Valley of Thracians is a suspense novel that can also be described as a “fiction travel book”.
Ellis Shuman was born in the United States, but has lived in Israel since the age of fifteen. He served in the Israeli army, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives near Jerusalem.
He works in Internet marketing and writes in his spare time. He has just published a collection of short stories, The Virtual Kibbutz, which deals with the changes in this Israeli society.
Valley of Thracians is available for Kindle here.
Ellis’s blog is here.
Take it away Ellis.
When asked what my new book, Valley of Thracians, is about, I immediately reply that it’s a suspense novel. Sure, it has a missing Peace Corps volunteer, buried treasure, a desperate journey while being chased by mysterious men dressed in black, and a showdown in an ancient tomb. But the book is a bit more than that.
I classify the novel as “travel fiction”. According to Condé Nast Traveler, a fiction travel book is “a book in which a place is as important a character as the protagonist; … it’s a book that has shaped the way we see a certain place; it’s a book whose events and characters could be set nowhere else.” While the characters in Valley of Thracians have been described by an early reviewer as “memorable”, the setting plays a major role in the narrative.
Bulgaria is a scenic country, full of picturesque mountains and quaint villages. The country and its citizens have a burning desire to quickly emerge from an eastern European mentality and catch up with the rest of the world. In my book I highlight some of Bulgaria’s rich history, fascinating culture and customs, and even Bulgarian cuisine.
This is not a travel guide to Bulgaria, yet the story could take place nowhere else. As it does for the main protagonist, who arrives in Sofia on a mission to find his missing grandson, Bulgaria comes alive in the story. Yet descriptions of this off-the-beaten-track destination don’t interfere with the fast-paced nature of the suspense.
As background, my job in Internet marketing was relocated from Tel Aviv to Sofia for two years, 2009-2010. During that time my wife and I traveled extensively around the country, seeing the sights, and learning about Bulgaria’s colorful past. We made many friends and even learned a bit of Bulgarian. Okay, a very small bit of Bulgarian.
Since returning to our permanent home and jobs in Israel, I have devoted my free time to writing about Bulgaria, but in the format of a novel.
I hope readers will not only enjoy reading Valley of Thracians but will take interest in Bulgaria. Visit Bulgaria now, before there are too many tourists!
Valley of Thracians is available for Kindle here.
Ellis’s blog is located here.
Thanks Ellis for being our sixth guest post writer. I love fiction with a travel and historical background. I would love to visit Bulgaria. I would say that, of course, as it has just been announced that The Istanbul Puzzle will be translated into Bulgarian!
This guest post is part of a series in 2013 where I will be showcasing emerging writers on this blog.
You can help by clicking through to their sites, buying their books, sharing this post on Twitter and Facebook and coming back for the next post. You can also follow this site (click the button above right), to be notified by email on who is next in a few days time.
And if you are a writer and want to be featured send me an email email@example.com and I will send you the submission guidelines.
This is the final post in this series, created as a lead in the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle ebook on Monday Dec 3rd. We have had:
and now this final post in the series.
Foreshadowing, for me, comes in two forms. The first is the simple, “something different was about to happen” phrase inserted in the text, which makes the reader wonder what is about to happen. I recommend doing this only very occasionally.
I think I use this explicit form of foreshadowing only twice in The Jerusalem Puzzle. The reason you can’t use it very often is that readers get tired of such things very easily. Explicit foreshadowing loses its appeal very quickly.
The second type of foreshadowing is a general foreshadowing brought about by the plot. For instance, if the main character is going to Jerusalem to investigate the disappearance of someone he knows, then the reader will naturally anticipate what will happen next. This subtle foreshadowing is useful because it uses the reader’s imagination. It’s not just plot driven novels that use subtle foreshadowing, literary novels use it too. When any change or event is anticipated in the text you are using foreshadowing.
Inspiring anticipation is a critical aspect of writing compelling fiction in my opinion. Anticipation is, for me, one of the greatest pleasures of being alive. Looking forward to Christmas, a holiday, a big game, a night out, a family event, an election, are what keeps many of us going through the hum drum nature of everyday life. If you can inspire anticipation in your writing, by hinting at what is to come, you will have cracked a powerful technique to make people read on. And I use make deliberately.
I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you would like to order The Jerusalem Puzzle please click one of the links to the right. Next week I will post about the secrets revealed in The Jerusalem Puzzle. Thanks for coming here.
The above picture is of the start of a demonstration in east Jerusalem in early 2012. As I photographed it I could feel the hairs on my head standing up.
Behind me there were crowds of people watching what was going on. Every eye on Sultan Suleiman street was following the action. There was yelling too. And a lot of young men. The main group was waving a Palestinian flag and chanting in Arabic. The mounted Israeli police were moving in. A demonstrator had died the day before not far away. He had been shot at an Israeli checkpoint. I had no idea what was going to happen next, but I felt it was important to be there, to understand what Jerusalem is like, because I was writing about the city.
I love adventure as much as the next person, but getting close to it has its downsides.
It’s a lot less threatening to experience such things through the eyes of others. I could never get to that bridge under the Misty Mountains as Tolkien’s orcs ran after me. I’d have been cut down. And I can’t get to the planet Trantor to see Asimov’s Haro Seldon give a speech, or to ancient Egypt during a crocodile hunt on the Nile as described by Wilbur Smith.
But I can go to all these places through the novels of these wonderful writers. And I can be sick in bed and as poor as Oliver Twist and still go there.
That’s what I like about reading. What I would like to know is, what adventure stories have you liked? They could be about the search for love, that’s a big part of The Istanbul Puzzle, or they could be about the edge of our galaxy or about the struggle to stay alive in a modern city. I would love to know about the adventure stories you’ve liked.
This is the first in a series of four posts in the run up to the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle on ebook December 3rd and in paperback in many countries January 3rd. I truly look forward to you contribution.
A Brutal Murder. An Ancient Evil. A Secret Revealed.
This is the new tag line for The Jerusalem Puzzle
I sent my corrections to The Jerusalem Puzzle page proofs back to Harper Collins on schedule at 5am this morning. The proofs were a PDF document with 400 pages showing exactly how the book will look when it is released in paperback format 3rd January 2013 and in ebook format 3rd December, in a month and a half.
I listed corrections, words to be deleted mainly with some typos and a few insertions on twelve pages. This is probably the last time I will have a chance to make corrections before the book comes out.
I am excited and anxious. The book could do well, very well or badly. Welcome to the world of publishing. Being a writer is definitely not a steady job. The uncertainty, the expectations you have and the expectations of others, spoken and unspoken, all add to the pressure.
I don’t mean to underplay my excitement at having the second novel in the series published, I am simply being honest about how it feels on this journey.
There are some exciting things planned, I will be running a competition on this blog, and a different competition on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theistanbulpuzzle so do Like it if you are on Facebook. There is other stuff planned too.
Already a competition has started on the Authonomy, the aspiring writers site, to get short stories published along with my ebook next year http://blog.authonomy.com/
A series of announcements will be made in the run up to the ebook launch Dec 3rd.
You can Pre-Order The Jerusalem Puzzle paperback here on Amazon US (for all outside the UK)
You can Pre-Order The Jeriusalem Puzzle ebook here on Amazon US (for all outside the UK)
I truly appreciate all your support, and I want you to read The Jerusalem Puzzle. I won’t say what I think of it, but I will tell you my publishers Harper Collins have said many amazing things about it.
I am working on the page proofs of The Jerusalem Puzzle right now.
These are a pdf document with the pages as they will appear in the final book. I am deleting here and there, adding a word, but moving fast through them.
I will have them back to Harper Collins mid October.
I have also received good news on two other fronts, including the ebook of The Jerusalem Puzzle coming out December 3rd. When I get a link I will post it. The paperback will be out Jan 3rd.
Other countries will have a chance to buy The Jerusalem Puzzle at the Frankfurt Book Fair mid October. I don’t know what to expect. Expectations are one of the difficult areas of being a writer. You literally never know what is going to happen. Stay tuned for lots more news in October including something exciting I can’t talk about yet!
From the cover of The Jerusalem Puzzle
I completed the latest draft of The Jerusalem Puzzle two weeks ago.
On Monday the 3rd September I will start a 2 week edit of the complete 400 pages, incorporating some major changes as inspired by my new editor at Harper Collins.
The suggestions were general, think more about the ending, the relationship. They have challenged me to add depth to the relationship between Sean and Isabel and to heighten the ending to include something even more dramatic, which will resonate beyond the book itself.
I like the challenge of being edited. The first emotional reaction is to resent any interference and to fear the work involved in making the changes, but soon after I saw the benefits that these changes will bring.
Yesterday I started the edits for The Jerusalem Puzzle.
I received two pages of notes from my editor at Harper Collins in London on Monday. Her comments included many compliments “powerful – expertly brought to life,” which are encouraging, but I won’t go on any more about, and suggestions for three extra scenes.
The first will be where Sean explains in detail why he wants to go to Jerusalem. The second will be where Henry’s involvement is expanded. The final one, at the end, will be where discussions take place about what happened in Jerusalem.
There are also notes from HC on each page of the manuscript, which need to be considered. This is all about 6 weeks work, editing maybe 2-3 hrs a day. After this we will have something truly interesting for you for January release.
Thank you for staying with me on this journey.
If you would like to follow a series of posts on fiction writing for the 21st century sign up for updates on the right.
There will be one post a month on the progress of The Jerusalem Puzzle towards launch next January and one post a month on writing craft issues. Here is the first post on writing:
The image below is of the Italian hardback edition of The Istanbul Puzzle, which is all over Italy at the moment. It was launched June 21st. If you know anyone in Italy please tell them it is available there. Thanks.
I delivered The Jerusalem Puzzle to Harper Collins in London last Monday, by email. I had finished it the previous Thursday. I spent most of last weekend doing one final edit.
That was a hundred page a day edit. The kind of edit that drains something from you as you go on and on and on for endless hours each day.
But I did it. And I’m glad I did it. There were logical errors, which you see better when reading through a novel fast.
I fixed an issue in the middle about the dig in the old city of Jerusalem, which they visit in the novel, and I changed a big part of the ending too.
I spent about a year on The Jerusalem Puzzle from concept to fourth draft. I expect Harper Collins will come back in July with a series of suggestions as to how to tighten it up. These I will address during July and August. There may be more editorial suggestions in September too and then some copy editing changes in October, perhaps twice, and that will be it, I hope.
I am pleased with how The Jerusalem Puzzle turned out.
It may even be better than The Istanbul Puzzle! The Jerusalem Puzzle will be released January 17, 2013. It should be available in other languages after that. The Istanbul Puzzle is being translated into 9 languages.
I hope you enjoy The Jerusalem Puzzle when it comes out. I enjoyed creating it. If you would like to pre-order it from Amazon click here.
And I greatly appreciate every comment and kind word and recommendation you give for it.
I will be submitting an outline for The New York Puzzle to Harper Collins in the next 10 days. Once that is agreed I will start writing The New York Puzzle.
Below is a photo of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, which I took earlier this year. This is the main entrance to the city from the west. It features in a few scenes in The Jerusalem Puzzle.
I am right in the middle of editing The Jerusalem Puzzle. At present Sean and Isabel are in Cairo and there’s a lot going on.
One of the challenges for a contemporary mystery writer, who writes about such places as Jerusalem and Cairo, is that so much is in flux in these cities. Sure, I follow Egyptian newspapers and Israeli newspapers, and I have linked to one of each for you, their English language versions, and I read books and articles (see my reading list here on Goodreads), but glimpsing where these countries might be in 12 to 24 months is a real challenge.
There are deep pressures at work, some of which I witnessed when I visited the Palestinian territories, the Negev and Jerusalem earlier this year.
Some of the other considerations I must keep in mind are the religious views of the people in these countries and the right wing shifts, the violence and the polarisation taking place in many European countries.
I see my role as a storyteller, someone who reports what happens to people caught up in a serious escalation in this area.
I see the good and the evil and the impact of forces almost beyond our control.
I hope you will enjoy Sean and Isabel’s story as it unfolds in Jerusalem and Cairo.
Please wish me luck in the next few weeks as I finish my final personal edit of The Jerusalem Puzzle. After that Harper Collins will conduct a deep edit and I will be back to the manuscript again in July to work on it.
I wish you all the best with whatever you are working on and thank you for following the story of The Jerusalem Puzzle as it unfolds.
Last Friday I finished draft one and two of The Jerusalem Puzzle. I call it one and two because I go back every day and edit what I wrote the previous day.
The Jerusalem Puzzle is written!
On Monday I started on the next edit. I plan to have it finished by mid May, when I will send it to Harper Collins.
I was pleased that both yesterday and the day before I was able to do my target of editing ten pages a day. This means, for me, that it’s fairly smooth already. That doesn’t mean to say that there won’t be changes and suggestions from Harper Collin’s editors, but it’s a lot smoother than The Istanbul Puzzle was at this stage.
I guess writing day after day, year after year is finally paying off.
As for the novel, I like it, if I’m allowed to say that. The main mysteries that were held over from The Istanbul Puzzle, what’s in that book they found, for instance, are solved in The Jerusalem Puzzle. Someone at the heart of the story dies too, but I can’t tell you any more about that.
It’s set mainly in Jerusalem, with some chapters in Cairo and the Judaean Hills. It’s about contemporary Israel too, with the very real threat of war hanging over the country, a threat that comes alive during the novel.
The Jerusalem Puzzle is due for release January 17, 2013. There may be an early chapter released at Christmas by Harper Collins.
I hope you enjoy it when it comes out. Next month, May, I will be sending an outline to the next in the series to Harper Collins. Once that is agreed I will tell you the title. We might also have the cover of The Jerusalem Puzzle to show you around then.
Thanks for all your feedback and support. I truly appreciate it.