Thursday, October 1, 2015

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye quote about BITTER ALMONDS

Lilas Taha's great gift in BITTER ALMONDS is to create characters and scenes so richly resonant with life and vitality, that the complicated, lush world of the Middle East feels as tangible and close as any world you are living in. Crucial in our strange days?  Perhaps more than anything.”

Naomi Shihab Nye, author of HABIBI

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear Bretha Von Suttner: Wake up!

Today, I made it to the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands. Though the building itself is impressive, the mission behind it is vital, I found myself in turmoil once I learned about its major founder. Bertha Von Suttner was the mother of the peace movement. In 1905, she was the first woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Czech-Austrian pacifist and novelist spent her life advocating for the construction of the Peace Palace and the establishment of the International Court of Justice for the settlement of conflicts threatening peace. The palace opened in 1913 with most world leaders attending on the premise that justice leads to peace, and peace leads to justice.

Bertha died of cancer in June 1914, a few weeks before World War I broke out. She witnessed the build up to the conflict and continued to advise against international armament to her last breath. I can't get past thinking how she must have felt seeing all her dreams, efforts, and life's work literally go up in flames, worldwide.

If Bretha, the author of Lay Down Your Arms, somehow comes back to life and travels to the future - our present - what would she say?
How would she feel?
Could she hurt more?
Would she hope less?
Would she forsake her dreams?
Would she call our tremulous state World War III?
Would she write another pacifist novel?
And more importantly, would we read it?


Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Toddler And The Sea

So I’m two years-old and, because I’m special, I was given a miracle: I can tell you my thoughts. I don’t know where I’m from, or where I am now, or where I’m going. I can only tell you what I’ve experienced so far.

Are you ready?
Here we go:

I filled my stomach on my mother’s milk when I was smaller. It was warm and plenty.
I slept on my father’s shoulder when I was too tired to walk. It was comfortable and wide.
I smelled my grandmother’s breath when she kissed me every morning. It was fruity and sweet.
I bounced on my grandfather’s lap when he tried to stop my crying. It was soft and a bit awkward.
I popped soap bubbles my older brother blew in my face when we bathed. It was fun and magical.
I kicked a football around and didn’t fall on my face for the first time. Everyone clapped for me.
I danced with my cousins to derbakkeh drums and oud strings. I liked the way their music moved my body.

I heard noises coming from the sky. They sounded like thunder, but were not followed by rain, only ash and cement chunks. It was too loud.
I hid in a closet to wait for the man with the heavy boots and long shiny rifle to leave our house. It was scary.
I crawled under metal wire with sharp spikes. They hurt when my skin caught on them.
I felt the sun burn too close, too hot. The only moisture came from my mother’s eyes.
I saw my uncle lie very still in the street, a circle of red paint spread around his head.

I bobbed up and down on a boat. I was sick. I only saw water.
I slipped through my father’s hands. I didn’t float.
I heard him cry. His voice went hoarse.
I swallowed water. It was too salty.
I breathed sand through my nose.

I am cold, very cold.

I’ve arrived.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thoughtful

An extremely thoughtful reader left this Amazon review for Shadows of Damascus:

"If you do not read this book you are missing a remarkable 'works from the heart.' This is a 'first-hand' account. Here we have the clear opportunity to follow the prior life based logical reasoning of a young woman who's entire life is blown to bits by a war and then counter-war in her middle-east country. How she is saved from those that would 'use' her and, her attempts to conform to a western civilization culture are the underlying themes of the book, but in addition there is another theme that everyone needs to read and absorb, which is the cultural difficulties which she AND her associates must go through. I will say no more other than I found it gripping, enlightening, sometimes difficult to understand the emotional stances of the characters, but in the final analysis I found this a very strong 5 star book. I only wished I understood more about the fundamentals of middle east thinking. You will find yourself caring very much about the destinies of the principal characters."

For a writer dipping her toes in the published world like myself, it's very rewarding to see that my intentions for writing this story came through the script.

Monday, June 15, 2015

CRW 2015 Award of Excellence Contest Finalist

I'm pleased to announce that my novel Shadows Of Damascus was chosen as a finalist in the Mainstream w/Romantic Elements category of the Colorado Romance Writers 2015 Award of Excellence Contest. To see the finalists list on the CRW website, click here. Winners will be announced at the CRW conference in Denver, Colorado on August 8, 2015.




Sunday, June 7, 2015

BITTER ALMONDS Excerpt

"They told five-year old Fatimah not to turn around, but no one told her to close her eyes. No one told her not to listen. She pressed her face against the window, a rag doll forgotten in her lap. Quiet rain speckled the cold glass, and ..."



Read the first chapter of my upcoming novel Bitter Almonds, to be released August 13, on my revamped website lilastaha.com


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cover Reveal for BITTER ALMONDS

I'm excited to reveal the cover for my second novel Bitter Almonds to be published by Bloomsbury QFP. Release date in the UK and worldwide is August 13, 2015. 
US publication date is January 19, 2016.



Monday, April 20, 2015

RONE Award Nominee

I'm excited to find out that my book SHADOWS OF DAMASCUS is nominated for the RONE award (Reward of Novel Excellence) by InD'tale Magazine in the Contemporary: Sweet - 2015 category. Having passed their initial judging process, voting is now open to the reading public. Six books with the highest votes will proceed to the final judging round by professionals in the industry.

Public voting starts today April 20 through April 26. If you're inclined to participate, I would appreciate your vote. You will need to register to see the list of nominees and vote. Please scroll down to the Contemporary:Sweet category. Here's the link:


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Live Chat

I will be chatting live on Coffee Time Romance about SHADOWS OF DAMASCUS plot and character creation today March 24th at 9:00 pm Eastern time.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Essence-capturing review of Shadows of Damascus

SHADOWS OF DAMASCUS received this review recently on Amazon that really captured what I intended in the book:

"I finished reading Lilas Taha's novel "Shadows of Damascus" and did not want it to end! It took me back to the Middle East, to the sights, sounds, aromas, people and to the sad realities, and then transplanted me back to the US on an emotional journey with many dizzying resonances. The author created believable and charming characters and managed to portray so well the hurdles that Jasmine and Adam had to go through with all their human flaws and differences: differences that go beyond those of a Syrian woman and an American man, but on to the nuanced relationship between the Middle East and the United States. She ends her novel without really ending it, for the story, like the relationship between the US and the ME has not ended yet. A lovely novel that leaves us hungering to know more about Jasmine and Adam's journey, as well as that of the US and the sad and torn Middle East."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Character Creation

When I seriously considered writing a book, I knew that in any story, characters have to become alive, invoke emotions, reactions, and thoughts from readers. Whether the character is the main one in the story, or secondary in a subplot, it doesn’t matter. All the actions and dialogue coming out of the character have to be convincing. 

With Shadows of Damascus, I had a general idea of who the characters were, and how they interacted with each other. Developing the specifics of how they went about their daily lives, their views of the world they lived in, and their convictions became my true challenge.

It is important to pin that down to create a character that readers could connect to, if not personally, then to someone they know. Real people, with quirks and shortcomings, weaknesses and strengths, dreams and aspirations, successes and failures. Even if the plot doesn’t call for all the details, writing them in brings the character closer to the surface, to be understood, accepted or rejected, despised or fevered, whatever the reaction from the reader maybe, a reaction nonetheless. I found as I developed my characters, they pushed me to a different angle, a different scene or a new problem that wasn’t in the plot to begin with. This approach may not work with all genres, and every writer has his or her method.

It was also very important to pin down the physical image of the character. I’m one who doesn’t cut out pictures from magazines and stick them to a board or in a sketchbook to help with images, though I think that is an effective way to go about it. I’m one who keeps everything in my head, which may explain the lost look I sport around when I’m developing a scene. I got in the habit of observing people. Wherever I am, I take in details: facial expressions, hair styles and colors, manicured fingernails, scruffy beards, the way a tall man walks, how a plump lady tries to cross her legs, the small gestures between couples they try to hide in public, yet fail. To me, it’s more than hair and eye color, skin tone and body structure. It’s more about how the characters carry themselves, and most importantly, what they try to conceal.