Gail Rubin, a death services planner, radio host and leader of the Albuquerque chapter of Death Café runs a site called A Good Goodbye – Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She says “Funerals are the party no one wants to plan.”
It’s appropriate, she says, that Create a Great Funeral Day comes right before Halloween and the Day of the Dead. “Before ghosts can go a-haunting and spirits of the deceased can be celebrated, someone’s gotta die.”
As morbid as it might seem, it's something we will eventually do, so perhaps it's a good idea to at least talk about our wished with our next of kin. Here is an abstract of a great article I found on the subject. The full article is at this address.
This holiday was originated by Stephanie West Allen in 2000 after her mother-in-law died, leaving no instructions for her funeral. Watching her husband struggle to create a meaningful service inspired Allen to write Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook to encourage people to pre-plan their funerals and spare their families that stress.
This book is invaluable in addressing the amount of work involved in organizing a funeral. Many people are unaware of the processes required, including collection, transfer, preparation, choice of cremation or burial, plot, niche or home storage and which type of urn goes with your decor.
Boomers are Doing it for Themselves
Allen says attitudes are changing, her book, once not too popular, is getting less resistance and its readership is growing. Why? “The boomers are doing it. The boomers are the do-it-yourselfers. They did their own weddings, they’re going to do their own funerals.”
Boomers: Is the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) pandering to you when its site sports a YouTube link to Blue Öyster Cult’s 1976 song, Don’t Fear the Reaper? Per ICCFA, the song’s message is that love endures beyond the grave despite the best efforts of the Grim Reaper, a personification of death from European folklore.
Pressing the Flesh
38% of so-called Millennials and 32% of Gen-Xers have tattoos. So what happens to that tattoo when you die? When you join the National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA), you’ll have peace of mind knowing your tattoo will be harvested from your body within sixty hours of your death and treated with a proprietary blend of chemicals which halts decomposition.
Yes, this is a real tattoo – frame not included.
According to NAPSA, this preservation process permanently alters the human canvas, or “raw art.” Then the finished piece, which is technically no longer skin and therefore not creepy at all, will be shipped to your lucky loved one. They won’t frame it for you, though. Good luck getting that mounted at your local frame shop.
If you’d like someone special to leave his or her tats to you after passing but don’t know how to broach the subject of postmortem hide removal, say it with a NAPSA gift certificate. No faces or genitalia, though. They have standards.
Don’t wait another day to create a great funeral for yourself. Remember, if you build it, they will come. (Have we mentioned paid mourners? Can’t hurt!) Now get out there and have fun!
If the previous article seems a bit morbid, recall that death has fascinated we mortals as far back as - well as far back as our humanity. The way the dead were handled in Ancient Egypt became an art form and a science combined with a belief in spirit.
Much of the background story in Children of Stone deals with death. We meet Marai still mourning the death of his wife after many years. Once in the city of the king, Marai is confronted with death rituals and parts of ceremony which became the Pyramid Texts. (Or Cliffs Notes for what to say in the Afterlife)
When the king dies, we read of the preparations of his body for funeral and burial. Here's an abstract of a good article on Egyptian Burial Customs. The full article can be found at this address:
Eternity was believed to be the destination of all Egyptians. They didn't feel they would be sitting on clouds plucking harps. They believed they would live in death the way they had lived in life. The afterlife for the ancient Egyptians was neither "up" or "down". It was "The Field of Reeds" or essentially across the swamp - a reflection.
According to Herodotus (484-425/413 BCE), the Egyptian rites concerning burial were very dramatic in mourning the dead even though it was hoped that the deceased would find bliss in an eternal land beyond the grave. He wrote:
"As regards mourning and funerals, when a distinguished man dies, all the women of the household plaster their heads and faces with mud, then, leaving the body indoors, perambulate the town with the dead man’s relatives, their dresses fastened with a girdle, and beat their bared breasts. The men too, for their part, follow the same procedure, wearing a girdle and beating themselves like the women. The ceremony over, they take the body to be mummified."
Mummification was practiced in Egypt because the people believed a preserved body left on earth was needed for a soul to have eternal life.
The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts: the Khat was the physical body; the Ka one’s double-form; the Ba a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens; Shuyet was the shadow self; Akh the immortal, transformed self, Sahu and Sechem were aspects of the Akh; Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil; Ren was one’s secret name. The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and so the body had to be preserved as intact as possible.
The key ingredient in the mummification was natron, or netjry, divine salt. It is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium sulphate and sodium chloride that occurs naturally in Egypt, most commonly in the Wadi Natrun some sixty four kilometres northwest of Cairo. It has desiccating and defatting properties and was the preferred desiccant.
The body of the deceased, in the most expensive type of burial, was laid out on a table and the brain removed via the nostrils with an iron hook, and what cannot be reached with the hook was washed out with drugs; next the flank is opened with a flint knife and the whole contents of the abdomen removed; the cavity was then thoroughly cleaned and washed out, first with palm wine and again with an infusion of ground spices.
After that it was filled with pure myrrh, cassia, and every other aromatic substance, except frankincense, and sewn up again, after which the body was placed in natron, covered entirely over for seventy days – never longer.
When this period was over, the body is washed and then wrapped from head to foot in linen cut into strips and smeared on the underside with gum, which is commonly used by the Egyptians instead of glue. The organs were placed in canopic jars to be sealed in the tomb. Only the heart was left inside the body as it was thought to contain the Ab aspect of the soul.
Even the poorest Egyptian was given some kind of ceremony as it was thought that, if the deceased were not properly buried, the soul would return in the form of a ghost to haunt the living.
Provisioning the tomb, of course, relied upon one’s personal wealth and, among the artifacts included were Shabti Dolls. In life, the Egyptians were called upon to donate a certain amount of their time every year to public building projects. If one were ill, or could not afford the time, one could send a replacement worker. One could only do this once in a year or else face punishment for avoidance of civic duty. In death, it was thought, people would still have to perform this same sort of service (as the afterlife was simply a continuation of the earthly one) and so Shabti Dolls were placed in the tomb to serve as one’s replacement worker when called upon by the god Osiris for service. The more Shabti Dolls found in a tomb, the greater the wealth of the one buried there.
As on earth, each Shabti could only be used once as a replacement and so more dolls were to be desired than less and this demand created an industry dedicated to their creation.
Once the corpse had been mummified and the tomb prepared, the funeral was held in which the life of the deceased was honored and the loss mourned.
Even if the deceased had been popular, with no shortage of mourners, the funeral procession and burial was accompanied by Kites of Nephthys (always women) who were paid to lament loudly throughout the proceedings. They sang The Lamentation of Isis and Nephthys, which originated in the myth of the two sisters weeping over the death of Osiris, and were supposed to inspire others at the funeral to a show of emotion. As in other ancient cultures, remembrance of the dead ensured their continued existence in the afterlife and a great showing of grief at a funeral was thought to have echoes in the Hall of Truth (also known as The Hall of Osiris) where the soul of the departed was heading.
From the Old Kingdom Period on, the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony was performed either before the funeral procession or just prior to placing the mummy in the tomb. This ceremony again underscores the importance of the physical body in that it was conducted in order to reanimate the corpse for continued use by the soul. A priest would recite spells as he used a ceremonial blade to touch the mouth of the corpse (so it could again breathe, eat, and drink) and the arms and legs so it could move about in the tomb. Once the body was laid to rest and the tomb sealed, other spells and prayers, such as The Litany of Osiris (or, in the case of a pharaoh, the spells known as The Pyramid Texts) were recited and the deceased was then left to begin the journey to the afterlife.
Two weeks ago I interviewed author Ed Buatois and learned of his writing endeavors. This week Ed has furnished his Interview with his character. She's a perfect match for the season!
Go ahead and introduce yourself.
My name’s Eyrtena, no last name.
How would you describe yourself?
Oh, I don’t know, I think I’m just like any other girl. I like to run, which is good because I used to love evenings curled up on the couch with Netflix and Entenmann’s. I’m addicted to trashy romance novels… I wouldn’t be surprised if there were fifty of them buried like Hope diamonds in the pile I kept of beauty magazines next to my bed.
Beauty magazines? If you don’t mind my saying, you don’t seem to need them.
Thank you. As a Succubus, it kind of goes with the territory. But it’s fun to experiment with different looks, especially with my hair, with which I’m in open warfare half of the time.
You’re a Succubus? That’s a kind of vampire, isn’t it? Do you remember your former life as a human?
A kind of vampire, I suppose, but we feed on sex rather than blood. And I was never human; I am a demon. Seven years ago I came into this body from Hell, which I have no memory of, thank Lucifer.
So you feed on intimacy… are you capable of relationships? Is there anyone important to you?
I don’t really like to talk about that.
Are you sure you can’t indulge us with a few words?
Well, we’re not supposed to get close to humans, it’s punished severely. I’d only lived among them for a year when I met David, my upstairs neighbor. We met at the mailboxes in my building and he was so easy to talk to. I didn’t realize how much I cared about him until a friend of mine claimed his soul to teach me a lesson and then David was gone. I still haven’t gotten over it.
So your kind do love.
No, that’s the point. We don’t. How can demons love? I can’t — shouldn’t — but, I don’t know what else… I mean, when my other hunger first roused, it roused with a vengeance, and I was ravenous! The taste of a good soul is as glorious as the taste of a bad one is vile, and every soul I took was sweeter than the last. But it wasn’t enough. I thought I was doing something wrong… it was a hole in me that never filled, until I met David. It’s a sickness. I wish I didn’t have it.
You’re right, that doesn’t sound very demon-like. Are you sure that’s what you are?
Lucifer gave us life through Lilith our mother, and in return we must give tribute every time we feed…. we devour souls, take our sustenance, then send the rest down for him.
Hm, you truly believe that? It sounds more like you read it off the back of a Satanic Church bulletin.
A Satanic Church bulletin? <laughs> That’s funny.
Thank you. But I’m curious, I have a feeling there’s more you’re not saying.
Okay, you caught me. I’ll tell you it never occurred to me to question it, but after David’s death I had to go into exile, and found myself living with some “rogue” Succubi who don’t give tribute at all. Some of them don’t even believe Lucifer exists. That terrifies me.
What terrifies you? Are you afraid Lucifer’s saving up for a massive punishment?
No, that’s not it.
Well, what if they’re right? If there is no Lucifer, then we're not his children, and if that's true, then what are we? I’m certainly not human. Where did I come from? If I'm not a demon, then what am I?
Hm, I can see where that would be very unsettling.
You’re saying you’re in exile over your relationship with David, but I thought your friend already ‘taught you a lesson’ about that by killing him. Wasn’t that enough?
It might have been, until I threw her off her own balcony.
Oh, my, that would do it. Did she survive?
She lived. We heal from anything that doesn’t kill us, so she’s probably fine by now.
Since she’s okay, is there any forgiveness, any way back?
No, I attacked another Succubus over a human. They don’t forgive that. I’m actively being hunted by the Night Shadows — the enforcers. If I’m caught, it means death and banishment back to Hell. Given my natural lifespan is forever, it’s forever I’ll have to run. So how hard can that be?
In my upcoming Novel Heart of the Lotus, Book 4 of Children of Stone, I refer to the shabti and their function as servants of the dead king. Menkaure's daughter, Khentkawes, has pushed everyone who might help her out of the way and is dealing with her grief by sorting the grave goods. This is a shortened version. The Great One of Five Count Prince Hordjedtef is lurking outside the door. She is dealing with all the preparations, exhaustion, and the chance that the old man is casting spells on her so he can control her future actions.
Excerpts from Heart of the Lotus – "The Goddess Doll"
“I do see you out there, Your Highness,” she reluctantly began, but gained speed and confidence as she addressed him. “When Father was alive, you may as well have lived here, but you do not now. Your wisdom and your wiles helped you place yourself above royal physician and even my father’s vizier, but my brother and I will have no such need of you, Great One of Five.” She grumbled, attempting to re-focus on her task of sorting and blessing her father’s things. “Do you not have a home to return to?”
Khentie knew he did, but she added the snipe at the elder so she would sound imperious.
Counting the days until you leave us for Nekhen and your overdue retirement. I was afraid of you when I was a girl, but after my sister died…and with the way you made your beast of a grandson seem like an equal victim in her death and not the cause, I have come to despise you.
Khentie didn’t want another physician, or for the old man to console or counsel her. This morning she perched on the large floor cushion near the dais where her father’s bed had been. She used the overseeing of her father’s burial goods as a time of healing reflection.
With a stub of red chalk pinched in her fingertips, she marked down each item on a tablet, then whispered: “Go with the grace of the gods. Ever serve him splendidly.” Then she placed each item in one of the many baskets which would be carried to her father’s pyr akh and sealed with him for his afterlife journey.
I should have grown stronger by this time, she reflected. It’s been over a month since he died and I am no more level than the first day I heard of it. She recalled how she had collapsed in a cold faint when Wse had brought her into this room to observe her father’s body stretched in preliminary repose on his bed. Several more times the next few days, I fainted and could not take food for nearly a week.
She removed the shabti from the baskets where she had placed them the evening before and inspected them one last time.
These are perfect! They’re so sweet and so honored to serve Father through all eternity. She carefully wrapped the little ceramic dolls in the finest linen, then lovingly returned them to the baskets.
I need to rest some more or I will join him soon, she sighed, I don’t think he’ll want to see me so quickly. Yesterday my dear brother found me asleep, right here on his floor. Told me I never stirred while he carried me to the women’s suite. He’s been aching too, and going without sleep; morning ‘til dark supervising the building and fretting it won’t be done in time. This is killing both of us! *****
In the second scene, after the Great One leaves. Then a servant makes an odd discovery. It seems the king had a special doll made to remind him of someone.
***** Khentie shrugged, and when she knew he was out of earshot, murmured: “Well, thank the gods that’s done.” She rose from her cushion to pull a basket from a group of four wax sealed containers which had been delivered to her last night.
Items delivered to herself or to any high-ranking noble, were always sealed against treachery. Only three of the four baskets were sealed. One had been opened. He didn’t. He wouldn’t dare! She froze as she picked out the shuffling step of the old man accompanied by his attendants and the sound of his canes tapping on the brick as they made their way across the courtyard. Hoping he wouldn’t see her, she crept out to the balcony, but Count Hordjedtef turned to look up at her, a smart twinkle in his eye. Did he just wink? A spell? Khentie grabbed the sycamore amulet around her neck and rubbed the image. Goddess Hetahr. She felt an energy wave passing around her throat and hand as his glance turned away. He passed through the gate at the main entrance, to wait in the shade for his chair and bearers to arrive. No. She felt her hand where his peculiar leather wrist brace had touched it. It’s a serpent, a scorpion. A fever powder. He’s put something in that basket; painted dart poison on the handle. Her heart beat so fast that she grew nauseous.
Khentie put her head in her hand for a moment, then rushed to the corner of the room to fetch a privy bowl. When she had used it and calmed her fit of fright enough to appear partially composed, she emerged and asked a guard at the lower step to fetch Mya, then fled back to the basin.
In a moment, she raised her eyes to see who entered and mopped her mouth.
“Your Majesty…” the girl bowed with wide startled eyes when the guard released her at the door. “How may I serve? Shall I get a physician, Your Majesty?”
“Oh. No, little one.” Khentie paused, hesitant because she had never asked the girl to potentially risk her life in the two years she had served her. She had been an ordinary princess then, and it had never seemed important to have unusual things checked or tasted by an attendant. “This basket was closed, but now it’s unsealed and I didn’t do it. I need…”
The girl instantly went to her knees. Her expression was one of hopelessness.
“I know, I know, Mya…” Khentie knelt and impulsively embraced the girl who was little more than a child. “Baby one, let us both pray to Goddess Selket against bites and stings.” she whispered and with trembling hands waved a simple gesture over the basket and their own throats.
"That our throats stay open and do not tighten with a sting
That our skin does not swell or blister with a fiery bite."
Reassured, the girl took the privy basin, set it to one side and peeled back the disrupted lid.“Oooh look!” she sighed. It’s Big King’s doll.” The girl sadly lifted another shabti doll and handed it to her mistress.
Khentie took it, but shrieked and dropped it into her lap. It was a white onyx statuette with a beautiful braided dark wig of real hair already in place. Its painted eyes were wide and golden and a necklace made of tiny lapis beads and pearls hung on its neck. It was an Ashera figure that looked so much like the Lady Naibe who had loved all the men in her life, without hesitation or motive. The moment she had touched the doll, it had seemed to relax in her hand, smile and even wink. Khentie fell forward onto the heap of burial goods, caressing the little doll and weeping bitterly.
It's Alternate History, as in "What if...?"
The next person I'm presenting is another Historical Fantasy author, Brent A. Harris.
1. Who are you as a person? (brief bio paragraph)
Brent A Harris is a Sidewise Award nominated author of alternate history. He also writes science fiction, horror, and fantasy. He resides in Southern California, where he's become convinced that Joshua trees are in fact, real trees. When not writing, he focuses on his family, shuttling children around as a stay-at-home dad.
2. How long have you been a writer?
As early as I can remember, I’ve written stories. Dinosaurs and historic figures filled the pages of my first stories. Not much has changed since.
3. Are you Traditionally or Indie published? If not yet, what are you considering?
A Time of Need is traditionally published through Insomnia Publishing. However, they are a small, Indie Press, which means I face some of the same challenges in marketing and publicity that self-published authors tackle.
4. What writers inspired you? Favorite Authors?
I read so much as a kid. Still do. I suppose that’s why I write. I assumed it was a natural thing to do. All my favorite people did it. Bradbury, Turtledove, Crichton, Clancy, GRRM, Phillip K. Dick, Ward Moore, and all writers of the pulp SF and comic books I devoured—to this day. I love escaping into their world of words.
5. What is your book/series about (elevator speech or quick tweet post)
A Time of Need is Alternate History – George Washington fights alongside the British against Continental Forces marshaled under Benedict Arnold. American History is about to change.
6. What is the setting and genre?
A Time of Need takes place during the American War for Independence. Decades before that, however, history changed, resulting in a different world we know today. Because it’s a different world, alternate history is speculative fiction, often umbrella’d under Science-Fiction and Fantasy. Though there are no dragons and spaceships in my book.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
I liked writing and hearing other people talk about Martin Stevens, a militia soldier swept into the events. As Washington and Arnold collide, his world his tossed upside-down, and he must forge his own path and decide his own loyalties.
8. What character is most like you?
I’d say Washington, not because I am like him, but I aspire to be like him. Even though he is wearing a redcoat and fighting for America’s enemy, it doesn’t change his self-taught and earned noble-ness, his chivalry, and his stoicism. As an author, it took a lot to throw at him to crack that fortitude. And eventually, we see he’s human too. I’m very much human and full of flaws.
9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
While flight is great, it’s not so good if you also don’t have invulnerability too. The bug guts on my windshield can attest to that. I’d much rather have a power that increased my productivity. Something to help me think and overcome writer’s block – like where to take a story next. You can call
10. Would you say your book has a message or underlying theme? What is it?
Alternate history is meaningful to me because it shows us just how much every choice we make matters. As a writer, that’s all I’ve set out to do: write an entertaining book, but one that you might walk away from reflecting on how small choices can change everything.
11. How are you marketing your book?
I’m talking to wonderful people like you in blog tours/posts. I have an author signing at Space Cowboy in my home town. Next month, I’ll be traveling to Tucson for a comic-con showing and later, I’ll be doing a panel in LA at an Indie bookshop, Pipe and Thimble.
12. Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Certainly not the fictional versions of the historical characters I’ve created. I’d just meet people alive now, people who’ve inspired me or helped me.
13. A wonderful thing has happened! Hollywood wants to make a movie of your book! You get to pick the actors & actresses. You want [Seriously, I’ll let the Casting Directors do this. Really. But for fun, I’d cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Benedict Arnold. Maybe John Barrowman. No idea for Washington.] for your lead characters.
14. What music do you hear (what songs) remind you of your story?
Lindsey Stirling. She’s not period appropriate, of course, but I did so much of the writing for this book while being inspired by her music. It’s sort of melded together now.
15. What Favorite foods
Tacos. Chimichangas. Pizza. Oddly enough, I don’t like burgers too much unless I grill them myself.
16. What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: My kids.
Cry: My Kids
Usually simultaneously, like when they used to get paste stuck in their hair.
17. What do you want written on your head stone and why?
“He Still Didn’t Tell Us Where the Gold Was Buried”
18. Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I wish. Writing disallows the time for hobbies. When I get a chance, I like to do a bit of gaming: Pandemic, Magic, Heroclix, and DC Deckbuilders. Stuff like that.
19. What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love NBC’s Timeless and the whole DC TV-Universe of Legends, Supergirl, Flash, and Arrow. I don’t get a whole lot of time to watch tv, but I watch these shows when I can.
20. If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Driven a nuclear submarine. Seriously. I went to college to do just that. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Perhaps, in an alternate universe...
21. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the follow-up to A Time of Need.
22. What future plans do you have in writing?
I’m working on several short stories, and fleshing out a few ideas for larger works. I’d like to work on straight SF to change pace a little.
23. What links or website do you have? List them below. A Time of Need Brent A. Harris
Available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon
My author website will funnel you wherever you’d like to go to discover more about me and my writing. Swing by www.brentaharris.com
Direct to Facebook is www.facebook.com/authorbrentaharris
and my Twitter handle is @BrentaHarris1
You've been busy, writers.
In October plenty of our friends and followers had new works published. Here's what I have!
Bubba Tails: From the Puppy Nursery at the Seeing Eye (Tales from King Campbell Book 1) Kindle Edition by Patty Fletcher (Author), King Campbell (Author), Sarah McAlpine (Illustrator), & 1 more
Different, Not Damaged Kindle Edition by Andy Peloquinhttps://www.amazon.com/Different-Not-Damaged-Andy-Peloquin-ebook/dp/B076DJKBX8/ref=la_B00J9008MC_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1508686497&sr=1-2 10/27/17
What a month it's been! I was even late picking the Party Hat Winner for the most participating & sharing blog subscriber. It was Joe Pranitis and he chose a free copy of Voices in Crystal Congratulations Joe! Next month the drawing will be on November 20 right in the middle of NaNoWriMo
You know what they say now... (Keep on Reading, Writing, Sharing, and Reviewing)