The trouble with writing contemporary fiction

Hi, I’m Fiona Deal, author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.  My books follow the adventures of my thoroughly modern heroine Merry as she unlocks secrets from Egypt’s ancient past and unravels centuries’ old mysteries.

I started writing the books back in 2012 and decided to set them in the present day.  There are now nine books in the series, and I’m embarking on my tenth.

Deciding to make the books contemporary (rather than historical) fiction has been both a blessing and a curse.

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a child, so researching its pharaonic history to provide the mysteries for my novels has always been a pleasure and never felt like hard work.  But to actually set my books in ancient Egypt ?  Well, that felt like a leap too far.  I wanted my characters to experience Egypt the way I do.  Part of the joy of writing them has been imagining myself into Merry’s shoes, and living her adventures along with her.  And hoping that my readers might do the same.

But it’s meant I’ve had to stay true to events in Egypt and around the world as they’ve unfolded.  When I started writing the series in April 2012, a little over a year after the Arab Spring I could never have imagined the political turmoil that would topple President Mohamed Morsi (Egypt’s first democratically elected president) from office just a year or so later.  Nor the terrorist atrocities that would rock its tourist industry.  And now we have the lockdown of the Coronavirus around the world. So travel to the Nile Valley (or anywhere else for that matter) is off-limits.

I’ve had to negotiate my way around these obstacles and – wherever possible – weave them into my stories.  All of which rather makes me wonder if my decision to write modern stories was the right one after all.

Lucky for me, I do have a couple of years to play with.  There’s an advantage to having been so deeply distracted by events in my own life recently.  These have included taking on a whole new remit at work, and also a new relationship.

Merry’s last adventure took place in early 2017 when tourism to Egypt was just starting to pick up.  (She herself may have had a small part to play in all that !!)  So I can let her plunge headfirst into some new adventures while also bringing her up-to-date.  And maybe Merry can somehow escape the Coronavirus-related restrictions altogether.

For the rest of us the options right now are more limited. I was lucky enough to visit Cairo twice last year.  And I spent two weeks over Christmas and New Year 2019-20 in Egypt exploring the sites of Aswan and Luxor, with a short Nile cruise thrown in for good measure.  But sadly my trip to Cairo scheduled for the 2020 Easter weekend became a Coronavirus casualty.

But on the upside… since world travel is impossible right now, it leaves only the opportunity of exploring foreign parts vicariously: through TV, films, books and online.  Speaking for myself, this means throwing myself into writing Merry’s latest adventure.  So I can take myself off to Egypt in my imagination and experience its sights and sounds, the dust and the heat and the wonder of its ancient monuments.

If you feel like travelling to Egypt right now, even if only from your armchair, you might want to join Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy travels.

The Jolie Ville hotel, Luxor (setting for 3 of my books)

The Jolie Ville hotel is a perfect place to unwind and relax.  It’s set on its own island in the Nile – King’s Island – a ten minute drive from central Luxor.  Currently ranked 9th of 63 hotels in Luxor on TripAdvisor.

Sadly right now it’s off limits and unable to welcome holidaymakers drawn by its fabulous botanical-like gardens, vast swimming pools and dreamy view of the Nile.  So while the Coronavirus lockdown is in place in so much of the world, those of you who, like me, love to travel in your imagination, might like a little look at where my central character Meredith Pink was staying when she embarked on her adventures in Egypt.

The Jolie Ville hotel really is the most magical place to stay.  These photographs bring it all flooding back, and remind me to book to go back just as soon as I possibly can.

Merry is on a “time out” holiday after taking voluntary redundancy from her job when she stays there. She couldn’t have imagined the thrilling escapades she was about to embark upon, unlocking mysteries from ancient Egypt.

Here are links (just click the picture) to the first three books, all based at this wonderful hotel – although Merry’s adventures take her all over Egypt.

 

 

My inspiration: Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series

Hi, I’m Fiona Deal, author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.

In a recent post I wrote about the challenges of deciding to set my Egyptian mystery adventure series in modern times. I wanted to write the books as if I were experiencing them myself, on a tourist holiday caught up in the adventure of a lifetime. They were conceived as modern escapist fiction, something to read on the commute (in my case) into London, or perhaps on a sun lounger on holiday.

They were also written to fill a huge gap. Back in 2008 (and purely by chance on an Amazon search for novels about Egypt) I stumbled across the Amelia Peabody series written by the wonderful Elizabeth Peters.  This is a writing pseudonym for the prolific Barbara Mertz, who also happened to be an Egyptologist.  Here are her first three (of eighteen) books in the series:

I came to the Amelia Peabody books pretty late on as they were first published in the 1980s.  By the time I discovered them their author was already in her nineties, although still writing.  To say I devoured them would be the understatement of the century.  A fabulous series of books, they differ from mine in being essentially murder mysteries and also set in Victorian times. But, like mine, they are (mostly) set in Egypt and draw from its glorious ancient past.

Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody stories were a massive inspiration for me.  And the void they left when I realised there would be no more was part of what inspired me to write an Egyptian-based series of my own.

I don’t claim to have the Egyptological credentials nor the writing pedigree of Elizabeth Peters (AKA Barbara Mertz) – she published vast numbers of books across different genres and under different pseudonyms.  But I do always take it as the most enormous compliment when I receive a review (and there have been a few) which liken my books to hers, and say I have gone some way towards filling a gap in their reading lives too.

So, thank you to Elizabeth Peters for bringing me the joy of Amelia Peabody and her wonderful family and hangers-on.  She was truly an inspiration.

If you’re locked down in the current Coronavirus crisis and feel like travelling to Egypt, even if only from your armchair, might I encourage you to read the Amelia Peabody series.  Or you might want to join my Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy travels.

In a Parallel Universe

In a parallel universe – one in which the coronavirus COVID-19 is not rampaging around the world – I would be spending this Easter weekend in Cairo, Egypt.

As it happens, the bank holiday weekend weather here in the UK is glorious: warm and sunny.  So, with Britain (alongside much of the world) in lockdown, and with the sun shining, I am using my time productively.  This entails sitting in my back garden and reading everything I can lay my hands on about Ramses III.  For he shall be the historical subject of my next novel.  A man murdered by a conspiracy from within his own household, led by one of his queens.  Known as the Harem Conspiracy, his death marked the beginning of the end for the once mighty New Kingdom of Egypt – the so-called Empire period.

So, I am a millennia forward on the ancient Egyptian timeline this weekend than where I had anticipated being. The New Kingdom of ancient Egypt is the period in which all my books so far have been set.  It’s the time of almost all of the A’List Pharaohs: names such as Tutankhamun, Hatshepsut, Thutmosis (pick a number I – IV), Amenhotep (again, pick a number I – IV), Seti and Ramses.

Of those named Ramses, there numbered eleven in total.  Many sought to emulate, but none was able to recapture the might and majesty of Egypt under Ramses II – the Great.  After Ramses III (known as the last of the warrior pharaohs, and subject of Merry’s next adventure) who ruled approximately 50 years after his more famous forebear, came the long dying. Egypt would never regain its earlier New Kingdom glory.

But there had been an older glory.  The Old Kingdom.  The Pyramid Age. This was already a thousand years in the past when the Ramses ruled, its pyramids already considered tourist attractions.

I have not yet set one of Merry’s Egyptian adventures in the Old Kingdom – so maybe that will have to come. So, to remind me of what I am missing out on this Easter weekend and to perhaps provide some future inspiration, here are some pictures of what I would have been doing in my parallel universe before COVID- 19 took hold:

Fiona Deal, Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, all available on Amazon.

If you feel like travelling to Egypt this weekend, even if only from your back garden on armchair, you might want to join Merry on her adventures.  Please click on each picture for the link.  Happy Easter, and happy travels.

Ramses’ Riches now published

Please click here to find out more or purchase

book 9 - v3On a mission to Egypt to retrace the steps of the great explorer Giovanni Belzoni, the next stop is Abu Simbel.  But Merry and friends have more reasons for wanting to make the trip down Lake Nasser than just to see The Great Temple of Ramses that Belzoni famously dug from the sand.

First, there’s the golden statuette of Helen of Troy apparently found there.  And second, the promise – on very good authority – of a stash of treasure.

Intrigued and mystified – as both are surely impossible – Merry sets sail to find out more.

This is the ninth book in my fiction series following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt. The books are escapist fiction – adventure stories – set in the present day.  All have an ancient Egyptian mystery at their heart.

IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CCThe first book in the series is Carter’s Conundrums.  It starts with Merry, on holiday in Egypt, getting trapped inside the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and making a discovery … This sets her off an a treasure hunt, and the adventure of a lifetime.

The books are aimed at adults who enjoy action, mystery and adventure stories.  And at anybody with at least a passing interest in ancient Egypt; its mysteries, treasures and enduring civilisation.

All books are available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.  I do hope you enjoy them…

Fiona Deal

 

 

 

Nefertari’s Narrative Paperback

BookCoverPreview.doThe paperback version of Meredith Pink’s latest adventure in Egypt is now available on Amazon.  Nefertari’s Narrative takes Merry on a journey along the Nile where, of course, she gets caught up in another madcap mystery trying to discover what happened to an ancient set of stone tablets which seem to shed light on the origins of the beautiful Queen Nefertari.

As ever, things are not plain sailing for Merry.  A series of mishaps leave her wondering if things are quite what they seem, and whether she is the only one hoping to unlock secrets from Egypt’s ancient past.

This version of the paperback has the original style cover.  It will be available until end-January 2018 with this cover.  I’ll then update it with the new cover design.

I do hope you enjoy this latest Merry adventure.  If so please do leave a review on Amazon.  I also read and respond to all comments you leave here on my website.

The whole series of Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt, starting with Carter’s Conundrums, is available in both ebook and paperback on Amazon.

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Paperback version of Belzoni’s Bequest

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FINALLY … the new cover for Belzoni’s Bequest in paperback is available on Amazon.  It took ages to upload for reasons I don’t pretend to understand.

So now the whole series of seven books is available in both Kindle e-book and paperback versions, starting with Carter’s Conundrums.

 

For the uninitiated, these are a series of light, escapist stories following Meredith Pink’s adventures in Egypt.  They’re modern stories, but each has an ancient Egyptian mystery at its heart.  I’ve made a start on number eight, which I hope to publish early next year.

 

Refresh and Relaunch

“Fiona, your books are great fun to read … but your cover designs are doing you no favours.”  So I was told recently.  “Why don’t you update the jackets so they look like the fictional adventure stories they are?  At the moment they look like dull and boring history books!”

I’ve always believed it’s a good thing to respond positively to feedback.  So, here are the results.  I’ll let you judge for yourselves …

In my first book, Merry gets trapped in the Howard Carter Museum in Luxor, and finds some hidden hieroglyphics.  It sets her off on a madcap treasure hunt…

From this …       BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - CC

In Merry’s second adventure, the hieroglyphics have led her to believe there may be precious jewels hidden in Egypt … If only she can find them before anyone else does …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do             To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - TT

In book 3, Merry has found the precious jewels … but can she protect them …?

From this …       Hatshepsut's_Hideawa_Cover_for_Kindle              To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - HH

Her fourth adventure finds Merry racing to find a Dead Sea Scroll, perhaps hidden by King Farouk before it can fall into the wrong hands …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - FF

In book 5, Merry is trying to stay one step ahead of a blackmailer intent on exposing her explosive secrets …

From this …        BookCoverPreview.do            To this …  IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - AA

And her most recent adventure finds Merry on a quest to discover the inside track on “The Greatest Story Ever Told” – The Exodus …

From this …      BookCoverPreview.do            To this … IDBC00078 Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt - Fiona Deal - SS

Hmm, I can completely see where the person was coming from …

Personally, I love them.  I hope you do, too.

Fiona Deal

 

Carter’s Conundrums

BookCoverPreview.doCarter’s Conundrums is the first book in my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt.  It’s available  to download at the special promotional price of £0.99/ $1.50 here.

The books are present-day adventure stories.  Meredith (Merry) is a thoroughly modern heroine who gets caught up in ancient Egyptian mysteries.  No time travel, but in Carter’s Conundrums she embarks on a treasure hunt.

When English tourist Meredith Pink finds herself locked inadvertently in the Howard Carter museum in Luxor for the night, she has no idea about the thrilling Egyptian adventure she’s about to embark on.  The museum was once Howard Carter’s home, where he lived during the historic years of his discovery and clearance of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  Attempting to break free, Merry accidentally smashes the frame surrounding an original Carter watercolour of an elusive Egyptian queen.  The discovery inside of a hidden message from Howard Carter himself, together with a set of mysterious hieroglyphics, sets her off on a quest to solve the puzzle of a lifetime. 

Along the way she teams up with the dashing Adam Tennyson, a self-proclaimed “thwarted” Egyptologist.  Together they set about unriddling the ancient texts, and find themselves on a madcap treasure hunt around some of Egypt’s most thrilling locations.  

An exciting blend of adventure, mystery and romance, Carter’s Conundrums will demand all of Merry’s imagination and love of the fabled ancient land of the pharaohs to keep her on the trail, and out of trouble.

Read the reviews here.

Fiona Deal – author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt

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The incredible length of Egypt’s civilisation

The link below will take you to an article showing 23 “mind-blowing facts that will destroy your understanding of time”.  The author requests shares, so I’m doing just that.

Two of the facts relate to ancient Egypt and help to demonstrate just what an incredibly long passage of time the Egyptian civilisation can claim.

UnknownFirst, Cleopatra lived closer in time to the building of Pizza Hut than the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Cleopatra ruled as the last Pharaoh at around 30BC, before Egypt fell to the Roman Empire.  The Great Pyramid was already approximately 2,500 years old, having been built for the pharaoh Khufu in the Old Kingdom of dynastic Egypt in circa 2560 BC.

UnknownThe first Pizza Hut opened in 1958, approximately 500 years closer in time to Cleopatra than Khufu’s pyramid.

I can’t help but wonder if Cleopatra’s knowledge and understanding of the reign of her Old Kingdom predecessor was much as ours is of her: coloured by myth and legend, and the passage of thousands of years.

Broadly contemporary with Cleopatra was the first century Romano-Jewish scholar and writer Josephus. As far as we know his work contains the only reference to the earlier Egyptian historian and priest, Manetho, who wrote his fabled Aegyptiaca some 300 years before Cleopatra ascended to the throne.  It gave a history and chronology of the pharaohs.  Whether it shed any more light on the historical facts of the dynasties that pre-dated Cleopatra’s Ptolomaic ancestry than Shakespeare did on Cleopatra’s own story is a matter for debate.

tm9The other fascinating fact is that the first pyramids were built while the woolly mammoth still roamed the earth.  A small population of mammoths survived until circa 1650 BC, by which time Egypt’s empire was well established, and the pyramids were already about a thousand years old.

I’s bind-bending stuff : how the Egyptian civilisation spans what we might consider almost prehistory, right up to the Roman Empire whose influence can still be felt in Britain today.

Perhaps this explains why ancient Egypt is such a rich source of inspiration for writers of fiction such as myself.  With a history spanning something like three thousand years, with so many famous names, and with so much gold, how can we help but be fascinated by its mystery and romance?  And with the inevitable gaps in our historical knowledge after such an immense passage of time, how tempting it is to try to fill in the blanks.

That’s what my fictional series following Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt aims to do.  In each story, I take an ancient mystery and weave a story around it, letting my imagination put the flesh on the bones of what we know from archaeology and historical research.

Here is the source article, which got me thinking about Egypt’s incredibly long history : http://higherperspective.com/2015/02/understanding-time.html?utm_source=cleo&ts_pid=2

Fiona Deal – author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, available in paperback or to download from Amazon and all major ebook retailers.

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