Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trivia Question: Green mountain fields

Where is this?
Thanks to for this picture.
And thanks to Hawkeye63 for IT advice.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Well, I said there wouldn't be a shark in my tale. And then the shark turned around and bit me.

That is, a shark muscled its way into my tale. Or sneaked its way in. A peripheral shark. Killing a peripheral character.

I wish it hadn't happened. It's a bummer. But that's life.

"Only the good die young." "No good deed goes unpunished." Oh well.

At least all the nastiness happens "offstage". Aristotle would approve.

Doubled the word count of the last chapter─shark and all. The extra words were needed. We had a skeleton  chapter, a sort of plot and character outline taking us from point A to point B. (Or, if you read my "Dolphin" post, from point D to point E.)

Now we have a living breathing chapter, with dialog and drama. At least, I hope that's how readers will experience it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trivia Question: Bridge

Where in the world is this ancient bridge?

Hint: It is not in China.

And here is a non-trivial question: How can I download the actual picture from Wikipedia? I type the URL into the photo link box, but Blogger refuses to accept it. Sorry, y'all, I write a blog, but I'm not a nerd or a geek.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pearl Diving

Sometimes the internet is disappointing as a research tool. Usually, it's more than adequate. With dolphin information, for example.

And sometimes the internet is downright miraculous!

Here's the link for the article: Pearl Diving in Qatar

The old pearl diver who was interviewed in this article was once attacked by a shark. He has a dramatic scar to prove it.

I don't think my story will have any sharks in it, though. (Breathing a sigh of relief!)

This research is for the middle of my book, where my hero travels quite a long way. Not as far east as Qatar though. But it's close enough. I assume pearl fishing techniques are much the same on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, and have been for millennia.

A vanished way of life, now. It's not easy to mourn the passing of such a lethal lifestyle.

Oh, by the way, I revised the chapter which was to include dolphins--and forgot the dolphins! I was so busy rationalizing time of day, weather, etc.--and so happy with the outcome--that the dolphins totally slipped my mind. Believe it or not!

The chapter did end up with one awkward transition, though, which I was planning to revisit. And later on, I remembered the dolphins. And where do you think they slotted in, very neatly and easily? You guessed it! They moved my hero and his friend, and my narrative, quickly and comfortably from point A to point B.

My subconscious mind had it all figured out, as usual. It was just waiting for my conscious brain to wake up and smell the coffee!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ancient Dolphins

I'm researching dolphins. In particular, dolphin rescues of humans, in ancient and modern times.

What do dolphins have to do with ancient Egypt, you ask? Well, there are various dolphin species in the Red Sea, including Bottlenose Dolphins. In the Mediterranean as well.

What do dolphins have to do with my book? They come to the rescue of my hero and his friend, of course. One of the good things about writing fiction is getting to write stuff like this!

Click on this link for a beautiful picture of playful ancient dolphins:

On Wikipedia and elsewhere, you can find the tale of how the ancient Greek poet Arion was rescued by dolphins.

And there is a website page called Dolphins Rescuing Humans.

It will be interesting to see whether sharks also existed in the Red Sea in ancient times. This is what I'll be looking up next.

Mongoose Crossing

On the way to Abydos I saw two strange large-ish short-legged animals crossing the road, one after another. They were about the size of a beaver, but not as bulky. More weasel-ish in shape. But, like beavers, they had tails that seemed disproportionate to the size of their body. The tails weren't flat and hairless like beaver tails, though. The tail, like the rest of the body, was covered in brown hair—the same color as a beaver.

I asked the driver what they were. He said "mongoose", without hesitation. In English, no less.

I've been in Egypt a year, and this was the first time I'd seen a mongoose. Very exciting, especially because my novel has a mongoose in it.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't see any mongooses before. After all, my guide book to Egyptian mammals says that they don't exist in this part of Egypt at all—only in the Delta and Faiyum. It does say that there are older reports of sightings as far upriver as Asyut—which is a considerable distance downriver from this area.

All I can say is that I saw what I saw. It wasn't a mirage. The driver saw them too. And he didn't seem surprised to see them. So I guess they're not all that unusual around here after all. There just haven't been any official sightings.

I have a postcard of duck hunting and fishing in the marshes─a copy of a wall painting in Menna's tomb. There are various birds flying up from the papyrus plants. There are two animals in among the papyrus. One is climbing up the stalk of one of the plants, and the other is already reaching into a nest for the eggs. Now I can recognize animals as mongooses.

According to the guidebook, while there are many varieties of mongoose worldwide, the Egyptian variety is grizzled. Well, the pair I saw had rich brown fur. Perhaps grizzling would have been visible if I had been closer. The two mongooses in the ancient picture have blond fur. So I suppose there were more varieties in ancient Egypt than there are now.

It's hard to imagine how such a large-ish animals could climb papyrus stalks. But squirrels can perch on flimsy  branches. Their fur makes their bodies look much bulkier than they really are. The same must be true of mongoose.

Apart from eggs, mongooses eat a varied diet—including snakes!

The guidebook is: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt by Richard Hoath, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, New York, 2009. A very useful reference with good color pictures.

By the way, I always thought the plural of mongoose was unchanged—mongooses. But Prof. Hoath, Wikipedia, and all say mongooses.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I'm so happy.

Yesterday, I finished first revision of part one. (My novel has 3 parts.) I guess I never really believed it would get done.

I'm close to the tentative schedule I'd set a month or two ago: to finish first revision by the end of this year. Part one took  almost 5 weeks, starting Oct. 1. So I'm about a week behind. At this rate I'll be done with this revision early next year, which isn't too bad. Rushing is counter-productive.

In the dim and distant past, when I presented early chapters (early in two senses) to my writers' group in Texas, there was some feeling, very polite, that things were a little disjointed and hard to follow.

Part of this disjointedness came from presentation one chapter at a time, with two or more weeks intervening between chapters. I told myself that this was entirely the problem. After all, I knew exactly what was happening in my novel and where it was going.

But now that I've finished this round of revision, I can see what they were saying. I've run into all kinds of disjointedness all over the place. That's a lot of what I've been fixing, on this run-through.

I feel like a mechanic. Get this fixed, then get that fixed.

I feel like a visionary. Seeing what isn't there, but is there somewhere in another universe. Gaps that need to be filled, and the material that needs to fill them. A physicist, perhaps, on the hunt for that elusive dark matter.

I feel like a sewage specialist. Getting rid of you-know-what. It's such a good feeling to get rid of  over-written text that doesn't really say anything, or needlessly repeats stuff that's already been said.

Along the same lines, I feel like a butcher, excising tripe. Except that the butcher sells his tripe, whereas my tripe goes in the trash. (Well, it still exists in the heaven of earlier versions which are saved on my computer.)

Meanwhile, I should work on a blog post on Abydos. I finally went on Saturday. A useful visit.

But I'd rather gloat over having struggled through the flotsam and jetsam of my first draft (part one, that is), swimming to the shore of a version that is tight and has momentum. And then, sometime next year, I'll discover it's just a sandbank, and that I won't reach land until I've done more revision.

Onward and upward! The first chapter of part 2 is "on deck" (a baseball term, for Brits and others who don't know what that is--a team member who's ready to come up to bat next is "on deck".) In other words, it's minimized at the bottom of my computer screen.