Archive | October 2013

Novel in Progress: Taking a Break!

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover[1]I finished the third draft of my fourth novel and it’s still unreadable for anyone’s eyes but mine, so I decided to take a break from it.

Luckily, National Novel Writing Month is presenting me with this chance. Yes, I consider it a present. If not for this gift, I would’ve never put this novel aside, but kept toiling over it, even if hating it, some days.

Most writing instructors believe that a few months-long hiatus from your manuscript is absolutely necessary because your coming back to it will be quite rewarding: you’ll be able to see your creation in a different light, noticing the flaws that you’ve previously missed, coming up with ways of fixing them and improving your book overall.

And that’s exactly what I need right now. Not only because of the much needed hiatus, but also because of my plan to eventually write a sequel to this book, so I figure why not knock off its first draft now? I’m sure a sequel will help me with its prequel, i.e., my current novel.

It’s actually funny that just a month ago I didn’t even think about starting yet another novel until I completed this one and got it published, and now I’m ready to launch its sequel.

How do I feel about this new endeavor?

Very excited!

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, Nov. 1st, and ends at midnight on Nov. 30th.

In just 30 days, I’ll have to write at least 50,000 words. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not, because it’s only about 1,700 words a day. Easy! I’ve done more. (bragging…bragging…) 🙂

But of course, it’s easier to say than do, because at this moment, except for a general idea for my newest creation (and two main characters), I don’t have anything in my mind. So how do I execute this idea? I don’t know.

But! Since I’m an organic writer and never plan my first draft in advance, I’ll take my usual route—I’ll give the reins to my characters and see what they’ll do and say. Amen.

Good luck to me! 🙂

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“A Woman in Berlin” by anonymous

51mrz20v9CL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_[1]A Woman in Berlin is a diary kept by a journalist in April-May of 1945, during the capture of Berlin by the Soviet army. It was first published in the U.S., in English, in 1954, because the publishers in Germany declined it due to its subject, i.e., the rape of their women by Russian soldiers.

Germany has lost the war. The Nazi regime is defeated. The glorious nation has fallen seemingly beyond repair. But who has to face and bear the brunt of Hitler’s downfall?

Women.

With painstaking detail the author records the ordeal that she and her women neighbors are going through during the fall of Berlin: air raids, destruction of homes, death of their loved ones, chaos, lack of water, absence of heat, electricity failure, starvation, pillage, and worst of all, rape.

This young woman is a well-traveled journalist, speaking several languages, including some Russian, due to her pre-war business trip to the Soviet Union. She turns her knowledge and experience to her advantage. After being violated by different men she decides “to find a single wolf to keep away the pack. An officer, as high-ranking as possible… After all, what are my brains for, my little knowledge of the enemy’s language?” So she befriends a captain, who protects her from “the pack” and brings food to her and the couple she rents a room from. She reasons, “That’s our strength—we women always focus on the task at hand. We’re happy whenever we can flee into the present to escape worrying about the future.”

Am I a survivor or a whore? she asks herself. As it turns out, that will be up to men to decide. And men decide that she is the latter. When it is all over, the subject of rape becomes taboo. Those men who fail to defend their wives’ honor, trying to save their own skin, and those who return from the front, refuse to talk about it. And some even blame the women for it.

That’s why her testimony couldn’t be published in her own country for decades to come. Supposedly, it “besmirches” the honor of German women.

I find it admirable that this young woman gives an incredibly objective account of the horrors that she is witnessing and enduring. There is no self-pity or sentimentalism in it. She criticizes both the invaders and her own people, showing how the war can turn some into animals.

I personally do not advocate “an eye for an eye” punishment, but while reading the book, I couldn’t help thinking about the suffering of Russian women at the hands of Nazi aggressors in the occupied territories, and how thousands of them, and even their children, were raped, tortured, and murdered.

And that’s the conclusion the author of the diary achieves, based on her conversations with some Russian soldiers. “We brought it on ourselves,” she concludes. She also hears other people say, “Our boys probably weren’t much different over there.” They now realize that what goes around comes around. And they repeat the same line from their pre-war prayer, proclaimed on posters and in speeches—“For all of this we thank the Fuehrer”—only with the opposite meaning, full of scorn and derision. How ironic.

Given the author’s occupation, her diary is very well-written. It’s a literary masterpiece. Most importantly, this woman gives voice to other women—in any country—who are defenseless victims of war. I think the fact that she preferred “anonymous” to a “penname” was a condemnation of wars and warriors who treat women as the spoils of war.

Author Interview: Patricia Cornwell

Here’s what Patricia Cornwell, the author of Red Mist, says about her research: She actually visited Savannah many times, as well as a prison there, where she talked to inmates and watched them in different settings (sitting in class, training dogs in the courtyard).

That’s why her writing is so good. The setting itself is a character, she says, which is true.

To other writers this gifted author gives an invaluable advice: Don’t give up!

Thank you, Ms. Cornwell! 🙂

Patricia Cornwell’s “Red Mist”

9780399158025[1]Fans of crime fiction heavy on forensic science may like Red Mist, Patricia Cornwell’s nineteenth novel in the Kay Scarpetta series.

At the start of the novel, a chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta is driving to the Georgia Prison for Women, to visit an inmate at the inmate’s request. Kathleen Lawler is the mother of a psychopath who recently tried to kill Kay. Their conversation raises more questions than answers for Kay, and she ends up trying to solve three murders.

Readers who anticipate lots of action, based on this fact, will be disappointed. Surprisingly, this novel is slow paced and heavy on long dialogues and Kay Scarpetta’s inner thoughts. Readers who love meticulous scientific descriptions of the investigation will enjoy both the dialogues and Kay’s retrospection and introspection.

I usually like to cite characters that either enlighten me or make me think about certain issues.

Kathleen Lawler, for instance, blames everybody for her own crimes and the crimes committed by her daughter. She’s intelligent, educated, and well-read. Yet, instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she chooses to believe in the power of genetics. She says, “I’ve always wondered if my life would have turned out different if certain other things hadn’t happened. But maybe I’d be sitting right here anyway. Maybe God decided while my mama was pregnant with me. I’ve never been able to allow myself the success I’m capable of because it’s not in the cards for me to have it. I set myself for the failure every time. Failure is part of my DNA, what God decided for me and everyone who comes after me. Maybe I’m a victim of Almighty Himself.”

So she’s a victim, not a criminal. Don’t most all criminals think that way?

Dr. Scarpetta raises an interesting problem in our society: Everybody sues. “If a burglar injures himself while ransacking your house, he sues. Litigation is the new national industry and has become the inevitable aftermath of virtually any criminal act. First someone tries to rob, rape, or kill you. Or maybe they succeed. Then they sue you or your estate for good measure.”

Isn’t that right?

Another problem raised in the novel (through Lucy the computer guru) concerns the safety of our personal information, and how easy it is for “outsiders” to obtain it from us and thus make us vulnerable and even victims of identity theft. “Customer data is gold, and it’s sold constantly and at the speed of light. Every detail about what your surf for on the Web, where you travel, who you call or email, what prescription drugs you buy, what vaccinations you or your children get, your credit card and Social Security numbers, even your fingerprints and your iris scans because you gave your personal information to a privatized security screening service that has checkpoints at some airports and for a monthly bypass the long lines everybody else stands in. If you’re going to sell your business, whoever acquires it wants your customer data, and in many cases that’s all they want. Who are you, and how do you spend your money? Come spend it with us. And from there the data gets sold again and again and again. No guarantees that secure information doesn’t end up in the public domain.”

And that’s what I love about intelligent fiction: not only does it entertains, but it gives us valuable lessons.

Check out Patricia Cornwell‘s website–you may find it fascinating and certainly original.

Author Interview: Patricia Cornwell

I’m currently reading Patricia Cornwell‘s Red Mist and have decided to post one of the interviews with this bestselling author from YouTube.com.

This clip is a short one, and I’ve chosen it because I’m very much impressed by what Ms. Cornwell says about her attitude to her painful experiences.

She doesn’t regret them at all! That is, she has no regrets about being abandoned by her father, or ended up in a foster home, or being molested as a child, or being rejected by numerous publishers as a writer. Why?

Watch and find out! 🙂

Vince Flynn’s “The Last Man”

T13573622[1]he Last Man by Vince Flynn is another political thriller in a series about Mitch Rapp, a top CIA agent.

CIA clandestine operative Joe Rickman is kidnapped from an impregnable safe house in Afghanistan. His four bodyguards are executed in cold blood, and all the contents of his safe are missing.

CIA Director, Irene Kennedy, sends Mitch Rapp to Afghanistan to find Rickman before he breaks under torture and reveals the names of other agents to the enemy. Having examined the crime scene, Rapp suspects that things are not what they seem. As usual, he acts upon his hunch, despite the skepticism of his colleagues.

Rapp knows that under torture a person can hold up only so long, no matter how loyal he may be to his country. And that’s a physically strong person. Which Rickman is not. So every passing hour diminishes his chance of survival. But with each passing hour, Rapp’s assignment gets more complicated and more difficult to accomplish.

Enemy attacks. False leads. Outright lies. Betrayal. Rivalry for power. Complicated politics on all sides—in the US, its ally Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And the proverbial contention between the CIA and FBI to boot. Sometimes it’s impossible to say who is a friend and who is an enemy.

Thus the plot thickens. The suspense heightens. And you can’t put the book down until the last page.

Mitch Rapp is ruthless. He’s a killer. He’s “the last man you want to cross.” But we love him.

Why? Because he has humanity in him. Because he is a patriot. Because he constantly puts his life on the line for his country. He rids the world of scum—not for money, not for accolades, and not for the thrill of it, but because he believes that without those evil people “the world is a better place.” Rapp doesn’t care about diplomacy or politics; he is just doing his job.

The Last Man is a fast-paced, suspenseful, intelligent thriller, which I strongly recommend.

I’m very sad about the untimely death of Vince Flynn, a talented writer and the creator of this interesting character, Mitch Rapp.

Author Interview: Alexander Maksik

Talking about his novel, A Marker to Measure Drift, Alexander Maksik stresses the point of hope.

I agree, for no matter how much we may suffer, we should always have hope that we’ll get better.

And this is the most important message, I believe, that any author portraying human suffering should give to the reader.

Enjoy!