The Cairo Puzzle

Today’s guest is Laurence O’Bryan.  He’s an Irish writer who has achieved some notoriety with his “puzzle” novels.  Today, he talks about his fifth in the series, The Cairo Puzzle. 

I visited the Great Pyramid of Giza in February, 2017. The passages inside were very different to what I had imagined. They were smaller and narrower. But the Grand Gallery, shown above, is a stunning space, which we still don’t understand.

It’s located in the center of the pyramid and leads to the King’s Chamber, the location of a number of scenes in The Cairo Puzzle. See its location below.

The interior of the Great Pyramid. CP Smyth, 1877.

What interested me most was the possibility that the Grand Gallery was a scared space used for the recitation of hymns by the ancient Egyptian priesthood. The space echoes wonderfully. It would have been a powerful place in which to recite hymns.

If this was the case, the Cannibal Hymn is likely to have been recited there.

Appearing first in the Pyramid of Unas at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, the Cannibal Hymn preserves an early royal butchery ritual in which the deceased king slaughters, cooks and eats the gods and others, incorporating into himself their powers.

The style of the Cannibal Hymn is characteristic of the recitational poetry of pharaonic Egypt. This will give you a taste of what the Cannibal Hymn was about:

A god who lives on his fathers,

who feeds on his mothers…

Unas is the bull of heaven

Who rages in his heart,

Who lives on the being of every god,

Who eats their entrails

When they come, their bodies full of magic

From the Isle of Flame…

The cannibal hymn also reappeared in the Coffin Texts as Spell 573.

Which got me thinking. Where did the early Christian fathers get the idea of Christ’s body and blood being given out to all those who attend Mass? Isn’t there an echo of our cannibalistic past in this central Christian ritual?

Christ himself is believed to have spent his missing years in Egypt. If so, that may have been where he learned his magic, turning water into wine and raising the dead. Egypt was the home of ancient magic and a place of great medical knowledge. Roman Emperors wanted their physicians to be Egyptian.

Galen, one of the most influential physician in history, who helped the Empire deal with the Antonine plague studied at the great medical school in Alexandra. Hippocrates (the “father of medicine”), studied at the temple of Amenhotep, and acknowledged the contribution of ancient Egyptian medicine to Greek medicine.

That Christ learned how to heal the sick in Egypt is a perfectly reasonable proposition. That his followers adapted the ideas of the Egyptian priesthood, including the mythic symbolism of eating a part of a god to have something of that god transferred to you, is also very reasonable.

Whether the ancient Egyptians priests were also cannibals is open for debate.

The question is, how does this all relate to The Cairo Puzzle? Well, here’s the thing, the Great Pyramid still holds secrets. The parts that we know inside represent only a small part of what the ancients described as being inside the great pyramid.

Historical commentators, such as Manetho and Plutarch, claimed that a Hall of Records, under the area of the pyramids at Giza, housed written records of the founders of Egypt. And records of ancient cities that came before, and of how the larger pyramids were constructed.

If the Hall of Records contains such records, it will also contain more details of the uses of the Cannibal Hymn.

As the Cairo Puzzle opens, Isabel Ryan travels to the city in search of Sean, her husband, who went missing, presumed dead, at the end of The Nuremberg Puzzle. The first place she looks for him is in a hospital.

To find out more stay tuned. The Cairo Puzzle will be released in July, 2017.

 

 

Make Flawed Characters Likable

Today’s guest is Kristin Neva, an author and blogger who writes small-town fiction set on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

Kristin’s first book, Heavy, co-authored with her husband, Todd, journeys through the first year after Todd’s ALS diagnosis as the Nevas struggle to find meaning, hold on to faith, and discover joy in the midst of pain.

She will give a copy of her book Copper Country, A Copper Island Novel, to someone who comments, so please sign up.

3 Ways to Make Deeply Flawed Characters Likable

If you’ve ever interviewed for a job, you may have been asked about your greatest strengths and weaknesses. It’s a trick question. They’re looking for chinks in your armor.

You may have answered with a weakness that can only benefit your potential employer — “Sometimes I’m so dedicated to my work that I forget to eat lunch and I get really hungry.”

It’s a non-weakness.

If our characters are too perfect, our readers will write them off as unrealistic. Readers want flawed characters.

Some flaws are endearing. In a romance, we cheer for the nice guy who likes the girl but tries too hard. We laugh at the absent-minded professor and the clumsy detective.

But when we write about deep themes, we may want our characters to have deep flaws, even at the risk of making them less likable. A sarcastic waitress. A judgmental woman.

Flaws may be part of the character arc or necessary for the conflict, but the protagonist must still be likable.

Here are three ways to make deeply flawed characters likable:

  • Have her save a cat

In the 1978 Christopher Reeves movie, Superman literally saves a cat stuck in a tree in one of the opening scenes.

In my most recent novel, Copper Country, my main character has a sharp edge to her tongue. To make Aimee more likable, I inserted a intellectually disabled young man into an early scene with Aimee working at a diner so she could demonstrate her kind heart.

“I got three dollars and fifty-seven cents.” Mikey strewed crumpled bills and loose change on the counter.

“That’ll buy you whatever you want.” It didn’t matter how much he had, because Aimee always covered the rest from her tips.

  • Make the character recognize and regret her flaw.

In my first novel, Snow Country, Beth is interested in Danny, but she recoils when he tells her about his sexual past.

One of my beta-readers didn’t like my main character because she was judgmental, but that was one of the main conflicts driving the book. So I had Beth recognize and regret her flaw.

“I’ll go now.” He stood.

“Don’t go.” She held his forearm and pulled him back down to the chair. “I’m sorry I was judgmental. I don’t want to be like that.”

Her judgmental-ism continued to be an issue in the story, but her being self-aware of the flaw makes it more palatable.

  • Show potential for change.

Readers will tolerate a flawed central character if they see potential for change.

In my first novel, my main character Beth is not only judgmental, but also lacks confidence. Beth had just been jilted a few weeks before her wedding, and she is understandably upset. She is 25 years old, and she’d like to move on with her life, but her mother is super controlling.

My beta-readers were not really rooting for her, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on why not.

I learned that readers do not like weak characters. They’ll root for underdogs only when they show courage. But the central character arc of my first book was Beth developing sisu, which is the word Finnish-Americans use for resilience in the face of adversity.

Ultimately, I rewrote the opening scene in which her fiancé dumps her during their burrito lunch, giving her a little more spunk than she had in earlier drafts.

“We can still be friends.” He wiped his desk with a napkin.

Well, I like my friends so that’s not going to work, she thought. “Let me help you clean that up.” She swept both burritos into the garbage can.

“Hey, I was going to eat that.”

“I was going to marry you.” She plunked the can down next to him. “Go ahead. Eat it.” She twisted the engagement ring off her finger and was about to throw it at him, but then thought better of it. She stuffed it in her pocket and left.

Those are just three ideas to make flawed characters more likable. I’d love to read other ideas from you.

Comment below and we’ll enter your name in a drawing to win a copy of Kristin’s new novel, Copper Country.

Learn more about Kristin and explore Copper Island at KristinNeva.com

 

The Last Frontier

Today’s guest is Deborah Dee Harper, a writer from TennesseeHarper (2) who graduated from Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild where Misstep was a finalist in the 2009 Operation First Novel competition.  Recently, she moved to Eagle River, Alaska.  Read her post here and I’m sure you’ll want to grab one of her books.

Moving to the Last Frontier

My oldest daughter, her five-year-old daughter, and I recently made the 4,061 mile move from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Eagle River, Alaska, which was viewed as ridiculous by most of our family members (and probably a few of the neighbors). Can’t say as I blame them. Yes, it was a drastic move, but also one we did not take lightly. We’d lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage (ten miles south of Eagle River) from 2008 through 2012, so we were familiar with the vicinity, the weather, geography, and cost of living of the Last Frontier (not to be confused with William Shatner’s Final Frontier). It wasn’t unplanned by any stretch of the imagination. We thought long and hard about it, and in the end, decided to take the plunge.

Our reasons were many and varied. We love the wild, pristine, natural setting of Alaska. We look forward to watching bears, moose, eagles, foxes, wolves, beavers, and porcupines cross our paths (some of those more dangerous ones would be from the safety of our car), and love the magnificence of the scenery up here. The mountains, ocean, waterfalls, rivers, glaciers, lakes, streams, and unending forests are awe-inspiring. Yes, there are towns and cities like any other state, and to be honest, it’s getting harder every day to distinguish Anchorage (which, in my opinion, was once about fifty years behind the rest of the U.S. when it came to shopping, restaurants, etc.) from any city of the same size in the lower 48. But once you leave those towns and cities, you enter a wild paradise of natural wonders.

One of the reasons I was open to moving here was that it no longer matters where in the world a writer lives. The internet has made writing from anywhere possible. In the pre-internet years (remember those?), a writer’s proximity to the publishing meccas of the country was important. Snail mail made submitting an arduous process of writing, editing, finalizing, compiling the submissions packet, targeting your publishers, putting it in the mail, and then … waiting. And waiting. It could take a month, six months, a year. And even after waiting all that time, there was absolutely no guarantee 1.) they even got it, 2.) the person to whom it was addressed hadn’t left or died, 3.) it hadn’t been inadvertently tossed away, or 4.) it would be an acceptance. The internet and relatively instant submission process has certainly made a difference in that regard. But just as importantly, now that most of the civilized world is connected in one way or another to the internet, a writer can work from anywhere as long as he/she can reach that internet connection.

That’s important to me and to other writers who want to write from places that inspire them. Alaska does that for me. Whether or not we choose to stay in Alaska for a year, ten years, or longer, it’s important to me to know I can live where I want and still do what I enjoy—writing humorous and inspirational books.

If you’ve had any “adventurous” moves, tell us about them in a comment.  Thanks.

An Inrewrview with Eula Moore

Today I’m interviewing Eula Moore, the grandmother of Crystal Moore, heroine of A Ton of Gold and A Silver Medallion. Hello, Eula. How are you today?

EULA: I’m upright, and I’m talking, so I guess I’m doing pretty good.

JIM: Tell me about The Park, since it seems to play a big part in Crystal’s adventures.

EULA: The Park, that’s where I live, is where Crystal grew up. Her parents were both killed in a freak auto accident when Crystal was a little tyke. So she came to live with us at The Park. It’s 320- acres in the piney woods of east Texas. Dan and I bought it when we was first married. That was might near sixty years ago. Couldn’t afford it. But you know kids. We got it and made it work. It’s a beautiful places with a great lake, good fishing, nice hills, and lots a trees. Very peaceful. We named it The Park right after we move on it. Anyways, Crystal roamed around The Park from the time she was seven until she went off to college at S.M.U. and then Stanford. Course, now she lives in Dallas. Too much traffic and noise there for me.

JIM: You mentioned Dan. That’s Crystal’s granddad?

EULA: Was. He went to meet his maker a dozen years ago. My first and only true love. And a great Dad and Granddad for Crystal.

JIM: That must have been about the time Crystal left for S.M.U..

EULA: Right. S.M.U. and then rode off to Californi. Entered some kind a Ph.D. program or other.

JIM: Did she earn her doctorate?

EULA: Nope. Something happened just before she was to finish. Don’t know what, and she never would say. Didn’t want to talk about it. Never did. But, she thought she was just a few months from ending and she ups and leaves and comes home. Moped around The Park for months. Finally got a job at that info retrieval company where she works now. That has perked her up. She getting back to her old self.

JIM: This past year, she went down to Mexico to rescue some young girls. What did you think about that? I mean, she doesn’t seem like the adventure-seeking type to me.

EULA: She ain’t. And I thought it was a dumb thing to do. Could a got herself killed. But she’s got a soft spot for things that can’t help themselves. So, off she went.

JIM: Didn’t you try to stop her?

EULA: She a grown woman. And she’s got a strong head and, except for that fool thing, a good head on her shoulders. I told her it was a dumb idea. But she thought those kids would never be free unless she did something.

JIM: And she did rescue the girls and reunite them with their mother.

EULA: Yes sir. She did. Course then she had two crooks trying to kill here. Good thing she had her old Nana to help her take care of them skunks.

JIM: I’d love to hear the details of how you two captured two assassins.

EULA: And I’d love to tell you. But not today. I got a game of Mexican Train waiting for me. Don’t want to keep my friends waiting. You come on back another day and I’ll tell you how I captured those two bums. Well, actually it was Crystal and me. But right now, I gotta go. Bye.

JIM: And folks, she just took off. I never had an interview end so abruptly. We’ll get back with her on another day. Knowing what I’m finding out about Eula, I’m sure it will be an interesting story. That’s all for today.

 

 

 

 

 

The 10-day Writing Challenge

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Today, Leeann Betts issues a challenge.  She writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released five titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for … Continue reading

Writing Your Family Story

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Today’s guest blogger is Donna Schlachter.  She lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a … Continue reading

Fiction Needs Facts!

Today’s guest is a retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth.  He lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. He has published 16 novels, including six in his Sticks Hetrick crime series, plus a non-fiction regional history. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He currently serves as librarian of his county historical society, where he assists patrons with genealogy and research

If you write fiction, you have to pay attention to facts.

That may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t meant to. Fiction offers a simulation of reality and if you wrongly portray something your reader knows as ‘fact’ you may be called out on it.

Suppose you’re writing a story set in Arizona in the 1870s (as I did with Geronimo Must Die). You can rely on imagination and create a world to suit your purpose. That’s called fantasy and, if your reader is informed that’s the intent, it’ll probably be accepted without question.

On the other hand, if you want your reader to believe the story is set in this place and time, it becomes important to express things as they actually were. You can twist things a little to suit your purpose (that’s called fiction), so long as your reader is willing to accept them. For instance, your reader will accept your character riding a horse or mule but may frown if you seat them on a dragon (that would be fantasy).

There are two methods. One is called empathy. The other is research.

Empathy is vicariously experiencing the emotion, thought or action of another person. This is a useful tool for a writer in many circumstances. However it has its limits. Some characteristics are timeless. But you live in the 21st century and attitudes today differ to a certain degree from those of the 19th century. How can you know what’s true today was also true then?

The answer is through research. You don’t have a time machine, but we do have a good substitute to give us some idea of what life was like in those days. Reading biographies, histories and fiction of the period provides some insight. These sources were important to me in accurately depicting the Apache and life on the San Carlos reservation. An even better choice for general historical fiction is newspapers of the period. Newspapers reflect the character of the times in which they’re created–they show us what was important to people, what they did with their time, their morals, their prejudices. Everything you need to create a believable character of the period.

These newspapers are available in collections at historical societies, in many libraries and even on line. Librarians are good at telling us where to find newspapers to suit our needs. Reading them is fun and sure to stimulate your imagination.

Here’s a blurb for Geronimo Must Die:

Geronimo and rascally half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free have never been friends.

Yet, Mickey has already saved Geronimo’s life twice (without acknowledgement) and is the only one who can keep the great Apache leader out of the sniper’s sights now. The sniper has already murdered several tribal leaders and Mickey believes it’s all a plot to prompt a great runaway from the hated San Carlos reservation.

Mickey’s efforts are stymied by Al Sieber, head of scouts, and John Clum, reservation agent, as well as suspicion of other Indians. Adding to his problems, Mickey is in love with a girl whose name he keeps forgetting to ask and who may be allied to the plot.

Only perseverance, risk to his life and, eventually, Geronimo’s help will enable Mickey to resolve this dangerous situation.

Lindermuth’s  latest novel, Geronimo Must Die, a classic Western, was released on March 28 by Sundown Press.

 https://www.amazon.com/Geronimo-Must-Die-J-Lindermuth-ebook/dp/B06XFZJG5H/ref=la_B002BLJIQ8_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490444850&sr=1-20&refinements=p_82%3AB002BLJIQ8

 

 

The Joy of Creating Characters

Jean Lauzier loves to play in all the different genres, but especially  mystery and fantasy.

She is a member of several writer’s groups and  president of the East Texas Writer’s Association. When not writing,
she enjoys reading, trying to grow bonsai trees, training dogs,  editing, and mentoring other writers.

“Fictional characters are made of words, not flesh; they do not have free will, they do not exercise volition. They are easily born, and as easily killed off.” ― John Banville

I’m not sure who John Banville is, but I have to disagree. At least for myself. I have one of those obsessive personalities and when I’m writing, I live and breathe my characters. I think about their likes and dislikes, how their past affects their present, and just what they want out of life.

Sometimes, I even forget they aren’t real. For example, one day while in the middle of a writing session, a song came on the radio and I realized Cande would have listened to and liked that song. Now, Cande is a character in a mystery novel I’m editing, but we’re also best friends. I know about the time she tried to paint her pony black because she wanted to go as the headless horseman for Halloween. I know how she defends those being bullied, her soft spot for animals, and how much she loves settling in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa. She’s a person I’d really like to hang out with.

I also know that as her writer, I can’t get her to do something against her nature. At the end of the novel, I really wanted her to take justice in her own hands and off the bad guy. But that’s not her. Yes, she’s an emotional wreck because of what she thinks he has done, but she believes in doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. And that is one of the things I love about her.

Another thing I love is when a character just appears and refuses to disappear. While writing Dragons of Jade, I was typing along in the groove, and a dog appeared in a scene. I didn’t want a dog in the book so backspaced and deleted him. A few sentences later, my character opened the door and in bounded the dog. He had a name, a personality, and I knew exactly what he looked like. I thought about deleting him again but just couldn’t. Turns out, he was an important part of the story.

Some authors seem to have no problem killing their characters. I read the Game of Thrones series and every time I became attached to a character, they turned up dead. I’d be a blubbering puddle of tears if I killed off as many characters as he has.

Once I read we need to get our characters up trees and then throw rocks at them while setting the tree on fire. I have a hard time doing that, especially with characters I love. I want things to go right for them. I want them to succeed and be happy. It’s something my editor says I need to work on. And, I am trying.

Creating characters is one of the fun things about being a writer. I learn about their jobs, their culture, and just what makes them tick. Then, we hang out in front of the fireplace sipping hot cocoa and telling stories.

You can find more about Jean on  her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/jeanlauzier2319

All her  books are available on Amazon or can be ordered from any bookstore.