Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Newcastle Noir: Is a thriller "literature"?

I'll be tackling this topic in Newcastle on the 30th of April during a panel discussion that starts at 5:30. 

As I see it, a thriller is a story that matches a resourceful human protagonist, often cut off from his or her support network, against one or more better-equipped villains who are out to destroy the protagonist, his or her nation, and/or world stability.

Here's a preview of my position, via Shots Magazine. In the meantime, let me state my firm belief that, under this definition, LES MISERABLES is a thriller.

Hope to see you in Newcastle!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Eleven Words William Shakespeare DID NOT Invent, as We Celebrate (Wait, That Really Feels Like the Wrong Verb) His Death 400 Years Ago

1. Creepy

2. Inappropriate

3. Creepilyinappropriate

4. Morbidandthensome

5. Morethanslightlycreepilyinappropriateandmorbid

6. LiterarygraverobberishinacravencommercialwaydoyouknowwhatImean

7. Imeanreallywhydowehavetomakeabigdealoutofspansoftimethatendinzeroanyway

8. Arewesolackinginthingstocelebratethatwehavetostartcelebratingpeopledyingevenbrilliantpeople




Thursday, April 21, 2016


Just as they do in in Syria, catastrophic ecological shifts underpin the long-running political trauma in Somalia.

Westerners may be used to filing news from Somalia under such headings as "failed state" and "religious conflict," but these simplistic tags don't come close to telling the whole story, and they certainly don't give us the information that is most relevant to Somalis at the moment: The country is on the brink of yet another major famine. The last one, in 2011, took the lives of a quarter of a million people.

Facing a surrealistic combination of severe drought in the north and relentless rains in the Middle Shabelle Region that brought flooding and crop failures, Somalia is in trouble again. The country faces a daunting humanitarian crisis, barely four years after the establishment of its first convincing attempt at a centralized government since the early Nineties.

Those of us who live (and eat) far away from places like Somalia tend to talk with intensity about how much we dislike religious extremism. Yet we often pass by opportunities to support the people who are most vulnerable to the cycle of poverty and desperation where it thrives. Somalia is a prime example. Having only recently yielded its #1 ranking on the UN's Fragile States Index to South Sudan, Somalia is in a vulnerable position. It is headed in the right direction … but it needs more help than it's getting.

The group Concern Worldwide is doing great work in Somalia, targeting specific communities in need and ensuring that 88%+ of its budget is devoted to relief and development. If we can afford to give them even a little cash, in the hopes of keeping hope alive in Somalia, I think we should.

We can do so by clicking here.

Cause in the matter

To take a stand that you are cause in the matter contrasts with it being your fault, or that you failed, or that you are to blame, or even that you did it. That you are the cause of everything in your life is a place to stand from which to view and deal with life – a place that exists solely as a matter of your choice. The stand that one is cause in the matter is a declaration, not an assertion of fact. It simply says, 'you can count on me (and I can count on you) to look at and deal with life from the perspective of my being cause in the matter.' When you have taken the stand (declared) that you are cause in the matter of your life it means that you give up the right to assign cause to the circumstances, or to others. That is, you give up the right to be a victim. You also give up the right to assign cause to the waxing and waning of your state of mind – all of which, while undoubtedly soothing, leave you helpless (at the effect of). At the same time, taking this stand does not prevent you from holding others responsible.” --Werner Erhard

(Footnote from YT -- the FINANCIAL TIMES just ran the first interview with Werner in I don't know how many years, and it was a disappointment: a rehash of decades-old backbiting nonsense, a hack job,  a real lost opportunity. I'm posting the material above because the FINANCIAL TIMES piece made me angry. Which took me out of being cause in the matter. I made everything the writer's fault, thinking to myself that she had a chance to share insights from one of the really great thinkers of our time, and she blew it by circulating old news and old rumors and it was all her issue and she was X, Y, and Z ... and then I came across this quote and concluded that if I wanted the insights from Werner's world that had made a difference to me out in the world, I could damn well share them, and so here is one of them. These words are, for me, a light in the dark.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

JIHADI: A LOVE STORY hits #1 on IPG's Goodreads "Not-To-Miss" List

The US launch of my debut novel from Orenda Books approaches, and the excitement is mounting.

Orenda's American distributor, Independent Publishers Group, keeps an interactive list on Goodreads where users can vote on hot new releases to watch. As of this morning, JIHADI: A LOVE STORY is number one on that list!

So grateful to the readers who voted and wrote reviews that rated this book so highly. The support has truly been extraordinary. Thank you!

To order JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, click here.

To see (and vote on) the current IPG "Not-To-Miss" list on Goodreads, click here.

To review JIHADI: A LOVE STORY on Goodreads, click here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An excerpt from JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, courtesy of Espresso Coco and Orenda Books

For Chapter Two of the novel,  click here.

The Work In Progress

It took me a while to figure out what the hell it was about. Now that I've got a handle on the opening, it's like there's a member of the family waiting to ask me how the day went every time I open up the laptop. That's a very good feeling, to know that your story is waiting for you.

I am not a big believer -- anymore -- in broadcasting everything that's going on with a book I'm working on. I'm a little more wary. Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I shared a lot -- probably too much -- about JIHADI: A LOVE STORY while it was in gestation. You probably noticed that I went back and took all those old ultrasound photos off the site. With this one, I'm waiting until the baby is actually born to pass around the photos.

A novel is not like a baby in this respect, though: one has no idea what the gestation period is.

My thinking is that if I follow the thousand-word-a-day, six-days-a-week program I've set up for myself, and keep saying good morning to the thing inside me, keep taking my prenatal vitamins, I should be able to wrap a first draft up within nine months. Who knows. The kid may have other ideas, but I work best with a goal. The whole reason I'm writing this is to remind myself and the world that the goal for the completed first draft is January 15, 2017. We'll see whether the baby cooperates.

Here are the six things I am now willing to tell anyone about the WIP:

1) It uses third-person omniscient. I was all over the place on this for months. I tried third person limited, first person, and even second person. I finally landed in Victor Hugo territory, and that's what felt indisputable and right.

2) It opens with a description of a car crash. Careful. Seat belts on, please.

3) It appears to be set mostly in Massachusetts. Not Salem, though, where much of JIHADI unfolded.

4) The main action of the story takes place in 2008. The financial collapse looms.

5) It describes events that occur before the action in what now looks to be my third novel, FREED. Who knows when FREED will be finished. Its 70,000-plus words will need to wait for this to wrap  up, I've decided.

6) Islam still figures prominently. The common thread.

Right now there are about 3,000 words in the WIP that I feel good about. Fortunately, they come right at the beginning of the book, so I have a platform on which to work. In addition, I have some 60,000 epic, disorganized words in two draft files that I've generated for this second novel, some of which will be used and some of which won't. That's either inspiring or a little embarrassing. I'm an optimist, so I'm going for inspiring.

That is all the in utero news that's fit to print.



To read reviews of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, click here.

For a summary of the blog tour for JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, click here.

For an excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Orenda Books and Espresso Coco, click here.

To meet with me in London on May 4 during Truth In Fiction, click here.