I don’t really know where this book came from. I’ll tell you what I know. In the spring of 2008 I wrote a short story for a Theology and Literature seminar at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. The seminar was taught by Dr. David Pacini, with the assistance of Dr. Stacia Brown, now Pelletier, a successful novelist in her own right. While looking for a story idea, I remembered an interview that Krista Tippet of NPR had conducted with the late Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, a famous theologian who converted to Easter Orthodoxy late in his life. They spoke about Dr. Pelikan’s collection of creeds from many different belief systems.
One of the interesting creeds that Pelikan highlighted was the Maasai creed. Nineteenth century missionaries had written a version of the Apostles’ creed that was ‘translated’ into the Maasai world. You can see a transcript of the interview here, and the full text of the creed here. I wrote the story, from the first person, of a Maasai boy, a little cattle herder, who lost his way, metaphorically speaking, and stole a goat from a neighboring village. From there on, his life went from bad to worse, and he ended up in jail in the big city, Dar es Salaam. In prison, the regional parole officer, Captain Ndulu, calls him a baboon. But he also gives him the Maasai creed. the protagonist uses the Creed to clear up the muck and start “seeing” into his own mind again, where the spark of God lives. A couple of years later, around 2010, I started tinkering with the story to prepare it for inclusion in a bundle I wanted to publish. I got inspired, and when I looked up, I was at 1,700 words. I thought Ok, it’s definitely not a short short story anymore. But there was more to do: some pre-shadowing—just setting things up nicely to give more impact to this final words of the story. That took me to 28,000 words. I don’t recall much of writing the eighteen or nineteen thousand words that pushed me over the boundary from story to novelette to novel. That part is still a bit of a mystery. The last phase was laborious crafting, using Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Finally I started self-editing—writing and fixing and writing and fixing—until one day I couldn’t take it no more and sent it off to my editor, ready or not. I guess in that respect my book is like poetry—a good poem is never completed; it is abandoned in despair.
Whether you’re self-publishing or in the power of a publishing company, Bob Dylan’s lyric “You gotta serve somebody” applies. It’s even worse if you are working for yourself. Then your boss is a jerk.
That means, in my case, that I WILL blog regularly because my boss said so. It’s not so hard. I rather enjoy throwing out a few lines now and then. Blogging is to a writer what finger-exercises are to a pianist.
My novel, Yesu’s Baboon, is at 130,000 words. I’m looking forward to mercilessly cutting them by around 50%. If you cut all the crap and redundancy out of a novel you’re already pretty proud of, you get an even better book, right? That’s how I’m going to force Hemingway’s 80% of the iceberg underwater. There’s already a lot of stuff under the waterline.
The combat phase is almost over. I’ve got three or four scenes to finish, then the revisions begin. Towards the end, the timeline gets really complex. The court case concludes, Isidora escapes, she’s got business to attend to at the law office, Koyati experiences a riot and conducts a funeral — lots of stuff.These events must occur in exactly the right sequence. That gets tricky. I use a professional-grade timeline sequencing app called Aeon Timeline. Here’s a small section of its screen:
Now if you think that this level of detail is going to make the book hard to read — it’s just the opposite. The principle is straightforward: Write hard, read easy. Or like Steven Taylor said: “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” Or, “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than for other people.”
Anyway, stay tuned. I’ll be keeping you up to date.
I’ve discovered WorldCat (http://worldcat.org). Same as Librarything (http://librarything.com) except you don’t seem to have to pay to store more than 200 books. Different business model – links to Amazon.com – who knows? Telegram style blogging – I think it defeats the purpose, but anyway … Let’s just say this is where blog meets twitter. Blitter. I’m blittering.
I’ve also discovered The New Interpreter’s Bible series of commentaries. (Check it out at Amazon.com) Wow! Great! I can’t get enough of them. I sit for many minutes and just smell them. I’m in a moral crisis as to whether I shall expose their beautiful naked backs or leave their dusties on to protect them. If you understand, you understand. If not, okay, don’t pity me, for I’m happy this way.
Okay, since I’m supposed to be writing a paper right now, I’m first going to try and find out if there’s a limit on the number of books I can store on WorldCat.org. Will let you know.
Quote of the day: In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait. – Jose Simon
While writing this, I was listening to "Bizet: Symphony #1 In C, Op. 88 – 1. Allegro Vivo" by Alfred Scholz; London Philharmonic Orchestra
I’ve discovered one of the seven wonders of the web, as one member calls it. No it’s not In-Your-Face Book. It’s The Library Thing (http://LibraryThing.com) You enter your books in minutes (because the details are automatically looked up from Amazon.com and Library of Congress) and you have a world class – no, and unprecedented class library cataloguing system.
Mmmmm … now all I have to do is find the API to export MyLibraryThing into Zotero. As soon as the term paper pressure is off and I’ve finished editing the Four Lions, I’ll rescue my other books from my proprietary online database.
In the meantime, back to "Movement in the Acts"…
While writing this, I was listening to "Rachmaninoff: Vespers 08: Khvalite Imya Gospodne – Praise the N" by Robert Shaw