Celebrating – Half-days and works in progress

I am posting this early because I will be traveling tomorrow and won’t have time to do things properly.

Today I am celebrating taking a  half day’s vacation and driving down to visit my mother. My father died this past summer and Monday would have been their 63rd anniversary.  I thought she would like company (we try to be with her as much as we can).  But aside from that, she’s a lot of fun and has been a wonderful mother who, though I love and respect her as my mother, has turned into a friend I enjoy ‘hanging with’, as the American slang goes. 

So I have taken a half day and will be driving down through the New York and New Jersey countryside (stopping at stands that sell beautiful ‘Beefsteak’ tomatoes and fresh corn), and then on to Mom’s house.  I’ll be setting up her computer (she actually got one!) and showing her some good things on it – like Facebook, where her grandchildren are posting.

She’s very bright (I’d say brilliant) and is a quick learner with a devastating, subtle wit.  It should be fun.

Kadesh – wretched cover!

I’m also celebrating my WIP, called ‘Kadesh‘.  That is the name of a famous battle that led to the first international treaty in recorded history.  The story is about four brothers who go to war with their father – but while there is the battle itself, it isn’t a war story.  Rather, it is about the family itself.  There are several (historical) female characters who are engaging.  It’s the sequel to my recent one,  Mourningtide, taking up fifteen years after.

My new cover for Kadesh!  A Wrap!

The reason I’m celebrating is that I haven’t touched the thing since November.  I’ve been going through, reading the chapters, adjusting the timeline, and thinking, “Actually, this is pretty good!”

I wrote it during the 2012 NaNoWriMo and made the requisite words, then got busy.  It’s good, but it needs a lot of work, both in composing and in editing.  I’m having fun.  Now if I could just come up with a better cover…  Perhaps this one?  It does capture the personality and attitude of one of the major characters, the Crown Prince.

This blog hop is the brainchild of VikLit, who thought it a good and enjoyable (and beneficial!) thing to pause regularly and not only count our blessings, but celebrate them.  Why not join?

Progress on my WIP

From my latest WIP, due to come out February 2014, God willing and the creek don’t rise.  ( © 2013 by Diana Wilder)  Good Day’s work.  Now to fiddle with it…

     ——  ***  ——

The main character, Hori, has spent four years as an acolyte at a temple.  As Crown Prince, he has been summoned back to court by his father, who is planning a campaign that will lead to the first international treaty in history. The scene opens with him leaving the army barracks (he is a general) and returning to his quarters to prepare for a state feast. 
Hori could hear the roar of the feast in the distance.  Drums, flutes…   Laughter….
He spared a thought for the silences at Opet, the calm courtyards at the Temple of Ptah.  Or the ringing, clear skies on the coast of Byblos…  The stillness was still there, somewhere, if only within himself.
**   **   **
     “That is much better,” Neter said. Hori was wearing the lion-head pendant Gold of Honor his grandsire had awarded him after that difficult fight on the Libyan border. A cylindrical necklace awarded by General Djedi during Hori’s second campaign sat at the base of his throat.  He shook his head at the broad collar.  Too heavy, too ornate. 
     He slid a pair of plain gold armlets up either arm as Neter clasped two bracelets on his wrists. 
     Neter was frowning around the room.  “Your diadem, My Prince—  I don’t see it.”
     “I will go bare-headed,” Hori said.  He had tucked the jewel away in one of his chests just that morning.  “It is late.  There will be other feasts – and the wind can stir my hair tonight.  There will be precious little wind in that throng otherwise!”
     Neter smiled and shook his head.  “There will be wind of another sort,” he said.  “Your Royal Highness is wise.” 
     He is growing old, Hori thought, remembering how he had seen Neter serving his grandsire during the years Hori had been trained by King Seti.  He had some wealth of his own.  He could settle Neter in comfortable retirement when the man wanted it…
     Neter unstoppered the small carnelian flask of kohl and inserted the rounded stick.  “It will take a moment to refresh the kohl around your eyes.  Do hold still this time, Highness: I don’t wish to have to explain to His Majesty why his eldest son has to wear a patch over his eye!”
     Hori closed his eyes and raised his eyebrows.  “It would tend to skew my archery,” he said through his teeth.
     “Indeed it would.”  Neter put the flask away.  “You are ready, My Prince, although others will no doubt be wearing tunics of royal linen.”
     “The more fool they.  They think layers of cloth hides flabby stomachs.  I have nothing to hide.” He grinned at Neter’s suppressed smile. “Thank you. Get some rest, yourself. I’ll put myself to bed when I return. And do you go to the master of the feast and tell him I have requested that you be given food and drink.” He took the small ring from his finger and gave it to Neter, then waited as the man swung the door open for him.
     He seemed for a moment to be facing a long path that arrowed before him into the distance.  He had not yet set foot upon it and at that moment he had the sense that once he took the step forward that would set him on that path, he would have no way to turn back, then or ever.
     Behind him lay the aftermath of a tiring, satisfying day.  Before him lay…  He did not know, and it was for him to bring it into being.  And yet—
     He could turn back.  Remain in his rooms, plead fatigue, plead—what? The press of duty?  Where did his duty lie? 
     Did he truly have to ask?
     He drew a deep breath and stepped into the dim hallway.  The door closed softly behind him.
**   **   **
     His Majesty had set the feast in the palace’s western gardens, to catch the last glint of the sun upon Imhotep’s masterpiece. Hori moved softly along the dim walkway, his bare feet thudding upon the sand-cushioned ground.  The afternoon breeze had risen and he could see the whirl and sweep of swallows chasing insects.  One passed so close, he could feel the light breeze from its wings.
     He could see the doorway in the distance.  Dark wood doors firmly closed upon intruders, even as the Temple of Ptahwas giving a gala dole to those who were in need. 
     No doubt, Hori thought, remembering the years that he had been present at the dole in Opet. 
     The cool of the evening was yielding to increasing warmth.  Hori could feel it building as he drew near the door, like the strengthening current of an unseen river.  Warmth from the press of bodies, the air passing in and out of active lungs, the warmth rising from movement, from the blood pulsing through their veins.
     What had seemed a murmur when he stepped into the hallway had grown to a rising hum.  He could see a thread of light through the closed doors.
     He hesitated.  The air would be hot and stale, full of the fumes of beer and souring wine…
     He took a step, another, and in his mind he could see himself turning away, moving down the hallway toward increasing brightness and his own rooms.
     A thread of incense touched him and he could hear the wheedling of a flute beyond the doors.  He paused, biting his lip.  He suddenly knew that if he went through that door, it would be to step into a changed life.
     You must lead yourself, Hori.  If you do not go forward, you must go back.  An army must move or die.  His grandsire, King Seti, had said that while they were perched on the battlements of that fortress in Kush.  And, truly, the thoughts of others, the way they see you, do not depend on you.  Move on. 
     “My Prince!”
     He turned to face Neter, who was panting behind him, clutching a pair of gold-adorned sandals.
     “My prince—! Barefoot!  It will not do!”
     He took them from the man.  “Thank you, Neter,” he said. 
     The man smiled, bowed, and turned away.
     Hori frowned at the rich, chased leather and then, casting a quick glance behind him, tossed them into the dimness and faced the doors and the two guards flanking them, so silent that Hori, battle-trained as he was, had not seen them.  They dropped to their knees, hands to chest, bowed, then rose and swung the doors wide.
     The roar of the feast surged toward him in a swell of sound.  He let it eddy around him and stepped forward into sudden silence.
     A guest straightened and squared his shoulders.  Another set down his cup with a click.  Cuts of meat fell back into serving dishes.  Servants straightened and stared 
     The silence deepened.
     Ye gods!  Have I stepped on the hem of my own kilt and pulled it off?  Am I stripped to my shenti that they should gape so?
     He lifted his chin.  He would be damned if he peered down at himself and tweaked his garments.  And if I am, then so be it. 
     A murmur grew. He heard his name, repeated and repeated until it was a roar itself.
     He moved into the throng.
**   **   **
     Nefertari, smiled at the servant, shook her head at the wine, and nodded at the ewer of water, accepting a full cup a moment later. Her eyes were dry; she closed them and held the pose for a long moment. That was better.
     Her husband was watching her. “It is hot,” she said.
     He frowned and nodded to two servants bearing feather fans.
     Rai and Mayet were sitting together, both smiling, though from Mayet’s straight smile and the stiff set of Rai’s shoulders some sort of quarrel was brewing. Was it too soon after Mayet’s confinement? Iyneferti might know. But from the way Rai was ogling that dancer- She blinked as he threw another ring and watched as the girl put it down the front of her loincloth.
     She suppressed a chuckle, caught her daughter’s eye, and had to look away. The girl made her giggle like a new wife. Most embarrassing!
     “Wine, Majesty?”
     She frowned at the ewer. A sip would be wonderful. “Yes, thank you, good Tuti,” she said, and sipped. She looked up to see her husband smiling at her. The dancer was on her knees, bending back…
     A hand closed around hers. She met her husband’s smiling gaze, relinquished the cup, and watched him turn it to sip from her side and hand it back under cover of the music.
     She lowered her eyes. After five children and twenty years wed, he could still make her heart flutter even as she thought Oh, Ast, please: no more babies!
     The cup was in her hands. She turned it, sipped, and set it down.
     Movement at the doorway – a flurry among the servants, the doors swinging wide –
     A man strode into the hall, tall, broad-shouldered with sun-browned skin and back hair. Gold glinted from wrists and upper arms, warrior’s gold hung at his neck and lay flashing against the satisfying swell of his chest.
     The room was silent. He stepped forward into a sudden roarof sound, the crash of applause, a rising, wordless murmur that built to a crescendo, as palpable as a wall of water.
     The man faltered, his dark eyes beneath straight brows flashing for a moment before the shoulders squared. He moved through the throng in the sudden silence, his eyes on hers –
     Hori! Her heart leapt with delight. Her son – and such a son!
     She beamed as he approached, rose as he went to one knee, his hands at his breast, his head lowered.
     Her husband had risen and was speaking measured, warm words of greeting that she could not hear through the glad singing of her heart.
     “Welcome home, my son!” she said to him as he raised her hand to his lips.

This is scheduled to be published early 2014.  We’ll see how I do.,,   Deadlines can be exhilarating – or truly annoying,

Celebrating – A Task Finished

It’s good to be able to open your eyes to the things around you that are worth celebrating, even if they are as small (relatively speaking) as a smile from a stranger that you know would easily become a friend.  Stepping into a brisk May breeze, watching the flowers push their way through the soil, even though you know jolly well you’re a terrible gardener.
Today, though, I’m celebrating completing a task I’d been thinking of for a long time.

I’m writing a series of historical fiction set in Egypt and centered around the city of Memphis.  It is known as ‘The Memphis Cycle’, and that city, and the families that lived and ruled there, provide the thread that ties the stories together.  Three are published, one is  coming out the end of May, another should be coming out in November, and four others are in varying stages of development.  
Here are covers 1 & 2.  #2 is scheduled to be published May 31:
The covers fell into a sort of theme – statuary or sculptures against a background that referred to something in the story.  As the series developed, I began to want them to be visible as a related group.  So I redesigned them, keeping the original ‘art’ work, but putting that into a framework specific to the stories..  These are covers #3 and 4.  #3 is projected to be published November.

The line under the image is a hieroglyphic text with the name and attributes of the king ruling at the time of the story.  It seems to be working out.  Here are covers 5 and 6.  #5 is in the works, but it is an involved story and will need another year (maybe two) to complete properly.  #7 is out. 



What really tickles me is that my entire family is artistic and I guess maybe I can pretend to be. (Pretend is the word, too.) For example, while I work with photographic images for my covers, the figure crouching in the corner of Lord of the Two Lands is my own work and is a silhouette drawing. But I’m celebrating, for certain. It’s something I’ve wanted to do in a long time, and it’s coming on the heels of a new release and a reissue.

So join me in a cup of cyber tea, a glass of cyber wine, a stoup of cyber ale, or maybe some cyber lemonade. I’m celebrating!


Small Celebrations – Busyness (a guest post)

Good morning, good readers and bloggers.  Diana Wilder, being quite busy with the subject of this post (as you will see) has asked me to step in and post for her, explaining why she is unable personally to post this morning.  It is, of course, a pleasure for me to do so.  The gods know she has done enough for me over the years.

She is, as she so divertingly puts it, ‘up to her eyebrows in editing’, and as she is putting the final polish on a story involving His Majesty my father, and myself at a younger age, she is also impatiently looking forward to working on another story set some fifteen years later in which I, unfortunately, make something of an ass of myself.  But it features four of my sons, and that is always enjoyable.  And she describes me, privately, as a ‘bonny fighter, if  distressingly gullible’ – I  call it wishful thinking – ‘and a bit of a doofus as to strategy’.  History shows that I was a statesman, not a strategist.
She is also polishing an older story – set in Paris (in my time it was most likely a pile of mud upon which wretched barbarians squatted and squabbled) – with an eye to putting it out on Kindle without a great deal of fanfare.
All of this has her, as she says, ‘crazy busy’, but she is also delighted.  She informs me that only those who have gone through extensive dry spells can understand her delight and celebration at running mad in this way.  She will be visiting the other blogs on this ‘hop’ (such an undignified term!) as she can.
She makes her apologies, informs you all that she is raising a toast to all your celebrations, and knows that those of you who are running in the same lines of madness will understand and celebrate.  She also directs me to inform you that she is providing one and all with some ‘eye candy’ here.  I am blushing at the compliment.  Now if they could just find a better place to put the sheath for that dagger I would be a happy man.
by his own hand and seal.


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: