Tag Archives: fiction

e-books vs p-books

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I have just had a print version of my book Five Lives One Day in Bahrain placed in the country’s popular bookstore Jashanmal’s. The response with friends going out and buying them has once again surprised me. Obviously there seems to still be a hankering for good old fashioned ‘paper’ books. So, I thought I’d release an old piece wherein I had thought that e-books were about to dethrone books of paper…

E-books vs P-books

There’s always that edge between the new and the old, more like a shoreline than a knife. A kind of gradual taking over of one way of doing things from another. An inexorable tide. And as anyone who’s played catch with an in-coming tide will tell you, if you stand pat the next wave could knock you off your feet.

The decision then, is yours whether to retreat, to hold onto the old ways and never leave these shores and therefore never discover a new world, or see the old one from a new perspective. The trouble with ‘the new wave’ is that it is only an incoming tide; it never recedes.

What is it about books, Paper books that we love? Some will tell you it’s holding it in your hands that makes a difference. The tactile connection between the written word and your senses. The feeling that because one touches it, there may be an osmotic transference of knowledge, a story, a thought. By touching the pages, flicking through them they enter the blood stream directly.

More, a p-book, if you’ll excuse the play on the letter, carries with it a smell. There are, I understand, a growing number of confessors to the subtle and swift act of sniffing a p-book. In fact, I believe, there’s been a study on what causes that unique, euphoric, some would say mind-expanding smell of a book. It’s caused by chemicals termed Volatile Organic Compounds or, in the case of old books a combination of “the gradual breakdown of cellulose and Lignin – in the paper – binding adhesive or glue and printing ink”. Interesting that what attracts us to the old paper books is decay. A prescient intimation that the form itself is telling us to move on.

And e-books?

More than a new wave, they represent a sea change and if we refuse to adapt and accustom ourselves to reading them then a time may come when all new information, thought, ways of expressing ourselves, will be lost to us. For those who have never been exposed to the form, sentences like: ‘d trbl w u is dat u unliked me, dat’s y m leaving’ could well be the e-book’s farewell to the p-book.

E-books offer us a myriad other options. Knowledge at our fingertips, no need for osmosis and retention in our hippocampus just Google it while you’re reading. No need to get up in search of a dictionary, some e-books have one embedded in them, easily accessible – right click and voila, it’s there.

From Gutenberg to a number of e-book inventors (including Bob Brown, Roberto Busa,Angela Ruiz Robies, Doug Engelbert and Andries van Dam and Michael S Hart) the motivation and holy grail has been the wider dissemination of knowledge. But, whether information and access to it equates to knowledge is another discussion altogether.

The other, less celebrated aim is convenience. And the e-book supplies that in spades. Increase the font, reduce or enhance the backlighting, adjust contrast, things you can’t do with a p-book. Agreed, the bookmarks aren’t as pretty.

In the end we are torn between nostalgia for yesterday and the thirst for the knowledge that tomorrow promises. Like Eve we reach out, pluck an e-book out of cyberspace and confess to downloading it. After the first time, like all sins, it becomes easier.

We find ourselves drawn away from paper, trees and roots. Anchor-less we float towards the stars and in free-fall we find that we can dance.

 

FOR MORE NEWS & VIEWS, Click Here and see what Paulo Coelho has to say on this subject.

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Excerpt from ‘An Undesirable Marriage’

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Meriel Brooke is another fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written four books: The Story of Jacqueline Jackdaw, Pot of Gold, Sugar Pants and An Undesirable Marriage, here’s a little peek into the book that spans both the World Wars.

Finding cabin number nine, he knocked on the door softly. Ruth opened it immediately and, after a quick glance around, took his hand and drew him in. The cabin, was remarkably spacious and contained a single berth, a dressing table, a writing desk, a small wardrobe and a wash basin. The porthole was closed, and an overhead fan whirled gently.

“Ruth, I really…”

“It’s all right, I won’t eat you,” she interrupted. “Come and sit down. Do you know Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto?” He shook his head.

“It was written twenty years ago. Sit down and listen.” Sam sat down on the chair next to the writing desk on which there was an open gramophone which Ruth proceeded to wind. She lowered the needle onto the record, and the stirring strains of the third movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto filled the cabin. For three minutes Ruth stood quietly beside him. As the needle reached the centre of the record, she leaned forward, pressing against Sam as she turned it to the other side. He did not react. She went and sat on the narrow bunk as the music started again.

When the needle reached the centre of the record once more, Sam raised the arm and gently repositioned it in its holder. He rose to his feet. “Thank you, that was wonderful. I’d like to hear the rest of it sometime.”

To buy her book click on the link above or here.

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Excerpt from ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

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SuZanne Ahlin is a fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written two books: A Secret World and Be Careful What You Wish For.  Here are a few lines from the latter.

Please note, these excerpts are not what you will see on the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. So you are getting more of an insight into the story.

SuZanne, your book sounds exciting.

They started by announcing all those that would remain as heads of their clans, then they arrived at the Vampires.

They turned to Alexis,

“You have brought an Anim to us without permission,” another breath among everyone was taken. They looked at the head of the werewolves,

“Does your clan have any claims?”

“She’s not to be claimed, she is my property!” Alexis’s voice sounded like thunder and people looked terrified.

“You dare defy us once again?” One of the men stood up, he looked furious.

Jeannie didn’t know what was happening to her. It was like somebody else was talking through her.

“He doesn’t defy you; I belong to Alexis and no one else.” She was flying over the floor now. “Is there anyone here that dares to defy my decision?” She turned to the three men, “Do you?”

Everyone in the ballroom was shocked that she had challenged The Regime.

The man with the cane stood up and went to her. She landed, but there was a glow around her, not like the burning one but another kind.

To read more, you may buy her book here.

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Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’

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Lynda Tavakoli is the first of my author friends to share an excerpt from her book of short stories, Under a Cold White Moon.

Thanks Linda, that sent chills up my spine.

One evening my father failed to return from work. The house had been, as usual, quiet during the day, my elder siblings having by then dispersed to lead more normal lives elsewhere and I now wonder how I never noticed their leaving or indeed how long it had been since I was the only child remaining. The food was on the table; bacon, sausages, tomatoes, potato bread and two eggs – all fried as he liked it and now coagulating on my dad’s plate. Mother sat across from me at the table, hands tidily on her lap; mine stuffed in the pocket of my sweatshirt making bigger the hole already there. Where is he?

For an hour, maybe two, we sat like dead fish frozen into an icy lake and still he did not come. Beyond the window of the kitchen light was being sucked slowly out of the day and finally the grey gloom of evening started to invade the room. A fear was beginning to gnaw at me and although my mother had moved not an inch during that time I regarded the subtle change in her manner with growing panic. The eyes that for so long had scorched her resentment into my soul had taken on the look of a hibernating tortoise reluctant to accept the onset of its awakening. They were dead eyes to match the dead words that finally slunk out from in between her teeth,

“Now are you happy?”

To read her book click on the link above or visit her publisher here.

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Nothing

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So here’s another old, “dark” poem. It was written to inspire a story and then I never wrote the story!

nothing-2The silence had enveloped her

In its warm black anonymity

She was safe.

No rasping voice

No sound

Penetrated it

A gag order

On insanity.

A restraining order on life.

She buried deeper into it

A mole, escaping the light. Read the rest of this entry

Do you believe in ghosts? She asked…

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Yes, was my unabashed reply. I won’t go into the details of personal experiences, strange happenings and other worldly feelings that I have had over the years, but in the end, yes. I believe that there are spirits of people who have ‘gone on’ that seem to reach out and connect to those on this side of death.

The spirit doesn’t have to be a loved one. Sometimes it is, quite literally, a lost soul still searching for someone to leave a message, to make a connection, who knows. Are the spirits malevolent? In my experience, no; but, there are times when these visitations seem to carry a forewarning to those amongst us who are alive.

Opinions on the subject vary, sometimes there’s a ‘logical’ or psychological explanation for what various folk have experienced. But, there are times when neither logic, nor science, nor ‘ghost-busting’can penetrate that veil.

As that famous line from Hamlet goes:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…

In the spirit of that, and with no pun intended, today I was mesmerised by these tales, purported to be true:

49 Real Nurses Share The Terrifying Hospital Ghost Stories That Scared Them To Death

Loser. Baby. Mend. Wet. Only

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Five words to create a story. Sometimes just one word will do. These five words were a prompt at one of the Creative Writers’ Workshops held by our Bahrain Writers’ Circle. We had to use all five words in no particular order. What story would you create given these five words and fifteen minutes?

If you’re inclined, send your story to me and I’ll publish it here.

Note: The words are in bold letters.

Only Anita knew how she felt. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, she was happy. Her smile was the biggest, brightest thing that greeted anyone no matter what, no matter when. In the rain, when it’s pouring buckets of the stuff, you’re so wet even your high spirits are damp. On days you felt that nothing could possibly bring a smile to your face, there she was: Anita, with her big, cheerful smile.

Everyone thought she was such a happy person. Why shouldn’t she be? She’d just had that lovely baby and he was all of six months old. He had a thick mop of hair that curled and flopped around his face. He was a happy baby with a gurgling laugh and he rarely cried.

All that was for the world to see.

Only Anita knew the pain and betrayal, the lies and the secrets behind the baby’s birth. In the darkest, quietest moments of the day, she knew the truth. A truth she pushed down into the deepest recesses of her mind. “How could I have done that with such a loser?” She thought. Her eyes clouded over with tears at the memory, her stomach churning with disgust. “How can I ever mend the damage I have done to my marriage? This will have to be my secret, one that I must take to my grave. Poor Jay, he must never know. It will kill him. It’s killing me. Every day I look at this beautiful child, I pray that he’ll look more like me as the years go by.”

 

 

 

Desert Flower blooms!

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As with so much of my writing, a chance remark, a question, a comment, often sets me off and before I know it, usually out comes a poem, sometimes a rant, sometimes a story.

And that’s how I came to write Desert Flower.

I had just started working at the Chronicle Herald, we were based in Dartmouth at the time, when I was surrounded by some colleagues all mildly intrigued by me. I guess I was something of a curiosity. The fact that I was “from away” in itself was strange. India, they had all heard of. But, Bahrain! “Where on earth was that?”

Some colleagues told me they couldn’t comprehend the heat I was talking about. And there I was, in the throes of trying to wrap my mind, my arms and my shawl (worn over my sweater, further fortified by stockings on my feet) around how cold it was and that was the middle of May.

“So, how hot does it really get?” One colleague asked me.

I started to explain it to him and then I thought. ‘I’m a writer. Why don’t I write it down for him.’ So that day over lunch, I started to write. And before I knew it, this romance story, jumped on me, like a devil on my back and every lunch hour for the next two weeks I simply had to bash out this story. Until it was done.

By then it was June. The story had gone galloping off in its own direction, so of course the colleague who’d asked the question never saw this. But I did share it with some of my other colleagues who thoroughly enjoyed it. It was too long to be a short story and too short to be a novella so it lay with me until I returned to Bahrain and shared it with some of my young Bahraini colleagues.

“You have to publish it”, they insisted.

“How do you know about so many of our old traditions? Like the ‘mashata, the dallal…”

“These are being forgotten…”

Finally, I was able to publish it. But that’s why, the opening lines are…

How can I explain that sort of heat to you?

Dry. The air so hot you can hardly breathe. The sun: a high, burning, intense fire in the heavens. You can’t look up to see it. It is shrouded in a heat haze, so that although one is aware of a single heat source, the entire dome above seems like a pulsating radiator reflecting that relentless heat back to the baking earth below.

In such a land nothing lives, save a few daring palms that would cheat the heat, and not let it extract their moisture by thickening their trunks and shredding their leaves, or scrub trees, those tenacious acacias – gnarled and thorny, husbanding their water and sap, even their chlorophyll into the tiniest imaginable leaflets – extracting from the unforgiving environment more cleverly than Shylock, life. In this inexorably cruel environment, is it any wonder that trust is a precious commodity, almost as valuable as water?

And love? It is a rare jewel. It lives as the cactus flower, bright, showy and flamboyant, but only for a brief while. It is a thumbing of the nose, from that plump succulent stem with its spiny leaves, at the heat and wasteland around it.

Such was the love that I had found so very long ago on a tiny island, just east of Saudi Arabia, called Bahr’ein, because of its two seas, the salty one that flowed around it and the sweet water sea that lay hidden both underground and beneath the seabed. So much like us, we who call ourselves Bahraini, with our salty and crusty exteriors hiding the sweet softness beneath.”

You can read the rest at any of the links provided at my publisher’s page here: http://www.ex-l-ence.com/Desert-Flower.php

As for the pen name? Ah, that’s another story.

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More from Aman

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What do you say

To the needle that pricks you

While you sew?

There’s no one to blame,

There is only you!

 

T’was destiny that put you there,

And from here on

Who knows how we’ll fare.

 

Rocky and even

And up and down

There sits the king

For him I’m a clown.

 

What do you say to the

Needle that pricks you?

To some quite a lot,

And to a lot just a few.

 

Shush now! They say,

‘Tis just a pin prick they say

But,

That was my last drop,

If only they knew.

 

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So smile now,

And look on,

On the horror of things unfold.

These are made of your nightmares,

Look on,

As the warm wind turns cold.

 

So smile now,

Even though you shake and shiver.

At heart you know there’s no hope,

Nay, nary a sliver.

 

So smile now.

There’s no room for fear,

The beast can smell it,

Don’t let him get near.

 

So smile now.

‘Tis only the beginning.

The nightmares unfold,

As you feel

Yourself

Sinking.

 

A 50-word story

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I was thrilled when I learnt that my 50-word story, based on a poem I’d written, has been selected as the winner in a competition on Oapschat.

It is based on a real event that took place in the souk several months ago. First it was a poem, then it became a pithy story. Believe me, writing flash fiction – of any length – is quite a demanding exercise.

I’d love to feature anyone else’s 50-word stories here, do share. Sorry no prizes but if, in my opinion, your story merits it, I shall feature it here.

If you don’t want to follow the link here’s the winning story:

You know Kite Runner?”

The Afghani salesman asked.

“Yes,” I ignored him, “How much?” indicating amethyst earrings.

He opened his lacerated hands.

Ashamed, I looked at him. “I loved the book.”

His hand on his heart, “I have more stories will you write them?”

“A thousand times.”

“Tashakor,” He smiled.

Over to you…

 

And here I am, holding my prize: “My Gentle War” by Joy Lennick the judge at Oapschat the publication that ran the competition.

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