Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Praise for JIHADI: A LOVE STORY from Texas Book Lover

Wow! Very kind words from Michelle Newby, a reviewer I have admired for a long time.

"Timely and spookily prescient ... a magical mystery tour through a labyrinth of competing ambitions and motivations, wherein truth and justice are matters for interpretation."

Thank you, Michelle!

My publisher ORENDA BOOKS has just released the ebook of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY. Order it here.

Fascist Leads GOP Polls; Primaries Just Weeks Away

No, really.

It's as if America has secured a time machine, whooshed back to 1951, given Joe McCarthy speed & steroids, and said, "THIS guy. Yeah." 

Or maybe even a couple of decades earlier. So as to curry the favor of a promising. up-and-coming orator making the rounds in Berlin.

My rant concerning RUBBER SOUL, practiced over many years ...

... may be found here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Coexistence is a conversation.

Wow. Instant LANDMARK FORUM refresher course!

This glossary from Wikiversity covers, I believe, all the bases. Essential reading if you've been through Landmark, and a good teaser if you haven't.

I should say here that I only finished my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY after Landmark Forum helped me clarify that one of the reasons I was avoiding completing the novel was that I didn't want to be responsible for it. One of many breakthroughs from that weekend.

Werner Erhard, the founder of this work, is a great contributor to the human race, and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Free download of my short story A DEAL

My short story A DEAL is now up on the Orenda Books website

Take a look! Not sure how long it will be available there. It's a free download.

A different world from Jihadi: A Love Story, plucked from a bigger novel I'm working on.

JIHADI: A LOVE STORY ebook from Orenda Books is OUT!

No foundation to the rumor that we timed the release to coincide with the (thematically relevant) streaming of the Beatles canon on Spotify! That was pure synchronicity. Synchronicity: My unstinting collaborator on this project since 2007.

Each of the faces below is referenced directly or indirectly in the book. Order it on Amazon, then see how many you can identify.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Hemingway Standard

All I ask of a paragraph is that it be so crazily fantastic that Hemingway would nod and say, "Okay, son. Go from there."

7 Modest Proposals for the Self-Righteous Xenophobes Who Shut Down the School System in Augusta County, Virginia, Over This World Religions Homework Assignment

#1. Continue to be furious. Don't stop to ask yourself whether this is just a poorly chosen assignment meant to teach high school kids about world religions. Don't ask the teacher to provide an alternative assignment if this one seems inappropriate to you. (I'm a Muslim, by the way, and it seems inappropriate to me.) Assume nefarious intent. Make somebody the Enemy lurking around every corner -- we need more of those -- and then get as angry as you possibly can. Stay angry and get others angry, too. Good decisions and actions always follow.

#2. Set a great example for your kids. Make sure they grasp the point that the best way to feel good about themselves and their community is to close down institutions of learning and then hate on other people.

#3. Demonize Islam. That's more and more fashionable these days. Stay in step.

#4. Demonize Muslims, and in particular American Muslims. Make us feel just as welcome as you made Japanese-Americans feel in the early 1940s. Our citizenship is indeed inferior to yours, as theirs was to your grandparents'.

#5. Demonize Arabic language, culture, and history as a whole. Do what Fox News does. Play scary music whenever Arabic script appears. Some of the brighter kids may ask if that means they don't have to study algebra anymore, since an Arab invented it. Change the subject.

#6. Keep talking about preventing American Muslims abroad (like me) from returning to the land of their birth. In fact, make this a big campaign issue in the 2016 election cycle. So what if such a proposal shreds our constitutional rights? Constitution, shmonstitution. This is an idea whose time has come. And if the skeptics say that time is 1933, and the place is Berlin, well, don't let a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals get in the way of a great night rally. Be sure to bring the torches.

#7. Keep the social media pressure on. While you're at that night rally, shoot and post a video in which you burn every book in which Arabic script appears. Mine, for instance.

P.S.: You have just answered the most twisted prayers of the senior Isis zombies, whose goal is to breed division.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Lost Beatles Song

I don't observe Christmas, but I do keep an eye on the Fab Four.

Okay, okay. It wasn't really lost. It comes from their 1966 end-of-year fan club record. But I'm guessing you haven't heard it before, Harold, so...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3 Things Shakespeare Taught Me about Writing Thrillers

What were they? Click here to see my guest post on LINDA'S BOOK BAG and I'll tell you.

Thank you, Linda!

Monday, December 14, 2015

In Which I Am Interviewed by a Cat

Click here. Or a cat will interview you.

Many thanks to Victoria Goldman's OFF-THE-SHELF BOOK REVIEWS blog. Read and follow her!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Safie Maken Finlay's THE SPEAR OF TIME

Honored to have had an early look at Safie Maken Finlay's sparkling debut. Wow!

With their parents lost at sea and their little brother kidnapped, two Irish kids must complete an epic Quest using a magic spear that navigates time and space.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Native American response to the fascist

Some background: Donald Trump said he only wants to ban Muslims from entering the USA until the country's leaders figure out "what the hell is going on."

Apparently Native American elders have now called for a ban on European entry to North America until they figure out what the hell is going on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Five Books I Am Reading (December)

The Holy Qur'an

Tess of the D'urbervilles

The Stand

Anna Karenina

Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Donald Trump and the F word

No longer amusing -- we need to acknowledge Trump is a fascist.

His latest idiocy is a proposal to prevent all Muslims from entering, or re-entering, the United States.

Fascism is corporatism bred with nationalism gone insane. And that's what we've got in the Republican front-runner.

I write about this xenopobic strain of the US political culture in JIHADI: A LOVE STORY. Truth is, yet again, stranger than fiction.

As an American citizen abroad, I should like to point out that the Donald's Nazi-esque restriction would mean I would be exiled under a Trump administration for exercising my First Amendment rights to worship as I choose. No, I am not making this up.

Fuck you, Mr. Trump.

Monday, December 7, 2015

If you are uncertain about Islam and Muslims, I understand

I was once just as uncertain.

My request is that we have a conversation. If we can keep it civil and respectful, I will keep the lines of communication open.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The message you want your publisher to tweet before the book goes to press

There has been so much terrible news out in the world over the last few days that I feel deep and abiding gratitude for all the good news that surfaces. So here it comes. My debut novel, JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, eight years in the making, launches on December 24 -- here is what my publisher had to say about it today on Twitter:

Wow. Thank you +Karen Sullivan !

Stay tuned, rest of the world. All the tweaking is over, here comes the final book, and I'm happy now to let it speak for itself.

San Bernadino

Deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in this insane and shameful attack on innocent civilians.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

21 days until #JihadiALoveStory ebook comes out

A strange and mysterious circumstance, that a book I started writing eight years ago should be, on its release, so attuned to this particular global moment of extremism.

Perhaps a deeper global conversation about extremism is in order, and perhaps a thriller is as good a place to start it as any.

Preorder here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


And so do you.  Please post your picture with this hashtag to send a message via Twitter to Paris climate summit. #COP21

Monday, November 30, 2015

Meatless Monday

"Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water."

Learn more at

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Reviewing final galleys of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY ...

... the book designed to drive typesetters insane.

As an editor, I have walked lots of people through this. Now my turn to let go of the balloon, watch it fly.

Hoping to have it done and back to the publisher Monday, Godwilling, with ebook available December 24.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Should we wear armbands?

And 28% of GOP looks me in the eye and assures me that Donald Trump, having called for the registration of a religious minority, should have access to nuclear weapons. Very scary times.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time

Have an opinion? Share it here.

The Works In Progress

So I have reams of notes on two novels. The Big One, Freed, goes into the #3 slot, and it looks like my second novel is <Title Here>, which I'm prepping as the follow-up to JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Coexistence Imperative

First, I'm a Muslim.

Second, Muslims are disproportionately the victims of global terrorist cults like Isis.

Third, what Isis is after is a world in which coexistence is impossible -- and sometimes others want the same thing.

From nothing, who I am is the possibility of coexistence and acceptance.

Coexistence is a global strategic imperative, now more than ever. It is not something optional, for Muslims or anyone else.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Won't Back Down -- #freespeech and JIHADI: A LOVE STORY

So grateful +Karen Sullivan is my publisher.

She is standing strong in the face of calls to cancel or postpone JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.


How to Be Brave

Louise Beech's remarkable debut follows two paths that might at first seem not to intersect: twenty-first-century juvenile diabetes and World War II. But the common links -- courage and the power of storytelling -- connect powerfully, and the novel that results is both compelling and unforgettable. Just as amazing are the two real-life inspirations of the story.

Order it here.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Condolences are due to the families who have lost loved ones in the deep, shameful barbarity of the ‪Paris‬ carnage.

A sad day for humanity. Again.  A dark day, and a sense of darker days ahead, of time on earth being precious. No telling what is next after this brutality.

For some reason, reading good books seems more important now than yesterday morning, seems a more political act.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Middle East peace plan

Make all aid from outside countries and organizations contingent upon 25% of the population taking part in a weekly book club. Membership requires eating together in a Palestinian or Israeli home -- it would have to alternate -- and discussing, say, Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES. Or any other mutually chosen novel. No, I'm not kidding.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sent back the edited manuscript to the publisher

Next stop, layout.

The novel is part of a big global conversation about coexistence. Not all such conversations are easy. The edits were, though. Easier than I thought, at any rate. The good folks at +Orenda Books did a fine job.

Exciting time!

You can preorder JIHADI: A LOVE STORY by clicking here.


"Smart and searing." -- Publishers Weekly

Preorder here from London's Orenda Books!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

#amediting to the Waterboys, thinking about Shakespeare

Today, I am editing my stuff on a strange boat...  one equipped with wi-fi and electrical outlets. Unlike the raft that carried Prospero and Miranda from Milan. That strange boat could hold only books.

MIRANDA: What foul play had we that we came from thence?
Or blessed was’t we did?

PROSPERO: Both, both ...

From your own Internet-equipped strange boat (I assume you've got one, we all do nowadays), you can pre-order JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, that which I edit on this one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My 9 Favorite Quotes from Stephen King's ON WRITING

(These nine quotes helped me finish my first novel, JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.)

1. “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” 

2. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

3. "Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” 

4. "Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” 

5. "Kill your darlings."

6. “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.” 

7. “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

8. “Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

9. "It's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else. Wash the car, maybe.”


A little alarming that it's been three decades or so since I saw the originals. Here's the BBC scorecard on what the films got right and wrong about October 21, 2015.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The tables are turned

I've been editing other people's stuff since about 1985. This week I got my first round of edits in on my debut novel from London's +Orenda Books ! How's it feel now, Word Boy?

Fortunately, it looks like they've done a great, and sensitive, job. Quite a reversal to find myself in this role, though, I have to say.

All my colors have become colours, all my licenses licences ...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Five Books I'm Reading, October Edition


THE STAND, Stephen King.


CONTEMPORARY FICTION (compilation of brilliant modern American short stories)

THE HOLY QUR'AN (Irving translation)


Ice loss: 1984. Not fast enough for Exxon.
Image: Los Angeles Times.
Ice loss: 2013. Good for drilling!
Image: Los Angeles Times.

Hard to believe, I know, but this Los Angeles Times article is suggesting that, back in the 1990s, US oil giant Exxon was claiming publicly that the science on global warming was too murky to support any conclusions ... even as its own internal scientists were telling executives privately that melting ice in the Arctic would make it cheaper to drill for oil.

Better keep on pumping out carbon fuels, then!

Is it possible there was a pattern of deliberate deception here, one affecting public health and well-being?

How did we handle that with the tobacco companies?

While we're all pondering that, suppose Exxon were to make a major ongoing DONATION of, say, a billion dollars a year for earth-friendly car-charging stations? In, say, the ten largest US metropolitan areas? For the next, say, ten years?

Either that or we could launch a RICO prosecution against Exxon for deliberate and malicious climate deception in support of the sale of a dangerous product.

Click here to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch you want her to prosecute Exxon.

Friday, October 9, 2015

On making up words, in imitation of Shakespeare

This uncrumbleable article walks through Shakespeare's habit of embirthing new phraseclumps to suit the occasion. Wish I'd bescribed it. Click on and envisuate the piece -- soonish!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nehru on Coexistence

"The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction." -- Jawaharlal Nehru, India's First Prime Minister

Truer today, more important today, than when he said it.

Macbeth: A Kurzel

There ought to be a word for something that's almost a masterpiece, but infuriates you because it blows the opportunity to be one. Whatever that word is, it describes the big, impossible-to-ignore new adaptation of Macbeth now playing in the multiplex near you. Let's call it a Kurzel.

Justin Kurzel, the director, makes his way to about the 20 yard line, but fails, maddeningly, to score. He ruins his own breakthrough moment. But that shouldn't keep you from lining up for tickets.

The first half of the film is nothing short of brilliant: visually breathtaking, cinematically innovative, and distinguished by astonishing performances from the two leads, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Fassbender's Macbeth, a victim of  post-traumatic stress disorder, is a splendid  achievement. The actor gives a quiet, tortured, driven performance rooted in the terrifying and impossible decisions awaiting warriors during and after wartime, and he makes this scrupulously accurate period film relevant to the early twenty-first century. Yes. Nominate him for an Oscar.

Cotillard deserves an Oscar nomination, too, for breathing new life into a classic role that might have seemed, before the lights went down, to have defied any successful reinterpretation. You have not seen or imagined this Lady Macbeth. From certain angles, this is now her story, and as Safie Maken Finlay pointed out to me, it's now, thanks largely to Cotillard, a piece about grief. 

So far, so masterful. Trouble is, the director forgot to hit the gas pedal towards the end. Let's be blunt. The thing is just too damn long in the windup. That's an inexcusable rookie mistake when you're dealing with a play structured to be played at a rapid pace, especially in the fifth act.

Kurzel starts out with royal ambitions and matching confidence. He may have meant to make this Macbeth an epic experience, and it is, for the first hour and 10 minutes or so. But in the end he falls in love with his own images, betrayed by a leaden soundtrack he appears to consider hypnotic, and by a pacing strategy that will literally put audiences to sleep in the final third of the film. 

That's a shame, because there is extraordinary work on display here, not the least of which is an intriguing, bare-bones screenplay that probably would have worked all the way through if only the director had the courage to edit his own work. He doesn't.

It's only in the second half, when Kurzel neglects that responsibility, that the piece starts to turn against him ... and he begins to resemble a usurper.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Tempest

In defense of my theory that Shakespeare plays are best enjoyed first in performance and only second in written form, I submit Act Two, Scene One of this superb Globe production of the THE TEMPEST. On the page, the scene is imposing, complex, and deeply unfunny. In performance with five gifted actors, it's a five-sided ping-pong game that pays off beautifully. More laughs than I realized were there, and I've been fixated on this play for almost 40 years.


What has emerged is the GOP is OK with a gun massacre every few months. "Stuff happens," according to Jeb Bush. They will never support a nationwide universal background check system. And if you support them, you're saying that's the kind of country you want to live in.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Creating the possibility of harmonious acceptance in the Mideast/USA/Europe via literature and a powerful global conversation about coexistence

What I am positing, and encouraging others to posit, is the possibility that no one who is truly well read could continue a career as an extremist.

Although I expect there are examples that prove the contrary, and I realize those may be forthcoming in this discussion, I'm going to begin with that idea -- being well read repels extremist tendencies -- as the guiding assumption for the work I'll be doing here over the next year or forty. Some of us, I submit, are not reading enough. 

My operating principle, then, is that reading Nabokov, or Dickens, or Hemingway, or the Morrisons (Jim and Toni), or Shakespeare, or Cervantes, or Hemingway, or Vonnegut, or Homer, or Salinger, or Byatt, or Victor Hugo, or Anne Tyler, or Virginia Woolf, or Jorge Luis Borges, or any number of other people whose words have transformed my life, is not only likely to make you happier, but also likely to make you ... 

... wiser, more compassionate, and less likely to seek simple, violent solutions to complex problems. 

The more of these writers and people like them we read, the less violent and simple-minded we are likely to be.

Extremists are everywhere these days. We don't always know what to do about them. I'm not saying starting a discussion about books that are worth reading twice is the only response we should consider in dealing with them. But I am saying it's something we haven't yet done enough. Reading the Bible is important. Reading the Qur'an is important. Reading other books is, I suspect, important, too.

If I could wave a magic wand and get every human being in the Middle East, the United States, and Europe over the age of eighteen to enjoyably read and critique one book, it would be Hugo's LES MISERABLES. Not that it's perfect. Not that it could be. It's just the right conversation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


"All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions." -- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, September 26, 2015