One of the lesser known Egyptian gods and goddesses, the daughter of Ra, Bastet (sometimes also called Bast) was the cat-goddess of the Lower Egyptian city, Bubastis. As an heiress to the sun god, she was the opposite of her twin, Sekhmet, and thus, personified the beneficial aspects of the sun. [1]

Typically Bastet was drawn with the face of a cat (as opposed to her twin, Sekhmet, who had the face of a Bastetlion). Often enough, as the patron goddess of pleasure and joy, she was associated with music and dancing, and was depicted with a sistrum in her hands. [2] As a result of her fondness for frivolity, her festivals (which were held in April and May according to the Stele of Canopus) were known even in Greece for their entertainment. Herodotus points out that her festivals were among the most favored of the Egyptian gods and goddesses and that thousands of people came to Bubastis each year to “get their party on”. (That last part was me).

Yet, she was not all fun and games. As the daughter of Ra (and though she was the non-violent twin sister), she was a fierce defender of her father, fighting with the snake, Apep, who tried to stop Ra’s journey through the Underworld.

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Far be it for me to say, but this is the most amazing translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Book of Awakening OsirisGoing Forth by Day) that I have ever read. Ellis, though he professes his lack of academic status and knowledge of ancient Egyptian religion, is a remarkable writer. Basically what he does is he modernizes the language.

Although I love E.A. Wallis Budge, being one of the foremost Egyptologists in history, he is a strict academic with a strict translation, whereas Ellis brings the ancient Egyptian religion text to life. Ellis takes the stilted, wooden translation of the words and gives it depth and meaning. He makes you believe you’re walking with Osiris in the Field of Flowers. He makes you believe you’re sitting with Ra as he travels over the horizon on his boat. What Ellis does, is poetry. It is art. It is the essence, most likely, of how the ancient Egyptians saw their world.

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When you’re writing a book, I’ve told you once before the two best pieces of advice I received were: read a lot and write a lot. I also expressed how utterly useless that advice is without explaining the how to accomplish those two things.

For the most part, the life of a writer is not glamorous and is solitary. We spend the majority of our time writing or reading (either reading ours or someone else’s work). The rest of the time is spent on research, marketing, travelling to and from events, or working with our publishers, editors, and/or artists to finalize our manuscripts for publication.

Reading for writing requires an active mental presence of mind. It requires focus and critical thinking. You can’t read for fun if you’re trying to learn. You can’t turn your brain off and just put it into neutral (as so many people have told me at conferences). Not to bash reading for fun, I do it all the time. But if you want to be a writer you have to put that aside for a while. Reading doesn’t, in and of itself, make you a writer.

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While not as intriguing as the first book, Martin certainly doesn’t let up. The story picks up where Game of Thrones left off, with children on the run from villainous and tyrannical kings and queens, with certain kings dead and certain boys replacing them, and with the ever present treachery and underhandedness which we’ve come to expect from Martin’s characters. 374855

Martin has a particular skill at character development and all authors should read his books if not for anything else but to learn at how real he can make fictional characters seem. They are not just cardboard cut-outs of the typical fantasy story (i.e. the hero, the villain, the sorceress, the slave). They are each the hero and the villain, the sorceress and the scoundrel, the slave and the king. That’s what makes his writing great. Nobody is any one thing, something I try to emulate as well. We are all the hero of our own story and the villain in someone else’s.

The biggest thing keeping me from giving it four stars was its length. At near 1,000 pages and the real action not starting until page 800, the first 800 pages became a bit of a struggle to get through as it was all thinking and talking and praying. Martin’s gift of words can be his curse, as well. He tends to be wordy where not necessary, have too many tangents and past-perfect tenses which are characters remembering times before that don’t really add to their development or characterization, but are nice side-bits of information. This tends to make the story read slower than it should.

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In general, I liked it. It was well researched, obviously, not overly reliant on footnotes (I’ve read some books where there’s more text in footnotes than the actual prose), 519aCynrvEL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_and fairly easy to read without getting into too much detail. It’s a good mid-level book for those interested in ancient Egypt. Though, the only thing lacking (which is not the fault of the author or anyone), is that it’s old (1948) and there are better books out there because our technology has greatly improved over the past 60 years.

All in all, a short quick read (150 pages), which is well written in a non-academic way which keeps the pace light and fast.

Happy Pi Day

“Probably no symbol in mathematics has evoked as much mystery, romanticism, misconception and human interest as the number pi.” – William L. Schaaf

The ancient Egyptians started the hunt for the mysterious number 4,000 years ago. In his book The History of Pi (1971), Petr Beckman speculates that the ancient Egyptians drew a circle, and then measured the 1e06c2ec-48f2-4e90-a3bb-2c2c2f63c863circumference and diameter with rope. They determined that pi was a sliver greater than three, and came up with the value 3 1/8 or 3.125.

But the ancient Egyptians didn’t stop at rope measurements. According to the Rhind Papyrus, which was written by an Egyptian scribe named Ahmes around 1650 BCE, he claimed: “Cut off 1/9 of a diameter and construct a square upon the remainder; this has the same area as the circle.” For us non math geeks out there, Ahmes basically said pi = 4(8/9)2 = 3.16049, which was pretty accurate for a mathematician three thousand years ago.

The ancient Greeks, like most things, built upon what the ancient Egyptian mathematicians had done and made two revolutionary leaps forward. Antiphon and Bryson (who both hailed from the city-state Heraclea) thought of the clever idea to inscribe a polygon inside a circle, find its area, and then double the sides repetitively.

This leads us to the main who most people call the father of pi, Archimedes (from the city-state, Syracuse). archimedes-1-sizedWhere Antiphon and Bryson failed, Archimedes succeeded.  Archimedes focused on the polygons’ perimeters as opposed to their areas, so that he approximated the circle’s circumference instead of the area. He started with an inscribed and a circumscribed hexagon then doubled the sides four times to finish with two 96-sided polygons.

To quote Archimedes himself in his work entitled, Measurement of a Circle: Given a circle with radius, r = 1, circumscribe a regular polygon A with K = 3(2n-1 sides and semi perimeter and inscribe a regular polygon B with K = 3(2n-1 sides and semi perimeter bn. This result in a decreasing sequence a1, a2, a3… and an increasing sequence b1, b2, b3… with each sequence approaching pi. We can use trigonometric notation (which Archimedes did not have) to find the two semi perimeters, which are: an = K tan ((/K) and bn = K sin ((/K). Also: an+1 = 2K tan ((/2K) and bn+1 = 2K si n ((/2K). Archimedes began with a1 = 3 tan ((/3) = 3(3 and b1 = 3 sin ((/3) = 3(3/2 and used 265/153 < (3 < 1351/780. He calculated up to a6 and b6 and finally reached the conclusion that 3 10/71 < b6 < pi < a6 < 3 1/7.

Well, I didn’t get any of that. But, for the next few hundred years most people accepted Archimedes’ James_Gregorycalculations. That was until Archimedes’ calculations were refined by James Gregory in 1672 and Gottfried Leibniz in 1685. By 1750, mathematicians could express pi in an infinite series.

Now we have computers to do the work for us, but it all comes back to what the ancient Egyptians started with a piece of rope and drawing a circle in the sand.

Sources:

Archimedes. Measurement of a Circle. From Pi: A Source Book.

Beckman, Petr. The History of Pi. The Golem Press. Boulder, Colorado, 1971.

Wilson, David. History of Mathematics, Rutgers, Spring 2000

I woke up Friday morning with a kick in my step because I was heading to San Diego for ConDor 2013: Journeys in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as this was to be my smallest show to date, but the weekend turned out to be amazing. It was a great chance to meet a lot of interesting fans, hear their stories, and share in their passion for Egyptian mythology and sci-fi/fantasy.

Friday started slowly, I think primarily because it was a workday and people didn’t want to use a vacation day or play hooky to come to the show. But at the Town & Country Resort, the vendors still had fun. During the tempdor5_t500x281slow times, vendors generally mingle and network among themselves (though there are a few who like to bury their head in a book or do work—draw/write). This gave me the awesome opportunity to meet Henry Herz, author of the children’s fantasy book Nimpentoad, as well as Valerie Frankel who writes about girls transforming into goddesses in mythology and modern literature. Valarie and I had an awesome chat about the similarities and cross-cultural mythologies of the ancient Sumerians, Greeks, and Egyptians. I also had a chance to meet James Morris, a young author who’s writing the Sky Bound Trilogy, a series of books about the Earth being split into three kingdoms, those that live below the ocean, those that live on the ground, and those that live in the sky.

After the show on Friday, I did my normal thing (get a quick workout in and grab dinner), then settled in for a fun evening of writing in my hotel room (work never stops!). I got down about 2,000 words for book three in my Legends of Amun Ra series and hit the sack, exhausted from a great day of networking.

Saturday and Sunday were by far the most eventful days. The showroom floor was packed with an amazing display of Victorian/Steampunk cosplayers (I’d never seen so many Steampunk cosplayers at once—I’m used to the more comic/anime type).

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I was involved in lengthy chats about costume design, hat choices, gadget choices, and the quality of fabrics on some of these outstanding bustles and corsets the women were wearing. I even got a minute to take a few snaps of some Sand People cosplayers from Star Wars. Meanwhile, the table next to me had a FILK singer who was singing acapella with some of her customers and longtime fans.

The fans themselves were great—always willing to stop and chat with me about the intricate nature of the Egyptian gods and goddesses or the mythologies surrounding their favorite stories.

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All in all, ConDor 2013 was a great show and I’ll be glad to attend again next year.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Egyptian Mysteries by Lucie Lamy covers a wide spectrum of the ancient mythology of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. She starts the book with an introduction into some of the more basic concepts of ancient Egypt: the Nile. The Nile was the life-blood of both Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. She goes into great depth about the mythologies surrounding the Nile because it was so important to the ancient Egyptians.

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From there, she discusses alchemy and the following of Thoth as well as his sacred writings and the importance writing played with the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Additionally, she elaborates on the feuding gods, Seth and Osiris. She also talks about the magic of Isis and her relationship with Bast and the Nile.

One of the things I found most interesting was the vast information she gave on Horus. As the “sky” god, his iconography was immensely important. Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses were riddled with symbolism of the universe in their mythology.

Later in the book she goes into great detail involving trigonometry and the subject of the pyramids as well as the Eye of Horus, including pictures and schematics of how the symobology of ancient Egypt was so precise it perfectly fit with their understanding of the world.

All in all, this isn’t an introductory book to Egyptian mythology, but it certainly isn’t as complex as E.A. Wallis Budge’s writings.

If you’re looking for an interesting primer on mythology and the Egyptian gods and goddesses, this might be the book for you.

 

After talking with readers, it occurred to me that not a lot of people know about the Egyptian gods and goddesses and the fascinating mythologies on which the Legends of Amun Ra series is based. So I decided to write a few blogs featuring certain gods and goddesses.

A fan recently wrote in asking how much we know about the Egyptian god, Upuaut—we’ll start with him.

wepwawet

As we discussed before, the biggest issue with Egyptian mythology is that the Egyptian gods and goddesses’ names constantly change throughout the history of ancient Egypt (Djehuty is another name for Thoth). Further complicating matters, their powers morph into different manifestations depending on what historical period you are examining (Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, Late Kingdom), and certain gods and goddesses that were once two separate deities become melded into one (i.e. Amun and Ra are separate deities but can become Amun-Ra).

Upuaut is more commonly referred to as Wepwawet. Wepwawet is often confused with Anubis because: (1) both gods have canine animal spirits (Anubis is the jackal; Wepwawet the wolf); and (2) through time, Wepwawet’s responsibilities in the funeral rites became blurred with those of Anubis. Despite this, they are clearly distinct gods.

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Wepwawet originated in Upper Egypt (which is actually the southern part of Egypt on a map). The name Wepwawet refers to his job duties, “The Opener of Ways”. Wepwawet’s job is similar to the role of Charon in Greek mythology. Wepwawet literally “opens” the gateway to the Egyptian underworld for the deceased to enter. These duties are mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings, including the famous Book of the Dead and the book That Which Is in the Underworld. Furthermore, in line with the idea of Wepwawet opening a “path,” his job was also to act as a scout for the ancient Egyptian armies.

Like most Egyptian gods and goddesses, Wepwawet is depicted as half-man, half-animal—his animal form is that of a wolf. As featured in the Legends of Amun Ra series, Greek and Egyptian mythologies intertwine. Wepwawet was so revered by the ancient Greeks that they named a town after him, Lycopolis.

Legends of Amun Ra is a seven book fantasy series based in the Egyptian mythology of alchemy, which involved the god of wisdom and magic, Thoth. The ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses are woven into the story to create the fantasy world. If you’re interested in Egyptian gods and goddesses and their mythologies yet want a compelling story full of fantasy, adventure, and romance, please check out the series, which starts with The Emerald Tablet.

Sources: The Gods of the Egyptians, Volumes I and II by E.A. Wallis Budge, 1969, Dover Publications.

I had the pleasure of listening to Blog Talk Radio’s “Author Spot Light” the other day featuring JaVonna from Review-Worm.com. If you’re writing a book and have an hour, do yourself a favor and listen to it.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/reviewworm/2013/02/08/author-spot-light

During the podcast, host Nanci Arvizu and JaVonna Smith spoke about how to create a great author website

and how to effectively use social media. Given that I’ve put in countless hours reading articles about how to blog, use Facebook, and tweet about my book, I thought I was somewhat of an expert on these subjects. Alas, I was incorrect. Doh!

I’m not going to focus on the website portion because I think authors should hire professionals to design their websites.

In regards to social media (and particularly Twitter), the most common advice I see is the idea that our posts need to bring value to our followers. Yet, it is often broken. After all, we’re getting opposite advice from supposed gurus like Guy Kawasaki (blogger, venture capitalist, exec at Apple, Inc. back in the day) who propose using services like TwitterHawk (an automated bot which targets key words and sends automated replies to them) which Kawasaki called, “the ultimate spamming tool.”

So who do we authors believe? Kawasaki and those like him, or those like JaVonna or John Locke (not the philosopher but the self-published author who sold over 1 million e-books by himself then wrote a book on how he did it), who counsel for value added content and less promotional content.

I personally hated the advice of many who advise “follow anyone who follows you unless they’re a bot.” Kawasaki gives this advice – so does Locke. I did that for a long time (okay, about three months), and ended up having about 1,000 followers and following 1,000 people. But I never had a chance to read any of my followers’ tweets because they were gone too fast – lost to the feed. My feed was so back-logged with people spamming me their books, I started pulling my hair out. I cut those 1,000 followers down to 60. And you know what? I still have around 500 followers. I would rather have 500 people who want to hear what I have to say than 1,000 who don’t.

This leads me to the central theme of the podcast – the content of the tweet/post. Everyone advises the same thing, post “value-added” content – which means don’t just spam your book. I don’t want to be spammed so why should my readers? Besides, if they follow me, they probably already like my work. This is the most common rule I see broken and I do it too. The problem is what is “value-added” content?

I wish the podcast went into more detail about this, but most people define “value” as what your customer is looking for and what you provide.

That’s great except I’m an author. People want my book for entertainment purposes (and hopefully they learn a little something about Greek mythology and Egyptian spirituality along the way). So my “value” by conventional standards is my book. But that puts me in a Catch-22. How do you give a “valuable” tweet that is not about your book but is about your book at the same time?

The Emerald Tablet is based in Greek mythology and Egyptian mythology, particularly, the Hermetic law of alchemy. It is also a science-fiction story that encompasses portals, space travel, and futuristic technology. So there is an ancient and futuristic component.

To me, value added content is posting stuff about scientific advancements (space/astronomy), Greek mythology, Egyptian history, or anything related to the book that is informative to my readers/followers but not me saying, “Buy my book! Buy my book!”

Other than continuing what I’m doing and building relationships on Twitter by re-tweeting, conversing, and commenting on other people’s tweets, I haven’t found a magic solution to help market my book. As JaVonna said, social media is about time, commitment, consistency, and effort. Like writing a book, to get value, you must share something of value.