Writing

Osiris image from replica of Sennedjem tomb RBCM Egypt exhibit 2018

A Quick Visit to Ancient Egypt

On Saturday, November 24th, I spent a few hours surrounded by objects from ancient Egypt. After a couple of years immersed in researching and writing a novel featuring such items, I was delighted when the Royal BC Museum hosted a travelling exhibit called Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. (It continues until December 31st, for anyone who might be in or near Victoria, B.C.)

And I was intrigued to hear that on this particular day, an anthropology class at a local college was to stage a mock ancient Egyptian funeral right in the exhibit space. The project was part of a course called Anthropology of Death. The students did a lot of work to create the atmosphere and physical objects. They had even mummified a chicken, which was on display just outside the exhibit space.

A human dummy mummy (not a real one!) was carried along the twisting path through the various dimly-lit rooms, into a life-size replica of the tomb of Sennedjem, an artisan of Thebes. It was placed into a coffin (a borrowed theatrical prop), and the correct ceremonies were performed, including the all-important “Opening of the Mouth.”

Mock ancient Egyptian funeral in the RBCM Egypt exhibit
You can just see the “mummy” in the bottom of the coffin. Offerings have been placed at the left end and the participants are holding scrolls with the ceremonial words.

Photos taken with a phone in dim spaces with lots of reflecting glass (exhibit cases) and small spot lights, among crowds of people jostling around, aren’t the best. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) I focussed (yes, indeed!) on items of special interest to me, either because they appear in my recently published book, or, in the case of the cat statue and mummy, just because.

This photo of the Bennu Bird was one of the best, along with the one of the Osiris image at the top of the post.

The Bennu Bird, from the replica of the tomb of Sennedjem.
Bennu Bird in the replica tomb

This stone sculpture of the head of an unknown queen was in a dark corner, and my photo (somewhat enhanced) makes her look quite creepy.

Stone sculpture of head of unknown queen from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Sculpture of unknown queen.

False doors (or “spirit doors”) appear in my novel, so of course I took a photo of this one. It dates back to the Old Kingdom, which makes it about five thousand years old.

Old Kingdom false door, made of limestone with hieroglyph inscriptions, from RBCM Egypt exhibit.

Shabtis (or ushabtis, or shawabtis) are small human figure sculptures that were placed in tombs so they could work for the deceased person in the afterlife. They were pretty much mass-produced, but sizes and materials varied somewhat. This one struck me as looking quite sinister, so I touched up the image to emphasize that.

Shabti from RBCM Egypt exhibit 2018
You wouldn’t want to meet this guy in a dark alley.

Most people know the Egyptians had a reverence for cats. At least I think it was reverence, since there was a cat goddess, Bastet. Many cat mummies have been found, and this exhibit included one. My photo makes it even weirder than it looked in real life reality. The covering is quite intricately patterned, and the fake eyes and ears are touching.

Cat mummy from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Sad kitty…
Bronze cat statue from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Detail of bronze cat statue. Really, it’s an elegant piece, but this picture makes it look more like the cat mummy above.

As always, one exits through the gift shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pair of fake shabtis. (You have to read my book to find out why.)

Reproduction shabti figurines from RBCM Egypt exhibit shop
They look a bit apprehensive, don’t they? Right now they’re standing near my computer, wondering what jobs I’m going to make them do.

I’ve always been a sucker for blue glass, so this little jug was an obvious choice. I like that it was made in Egypt (as were the shabtis) from recycled glass.

Cobalt glass pot with small handles, Baladi glass from RBCM Egypt exhibit shop
“Baladi” (which means “local”) glass
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Book Review: The Crux Anthology compiled and edited by Rachael Ritchey

First, I’ll note that I have a story in this anthology. It’s called “The Blue Rose.” That’s all I’m going to say about it.

Here are links to pre-order the ebook. It’s $0.99 now, but goes up to $5.99 after the end of November, so act fast!

AMAZON   Barnes & Noble   Apple   Kobo

And here’s my review. This contest-based anthology is grouped around the theme of adventure as prompted by the picture on the cover. Most (but not all) of the stories recognizably incorporate the picture’s elements – a youngish bearded man, a woman with white-blond hair, a white temple-like structure on a steep green hill, suggestions of a cave, and a hint of the supernatural. It was interesting to see how closely authors adhered to the picture, and what forms the elements took in their stories.

The quality of the prose is uniformly good, although the authors’ styles vary, as might be expected, since they hail from widely scattered parts of the English-speaking world. The stories range from magical fantasy to grim dystopia, and include humour, mystery, romance and tragedy. Most readers will find something in this collection to captivate, intrigue, thrill, and entertain.

Specifically, these are six stories I especially enjoyed:

“The BUSS Stop” by K.R.Ludlow, for its unabashed goofiness and fast pace.

“The Cave of Legix” by David Jesson, for the realistic depiction of an expedition’s interpersonal dynamics and an ingenious mystery in a tropical jungle cave.

“The Paths We Choose” by R.J. Llewellyn, for its characters’ strong emotions and tragic choices made under extreme duress.

“Daddy Forgot Water” by Barb Taub, for its unflinching presentation of a horrific but plausible scenario.

“The God Strain” by Gary Jefferies, for a darkly humorous look at the beginnings of what might turn out to be a similar scenario.

“The Forever Door” by Rachael Ritchey, for fast-paced thrills in a vividly imagined setting, with a compelling quest, a remorseless villain, and a relatable sibling duo as protagonists.

I was delighted to be included among this group of authors and to work with Rachael and other members of the “Crux Crew” to let the world know about this worthwhile book.

The Crux Crew Mini-Interview

Find out more about three of the authors in the Crux Anthology.

Rachael Ritchey

I couldn’t help reblogging this entertaining and interesting interview (more of a conversation between three authors we get to sit it on) between host author Joy E. Rancatore, R. J. Rodda, and Audrey Driscoll. 

To enjoy the interview in its entirety, head to Joy’s website by clicking this link:

http://www.joyerancatore.com/2018/11/15/the-crux-crew-mini-interview/

Following is a snippet, but don’t miss out on the rest. These ladies are smart, and their conversation is one we can all enjoy. 

~ Rachael Ritchey

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The Crux Crew Mini-Interview

Is it tea time where you are? Are you sipping your morning coffee? Even if it’s neither, I invite you to pour yourself a cuppa and join me, Joy E. Rancatore(JER) and authors R J Rodda (RJR) and Audrey Driscoll (AD) as we have a little chat about writing, stories and the release of The Crux Anthology. We are proud to be part of…

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The Crux Anthology print cover

“The Crux Anthology” Available Soon!

It feels like way longer ago than January that I saw a post on Rachael Ritchey’s blog announcing the Adventure SciFi and Fantasy Contest and decided to enter. Usually I don’t do contests, but there was something about this one…

I was thrilled when I actually finished my story and sent it in, and even more thrilled when Rachael notified me it was in the top ten. Then in May, I was totally chuffed that my story won Third Prize.

And now, The Crux Anthology is about to be published. Take another look at that gorgeous cover. Then take a look at this…

The Crux Anthology back cover description

And here’s the list of those authors…

thecrux-ebook1.jpg

You may recognize some of these folks as bloggers. Here’s a chance to read a curated selection of their fiction.

Just so you don’t miss any important details, click here to sign up for the Crux-specific newsletter.

The release date is November 26th, but you can pre-order on the 19th. All sales proceeds will go to the charity Compassion International.

 

hot air balloon on ground rainbow colours

Her Day Approaches!

I’m inflating that balloon again! The ebook version of She Who Comes Forth launches on Wednesday, November 7th. That means there are only three more days to pre-order at the special price of $2.99.

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes she and her gifts may imperil the world—or save it.

AMAZON:  US  UK  CA  AU

B&N  KOBO  APPLE

SMASHWORDS

Here is a tiny taste…

1

The Chapter of Experiencing Departure and Disappointment

 

Luxor, Egypt, September 27th, 1962

My hair flopped into my eyes—again. I tried to blow it out of the way, but that never works. I pushed it behind my ear for the hundredth time that day, my dirty hand adding to the accumulated grime on my face. Sighing, I turned back to the pile of rocks in front of me. Check for inscriptions. Check for chisel marks. Attempt to discern shape. Sort and classify.

The clink of tools on stone and the murmur of voices blurred into a distant hum, joined by the drowsy buzz of flies. Even in the shade of the tarp stretched over the sorting area, it was hot and getting hotter.

“Hello, Miss America!” The Grinner arrived with another basket of rocks. His thin body jiggled under his grey galabeya and his eyes squinted under his faded blue turban. “It is beautiful day! Very happy to see you!” He was smiling so hard I thought his face would split and the top of his head would fall off, turban and all.

“Hello,” I said. I couldn’t remember his name. Ali? Omar? I couldn’t keep them straight. To me, this one was “the Grinner,” and I couldn’t call him that to his face.

“Please put that here.” I pointed to a spot next to the basket I was working on. “Thank you. Very much.” I turned back to my current rock, hoping he would take the hint and leave.

“His name’s Mustafa,” Hank said from behind me. “It’s no hardship to remember the workers’ names, France. Just like I remember yours. They appreciate it.”

Great. Another mini-lecture from Hashish Hank. I squinted up at him, brushing the hair out of my eyes yet again. “But my name isn’t ‘Miss America.'”

Hank grinned. “That means he thinks you’re pretty.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Even my sarcasm-producer was weary.

“And you’d better step it up.” He gestured toward the new basket of stone fragments that had joined my half-full one. “The Boss wants us to get this section done today, so there’s lots more to come.”

“All right.” I blew a raspberry at his departing back and picked up a rock. Check for inscriptions. Check for chisel marks. Try to discern shape. Sort. Classify. Wipe sweat, push hair behind ear.

Shit, it’s hot!

Archaeology, Egyptian style.

If only I’d known.

 

Balloon image from Pixabay

manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

Writing Environments

Has anyone ever wondered how much the physical environment in which a book is written influences the finished product?

My first four books were written under these conditions: basement room with closed door, no company except one cat, specially selected music, and totally offline. The computer I used was not connected to the internet; it was essentially a glorified typewriter. I did my research using real books, except for snatched opportunities for internet fact-checking in my workplace. (That’s another thing — I had a full time job then.) Writing sessions were at least three solid hours almost every evening, with the World’s Best Cat nearby. I wrote the entire Herbert West Series between November 2000 and late 2006. Then in the winter of 2007-2008 I wrote another, unrelated novel (which remains as yet unpublished).

Zeke, May 11, 2014

Zeke the Cat (1997-2017)

The conditions under which my latest book (now available in print on Amazon, ebook still on pre-order) was created: shared office in the main part of the house, with spouse and large dog coming and going, and talk radio or randomly chosen music. Almost all research was done on the internet, and the book was written on an internet-connected laptop (after the handwritten “proto-draft,” of course).  Writing sessions were spasmodic, some as short as five minutes (between checking emails, reading blog posts, and looking things up). Some were as long as a couple of hours, circumstances permitting. No wonder it took a whole year to produce a 100K-word first draft, and the best part of a second year to edit, rewrite, and format. And I’m retired now! Finally, most of this book was written without feline company, since Zeke (the WBC) died in January 2017.

It’s tempting to wonder if these differences in the environment of creation are discernible in the finished work. I’m hoping my writing skills have improved since the early years of the millennium. Despite distractions and interruptions (or maybe because of them?) the new book is shorter and (I think) gets to the point faster. I’ll have to speed up my output if I want to finish — no, wait — if I want to start the projects I still have in mind.

A paranormal Egyptian page-turner, new from Audrey Driscoll

WHAT THE HELL

One of the advantages of being an editor is that I get to read terrific books before they’re published. Then they come out and I’m thrilled, not only that they’ve come to fruition but also that I’ve already sipped from the well. It’s a blast.

Over the summer I had the chance to beta read Audrey Driscoll’s new novel, She Who Comes Forth. It’s a rousing paranormal adventure story set in Egypt, with the Cuban missile crisis in the background and all kinds of mysterious intrigue in the foreground. I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes…

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Saved seeds 2018

Seeds and Notes

Ever since midsummer, I’ve been saving seeds. First, the dark blue delphinium finished its first flush of bloom and formed seed pods on the single stalk I didn’t cut down. Then the aconite “Stainless Steel,” which goes dormant soon after it finishes blooming. This year it produced some seeds before checking out, so I saved a few. Then the irresistible chunky seeds of the mysterious and beautiful cerinthe “Pride of Gibraltar.” I made sure to retrieve a few before they fell (I’m anticipating random seedlings to pop up soon; the problem is they don’t always survive the winter). Last week I cut the plants down and shook out the remaining seeds onto a white cloth. Now I have more than enough to keep this intriguing plant going in my garden.

I even squeezed out some tomato seeds and kept them and their attached pulp sitting around in a jar, supposedly fermenting, a supposedly necessary process. I’m pretty sure the seeds I grew this year’s tomato plants from were ones I dried and packaged several years ago, without any fermentation. We’ll see if the new ones are viable when spring rolls around again.

Pacific Coast iris seed packet, Libertia peregrinans seedsI collected various other seeds in my garden and elsewhere. Libertia peregrinans, for example — a plant I’ve lusted after for years but haven’t managed to find in commerce. Last summer I encountered some in a boulevard planting and nabbed a single seed pod. And I bought a packet of seeds of our native Pacific Coast Irises while touring a notable local garden. These two plants will be new to me, so both a challenge and (maybe) a thrill.

I’m actually of mixed minds about saving seeds. Putting them in labelled envelopes is only a beginning, not a completion. Saving seeds means I can grow an annual again next year, or grow more perennials if I want to. They do peter out or meet with misfortunes, so it’s reassuring to know I have a handful of their descendants safe in an envelope.

Saved seeds, cerinthe seeds, beach pea seeds 2018But seeds in an envelope don’t turn into plants all by themselves. Unless I remember them at the correct time of year and expose them to conditions that will cause them to germinate, they’ll just sit in their envelopes until they lose their viability. Turning seeds into plants means rounding up suitable containers and soil mix, putting the seeds on or in the soil, and exposing them to light (or not) at the optimal temperature for germination. And germination is only the beginning. Tiny seedlings need a lot of attention if they’re not to expire from damping off, drying out, or lack of adequate light. And that’s while they’re still in their first little pot in the house. Further operations are needed before a mature, healthy plant is added to the garden.

Writing notebookStory ideas in notebooks are like saved seeds. Just as the seeds are unrealized potential until planted in damp earth, the ideas are dead scribbles until they are unpacked and spun out in words. The seeds I gathered will be safe in their envelopes and repurposed pill bottles until next spring, but I will use the dark time of year to revisit and ponder my story ideas, eventually setting pen to paper to begin the process of creation. The requirements for success are more nebulous than those for growing plants. Time and stillness, the right music, an overheard remark, the light falling through the window at the perfect angle, the caprices of mood and mind. Maybe something will come of these conjunctions — ideas that will bloom and bear fruit in the form of stories, or even another novel. Maybe.

hot air balloons over Luxor Egypt

She Comes Forth!

Cover image for She Who Comes Forth created with Canva

The ebook version of my soon-to-be released novel She Who Comes Forth, is available at a special pre-order price of $2.99 from now until the release date, November 7th, 2018.

AMAZON:  US  UK  CA  AU

B&N  KOBO  APPLE

SMASHWORDS

This is the work in progress I’ve been blogging about for the past year or two. Finally, it exists as something more than a pile of paper and a bunch of Word docs.

The novel is a standalone sequel to the Herbert West Series. Readers who enjoy a combination of realistic adventure and supernatural elements in an exotic setting — Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis — may wish to have a look.

October 1962. The developing nuclear missile crisis in Cuba is of no concern to Francesca “France” Leighton. Recently turned 21, France travels from her home in Providence to a job at an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt. She takes with her two legacies—an emerald ring from the grandfather she never knew, and an antique cello from his friend, a man she loved like a grandfather.

The dig disappoints. France is relegated to sorting chunks of stone, the dig’s director makes unwanted advances; rivalries and mistrust are everywhere. And it’s too darn hot! Tasked with playing her cello at a gathering of archaeologists, France meets the enigmatic and fascinating nuclear physicist Adam Dexter. She’s smitten, especially when he promises to show her the secrets of Egypt, including a hitherto undiscovered tomb.

After a risky balloon cruise ends in a crash landing, France is forced to leave the dig. Despite warnings against solo explorations on the west bank, she finds herself with Adam Dexter in an eerie house near the Theban Necropolis. Adam’s promises are alluring, but he is both more and less than he seems and his motivations are disturbing. Fleeing his house, France makes a horrifying discovery.

Through an image of Osiris, France discovers the true reason for her presence in the Theban Necropolis. As the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war, she must call upon resources both within and beyond herself to meet the perils that await her in the world of the dead beneath the Western Peak.

 

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

Our Golden Age?

The early decades of the twenty-first century saw a great flowering of the literary arts, due in large part to the advent of self-publishing on the Internet. The writers called themselves Indie Authors. Many of them were members of the so-called Baby Boom generation, born between the end of the Second World War and the nineteen-sixties. With a high degree of literacy and egos inflated by the conviction that they were the first humans to experience anything worthwhile, many of them used their retirement years to write. Literary agents and publishers were overwhelmed by a flood of submissions from these eager wannabees. Mail rooms overflowed with manuscript boxes, fat brown envelopes and SASEs. Rejections issued forth, provoking incredulous disappointment. Technology came to the rescue, providing online publishing platforms that allowed the indies to elbow the weary gatekeepers aside and publish. Millions of ebooks and POD print books issued forth. Savvy entrepreneurs stepped up to provide services to the indies. Blogs multiplied and online literary salons proliferated.

Every now and then, I wonder what future scholars of literature might say about us indie author/publishers. The mainstream of traditional publishing gets lots of attention, but over the past decade, vast numbers of writers have been quietly publishing, blogging, debating, opining, reviewing, interviewing, and ultimately creating a Thing.

Will anyone, in the future, study, write about, and analyze our Thing? What will they call us? The Early 21st Century Indies? The Tsunami of Crap? Boomers Unbound?

Really, though, think about it: we create, we connect, we write and publish. We’re serious and sincere. Aside from the fact that most of this activity is carried on via the internet, there isn’t much difference between the current phenom and the literary movements of history. Salons, pamphlets, feuilletons, little magazines, and literary societies all have their online equivalents. This blog on which I’m holding forth right now continues the tradition of writers and thinkers using whatever means are at hand to share their thoughts.

Who knows what posterity will make of us? We may represent only the very beginning of a larger phenomenon. Or we may be a brief spark that vanishes into the current of history. Will our works be curated and preserved, or will their survival depend on pure accident amid some global catastrophe? To us, right now, it really doesn’t matter. The true value of the indie author movement to us indie authors is the connections we’ve made with one another by creating and sharing our works and ideas.

mind movie image

Let’s keep on creating our Thing, whatever it is!

hammer and anvil

 

Book & Brains image created with Canva

Hammer and anvil image courtesy of Pixabay

The Indie Author Manifesto by Mark Coker at Smashwords