Catfish, alt-history, a villain, "Mike Constantine's "Baal", review of Monkey'
NATIONAL CATFISH DAY is observed each year on June 25. In the United States, this national observance celebrates the value of farm-raised catfish. A diverse group of ray-finned fish, catfish are named for their prominent barbels, which resemble cat whiskers. Catfish are nocturnal. They don’t have scales. Catfish are a good source of Vitamin D. In the United States, the most commonly eaten species are the channel catfish and the blue catfish. A favorite dish of many Americans, this fine finned fish can be prepared many different ways. A traditional preparation method in the United States is to coat it with cornmeal and fry it.
In 1986, catfish comprised the third highest volume of finned fish consumed in the United States. HISTORY President Ronald Reagan designated June 25 as National Catfish Day in 1987 by Presidential Proclamation after Congress called for the day to be established by Joint Resolution 178. #NationalCatfishDay to share on social media.
A villain you know: How I found my Hordjedtef
Painting and possible head of either Hordjedtef or brother Djedephre
Anyone who knows my series Children of Stone understands quite early in book 1 Voices in Crystal that the antagonist is Count Prince Hordjedtef. Today I'd like to tell you how he evolved from the early versions of my series to the present and published form.
Just as I always had Marai as my main character, I always had a villain. I knew from the start that he would be an almost stereotypical evil high priest bent on destroying the hero. I didn't have a name for him but I had a face: Average height for an elder, perhaps tall and well built as a young man. He's be healthier, more agile and sharper than most men his age. I saw him as mid-brown to light brown, either bald or shaved, and hawk featured.
The first name that came to me was Horsaphet, but it never seemed right. The early form of the priest also had a younger assistant I called Kazoser. That didn't seem right either, but I went with it.
That was in 1975-76. Then in 1977 Star Wars came out. Jedi Knights and The Force became the popular terms of the day. A bell went off in my head. I remembered (in my research) reading about an Ancient Egyptian magician Djedi and wondered if George Lucas had used that name and the School of Intelligences for inspiration for his "Knights". This was before the internet, so I went to the library and looked for the name Djedi.
What I saw made everything fall in place. I found reference to a text written later than it's actual era in history called "The Westcar Papyrus" This was a collection several folk tales from the time of King Khufu (the Great Pyramid Guy) The one that stuck out was "Djedi the Magician" or "The Magician's Tale". I read it and it very quickly became a jaw-dropping case of deja-vu. I'm sure the tale was likely different from actual events, but it was enough to make me ask more questions.
(above, my concept of Djedi and young Hordjedtef. At left an old illustration from "Djedi the Magician" showing Hordjedtef leading the old man to his boat)
A young Prince (whose name comes down in plenty of versions: Hardaduf, Dedephor, and Hordjedtef) was trying to impress his father Khufu as were all his brothers so that a choice for successor could be made. (In actuality, scholars believe the daughters of the god or queens do the bulk of the choosing, and it often isn't by age order) Young Hordjedtef told his father he knew of the greatest of all magicians, the wisest of men. He was an elder named Djedi, aged 110, who could make a lion walk behind him and chop the head off a goose then re-attach it. When the prince brought him to court, the elder did the tricks and then Khufu hit him with the BIG question: "Tell me about the secret chambers of Thoth where things were hidden by the gods when they walked as men, in the first era." He wanted to use the building plans to help him construct his pyramid. Wisely, Djedi said "I don't know, but I know they are under the chart room at the temple of Ra. I can't get them but a woman, the wife of a priest of Ra will and she will bear three kings sired by Ra himself" For his trouble Khufu allowed Djedi to retire with a full pension in Hordjedtef's house, and in time... Well read the rest of the story to see what I do with it. Horsaphet = Hordjedtef/Djedephor it was too easy. Then came the second round of Deja-vu. The eldest of the three sons was named Userkaf, Weserkaf or Wserkaf. Just as Hordjedtef could have been spelled Djedephor (I got his hated nickname Dede from that) I saw that the reverse of Wserkaf would be Kafuser. Could it be I was hearing the word Kazoser through the veil? As for the rest of the story, history tells us Hordjedtef did NOT get to be king after his elder brother's death. The choice and many rumors said the choice went to Djedephre, a younger brother and fourth in line. Scholars don't know why. Some propose he died, but he resurfaces and is seen as a scholarly gentleman throughout the reign of King Menkaure. He was responsible for "The Lessons of Hardaduf" which became the inspiration for the "Wisdom Texts".
The real Prince is buried near Khufu (nothing is left of course) and he was viewed as a god for a short while, and possibly was king for a few days. His tomb was vandalized and the inscriptions erased about 100 years later so he would lose his immortality.
Out of the thing I learned, there was enough #storyfuel to make an awesome villain... A prince bypassed by power and title who spends his life trying to gain it and immortality through manipulating the kings who DID rule. I have him even starting out as a priest of Ra in order to gain, through a woman, access to the secrets. When that fails he charms the woman's son (Wserkaf) by a different priest of Ra into becoming his apprentice. He also uses his grandson to gain access to the throne by inserting him as a princess' consort. Enter Marai, the women and the Children of Stone with unlimited wisdom and power. What would a decent villain try to do? I'll let you listen to his interview, and following that there's an excerpt from Voices in Crystal
1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.
Count Prince Hordjedtef Iri Nekhen, out of Khufu
2.Tell us where and when were you born.
In Nekhen, perhaps 75 years ago
3. How would you describe yourself?
Healthy and upright for a man of my years, in full possession of my life force and not greatly dim or eye, ear, or wit
4. Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up in my early years in Ineb Hedj and Per-a-at, later I studied at Nekhen and Khmenu
5. How old are you?
As stated earlier 75
6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not? It was enjoyable. I was the finest and brightest of Khufu's many sons, skilled with a bow and in foot-racing, languages and knowledge
7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?
My sister ruined my life. When my brother Kawab was killed, she was to marry me to create a second divine pairing. I was on a journey (that was her excuse) and so she chose my younger brother Djedephre, barely out of childhood instead. Then my father the great king died. I believe they killed them both. He took the lion of the waters and reshaped the head into her vile face. I have to look at it all my days. My curse on her? They will think it is a man for eons!
Daughter of the god Hetepheres (Hordjedtef's sister and now theorized as the image on the sphinx) and daughter Mereytites.
I had nearly recovered from that affront, married a nice princess and she had given me a son Auibre, but both were taken from me. I then pursued my niece Neferhetepes for a time as she was the one woman I thought would fit in the prophecy, but she grew shy of me and ran to the arms of a young priest, not even a prince. What else could I do to fulfill my mission? I could charm that son away from them. That I did. But it isn't all to the story. I had designs for my young grandson Maatkare Raemkai as well.
8. What do you value above all else in life? Justice. That the kingship come to me and that the djed be righted
9. What are you obsessed with?
Did I stutter?
10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?
My beliefs? I was supposed to be the greatest of kings after my father, not Djedphre, Kaphre or Menkaure. I return my plenty and my blessing to those who do not cross me, my strong admonishments to those who do. Simple as that
11. Biggest fear?
That I will die before I can finalize my plans
12. What line will you never cross?
There simply hasn't been one yet.
13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?
The best? perhaps that I learned and became wise through Djedi, learned of the neter stones a peasant is bringing with will create the justice I seek. The worst? Again previously stated
14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
My stupid grandson lost control and killed the princess Mereyt while they were at pleasure and quite drunk. I spun it as a suicide and had to not only get him into hiding, but use powerful medicines of the king so that he would believe my words.
15. Biggest secret?
The truth about the princess' death
16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?
17. What is your current goal?
And an excerpt from Voices in Crystal when Marai meets Hordjedtef for the first time, told from Marai's Point of View. They've already encountered each other in spiritual battle,
Marai saw the old man sitting in a dark stone chair; the sunlight bathing him in ghostly light beneath an indigo and white awning. The very nuance of a glance sent the peacekeepers back to their posts at the gate to wait until they were needed.
I wonder if this is what it would feel like, if I were really a god. Marai thought. A whimsical vision of the future formed in his thoughts as he saw himself seated on a throne of solid gold. He blinked, then came back to the present.
This morning, other than the gate guards, Marai saw only a servant or two moving around the plaza. They bowed and whispered, asking if “his highness” wanted or needed anything. From time to time, a domesticated cat or hound would appear, then saunter quietly away.
The old man’s head craned up, like a turtle head emerging from its shell. He gasped slightly and his blackest eyes widened in delight as he contemplated his guest with bird-like fascination.
Marai focused on the elder's thoughts about him:
This is no shepherd and no foreign merchant either. And no upbringing I see. Did no one tell him who he greeted today? then a pause.
Marai watched the elder's face grow irritated but weary and continued reading the man's thoughts.
He knows who I am, and at least my rank. He nearly drowned both Ausebek and even my Wse with his spell last night.
"Ahem." he cleared his throat "Is something the matter with your knees, Akkad?"
The old man's impression became at once imperious and outraged as if the elder prince wished for the power to leap out of his chair, seize Marai by the hair, and ram his head into the floor several times in forced respect.
Marai bowed his head politely, hand at his chest in deference, knowing he had to make some sort of respectful gesture, but his knees remained locked in an unbent pose that said:
Why should I? Are we not both free men? And that you began this by sending your lackey with his message yesterday. His own inner protest stirred. Marai knew well enough that the old prince could order him executed with a gesture. I know you already want to kill me like your father would have done? You could try...he returned, but you won't. You want to know more of me, don't you?
He glanced around the open plaza and then back into the three sided niche behind the elder, Marai saw a square-cut white marble chair with a sumptuous embroidered drape had been laid out over the seat cushions and arm rests.
Looks sturdy enough, Marai thought, then added ... and I respect your noble birth, Your Highness, but I'd rather sit to talk. Marai continued to show his skill of projecting and receiving silent thought. I really didn’t sleep well last night. We’ve both put ourselves through so much already. Don't worry...my head will be lower yours.
Marai strode around the pool before his host could do more than shrink backward, lifted the solid marble chair, carried it from the dais, turned it,and setting it down, dragged it lightly across the polished floor into a better position. The marble against polished tile made an annoying skreek. Moving the drape to the back of the chair, he sat heavily and faced the priest.
The guards, who had been lurking by the plaza door, filled it and rushed forward, ready to throw Marai bodily from the plaza but the old man waved them away. His dark slit eyes widened for a moment in surprise.
You have defied me, Akkad! And by that, the power of our gods. Know they allow you life only by my intercession. Marai sensed the old man's spirit voice growling.
Are you serious? Marai's own thoughts rang back. He felt his entire journey to Kemet had been a dreadful mistake. The Children should never have asked Marai to come to Ineb Hedj. He was about to apologize for his intrusion, turn and leave, when he sensed the Child Stone in his brow whispering to his interior spirit:
Listen to his words
He will teach you much.
He will straighten your path
Straighten? Teach? Marai mused... I think not...
Marai sighed frustrated, but knew exactly what to do. "It's the pain in your bones, isn't it? I'm sorry I overstepped, Gracious Highness!" Marai spoke aloud, rising from the chair and circled behind the old man. "If I had to suffer like that, it would keep me cross with the world, too. And you’re all worn out from the Shefbedet feasts, the goddess sailings, and before that, your duty." The sojourner plumped the pillows up and helped the priest sit straighter, as if he were tending an ailing parent but noticed contact with the high priest's dun colored, bony shoulders drained all warmth from his hands.
When Hordjedtef looked up and back at him, he flashed a grin eerily full of too many teeth for such an ancient man. "Marai bin Ahu...” the old man spoke, at last, just above a whisper. “Welcome to my house." he said. "I had not thought we would ever meet."
Last week Mike Constantine told us of his writing life.
This week he presents his Character Baal
Go ahead and introduce yourself. Where and when were you born?
I am Baal. I was born on an island in the Western Ocean. In your language, it’s name means Refuge. I left there when I was counted an adult, and I’ve traveled these lands for perhaps a dozen years.
How would you describe yourself?
That’s a difficult question. Where I’m from, I would be considered a normal woman. If I were still there, I would tend my garden and feast with my neighbors. Perhaps, I would have taken a mate. But here, in these lands? Sometimes I am called albino, sometimes giant. I admit, my flesh is much paler, and I am larger and stronger than most. That’s no reason to throw rocks, or toss me in jail, or call me ‘Bride of Hell.’ One day, I will have a small home and a garden to tend, and perhaps then you will see.
Tell us about where you grew up.
The island I grew up on was one of several in a small cluster, far across the Western Ocean. It is a good place, filled with life and beautiful wilderness. My old friend Tem once asked me why I ever left, and it’s a valid question. I loved my village. I loved my simple life. Yet, I was drawn to the sea and the promise of unknown people, unknown lands. I’m not the first of my people to catch this wanderlust. Perhaps it’s in our blood, as the old stories tell of a great exodus that brought us to our islands, long ago.
Did you have a happy childhood?
My childhood was as happy as any. My village was filled with love and laughter. There were troubles, of course. No life is perfect.
If you mean, have I been romantically entangled? Then yes, of course. Perhaps not as often as some, I have loved. But my people are not like your people. Some men hope to produce children from a union, but that can not happen. My people and yours are too different, in spite of our surface similarities. If our stories are true, we came to our islands from another world, so perhaps it makes sense that we are more different than we appear. I have made many friends, traveling through these lands. Sometimes my physique or my skin might repel a potential lover. Just as often, it does not. Traveling with merchants, working in bars, fighting in the East, fishing in the North, I have found people are not so different, in spite of language and gods. A warm embrace means much the same in any language.
What do you value above all else in life?
I value my freedom. That probably sounds trite, these days. I don’t just mean freedom from bondage, though of course, I value that. I mean freedom to pursue what I desire, to search where I may, to learn what I will, and yes, to travel where I wish.
What are you obsessed with?
My old friend Kadima would say I am obsessed with learning. It’s funny that a scholar would say that to a gardener, but I suppose he would be right. That may have been why we bonded as we did. Of course, that was before he led the great hoards of the Eastern Steppes.
How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?
As I value freedom, not just for myself but for all, I hope those I care for and have cared for have felt free, free to be whomsoever they may wish to be.
My most profound fear is probably of losing my mind. I spent some time around the old and infirmed, and was horrified by observing once vibrant minds laid low by the illness of age.
What line will you never cross?
I would not willingly chain another being, force them into bondage.
What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?
I have had a full and wonder-filled life. How can one pick one thing? I remember once, after a long sea voyage, I had a day to spend in Aranam, with little money. I sat on a stone wall, watching an old man paint local landmarks. He would sell the paintings to passers by for a few coins. After a few hours, he bought a bottle of cheap grog and offered me a cup. We drank together for a time, before he returned to painting. We never spoke. We didn’t need to. That was a good day.
The worst thing? I will say only this. What happened at Tranth was well deserved. I don’t care what you’ve heard.
The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me?
I have made a fool of myself too many times to count. Traveling in these lands, looking as I do, with this accent...I have worked very hard to not let it bother me, the laughter of others.
What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?
What is your current goal?
I have not been far beyond the Northern Mountains, into the lands of the Yaro. Perhaps I shall travel there.
A writer must read the work of others to perfect the craft, learn what works and see mistaks other writers have made. Because of this, I embark on a mission to REVIEW almost everything I read. Go an do likewise. It's not too hard and your author will love you forever, even if your review isn't stellar! Here's mine of Monkey's Luck by Bonnie Milani
MONKEY'S LUCK REVIEW
Monkey’s Luck starts in the middle of battle and the action never lets go. Author Bonnie Milani writes splendid battle scenes and scenes of smaller group combat that the reader can truly visualize and never skimps on character building. I particularly liked the Sprite class character Roy ‘s dual nature.
Most of the characters kept me guessing and wondering how much their altered DNA contributed to their personalities. I usually don’t like first-person point of view, but Milani handled the writing so effectively I didn’t really notice it. It certainly didn’t hinder the flow of the story.
For me, this story is 4.5 stars only because it took me quite a few chapters to discover exactly what was going on in the story. I discovered later, after reading other reviews, that this was the third novel in a larger “Homeworld” series. I feel that certain hints might have been placed earlier about the nature of the war, the races involved, and more about the genetics of the characters without writing long backstory. All in all, it makes me curious enough to read the first two novels in the series.If you like a fast-paced space opera with characters you’ll grow to love, read all the Homeworld series.
Tallis Steelyard tells us about Jim Webster
Jim, yes he's an author apparently. Well he writes enough. Have you noticed how a poet can in a few well chosen words sum up what a novelist takes three volumes and half a million words to accomplish? But still Jim writes all sorts of stuff. He's got both SF and Fantasy novels published as well as quite a few novellas. The novels are in paperback and in spite of what Amazon says, they're not out of print. Obviously there are collections of my anecdotes, but he's also got various stories set in the great city of Port Naain, where various mysteries are solved. Oh yes and he's got a couple of collections stories from what he fondly thinks of as real life. Tales of sheep, Border Collies, quad bikes, and the whole miscellany of modern rural life.
___ Tallis's Blog is at
my Amazon page is at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/ My blog (which isn't literary and is largely about sheep, quadbikes, life and whatever) is at
More next week on Tallis Steelyard!
Ariel Marie 6-8-18
https://www.amazon.com/Within-Invisible-Pentacle-Paul-White/dp/1720987653/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Paul White 6-10-18
Kali Willows 6-12-18
https://www.amazon.com/Three-Wishes- Contemporary-Romance-Sisters-ebook/dp/B07CGFGMNG/ref=la_B00V041ET6_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528737681&sr=1-6 Mary J. Williams 6-25-18
What do we have coming Up for
July 2, AKA Independence Day 2018? July 2 NATIONAL ANISETTE DAY_Tallis Steelyard’s blog page + Derek Borne
Me and the Spirit World
July 9 NATIONAL SUGAR COOKIE DAY Derek Borne‘s Devon & Brett + Ellis Knox Release information on Heart of the Lotus
July 16 NATIONAL GET OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE DAY Ellis Knox‘ Talysse + Jacqueline Simonds "Retired Writer in the sun" Challenges of writing after age 65
July 23 NATIONAL VANILLA ICE CREAM DAY Jacqueline Saimonds‘ Ava More of my writing updates! And as always, YOUR highlights and releases as either I find them or you send them to me. Bits of what I'm reading. Step Right up...Se a theme you like or that is featured in your writing (example - fort July 9 you have an unbeatable Sugar Cookie recipe or for July 16 you have an anecdote of how you got out of a "doghouse"... send it to me with any pictures by Sunday.
Get your OWN name in lights!