Friday, November 30, 2012

Flash Friday #19: The Passing of Aegypt

The Passing of Aegypt


Lazette Gifford



The Queen's Barge drifted down the undulating river, the soft rustle of reeds whispering along the shore, punctuated occasionally by the sound of a bird taking to wing or the last calls of the peasants working the fields.  After nine long months of journey, the craft finally drew closer to the delta. Already, the green along the riverbanks had begun to spread wider as the stark ecru hills and enveloping desert drew back.


Amarante watched the peasants gather at the edges of the dykes as the great floating mansion with its gilt roof and flying pendants, drifted by.  Smaller boats swarmed in and around the craft, like hatchlings beside a mother duck.  Some held the soldiers of the northern barbarians, looking hot and ungainly in the unremitting sun.  No few of those barbarians had mocked the river at the start of the journey, and swam along the boats in the hot afternoons.  But they learned Sobek still took his tithe. The Romans had left a few libations of their own at the Kom Ombo temple, and learned to be wary of the crocodiles.


They had learned, in fact, to be wary of much in the long journey from one end of the land to another, and back again.  This was Aegypt:  She swallowed whole armies and she seduced even her conquerors.  These Romans had learned to respect the land of Pharaoh, if not to love it.


They had watched in awe at New Years, when the travelers spent fourteen days at the great Festival of the Beautiful Embrace as the Goddess Hathor traveled upstream to meet with the God Horus at Edfu.  Their Roman General and her Greek Queen had made a point of equating themselves with the God and Goddess.  Sothis had risen bright in the sky, a harbinger of another good year, or so the Priests said, though Amarante had seen how even their eyes looked to the Romans with worry.


She didn't like to watch the uncouth barbarians.  They too often mistook culture for weakness, and flouted their ill manners and coarseness at every turn, as if it made them superior.  However, in some of the other craft she could see the glitter of blue lapis collars, and the fine woven schenti wrapped around narrow waists, belted with gold and lapis.  Beautiful young men of Egypt -- she would miss watching them ply their boats along side the Queen's Barge.  They had given her hours of entertainment during the long voyage when she'd had precious little else to do.


The Queen, who called Amarante  'the pretty girl with the voice of a goddess,' hadn't wanted poems and stories read to her on this long voyage.  She had other entertainments that kept her late into the night, she and her barbarian lover.  But Amarante had already heard that the Roman would leave when they returned to Alexandria. And the Queen would not go with him.  Some said she already held his child within her womb, a link that would forever tie Aegypt to Rome.


The fleet would, rumor said, anchor at Ankh-tawy tonight, a city nearly as large as Alexandria itself.  The trip, though long and bothersome in many ways, had been peaceful compared to life in the capital with all its intrigues, fears, and old hatreds.  While the others gathered at the bow to watch for the white walls and the great statues, she stared across at the last of Sakarra, the great ancient demesne of the dead.  Giant statues lay fallen from their pedestals, and the sands had swept away the faces of some, leaving them blind and voiceless.  She wanted to hear them whisper now, and saythat all would be well.


But they had fallen before Alexander and Ptolemy ever set food in this land.  Looking at them, she knew everything would fall, and she shivered in the warm night.  With little else to do on this journey, Amarante had spent most of her time watching the riverbanks, and imagining the life there... or not imaging so much as remembering.  Her parents were Levite slaves in Alexandria.  She had not seen them since the day her father had given her the last blessing of his god.  "Be well, Amaris," he'd said.  "Be wise."


The Egyptian priest had taken her to the temple of Isis, where they taught her to read and write, and to speak well.  Amessis, they called her there, an Egyptian name.  But the Greek Queen had seen her, taken her away to Alexandria, and called her by yet another name in her own tongue.  Amaris, Amessis, Amarante: Sometimes she wondered what the Romans would call her--


No.  It would not happen.  But even as she thought it, she looked to the western desert -- the land of the dead -- and saw a Sacred Ibis fly into the setting sun.  Footsteps came again a moment later, and she slipped back once more, knowing the sound of that heavy tread.  She bowed her head as Caesar went by.


Some said that Cleopatra had seduced the Roman General. Some even said she had bewitched him... but Amarante knew the truth. They were both in love, though not with each other. They loved the power the other each represented; He was the new Horus, powerful and mighty, and she Osiris, a god going down to the world of the dead.  And Ama knew, as the cupbearer let Caesar into the queen's rooms, that Rome would ravish Egypt tonight.


The sun drifted into the netherworld, and Amarante turned away.


The End
932 words
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Flash Friday 18: Drabble # 4

Heat rippled across the landscape like water.  She stretched in the dead tree, sunlight burning against her scales and scattering rainbow reflections.  She dreamed of rain. 

Between the tree and a single egg, she horded the last pomegranate, imagining the taste of the seeds.  No others nested here where once hundreds came, and then dozens, then only her sister... and now just her.   

So hot.   

So alone. 

Beneath her patient fingers the egg cracked; a tiny green head appeared, golden shell still attached.  Sea-blue eyes blinked.  The dragon broke open the pomegranate and shared the feast with her beloved daughter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flash Friday # 17 -- Drabble # 3

The Cup

"This?  This is the best you have?"  Marisa bent down and picked up the cup, glued together from a dozen pieces.  "We can't go to the investors with this!"

"Let me tell you a story," Philip said looking up from the table cluttered with broken pottery.

"A short one."

"Big city.  Big bomb.  Everything destroyed to ash.  Nothing found in five hundred years until now."

Marisa looked the cup over again; I don't do mornings written in the old language on the side.  She gently sat it back down on the table before her brother.

"Good work," she said softly.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The State of the Industry: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour #17

Okay, we all know the publishing industry has been going through drastic changes these last few years. When I first started publishing on line in 1998, people were shocked to learn there were even places you could find stories to read on the computer. Never mind ebook readers and the entire change they've brought about a few years later. We are in a whole new world for publishers, authors and readers.

I love books. I adore books. But I also think books are about the words and not the package they come in. That doesn't mean I don't love a wonderful print book and some of my favorites are very expensive hard bounds, each of which are as much a work of art as a book to read. However, in the end, it is all about the words. Ebooks open up the possibility of reading books publishers have decided won't sell enough to be viable for them. Since my taste in books is rarely in line with what is on the shelves, that's not so bad. The revolution means choice. It also means the reader has gained a significant amount of control that used to be in the hands of the editors. They get to choose the books to read.

My husband, who is a die hard print person, recently picked up a bunch of Matt Helm ebooks just to read for the fun of it, and went through about 15 of them. Then, having gotten home, he was able to hit his paperback versions for a few more. He admitted to me he was having more trouble reading them in print than on the ebook. The ebook was far easier to handle, he loves the change in text size and the ease for changing pages. He could take a dozen books with him, and since these read very quickly, he didn't have to worry about running out.

This was something I never expected to hear from him. It was something I never expected to feel myself, but there it is -- I love ebooks. I still buy print, though. I don't care what package the story comes in as long as I enjoy what I read.

Ebooks are, obviously, the biggest change in the publishing world, both in their existence and the fact that anyone can publish one. This is not, contrary to a lot of lamentations, the end of civilization. It's not even the end of good books, despite all the cries to the contrary.

Go back and look at the other two big revolutions in book production and see what people were saying. The first came with the printing press; people deplored the replacement of handwritten manuscripts and how it was lowering the quality and making the books, and the printing of them, available to anyone rather than the elite. The second time this hue and cry of disaster arose was when paperbacks started hitting the market at low prices, rather than the expensive hard bounds, and the critics cried again about lower quality and the fall of civilization because they were making books available to anyone and the books were not what 'they' wanted to read. Science fiction? Pulp mysteries? It's the end of the world.

It's not. The pulp age of paperbacks presented a lot of books that were not great. We still managed to survive their publications. It was, however, also an age of daring and revolution in the writing world because it was viable, price wise, to try something new.

This is what we are going through now. I wince every time I see someone saying we need more gatekeepers to keep the poor material from publication. You can be your own gatekeeper. You are not required to read anything you don't think is up to your standards. If you want to make an impact, stop complaining about all the bad stuff, which will mostly disappear anyway, and start pointing out the material (print, ebook, whatever) that you think is worth reading. Be a force for improvement in the world of books.

The state of the industry is this: Right now, we are all the ones in charge. We can make the difference just in what we support and what we write. If you are an Indie author, then it is an exciting, heady time, but don't think the reader will mistake lazy writing for style. This isn't a time when anything goes and all will be accepted. You have authors vying for reader attention at every turn and you have to write a better book than most of them to get your readers. Honestly, that's not often as hard as it may sound because many, many Indie Authors don't take the time they should to produce a good book, which is more than a first draft. Be better than they are and learn grammar and all the rest of editing, and you'll be a step ahead of the others. Find your audience and even if it is a small group, cherish them. These people like your writing. That's a wondrous gift, you know.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Friday, November 09, 2012

Flash Friday # 16 -- Drabble # 2


Arletta moved quiet as a mouse, listening to the soft whisper of voices elsewhere in the house.  A thief by trade, she held the stolen box of magic tightly and barely paused as she stepped into the mirror.  Colors swirled as the world changed.

She walked.  Count the steps, Michel had said.  One hundred steps for one hundred days.  She had practiced but it wasn't the same as being here. 

Don't lose count!

She stopped.  "Michel!"

He found her, took the box, and led her to safety.   One hundred days before the demons came.  They could stop them this time.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Flash Friday #15: Drabble # 1

Drabbles are stories of exactly 100 words.  I'll have a few of these to post during the NaNo month while I go crazy with other work!

He bent close, doing the embroidery on the collar and lapel.  The computer could have done better, but it wouldn't have meant anything to the machine. 

This meant something to Ogden. 

"Hurry, old man!" 

"Leave him be.  He's the last now.  Leave him alone." 

Very much alone, the last born on Earth before the journey and the last to remember walking on any world. He couldn't be one of them, the generations born to the ship.  They couldn't understand.  Captain Hoglin had been the other one. They'd talked. 

Never again. 

He finished a last little flower; a memory of home.