Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Writing About Ancient Egypt

I wrote this article for Historical Tapestry back when Asenath was released. I have edited some parts of it though.
It has been a while since the article was published, yet, it is still quite relevant.


Why I Love To Write About Ancient Egypt

I developed an interest in ancient history in my teens. When I was 17, an acquaintance recommended to me Wilbur Smith's River God, which was my introduction to historical fiction.

Up until that time, I never even knew there was such a genre. So I did not know what to expect. But the moment I came across a copy of the book, I fell in love with it.

I loved how Smith brought the lost world of Ancient Egypt to life: the flowing green waters of the Nile, the grandeur of the palaces, the serenity of the water gardens, the sweeping beauty of the African wilderness. I could nearly smell the sweet scent of lotus blossoms and the camel dung aromas of the desert.

When the idea to write Asenath came to me, I was excited. For not only was it about one of my favourite Biblical narratives, it also involved one of my favourite ancient civilisations. And having read a number of Egyptian novels in the past, and knowing how uniquely beautiful Ancient Egypt's culture was, I developed the impression that recreating this lost world might be something of a virtual treat for the senses. Thus, I grew eager to try my hand at writing my own Egyptian-inspired novel.

I heard that the Ancient Egyptians loved their land so much, they believed it was a reflection of the afterlife. And though I have certainly never lived in those times (though would that I did!), I can imagine why they thought so.

You might have seen the ancient monuments: the temples and pyramids. They are impressive, without a doubt. But in ancient times, they were literally dazzling. They were covered in gleaming limestone and alabaster.

Murals were made up of colourful precious stones. Gardens, according to research, were amazingly beautiful. They had acacia trees, flower beds, and ornamental pools brimming with lotus blossoms. Temples were filled with rituals, the scents of incense and the chanting of the priests.

And of course, the ancient Egyptians themselves were fascinating people. Though they lived in a unique world of palaces and temples, they surely had the same thoughts and feelings that we do today. In creating my characters, I tried to imagine how similar or different ancient peoples might be to me, my family, and friends.
Additionally, I love describing the Ancient Egyptians' costuming, especially the cunningly painted kohl eyeliner streaks. They had the most stunning fashions.

As a dog lover, I was very pleased to learn that the Ancient Egyptians were fond of pets. This endeared me to them further.
Statues and paintings often show doting owners with their furbabies. Pharaoh Ramses II, I heard, had a dog and even a lion.

Writing Asenath has thus allowed me to escape into this lost, beautiful world of the Nile. My second novel will still be set there. In the future, I may branch out to other ancient settings; I would very much like to write a novel set in the time of Christ.

But for now, I will see what other opportunities I have in Egypt.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Robert W. Service

This was apparently my father-in-law's favourite poem about winter.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Lost Cities

(CNN) -- The world tends to celebrate the ingenuity and strength of great civilizations that have flourished by successfully subduing nature.

But every bit as fascinating are the stories of once-great civilizations forced to submit to nature's capricious power.


Thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Turning Japanese

No, I am not setting my next novel in Japan (yet?). But this was a really interesting article on how to catch a glimpse of a geisha while in the Land of the Rising Sun - and in Kyoto, no less.

Being a big fan of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha (loved the novel, despised the film), I was all the more intrigued to learn a few - how shall we call it - "geisha spotting" tips.

(CNN) -- It's 5:55 p.m. on a warm summer evening on Hanami-Koji Street in Kyoto's historic Gion district.

A dozen or so camera-clutching tourists line both sides of the cobblestone road, waiting for that magical moment.

Then it happens.

A single apprentice geisha emerges from a nearby taxi.


Thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hieroglyph

I just heard that an Ancient Egyptian-inspired TV series entitled Hieroglyph was in the works.

Was.

For unfortunately, it has been cancelled.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement.

In what might be one of the quickest cancellations ever, Fox is pulling the plug on "Hieroglyph," a drama set in ancient Egypt.
"Hieroglyph" starred Max Brown as a thief who stayed out of prison by serving the Pharaoh (Reece Ritchie) in navigating "navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers."



That is a fine-looking casting photo, I must say.

Oh well. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Miketz

I recently discovered that Asenath has been mentioned in an article about the Miketz. I did not know what "Miketz" was until then, but the article can certainly tell you about it.

About the Miketz

To whoever mentioned my novel there, a multitude of thanks.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Petra

(CNN) -- Few ancient civilizations have left an architectural footprint quite as indelible as the Nabateans did in Petra, southern Jordan.

Majestic temples, burial chambers and homes still stand, carved around 2,300 years ago from the rose-hued landscape.

Logic would dictate that the relics strewn throughout the 2.8 million square feet of Petra Archaeological Park would provide historians with a bounty of information about the ancient culture.

Full article here.

Thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

William Butler Yeats

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid 
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid 
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle 
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill 
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind, 
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed; 
And for an hour I have walked and prayed 
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

History Trips

Around the time of our engagement and wedding, Al and I visited several historical sites around Kentucky.
Al has extensively discussed the histories in Al's Lexington Day Trips. Meanwhile, I will mention my top places.


One of the first places we went to was the Headley Whitney Museum. The place has a lot of interesting, avant garde art displays - an art lover's dream. There were lovely bibelots, gorgeous paintings (my favourites being those of night scenes), and incredibly detailed antique dollhouses.

I also saw a wealthy man's opulent library and "shell room" - some sort of living room decorated with, exactly that, shells. It looked like something from The Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside it.

As a dog lover, I was delighted to see a lovingly created pet cemetery. The tombstones even had dachshund statues carved onto them. The cemetery was the resting place of both the family's dogs and cats, and there was a very amusing epitaph of a cat - "he who thought he was a dog." So very cute!


Another day, we went to a historical mansion: Ashland, the home of Henry Clay. We went during a "living history day." The events included reenactors, horses, and and displays (costumes, Civil War weapons, reproductions of soldiers' tents, etc). In addition, the entrance fee included admission into the mansion, so it was a really good deal.

I also got to taste corn bread which was apparently eaten during the Civil War era. It was crunchy, a bit sweet, and really good, though not at all healthy. According to Al, some of his relatives make that sort of bread too.

There was also a woman reenacting the life of Charlotte Dupuy, one of Henry Clay's slaves. I studied a bit about slavery during this era, so I was interested to see what the performance would be like. Charlotte's story was sad, of course. But the reenactor did a fine job.

Of course, the mansion itself was exotic. It had lots and lots of horse memorabilia. The guides, too, were dressed in period costumes ("Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln" were one of them), so that truly gave a feel of travelling back in that time.


Yet another day, we went to Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, where there was apparently a great battle fought with the Shawnee Indians. A lot of the place consisted of hiking grounds which were once buffalo trails. There were also obelisks set up in memory of those who had fought.



Al gazing up at the obelisk.









Names of Native American tribes engraved on the base of the obelisk.






Heading down a buffalo trail. Obviously, the bridge was not there in ancient times.



And yet another day, we went to Boonesborough State Historic Park. Like Old Fort Harrod, which we had visited the previous year, it was a recreation of a settlers' fort. Inside the high walled enclosure, there were log cabins, campfires, animal pens (though there were no animals at the time we were there), iron smiths, and crafts people.

There were also lots of interesting things inside the cabins, including a spinning wheel, which looked like something from a fairy tale, as well as an enormous bearskin rug (with the head intact).

Being an enthusiast of Native American cultures, I was thrilled to see a little museum which contained an overview of Native history, from prehistoric times to contact with the Europeans, as well as dioramas and displays of arrowheads.

Near the fort was a river where Daniel Boone's daughter and her friend were captured by Indians. The fort had murals of that moment in history, along with a brief movie that played every 10 minutes or so.


We also visited Gratz Park, which is near Transylvania University; John Hunt Morgan House, another historical mansion; and the Camp Nelson Heritage Park, a wide open battlefield which had some cannons, lots of commemorative obelisks, and lots and lots of gorgeous scenery. I will let you read more about those places in Al's site, as he can speak about them far better than I.


Last but definitely not the least, we visited Serpent Mound in Ohio. Unlike the other Indian mounds that I had previously visited, Serpent Mound was not a burial mound but was used for...... nobody knows. Al conjectures that it could have been used for rituals.
The entire thing, by the way, was built by hand. 

Afterwards, we visited a fossil shop, which was a brand new experience for me. I had no idea what to expect, but I was intrigued by what the place had to offer. Aside from fossils, there were also unique antiques and Indian memorabilia. Al bought an Indian stone called a Flint Ridge Chert.



Us alongside the mound. You can see how it coils like the serpent it is named for. This is only a fraction of the mound. I am gazing down a cliff while Al keeps me from falling off.


Our honeymoon, by the way, had a touch of history too. Before we headed to our destination, we visited some cemeteries in Eastern Kentucky, where some of Al's kinsmen are buried. Some of the cemeteries are fairly new, others date back all the way to the 1800s.



A child's grave from 1898. How sad that one had to pass away so young. 





Monday, 2 June 2014

Look....

... What arrived all the way from Eastern Europe.

I am at a loss for words.

So it is good that a photo is worth a thousand words.

Thank You, Lord.













Please excuse me if I show every angle of the book. I am just so stunned... and so blessed....















This is what it looks like beneath the dust jacket.





On the other flap, they have my biography - all in Czech, of course.