Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I feel good, oh I feel so good (UH)

The subject line is just for Emily M. M., who I don't think even knows this blog exists, but it's for her all the same.

So...yes! Big changes. Changes that will be, I think, for the best. Changes I believe I cannot discuss with the world at large yet, but about which I'm feeling positive.

I am back at work on Baptism for the Dead and will remain at work on Baptism for the Dead until it's finished. A skeptic like me doesn't see signs and/or portents anywhere, but if I weren't a skeptic, I'd be seeing them. The universe appears to have made several alignments so that working on and finishing this book will be easier or at least more fun. Of course, I'm a skeptic, so that's just confirmation bias talking. But it's still fun to have an occasional tongue-in-cheek fantasy that the universe gives two shits about my piddly little novel.

One funny portent: my friend Tim showed up at work to say hello, and informed me that I must have Baptism finished by January 30th. It was a totally arbitrary date, chosen for no reason at all, and Tim admits he has no way of enforcing the deadline. But I have a deadline, so a deadline I shall meet. There will be a few distractions along the way -- the Holidays are coming up and I expect to get writing time in on lunch breaks only just before Christmas -- and I've got to finish all the presents I'm making for my loved ones. But January 30th should still be feasible. I write fast, the book is already outlined, and I've got about 25,000 words done already. January 30th will be cake.

I've got an important phone meeting this week and I've got a fire crackling under my butt and I am SO HAPPY TO BE WORKING ON BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD AGAIN!

Who wants to read the first chapter? It's below the fold!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Here we go.

This has been a bracing and life-changing few days, in several different respects. There is uncertainty on the horizon, but it's the fun kind, not the kind with fangs. Or it might have fangs, but they are possibly fangs of the cute variety, like a hedgehog's fangs, or a fruit bat's.

I feel totally refreshed by Thanksgiving, reinvigorated and redirected and ready to forge ahead and make some cool shit happen in my life.

Skype is an amazing invention, even if it's a bit of a bandwidth hog.

I CAN DO ANYTHING. Just see if I can't!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's like driving nails into my own forehead.

Right now I am absolutely demotivated to work on Egypt 2.0. Oddly, too, since it's right at the really fun scenes where I get to describe amazing ancient-culture pageantry and feasting and naked people dancing and also some pretty great action scenes, too. But I just want to barf all over my laptop when I think about writing it all.

It's simply not what I want to be working on right now. But guess what? THIS IS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO WRITE FOR A LIVING. You do the work you need to do and you get it done and turned in and you do your best and you shut up and write. Life isn't full of floating kittens wearing dark-rimmed glasses and riding fixies. Shit, Libbie. Stop whining and work. (Really, though, I wonder if this would be easier to get through if I was getting paid for writing this infernal book. God, I need money in the worst kind of way.)

Wait...here's the fix. I want to be known for my pretty prose and daring insights into the human condition (or something like that.) I want to be known for literary fiction. It's what I most love to read, after all, and what I enjoy writing the most. And what people praise me for the most when they read my writing. And the Egyptian books are good and fun and well crafted but they are commercial, not lit. So here's how I solve this problem: I'll publish my historical fiction under a different name.

Problem solved. Now my ass is getting to work on those fun, commercial, kooky Egyptian party scenes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


There are so many tiny moments in a given day that make me say oh, oh, oh my god, that are the reasons why I write. How can I ever tell the world about the beautiful suspense in the drawn-out moment, the too-full beer glass passing behind my head as slow as sap waking, the held breath and the stillness, even the dart-throwers downshifting, and the surface of the red beer tilts just beside my left eye, cross-section of a mobile sphere wobbling, and lips open in very slow motion to expose teeth, to drink. How can I show you if I don't write?

I don't really want to be writing what I'm writing now. I am just hedging my bets, because I want a contract and just enough money to keep me alive until I can get another contract, and then another.

What I really want to be writing is Baptism for the Dead. And then Band Geek. But I'm going to finish what I started, because it's commercial, and it might sell. I don't have much enthusiasm for it. I really just want to tinker with words and images. I don't want to stick to a formula and I don't want to be this commercial.

But I do want a contract.

But more than that, I want to show you all the little things that are worth noticing.

Dance, dance, dance.

I'm sitting in the Starbucks on Phinney, killing time until my weekly writers' group starts. There is an old man -- somewhere between seventy and ninety; I can't tell -- waiting at the bar for his drink. He's dancing. Hands in pockets of black parka, head up, black-and-red Adidas, spectacles with gold rims. This is not a shuffling sort of dance. He's really moving. Purpose and complete confidence. I don't know a thing about dance so I can't identify the steps, but he knows them just fine.

I ought to learn something about dance.


Over 16,000 words now and rarin' to get going on the rest. I'm a bit sad that I have to pack up my 'puter and head out for work. But there's always the lunch break for working in more writing, eh?

In the meantime, here is the last paragraph of what I wrote this morning. My aim here is to write a fun and very commercial historical novel, and what fun commercial historical novel would be complete without a mystery that can only be solved by spying? Spying inside a royal palace? Spying via secret passageways?

Nehesi had described this passage as being the length of six men lying head to foot. Yet it seemed to take a season of blind groping to reach its end. When she drew near the passage’s terminus, Hatshepsut’s eyes became quietly, vaguely aware of a lesser blackness, a paling of the dark. She paused, strained her eyes wide open to be certain they were open at all, and stared at the colorless ghost of light. The longer she stared, the more certain she became. Here was a broken, inverse twin to what she had found in the servants’ hall: another stone door at the corridor’s end, its edges defined by the faintest trace of lamp light coming from within the lesser audience chamber.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Okay, so you know how my last blog post was all, "Oh, I'm totally on the right track now and I feel great about this" and I was planning to drink a lot of coffee in celebration?

Scratch that!

Actually, don't entirely scratch it, because I am now back on the relief-wagon and am loving my book. But between that blog post and this one, I woke up sweating in the middle of the night, with that creeping, awful feeling that I'd really doinked up some history somewhere in Egypt 2.0. And not on purpose. (Believe me, there is plenty of intentionally doinked-up history in this book, but I only want historical errors to be ones I made on purpose, in the service of telling a whopping good tale, not because I am an idiot and overlooked something.)

So I combed through the pages and pages of notes I've taken on the 18th Dynasty and on the Thutmosides. Pages amassed from my first research jag in the summer of 2007 and continuing to build to this very day. Thatssa lotta notes.

I figured it out, too, after a couple of days of anxiety. I was starting Egypt 2.0 with a fourteen-year-old Hatshepsut AND a Thutmose I still living and happy on the throne. Oops. Especially "oops" when you consider that in Bride of Amun, which I fully intend to get published some day OR DIE TRYING, I have Tut sitting on the throne a good five years before Hati is even born.

Yeah, that won't work so much. Thutmose I only reigned for thirteen years. Crap!

So I had to strike the entire rewrite of E2.0 and start over from Word Zero. Uuuugh!!!

The good news is that I love it EVEN MORE now. It opens with Tut's death (really bummed about that...I hoped to explore his character more in E2.0, as he's one of my favorite characters I've ever written). But E2.0 is about Hatshepsut, not Thutmose I, so Tut gets the boot right in the prologue. Sorry, Tut. We had a good run. We'll always have Paris. Or Waset, at least.

Since fixing that little issue, though, the rest fell into place quickly and I was able to re-use two previously written chapters, with minor tweaking. I'm up to 15,000 words and still miraculously on target to get this book completed before Christmas strikes in all its fury.

So now, please enjoy a snippet of the very beginning of Egypt 2.0. And please, for the love of Amun, feel free to suggest titles AT ANY TIME, o my blog readers. I am awful at titles and I'm getting tired of calling this one Egypt 2.0. (I can't call it "Walk Like an Egyptian," because that was Bride of Amun's working title.)

Adieu, Tut! <3<3



She was only eight years old, but Hatshepsut knew death. She knew the sound of it, the smell. The moment the guardsmen with drawn faces and shadowed eyes threw open the doors of her father’s chamber, the cloying odor of holy incense and the priests’ chants, rote and resigned, brought back the last moments of her little sister’s life. Sweet little Neferubity, lost to a fever. Just as at Neferubity’s bedside, there was no timbre of urgency in these chanted prayers. The priests, the physicians – they had given up on the king. Pharaoh Thutmose, the first of his name, would not live.

Hatshepsut pulled at the grip of her nurse’s hand, could not get free, jerked like a creature in a trap, and stumbled as Sitre-In suddenly let her go.

“Hatshepsut,” the nurse said, low with a note of warning.

But Hatshepsut flew to her father’s bedside. She shoved between the royal physicians who flanked the king, and stopped abruptly at the sight of him. She had been told – her mother the Great Royal Wife had sat her down to tell her that the king had come home from his campaign in the south early. A chariot had overturned and hurt him quite badly. His injuries were serious; he may not live. The gods may choose to take him to the Field of Reeds. She had been told, but telling could not prepare her….

When the Pharaoh had left for the land of Kush, far to the south, he had been a strong man. Reaching his twilight years, yes, but still with the strength of a bull. He had been mighty when Hatshepsut and her brother had seen him off on his great warship with its pointed prow and its fierce eye like Horus’sorusHorus stare. She had stood on the wall of the quay and waved until his ship was out of sight, lost in a white-blue haze with the rest of the king’s fleet. It had been only weeks ago. How could he have returned in such a state, even accounting for his injury?

Thutmose’s face was sunken and dry, as if he already lay beneath the salts that would preserve his body for eternity. The familiar long, sharp arch of his nose and the prominent jut of his upper teeth were accentuated by his sickly state, as rough and pronounced as the first tries of a portrait carver’s chisel. His chest, once firm and flat with muscle, now caved slightly at its center. His ribs showed plain. His arms that had been like a fisherman’s knots were softened by weakness. And from beneath the cloth that covered his hips, a putrid smell rose to assert itself over the hysterical sweetness of the incense. A deep black bruise rose from that place, too, staining the Pharaoh’s skin halfway up his side.

“Amun,” Hatshepsut swore.

The king’s lips moved. On the other side of his bed, a sudden movement: Queen Ahmose, the Great Royal Wife, raised her hand in one imperious gesture. The chanting ceased at once. The king spoke again.


“I’m here, Father.”

He raised one hand, now frail-looking, a weak old man’s hand. So foreign. Not the gentle, strong hand she had often held, the hand that had guided hers on the chariot reins and the bow. The hand that held her heart. She took this hand all the same, and squeezed it with all her strength so he would know she was truly at his side.

“Gods have mercy,” he whispered. “My son.”

“Your son is here as well,” said Aunt Mutnofret from her place just behind Ahmose’s shoulder. Mutnofret’s voice was musical as always, smoky, and conspicuously ungrieving. At the sound of her words, the king waved his free hand as if chasing away a fly, and Mutnofret’s eyes squinted like a cat’s in the sun. She stooped, picked up her boychild who murmured a complaint, and swept from the room. Hatshepsut paid her aunt no more heed.

“May all the gods have mercy on me, Hatshepsut.”

She didn’t know what to say. It was as if he sought some solace from her in particular, though he was surrounded by the finest priests and physicians in all Egypt. And what could Hatshepsut say of the gods’ mercy? She was eight years old. But she understood that her father was frightened. Or if not frightened exactly, then seeking some kind of comfort before he went to the underworld to set his heart upon Anubis’s scale. Some comfort that only she could give. She did her best for him. “They will have mercy on you, Father. I know it. Don’t be afraid. You’ll see Neferubity in the Field of Reeds.”

He gave her a wincing smile. “Neferubity, yes. She was a good little girl. A good daughter. I loved her. As I loved all my children, all of them. As I love you. Never doubt that.”

Hatshepsut looked down at the tiled floor, at her toes poking out from her gilded sandals. There was still dirt under her toenails. She had been playing in the garden, dressed as always in a boy’s kilt, when her nurse had rushed her inside and dressed her up like a girl to visit the king. She had known by Sitre-In’s crimped face and fast, ungentle hands that the visit would not be a good one. But she hadn’t expected this. Tears fell from her eyes to darken the tiles near her toes. She did not wipe her eyes, though. She was holding onto the Pharaoh’s hand with both of her own.

“I will never doubt it, Father. I swear it.”

“Gods have mercy.” His voice was a pale breath.

“You were a good king,” she said to him. “Anubis will find your heart light. You were an obedient king. You always did what the gods told you.”

Had she said something wrong? Queen Ahmose had visibly shifted, tensed; the Pharaoh’s hand tightened with a sudden, desperate strength.

“Annu,” Thutmose whispered. “Annu. Gods forgive me. Hati, forgive me.”

And his hand loosened in her grip, went slack. The fingers curled like a dry leaf. All at once there was a stillness to the king so complete that even a young girl could not mistake it. It was the same stillness that had fallen over Neferubity when Anubis had come to claim her.

Hatshepsut did not let go of the king’s hand. “There is nothing to forgive,” she said, too late.