Thursday, February 28, 2013

Using Location as a Character in a Novel

When asked what my new book, Valley of Thracians, is about, I immediately reply that it’s a suspense novel. Sure, it has a missing Peace Corps volunteer, buried treasure, a desperate journey while being chased by mysterious men dressed in black, and a showdown in an ancient tomb. But the book is a bit more than that.

I classify the novel as “travel fiction”. According to Condé Nast Traveler, a fiction travel book is “a book in which a place is as important a character as the protagonist; … it’s a book that has shaped the way we see a certain place; it’s a book whose events and characters could be set nowhere else.” While the characters in Valley of Thracians have been described by an early reviewer as “memorable”, the setting plays a major role in the narrative.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Granddaughter Wants to Be a Hammer for Purim

Or an air conditioner. As long as it's "something scary." I'm getting scared wondering where she is coming up with these ideas.

Okay, let me admit it right from the start. I'm not a big fan of Purim parties. There's something about everyone dressing up in costume, trying to outdo each other in original ideas and creativity, which disturbs me. There's also something about not knowing who people are. Friends and neighbors are in disguise, putting me at a serious disadvantage when I'm talking to them. Take off your masks please so that I can identify you!

I despise dressing up in a Purim costume. The sensation of swishing around in gowns, sheets, and bulky pants - it's almost painful to think about. Trying to balance a loose-fitting hat on my head makes it difficult to dance.

And then there's the whole idea of makeup. Why cover one's skin in shoe polish or exaggerated eyeliner beards and mustaches? It doesn't make sense.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If You Self-Publish, You Must Self-Market

Adapted from the Jerusalem Post

"No matter what channel an author takes to publish a book - via an agent and publishing company or self-publishing, almost all the marketing today falls on the author," said American-born Israeli Ellis Shuman of Neveh Ilan, who has published two books on his own - 2003's collection of short stories The Virtual Kibbutz and the brand-new suspense novel set in Bulgaria, Valley of Thracians.

"Agents and publishers are looking for authors who already have a following, whether via a popular blog or a big Twitter following. That's why many prospective authors - who have already made their effort to gain a following - have decided that if they have to do the marketing on their own anyway, they might as well be in total control of the publishing process and the destiny of their book."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Black Orchestra, a Review

I was a little apprehensive about reading a novel set in Nazi Germany. I feared it would be hard to find sympathy for characters serving the Reich in any capacity, even if they weren't directly involved in the subsequent horrors of the Holocaust.
Kurt Müller, the protagonist of The Black Orchestra, is aware of what the Nazi regime is capable of doing, but he cannot yet accept everything that he hears. "Everybody knew of the government’s policy of stripping undesirables of their citizenship and exiling them. Jewish shops had been vandalised on Kristallnacht, and there had been rumours — which I discounted — of a more radical purge of the Jews."

Working as a Morse code signalman in the headquarters of the Abwehr (military intelligence), Kurt begins to doubt the integrity of Germany's war efforts when he discovers the body of a coworker shot in the head. Investigators rule that the death was a suicide, but Kurt is convinced that his colleague was killed after discovering a plot to distort intelligence signals being received from agents stationed in England.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why Kibbutzniks Lost Their Clout

Kibbutz Yahel
Only one kibbutz member will serve in the 19th Knesset. Here's why the kibbutz no longer has the influence it once had.

For most of Israel's history, kibbutz members strongly influenced the country's political and military leadership. David Ben-Gurion was a member of Kibbutz Sde Boker. Moshe Dayan was born on Kibbutz Degania Alef. Ehud Barak was born in Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon.

“Throughout Israel's history, kibbutzniks have played a very important part in shaping Israeli society, but they have always been a very small proportion of the population," said Ofer Kenig, of the Israel Democracy Institute, quoted in The Guardian.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Breeze in Bulgaria, a Review

“Adventurers from the Peace Corps". This was the title of an article that appeared in Zname, a local paper in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik in September 2002. The reporter asked newcomers Bruce McDonald and his wife Stormy what they expected from their two-year stay in Bulgaria.

“When I heard about the Peace Corps it was appealing because it is something that can increase understanding between the US and other countries," Stormy replied. Bulgaria is a wonderful place and we believe that we will also learn more about ourselves, by working here and learning from the Bulgarian people.”

A couple serving in the Peace Corps is not totally unusual, but Bruce and Stormy were already on their way to retirement and becoming grandparents. Leaving family behind in the States and going to live in a foreign country such as Bulgaria is quite a challenge for Americans in their fifties.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bulgaria is Not South America

In considering a guest post for the South American Mystery Novels and Stuff blog I was hesitant, as Bulgaria, the country featured in my new novel, is not located in South America. However, like many of the books listed here, the story of Valley of Thracians takes place in an exotic location, quite off the beaten track for Western tourists.

For those who aren't ready to board a Bulgarian Air flight to Sofia, I can offer something else, a chance to learn about the wonders of Bulgaria through the pages of my novel.


Monday, February 4, 2013

From Life in Bulgaria to a Novel about Bulgaria


My job in Internet marketing was relocated from Tel Aviv, Israel to Sofia in January 2009. I arrived in an unusually warm January and informed my wife, who was still packing up our house, that she wouldn't mind the Bulgarian weather. She arrived the following month and as we left the airport, the snow began to fall. She was not particularly pleased to wake up the next morning to see half a foot of snow outside our apartment.

The two years we lived in Sofia were amazing. Unlike some of my coworkers, we utilized every free weekend to travel around the country. We visited the villages, climbed the mountains, sunbathed on the beaches, and enjoyed learning about Bulgaria's history, culture, and cuisine. We made many friends and even learned a bit of Bulgarian. Okay, a very little bit of Bulgarian.