On the weekend after my meeting with my editor Kate, I wrote to Diane, my agent, updating her on the discussions:

I had my meeting with Kate on Thursday and I agreed to change and simplify The Moses Tablets...

My only concern is about the possible loss of the Summer release slot. I firmly believe that the summer slot is ideal, followed by the spring slot.  On the other hand I obviously need more time (guaranteed in writing), given how late we have come to this decision.  Kate was talking about a January 2012 slot, but this is less than ideal.  If it was a hardback, I wouldn’t mind a November 2011 slot.  But it isn’t and as for January (or even February), I see them as little more than graveyards.

The question is what can I do to make a summer slot attainable?  Certainly, I can write a first draft in 6-8 weeks once the plot is finalized and the research done. In fact I am quite far with my research, as much of the old research can still be carried over.  But I still have to finalize the plot.  I reckon I may be able to do that by the end of the week. and then finish the research by the end of September.  This gives me two months to write it by the end of November deadline for a summer release (if I have understood correctly).

I will only know for sure when I have completed a more detailed plot summary.  If I manage that by the end of the week, then I can do the rest, including delivering by the end of November.

Kate said that she would send us a summary of our discussions on Monday, so you may be reading that at the same time as this.

Diana agreed with me that a summer publication slot was desirable and wrote to Kate accordingly, while I got on with the task of writing a two page synopsis based on my discussions with Kate.  I did not yet send it to Kate, as I wanted Diane’s feedback first.  I wanted to be sure that this story really hit the spot. I did however write to Kate, to sound her out on the idea of changing the male Mossad officer into a female.  The reason for this was that I wanted to two strong female characters in addition to the male protagonist, in order to heighten the tension.

Kate for her part sent me the summary of our discussions (our messages crossed over) and this helped me a great deal.  Not all of the things we discussed made it to the final cut.  But certain key elements were there that form the basis of the final story: a female archaeologist make a major find with ancient writing, a young Anglo-Jewish professor Daniel Klein called in to translate, background research into the archives of 19th century explorer William John Bankes, the Mossad, Daniel coming under suspicion of murder, a chase, a ruthless secret society, seeking historical information from the Samaritans.

By mid-day on Tuesday the 10th of August, I had finished my own preliminary draft of the synopsis, incorporating these key elements and sent it to Kate.  By the early evening, Diane wrote to me that she had spoken to Kate and they had agreed on a delivery deadline of the 1st of December, aiming for publication sometime in May or June.  This was perfect for me and it was clear that Diane and Kate shared the excitement.

The title that I had settled upon – The Moses Tablet(s) was a problem however.  Kate felt that it gave away too much too soon.  The other issue was my name.  The publishers felt that as this was a completely different genre to my other books, it should be published under a different name.  This was something I entirely agreed with.  But coming up with a new name could wait.  I had to crack on with polishing the synopsis.  By eight o’clock in the evening on August the 10th, I sent the synopsis to Kate.

Four days later, I wrote to Diane, suggesting that we call the book Shibboleth. Derived from the Hebrew word for an ear of corn, it has been incorporated into the English language as meaning “any distinguishing practice that is indicative of one’s social or regional origin. It usually refers to features of language, and particularly to a word whose pronunciation identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group.”  The literal origin goes back to a war between different Israelite tribes when the tribe of Ephraim was defeated.  When fleeing members of the tribe of Ephraim tried to flee, they were challenged to say the word Shibboleth.  If they pronounced it Sibboleth (because of their inability to pronounce the consonant Sh) they were put to death on the spot.

In my story, this conflict did not play a direct part, but the ancestors of the tribe of Israelite tribe of Ephraim and their origins – as well as their inability to pronounce sh – played a major part.  But it was also the modern meaning of Shibboleth – a test of membership and faith – that gave it a pleasing double meaning.  I pointed out that even if most people didn’t  know the meaning, the same could be said of  Tesseract – a title of a very successful book by Alex Garland.

One day later – on the 15th of August 2010 – I commenced the actual writing of the book.

 

One Response to How I Came to Write THE MOSES LEGACY – 7

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