. It was an enjoyable experience.

Of course, what author doesn't like talking about her creations? We discussed themes and characters, along with a little personal background. The reporter was professional and courteous. It went well.

He expects the program to air in May or June, insha Allah. I'll let you know.