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Excerpt: The Edison Effect by Bernadette Pajer

Title: The Edison Effect 
Author: Bernadette Pajer 

Book description:
Inventor Thomas Alva Edison is also a ruthless businessman, intent on furthering his patents and General Electric and beating rivals like Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse. Edison has agents in place in Seattle but he’s come himself in pursuit of a mysterious invention lost in 1901 in Elliott Bay. When Edison asks for information, few refuse. But not University of Washington Professor Benjamin Bradshaw who’s earned a reputation as a private investigator where science—electricity—is concerned. Bradshaw hopes that the lost device, one conceived in anger by an anarchist and harnessed for murder, will elude Edison’s hired divers. 
Soon, one December morning, 1903, the Bon Marché’s Department Store electrician is found dead in the Men’s Wear window clutching a festoon of Edison’s new holiday lights. Bradshaw believes Edison has set a dangerous game in motion. Motives multiply as the dead man’s secrets surface alongside rivalries at the Bon Marché. Bradshaw, his sleuthing partner Henry Pratt, and the Seattle PD’s Detective O’Brien pursue leads, but none spark Bradshaw’s intuition. His heart is not in the investigation but in a courtship that will force him to defy his Catholic faith or lose his beloved, Missouri. Then a crossroads in the case forces him to face his personal fears and his first professional failure. Whatever the outcomes, his life is about to change….

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Author Bio:

"Bernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, fast-paced whodunits in the Golden-Age tradition. The books in the series have earned the Seal of Approval for Science from the Washington Academy of Sciences (established 1898.) She's a graduate of the University of Washington and a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Northwest Science Writers, and the Seattle7Writers.org. Research is Pajer's favorite activity, and she happily delves into Seattle's past and the early days of electrical invention as she plots Professor Bradshaw's investigations. Pajer lives in the Seattle area with her husband and son." Titles include A SPARK OF DEATHFATAL INDUCTIONCAPACITY FOR MURDER, and THE EDISON EFFECT.

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Chapter One
September, 1903
“Bradshaw, it’s Thomas Edison! He’s here!”
Of all the interruptions, this one was so unexpected that
Professor Benjamin Bradshaw wondered if he’d not yet fully
recovered from his concussion.
It was a warm summer afternoon on the campus of the University
of Washington. A box kite danced below billowy white
clouds drifting in the blue sky, and a touch of color in the elm
saplings hinted at the approach of fall.
Bradshaw stood on the lawn between Lewis and Clark Halls,
arms outstretched to Missouri Fremont as she abandoned Colin
Ingersoll and his kite. She approached Bradshaw with a smile
that took his breath away. This was a moment he’d resisted for
two years. A moment he wasn’t sure was wise. The differences
between him and Missouri might be insurmountable, and yet,
here he was. His heart thundered. He doubted he’d ever been
happier—or more frightened—in his entire life.
Little more than a week had passed since he’d been left for
dead in a rotting cellar during an investigation of gruesome
murders. He’d thought himself fully recovered, other than a
dull ache in his shoulder where the weight of a cast iron frying
pan had struck, until the shout about Thomas Edison pierced
his overwhelmed emotions. For a terrifying second, he thought
he might still be back in that cellar, hallucinating.
Certainly, such romantic moments were rare for him. As Missouri
approached, he knew he would never forget this moment,
the way her dark amber eyes gleamed with joy and affection, the
way the golden highlights shimmered in her short mahogany
hair. She moved in her summery gown with the grace of a queen
and the bounce of a child.
Their fingertips had not yet touched when the shout carried
to him again, its urgency penetrating his cocoon of fearful
“Bradshaw! It’s Edison!”
As he continued to gaze into Missouri’s eyes, he was aware
that Colin Ingersoll had turned toward the shout. Colin, a lanky
and likable engineering student, was Missouri’s would-be suitor,
and he was no doubt confused by Missouri’s abandoning his side
to welcome Bradshaw so warmly.
“Hurry!” Assistant Professor Hill came running toward them
from the direction of the Administration Building, shouting,
“It’s Thomas Edison! Here to see you!”
Missouri’s eyes flickered with delight. She asked, “Is it the
Thomas Edison, do you suppose? The Wizard of Menlo Park?”
Bradshaw smiled. “He has been known to attempt to steal
the great moments of other men’s lives.”
“Are you and I in the midst of a great moment?”
“Only if you consider me confiding my feelings for you a
great moment.”
She gave a little gasp.
And then Hill was upon them, panting and grinning and
tipping his hat to Missouri. He grabbed Bradshaw’s arm and
pulled. “Come on!”


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Great Heroes and Nasty Villains

Character development is one of my favorite parts of writing a novel. Giving life to a new person is an amazing birthing process that always gets the creative juices flowing. Part of it comes from wanting to create a memorable character that readers will love or love to hate. Someone they can root for or against while the story unfolds.
When I create a character I’m not just creating a new actor for my tale, I feel as though I’m creating a partner, a person who will work their own magic on the story as they develop their skills, insights and experiences. My characters often take over and move the plot forward in ways I hadn’t imagined.
That’s why early character development is so important. Here are a few of my strategies for creating great characters.

Build a psychological profile. Creating a complete psychological profile is one of the best ways to get to know a character. Yes, the physical description and demographic information is important but the motives and emotions and choices that real people make come from their psychological profile: how they think; their belief systems; values, and worldview. I use a 20-page character worksheet that I’ve developed to create major characters. It has sections on family background; habits, tastes and hobbies; education and work history; relationship history; and faith, morality and world view scenarios. I use this long worksheet with two or three main characters, the ones who are driving the story, not the entire cast.

Take the character out of the story. When I’m developing a major character, I don’t leave them on the page, I take them around with me out in the real world. As real life happens, I ask myself how this character would react to that event. Even better I ask them and we have a conversation about it. Often I’ll take that conversation and write it as a scene as if it were going to be in the story. This has a dual purpose. One, seeing how the character reacts. Two, sometimes the scene does make into the story as a new plot angle or twist.

Eavesdrop. Another method for getting to know your characters is to start a conversation between two or more of them and step back and let the conversation flow. It’s like you are sitting in a restaurant eavesdropping on someone else’s dinnertime chat. Sometimes this occurs as I’m writing a scene and the conversation goes in a completely new direction and I just let it flow even if I don’t think it will make it into the story. Sometimes it just happens in my head and I stop what I’m doing and watch the scene play out in front of me. This is also a good strategy for breaking writer’s block. Just go somewhere quiet and visualize the characters’ conversation. Don’t feel compelled to write it down, just let it flow.  

Ask them. This happened when I was writing Web of Betrayal. My main character, Peter Ellis, kept referring to a time when he was four years old. I had no idea what he meant but this was clearly a strong memory for him so I went to a quiet place where I can visualize and asked him: “Peter, what happened to you when you were four?” I waited, and all these memories poured forth about a traumatic event that happened when he was four. That memory unexpectedly ended up being one of the major plot turns and character conflicts of my novel.

Write the backstory. Almost every writer creates backstories for their characters. That’s part of what’s needed to make the character come alive. Usually the backstory, like the profile, is something the writer records so they have the details to work from. Consider taking that one step further and actually writing the backstory as a real scene. Write the description and the dialog precisely as it would occur then the backstory is not just background information, it is a real life experience that your characters have. I used this technique in a story in which the characters had known each other for several years. They had a conflict and I wanted to know how that conflict began. By writing their very first meeting as a real scene, I was able to experience the root of their initial anger and frustration and make the scenes in the novel much more powerful.  

Every reader has at least one character they can never forget. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that character was yours?  

Clare witnessed the birth of the commercial Internet firsthand as a research director with the Gartner Group, the global leader in information technology consulting. As a principle analyst in Gartner’s Internet Strategies Service, Clare assisted many of the world’s biggest technology companies (IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, Sun Microsystems, Oracle) in their bid to make the information highway a reality. That experience prompted her to write her first novel, WEB OF BETRAYAL, set in 1994 at the birth of the Internet. Fury is unleashed when a long simmering grudge match between a brilliant hacker turned killer and a renegade tech visionary erupts into murder and betrayal, and a struggling reporter risks his life and one true love to find the truth. Clare began writing at age five with her short story, “My Dog Nicky.” In her career she has been a business journalist, tech industry journalist, Internet industry analyst and a VP of marketing for several software startups. Clare is an Ohio native and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. degree in Rhetoric. She currently lives in Sacramento, California with her two Shetland Sheepdogs, Dan and Toby.

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Interview with Rick Skwiot

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Tell us about your latest book.
In my new muckraking urban mystery, Fail, disgraced African-American Police Lieutenant Carlo Gabriel strives to redeem himself by locating the vanished husband of the mayor’s comely press secretary. However, instead he unwittingly and unwillingly unearths a morass of corruption, educational malpractice and greed that consigns thousands of at-risk black youths to the mean streets of America’s former murder capital, St. Louis. The novel chronicles Gabriel’s missing-person search for Jonathan Stone, recently dismissed from his job teaching remedial grammar at the state university and newly aware of his wife’s affair with her boss, St. Louis mayor Angelo Cira—a former police officer with whom Gabriel shares a dark secret: Cira’s murder of an unarmed black suspect. While hoping only to regain his place in the police headquarters hierarchy (lost after his beating a prisoner who had killed a cop), Gabriel discovers information that could get a guy killed.

What formats is the book available in?
Fail is available in paperback and digital formats—mobi for Kindle, epub and pdf.

What's the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer, and by that I mean creative writer, is to be able to do your own work, to follow your heart and to create something that never before existed, a new world where others can visit and take sustenance and enjoyment. Of course, like most creative writers, I have to supplement my creative writing with other work—that of a freelance writer and journalist, which has enabled me to interview hundreds of accomplished people in all walks of life and learn much from them. Nonetheless, however interesting that bread-and-butter work may be—and at times it’s even pleasurable—it cannot compare to the great sense of fulfilment that comes from raw creation. And of course all that comes to fruition when people read your work and validate that you have made a flesh-and-blood world worthy of their attention.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? 
You can visit my website, www.RickSkwiot.com, where I have links to my books, essays, book reviews, feature writing and more. You can also check out my GoodReads page to find my reviews and what I’ve been reading. Also, you can ask me questions about my books and my work through my GoodReads author page.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
My point-of-view character, the sardonic cop Carlo Gabriel, appeals to me a lot. He’s a tough cop yet vulnerable, experienced yet fallible, principled yet corruptible. That is, he is very human, which I like. And he is a sensualist with some intellectual curiosity—both of which I can identify with. Further, like most Americans, he’s a conflicted mix—Mexican-American and African-American (he calls himself “Halfrican”)—but decidedly American in his values, tastes, mores and language. Importantly, he has a breezy demeanor and a cynical sense of humor, always wisecracking and looking for the absurdity in his situation, but at heart a loner. He’s a guy I would trust (to an extent) and would like to have a drink with. Further, if there was trouble, I’d want him on my side.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
With all due modesty, it’s a page-turning mystery with heart—and a heart-stopping surprise ending. There’s lots of snappy and funny dialogue leavening a very serious story of corruption and educational malpractice, which plagues our inner-city schools. On top of that readers get to know two very compelling main characters—the rogue (in both senses of the word) cop Carlo Gabriel and the crusading English teacher Jonathan Stone—as well as two powerful female characters. Also, I think readers will learn a lot about what’s contributing to the crisis in our urban schools and on the streets across America while being thoroughly engaged with the characters and entertained. 


How long did it take you to write your book? 
Twenty years, in a fashion. The experience that was the seed to this book occurred two decades ago when I agreed to teach a remedial grammar course to incoming freshmen at St. Louis’ inner city community college, Forest Park. There I was handed a class of 18 African American high school graduates who could not consistently write—or speak—a grammatically correct sentence despite their 12 years of “education” in St. Louis Public Schools. I was stunned. After two other writers—at a ten-year interval—told me I should write about that experience, I finally began making notes for what would become Fail. Over the ensuing two years it went through many drafts. It took another year before I found the right publisher for it, who over the past six months has had me reworking the manuscript and adding some new scenes. So, it has been a long process.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
I think I learned a lot that was unexpected—or at least came to understand the deeper implications of facts that I had never much scrutinized. One thing is how pervasive the ongoing corruption is in St. Louis—not that that makes it unique among Rust Belt cities. But as I began investigating the educational malpractice there, I saw how intimately related it is to all the inner-city social ills. The fact that in most big cities half the kids drop out and never finish high school has significant implications re crime, gang activity, drugs, dependency and other societal ills. Some 70 percent of state prison inmates never finished high school. As my book’s epigraph, from Mark Twain, states: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.” Today the schools are being stopped from doing their jobs. As to who and what is causing that stoppage and how to fix it—that’s another question that many dedicated educators and countless parents of school-age kids nationwide are trying to answer.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
Readers everywhere can purchase Fail in paperback and digital editions through all online retailers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, etc.—or order it from their local bookstore. Readers in St. Louis will find Fail at Subterranean Books, Main Street Books, Left Bank Books, STL Books, The Book House and other area bookstores after October 27, 2014. 
How do you research your books?
This book, Fail, required extensive research—I delved deeply into the sorry state of urban public schools nationwide; ongoing St. Louis governmental corruption; the organization, procedures and equipment of the St. Louis Police Department; the works of Mark Twain; critical moments in regional American history; area topography; and more. Luckily, the Internet was able to provide me with a lot of the answers. In the pre-Web days, I would often put off doing research until later—so as not to interrupt my writing flow and to make sure that those elements were likely going to remain in the book before I spent hours at the library or making phone calls to pin down details and get it right. Now, however, when a detail surfaces as I am writing, I often stop and Google what I’m looking for, and usually find it—whether it’s an architectural term, what the weather was like on a certain date in a certain place, or what the intersection of two streets in a city I’ve never visited looks like. However, for some inside information—like specific police operational details—I still need to talk to someone in the know. Usually that starts with an email to a PR person in the organization, who is generally happy to hook me up with the right expert.


Flying without a safety net

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One of the things I enjoy the most about writing books is that it’s one of the few disciplines in the creative arts where you don’t need to be hired to ply your craft. You don’t need permission from anyone to create a story. You’re a free agent and the only thing that can stop you from writing a novel is a negative inner voice, or a lack of motivation. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not for the feint-of-heart. You have to be compelled to sit at a computer every day and write, but if you do, it can be incredibly gratifying.

I started my journey writing freelance scripts for network television. That was an experience of a different kind. Exhilarating at times, frustrating to the max, but there was a level of instant gratification that kept you pounding the keys. That and a paycheck. If you were lucky enough to win an assignment, you banged out a script and a few months later, you saw the fruits of your labor on TV. It was always a kick to see actors infusing your words with life, and it kept me in the game.

I had a terrific partner, Bruce Cervi, and when we were writing a television script, we always worked with a well-delineated outline. The Executive Producers of the series wouldn’t sign off on a script assignment, until the outline was approved. We would pitch a few ideas and if the Gods were smiling on us, we’d get the nod and go to story. If the powers that be liked the story we were off and running.

An outline was a necessity because there were times when a script, already greenlit and in production, would fall out and we would be called upon to deliver a shooting script in a week. That would have been an impossible feat without a concise outline.

When I started writing books, my world changed radically, and I’d like to think for the better. I had always been attracted to crime novels, detective series. It’s what I read and my bookshelves overflowed with them. I wanted to try my hand at creating my own.

My protagonist, Jack Bertolino, spent twenty-five years of his life putting away drug dealers, killers and thieves. It didn’t make sense that he could retire without suffering any blowback. And so my first book, The Devil’s Necktie, evolved from a very simple premise:  One night of passion for retired Inspector Jack Bertolino threw him on a deadly collision course with his past.

For the first time in my life, I was flying without a safety net. No outline. My characters were dictating the story I was telling. Each day, sitting at my computer, was about discovery. It was frightening at times, but damned exciting when I’d look at my pages at the end of the day and realize I had been taken on an unexpected journey. When the creative juices were flowing like that, a pure exercise in trust, I was reminded why I started writing in the first place.

There’s nothing better.

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” was his first novel. “Blond Cargo” is the next book in the Jack Bertolino series. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

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Excerpt: Sunworshipper by Medini Summers

Title: Sunworshipper

Author: Medini Summers

Genre: Historical fiction

Book description:

Plucked from obscurity in the deeps of the harem, Akhenaten Wa’enre, a callow youth, accedes to the throne of Egypt, the mightiest power of the lands of Middle Earth, Africa and Asia together. Nefertiti becomes his ‘Great Wife’ and spiritual companion. 

The boy king is disinclined to shoulder the mundane business of kingship. His senior statesmen, Ay, Panhessy and Perennfer must bear the burdens of governance on his behalf. Akhenaten does not, however, forego his rights to the vast treasury of Egypt or to the gold that inflates his coffers from the mines of Nubia and Asia. 
Wa’enre is not a king in the traditional sense – athlete, hunter, smiter of the Asians; his reign has a priestly flavor rather than a military one. His ambition is to return Egypt to the religion of older times, the worship of the Sun God Re, and the ‘First Principles’ of Maat – tolerance, truth, justice and balance. 
In accordance with her woman’s nature Nefertiti yearns for a depth of passion that Akhenaten cannot inspire in her. Her indiscretion with the treacherous Captain Horemheb is to haunt her for the length of her tenure as Queen of Egypt, a mistake which will invest the rule of Akhenaten with terrors and pitfalls. 
Once the Aten temples have been established at South Karnak, Akhenaten launches his career as a zealot king in support of the religion of Re, its temples and priesthood, fomenting rebellion and dangerous assassination plots. 

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Author Bio: 

Medini Summers has been an author for twenty years, in which time 9 books have been created. Four fiction books of an ancient history cycle and one historical novel of 1850 are now available on Amazon Kindle Books. There are two collections - Fairy Tales and Animal Stories for Young and Old. 

Medini lives in the reburbished Christchurch, New Zealand, and shares her house with a flatmate and three precious felines.


Amenophis Wa’enre:
Droplets of hot sweat slip down the valleys of my ribs into the folded sash of my linen skirt, like raindrops on the bare bones of rock. Though it makes me shiver it does little to alleviate the cloying heat of mid-evening summer. I have shrunk into the shadow of a gauntly-weathered stump to listen, my thin arms scrabbling at the tree, the manicured nails of my soft fingers splitting. Carefully I suppress the wheeze of my breath so that I can detect a crackle of leaves or a breaking of twigs. That? What is it?
With terrifying force a whine of wind passes my head in a flurry. An arrow is embedded into a tree directly in front of me. My cautious flight is abandoned. I burst from cover and dash heedlessly through the dense forest, thrashing wildly at the spiny shrubs. A tamarisk tree cuts my arm deeply with one of its fierce thorns. Where I am fleeing to I do not know. Is there anywhere that is safe? My sense is that only in flight, in swiftly outstripping my murderers, is there any hope. This forest is endless, and I am trapped in its bounds.
Amongst a pile of rocks a dark hole, so low I have nearly missed it. ‘Tis only large enough for a jackal to squeeze through. I drop down and wriggle on my bony elbows into the earth burrow, lacerating my skin. Then twist myself round until I am facing the exit. I wait, my breathing stilled. Now I am truly terrified, for I am penned in a trap of my own making. Within seconds the soft slip-slap of the hunter’s grass-sandled feet. I make as though I am dead as the two appendages stand contra-posto a cubit from of my bulging eyes. If I was of a mind I could reach out and stroke the knobbly toes. Then begins an evocative dance as the feet shuffle this way and that. My eyes bulge, helplessly captured by the graceless shimmy. The assassin’s thoughts are loud and angry. He thinks me a creature of air, so mysteriously disappeared from sight. I hear a frustrated huffing as he gives up the chase and moves away. Might I soon be safe?
With a tortured moan, I wake. The cursed nightmare again. I am scrunched into a ball. My linen bed cover is sticky with my sweat, my arm has a small puncture wound that spots the buff-colored sheet. In my extremity, I see that I have scratched myself with my long nails. Relief at my deliverance is so sweet that I luxuriate in a sense of safety, a feeling almost euphoric; but what does this precursor mean? I determine that the effect of my dread vision will not haunt my days and nights for time to come. Within moments the dreaming sequences are fading back into the night landscape of the Otherworld.
Streaks of pale light grope like searching ghosts through the high slit of the embrasure. Noting that dawn is close, I shake my head, trying to dislodge my incoming thoughts. Finally the weight of what this day has to offer disposes of my dreaming woes. Illogically, I now want to retreat into sleep once more. But I must face up to my challenges. There is to be no avoiding.  Day has laid claim to me.
I know that I would not appear so inadequate to the business of proving my manhood with my dear Mery and Ahm beside me. We three are scholars and dreamers, friends and adventurers. Our minds follow different courses to those my father has set for me. Let me never be separated from them again.
This tour of inspection of the Nubian fortresses by Commander May is the ground for my training – for the melding of a son into his father’s image; as so handsomely depicted in stone – the hunter, athlete, soldier, subduer of the Asians – the ever powerful – Nebmaetre, Amenophis iii, Golden Horus, King of Upper and Lower Egypt. Alas, if anyone were to match that description with me, also called Amenophis, it would only appear comical, for I am in every way opposed to these warriorlike characteristics. But, if the truth be known, these endowments do not apply to my father, either. It is all so much plumping of his aspect to make him appear fearsome and to awe the populace.
If anyone were to be interested, and they are not, I would let them know that I am against all this fighting and hunting nonsense. It is all about my father’s will and no one else’s. But when I inherit the kingdom, when I am a king in fact, I will change the nature of things. I will create a better world, one in which all things are equal, and in which I will appear as a person of consequence. Yes.
The pleasant dreaminess upon wakening has drifted off. In its place come less than happy thoughts. “My Thuthmosis, I miss you,” I whisper, though there is no one to heed me. My beautiful brother was in the vigor of his early manhood when he sickened. The pain of his loss by early death is constantly with me. Thuthmosis was strong but affectionate, brave but sweet. Although we were the opposite of each other we fitted. I was the necessary, awkward shadow of his fine, personal accomplishments. He, who embodied the ideals of society and of kingship. And yet, he did not think me lesser or weaker than himself, but protected me from the ridicule of others with the ferocity of deep attachment.
There were no maddening visions in my brother’s time. Only since his death have they appeared.
Perhaps I should have made the journey to Amenti with Thuthmosis, to the Judgment Hall of Osiris, the Hall of Truth. Surely that reality would be more familiar for me than this very place. Our hearts weighed together in the Great Balance would have been equal to the Feather of Truth, – Anubis the jackal, ghoul dog of the dead, steadying the pointer of the balance and Thoth, the wise one, scribing on his palette with his reed pen the movements of the balance upon each of our denials of wrongdoing. – ‘I have done no evil. I have not robbed. I have not coveted.’ *1 Behind them, shadowlike, would be Ammut, the devourer of wicked souls.  Once the judgment of Osiris was made to our benefit, we would proceed to the ‘Sekhet-Hetep,’ ‘The Fields of Peace’ with the blessings of the gods. My brother and I might have lived there free of care, – ‘Pure of Voice, Justified.’ *2
Most hopefully, when all was over, we would have ascended to the abode of Re. To join him in his Manjet Barque of a Million Years, to sail across the firmament, ‘rejoicing in the Horizon as Re Harakhty in his aspect of light which is in the Sun-disc.’ *3
This is how he sends his blessings to the world in the time between times, and this is what I believe.
Since my beloved one was snatched from me, my whole being has craved a different existence – one in which the burdens of this reality can be dissolved into something more kindly, more at one with who I am.
I drag my mind back from its source. Today they will try to teach me how best to kill a man; and how best to avoid the same fate, myself. Tomorrow they will attempt to teach me how to outwit a wild beast and then how best to kill it. But hunting is not my sport, killing is not my pleasure. I could not despoil or hurt any living thing. I love earth’s creatures. Wishing they could see that I am not the one my father wants me to be, I sigh regretfully.
The gray tendrils of light are suffused with gold, streaming through the aperture above the bed. The oval-shaped wine jar, suspended from its triangular, wooden stand, offers comfort. But, no, another desire swiftly outstrips that one. I rise from my bovine-legged bed and scramble across its taut, leather-woven base to a low table positioned below the opening, trying to ignore the headache that is crunching into the back of my spine and the sharp squalls of my dreaming that still clutter the edge of my mind.
The silly, cross-hatched stools with leather seats are scattered about. I have always found them uncomfortable, too flimsy to be useful. A half-moon, sleeping headrest has also been discarded by me. It feels spartan. I have found a soft pillow to replace it. My table beside the bed is loaded with papyri for my perusal. ’Tis many years since I first took the path of scholarship.
The flaking paint on the walls bothers me; gold and ivory inlays in the furniture have long disappeared, roughly dug out by some fortune hunter; blue lapis and blue faience bead inlays in the walls give what little color the room will allow. I do love a little color. It creates a mood. Tiles of faded fish and birds have covered the floor for many decades. Some are chipped and over by the door one is missing, prised from the floor intact. These apartments were built in the Middle Kingdom for the use of the royalty on tour. Obviously they have not been refurbished since then – a very long time ago.
It is not what I am used to. My suite at the Malqatta Palace on the East Bank at Thebes is not opulent, but it is so much better than this, clean and in good order. This poor accommodation demonstrates to me that I still have nothing to declare my status. Just a little effort to tidy and beautify would have reassured me.
I can’t quite see through the gap above my head. More height is needed. A drab, leather, wall hanging catches my eye, a faded representation of some remote pharoah of the Middle Kingdom when the fort was built. Snatching it down, I bring down a shower of plaster. Doubtless this will be reported to May. My conduct is to be monitored. The roll the cloth makes gives me a hoist to afford a perfect view.
Before me is the L-shaped fortress that has been built into a natural, rocky hill. There are apartments surrounding a courtyard, skirted by massive mud-brick walls. The first of these is forty-five royal cubits tall by twenty-five thick. My God, that is the height of fifteen men by eight men. Flanking it, the second is lower with an inner courtyard between the two. Below the fortifications is the village. On my way up to the fort I noticed a temple, some fields of crops, temple cattle, local goats and sheep and an aggregate of acacias, tamarisks and one sacred ished tree. Though it has all the ingredients to support life, this little town is still an alien, barren place. Beyond the village is the Nile, flowing lazily as it awaits the kiss of the Sun God.
I have been urged to observe the local practices. The science of agriculture and of food growing has been a part of my curriculum. It seems that the peasants here use the acacia’s seed pods for fattening the cattle and its wood for making excellent bows and arrows for the use of the Ta Seti archers.
The eastern desert brightens. Its mounds are tipped with rose. Rays of the sun begin to penetrate the land. I long for them to lighten my spirit, to seep through my veins as wine does. “Ah!” I sigh – Re has found me. Slowly, serenely, I am penetrated by the long, slanting arms of the Disc; within minutes unwanted burdens drop away, the demons of the night world dissipate, my headache dissolves. This is who I am. I am not the other confused youth; I am in my element; my element is fire – the fire of life. I want to be a Son of Re – in all his attributes, undaunted, omniscient and worthy of admiration.
In this moment of the splendor of the God Re, I am boldly interrupted. Though I did not hear him knock, Commander May strides into the room, thrusting the day’s activity right in my face. He looks at me strangely then says, “Amenophis,” ’tis time to take the morning exercises before breaking fast.”
“Huh! Uh!” I reply with little aplomb. Sighing deeply, I regard him with sad affection, and inquire, “So what delectable sport have you devised for my amusement this day, my uncle?”
Seeming not to know whether to pity me or to think me foolish, May answers, “Young Prince, I think you know. You must learn proficiency in each of the arts of war – spear throwing, close contact axe-fighting, sling-shooting and archery, both from a standing point and from a racing chariot.”
A profound sigh escapes me. “Oh, my! And all before breakfast.”
May does not respond to my jibe but remains remote and authoritarian. “Come along, Amenophis.”
“Just give me a minute,” I beg.
He allows me some moments to attire myself. As I follow May from the room, the power of Re is still in me; therefore I am hopeful of acquitting myself with some merit. I do wish to please my uncle May, thereby my father – the King. I would have their admiration sooner than their censure. So I patter along behind the sturdy back and graying locks of Commander May. Alone amongst the Egyptian nobility, he does not affect the prevailing fashion in wigs and headdresses. His hair is cropped short and straight; military, it looks. And he wears a drab tunic, short to the knee.
For myself, I like to be up to the moment. A short, braided, Nubian-style wig hugs my shaved head. I am painfully aware of my unusual, flattened, elongated skull. Why I am made so different, I don’t know.  Neither Tiye, nor my father, have any such characteristics. It makes me wonder if I am their true son. But, no, that is a dangerous assumption. I cannot afford to think in those terms. Anyway, the wig hides all that.
I wear a white, pleated skirt with a sash at the waist. This sash is fulsomely wide and falls to my knees. A generous, wide, wesekht collar, with lapis and carnelian stones, faience and gold, is heavy in this heat but it makes me look the part. Carnelian is obtained from pebbles in our own eastern desert. Lapis-Lazuli, with its brilliant blue hue, comes from Eastern Asia. Gold snake armlets slither around my upper arms, disguising the lack of biceps. And fine leather sandals complete the picture. Caring enough to look well is part of a noble bearing – kohl-lined eyes and blackened eyelashes, with a touch of frankincense behind the ears.
May has not found the time to do the same, I can tell. He has a musky tang which communicates masculinity.
I trail behind him, wondering if he would make a good first choice for my new retinue. I feel a foundation of trust taking root between us. He has been a faithful servitor of my father these many years.
We exit the barrack building. Within the battlemented and bastioned walls is a courtyard, about half the area of the whole fortress. Ta Seti archers of Nubia are practicing shooting at targets with their bows, their burnished skin darkening yet further under the blazing sun. Each one cocks an eye toward May, their Commander. Their Medjay brothers, fierce warriors all, are using wooden, practice spears and axes in hand to hand jousting. A major part of the army in this area is comprised of the local Nubian lads. They also make good policemen and can be found in most of the cities of Egypt.
The sling-shot soldiers are without the wall, honing their formidable skills. Each and every one of the soldiers wears a short skirt with wide sash, the colors of which pertain to their particular army battalion. Their hair is undressed, cropped short. The whole scene is frightening, causing me to shudder.
In a moment of clarity May turns to me, “Which of the disciplines do you think you might have an aptitude for? Is there a preference?”
I pause, feeling bewildered. When have my feelings ever been consulted before? My mind registers a blank. When it clears sufficiently, I am able to make a choice, “The archers who are charioteers; they interest me. Perhaps I might try the composite bow.”
“Ah, a good choice, but a hard one. The composite bow is difficult to master.”
“Then I will be its friend,” I say wistfully.
“Would you like to make another choice?”
“Hum, ah, I don’t know, perhaps; what do you think?”
Before I can wilt any further, May presents me to Ikht, a youth of the fort, who is in training for the most junior rank of soldiery. I watch as Ikht shows me the finely-crafted, composite bow, its twirled ends supporting the pig-gut cord. The horn centre-piece strengthens the weapon, giving extra volition to the arrow. Ikht demonstrates by unleashing an arrow at the target. It strikes the outermost circle of the blackened, target board.
Faking confidence, I grasp the instrument purposefully. But it is difficult to suppress the tremors which are raking through me. Having notched an arrow, I draw back on the cord; back, back, inch by inch, then release. With a juddering twang, the arrow drops to the ground. “Uh, Uh!” I mutter, my wry humor having fled. My shoulders heave and my eyes dive.
“Try again. Don’t give up,” May encourages.
So, again I try. With the same result – over and over. My thin arms lack the strength to stretch the bow taut. On the tenth try the arrow advances a few paces then falls to the dirt. A number of conscripts are gathering to watch the spectacle. Some are laughing and pointing. Do they really think that I am not aware that I look like an idiot? Knowing I am a figure of fun, I keep on.  Though I hate this, I cannot afford to give up. On the twentieth attempt, finally, I hit the target.
A concerted “Oh!” rises from those unkind spectators, who then go back to their proper pursuits.
Putting down the bow with deliberate care, I say quietly, “I believe I am ready for the war axe.” My face is downcast, my cheeks radiating. I suffer for my lack of dexterity.
This is how it goes throughout the next hour. With an inability to follow the teacher’s instruction, I teeter through the exercises. In each I achieve a minimum of skill at high cost to myself. Before the clamor of the morning meal bell, I am exhausted and crumpled. May escorts me to my rooms and shuts me in with my anxiety.


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