The Mirage

Second-pass galleys are done. (There were a whopping seven corrections this time. I could have made it nine, but decided to let a couple of borderline style issues* slide as a way of convincing myself I was actually finished.) Bound galleys are next, then actual books.

Meanwhile, as you can see, we have a cover. And for those of you who’ve been wondering what the story is actually about, I’ve posted jacket copy on the Mirage page of my website. Enjoy!


*Because someone is sure to ask, both involved colons: in the first case, whether the colon in question should have been a period, and in the second, whether the word following the colon should have been lowercased instead of capitalized. Heavy stuff.

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.

Yes, we can

My favorite partisan reaction to the news (via Blag Hag):

Meanwhile, on FOX (via Regret the Error):

If nothing else, this may explain why our own local FOX affiliate was spelling Osama bin Laden’s name “Usama” last night. At first I thought it was because they wanted to get the USA in there, but now I’m thinking it was to avoid confusing the staff.

Murderer shot by Union troops

On CNN last night they were making repeated comparisons between Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, but it seems to me the more apt comparison is to John Wilkes Booth: a spoiled rich kid who convinced himself he had a starring role in the divine plan, who changed history through a single violent act, and who contrary to his own expectations will be remembered not as a hero but as a murderer.

It’s too bad the timelines couldn’t have been more similar: Booth lasted all of twelve days after shooting Lincoln, while Bin Laden has been “hiding in a cave” for so long that I’d almost ceased to think of him as a real person. My initial reaction to the news was this weird dissonance, as if the Navy SEALs had killed the boogeyman.

I am very glad they got him, and hope this brings some solace to the families of the victims. I also hope this means the war is over.

Is quinoa kosher?

The Times reports. You decide:

Tasty, gluten-free, protein-rich—and, by many accounts, kosher for Seders lacking in carbohydrate variety—[quinoa] has become a staple of Passover cookbooks. Gourmet magazine hailed it in 2008 as the new “belle of the Passover ball.”

If only life were so simple.

As with most matters under the purview of Jewish law—from how to turn on the lights during the Sabbath, to what kind of cough syrup is certified kosher—a debate has emerged among rabbinical experts about quinoa’s bona fides as a kosher alternative to leavened-grain products like bread. And this has led to confusion and concern in many Passover kitchens around the country on the eve of the holiday, which begins on Monday evening.

“I went to hear two rabbis discussing the quinoa situation at my synagogue last week,” said Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf, a food scientist in Sharon, Mass… “They had basically the same information, but they came to opposite conclusions,” Ms. Mathes-Scharf said. “Typical…”

There are two camps on quinoa: rabbis who say it is fine, and those who regard it as suspect. But both agree that its suitability for Passover depends on how the crop is harvested and shipped.

A definitive answer is not likely to be reached until a rabbi can be dispatched to a remote mountain region of Bolivia to inspect certain quinoa operations…