Egyptian Humor
Egyptian humor is so similar to modern humor. The scribblings on ostraca show that.

This will make it easier to make life in ancient Egypt understandable to modern readers.

Slapstick never goes out of style. Ditto, apparently, for wordplays. Double and triple entendres, puns, portmanteaus, malapropisms, allusions, hyperbole, self-referential, oxymoron, vulgarity, scatology, exaggeration, satire, and more.

Yes, I know, yet another area of research.

Will it never end?

I hope not, because everything I'm learning will enrich the story.

New Character
While I was preparing lunch, a new character developed.

She's the cook for the Neferkhamun household, and in a land of predominantly fit and slender people, she's fat. Not just fat, but *sacred fat*.

Her reasoning is that if Renentet wanted her to be thin, she would never have been endowed with her cooking skills. She would be too poor to acquire quality food and too unskilled in cooking to prepare tasty food.

Instead, she was gifted with the skill to create the most delicious dishes and is a cook in the household of a Nomarch with extensive and wonderful farms and vinyards.

In thanks, she keeps a shrine to Renentet outside the kitchen, and she gives offerings of her food to Renentet along with lists of all the foods she ate and prepared.

I need a name for this culinary paragon....Aat? Bunefer? Khensa? Nauny? Persenet?

I have pretty much completed the bulk of the research for this story. Mind you, I will still be researching things as I go along. What I have now is a foundation on which to build the story, a feel for the era and the type of people who would live there, and some of the tribulations they would face.

Now, I'm going to spend some time meeting the characters, fleshing them out, seeing how they interact, who likes whom, and what they love or fear.

We'll walk trough the estate and the villages, wander down the Nile, eat some food and participate in some celebrations.

Along the way, the story will develop and I'll find a good plunge-in point, something that will rivet the attention and showcase a few of the people, draw the reader in and invest them in the characters.

While I hope people will love Ptahmose as much as I do, there will be people who are more enamored of Neferkhamun, or perhaps they like Pothinus best. Maybe they'll be fans of Meritamun. Or someone else. Maybe they'll hunger for the vividness and excitement of the next celebration. Or perhaps they'll read for the descriptions of the clothing or perfumes and attempt to recreate them.

There will be many things to enjoy, and I hope I will do them proper justice while providing a "jolly good read".

I'll still talk a bit about the research I continue to do, but no I will also do character sketches, and possibly vignettes that may or may not appear in the story.

Research Directions
Now that I've explored clothing, games, farming methods, house building and architecture, science, astronomy, cookery, shoe making, make-up and wig making, the scribal arts, the layouts of several Nomes, the history of Egypt up to the end of the era I want to write about (which was mostly about wars and transfers of power), naming protocols, how to become an Egyptian, and hieroglyphs, it's time to move on.

The next area of research will be tricky because it will frequently be colored either with heavy Christian overtones or wishful thinking (or both, I've seen both). I need to explore Egyptian beliefs and the priest class, particularly as they relate to Set and Horus as those will dominate during the era when Ptahmose lives.

This will be the final area of research I must have before I begin the story of Khemet, with Neferkhamun, Ptahmose, Pairy, Hanefur, and Setenmutre.

Neferkhamun, as you already know, is the Nomarch.

Ptahmose is his scribe.

Hanefur is the equivalent of the British butler, he supervises the servants and slaves and takes care of the household of Neferkhamun.

Pairy is the cook.

Setenmutre is the local priest of Set.

Herihor is the local priest of Horus.

Ii is the local priestess of Isis.

I haven't decided if there will be many other temples in this Nomarch. It's not a small one, but neither is it large, wealthy, and important. It's slightly above good, so there should be a few more. A temple to Amun, perhaps, and maybe to Hathor. Maybe Bast, Ma'at, Osiris, Thoth.

This will all depend on what my research reveals. How many temples and priesthoods can a Nome support?

This Nome will be large enough to be several small villages, the major city where the Nomarch lives, and the surrounding farms and farmland, with their own small piece of the Nile. It may be able to support small temples of most of the Gods and Goddesses, with only a few of the larger temples. Since Set is ascendant at the beginning, there will be a larger temple to Set, rivaling the temples of Isis, Osiris, and Amun. The temple to Horus will gain in power as the tale progresses.

What will happen with the other temples will be determined through research and the wending of the tale.

Priesthoods to research:

Ammut, Anubis, Apophis, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Horus, Isis, Kebechet, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Ma'at, Mafdet, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, Ra, Sekhmet, Seshat, Set, Shu, Sobek, Tawaret, Tefnut, Thoth, Wadjet, and probably a few others I don't know yet.

Drowning In Pharaohs
I've now read (or skimmed, for the really poorly written ones) over 70 novels set in Ancient Egypt.

To a one, they all involve at least one pharaoh as a main character or as a compelling force for the novel.

The few that speak of the average Ptahmose, Djoser, and Hanefur use them only as secondary or walk-on characters, people to move the plot along when it needs nudging. Reading all these books has shown me that I do want to continue with me plans for Khemet. It won't be an epic that deals with the ruling classes, but a soap opera type tale that offers up how the decisions of those ruling classes affects every level of society.

Neferkhamun will be the highest ranking person we will encounter, the pharaohs and higher nobles will be off-screen, as it were.

Ptahmose and his friends and family will form the strong main thread of the story, with Neferkhamun and his family and associates being a strong supporting thread, and the other threads that will be most vibrantly visible will be the servant and priest classes, with the frisson of the outcaste and the foreigners crossing through now and again. The pharaohs will be the warp,unseen but ever-present, and the tales of Ptahmose, Neferkhamun, and the others will be the weft of this tale.

Khemet will be the opposite of that, deeply involved in the lives of many different Ptahmoses, Djosers, and Hanefurs.

No Bigfoot
There was no Bigfoot in Ancient Egypt.

I've had a few people ask me if Bigfoot will be in my stories, and I will have to say - no.

There were no actual cryptids in ancient Egypt. This is probably because their gods were chimaera - animal heads on human bodies.

There is the Atti - but we now know that this is the okapi, the only living relative to the giraffe.

There is the Scylla, the giant squid, of the ancient Greeks, and since Greeks and Egyptians had commerce.

There is the Benben bird (also known as the Phoenix).

There is the serpopard and the sphinx.

I know that the time I have chosen was a time where the cult of Set was predominant, and giving way to the cult of Horus. The Pharaohs Seti amd Ramesses II were red-heads, and red headed people were considered the children of Set, which is probably why that god was the dominant one. There's some evidence (scant, but there) that may connect Set with werewolves, so there's the possibility of werewolves appearing in the story.

And of course, there are the ghosts.

But no Bigfoot.

I know, what do pigments have to do with writing a series?

Well, when one of your MCs is a scribe - pigments have a lot to do with the tale. They couldn't go to the local art store and buy pre-made pigments and inks for their work. They had to make the inks and pigments for themselves out of materials they had on hand. They made black from carbon and red from ocher and recently scientists have learned how they made that lovely Egyptian Blue from calcium carbonate, copper metal filings or malachite, silica sand and soda or potash as a flux, but scribes usually only used red and black. Artists used blue, and jeweler, to make their faience jewelry. Since I will have a jeweler and a couple of artists, knowing how they make their pigments will make the story more realistic, even if only minute portions of the process come into the story.

Other things I will get to learn will be making paper from papyrus. This is not as easy a process as making paper from wood or fabric scraps - something I already know how to do.

The ostraca, however, will be simple enough - that's made from broken terra cotta pottery. They also used wooden boards that could be wiped clean, and leather (but apparently never developed parchment).

Ptahmose will need to make his own palette, too - the special board with two hollows for ink (the red and the black), a place to rest the reed pens, and an area for practice writing. It will have his name and titles at the top - with plenty of room for him to add new titles as he earns them. He'll need a papyrus polisher, a case for his reed pens, a flint papyrus cutter, a case for his pigments, a stone for mixing the pigments, and a case for carrying the papyrus scrolls, ostraca, a board for laying the papyrus on for writing, and writing leather or boards and the material with which to clean them.

This sounds like a lot, but when they are all put together, they don't take up much space at all. The boards and ostraca take up the most space, and he probably wouldn't carry those around very often. As an underscribe in the Nomarch, he'd spend most of his time in an office copying records and reading mail and determining what mail needed to be sent to the head scribe. When he is sent on rounds (with a tax collector or a judge - and scribes often became judges because they generally knew what was going on), he'd have servants to carry the bulkier items.

I know I don't have to do these things, but I intend to make the full scribe kit to get a feel for it so when I write about it, I will have a solid knowledge.

When I've written fantasies and SF, many of the items my characters used couldn't be made by me, so I had to rely a lot on imagination and artful descriptions. I think I did passing well describing how to bake pizza in space, and growing herbs on a generation ship and the games kids would create (and their dares) while living on a generation ship or space station.

This is the first time I've written a story based on our historical past, and I know there will be people howling if I get details wrong. I can fudge on a lot of things that aren't known and gloss those over with the label of "it's fiction", but then there are the well documented things, like the kit for a scribe, that I need to be well-versed in.

It's a fine line, writing a story that is both fiction and based on what we know of such a distant era.

I rely on the scholarly interpretations others have made about ancient Egypt, the historical events, and the conjectures of how civilization worked then. But I'm not just relying on these secondary sources, when I have access to them, I have learned some hieroglyphs (and am learning more) to attempt my own translations based on my own knowledge and experience of some things - like herbs, cookery, clothing, pottery, art, and the fact that I am not looking at these source materials from a Christian point of view since my Egyptians will have lived and died long before Christ and possibly even before they encountered the Jews. So they'd have lived in a polytheistic world among other polytheists and will have the negative experience of monotheism (Akhenaten and Nefertiti) in their history.

And all this came from contemplating the tools of a scribe.

In writing any story, one must choose what not to tell as much as one chooses what to tell.

I find this even more true for a planned series of novels like this one. Yes, there is freedom to explore many, many more stories, but they need to be slowly revealed, and some should remain hidden always because the hidden information will add depth to the tales, will give the reader something to ponder, and will be the chthonic foundations that everyone knows and no one talks about.

Ptahmose's tale starts when he is young, and you'd think he would have no secrets, no hidden past, but even at his tender age of 11 years, when he makes his first appearance in the tale of Khemet, he has his secrets, ones so secret even he has forgotten them, and these secrets power his career moves.

Neferkhamun is much older, and his secrets are darker, some are shameful and some are not his to share and some are so dear he doesn't share them even completely with himself.

I know their secrets, most of them, because I gave them those secrets.

Now, I have to find the secrets of the other characters, and of the Nome, for places have secrets as much as people do.

And I have to be careful which secrets, which stories, are revealed, and which power the tales in occult ways.

Info Dumping
I have been reading a number of fictional works set in ancient Egypt in preparation for writing my stories, from children's stories to adult stories.

One thing I've been struck by in most of them is that they are written very much in info-dump style, and are always about the pharaohs in some fashion - either directly or about the people surrounding them. Even Ms. Greenwood's excellent Out of the Black Land (which has way more show instead of tell) had quite a bit of info dumping and was about the business of the pharaohs. She changes the MC part way through from the pharaoh's scribe to his daughter who eventually becomes the pharaoh's wife. The switch in POV was subtle, but apparent.

Any non-noble people are more in the nature of walk-on characters, there to advance the plot and with no other life.

"Khemet" is set in an as-yet unnamed Nome, and while it will display the lives of the minor "nobles" (the Nomarch and his family and their associates), it will be mostly about the lives of the middle class (the Nomarch's staff and people that are skilled laborers - scribes, architects, priests, healers, potters, weavers, jewelsmiths, metalworkers, astronomers, engineers, and other scientists - with some tales about the support staff - the servants and the few slaves that live on the Nomarch's estate and the villagers and farmers and herders.

Since this will be a series, having such a large pool of characters who have lives that will occasionally be glimpsed before and after their time "on stage" will be helpful. I won't need to "info dump" as the information will be revealed through the actions and situations of the characters.

I've reached the stage in plotting and planning that I need to put things on 3x5 cards to track it all. If I had a big screen monitor, perhaps I'd run it all in a database program, but my computer is a teeny notebook computer, a small step up from a tablet, but only a small step.

The challenge now is while I'm gathering details and minute data to make the era more realistic and livable is to flesh out the characters, their relationships, and so on.

Ptahmose, for example, has already exhibited a passion for sweets. Fruits and honey attract him more than savory or sour dishes. He prefers wine over the sour beer that is the common drink, and when he drinks beer, he sweetens it to make it palatable. This is a signature trait, one he uses and one others sometimes use against him.

I don't have much of a feel for the household servants at all, but I am feeling my way around Neferkhamun. He's very much the lord of the manor, as it were. He's the mayor of his Nome, and he tries to rule with a fair hand, but he does play favorites and sometimes he makes mistakes. His wives are scheming and plotting to advance their children because only one can follow in the Nomarch's position, the rest will find work elsewhere - as priests, soldiers, architects, stewards, managers of various sorts. But all the mothers want their eldest to inherit the Nome. Neferkhamun claims to be above these machinations, but he does have that tendency to play favorites that causes insecurity in the women's quarters.

In the Nomarch's household is his family - his first wife and 2 concubines and their children, his mother, who is elderly, frail and will soon die. He keeps rooms for his 2 brothers when they visit. Don't know much about them yet. There are also several suites of rooms for visitors. Although the Pharaoh has never visited this particular Nomarch, the Nome has received he pharaoh in times past, s suitesof rooms are kept for such a visit.

He has inside the main house rooms for his staff - the professional employees he needs to run the Nomarch. For most of them, these rooms are their offices and they walk into the town to be with their families the rest of the time. A few are required to live in the main house - his steward and his scribe and their assistants. Ptahmose and his supervisor scribe and the older assistant scribe have rooms inside the main house and each has a servant of their own that lives in their rooms.

In the detached building, where the kitchen and store rooms are, there are rooms for his house servants and grounds servants. These are the servants who serve the family, doing the cooking and cleaning, helping with dressing and bathing, and so on. Some of the servants live inside the main house, guards and body servants, mostly.

That building also has the stables and room for the horse keepers and the chariot - since I've chosen a time when horses and chariots exist in Egypt. There's another building where the goats and cattle are kept and their caretakers live.

The final building on the Nomarch's estate is the gatekeeper's house. The gatekeeper has assumed a greater importance with the frequent recent invasions of the Sea Peoples and other invaders into Egypt. Even though this Nome is safely inside Egypt's borders, determined invaders have penetrated that far before.

A lot of the story will take place inside Neferkhamun's main house, and the tales will be divided between the Nomarch's family, his staff, and the servants. Other stories will take place elsewhere on the estate and down in the towns comprising the Nome.

There are temples and priests and festivals, the inundation of the Nile, and many other opportunities to share the many rich details of life in ancient Egypt.


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