Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt (review)

Hi all. We’re just 13 days out from the release of my short story, Narmer and the God Beast, so I’m here with another Ancient Egypt themed post. I’ve been doing a series of posts about my influences for the story (to which this one will be added), so please check those out if you’re interested.

Now, what is Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt by T.G. Wilfong, and how has it influenced my writing so far?

Well, in some respects, the answer to that question is is somewhat misleading.

Artwork from the Age of Mythology Wiki

When writing Narmer and The God Beast, my knowledge of jackal-headed gods was quite limited. I had heard of the god Anubis before and was vaguely aware of him from movies like The Mummy Returns, or games like Age of Mythology. He seemed a fierce thing, more brutish warrior than anything else. Any contact he had with the living seemed a brutal punishment and a promise of suffering in the afterlife.

In my own story, Narmer must retrieve linen from the ‘House of Anubis’, and my research focused on the things he might find within an embalmer’s workshop. Things like natron salt, linen wrappings, ointments made from frankincense, myrrh and ox fat. I focused on the implements of mummification, such as chisels, knives, and spoons.

But eventually I found that there was so much more involved in the ritual and service provided for the dead, that my opinion of this god began to change. The embalmer’s workshop might also contain stone sarcophagi, faience ushabti (for a great story about shabti, I highly recommend Robert Sharp’s The Good Shabti), gilded silver masks with calcite, obsidian, and onyx eyes! I also read that the bones of the gods were made of silver and their flesh was made of gold . . .

There was much more here than I had ever imagined.

My search took me to Cynopolis next. A city from the Ptolemaic times dedicated to Anubis and his followers, the ‘cult of the dog’ (Cynopolis means ‘City of the Dog’). I go into further depth about this amazing city in my post Ancient Egyptian Doggos! (I even try to imagine what such a place would be like) but needless to say, I was awestruck a second time. Cynopolis ended up becoming one of the many locations my (unreleased) novel’s protagonists visit during their adventures.

But still, there was still more to learn: enter Death Dogs.

I genuinely feel, this book will be a fascinating read for anyone interested in ANY of the jackal-headed gods which Ancient Egyptians worshipped. Yes, MANY jackal-headed gods.

The book opens with the one we’ve already talked about, Anubis, but its understanding of this deity is much more nuanced than anything I’d yet come across.

It explains that sometimes Anubis is depicted as a man with a jackal’s head, but is more often shown as a sitting/laying jackal with jet-black fur and starkly pointed ears. He’s a mysterious figure, who’s name and visage invoke as many meanings as there are grains of sand in the Sahara. For some, he is a grim reaper like figure, coming to collect the dead and show them to the afterlife. For others, a protector of the dead, standing watch over their graves. Anubis alone knows the secrets of the embalmer’s hut and guards them with unbridled ferocity.

It was information read in Death Dogs which inspired a second (and more recent) short story which I wrote as a newsletter exclusive called Master of Secrets.

And of course there is still more!

For instance, who are the other jackal gods I mentioned earlier? What could their role be in this intricate and intriguing mythology. For instance, what role could the jackal-headed Wepwawet — The Opener of the Ways — play in the future adventures in this setting? Who was Duamutef? What does it mean to be the son of Horus the Elder . . . ?

Seems like that could be our Jackal headed friend standing next to St Christopher . . .

I’m pretty much brimming with ideas for stories I could tell after reading this book.

Finally, the book also talks about how the jackal headed gods of Ancient Egypt were perceived throughout the ages and in the modern day. We’re pretty familiar with the imagery I described above, but it was interesting to learn that, until the Anubis Shrine was found inside the Tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in November of 1922, there were not many images of Anubis which had survived.

The idea of Anubis, and various myths and stories of Ancient Egyptians had morphed and changed through incorporation into Greek (see Hermanubis) and then Roman ideologies, falling victim to millennia-long games of telephone.

I could continue writing this post for seemingly forever, but I think it’s probably better just to recommend you read the book. I’m anxious to research deeper into the topics discussed within, and maybe visit the Kelsey Museum someday to see if I might glean anything new from seeing the artifacts shown in this book in person.

Anyway, that is all for now. What’s your favorite fact about jackal-headed gods? Your first exposure to Anubis? Let me know in the comments.


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt (review). As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Paralititan Stromeri: The Tidal Giant

Well, here we are, 17 days away from the release of Narmer and the God Beast, and we’re gonna just keep marching along doing posts about what went into this short story (although more realistically, even though the short story is what’s complete, all of this really set up the larger universe which hopefully a novel will be set in!).

Next up on the docket? The God-Beast itself, Paralititan Stromeri!

Hah! No. That’s a paradiddle and a stromboli.

Sorry, bad joke (for any drummers out there looking for actually funny jokes, I recommend Jens Hannemann (Fred Armisen)’s Complicated drumming. I pretty much die every time I watch Just in Time.)

Anyway, Paralititan Stromeri, meaning “Stromer’s Tidal Giant” is the second star of the show. Now you may be wondering why I picked this dinosaur to play beside Narmer when there are so many others I could have chosen.

And this is a great question. One that has several answers:

  1. It’s huge!!! The latest estimates say that these creatures would have come in at 88 ft. long, and weighed 30 tonnes (from the wikipedia page). These are monument sized animals. When it was discovered in 2001, “Its 1.69-meter-long [about 66.5 inches] humerus [was] longer than any known Cretaceous sauropod.” (Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, pg. 5). When asked how the creature might compare to an elephant, Matt Lamanna — a grad student on the team who discovered this beastly animal — responded: “This animal is as big as an entire herd of elephants.” (LDoE, pg. 6)
    Needless to say . . . it’s a big boi.
  2. It’s Egyptian!! Well kinda. Mostly it’s bones were found in the Bahariya Formation, which is located in the Bahariya Oasis in Egypt. Assumedly, back in the days of this majestic creature, the land looked very different, and it’s my understanding that things get pushed around quite a bit because of plate tectonics etc. but for my purposes, this thing is Egyptian. Other dinosaurs found in the area (and with which Paralititan would have lived) like Aegyptosaurus, and Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus have Egypt in the name so . . . I’m counting it.
  3. It just seemed to fit. I’ve often heard about the “Boy and His Dragon” trope, in which a young boy finds a dragon’s egg, or something similar and it hatches, blah blah blah. Well one of the original conceptions of this particular story (though not the universe) was “What if I told a ‘Boy and His Dragon’ story, but the boy was Narmer, first Pharaoh of Egypt, and the Dragon was a 30 ton dinosaur?” The rest was history . . .

Like Narmer, there is not much left behind by these surely amazing creatures. From what I can tell, only three types of bones have been found by which to identify them (Kenneth J. Lacovara identified them. I’ve written about him before in my review of his book: Why Dinosaurs Matter).

This ended up being perfect, because it meant that I could weave this creature’s story however I needed to in order to tell the story I wanted to tell.

So what story was that?

Well, imagine the rippling emerald water of the River Nile as it rushes toward the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine the warmth of a golden sun, and the relief of a young Paralititan as it dips its head into those cool depths for a drink. Imagine its whip-like tail splashing as it plays . . .

Imagine the crocodile as it slips silently into the water, hungry for its prey . . .

And that’s it for now. Another 17 days and you can read the rest. You can check below the separator for details.

In the meantime though, what is your favorite dinosaur? What setting would you love to see it in? Answer in the comments!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Paralititan Stromeri: The Tidal Giant. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Dinotopia: A Remembrance and Review

For the next post in my series of “influences” posts for Narmer and the God Beast, I wanted to review (gush about) a veritable classic.

DINOTOPIA!!

There’s almost nothing to critique about this book. I mean, I’m sure there probably is, but reading it, I’m so dazzled by the grandeur and majesty of what’s happening in the images, that all I can think about is how beautiful they are. And how much THIS IS THE WORLD I WANT TO LIVE IN!

Ok. . . deep breaths . . .

I’m ok.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy this book. I keep enjoy in the present tense, because I don’t know that I’ve ever really stopped reading it. Published in 1992, I was pretty young when this book came out, which I think only made it more relevant to me as I grew older.

I think the early 90’s were a good time for dinosaurs. In August of 1990, one of the most complete T-Rexes ever found was discovered by Sue Hendrickson. November of that same year saw the release of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park which would become a huge blockbuster film in 1993 (a sequel novel, The Lost World, was published in 1995). And many more discoveries continued to keep dinosaurs in people’s minds.

For me, I think I experienced a bit of an intense interest in dinosaurs between ages of 2 and 6, and while — considering all the dino craze I’ve just described — I can’t pinpoint exactly which discovery or fiction put me onto dinosaurs, I can say my interest in them never completely faded like in most children. Certainly Dinotopia never did.

Tell me these couldn’t be Hieroglyphs!

The island presented in Gurney’s book is so idyllic and serene, with intelligent dinosaurs that have language and a culture of their own . . .

So different than the terrifying raptors or the indominable T. Rex portrayed in Jurassic Park.

Despite my love of Crichton’s classic, Dinotopia always held a special place for me.

** Fun fact, the first story I ever tried to write (when I was still in elementary school) was called Eventutopia and was pretty much a mix of Star Wars and Dinotopia. Boy do I wish I had saved that word doc haha.

So when it came time to start writing my own dinosaur story, it was only natural that I read through this classic once again. It had been quite a while since my last read through, and I wondered if Dinotopia would still hold up, after all these years. My only clear remembrance from the story was of the iconic Skybax, soaring above the city, or under the archways of Dream Canyon. But I could not remember much of the plot at all. I was slightly nervous that perhaps I was wearing rose colored glasses after all, and that as an adult, I would not find the story nearly so enchanting.

I needn’t have worried. It was as wonderful as I remembered.

Dinotopia is very much in the travel-log vein of fantasy, in which the main characters simply explore an unknown land and experience its wonders (and there are so many wonders to behold!). I suppose that you could criticize the story somewhat, in that there is not really a particularly strong narrative drive. But I actually think this is a feature, not a bug. Each of the images shown seems to pick up a narrative thread that the actual text may leave behind, but because it’s just an image, the reader is able to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

It was perfect for inspiring me in my own writing . . . and then sending me into a crisis . . .

I pretty much froze dead in my tracks when I saw this image. This was (more or less) my idea, already realized by a master with which I could never compete. I had not remembered this from my reading as a kid, but here it was.

Did I just copy Dinotopia? Had this been hiding in the back of my mind, influencing me without my knowledge (or permission).

The answer is, to a certain degree, probably yes, but what I’ve come to realize is that just because something influenced my writing, that does not necessarily mean that I’ve copied it. This is one image in a book of many, and my Egyptian Dinosaurs will invariably be different than whatever Gurney had in mind while painting this. I’ve actually kind of come to see this image as a reassurance, that my love of both Ancient Egypt, and Dinosaurs (and wanting to combine the two) is not so far-fetched. That maybe some others will enjoy it, just as they (and I) have enjoyed Dinotopia.

Have you read / enjoyed this classic? What’s your favorite image? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to talk some more about this book!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Dinotopia: A Remembrance and Review. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Who was Narmer IRL?

I’ve recently revealed the cover for some upcoming fiction of mine, Narmer and the God Beast, in which a young boy, Narmer, has been brutalized by his brother Bahek, and floats — bleeding — in the Nile, just waiting for a crocodile attack to finally kill him. Instead, he discovers a young Paralititan (a brontosaur-like dinosaur) playing in the river and realizes that it is in danger. What he does next will cement his legacy in the history of Egypt forever.

Obviously, my story is a work of fiction, and the final product is the work of my own (possibly deranged) mind, but I drew from many different sources when concocting the story. In fiction, it was Jackie French’s Pharaoh: the Boy Who Conquered the Nile from which I was drew a good deal of inspiration for Narmer’s character.

But Narmer was a real historical figure, credited for being the first Pharaoh, and the leader which united two halves of a disparate Ancient Egypt. A lot of what made it into my story, is pulled from what we know of him in real life.

My two main inspirations, were the Narmer Palette, and the Narmer Macehead, which really gave me an idea of the power this figure had, and the epic journey which he would need to go on to accomplish the feats attributed to him. And because I love words, the first thing that stuck out to me, was his name.

The Angry Catfish

Yes, you read that correctly. The name Narmer, comes from the hieroglyphs N’r and Mr which we would pronounce today as Narmer. N’r is represented by the glyph of a Catfish, while Mr shows a glyph of a chisel, which (according to wikipedia) means, “painful,” “stinging,” “harsh,” or “fierce”. I suppose I took a little bit of liberty to say that those things mean angry, but I think it’s a pretty good fit just the same. I believe the same chisel is also used in the word for ‘to be united in’, which seems to make a good deal of sense if Narmer really did unite Egypt under his reign.

But like many things in Ancient Egypt, the first pharaoh was more than just one thing. He had another name (which a lot of scholars seem to fight over whether either of these names is actually real), which was perhaps more fitting for a king, and conqueror. That name was Menes, which (also according to wikipedia) means ‘he who endures’.

These two names really shaped my conception of Narmer’s character.

So who was he IRL?

At this point, it is still difficult for scholars to pull fact from fiction, and myth from legend, but it seems that this Narmer had quite a resume. After first Pharaoh, and unifier of Egypt, Narmer/Menes is credited with founding the city of Memphis (after diverting a canal), inventing writing (I think Thoth might have something to say about that), and bringing Egypt into a general era of luxury and prosperity. He supposedly liked to hunt, and was attacked by his own dogs, then saved by a crocodile, for which he founded the city of Crocodilopolis.

He’s been implicated in the biblical flood myth, either as Noah, or some other player. And then was finally killed one day by a hippopotamus.

Ultimately, all of this made it pretty difficult to figure out what Narmer was actually like, and try to formulate into a neat little character, so ultimately I kept it simple, and stuck with the basics: First Pharaoh and Unifier of Egypt. From here I could weave in other bits of Ancient Egyptian history which interested me, and not have to worry too much about contradicting reality (although I guess after I put dinos in the story that contradicted reality pretty hard).

Anyway, that’s all I have on the history of Narmer right now. I’m hoping to do more research in the future as I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface. Perhaps I can follow up with more later.

I’ll certainly be following up with more posts about my inspirations for the story, so please keep coming back and reading. What do y’all think about Narmer? Was he on the Ark? Could he ride a Crocodile? What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned about him so far? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks all, and I’ll see you next time!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Who Was Narmer IRL? As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb last week, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Pharaoh: The Boy Who Conquered the Nile (Book Review)

So this is will be something of a hybrid post for me. On the one hand, I’m going to review Jackie French’s Pharaoh: The Boy Who Conquered the Nile, and give you my thoughts about the book, but on the other hand I thought it might be cool to consider how the book influenced an original piece of fiction I wrote, Narmer and the God Beast, which I revealed the cover for last week.

Here we go!

Review: I really enjoyed this book. French’s writing style is super accessible and easy to read, probably something that means success for this book in the juvenile fiction space, which I believe is the audience this book is written for (confirmed on Compulsive Reader in Interview with Jackie French). Typically, now that I’m an adult, I often find that reading YA or Juvenile fiction is difficult because it often seems ‘written down’ to its audience or super infused with things that the author believes are ‘hip’ or ‘what the kids like’ these days. I didn’t notice any of this in Pharaoh.

As for the story? I think it was definitely well researched, well imagined, and well realized if not quite what I was expecting.

I’ll start with well researched because it’s immediately clear to anyone reading this book that French put in work here. Not only is Narmer’s world immersive and rich with detail and vivid imagery, but you can then flip to the back of the book and see just where all detail came from. I think I almost enjoyed reading the research section as much as the actual novel as I learned a good deal about Ancient Egyptian culture, religion and history, and was inspired to pursue my own inquiries after finishing.

For instance, the land of Punt, which Narmer and The Trader travel towards in hopes of wealth and riches, was called Ta Netjer by the Ancient Egyptians meaning “The Land of God”. Ta Netjer does not play a roll in Narmer and the Godbeast’s story (yet), but it did become important to some other writing in this universe (ahem the novel — what?). Also, I have mild suspicions that it became the Ta Ntry of Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy as I think they are in about the same spot.

But I digress . . .

I say well imagined, because truth be told, there is not a ton of history (or literature) that covers this period of time. There are a few main artifacts associated with Narmer (his palette and his macehead) but otherwise, there is a lot that we still do not know. French had a pretty blank canvas to fill in (perhaps an advantage, but I know for me it would be a disadvantage) and I feel she did so beautifully.

Which brings me to well realized. Just read this passage:

It was like a dream, thought Narmer, as servant after servant brought in bales of panther skin, fragrant wood carved into delicate boxes, beads of lapis lazuli and turquoise, the bronze plates he now knew as mirrors, heaps of myrrh resin, slabs of ebony wood, piles of elephant tusk, small bowls filled with a strange, almost green-coloured gold, the rarest in the world, curls of cinnamon bark, khesyt wood, small coloured jars of incense, and eye cosmetics.

French, Jackie. Pharaoh: The Boy Who Conquered The Nile. 2007 pg 143. . . accessed on Compulsive Reader in A review of Pharaoh by Jackie French

I know while writing my own story, I definitely tried to re-create passages like this in order to immerse the reader in my version of Ancient Egypt (which has dinosaurs)

My last critique of this piece is unfortunately a bit of a negative one. I feel like when we see a title like “Pharaoh” and think of Ancient Egypt as the setting to a story, we have certain expectations. We want great pyramids, golden sands and golden jewelry adorning the living person of an ancient king, or the gilt sarcophagus of one long dead (mummies!).

I felt this book was a little slack on some of the imagery we often associate with ancient Egypt. I think this is because a good portion takes place away from Egypt, in search of Punt, and later, in Sumer (Mesopotamia). And the portions that are in ancient Egypt feel little like the Ancient Egypt we know. This Egypt is one of small river towns, long before any pyramids were ever built. This is accurate to the time period, but a little disappointing if you’re expecting “peak Egypt” (does that count as a pyramid joke?), or Ancient Egypt at the height of it’s glory and mystique.

So . . . Read it?

Oh yes, definitely give this one a read. The book is well researched, and French’s imagination despite little historical inspiration, is a triumph. Also, the book is just beautifully written and realized. After finishing, I immediately looked for a sequel but sadly, I could not find one.

Welp. That’s about it for the review. Have you read this one? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. What were your favorite parts? Tell me everything . . .

See you next time!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed Pharaoh: Boy Who Conquered the Nile (a Review). As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was a major influence on my own story, Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb last week, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Narmer And the God Beast Cover Reveal!

As I alluded to in my July Newsletter, I have worked up a short story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ setting. It is called Narmer and the God Beast. As I so eloquently put it then:

“I even paid for a cover and everything . . . “

https://alligatorsandaneurysms.wordpress.com/2021/07/02/july-newsletter-new-fiction-master-of-secrets/

Well, that cover is here. It was created by illustrator Lee Eschliman who is absolutely fantastic. You can take a look at his other work on instagram. Lee’s artwork has been in my life since I can remember. One of his logos graced the deck of my very first skateboard (if you can believe I used to skate) and he’s influenced several of my hobbies overs the years. I was absolutely ecstatic that he was willing to craft the cover for my story. It turned out simply amazing.

Anywho, without further ado, here’s the cover for Narmer and the God Beast (and the back cover blurb to pique your interest):

Had I anything in my heart but hate for my brother and pity for myself . . .

I may have suspected I was about to meet a god.”

Broken and bleeding into the cool Nile waters – shattered by his brother’s cruelty – young Narmer pays the crocodile no heed as it enters the stream. Let it come.

But the hunter swims on, and only then does Narmer know its aim, the defenseless god-beast drinking and playing up-river.

Dinosaurs will again roam the desert sands, uniting the disparate Two Lands into one great Egypt, if Narmer can drive off the crocodile, if he can endure his brother’s malice.

If he can save this sacred creature and be saved by it . . .


So, there you have it. Narmer and the God Beast is officially announced. The launch on Amazon will take place on October 4th, but you can also preorder it now. I’m going to be doing a series of posts this month about my influences for the story and how it came together so stay tuned for those. Some stories and teasers in this world have already been posted on this blog so look for them on my fiction page.

And finally, you can just follow my progress on things and get quarterly updates and new fiction by subscribing to my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. For signing up, I’ll send you a copy of the first story I every wrote about a warlock doctor.

See you next time!

*Update 9/14 – I’ve begun posting some of the “influence” posts I mentioned before. Here’s what I’ve completed so far: