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Thursday 27 September 2018

Novel Conversations With Inge H. Borg and Ebu al-Saqqara

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...

 Ebu al-Saqqara,
Vizier to Hor-Aha, Falcon-King of Egypt
User photo

Helen: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you perhaps like a cup of ancient thick beer or precious wine from the island of Crete? You’ll find a copper bowl of fresh figs on the table next to you. Please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Inge H. Borg’s novel about Ancient Egypt, Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?
al-Saqqara: I am Ebu al-Saqqara, Vizier to Hor-Aha, Fighting-Falcon King of our newly unified Red and Black Lands of the Nile. I am also the kingdom’s Premier Magistrate, Chief Justice of the Kenbet, and Regent in the King’s absence - or after his death. I further serve as Quartermaster of the Royal Armies. My hordes of scribes enforce the levy of new taxes, checking up on those crafty local tax collectors  throughout our united Nomes.
Hence, after the King, I am the most important person in the realm. Well, there are some who dispute this. But they’ll get their just deserves as soon as my brilliant plans unfold. But, please, not another word about it yet.

Helen: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
al-Saqqara: You modern folk call it Historical Fiction. To me, there is nothing fictional about the audacious plans I have laid out for my secret followers, the Usurpers of the Crown. We are very real. One of these days, I shall overcome all obstacles and grasp the throne. Our fat lazy King is an easy target. His oldest son Dubar has already fallen under the spell of my narcotic hemp brew. Alas, there is Nefret, Aha’s headstrong young daughter, soon formally to be introduced to Court as the Royal Heiress. If Aha won’t let me take her to my bed (horrible thought; I prefer stroking the smooth thighs of young boys), I shall have to eliminate her. She might actually prefer that as I have heard it say I might appear downright ugly to a fair maiden.

Helen: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
al-Saqqara: How dare you, a mere common mortal, judge me! I shall stay in power despite not having been born of noble blood. Just look at my name. My father was the overseer of the royal mastabas at Saqqara. With death all around him, he instilled his grim character in me from an early age on.

Helen: (hastily moving on...) Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
al-Saqqara: Ha! Don’t remind me of that High Priest, Ramose. A scourge, if ever there was one, to me and my brilliant strategies. I have tried to insinuate to the King he may not have fathered our lovely Princess Nefret. Hasn’t he noticed she has sky-lit eyes just like Ramose’s? By Horus, I don’t call that a trick of nature. But our dim-witted King seems smitten with the unctuous priest and has even charged him with Nefret’s education. Treason! That’s what Aha should be charging Ramose with.

Helen:  (again moving speedily onward...) Is this the only novel ... um account ... that you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
al-Saqqara: Glad you are changing the subject before I explode with venom. I only had to suffer my enemies in Book 1 of the “Legends of The Winged Scarab” series (3080 BCE). What they did to my Ba, my eternal soul, is outrageous. Luckily, I don’t have to rattle through Books 2-5. There is another sinner’s Ba to do that. Small consolation, now that I can never enter into the Afterlife.

Helen: (thinking of something better to talk about) What is one of your favourite scenes?
al-Saqqara: The barges victoriously return from our war with the Kush and the Wawat in the South. Riding low upon the waters of the Nile, they are laden with trophies and prisoners. But the crowning achievement of my schemes lie stretched out on the dais of the Royal Bark: Two royal siblings. My breast swells with pride when they land in Ineb-Hedge (you people now call it Memphis). I cannot suppress a grin when I am told that Nefret had gravely sinned against our strict laws of Ma’at. So, the spoiled girl’s Ba now is destined to be reborn as another sinner’s soul. How delicious. [A fleck of white spittle forms in the corners of al-Saqqara’s mouth.]

Helen: (wondering whether to risk asking this question...) And your least favourite scene you appear in?
al-Saqqara: Imagine: I, the all-powerful Chief Justice of the Kenbet, our highest court, am being dragged in front of my own judges like a common criminal. Who had the temerity to accuse me? And of what? I knew this was Ramose’s doing. May Seth fling his evil curses upon him.

Helen: Oh, well, moving on... Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?

al-Saqqara: As I mentioned briefly above, there are more books in her series – four more, as a matter of fact. In those, the main characters are now modern-day Egyptologists from Boston having been summoned to Cairo by the autocratic director of the Cairo Museum, Jabari el-Masri. If you think all they do is dig in the sand brushing dirt off old pottery shards, you are dead wrong. Their adventures take them to many foreign lands; and, always, death lurks close-by.

Helen: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
al-Saqqara: Rumour has it (okay, I peeked), she started work on another historical fiction novel taking place in Ancient Crete; and I mean, so ancient they still had pygmy hippos and dwarf elephants. It looks as if she has those people wind up on a green and lush Sahara …
By Seth! I hope my forefathers weren’t some pygmy hippo-herders.

Helen: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
al-Saqqara: It has become much harder to be noticed in a sea awash with writings where anything goes.
Historical Fiction, of course, is not everyone’s bowl of beer. It takes reader-curiosity and, dare I say, intelligence, not only to want to enjoy a good story, but in the end having learned something about a bygone era. Thank Horus for those dedicated – and knowledgeable – readers who truly enjoy Historical Fiction based on excellent research rather than “boys get girls.” They always do; or, come to think of it, maybe they don’t …
Specialized readers’ groups on Facebook are only a small venue. It would be greatly helpful if readers left more constructive reviews.
The answer lies in marketing/advertising i.e., laying out lots of money for book-ad services. Not exactly a sound business plan for the average author. Blogging, too, seems to have waned.
The one thing for my author to do is to keep writing – because she loves the energy and eventual satisfaction of having created something good – or even great – like me. Am I not a fascinating, albeit much hated, character?

Helen: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion. Does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
al-Saqqara: Receiving the IndieBRAG Medallion was an absolute thrill for her. My author treasures it. The folks at IndieBRAG are wonderful in their desire to promote good writing.

Helen: Thank you, Ebu al-Saqqara. It was, ah, eye-opening talking to you [Helen pulls a face]. Would your author like to add a short excerpt?
al-Saqqara: Thank you for letting me sound off, My Lady with the golden hair. May Horus hover over you and protect you from - shall we say - characters like me.
And, yes, here is a brief excerpt to show you the ignoble manner in which I was treated for my service to free my country from an inept ruler (and his heirs).
[al-Saqqara fondles his empty bowl of beer.]

Helen: Now, chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill?
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

Excerpt from Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile,
Chapter Forty-Two

The Kenbet’s Head Judge stood up and pounded the table with his short staff. Its hollow sound echoed through the Grand Foyer.
“The Kenbet of the Two Lands is assembled to judge Ebu al-Saqqara, Vizier and Quartermaster of Hor-Aha, our godly King. The accused has waived counsel. How, then, does he speak for himself?”
   The Head Judge sat down and hoped his part in this mock-trial would be brief. Even though several of the judges were still sympathetic to the ugly man’s plight, not one of them had entertained the notion of sending word to the condemned man. This was not a time to stand by dangerous loyalties.
    Al-Saqqara’s heart jumped at the unpromising start of the proceedings. Despite his resolve to fight for his life, his knees shook and he could barely think. After several attempts, he croaked, “What is the accusation against me?”
   The Head Judge stood up again and tapped the table.
   “Ebu al-Saqqara, you are charged with High Treason.”
   A collective sigh rippled through the stunned audience. Imagine: high treason, the gravest of all crimes!
   The blood drained from al-Saqqara’s face. He felt faint and knew he had to challenge this abomination at once; he must proclaim his innocence with vigor and conviction lest he not see another dawn.
   When quiet was restored, Lord Makari spoke. “Nekhen’s former Royal Tax Collector bears witness against you, Ebu al-Saqqara.”
   The Vizier’s head jerked up in surprise. The thieving vermin! He should quickly point a finger at the stupid provincial’s avarice, at his pilfering from the royal silos. Tesh was trying to save his own hide by conjuring up false accusations. Why, then, had Aha involved himself? Just when al-Saqqara felt he had a plausible defense, he saw Ramose point a finger at the other prisoner.
   “The Tax Collector is not your accuser, Ebu al-Saqqara. He only bears witness against you.”
    The air in the Grand Foyer grew stifling.
   Al-Saqqara summoned his reserves and demanded much too loudly, “Then who dares accuse me? Who dares accuse the King’s Vizier Ebu al-Saqqara?”
“I do.” The voice came from the Window of Appearances.
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  1. What a nasty evil man!!! Congratulations on bringing him to life - thank you Inge and Helen ....

    1. Thanks, Richard. "Uncle Ebu" (as the young sons of court nobles knew him)was fun to write; alas, sometimes he took on a life of his own and all I could do was follow him into the depths of his treachery.

    2. Thank you, Helen, for affording us a glimpse into the lives of characters - whether good or bad - your authors all care about deeply. I really appreciate being part of this group.

  2. It was such fun to meet this deliciously evil character! Helen and Inge, you are both treasures- thanks for the morning treat!

    1. Thank you, Geri - now, if we could only find those elusive Golden Tablets, we'd have a real treasure on our hands (other than Helen!).

  3. Another interesting read! Thanks for hosting these, Helen! Even if some of your guests are a bit scary! ;-)

    1. Yes, Stephanie, good old "Uncle Ebu" was one to stay away from if you valued your life.

  4. Great idea to meet a character instead of an author. I would not like to meet this one on a dark night.

  5. Even if you did, Tui, surely you would have your wise dolphin Ripple (such a wonderful book, by the way) to guide you to safety. Many thanks for stopping by all the way from New Zealand.

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment Tui - it just goes to show that its not always the nice guys who are popular on Blog posts!

  6. Glad al-Saqqara's master is bowl of beer. Always great stories and great writing

    1. Was it the promise of some beer for your stopping by? Although you might best stay away from "Uncle Ebu's" other brew which he concocts from hemp.
      (I still appreciate all your past encouragements to keep writing.)

  7. The most fascinating characters are the devilishly evil ones and al Saqqara is all of that. Wonderful excerpt with an irresistible cliffhanger.

    1. Indeed, Susan. And we love to flesh them out, don't we. I wonder who yours is in "In a Gilded Cage." Probably Sissi's mother-in-law, the Archduchess Sophie.
      Thanks for stopping by and for liking the Excerpt, if not al-Saqqara (which you aren't meant to, anyway).

  8. Dear Helen.
    I want to thank you for al-Saqqara's exposé, and for having us on.
    As my vile Vizier heads toward his just fate, I was happy to note that several of your followers enjoyed his appearance here and perhaps got curious about my novel.
    As of tomorrow, Khamsin will be on SALE for 99c until the 9th.
    Again, thank you for inviting us to be part of your Character Interviews.

  9. Loved this interview especially "before I explode with venom"! Great read.

    1. We all have those days when we feel like exploding - except in al-Saqqara's case it means "bad things" to a lot of people.
      Thanks for taking time to stop by, Lucienne.

  10. Really enjoyed this thanks, love the series and the research that almost enables the reader to feel Egypt.
    Nick Brown archaeologist and writer.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for saying so, Nick. Also, best of luck with your own writing and "digging." I am sure you'll find lots of actual and imaginary treasures to share with us.


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