Echoes Among the Columns


 The great god Ra had not yet arisen from his bed beyond the world of man. Neither had the members of the royal household of Egypt who still slept soundly in the cool air of the palace.

No one heard the faint clattering sound of a wooden stylus and a wax tablet dropping to the floor, in the vast expanse of the heavily columned hypostyle hall, during the night. But when the new day began, and the body of Senenmut the scribe was found with its throat cut, the old hall and the palace would echo to the outraged cries of the pharaoh’s immediate court.

Amenemhat had carried out his task efficiently and without emotion. It had been easy to lure the deviant scribe with a promise of unnatural sex in exchange for a specifically prepared papyrus scroll. The first name on his list of traitors could be struck off at last.


Ever since Hatshepsut had taken up the exalted double throne of Upper and Lower Egypt, becoming pharaoh, her nephew and stepson, Tuthmosis, the third to bear the divine royal name, was incensed by the thought of a mere woman ruling Egypt. As he grew to manhood, the young prince slowly gathered together a small group from within the royal household, who had all gladly changed their allegiance in favour of a male pharaoh.

The politics of pharaoh’s court bred an atmosphere of fear, lies, plot and counter plot, jealousy and corruption. A tiny handful of Hatshepsut’s more ambitious junior scribes, servants, priests and astrologers formed a ring of spies working for her scheming nephew. All were willingly feeding him information, equally appalled by the unnatural abomination who currently sat upon Egypt’s throne, eager to please their future god king.

In his fevered mind Tuthmosis firmly believed his coldly efficient assassin Amenemhat was his most powerful weapon. As a means of persuasion, there was none more suited or highly adept at recruiting the more cowardly and reluctant courtiers to his cause.


But the coldly efficient killer had a secret agenda of his own. It suited his purpose to go along with Tuthmosis for now, professing undying devotion and loyalty to the upstart prince.

His exalted position as Hatshepsut’s trusted bodyguard meant he had free access throughout the palace and the ear of her loyal generals, scribes, priests, judges and astrologers. When Hatshepsut went to war, Amenemhat was by her side, on guard and ready to give his life for her. When she toured Egypt, his eyes and ears were constantly on alert for trouble. When she needed unbiased and honest advice, she always sought him out. As the god king of Egypt, Hatshepsut regarded him as her one true ally within the royal household. Above all she knew he had no personal agenda of his own. Amenemhat’s only desire was to please the woman he loved more than life itself – his pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Unbeknown to Tuthmosis, Amenemhat had added a few more names to the list of those who were to be assassinated on the prince’s orders. Names of people who he deemed to be dangerous in the extreme to his pharaoh appeared alongside the rest. What did it matter if when he exposed her nephew by revealing the list, a few more enemies of his beloved Hatshepsut had also been done away with?

To divert Tuthmosis should he become suspicious, whenever the prince was attending his aunt feigning devotion and love, he continued to praise his pharaoh in public.  But when he was alone with him he made a great pretence of cursing her, despite the emotional pain it brought him to utter such vile traitorous oaths.

Since he had first entered her service, and despite the barbarous act inflicted upon him when he was but a child ending his chances of ever being a real man, Amenemhat’s deep unspoken love and his longing to share Hatshepsut’s bed even though as a eunuch he knew that would never happen, meant he would always protect her. He would never allow the young pretender to end her life, be it by poison, foul accident, act of war, or any other means that Tuthmosis decreed.

Amenemhat would continue to add names to the list. Then he would turn his deadly gaze in the direction of Tuthmosis and his band of conspirators. When the time was right he would expose his beloved pharaoh’s nephew for the foul cur he truly was.


A terrible cry echoed throughout the columned hall –“Murder, foul bloody murder!”  Illuminated by the first shafts of light, the body of Senenmut had been found.  Meni, chief advisor to Pharaoh Hatshepsut hurried with the news through the vast corridors of the palace.

The guards to the pharaoh’s private apartment silently opened the door allowing the old man access.

“Grave news majesty! Senenmut has been murdered,” the old man said as he prostrated himself before her.

Hatshepsut rose from her bed in alarm, waiving away her young hand maiden and current lover, Nefer. The pharaoh’s classically beautiful face saddened. A single tear flowed down one cheek as she gently assisted the old man to his feet.

“Good Meni bring Amenemhat to me.” The old man breathlessly backed away bowing low, then turned and quickly left.

Maatkare, Hatshepsut’s old wet nurse, appeared from the side room where she always slept close by her beloved charge and put a comforting arm around her trembling shoulders. She had always been at her side throughout her life. The old woman tenderly wiped away a tear from her pharaoh’s cheek, comforting her as she had done when Hatshepsut was but a child.

Amenemhat soon strode through the door. “Majesty I have just heard the news.” The tone of his high pitched voice did not betray him. “I have already taken the liberty of sealing off all access to your majesty’s palace. If the assassin is still hidden within as I believe he is, I shall seek out the truth of this evil act. By nightfall I swear the assassin shall be despatched or be grovelling here before you Majesty, pleading for his worthless life.”

Hatshepsut tearfully nodded her assent. “Dear friend, leave no stone unturned in your search, now go,” she commanded with a weak smile.

Amenemhat hesitated for a moment at the door before issuing a command. From beyond the entrance to the pharaoh’s bedchamber, six heavily armed members of Hatshepsut’s imperial guard quickly entered. “Majesty until the assassin is found, these guards who I have personally chosen, will protect you. I have also ensured that guards have been placed around prince Tuthmosis’ apartment,” the eunuch said finally as he bowed low, before turning and quickly leaving.

By leaving the dead scribe’s body where it would easily be found, Amenemhat had changed the rules of the deadly game to his own advantage. Tuthmosis was no fool. He would now suspect the eunuch had betrayed him. But by sealing the prince off, effectively Amenemhat had silenced him, at least for now.

Tuthmosis would have to be watched constantly now, which was why Amenemhat had asked his old friend general Djoser, the man Hatshepsut had placed in charge of her imperial guard on his advice, to take charge of the prince’s safety personally. The serpent would try anything now to escape his gilded cage. Knowing this, Amenemhat had given Djoser specific orders that there was to be no communication whatsoever between Tuthmosis and the world beyond his door.


All of this had happened moments after the alarm was raised and before Amenemhat had been summoned into Hatshepsut’s presence. Now it was time for the next move.

Amenemhat entered the office of Nebhepetre the pharaoh’s personal scribe. “You have heard the news by now?” he enquired.

The scribe nodded. “Truly we live in terrible times Amenemhat,” he said with a note of fear in his voice.

Amenemhat produced the papyrus scroll for which the traitorous Senenmut had paid with his life from the folds of his kilt with a flourish. “This bloodstained list of traitors was found on the body of the dead scribe. Copy the names for the archive quickly now, then deliver the original to your pharaoh. Hurry now, an assassin is on the loose within the palace!” The frightened scribe’s eyes bulged in sheer terror after Amenemhat left when he quickly scanned the list before making a copy. At the top was the name of prince Tuthmosis.

Hatshepsut’s hands trembled violently as she read the bloodstained papyrus Nebhepetre had just delivered. For a few brief moments she hardly dare believe the evidence of her own eyes. Yet here was clear proof of a devious and deadly coup d’état, designed to end her reign and her life. What really saddened her was that the leader was her much loved nephew Tuthmosis!

Under Amenemhat’s orders, all named on the list were quickly rounded up and executed on the spot, before their bodies were duly put on public display outside the palace walls. By mid morning there was only one left alive – Tuthmosis.

On Hatshepsut’s personal orders general Djoser entered Tuthmosis’ apartment where he forced the young prince to drink poison, away from the eyes of the court and the world in general. To keep up the illusion of the royal family being living gods, not one drop of their blood should ever be spilled in public. In one fell swoop, Amenemhat had delivered his beloved pharaoh from the nest of vipers within her household.


A proclamation was made and sent to the farthest corners of the land. All Egypt was told of the tragic passing of Tuthmosis. At the end of the month, his elaborate funeral, worthy of a prince of the royal line, was duly held. Hatshepsut shocked all assembled there that day, when in her deep gratitude she declared the eunuch Amenemhat forthwith to be supreme general of her armies and co-ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt.

While he may never share her bed as her lover, he would ensure that no one would ever again threaten the woman he loved beyond all else in the savage world of the Egyptian court until the end of her days. From now on there would be no more echoes among the columns, only whispers…



While the above story is a fiction, in reality on the death of the most significant female pharaoh ancient Egypt had ever known, her successor Tuthmosis III did take great pains to wipe away all mention of Hatshepsut. On his orders, all images of her and cartouches bearing her name, were destroyed.


Self-publishing and the snobbery issue

At last someone who cares…

Alison Williams Writing


I work with all different types of authors, those who are hoping to secure a publishing deal, those who are chasing the self-publishing dream and even a couple who have gone on to secure a deal with one of the big five (or six, or whatever it is). Some of these writers are brilliant, some are really talented, some are steady, dependable story tellers who can spin a good yarn, some aren’t that great, some have accepted help and advice and have improved in leaps and bounds, a few I have advised to go right back to the drawing board and there have been a handful who I have had to advise that writing is perhaps not the path for them (this is at the sample edit stage – I never take a penny from authors in this situation).

You might be surprised to know that most of the authors…

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…perchance to dream

The voyage from Earth to Gliese 832c was a one way trip. Everyone aboard had happily volunteered. All where disenchanted with what they had left behind on mankind’s home planet.

In that regard I was no different to any of my fellow volunteers. I hated what my home country had become through its desire for senseless regulation and legislation, political correctness, sectarianism, racism, religious intolerance, greed, homegrown terrorism, foodbanks, zero hour employment, attacks on the elderly by gangs of bitter youths roaming the streets, and heavy handed laws biased in favour of the super rich privileged few over the vast majority of the population in the form of financial cutbacks.

When you reach a certain age, you soon come to realise that the world has passed you by and to the younger generations you have become superfluous, hopelessly out of step, unable and unwilling to accept the rapid pace of change. Your views on morality, politics, war, religion and the way society has shaped itself, no longer gel with the modern generation’s grasp on the current state of affairs.

Above all else, none of us wanted to stay on Earth a moment longer than we had to.


It had taken many months and hundreds of shuttle flights from the major continents and countries on Earth to gather us all together aboard the space station in fixed orbit above the beautiful blue planet below the spaceport, where our massive purpose built ark had been specifically constructed for the one way journey.

We were all willing volunteers, and had been deliberately chosen for this first attempt at creating mankind’s first colony in space, not so much for our accumulated wealth of knowledge garnered over our lifetimes, but for our expendability should things go seriously wrong with the untested prototype ark, a decision taken by the world’s governments to solve the problem of the ever increasing numbers of pensionable people. While no government would admit it publicly, the cost to the public purse of looking after the older generation, in their penny pinching eyes, was prohibitive. Sending us off to other parts of the solar system was by far the cheapest option, and secretly our governments hoped that we would all perish in the emptiness of space. We however had other ideas.

The average age of our group was fifty-five. The oldest was in her early seventies; the youngest was administrator Johnson, a truly loathsome individual in his late forties, sent as punishment for his gross stupidity and incompetence, as the representative of the world governments to oversee the construction of our settlement.


Ahead of our ship’s long journey, the governments of the world’s nations had sent cheap poorly constructed unmanned solid fuel drone ships containing the building blocks for our fledgling society.
Loaded aboard each drone were prefabricated buildings containing a fully functional hospital unit, a communications unit for those of us who may still feel the need to contact their nearest and dearest back on Earth. Plus, to establish our fledgling society’s rules for a new government and laws based on what was currently in vogue on Earth – not that any of us, with the exception of administrator Johnson, believed replicating any form of that kind of institutional control on Gliese 832c was a good idea – along with hydroponic units, living quarters, workshops and every other conceivable kind of contrivance deemed necessary for our outpost of humanity.

Until we had built man’s first colony on our new home planet we would live aboard the ark we had all travelled in. In time satellite towns would be constructed to house what we all hoped would be our progeny in the near future. We may have been members of the older generation but we still had needs, and who knows, perhaps living here on an entirely different planet may even be beneficial to the reproductive organs of all concerned. If it wasn’t, at least we would all die happy in a few years from now, free from the disapproving eyes of our children who firmly believed that pensioners had no right to a healthy sex life.


Many of the drone ships had crash landed miles from where we now gazed out across the vast desert region chosen for its close proximity to the untapped supply of water in the northern ice cap due to inbuilt design fault inconsistencies in their navigational equipment.
Along with six others, I was tasked by Johnson with locating the drone ships away from our immediate area. The tracked vehicles we used were solar powered, totally sealed from the environment, which was fortunate due to frequent dust storms.
For the moment at least we abided by his directives, but that would soon change.

Previous exploratory vehicles which had been sent to sample Mars’ ancient soils back in the twenty-first century had simply stopped working after a couple of years due to the fine dust particles that not only covered their rudimentary solar panels, but also clogged up the exposed working parts of those tiny pioneering, crudely constructed explorers. One had managed to survive for seven years before eventually succumbing to the dust.


“Ready to go Malcolm?” Liz’s velvet voice asked me.

“Let’s go” I replied, glad at last to be doing something constructive.

Liz and I had teamed up together within a couple of days. Before she retired, Liz had been a nurse in the armed forces, rising through the ranks, retiring on a full colonel’s pay. To say we hit it off straight away would be an understatement. We shared similar interests beside our physical attraction for one another, in things mechanical along with literature, films and music, and with our disgust with the way our home planet was being run by idiots.

Liz led the way in her surface crawler with me bringing up the rear. Fortunately for us the emergency beacons aboard the crashed drone ships were working perfectly.

The three two man teams of crawlers worked for nearly a month retrieving all of our supplies from the drones. The last trip we all made was to drag the now empty hulls of the drones, using all six crawlers linked in tandem back to our camp where they would be cannibalized for additional building material for our settlement.

While we were occupied, Johnson divided the rest of us into various construction crews. Some worked on building our accommodation units, while one specific group under retired emeritus Professor Alec Knight, a specialist in horticulture, built the hydroponic unit that would grow our fresh food.

Like Liz and I, Alex loathed Johnson. We all agreed that before too long, something would have to be done about the obnoxious bureaucrat. Over the next few days, between us we hatched a plan.


Johnson sat in what he liked to call his command centre, in reality just a small cubicle in the main building at the centre of the circle of buildings, keeping his beady eye on all of us as we slaved for twelve hours per day constructing the settlement. He jumped when a loud knock on his door disturbed his train of thought.

“Come,” he said in answer to the knock.

Alec entered followed by Liz.

“Yes!” Johnson snapped contemptuously, not looking up from the paperwork on his desk. He was a typical cold hearted government employee and truly malicious.

“Mr Johnson, Colonel Fraser has found something while out in her crawler on a mission for me that she thought should be brought to your immediate attention. She told me about it and I concur with her that as you are Earth’s official representative, you should be informed of her momentous discovery.”

“Well go on, go one, get on with it; I’m a busy man!” Johnson almost spat out the words without lifting his head from his administrative work on the desk.

Liz began to speak. “I was out in the northern sector assisting professor Knight in his search for samples of possible life when I drove along a particular escarpment the professor had asked me to explore. As I rounded a prominence, directly ahead of me I saw a large exposed vein of what I’m sure is gold Mr Johnson.”

Johnson’s face gave away nothing of his delight in the news. One of his overriding orders was to look for possible mining opportunities utilizing the many and varied fields of expertise freely at his disposal within our community.
“Right – take me there. Bring Tennent with you. His geology skills will be needed. We’ll meet in the loading bay in fifteen minutes,” he said as he waved a dismissive hand. Twenty minutes later we were all crammed into Liz’s crawler heading north.


Two days went by before Liz finally found the escarpment again. She drove slowly along its length until the prominence appeared. Johnson zoomed in the crawler’s camera onto the vein of fools’ gold.

“Well Mr Johnson why don’t you come with me while I check the gold for its purity?” I said in invitation, as I helped him with his suit helmet while plugging in his sabotaged enviropac. He took the bait hook line and sinker.

When we returned minus Johnson a great cheer went up among our fellow settlers…


“Hey Tennent, you worthless piece of shit – daydreaming yet again? You are in here for life with no possible hope of remission on your sentence. In your case life means life!” he said through the inspection hatch of the cell door.

“At least my dreams are still free Mr Johnson,” I replied without shifting my gaze from the night sky outside my cell, as I briefly imagined my hands choking the life out of my sadistic gaoler, echoing the moment when I strangled the youth who had cruelly robbed us and then murdered my Liz in front of me on a street near our home, six months earlier…



Dining al fresco


The evening is warmer than usual for autumn. Winter’s freezing temperatures will be here soon. Above us the Starlings are fighting over who gets to peck the fat balls in their container. Beside them, the Sparrows push and shove each other for the right to sit on one or other of the seed feeder’s perches. Very sensibly the Coal-tits and Robins decided to stay where they were in the hedge until the coast is clear before they go to feed. Thank goodness the neighbourhood’s bullies – the Magpies, are not here. That reminds me, I wonder where the Thrushes are? Perhaps they’ll join us tomorrow. Two very large Wood Pigeons are arguing over whose turn it is to sit in the drinking water tray; neither will admit that they are just too darned fat to fit in it.

The lawn has been liberally seeded by our human benefactor with meal worms, mixed with the detritus of the feeders above.

At the back of the garden perched in the spiky embrace of the bramble bush a very belligerent Black bird is seething with anger over the fact that the Starlings have taken over his private bathing facility in the upturned garbage bin lid. Enough is enough! He flies down and chases the delinquents off, then sits triumphantly in the middle of ‘his’ bath, defying anyone to just try and join him!

Two Collared Doves join the throng of Starlings, first in the seed tray, then down here on the lawn with the rest of us, picking up all the spilled seed from above.

As we move amid the mayhem eating our evening meal of meal worms, from time to time a bird of one sort or another mistakenly brushes against us, and then flies off in pain from their close encounter.


We are by our very nature private and gentle creatures, and it is because of this that we have been given a protective coat of spines. The belligerent Blackbird keeps his distance, having almost lost an eye in the past when he sought to pick a fight. Instead when we draw near, he flaps his wings and lowers his head in a threatening posture; honour satisfied, he flies off in a huff.

Inside the house our benefactor peers out of the window watching us all feed, thanks to his generosity of spirit.

As a visual treat for him at dusk this evening, the wife and I brought our youngster out onto the lawn for his first feast of mealworms. Out of the corner of my eye I see our benefactor looking at us from his bedroom window. He gives us a friendly wave and a smile as he turns in for the night. All is well in this haven of peace, thanks to him…


PS– I get endless joy sharing the back garden with my fellow creatures, watching and feeding them.


Profit or Quality?


Silly me, what a stupid question! Of course it must be profit. No large corporation gives a toss about quality.

I’ve spoken of this in the past and been taken to task by certain individuals who I’d swear have shares in Sony, for spelling out the mistake of incorporating obsolescent technology with bad design in the end product, all for the sake of maximizing profit to the detriment of quality.

While they have spent a lot of time, energy and money to produce their latest gaming console, the PS4 still retains the same mechanical defects of their previous consoles and controllers in the form of a dust attracting disc drive and internal fan, and a controller with physically operated buttons and springs instead of a touchpad, and mechanical joy sticks. Which begs the question, why spend hundreds on a games console that you know will stop working.

Fact – from new, the internal disc drive will last a month at best before the dust attracted to it every time it spins up will stop it functioning, which means having to get inside the console (if you know how), just to clean it.

Fact – the Sony controller will give you 730 hours, or a month’s continuous use, before it also succumbs to one of several defects.

These are as follows:

1 – it will simply stop working.

2 – it will suddenly decide to turn itself off. I have two controllers with this defect.

3 – it will cause your game to begin to veer off to the left on your television screen. I have two with this defect.

4 – your controller will simply fail to respond to any and all of its buttons and joysticks. I have one with this defect.

Unless or until Sony decide to design and manufacture a quality product in the form of a game console that has no moving parts, specifically designed to download games from Playstation Network instead of relying on games discs manufactured out of cheap plastic which crack thanks to the internal heat build up of the current consoles, I will not be investing in another.

In the meantime at least I can still download games directly to my old PS3. But I still cannot find a controller no matter the manufacturer, that will last longer than a month’s continuous use.

The battery in the controller I bought recently from China lasts for two hours. Sony’s battery maintains its charge for at least two day’s continuous use.

With zero quality control by the games console manufacturers these days, the end user simply cannot win.

PS – The divisions within Sony could not be more different, I don’t have any problems whatsoever with my Sony Vaio laptop. So maybe the PC division should to take charge when it comes to designing and manufacturing games consoles? They at least produce a quality product…