I write with the hope that readers, while looking for a captivating and interesting read, a way to unwind and pass the time, will also find a novel that addresses their mind and their humanity, a book that speaks to their heart.
I write for the joy of it, but also for bringing into the light less know contemporary and historical characters. I write in an attempt to connect past and present, the readers of my books with the lesser known, yet equally mystifying and significant, aspects of our history.
We naturally seek the stories of those who lived before us, of those who went through incredible experiences, of those who loved and lost, who followed their dreams and paid dearly for it; people who have already been there, done that. It’s a natural human impulse. Go with it.
What I hope my readers will discover in my books
Realistic, relatable characters and that they will want to know what happens to them, rather than just following the plot.
A setting that will transport them to another location, another lifestyle, another time, while still enjoying the safety of their reading space.
A complex story-line, involving historical events, accurately depicted and an addictive storytelling.
That tingling feeling that keeps you turning the pages.
An image, a feeling that will stay with them long after finished my book. Readers have appreciated in my writing the occasional passages they paused upon to enjoy especially for their lyrical descriptions.
A positive feeling, hope, a smile, as my writing has been described as uplifting and heart-warming, “making the world a beautiful place”- although my stories are honest.
An addictive reading, fueled by a passion for the topic and for storytelling.
Although reality can be uncomfortable in places, books can hold a mirror to real life. But life is also filled with joyful moments, with laughter and appreciation for our blessings. I hope readers will discover both in my books, as I write poetry, children’s stories, contemporary and historical fiction.
Gifts all readers reap out of books
Reduced stress and depressive thoughts, while instilling a sense of tranquility.
An increased IQ, a wider vocabulary and an improved memory.
An increased EQ, making us more empathic.
Improved analytical thinking and a deeper knowledge of what we want.
Also, reading as a form of mental stimulation slows down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
When my latest novel, Silent Heroes – When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for was released, it became a #1 New Release in Amazon US in History of Afghanistan for kindle category for a couple of months, a #2 Best Sellers in Arms Control as well as #4 Best Seller in Middle Eastern Literature – out of thousands of books. As an avid reader and writer, I asked myself, how is my writing different in my genre?
My interest in the War in Afghanistan was stirred by understanding what a major influence the use of military dogs has on the lives of civilians. Most books written on this subject are from a military or political perspective. A retelling of true facts. I wanted to create a work of fiction that will appeal as well as stir emotions, something plausible, yet appealing to a wider category of readers.
Silent Heroes in History in Afghanistan
As I browse History in Afghanistan Amazon category today I see books on true accounts of war, some containing in-depth interviews with prominent political figures, some analyze government accounts and provide new answers, some focusing on the past Afghan history. Most of them are written by war heroes, reporters, historians or veteran journalists.
How is my writing different in my genre
We tend to read a book from the perspective of our own experiences. Some books, after reading them, manage to change the way we see our own life – and this is what I tried to achieve with Silent Heroes.
Having lived through a Revolution and the fall of the Eastern Bloc, I believe that the power of historical knowledge is often overlooked. From my point of view, the situation in Afghanistan is still of global interest as the revealing of the Afghan Papers proved. There are other historical hot-spots throughout the world and as I write this blog post the Iran crisis and the threat of WWIII clouds the news headlines.
As a woman writer, I am aware of my communication style being different and unique, reflecting my own mindset. My writing reflects the smooth running of my thoughts, like a deep and quiet river.
“The thing that Patricia does remarkably well is taking you on a journey and heightening your senses to make you feel you are in the territory of Afghanistan frightened for your life and surviving the Taliban. The description that Patricia uses to set the scenes are absolutely beautiful and you can really visualise being there.” (Tom, Book reviewer)
“A well-researched, thought-provoking and ultimately insightful consideration of life in the military. I loved how the author captured a war-torn Afghanistan, how the fragility of human life was portrayed but especially how visual the book felt throughout.” (Amazon Review)
“Powerful, poetic language ensured I visualised each scene, heard ‘the sounds of war’… The minutiae of the episodes had me on the edge of my seat and the book possessed vivid filmic quality… This novel is an intense, evocative and heart-wrenching narrative of destruction and hope. There is a philosophical exploration of the fragility of human life and the consequences of power struggles.” (Lady Bracknell, Amazon Review)
Silent Heroes in Arms Control
Books in Amazon’s Arms Control category are often looking at global issues involving armament, or are thrillers.
How is my writing different in my genre
Including Silent Heroes in the Arms Control Amazon category was due to the nature of the story. Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, are the Taliban’s weapon of choice and still the most lethal explosive weapons in use today. IEDs are artisanal bombs, constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action. IEDs killed more soldiers and are responsible for two-thirds of all the coalition deaths. Yet IEDs are proved to produce brain damage too, through repetitive brain trauma.
Enter Military Working Dogs, MWDs, some of my Silent Heroes, with their powerful sense of scent and IEDs are suddenly less of a threat.
Extensive research went into accurately incorporating the use of weapons in my book, be it Taliban-used Kalashnikovs, the AK-47, or a Beretta M9A1, to the feel and the effects of an IED explosion, the use of thermal imaging or the describing of an attack.
What I do differently in my book is taking the human factor into account. This is how my writing is different in my genre.
“Cell Bravo had found the door leading to the first underground tunnel, Kent feeling thankful for their night vision goggles. Weapons at the ready they approached the first flight of stairs. Kent knew that on rounding a corner of a hallway inches meant the difference between life and death. He tried the old mirror trick to check if the stairs were clear of Talibans but the tunnel was as dark as death, the mirror trick useless and he had to look for himself using his NVGs. Kent signalled Seb to cover him as he inched forward towards the gap opening onto the flight of stairs.
‘Clear,’ his hand waved as he headed down along the narrow staircase, weapon pointing forward, finger on the trigger, Seb right behind him, the remainder of Cell Bravo Marines following. They knew the corridor opening at their feet will lead both ways, double the danger. (…)
No further than six feet across and on their level stood a Taliban machine gunner. His eyes were two fire ambers on a chalked appearance, his impassive face framed by the familiar bushy beard. The muzzle of his machine gun stared at the two soldiers like a menacing third eye.
Luck is partially determined by your reaction in a specific situation.
The Marines reacted first. Sure, later they will carry on an entire controversial dialog as to which one was the first to have pressed his trigger. They both did, churning the Taliban, his machine gun flinching upwards by the force of its bullets. They tore a tunnel through the man’s body, showering stones and splinters all around. Their ears rang from the continuous blasting that had echoed back and forth in the tunnel.
What kind of thoughts race through a man’s mind when he shoots another human being at such close range?
Tweedledee later remembered thinking he was sure he will be dead before his magazine will be empty. Tweedledum thought of his parents and how he didn’t want them to lose their youngest son after their eldest died the year before, killed by an IED planted at the edge of a paved road in Afghanistan. He also thought how stupid he’d been to not pack enough dental floss.
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
“Have you ever read a fiction novel but felt as if you were reading a true account of events instead? This was my experience while reading Patricia Furstenberg’s Silent Heroes… her storytelling is exquisite and engaging, but also it is quite obvious that an enormous amount of research went into this novel. Although it is fiction, Patricia Furstenberg has created a book that is frighteningly accurate as far as life in Afghanistan, war, and all of those it affects… Regardless of your usual preferred genre, this is an excellent read that is realistic, full of well-developed characters, and will stay in your heart and mind long after finishing.” (Jennifer, Book Reviewer)
“The tension Furstenberg creates is torture as you are on edge at every page turn never knowing if the path ahead is clear or deadly… Furstenberg’s writing is brutal and honest. There are some pretty grim scenes as you would imagine in a war story but Furstenberg has a way that catches the grittiness and unpleasantness of it all that makes you realise that we shouldn’t look away, this has to been seen and needs to be stopped.” (Emma, Book Reviewer)
“a very well researched book written in a page-turning, sentimental style.” (Sara, Amazon Review)
Silent Heroes in Middle Eastern Literature
Is Afghanistan included in the Middle East? Afghanistan is part of the Greater Middle East, or the Middle East and North Africa. But, besides Amazon having only one category here, there is another reason why I included my book in it:
“‘Commander,’ said al Vizer and Marcos did not try to correct him, ‘have you ever wondered why this land here, that history labelled as the Middle East and Afghanistan is greatly affected by, is the only area in this big world of ours that always seems to need America’s help to achieve freedom and democracy? Have you ever wondered why the people of the Middle East and Central Asia are the only societies that every Western country on the face of the earth wants to help keep safe from imprisonment and torture? Why does the West think we need to be saved? Why are we any different from you?
‘God, whichever way you want to call Him, made us all the same. The only difference I see between me and you is my place of birth. And that, Commander, is not such a big difference.’”
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
How is my writing different in my genre?
I give a voice to all those involved in the war, soldiers and civilians. Men and women. Elderly and children. And I am impartial.
“The beauty of language is expertly navigated by Furstenberg. She weaves together the words in an almost poetic way despite the prose nature of the novel… She does this at multiple points and there were definitely passages I reread just for the pure beauty of the words… I would also like to talk about Furstenberg’s portrayal of the people of Afghanistan. It is so nice to see this exploration of a diverse culture that isn’t stereotypical and full of extreme inaccuracies and prejudices.” (Book Review by Jen, licensed in World History with an emphasis on the Modern Middle East)
“It is clear that the author did an amazing amount of research for this book. Over the last few years I have read many, many book written by our soldiers. All of these books were based on each soldier’s experiences. The author of “Silent Heroes” has captured the experiences of our military men and women.” (Strength, Amazon Review)
“I don’t know if the author served in the Middle East, but if she didn’t, her research is phenomenal. She provides vivid details about daily life during a deployment, as well as the complexities of carrying out a mission, dealing with the constant threat of IEDs (bombs), and working with the local population. Small details made the story come to life.” (D.W.Peach, Amazon Review)
“The author does a very good job in engaging us with the cast of this tragedy that has been playing out for hundreds of years.” (Sally Cronin, Author and Blogger)
Silent Heroes as a War & Military Action Fiction and Action Thriller Fiction
Reading at over 350 pages, people started Silent Heroes were soon completely sucked in. Written in an accessible and satisfying way, and based on scrupulous research, Silent Heroes offers a broad perspective on war.
The story is fast-paced, following three different threads: a group of Marines with their military working dogs, MWDs, an Afghan boy and a group of Taliban fighters. The action becomes a race against time, taking place over only a few days, and in fascinating locations.
“As many of you know I’m not one to get emotionally attached to books but this one definitely had my emotions all over the place. It didn’t quite have me in tears but was very close. Any book that can do that is worth a bonus heart in my rating.” (Mani, Book Reviewer)
“She (the author) has a great way of capturing their personalities and characteristics that engages the reader no matter what their age. Silent Heroes is another one of those books.” (Mandie Griffiths)
“I’m still emotional after reading Silent Heroes. Patricia Furstenberg’s writing is concise and beautiful… Patricia Furstenberg’s research is tight and it makes this read all the more special… a heartfelt novel.” (Jesica Belmont)
“A book about the dangers of doing the right thing, friendship in the most unexpected places, loyalty and betrayal, family, devotion, trauma. It speaks to the readers on so many levels, but the emotional response is the most overwhelming.” (Book Review by Crissu)
Not sure if Silent Heroes is the book for you?
“This is my first ever military, Taliban, Marines novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is well researched, well written and very easy to follow. This is the first book I have read by this author, Pat has a wonderful style of storytelling, her passion for the subject shines through in her writing.” (Sheila, Amazon Review)
“A well-researched and detailed novel that evokes so many emotions.” (Patricia Bunting, Amazon Review)
“I’ve read a few war stories over the course of this year but none of them have been as insightful as this one. Patricia Furstenberg is a truly masterful writer who knows exactly how far to go to keep her readers glued to the pages.” (Amazon Review)
Rafik is the youngest character of Silent Heroes, a brave boy of about eight years of age with a big heart. He is an Afghan boy who takes a physical journey, but one of self-discovery and growth as well. Rafik is like any other civilian caught in a war zone. He is uprooted from his home village and what he does, traveling on a mission, is out of an instinct of self-preservation and desire to help.
Have you followed his journey so far? After arriving as an emergency at the medical facility of Camp Bastion Rafik ends up in the desert…
Away from his friends and their worry-free childhood.
At his mother’s desperate request, Rafik leaves the false safety of his village behind yet his plans spin out of control and he ends up at Camp Bastion, later named Camp Shorabak, an international military camp in Afghanistan with a state the art medical facility.
Rafik should have only went from his home village of Nauzad to the hamlet nearby. Yet he is now further south, near Lashkar Gah city and fortress. The fortress is on the banks on the Helmand River, hidden from direct view by a hill. Lashkar Gah has a rich history behind it, once was even the winter capital of the Ghaznavidi Empire. It belonged to the same Turkish dynasty that conquered Afghanistan a thousand years back, bringing Islam along.
Along these brown, rocky hills live farmers who breed sheep and camels, but Rafik meets none.
And he runs again… a little boy on a mission. I cannot hold his hand, he has to do it all on his own.
“A sense of foreboding took over him and his eyes shot open with a will of their own. A pair of grubby feet in dusty, old sandals and the edge of a filthy shalwar kameez appeared in his eye field as a menacing hand grabbed hold of his shirt collar, throwing him aside.”
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Run, Rafik! Run!
“The boy stopped dead after rushing through the last row of doors, blinded and dazed by the bright daylight. His eyes hurt, his body overwhelmed by the outside temperature as if he had hit a solid, arid wall of heat and sand. ‘Where am I, where had they gone?’
Behind him, the vacuum noise of the hospital doors sealed the insides in an encased gigantic hangar.
Ahead, past the perimeter fence, the deadly desert. Five flags, barely soaring in the wind, rose to one side. One of them, bright red like his mother’s best dress, displayed a white cross with a snake. Past the five flags, two dark silhouettes were marching in a cloud of dust, heading towards an unkempt gathering of mud-walled compounds that sprouted along a field of opium poppy. Above their heads and heading north, two Harrier jets roar, having just taken off from Camp Bastion’s airfield, their wingtips luminous against the clear sky.”
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
And Rafik is gone again. Is he one of the Silent Heroes, soon to get lost in the Afghan desert? Not the right time, as it is the beginning of the long, scorching, and arid Afghan summer. Here, over the course of the year the temperature typically varies from 35°F to 108°F.
“Behind everything and everyone, dragging his feet under the midday sun and with only a gush of wind for a company came Rafik. Now crawling, now running, now letting himself fall to the ground in an attempt to conceal himself, looking more like a desert dog than a human being. For each stride the men took trough the sand, the boy’s wobbly legs took two, yet he pushed on, his eyes on the twin menacing shapes, his attention wrestling an army of questions, his legs moving forward with a mind of their own.
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Where will help come from? What shape will it take?
“As he stood above him, the dog seemed twice as big as the child due to his shaggy mane, thicker around the neck, and his reassured posture. His shoulder blades moved accentuating his strong physique, yet for all that muscle he was as gentle as the moon. In seconds, the boy’s face was covered in slobber, the dog’s sandpaper tongue sliding all over the pale skin, doing a perfect job at cleaning all the dried-out blood.”
Because of their isolation, deserts often symbolize clarity and revelation. Purity too, as they are unspoiled landscapes. Yet the desert is a difficult terrain, threatening, challenging. It is a symbol for challenges, both physical and spiritual. It is a struggle calling onto the traveler’s deepest reserves.
Yet there is no adversity between the spiritual and the physical. Although deserts have been seen as the ultimate purging landscape by hermits, prophets, seers, the ultimate holy ground, it is the spiritual strength they enhance in humans that eventually augments the individual.
Thus deserts, through the personal conflicts they call upon, bring humankind the closest to heavens.
Rafik’s journey through Silent Heroes does not end here, in the Afghan desert, with the mere warm support of a friendly military dog. There is more for this young boy to encounter and survive to before he can call his home a home again. Before he can close his eyes and fall asleep feeling secure in his own bed.
My latest contemporary fiction, Silent Heroes, looks at the War in Afghanistan from a different perspective: that of the soldiers taking part in it and of the Afghan people caught in it. Because there are always two sides to a story. Part of my research was listening to music. I’ll share with you a few songs that now remind me of the courageous Afghan people.
Pentatonix – ‘Mary Did You Know’
The first time I heard Mary Did You Know, it was sung by my daughter’s college choir. I thought there wasn’t a more beautiful tune, nor more heartbreaking lyrics.
Mary Did You Know is a Christmas hymn to Mary, Mother of Jesus, but I feel that any mother can relate to it, especially the mothers of soldiers. While researching and writing Silent Heroes I often asked myself, how must these mothers feel like?
The soldier’s mothers, back home in the safety of their big cities, yet not able to pinpoint on the map the exact location of their children? How they felt in the first moment they heard their child will fight in Afghanistan, as a soldier?
The Afghan kids’ mothers, each morning they face another day of war, knowing that when their child leaves through the door it might be the last time they see him?
‘Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.’
This song was released in 1969, during the peak period of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. To me, it speaks more of the unfairness of disadvantages between different social classes, the unfairness that a war plays on the civilians of a country, an unfairness that will project itself over the future generations.
‘Some folks are born made to wave the flag Ooh, they’re red, white and blue And when the band plays “Hail to the chief” Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no.’
Music speaks so much about the spirit of a nation, and so are its national instruments. There is so much intensity in this song, a love for life. I can see the sun rising over the Hindu Kush Mountains and the Afghan women spinning in dance, children chasing one another over rocky rivers, catching fish to take back to their mother to cook for dinner. One of many beautiful songs that remind my of unknown Silent Heroes, Afghan people too.
Afghani folk-song entitled “Valley” written and performed by Quraishi and accompanied by Samir Chatterjee on tabla. A rubab, robab or rababis a lute-like musical instrument originating from central Afghanistan. The rubab is mainly used by Pashtun, Tajik. sadly, making a rabab today is a dying art.
“They are Shiites and, most of the time, anti-Taliban,” Marcos went on. “Pashtuns dress differently and are easy to recognise. They tend to leave an end of their headdress loose so they can cover their mouth and noses in the dust storms of southeast Afghanistan, where they mostly live. Pashtuns are indo-Iranians by race and language. They mostly wear a qmis, which is a loose-fitting shirt that reaches down to the knees and a shalwar, pants tied with a string at the waist. Pashtuns typically have dark skin and more western features.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a book cover surely tells an entire story, giving out clues to the unexpected secrets hidden inside the pages it guards.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of writing a guest post or lovely Jen Lucas, Book Reviewer & Blogger extraordinaire 🙂 about the secrets hidden in the book cover of Silent Heroes. Without giving much away, know that I wrote about a soldier and his dog, a sunset and a pair of mysterious Afghan eyes.
But there is more to an image, as the colors used hold symbols and learning about them opens the mind to more secrets hidden in that book cover, in plain sight.
The choice of red, brown and gold colors for the Silent Heroes image cover was not coincidental.
Brown and its hidden meanings in my book cover
Brown is a color I began to associate with the Afghan desert, its mountains, and the desert camouflage uniform of the US Marines.
Brown is the earth, solid, reliable, our home. It this context brown symbolizes stability, warmth, reliability. Mother Earth means fertility for all nations, it nurtures us all, no matter of the language we speak. Zuhause, acasa, tuis, a casa, sa bhaile, дома, בבית, doma… home is where we belong and brown is its soil, although in many tints: auburn, copper, russet, terracotta.
Yet brown is also a war color. Brown are the soldier’s uniforms, their faces, covered in dust, their vehicles and their sandy tracks, brown are their tents and the wrappers of their prepacked meals ready to eat, MREs.
And also brown are the deserted villages where the last of the Afghanistan’s wars still take place today. Brown are the ruins that ones stood tall, the walls that ones heard the laughter of a woman and the squeal of a child, the singing voice of a father and the whisper of the night.
Gold, guarding the treasured secrets of a book cover
Where is all the wealth, you will ask, for gold is for riches.
Gold is the sun, I answer, in it’s daily promise for new hope, new beginnings, of warmth and cheer. The sun’ golden light shares courage and wisdom; don’t we see the world as a better place on a sunny day? Don’t we find life’s problem’s more manageable on a bright day?
And gold also symbolizes compassion and wisdom. Compassion, like the one shared by many soldiers in the lines of duty. Wisdom, reflected in the life choices of many civilians caught in battles. To show commendation, we award soldiers a gold star, yet so many citizens are deserving of it. I know at least two in Silent Heroes.
Red, guarding life-threatening secrets
Red is assertive, it speaks of passion, of rage and strong emotions. I thought it represents best the tumultuous history of Afghanistan, with its countless wars and struggles for power. The many foreign leaders that fought to own this piece of land, the wrath and malice they brought along, but also the determination of the Afghan people, they desire to set themselves free from aliens, their passion for freedom. In this context, red speaks of the loss of human life, of sacrifice, of action.
Red is also packed with emotions like passion, love (of life, of one’s country), but also fury and a quick temper, like that of many Afghan warriors.
Red is one of the colors of the Afghanistan’s flag, where it symbolizes the blood shed by those who fought for the country’s independence, but also progress.