[sticky post]In The Beginning
wukhet
At the end of August, I heard about a TV series that was canceled before it ever aired, called "Hieroglyph". It was to be set in pharaonic Egypt, with a thief being used by the Pharaoh as some sort of detective or agent or something.

The concept excited me. I loved ancient Egypt and had studied - in an amateurish way - its history. I managed to finagle some of the ancient yeast from some bread dug up at an archeological site and still have that starter (I named it Onuri-Ufa - but that's another tale!). I learned about the cooking of the region - because I like to cook.

But my involvement pretty much ended with making parchment and baking bread and cooking food from the different eras (or Kingdoms) of Egypt.

Until I saw the news about this canceled-before-it-was-born TV series.

And my imagination was fired.

See, I read Barry Hughart's Number Ten Ox trilogy and loved, loved, loved it. I especially loved Master Li.

Imagine an Egyptian Master Li...

Pharaohs and Egyptian nobility would be scarce. In MY story, it would be about the average people, facing the various invasions and incursions in Egypt. I did some research, spoke to my Egyptologist friend (and I'll speak to her lots more), and decided the best era would be the era of the invasion of the Sea Peoples. I thought at first I'd choose Hatshepsut's era, but really, that was a peaceful time and not lots of story materials there.

But the beginning of the invasions of the Sea Peoples seemed a good time. Most of the Middle Kingdom seems suitable, I just have to narrow it down to a nice 50 year segment.

In doing research, I moved away from a Barry Hughart style story (the myths and tales of Egypt are nothing like that of China) and moved more towards a Downton Abbey type story. That era of Egypt is remarkably like the end of the Victorian Era, with WWI looming, and the lessening of the feudal structure of society.

So, researching the eras of the Ramesses pharaohs and Seti will bring together the lives on an Egyptian Nome, the Nomarch, his staff and servants, the villages, farms, and vineyards. The history of the times will bring the characters and stories, and this blog is about that journey, about the research and the creation of a story I'm tentatively calling "Khemet".

Some of my research will appear here, and maybe even story snippets, scenes, vignettes, character sketches, background materials.

It should be fun!

So, Rearch is Mostly Done
wukhet
And now it's time to tweak those extended outline novels into juicy, detailed stories.

And it's time to start looking at proper titles.

Khemet was kind of an over-reach - the stories aren't about the entire country, nor about the pharaohs. It's about the ruler of a sepat anad the people in it, their every day lives and the trials and tribulations and things that happen. Those lives are affected by pharaonic decrees and even by the pharaoh traveling the Nile from time to time, but the pharaoh is never actually "on stage", just the consequences and results of his actions.

I don't know if Pharaoh Pepi II will ever make a direct appearance. His advisor and his Voice and one or more of his scribes might appear, but not him personally.

Possible names:

Tentyra - after the sepat where this all takes place.
Ptahmose - after the primary character

Goals and Conflicts
wukhet
Ptahmose's goals/conflicts: leaving home, getting a job, getting married, getting promotions, making a friend of his assigned mentor, making an enemy of the gate guard, illness, making enemies of a group of fishers, being assigned to scribe for the captain of Neferkhamun's captain, creating fiction, saving up for his Forever Mansion and grave goods, designing his Forever Mansion, several intrigues concerning tax evasion, temple corruption, theft, invasion, his kids, his grand kids.

These goals and conflicts have been mapped out over a series of 8 books, and form only a small portion of the story, because Ptahmose himself is, despite the pre-eminence he takes in the story, is not an important person historically or outside his small sphere of influence.

I have also mapped out Neferkhamun and Neferptah's goals and conflicts, which, being more important people, comprises more sweeping goals and conflicts. Where Ptahmose participates in some of these conflicts, the Nefers sometimes create those conflicts or become embroiled in them to protect the sepat.

I have determined a couple of other major characters who are being mapped and we'll see where paths cross and get viewpoints from several angles of various events that will happen.

Historically, the time I've chosen has some major events, but there are many "lesser" events that will loom larger and have a more direct impact on the sepat and all the people living there.

For example, Ptahmose's best friend, Serkhet, is a slave that just assumes he's free and acts free, and so those around him also begin to assume he's free - including his owner. How *that* happens is a fascinating bit of work on Serkhet's part. The combination of Serkhet and Ptahmose is comedy gold.

Then we have Ptahmose's future bride Mersankh, and the parade of Serkhet's lovers, the ramblings and teachings of Siamun, the house steward(ess) Merneptah, the cook Dedumose, and assorted servants, not to mention the families of the Nefers and the village elders, and relations with those from outside the sepat - the goals and conflicts just naturally develop.

The spreadsheet to track all of this is getting complicated and lengthy. I find this is a Good Thing.

I may be writing on this for years.

Layers
wukhet
The spreadsheet for charting the timeline and events of Khemet is getting complicated - but that's OK.

What I may do is make transparencies so each main character has their own timeline and the transparency overlays allow me to see where they intersect so I can make sure they interact at the right times. It will also (hopefully) limit the number of primary characters.

I'm trying to keep the storylines focused on only a few people, even though there may be a "cast of thousands". I want to be vested in just a handful of characters, and I find I want to follow the stories of many more.

Right now, I have Ptahmose, and his new mentor Siamun, and waiting in the wings is his soon-to-be wife (name not yet chosen but she'll be an important character for a while and then make sporadic appearances after they are married - she may assume greater importance, not sure yet). Connected to him and making sporadic appearances are his parents, his siblings, his favorite teacher, and at least one of his childhood friends.

There's Neferkhamun and his twin brother Neferptah. Neferkhamun runs the sepat, and Neferptah runs the main city. There are their families, wives, children, other siblings and their families.

Living in Neferkhamun's household would be the upper staff - not servants, as they have a high enough status to have servants of their own, private apartments in Neferkhamun's mansion. These would be managers, in corporate structure, they'd be upper management, division heads. These are currently lesser characters, background people who come to the fore only if they are needed, but hovering back there. If it were being filmed, you'd see them in the distance, like fellow cubicle employees. Ptahmose was among these people - as a scribe, he held near noble rank, and his position came with property that would support him, his servants, and the family he would have.

And then there are the servants, the people who did the work while the others managed, intrigued, and planned. Kitchen staff, house servants, gardeners, stablehands, nursery helpers, laundresses, food servers, messengers, and so on. Some would be slaves, but slaves in ancient Egypt held a different status than slaves elsewhere. Often slaves held a higher status than the villagers and farmers, the peasants who could be conscripted to build canals, temples, pyramids, granaries, and other public buildings.

I don't have any solid hold on the servants and saves in Neferkhamun's household yet. I do have a slave that has had some interactions with Ptahmose and may end up assigned to help care for Ptahmose's household within Neferkhamun's household. And there's a gardener and a gate guard that are fleshing themselves out because of interactions with Ptahmose, Siamun, and Nefekhamun.

Then there are the friends of Neferkhamun and Neferptah, and their rivals.

The sepat is not an isolated place, and it has a varied alliance with neighboring sepats. Also, because they are on the Nile, they have accessibility to the other sepats, so there would be the rulers of these sepats.

Developments
wukhet
Now that I've spewed out just over 50,000 words on the Khemet story, I have learned a lot. It's by no means finished, and I've begun the editing process, but the speed and pressure of NaNo let the story take a shape I don't think I could have given it if I'd taken my time.

I do need more research (a given!), but I learned Neferkhamun has a twin brother, that his twin rules the capitol city of his sepat, and that they are providing a lot of essential banter - some of which provides interesting info dumps in the form of needling and arguments. Neferptah is the younger by minutes, but in some ways is cannier than his older brother.

I learned his head scribe (Siamun) was his father's scribe and is elderly, uncannily wise, and was bored until paired up with young Ptahmose.

I got my Master Li and Number Ten Ox pairing, but in a totally unexpected way! Ptahmose is not as innocent as Number Ten Ox, nor did he come from a peasant family although he is closer to peasant roots than Siamun. They will have interesting exploits, based on some of the things they've done so far.

Neferkhamun's wife is a priestess in her own right and holds her own property. She and her mother have a successful business making wine. Her mother thinks Neferkhamun is inconsistent in his policies and never misses an opportunity to jibe him over anything.

Neferkhamun's children are still young, 2 are children under age 3, 2 are students - one is learning to be heri after Neferkhamun, the other tending towards priesthood.

Neferptah's wife is best friends with Neferkhamun's - a source of dismay to the brothers as they are then forced to behave towards one another. She involves herself with the dispersal of the temple offerings, to make sure the people living in the city of Tentyra all have a livable share of grain and beer.

The priestesses of Isis and Hathor hold a high position in the sepat and are greatly respected.

Ptahmose's eldest sister is a priestess of Hathor and he meets her frequently as she and her group of musicians and dancers often perform at Neferkhamun's dinners.

I still have a few story lines to pursue and a few characters who will need introducing as they are hovering in the background right now, nebulous and necessary. I've got a week of NaNo left, so I'm going to try to get their stories and characters teased out some so I'll have more to work with when I edit this up.

I do have the seeds of at least 5 novels here, and have some foreshadowing of events that far in advance (possibly as far as 6 or 7 novels out).

NaNoWriMo Novels I Have Written Since 2000
wukhet
Adventures of Audine - Audine is a native of the planet Venus with a seahorse ranch. When humans arrive on the planet, she and her favorite seahorse have their hands full - 2000

Ballad of Rainey Downes - Her mama fooled around with a distant stranger, and died when she was three years old. Her papa, repelled by her unusual anatomy, had no clue how to raise her, so he drank. A lot. And beat her until one day, his heart burst with the stress of the beating, leaving her totally orphaned. She runs away to join a cattle drive, her true father haunts the drive seeking her, and life suddenly gets strange for a handful of cowboys. 2001

and A Heart of Stone - Miree bought a new gargoyle statue for her formal gardens and stashed it in the entry way of her home. Then, she went out to prep the spot where she'd position it. She'd anticipated the purchase of this gargoyle for over a decade, and he would brood over the entrance to her Poison Garden, a warning to those who would enter. When she returned to shower off the dirt and sweat, a man stood inside her entry, naked, winged, and bewildered. And so her adventures begin to find and rescue other gargoyles and turn her extensive gardens into a sanctuary for these elusive beings. 2001

Tavern of the Wild - I live in the middle of a large city, sprawling and sort of suburban, but too close to the city center to be a true suburb anymore. But the critters that inhabit my backyard don't know that. I also live near a large "wilderness" park and its pond and a field that gets mowed a lot, but it's still a field. Squirrels, blue jays, ducks, geese, gulls, terns, mourning doves, pigeons, cardinals, crows, grackles, mockingbirds, rabbits, a vixen and her cubs, opossums, armadillos, horned toads, toads, coyotes, moles, bats, gophers, mice, woodrats, muskrats, beaver, porcupine, weasel, badger, and skunk. They interact with me and my domestic critters: Dogmatyx, Droolsilla, Keegan, Eris, Itzl, Xoco. This is the story of their backyard lives, dining in my backyard, tavern brawls, and all. 2002

and

Soap Bubbles - The psychic Amalisa bought a ghost town and turned it into a tourist attraction/artist's colony filled with artisans of every sort - kind of like a permanent renaissance fair, except that as her town grew, districts developed a theme - renaissance, steampunk, colonial, zombie/horror, holidays, pagan, SF, fairy, and more. Some were just a street, and others were an entire district - called Bubbles. Almost everything in a Bubble followed the theme - from the hotels and restaurants to the shops and homes. Permanent residents tended to dress to match their Bubble. Amalisa owned all the land, leasing it and overseeing that everything went according to her visions. She was the final authority, but had a council that helped her with policing, the few laws she allowed to exist, and otherwise administering such a diverse town. 2002

When Trees Take Flight - Gnomes appear on a remote colony world - an the human colonists discover that what they thought was an empty garden world is the homeworld of the gnomes who populated the fairytales they grew up hearing. Will the gnomes banish the humans or will the humans kill off the gnomes to keep this world - or something else? Things on Earth are a political hotbed, and a colony ship of dissidents is orbiting as we speak... 2003

and

Woe Says I - The Goblins and other low level NPCs set out to petition the GM to allow them to earn EP and to level up. They are tired of their villages being overrun by eager Questers and dying in nameless hordes. They want a place of safety, names, EP, and the ability to sometimes win in defending their homes and families. 2003

Riddle Me Dee - A poet historian finds herself making history as she gets caught up in the events that arise from the epic poem she wrote about a treaty between two species. 2004

And

Under the Rose - Time travel, true love, ghosts, roses, all intertwine in this story about a grave and a news reporter. 2004

Blood Bond - An orphan discovers a clue to her origins and convinces her captain to follow the riddles as they lead her and the crew beyond the galactic border and to her people, saving them and opening the way for diplomatic relations between the galaxies. 2005

And

Thrice Betrayed - Judas, thrice betrayed, nonetheless seeks redemption. 2005

Conkin or A Con in Time - It's a new hotel on a shakedown with a science fiction convention - what could go wrong? Not much - until a hairy purple frog appears and causes a dimensional bubble to appear isolating the hotel in a rift in time. Will the geeks, nerds, and citizen scientists find a way back? 2006

And

CSI: Alma - Alma is the geographic center of the US, and thus holds extreme paranormal powers. Crimes in Alma tend to be - different, and thus the crime investigators must be different, too. A connected collection of stories about those strange crimes and the investigators. 2006

Asteroid Pizza Service - His parents die in a space accident, leaving Jack and his little sister alone in an asteroid merchant ship carrying groceries to the paranoid asteroid miners. He fights pirates, deals with school field trips, and establishes himself as a Name for making and delivering fresh pizza to the asteroid miners - all while saving the world, solar system, and galaxy to discover new pizza toppings and True Love. 2007

And

Better than Unicorns - The Republicans have destroyed the US government, and it's every state for itself. Some states are faring better than others, some states no longer exist, having been devoured by war leaders. It's the post apocalypse with modern technology. A group of pagans and geeks have taken over a place with defensible borders and worked to increase their technological superiority. Into this, a Victorian inventor is accidentally catapulted during a Midsummer celebration.

Bone Mama - Paleontology on alien worlds leads to interesting collections of bones - and the Bone Mama presides over the most comprehensive bone museum in the Galaxy. Sometimes, she fends off thieves, and sometimes she teaches children, and sometimes, she goes into the field herself to find the truth behind the bones that find their way to her. 2008

And

Broken Wings - A Criminal Minds fan fic. 2008

Mereta Markley: Teen Colonist - It's not easy, being a teen on a long voyage colony ship. It's less easy when your captain father is killed by the hazards of space travel and your aunt assumes command. 2009

And

Star Bounty - Wealth has its privileges, and Onna used that privilege ruthlessly to become a bounty hunter in space. Her ship is the best money can buy. But she's not the hotshot bounty hunter she thought she was. Poppy, in her leaky, held together with wishes space ship, has the highest capture rate. Onna does her best to attract Poppy's attention, studies everything that is public information (and a few things her wealth gave her access to) and still can't figure out Poppy's success. They both are hunting the same prey when circumstances make them reluctant partners. 2009

A Thousand Days to Freedom - Interspecies relations have caused the Terukan, Varg, to take on a bride. This act will free a planet from genetic oppression. 2010

And

Sounds of Silence - For the first time in her life, Tanis is living alone. She's lived alone for 5 years, and has decided she kind of liked having someone there to talk to in the evenings, to help with the household chores, and to cook for. She had friends; it wasn't enough. Her mother had died 4 years earlier, and those boxes of things filled a couple of rooms, it was time to clear that stuff out and find a housemate to fill those rooms instead. Among the boxes were teapots, vases, and jars of all kinds. While cleaning them for resale, one of them releases a geni. 2010

Two Sisters - Two retired sisters have been employed to review theme parks. The current park is providing plenty of thrills, chills, and mysteries - bonus: there's a special formula hidden throughout the book that spells out the answer to the mystery in the first letter of certain sections. 2011

And

The Starry Fields - The child of a migrant worker grows up to become an astronaut. 2011

Parfait - Airships, explosions, re-animated corpses, deadly viruses, hot air balloons, pirates, drunken robots, solidified rainbows, political uprisings, and more block poor Horatia Grantham's every effort to create the best soda ever tasted in her newly renovated lab. 2012

And

Under the Gargoyle's Roost - In a moderate sized Midwestern town, gargoyles gather for their Millennial Madness Celebration. Most of the humans remain oblivious tot he carousing high above their heads, but pigeon breeder Dalynda and remote control enthusiast Anniya find themselves involved with the Stone People. 2012

The Least of Us - Jalinda the Just never wanted to rule the entire universe. She only wanted to do the right thing, to step up when no one else did, to get things done. And her punishment for that was to be the evil overlord no one loved.

It was a price she'd willingly paid, to get things done right.

Now, she wondered if she'd been right. How could she stop being the evil overlord and just go back to being little Jalinda Moreau, aspiring astronomer and champion chef? 2013

Khemet - Set in ancient Egypt, this is the story of the people of the Sepat of Tentyra ruled by Neferkhamun - his wife, children, staff, servants, and the people living in his villages and on his farms and vineyards.

It is Downton Abbey, Egyptian style. 2014

Progress
wukhet
I'm 47,000 words into the story, and discovered that: Neferkhamun has a twin, Neferptah, Ptahmose and Siamon pair up to be like Master Liu and Number Ten Ox, there's a romantic interest between Neferkhamun's main stweard and the nursery maid, Neferkhamun hires Ptahmose's brother to head his private army - that Neferkhamun had to have a private army to defend against invaders because Pepy has grown too weak to defend Egypt's borders and even a sepat like Tentyra, near the middle of Egypt in a protected curve of the Nile, is not safe.

I've set things up so in the next novel, Neferkhamun is wondering if he should cleave to Pepys or thrown in with the Theban upstart pharaoh. That will become an undernote, a niggly background, through the second, and possibly even the 3rd and 4th novels, and break out in the 5th novel, when drought rears its ugly head.

Ptahmose is developing a romantic interest, too, but he keeps getting sent off with Siamon to deal with unrest throughout Tentyra - whether it's thievry, disrespect to the priests and priestesses, concern over crops and herds, or to record inventories and select where new granaries are to be built.

His sister rises through the ranks of junior priestesshood, creating firm relationships and developing a talent for music.

When her talent for music appears, Ptahmose despairs, for he is not a gifted artist, even if he is an excellent scribe. He wants something unique to himself, something he will forever be remembered for. In the meantime, for fun, he's been writing down little stories to tell his nephews and nieces. Most are the typical Egyptian stories - histories, instructional stories, and such, but some are about people who never existed doing things Egyptians only dreamed of. Unbeknownst to him, Ptahmose is creating the foundations of fiction.

There's a lot of change happening in Neferkhamin's household - he inherited most of his staff, servants, and slaves from his father and they are aging - dying, retiring, and a few moving to more suitable households. Some are marrying and leaving. He's having to hire more and more people, and that task is now placed on the shoulders of his steward for house servants, and on Ptahmose and Siamun for new staff. Traditions are sometimes disrupted, and Neferkhamun still has his ceremonial duties to the priesthood and the people of Tentyra.

I think I am actually packing a lot of data - lots of "tells" instead of "shows" here, which means when I unpack it all, I will have 3 - 5 novels' worth of materials.

This is good.

Names
wukhet
These are not what the names mean, only what they sound like to modern ears:

Ptahmose (Thomas), Meryamun (Mary Ann), Khety (Kitty), Ahmose (Amos), Bekhten (Becky), Mermose (Mermaid), Mersankh (Mercy), and Psamire (Sammy Ray), Kebuchet (Trebuchet), Serqet (Circuit), Serapis (Serape), Naunet (Nanny), Anuket (Annakin), Pakhet (Packet), Buneb (Bunny), Djedi (Jedi), Djedefre (Jennifer), Khenet (Kenneth), Merymose (Merry Mouse), Djemi (Jimmy), Meryamun (Meriam), Rawer (Roar), Shery (Sherry), Tumerisy (Timorous), Pairy (Perry), Analmaye (Anna Marie), Ankhmare (Ann-Marie), Beket (Becky), Berenice (Bernice), Bunefer (Bunny Fur), Dedumose (Dead Mouse), Duanre (Dwayne Ray), Huni (Honey), Inaros (Ina Rose), Khamudi (Carmody), Khay (Kay), Merkare (Mercury), Merneptah (Monetta), Meryatum (Mary Adam), Meriptah (Moretta), Nikare (Nicky Ray), Pami (Pammy), Psammuthes (Samuels), Psusennes (Susanna), Puimre (Pomeroy or Pam Ray), Qen (Ken), Qenna (Kenna), Sheneh (Shawna), Siamun (Simon).

Some of these may appear in Khemet.

Scene by Scene
wukhet
I have chosen NaNoWriMo as the time I will push to write an extended outline/scenes from Khemet.

So far, it's going well. I am establishing characters, the time period, and revealing aspects of the culture.

I finally (finally!) settled on the time at the end of the Old Kingdom and the early part of the First Intermediate Period, when Egypt became feudal in aspect. This most closely resembles the transition of Victorian England to WWI. The heri of the sepats (or as they are now known the Nomarchs of the Nomes) became hereditary, and the heri had greater power than pretty much any other time in Egyptian history.

Everything begins in prosperous times, probably mid-reign for Pepys, who had a 90 year reign that weakened Egypt. You'd think a long reign would strengthen the country, as Victoria's long reign benefited England. The difference seems to be that Pepys outlived his heirs and there was no clear transfer of kingship. In the turmoil following his death, Egypt divides, the heri gain precedence, the arts begin to suffer in some respects and change in others.

It's a good time to be heri.

And it's a good time to be a skilled and ambitious craftsman, too. The opportunities for gaining wealth and prestige abound for women as well as men.

Opening Scenes
wukhet
I've changed the era.

Not surprised, are you?

That's OK, the story I have to tell isn't terribly era-dependent as it's mostly character-driven.

Right now, my opening sentence seems to be:

The bag on Ptahomose's back contained all his worldly belongings, and the leather pouch clutched protectively in his arms the tools of his trade. Each step away from his mother's house shed another layer of the mischievous child he was and bore him inexorably toward the man he would become. His gait changed from carefree loose-limbed explorations to a firmer, more controlled step, as befitted a young man chosen to be a scribe in the House of Neferkhamun. Pthamose's eyes fixed themselves on his future. He didn't see his mother wave proudly from her door. He didn't even see his father keep pace with him part of the way, and didn't know when his father slowed and allowed him to walk alone; his first solo steps.

Sound fell away from him as he walked in his transformative bubble. The well wishes of friends and neighbors broke against that bubble and were soon left behind.

The call of birds in the rushes of the Nile off to his left failed to attract his attention as it would have only yesterday, when he kept a sling in his belt for hunting. Now, others would hunt for him. A scribe hunted for pleasure, not out of need.

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