Thursday, September 25, 2014

ECHO QUEEN Preview: Chapter 3

Echo Queen (Echo Trilogy, #2)

The Sequel to Echo Prophecy

Did you miss the Prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2? You can read them here:



Chapter 3
Arrive & Depart


Fifteen minutes later, Dr. Isa pulled the car onto a dirt driveway that led to a small, walled-off complex on the western outskirts of Mit Rahinah, one of the modern Egyptian towns that lay within Memphis’s ancient borders. She stopped the car in front of an imposing iron gate and removed a sleek smartphone from a handbag stashed on the floorboard against her door, tapping the face before holding it up to her ear.

After a single ring, someone picked up. Thanks to my heightened Nejerette senses, I could hear the woman on the other end, not that it did me any good. From what I could discern, they were speaking in Middle Egyptian, the same dialect that had long been the accepted standard language among Nejeretkind.

In the two weeks that had passed since our explosive confrontation with Set at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple, Marcus, Neffe, and Dominic had been doing what they could to help me learn to understand the spoken language rather than just the written version, but I’d yet to make much, if any, progress in learning to speak Middle Egyptian. It was too different from Nuin’s ancient language—like modern Italian compared to Latin—to make learning it much easier than if I hadn’t known Nuin’s language at all. I certainly hadn’t progressed enough to translate Dr. Isa’s rushed words.

When she ended the call, the gate started swinging outward. Dr. Isa eased the car into the compound and parked in front of a modern, boxy building. It was relatively small, tan, and appeared to have no windows and only one entrance or exit so far as I could tell—a heavy metal door with no handle, but with a keypad on the wall beside it, about halfway up. It seemed high-tech, high-security, and more than a little out of place.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

ECHO QUEEN Preview: Chapter 2

Echo Queen (Echo Trilogy, #2)

The Sequel to Echo Prophecy

Did you miss the Prologue and Chapter 1? You can read them here:



Chapter 2
Present & Past


With a flash of smoky colors, the world reappeared, dark and drafty. I fell to my hands and knees on a floor that was both cold and hard, coughing up water on polished black and white marble tiles. I hacked, gagged, and retched until my throat felt raw, inside and out, like I’d been drowning in flames rather than bathwater. Flames seemed appropriate; I’d been drowning in my own personal hell.

Marcus . . . almost killed me . . .

Closing my eyes, I rested my forehead on a dry patch of floor and worked on catching my breath, uncaring that I was naked and had no clue where I’d landed in my panicked flight. Wherever I was, it couldn’t be far from Marcus’s and my suite; in all of my accidental spatial shifts, I’d never moved more than several hundred feet from my starting point.

Which meant I had to catch my breath—and fast—because I needed to get as far away from the man I loved as possible. Before he tried to kill me again.

Dread wrapped around my heart and lungs as a terrifying thought eroded my resolve to flee. If I was out of his reach, what would he do to the people I’d left behind in the palace—to Jenny, my human sister, who just a week ago had learned she was pregnant with Set’s baby, or to Kat, my half-sister, who’d only just started to manifest as a result of being forced in a last-ditch effort to rescue me from Set’s At prison, or to Dominic, my half-brother and closest friend . . . or to Marcus? What would that thing inside of Marcus do to him?

My efforts to catch my breath turned into frantic gasping, and glittering spots floated in front of my vision. I couldn’t catch my breath. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the air. I could barely breathe.

“Lex!” a woman shouted. Her heels clicked hard and fast on the marble tiles. “Lex! Are you okay?” There was something familiar about her voice, about the hint of an accent, but I couldn’t quite place her.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

ECHO QUEEN Preview: The (Almost) Complete Glossary

Five days until the release of Echo Queen! I can hardly believe it, and I can't wait for you all to continue Lex's journey! This installments full of plenty of history, steaminess, and good ol' fashioned time-bending fun. :)


I thought it might be neat to share the glossary from Echo Queen with you. It contains most of what was included in the Echo Prophecy glossary, along with quite a few new entries, some of which are blacked out because they're a little spoilery, but you can read them if you want by highlighting the blacked-out text. Enjoy!


GLOSSARY

Akhet  The first of three seasons in the ancient Egyptian year. Akhet is the inundation season, when the Nile floods, and is roughly correlated with fall in the northern hemisphere.

Ankhesenpepi  Nejerette. Nuin’s eldest daughter and queen and consort to many Old Kingdom pharaohs, including Pepi I and II.

Apep (Apophis) Netjer or “god.” One of two Netjers responsible for maintaining balance in our universe, the other being Re. Apep was historically worshipped against as Re’s opponent and the evil god of chaos.




At  Ancient Egyptian, “moment, instant, time”; The At is a plane of existence overlaying our own, where time and space are fluid. At can also be used to refer to the fabric of space and time.


Ankh  Ancient Egyptian, “life”.






Ankh-At  Nuin’s power. Includes (at least) the power to travel through time, to create and remove memory blocks, and to manipulate the At on this plane of existence.


Aset (Isis)  Nejerette. Heru’s sister. Aset was worshipped as a goddess associated with motherhood, magic, and nature by the ancient Egyptians.





At-qed  State of stasis a Nejeret’s body enters when his or her ba departs for the At.

Ba  Considered one of the essential parts of the soul by the ancient Egyptians. In regards to Nejerets, the ba, or the “soul,” is the part of a person that can enter the At.

Bahur  Arabic, “of Horus” or “of Heru”.

Blade  A ruling Nejeret’s chief protector and companion.

Council of Seven  The body of leadership that governs the Nejerets. The Council consists of the patriarchs of the seven strongest Nejeret families: Ivan, Heru, Set, Sid, Moshe, Dedwen, and Shangdi. The Meswett, Alexandra Larson Ivanov, is also an honorary member of the Council.

Dedwen  A member of the Council of Seven. Dedwen was worshipped as a god associated with prosperity, wealth, and fire by the ancient Nubians.

Deir el-Bahri  Located on the west side of the Nile, just across the river from Luxor in Upper (southern) Egypt. Several mortuary temples and tombs are located in Deir el-Bahri, including Djeser-Djeseru, Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.

Djeser-Djeseru  Ancient Egyptian, “Holy of Holies”. Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple in Deir el-Bahri.

Hatshepsut  (ruled 1479—1457 BCE) Female Pharaoh during the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt. One of Heru’s many wives, and mother to the Nejerette Neferure.

Hat-hur (Hathor)  Ancient Egyptian goddess associated with love, fertility, sexuality, music, and dance. According to the Contendings of Heru and Set myth, Hathor is the goddess who healed Heru’s eye. She is often depicted as a cow or a woman with cow ears or horns, and a sun disk is frequently cradled by the horns.


Heru (Horus)  Nejeret. Osiris’s son, Nuin’s grandson, Aset’s brother, and former leader of the Council of Seven. Heru stepped down from his role as leader to function as the Council’s general and assassin, when necessary. Heru was worshipped as the god of the sky, kingship, and authority by the ancient Egyptians. He is often depicted as a falcon or falcon-headed.




Ipwet  Human, Nejeret-carrier. Nuin’s primary human wife at the time of his death.

Ivan  Nejeret. Leader of the Council of Seven. Alexander’s father and Lex’s great-grandfather.

Kemet  Ancient Egyptian, “Black Land”. Kemet is one of the names ancient Egyptians called their homeland.

Ma’at  Ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, justice, and order. To the Nejeret, ma’at refers to universal balance.

Men-nefer (Memphis)  Ancient Egyptian city. Men-nefer was the capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom.

Meswett  Ancient Egyptian (mswtt), “girl-child”. The Meswett is the prophesied savior/destroyer of the Nejerets, as supposedly foretold by Nuin upon his deathbed, though none actually remember it happening. The prophecy was later recorded by the Nejeret Senenmut.

Moshe (Moses)  Nejeret. Member of the Council of Seven. Central figure in most western religions.

Neferure (Neffe)  Nejerette. Daughter of Hatshepsut and Heru.

Nejeret (male)/Nejerette (female)/Nejerets (plural)  Modern term for the Netjer-At.

 
Netjer  Ancient Egyptian, “god”.



 

Netjer-At  Ancient Egyptian, “Gods of Time”.





Netjer-At Oasis  The ancient, historic home of the Nejerets, deep in the heart of the Sahara Desert.

Nuin (Nun)  Netjer/Nejeret. One of two Netjers responsible for maintaining balance in our universe, the other being Apep. Also known as the “Great Father”, Nuin was the original Nejeret and the father of all Nejeretkind. Nuin was worshipped as a god associated with the primordial waters and creation by the ancient Egyptians.

Old Kingdom  Period of Egyptian history from 2686—2181 BCE.

Order of Hat-hur  An over 5,000-year-old, hereditary order of priestesses run by Aset and devoted to aiding the goddess Hat-hur (Lex) during her temporal journeys.

Osiris  Nejeret. Heru and Aset’s father and leader of the Council of Seven until his murder a few decades after Nuin’s death. Osiris was worshipped as a god associated with death, the afterlife, fertility, and agriculture by the ancient Egyptians.

Pepi II (Pepi Neferkare)  Pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, 2284-2180 BCE. Final ruler of both the 6th Dynasty and of the Old Kingdom.

Peret  The second of three seasons in the ancient Egyptian year. Peret is known as the season of emergence, during which planting and growth took place.

 
Re (Ra)  Netjer. One of two Netjers responsible for maintaining balance in our universe, the other being Apep. Re was historically worshipped as the ancient Egyptian solar deity.




Ren  
Considered one of the essential parts of the soul by the ancient Egyptians, closely associated with a person’s name. In regards to Nejerets, a ren is the soul of a Netjer, like Re or Apep, much like a ba is the soul of a Nejeret or human.

Senenmut  Nejeret. Scribe of Nuin’s prophecy and architect of the underground temple housing the ankh-At at Deir el-Bahri. Senenmut was the “high steward of the king” to Queen Hatshepsut as well as Neferure’s tutor. Senenmut was killed by Set after the completion of the underground temple.

Set (Seth)  Nejeret. Nuin’s grandson, father of Dom, Genevieve, Kat, and Lex, and member of the Council of Seven. Possessed by Apep, Set went rogue when the Council of Seven chose Heru as their leader after Osiris’s death around 4,000 years ago.



Shangdi  Nejerette. Member of the Council of Seven. Shangdi is worshipped as the supreme sky deity in the traditional Chinese religion.

Shemu  The third and final of three seasons in the ancient Egyptian year. Shemu, literally “low water,” is known as the season of harvest.

Sheut  Considered one of the essential parts of the soul by the ancient Egyptians, closely associated with a person’s shadow. In regards to Nejerets, a sheut is the power of a Netjer, like Re or Apep, or the less potent power of the offspring of a Nejerette and Nejeret.

Sid (Siddhartha Gautama)  Nejeret. More commonly known as “Buddha” to humans.


Wedjat (Eye of Horus)  Ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, healing, strength, and perfection.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

ECHO QUEEN: Maps & Charts...and a short, unexpected treatise on symbols in ancient Egypt

I just put these little guys together yesterday, and thought I'd share. It gives you a little preview of where the events of Echo Queen take place (entirely in Egypt this time!) and which "Gods of Time"--the direct translation of Netjer-At--might be making an appearance.

Enjoy!




A note about symbology and ancient Egypt...

First off, I want to state that I am by no means an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphs--not like Lex--but I know enough to get by. :)

Egypt's ancient history is enormous, spanning thousands of years. As we all know from studying our own modern history in school, so much changes in decades and centuries that the culture--language, religion, technology, politics--of a civilization is often barely recognizable as belonging to the same civilization a couple hundred years down the road. Just look at your own country; whether you live in the US, the UK, South Africa, or pretty much anywhere, if you hopped back a couple hundred years in time, how easily would you fit in?

And when we look at Egypt's sprawling history, we're talking millennia, not centuries. Which brings me to my point: so much changed over those thousands of years, especially with language and religious symbolism and iconography. And, when there's so much time for ideas and symbols to evolve, there's also a pretty good chance that many will come to have multiple meanings...which to those of us living a good 2-5,000 years after they were really used and truly understood, can lead to a lot of confusion.

I think the symbol I chose to use for the goddess Hathor in Lex's world, cow horns cradling a sun disk, is a good example of this:


Recognize it from the cover of Echo Queen?


Here's a couple images from "the most beautiful" Queen Nefertari's tomb (New Kingdom, 13th century BCE) in Deir el-Bahri (Yeah! That's where Queen Hatshepsut's tomb, Djeser-Djeseru, which featured prominently in Echo Queen, is too!):


The woman with the cow horns cradling a red sun disk and a lazily draped snake on top of her head is totally the same lady, right? Right?

Nope. The woman in white is Nefertari, but the horned woman in the image on the left is the goddess Hathor, and the one in the image on the right is the goddess Isis. How can we tell the difference when they're wearing the same (topless) dress and accessories, including the divine adornment on top of their heads? By reading the hieroglyphs, of course!


Over time, the Goddesses Hathor (think of her as the rock star goddess--representing love, drink, dancing, sex, but also fertility and childbirth) and Isis (typically a "mother earth" goddess, representing an ideal mother and wife as well as nature) have often been confused, sometimes been merged, and at points have even become interchangeable. Another goddess, Sekhemet (more of a warrior goddess), often gets tossed into the mix too, just make sure we don't get to comfortable with our understanding of these complex ancient people with their ever-evolving culture.

Alright, so that was a really long-winded and slightly rambly way for me to explain that the symbol I used to represent the goddess Hathor in Lex's world also often represents Isis, as well as Hathor in our world.

What I'd intended to be a quick little post sharing the map and chart from the front of Echo Queen has clearly turned into quite a bit more. Whoopsie! Oh well...I hope you enjoyed it. :)


And keep an eye out for Echo Queen, coming out on September 26, 2014--that's next week!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ECHO QUEEN Preview: Chapter 1

Echo Queen (Echo Trilogy, #2)

The Sequel to Echo Prophecy

Did you miss the Prologue? You can read it here.


PART I 
Cairo, Egypt 
Present Day 


“. . . know this, Heru: 
however much time stands between us, 
however much distance separates us, 
I will find my way back to you. 
I will return to you . . .” 

—taken from the Hall of Lex, Nejeret Oasis, Old Kingdom, c. 2180 BCE



CHAPTER 1

Sex & Death

“I swear to some god who isn’t you, Marcus,” I said, closing my eyes and relaxing into our suite’s massive Jacuzzi tub. “If you don’t get that cute butt of yours in here right now . . .”

“You’ll do what, Little Ivanov?” Marcus said from the doorway, his low, silken voice and enticing accent heightening my anticipation.

Keeping my eyes closed, I let the corners of my lips curve upward. The things that man can do to me with only his voice . . .

I shook my head ever so slowly and slouched a little lower in the oval tub, the almost-too-hot water scented with the tiniest drop of vanilla essential oil. Over the past week, this tub had become one of my favorite things about our rooms in the Council’s Cairo palace; the Florence Palazzo had been stunning, but its accommodations were definitely cramped by modern standards. Thankfully, the Cairo palace, though nearly as old as the Palazzo, didn’t suffer from the same historical handicap.

I’d only just left Marcus’s side to sink into the water, but even a minute away from the man I was quite literally addicted to, whose bonding pheromones were as vital to my survival as oxygen, was a minute too long. Our bond was both emotional and physiological, and it was both the most wondrous and the most terrifying thing I’d ever experienced.

Marcus’s shoes squeaked faintly on the polished marble floor as he entered the palatial bathroom, which meant he was still wearing shoes . . . which meant he was still fully dressed. Damn.

I sighed and opened my eyes just as he stopped at the foot of the tub. He was staring down at me, his golden irises burning with desire. But he wasn’t showing any intention of shedding his gray slacks or pristine white, button-down shirt, of revealing the sculpted masculine body the clothing tried, and failed miserably, to conceal.

“You’re not actually going to join me, are you?” I stuck out my lower lip, just a bit.

One side of Marcus’s mouth quirked, and he narrowed his eyes. “That depends.”

“On . . . ?”

He inhaled deeply and glanced up at the ceiling. “On what you’ll do to me if I don’t join you.” His eyes settled on me.

I shifted my legs, teasing him with a different view. “I honestly think you should be more concerned about what I won’t do to you . . .”

Something dark glinted in Marcus’s eyes, far different from the playful, predatory intensity that had shone in them only a moment ago, and an unexpected burst of anxiety twisted in my gut. I shifted in the tub, closing my legs and sitting up a little higher.

And again, Marcus’s eyes glinted with darkness. “You really are a little whore, aren’t you?”

I stiffened, and my blood ran cold. Despite all the reserved, almost stony characteristics several millennia had chiseled into Marcus’s personality, he was never cruel to me—a little frightening, perhaps, and sometimes frustratingly tight-lipped and other times shockingly blunt, but never cruel. My anxiety expanded, snaking out to my limbs and electrifying my muscles.

ECHO QUEEN Preview: Prologue

Echo Queen (Echo Trilogy, #2)

The Sequel to Echo Prophecy

PROLOGUE
The Delta, Egypt
c. 3500 BCE

“Quiet, girl,” Apep said. Sick of the young Nejerette’s whimpers, he lashed out with his arm, backhanding her across the face. She fell on the cavern floor in a heap of shapely limbs and bruised flesh. He grinned.

The young Nejerette was pretty enough now, in her pre-manifestation state, but he saw the potential for true beauty hidden beneath her thinning mask of humanity. There was just enough time left before she manifested completely . . . just enough time for her to conceive and bear his child and pass on her beauty to the first-ever offspring of a union between two Nejerets. Just enough time . . .

Apep sneered. She would make a decent enough mother to his new host body, but he cared less about how attractive that body might be and more about the power it was certain to contain. Finally, he would take one giant step closer to defeating Re, to being in control . . . to unmaking everything.

“Please,” the young Nejerette whispered. “No more.” She pulled her legs up in front of her, hugging them to her chest in a pathetic attempt to hide herself from him.

It was useless; he’d already seen all of her. He’d already done what needed to be done. If she wasn’t with child by now, it would be too late. He would have to dispose of her, as he’d done with his other failed attempts, and start over.

“Your depths of depravity never cease to amaze me,” a woman said from behind Apep, her voice oddly accented and laced with scorn.

He spun around, pulling an obsidian dagger from his woven leather belt.

The intruder, a striking Nejerette, stood in the mouth of the cavern. Behind her, the sky shone with silvery starlight, but not even the heavens could compete with her eyes. They were aglow with fire. With power. He could feel it writhing beneath her skin, seeking a way to expand out into the physical plane. He needed that power.