…Mark Knoffler, Sting, Eric Clapton and Phill Collins performing the all time classic – Money for Nothing
…Mark Knoffler, Sting, Eric Clapton and Phill Collins performing the all time classic – Money for Nothing
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.
Ok, so does this stunningly beautiful young woman meet with your approval? She does? Good, now that I have your complete and undivided attention, let’s get on with what I want to talk about today.
I know I tend to bang on about what’s acceptable in literature and whats not when it comes to sex scenes. But let’s face it, the vast majority of writers don’t think before they write! When it comes to a lot of the books on offer under the heading of romance, what you get these days is pure porn. If only the authors concerned had taken the time and trouble to think things through first. Instead of being in such a blinding hurry to get themselves noticed for all the wrong reasons. There really is no need to resort to spelling out every detail in such an explicit manner as some writers tend to do, when describing what’s going on…
Suggestion is always the key to writing any and all scenes of a sexual nature, never full on description.
In the first draft of any such scene, I start by spelling it out, leaving absolutely nothing whatsoever to the imagination, merely to get the scene firmly fixed in my mind. Then by taking the sentences one at a time as I go back over what I initially wrote, by carefully choosing my words. I then rewrite each one until they still say what I originally intended. I do this purely by changing the wording so as not to give offence. That way I leave it entirely up to the often over fertile imagination of the reader to fill in the blanks for themselves.
In other words, unless you have been living in a cave, cut off from the rest of humanity for your entire life, you will know exactly what is happening in the particular scene without my having to spell it out for you.
The art of suggestion is not a difficult technique to master, providing you are prepared to think about how you want the scene to finally end up looking on the page. In other words, take your time to ensure that the reader will totally ‘get’ what you are saying without being shocked or disgusted by what they have just read.
Not too many years ago, the way I currently write love scenes would definitely have enraged some narrow-minded individuals, while the romance lovers back then would simply enjoy them for what they are, as they still do today…
I couldn’t stomach the film Chariots of Fire, But after I first heard this I was hooked on Vangelis’ music forever…
So many returned service men and women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, often unable to cope with society because of it. This short story is not only a tribute to every Victoria Cross winner, but to all returned service men and women. In particular my fellow PTSD sufferers…
I walked into the autopsy room at the beginning of the day to find a body awaiting my undivided attention which had been found in the woods on the hill beyond the village where I grew up. I was equally shocked and saddened to discover that the corpse on the slab was my childhood friend Dhobi.
Back then most of the kids in our village were merciless towards him, throwing stones and shouting obscenities. None of them knew the simple gentle man hidden beneath the grime the way I did. I was the only kid who didn’t pick on him. To me there was something very special about this loner who had shunned society for the woods. Never once did I wonder why he lived the way he did, nor did he ever offer an explanation. Dhobi was a man of few words.
He taught me how to live off the land, showing me how to make snares, what plants and fungi were edible and those that were not, and what were best for simple medicinal uses. The extent of his knowledge was endless.
Nicknamed Dhobi (a British military slang term for clothes washing borrowed from the Hindi language) for as long as he could remember for the simple reason he hated to wash; to keep out the ravages of the seasons, he wore all the clothes he possessed beneath his tattered ex army greatcoat.
No one knew where he came from. Or cared much come to that. I often asked him, but he merely ignored me. Most adults in our village wanted him arrested; irrationally assuming the worst about him. Fearing that he was some kind of perverted weirdo. If only they had got to know him as well as I had back then…
If my parents had ever found out about my friendship with this solitary man they would have been completely horrified! I used to walk up the hill to the woods from my home every couple of days with my pockets and school satchel stuffed with food stolen from my mother’s larder for him.
Dhobi’s natural gentleness was apparent to anyone if only they would have spent time in his wonderful company. Mice lived in his pockets. Hedgehogs curled up in the folds of his old army greatcoat around his legs as the sun disappeared beneath the western horizon until it was time for them to emerge to hunt for food.
He never ever trapped an animal to eat from his own patch, just in case he may eat a friend of his by mistake. Each spring a Cock Robin appeared in Dhobi’s camp and spent its time in the evenings on his shoulder meticulously pecking mites from his hair and beard. Obviously the respect this gentle man had for all wildlife was passed down through each generation of all the woodland creatures. On one occasion I watched totally spellbound as a Sparrow Hawk brought him a gift of wildfowl.
Dhobi’s greatest friend in his woodland world was a battle scarred one eyed fox that lived with him, keeping him company and sharing the warmth of his constant campfire. At night the old fox slept at Dhobi’s feet beneath the rough lean-to that was his bedroom, lounge and kitchen. Sparrows nested in the bracken that covered it, knowing their young were completely safe under Dhobi’s gentle care.
As I began carefully removing his clothing I found among the few personal possessions he had about him, a faded newspaper cutting from the nineteen fifties showing a photograph of him in uniform with a few lines beneath it explaining the photo and giving his real name. In particular, my eye was drawn to his row of medals.
The first in the line was the Victoria Cross, according to the newspaper cutting, won for an act of total selflessness in the heat of battle when he rescued his comrades one by one while under constant machinegun fire on a now long forgotten hill in the Korean peninsula.
Whatever happened to him to make him retreat from the world of humanity to the natural world? Thinking about it, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was more than likely was the cause. Maybe Dhobi and his mates fought for a hill too far. No human would ever know nor care except me.
After conducting a thorough autopsy, determining that he had simply expired due to natural circumstances brought on by his lifestyle, I had him cremated then took his ashes back to his campsite in the woods, where I silently scattered them witnessed by the many creatures he loved.
Rest in peace Corporal Phillip “Dhobi” Anderson VC, friend to all who lived alongside him in the woods.
When it comes to meaningful dialogue with our readers it rarely if ever happens, more’s the pity. We writers need the one to one connection. Not just a b….y ‘like’ on Facebook or Twitter!!!
As for reviews, all they tell us is that the individual responsible for it either loved or hated the book in question. I had one so-called reviewer not long ago who demanded that he got his money back, when in fact he had read a giveaway copy of the book he loathed so much. Then again, have you noticed how books written by Indies tend to attract the attention of complete morons!!!
Most writers like myself have a blog like this one where you can leave comments below a post, and a Facebook page where you can voice your thoughts in person on any book written by any of us, should you choose to do so. Or if you want, we can just chat about something else entirely. The point is that by chatting, we get to know each other, hopefully forging a lasting friendship. Trolls never openly engage with any author on Facebook. Why? Because FB doesn’t allow pseudonyms, the trolls favourite hiding place! One recently made the mistake of writing his review having read a free copy of one of my books, using his own name. Then approached me on FB to say he had just posted it. For a few weeks he hung around on one specific writers page I frequent, hoping to find allies. He was disappointed to find that writers tend to support each other, not trolls. So he left. I still check the list of people who view my blog posts on that specific FB page, just in case he sneaks back…
Like you, every writer is plagued with the typical faults, passions and emotions that all human beings share. Some like myself are known to hold strong views on varying subjects. Don’t let that necessarily put you off talking to any of us. We’re not ogres. Just battle-hardened…
Now here is a link to an interview every prospective writer needs to read: https://bookwormex.com/bob-van-laerhoven-interview/
…just endlessly rediscovered!!!
With the simple fact that these days your book will have an upward struggle to be seen on Amazon, considering there are slightly over 38 million other books there already, each one vying for your attention. Does the product of all your hard work stand a chance? One thing is blindingly obvious. It must be an attention grabber, and I’m not talking about the cover!!!
There was a time when I used to write several thousand words per day. In fact I subscribed to the idea that unless I wrote at least five thousand words a day, I wasn’t really writing, merely dawdling. Oh how wrong I was! These days I barely write two hundred words in one day.
Simple – I spend the rest of the day and the one after, even the one after that, endlessly checking each word, often substituting a far better one. I lengthen or shorten sentences, move them around in the paragraph before me. All of this until I’m satisfied that the end product flows. Or to put it another way – unlike many of my fellow writers I prefer painting a picture with as few words as is necessary…
Ask yourselves how many books have you started to read then discarded because they grind to a halt on nearly every page. Usually because the author in question favours endless detail over getting on with the story???
I recall watching this fifty-eight minute episode of Fry’s Planet Word back in 2012 (don’t ignore the red highlighted link I’ve given you. CLICK ON IT!!!) on the subject of James Joyce and the written word. Steven Fry was discussing Joyce’s way of working with an enthusiastic aficionado in Dublin.
Imagine my total surprise when it was revealed that Joyce approached each work in progress in exactly the same way as myself. Some days he would write a chapter, some days a paragraph. But more often than not he would only write a sentence, spending hours poring over it to make sure that each word was the best possible choice to use, and that it was in just the right place within the sentence.
Don’t get me wrong now, I’m not claiming by any stretch of the imagination to be the 21st century version of writers like James Joyce, or George Orwell, or even my literary hero J.R.R Tolkien, who all used this method. But when I learn from programmes like Steven Fry’s that I have unwittingly adopted and employed the same writing techniques, all of a sudden I don’t feel alone anymore. More to the point I no longer think, or believe, that high daily word counts are the be all and end all. Neither should you…
Finally; remember what I said at the conclusion of the first paragraph – Your book must be an attention grabber, I’m not talking about the cover.
Which by the way if you’ve spent money on both content and cover, chances are you will never get your money back, if you’ve written something that doesn’t appeal to the mass market, people will not bother to read.
You must get the reader hooked within the first two pages!!!