Saturday, December 31, 2011

A tiny excerpt from the novel...

"So often I have been made to feel rich by the humble generosity of the poor, but poor by the flashy charity of the rich." — Naarah, the seamstress

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another one of Tobiel's observations

"It is a common misconception that a square peg won't fit into a round hole. Truth is, if the opening is big enough, no matter the shape, a square peg will fit with room to spare." — Tobiel, the carpenter, friend of Tehtena, the princess

Friday, December 9, 2011


If there's one thing I have learned over the years, it is never to wait idly for inspiration. The muses don't talk you into writing, they talk to you as you write.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To stick with the theme of the previous entry...

"What good are wings to a caged bird, or dreams to a dying man?  And of what use are these wretched hands of mine if they cannot cradle your precious face?" — from the diary of the Princess Tehtena

Monday, November 28, 2011

Different Book—Same Obsession

With Tehtena's permission, here are a few lines from another novel I am working on, a much shorter one, entitled 'THE RESPONSE'. It's a little poem, written by an old man for a very young woman with whom he is madly and hopelessly in love:

My heart: a bird
—its song unheard.

My cursed old age:
its cruel cage.

And you: the sky,
where it can't fly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More from my novel...

"I am not closer yet to what I was reaching for, but in reaching for it I have always been closest to who I am." — from the diary of Tehtena, Princess of Sheba

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One more snippet from my work in progress:

She rendered his heart too jubilant for silent reveries. Every minute he spent in her presence was another love-song in the making.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Here's a remark Tobiel might have made if he lived today:

If you are mathematically illiterate, you might think that an algorism is a memorable statement made by one of our former Vice Presidents.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another tiny sneak-peek into the novel

"The omniscient, omnipresent gods do not laugh at jokes.  Not even the newest ones.  They have heard them all before." — Tobiel the carpenter, Tehtena's ever-mirthful friend

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister'

"What man calls freedom is at best a choice between different cages, all of which derive from his own needs and beliefs." — Tehtena, Sister of Makeda, Princess of Sheba

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Rarely have I felt more joy in my heart than yesterday when I went to an Ethiopian wedding reception, and rarely have I felt more  distraught than I did afterwards when I was alone.
   While amongst the celebrants, I felt whole in a way that went against all reason.  It seemed as if I were truly home for the first time in my life.  Every hand I shook seemed to pull me closer to where I should always have been.  Every embrace seemed to welcome me back.  Every pair of eyes I looked into seemed to ask me where I had been all these years.  And yet, none of those I met there could possibly have wanted to express any such sentiments.
You see, I am an old, white guy.  Everything about my appearance suggests that I have nothing in common with that group of people.  To top it off, I am not exactly handsome.  Compared to their striking beauty, I look actually downright hideous.  So what made me feel the way I did?
   I do not believe in reincarnation.  What I sensed, therefore, cannot have been some memory of home, some feeling of belonging that had somehow stuck with my soul across the ages and past physical dissolution.  And yet, when I sat amongst these Ethiopians, among these wonderful, wonderful strangers whom, for the most part, I had never seen even from a distance, I felt peaceful like a baby in its mother's arms.  And as I walked home throught the night afterwards, I felt abandoned.
   Why do I love those people so much?  Why do I want them around me so desperately?  Why are they so beautiful to me in every way?
There is only one way I can explain this.  I must have immersed myself too deeply into the time period of my novel.  I must have over-saturated my mind with the lore of Makeda's ancient people, whose descendants the Ethiopians are, and now I am living more in their world than I live in the here and now.  What other answer could there be?
   As I sit here in front of my computer, I find myself reluctant to continue writing my novel for fear of severing the last few strands that still connect me to my real life.  At the same time, though, I want to continue working on it forever, sensing that I will lose this sweet, new-found home the moment I move on to the next project.
   As I went home last night, I could not shake the feeling that there had been some horrible mixup and that I had been handed the wrong life to live.  Not that I did not receive countless blessings in the one I ended up with, but somehow I was certain that it all was supposed to have happened somewhere else.  It weighed heavily on my heart that there was no way to ever rectify this. 
   I had been sweating in the best suit I put on for the occasion, and as I walked through the quiet streets a cool breeze brought some comfort to my body, but not to my soul. I knew of course that the cold air had come off the Hudson and not the Blue Nile, but that wasn't quite enough to root me firmly again in my current New York life.  And for now, that is okay with me.  The novel will be better because of it.  I just pray that when it is all done and my day job and the other demands of my current existence have drawn me back into the present, I will not lose this inexplicable love.  It is so very precious to me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Things change ;-)

When I was young, I frequently needed cold showers.
Now that I am old, hot ones serve me better:
They fog up the mirror and spare me the view.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Every once in a while people ask me where I am exhibiting my paintings. It is at such moments that I see with heightened clarity what a strange person I am, because my reaction to that question shows me how completely unimportant the fate of my creations is to me.
Truth is that I never really exhibited my works in a proper gallery, and for some reason it doesn't matter to me.  I think I am producing art more or less the way an apple tree produces apples. Both the tree and I just do what we are programmed to do.  Whether someone harvests our 'fruits' and enjoys them or whether they fall to the ground and go to waste, is of absolutely no consequence to us.
My entire focus is on doing my best.  As things grow and ripen on my 'branches', I am downright obsessed with making them as beautiful as possible.  I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and while my work is still attached to me and unfolding, I want it to be absolutely perfect.  But once I decide that it is finished, I couldn't care less what happens to it next.
Don't get me wrong, I am a shrewd businessman and if someone wants to buy one of my painting, he or she will have to pay a hefty price for it.  I also enjoy very much if someone compliments me on my work. I certainly feel a great sense of satisfaction when people are moved by it.  But I do not crave accolade enough to invest any time or effort in becoming more visible to the public.  Sure, it is possible that greater exposure might get me to a place where I did no longer depend on my day job to make a living, but then again I do not mind at all paying my bills through ordinary work.
I seem to have the same attitude when it comes to writing.  Of course I would love to be a published author, but that's not what drives me to write my novel.  There's just something within me that needs to come out and be written down on paper, but what happens to it afterwards is not really all that important to me.  I am out there on twitter and facebook, surrounding myself with other writers and artists because I feel good in their company. Their company inspires me, and if I never receive anything more than their encouraging words and kind recognition, I will still be perfectly fine.
So there you have it.  My paintings decorate mostly my own home (or are tucked away behind some cabinet), and my first novel still sits on a shelf in my studio because I have not taken any steps toward publication yet (and am also planning to do some final editing).  And Tehtena, Queen Makeda's Sister, is patiently whispering her story into my ear while I worry very little about whether it will one day be read by a large audience or not.  A friend or two, I am confident, will find the time to read it, and that would suffice for me.
Strange, isn't it? :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I really can't complain. :-)

Fleeting moments of happiness have tie-dyed the dark fabric of my soul in surprisingly bright colors, leaving a random pattern that makes me smile.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister'

"Unrequited love is slowly poisoning my soul, but I shall never let hate be the antidote." — Tehtena, Sister of Makeda, Princess of Sheba

(A question for my writer friends out there: Do you think 'hatred' would be better than 'hate' in the above sentence? I would like to hear your opinion.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not exactly writer's block

Well, now I've got the time, and so, with permission from Princess Tehtena, here are a few things I would like to add to the previous post.
  As of late, I am having a rather hard time writing.  No, it is not writer's block, because I know exactly what words I want to write.  It is not lack of time either.  What it is, I believe, is an increasing reluctance on my part to hurt myself.
  Work on my novel reminds me constantly of certain circumstances that are a source of deep sorrow to me.  I simply cannot add a single word to my manuscript without being reminded of matters that make me profoundly sad.  Sure, as is the case with many artists, I need a fair amount of pain in order to be creative, but there comes a time where even a masochist like me can't take it any more and feels tempted to work on something that makes him forget, rather than contemplate, the things that cast a shadow on his existence.
  Of course I am not going to abandon my novel.  I will pick myself up every day and plod on.  I also know that many of my fellow writers are struggling with very similar problems and that there is thus nothing particularly unique about my situation.  Still, I felt the need to post the above.  Perhaps I am just hoping that those who are starting to get impatient with my slow progress will read this and cut me some slack.  ;-)  Will you? 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Useful Pain

I am a writer — I don't really have old wounds. I keep them fresh and oozing, as quiet, red fountains of insights and inspirations. But more about that later when I have the time...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Staying neutral

Hey folks, Tehtena here.  Now it's my turn to say something, and what else am I going to talk about but the guy who created me.  After all, except for him there isn't much I can see from the pages of the manuscript where I live.  While he and I are in touch all day long, of course, and oftentimes at night as well, I only get a good look at him when he turns on his computer.  Then I can see his face, bathed in the pale light of the monitor and, I must say, looking rather dissatisfied as of late.  He is clearly unhappy with something, and I think I know what is bothering him.
   I believe it's something he has been wrestling with from the very beginning.  You see, while doing research for his novel, he discovered that a certain incident has been described very differently by the two cultures which are connected to it.  Each of them believes firmly in its own version, and yet, if one of them is true, the other one must necessarily be false.  Which of them is correct, however, cannot be determined by means of any empirical evidence.  It's all a matter of faith.
   What I am talking about are certain contradictory claims regarding the fate of the Ark of the Covenant.  One side claims to have removed it from the temple in Jerusalem during the reign of King Solomon and to have it in its possession to this very day.  The other side denies that such a thing ever happened, suggesting instead that it disappeared centuries later during the Babylonian invasion and that no one today knows where it is.
   This state of affairs presented a problem for my author friend.  He loved both cultures with all his heart, respected both peoples equally, and did therefore not want to take sides.  And to make things even tougher, the Bible, the one historical source he respected the most, did not give any specific information on this particular issue.  So what was he to do, other than ignoring the whole incident altogether, which was out of the question?
   Well, I'll tell you what he did.  From what I have seen so far I can say that he went quite faithfully along with the version that has the Ark removed from the temple.  As a matter of fact, he made me very much part of that undertaking, and everything went exactly the way— Wait! What am I doing! I mustn't spoil the ending!  But let me reveal this much to you: he managed to tell the story in such a way that both sides can continue to stick to their own versions of the event.  It took some clever maneuvering, but he found a way to incorporate many details from the ancient reports without favoring one account over the other.  He wasn't thrilled that he had to go this route, but felt he had no choice.
   It still bugs him mightily, but there's nothing he can do about it.  I, on the other hand, am actually quite happy that he had to stay neutral, and if you ever read the book, you will find out why.  I spend a lot of time pondering this matter in its final chapters, and you know what?  I think you will find yourself agreeing with me.  Or at least I hope so.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Idioms and Story Setting

Just as I was wondering whether I should set aside my novel for a while and work on this blog entry, I read a post by an author friend of mine, Bob Spear ( ), and felt encouraged to go ahead with it. His article emphasized the importance of accuracy in the setting of a story; mine touches on a related subject.
Needless to say, getting all the historical facts and locations right is crucial, especially when it comes to historical or semi-historical novels. This, however, is only one of the challenges. Another one is the avoidance of unsuitable idioms.
As I progressed with my story and created inner monologues for my characters as well as conversations between them, I realized that many of the expressions which are commonplace today could not have been part of their thoughts or speech. And being something of a purist, I felt compelled to stay away from them even in passages which did not describe things from their point of view.
Following are just a few words and idioms which, in my opinion, have no place in a novel that is set in the time of King Solomon (about 3000 years ago):
Solomon, for instance, could not have 'steeled' himself against something, because steel, although found in very small quantities in some archeological sites, was not widespread enough to have given rise to such an expression.
Neither he nor his subjects could have been 'mesmerized' by anything, because Dr. Franz Mesmer, from whose name the word is derived, lived in the eighteenth century.
Two people who agreed on something could not readily be said to be on the 'same page', since books in those days did not consist of bound pages but rather of scrolls.
Could Solomon have 'exploded' with anger? I am not sure. After all, explosives were only invented some 2000 years later.
Could he have complimented a smart person by saying that he or she 'had a good head on his or her shoulders'? Unlikely. The functions of the brain were not known at that time, and thus no one would have made the connection between head and intelligence.
I could continue this list with dozens of other examples, but I think I made my point. Just for fun, though, let me just mention that the expression 'three strikes and you are out' does not occur anywhere in my novel, because I have it on good authority that baseball was not being played at Solomon's court.
There is one instance, however, where I am afraid I won't be able to resist the temptation to use an improper expression. I am referring to an idiom that is most likely linked to the convention of putting 'North' always at the top of a map and 'South' always at the bottom, which eventually gave rise to the term 'go south', meaning 'to go down' and thus 'to go bad'. That kind of standardized layout did of course not exist in the distant past, but here's the thing: Solomon's misery began when he got dumped by the woman he loved, namely Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, who was also known as the 'Queen of the South'. How, then, can I not have him say somewhere that things started to 'go south' for him when that was where Makeda decided to return? I have no choice there, do I?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister':

"Is not life but a vain effort to secure a lasting state of bliss, and our failure to attain it the fount of all poetry?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister':

My fateful love for you is what I am and thus it cannot vanish from this earth even when I return to dust. Indeed, the winds will pick me up and scatter me abroad, and those who breathe me in will wonder why their hearts feel suddenly so heavy.