October Newsletter Fiction Preview + Draft Sent our for Critique

So . . . I’m going to be about a month late on this newsletter. My goal is to have updates about my life and writing sent out every quarter as a kind of supplement to the posts I do here on the blog. I’m hoping to have things like sales and special offers (when I finally have some published works) and info about new releases. But I’m hoping the real drive will be exclusive fiction which I’ll write every quarter that will be for members of the newsletter only (if any of that sounds cool please sign up for my newsletter)

But this month, it didn’t quite go as planned. Publishing Narmer and The God Beast and the promotion I did for it took up a considerable amount of my time. I did manage to hack out a zero-draft during a writing retreat I did during Labor Day weekend, but with Pitchwars and other stuff I had not completed much by my October 1st deadline.

So, my new goal is to push the newsletter on October 31st, and have exclusive fiction for subscribers at that point. So far that seems to be going well. I finished my first draft and sent it away to be critiqued this coming Monday. Once that feedback has come through, I can make any tweaks before the 31st deadline.

Then it’s November which is a whole other thing I gotta figure out . . .

Anyway, I thought it might be cool to see a little of what I’ve been working on, and so I’ve posted the first part of the story, Boutilier House, for y’all to read and enjoy. The rest will be sent out with the newsletter on Oct 31st (so sign up!)


Boutilier House

The first thing about Boutilier House which set Adam on edge were the locks. There were none.

For a house — no a palace — such as this, Adam had suspected that every porcelain dish in the China cabinets, or any gilded vase along the entry table might somehow prove under lock and key. Perhaps even the guest book was bolted upon its wood and silver pedestal.

But it was simply not the case.

Adam might have nicked the polished gold nightjars roosting on the table runner as easy as removing candy from its wrapper. In his youth, perhaps he might have, just because he could. 

But Mr. Cunningham had not sent him here for larks. 

No, the prize Adam was to take with him when he left was far more valuable than a few gold trinkets.    

And so it was that the full seven seconds it took Mathieu to respond to his comment about the locks was actually the third thing which set Adam on edge.

“Oh, there are locks Adam — May I call you Adam?” Mathieu said abruptly.

“Oh, um. Of course.” 

Mathieu’s light-blue eyes seemed to brighten slightly as he visibly committed the name to memory. “My father thought of everything when designing the house. Why carry with you a cumbersome ring of keys — which might get lost or stolen — when the house can recognize you and welcome you inside simply by the touch of your hand upon the doorknob?”

Adam had no argument there. It was truly remarkable.

Before coming to clerk for Mr. Cunningham, Adam had fancied himself something of amateur engineer, tinkering here and there as each new trend caught his attention.

But Boutilier’s work simply defied understanding.

“But surely it can’t remember everyone,” Adam pressed. “Or what if it does remember a past tenet and accidentally lets them in while another guest is here. If the system is mechanical surely there is a way to override — ”

Mathieu held up one finger.

“You must trust us, Adam. Relax. The system works and it has never been wrong. Father has seen to everything.”

Mathieu turned slightly so that his body no longer impeded entry into the house. He gestured invitingly at the large greeting area, flanked by two enormous wooden staircases which bent around and behind a door on the first story.

“Come,” he said simply. “Let me show you around.” 

As they walked, Adam could see doorways leading to the different wings of the house along the left and right walls of the entryway, but Mathieu lead him through a center door instead.

“In here is the dining area.”

Mathieu gestured to a long and narrow room, with an equally long and slightly narrower wooden table. Cabinets lined each of the walls, filled with glass and porcelain in every shape and size of plate or cup Adam could imagine. Those automated doors must work well indeed if nothing had been taken.

“Simply let the house know what you would like to eat, and it will be served upon your request,” said Mathieu as they left the dining area, and went back the way they’d come. He picked a staircase and began climbing. 

“The master bedroom will be through that center door. The bath is at the end of the hall on your right.”

Mathieu continued to lead Adam through the house, mixing in bits of the Boutilier’s family history with the amenities Adam could expect from his stay in the mansion. Apparently, this had been Gregoire Boutilier’s first house upon coming to the new world. He’d lived there with his three children, Roseline, Joel, and Isabelle.  

But it wasn’t long before Adam began listening with only half an ear. The house was large, yes, and clearly furnished with the highest quality of accommodations, but aside from the locks, displayed nothing of the marvel Mr. Cunningham had described when they’d met for dinner last week.

Nothing that would warrant the abrupt separation from his wife and toddling daughter.

Adam felt his jaw clench as he remembered Helen’s reddened, tear-filled stare through their apartment’s front window. Lexy cried in her arms and Helen soothed her half-heartedly.

All of the arguments Adam had constructed while at dinner with Helen’s father had seemed to mean little when held up against Lexy’s anxiety at their separation, and Helen’s pleas for rest and relief at the end of a long day.

Mr. Cunningham had sent a nanny of course, to help out while Adam was away, but even Adam knew it would not be the same as having both parents at home with their child. Adam speculated briefly what discovery he might make here that might possibly absolve him his absence. 

Nothing came to mind.

Suddenly Adam had very little patience for the number of threads woven into the master bedroom’s sheets or knowing the exact temperature of his bath water when he washed.        

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Adam finally cut Mathieu off. “All of this is very nice. Really top notch. But this is a bit of a business retreat. Is there somewhere I can work? Without being disturbed by the servants that is.” 

Mathieu got that look again, the one in which he appeared to be staring at something far off in the distance. 

“Servants? . . . Work? Ah!” Mathieu said at last. “You must mean the library. Magnificent. One of my favorite parts of the house. My own father spent many of his nights there working on his inventions. Would you like to go there now?”

“Please.”

Mathieu led Adam through a series of twists and turns which did not seem to match any layout Adam had built in his mind of Boutilier’s house, and arrived at the library within a few minutes, though the tour before that had seemed to take much longer.

It seemed nice, a large open room with a domed ceiling that reached several stories. Bookshelves climbing three of the four walls and packed full of books and mechanical devices.

The fourth wall sported two massive windows which must let in plenty of light during the morning and afternoon. 

Adam looked around, judging its fit. That table over there could serve as a workbench. Maybe the chest of drawers which seemed to be a card catalog could contain screws and nuts, bolts and small glassware. 

It would do.

He’d get his project done and then go home to Helen and Lexy before they even processed he was gone.

“Thank you, Mathieu. I think we’re quite finished with the tour now.”

“Of course, sir,” Mathieu said, courteous as ever. “If you need anything, simply ask and the house will provide. 

“You keep saying that . . . Never mind. Where are the switches for these lamps? I should like to get to work immediately, but it will be dark soon.”

Mathieu paused in his way before answering. “Ah! Sorry Adam. I’ve been remiss in my duties. You simply say the house’s name and the house will listen. Normally we would say Boutilier, but we’ve taken into account your English sensibilities, so we’ve asked the house to respond to the English equivalent. Go ahead and give it a shot. All you need do is say the name and ask for what you want.” 

“Butler . . .” Adam tried cautiously. “Please turn on the library’s lights for me.” 

Adams heart felt like it had stopped beating in his chest. 

The library’s lights came on dimly and got slowly brighter until they were bright enough to read by. 

Mr. Cunningham had been right. There was something worth discovering in this house after all. It might even be enough to absolve him.


Anyway, that was the first part of my (hopefully spooky) story. The rest will be released along with the newsletter on October 31st so be sure to sign up!

Please leave any feedback in the comments. See you next time!

The Lost Dinosaurs Of Egypt (review)

Looks like there is still one more post in my influences series for Narmer and the God Beast.

That last influence being . . . The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt.

This book ended up being a really inspiring read although I’ll admit that I did put it down once, and did not finish it until long after I’d written both NATGB and my novel set in the same universe.

Essentially, The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt is more about people than it is about dinosaurs. It tells the story of two discoveries within the Bahariya Formation in Egypt. The first, is the original survey of the oasis during 1910 and 1911 by a German paleontologist named Ernst Stromer. Stromer is credited with the discovery of several dinosaurs from the region, namely: Aegyptosaurus (currently the name of my novel), Bahariasaurus, Carcharodontosaurus, and the incredibly weird and bad-ass Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

We also get the story of the ‘Bahariya Dinosaur Project’ which consisted of many paleontologists and geologists (in no particular order): Joshua Smith,  Matthew C. LamannaKenneth J. LacovaraPeter Dodson, Jennifer R. Smith, Jason Charles Poole (called Chewie by the group), Robert Giegengack and Yousri Attia. It seems they found many different fossils during their trip in the 1999 and the winter of 2000, but will mostly be remembered for their discovery of a new Sauropod named Paralititan Stromeri (the God Beast in NATGB).

Sounds Awesome, Why Put it Down?

Correct it is awesome. I learned so much reading this book, but when I first picked it up, I was simply not uncovering the types of information I was looking for. I think I came to the book hoping that it would be more dinosaur centric. I had read the wikipedia pages for each of the dinosaurs referenced above and was completely fascinated by them. I wanted to go deeper into what they were like and how they really lived. What did they eat? How did they move? Or raise their young?

And to TLDOE’s credit, it does open with a pretty speculative section about the Paralititan which the Bahariya Dinosaur Project found, but it is only a page or so long and then we move on to the tragedy of how the dinosaur fossils were lost. This section is mainly about air force pilots, and military technology. World War I things.

It just wasn’t what I came to the book for . . .

But after trying again?

Picking up the book later though, after most of the writing was complete, I found it much more enjoyable. It was cool to see the parallels between Stromer’s work, and the Bahariya Dino Project’s (they even discovered some of Stromer and Markgraf’s old dig sites with plaster still in the ground from nearly 100 years ago!). I found the history of paleontology discussed within the book fascinating. And was proud to recognize a few names I learned in Why Dinosaurs Matter (indeed the author of that book, Kenneth Lacovara, was part of the ‘Barhariya Dinosaur Project’).

Generally getting to know the team members of ‘The Bahariya Dinosaur Project’ was fun as well. Apparently two members of the team are drummers (Lacovara, and Joshua Smith) and they recounted a bit about traditional Egyptian music and drumming which, as a drummer myself, I probably could have read a whole other book on (makes me wonder if there’s some deeper connection between liking drums and liking dinosaurs?).

There was also some really interesting information about traveling in Egypt, and what to watch out for, both in terms of people and wildlife (apparently Egypt is home to the most venomous scorpion in the world, foot long poisonous centipedes and camel spiders which apply an anesthetic to their prey before eating them . . . they’ll have half your face chewed off before you even wake up from sleeping . . . nope nope nope!)

But I think what I enjoyed the most which the book also explores, is some of the science behind Geology and Paleontology. I didn’t know much about how things are named or even what the different time periods of the earth’s history were. This book found a way to describe all of that without making it a boring lecture.

Finally, there were the fossils themselves. Not everything discovered at Bahariya was a dinosaur, and this book delved into those other finds a bit as well. I learned about prehistoric marine snakes (Simoliophis), some whales (Zeuglodon Osiris or Basilosaurus), and Paleomastadon. All creatures I’d like to add to future Egypt and dino adventures (one even has Osiris in the name . . . it writes itself really).

Then, towards the end of the book, what the Oasis must have looked like 95 million years ago. THIS!! This was what I had been wanting to read the whole time. I learned about prehistoric mangrove forests which Paralititan’s long neck would have helped it eat huge swaths of without having to move much (so the general conception of sauropods having long necks to reach high branches seems debunked in Bahariya at least where the long neck would have helped them reach outward not upward). And (at least part of) the answer to the mystery of how so many theropods (the clade of which all meat eating dinos are a part of) could have existed in the same area. They were feeding on the massive Paralititans!

So . . . it was good?

Yes! The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt was an incredible read. Packed full of information, and generally well written. The copy I’m using is from the library, but I will probably end up buying my own copy to serve as a reference going forward. Highly recommend to anyone looking for a good Dino read.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading all of this. Please let me know what your favorite dino is in the comments. From Bahariya? Or anywhere really. See you next time!


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed The Lost Dinosaurs of 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’ve been posting a bunch about my influences for this story all last month. The story’s official launch was on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and order 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!

ICYMI: Narmer and the God Beast Live on Amazon!

Well, the title pretty much says it all, but I’ll still put a little bit of text here because I’d like to reward you for the click.

Monday saw the release of the first story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ universe. Narmer and the God Beast tells the tale of a boy and his dragon, only that boy is a young king Narmer, the first Pharaoh of Egypt, and the dragon is a 30 ton dinosaur (paralititan stromeri, the Tidal Giant, to be precise). Together they can unite Egypt, but first they must endure and overcome Narmer’s brother Bahek’s cruelty . . .

I had an amazing cover done by Lee Eschliman, and have been ranting on all month about my influences for the short story and how the idea came to be. You can see the list of posts here:

Finally, if you’ve liked anything you’ve seen on this page so far and are hoping for more of this kind of thing in your life, I recommend signing up for my newsletter. It gives you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and updates about 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.

Anyway, thanks all for reading. This has been something I’ve waited so long to share with everyone, and a bit of a wild ride to get to this moment. I’m so thankful I was able to do this at all, and I’m hopeful there will be so much more where this came from (read as sequels and a novel! Lol).

As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading all this and I’ll see you next time!

Should ‘Raybearer’ win a Lodestar Award?

Phew. It feels good to be doing a Hugo related post after so many posts about Narmer and the God Beast. I’m sure there will be more of those to come, but let’s break for a little while and talk about Jordan Ifueko’s incredible debut, Raybearer.

This book is amazing. I hesitate to say a masterpiece because I don’t feel like I’m qualified to make such distinctions (although honestly who cares lol), but it was definitely one of the most exciting books I’ve read in recent memory.

To me, it’s strengths lie in its consistent pacing, unique setting and the sheer power of this book’s main character.

Tarisai is quite literally a sympathy magnet. From page one, it is impossible not to connect with this lonely girl who’s been completely isolated from people her own age and a traditional family. That conflict is built right into the most basic aspect of her identity, her Hollow (unique magical power), which allows her to see other’s memories. This should allow Tarisai to build even closer connections with those around her since she can literally share their experience. Instead, it means that she cannot even be held when she’s sad, for her servants believe that she might accidently steal their memories.

Every conflict in Raybearer seems to stack against Tarisai in this similar manner. At the beginning of the story, her only purpose is to fulfill the last wish of her absent mother (who calls Tarisai ‘Made of Me’ yuck) who wishes that she befriend the crown prince of Aritsar (so he’ll invite her into his council), and then kill him. A purpose for which she must truly love this prince before being able to act out her orders (which of course she doesn’t want to do).

Of course, heroes do hard things, it’s what makes them heroes, but as I was reading the story, I found myself admiring how inventive each new conflict became as the script was flipped again and again on poor Tarisai.

And she truly just keeps doing the damn thing.

I don’t mean to mean to imply that she simply skips through each new challenge (quite the opposite), but the way she is able to continue onward despite everything is truly inspirational. This, perhaps more than anything else is what makes the book such a compelling read.

However, the setting also played a huge roll in my enjoyment of this book. Ifueko creates a rich (sorry just watch this youtuber say how rich the book is real quick) world which seems to draw from many African cultures (though I believe the author mentioned it was mainly Yoruba) yet still presents as unique and immersive.

Some of the more unique aspects of the world for me (which I think could have been explored a little more perhaps) where the magical creatures. We meet sprites, and albagato (a kind of genie type figure), shape shifters and large mythical cats. An entire underworld of spirits which we only just hear a small portion of.

But this is a small gripe, easily overlooked when considering one of my favorite aspects of the world. Its music. Song and rhythm seem to underpin our very understanding of this culture’s history and legacy. Aritsar’s myths and legends (the main one about a story telling Pelican which is weird and fun just on it’s own) are mostly passed on through children’s songs. But one of the key instruments featured in the novel are various drums. Perhaps this is not surprising as drums are important to many African cultures, however, Ifueko took the time to describe their sound — literally write out the noises they made — and the meanings behind each beat.

As a drummer myself, I was simply loving these passages. They felt so true to how the instruments can sound and the passion they can have when played. I’m not sure if Ifueko has any percussion in her background, but she was certainly convincing enough for me (I would also like to note that I listened to this book on audio, and so the voice actor also did an amazing job with these portions and I think really heightened the experience in a way that reading on the page may not have been able to accomplish).

Finally, I think it’s important to note, that this book never seemed to drag. Because of my work schedule picking up, I didn’t have as much time to listen as I have in the past (due to Covid), and so I had to give this book up several times and then wait for it to return. Each time I was as excited as the last to get started again.

This is all the more impressive considering all of the elements packed into this story. Themes such as uniqueness and diversity over homogeny (in culture), colonialism too but it was interesting because it wasn’t like a foreign power coming in that the MC’s need to fight, but instead more like just one group that kept expanding. Perhaps less like the British Empire and more like the expansion of the Mongols.

Anyway, I can feel myself beginning to ramble so I think it’s time to ask that all important question which is the reason we’re here . . .

Lodestar Award?

Yes. It seems I keep having to add this caveat, but as of 10/6/2021, I’m feeling that the Lodestar award should go to Raybearer. This was a hard decision for me, as I’ve already enjoyed two previous Lodestar contenders (Cemetery Boys and A Deadly Education), which were both amazing reads. I really thought Cemetery Boys was going to be my ride or die, but I think the deciding factor ended up coming down Raybearer’s unique setting.

For each of the other reasons I’ve outlined above — great pacing, and an incredibly powerful main character — Raybearer is an excellently written piece of art, but the thing I’m most excited about for the sequel, is simply being able to explore this world a little longer. Cemetery Boys showed us a unique setting as well, and I loved learning more and more about the Brujx. It was fun to think that their world existed just beneath our own. But the sense of immersion you experience into Raybearer’s secondary world shined a bit brighter. I guess I’m just a sucker for Secondary World fantasy . . .

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Should Raybearer win the Lodestar? What were your favorite elements of the story? The world (the answer is the drums! Lol)? Let me know in the comments, I’m excited to see what you all think.

From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea

In Ancient Egyptian myth, it was thought that the world rose up from the primordial waters of chaos, in the form of a mound or pyramid (known as the Benben). From here the sun rose up next, thus creating the sun god (Ra or Khepri depending), and thus allowing other gods, people, and wildlife to form upon the mound (world).

With just four more days until the release of Narmer and The God Beast, I thought it might be fun to go over NATGB’s own creation story . . . how did this somewhat crazy idea rise up from the chaos.

Full disclosure: I’m not the only person in the world to think about dinosaurs roaming Ancient Egypt. I’m not even the first.

According to World News Daily Report (who’s slogan btw is literally: “Where Facts don’t Matter”), a Dr. Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud, “…one Egyptology’s most eminent figures”, has found a series of stone palettes that prove dinosaurs helped build the pyramids. Ancient Egyptians supposedly tamed “beastly creatures” of “enormous size” which were “tamed and used to carry the large limestone blocks that compose the pyramids.”

Wut?

If this sounds ludicrous, and patently false, it’s because obviously it is. We’ve got the last dinosaurs going extinct 65 million years ago, and the first humans emerging in Africa 2 million years ago. In my mind, there seems to be no chance the two could have lived together.

However, if you’re still not convinced, No It Is Not has done a full take-down article, explaining that Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud is not even a real archeologist, and that the image of him next to a dinosaur carving is a doctored image of Dr. Don Patton, an avid creationist.

What’s perhaps the best part about all of this, is that there is so much misinformation around this one crazy idea, that even when articles try to prove it false, they still make mistakes. For instance, the blog for Michigan State’s ANP364: Pseudoarchaeology class (which I would soooo take) posted the article: Did Dinosaurs Build the Pyramids? NO! in which they give reasons for why the idea may have come about (long necked creatures on the Narmer Palette), and decrying it as “pseudo archeological insanity” (which it is). They continue on to discuss Serpopards (which I should really find a way to incorporate in my setting), and then state that despite everything they have mentioned earlier, Egypt and Dinosaurs do have a connection.

What could it be? Well apparently, “In 2014 a small raptor skeleton was uncovered in a small section deep within The Great Pyramid of Giza.” But check the date on the article they cited (the one I just linked) . . .

April 1st 2014 . . .

Are there any holidays on that day which might make us doubt the validity of something published online? The article cites a French archaeologist Avril Sap, of which I could not find any other publications for except another Egyptian Streets article about ‘Extraterrestrial Activity’ Discovered in King Tutankhamun’s Tomb . . . also published April 1st (of 2016).

I think someone is having a bit of fun 🙂

So what do we do in the face of such blind misinformation and conspiracy?

Join in obviously. (I mean heck The Dinosaur Lords exists)

Write a short story about the friendship of Narmer and his Paralititan companion, and their first step together in conquering the Two Lands and uniting this Great Egypt. Begin studying hieroglyphs in your spare time. Read about Bahariya Oasis and the dinosaurs which where discovered there back in the early 1900s and then again in the late 90s. Play a lot of Assassin’s Creed Origins and wish the next boss fight was against Spinosaurus. Post about influences on your blog. Write a novel . . .

Like the Benben mound which rose up out of the primordial ooze, this one idea has risen up from the chaos of the internet, and inspired an entire world of myth and stories I’m just brimming to tell. But it all started here, with a simple conspiracy about Narmer and his God Beast.

Thanks for reading this somewhat wild ride of a blog post. What’s the craziest conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard? Where was the most surprising place you heard is touted as fact? Please leave your answers in the comments. I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff I haven’t even hit the surface of.


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea. You’ve pretty much just witnessed the creation of 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!

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!