Dreams of the Desert Wind, published by Fairwood Press, was actually the first novel I wrote. It was inspired by my experience living in Jerusalem, a remarkable city and one that fired my imagination to great effect. However, as with many first novels, it wasn’t that good, and it took about a decade of rewrites and rework to make what is now a damned fine novel (IMHO, of course).
The book is available in both hardcopy and Kindle editions (for only $4.99!)
Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
David floated through the dreamworld. He searched the world for something— anything —upon which to anchor his perceptions, but found nothing. His disorientation was complete. He was alone in a cosmos filled with light that sparkled as it swept around him. He breathed in air that was dry and parched and that made the white-on-white void shimmer with a heat he sensed but could not feel.
He forced his will on the world and gravity returned. It gave him a sense of “down,” but also brought a feeling of precarious danger. He squinted at the light and it retreated, forming shadows that coalesced into shapes. More, he demanded, and the shadows began to come into focus.
Walls of stone dropped away below him, vertiginous and steep, revealing sheer faces of living rock striated by eternities of wind and rain. David stood barefoot atop the ledge. He looked up at the broken light that spun overhead. It united in a blinding sun in a sky as white as bleached bone. Sunlight cast one of the walls below into deep shadow while the other burned with radiant heat.
David swayed as he looked down into the darkness of the narrow canyon. This was a dream unlike any he’d ever had before, and the first dream he could remember where he knew it was a dream.
The intense sun baked through the curls of his dark hair and baked his scalp. Sweat leapt to his skin and was borne away by sudden gusts of a dusty desert wind; a wind so hot it did not cool but felt instead like the breath of fire. It was the khamsin, the scorching summer wind birthed by the furnace of the deep desert. David saw the sun dim. The sky yellowed as the khamsin closed in and filled the sky with suspended sand.
Voices—dozens of them—rose from the cleft below his hazardous perch. They spoke in languages he knew, tongues long dead but somehow still familiar. The rhythm and timbre he knew, but he could not resolve the meaning. The voices spoke in tones filled with urgency, syllables rapid, but the words—so tantalizingly familiar—were unfathomable. It was as if a wall had been placed in his brain, separating him from the knowledge he knew he possessed. He saw the word forms, he parsed the syntaxes, but comprehension of the ancient words eluded him.
Finally, in frustration, he called out.
“Hello!” His voice sounded distant, remote, as if he were somewhere else nearby, disconnected from his mind.
The chorus continued below, unintelligible and imperative, echoing up from the deep cleft. He followed the voices as they came from here, then there, switching from point to point. They rose up out of the darkness flew into the brassy sky, and then swept down and swirled around him like the desert zephyr that burned his skin. He squinted again, this time against the dust and sand from the khamsin.
“Stop,” he shouted, and though the wind continued, the voices united in a single source of sound behind him.
He turned, his back to the abyss, and saw a pair of eyes wrapped in shadow. They were large eyes, kohl-rimmed, with irises as black as the shadows of the canyon depths. Beautiful and sloe-shaped, they narrowed as the shadow bloomed around them, expanding to form a figure draped in windswept cloth, like the Arab women he saw so often in the streets of Jerusalem. The wind pulled at her robes, outlining her figure—so lithe and insubstantial in the building breath of the khamsin that David wondered how she stood against it. Then he saw others behind her; men and women with ancient, desert-ravaged faces, their bodies robed in black wool and white linen.
Desert dwellers, silent now and look ing at him.
“Who are you?” he asked them in his hollow, far-off voice. The khamsin tore his words away and he began to feel afraid. He did not understand this dream. He wanted it to stop. He wanted to wake up, but he did not know how to break out of this world. “Who are you? What do you want?” he asked the people before him.
The only answer came from the sandstorm, crying out in its own, moaning voice as it scoured through the wadi with sand-laden wind. The sunlight dimmed as the jaundiced sun was obscured. Lightning flashed and David flinched. He raised his hand against the onslaught of grit, heat, and wind.
“What is going on? Tell me what you want.”
From within the folds of her robe, the young woman of the almond eyes extended her hand. On her palm he saw the lines of dark tattoos. He looked at her face and saw there, beneath each eye, three tear-like dots: the ritual marks of the nomadic tribes.
She spoke to him, her voice calm and present, unlike his own. Though she stayed where she was, her words came close, as if she was whispering into his ear. Surprised, David took a step backward and his foot met the edge of the cliff. He slipped on the hot, sandy stone and the young woman’s eyes widened as he lost his balance and began to fall.
David awoke but did not open his eyes.
My God, he thought. What a dream.
Parts of it were still clear, distinct in his memory, and he doubted he’d ever forget them. The deep canyon. The hot stone. The young woman’s eyes, so long and beautiful, and her hand outstretched to him.
But other parts had already begun to fade. The voices and their words had begun to lose their crispness. He concentrated on the remembered sounds, letting their rhythm and music play through the memory of the dream. As any sense of their meaning fled, he was able to isolate the language itself. Semitic, North Central, Middle Stage. Some form of ancient Aramaic. Why was he suddenly unable to understand Ancient Aramaic?
In the end, the echoes of the voices faded, leaving him with only the vision of the eyes—black onyx within white—and the darkness of lashes and kohl.