Category Archives: Scheherazade

The Magical Harmony of Andalusia

I heard an extraordinary concert recently that was a breath of fresh cultural love and harmony in the midst of all the hate and violence in the world now.  It was a collaboration between: al-Bustan Takht Ensemble, an instrumental band playing Arabic music, Dalal Abu Amneh, a beautiful and mellifluous Palestinian vocalist in the tradition of the great Egyptian pop singer Umm Kulthum, and The Crossing, an American choir specializing in new, commissioned music with exquisite, eclectic taste and skill.  The program featured instrumental pieces, including an amazing solo by percussionist Hafez Kotain, several traditional songs by the band and Dalal, and two original pieces for everyone, settings of Medieval Arabic poetry from the Islamic empire in al-Andalus, Spain.  It was a tribute to the flourishing of that culture around the 12th Century.

I was attracted to this event for several reasons.  My wife knew of The Crossing through a colleague who has sung with them.  We had heard them sing David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion on a frigid winter night where the subways were filled with the homeless; at the end of this beautifully performed, but austere requiem for the Little Match Girl, my heart was in such anguish that I sobbed uncontrollably.

Also, for the third book in the 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles I did vast research into Arabic literary history of 10th Century al-Andalus and Baghdad.  So besides my interest as a composer in world music, I wanted to hear an authentic performance of that musicalized poetry.  Book Three is about the outlawing of fiction in early Islam, but poetry and revelrous music always rocked the courts.  As it did at the concert!

Finally, the premise of the qaraq’s adventures in the next book is that they collectively incarnate into that time as a group of story collectors.  They construct a special version of The Thousand and One Nights, a subversive, multi-cultural version that brings together stories from many cultures.  So of course I loved the concert’s East meets West mission.

What astounded me most of all was how the event was a cultural healing without any overt political commentary or mention of recent inflammatory tragedies.  The hope that diverse cultures can co-exist was simply displayed by the attention to detail that the performers had for each other.  From their first entrance, The Crossing worked hard to capture the vowel sounds and diction of Arabic; later the leader of al-Bustan joked with them about their efforts.  The music clearly used a special intonation system different than European tempered harmony, and the singers had to match the instruments’ intonation, a perfect example of being in harmony despite fundamentally different backgrounds.  The instrumental ensemble had to accompany the dissonances and complex textures of European composition with grace and support.  And the two composers had Middle Eastern backgrounds, so they synthesized the two musical traditions while creating a new sound.  What a sensitive coming together of worlds!

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Halloween Tale 2015

Here’s a repost of my Halloween gift, a tale of Pyramid tombs, ghosts, and immortality. For more free stories and offers, join 1001/Qaraqbooks News. Continue Reading


From Sun-Thurs, Oct 18-22, The Qaraq and the Maya Factor will be free on Kindle.  It’s the ebook version of Book Two of 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles, the 11 book literary fantasy series. From the book description: What if your déjà vu lasted ten minutes? Involved ten neighbors? Linked to a 1001 lifetimes with this group? This… Continue Reading

Fabulous Fabulists

As always, I’m proud to be represented on The Visionary Fiction Alliance, this time with a guest post about the power of fable, both classic and modern.  I look at how fable relates to my new work The Qaraq and the Maya Factor.  Here’s an excerpt from “Fables, Italo Calvino, and Visionary Fiction.” “We know this… Continue Reading

Launch of 1001, Book Two!

It’s 10/01, and time for the launch of The Qaraq and the Maya Factor, Book Two of 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles.  Today I launch the print version on Amazon, but I will be giving away free ebooks soon.  To find out when, subscribe to my newsletter, 1001/Qaraqbooks News. From the book description: What if your déjà vu lasted ten minutes?… Continue Reading

1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles, and Magic Realism

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop.  Click the blue frog at the bottom to see a list of other mouth-watering articles!  Here’s my two bits: One Valentine’s Day, my wife gave me a sadistic gift.  She signed me up for Pitchapalooza, a book marketing workshop given by The Book Doctors at our… Continue Reading


I was excited to attend the premiere of John Adams’ ‘dramatic symphony’ at the New York Philharmonic.  Scheherazade.2 at the very least proves that the tremendously evocative female character of Medieval Arabic literature still resonates, inspires, and empowers artists to create great works.  Since the main character of my 1001 series is a modern day Scheherazade,… Continue Reading

When Ursula Dissed Kazuo: 8 Bits of Book Gossip

The novel is always changing.  Has always, will always.  But here’s 8 links to posts about current stuff going on that points to a radical departure from lit as we know it. 1) Kazuo Ishiguro’s new book, The Buried Giant, sparked a debate about the breakdown of genre literature, and the consequences of blurring or obliterating genre… Continue Reading

A Movable Golden Age

My task this year is working on several books at once in the 1001 series, and with that comes the pleasure of tracking an idea like The Movable Golden Age.  As I humbly learn how to entice readers to discover The Qaraq, Book One of The Reincarnation Chronicles, I wait for my editor Debra Ginsberg to do… Continue Reading

Best of 2014 Qaraqbooks posts

If you’re just now following Qaraq Books, or have been a loyal fan and want to look back at a ‘novel’ year, here’s what I consider the best posts of 2014 (just click on the post title). If you’d like notifications of 2015 posts, plus book news, free stories, and promotions, please subscribe to my… Continue Reading