Tuesday, April 29, 2014

If I had never heard of me, would I read my book?

This is a guest post I wrote for the Books and Other Spells website as part of my virtual blog tour:

If I was a romantic at heart, and constantly striving to experience something new, I would read my book. There's a love story that unfolds in very unusual circumstances. There are characters that are too different, too far apart, they don't even understand each other - which made it a bit challenging as a writer. There's a political upheaval that no one seems to understand, or predict how it would settle. And there's an inner strive to not just survive, but to experience life's beauty and embrace it. One has to look hard enough, though.

I would want to know more about this emotionally distant Yasmeen. What made her that way? And why can't she unfold? How many women I know are like her? Would she be able to move on with life, with memories of what she had witnessed screaming loud and clear in her head? I would want to know what mattered to her the most, and would she be able to keep it?

I would want to understand why Adam turned out the way he did. How he managed to hold on to his principles and honor, despite everything he went through. And I would want to see if I could accept his choices and decisions.

If I had never heard of me, I would be intrigued by the foreign name, the timely book title, and the promise of a different kind of romance. Yes, I would read my book. And I would judge, critique, write a review about it, and I would tell my friends whether I liked it or not.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Offcial On Line Book Club Review of Shadows of Damascus

I would like to share this review I recently received from the On line Book Club:

Post Number:#1  Description: nread postby ITnker » 23 Mar 2014, 17:57
[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Shadows of Damascus" by Lilas Taha.]
Even though a book of fiction, Shadows of Damascus is a story based on a man’s devotion to keep a promise. Adam, an American soldier, makes a promise to an interpreter assigned to his patrol unit, Fadi, in return for saving his life during the heat of battle in Iraq. Fadi later realizes Adam will be the answer to save his sister, Yasmeen, from the Syrian government’s atrocities on Syrian civilians, asking Adam to live up to his promise. A story with twists and turns as two adults seek to understand each other’s boundaries, past experiences, and inner fears.

Yasmeen is brought to America to live with a man she knows nothing about. Left with the struggle to understand the American way of living and lingo, Yasmeen copes with the man she shares a home with and growing concern for what she has left behind in Syria. At the same time, Adam changes his world to keep his promise, as he struggles with inner emotions and tries to understand the woman he has opened his home for. The combination of paths they follow as they fight to conquer a painful history and accept new realities are compelling and believable.

Lilas Taha presents a story closely related to modern day events. The story line of the book is not your typical romance novel, yet offers the insight of how two individuals can overcome differences. The characters are believable and not made out to be heroes nor have the illusion of exaggerated abilities. Lilas does a great job of drawing out the characters and the true meaning of how life events affect decisions made from the heart.

What a book?! Shadows of Damascus could be categorized as a fiction of drama or romance. Not normally my choice of genres, but this book was intriguing enough not to want to put it down. This book kept my interest and with a yearning to know what was going to happen next. The author does an excellent job keeping the story moving and the reader guessing as to what’s coming.

Based on the content and how the story moves, I rate this book with 4 out of 4 stars. A good read for anyone who enjoys romance and drama, and even for those of us who would not give such genres the time of day. A short story well written, with the substance to keep the reader intrigued, this story is definitely worth someone’s time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Morning Thoughts

Just sharing my thoughts this morning:

I have completed two rounds of edits on my second book, and I am confident enough now to start sending query letters to agents. Writing this novel - inspired by the other half of my background - took as much emotional toll as writing Shadows of Damascus. But I finally reached the end, and it is so rewarding to pen down the last words.

I plan to pitch the book in person to agents in the upcoming writers’ conference in Houston in April, and another in Austin in June. It would be great to gauge the possible interest in such a story. On the other hand, I dread the immediate feedback, often brutally direct, in face-to-face pitching sessions. The short ten minutes with an agent cannot cover a yearlong work on the book, but it is a skill that must be perfected by any writer. Luckily, I fumbled my way through with the first book, pitching to agents in conferences without really knowing how. Now, I know what it takes, how the process goes, and I’d like to think I’ve developed a little and gotten seasoned in the publishing field to know what to say. Still, it is a daunting process and I dread every second of it.

First things first, I have to do my homework and research everything I can find about the agents I plan to pitch to. Knowing what they are interested in saves energy, and I hate to waste anyone’s time by presenting something totally out of an agent’s circle of interest.

Next, I have to perfect the logline for my book. One sentence that sums up the essence of the story, and makes the agent sit up and take notice. I have that down now.  I’m not totally satisfied, though. More work for me to do in the next ten days.

And then I must have a one-page synopsis of the book, another skill that has to be honed and polished. That’s where I am stuck. Giving a brief summary of the book events is not so easy for someone who wrote every detail of the story. And right now, I am taking a break of working on that to write this post. Procrastination? Escape? Call it what you might, I know I have to get back to the “job” eventually.