Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

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Today I thought I would post a snippet from my middle grade Ancient Egyptian-themed book Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies. It’s full of good and evil gods and goddesses, nasty beasts and a battle of life and death to save the world – of course. I plan to send it to some publishers. I am still in the editing stage so any feedback would be noted, and very welcome.

A brief synopsis:

Feisty twelve-year-old Cleo Dalby and her archaeologist mother, find the remains of Imhotep and Hor in the Red pyramid, Dashur, only to discover that not only are the mummies cursed but Cleo is too – with the soul of Seth the god of chaos. When the mummies are stolen by the master criminal Erica Van Clutch, the curse is unleashed along with Seth, who wants to destroy the world. It is up to Cleo and her friends to journey to Duat, ancient Egypt’s afterlife, to find the Book of the Dead to summon Ma-at the goddess of order so that she can destroy Seth.

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 Excerpt from Chapter One – We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber of the pyramid. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh drifted towards her. It seemed to gather a friend as it neared, and soon the sad laments of two disembodied voices surrounded her. The whispering drifted in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade.

“We, the dead, quietly rest, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“But this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped. “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Is it she?”

“The chosen one?”

“Listen to our warning, child, or torments and madness will shadow your every move.”

“Leave, before evil takes your soul.”

The voices ceased.

There was a smell of rot so strong, she nearly vomited. “What the frog?” The stink disappeared. Cleo shook the torch gripped in her hand. “Stupid froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“There you are. I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mum, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say, ‘froggin’ I know what it means.”

A sound like the noise from a beehive buzzed inside her head. She put her fingers into her ears and wiggled them until it ceased. “Are you sure we’re the only ones here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes.”

“I thought I heard someone say something.” Cleo reached behind her and grabbed her mother’s hand as a gasp swept across their faces. “What was that?”

“I don’t know, I can’t see anything.”

“Sorry, it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries. Although, Mum, if you’d brought wind-up ones we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths.

“Ah! That horrible sound again.” Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the hideous moaning to go away. The gurgling, growling continued despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body.

“Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No, it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“It’s my stomach.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I’m hungry, we missed breakfast because you slept in.”

“Sorry,” Cleo said and felt her eyes begin to sting.

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind is a just a ploy to put us off the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.” Mrs Dalby tugged at Cleo’s sleeve.

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“There aren’t many left. In the rush to get here I didn’t pack everything.”

“Some holiday this is.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Cleo brushed her curly brown hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s not really a proper holiday ‘cause you were already here as a specialist advisor on that American dig thing.”

“You mean the unearthing of King Senebkay in the ancient city of Abydos.  True, technically I am working, but we are, you know, spending time together.”

“Like a proper family.”

“Yes, except…”

“Dad’s not here.”

“No, he isn’t.” There was a wobble in Mrs Dalby’s voice and Cleo quickly changed the subject.

“Good job Curator Blench gave you that tip off about this pyramid. Now we can finish the job you and Dad started.”

There was a long pause.

“Right then, shall we carry on?”

“’Suppose so. Mum, this is our first expedition together.”

“Yes, it is. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome.”

“Good. Anyway, we should save the candles since we don’t have many. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber. So, for now, you’ll just have to put your hands out and feel your way like me.”

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You can lean more about my work here: www.oddlybooks.com

Thanks for reading.

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How should I publish my middle-grade novel?

I finished writing my middle-grade action adventure novel set in London and Duat – the land of the dead in ancient Egyptian religion. The title so far is Cleo Dalby and the curse of the Chaos Mummies. It had several other titles, but this one seems to suit the tone and genre of the book.

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It has been beta tested, edited quite a bit. Beta read again, edited again and again and again… I think it is ready to be let out into the big, wide world.

So, what do I next?

Should I try traditional publishing, agent etc? Or, should I self-publish?

I know the pros and cons of both kinds of publishing having been published by a small publishing house and self-published. Both have their good points and bad. I have heard that it is very difficult to sell children’s or middle-grade books if you self-publish. I don’t know how true that is, but I have heard it said by quite a few authors.

Now that I am a self-published author, I like it. I have control over all aspects of marketing and editorial decisions. A thing I did not have when under contract. I am inclined towards self-publishing this book for those reasons.

However, I may just send it out to a few well-chosen agents that have enough authority and respect within the publishing world, to possibly get me signed to a major publishing house. Why? Because I am unsure of how my book will sell. Most books written for children under the age of fourteen are bought by parents for their children. After speaking to a lot of parents, they said they hardly ever, if ever, bought a book by a self-published author. This may not be true of every adult who buys books for young people.

Am I talking myself into traditional publishing here?

I’m somewhat confused.

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Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, and advice would be gratefully received.

I have posted an extract from the book.

No cover as yet. This will have to do.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20 (1)

 

Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

 If you were twelve-years-old and possessed by evil, what would you do?

Curses, chaos, mummies, gods and the fight to save mankind.

Chapter 1

We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. It seemed to gather friends as it neared, and soon the sad laments of dozens of disembodied voices surrounded her. The moans continued, drifting in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her ankles, forcing her to stop and listen to the muffled chatter that swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“What a wait we’ve had. So many years spent lying in a state of half-remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited. It disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light,” then shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

You can read a longer extract on my website under the heading Cleo Dalby:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween – to celebrate a snippet from ‘Marauders of the Missing Mummies’

I have just finished writing my children’s book Marauders of the Missing Mummies. Phew! It still needs tweaking and the like, but it is done. So I thought I’d post the first few paragraphs as a taster. If anyone wants to give any feedback, that would be so very helpful. What do you think about the cover? It needs work, but is it in the right direction?

Hope you enjoy it and Happy Halloween.

new cover for marauders

Chapter 1: We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative. Deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. A sound so sad that Cleo had to cover her ears with her hands. But it was no use. The moans and low murmurs continued, floating around her like tired moths. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her legs and she stopped. Intrigued by the muffled chatter, she dropped her hands and listened. Voices low and raspy swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“ Ah, what a wait we’ve had; so many years spent lying in a state of half remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips, and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited, but it disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light.” She shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mother, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say ‘froggin’’ I know what it really means.”

Cleo mouthed the word again, and then once more, just because she could. A small sound like the noise from an un-tuned radio station buzzed through her ears. She put her fingers into her lugholes and wiggled them until the static din ceased. “Are you sure we are the only ones in here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, nothing, I thought that…”

“What?”

“You didn’t just walk past me and say something, did you?”

“No, I crept up behind you, remember?”

“Weird. I thought I heard someone say something.”

There was a long pause and Cleo reached behind her. She felt her mother’s hand and grabbed onto it. Her palms were sweaty and hot and she felt a tightening in her chest. A gasp, not form her own throat, swept across her forehead and down her neck. She squeezed her mother’s fingers and felt her mother squeeze back.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know Cleo, but it wasn’t a breeze from a window. Okay, we need light and quick.”

“Sorry.”

“Now is not the time.”

“But it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries, sorry. Of course, if you’d brought wind-up torches instead of battery operated ones, then we wouldn’t be in this mess, would we, mum?”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths. Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the horrible noise to go away. It did not. She felt familiar arms wrap around her and press her close. But despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body, the gurgling, growling continued. Growing louder until her ears almost hurt. “Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“That’s my stomach.”

“What? Your stomach?”

“Yes. Because you slept in, again, we missed breakfast.”

“Oh, right, sorry.”

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air that we’ve disturbed frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo said and pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids. They were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind, it’s a just a ploy to put us of the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.”

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“Actually, there aren’t many left. We should save them. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber and get inside the room. So, for now, you’ll just have to feel your way like me.”

Cleo ran her fingers over the wall and felt the uneven stone. It was dry and cool and smooth to the touch. Almost like skin. “Do you think anyone else knows about this hidden corridor?”

“I hope not. It took me almost a year to find out it existed.”

“So, there’s no one going to miss us and come looking?”

“Don’t worry, the guide didn’t notice us latch on to his tour, and I’m pretty certain that he didn’t notice us slip away.”

“Oh. And that’s a good thing?”

“Of course it is. Less chatter my girl and more moving. I don’t know about you, but I find this place somewhat scary.”

“I’m pretty creeped out.”

“Do you want to go back? You can if you want to?”

“No. I’m no quitter.”

“Well said.”

Cleo skimmed her feet along the rubble-strewn floor and continued to make her way forward. A wriggly thing landed on her bare forearm. She yelped and stumbled over something large and hard. “Ouch!”

“What’s the matter? Are you okay? Answer me!”

“I’ve bashed my froggin’ foot on something. It really hurts.” Cleo bent down and rubbed her big toe.

“You scared me when you called out. I thought…”

“What? That something dead had come to get me? A zombie mummy angry and mean because we dared to enter its domain,” Cleo said in a boomy voice, and then even louder, “Moohaha!” She expected a response, but when none came she coughed. “Stupid froggin’ pyramid. Should have some kind of lighting. They always do in the films.”

“Well, this isn’t a film and you should be more careful where you walk. I told you that there would be all sorts of things lying on the floor. And, I told you to wear walking boots, not those pink sandals. And stop saying ‘froggin’.”

Cleo screwed up her eyes and sucked air between her teeth. Her big toe throbbed and she struggled to keep back tears. But the pain was nothing compared to the agony of admitting that her mother was right. “I think it might be broken.”

“Can you move it?”

Cleo clenched her toes. “Ow! Yes, I can move it, but it hurts.”

“Well, it’s not broken, probably just a bit bruised. You’ll be fine. So, are you so terribly injured that you can’t go on? Because, if you can’t, you’ll have to stay here or go back up until I find the hidden chamber, all by myself. So, getting all the credit.”

Cleo shook her head. Then, realising that such a gesture in pitch darkness would be a waste of time, replied in haste, “No, I can walk.”

“ Are you sure? I don’t want you lagging behind and getting lost.”

“I won’t.”

“I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into allowing you to come.”

“But, you said we were a team. You know, like you and dad used to be.”

Cleo felt the silence cover her like a blanket. Then the touch of her mothers hand on her arm. “Well, if you can walk, let’s carry on.”

“I think I need a plaster.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll strike a match,” Mrs Dalby did and the place exploded in a tiny glow from the burning stick of wood. “You’re not crying are you?”

Cleo wiped her nose. “No, I’m just sniffing.”

The smell of sulphur tickled her nose and in the flickering light, Cleo saw her mother crouch on the floor and rummage around in a rucksack. She pulled out a candle and lit it. Cleo smiled and her mother did too. “I’m sorry. I get carried away when I’m on an expedition and I’m not used to having a child…I mean, I’m used to being with your father. I wanted this to be a proper holiday, but after the phone call. Well, it felt like old times and you said that I should get back on the saddle.”

“I didn’t. I said that you should find the missing mummies because dad would have wanted you to. Plus, they are giving us a shed load of money.”

“You are your father’s daughter all right. Come here, let me have a look at that toe of yours.”

Cleo stuck her foot out and Mrs Dalby held the candle close to it. As her mother probed her flesh for signs of bruising or cuts, Cleo tried to see what it was that had tripped her in the gloom. “There is a cut under your toenail, so you’d best have a plaster to avoid infection. Who knows what kind of bacteria lurks amongst this ancient dust and sand. Now keep still while I put one on. Cleo, I said keep still. Stop wriggling.”

“There it is!” Cleo shouted.

“What?”

“The thing I tripped on.”

For more information about me and my stuff, go to:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/

Working on a new book – Marauders of the Missing Mummies

I have been toying with writing this book about ancient Egyptian myths and religion, for years. It started life as a play written specifically for children to perform. And indeed quite a few 8-12 year olds have acted out this play and sang the song – oh yes, there is a song!  I quite liked Marauders of the Missing Mummies and the evil Erica Van Clutch.

So, last year I decided to turn my stage story into a novel. 2012-09-18 at 10-05-17 The problem is that I know what’s going to happen. For some reason this has made my progress writing it as prose very slow. Sometimes I just stare at the dialogue and can’t move on. I find it difficult to write the story because I know too much.

So, I have put the play version away, kept most of the characters and started to write it from scratch. It’s still a little slow, but now I am free to go on the journey with my characters and not really know where we are going or how we will get there. It’s far more exciting this way.

I have posted the first 400 words or so as a taster. If anyone would like to comment, I would appreciate it very much.

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Chapter 1: We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, Cleo Dalby slid her feet forward as if she were skiing. She strained to hear something, anything, but every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative. Deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. A sound so sad that Cleo had to cover her ears with her hands. But it was no use. The moans became louder. A musty scent of decomposing wood made breathing difficult. Cleo inhaled deeply and heard low whispers float around her. Cleo stopped and took her hands away from her ears. Intrigued by the muffled chatter, she held her breath and listened. Different voices swirled inside her head and scuttled around her brain like trapped mice looking for a way out. Cleo let them speak.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“ Ah, what a wait we’ve had; so many years spent lying in a state of half remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories of our past life have faded and melted into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“ Messages from dried up lips that linger against the cold walls in trembling anticipation.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips, and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past Cleo’s cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill stuck to her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

Cleo called again, but no answer came. The smell of rot disappeared and Cleo felt as if a dead weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall and shrugged. “The dark is just an absence of light,” Cleo said and shook the torch she gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

2012-09-18 at 10-05-20


The images I have used are from my collection of ‘sun photos’. To see more of my experimental photography, you can go to my website:  http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

 

For more information on my other books visit:  http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/ Image echoes cover for email              SilenceHeard_CVR_LRG