Sand Storm (Sufat Chol-Original Title)


As part of my research for the Old Testament romance I am writing, I am watching foreign films located in places similar to the Sinai Desert. These films reflect the lives of women in a patriarchal society where females have little or no perceivable power. Living this way is especially painful for the women who have been exposed to a society where women have opportunities to decide the directions of their lives for themselves.

Sand Storm is about a young woman, Layla, caught in the tangle of choices this knowledge affords. Throughout the film, she struggles with the choice of whether to leave her family-forever-, and their ages old traditions and laws, to strike out in a new direction or to stay with her family whom she loves and abide by the rules and restrictions of their society.

Layla’s mother, Jalila, has struggles of her own. Her husband has just taken a second, younger and more beautiful wife, and her oldest daughter, Layla, appears to be striking out in a direction which both fascinates and terrifies Jalila. Jalila’s smoldering anger at her husband’s indifference and neglect make the movie difficult to watch.

One overriding theme of this movie is the potential women have if they join together and the pain caused by women’s failure to do so. So many times, women are overcome by jealousy and bitterness toward other women that has nothing to do with those women. For example: a woman may be jealous because another woman has a loving relationship with her husband while the first woman’s marriage lacks the intimacy she craves. Another example: a woman may be jealous because she perceives another woman to be more beautiful than she is. Like women everywhere, if the women in this movie: Layla, Jalila, and the second wife, would band together, they could make positive changes that would benefit all of them. If the women in this movie choose to project their insecurities and unhappiness on each other, they will remain mired in the muck that is their lives. You will have to watch the movie to see which these three women choose.

I really liked this movie, and I plan to watch it again. It is a Netflix original and won awards from the Sundance Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival, and the Israeli Film Academy among many others.

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I spent about an hour and a half yesterday reading two books:  This Must Be My Brother  by Leann Thieman and Carol Dey  and The Vietnamese Boat People, 1954 and 1975–1992
by Nghia M. Vo .  I vaguely remember the first story, so I either read the book when I was younger or watched a show on television about it. The story takes place over the course of two days and is a fast, easy read. The second book is more in-depth. I am probably going to have to read it two or three times to really understand what it is saying.

Writing a book takes a lot more than just sitting down and putting words on paper. Any book, even a fiction book, takes time, research, planning, and time. If you are writing a book, give yourself time to make it the best it possibly can be before publishing it. Taking the time and necessary steps will be worth it, to you, and to your readers.

We Were Soldiers

As part of writing Hieu’s memoir, I have been researching Vietnam’s history, especially the Vietnam war because those events shaped Hieu’s life directly until he was twelve and indirectly after that.

Yesterday, a friend and I watched “We Were Soldiers.” My friend commented that the hardest part of watching it was knowing that the men were giving their lives for such a senseless war. She admired the soldiers for fighting; she said that their sacrifice means something important. My friend didn’t say exactly what she thinks it means. I think it means that we are a brave, courageous people. I admire every person who is or who has ever been an American soldier. They are undertaking one of the bravest, most selfless jobs a person can do.

One of the people this movie portrays is journalist Joseph L. Galloway, who was present at la Drang Valley, the first major American-Viet Cong battle of Vietnam.  Even though he was not a soldier, he earned a Bronze Star for Valor for rescuing a wounded soldier during the battle. ( Editor, From the front lines of Ia Drang Valley: ‘Killing, dying and suffering indelibly marked us all’, Stripes.comNovember 10, 2015.)

Galloway and Lt Col Hal G. Moore went on to write the book “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.”

(My computer won’t let me continue the above paragraph, so I am starting a new one.) I fully intend to purchase and read his book. I also hope to find his collected Vietnam journalist’s works.

Until I started researching, I had always thought of the Viet Cong as heartless, cruel animals without human feelings. The more I study the war, the more I am realizing that they were real people with real feelings. They loved their families and cared about their children and wanted basically the same things most people want. The movie shows this in one poignant scene.

I highly recommend watching this movie.

Meeting Cassondra Coulter

Last night I traveled to the Carlin-Ingersoll Public Library, Canton, IL, to hear breakout novelist Cassondra Coulter talk about her experiences publishing her first book: Broken Silence: Book I.

In spite of the fact that I am not into witchcraft, her reading of the first page drew me in and left me wanting to explore all that this book has to offer.

Main character Anna Shaw”s first words to us are not about witchcraft, not about personal tragedy, not about love lost. Her first words are about something almost every woman wants from the moment of birth: a mother’s love. She speaks of a deep desire for her mother’s love and to be a source of pride to her mother. Anna shares her secret fear, one that resonates with many women: that she has not become the daughter her mother had hoped to have.

Author Cassondra Coulter’s settings are so accurately portrayed, that one reader actually recognized one of the places in the book as a local point of interest. That is one of the greatest compliments an author can receive.

A huge bonus to this talk is that Cassondra has the speech and mannerisms of Jennifer Lawrence. Her voice is musically warm, and her delivery added humor and spice.

I plan to reserve an afternoon to savor this, the first in a series of books, by Cassondra Coulter.

Her book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Also, request it at your local library.

In case you are interested, here is the link:


I Am In Good Company

Steven King was rejected 30 times when he submitted Carrie.  Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before his first book was accepted by publishers. I was turned down again for a short story I submitted. (Karen, this is not the Library one or the Dog one. I am not sure you have read this one. I will check with you.)

And, once again, I thought this story was THE BOMB!!!! I just love it.

My daughter says that I just don’t fit anywhere. My stories contain realistic, sometimes not so pretty, topics, so Christians don’t want to read them. My stories contain elements of Christianity, so secular audiences don’t want to read them.

I am going to figure out how to find the people, like me, who do want to read them.

I will keep you posted.

Project Memoir

Writing Hieu Tran’s memoir is an intimidating project for me as a writer. In order to truly write a book about a child who leaves Vietnam alone in search of a place called “America,” I need to understand the Vietnamese people and how the Vietnam war affected the people of Vietnam, especially after the war.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information available, in general, about the people of Vietnam. Most of what I find is about the Vietnam war.

I finally found one book: The Vietnamese Boat People, 1954 and 1975-1992, (By Nghia M. Vo) which led to two more: In the Jaws of History (By Bui Diem with David Chanoff) and The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (By: Christian G. Appy).

I have already learned some important details.

(1) The Vietnamese people have a fierce desire for Vietnam to be ruled by other Vietnamese and not by foreigners.

(2)Countries will go to extraordinary lengths to remain in control of a foreign country once they claim it–regardless of the harm this brings to the people of that country.

(3)People can suffer an extreme amount of abuse, hunger, and deprivation.

I have also learned that, at least during the years leading up to Hieu’s escape, the two main religions in Vietnam were Buddhist and Catholic.

If you can suggest additional resources that can help me in my endeavor to learn about the Vietnamese culture and people, please comment below or leave a message on my Facebook page.

Exciting Announcement–As Promised!!!!

This announcement really belongs more to Hieu Tran than to me. He and I are collaborating on his memoir. Hieu  escaped Vietnam, alone, when he was twelve and came to live in the United States. His book is about his life, especially his experience getting to the United States and what happened after he got to the United States. It is also motivational as Hieu  has learned valuable life lessons we can use in our lives. Stay tuned for updates.

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I have a big announcement to make about a project. I will be posting about it on Monday.

Contest Entries

I just entered two stories in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.  I will know on or before February 28, 2017, if either of my entries place. I worked on setting and character development with these two, so they should stand a better chance than last time. I will keep you posted.

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

I am hooked on this book series. It has really dark humor. I have laughed out loud a few times while reading the first book–and I don’t generally laugh out loud when I am reading. It is a great adventure story for kids 6th grade and up.