The Mirage: قَدْ أُكْمِلَ

These are the corrected first-pass galleys, just moments before we packed them into a box for return to the publisher last Friday. I’ll get second-pass galleys later this month, and no doubt find one last punctuation mark or variant word spelling to angst over, but really, it’s done.

Even in this pass I was scraping to find things to fix. Because I keep a master list of changes, I know there were only 56 corrections in 415 pages, almost all of them involving either minor formatting issues (at one point, the word “TransArabia” is broken between two lines, and the line break was between the “n” and the “s” instead of between the “s” and the “A”) or single word substitutions (at another place, I had written “change to world” where I meant “change the world,” the sort of error that’s easily missed in copyediting, because your brain fills in the correct word automatically; I only finally noticed it because the galleys are in a different font than the manuscript I’ve been working with for the past four years).

As with Bad Monkeys, I did manage to find a statue to obsess over. There’s a scene in The Mirage where my protagonist Mustafa al Baghdadi pays a visit to one of Saddam Hussein’s mansions. Saddam’s son Qusay leads Mustafa down a long hall lined with statues depicting Saddam in the guise of various historical figures, such as Hammurabi and Ramesses the Great. The hall ends in a domed chamber at the center of which is a two-story-tall statue of Saddam-as-Nebuchadnezzar; in a deliberate allusion to the Book of Daniel, sunlight shining through windows in the dome makes the statue’s head glister like gold. Qusay instructs Mustafa to wait in this chamber, and leaves him standing “in Nebuchadnezzar’s shadow.”

This is the part my brain decided to fixate on. Because it is morning — early morning — the sunlight would be entering the dome at a shallow angle, so would there really be a shadow on the chamber floor for Mustafa to stand in? Also, Qusay and Mustafa are walking towards the west end of the house, and since I don’t describe Mustafa passing the statue, that would put him still on the east side of it. Even if there is a shadow, would it be on the east side of the statue?

Yeah, I know: Nobody but me and maybe two other guys with OCD or Asperger’s would ever even think to care about this, so it doesn’t matter. But that didn’t stop me from standing in front of a window one morning last week, pretending to be a statue of Nebuchadnezzar, and sighing with relief when I saw that I actually cast two shadows: one to the west, caused by the direct light of the sun, and another to the east, caused by the sun reflecting off the wall behind me.

And yeah, I know: It still doesn’t matter. But after that, I was able to let it go. !قَدْ أُكْمِلَ

P.S. Now that it is finished, I hope to have cover art and a description of what the novel is actually about up on my website fairly shortly. Sorry I’ve been so cryptic up to now, but I didn’t want to jinx it.

P.P.S. The tentative pub. date is January 17, 2012.