28 June 2012


Probably for the same reason I do.

Fergus and me
I need someone who will listen to my latest chapter without making the comment that it stinks.

When I receive a rejection letter, Fergus sits on it!

He also listens to my incessant mumblings about ‘THE PLOT’ without complaint.

He doesn’t mind being ignored while writing is in progress.

He takes being shut, albeit accidently, in the linen closet, in his stride.

Why is Fergus such a wonderful pussycat being?  Because he thinks this absentminded, mad woman who spends her days talking to herself while tapping on a flat, black piece of plastic is the best thing after a tin of the finest tuna.

Probably for the same reason I do.

Hi, I'm Fergus
There’s company 24/7.  A plus in winter because the heater will be on all day.  There’s also someone on tap when I feel like a game of hide and seek, not to mention my morning walk to check out the cows in the paddock and ducks in the dam.

Breakfast is served at 6am sharp 7 days a week.  Tuna in springwater.  I lovvve tuna in springwater.  Purr Purr.

This is my laptop
There's an abundance of places to sit as well as sleep.  Printer, laptop, laptop bag, atop reams of A4 paper, IN tray, bookcases, window sill, desk, swivel chair.

Of course, this all comes at a price.  You have to appear to be listening and interested while being read to.  I know it’s difficult but falling asleep at this point in time is not recommended.  And never get up and jump off the desk right after the chapter is finished.  Your writer might think you didn’t like her work.  Better to hang around for a minute or two and purrrr. 
And then, of course, there's those rejection letters that arrive in the post from time to time.  Never a good moment, but I've found that scratching them ferociously before sitting on them seems to make my writer feel better because she always gives me a treat.

I think most writers are a bit odd and mines no exception, mumbling away to herself, while completely ignoring me.  At first it upset me.  I wasn't used to being ignored, but I've since come to realize that without this type of behaviour I'd never have a moments piece.  Let alone get through the day.  After all, living with a writer is tiring work.
And then there's my IN try
And on the same note.  In my experience writers tend to be absentminded creatures so if you happen to get shut in a cupboard or closet it’s a bonus.  You won’t be bothered for at least an hour.

And, of course, the all important printer to catch the morning sun

My office chair.  I chose red because it goes well with the grey, lilac tones of my coat
It takes a long time to train one’s writer in cat ownership.  And I’m happy to say that my writer is making progress, albeit slowly.  In the meantime it’s not so bad because, let’s face it, I’M BOSS!

My favourite vantage point, atop the bookcase, where I survey my realm
I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Writing Blogs.

24 June 2012


by David George Richards

 David George Richards has created a wonderful character in Helga Burbeck, a German countess who risks her life by smuggling Jews out of Germany during WWII.  The pace is fast as you are swept into Helga’s life and the dire situations she finds herself in.  You will also meet Captain Taylor who loves Helga and searches for her after the war.  This is a superb and gripping novella.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

18 June 2012


This morning we are travelling to Israel to talk to author and activist, Zahava Englard, about her recently released book, The Gilboa Iris.  Zahava, welcome to The Perfect Plot.

The Gilboa Iris is your first sojourn into fiction.  Please tell us about it.

ZAHAVA: It’s all about the passion. Like every Israeli living in Israel, I’m passionate about the land. The Gilboa Iris tells a story not just about the passion between the two main characters, but passion between the characters and the Land of Israel. Perhaps it is because we live under a constant existential threat that Israel is a country steeped in passion, where we live for each moment because one never knows what the next moment will bring.

Over the years, I’ve visited too many families in Israel who had lost loved ones - either in an Arab terrorist attack, or while on active duty in the IDF. One hopes to give a measure of comfort and strength to the bereaved. But what I always found, without exception, is that each of these families provided the strength and encouragement to all who visited THEM. They had such a high level of faith, courage and strength, that out of the depths of their despair when they would recite the blessing, Baruch Dayan Ha-emet, (bless the true judge), they meant it.

After one such visit a couple of years ago, my mind wandered (having my own two sons in the army) to a place a mother never wants it to wander.  I thought about how I would react if God forbid..........Would I be as brave as these families? Would I be able to summon up that level of faith? Strength? Courage?

I explored what I thought my reaction would be through a character that I conjured up in my mind, later to become the female protagonist of The Gilboa Iris, Dara Harow.  Her reaction was not a pretty one. It was raw and unrestrained.  It was unpleasant - at times disturbing. It was human and it was passionate.

Before I knew it, I had a whole scenario playing out in my mind with "Dara," a young idealistic American student, who travels to Israel to live her dream and must deal with the deadly consequences of Arab terror and global jihad. And with "Roni Ben-Ari," the symbol of the type of courage and unrelenting hope that can be found in the modern day Israeli.

I don’t like to dwell on despair, so I allowed the tale in my head to weave its way through yarns of action, romance, suspense, even humor, culminating on a note of hope and optimism.

I wanted to transport the reader, invite him or her into the very passionate core of the Israeli. The mainstream media does not paint an accurate or fair picture of Israel and of Israelis. So…In writing The Gilboa Iris, I wanted people to see what I see, what Israelis see and what needs to be seen. I wanted the reader to be submerged in the lives of Dara, Roni and Uri - to feel what my characters felt as if it were palpable - to have the passion permanently imprinted in one's heart.

And you certainly have done that, Zahava.  It’s such a moving story.  And the settings are also interesting.  You take the reader from Israel’s Gilboa Mountains to New York City as well as Germany’s Zehlendorf Forest.  How did you go about researching these magnificent places?
ZAHAVA: While The Gilboa Iris is not an autobiography, I incorporated some of my own experiences into the story. For example, I spent my seventeenth year working on a kibbutz in the Gilboa region of Israel. I therefore, have an intimate knowledge of kibbutz life and felt it was the perfect type of setting to begin the story. As for New York City, I was born and bread there. And with respect to Germany, I depended a lot on Google. I must mention here that it didn’t hurt that my mother was born in Germany, and I was fairly acquainted with the language and the culture.

Actually, I wondered whether you had spent time working on a kibbutz because those scenes were full of detailed.  I felt like I was there, and in that hot sun!  And my next question is about the title.  Can you tell us how you came to choose it?

ZAHAVA: The Gilboa Iris is a wild flower that grows in the Gilboa region of Israel, just south of the Galilee. For me it signifies hope since this purple hued flower miraculously sprouts each year without fail in what is considered an extremely arid environment. The Gilboa Iris is a tale about undying love, passion and relentless hope.  I utilized this symbol as a recurring theme throughout the book. Dara held on to the very first Gilboa Iris that Roni gave her, treasuring it and preserving it throughout the years as if she drew her very strength from it. I also considered the title, The Gilboa Iris to be somewhat mysterious, summoning the natural curiosity of the reader.

Well, it worked because I immediately went searching on the internet to find out more about the Gilboa Mountains, and the iris.

Not only romance, but intrigue and suspense. A great book! It must have been difficult to keep all the strings going and wrap them up. Did you use a story board or have an outline to keep it organized?

ZAHAVA:   Surprisingly, no. The story of The Gilboa Iris had been milling about my head for several months before I finally decided to put it to paper. The outline was embedded in my mind. What I hadn’t worked out, practically wrote itself as I typed. As for the rest, my characters seemed to finish for me, as the story took on a life of its own. The only notes I jotted down for myself was when researching various facts for accuracy or when delving into unfamiliar territory, such as missile technology or how to disable a car without destroying the engine.
Dara Harow and Roni Ben-Ari are both very strong characters; did you base them, (or pieces of them), on characters in your life?

ZAHAVA: What I keep denying to all my friends who have read The Gilboa Iris, is that the character of Dara Harow is not me or based on my life. They usually respond with a knowing laugh. Of course there are certain elements of my personality that are naturally present in Dara, but for the most part, I will stubbornly maintain that the only thing she and I have in common is our long dark hair! As for Roni Ben-Ari, I wish I had known someone of his caliber! But, regrettably, I can’t say that I have. There was however, a young man on my kibbutz who was a bit of a brooder and not too friendly at first. His eyes were striking as well, but the similarities between him and Roni Ben-Ari end there.

I agree.  A character is made up from many sources, such as the striking eyes of the brooding young man you met while working on your kibbutz.  I think our minds must store these things as we go about our lives.  Very convenient if you happen to be a writer!

Do you have a favourite scene, Zahava?

ZAHAVA:  Believe it or not, it was not the spicy romance scenes, the flirty fun chapters or the suspenseful intrigue. My favorite scene was the saddest one in the novel, and what was the most difficult to write. It was the chapter that had Dara face the most devastating consequences of Arab terror, depicting her very real, very pained and at the same time very indignant and  passionate reaction. I wrote it out of some deep and sorrow-filled place, impressed upon me from my own experiences after meeting the other victims of terror those who were left behind to pick up the pieces.

I remember that scene well.  It’s imprinted on my mind.  It would have been very difficult to write and is a tribute to you.

Do you have a favourite character in The Gilboa Iris?  And if you do, why?

ZAHAVA: I can’t pick just one! I love all three of my main characters, Dara, Roni and Uri. Each are well defined, uniquely real, and believable with his and her own set of flaws yet each having a strength of character that engages the reader, drawing you in to find out what will happen next. Okay, I’m obviously biased, but they are credible, intense, compelling, imperfect, scarred, sexy and fun! In developing them, I became them. They are so much a part of me.

All three characters are uniquely real.  I got quite taken up with their lives, and I remember being particularly annoyed at Uri when he and Dara first met.

Is there a message in The Gilboa Iris that you want your readers to grasp?

ZAHAVA: Triumph over despair and holding on to hope at all costs. I like happy endings. Not fairy-tale happy endings, but happy endings with the right blend of realism, perhaps…bitter sweet realism and that sense of longing coupled with hope, for that hard to reach tranquil bliss in our Land of Israel. And, as I mentioned previously, I wanted to acquaint the reader with the true heart of the Israeli and to invite him or her into a world that is not portrayed through the international media to get the real picture.

Well, I think you have gone a long way in doing that, Zahava.

Your first book, Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea, is non-fiction.  Can you tell us why you chose fiction for your second book?

ZAHAVA: I find that people are more amenable to new ideas and different outlooks if they are not force-fed. The unfamiliar is easily understood and more palatable when one can visualize and arrive at a particular realization through the creative contours of a well-written story.

And a wonderful way to show what life in Israel is like for Israelis.
What activity (cause, charity, organization) consumes your time when you’re not writing?

ZAHAVA: I have been involved in raising awareness as well as raising funds for humanitarian and security needs throughout Israel, in particular in Judea and Samaria. I have also had the privilege of joining a theater group in Israel known as Raise Your Spirits, whose productions help raise funds for victims of terror.
What did you find the hardest part in writing a novel after writing non-fiction?

ZAHAVA: How all-consuming it is. I literally became The Gilboa Iris. My friends often joked about the far-away look in my eyes when I was supposedly engaged in conversation with them, but in actuality, was planning out the next chapter in my mind. I became my characters. When they were happy, I was happy. When they were sad, I was sad. There was no division, no boundaries.

What is your favourite method when you write?  Computer, ipad, pen and pencil?

ZAHAVA: The computer is my favorite method when writing. I type much faster than I can write and found it to be the only way I can keep up with all the ideas racing through my mind.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

ZAHAVA:  The longstanding advice of writing about what you know is advice one should stick with. When delving into new territory, quality research is essential and there are no short-cuts. Most important of all, is to feel passionate about what you write and don’t hold back.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us, Zahava?

ZAHAVA: As much as it is my dream for my novel to go viral, and sure, to be made into a movie (I say that with a huge grin), it has been a thrill just to have been recognized as a quality writer by my publisher at Gefen Publishing House and to be given an opportunity to put my heart out there to share with others. Because that is what The Gilboa Iris is a very huge piece of my heart.

Well, I think you’ve written a marvelous book, Zahava, that’s not only filled with romance and suspense, but is also a window into life in Israel.  Congratulations and thank you so much for being with us today.

About the Author:
A native of New York, Zahava Englard lived in Teaneck, NJ, before moving with her family to
Israel in 2006. An outspoken activist in the United States on behalf of Israel, she served as
trustee on the executive board of One Israel Fund and as its executive director. Presently Zahava
lives in Israel. Her writing includes Settling for More: From Jersey to Judea, and she lectures in
the United States and Israel about her books, Jewish activism, and her passion for Israel’s wellbeing.
This is her first novel.

The Gilboa Iris is available in paperback, ebook and nook formats at the following websites:-

And you can learn more about Zahava Englard here:-

ZAHAVA’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE:-  www.zahavaenglard.com

FACEBOOK:-  Passionate about Israel,

FACEBOOK:-  Zahava D. Englard.

by Zahava Englard

Dara Harow, daughter of a rocket physicist for the US Department of Defense, sends her parents into a tailspin of dual-loyalty anxiety when she plans to wed the brooding and mysterious Roni Ben-Ari, an Israeli officer in an elite counter-terrorist unit.  Yet Dara's budding perfect world is shattered when the terror that she thought she left behind in the States catches up to her in Israel with devastating results, and before long realizes she must come to terms with the shock lie about the one man she trusted most.

The Gilboa Iris is a blazing tale of romance, deceit, and international intrigue.  Its rich characters and explosive plot take readers from Israel's Gilboa Mountains to the streets of New York, to Germany's Zehlendorf Forest, and back to Israel amid seminal events that rocked the world between 1982 and 2002.

17 June 2012


by Zahava Englard

Spanning the years 1982 to 2002, the settings in The Gilboa Iris are many including Israel’s Gilboa Mountains, New York City and Germany’s Zehlendorf Forest.

It’s the love story between Dara Harow, an American, and Roni Ben-Ari, an Israeli soldier.  They meet and fall in love on an Israeli kibbutz, but little do they know how their love will be challenged.  The first of these challenges is Dara’s loyalty to her parents who disapprove of Roni.  Many more challenges follow, creating a spine tingling mystery.

The characters are well developed to the point that, at times, you will likely feel Dara’s happiness, loneliness and fear.  Her time in New York City is particularly chilling and suspenseful.  If I have one criticism it would be that the author did not continue this intensity as Dara tried to return to Israel.

This is Zahava Englard’s first sojourn into the realm of fiction and given The Gilboa Iris, I believe it would be a travesty if it was her last.  This is a wonderful story full of romance, mystery and intrigue.

10 June 2012


Writing a novel is a commitment of one, perhaps two years of your time and energy so no wonder that, from time to time, you feel you're unable to write.  We can make a lot of excuses for writer’s block so I believe it’s important to give some thought as to what is actually causing it.  Is it because you’re facing a particularly difficult scene and you’re not sure how to proceed?  Or perhaps the next scene isn’t too exciting and you just can’t get your teeth into it.  Whatever the reason you come up with there are a number of things you can do about it.

Ignore it:  If you have a daily writing schedule you can ignore the block and carry on.  It doesn't have to be writing.  You could do some editing or research instead, or go over your character lists.

Concentrate on one of your other projects.  Or start one:  If you have some other projects that you are working on why not put your efforts into one of those instead. 

Skip the problem that you have identified as causing your writer’s block:  If you have identified that it is a particular scene that is the problem then work on another part of your book.  Or alternatively, do some editing instead.

Try writing in a different location:  I like coffee shops or the back garden (in summer time!)

If all else fails, do what I do and go for a walk.  The change of scene might inspire you.

My walk takes me up this hill.  It doesn't look steep from here but it's quite a hike! 

 At the top I sit down and look at this scenery



I have a few discussions with birds on the way

A Crimson Rosella
 and an
Eastern Rosella
Found in the eastern part of the country.

 Galah's having their breakfast.  They're found in most parts of Australia.  Quite bold and not to be disturbed by the likes of me.


Mr Magpie wanting me to leave his patch of ground.
And a pigeon.  Wild or an escapee.  I couldn't find him in my bird book so he remains a mystery!

And, of course, a kangaroo.  He’s the hopping dot in the middle of the picture!

What did you say?  Writer's block?  What's that?

5 June 2012


There are benefits to writing each day.  Not only will you get your book finished, but you will keep your unconscious mind thinking about your story.

Or are you waiting for that spark of inspiration?  In my experience it only comes knocking when I’m writing.  And that’s one of the reasons I write every day.  The other reasons are many and varied from total absorption in my plot and characters, to being compulsive and determined to finish the book.

Of course, with everything else we have to fit into our days, writing, more often than not, will be the activity we can’t fit in.  But even half an hour on a daily basis will be beneficial to your writing and your story.  So if you can find a little window at some point during your day or evening, take it.  Set a reasonable goal for the time you have and you will be surprised what you accomplish.

Earlier I mentioned your unconscious mind and I mentioned this because even with only a minimal amount of actual writing time each day, your unconscious mind will still be working away long after you have finished.