Sunday, December 7, 2014

Keeping Austin Weird

Copies of SHADOWS OF DAMASCUS hit the shelves at the leading independent book store in Texas: BookPeople bookstore in Austin.It is available in 3 sections of the store: General Fiction, Romance Fiction, and Local Author Fiction.

My contribution to Keep Austin Weird!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Writing Fiction

Writing fiction requires not just an active imagination, but also a decent ability to tell a lie. Lie with conviction, with complete abandonment of the truth, and create a web to support the fabrication. A fictional story has to be complete, in all its angles, worlds, twists and turns for it to resonate with a reader. As a writer, I would advise other writers to believe the lie themselves. Live the lie if need be, and keep learning.

No matter how good a writer may be, there is always room for improvement. And if someone were gracious enough to point out shortcomings, that would be the chance to open up and accept. I am not saying all criticism is valid, but I have come across excellent writers who get offended when someone shines a light on a weak point in their work. In the writing world, and specifically in the publishing world, there is very little room for ego. A writer can always reject or accept suggestions, but a writer who wastes time and energy defending his or her work to a critiquing eye is someone who will remain at a standstill.

Make it better, bring it home for the person who found it lacking in one area or another during the editing process, and be grateful someone took the time to give you feedback. But above all, trust your instinct. Like anything else we do in life, we tend to have that nagging voice in our heads telling us when something just isn’t right. If it is a plot issue, and you feel the strings are not knotted tight enough, someone will pick up on that. So do your research, tighten the knots yourself, and make the plot as plausible as possible. If that little voice in your head raises questions about a certain character’s behavior that is not consistent with the kind of person you created, fix it. Characters don’t have to be predictable and consistent. Real people are not. But if you took the time to paint a character in a meaningful way, then his or her behavior must match. Redo the scene that bothers you deep down, it will bother your reader too.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Signing

I will be discussing and signing copies of my book Shadows of Damascus at the River Oaks Bookstore in Houston, TX on Saturday November 15 from 4-6 pm.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Me, Islam, and an Interview

Note to self: Don’t go out for a walk on the nature trail when every landscaping company in the area is out cutting the grass. Not fun!

This morning, I was struggling with a tricky concept in chapter eight of my work in progress, shooting for a third novel by the end of 2015. And like I always do when I get mentally stuck, I go for long walks on the trail by the creek close to my house. I tried to ignore the buzzing sounds of tractors and lawn mowers by reflecting on an incident or rather an experience I had last week.

A professor friend of mine who teaches a course about Gender and Islam asked me for a favor. She was struck by how many of her students never even met a Muslim woman before, let alone had a sustained conversation with one. She asked if I would be open to having a student interview me as part of an assignment to write an essay about both the experience and me. I thought it a great idea, an opportunity to dispel any misconceptions that might be present in the student’s mind. I’ve always advocated for putting the responsibility on the shoulders of us women to dispel stereotypes, and especially us Muslim women to shatter the dark images/concepts that are shoved onto us by people who don’t know much about Islam. I believe we have a role; I have a role, a duty to speak up and defend what I believe in. I abhor complaining, and I hate waiting for someone to do something, or for an event to just happen and change the status quo. I believe in trying - not necessarily succeeding - to engage as much as possible in the society I live in. So I went to the interview, armed and ready.

Of course there is no way for me to know what the student wrote about me after the nearly two-hour conversation, and that’s not what really concerned me this morning during my walk. What I mulled on was my own reaction to the deep questions asked of how I perceive myself as a Muslim woman. Questions concerning my views on gender roles, sexuality, spirituality, practices, motherhood, work outside the home, LBGT issues, and dress code to name a few. I promised myself to be as honest as possible with the extremely polite and intellectual student, and I was taken aback by how some of my ideas and personal beliefs affected me when I articulated them. Thoughts gain a different measure of weight when they are spoken, a higher elevation when they are explained, and they open up whole worlds when they cross the isle and are received as they were meant.

I always thought of myself a deeply spiritual person. If people want to put me in a box and stick a label on it, they would probably use Liberal Muslim. I, however, try to shy away from labels when it comes to people, and being totally honest, it was not an easy road traveled to free my mind of such biases, for I had plenty. I am ashamed to admit few still linger. Halfway through the interview I noticed how defensive I became, projecting my pre-perceived notion that by simply being asked those questions, I was being attacked. That was not the case at all. I forced myself to stop and switch direction. I didn’t need to be in defensive mode all the time, a habit so hard to get rid off in the times we live in. I didn’t need to protect my beliefs and my idea of Islam. This wonderful student simply wanted to know who I am, and what I stand for, and I owed her nothing less than complete openness. I am who I am. I seek not her approval, nor reject her scorn. I believe that was the goal of the assignment, after all.

This morning, I swiped away the grass cuts flying in my face and headed home. Like those lawn mowers on the walk trail, I tend to push my way through situations not paying attention to the noise and chaos my approach sometimes leaves behind. From the other side of that interview table, I saw the damage I could have caused had I not dropped my shield and opened up. I only hope the student saw me with clarity.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

4 Star Review from InD'Tale Magazine

"An incredible tale of modern day romance born out of the violence in the Middle East. Readers will be pulled into this spellbinding story."

In the October 2014 issue of InD'Tale magazine, a full review is given to Shadows of Damascus with a 4 star rating.

Link to InD'Tale Magazine article

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Second Book

I am happy to announce that I signed off my second novel BITTER ALMONDS to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. to be released in multiple languages. Possible release date is summer of 2015 in the UK and the U.S. Arabic translations will follow in the Middle East.

Furthermore, SHADOWS OF DAMASCUS will be released in print by the end of September. Paperback copies will be available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes& Noble, and Soul Mate Publishing website.

Moving forward on this writing path, I am in total awe of the whole experience so far.