An Interview for Double Decker Books.

My ideas go across the boarders Watch my interview for the USA-based magazine/YouTube channel Double Decker Books. My thoughts on writing process, freedom of expression, and my works in progress.

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This is a brilliant platform for the writers to promote their writing, and for the readers to know more about the authors and their works.

 

[Non-fiction. Art] The Virgin and Child by Masaccio (1426)

Created in traditional for Gothic technique, using panel and egg tempera, this work, however, represents a turning point in the artist’s career.
In 1423 Masaccio travels to Rome, and from this point his painting frees from the influence of Byzantine and Gothic elements.
The golden background, the round halos of angels and the Virgin Mary refer to the traditions of old masters. Nevertheless, Roman and Greek influences prevail here. The pattern at the base of the throne is a replica of a design found on a Roman sarcophagus, its sides incorporate the three orders of columns from Roman architecture. The figure of the baby, naked and plump like a Roman putto, wears an elliptical halo and feasting on grapes, defines his position on his mother’s laps.
Mosaccio uses a single-point linear perspective, so the figures of Madonna and Child become the focal point of the painting.
(145 words)
 

 

 

 

 

[Short story]: The Son of Immortals (excerpt)

First Papyrus

I am the King of the kings, I am the son of the falcon-headed Horus, I am the beginning, I am the end, I am the one who will live forever, I am the personification of the King of Gods, Amun-Re, I am the greatest warrior who defeated the armies of thousands, who put the barbarian princes of Kush and Wawat[1] on their knees, forcing them to accept the law of Kemet’s gods. I am the one who is raising the biggest temple in honour of my divine father in the sacred city of Abdju.[2]  I am the ruler of ancient Niwt-Imn[3], the house of Amun-Re. I have hundreds of names, but only three of them can be pronounced by mortals. I am Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun, the live god of the land of Kemet[4].

The golden boat of Re has finished its way in the waters of the sky’s Nile and submerged into the darkness of Nun. I found myself wandering around the tombs of deceased kings who have already met Osiris in the Afterlife. I try to remember what I’m doing here in the middle of the night, but fails. The night is dark and quiet, Khonsu’s crown is shining brightly and lighting my path by its cold silver light.

My thoughts are interrupted by quiet voices. They sound from one of the tombs. Coming closer, I can see the dim light of torches, the voices sound louder. There is no doubt; I’ve met the tomb’s robbers.

Disgusting thieves, sons of dishonoured Seth, doomed to be punished in the Afterlife; their ba[5] will be eaten by Apophis, the gigantic serpent, and will be condemned to eternal death. They are who dare to steal from the kings, deserve nothing, but miserable death without a burial.

There are three of them on a doorstep of the underground tomb, ready to enter, to disturb the king’s eternal peace, ready to touch and grab, and smash everything, taking gold and jewellery and all other of the king’s belongings, throwing a mummy out of its golden coffin in their disgraceful passion for profit.

I’m going to call my guards to arrest the robbers. Instead, my mouth produces a weird, heart-stopping scream. This scream can belong neither to a man, nor to an animal. What is wrong with me? I can’t recognise my own voice.

One of the robbers turns around. His face becomes pale like linen, his eyes stares at me in horror; he drops his torch and runs, leaving his peers and screaming like a lunatic. His friend shouts at him, but noticing me just petrifies.

‘The king….The spirit of the king,’ he mumbles in shock.

‘How dare you, the son of a jackal, to touch the royal tomb?’ I shouts full of anger, trying to grab his shoulder, but my hand goes through his body and catches the air.

I see the thief falling down, his eyes are wide opened. I lean over him, trying to have a closer look. He doesn’t breathe anymore…He is dead!

I have no chance to stop the last one as he disappears in the darkness, following his friend.

I sit down on the ground in front of the tomb, examining my hands and wondering what has happened to the robbers, where my guards are, and what, for all gods’ sake, I’m doing here at night.

Struggling to follow the flow of my own thoughts, I start to read a writing on the tomb, guessing whom it may belong to.

It is a traditional plate with a name of a pharaoh on the door’s seal.

Oh Thoth, the Adviser of the kings, give me all your divine wisdom and knowledge! The king’s name on the plate is…. Userkaf Smenhkare Meriamun, the name of my brother.

And straight away, I see the face of Userkaf in front of me. He is the exact copy of me. Even our mother, the Great King’s Wife, queen Nefriru couldn’t recognize us. We are the same height, the same short black hair, the same big black eyes, the same straight long nose which we have inherited from our great father.

We were born together, but still I was the first who came out of the queen’s blessed belly. I was the one and the only heir to the throne. My brother, Userkaf, was brought up to become Chief Priest of Amun-Re, but he always desired more…Always jealous, always despising me, always wanted to be the first.

He’s been waiting, waiting for the whole life, for twenty five long years, when finally his time has come.

I remembers his face, but it’s blurry…it’s under the water. I feel the cold water fills my ears and mouth, I can’t breathe, I try to break free, but my brother’s hand is squeezing my throat tighter and tighter. I try to push him, to call for help, but my efforts are getting weaker and weaker. I’ m not a good swimmer. I’ve never been.

The grimaced face of my brother, like an agonizing blurry reflection of myself…and then…here I am. I am dead.

I’m crying, I’m cursing Userkaf who, like shameful Seth, killed his own brother to usurp his power.

Oh immortal gods, I call on you! Let me take my revenge, let me free the throne of Isis from the usurper, let me be judged by Osiris in the Underworld, let me travel together with Amun-Re in his golden boat in the skies and let the name of my brother to be forgotten forever.

Second Papyrus

This is very late in the evening. The light of oil lamps and torches is fading, and the whole palace is going to fall asleep. Only heavy steps of night’s guards in the corridors and the quiet murmur of  fountains in gardens break the silence of chambers.

I don’t remember how I appeared here. I think I just wish to come back home to my palace in Niwt-Imn, to see my wife, young and beautiful Mutnefert and our son, my only heir, Senenmut. I wish everything that has happened to me was a dream, a bad nightmare sent to me by demons of the night. I wish to wake up. I wish….to be alive.

Unnoticed, I enter my chambers and…oh Seth, pull my eyes out as I can’t bear to see my beloved wife in the arms of my brother, the murderer Userkaf.

Using our similarity, he took my throne, my name and now…he’s lying in my bed with my wife! She has been fooled as all others; she believed that it was Userkaf who drowned in a river, not me. It was an accident, the will of Hapy, the river god who took Userkaf to his underwater palace. That was a lie she’s been told.

My Mutnefert, my great queen, my little sister, my only love. I always loved her. I’ve been in love with her since I was ten, and she was only eight, but our brother desired her as well.

When our mother, the Great King’s Wife, died, our divine father took Mutnefert as his new Great Wife. The crown of Kemet should have been secured within the family, but he was too ill and too weak. As soon as he joined Osiris in the Underworld, I and Mutnefert got married.  Userkaf, the crafty son of dark demons, couldn’t control his passion, though. He tried to seduce our sister a few times, but she loved me, she has always been my most loyal wife.

I see her now, kissing him, embracing him, petting him, groaning in passion, giving him pleasure she used to give to me.

Oh Atum, the creator of the world and all people, who arose from the waters of the chaos, give me a body, and I will claim everything back from my brother. I will take my revenge! 

Third Papyrus

  I’m only ten, but I can read and write fluently. I’m short, but strong quick and agile. My father always took me hunting lions and panthers. I’ve even caught one for my own little zoo. My father told me that I was born to be a warrior, I was born to be a king, but I’m preparing for the life of a scribe.

The almighty gods have sealed my voice inside my throat, so I never could speak. I never could tell the truth. I never could tell that my uncle, nasty and crafty Userkaf, drowned my father and took his name and his crown.

I’m only a boy now. My life is under threat. I’m scared to death. Why, oh almighty gods? Why have you given me this body?

I’m sitting now at the reception chamber amongst three other pharaoh’s scribes and writing everything that is said at the king’s presence.

‘…And you are informing me about that only now, Great Vizier…’

The king is sitting on his golden throne. His head is crowned with a high fancy headdress. Tiny golden bees, colourful butterflies, and lotus’ flowers made from lapis lazuli with agates and emeralds move with each head’s movement. Long golden earrings shine in his ears; heavy wide bracelets are on his wrists and ankles. A golden balm is on his lips; he smells of lotus and rose’s oils, he is wearing my long robe and richly decorated sandals. He doesn’t hesitate to take everything from me.

Ineni, the Great Vizier and the major of Niwt-Imn, is on his knees. He is leaning lower and lower until his forehead touches the floor. Ineni is fat, old, and coward. His bald round head is shining of sweat. He is afraid to make his lord angry, but he believes in rumours.

‘I didn’t want to bother my king with the information that hasn’t been proved yet. I just wanted to wait to be sure that…’

‘To wait? To wait for what? When the prince of Kush and his allies will summon a new army? When their barbarian soldiers will stay at the city’s gates?’

The pharaoh is furious.

Ineni crawls on his fat belly, coming closer to the king, kissing his toes with gold covered nails.

The ruler only grimaces. The smell of sweat irritates His Majesty even more than the bad news from the boarders.

‘Do the prince and his chieftains remember that their sons were brought in Kemet by my father during his last campaign and have been living here since? Does he remember that his oldest daughter is one of my wives?’

‘It is something else, my lord, you should know,’ the vizier whispers barely audible, looking behind his back at me and other scribes.

‘What is it? Speak!’

Userkaf is impatient as usual.

‘I’ve heard that the rumours were spreading out in the city, Your Majesty. People keep talking…’ Ineni stammers.

‘What? Speak! Your king orders you.’

He presses his sceptre to the vizier’s head and raises his chin, looking into his eyes, looking for the answers.

‘My sources reported me, oh ruler of two worlds, that some of the high priests are involved as well. I’ve been informed that the kushite’s prince has offered a deal to the priest of Sobek, the governor of the South who believes that…that you, our divine Nimaatre Smenkhare Meriamun who shall live forever, have been killed by your own brother, the Great priest of Amun-Re.’

The pharaoh only laughs, but I see his face is getting paler.

‘Tell the priest of Sobek, honourable Hapuseneb, that his suspicions are absolutely baseless, and that I would like to talk to him regarding all these nasty rumours he dares to spread out about me. As for Beja, my kushite’s father-in-law, I think I need to remind him to whom he should be grateful for allowing him on the kushite’s throne.’

He smiles, and I feel a chill running down my backbone.

_____________________________________________

[1] Kush and Wawat—countries situated on the south-east of Egypt. Kush- ancient Nubia.

[2] Abdju—an Egyptian name for Abydos

[3] Niwt-Imn—an Egyptian name for Thebes

[4] Kemet— an ancient name for Egypt

[5] Ba—in Egyptian mythology—a soul of a deceased

“The Iced Asylum” is in “Stories in Colour” Collection.

It is arrived…finally! “The Iced Asylum” is going international :)))

The story has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th International Short Story contest and published in “Stories in Colour” collection by Strange Days Books. The collection was released in November, 2016 and available on  http://www.amazon.co.uk  and https://paraxenesmeres.gr/books/english/.

 

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It looks pretty good in print;))))

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With the letter from editors.

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“The Iced Asylum” has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th International Short Story Contest

   I still can’t believe it!  What can be better as a gift for the birthday?

   My short story “The Iced Asylum” has been shortlisted for the Eyelands 6th  International Short Story Contest. Eyelands is a Greece-based on-line portal dedicated to art and culture. Most of its content is in Greek language, however, it has got an English section as well.

Despite the editors put the work under my maiden name, I’m not upset about it:)))

Can’t wait to get a copy of the short stories collection in November.

The full details are here: Eyelands.gr English section

 

[Short story] The Iced Asylum

The day was cold, grey, and dull. Huge snowflakes were dancing outside, covering everything with a white fragile veil. It was just another day, just one of hundreds of thousands of days she had spent in this world.

She looked gorgeous with her long platinum hair and big grey eyes, cold like the ice which covered the river, canals and everything in the city till the next spring. She came to this world from the palace of the star’s light. Her soul was cold like it walls, like everything that surrounded her there.

She lived alone in her small apartment in the outskirt of the city. In the interior, as well as in her wardrobe, clean and cold shades of white prevailed. The walls, the furniture, the curtains—white was everywhere. Even the roses in a vase (a gift from an admirer) were also white. And the white, white, white snow outside…

Her cat, her fluffy loyal companion on the roads of deserted worlds, jumped down from a sofa and floated to its owner like a huge cumulus cloud in the pale grey city’s sky. It started to purr and tried to snuggle on her laps. The cat languished, remembering the light of the stars.

Its owner languished as well. She felt emptiness in her soul; she was lonely in this world. She had got friends though. They all were beautiful and free, with shining eyes and cold hearts like these huge snowflakes which were dancing in the frosty air. They spent lots of time together…meetings, endless parties in fashionable places.

Romances also happened in her life, but they all fleeted very quickly and faded away in her memory. It didn’t upset her much at all. She snuggled more and more in her tiny world of hopes, debris of memories, dreams which never came true. Did she want to come back to her past, to the light of the stars, to the cold palace? She didn’t know. She had been waiting for something. It should come to this world and change it…change it for her.

She knew witchcraft. In her dreams and visions she saw the world, where she came from. It had started to collapse, the darkness swallowed it, and she felt that the palace of stars’ light was about to disappear. She felt that the darkness could reach her, could cover her with its black veil.

Wherever far away her visions took her, she hadn’t seen the main thing, the vision she would’ve liked to see the most.

One day she met HIM. It was just another random party at her random friends’. Her feelings couldn’t lie; she realized straight away that he came to this world, looking for an asylum as well as she did. He tried to escape from the darkness of chaos and non-existence and from himself after all.

He came from the world, where the wind was blowing over the valleys and rocky deserts, where the landscape was so dull, where the heart was full of grief, where two suns changed each other on the dark sky and never rose in their zenith, just stood above the horizon. This was the world of sorcerers and wizards, to the house of one of which he belonged to.

She recognized him as a sorcerer straight away. His hair was as black as a crow’s wing, in his dark eyes reflected the flames of the fires in the desert which extinguished millions of years ago, his voice was quiet and purring, delicate as black velvet.

They became good friends, but had never asked each other about their guesses.

She felt more and more attraction towards him. She was afraid of it. Her cold heart knew no more affection than her cat.

They used to talk and meet a lot, but then less and less often. She didn’t want to, or better to say, she couldn’t stay in this world without him. Finally, she decided to tell him the truth.

She didn’t know how he felt. She had heard that the sorcerers had no feelings at all. They wander all over the Universe, looking for the shelter, and normally never can find it. What kind of feelings such creature may have at all? But she had made a decision.

He listened to her without saying a word, only bowing his head lower and lower.

When she’d finished, he looked into her eyes. His look was full of sympathy and grief. She didn’t hide her eyes though.

…And then he told her that they couldn’t be together for many reasons. He told her how dangerous for her their relationships could be. He was a lonely wanderer doomed for endless struggle. He had been banished from the house of sorcerers and he never came back. He had been shadowed and followed. His magic was getting weaker, and very soon he should have left this world.

She said she was ready to follow him wherever he was going to go, she wasn’t afraid of anything and anybody. Despite this, she realized that her words didn’t mean anything to him, but she continued to talk and talk.

He only smiled bitterly in reply. He gently touched her chin, and when their eyes had met, they realised everything. There was no need for words anymore.

They hadn’t seen each other for a while. Her life came back on track. It seemed to her that very soon the pain from her burned heart should have extinguished, and everything should have been as it always been—cold and quiet.

One night, the loud noise outside woke her up. She got up and came to the window. The cat meowed nervously, trying to jump on the high window sill. She opened the curtains. A huge black raven was tapping the window. One wing looked like it had been broken; a few feathers had been ripped out, opening bleeding wounds. The bird flattened on the sill outside, leaving bloody stains on it.

There were no place left for panic or fear in her heart. She opened the window and tried to take the bird. It jerked, flapping its wings and trying to fly away, but fell down on the floor in the room.

The cat hissed, arching its back, but she hashed it to another room.

The bird looked horrible. It seemed like some kind of predator attacked it. It lay on the floor without a movement. She turned the bird and wondered how big it was. The raven opened its eyes and stared at her. There was no doubt anymore.

She quickly examined the wounds, brought some clean water, antiseptic and bandages from the kitchen. She placed the bird on a pillow, cleaned its wounds and put bandages on.

The raven didn’t move, only watched her with its round black as glass beads eyes and gasped heavily. She finished and wanted to say something, but the words stuck somewhere in her mind, creating the vacuum of untold.

She calmed down a bit and hadn’t even noticed as she fell asleep. When she woke up, the sun stood high in the sky, and the bird had disappeared. The window was widely opened.

She took a shower and went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for herself and her cat. The door bell rang shyly. Her heart was bouncing, she came to the door with uncertainty, but the bell rang again.

She opened the door-it was HIM. She knew that, she felt him coming…His left arm was bandaged, there were a few bruises on his face, his eyes shone. He swayed on weak legs. She invited him to the living room, made him coffee. They kept silent.

‘You saved my life,’ he started quietly.

‘I don’t want to know the details. I don’t want you to be obliged,’ she interrupted him.   ‘I would’ve saved a bird, even if it had been just a bird.’

He chuckled bitterly.

‘I pushed you away at our last meeting. It was my biggest mistake, but I tried to protect you from my persecutors. What happened last night was only the beginning. My time is up in this world, now I need to find a new asylum. This is the fate of the expelled sorcerer. This world wasn’t that bad…and, the more important, it gave me YOU. Now, it is your turn to decide.’

She didn’t allow him to finish, there was no need for further questions or explanations. She took his pale hand and looked into his eyes. First time in her life, her eyes were full of tears.

The next second, a strong blast of icy wind broke into the room, the wind from another, new world. It hit them with its cold fury…they didn’t belong to this world anymore.

 

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Life Performance at Off the Shelf Novel Slam 2015

In October last year, Sheffield Novelists hosted Novel Slam as a part of the annual  Off the Shelf literature festival.

  For some authors, it became an opportunity to meet agents and publishers, for others–to introduce their creations (or the final drafts of them) to the public, for me…Well, I’ve decided it as my first experience in reading and “performing” my novel in front of the potential readers.

I wanted to challenge not only my writing skills, but myself as well.

Reading in front of the audience of 25-30 unknown people and judges was scary, I must admit. I was the only one non-native English speaking participant out of eighteen authors, so the pressure was high.

In the first round, every writer should have read the blurb–a one minute short synopsis of his or her novel. This was the most complicated part, because it’s almost impossible to tell the whole story in a few sentences, “to hook” the audience and judges, to say everything about your book without saying anything, to convince the reader to pick the book of the shelf.

For me, the main thing here was to make the blurb as “visible” as possible, to turn the words into action, to perform rather than just to read. The audience should “watch” it like a film trailer. I’m not afraid of public speaking, but my last public presentation I’ve done…eh, I think it was at University.

I felt my throat was getting dry like a desert and I was out of breath in the end of each sentence. My voice sounded strange and unnatural.

I’ve passed through the second round though together with ten other authors. The audience and judges voted for me. I felt like I have already achieved something great. It was like a recognition for me that I was able to create something which was interesting not only for me, my family and friends, but for the readers as well. Something unique, something unusual…

I stuck into the second round, where the novelists should have read three minutes’ extracts from their first chapters. I haven’t progressed further, but for me it didn’t really matter. My performance ticked all the boxes.

The language was my biggest concern and fear. The key thing here was the judges and the audience understood it and even gave me positive feedback in the second round.

The plot was unique for everybody. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have voted for it.

And finally, my performance…

I think, the personality of the writer is crucial, because this (together with the plot) is the main “building material” of the novel and a huge part of the marketing plan.

The author, without any doubts, put into writing not only his or her life experience, imagination and skills, but also his or her character and individuality is reflected in it. Well, my writing definitely has got it all.

Novel Slam is a great opportunity for writers to check whether or not their plot will be potentially interesting for the readers and publishers/agents, and also to listen how their stories sound.

And they do sound completely different, when we read them to ourselves and when we read them aloud.

I was quite satisfied with “the sound” of my novel. So, it could be good material for the script in the future ;))))

Overall, if I have an opportunity to do it again, I won’t hesitate. I study on my own mistakes and gain the experience. As I have already mentioned in my blog before, this is not only a story, not only a novel…It’s an experiment, a performance, some kind of a linguistic show.

So, the show must go on!