Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Week So Far: What a Wonderful Beginning!

Oh what a wonderful week this is shaping up to be! But at first, it didn't seem so. The evening before my radio interview, I mentioned that for sure, the next morning will find me tongue-tied. In response, someone said, "Break a leg!"
I almost did. I twisted my ankle. It looks grotesquely swollen; which strangely enough, put my mind at ease. Nothing bad could happen from now on. I'm going to be articulate and calm during the interview.
Indeed, ever since the publication of my novel, every day brings with it a little surprise for me. Sometimes it is just the fact that some unknown reader out there has trusted my writing enough to buy the book. Sometimes it is the fact that a radio interview has been scheduled, and my calendar starts looking more and more like that of a 'real' author; or else, a review has been posted on the Amazon page of the book. 
This week, it is all of the above, and more!
  • My inteview with Cyrus Webb, the host of Conversations LIVE Radio has aired Monday morning. Cyrus is so engagingly warm and friendly, and he knows how to ask great questions, so I became quite talkative. You can listen to the conversation here.
  • My interview with the author and editor Dan O'Brien has been posted on his blog, Thoughts from the Dan O'Brien Project, just this morning! Dan really studied my work, both my writing and my art, and he came up with questions that made me think--unlike the stock questions in most blog interviews. You can find it here.
  • Two new readers' reviews, with glowing recommendations, have been posted on the Amazon page of my book, Apart from Love
The first new review says (by Miriam3):
 "Apart From Love is one of the best novels I have read lately. The story is set in a contemporary affluent neighborhoods of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California. It is a tale of a quasi love triangle within a Jewish family. The characters and their relationship are depicted with depth and with humor. The city and its scenery is portrayed realistically and beautifully. Do not miss the last chapter, which is supposetaly a technical appendix, but in fact, a part of the narrative. This chapter is hilarious."

And the second (by yanushka):
"Apart From Love is a feast for the armchair psychologist. It reveals insights that can both touch and frighten each of us. But most evident is how the perspectives of both Ben and Anita are so delicately and honestly revealed. There are no contrivances and, as such, we are exposed to the complications of Lenny's life and relationships. This is a thoroughly well-crafted novel."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ninth Review of Apart From Love

Having earned a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England, Sheila Deeth, a reviewer for Amazon, Goodreads, Gather and other reading sites, enjoys reading, writing, drawing, and telling stories. Her own first novel, Divide by Zero, will be released This summer. Here is the conclusion of her review of my novel, Apart From Love

"Apart from Love has a feel of modern art, inviting readers in to enjoy, explore and eventually wrap themselves in the mystery of lives and loves drawn together and thrown apart. An intriguing tale, it’s not an easy read but it’s certainly an involving one that doesn’t necessarily go where the reader expects."

A Peek into My Studio

You may have heard that my book, Twisted, is a unique collection of dark tales. But it is a little known fact that it also includes a little surprise for the reader: hidden between these pages is my poem Dust, which can be seen as a dance duet between two characters, a man and a woman. The poem starts with him, saying:

From dust you gather me
I beg you on my knee 
Look away—imagine me
The way I used to be
Now shadows spread upon me
Stain by stain 
I shiver. Touch me, heal me
Make me whole again

And it ends with her, saying:


I will not let you blur
These traces in my mind
Of the way we were
Our limbs entwined
I miss you, still resist you, 
Forgive me, for I must
Gather you so gently
From the dust.

Writing this poem has inspired me to sculpt a pose for each verse. You can read the poem, view the sculptures, and even turn each one around, by going here

Now, many of you have asked me, How do you do that, how do you create your pieces, and cast them in bronze? So this time, I am going to give you a peek into my studio, at the moment the two dancers came alive. To imagine the finished piece, just remove the metal armature which holds them up while they are soft, remove the temporary clay support holding her foot, and remove the wires connecting the two figures to the armature, and then--yes! Then you can see how these dancers take flight!






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"So immaculately constructed that each work becomes a little treasure to visit repeatedly"

The Secret of Success

Everybody and their aunt have become writers in this day and age. By no means am I bemoaning this fact--I think it is wonderful that more of us are shaping our thoughts, which are often too nebulous and evasive, and committing them to paper (or to the computer screen, as the case may be.) But I think that all of us, professional and amateur writers alike, are seeking to find the secret of success. We do it because we want our voice heard, which is becoming increasingly difficult because of the ensuing cacophony...

So here is a great article, The 5 Habits of Successful Authors. It invites all of us to engage more fully in finding an audience for our musings.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Cyclical Process of Writing

In any task you undertake, you often hear the advice: start at the beginning, continue down the middle, and finish at the end. Writing is no different. Problem is, as you advance diligently down that path, you may find--to your surprise--that you are getting better, more proficient at your craft. Suddenly the opening of this chapter sounds so much catchier than the previous one; and the ending more powerful.

Which requires constant re-evaluation and reworking of previous chapters. So in my opinion, the process of writing is Cyclical. By the time I completed the last chapter of Apart From Love, I knew I had to discard--or at least, rewrite and restructure--the first chapter.

This, then, is the first page of the first chapter, in which Ben is about to return--reluctantly--to his childhood home, and to a contentious relationship with his father:

About a year ago I sifted through the contents of my suitcase, and was just about to discard a letter, which my father had written to me some time ago. Almost by accident my eye caught the line, I have no one to blame for all this but myself, which I had never noticed before, because it was written in an odd way, as if it were a secret code, almost: upside down, in the bottom margin of the page, with barely a space to allow any breathing. 
The words left some impression in my memory. I almost wished he were next to me, so I could not only listen to him, but also record his voice saying that. 
I imagined him back home, leaning over his desk, scrawling each letter with the finest of his pens with great care, as if focusing through a thick magnifying glass. The writing was truly minute, as if he had hated giving away even the slightest hint to a riddle I should have been able to solve on my own. I detested him for that. And so, thinking him unable to open his heart to me, I could never bring myself to write back. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake. 
Even so, I am only too happy to agree with him: the blame for what happened in our family is his. Entirely his. If not for his actions ten years ago, I would never have run away to Firenze, to Rome, to Tel Aviv. And if not for his actions a couple of weeks ago, this frantic call for me to come back and see him would never have been made. 
And so I find myself standing here, on the threshold of where I grew up, feeling utterly awkward. I knock, and a stranger opens the door. The first thing that comes to mind: what is she doing here? The second thing: she is young, much too young for him. The third: her hair. Red.


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Still Life with Memories

Volume I & II, woven together: Apart from Love
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Volume I: My Own Voice
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Volume II: The White Piano
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Volume III: The Music of Us
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"A literary symphony complete with a cast of likeable, bruised characters"

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Texture of Language: He Said, She Said

In my book Apart From Love, you can identify a unique speech pattern in each one of the characters. Here is a fun exercise: lets take a single paragraph spoken by one character and--without changing its content--make it sound as if it came out of the mouth of another. All we are going to change here is the texture of language.
Ben has a refined speech pattern: one with well-formed grammar and an abundant vocabulary. Here he is at the first page of the book, thinking of his father:
I imagined him back home, leaning over his desk, scrawling each letter with the finest of his pens with great care, as if focusing through a thick magnifying glass. The writing was truly minute, as if he had hated giving away even the slightest hint to a riddle I should have been able to solve on my own. I detested him for that. And so, thinking him unable to open his heart to me, I could never bring myself to write back. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake.
In contrast to Ben, Anita speaks in slang. You would be hard-pressed to find a three-syllable word in anything she says. The lack of long words is compensated by descriptive sequence of short words (see the replacement for ‘magnifying glass’ below.) You can spot a liberal use of the dreaded double-negative, and of the word ‘like’. 

However, she is constantly learning, constantly adding words into her vocabulary by listening to Ben and his father, a would-be writer with whom she has had a ten years affair. By now Anita has built up a surprisingly rich vocabulary, and her descriptions are sensually pictorial--but alas, her grammar is atrocious. At this state she reminds us of her distant ‘cousin’, Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower-girl struggling to advance her language in the play Pygmalion. Like her, Anita is a ‘work-in-progress’. 
In my head I saw him back home, like, leaning over his desk, scrawling each letter with an awful fine pen, with great care, like he was aiming awful hard through a glass, a thick glass that made every mark real big. The writing was real minute, like he’d hated giving away even the slightest hint to a riddle I should’ve been able to solve on my own. I hated him for that. Anyhow, there wasn’t no way he could open his heart to me, so there wasn’t no way I could bring myself to write back. Now looking back, me, I made a mistake. 



Love reading? Get this series 
Still Life with Memories

Volume I & II, woven together: Apart from Love
EbookKindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Smashwords
PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes  Amazon  Audible

Volume I: My Own Voice
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PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
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Volume II: The White Piano
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Volume III: The Music of Us
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PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
Audiobook: Amazon  Audible  iTunes



"A literary symphony complete with a cast of likeable, bruised characters"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Plucked Porcupine

I miss the swish of grass and clover 
The crunch of twigs, no pangs, no hunger,
That place is far--I must not pine--
For a poor, plucked porcupine
I watch out for the angry poet
I stumble back, too late to exit,
She glares at me, at these sharp spines
Her ink has spilled, so here she whines 
I hate, I hate to wish her ill
She writes this poem with my quill

To see this paper sculpture of a Plucked Porcupine from more points of view, click here

This poem was meant, at first, to be a sonnet, which as you know is a form of poetry that  contains 14 lines in four verses: 4 lines in the first verse, 4 in the second verse, 4 in the third verse, and 2 in the last one. For example, the rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; where the last two lines are a rhyming couplet. 
However, by the time the ink dried on the paper, the poem seemed to be missing a verse. Fittingly, it is a plucked sonnet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Sense of Place: Naked Coral Trees

When you read a book, is the place where the story takes place important to you? Are you more likely to gravitate towards a story if the place is familiar to you--you have your own memories of it, perhaps--or if it sweeps you away to a distant place, a place you have never visited, or even envisioned before?
Here is an excerpt from Apart From Love, where the protagonist talks about coming back to town, and seeing San Vicente Street with fresh eyes--seeing it as it is and as it was then.
The reason I know this place, the reason it ignites such emotion, such passion in me, is not the sight of these homes—but the majestic trees, whispering in the night air. Planted at regular intervals along the median, as long as the eye can see, they are named Naked Coral Trees. Naked because—according to my father—they shed their leaves annually. 
During our walks that spring, dad would point out the tree: Its fiery red flowers, that looked like fat pinecones at the tips of irregular, twisting branches, and the seeds, which in certain species were used for medicinal purposes by indigenous peoples. The seeds were toxic, he warned, and could cause fatal poisoning. I learned that mature Coral trees should be watered frequently—but not during the summer months. In fact, he said, the less water in summer, the more flowers you can expect the following spring.
I cross two lanes of traffic, come closer to one of those Naked Coral Trees, and  with great awe, brush my fingers across the trunk. It is a contorted, elephantine thing, with a roughly textured bark, and thick roots clinging fiercely to the earth. This being early October there are no flowers, no leaves, even. The tree seems to take on a humanoid appearance, as if it were the body of a character, or even several characters, mangled beyond recognition. 
It is a stunning sight, which has fascinated me since childhood. Above me, the bare limbs—some of which have been pruned recently—are branching apart, and looking at them you can imagine a knee here, an elbow there, someone wrestling, someone in embrace. 
As you walk past them, the trees seem to tell you a story line by line, scene by scene. In one tree I could see a man and a woman, kissing; in another, a father and son.


Love reading? Get this series 
Still Life with Memories

Volume I & II, woven together: Apart from Love
EbookKindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Smashwords
PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes  Amazon  Audible

Volume I: My Own Voice
EbookKindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Smashwords
PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes  Amazon  Audible

Volume II: The White Piano
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PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
AudiobookiTunes  Amazon  Audible

Volume III: The Music of Us
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PaperbackAmazon  Barnes&Noble
Audiobook: Amazon  Audible  iTunes


"A literary symphony complete with a cast of likeable, bruised characters"

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Word about Language

Many editors, publishers and readers lament what they consider a decline in the quality of written material, which they attribute to the new phenomenon of eBook publishing. Writers, gripped by their creative urge to pour ink on paper, rush to offer their stories to readers, skipping the necessary checks and balances offered by the traditional publication process. Faster turnaround time for bringing a book to market is happening, many times, at the expense of good grammar, well-structured punctuation, and careful editing. Perhaps an indication of this is the fact that in 2012, no winner has been announce for the Pulitzer Prize.

For example, check out the newly released book Switched by the indie-writer sensation Amanda Hocking. To date, there are currently 658 customer reviews on Amazon and 6440 on Barnes & Noble but at a closer look, a lot of them complain about flawed writing, and beseech her to seek a professional editor. However, her success--in spite of the flawed language--should by no means be taken lightly. Her readers care about her writing enough to place this amazing number of customer reviews on a variety of reading sites. Obviously, she gives voice to her audience.

All agree that the one place where the rules are relaxed is dialogue, because each character has his/her own speech pattern, which is an expression of emotions and at the same time, a mask. Because of this duality, a character may stutter, speak in a lousy grammar, with contractions and fragments. 
But the author is above the characters. She is god, so normally we expect good use of language, so that our reading can flow unhindered by sloppy writing mistakes. At the hand of masterful writers--writers who can stun you with a unique turn of phrase, writers whose command of an extensive vocabulary is unquestionable, and whose occasional use of slang is done with deliberate intent--language comes springing to life. 
Normally. Yes, that’s what I’ve just said, because every rule has an exception. How do you judge a story that is told not by the all-knowing author, who is floating from above and can see into the hearts and minds of her characters--but by the character? 
Case in point: The Catcher in the Rye, a story written in a first-person narrative from the point of view of its protagonist. Because of the book’s vulgar language, it was frequently censored. In 1960 a teacher was fired for assigning the novel in class; he was later reinstated. Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. And yet today, it is recognized as an American classic, giving voice to teenage confusion, angst, alienation and rebellion. 
This voice is unique. This book, and some of the ones being written today in the phenomenal wake of a literary revolution, will add, in time, to our discourse about language.