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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, May 16, 2005

5 lines, then...

In the last few minutes the sun began to shine. The bright-green garden sparkles. In a few more minutes our new 205-cm Billy bookshelf will arrive.

Notes this morning were from True Believer and another book I brought down from the coffeetable stack: A History of the Jews in Babylonia by Jacob Neusner. My characters Menahem and Hillel hail from that part of the world, so I want to know all I can about it (that's not too much, as even the authorities agree).

Next: the writing session. I managed 5 lines before I was off checking my research notes on calendar systems. (The Billy shelf just arrived. It's a 90-pound flat box 2 meters long. One guy heaved it up the carpeted stairs to our upper floor while his partner looked on. I had him drop it flat on the bedroom floor.) I pasted a couple of research items into my "16 - Notes" document, then searched the Web for more material on the ancient Macedonian calendar, which I understand was in general use throughout the East after the time of Alexander the Great. Checking web pages for relevance and authority. Copying and pasting some of the material into my Encyclopedia document called "Calendar Notes".

I found one very good site by someone named Chris Bennett. I had to stop and read the material; he seems pretty authoritative. I think it's the same site I've consulted for other material in the past.

The calendar is a major image and theme for this work, so I don't want to make any more gaffes than I have to. Before finishing my outline I took the time to create an Excel workbook with a separate worksheet for each type of ancient calendar I was looking at: Jewish, Roman, and Essene. Based on my research, I worked out my own correspondences between them. So I wanted to feel solid and confident that I had enough material before going further with my scene and chapter.

Bottom line: no more writing. I pushed on with research until my wheels started spinning. I always feel a bit bad on days like this. Am I wasting my time?

Time to go assemble a bookshelf.

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