You are now entering the world of my thoughts.

This blog is my diary of works in progress. The only way a writer can improve upon her skill is to practice, practice and practice some more. Here, in this place of quiet peace, I pen to paper my thoughts and creativity. Welcome to my world.

Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 SN Taylor, All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Giveaway: Sandcastles & Snowmen



Title: Sandcastles & Snowmen

Author: Sahar El-Nadi

Publisher: FB Publishing, June 1, 2013

Summary: A reflective journey of one woman's search and
rediscovery of her faith and spirituality.

Review:  Click on the following link to read the review for Sandcastles & Snowmen

Giveaway: One copy of Sandcastles & Snowmen



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 23, 2015

An Interview With Author Yasmin Mogahed


Today's interview is with the author of Reclaim Your Heart, Yasmin Mogahed.  She is a freelance writer and international speaker. She also hosts Serenity, her show on One Legacy Radio.


Greetings and Welcome. Please tell us a little bit about your book, Reclaim Your Heart.



Reclaim Your Heart is a book about freeing the heart from the chains of worldly life. It talks about healing, about coping and about redemption.



What was the motivation behind writing Reclaim Your Heart

My own life experiences and the lessons I was learning along the way about love, loss, pain and God.


I had the wonderful opportunity to hear you read "I Prayed for Peace Today," at the Seattle IlmFest 2015. What inspired you to write that poem?

A very difficult personal challenge that I had no control to alter. It made me realize how powerless I really am, and that all power belongs to God.



Can you share with us your publishing journey? What were some of your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was finding the right publisher, as I faced an incident of attempted fraud during my initial search.



Do you have any other projects/books you are working on now?

My next project is a collection of my shorter quotes insha Allah.



When you are not busy writing or teaching classes or giving lectures, what do you like to do?

Spend quality time with the people I love. I enjoy deep conversation and really great humor.



Which of the poems in your book is your favorite and why?

I think it would be "I prayed for peace today" because of how raw that sentiment was.


And for our final question:


As I mentioned before, I attended the IlmFest conference in Seattle and the theme of the conference was Balance, balance in every aspect of our lives, Currently, we are seeing a lot of turmoil in Muslim communities, whether it is in the home, at work, school or with dealing with the public at large. If you had one piece of advice for the Ummah, to heal and grow from these struggles, what would it be?

Stay close to God, nourish your heart with His constant remembrance, and love Him more than anything else.


I would like to thank Ms Mogahed for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her book and insights with us.

Read more about Yasmin Mogahed book and our review of this title on Goodreads.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Book Review: Sandcastles & Snowmen by Sahar El-Nadi


Title: Sandcastles and Snowmen


Author: Sahar El-Nadi


Publisher: FB Publishing House, June 1, 2013


Book Description:

What makes a successful woman indifferent to her faith and what draws her back to it to see the world in new way? Why would a smart woman-of-the-world choose to be a practicing Muslim who voluntarily wears a headscarf, commits to praying five times a day and fasting a full month each year? And how does that decision affect her public life and her international work?


Sandcastles and Snowmen explores faith through the story of a woman on a personal journey to search for spirituality, leading her to reconnect with Islam in a new, global context in the turbulent post 9/11 world.


Review:
Sahar El-Nadi takes the open-minded reader on a true journey to explore and learn about Islam through her own spiritual journey of rediscovery. Born into an Egyptian Muslim family and culture, Sahar El-Nadi still went through a phase where religion was not the main focus of her life. Many young people go through this phase where they have to discover who they are individually and separate from their parent/heritage/cultural influences.


What I like most about this author is her ability to reach out and connect with the reader in a most respectful and culturally sensitive way. Sahar Nadi's  approach of sharing her faith and spiritual journey is a natural conversation. Anyone from any faith can read her book and learn about Islam without feeling pressured, talked down to or admonished. She uses every available resource, recent academic research, Islamic studies, recent and historical events, and religious texts to validate her point of view without invalidating a different point of view. She challenges misconceptions and mis-perceptions about Islam giving the reader a balanced understanding of Islamic faith and practices.


I enjoyed reading about her personal, work and travel experiences as a modern day Muslim woman in her field, the road to her rediscovering Islam, and her personal desire to become a practicing Muslim. She covers a diverse range of topics including, religion, science, arts, culture, politics, current events and so much more.




About the Author:


Sahar El-Nadi is a writer, public speaker and instructor, on leadership, change, creativity, communication and cross-cultures. She is also the creator & director of award-winning initiative 'Don't Hate, Educate!' promoting diversity and tolerance. 


To purchase Sahar’s book at Amazon, Click Here.


To visit the website for Sahar’s book go to Sandandsnow.info

Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: Kitty Hawk The Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost

Title: Kitty Hawk: The Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost

Author: Iain Reading

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,
September 11, 2013

Book Description: Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost is the exciting second installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure.

This second book in the series continues the adventures of Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot who has decided to follow in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart and make an epic flight around the entire world. After flying across North America Kitty's journey takes her down south to Florida where she plans to get a bit of rest and relaxation before continuing on with the rest of her long and grueling flight.

As Kitty explores the strange and magical water world of the Florida Keys her knack for getting herself into precarious situations sweeps her headlong into the adventure of a lifetime involving mysterious lights, ancient shipwrecks, razor-toothed barracudas and even a sighting of the great Ernest Hemingway himself. This exhilarating story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept across the landscape and history of the Florida Keys all the way from Key West to the strange and remarkable world of Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas.

My Review:

In the second book of the Kitty Hawk series, Kitty is visiting the Florida Keys for a couple of weeks before beginning her major solo trip around the world.

This adventure around, she has to figure out the mystery of Ernest Hemingway's ghost who seems to be writing yet another great American novel, mysterious green glowing lights out in the waters surrounding Fort Jefferson, and the hunt for ancient ship wreck.Naturally, Kitty finds herself in very dangerous situations that she has to get out of but she always manage to do it with flare and sometimes......SPOILER ALERT....flames, as in a homemade Molotov cocktail! Seriously, where did she learn how to make one of those?

My favorite part came toward the middle of the story. Her visit to the Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park. I learned a lot about the history of Fort Jefferson, why it was there, how it got there and other hidden mysteries in its waters. The story is packed with fun tidbits of historical information.

What I didn't care too much for is how long it took to get to the good part of the story. Her time in Florida seemed to drag out for a long time. Nothing THAT interesting happened except for the Hemingway ghost sighting at his famed writing spot. In fact, the title seems misleading because she really isn't looking for the ghost through out the story. Most of the story is about trying to figure out the who and why of the mysterious glowing lights out on the water.

Overall, it was a fun read. I'm looking forward to Kitty's next adventure.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Author Interview: Hend Hegazi


Today's interview is with debut author Hend Hegazi, author of Normal Calm. Hend is a freelance writer, whose work has appeared in notable Muslim magazines such as Azizah and SISTERS.


Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts, USA. I graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology and shortly after, moved to Egypt where I have been for the past 13 years. I’m married and have 4 children. I’m a freelance writer for SISTERS magazine as well as a couple of online magazines. Recently, I’ve delved into the role of freelance editor, which is an endeavor I’m really excited about.

Can you share with us a little about your publishing journey?
I have always loved to write, but I didn’t become disciplined about it until I realized that those millions of published authors out there are no better than me! Some are exceedingly more talented and their stories are far better than mine, of course, but the opposite is also true. Authors are just regular people who simply make their writing a priority. When I accepted that truth, the idea of finishing my novel shifted from being a dream to being an achievable goal.
Once I finished it, I did all sorts of research on how to get published. Naturally, I learned that unsolicited manuscripts get no notice from most publishing houses and most authors make use of agents. So I set about doing my research into which agents may be interested in an Arab American story, and queried a bunch. A whole bunch. And although a few showed interest, in the end they all declined, saying it was a tough sell. Between the actual rejection letters and the no-reply rejections, I hold under my belt more than 100 agent rejections. Although I mention it with humor, at the time it was discouraging. I decided I would no longer pursue it: if it was meant to be, then God would make it happen.

I stopped actively researching agents, but if I learned of an Arab American published author, I would skim her acknowledgements page, searching for the mention of an agent. If I found one, I would query the agent, if not, I sent the query directly to the publisher. And that’s how I found FB Publishing. I sent them my manuscript, and they saw enough potential to publish it, Praise God.


What inspired your story, Normal Calm?
There were two things: First, I really hated the Arab mentality of blaming rape victims for this horrendous crime which was committed against them. During my research on the subject I have learned that victim blaming is really an international crises, one that all ethnicities struggle with. In Normal Calm, I felt the need to stand up and clearly say that rape survivors are the victims and should never be criminalized.

The other motivation was a desire to give people a window into the lives of Arab Americans. I wanted to show people that although we have religious and cultural differences, we are really more alike.

What was on of your biggest challenges, if any, while writing Normal Calm? And, how did your overcome that challenge?
The biggest challenge I faced was how Amina, the main character, would deal with the rape. In my earliest version, she reports it to the police. That’s what I wanted her to do, so that any readers in her position would be encouraged to take that same route. But when it came down to it, I realized that the novel would take a different path from the one I originally had planned: the police report would lead to a trial, and sentencing, and all sorts of things which, I felt, would pull the story away from the social repercussions of her rape. The thing which made her NOT file a report is the fact that her rapist flees the country. Don’t get me wrong: I encourage any victims of rape to report it to the authorities, but for the purposes of this fictional story, having him leave just made more sense.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your story, without giving us too much of the story.
There is a scene when one of her perspective suitors basically calls her promiscuous, and she tells him off. I love her brashness in that scene, partly because it comes as a shock, even to herself. It shows that we are capable of strength beyond our own awareness.

What is the most important thing you want your readers to take away after reading Normal Calm?
That even when there is a lack of support from people you love, being honest and staying true to yourself will always be rewarded with goodness.

Do you have any other projects you are working on that you can tell us about?
I’ve finished writing my second novel, Praise God, although I still have no news of publication. Along with my freelance writing and editing, I’m developing some ideas for my next book and hope to begin writing that soon, God willing.

If you could share one piece of advice that you wish you had been given at the beginning of your publishing journey, what would it be?
Do not overlook the small, niche publishers. For example, there are Muslim publishers out there, even though they may not easily turn up during your search. Facebook is a super resource to help locate and connect with people, and that includes niche publishers.

This question is for Amina (book character) ... If you could say or share one thing with rape victims around the world, what would it be?
Many rape survivors experience self-blame, but just as it is ridiculous to think of blaming the victims of theft for that crime, it is even more ridiculous to blame rape victims. It may not be easy to find a partner who will understand and accept your circumstances, but if you are honest and true to yourself, God willing, HE will reward you with goodness.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing your writing journey with us.
It is my pleasure. Jazakum Allahu khairan for giving me the platform to share my journey.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: Normal Calm by Hend Hegazi


Title: Normal Calm


Author: Hend Hegazi


Publisher: FB Publisher, Jan 1, 2014


Book Description:
Amina is an Arab American woman attending one of the best universities in the US. During the spring of her junior year, Amina is raped by one of her friends, making her essentially unmarriageable in the eyes of her parents and, possibly, the entire Arab community. When her mother experiences a nervous breakdown, Amina fears that she is to blame for her mother's condition. Eventually she falls in love with Sherif, but his reaction to her rape proves him to be unworthy. Deciding to forgo love, Amina focuses on her career. When her best friend introduces her to Mazin, however, she sees in him only good qualities. He is successful, kind, generous...but she feels no love for him. When Mazin asks for her hand in marriage, Amina struggles with the idea of settling for a man she does not love. Knowing that he, too, may abandon her when he learns of her rape is another burden she continues to bear.


Book Review:
This was a really good read despite it not being a book/genre I usually enjoy. The story touches on the subject of rape and how it is handled or viewed in Arab Muslim communities. Rape in general is viewed as "the woman's fault" in almost every culture but it is disturbingly so in Muslim communities because the responsibility of upholding ones dignity and honor is majorly placed on the woman. What is unfair about the practice is that it is not a religious thing. The Muslim faith places the responsibility equally and fairly on men and women to protect themselves and each other but somehow, somewhere, someone misinterpreted and placed it on women.

I enjoyed Normal Calm because Amina was/is a strong character. I loved that she stayed true to herself. Knowing the stigma placed on non-virgins, even rape victims, in her community, she did not allow the incident to change her character, her integrity when it came time to discuss marriage to potential partners.In all of her relationships, she was true to herself and those around, and that was her biggest asset, that is what strengthened her and her relationships.

I particularly enjoyed her friendship with Kayla, a non-Muslim friend she practically grew up with. The love, respect, tolerance and even humor they showed each other when it came to discussing religion, life, school, love and work, was refreshing. Amina found in Kayla a true friend, someone who listened with the intent to understand, not just respond. While Amina's family did eventually support and back her, Kayla was her rock in the beginning, when her life first fell to pieces.

There is still much needed discussions in our communities, discussions that will help heal, strengthen and finally put an end to the victim blaming society tends to do when a woman, girl, or child is raped or abused. Normal Calm opens that discussion, in my opinion, for the Muslim and Arab communities.

Member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators