Kind Things People Have Said

The Color of Light trade paperback

So, THE COLOR OF LIGHT has been out for a while now, and lots of people are reading it and saying very nice things about it. Four bloggers put it on their Best of 2013 lists, which was incredibly kind of them. There are dozens of four and five star reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Here are some of the things they’ve been saying:

“One of the most arresting novels I have read this year. Vampires use thrall to put people under their spell, and this book did the same to me. Rafe Sinclair is the type of character that readers are going to love, hate, and feel all spectrum of emotions for, but the end result will be that he fascinates them, regardless of how they feel.” —Great Imaginations

“Geez, this book. Y’all I’m going to be completely honest here, this book had me from the start and pulled me along for the ride! It’s a cliche, I know, but I could not put it down! It seriously pained me to have to DO THINGS other than read this book.”
—Must Read Faster

“It’s haunting, it’s lonely, it’s romantic, it’s wistful, it makes your heart feel. I cannot even tell you how much I loved this book. I literally couldn’t put this book down.” —Sara’s Organized Chaos

“Shankman swept me up with the tender melancholy of her story. Combining a vampire novel and a book about the Holocaust was a brave move on Shankman’s part; however, she treated the subject matter with the sensitivity and care it deserved. She used the vampire story to actually highlight the lasting pain the Holocaust caused. Shankman writes beautifully using artistic imagery. The relationships between light, dark and color are explored through the strengths and failures of the characters.
THE COLOR OF LIGHT is an ambitious novel, combining art, vampires, and one of the darkest chapters in our history. It’s a book unlike any I’ve read and I highly recommend it.”
—Book-alicious Mama

“In the end, the story itself is a work of art, and what we come away with is a complete portrait, so haunting, we can scarcely pull our eyes away.” —The Jewish Week

“Achingly romantic. The story swept me up in it’s tender melancholy. I’d recommend reading it for the intelligent take on a vampire love story.” — A Bookish Whimsy

“THE COLOR OF LIGHT is a poignant love story that brings us into the lives of Manhattan art students, Holocaust victims, and vampires. That Shankman can blend fact and fiction and make it all ring true is a testament to her fine writing.”
—The Jewish Standard

“Her writing is atmospheric, lively, and engaging. Her descriptions about art, and an artist’s passion for creation is incredible. This is a book that made me want to be a struggling artist in 1990’s NYC. As someone with little to no artistic inclination, that is a hallmark of strong writing to my mind. I would never have expected so much from a novel that is about Nazis and vampires, but Helen Maryles Shankman has created a must-read here with THE COLOR OF LIGHT.”
—Ageless Pages Reviews

“Shankman’s writing is beautiful, and filled with artistic imagery. The complex relationships between light, dark, and color are explored in the strengths and failures of each of the characters and the way they relate to each other. THE COLOR OF LIGHT is an impressive and ambitious novel combining art, vampires, and one of the most painful chapters in human history. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it.” —Books Without Any Pictures

“I don’t have enough words to describe the luminosity of this novel.” —Svetlana’s Reads and Views

“THE COLOR OF LIGHT by Helen Maryles Shankman is an easy to read, compelling novel which is both deep and engaging. Ms. Shankman uses her writing skills, as well as her considerable knowledge of the art world, to bring us a story which is flowing and interesting.” —Man of La Book

#140 on Kindle

You can buy the book here.

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Blog Hop~What I Write, and Why

The great Jean Naggar, agent extraordinaire as well as author of Sipping From the Nile, the haunting and lyrical memoir of her enchanted childhood in Egypt, graciously tagged me to come along on this blog hop. Be sure to visit her blog at Jeannaggar.com!

In the Land of Armadillos

What I am working on

In the autumn of 2008, my mother’s illness, in remission for so long, took a turn for the worse; in the middle of phone conversations, she would drift away, and I would be left talking to the ether. Within a couple of weeks, she stopped speaking altogether. For me and my family, it became a terrible kind of waiting game; was this the end? Or would some miracle intervene, some magic drug awake her from her endless dreaming, and bring her back to us, to the land of the living?

In this space of time—it was the days leading up to Halloween—I wrote my first short story. It was called The Partizans. In brief, two children grow up next door to each other in the village of Wlodawa, Poland, just before World War II. The boy runs away and joins the army, the girl stays behind with her family. The war begins. As the SS lead the Jews out to the forest to be executed—taking the girl and her family with them—a ghostly band of creatures, half-animal and half-human, descends upon the planned massacre and…well, I’ll let you read it for yourself.

Story after story came to me in this way. A thread of my mother’s life—my parents are both Holocaust survivors—would be woven into a plot. Characters—my grandfather the saddlemaker, and Selinger, the German chief of the Adampol labor camp—found a way to pop up in every story. There was always magic; I can’t seem to tell a story without magic. Soon, I began incorporating my father’s experiences as well.

Some of them were picked up by a variety of very fine journals and magazines; The Kenyon Review, JewishFiction.net, Cream City Review. Soon I had a series of linked stories that I call In the Land of Armadillos. And since my background is in art, I am tinkering with the idea of adding some illustrations. (You can tell me what you think.)

In my stories, the actions of a tailor’s wayward wife save the snobbish inhabitants of an underground bunker; the Messiah appears in a little boy’s bedroom to report that he is quitting; a particularly cold-blooded SS officer dedicates himself to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a young man shows up at a Jewish-owned grist mill in the middle of the night, claiming to be the Golem, ready to be put to work; a little girl is hidden with the biggest anti-Semite in the district and his talking dog, Fallada. Weaving in and out of these tales are the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, German Commandant of the forced labor camp at Adampol Palace, and Soroka the saddlemaker, Reinhart’s favorite Jewish craftsman. To Reinhart, Soroka is that rarest thing of all in a totalitarian regime, a man who will tell him what he really thinks.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I wish I belonged to a genre! I seem to hopscotch around Horror, Jewish Fiction, Magical Realism, Paranormal Romance, and Literary Fiction. (I spent my entire childhood buried in Holocaust novels, superhero comic books and Stephen King. I guess there’s no real surprises here.)

Why do I write what I write?
It wasn’t a choice, it was an epiphany.

It could be related to my religious roots in midrashic tradition…or perhaps it’s because the Holocaust was so profoundly horrific, illogical, enormous and chaotic that I needed to exert some form of control over it. We say that World War II ended in 1945. But in truth, the Holocaust reached out its long arms to infect my childhood, and, I suspect, the childhood of many thousands of other survivors’ children. For me, writing about it, with all its facets of comedy, horror, and humanity, just seems necessary.

How does my writing process work?
I’m a slowpoke; I aspire to Graham Greene’s famous goal of 500 words a day.

With butterflies of excitement flitting in my belly, I sit down at the computer after the kids leave for school. First I attend to correspondence and social networks. When I’m all Tweeted and FB’d out, I switch to the computer that isn’t connected to the internet, situated in front of a window that overlooks my neighbors park-like property. There, between sentences, I watch the seasons go by and feel guilty about not exercising more often.

I begin each story with some kind of a rough outline. I write mindfully, editing as I go along. I borrow from my art background; I weigh each sentence, each scene, for color, texture, light and dark, composition. I always ask myself if it’s visual enough; if there’s too much tell and not enough show; is it alive; does it matter. I read each line out loud to hear the music and rhythm; and finally, I ask myself if whatever I just wrote is necessary to the story.

I stop when the first of my kids gets home. After an evening of dinner, homework, carpools, Little League, and kid-centered conversation, after the table is cleared, the laundry done, the kids in bed, I return to the non-internet computer and re-read what I wrote earlier in the day. Sometimes I am happy. Sometimes, I despair that I will ever write anything decent, ever again.

On to the tagging!
Watch this space for the terrific and talented authors I’ve tagged. I’ll post them as I hear back from them!
EMILY KATE MOON, is the author and illustrator of JOONE. Click on the link to read her (sweet, hilarious, charming, happy) blog: http://emilykatemoon.com/blog/blog-hop/

ELANA MARYLES SZTOKMAN is the award-winning author of Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools and The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World. Her blog is: http://www.jewfem.com

The multi-talented RENA BUNDER ROSSNER is the author of EATING THE BIBLE. She is a novelist as well as an agent at the Deborah Harris Agency. Her blog is http://renarossner.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/blog-hop-what-do-i-write-and-why/