Shadows of Damascus by Lilas Taha - Blog Tour

Today, please help me welcome author Lilas Taha with her contemporary novel, Shadows of Damascus, on her Name before the Masses tour through Goddessfish Productions! 


Bullet wounds, torture and oppression aren’t the only things that keep a man—or a woman—from being whole.

Debt. Honor. Pain. Solitude. These are things wounded war veteran Adam Wegener knows all about. Love—now, that he is not good at. Not when love equals a closed fist, burns, and suicide attempts. But Adam is one who keeps his word. He owes the man who saved his life in Iraq. And he doesn’t question the measure of the debt, even when it is in the form of an emotionally distant, beautiful woman.

Yasmeen agreed to become the wife of an American veteran so she could flee persecution in war-torn Syria. She counted on being in the United States for a short stay until she could return home. There was one thing she did not count on: wanting more.

Is it too late for Adam and Yasmeen?



Damascus, Syria
Summer 2006

The seductive fragrance of Damascus roses drifted through the open window and flirted with fifteen-year-old Yasmeen’s olfactory senses. The potent flowers in her neighbor’s yard delivered the best awakening. She loved beginnings, especially early, mid-summer mornings like these. Stretching across the bed, her imagination raced with possibilities for the promising day.

Thursday. The day her older brother’s friends visited and stayed well into the evening. Yasmeen ticked off potential visitors in her head, dashing young university students who loved to talk politics with Fadi. Today, she would do her best to discover the name of the quietest member in the group, the thin one with round-rimmed glasses. On her nightstand, the sketch she worked on during the last visit waited for his name, and more details around the eyes.

Peeling off the covers, she tip-toed to the window. Lively noises matched her optimistic mood. Nightingales sang greetings. Clanging dishes and pots resonated from surrounding houses beyond high walls. Mothers called out for their daughters to get breakfast ready. Men’s deep voices describing fresh fruits and vegetables with tempting traditional phrases drifted above hidden alleys. One vendor claimed his cucumbers were small as baby fingers, and likened his ripe apples to a virgin bride’s cheeks. Another boasted his plum peaches shed their covers without enticement, and his shy eggplants hid well in a moonless night.

Yasmeen succumbed to the enlivening chaos spilling in from her bedroom window, her own special and personal opening to the world. Tilting her head back, she exposed her face and neck to the sun, allowing its invigorating rays to paint her cheeks.

Today, her mother told her she would be allowed to take a coffee tray into Fadi’s room once all his friends arrived. What would she wear? She should tell her best friend Zainab to stop by earlier than usual to go through her wardrobe. She could help her decide. Perhaps one of Fadi’s friends would notice her. More than one? Why not?

Draping her arms on the windowsill, she looked at the neighbor’s yard, counting the blooming roses, a ritual she performed each morning since the season started. In the north corner of the largest flowerbed, two violet buds grabbed her attention, their delicate petals about to unfold. Once they came to full bloom, their deep purple color would dominate the landscape.

A knock sounded at her door.

“I am awake.”

Her father walked in. “Good. We have work to do.” He held a hammer in one hand and a couple of boards in the other. “Move aside, Yasmeen.” He approached the window.

She stepped away and pointed at the boards. “What do you need those for?”

Her father closed the windowpanes, locked them, placed one board across the frame, and hammered it in place.

“What are you doing?”

“This window is not to be opened again, child.”

She could not believe her ears. “Why?”

“Neighbors moved out last night.” Her father nailed the second board in place. “Mukhabarat took over their house.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Lilas Taha is a writer at heart, an electrical engineer by training, and an advocate for domestic abuse victims by choice. She was born in Kuwait to a Syrian mother and a Palestinian father, and immigrated to the U.S. as a result of the Gulf war in 1990. She earned a master’s degree in Human Factors Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, Lilas met her beloved husband and true friend, and moved with him to Sugar Land, Texas to establish a family. She is the proud mother of a daughter and a son. Instead of working in an industrial field, she applied herself to the field of social safety, working with victims of domestic violence.

Pursuing her true passion for creative writing, Lilas brings her professional interests, and her Middle Eastern background together in her debut fictional novel, Shadows of Damascus.

Twitter: Follow @LilasTaha
Facebook page for the book:




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Author Jeff Gardiner introduces new novel, Igboland!

I'm delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Jeff Gardiner, today! He is celebrating his recent release, Igboland, a tale of conflict and passion set in 1960s Nigeria.

So, be transported to another place in time, and enjoy!


A new life begins for her thousands of miles from home.

Lydia and Clem Davie arrive in an Igbo village in Nigeria in July 1967 just as civil war breaks out, but Lydia has trouble adjusting to life in West Africa: a place so unfamiliar and far away from everything she truly understands.

Initially, most of the locals are welcoming and friendly, until one or two begin a frightening campaign of anti-white protests.

Lydia’s life is changed irrevocably after she meets enigmatic Igbo doctor, Kwemto, and war victim, Grace. Through them Lydia learns about independence, passion and personal identity.

Conflict and romance create emotional highs and lows for Lydia, whose marriage and personal beliefs slowly begin to crumble.

Will this house in a Nigerian bush village ever seem like home?



The following extract from IGBOLAND describes Lydia’s first morning in her new home in the Nigerian bush village, Ngkaluku. She’s struggling to come to terms with the very foreign environment and the culture shock, although her husband Clem is relishing his new role:

I vividly remember waking up after over ten hours of sleep, fighting my way out of the mosquito net and looking at the walls: whitewashed blocks of stone very badly plastered. The roof was merely a thin sheet of corrugated aluminium. This was our home, but I found it difficult not to be horrified as I looked around it for the first time. 
Dust thickly covered everything and in the corners lay broken chairs and torn soft furnishings. The spare bedroom ceiling had caved in, hanging down in spikes of twisted metal pointing to a puddle of rainwater pooling in the centre of a large brown-stained ring on the rough stone floor. A rusty bed leaned upright in the far corner on its end against the wall. A harsh numbness gripped my heart. 
The bathroom seemed a little better: small but containing a bath at least, and a chipped hand basin whose drainage consisted of a bicycle inner tube leading out through a hole to, presumably, a pit outside. I couldn’t see the toilet even though the pain in my bladder was becoming uncomfortable. There was no evidence of a shower or running water either. 
The next room looked like the main living room. It felt bare and hollow with its flaking plaster walls and very uneven floor with whole chunks missing which certainly needed re-cementing. The amount of dust surprised me, especially the way it piled in random clumps. However, after further inspection I saw the dust wriggle, writhing repulsively with mites, eggs, scorpions and alien crawling-things, which scuttled ghoulishly towards me. I stepped back wondering what the eggs belonged to.
‘Lizard eggs.’ 
Clem’s voice made my heart pound furiously. He took me in his arms and kissed the top of my head.
‘It took me a while to work it out. Probably geckos. Have you seen the giant millipedes? I saw one in my office - must be nearly six inches long. What a monster.’
‘Are scorpions dangerous? I think we’ve got some in there.’
‘Only if we disturb them.’
‘Well they’re disturbing me.’ I held him tighter, glad of the reassuring human and familiar contact.
‘Look we’ll start cleaning up soon.’  
I continued to hang on to Clem. 
‘How are you feeling?’ he asked softly, kissing me on the forehead.
‘Okay,’ I mumbled, finally pulling away.
‘So you’ve had a look round then.’
I could only nod, as I felt dazed.
‘Well, we wanted a challenge.’ Clem sounded annoyingly chirpy.
‘And it seems we got one.’
‘You sound disappointed, Lydia.’ Clem put a hand on my shoulder. ‘I believe this is where God wants us.’
‘But my head is full of questions,’ I replied stubbornly. ‘For example where on earth is the toilet?’
‘Ah.’ Clem’s expression changed.
Clem beckoned me outside, which should have been my first clue. I found a pair of sandals. 
‘Once my office is ready we’ll be up and running.’ Clem sounded excited again and I hoped his enthusiasm might soon prove infectious. Clem’s role was much clearer than mine. He possessed a job-description and a duty. My only purpose was to be the Missionary’s wife and I had no idea what that entailed.
Already struck by the West African heat - I felt my dress stick to my skin with the suffocating humidity. We truly were in the tropics and I wondered if my husband resented wearing his black shirt, flannels and dog collar.
‘The loo?’ I reminded him, bobbing up and down in an unnecessary mime.
‘Oh.’ He suddenly looked crest-fallen. ‘It’s a tad basic.’
I recalled some slides of horrific sewage pits we’d been shown at training college but always imagined these only existed in slums or ghettoes where charity workers fed starving, skeletal children. Surely a missionary manse would cater for the westerner? 
He gingerly took my hand and walked me round to the back of the house. About a dozen steps away stood a wooden cubicle with a corrugated metal roof. The ghastly stench struck me immediately.
‘Come and have a look,’ Clem said gently, but at first I resisted. ‘It’s all part of the West African challenge.’ 
I allowed him to guide me towards the door, which he pulled open. Overpowered by noxious fumes – both natural and chemical – my first sight was not a pleasant one. In the dingy space I could make out a mass of flies darting in various directions. The ground around the hole in the middle of the floor was thick with weeds, hacked back slightly. Clem walked in confidently and kicked away something unidentifiable, then turned to face me.
‘I’ll get some weed killer and fix up something here to hold on to for when we um ... you know.’ It became his turn to perform an unnecessary mime. I began to feel queasy, but then felt another twinge from my aching bladder. 
‘I’ll give it a go then.’
‘That’s my girl,’ Clem said happily, stepping out and holding the door open for me. 
I wasn’t happy about closing the door but realised there must be limits to ‘going native’. Inside was smelly and grubby. I couldn’t get beyond the idea that touching anything in here would only lead to a bout of fevered sickness – or worse. Looking down to see where I should place my feet I saw something scamper through the dirt.
It was no good. The flies flicked against my face and tickled all areas of my bare skin. Insects flapped or hung menacingly in the corners amidst what seemed like sheets of wispy webs. To one side I could see a mass of white wriggling things on a thin ledge - maggots or larvae of some kind.
I couldn’t do it. I just knew deep in my soul I would not be able to go toilet here. Nothing could induce me to relax my muscles. The smell, the dirt, the skittering, swinging creepy-crawlies and my lack of courage conspired against me.
Firstly I gagged. My stomach turned over but it was quite empty. Then my throat burned as acid rose upwards, forcing me to blink and swallow rapidly. The nausea turned to tears of self-pity and even though I loathed myself for being so pathetic, I unlocked the door and ran out past Clem, into the house and back into bed.


About the author:

Jeff Gardiner is author of 'IGBOLAND', a tale of passion and conflict set in Nigeria during
the 1960s Biafran War; and of 'MYOPIA', a novel about bullying and prejudice. Both are published by Crooked Cat Publishing.
Jeff is also author of 'A Glimpse of the Numinous' - a collection of short stories (horror, humour, romance and slipstream)from Eibonvale Press. One review stated: "... his stories are genuinely fascinating, weird and original."
His third novel,'TREADING ON DREAMS', a contemporary romance, will appear in March 2014 from Tirgearr Publishing.
'The Age of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock' is a non-fiction work presently being revised and updated; it includes a lengthy introduction by Michael Moorcock himself, plus new chapters and interviews.
Many of his stories are available in anthologies and on websites.