Sample Saturday: “Around the World in 80 Pages”

ATW80P - NEWHi, everyone. Here’s a quick historical tale from my short fiction collection. I used to volunteer at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, teaching the history of scribes, writing, and the Rosetta Stone; that was the inspiration for this story. I chose this tale because it’s the 11th anniversary of me giving my first tour of the museum’s rock tomb.

Around the World in 80 Pages is always free on Smashwords.


The Scribe of Rashid

Sadji put down the tiny chisel and hammer to wipe his brow. It was hot and humid; he wore only a pleated linen breach clout. He needed a moment to rest; it was long and difficult work creating a dedication stele. Only the most talented scribes were given this honor. Carving the newest decree from Memphis, as directed the sacred pharaoh Ptolemy (fifth of that name) was a gift from Thoth himself.

The work of Egyptian scribes seemed endless. Sadji collected taxes, read the law, wrote letters and legal papers for his neighbors in Rashid and even resolved disputes at times. He was the best educated man in the Nile delta town, learning to read and write in the scribe schools starting the year of his fifth flood.

Scribe school was brutal. The masters said that boys’ ears were found on their backs and that the only way to make them hear was to beat them. Sadji had his fair share of beatings, that was certain. He was driven by fear of punishment to constantly improve his skills.

Sadji practiced writing on broken pots, scraps of fabric, stones … anything he could find. Papyrus writing paper was too precious for rehearsal and could only be used for final documents. Writing had to be clear, perfectly sized and correct; otherwise, the masters might think his hearing needed more improvement and lay about him with the flail.

Sadji learned to mix pigments as well. Cobalt for the blue. Cinnabar for the red. Lead for the black. He learned how to make and care for brushes, and had a collection of cases and palettes.

Eventually, Sadji was chosen from among his fellow students to learn the sacred picture-writing: hieroglyphs. Only the most advanced students were chosen for this honor. It was a gift to deliver messages to and from the gods. Thoth, the baboon-headed god of the scribes, had surely smiled upon Sadji. He could now write not only the three versions of his native language but also in Greek.

Sadji had hoped to be assigned to the Prince’s School, to teach Pharaoh’s sons to read and write. Instead, he was sent to the city of Rashid, where he now dwelt.

He was no longer young: an old man of nearly thirty floods. Like most men of his craft, his head was permanently bowed forward. Years of bending over the work in his lap to write, or mixing pigments on a soapstone palette, had put a curve in his spine.

Yet, Sadji considered himself blessed. He had only one wife, Aishe, but she was beautiful and fertile. She had given him a son, Khnum, who was two floods this year, and two daughters, Amri and Jana. Aishe directed the servants kindly and Sadji’s house was orderly. He hoped to have another son in this fourth Xandicus year; Aishe had already moved to the birthing room. Sadji prayed to Bes for a safe confinement and delivery.

And of course, there was the stele. In three languages — Greek, everyday Egyptian and the sacred hieroglyphs — it announced the divine cult of Ptolemy V, gave a tax exemption to the resident priesthood, and stated where the river was dammed in order to help farmers. With its three languages, the important Decree of Memphis could be read by anyone who understood but one type of writing. Those who had no reading at all could find someone to tell them what it said.

Sadji was the best of the scribes, which was why he would create the stele. This work had to be perfect, and he knew that Thoth would guide his hand so that men might forever know of Pharaoh’s generosity.

He picked up his tools again and reviewed the text. This would be his finest work.

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Heart, Family, & Fragrance: Treasures of Hové

The street on which you find Hové Parfumeur is Chartres. It’s not shar-tres or charts— it’s chart-ers. So much of the city is French influenced, yet have taken on a life of its own to become more Nola and less of the former. It’s the same with Hové. A legacy business of sorts in the French Quarter, inspired so long ago by the sweet smells of the south and now a fresh-faced facade filled with welcoming and sweet smells– old and new, and yet all comforting to those who wander in.

via Heart, Family, & Fragrance: Treasures of Hové


When Diana told him she had plans to visit Preservation Hall for a late show one evening, Amos insisted on meeting her there. He walked over from his house and joined her in the line that snaked down St. Peter Street. Once inside, they sat on the floor cushions in the very front, listening to traditional jazz played by some of the finest musicians Diana had ever heard. When she whispered that her back was bothering her a little, Amos moved closer so that she could lean against him. He put an arm around her waist and she settled in with a sigh. She was close enough now that Amos could smell her perfume, which was subtle but intoxicating. He recognized it as a signature scent from a French Quarter perfumer on Chartres Street; it was perfect for her. And it made him realize how much he wanted to make love to the woman whose head rested on his shoulder. — Bayou Fire


 

I admit, today’s post is a bit of a cheat. I saw this article about Hové Parfumeur yesterday and realized it would be fun to share with you. Why? Because that’s what this paragraph is about. And what, you might be wondering, is the name of the scent?

Kiss in the Dark.

Sample Saturday: “Hugs and Hisses”

hugs and hissesHi, everyone. I felt very much led to focus on Hugs and Hisses this week. I donate all royalties to Humane Society Silicon Valley, where I am a volunteer. Here’s a snippet; purchase links will follow.


Rediscovering My Purpose

In 2010, I started a journey about my life purpose work; I even wrote a book about it. I was fortunate to have life coaches around me whose tools I could use, and I looked seriously at what gave my life the most meaning.

All of the resources I used told me that we, every one of us, knows deep down what constitutes our purpose. However, many of us bury it because of discouragement from those around us or circumstances that we see as beyond our control.

When I started doing this work, it all came back to the top.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I read James Herriott’s All Creatures … novels incessantly; he chronicled his own adventures as a Yorkshire vet in those pages. My clinic would be called Hillcrest, and I would help animals.

What I didn’t know until I was an adult was that I suffered from dyscalculia: similar to dyslexia, but involving numbers. If I could see how something worked, as was the case with geometry, I could do it. Algebra and trigonometry were beyond me and, thus, so was veterinary school. I learned to type so that I could get a good job. College went on the back burner; I went back as an adult and often joke that I may finish my anthropology degree by the time I’m ninety.

Anyway, I’ve had pets whenever I could, ranging from fish and birds to cats and dogs (with aspirations toward a goat and a horse). The animals in my life were generally my best friends.

I volunteered with the SPCA in my city as an adoption counselor in the early 1990s, but when I moved away during my divorce I couldn’t work out the logistics.

I volunteered at the Josephine D. Randall Museum in San Francisco during that time as well, teaching inner city kids about the rehabilitated wildlife in the Animal Room.

I wrote articles for local animal magazines.

But that was a long time ago.

When I took Lulu for her last kitten shot, I saw Humane Society Silicon Valley for the first time. It was, and is, one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen. Everyone was smiling and nice, especially the young man dressed as Santa.

“Oh! A kitty,” he cooed as he held Lulu for her photo; it was the annual craft fair, unbeknownst to me when I made the appointment. Lulu was one tiny kitten among many dogs waiting to have their photos taken with “Santa Paws.”

I had been trying to find meaning from many things, including volunteering as a museum docent, doing social justice work, my writing, and returning to church with a progressive congregation.

However, the life purpose work that I did always brought me back to animals.


Want your own copy of Hugs and Hisses? Here are the purchase links and back cover copy:

Award-winning author, animal communicator, and Reiki practitioner Sharon E. Cathcart shares tales from her humane education work in this new memoir. Sharing stories of both happiness and heartbreak, Cathcart brings us into the challenging world of animal rescue.

All proceeds from the book will benefit Humane Society Silicon Valley.

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Sample Saturday: “Through the Opera Glass”

operaFive years ago today, I received my first award as an author. It was for my short fiction collection, Through the Opera Glass. In honor of that anniversary, here is one of the tales therein. Enjoy!


Selling Dreams Away
Written January 20, 2012
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Neighbor/Fierce/Bankrupt

“Good news, cousin! I have found a buyer for the house and vineyard.” Francois Delacroix approached his cousin Claire, who was grooming her horse in the sunny side yard.

“I was unaware, cousin, that my home was for sale.” Her tone was icy as she continued her work, not even bothering to look at him.

“My dear Claire, your father gave me control of your assets in his will. Need I remind you that this is in accordance with the law?”

“My home,” she said, facing the man whom she still saw as an interloper, will or no, “is not for sale.”

“Oh, my dear cousin. You are bankrupt. Of course we must sell the house.”

“Impossible. I have an income.”

“Exhausted. I had to feed my friends and servants who came all the way from the Camargue with me to help you.”

“Help me? Is that what you call it? You house your friends in my home, give them my food to eat … and now you tell me you’ve spent my income?” Claire fought the urge to slap the smug smile from her cousin’s handsome face. “As for servants, I would hardly call one miserable valet ‘servants.’ You give yourself airs well beyond your station.”

“Consider yourself fortunate, cousin, that I have not sold your clothes, jewels and horse.”

“You wouldn’t dare.” Her blue eyes sparked with anger.

“Wouldn’t I? Don’t you think your neighbors in Baincthun would love to see Mademoiselle Claire Delacroix brought down? Your fine jewels and clothing gone, your horse sold to the knacker and you in the workhouse?” He laughed. “No, cousin. You will accompany me and my friends to Paris. I have found employment for us and our horses, including you and your precious Josephine, in the Opera Garnier. Do not doubt me, cousin. You are not the first family member to find themselves on my sufferance.”

Claire fought back tears as she watched Francois walk away. She had no idea what he meant with his parting remark, and was fairly sure that she didn’t want to know. What kind of a man would do this to a family member?

And yet, she had no choice. Papa was dead. Her fiancé, Philippe, was dead. She was on her own in a country that afforded her no rights without a male protector.

Claire led Josephine back to the barn and put her in the loose box. The big black mare nickered, as though she understood that all was not well.

“It seems that we are bound for Paris,” Claire remarked to the echoing barn.

She had never thought about living elsewhere, not even while studying abroad. All roads led back to Baincthun in her mind, with the exception of one tiny dream. Both of her parents had come from the south of France, and she imagined a beautiful mas – a farmhouse – with terra cotta walls and blue shutters to keep out the mistral wind. There would be colorful boutis quilts on the beds, laughter, music … but, again, that was a dream. That idea died with Philippe.

Francois’s valet watched from a distance. How he wished he could tell her his story. He took a halting step toward the barn and then stopped. Mademoiselle Delacroix had no reason to speak with her cousin’s ragged manservant, let alone believe what he might say. There was no point in trying.

So Gilbert Rochambeau turned his face toward the main house and limped away, a fierce determination to help Claire growing in his disgraced gentleman’s heart.


Want your own copy of Through the Opera Glass? Here are the back cover copy and purchasing links:

Author Sharon E. Cathcart took up a challenge in 2012: to write flash fiction and full length short stories based on various prompts. Each story features one or more characters from In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera or its sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.

Brimming with historical detail, the stories in this collection range in place and time from 19th Century Persia to post-World War II San Francisco.

Through the Opera Glass is the 2014 runner-up for “Best Short Story Collection” in the eFestival of Words Independent Book Awards.

Amazon (click on this link to be taken automatically to the site for your country)

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Sample Saturday … and a Thank You

followed-blog-200-2xHi, everyone. Before we get into Sample Saturday, I want to thank everyone who follows this blog. When I got this little badge today, I reflected on how I started this blog a few years ago with no expectation that anyone beyond my personal circle of friends would look at it. And here we are today! So, thank you.

Today’s sample is from Flowers of Europe, my new steampunk release. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords, with other outlets soon to come. Enjoy!


Flowers of EuropeThaddeus Flowers awoke in a bed not his own, head pounding. He’d definitely taken too much ale at the White Horse last night, and was not entirely sure where he was. The pub was in the Seven Dials, but he might be anywhere from there to Chelsea.
Raking his fingers through his dark hair, Thad sat up slowly. The dull light filtering in through the curtains showed a respectable enough room; his clothes were draped across a chair … on top of what looked like a petticoat.

Oh, dear god.

Thad looked at the sleeping figure next to him. The young woman’s auburn hair was spread across the pillow, her face serene in sleep.

A pretty girl. I wish I remembered her name!

With movements that were far too practiced even for his own liking, Thad slid out of bed without disturbing the redhead. All clothes except for his boots were donned quietly. Once outside the room, and the house, he would put on his boots and walk away.

As he’d done so many times before.