…Music in the Night…

I spoke about a scene I wanted to write in a love story I was working on, hindered a little by exhaustion and malaise.  People were very kind and supportive, and I am showing my thanks (well, trying to do so!) by posting a rough version of the scene I mentioned.

[Copyright (C) 2013 by Diana Wilder , all rights reserved, etc and reserving the right to edit this till I’m happy with it…]


  It was amazing, she thought, how tiring it was to recline upon cushions and allow beasts of burden to draw you along in a cart. Where was the sense of it?   She smiled at the menservants and stepped back as they began to lead the teams away.
     One of the donkeys sidestepped, throwing its head up and then prancing.
     As though he has not spent the better part of a week pulling me along, she thought. He still full of prance, and I exhausted.
     The doors swung open and she saw her mother’s butler beaming at her.
    “Welcome home, My Princess!”
     She returned his smile. “It is good to be back Master Hefner. Is my mother awake?”
     “She retired some time ago,” H said.


     In her chambers, seated in the low stool, she listened, heavy-eyed, to the murmurs about her as they braided her hair. She lifted her polished bronze mirror.   Her fatigue-smudged refection yawned back at her. Her robes were folded and set aside, she settled into her sorely-missed bed to the sound of murmured good-nights. Someone’s kiss warmed her cheek as she faded into sleep…

** ** **

     The moon cast a coverlet of silver across her bed. She sighed and opened her eyes to smile at the stars, yawn and turn on her side, and drifted to the soft chime of music…
     She rose through the layers of oblivion, her weariness falling away from her as the notes seemed to quiver in the night.
     A harp, she thought.  The music was almost too soft to hear. She sat up, scarcely breathing, as the notes rose and fell, softer than a breath but as clear as the sigh of the wind. …Where was it coming from?
     She rose from her bed, drew her shawl about her shoulders and stood silently as the sound faded. Had she only dreamed it?
     It came again on the echo of that thought, a sound of wind and sunshine.
     She was fully awake now, listening as the music twined through the wind, caught stars in its threads…
     She slid from beneath her covers, caught up her shawl, and went into the star-sparked night, moving silently along the worn stone ramparts. 
     The sound was nearer.  She could barely distinguish it from the wind sifting down along the ridges.
     The walkway passed above an open courtyard, half-sheltered by the ramparts’ buttressed overhang.  Her father had brought a worker in timber to build the supports. She had sometimes sheltered there when a rain squall caught her.
     She moved softly to the wall and leaned over to gaze into the courtyard.    The glow of a tiny oil lamp warmed the night.
     A man was kneeling by the wall, half-sheltered by the overhang. The lamp sparked details that seemed to flash and vanish. Dark hair, the light easing over a strong line of shoulders, long fingers moving with delicate precision over the quivering strings.
     The music strengthened a little.  He had stiffened, even as he continued to play, his head moving slowly from side to side…
     Her breath caught as he raised his head. The wind teased the fringe of her shawl. She stepped back into silence.
      A soft shimmer of sound strengthened as the harpist played again.  She stepped softly away from the balustrade and returned silently to her rooms, to dream of moonlight and music. 



     The voice made him open his eyes, oddly breathless. It was like a voice from a dream. It was a woman’s voice, but lower than many with a quality of water running over bronze. Chiming… But that implied a high voice, and this one was lower, softer, warmer, with the touch of a smile.
     Loveliness, he thought, and then blinked at the extravagance of the notion. But yet- He thought confusedly that ‘lovely’ was the correct word. Love…
     The voice spoke again. He frowned, trying to understand the words. He knew many languages and dialects, but this one was strange to him.
     He pushed to his feet as the voice spoke again with that same chiming sound…
     Who was she?
     He hurried to the wall, breathless, in time to see the flicker of a shawl entering the palace.
     He turned. The door— If he could overtake her, he thought feverishly, if he could see her – speak with her-
     He swore silently and turned to face the King.  



     A ripple of notes drew her to the edge of the casement.
The man knelt, as before, with the harp in his arms, coaxing the strings with quiet strokes that brought the song of the wind.
     She leaned over the casement. The wind caught her hair and spilled it across her face. She closed her eyes, reveling in its cool touch.
     “Welcome again, O Lady Watcher in the night.”  The words were quiet; for a moment she had thought it was the sound of the wind.  She had been silent, she knew. Something must have caught his attention. Perhaps the flutter of her sleeve?
     She opened her eyes. The man’s face was turned up toward her.  He was one of the Egyptians; the straight, dark hair confirmed that.  The flash of dark eyes caught her. But it faded, eased. The hands moved again on the strings.
     “Shall I play a song for you, My Lady?”
     His voice pleased her. It was quiet, tinged with a smile, though it had a sense of strength, as though he could fill a room with it if he wished to shout. 
     She chuckled.  “Wait,” she said. “Wait – I will come down to you.”
     The music stilled abruptly as she spoke. It began again with a slight quiver that had faded by the time she arrived at the courtyard.
     He was still kneeling by his harp, but he bowed over the strings.   “Am I intruding in your rooms?” he asked. He seemed almost breathless.
     She folded her hands at her breast and returned his bow. “No, My Lord. This belongs to no one…”
     “You were here earlier,” he said, plucking another ripple of sound. His voice had altered subtly. He almost seemed hesitant. “Who are you?”
     “I am Chara. And you?”
     “I am Hori.”

Uppity Characters

Dorothy Sayers wrote an excellent and fascinating book with the title The Mind of the Maker.  It is actually a treatise on the theology of the Trinity – but since it is told from the focus of a writer, specifically, it is a wonderful read.  You can find  it HERE on Amazon.

She talks of the three parts to a work – the Idea behind the work, the Energy involved in creating the work, and the Power that arises from the work – the reaction that readers have to it, and the way it changes them.  My copy is hopelessly marked up.

One of the most enjoyable discussions (for me) is her talk about the nature of characters, and how they have to arise out of a plot and be firmly centered in the plot to have any reality.  She gives as an example a passage from Writing Aloud by J D Beresford in which he tells about his attempt to write a book based on a character that he dreamed up.  It was a shambles.  The minute he put this character into a story, other characters, arising from the story itself, and conceived of as being in a situation took over.  They were immensely more powerful and more compelling.

Interesting, I thought all those years ago.  Something to mull over and marvel at.

And then it happened in my writing.

Pharaoh’s Son takes its title for the literal translation of the Egyptian term for ‘Prince’.  It is ‘King’s Son’, or ‘Pharaoh’s Son’.  Since the book involves a number of princes, I thought it appropriate.

The main character is a son of Ramesses the Great, well-attested in history with a character that comes through clearly across the centuries.  Historically, he was a scholar and was credited with being the first archaeologist in history.  He served as High Priest of Ptah and Governor of Memphis, and was Crown Prince at the end of his life.  He fulfilled these roles with such distinction that he was remembered as a wise man for centuries after his death.

With these attributes, how can such a character help but be splendid?

Well, my would-be main character was overshadowed by his brother, the Crown Prince of Egypt, who stepped into the story as a quasi-villain, had a turnaround, and ended up stealing the show.  A character in a situation, he was far more powerful than his brother, far more interesting…

The original hero ended up holding his own, and we had two main characters.  It worked.

And it provided for me  a very good illustration of Beresford’s situation.

NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNoWriMo is taking place right now.  I’m participating. 

And I am an idiot:  I have a whole lot going on. 
I’m polishing Mourningtide, I am doing a once-over on a (Civil War) novel that will be on KDP Select as a freebie later this month, and I signed up to write a minimum of 1700 words a day to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.  (1700 words works out to about six printed pages).  It’s do-able if you work steadily, but in this case I am also working at a day job. 
I’m giving it my best shot, and I think I can do it, but if one thing or another has to go Kadesh will be the casualty.
Which reminds me: Kadesh is a working title.  Fans of Egyptian history will know that it was the battle that Ramesses II touted as his greatest triumph.  The Hittites, whom he fought, were equally emphatic about their ‘successs’.  My read is that two superpowers met and mauled each other, though Ramesses probably had the shock of his life in the process.  (There’s a strong indication that his father, Seti I, died of a heart condition, and I’ve used that supposition in my own ‘family history’ to account for some deaths.  It would appear, though, based on what happened at Kadesh, that Ramesses did not have a weak heart.  He survived the shock of seeing the Hittite army breaking through the palisades of his camp.)
I’m telling this story from the point of view of lesser characters.  Hori (Amunhorkhepechef) as a nineteen-year-old Crown Prince is given nominal command of one of the armies.  Others of his brothers (Ramses and Montuhirkhopechef, who died prior to the opening of Pharaoh’s Son) are in high command in other armies.  Khaemwaset (‘Khay’ in Pharaoh’s son, and the most well known,  historically, of Ramesses’ sons) is with his father, being all of fifteen years old.
It’s important to understand strategy, but this event shaped Ramesses’ reign and world history.  It turned him from being a ‘warrior king’ (though he tried) to being a true statesman, where his greatness lay.
So I’m writing Kadesh.  I truly must redo the temporary cover, but it’s a decent placeholder for now.
My website has sample chapters that I’ve whacked out.  Hori seems to be taking center stage just at the moment.  (I know him rather well).  Check them out here: