Emerging Writers: Guest Post #6 Valley of Thracians – Using Location as a Character in a Novel

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in Guest Posts

Valley of Thracians is a suspense novel that can also be described as a “fiction travel book”. Ellis Shuman was born in the United States, but has lived in Israel since the age of fifteen. He served in the Israeli army, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives near Jerusalem. He works in Internet marketing and writes in his spare time. He has just published a collection of short stories, The Virtual Kibbutz, which deals with the changes in this Israeli society. Valley of Thracians is available for Kindle here. Ellis’s blog is here. Take it away Ellis. *** 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. Bulgaria is a scenic country, full of picturesque mountains and quaint villages. The country and its citizens have a burning desire to quickly emerge from an eastern European mentality and catch up with the rest of the world. In my book I highlight some of Bulgaria’s rich history, fascinating culture and customs, and even Bulgarian cuisine. This is not a travel guide to Bulgaria, yet the story could take place nowhere else. As it does for the main protagonist, who arrives in Sofia on a mission to find his missing grandson, Bulgaria comes alive in the story. Yet descriptions of this off-the-beaten-track destination don’t interfere with the fast-paced nature of the suspense. As background, my job in Internet marketing was relocated from Tel Aviv to Sofia for two years, 2009-2010. During that time my wife and I traveled extensively around the country, seeing the sights, and learning about Bulgaria’s colorful past. We made many friends and even learned a bit of Bulgarian. Okay, a very small bit of Bulgarian. Since returning to our permanent home and jobs in Israel, I have devoted my free time to writing about Bulgaria, but in the format of a novel. I hope readers will not only enjoy reading Valley of Thracians but will take interest in Bulgaria. Visit Bulgaria now, before there are too many tourists! Valley of Thracians is available for Kindle here. Ellis’s blog is located here. +++++ Thanks Ellis for being our sixth guest post writer. I love fiction with a travel and historical background. I would love to visit Bulgaria. I would...

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Foreshadowing. What makes you read on? #4

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in On Writing

This is the final post in this series, created as a lead in the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle ebook on Monday Dec 3rd.  We have had: A sense of adventure. What makes you read on? #1 Action opening alternatives. What makes you read on? #2 A sense of mystery. What makes you read on? #3 and now this final post in the series. Foreshadowing, for me, comes in two forms. The first is the simple, “something different was about to happen” phrase inserted in the text, which makes the reader wonder what is about to happen. I recommend doing this only very occasionally. I think I use this explicit form of foreshadowing only twice in The Jerusalem Puzzle. The reason you can’t use it very often is that readers get tired of such things very easily. Explicit foreshadowing loses its appeal very quickly. The second type of foreshadowing is a general foreshadowing brought about by the plot. For instance, if the main character is going  to Jerusalem to investigate the disappearance of someone he knows, then the reader will naturally anticipate what will happen next. This subtle foreshadowing is useful because it uses the reader’s imagination. It’s not just plot driven novels that use subtle foreshadowing, literary novels use it too. When any change or event is anticipated in the text you are using foreshadowing. Inspiring anticipation is a critical aspect of writing compelling fiction in my opinion. Anticipation is, for me, one of the greatest pleasures of being alive. Looking forward to Christmas, a holiday, a big game, a night out, a family event, an election, are what keeps many of us going through the hum drum nature of everyday life. If you can inspire anticipation in your writing, by hinting at what is to come, you will have cracked a powerful technique to make people read on. And I use make deliberately. I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you would like to order The Jerusalem Puzzle please click one of the links to the right. Next week  I will post about the secrets revealed in The Jerusalem Puzzle. Thanks for coming...

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A sense of adventure. What makes you read on? #1

Posted by on Nov 3, 2012 in On Writing

  The above picture is of the start of a demonstration in east Jerusalem in early 2012. As I photographed it I could feel the hairs on my head standing up. Behind me there were crowds of people watching what was going on. Every eye on Sultan Suleiman street was following the action. There was yelling too. And a lot of young men. The main group was waving a Palestinian flag and chanting in Arabic. The mounted Israeli police were moving in. A demonstrator had died the day before not far away. He had been shot at an Israeli checkpoint. I had no idea what was going to happen next, but I felt it was important to be there, to understand what Jerusalem is like, because I was writing about the city. I love adventure as much as the next person, but getting close to it has its downsides. It’s a lot less threatening to experience such things through the eyes of others. I could never get to that bridge under the Misty Mountains as Tolkien’s orcs ran after me. I’d have been cut down. And I can’t get to the planet Trantor to see Asimov’s Haro Seldon give a speech, or to ancient Egypt during a crocodile hunt on the Nile as described by Wilbur Smith. But I can go to all these places through the novels of these wonderful writers. And I can be sick in bed and as poor as Oliver Twist and still go there. That’s what I like about reading. What I would like to know is, what adventure stories have you liked? They could be about the search for love, that’s a big part of The Istanbul Puzzle, or they could be about the edge of our galaxy or about the struggle to stay alive in a modern city. I would love to know about the adventure stories you’ve liked. This is the first in a series of four posts in the run up to the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle on ebook December 3rd and in paperback in many countries January 3rd. I truly look forward to you...

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The Jerusalem Puzzle proofs & new tag line

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in On Writing, The Jerusalem Puzzle

A Brutal Murder. An Ancient Evil. A Secret Revealed. This is the new tag line for The Jerusalem Puzzle I sent my corrections to The Jerusalem Puzzle page proofs back to Harper Collins on schedule at 5am this morning. The proofs were a PDF document with 400 pages showing exactly how the book will look when it is released in paperback format 3rd January 2013 and in ebook format 3rd December, in a month and a half. I listed corrections, words to be deleted mainly with some typos and a few insertions on twelve pages. This is probably the last time I will have a chance to make corrections before the book comes out. I am excited and anxious. The book could do well, very well or badly. Welcome to the world of publishing. Being a writer is definitely not a steady job. The uncertainty, the expectations you have and the expectations of others, spoken and unspoken, all add to the pressure. I don’t mean to underplay my excitement at having the second novel in the series published, I am simply being honest about how it feels on this journey. There are some exciting things planned, I will be running a competition on this blog, and a different competition on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theistanbulpuzzle so do Like it if you are on Facebook. There is other stuff planned too. Already a competition has started on the Authonomy, the aspiring writers site, to get short stories published along with my ebook next year http://blog.authonomy.com/ A series of announcements will be made in the run up to the ebook launch Dec 3rd. You can Pre-Order The Jerusalem Puzzle paperback here on Amazon UK You can Pre-Order The Jerusalem Puzzle ebook here on Amazon UK You can Pre-Order The Jerusalem Puzzle paperback here on Amazon US (for all outside the UK) You can Pre-Order The Jeriusalem Puzzle ebook here on Amazon US (for all outside the UK) I truly appreciate all your support, and I want you to read The Jerusalem Puzzle. I won’t say what I think of it, but I will tell you my publishers Harper Collins have said many amazing things about...

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The Jerusalem Puzzle update

Posted by on Sep 29, 2012 in On Writing, The Jerusalem Puzzle

I am working on the page proofs of The Jerusalem Puzzle right now. These are a pdf document with the pages as they will appear in the final book. I am deleting here and there, adding a word, but moving fast through them. I will have them back to Harper Collins mid October. I have also received good news on two other fronts, including the ebook of The Jerusalem Puzzle coming out December 3rd. When I get a link I will post it. The paperback will be out Jan 3rd. Other countries will have a chance to buy The Jerusalem Puzzle at the Frankfurt Book Fair mid October. I don’t know what to expect. Expectations are one of the difficult areas of being a writer. You literally never know what is going to happen. Stay tuned for lots more news in October including something exciting I can’t talk about yet! From the cover of The Jerusalem...

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