Sunday, December 30, 2012

A line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister'

"To stay young at heart is a mixed blessing," the old man said, more to himself than to his rare visitor, "for it will make you yearn for the company of those who do not want yours." 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A few chapters of QUEEN MAKEDA'S SISTER lost...

Unfortunately, a friend of mine lost the print-out of the first three chapters of my final draft of QUEEN MAKEDA'S SISTER. Luckily, I still have everything on my computer. Using various keywords, I checked whether any of it would show up on google but didn't find anything.This implies great wisdom on the part of whoever found the manuscript, because I will most certainly bring legal action against anyone who posts even the tiniest portion of it on the internet or uses my work in any other fashion. Hopefully, the person who has those pages enjoyed the story thus far and is now looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A thought on editing

While editing my novel and watching a whopping 32,000 words disappear from my manuscript, I couldn't help but wonder how many hours I had wasted on something that lay now on the cutting room floor. But then a thought came to me: maple trees do not produce maple syrup. They produce maple sap which has to be boiled down to make syrup. In fact, it takes up to 50 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of decent maple syrup.
Perhaps a similar process is necessary to create a good novel. As you start writing, your brain simply pours out the "sap" of the story into the first few drafts. Then editing reduces it to the delicious "syrup" your muse demands and your readers deserve.
So do not cry a single tear over all the water that will evaporate in the process (it was most likely necessary to flush out all the good stuff that remains). Instead, my friend, stoke the fire under the kettle and start making some pancakes to enjoy with the finished product. :-) 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

— — —

It is poetic justice that there is an abbr. for the word 'abbreviation'.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who wrote this?

I started work on this trilogy more than three years ago. To my surprise, the fact that I have been at it for so long presents me with a peculiar challenge now that I am editing some of the earlier chapters: I am no longer the person who wrote them. Wounds I had back then are almost healed now. Older dreams faded and new ones took their place. My outlook on life has changed in subtle ways. 

With some of the thoughts I put down then, I have difficulties remembering exactly what gave rise to them. And yet with others, I know where they came from but do not wish to remember.

My writing style, too, is slightly different today, and so I am busy now making the necessary changes, lest the three books look as if they were written by different authors.

It is an interesting experience to come face to face with the guy who started writing this story. He sometimes make me smile, but more often he makes me cringe and shake my head. All in all, though, we are getting along quite well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A line from 'Queen Makeda's Sister'

"My mind would know more fully if only it could decipher the language of my heart." — Princess Tehtena

Friday, November 23, 2012

A line from 'The Response'

I believe the first high-five came about by accident when two Roman soldiers, standing too close to each other, raised their arms in a salute. :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Extreme editing!

Here, my friends, is what is currently on my plate:
While editing chapter four of Book One of my trilogy, I had a '"eureka'"moment. As a result, I took chapters 12,13,14,15,16 & 17, fused them into three chapters and, in the last five days, also edited out roughly 12,000 words.  One of those remodeled chapters now sits between chapters three and four, another one between chapters eight and nine, and the last one between what are now chapters eleven and twelve. Those chapter numbers will change soon, however, because I am also dividing chapter six up into two chapters, one of which will receive material I am removing from chapter seven. Another chunk of content from chapter seven will be moved to chapter eleven, which in your head spinning already? Well, mine certainly is, but I am still having fun. Although my manuscript is bleeding from a thousand wounds and bruises, I am happy because I like what I see emerging. I am keeping a copy of the old version, though, just in case it was a passing spell of insanity that prompted me to do what I did. ;-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The second half of Book One contains long conversations between King Solomon and his son, Menelik. In the previous draft, those talks are spread over several consecutive chapters—totaling approximately 33,000 words—and there is very little change of location in them. Even though many different matters are being discussed, that's far too much of the same activity in one place, wouldn't you say?  So now I am trying to break that cluster of chapters up and move some of them closer to the front of the book. This means I'll have to create half a dozen new settings (and reasons) for those chats and edit out all references to events that will soon no longer precede those relocated conversations. Ooh, that's gonna be so much fun, baby... not!! ;-)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A thought on writing

Every single page in your book ought to have a redeeming quality. It must contain something that justifies its presence there. Perhaps not each of them can be filled with riveting action or profound thoughts, but in the very least it should feature a few lines that cause the reader to pause and marvel at the beauty of the language.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A line from the novel

"I see you later," he said, cheerfully waving goodbye to her. "Odd," she mumbled facetiously, "I see you right now." 

Monday, September 24, 2012

— — —

You must engage your brain to know the knowable; you must disengage it to grasp the unknowable.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


When composing a sentence, there are few things more important to me than the melody or rhythm of the words. Just recently I spent days, no weeks, rewriting a line because I wasn't happy with the way it sounded. Its grammar was correct, the thought it contained was expressed with meticulous precision, and not a single word appeared to be unnecessary.  And yet, I didn't like it.  When I read it out loud—and reading it out loud is a must—I found it sounding bumpy and inelegant.  So I kept working on it until I was satisfied.
I can get obsessed with this sort of thing, you know?  Indeed, I must admit that I am tempted, on occasion, to improve the sound and flow of a sentence even at the expense of its clarity, as long, of course, as the intended meaning is still coming through clearly enough.  Am I too extreme?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The good old ways

I hate texting.  As a writer, I should like the written word, but texting?  I can't stand it!  Due to my profession, I know just how hard it is to express my thoughts and feelings to those who cannot see my body language or hear the tone of my voice (thank heaven for italics, in that connection!).  So much crucial information is contained in those components of speech, but texting conveys none of them.  How much better, therefore, is the simple, old-fashioned phone call.  And speaking of old-fashioned, none of todays social media can compare to the ancient technology called 'the pub'.  Not that I ever had a hangout like the famous bar in the TV show, Cheers, but I love the non-alcoholic version of it—Starbucks—and spend much time there, writing and chatting with other creative people.  I will never know as many people there as I do on facebook or twitter—but the connections are deeper.  For example, I have 132 friends on facebook, but only two of them remembered my birthday (the good thing is, I now have to remember just two birthdays myself.  Lol).  But when I got my coffee at Starbucks that morning, someone had scribbled 'Happy Birthday' on my cup (plus I didn't have to pay for it, yay!).  Or more recently, I asked the folks on twitter for some feedback, but out of my 7,347 followers not even one responded. The measly ten or twenty  people I know at the coffee shop were far more forthcoming.  Texting might be practical in certain situations, and social media is a lot of fun—I truly love facebook and twitter—but the forms of human interaction that have been with us pretty much from the beginning of time will continue to nurture the soul better, I believe, than any of the high-tech stuff we might yet come up with. :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A line from Tehtena's diary

When a young woman walked by, I glimpsed the soul of a young suitor in the old man's eyes and knew that time caused more wounds than it healed.

Friday, July 20, 2012


As I edit my novel, which has by now been more than three years in the making, I find myself sometimes at odds with the person I was when I started writing it.  So now, just as I must frequently step into the shoes of my fictional characters to let them speak in an authentic voice, I must also step into the shoes of my younger self to keep the story the way I originally envisioned it.  Wounds that festered back then and made me write certain things, have long since healed and I have to scratch them open again to recapture the mindset that once guided me.  It works, but is it really necessary?  Perhaps there comes a point when a writer ought to stop shaping the content of his or her story—at least if work on it spans a long period of time—and focus solely on the language in which it written.  Sure, a writer's skill level may also change over the years (hopefully for the better), but most likely not as drastically as his or her emotional state or outlook on life. If you, my dear writer friends, have also worked on a single story for very long, please let me know what your experiences were. :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Simple pleasures

I joined a friend on one of Manhattan's newest city buses the other day, and he remarked how much he liked the new-bus smell.  That was a first.  I've heard of people enjoying the smell of a new car.  A few very fortunate ones might even delight in that of a brand new private jet, and others, slightly below them, in the lovely aroma of a new stretched limousine.  But the folks I hang out with relish the smell of a new bus. This goes to show you where my place in the pecking order is.  :-)   No wonder I feel so close to my fictional princess in her disguise as a lowly seamstress. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

— — —

Foreign films—I hate it when there are ten sentences in the movie and only one single word appears in the subtitles to translate all that was said.  On the other hand, I'd like to hook up with the people responsible for that.  They could probably tighten up the language in my novel quite nicely.  LOL

Monday, May 28, 2012

A writer's fears

It's amazing — even after three years of working day and night on my manuscript, I am still discovering various flaws in the story line.  While I have no problems fixing the ones I find, the fact that I seem to stumble upon them more or less accidentally makes me wonder how many will continue to escape my attention.   It makes me worry that quite a few will surface only AFTER the novel has been printed and distributed (even a single one would kill me).  What a nightmarish thought.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Editing—what else. ;-)

Yesterday's editing was pure carnage. I reduced a five-page section of the second chapter to two pages. Today I will have to go over it again and see to it that the scarred remains are being stitched together properly.  I am proud to report that I didn't cry a single tear. :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I like to start the editing process by looking at each page and asking myself which sentence I would keep there if I could keep only ONE.

Friday, May 4, 2012

— — —

"My soul, sweet love, sits blissfully smiling in the space between what we did and what we shall yet do together." — Tehtena, Princess of Sheba

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tehtena's wisdom

"Better a night made bearable by the soothing anticipation of dawn than a day overshadowed by the constant dread of night." — Tehtena, Princes of Sheba

Monday, April 16, 2012


Just when I thought things would be a breeze from now on, here comes another major change to my second draft.  Although I am fairly happy with the 1. chapter, I am not so thrilled with the fact that chapters 2 & 3 are set in the same location as the seconf half of chapter 1.  In the current draft it is only in chapter 4 that the action takes place in a different setting, and so I shall now try to change the order of those chapters.  Since chapters 2 & 3 consist for the most part of flashbacks and inner monologues, I think they can be placed a little later in the narrative as long as the scheming and plotting contained in them precedes the planned action.  I will attempt, though, to condense the two into a single chapter. 
How about you?  Do you think it is crucial to have the location/setting change from chapter to chapter?

Friday, April 13, 2012

— — —

My muse is clearly a sadist at heart. She's never more buoyant and chatty than when I'm heartbroken. Today she just wouldn't stop talking.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

— — —

"Those tranquil words you see lined up so neatly in my poems—if only you knew how ferociously they rattled their cage while they were still in my head." — Solomon to his son, Menlik.


Editing...I can now read the first chapter of my novel without wincing at every other sentense. For me that's about as good as it gets. ;-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


GURSHA.  I learned that word only recently, but I have known for quite some time what it stands for. It describes a practice amongst Ethiopians where guests of honor—or simply dear friends—are hand-fed by those with whom they dine. Someone will tear off a piece of injera (the traditional Ethiopian flatbread), pick up a few chunks of food with it and then put the whole assemblage directly into the mouth of the lucky recipient.  The moment I first read about it, it seemed like a rather wonderful custom to me and I mentioned to a friend of mine how blessed I would feel if someone honored me one day in that fashion. That thought was only met with ridicule, however, and before long I forgot about the whole thing....until just a few days ago.

Remember the hug I wrote about so enthusiastically in my blog of February 14? Well, the same amazing young woman who had blessed me back then with her warm embrace, now also gave me this beautiful experience.  She took a piece of injera, folded it to pick up some food from her own plate, and then put it with her fingers right into my mouth.  It was such a simple gesture, done without any showiness, done, indeed, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.  And it was exactly this informality that made it so special. If you are aware of my great affection for the Ethiopian people, you can perhaps imagine how elated I was!  May God bless that precious lady!  What a remarkable woman!  I feel so incredibly privileged to know her.

Oh, and just before you get any crazy ideas, her boyfriend was present at the time, just as he was when I got that memorable hug. Just wanted to point that out. 

Experiences like this energize me in the writing of my novel. After all, the story is centered around the sister of Ethiopia's most illustrious Queen, and partaking in some of that country's beautiful customs inspires me.  One thing is for certain: I can now model the more endearing traits of my heroine's character after a rather remarkable, real-life Ethiopian princess whom providence has brought to New York City at just the right time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

— — —

When you talk dirty to me, I picture you without your clothes.  When you talk to me about your sorrows, I see you without your body.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I like my typed manuscripts neatly justified along the left and right margins. Beyond that, however, I cannot justify my words in any way. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Old wounds . . . healed.

What we once had now lies scattered about my heart peacefully like the ruins of an ancient temple, covered at last with soft moss on which to sit and dream.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Careful with those idioms!

While editing my historical novel, I realized once again how circumspect I have to be in my use of idioms. For example, I wanted my heroine to say something like, "I want him out of the picture", but could she have said something like that three thousand years ago?  In those days, folks didn't have pictures of other people, neither hanging on their walls nor tucked away in some album.  So this phrase would not have made any sense to her.
  Here is another one.  When faced with a difficult decision, could she have said that she wanted to "go over something in her head?" Given the fact that the brain was considered to be nothing more than some sort of filler material in those days, with no other function whatsoever, how could she have associated 'thinking' with 'head'?  Or when tempted to do something she knew was not wise to do, could she have wondered whether to follow her heart or her head?
  Well, I decided to give myself some artistic license, because if I followed the above reasoning all the way through, I might not have any English language left to work with. The 'out-of-the-picture idiom' is, well, out of the picture, of course, together with many other modern terms, but I can't reject everything that might not have been in the vernacular back then.
  One thing is for sure, though: I am spending a lot of time researching every phrase that crosses  my mind as I write. It slows me down, but will in the end have been well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I could be wrong, of course.

"The modern-day 'high-five' first came about by accident, when two guys standing too close to each other raised their arms in a Roman Salute.  It was at that time followed by extreme blushing and profuse apologies.  Today, however, that last element is completely missing from the ritual." — from my novel, THE RESPONSE

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost in translation...

As long as head and heart keep speaking in different tongues, there shall remain enough mystery to render even adults as clueless as children.

Monday, February 27, 2012


My novels are to me like masquerade balls where, disguised as my various characters, I can express thoughts I otherwise hide from the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Editing, editing, editing

After finally finishing the second draft of my book, I am now editing its very first pages.  Interestingly, it is not merely a matter of tightening and polishing the language.  The whole setup  has to be altered considerably.  I'm not surprised by this because I pretty much expected that I had to finish writing the entire novel, and especially its ending, before I truly knew what needed to be said in the first chapter.  In fact, it seems like a good idea to write a complex story in a sort of zig-zag pattern—somehow the mark of Zorro comes to mind—with the first draft going from beginning to end, the second draft from end to beginning and the final draft again from beginning to end.
I started out with a fairly good idea of what the story was going to be and how it would end, and I wrote the first chapter in accordance with that vision.  But then my characters took over and led me down paths that I didn't anticipate, caused all sorts of trouble I never saw coming, and twisted my story into something I hardly recognized.  Before I knew it, my first chapter did no longer do a decent job at setting the reader up for what was to follow.
So now I am back at the beginning to make the necessary changes—thus knocking over the first domino block in a long row of heaven knows how many more blocks, because, alas, one change always leads to another.  And as I thus work my way through my manuscript, I only pray that this ever changing story will not need yet another new beginning once I reach the end, setting off another—ahh, perish the thought!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A truly random thought

I was just wondering whether anybody ever told Dracula that he sucked. Because he did. Literally.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good Advice

"If you don't like your glass half empty, just transfer the liquid to a smaller one. Ah, the magic of lowered expectations!" — Tobiel, the carpenter

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I got a hug!!!  Yesterday I got a hug from a lovely Ethiopian lady.  No, nothing improper, nothing sensual, nothing her boyfriend, standing right next to us, would have had reasons to be jealous about.  So what made this so special, you ask, that it had to be announced on the internet?  It was just a hug, wasn't it?

Ah, my friend, if only you knew how greatly it blessed me, you would not even have thought of using the word 'just' in that connection.  I have such a deep love for the Ethiopian People (please see my post from October 9th, 2011 on this blog) but have never managed to get truly close to them.  This hug gave me hope.

Don't get me wrong.  Not ever did any of them treat me disrespectfully, nor were they ever lacking in good manners.  Indeed, I received courteous smiles and firm handshakes whenever we ran into each other, and generous help every time I inquired about their language, which I am studying.  But never before, not even in those whom I have known for many years and certainly much longer than her, had I ever sensed the kind of warmth that now shone so beautifully through this precious hug.

In my mind there were two possible reasons for this:  either I was simply not loveable enough to be treated more affectionately, or else, their culture or native temperament just caused them to keep foreigners at a safe distance.

This hug proved me wrong on both counts.

It was not just a quick embrace, but lasted long enough to convey the sincerity behind it.  It was genuine and heartfelt, and I would travel to the ends of the earth to get just one more.  Hopefully I won't have to go to such lengths.

And would you do me a favor?  Today, if you run into some acquaintences of yours, please hug them for me.  To most of them it will be, well, just a hug.  But who knows, to one or two among them it may very well be pure magic. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012


A proselytizing atheist is like a blind man trying to convince the whole world that there were no light.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More editing

When I started fleshing out this novel's first draft, I had no idea it would become morbidly obese (340,000 words). Time now for a serious editing diet.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Michelangelo once said about his famous sculpture, "David was already in the stone, I just removed all that wasn't David." Well, that is exactly how my novel must emerge from its wordy draft.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

— — —

Daily I hold in my hand a wondrous time machine that can transport people to any age and place. It is oftentimes being mistaken for a simple pen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tobiel again...

"When you are drawing a pentagon, the right angle is the wrong angle." — Tobiel, the carpenter