Thursday, 20 December 2018

Merry Christmas! Or is it really?



Christmas- That time of the year when many begin preparations for its celebration as early as September. It's hard not too notice the enthusiasm when your neighbors begin installing their fairy lights long before December had made its entry. In the Western world, Christmas is more than just a religious sentiment. It is a time for gift- giving, feasting, family reunification, vacations and anything else which symbolizes good health and joy.

The remarkable thing I find about this otherwise Christian celebration is that people regardless of faith or beliefs partake with as much zeal. They do not necessarily have to attend a church service, but the lights do go up, the christmas tree is all decked and the boxes of gifts are clogging the postal service, ready to be delivered to the doors.

Of course, there will be those who question the foundations of the celebration. What are the origins of Christmas? Does it really have Christian sources? Is it more a pagan holiday? And was Jesus really born on December the 25th?

For many who are blessed to live in a democratic society, such questions are raised without any fear of repercussions. In fact, many would believe a debate is healthy for the enhancement of a civilization. It is after all how our societies have progressed successfully over the many centuries- a far cry from the days our ancestors wandered the wilderness in loin cloths. There is no question that debate, dialogue and discussion played an immense role in the advancement and evolution of our society.

Murdered Mass Communications Student, Mashal Khan
In a more conservative circle, however, such ideas would have us lynched. And such was the case of Mashal Khan in Pakistan.  A mass communications student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Khan was a free thinker, questioning certain merits of Islam and debating with his fellow colleagues on a the benefits of a progressive and modern society. His philosophies didn't go unnoticed by both staff and students and soon, he was labelled as a threat to his community. A blasphemous element which plain and simple, needed to be eradicated.

In the 21st century, in 2017, an era where one would think lynching was a brutal practice belonging only in the past, Mashal Khan was yanked out of his hostel room by a mob of university staff and students, shot in the head, dragged his dying body down the stairs and beaten to death. The irony is that, for a man the mob had labelled as an atheist and blasphemous, he died reciting the Muslim statement of faith.

Today, the Pakistani society is divided. Had its blaspheme law played a role in Mashal Khan's death? Was Mashal Khan's lynching justified? Some Muslim clerics claim it was. He was encouraging cultural and religious degradation and therefore deserved to die like he did.

I am not a Pakistani. I am not even a Muslim. So I will forever fail to see or share the same perspective of those clerics. No, a man doesn't deserve to be brutally beaten to death for his mere opinions. Would God be threatened by the paltry opinions of a puny man? Can God not fight his own battles without the society trying to act on his behalf? Can he not smite down his offenders with lightning without the aid of an unruly mob? Shouldn't we leave the omnipotent and all-powerful God to handle his own matters?

As a woman with such opinions in a similar town, I would suffer a worse fate than Mashal Khan. I speak today from the comfort of my desk without any fear of dying because of my opinions. It is my freedom of speech. A right which we, of the egalitarian part of of the world, take for absolute granted. What would we do without it?

With that liberty, however, I do want to wish you all a merry Christmas and a very prosperous 2019. Through the hurdles we've been through the past year, we all deserve a little merriment this Christmas. But in a season of gift-giving, please do spare a gift of momentary thought for those who are too afraid to question such celebrations in the first place.





Sources for Images:
1. <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/wooden-christmas-background_3233612.htm">Designed by Pikisuperstar</a>

2. http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/386062-Mashal-Khan-fell-after-being-shot-came-out-of-ca

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Writers, are you still writing?

The writing business is such where only a few make it and many do not. Those are the statistics and they can be quite depressing.

When I started writing, I began with nothing but my laptop and an idea. I do not have siblings or parents and because I've never been in touch with an extended family, the prospect of having families turning into fans and reviewers was void. Regardless, I published my first novel and crossed my fingers, hoping that someone might read it. That was almost six years ago and I am still writing.

Of course when one puts a book out, they want to be not only read, but also to be able to make a reasonable living out of it. However, such a possibility becomes available to only a handful of authors. So are they lucky? Would the others be correctly classified as the majority unfortunates?
How do you label yourself?

I consider myself successful. Perhaps, my definition of success is slightly different from what others might perceive it. Starting from basically nothing, I am grateful for the response and appreciation I have received over these past few years. You see, success is very subjective. It all depends on your goals in the industry. Do you want to be a bestseller? Do you want to earn $20 to $30k a month? Or do you want to be simply read?

I wanted to follow my passion of writing. That was my objective in writing. I was basically hopeless at everything else. I was usually depressed slogging through jobs I hated and doing my best living up to standards set by others. I soon realized, I had lived half my life doing everything else but doing what I wanted to do. When opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands and set off to fulfilling my dream. Telling stories.

What are your goals? Have you experienced instances of not wanting to write? What were your reasons? Remember to always revert back to the basics. What got you started on the writing path in the first place.

We live in a fortunate age and time when everybody is giving an equal platform to publish their books. Gone are the days where we had to depend on publishers and literary agents to approve of our work. Some of the best books in literature happen to come from self-publishers such as The Martian by Andy Weir and Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Yours could be the next. Just don't quit. Because if you don't put your thoughts, your ideas and your book out there, no one else will.

Not everyone is going to like your books. Not everyone is going to appreciate your unique concept. Some may win with a single try, while others would have to work harder at it . But so long as you're trying, you're still in the game.

But there's one other primary lesson life has taught me in this rat race of becoming the best. Chase your passions and success will chase after you.



Friday, 8 June 2018

An Assassin and His Blind Love Interest

Why, you may ask, would I write about a central female character who is blind? As one reviewer shelved, "DNF. Goodluck with this one".



I am fascinated with assassins and they always seemed to sport a strong, beautiful woman on their arm. Women who always happened to look perfect in comparison to the fantastic flaws of the hero. Check out a good assassin oriented movie like well, Assassin, starring Sylvester Stallone. Or Bourne Identity? Or Hitman?

But the weird me began thinking, what if... what if his love interest was blind? What would his challenges be, taking into account the chaotic world he's lived in? How would he protect the woman he loved then?

A Jar of Dreams and A Jar of Hearts documents the life of Eric Tanner who does just that. Faced with the consequences of the decisions he has made all his life, he only begins to realize that the price for those decisions may well probably be blind Anne Mullen, the woman he has hopelessly fallen in love with.

Was I able to successfully impart the angst, heartache, the tensions and the conflicts Eric Tanner was faced with? I hope so. As another reviewer puts it:

I loved how the love story part of this was so well-developed. It felt so real.
Medavis66, Goodreads                    



It was a proud, teary moment for me as I scannd through reviews pouring similar sentiments for the books because these two books were probably two of the hardest I had ever written. There were times I had doubted myself for ever pulling it off and there were certainly times I wanted to shelf them away for good. 

Having a blind character navigate her way through each page was a challenge. I certainly saw her in my mind but how do I show my readers exactly what I was seeing? And what of Eric Tanner's flaws? He is a murderer. He may have a conscience but he still was a murderer. Did he deserve Anne?

I took to the movies and binged on romances with blind leading characters such as At First Sight (1999), Blind (Netherlands), Fanaa (India) and Always (Korean).




Always (Korean) Trailer with English Subtitles


And I did not regret it because I was ecstatic when I found out that there were readers who enjoyed them just as much. I understand that the concept may not be suited to everyone out there, but the books served as an important lesson to me as a writer.

Never give up on a dream. If I worked hard at it enough, everything was possible!




 


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Why I chose to make my Mulan modern?

I have been asked by a few people why I chose to use modern language in an otherwise historical setting of Mulan.


The reasons were simple in my mind. Or at least I thought so.

Mulan was never meant to be a history text book. It is a romance catered to the larger audience of romance readers of which many I believed would not have wanted to wade through the dictionary to find the meaning of an archaic term or to return twice or thrice to a sentence only to decipher its meaning. I wrote it in a simpler and modern format for the very same reasons Disney had its Mulan characters speaking in modern English- it is meant to be an easy, entertaining read for a wider audience.

Disney's Mulan


My purpose of writing Mulan stemmed from the need to see this legendary warrior be given a romance which I missed in most re-tellings. I wasn't quite satisfied with the romance Disney gave me and I can't blame them when their primary audience were children. And the Chinese version was just too darned serious, focusing on her growth as a soldier rather than on the romance.

The Chinese movie version of Mulan


As a writer, there were times also where I was conflicted with the many forks I was faced with while writing Mulan. Do I make the characters homophobic as they would have been in Ancient China or socially tolerant of homosexuality?

I decided to opt for the modern road because my primary objective was again Mulan's romance and not on the social norms of Ancient China. I believed that delving in the social taboos would have opened a whole new can of issues and resolutions which would have in turn swayed away from the romance.

On the whole, my journey while writing Mulan had been quite an adventure. And to know that there also have been readers out there who have been searching for a romance for Mulan has been exciting.

If this is your kind of Mulan which you don't mind reading and reviewing, then please feel free to drop in to request for a free review copy.

https://www.clarissacartharn.com/book-reviewers

Sunday, 27 May 2018

My new gender bender romance, MULAN

So I wrote a book called 'MULAN'.



No, Mulan doesn't belong to Disney.  The earliest record of this legendary warrior was found in an old Chinese poem called 'The Ballad of Mulan'. Her historic existence however is questionable. 
I first read of Hua Mulan in 1982. I was about six or seven years old at the time, but her story left such an indelible impression, I have been enamored by her ever since. 
Of course, when the Disney version came out, I was one of those who rushed to the cinemas. I even gobbled through the much rather somber Chinese version, starring Zhao Wei. 
Finally, I found the courage to write my own rendition, suiting it for the romance fanatics like me. I hope it is one you will enjoy. 
So if you're up for a free copy to read and review, just fill in your details by following the link below!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Should Romeo & Juliet Be Taught in Schools?

My 14 year DS came whining to me earlier this year about having started his first ever Shakespearean literature in school. And thus there started a continual battle between trying to convince him of the literary contributions the great Bard had made and why his works should be studied, and then agreeing with DS about why Romeo & Juliet should not be taught in schools. Yep, it was the star-crossed lovers he had a particular despise for.

Source: http://static.rogerebert.com/uploads/movie/movie_poster/romeo
-and-juliet-1968/large_t52FqTfIttKQjdPxd6LxJ6UpVkv.jpg

Having once been in my son's shoes, twenty and more years ago, I can understand why he finds it difficult trying to appreciate Shakespeare. We have long moved on from the Early Modern English the plays were written in, and so it does take a lot more effort in trying to understand it. Usually when one picks up literature, they see it as a means of entertainment. A 14 year old can hardly call Shakespeare entertainment when he has to continue resorting to the dictionary to understand the language. A paraphrased translation helped a little, but any Shakespearean fanatic will tell you it is just not enough. So of course, I encouraged him to read both. I mean what good is Shakespeare when you can't say "To bait fish withal". "I'll use it as fish bait" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

However, I had to agree with DS, albeit reluctantly, that R&J should perhaps not be taught in schools. He could not find the relevance to his world no matter how much he tried. Schools often pick R&J as an introductory text to Shakespeare's works, believing that it would be the one students would most relate to. After all, Romeo and Juliet are about their age and madly in love, and that's something they can identify with, right?

Eh... not so much according to DS. He pulled out their ages- Romeo was perhaps 16 and older and Juliet was 13 years old. Therefore Romeo became a pedophile. He was in love with Rosaline bfeore falling for Juliet, so did that make it love or lust at first sight? He after all had a sickening penchant for pubescent girls. Capulet dictated Juliet on her love life and DS threw up his hands calling him a despot and a misogynist tyrant who did not believe in female empowerment. Sampson was chauvinistic and had urges to rape, Romeo was a murderer, Juliet was just too young, a three day affair- 6 deaths, the play was sexist and Shakespeare would have been vilified as a plagiarist today for never crediting Bardello for his inspiration... Argh! I almost had me tearing my hair out of my head, answering his questions.

The argument that this is how it was five hundred years ago was only met with how is it relevant now? Why am I studying this? Society has changed for the better. Leave the past in the past. And for godsakes, move on!

I sat for a long while after that, trying to figure out a way to help him appreciate Shakespeare. It was only then I understood I could never really do that. I had no right whatsoever to force Shakespearean literature down his throat. He would only barf it up again. Interestingly, I also remembering groaning at Shakespeare at his age. My love for the ole Bard began in my adulthood. I realized then that my son wasn't acting so out of character after all.

Shakespeare was a business man, first and foremost. He recognized he had a talent for writing and found a lucrative potential in theater. So he did what any person would do. He put quill to paper and made a hell lot of money. His audience was primarily men, drunk men, so it was inevitable that his plays were going to be sexist. It still happens today. Put a group of hammered men together and watch the sexist jokes fly. Well, usually.

So is my son unappreciative of Shakespeare? I suppose not. If I'm not going to have my 14 year old son read Fifty Shades of Grey today, why would I expect a 14 year old to study it in class five hundred years later only because the language has suddenly become archaic? Cringe. I know. Not the best equivalent.

In ten more years though, when he is adult enough to understand the low brow humor of Shakespeare, I am certain he will begin to enjoy Shakespearean literature. That is, when he finally becomes the target audience that Shakespeare had created his plays for.

For now, instead of Romeo & Juliet, give him a Shakespeare he probably might understand. Like Macbeth or Hamlet. I have a suspicion he would probably relate better to those. After all, aren't their themes more rampant in the movies and this digital game age? Ahh... but I guess that is an argument best left for another post.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

THE INSPIRATIONS BEHIND THE YEARNING



YES, THE STORIES ARE TRUE

Well, at least the inspirations behind it were.



Writers write for a different purpose and mine was always to bring a change where I could, an awareness where needs be, other than of course the joy of simply putting words to paper and creating new universes.

I didn't plan out to write "The Yearning". It just came about like most of my other books- through real life experiences.

I once read an article about a pregnant woman suffering from brain cancer. This was her first baby and she didn't want to terminate the pregnancy. As expected, it didn't aid her treatment and unfortunately, she passed away a little after the baby was born.


Yet Another Unfortunate Case of a Pregnant
woman with Cancer- Cara Coombs
Image Source: http://fox2now.com/2015/12/08/mother-chooses-to-have-baby-instead-of-cancer-treatment/


I was most certainly affected by the story because I spent a lot of time long after that wondering what had become of her husband and child and the grief her husband had to bear during her illness and after her death. I had even cried a little as the woman spoke about her cancer and coming to terms with the fact that she might never see her daughter grow or share the joys that came from watching her turn into an adult.

I filed the story away somewhere in the corner of my mind, never thinking much of it except to sometimes sympathize and wonder how the baby was doing now. A few weeks after that, I read another article on a woman who discovered her husband was having an affair with a woman only after he was shot down by his lover's husband. She spoke about how she was devastated as the police reported their findings. This was certainly not how she wanted to know about her husband's infidelities. She suffered from psychological trauma as a result since she never really found closure.

It was then I found prospects in a possible story. Here was a widow with a tragic past and there was a widower with another tragedy in his life. These were not stories I plucked out from twenty or thirty years ago. These were recent incidents that actually happened in the past five years. I felt these would be experiences readers would relate to in this day and age. But for some reason I hesitated, believing that there was still a backbone it lacked.


And that is when I discovered the plight of the ranches in Arizona, particularly Cochise County where farmers were struggling with smugglers trespassing through their properties. There have been many reports of ranch owners being hassled, robbed and even murdered by traffickers. And yes, there were rape trees reported as well. Whether the rapes were actualized is unclear, but there definitely were trees littered with female undergarments for the sole purpose of intimidation and invoking fear into anyone who saw it.

A Rape Tree
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5-q3vQZ38o

And here I found my purpose to write this story. I can only hope that this problem will be resolved as soon as it possibly can. I can only pray that all those who are affected by it are safe and protected.