Saturday, December 28, 2013

#JIHADI, the novel with the best beta readers in the world

Whatever else may be going around the world to fulfill that ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," it's a blessed time in human history to be writing a first novel.

That's something I've been doing for six years now. Today, I am revising the manuscript of JIHADI, getting it ready for its big January tour among US literary agents. The current draft weighs in at 119,000 words. I remember when it was about ten pages long, and I was showing it off to patient friends like +Daoud Ali back while I still lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. (My family and I have since moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.)

It's been a long journey. Along the way, thanks to interactive media, I've gotten great feedback and encouragement from readers in:

The United States
Saudi Arabia

and now ... Iran!

Banoo Mahtab, aka +Islam in Persia, recently sent me this from Tehran:

Which was immediately followed by +Richard Gibney 's assessment from Dublin:

And earlier in the week, from +Katya Mills, out in that distant western land of reinvention never more than tentatively identified as California, this:

This kind of global support gives a guy courage to carry on! I have the best beta readers in the world.

To read an excerpt from the opening chapter of +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) , click on the picture of my #cat Paprika, below.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing a first draft vs. editing a first draft (And ... more great feedback on #JIHADI from readers)

Oh well. At least I have my #cat Paprika around to help me keep my Pulitzer hopes burning bright.

And -- this is fun -- I also have fan mail! Beta readers are starting to say very nice things indeed about the latest revisions on +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) .

+Richard Gibney wrote: "This man's novel is something else. A consummate, multi-arc storyteller. Page-turning literary thriller."

+Katya Mills wrote: "Hey, I'm 33% into JIHADI, and really think Becky sucks. Praying for sweet Child. And Fatima kicks ass! You've really got something here, started slow, now it's rolling in momentum. Nice, nice, nice."

+Mary Cain wrote: "I just fell in love.  With Thelonius.  The main character in Brandon Toropov's  novel JIHADI.  I did not see it coming.  Hit me like a freight train.  And that's the best way to fall."

+WT Gator read the Chapter One excerpt and wrote: "I want more!"

And +Adella Wright wrote: "The layering of story-telling works well, and the pacing is fantastic."

All of these good folks (with the exception of Richard Gibney, who's a glutton for punishment) are offering feedback from reading the early sections of the novel. It's the second half that has me wondering how the manuscript found its way into an episode of HOARDERS: BURIED ALIVE.

I do have a plan for de-cluttering and cleanup. Stay tuned.

To read an excerpt from +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) , click on the picture of Paprika below.

Click on the picture of Paprika to read an excerpt from Brandon Toropov's novel JIHADI

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Every word of this #TalkingHeads lyric connects to Act II of my novel #Jihadi

"My God -- what have I done?" Thelonius ponders a riddle and stares at a dead cat in his bathtub.

Pure synchronicity, as I only noticed this now, and I have been working on that part of the novel for at least two years.

You can read an excerpt from Chapter One of +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) by clicking here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The #Terrorism Problem in Yemen: US Kills 14 Civilians in Wedding Party

The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Is a drone attack on a wedding party -- not the first, I might add -- lawful? Is it violent? Does it instill fear? Is it coercive? If you are a US taxpayer, what are you paying for, if not terrorism?
Is this really just an operational problem? Or just a public relations problem?
Is it perhaps a moral problem?
Can anyone seriously maintain that we will move closer to defeating al-Qaeda with unmanned airstrikes?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The T-Dog Express

An interesting period begins. I now have great notes from Richard Gibney and Mary Cain and Adella Wright. Of these, Mary's are by far the most detailed and, let's be frank here, sadistic. Which is what I need. Everybody else who didn't get Mary as a critique partner ... tough luck. :)

Stepping back, I realize I still have a fair amount of work to do on JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) before it is ready to send out to contests or agents in any form. I begin that work today. On a daily basis, total word count (currently 122k) will probably go down slightly. I'll post that. But I'm not going to worry about generating 500 new words a day for some new project, since a) I want to focus on this and b) all these revisions invariably generate lots of new text, but without pushing the overall manuscript count into the positive numbers. I don't have time to count how many new words I'm adding while cutting 500 or so a day.

The goal is to get this baby ready for inspection by the Pulitzer-Readiness Committee by the 21st of January. I still need help with the $@%^&* synopsis, which I loathe. Here is cat Paprika 's current draft: "Bad things happen, then good things happen." *Help.*

More eyes, more feedback welcome if you've got the time. If you don't -- stand back. Here comes the T-Dog Express.
You can read an excerpt from Chapter One of +JIHADI (novel by Brandon Toropov) by clicking here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Over at The Write Way, a cool crowdsourced listing of the top indie books of the year is underway. Rules: You can't nominate yourself. You have to say why you are nominating a book you liked. That's it. Bet +Ksenia Anske can't guess which book I picked.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Finished the draft of my novel #JIHADI, with #cat Paprika's help. (And a #flashfiction piece about her.)

(Alhamdulillah! Crossed the finish line at just over 123,000 words. Cut about 300,000 over six years. You can read an excerpt from the first chapter here. If you would like to be one of the beta readers who help me as I begin my December and January revisions, drop me a line. Meanwhile, here's a flash fiction piece I did about Paprika and her weirdo roommate.)

"But I won't go alone."

Paprika, the cat, was telepathically agreeing, after a period of sulking, to go to the veterinarian for a routine checkup. Last year's visit had been traumatic.

She had never (Yusuf replied telepathically) been EXPECTED to go alone. If she recalled, she hadn't been alone last year. They don't even let cats IN doctors' offices without their humans. The implication that Yusuf would allow her out of the house alone, or drop her off at the vet's without staying with her, or in any other way withhold his help and support, was insulting.

In addition (he pointed out) it was generally considered poor form to begin a sentence with a conjunction like "but."

"That's human syntax," Paprika said. "Don't bother me with that. You're getting fussy over nothing again. This is what the therapist was talking about. It's getting worse, not better, as you get older, you know."
Just don't accuse me of abandoning you when I have never done that.

"NOW who needs a visit to the doctor?" Paprika asked from the square of sunlight that had penetrated the study. "A HEAD doctor."

Take that back.
"No. You make drama out of anything. Correcting a cat's grammar. Who does that? I'm not kidding. You need to see a therapist."

I've already seen one.

"Then you need to see another one. And apologize. Grammar Nazi."

The sound of an argument in suspension.

I'm sorry.

"Good. You'll make an appointment?"

Yes. But I won't go alone.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Here we go.

OK, here we go, jumping in on what looks to be the last pass on chapter 31 of Jihadi .

Aim is to bring it in under 8000 words. 32 is only slated to be about 3000 words long, and 33, the last chapter, is about five sentences. amwriting

Below, a painting I like to call "Fatima's world." (via بانو مهتاب ) The rest of humanity calls it "Christina's World," by Andrew Wyeth. I am ALMOST DONE with this six-years-in-the-works draft, people. :) Current word count 118,000.

Good news for Mary Cain, #RileyAkers, and @swoonreads

Below, the happy ending to the spamming epidemic that temporarily marred the rave reviews for Riley Akers' gasp-inducing YA novel Paper Cuts, which is now kicking tail over at Swoonreads.

Kudos to +Swoon Reads for fixing this as quickly and as gracefully as they did. They just proved #crowdsourcing doesn't have to fall prey to people who try to game the system.
+Mary Cain  is the real-life Riley Akers. Moral: Be nice to her. Don't mess with her. Treat her with respect. She's going to be bigger than Quentin Tarantino very shortly.
I'm already mentally casting the movie version of #PaperCuts. Stay tuned.