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Reading and Writing as Women @Link Wanderlust

Has anyone asked you: “Do your parents know what you are reading?”

Soniah Kamal has been asked this question and she recreates the experience of reading forbidden books in her essay Girls from Good Families. Reading used to be an act of rebellion and still is in some parts of the world.

One day in the late 1990s after I’d married and moved to the U.S., I was reading a short story in a literary journal when I came upon the word “vagina.” I slammed the journal down. My stomach churned, my cheeks flushed, I was dizzy. My reaction perplexed me. After all, a vagina is simply a female body part, so why was I mortified? Iqbal’s genie, who I’d thought long excised, seemed to have only been buried and now leapt to life. I decided I was going to write through my discomfort and shame and battle both the genie’s censorship as well as my self-censorship by writing a story with “vagina” in the very first sentence. And so was birthed Papa’s Girl, a story set in the brothels of Bangkok, where a young boy is witness to his father’s dallying with a child prostitute and is consequently traumatized for life. It eventually appeared in the anthology A Letter from India.

If reading is an evil, then what of writing? It definitely is if you are writing about sex. Kamal’s story makes you think about women the trophies and the honor of their families vs the women who sit down at their table to write chic lit, dick lit or quick lit. Writing in that sense becomes a political act as not every woman can click her keys like E.L.James. Many times women have to agonize over writing about home truths. It may be the twenty first century in some parts of the world, but darkness looms where women play mute spectator more often than not.



Visual Friday: Most Loved Book Series of Our Time

Most Loved Book Series of Our Time

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Readers Can’t Digest – Week 45 (29-Jun to 05-Jul)

1. Apple Ordered to Pay $450 Million for e-Book Refundsgiphy








2. Scribd Starts to Banish Indie Authors from its Catalog

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3. Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James now worth £37m










4.  Amazon UK has launched Prime Now in London, which will allow customers to receive purchases within one hour of ordering them
















5. Graphic Novel, Comics Market Rises to $935 Million in 2014

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Readers Can’t Digest – Week 43 (15-Jun to 21-Jun)

1.  Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s will this autumn release a series of colouring books for a crossover audience based on classic novels












2. Reviews of E L James’ ‘Grey’ have expressed mixed views about what it reveals about its protagonist

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3. Amazon is making 12,000 single-issue Marvel comic books available on the Kindle store










4.  Hodder & Stoughton is to publish a “dark, exhilarating and movingly honest” memoir from comic actor Nick Frost








5. France to Be 2017 Guest of Honor at Frankfurt Book Fair











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Readers Can’t Digest – Week 42 (8-Jun to 14-Jun)

1. Penguin Random House has confirmed that Kent Police are investigating the alleged theft of a finished copy of E L James’ forthcoming Fifty Shades of Grey novel Grey









2. Paddington creator Michael Bond among the top book industry figures named in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours








3. Babies learn faster using iPads than books, according to a neuroscientist leading research into the issue














4. Penguin Random House’s Michael Joseph division has signed a book by Felix Kjellberg, better known as YouTube star PewDiePie













5.  Many agents and publishers have admitted that beginning your book with the main protagonist waking up in bed will be rejected 99.5% of the time












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The Case of the Missing Manuscripts

Just recently Game of Thrones, the very popular TV series, modeled after George R.R. Martin’s books, had the dubious distinction of being leaked in part.The first four episodes of the much anticipated fifth season were made available just before the season premiere. It happens rather often in television. Someone decides to leak a few episodes. But if you thought books weren’t attractive enough for such people, you are in for a shock. We have a history (and recent news) of manuscripts being leaked or stolen before publication! 50 Shades of Grey

This June, the fourth book in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy got leaked. (It seems that this is going to be a trilogy with six parts.)
Just over a week before the release of the book, it was noticed at the manuscript had disappeared. Details are unclear, but it is thought to be a printed copy. There are worries that extracts from the book will be sold to unscrupulous news agencies.

Obviously, the book can also be pirated, but it will surely be cheaper and easier just to wait for a week, then buy an e-book and remove the DRM if the intention is piracy.


Twilight, the inspiration for the 50 Shades of Grey series, also experienced an unplanned publication while Ms. Meyer was busy with the first draft of Midnight Sun — basically the same story in fading illumination again, but from the perspective of Edward Cullen, the vampire.At that time Stephenie Meyer felt that she could not continue with the book. Some considered nominating the leaker/thief for the Nobel prize of Prevented Literature.      

The Harry Potter Series

Mr. Potter has been at the receiving end of theft more than once. Back in 2003 an intrepid forklift driver stole some pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while stacking boxes. He later tried to sell these for a mere £25,000. The British newspaper The Sun arranged for police intervention, probably realizing that if they published these stolen pages, they would be vilified by all the little Harry Potters out there. And messing with magicians is even more dangerous than potential law suits. Then in 2007,Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book of the Harry Potter series, was leaked inits entirety, 759 pages, on to the Internet. Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows The publishers tried to stem the leak, but nothing can be removed from the Internet once it has appeared.

George R.R. Martin’s Leaked Letter

Spoiler Alert: Some folks at InstaScribe did not read the whole article because they still want to read and watch, and speculate for themselves! Someone got hold of a 1993 letter that Martin wrote. In this missive to his publishers, he outlined the idea for the book(s) and who will fall in love with whom, and who will die. Perhaps it would have been much easier to just say whom he planned to keep alive. 220px-GeorgeRRMartinCW98_wb Quoting from the above mentioned article, “The letter to Martin’s publisher leaked when Waterstones Books originally tweeted photos of the document, which were later deleted. But, a Tumblr user did fans a solid favor and re-posted the photos.” If you prefer to stay ignorant, don’t click here.

J.D. Salinger’s short stories

Mr. Salinger was a complicated man and we are in two minds as to whether his case fits our highly specific and scientific genre. As you might know, after the great success of A Catcher in the Rye, Salinger started to withdraw from public life. He hated the interference in his personal life that the fame of being recognized brought. (It would be interesting to know what he thought of the trend today where being recognized is what makes you famous. Think of the Big Brother shows, for example.) Catcher was published in 1951. In 1965 he published his last original work and tried to drop out of sight.   Then in 2013, four years after his death, three unpublished short stories were leaked. These stories were available in various research libraries but not to the public. It was, Salinger felt, his right to decide who may read what he wrote. In reaction to the publication, or leak-ation, it was said “Don’t get me wrong… I’m going to read them. It just gave me pause to consider what an old man wanted in his dying days and how the public doesn’t really care. Maybe Salinger was right about us all after all.”

Political leaks

No, we are not really talking about wikileaks as such. In February of 2011, “In Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years” a manuscript by Frank Bailey a former Palin confidant was leaked. The reason for the leak is unclear. Unlike in the case of Mr. Salinger, Bailey wanted to have his book published and it saw the light in May 2011. The leak, it seems, hastened the publishing of the book.


The stealing of manuscripts is not something new. It has been going on forever. One example would be from the sixteenth century. Back then without Google Maps, or other readily available information, maps of the new world were highly sought after. We will also find older examples of this if we continue digging. Like Zen Scribe says, “People don’t change; just their way of doing the same thing does.” Back in 2007, a whole host of TV shows had their premiere or season premiere episode leaked. The question was then asked if this was not done on purpose as part of an unconventional marketing attempt. It is also a valid question when it comes to leaked books. Seeing that the 50 Shades manuscript was in printed format, it does not look like an attempt to facilitate mass “leaking.” Coupled with the fact that the book is now in the news, just days before its release, it does make you wonder. Add to this mix that it is “exactly” what happened to Midnight Sun, the inspiration of 50 Shades…. Whether you agree or disagree with wikileaks, you can understand why they feel that the public has a right to know. After all they are the employers of government. But do we have the right to disrespect J.D. Salinger’s desire for privacy? Is leaking the private and confidential letter between Martin and his publishers really in public interest? Now, if someone would kindly leak my unwritten manuscript so that it can also become a best seller before it is even conceived…

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Christian Fiction

The number of fiction genres has multiplied exponentially during the last decade or so. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the number of books available in each genre has multiplied and this makes it seem as if the number of genres multiplied. Self publishing by way of e-books has made this possible.

For example, look at how the market is flooded with Vampire and Zombie literature (I hear that some of you are objecting to the use of vampire, zombie and literature in the same sentence.)

One of these genres that has been around a long time, but has become increasingly popular and lucrative is the so-called Christian novel. Christian fiction is in a sense unique. At InstaScribe, we are not aware of something similar aimed at Muslims, Hindus or other world religions.

What is a Christian Fiction?

According to our friend, Wikipedia, “A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both, or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.”

These novels are not bound to a specific time frame, which means that Jesus, the Twelve Disciples and Moses are not “forced” to make an appearance in every book. Sometimes biblical persons or specific biblical events do feature in the book but often the story occurs in a completely biblical setting.

The more modern books often play a role in disciplining or teaching Christians how to live as Christians. How do the Christian characters in the story deal with challenges and stumbling blocks like murder, depression and failure? How do they deal with success?

The History of the Christian Novel

Interestingly, this genre is not new at all, not even from the previous century. Ever heard of Dante’s Divine Comedy?  This book that dates back to the very early 1300s is considered to be Christian allegorical literature.

Sure, allegorical literature and the modern Christian novel are not the same thing, but these allegories of the Christian life paved the way for the modern Christian novel. John Bunyan with his The Pilgrim’s Progress is another example of Christian allegorical literature.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring is...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Some readers will be shocked to know that The Lord of the Rings  trilogy, while considered to fall under the mainstream fantasy genre, is filled with Christian themes. Gandalf and Saruman, the two opposing wizards, can be compared to Christ and Satan. They are not direct equivalents, but both share traits, goals and experiences with their Biblical counterparts. The One Ring can be seen as a symbol of the evil that enslaves humanity as taught in the Bible.

The Modern Christian Novel

Arguably, the first popular Christian novel was Ben Hur: A tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace published in 1880. We are guessing that there must have been other Christian novel published earlier as they were not successful, they have now effectively disappeared.

More recently, the Christian Novel was made popular and acceptable, again by Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (1979) and This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti(1985).

It is argued that a specific conservative Christian subculture, often associated with the so called Bible Belt in America,  provides both the source or motivation and the market.

Conservative Christians take the Bible as literal truth and the infallible Word of God. This does not mean that they take every single thing as literally true. Some do believe that all of creation was created in seven days, each day with 24 hours, while others see the seven days as analogous to seven eras or epochs. (Obviously this is not meant to be an exhaustive and complete explanation!)

Christians, the Bible teaches, should be in the world, to be witnesses and not of the world (and its evilness.) The Christian desire for holiness has often led to a withdrawal from the world, even though this is ironic and contrary to the Biblical teaching.

In part, the desire to be holy, motivates Christians to read Christian fiction rather than any other fiction. Other Christians “merely” avoid books that feature un-Biblical or anti-Christian themes. I would argue that Dean R. Koontz and Stephen King whose books often feature evil and demonic creatures or powers would fall in this category. Fifty Shades of Grey with its perversion would be another example.

Some popular authors

Even the Christian fiction genre has its superstars. At the turn of the century nothing was as popular as the Left Behind series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye which deals with, as Wikipedia puts it,  the “Christian dispensationalist End Times: the pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world.

(ZenScribe: Even if you do not agree with this theological position you have to admire the ability of this Wikipedia article to combine so many weird words in one sentence!)

Another popular author is Francine Rivers. She started out writing and publishing historical romance novels. After becoming a Christian she started writing Christian novels due to the influence of the Bible.

Rivers uses her novels to illustrate Biblical themes like love and redemption in “modern” settings. She creates stories that modern readers can identify with. The characters experience struggles that are easily identified with by her readers.

The Atonement Child, for example, deals with the experiences and reactions of a Christian girl who was raped.

Ted Dekker is another popular Christian writer. Well, he is one of those authors whom you either like or not. Personally I do not like his writing, or more accurately, I do not enjoy reading him. My friends who do cannot understand why I am so stupid!

Karen Kingsbury has also been around for some time. She has authored in the order of 50 books and has more than 13 million in print. (We would love to know how many of these are in e-ink!)

Major Challenges

If you hold the Bible to be the true and infallible Word of God, you will have to write your story within the limits it sets. Zombies do not turn into Zombies every full moon, for example, so other genres also have these guiding boundaries.

The difference is that the Bible is seen as an absolute and not a mere guideline. You might somehow be able to sell a Were-Zombie to readers of the Zombie genre, and maintain being true to that genre.

The Bible does not, for example, ever condone abortion. This does not mean Christians do not abort their pregnancies, but your book cannot provide this as Christian or Biblical advice.

Another challenge Christian fiction writers face is portraying the character’s relationship with God. Christians maintain that the Bible is not so much about a bunch of rules that should be obeyed but about relationships between God and man and between people.

In Christianity, God is considered to be Three persons in one. This truth is one that the best theologians struggle to explain and understand. God does not suffer from multiple personality disorder. How can He have three distinct personalities (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), but only be one person?

Christian fiction can fall into the trap of over simplifying these kinds of theological issues.


Should non-Christians read Christian fiction? My answer is a resounding yes. Whatever book one reads, she consciously or sub-consciously argues in favor of a specific worldview or philosophy. Ayn Rand is a well known example.

My point is that nearly every book out there will be written from a worldview or philosophy differing from yours. Louis L ‘Amour is branded as a Western writer even though his characters seem to embrace some kind of Humanistic Individualism combined with the American Dream. (Hard work will lead to success.)

Reading Christian fiction is also a way to learn about Christianity and it is not as mind-bogglingly difficult as reading theological treatises.

What is your opinion on religious fiction? And why do we not have something similar in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other World Religions?