Posts filed under ‘Sandra's Comments’
June 24 was the day I “finished” The Black Scroll. I put ‘finished’ in quotation marks because I’m starting the edit.
But the story is told. It is out of my imagination and now exists in the concrete world of words down on paper. Paper in this case is a digital format, but you get what I mean.
Whew! What a mind-bending experience. I had to pinch myself this morning. I did it! I wrote the trilogy that I’ve envisioned since 2010. The stories of Isis, Athena and Elektra.
There’s been months of hiatus here and there. The Arab Spring starting with Egypt and continuing through Libya. The remix of Isis to Isis Erotica and Isis BeachRead. Family trials and tribulations of late. You know – life getting in the way.
More intricate and involved with a much wider scope than The Red Mirror and The Emerald Tablet, The Black Scroll took a tremendous expenditure of psychic energy to tell. The Romans weren’t nice people. I was juggling memories of four lifetimes with recurring characters. I wanted to wrap everything up – cross all the t’s, dot all the i’s, tie up loose ends.
It’s a longer book, which may or may not remain so after the editing. But I have a feeling it will. The story is complex and action-filled. At least I hope so. It is in my mind, anyway. A fellow author said satisfyingly, “The monumental third volume.” I like the sound of that.
I’ve promised a couple of people to be first readers, and I haven’t forgotten that pledge. I’ll do an edit and then print a few draft copies for distribution.
In the meantime, I’m gonna savor my thrill. There’s not many moments in a lifetime like this.
Doesn’t look very glamorous, and not my greatest photography, but here’s a shot of my workstation for writing The Black Scroll.
Hope you’ll notice the height and no chair. After some back problems from sitting in front of a computer all day, I elected to write standing up.
I’ll admit it took a little getting used to, but I seem to have come over the hump. My brain’s working; the Muses are singing.
The screen on the left is the book itself as I write in InDesign. The laptop screen has my Excel spreadsheet with research including the 500+ quotes I’ve collected. I also do frequent Google searches to research details and fact check.
The eyes of the woman on the screen are Elektra, protagonist of Book Three. The pink towel between the two banker boxes is for my cat who sometimes sleeps there while I write.
Stack of books? Hadrian, The Roman Cavalry, Atlas of Classical Archaeology (for city plan of Leptis Magna) and Sex and Society in Greco-Roman Egypt. Under it all is a binder containing pages of notes.
Hanging above the work station is a photo I took on the Nile, a movie poster from ‘The Eagle’, a map of the Ancient Nile Delta and a map of the Mediterranean. To the left is a printout of an email from my friend Ann Calhoun with much appreciated (and always needed) words of encouragement.
On the far left, taped to a book shelf, is a printout of my favorite cover – but one I’m not using. It’s the Red Mirror with Isis’ eye. I opted for another cover to make the series more identifiable and the covers more cohesive. Could never repeat, no matter how hard I tried, the power of that Eye.
In case you have trouble making out details, standing on the shelf above my head are two sailing ship models, a bust of Aphrodite, Nefertiti’s head, a statuette of Athena my daughter brought me from Greece, a sitting Japanese sage, a carved wooden “Old Salt,” and a bronze figure of Shiva. Oh! don’t want to forget the brass falcon head of a shoehorn.
On the desk always my cup of black tea with milk – or my snifter of brandy or scotch depending on time of day.
The Black Scroll – 84,433 words as of yesterday. 38 Chapters. 261 pages.
People ask me how I write. The mechanics of it. Some authors apparently work 8 hours. Some work with the goal of 1,000 words a day. A chapter a day is my goal. That’s an average of 1500-2000 words, although a long chapter can be 3,000 words. New material.
I can do it in 2-3 hours if it’s action and dialogue. If there’s a lot of detail, special terminology, or facts I want to present in a way that’s not lecturing, it takes me longer. Of course, I usually spend time editing the new material the day I write. That’s on top.
But before I take The Black Scroll into the next part of the story, I go back over the chapter from the day before, beefing up certain parts, sucking as much emotion and eliciting as much drama as I can from every scene. Sometimes I have to do more research, like what kind of weapon would a young Libyan thuwar use – or what handgun would the General gift to Isis?
Then, when I think I’ve got a tight chapter that I’m pretty happy with, I go to my new blank page.
It’s not blank though. It says Chapter 29, for example, followed by XXXXX. On the next line is xxxxx which is a holder for the appropriate Roman quote I’ll plug in. Following that is a new paragraph ‘XXXX.’ This is where the new material begins. The story continues.
I seldom know the title of the chapter until I’ve written a while. Maybe halfway, maybe even to the end. Many authors don’t title their chapters, but I do. I think of each as mini-stories with their own lives. It seems fitting that they should be named, given their own identities.
Sometimes I know right away what quote I’ll use. When that happens, the quote guides the story. If not, from the list of 550 quotes I’ve collected, I find the one that communicates the theme of the chapter I’ve just written. But more often than not, the quote guides me, perhaps acting as a conduit to my sub conscience.
For it is my belief that the sub conscience is the source – the ever-flowing well-spring – of my stories. Where does the sub conscious get the stories? My past? A collective past? Or is fantasy the result of a kind of cosmic alchemy that blends everything I’ve ever read or heard or experienced into my own personal Akashic records? I can’t say with certainty. But almost any writer should say something similar. If they’re honest. If they write original material.
So I have more questions than answers. Pretty typical for me. But so far, it’s working. O Muses! Continue to sing!
BTW, I’m at about 72K words and ready to start page 220, Chapter 33.
For those of you interested in my progress with The Black Scroll, let me say that I’m advancing at a rapid clip. 59,967 words. 185 pages. Ready to start Chapter 29. Ready to visit Alexandria, 130 AD, 15 years after the Great Jewish Revolt that almost burnt the city to the ground.
You might ask how I know the page numbers with such precision.
I gather that I’m an odd duck among writers, as my preferred technique for channeling the story is to manifest the visual form as I create. I write directly into Adobe InDesign. As the words flow onto the page, they look exactly as they will look in final published form. That’s the print version I’m talking about.
Before putting the first word on the first page, I set up the layout, which in the case of The Black Scroll is the same as The Red Mirror and The Emerald Tablet - the first two novels of the Red Mirror Series. I’ve got the header at the top of the 6×9 facing pages with my name or title, book-specific Egyptian hieroglyph, and page number. The margins are there. The title page has been created.
note: As a reminder – or for those who haven’t seen the print versions – the glyph for The Red Mirror is a snake, typically Pharaonic Egyptian to my mind. The glyph for The Emerald Tablet is the owl – for Athena, the wisest of Greek Goddesses. The one I have chosen for The Black Scroll is the lion – Rome – Africa.
The print version must be re-formatted for export into Kindle, so thinking logically, I decided to write The Black Scroll directly into the layout I use for the ebook version. It’s the biggest market, after all.
It didn’t work for me. All those lovely graphic details of layout disappear. The process is no longer visual.
After a chapter or two, I gave up and allowed myself the crutch. Didn’t authors of old write with a favorite pen? Or typewriter? I need my print version InDesign layout for the Muses to sing. And so be it.
I’ve got an art degree. What’s wrong with painting with words?
February 11 was the Monday I started – day after Chinese New Year. Today is March 12. Three days from the Ides. Five days from St. Patrick’s Day. Eight days from my 38th wedding anniversary and the spring equinox.
Goodbye Libya. It was quite a ride. Hello Egypt. I can’t wait to see what happens.
It occurred to me that I’m supposed to be writing here about writing. I haven’t done a very good job with that, so am striving to make some course corrections.
At long last, I got the courage to start writing Elektra’s story. I’ve thought a lot about why it’s taken me so long. Was it fear of writing itself? Of not having any more ideas? Or was it fear of the story that Elektra has to tell? Now that I have begun, I know that this is a story I couldn’t have told without going through the experience of Arab Spring.
You may ask what the Arab Revolution has to do with ancient Roman Egypt? Well, for starters, I wouldn’t have thought to begin the book in Leptis Magna, which is outside of Tripoli, Libya. At least, I don’t think I would have. I will never know, of course, because I chose the path I am on. No one can say where another path would have lead me.
I don’t think Elektra would go off to the Nafusa Mountains to learn the Sacred Arts (magic – or black magic, if you prefer to use its power in that way) if I hadn’t followed battles there during the Libyan Revolution via twitter. I wouldn’t have realized how ancient the Imazighen people are. That’s “Berbers” to those who don’t know that the truly native (non-Arab) North African prefers to be called an Amazigh (singular). Their language is properly known as Tamazight and remarkably close to the language spoken in ancient Egypt.
But I have diverged. There’s more to the Arab Spring influence on my writing than geography. Until I lived the stories coming out of Libya, Egypt and Syria, I had no real understanding of brutality. I knew about it intellectually. I’ve done extensive research on the Roman Empire. I studied Latin years ago. I’ve seen almost every film made on ancient Rome. But there was something about the modern brutality I experienced through twitter that simply brought ancient horrors to life.
When I was writing a couple of scenes, which I believe I portrayed with just enough detail that you can use your imagination to make more graphic if you please, I reminded myself that things much worse happen every day, right now. “No,” I tell myself. “It’s not over the top.” It happened. Far worse things happened. And it was institutionalized – an accepted part of culture and life.
The Black Scroll, after 27,000 words, deals so far with slavery, the power of magic – perceived or real – and of course, Elektra. Isis has gone back through the Red Mirror to her incarnation in 130 AD, the time of Hadrian. If the book evolves as the other two, I’m not quite a third of the way into the story.
It’s been intense. This book is very different from The Red Mirror and The Emerald Tablet, which are actually different from each other. I think that a trilogy is usually a continuing story with very similar drama. So perhaps it is appropriate, after all, that I have re-titled the group as Red Mirror Series. The modern story is the continuing thread that binds them together. And the characters, of course. The reincarnating circle of souls.
I’d like to think that each book can be read separately. I tried to write them that way. I’ve had some feedback from readers who started with The Emerald Tablet and report enjoying it very much with no issues of ‘feeling lost.’
Elektra‘s story has begun with new characters in key roles. That’s just the way she’s telling it. My impression as I leave ancient Libya to make for Egypt, is that Hektor, the General, Antinous and River God will soon take center stage.
BTW, you’ll notice that I don’t have a new name for River God, aka Black Falcon. I’m waiting for him to reveal himself.
If you’ve ever wanted to follow the twists and turns of a crazy author’s mind, you can scroll through my blog and see for yourself the evolution of my Isis story. After working with a marketing person, I decided that the series needed re-titling. As fond as I am of my three women, their eyes and their names, I never felt I achieved the sense of romantic adventure that I wished to convey. I never created a cover for Athena (now The Emerald Tablet) that quite matched the power of Isis (now The Red Mirror.)
It was a hard decision to dump the eyes, harder than changing the title. But I am content now with the change and hope you are, too.
And, as if the Universe wished to convey its pleasure at my decision, I immediately found this marvelous image of a 2nd century BC Greek snake bracelet from Pforzheim, Schmuckmuseum – more or less the time period of Athena and The Emerald Tablet.
What is truly extraordinary, I had never seen the image before, yet I described it exactly as the bracelet Hektor gives Athena the morning after the symposion in Korinth. I even placed the garnet in the Herakles knot where the tails of the two snakes entwine.
Now I am the first to admit that this is a common enough motif, and that I most probably have seen something quite similar elsewhere. But I’d like to imagine that Athena spoke to me as I wrote, describing the details as she was telling me her story.
At the risk of being too personal and exposing to the world how pathetically needy I am, I want to share a really delectable moment. Quite out of the blue – or should I say cyberspace? – came an email alert of a comment to this site.
“Do we have any sort of ETA on Elektra?” – raiannon
My first reaction was “Wow. Somebody cares!”
I gave a gushy response asking if she/he would like to be a First Reader for Elektra and ending with “I guess it depends on why you are asking, doesn’t it?”
What I got back was a “review” for which I would gladly have paid. Yes, I’ve heard lots of rumors about that sort of thing…
“I’m asking because I loved the first two whole books, with their unique twist on a typical time travel novel. I was absolutely thrilled with the tie-ins between the past life found in the mirror and the current one. But the worst part of reading a series is always waiting for the next book! A good series novel has something that leaves you wanting at the end…wanting the next book. A great series novel (for a series in progress) leaves you pacing your apartment, raging at the author for not writing faster! I would be greatly honored to be a First Reader for you.”
Now I don’t know who raiannon is – at least, I don’t think I do. I actually asked my husband, “Do you think this is one of my friends trying to cheer me up?”
Thank you, raianoon, whoever you are. Rage on! I’ll do my best to make Elektra worth the pacing.
It took a while to for my shopping book to get discovered, but my spam folder is filling up fast! Lots of links to handbags and other shopping stuff – and of course sex. Should be no surprise there. That’s what you get when you title a book “Sex and the Zen of Shopping.”
Funny I’m not getting any links or offers or comments about Zen. Guess the more highly evolved spiritual creatures in our universe aren’t trolling the internet.
Maybe I should have stuck with “Shop Smart in a Dumb Economy” which was the original working title. But I had an agent tell me in quite a serious advice letter that I should drop that title because “this whole recession thing will be over in a year.” That was in…let me see now…2009?
It just goes to show how wrong agents can be. So cheer up authors. Those guys are not always right. What do they know anyway? Wonder if he’s still in business?
After a several month hiatus from writing as I helped fight the Libyan Revolution through twitter, I’ve finally gotten back to editing my ancient Egyptian novels for the Red Mirror Series. Isis has been shortened and made tighter and more fast-paced. I changed some characters names to make it easier to follow in the past life and the present, dropped a character or two, and refer to Amasis, Psamtik and Setne as Pharaoh, Crown Prince and the Scribe.
I also shifted my focus from educating to entertaining. There will still plenty of meat for history buffs in the Red Mirror Series, but I’ve tried to avoid reader anxiety that there might be a test. ;)
I’ve got Isis ready for Kindle and iPad and have been working on the promotion copy, which I find more challenging than writing novels. Is it because we authors don’t have enough distance from our story? Or is it because it’s another style of writing that takes different skills? Probably a mix of both.
Next I tackle Athena of Korinth. I’ll be doing some simplifying in that novel as well, but I’ll especially be working on making it “stand alone.” My goal is for the reader to be able to pick up Athena – or any future novels in the Red Mirror Series – and enjoy reading the ancient Egyptian novels for themselves without having to have read Isis first.
Of course, I would love for the reader to want to go back to the beginning to understand fully the evolution of party girl to powerhouse that takes place over the three novels.
Don’t want to forget to mention that I redesigned the covers of the Red Mirror Series for better viewing on Kindle and iPad. You see those above. Also have to confess that Elektra is not written yet, but she is playing out scenes in my mind. My goal is to get Athena edited and then get to work on bringing Elektra to life!
Don’t know why I was so drawn to the sunflowers at Trader Joe’s – maybe it was the price (cheap -$4.99) that gave the most drama for the buck. Or maybe I just needed the yellow power.
The Chinese vase I bought at Marshalls for nothing, probably $10-20 – I can’t remember now; it was years ago. The brass candlesticks I bought in a second hand store in Copenhagen for about $20.
Like all writers, I love words. I like to play with them and caress them, putting just the right ones in the right combinations to tease the senses or trick the mind. My fiction is sprinkled with phrases that linger between poetry and prose. I also like to write pithy, straight forward facts and opinions expressed directly, with no frills, no icing on the cake. That’s the style of my magazine blog sandraoffthestrip. com.
But it’s on Twitter where I’m supercharged. Tweeting your point can be challenging; it requires new skills. You have to get creative. 140 characters isn’t much. No space or time to babble on. Get in. Make your point. Get out.
It’s not as hard as it might seem; think of it as techno-Haiku. Need some examples?
“Seems like one long blur with spikes of joy. Can’t imagine what it’s like for ppl of Libya.” Still 50 left.
“The right chemistry needs a movement w/ a leader. A leader can make a movement. But can a movement succeed w/out a leader?” 18 spaces short of 140.
Or here’s a tweet not directed to everyone, but to a dear follower in Holland.
“@hilliewelp Here’s a pic of the strawberry meringue tarte from last night.http://twitpic.com/4iwujz.”
Still 40 spaces left and Hillie can link to a photo of the pie I uploaded to twitpic.
Some people tweet about their dogs, their next seminars, their thoughts for the day. But for me, the power of Twitter is my chance to help shape the world, one tweet at a time. Twitter with purpose.
I touch the world and the world touches me. Twitter connects me to news articles, websites, blogs, maps, poems, songs, Facebook pages, YouTube, Livestream, Audioboo – all the tools that get the message out, whatever that message is. Weight loss, daily prayer, marketing ideas, or nuclear disaster in Japan? Earthquake and Tsunami? I didn’t wait for American TV, but went straight to the source and followed English Japanese TV HNK through a tweeted link with live feed.
Because of a tweet, I watched a young man named Mo start a pirate TV station in Benghazi on his laptop. He moved every couple of hours those first days to elude capture. When TV Libya Alhurra linked to satellite hookup, I was there in the international chat room. And I got the heartbreaking tweet the night Mo was assassinated by Gaddafi snipers one month to the day from his first broadcast. A future leader, a courageous young voice silenced forever.
My Mo story was the first on the net. That’s how my blog and Twitter work together. Material for my posts comes from Twitter. Google gives my blog high ranking for original content and I also drive traffic to my site by tweeting links to my blog.
I didn’t write Mo’s story for web stats, but because I cared for him and what he stood for. I had watched him every day and followed his bravery. I had watched him grow. His loss was deeply personal. Many of my twitter connections are closer in an odd way than to the people I see in the real world. We share the same interests. We have the same passion.
I’m just one of thousands of “citizen journalists” who tweet. My followers come from every continent – all ages and all professions. Some of them are most unlikely, but they follow me because they like what I say, learn from my connections and trust me as a reliable source. Trust is always a huge factor in human relationships, virtual or real.
Active followers “retweet” my tweets to their own web of followers, sometimes adding comments. Passive connections are readers who just want to be in the know. But active or passive, there’s a place for everyone in the Twittersphere. What are you passionate about? Get a handle. Change the world a little. Start tweeting with purpose.
Follow me at my handle @LVview. Note: Although Twitter was designed for cell phone use, hence the 140 character restrictions of texting, you don’t need a Blackberry or iPhone. I tweet on my laptop.
To read some of the hundreds of tweets from all over the world the day after Mo’s death go to: Twitter Tribute to Mohammed Mo Nabbous | Off the Strip for free thinkers and adventurers.
Here’s link to the original article “Twitter with a Purpose” published in As the Pages Turn.
I had decided to take a month off between the printing of Athena of the Red Mirror Trilogy and the start of Elektra, the third book. I planned to catch up on reading, seeing friends, painting my bedroom and doing lots of research and daydreaming in preparation for the Roman Egypt novel.
But first Egypt, then Libya happened and I was caught up in the birth of new nations. It’s irresistible for me. I love this part of the world. North Africa was my home for a few years. There’s not much about it that I don’t find fascinating.
I had kept http://www.sandraoffthestrip.com barely alive for a couple of years. But I had good standing with Google cause the site has been up since 2007. In my heyday, I had thousands of unique visitors a day from all over the world. I had lost most, of course, but surprisingly still had 600 a day – mostly search engines and spam.
It took Egypt for me to use Facebook. It took Egypt for me to tweet. I’m still not into the phone thing with Twitter, but read hundreds a day online. I’m right on the ground in Libya, following all the news – trying to sort fact from rumor. There are some great tweeters from all over the Middle East.
At the moment, I am concentrating on Libya, while still following events in Egypt closely. Yemen and Bahrain are not far from my thoughts, but I am only one person!
The exciting thing for me personally is that I’ve written over 100 articles since Feb 2. So much for a furlough from writing! What’s immensely gratifying is that my last dozen or so articles are on page 1 of Google. I have two or three that are #1 on page 1. My piece on the Gaddafi sons and their interview with Cristiane Amanpour comes right after ABC news and before Huffington Post.
Of course, it’s all about keywords. But “Saif Gaddafi Amanpour” brings me right up as does “Saadi Gaddafi safari” and “Gaddafi drug jokes.” I’m right at the top with “Safiya Gaddafi wife” and “Gaddafi Amazon Guard.” I could go on, but we all know the internet and Google is fleeting fame, so here today – gone tomorrow.
I didn’t start out reactivating the blog to get high Google rankings. It’s just a pleasant and surprising outcome of a labor of love.
You can follow me on Twitter @LVworldview.
I wanted to see what all the buzz is about. I wanted to see what readers like – what turns them on for the trilogy to stay at the top of Amazon’s best sellers.
note: I chose the second book because my daughter said it was better than the first – “a real page turner.”
defection of Russian spy
inner circle government conspiracy
criminal and journalistic investigation
brutality towards women (even in Sweden!)
child pornography and abuse
explicit violence and implicit sex
motorcycle gangs and drugs
heroine has unlimited money
heroine is a dominatrix-type who ties men up (there’s a lot of tying up over all – bondage theme)
lots of video game type action that goes on without relief
Wow – no wonder it sells!
What struck me most was that the female protagonist Lisbeth Salamander gets rave reviews from men. I wonder if that’s because she is as little like a woman as possible, while still having all the right parts? Is it a fascination with girl-women? Or are men secretly attracted to a dominatrix who puts them in their place?
I’ve been doing a lot of research for Elektra, exploring the Roman fascination with death in the arena. “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Nothing was apparently too horrible or bloody for them to cheer and enjoy. They, too, liked lots of leather.
That dark part of our psyche is now channeled into shooter games and TV shows like Criminal Minds. We love the graphic autopsies on CSI. Law and Order Sexual Victims Unit had higher ratings than plain old Law and Order. How many crime and police programs are on every night? We want to hear all the details in sexy murder cases. We really love Nancy Grace if a child is both missing and abused. A movie like Inception gets nominated for an Academy Award when most of the film is permutations of automatic gunfire.
Is it because we can’t all go to war and experience the horrors firsthand that we want to watch others suffer through a protective veil of fiction? What is our fascination with vampires, werewolves and creatures of the night? Why is the human psyche so dark? We know it can be light too.
By the way, I’m not knocking Larsson’s success. I would love to emulate it. He does great character development; his players are real, although they do fall into the white hat and black hat categories. But that’s ok. He’s not literary fiction, but a good read if you like to teeter on the edge of the dark side.
I finished the first reader edition of Athena of Korinth, the 2nd book in the Red Mirror Trilogy, and will email the pdf version off to printer today. It feels really good. I’ll have twenty “first reader” copies printed, wait for their arrival, get them out, and then sit back, biting my nails, waiting for feedback.
The most important input – besides whether they like the story, of course – will be whether or not I should tone down the sex. By “tone down,” I don’t mean eliminate it, but make it less explicit. It’s been a very interesting experience for me. I had no idea there was so much fear and discomfort about sexuality. But I don’t want sex – even though my scenes are often described as tasteful and sensual – to interfere with readers enjoying the story.
I know a couple of women who have not read Isis out of fear. I had thought of giving them a redacted version with black lines through those scenes. It is really very few pages, or even paragraphs, in both Isis and Athena.
I’m looking not only at possible revisions to Isis and Athena (toning down), but also at my approach to Elektra, the third book set in Roman Egypt. The Romans were not nice people in many respects. They certainly had voracious appetites for both sex and violence, often at the same time. The character of Elektra – as I envision her – is a woman fully in charge of her sexuality. She has not revealed herself to me, but I have strong hints of a dominatrix type. But the sex is only part of the story. It’s about empowerment and a woman using everything she has to survive and control an environment where women have very little value. I’m not that sure things have changed that much.
I’m starting my “out loud read” of Athena today. It’s the last step before putting it in .pdf and sending to print for my First Reader Edition. The cover is done; the map, the glossary and the layout are done. Book Two of the Red Mirror Trilogy is almost there – at least the first go round. Having said that, who knows how long a first read through can take. You can really get stuck on the first few chapters or so. You really weren’t in the swing; you didn’t really know the characters yet. It’s all kind of stilted and artificial compared to the rest of the book.
I like her – Athena’s smarter and more directed than Isis the party girl. The modern Isis is evolving; she’s learning to take charge of her own life. She’s learning about her own power. She learns from Athena, but Athena learns from her. Athena takes a lot more risks than she would have.
As soon as Athena’s back from the printer, I’ll get it out to my select group of First Readers for input.
Not until then can I let myself start on the third book – at least the mental part of research and daydreaming.
Elektra has been knocking on the door and I keep pushing her away – “Not yet! Too early! Can’t go to Rome now!”
I work from such an intuitive level than I can’t really write unless I am channeling. It’s too forced otherwise. I can’t channel two characters at once – at least, I don’t think so.
Elektra scares me a little (actually a lot). I’m going to have to dig deep into places I don’t know about – or have only heard of. Will I find my black swan?
Here it is – the real thing – the Red Mirror. And that gorgeous guy waiting for you in the looking glass is none other than Antinous. Is he not as beautiful as a marble statue – just like I promised!