Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Quote of the Week

I've decided to start doing a Quote of the Week again. I'll be posting them on Saturdays and they will come from my recent research. Up until now they've always been Ancient Egyptian. In the future, they may have other origins as I branch out into other research subjects. 
The Tomb of Petosiris

This week's quote comes from the inscriptions found on the tomb of a priest named Petosiris who lived in the last days of Egypt's independence before Alexander the Great came. (All following quotes taken from The Priests of Ancient Egypt by Serge Sauneron.)

It is useful to tread the path of the god, great are the advantages reserved for those who take care to follow it. It is a monument they raise for themselves on earth, they who set out to follow the way of the god. Those who hold to the path of the god, they will spend all their lives in joy, richer than their peers. They will grow old in their city, venerated in their nome*, all their limbs as young as a child's. Their children will be numerous in their presence and considered the first of their city, their sons will succeed one another from generation to generation... They will reach the necropolis in joy, embalmed beautifully by the work of Anubis, and the children of their children will live on in their stead.... You have walked on the path of your lord Thoth, and after granting that these blessings be given to you on earth, he will bestow similar favors on you after death.

*nome= region

Petosiris was by all accounts a particularly pious priest. He was know by several impressive titles:

high priest who sees the god in his naos, who carried his lord and follows his lord, who enters into the holy of holies, who performs his functions together with the great prophets, the prophet of the Ogdoad, chief of the priests of Sakhmet, leader of the priests of the third and fourth phyles; the royal scribe who reckons all the property in the temple of Khmun.

And when his tomb was found there was graffiti from Greek tourists found on it that testify to how renowned Petosiris was in his time as a most holy man. One of them says:

I invoke Petosiris whose body is underground, but whose soul is in the abode of the gods: a sage, he is united with the sages.

Now, Sauneron makes it quite clear that Petosiris was one of the bright stars of the Egyptian priest class. Most of them, while perfectly honorable and conscientious in their duties, did not reach the level of spirituality of Petosiris and are only known as a list of names and titles. Others stand out on the other side of the spectrum by their criminal activities. Temples could be very rich places and some priests became corrupted and stole greedily from them or fought among themselves for priestly positions and benefits even to the point of murder. Such is human nature.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Secrets Revealed: The Getting to Know Your MC Blogfest

On a busy week such as this, it takes a blogfest signup to force me to sit down and fulfill my blogging duty. It's the Getting to Know Your MC blogfest hosted by Elizabeth Mueller. For this blogfest I will be asking my MC three questions: What is your greatest fear? What is your biggest accomplishment? What is your biggest regret?

Character is possibly the most important aspect of story to me (despite my obsession with worldbuilding). It is the #1 thing that will make me put down a book. If there aren't any characters that I care about, I won't read. So it's vital to me that I nail my characters. Thus this blogfest is a perfect exercise for me.

Now, I have two MCs in my WIP and I wasn't sure which one to apply this little questionaire to. I decided in the end to go with the more interesting one to post here publicly and work on the other in private. So I will be interrogating Kamose. You might remember him from the excerpt I posted for the Power of Tension blogfest. Kamose is a priest of Re who lives in the fictional land of Akhet which is, quite obviously, based on Ancient Egypt. I am asking him these questions on the day before my story begins.

Now, Kamose, pull up a couch, make yourself comfortable and reveal to me your innermost thoughts.

What is your greatest fear?

Kamose looks surprised and then laughs.

Fear? Fear is for the little people, ants crawling across the surface of the world. The farmers. They fear the lack of flood. They fear the flood too, for sometimes is overwhelms the land. They fear everything and their little lives are bounded by it. What need a priest of the great god fear?

There must be something. 

Kamose looks at me in pity.

For you it may be so. You are trapped in your meager existence. You have not seen the glories that I have, you know nothing of the wonders I know. You will never have the power that lives in my body, you will never be a maker of history. I pity you, but I do not fear. How can one such as I fear?

Fine then, you arrogant... No, deep breaths. Don't get frustrated by your own character. 

What do you mean, "character"?

Nothing. Really. Let's just move on. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Kamose looks angry now.

You dare ask me to share with you such secrets?

Secrets? Why should it be secret?

Kamose's eyes narrow.

Who sent you? Who told you to ask me that?

Er, Elizabeth Mueller.

I do not recognize that name.

No, you wouldn't.

Are you insulting my knowledge? You think that one such as I does not know all the important personages of the land?

No, no, of course not. Look, are you going to answer the question?

Kamose calms and lays back down on the couch.

You are fortunate that you did not ask me this question a day from now. I would have been forced to dispose of you.

Hey, now! I'm your creator!

Foolish woman, Re is my creator, and that will not stop me from...

Kamose grows suddenly quiet.

My greatest accomplishment, until this moment, has been gathering the knowledge of the Twelve Hours of the Night. I will tell you no more.

All right, last question. What is your biggest regret?

Kamose's face, wonderfully expressive until now, becomes cold and hard as stone.

I... I have no regrets. My life has taken me exactly where I wanted to go.

I don't believe you. You're hiding something, but you can't hide from me.

Kamose stares at the ceiling, breathing hard. I can tell he is trying to maintain control, but something, some memory perhaps, is quickly making him lose it.

I... came to the temple as an orphan. A priest of Iunu, the sacred isle, was in the city gathering up the orphaned children to be dedicated to the service of Re. I wanted to go with them, I wanted to live in the House of Life and to gain the knowledge therein. So... I killed my parents and my younger brother. I made myself an orphan to become a priest.

Wow. That's... uh, wow. 

Kamose jumps up from the couch, his face now thunderous.

Wretched woman! How did you make me tell you these things? Leave me! Leave me before it's too late.

There is a murderous gleam in his eye and I almost fear for my life before I remember that he is my creation. I stare him down until he flees.

Goodbye for now, Kamose. We will meet again soon.

Whew. That was interesting. We both just learned things about that character that I never knew before. I can tell this is a very useful exercise. I'm going to go try it on all my other characters...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why I'm Worldbuilding and Not Writing

It wasn't so long ago that I didn't consider myself a writer. Oh, I've always made attempts at writing stories here and there. I've written some fanfiction pertaining to my experiences playing The Lord of the Rings Online. But for a long time I considered it just a hobby, something I did because I couldn't help myself. I never for a moment considered that I might be able to write a real book that I could actually have published. My husband would tell me my writing was good and my fanfiction received good feedback, but publication, actually selling my writing, just wasn't even on my horizon.

That changed this last fall. Before, I considered my story ideas to be pretty amateur. I'm not sure what the catalyst was, but sometime this past fall the story in my head began to develop into something bigger and brighter than it had ever been before. I conceived what I like to think is a fairly brilliant story idea. Everything had been vague concepts and images floating around in my head before, but now! Now it began to take on shape and life. Now I thought I had something that I wanted to share with the world.

Having played around with blogging through LOTRO for about a year previous, I decided right away to jump into blogging again and chronicle my journey as a writer and I began first the long but exhilarating task of worldbuilding. You see, I'm an epic fantasy reader/writer through and through and  the secondary world where my stories happen is very important to me.

But while exploring the writing blogosphere and learning more about publication one message hit me over and over: Write! Write! WRITE! Get that story down on paper! Now! Get it published! Now! You're not a writer unless you're writing!

Sad to say, I took it to heart and ever since I've been making blundering attempts to get my story written before it's too late. To be a writer. And it hasn't been working. The story just isn't coming together.

But I've realized something. I don't want to be a writer. I don't want to be one of those authors who are oft quoted because of their skill at putting words together in meaningful ways. I don't care to be one of those authors who are remembered for their poetic or sharp or efficient prose or anything to do with prose. I don't even want to be known for brilliant characterization or exhilarating plots or complex structure or stirring description or genuine dialogue or any other literary technique. I don't care are about literary technique.

Let's be honest here. J.R.R. Tolkien was the father of modern fantasy and his books are among the most popular in the world. But is he known for any of the above things? Is he remembered for his technique? I'll admit that there are very few lines I can quote out of his books considering how much I love them. No. What Tolkien is remembered for is his sub-creation. He created a secondary world so detailed and so complex and so real that people can't forget it. People spend their lives wishing they could live in Middle-earth. People spend hours upon hours playing and MMORPG set in Middle-earth pretending they are Elves and Hobbits to get that feeling. Middle-earth is what endures. Middle-earth and its peoples and places and its languages and history. But always, always, Middle-earth.

That is what I want to achieve. Oh, I don't fool myself that I can ever be a worldbuilder on the scale of Tolkien. I have no gift for languages. But still I strive to create a world as real and complex and enduring as his. I want to fill it with wondrous places and fascinating people. I want to tell its compelling history.

And so, right now the worldbuilding is more important than the writing. Only once I have my secondary world fully fleshed out, once I know the intricacies of how it works and am acquainted with all its diverse societies and peoples and creatures... then I can write my tales. I already have a list of several different stories taking place in different parts of the world that I want to tell. But I must know the world to know how the stories unfold.

So for now I will not give in to the pressure to write my stories before I am ready. I will still write. I will write vignettes and short tales and character building exercises and the like. I will practice my story telling technique. But only once my sub-creation is ready will I write its history.

And then, oh then! I will be a storyteller, and not a writer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Week of Getting Nothing Done

Sometimes that's just how it is. Especially when you're a full time mom. I've been desperately trying to write some meaningful, content-rich posts this week and it's totally not happening. I did put some more time into research for worldbuiding (a never ending, but fun, task) the other day. But other than that, I've accomplished nothing literary this week. But I'm not going to let myself get too discouraged. Tomorrow is another day!

L.G. Smith of Bards and Prophets tagged me for this blog meme where you answer a few questions about yourself:

Do you think you're hot?

I have aspirations of being hot. I want to burn up the writing world with the brilliance of my storytelling. Only time will tell.

When was the last time you ate chicken?

Last night. I had a grilled chicken sandwich from Burger King.

What were you thinking while doing this?

When is my mother going to get here to watch the kids so I can take Corwin to the doctor. (EDIT: Because I'm finishing this after the appointment. He's improving, but still fighting the RSV.)

What song/songs have you listened to recently?

Yesterday my daughter and I were listening to Rubber Soul (The Beatles album) in the car and singing along together. My favorite song from Rubber Soul:

Do you have any nicknames? What are they?

Not anymore, unless you count "mom" and "mommy", which are, by the way, some of my favorite names. I'm not the type of person you give a nickname to. And my husband knows if he tries any cutesy terms of endearment with me there will be swift and bloody disciplinary action. 

 Tag 5 Blogger friends.

Oh man. This meme has been going around for a while. Let me see if I can find some who haven't done it...

Alexia Chamberlyn ~ She picked my entry to win the St. Patrick's Day Blogfest back in March so you know she has good taste. ;)

Murees Dupé ~ I love her blog because it's so red, my favorite color.

Claudie A. ~ A fantasy AND sci fi writer! And she's proud of it. :)

Sarah Allen ~ A fellow Sarah. We've got to stick together, cause, you know, there are so few of us.

Tracy ~ She asks some really interesting but really tough questions in her "Would You Rather" posts.

Ok, if any of you have already done it, just ignore this. If you haven't, then PLEASE TELL ME WHEN YOU LAST ATE CHICKEN. It's very important to me.

You Learn Something New Everyday

So, as you see above, I took my infant son to the doctor to check on his RSV. He was making some rather horrible noises as he breathes and crying a lot. Now, this is my fourth kid so I know a thing or two. But it just goes to show that no matter how much experience you have you still don't know everything. There's always more to learn. Today I learned that babies can't breathe through their mouths. They just don't know how and it doesn't come naturally to them. So when a baby is having trouble breathing because of congestion or whatever, they'll cry. Because when they cry then can breathe through their mouths and thus get more air. So his crying isn't something I need to worry about too much, it's helping him. *sigh of relief*

And of course, the same holds true for writers. We beginning writers working on our first books know that we still have a lot to learn. Most writers, even if they've written many books, even if they've published many books, know that there's always something new to discover. Especially because, just as our medical knowledge is always improving and developing, the world of publishing is always changing and the desires of the reading public are always shifting. I've seen and heard about some writers out there who become set in their ways. They think they know how it works because they've been doing it for a while and they close their eyes and ears to all the new things going on around them. They don't want to learn anymore.

As a mom, it's important for the sake of my children that I'm always willing to learn and adapt. Each child is different and has different needs. So too each book is different and has different needs. Today I'm reminded to make sure to always keep an open mind about writing and publishing. Always be willing to learn more. Always be willing to adapt.

That's my thought for the day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blog Awards of Doom

You ever have one of those weeks where nothing really seems to come together? Yeah. Between a baby sick with RSV (he's been really good about it, though he doesn't much like his medicine) and doctor's orders to stop letting my two middle kids walk all over me (which is harder than it sounds) suffice it to say I haven't been able to wrap my mind around writing or even blogging at all this past week.

Recently I was given a couple of blog awards and I'm just now getting around to passing them on. I really like blog awards. They're an excellent kind of encouragement and I love the way every person who gets one pays it forward by sending the encouragement on. I admit to being more than a little thrilled at having my blog singled out for an award. I must be doing something right here.

Claudie A.sent the Versatile Blogger Award my way.

Thanks, Claudie! The rules for this award are:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you. (Here, have a box of thank-yous! *hands box*) 
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 0 - 100 deserving blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Well, all right. You asked for it.

1. I have always hated my name because it is too common. There were 12 other Sarahs in my graduating class.
2. I love to sew. Primarily I like to make fantasy and historical costumes, though I do regular clothing and miscellaneous household stuff as well.
3. I can't cook. Not even a little. I don't know why but I just can't wrap my brain around cooking. My dear, wonderful husband does all the cooking in our house and he is incredible!
4. When I read I tend to get really absorbed into a book so that I'm not even aware of my surroundings. I remember once when I was a young teen reading the book Rebecca while in the car. I looked up from the book when we got to our destination and I had this horrible, frightening feeling for a minute because I didn't understand where I was or why I wasn't at Manderley.
5. I am terrified of spiders. To borrow a metaphor from Spiders are descended from the first sin that man committed against God, which congealed into the most fearful shape in mankind's thoughts, and then scuttled away into the rocks to haunt his children for the rest of eternity. No one will ever convince me that spiders aren't pure evil.
6. I am wearing broken glasses right now because I have young children. My son broke my glasses once and I got them fixed, then he broke them again and I've gotten used to wearing them balanced on one ear.
7. My favorite color is red, but I'm not really sure why.

There, more info than you ever wanted to know about me. Now I get to inflict that task upon a few more bloggers. In keeping with the name of the award, I've decided to pass it on to a few bloggers I follow who do more than write.

Patricia Lynne blogs about books and writing, but also has an online store where she sells handmade jewelry.

Marjorie at Everything Emerald is participating in BuNoWriMo, but she's also an art student with a gift for photography.

Jenny at The Modest Peacock does it all, but it's her skill as a seamstress that has me most impressed and jealous.

So check out those excellent blogs.

Deniz Bevan of The Girdle of Melian (best blog name, BTW) mentioned me while passing around the Blog on Fire Award.

And I'm flattered. As far as I know, there aren't any requirements for this one so I'll just say, Thanks, Deniz! And pass it on to a few of the blogs that I particularly enjoy.

E.J. Wesley of The Open Vein has a great blog. His posts are always very well written and thoughtful. There are few blogs I look forward to reading more.

Margo Lerwill of Urban Psychopomp is a talented fantasy writer who has lots of great thoughts on the writing process to share. She recently self published a short story called Dis.

Will Foley of Tales of the Harbinger is another aspiring fantasy novelist with a gift for words. He posts lots of his writing experiments for everyone to see as he learns and grows as a writer. Talk about brave!

To wrap up this awards post, I would like to present a BRAND NEW AWARD that I just made up myself.

This is the Blog Award of DOOM! Because nothing's more fun than doom, right? Here's how it will work:

1. When you receive the Blog Award of DOOM your task is to post a short selection of your writing, 100-300 words, in which your favorite character suffers a horrible fate. It can be your favorite character from your own writing or from something you've read, it can be from a finished manuscript, a WIP or something you just made up on the spot. Your choice, but it has to be full of DOOM!
2. Pass it on to one other blogger and let them know their DOOM has come.
3. Remember that the person who passed the award on to you also received it as well. Go back to their post to read and comment on their writing sample. Make sure to thank them for sending the DOOM your way.
4. Whenever you use the word DOOM in your post, you must capitalize the whole thing.

I hope this is an award we can all have fun with. I'll get it started by passing it on to...

L.G. Smith of Bards and Prophets

Muahahahaha! Your DOOM is upon you!

Last but not least, check out these upcoming blogfests that look like great fun:

Elizabeth Mueller is hosting the Getting to Know Your MC Blogfest on June 24th.Answer three important questions about your MC: What is their greatest fear? What is their biggest accomplishment? What is their biggest regret?

Wicked and Tricksy is hosting the Something Wicked Blogfest from June 27th to July 1st. Name your three favorite spec-fic stories, tell why you love spec-fic, and make a prediction about where you think the spec-fic genre will go in the future.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which No One Loses an Eye

Today your friendly neighborhood blogfest junkie is participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's It's All Fun and Games Blogfest.

It’s All Fun & Games Blogfest, June 6, 2011 - list your three most favorite games and why. Board games, card games, RPG, video games, physical games, drinking games - even mind games! If it’s a game you enjoy playing, it’s worth sharing.

So this post is where I reveal some of my geekiness for the world to see. 

3.  Master Detective Clue

Not regular Clue, the Master Detective edition specifically. This game is responsible for a lot of great memories from my childhood and adolescence. This version had added rooms, weapons and suspects. I always chose to play as Miss Peach because I thought she was the prettiest. The game got played so much that pieces got lost, the die had to be replaced, all the note papers for keeping track of your findings got used up front and back, and the box is now falling apart.

One session remains particularly memorable. It was a family gathering during the holidays and there were a bunch of us playing, mostly adults except for me and my younger brother. The adults were all trying to be very clever and strategic. So was I for that matter. Not my brother. My brother made a prediction at the beginning of the game. He guessed at which suspect, weapon and room would be in the envelope. I don't remember exactly which ones they were, except that the room was the gazebo. The game lasted until he got his piece to the gazebo. Then he made his guess... and he was totally, completely right. It was the weirdest thing.

2. World of Warcraft

Hello, my name is Sarah McCabe and I am a recovering WoW addict. It's been 6 months since I last subscribed and it's been 2 1/2 years since I played seriously.

But really, WoW is a great game. I'm not really much of a video game player. Sure, I did some Atari and Nintendo as a kid, but hadn't really played anything since then. Then I married a hardcore console RPG player. He got hooked on WoW and eventually I joined him. It was my first foray into the MMORPG genre of game and WOW! That stuff is addicting. The advantage of this game is that my husband and I can play together.

My main character was a Retribution Paladin which basically means I wore heavy armor and went around hitting things with a very, very big hammer. Like this:

Not my character, but similar.

You have NO IDEA have much fun it is to run around the world just whacking things into submission with absolutely no fear of death because your husband plays a healing priest and together you are INVINCIBLE. I had a lot of fun in WoW. It's a game with a very diverse and interesting world and the lore is actually pretty fascinating if you read up on it. But eventually I did tire of it and moved on to...

1. The Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO is another MMORPG. And really, it was inevitable, with my fawning love of Tolkien, that I would end up there. LOTRO brings Middle-earth to life better than I ever could have imagined and it's pure delight to wander the world of Tolkien's imagining on my Elven Minstrel character. And I admit to feeling a bit of a fangirl SQUEE when encountering members of the Fellowship.

My character, Fionnuala, with Legolas and Gimli in Lothlorien.

Rivendell Valley and the Last Homely House

I love this game for many reasons. First, of course, is the world and the lore. Second, I get to BE an Elf. How awesome is that? I have always loved Tolkien's rendition of Elves, their beauty and wisdom and terrible greatness. I even *gulp* role play my Elf. Third, there's a really fun "outfit" system which basically means there's an abundance of different types of clothing and armor in the game that you can mix and match to chose your character's style. Fourth, there's a player housing system. It's not the best, but you can own and decorate your own house. Here's my character dressed up and sitting by the fire:

Fifth, there's a player music system! What does that mean? Players can use various in game instruments to play music in the game. You can play manually, by typing keyboard keys that correspond to musical notes or you can utilize special abc files that allow multiple people to play songs together. One of my favorite hobbies is converting midi songs into abc files to play in LOTRO. I've done everything from The Beatles to Beethoven. Here's an example of some in game friends and my husband and I playing one of the songs I transcribed:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moving Forward with this Writing Thing

I got some really great feedback after posting my Power of Tension blogfest entry last week. The scene seems to do all that I wanted it to. When I first began writing the story, I intended that to be the first scene. My instinct was to keep my readers guessing for as long as possible but try to hook them with tension and intrigue. Then I began to second guess myself, thinking that I wasn't going to be able to write it well enough to accomplish those goals. I thought perhaps I should start earlier so that readers know what is going on. Now I'm leaning toward my original plan. One's creative instinct is generally correct. The only question is whether I can make the events that happen as exciting as I want to. And the only way to find out is to try.

I've been taking it easy on the writing front the past two months because I have a new baby. Corwin is two months old now and I have to say he's the most well behaved (so far) of my four children. He is just so laid back in the face of an admittedly chaotic and extremely loud household that it's practically a miracle. He's not sleeping through the night yet, but he's regular enough that I feel I can try to schedule myself some writing time now. I want to get this book that I've been planning and pondering for months finally written!

I recently came across this insanely brilliant writing challenge: A Round of Words in 80 Days. Unlike NaNoWriMo, it's a challenge designed for people who have busy lives (see above re: four children) and it allows you to create your own writing goals specifically tailored to your life and what you feel you can accomplish and if stuff happens (which it always does) they welcome you to adjust your goals as you go. Each session is 80 days long and it runs multiple times a year. The next session begins on July 4th and I plan to join in then. My goal will be to write my book in 80 days. (Which is probably delusional, but if I don't make it no one's going to hunt me down.... I think.) In the meantime, during June my writing goal is to fully outline my story.

Yes, I'm a plotter. As a writer I need to have a plan, I need to know in what direction my story is going. Only then does my creative brain feel confident to explore, within the guidelines of the plan. Though, of course, I am always open to new ideas that come along if I feel they would serve the story better. I'm a flexible plotter.

The way I outline is really almost like a first draft. I try to write a complete account of the plot in a sort of history book fashion. I write everything about the story that comes to mind in a condensed form without worrying about prose. Sometimes if a line of dialogue pops into me head while outlining I'll write that down too. I include any details that I think are important. When I'm done, the goal is to have the structure of the story worked out so that I can focus on the more artistic aspects in the next draft.

So those are my goals for the summer. I'll be updating my progress here as I go and perhaps including snippets of the stuff I write occasionally. Wish me luck!