Someone Burned My Book

I’d been warned: the 5-Star reviews couldn’t last forever. “Be prepared,” people cautioned me. “Trolls are out there and sooner or later one of them will pan a book. It’s going to be ugly.” I don’t check for reviews on Amazon much as I take the long view. Writing a book is a slow process, and building up a list of reviews can take a while. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to receive consistently solid, glowing reviews.

Until now.

I got my first 1-Star review. The German guy says Tsunami Cowboys is the worst book he’d ever read. He didn’t finish it. And, after page 56, HE BURNED IT.

WTF? Really?? In the 21st century, people are still burning books?!?

I went into shock. I was horrified. Shaken. Ashamed, even. In my worst nightmares, I never ever ever imagined someone would actually destroy my words like this. Until now, it was beyond my powers of imagination.

I got out a copy of the book. What could possibly be so offensive? I opened to page 56 and the peak of a chapter in which Coreen, one of the main characters, is trapped in a cult and can’t get out.

Ok…. Maybe the troll was upset by the topic. I sure was; that’s why I wrote about it. If he’d made it to the end of the book he would have learned the following: I’m religious. I believe in God. My heroine’s story continues well past the page where he stopped reading.

If he’d bothered with the author’s Afterword, he’d have learned my personal reasons for even including this thread in my book.

I’m appalled that someone would be so hateful. I questioned everything I am doing as a writer, and worried about the consequences of exercising my voice. Then I remembered: I just went to a high school reunion. It was a fantastic weekend spent seeing wonderful people again. By far one of the most lovely is a woman who was a missionary.

She’s read both my novels. At the reunion, she made a point of telling me that the story of Coreen and the cult disconcerted her, and she had to put Tsunami Cowboys down for a while. It hit a little too close to home. But, she said, she picked it back up a few months later, read it to the end, and liked the story I told very much.

So that reassures me.

Words contain a lot of power, more than we realize. My encounter with the troll really brings that realization home to me, and in the future I will pay closer attention. His other reviews have the same ugly caustic tone, so I’m not alone. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better, or worse.

As my dear writer buddy Nancy Carroll remarked: “You’re now in good company, Jadi. Think of the books that have been burned through the ages.”Tsunami Cowboys

Indeed.

Think about them.

NOTES: [1] http://www.ala.org/bbooks/

http://uwm.edu/libraries/exhibits/burnedbooks/

[2] I swear it just came to my notice that this is Banned Books Week: September 27th – October 3rd.

Tunisia Without Terrorism

We flew down to Tunisia for a week in September exactly a year ago. I’d planned to write about Hammamet’s lovely laid back tourist vibe, the gorgeous beaches and how much fun it was viewing the Mediterranean from the Africa coast for the first time.

I didn’t want to obsess on the fact that a few weeks later terrorists shot tourists in a museum down the road from the souk we visited. I definitely don’t want to think about the beach where tourists from around the world were murdered in cold blood this summer. It’s less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the hotel we stayed in.

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Those cowardly acts have nothing to do with what Uwe and I experienced. I took notes as I sat on our sweet balcony, and here is what I wrote:

“The tourists are international. Every body size and shape, every age is represented. We see groups of Italians, French, Egyptians, Algerians, Germans and Brits. Women in black leggings, head scarves, and long sleeved tunics sit by the pool. Two men (young Arab males) hold hands and spring into the pool at a running jump. Kids run and play everywhere I look. Old folks in wheel chairs are pushed by family members.

The French and Italian tourists live up to their reputations with their rule of remaining poolside until 6 p.m. Then they go to change for dinner at 7.

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View from our balcony. Taken early evening, when guests had headed to their rooms to change their clothes and think about dinner

Lots of Middle East tourists are traditionally dressed in modest clothing. [1] They swim in the ocean fully dressed! But there are also single Arab women in bikinis, or young couples on holiday.”

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I sat and revised Tsunami Cowboys under one of these umbrellas…

“Paragliders are pulled by boats, a yacht and sailboat or two glide by, an endless panorama of ocean spreads from left to right. Without talking about it we head past the pool to go down to the lounge chairs under sun umbrellas on the beach. Uwe reads and I edit the manuscript for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. I’m beyond happy: I’m in an exotic locale with fun stuff to notice all around me and I’m doing good writing work. Each afternoon around 4 I stop and swim in the ocean.”

Our hotel was about twenty minutes from the center of Hammamet.

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Exploring Hammamet’s souk

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Sometimes we strolled into town for dinner; some nights we had a drink at the hotel and picked one of the restaurants there. We did a couple of tours, to Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd

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Sidi Bou Saïd is justifiably famous for its vivid blue architecture

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Sidi Bou Saïd is popular with artists too

and the ancient city of Carthage. [2]

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I bargained for sandals at Tunis’ souk [3],

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and harissa and couscous spices at an outdoor market.

Touristy? Sure. But here are more of my notes from that week: “Everyone smiles and says hello in the hotel. We’re all here to relax and co-mingle. I have the lovely experience of being welcomed as an American – and when was the last time that’s happened lately – the locals intrigued to learn where I’m from, and even more intrigued to hear that I live in Europe.

I think that’s partly because not many Americans make it to the area, or maybe our hotel books more Europeans and Arabs. Certainly on our charter flight from Germany I’m the only Ami on board! Tunisians are delighted when I assure them that yes, I am enjoying my first visit to their country.”

We learn that Tunisia’s population of 8 million has swelled by an additional 2 million people displaced by wars. Tunisia is a democracy in an unstable part of the world. The Tunisians on the coast are hospitable, curious, worldly. And I want to go back.

I want Tunisia without terrorism.

NOTES: [1] A sign by the pool read “Clothes clog the drains! Bathing suits only, please!”

D32_3242_DxO10[2] Carthage made the fatal mistake of challenging Rome. The Romans burned it to the ground, killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Then, to make sure everyone got the message that it was a really bad idea to go against Rome, they sowed the area with salt so that nothing would ever grow again….

[3] The shopkeeper held a lighter to the bottom to prove that they were made of camel and not plastic.

Photos Copyright © 2014 Uwe Hartmann. All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s images from Tunisia and our trips to North Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

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