That Mummy You Didn’t Know Existed

While in the midst of writing my newest novel (to be released in July 2018), a romantic odyssey that takes place in ancient days, I’m experiencing the usual excitement that I feel when researching a bazillion fun facts that make my stories historically more believable. Researching is a very big part of my writing. It’s a good thing I’m nuts about it! You wouldn’t begin to believe some of the crazy things I’ve learned while ‘digging in a little deeper’…

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That brings me to the creepy thing I recently learned, that I kind of wish I could unlearn, because it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Of course, a romantic odyssey in ancient days must have some mummies, right? As I always say, nothing screams romance more than a frightening scene or two, filled with tombs and all that sleeps within them!

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So…there is more than one kind of mummy in the world. Types of mummies isn’t something that I’ve ever really thought about, mainly because the Egyptian variety are the most widely spoken of. And oh, how I’ve always loved to see the exhibit at The Field Museum titled Inside Ancient Egypt. I’ve visited it since I was a kid!

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What types of mummies are there? Well, there are the kind that people intentionally make, and then there are those that nature makes. Anthropogenic and Spontaneous. The ancient Egyptians made anthropogenic mummies by taking great care to preserve their elite after death. They painstakingly tended to the bodies and provided them with incredible resting places filled with goods to keep them in comfort in the afterlife…

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[Photo Credit: Sven Rosborn]

But then you have the spontaneous mummies, like the hapless folks who fell into acidic bogs a few thousand years ago, and were preserved by nature. Look at how amazing Tollund Man from the 4th century BC looks! He was uncovered in a bog in Denmark. But in spite of his restful repose, this man met with a very sad end. He did not fall into the bog. He’d been hung by a rope, and then left in the bog. Further, evidence seems to indicate that he’d not been hung for a crime, but that he’d been sacrificed…yikes!

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[Photo Source: Pedro Groover]

I’m horrified every time I stumble over history about human sacrifices. Take for example this perfectly preserved young girl. La Doncella above, was just 15 years old. She is also a spontaneous mummy. Around 1500, in an Incan religious ritual, three children were drugged with coca and alcohol and left to freeze to death in the Andes mountains. After exposure to the elements, they were placed in a tomb, where they each died in their sleep. The particular climate of the region was the key to the children’s preservation (not people). Even every tiny braided strand in this girl’s hair are still perfect. Those poor little souls…

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There are also a great many cases of mummification that fall somewhere in the middle, both anthropogenic and spontaneous. For instance, family taking some steps to preserve the body of a loved one, and then the conditions of the burial place doing its part to keep the body in good condition as well. The air quality and dirt makeup inside a cavernous crypt beneath the alter of an ancient church, for instance, might be a good place for that…

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But let us speak of another kind of mummy. The kind that when I learned about it, quite frightened me. First however, revisit what an ascetic is. An ascetic is one who for religious reasons, either denies themselves the pleasures in life (rich food, fine things, companionship, etc.) or goes even so far as to hurt themselves intentionally as a method of denial and lack of pleasure (whipping oneself, for instance)…

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Now, even though I could never deny myself a good meal or basic comforts on purpose, I can definitely see the beauty in living a simpler life intentionally, so as to focus on something higher and more important than the need to acquire more in this life. As they say, you can’t take it with you! But I digress…

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Of course, hurting oneself as a method of denial and discipline..no way! Can’t fathom it. But as for that unique set of mummies I spoke of, they go much farther than simply denial or pain. It is called SokushinbutsuFrom the 1000’s through the 1800’s, Buddhist monks in Northern Japan sometimes chose to mummify themselves. By denying oneself regular food, and eating only small portions of natural things that do not induce weight gain (tree resin, pine needles, etc.), the body would become thin, all fat decimated…

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Months, and sometimes years of denial in this way, while dedicating life to meditation, yielded a starved body. Eventually, also denying the body water was introduced, and the body became dehydrated…organs would shrivel, skin would grow dry, muscle cramping would be extreme…

I drink approximately a gallon and a quarter (or more) of water a day…this sounds like a horror story!

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Now, we can all guess where this story leads. After a time of this, the body gives up. But all the while, the monk remains in his sitting meditation state while chanting, until death occurs. Because of what the monk’s body endured, it is preserved. Such a long duration of minimal fat intake and dehydration = self-induced mummification. A form of anthropogenic mummification, on yourself. These mummies can still be viewed today. You can see them in their temple settings here

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There is mention of monks sipping poisonous tea (to keep their bodies from decay after death), or monks allowing themselves to be holed up in a tight space with only a straw extending out from the space to breath from, and many other terrible things. Such denial, such loneliness, such agonies! I’d have died of terror before the poisonous tea and dehydration got me! This form of suicide was banned in the early 20th century…

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Now, I must note that some Buddhists continue to revere those ascetics that died in this way and are preserved in this fashion. Therefore, though I personally cannot comprehend it, I must allow that it is considered a sacred act by some. But oh, I’m sorry for those monks! My 13th century self would have snuck those monks some big bowls of rice and vegetables, and begged them not to carry through with their plan!

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So there are your mummy fun facts for the day folks, because I know how eager you were to learn all of this. And now that you’ve learned it, you can’t unlearn it, just like me!

…back to writing my ancient tale. Stay inspired folks!

Stabbed By A Pencil, More Than One…

If you laugh a bit as you read this post, I wouldn’t blame you. As a matter of fact, I might laugh myself if my arm weren’t so sore. After all, when people meet with silly mishaps, I sometimes giggle (as long as they aren’t seriously injured of course). If I fall down, believe me, I’ll be the first to laugh…

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Evanston had its first snow yesterday morning, which reminds me of one mishap that I keenly remember giggling over when I was little. My grandma once told a story about her father (my great-grandfather). In the story, it was a freezing snowy day, and he was walking a distance. Great-grandpa had his hands in his pockets for warmth. He slipped in the snow and fell forward. Frantically, he tried to pull his hands out of his pockets, but he couldn’t pull out his hands in time and fell face first…

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Oh my goodness! I was itty when I heard that tale. And grandma told it more than once. Great-grandpa received a good scraping up, but I’ll guess he wasn’t worse for wear…he was an able-bodied farmer that likely’d had more than one such scramble in his life! What made me laugh so hard that I was in tears? Grandma’s description of great-grandpa trying withal to pull his hand out of his pockets as the snow came closer and closer while he stumbled. Oh heavens!

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So what happened to me two afternoons ago? Well, I’d cleared off my desk for some serious work. I’ve got books to wrap for next weekend’s participation in one awesome holiday extravaganza, and some documents to review that just needed a blank space to look over clearly. My supplies were in the way. So, I set my desk items just next to my desk, atop a plastic bin…

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I’d ripped up some paper and tossed it toward the trash, but one little scrap didn’t make it into the garbage bag (hanging over said plastic bin). So, I reached over the plastic bin to retrieve that errant piece of paper, which had floated to the carpet. I was immediately met with a fierce, fiery pain in my bare arm. Holy cow! Pencil stabbing to the extreme

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So, I’m a writer. I have a cup of super-sharp pencils. About ten in total, sharp as sharp, ready to scribble. I keep the points up so that I don’t dull or break the tips. I’ve now learned that this is a serious mistake. Sort of like the common sense law of put-your-knives-upside-down-in-the-dishwasher-cutlery-holder-so-you-don’t-reach-in-and-stab-yourself…

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Oh my word…I pulled up my arm and two pencils were dangling from my flesh. These weren’t the only pencils to stab me, but they’d gone the deepest and remained clinging to my skin. What was my first terrible thought? Tend to the wounds quicklylead poisoning

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I pulled out the pencils in a way that was reminiscent of pulling arrows out of one’s arm while under attack, and ran to the bathroom. Holy beans, I was bleeding pretty good from one of the punctures (which mind you was clearly blackened from the metallic tip of the pencil). I rubbed and washed out the wounds, poured antiseptic over them, swiped antibacterial cream, and then bandaged up. Now, being the researcher I am, I had to look this up. Stabbed by pencils…what’s my risk? Lead poisoning? Blood poisoning?

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Ok…let’s preface my reaction. First, somewhere sometime when I was a child, some educator must have frightened my classroom with threats of lead poisoning if we didn’t stop chewing on our pencils, or if we were contemplating poking one another with one. Second, I research history all of the time, and sadly, many a person in the past met with trouble over the smallest, mundane injury. That’s why my sweet Martinella in Veleno succumbs to a little nick of a knife in the palazzo kitchen after it causes her some long suffering. Of course, we have blessed antibiotics today, but how surreal would it be to go to the emergency room because a pencil stab-wound got infected?

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Further, my father (one tough, decades-long metal fabricator and foreman) once got a metal sliver in his finger that would easily have taken his life from the terrible infection that ensued, had it not been for antibiotics and modern doctoring. The incident was serious. In history, such happenings weren’t so uncommon, and they didn’t end well. Though I don’t freak out over minor injuries, let’s just say I keep watch over my cuts…

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So what fun fact did I discover? Yes, in the past lead was involved in the construction of pencils, putting people at continual risk for poisoning. However today, pencils aren’t poisonous. Though a puncture wound is a wound and should still be monitored, the likelihood of something nasty happening because of a pencil is likely to be rare indeed. (Tell that to my throbbing arm…when I pulled the pencils out, it looked like a vampire had sunk his fangs into my arm.)

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Back in ancient times, sticks of lead were used for drawing and writing. But as far as pencils go in later times, it wasn’t the internal source of the pencil that was dangerous (graphite), it was the outer source. That paint on the outside of pencils once contained lead. And well, sometimes the wee ones enjoyed chewing on pencils as they studiously contemplated their school work. Even handling a lead pencil each day, would have had its threats to health…

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Just thought I’d share this interesting information with you, just in case you inexplicably (like me) believed your life was in danger around a pencil. But all jokes aside, turn your sharp pencils upside down in their holders (and any other sharp objects in your home that are the wrong side up for that matter). Because, you never know when you’ll meet with a freak incident like mine! Why didn’t I learn this lesson in grade school? “Walk with your scissors facing down, children.” Believe me, you don’t want to know what it feels like to meet with such sharp points…

Rock on friends…stay healthy, stay happy, stay inspired! Beware of sharp objects. Have a good laugh on my account. Carry on…

If you buy books on Amazon, keep reading…This is Nuts!

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Today I want to share something that I find curious, but also very icky. I think you might raise a brow yourself. Especially if like me, you purchase books on Amazon. Keep reading, this is nuts…

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Here’s the story. As many of you know, I’m a writer of tales. My books are sold on Amazon (as are most any author’s). I set the price for my books, and all of my short fairy tales and adventures (12 in total) are $9.95, plus tax and shipping. I make a small royalty on each book sold, my reward for my work, and a blessing to my income. As you see above is the ‘real’ listing for my book, The Fairy Woods

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As an author, I only make a royalty if ‘you the buyer’ purchase the full-priced copy for $9.95, straight from Amazon. But as you see above, there are other copies for sale. Those copies are from other sellers (not Amazon), who having acquired a copy of my book (usually used) can name their own price. I do not receive royalties for those copies (only the seller makes a profit because I would have received my royalty when the copy was originally purchased)…

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That’s cool. My complaint here isn’t with used book sellers. We have a free market, and selling used books rather than creating waste by only purchasing ‘new’ ones is good! In fact, most of the books I own and purchase from Amazon myself, are used. And any copies of my tales that make their way back out into the world, makes me happy!

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So what is the reason for this post? What do I find so quizzical? Look above.

GoldieLoxBooks here has taken an image of my book, and put up their own listing of The Fairy Woods on Amazon. Their post is completely disconnected from the one that is associated to my book (the one where you can see my listed price for $9.95, and those others who are selling it for less/used). GoldieLoxBooks has listed The Fairy Woods for $2,796.00, just a used-good copy no less…

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I have to tell you that this makes me feel as fierce as my sun dragon in Dragons At Dawn! Roar!!!! I noticed this phenomenon with the release of my first book, Venice. One day I unexpectedly spied that a seller was attempting to sell a copy of Venice for its weight in gold. I immediately dialed up and asked an Amazon affiliated representative, how such a scam was conceivable?! This must be illegal, right?! Apparently not. And they could do nothing to remove such a listing. If someone wants to resell one of my $9.95 fairy tales for hundreds of dollars, seems they can do so…

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Now I know you might be saying, “But who in their right mind would actually buy this book at such an excessive price?” Seems silly, right? But my question in return would be, “If it didn’t work from time to time, why are there so many listings for used books at such wild prices?” Occasionally a buyer might be remiss when they add a book to their cart, overlooking the price. Could you imagine being billed hundreds for a kid’s book, after your kiddo was picking out books on your Amazon account?!

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I don’t know much more. I haven’t reached out to GoldieLoxBooks or any other seller trying to offer one of my books for an excessive amount, to ask how it’s going for them. I wish I could believe that it was an ‘accident’ on the lister’s behalf. But I see it so frequently, that I question believing it to be an error. I’m guessing they have some irate customers demanding refunds. I wonder what the fine print on their return policies might be?

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Why, look at these book vendors selling my Once Upon A Star for $45.61 each! Oh my word…

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I’m shocked by this for the sake of reputation and propriety. It feels icky that any of my tales would be listed in such a way, and that any seller would use one of my books (or any other author’s) to take advantage of a buyer. But I can’t do much more than grow some thicker skin, and warn those who buy books online that there’s some nefarious looking listings out there! Beware…

Would love to hear your comments on this!