historical fiction

The mysterious Queen Satiah...

Queen Satiah is one of those figures from ancient Egyptian history who manages to intrigue the casual scholar.  Very few things are known about her, and the things we do know raise buckets of new questions for which, so far, Egyptology has found no answer.

Who was Queen Satiah?  She was an early wife of Thutmose III, married to him during the first part of his solo career (as readers of this blog probably know already, Thutmose III ruled jointly with Hatshepsut for 22 years, until Hatshepsut died.)  We know that she was the daughter of a royal nurse by the name of Iput.  Iput's title was "nurse of the god," which seems to indicate that she was Thutmose III's nurse.  If that is true, it means Satiah and Thutmose may well have grown up together, familiar with one another since early childhood.  It is possible that Satiah was the mother of Amenemhat, one of Thutmose III's sons who went on to become an important courtier in the reign of his brother, Amunhotep II, who was Thutmose's heir.

These are the only tidbits of information known about Satiah, for the time being.  More mysteries surround this figure from Egyptian history.  Look closely at this beautiful block:

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That's Satiah in the middle, wearing the Vulture Crown of the Great Royal Wife.  Behind her stands Thutmose III, identified by the cartouche near his head.  The figure in front of Satiah is unidentified -- the cartouche is missing from the block -- but wears the Nemes crown of a Pharaoh, and the false beard that often identified Hatshepsut in carvings from the era.  However, the face is all wrong for Hatshepsut.  Even more interesting is that Satiah stands in front of her husband, and is the same size as he.  Typically, a Great Royal Wife was depicted behind her husband, lending him her support, and smaller in scale to show that he was the dominant figure.  The fact that Thutmose, Satiah, and the Mystery Pharaoh are all in the same scale, and that Satiah stands behind another Pharaoh and before her husband, is extremely intriguing.

In another block, we see another tiny fragment of the mystery of Thutmoside relationships:

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Again we see Thutmose III the Pharaoh, largest in scale and standing in front to show his importance.  Satiah stands behind.  But look closely at her cartouche, and you can see where the "Re" character was smoothed out, and the name inside the cartouche carved over with "Satiah."  Interesting, no?  This is not the only monument on which Neferure's name was replaced with Satiah's, indicating that Satiah certainly took over Neferure's former position as Great Royal Wife.  But why is still a mystery.

I've invented my own take on the story for The Bull of Min (coming February 24th.)  But although my story provides a plausible explanation for all these mysteries, it is pure fiction.  I hope someday we'll know more of the true life history of Great Royal Wife Satiah.  Like so many other figures from Egyptian history, her mystery makes her fascinating.

Cover reveal, and a release date

Wooohoooo!!!  I have a date all set to go for The Bull of Min: February 24.  Looking forward to it.  And here's the cover!

It's kind of weird to think I won't need to make any more covers for The She-King.  Am I getting a little nostalgic over it?  Maybe.  I'm not saying for sure.  I did just whip up the covers for the print editions, too.  Yes, now that I can finally get a non-hideous matte cover (ugh, I hated those glossy covers) I am putting all the books out in print.  The Sekhmet Bed and The Crook and Flail are currently processing with the printer.  I still need to review them and make sure they look good in person.  If they do, all the rest of the books will follow.

Narrator Amanda C. Miller has been hard at work on The Crook and Flail's audio edition, and man, is it ever killer.  I can't wait to get this one out there.  I am loving how it's turning out.  If you haven't heard it already, the audio version of The Sekhmet Bed is available on Audible.com and on Amazon.com (I think on iTunes, too, but I never visit there...)

With a new book coming out, I'll be running a few sales in the days ahead.  Plus, I'll be bundling all four books in the series into one ebook collection, which will save you some money if you've only read The Sekhmet Bed (or haven't read any yet) and want to read the entire series.  As always, the best way to find out about sweet deals is to subscribe to the mailing list.  I only send out newsletters when there's actual news, so I won't spam you; fear not.

Oh, did I forget to mention the most exciting news of all? I put in the longest "notice" in the history of notices at my day job.  I gave my boss my final date and have finalized what will be my first day as a full-time, money-earning writer.  I gave plenty of a heads-up because I actually really love my day job -- it's seriously the best job in the world, other than writing -- and I want to give them plenty of time to find and train the right person to replace me.  I love the company and love the people I work with even more, so leaving is actually kind of tough to face, though I am thrilled to finally stand on the edge of the dream I've had since the age of eight: being a working writer.

I guess since I never blog anyway, I ought to take this opportunity to express exactly why this is significant, because few readers out there know much about the inside world of publishing...what goes into making the books they love.  Until very recently -- until the advent of the Kindle -- the majority of authors really didn't have much chance of making a living from their writing.  Contracts and terms from publishers were typically abysmal, restrictive, and exploitative.  Actually, contracts and terms still are all those things, and they're getting worse as publishers feel the pressure of competition from the new world of independent publishing.  Prior to the Kindle, almost all writers held down day jobs and wrote on the side, or they lived on the edge of poverty if they wrote full-time.  They frequently lost the rights to their own work in labyrinthine contracts.  Agents came along and for a while it was a good partnership, but in recent years it's been abundantly clear that both the majority of agents and organizations like ironically named Authors' Guild are much more on the side of the big publishers with their damaging contracts than they are on the side of the authors who produce the content they sell.  Only a few short years ago, a writer like me had one choice: work with a publisher and take whatever crumbs they tossed your way, or don't get your work in front of readers.  Period.

Now, well, that's no longer the case.  Not only do I have a thriving and growing audience (Hi, by the way.  I love you.) but I'm about to start writing full-time!  Only a few years before, there'd be no way I could even realistically dream of writing full-time with only four, soon to be five novels to my name.  It just wasn't possible.  I'm astounded at how quickly the winds of change have scoured the face of the publishing industry.  I'm thrilled with what's been uncovered, with all the grime swept away: a world of books that is far more varied, far more exciting, far more inspiring than it ever was before.  I'm insanely grateful to be a writer right here, right now, in 2014, when it's possible for my childhood dream to come true.  I feel deeply indebted to all the writers who came before, who struggled and suffered under the old system but who kept telling stories I loved in spite of the hardships they faced.  I'm so unspeakably grateful to the folks who thought up and engineered and marketed early e-readers and the Kindle.  They made this happen.

Most of all, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude toward my readers.  I can't get enough of hearing from you all via email about the enjoyment I've brought you (that's why I do this!)

All of us -- engineers and makers, dreamers, strugglers, writers and readers -- made something spectacular happen in the arts.  We made the Independent Literature Movement.  We made the New Golden Age of Literature.  This is so significant that I have no doubt it'll be called that someday.  It feel so strange and wonderful and so moving to think that we're living in the midst of history right now.  We're seeing a renaissance unfolding.  We get to be a part of it.  I feel lucky every single day.

Love you guys.  Go read a good book, and keep on rocking in the free world.

Updates, Schmupdates

My reign as Worst Blogger Ever continues!

There has been some fun news recently regarding my books, so I have extra-extra no excuse for not updating this blog.  Shame on me.

The Sekhmet Bed was recently released as an audiobook, and I am beyond thrilled with how it turned out!  It already has a couple of reviews on Audible.com, too, which is fantastic to see.  You can get it here.  Amanda C. Miller, the narrator, has agreed to narrate the rest of the books in the series (and, I hope, all my books forever...I love her narration style and voice acting!)  The Crook and Flail has gone into production and the recording process should be finished around the end of February, with the audiobook coming out not too long afterward.

Speaking of the end of February, The Bull of Min, the final volume in The She-King series, is still on target to be released then.  In fact, I expect to finish the first draft of the book next week, and then it will go through the editing process for six weeks or so.  I'm liking how the book is turning out, although reader beware: it's a short novel.  It's shaping up to be rather "bigger than a breadbox," with the size kind of hard to define.  It's too long to be fairly called a "novella," but significantly shorter than the first three books in the series.  But that's all the length it needs.  I don't feel comfortable padding out a story with unnecessaries just to hit a certain word count; I want to tell the story in a length that feels authentic.  Because it will be shorter and therefore provide fewer hours of entertainment than the other books, it will cost a little less to buy, though I haven't settled on a price yet.

While The Bull of Min enters the editing phase, I'm going to turn my attention to Tidewater, my next historical novel.  It will tell the story of the conflict between the Powhatan Indians and the Jamestown Colony in the early 1600s from four different points of view: Pocahontas and John Smith (of course), as well as Chief Powhatan (Pocahontas's dad) and his brother Opechancanough.  I feel it's an ambitious project for me, and it will be carrying me beyond my comfort zone with my own writing.  I'm going to push myself to tell a larger, more intricate, higher-stakes story, and to bring out a distinctive voice in all four narrative points of view.

Tidewater is going to be a real challenge, but I'm looking forward to tackling it.  The concept has been gnawing at my brain for years now, and it feels good to finally be in the process of turning it into a real novel.  I've already begun taking extensive notes and the approach I'll take has begun to crystallize in my head.

Tidewater will be a long book, probably at least 120,000 words (or around 480-ish pages or more).  By comparison, The Sekhmet Bed, the longest novel I've written to date, is 93,000 words long.  So Tidewater is already shaping up to be a big book.  I do want to tell the story in one volume, however.  If it really grows too long to comfortably contain in a single book, I'll split the story into two, maybe three volumes.  However, if I can keep it a single, stand-alone novel, I will.

Right now, I'm tentatively projecting that Tidewater will be out in April 2014.  However, that's just a guess.  I've got a lot of writing ahead of me, and since I'm still working full-time at a day job, I don't yet know how long it will actually take me to complete the book.  But I'll keep readers updated, for certain!  (Though probably with spotty blog posts...)

Sovereign of Stars is out!

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Well, hi there, blog!  Sovereign of Stars was released on October 28th (ebook).  So far it's selling well, and debuted in the #1 position on the Top 100 chart for Middle Eastern Historical Fiction and Ancient Egypt History on Amazon.  Not too shabby!  I announced the release to my mailing list and then promptly forgot to update the blog with the information, so this is just more reinforcement that you should join the mailing list if you want information when it's actually relevant and/or fresh.

Want to read Sovereign of Stars?  Here it is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  It should soon be available directly from Apple's iBookstore and Kobo, too, though apparently I need to tweak something or other in the Smashwords file before it'll appear there.  One of these days...

I gave away free copies of Sovereign of Stars to the first ten readers who posted an honest review of The Crook and Flail when that book was released...I'm doing the same with Sovereign!  The first ten people to review it will get a free copy of The Bull of Min when it comes out in late winter (probably February).  Honest reviews are welcome, so even if you thought it was rotten, share your opinion!  Reviews sell books.  Even bad reviews.  ;)

I've been working away at the audiobook production of The Sekhmet Bed with narrator Amanda Miller.  It is really spectacular!  She's doing such a fantastic job bringing these characters and scenes to life.  It's so cool to get to hear my book in somebody else's voice, and I'm really pleased by how well the story is holding up.  We're shooting to have the audiobook done by the end of November, and it will be available on all the usual audiobook platforms (Audible.com, iTunes, etc.)

In addition to writing The Bull of Min (the FINAL book in the She-King series), I'm furiously outlining Tidewater, which should turn out to be a stand-alone (but probably somewhat lengthy) novel.  If you've already read Sovereign of Stars and checked out the "back matter," as it's called, you already knew that Tidewater will be about Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony.  Actually, it will be about much more than that: it will also be about the relationship between Powhatan and his brother Opechancanough, about Pocahontas' relationships with her two successive husbands, Kocoum and John Rolfe, and about the many conflicting interests of the Virginia Company.  It's going to be quite a project, but I've been very immersed in the research for several months now, and I've found it to be an engrossing story.  I think it will be fantastic to write, and hopefully enjoyable to read.

As a final bit of research, to make sure I get the feel of the Virginia tidewater region as correct and realistic as I can, Paul and I are hoping to take a trip out to Virginia to hike some nature trails, take pictures, and visit a lot of museums in early 2014.  Much depends on whether he's back in school by that point, though.  If he is, I'll be making the trek by myself!  At least the travel expenses will be a tax write-off.

I'm close to finalizing two other projects: HistorEreader.com (the web site isn't up yet, so don't bother trying to look at it!), which will be a resource to help readers sort through all the various historical fiction offerings out there, and a podcast called Writers On Reading, in which writer friends and I will chat enthusiastically about good books we've recently read.  I hope readers will find both entertaining and useful!

Aside from book news and related tidbits, I've been busily planning what my Christmas tree will look like this year.  I go all out with my trees, with thematic decorations and zillions of lights and TEXTURE and DESIGN and INSANITY.  Martha Stewart's got nothing on me.  I'm counting down the days until I get to put the tree up.  Expect pictures.  lots and lots of pictures.